Chance Meetings in the Moonlight

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by nekojita

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Schuldig leaned against the wall by the door of Crawford’s office and pretended to play with the ends of his hair as he surreptitiously gauged how well the precog was managing today. "So, fearless leader,” he taunted with familiar malice, “what great secrets of the universe do you have for me today?”

Crawford rested in his padded leather chair, his fingers pressed together in a gesture of contemplation and his expression one of mild annoyance.  Only someone who truly knew him would see the exhaustion, the weariness that had never truly vanished after facing down Rosenkreuz in Tokyo.  “You’ve been annoyingly underfoot lately, so I’ve decided to find you some work to do.  It should be amusing to see if you can manage it without messing things up.”  His dry tone implied that he doubted such a thing was possible; as he handed over a manila folder containing the necessary information his right hand quivered ever so slightly.

More than anything, Schuldig wished he could push past the bastard’s mental shields and find the true extent of the damage that Berger had inflicted on Crawford that day, but if there is one thing that the precog was good at - and he was good at a *lot* of things, dammit - it was playing things close to his chest.  So he just gave him a cocky grin and accepted the file.  “What, you haven’t seen how things will turn out?”

The response he got was a bit surprising.  Instead of a sarcastic response or enigmatic smirk, Crawford’s expression smoothed out and he was quiet for several seconds.  Then he shook his head as he turned his attention back to his laptop.  “Just watch out for flowers and hedgehogs.”

“The fuck?”  Years of dealing with the precog had left him used to receiving cryptic remarks, yet this one... this one definitely took the prize.  He left the room, wondering if Crawford had finally lost it and he can leave this country for one that has a decent beer.

*******

After leaving leaving Tokyo once Koua Academy was in flames, they had wandered around, first to avoid Rosenkreuz’ hounds and to give Crawford time to heal, then as a matter of habit.  Italy, their home for the last few months,  was not Schuldig’s favorite country; the food was passable, the alcohol was terrible unless one was in the mood for wine, and the people’s attitudes were mostly bearable.  However, there were *tourists* everywhere, which meant that there were an endless source of targets to take out his foul moods on, which was good because after being about in public for more than twenty minutes usually had him plotting very evil things.  Then there was the Catholic Church and the mafioso....  Really, Crawford had no reason to get all pissy with him when he had dragged him here, it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull or putting a hungry child in a unsupervised candy shop.  One should just not expect good behavior.

At least Crawford knew him well enough with this latest assignment, which consisted of one of the many mafioso dons who littered the country as if it were still the Nineteenth century.  Such a stubborn breed, refusing to die.  Ah well, it should provide an amusing evening for him, wiping out the man’s bodyguards and then the arrogant bastard himself.  

There were some interesting notes in the folder, nonsense about boxes and flames that seemed like someone had drank too much grappa when putting together the report.  Those doubts about Crawford’s sanity going bye-bye were gaining some support, Schuldig thought as he crumpled the paper and let it fall to the floor.  All he really needed to know was where the target was located.  Oh, and to avoid flowers and hedgehogs, apparently.  Were there even any hedgehogs in Italy?  Maybe dear old Don Mancini had a private zoo or something, along with a garden.  Well then, time to stock up on the pesticide.

*******

As soon as Schuldig entered Mancini’s home estate, he realized that something was wrong.  Call it keen intuition, brilliant intellect or sharp deduction skills, or it could be the fact that he had to step over the dead body of a guard by the front gates.  Dammit, any chance of the man dying in fright of his impending death at Schuldig’s immensely talented hands were dispelled by the way his head was caved in by brute force.  

He caught sight of a slim figure in an elegant black suit whirling about like a deadly dervish in the middle of the throng, lashing out with long legs and arms that appeared to be sheathed in purple flames.  For a moment, he almost mistook the man for Aya, despite the lack of a sword.  The man was clearly of Asian decent, and despite the Western setting, he wielded tonfa.  Yet it was more than his nationality that confused Schuldig, it was the pale skin, the unusual eyes - a blue grey of stormy skies - the beautiful, masculine features and the deadly grace.  There was also the familiar ‘touch me not’ aura that radiated from the stranger, an invisible force that repelled almost as strongly as the blows from the weapons, yet all it did was draw in Schuldig’s attention and made him want to breach all barriers, physical and mental.  The one obvious, glaring difference was the slight smile on the man’s face, a clear sign that he was enjoying the death that he dealt out with practiced ease.  Poor little Aya had never been so at home in a blood bath, even when he had come to terms with life as an assassin.

For the time being willing to overlook the fact that this stranger was poaching on his playground, Schuldig decided to take his leisure and find out a little bit of information, to give in to his curiosity and see if perhaps Fate had decided to provide him with a lovely new play toy.   Hmm, what type of issues could be behind all that wonderful violence?  Daddy a bit too distant?  Mommy a touch too cruel?  Big brother a little too friendly?  He licked his lips in anticipation as he prepared to delve into the lovely man’s mind, the mission a distant concern when he had something so interesting to play with right in front of him.  Oh, let *this* one be a bit more fun than those walking bags of angst in Weiss….

The first impression he received only reinforced what he had guessed from observing the man – Hibari? - unlike with most people he had trouble picking up more than the one name, the word strongly tied to the man’s self image, a bird flying unfettered in a cloud-filled sky,  that he did indeed love the exhilaration of battle.  There was the thrill of motion, of putting his body to the test, proving his skills against that of others and the disappointment that these opponents were so lacking in giving him any true challenge.  The mission was a distant obligation in his mind, something to be fulfilled only when he was tired of playing with these lack-witted minions.

Schuldig thought he was in lust.

He prepared to push in deeper, to get to the good stuff and find out what this Hibari was truly made of and how to break him, when to his shock he found his talent repelled by an unexpected shield.  Pulling back his mental probe, he watched the Japanese man from his perch on the gate house, certain that he detected no signs that Hibari possessed any psychic talents.  There were those odd purple flames, which could be radiating from the tonfa that he wielded.  Hibari certainly only seemed inclined to use his body and weapons against the assorted bodyguards closing in on him, dodging bullets with skill and a speed that could – barely -  be considered within normal human limits.  He did seem unnaturally aware of his surroundings and unconcerned about the limited damage that had been inflicted on him, none of which explained why Schuldig had come across such impressive mental shields.

If he was not psychic himself, then someone who had talent had taught him to guard his thoughts.  Such an inconsiderate bastard would be tracked down and made to pay for spoiling Schuldig’s fun, he thought with an annoyed sniff as he prepared to batter his way through Hibari’s mental defenses; nothing was allowed to keep him away from what he decided would be his, and the more he found out about this newly uncovered assassin, the more possessive he became.  Things had been much too boring lately, and there was little chance of going to either Japan or England any time soon.

He marshaled his talent and pushed hard against the shields, and as he sought to enter deeper in Hibari’s mind, his sense became overwhelmed by the sight and smell of cherry blossoms.  He could almost see the petals whirling around him, lost the scent of blood and death to the delicate fragrance that he had not breathed in since leaving Tokyo years before.  There were images behind the whirling petals in Hibari's mind, fleeting faces and battles that were too obscured to make any sense out of, and then there was a rush of vertigo and Schuldig was back in his own head.

Schuldig cursed under his breath as he stared down at Hibari, who brushed aside a trickle of blood from a cut on his left temple before pulling out a small box from the inside of his black coat.  Around him were the remnants of Mancini’s bodyguards, closing in as if to take advantage of the assassin’s distraction.  When he held up the box, their eyes widened and they began to step back.  Schuldig figured he would wait until the distractions were gone before he resumed cracking Hibari’s impressive shields.

“Hibari-san!”  From the main house a young woman came running, dressed in dark clothes as well, a fitted black coat and short skirt.  Her long hair was tied back, and she sported an eye patch, of all things, as well as held a trident clutched in her hands.  Despite the fact that she called out Hibari’s name, she headed straight toward Schuldig.

Well, this night was certainly becoming more and more interesting.  Crawford had said nothing about watching out for little girls with hero-complexes, unless she was about to throw some flowers at him.  He smiled as he jumped down to deal with the fool, having grown bored with waiting for Hibari to kill the rest of the bodyguards.  “And what do you think you’re going to do?” he asked in passable Italian.

The girl came to a halt several meters away from him, and then he noticed that there was blood at the ends of the trident, at which he took a second or two to check the thoughts in the house to find out that while Hibari was a very lovely and deadly distraction, the little bitch had taken out Mancini.  As he glared at her for spoiling his mission, she took a deep breath and closed her eye.

One moment there was a young woman in front of him, and then….  He had relied on his talent ever since it had emerged, had viewed the world with more than just the five senses that most people were shackled with.  Just then, something had *twisted*, had changed and the girl was no more, replaced with a young man with dark blue hair and mismatched eyes, with a smile that Schuldig had seen reflected back at him in the terrified eyes of his prey.

“Oi, Kyouya, are you pleased that I’m here to save you?” the strange man said, his Italian perfect and voice laden with amusement and something else… something purring and possessive.

For the first time since Schuldig had arrived at Mancini’s domain, Hibari spoke, his voice voice deep and tone rather annoyed.  “I *will* bite you to death, Mukuro.”

That was it, Aya *had* to have a younger brother who had escaped everyone’s attention until now - that or dear little Aya-chan had undergone a sex-change and a personality upgrade for the better while Schuldig had been touring Europe these last few years.

“Don’t worry, you can thank me later.”  The stranger - Mukuro - put enough lasciviousness into the taunt to do Schuldig proud, and stared straight at him, a mocking smile on his face.  “As for you.., it’s rather rude to barge in where you’re not welcome.”

“Says the man who just broke in and killed someone,” Schuldig pointed out as took a step closer.  “Or at least, your more feminine side did.  Nice trick, that.”  As he spoke, he attempted to read the man’s thoughts and came across mental shields that were even more impressive than Hibari’s.  This was growing very, *very* annoying and made him want to tear something into shreds, preferably the man standing in front of him.

Without any warning, he rushed at the man, one of his guns clasped in his right hand as he prepared to blow the bastard’s brains out, yet Mukuro seemed to vanish into thin air, leaving emptiness in his wake.  Schuldig cursed as he looked around, and only his fast reflexes prevented him from being impaled by a floating *hedgehog* of all things, three times its normal size with spikes greatly distended.  When he looked around, he found several of Mancini’s men already impaled by the creatures, with Hibari once more lashing out with fiery tonfa at those foolish enough to fight him.

“Now now, I know he’s adorable but you’re fighting *me*.”

Schuldig barely had the time to raise his gun in time to avoid being sliced along his chest by Mukuro’s trident, the bastard appearing out of nowhere to fight.  He tried once more to snare the man with his talent, but it was like grasping at quicksilver; his thoughts were reflected back from a wall of pain that was too much for one person to bear, was as if it had been built from the suffering of dozens of people.  If he had enough time and concentration, he could probably break through it, but not while trying to dodge flying pincushions at the same time avoiding being spitted on an over-sized fork.  

Still, who was he to complain about a bit of a challenge?  “Is this it? I think I was more frightened of you when you were a girl,” he sneered.

Mukuro laughed as he paused in front of Schuldig.  “Pardon me for being such a disappointment.”  A creepy smile split across his face, and he blinked once, causing Schuldig to notice that in the center of his red-colored eye there was what looked to be a kanji character.  He was too far away to read what it was, when all of a sudden the world melted away, engulfed by lotus blossoms that reached for him and sought to entwine around his body.

“What the hell?” he cursed in German as he tried to evade the flowers, part of him certain that they were not real but even as he felt their petals and stems brush against his skin, breathed in their fragrance and felt his limbs become entrapped.  He struggled against them, both mentally and physically, lashing out with body and mind as he fought to be free.  Thorns that were never part of the flowers grew on the thick, constrictive vines and tore into his flesh as his bones and organs were compressed.

Refusing to give in to what he knew to be false, he struggled to break free of the damn flowers, lashing out with his talent until the illusion around him shattered.  He found himself laying on the ground, the pain still all too real and the damage the lotus vines had done not disappearing as the blooms had done.  Standing by the gates were Hibari and Mukuro, the latter of which seemed a bit worse from wear to have had his illusion broken by force, Schuldig was pleased to note.  The bastard had blood trailing down his face from his right eye and he leaned heavily against Hibari, who appeared disgusted to have to provide any type of support.  Around the compound were the bodies of Mancini’s bodyguards, who seemed to have not survived their encounter with Hibari.

Mukuro managed that annoying laugh of his as Hibari shoved him away.  “Hmm, it seems your telepathy makes you more resistant to my illusions than I had expected.  This could be interesting.”  He began to reach into his long coat for something when a bullet struck the ground in front of him, right around the time that Hibari stepped back and held his tonfa in front of him at the ready, his arms once more sheathed in purple flames.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to save that for another time,” Crawford called out as he walked through the gates into the courtyard, his gun held at the ready and pointed at Mukuro.  “As of now, I believe you’ve accomplished what you came here to do.”

Mukuro laughed again.  “Very true.  This last bit was just a pissing contest, no?”  He smirked at Schuldig as he stepped closer to Hibari.  “Over something that wasn’t up for grabs in the first place.”  He draped a possessive arm over Hibari’s shoulders, and as the two assassins faded away into a drifting mist, Schuldig swore he caught a glimpse of Mukoro catching a tonfa in the face.  That almost made the pain he was suffering and the indignity of Crawford appearing as if to *rescue him* worth it.

Groaning from sore muscles and what felt to be cracked ribs, he rose to his feet and approached Crawford, managing as much of a savage glare as he could at the moment.  “You couldn’t have been more specific, could you, you bastard?!?  Bullshit about hedgehogs and flowers when you just should have come out and said there’d be a sexy sociopath who could fling about pincushions and a fucking illusionist!”  He waved his gun in Crawford’s direction and cursed when his ribs protested the movement.  “I really hate you.”

Crawford eyed him for several seconds as if debating whether or not to shoot him before putting his own gun away.  “There’s something about the illusionist’s talent that cloaks him from my sight.”  He sighed as he rubbed his forehead.  “It’s like looking through a fog or thick mist... you’re lucky I saw as much as I could of tonight, and obviously you ignored everything I said.”  He glared back at Schuldig with clear annoyance.  “What is it with you and your obsession with bad-tempered Japanese men?”

“They’re oh so fun to fuck and fuck with,” Schuldig shot back with a pleased grin.  He might not have been able to crack Hibari’s mental shields *tonight* - and he had a feeling that he had that asshole Mukuro to ‘thank’ for those defenses - but he had a very strong suspicion that the man would be even more enjoyable to play with than dear Aya had been.  Oh yes, a welcome change from all that guilt, this toy would be.

“I should shoot you right now and save myself the misery,” Crawford muttered as he began to walk away, still rubbing his forehead.  “At least the contract didn’t specify that we had to kill Mancino, just that he would be dead by sometime tonight.”

“So you get your money and I just found something to occupy my time,” Schuldig pointed out as he limped after his partner.  “It’s a win/win all around.”  He ignored the muttered curses in English as he stared up at the half moon in the sky, for the first time in the last few months pleased to find himself in Italy.

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