The Other Side

by nekojita

*******

Disclaimer #1: I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that I don’t own the boys. So let’s just leave it at that, and a few of my delusions intact.

Disclaimer #2: Okay, let me be the first to stress that this is not the most original work that I’ve ever written. It’s based on a dream I had that wouldn’t leave me alone, and I freely admit that more than likely it was strongly influenced by several wonderful fics. ‘Der Schwarze Traum (The Black Dream)’, by Madamhydra and ‘Lust’ by Tien Riu, two very great stories where Weiß or certain members of the team have powers, first come to mind. Others as well have wormed their way into my psyche, I am sure, though I honestly do not mean to copy or infringe on any one else’s work, and have taken some pains to see that I don’t. Hopefully I’ve provided an interesting take on a pre-existing idea, and that no one will be offended. *crosses fingers*.

Loads of thanks to Kabuki on this one, the rocking girl helped me w/ all the German, one or two things which will be showing up later, and gave me lots of support when I was ready to just chuck this story. If you enjoy it, thank her, or else it would have just been deleted. If not, guess I’m to blame on this one. Anyways, thanks again you evil smoking bunny.

 

*******

There was the blinding pain that he always associated with visions that had a strong impact on the future. His mind was filled with the images of three young men. One of them an athletic, attractive teenager with dark brown hair and eyes. Another with wavy, honey dark blond hair and green eyes, a knowing smile on the handsome face. Lastly a young man with improbably red hair and violet hued eyes, beautiful and slender. Somehow he knew that they were connected to each other, and soon to him and his. Various images flashed through his head, all centering on the young men. Young killers, if he understood things right. They would be the key to their freedom, one in particular. His talent showed him how to make his dream possible. It would involve the man and one of his teammates, then later on... He felt a smile on his lips as he watched the maybe future play out before him. Oh, thing would certainly be very interesting for his team, especially for a certain annoying bastard. As swiftly as it had descended upon him the vision faded.

The precog sat up in his bed, reaching for his glasses after turning on the bedside lamp. There would be a phone call shortly, a new mission for his team to undertake. One that he greatly looked forward to, as it would change all of their lives. Everything would center around two of them, would stem from what risks they dared to take. He would make sure that the two young men wouldn’t fail; too much was at stake. Merely everything they had ever wanted, finally in their grasp. Yes, the future was going to be very, very interesting.

The ring of the phone cut through his thoughts. Picking it up, a smooth voice calmly spoke. "Oracle here."

*******

"Bra~ad, I’m bored. Can we get this over with quickly, please? Just tell us who we have to kill, when and where and we’ll do it. In plenty of time for me to catch my show. What do you say, oh enlightened one?" Schuldig was stretched out sideways in his chair, booted heel busy kicking the conference table. He hated these meetings, or ‘debriefings’ as Crawford insisted they be called. What it came down to were the orders Schwarz had to jump to obey; the German didn’t see any reason to waste a bunch of time on something that they couldn’t change. It was just easier to get the damn job done so he wasn’t in danger of missing the new episode of ‘Buffy’.

Crawford merely steepled his fingers together and stared until Schuldig straightened up and sat properly in his chair. "Alright, I’m behaving now, whining all finished for the moment. Can you get on with it now? Please?"

The American nodded his head. "As you have guessed, we have new orders. Ones that require us to leave here and spend the foreseeable future in Tokyo. When we are done with the debriefing you are to pack your belongings, we depart in two hours."

"You mean we are going to Japan?" Nagi, who had been sitting quietly away from the two older men, actually spoke up. Schuldig stared at him incredulously, jade green eyes blinking. He then broke into a smile. <Just how many Tokyo’s are there, kid?> That question earned him a glare.

Pretending that the German hadn’t said anything, Crawford continued on. "Yes, Nagi, we are moving to Japan. Time to see if we have all benefited from your lessons." He pulled out a laptop and inserted a special file into a drive, typing commands as his teammates watched. "We’ll be taking Farfarello with us as well, he’s being sedated for the journey as we speak. The mission will commence as soon as we land in Tokyo."

Just mention of the city made Nagi shiver. He was going home. It was such a strange idea to grasp. There was fear mixed in with elation. While he remembered his harsh life before Oracle had rescued him and brought him to Germany to learn how to control his talent, he wasn’t the same boy anymore. He had a new family, one talented like him, yet the teenager looked forward to being back in a place that he knew all the customs and physically at least fit in. Just the thought alone of hearing his native tongue again…

<Hey kid, we sorta need you to pay attention here.> Nagi shook himself back to the present to find his teammates watching him, Crawford impatiently and Schu with a grin on his face.

"If I have both of your attentions, may I proceed?" Schuldig and Nagi nodded their heads. "Very well then. We are being sent to Japan to ‘recruit’ three new talents. They are currently latent; we will be taking Zersplittern with us." Both young men started at the name; Nagi then went very still while Schuldig started to swear under his breath. "I know, you do not care for the man, I don’t think anyone does. But he will be needed to activate the men’s talents and will only be remaining with us until that task is done. When their powers are active it will be up to us to train them in their use, and to prepare the recruits for their new lives as members of Schwarz."

Opening a file, the precog pulled out the first image and displayed it via projector onto a screened wall. "Here is one of our newest recruits. Hidaka Ken, nineteen years old. A former J-league soccer player. He is currently working as an assistant coach for a private school, no living family members." Schuldig and Nagi studied the smiling youth, brown eyes twinkling as he kicked a soccer ball past three pre-pubescent children.

"Next is Kudoh Yohji, twenty one years old. He has recently returned to a previous occupation, that as a private investigator. We believe that he has one surviving family member, a father that he hasn’t seen in almost ten years. We’ll have to be cautious with this one, he won’t submit to joining us without a fight."

Schuldig fanned himself as he studied the handsome Eurasian blond. "Wow. I feel better about this mission already. Promise to do my best to extend the man every courtesy so he feels right at home with us. What a hottie." Now this was a man who looked like he would be up for any and all types of trouble. In other words, someone after his own heart. Nagi rolled his eyes as Crawford bit back on a smile, waiting for the day he could throw that statement back in his teammate’s face. "Play that clip again." Kudoh had been caught dancing in a nightclub, obviously drunk and having one hell of a time.

"I think that Kudoh is out of your league, Mastermind. According to his files he has quite a reputation as a lothario. You just might get your heart broken." As if that organ would ever enter the equation. The longhaired man snorted and sank down in his chair, arms crossed over his chest and a pout on his lips.

"Now for the final, and most difficult recruit. Fujimiya Ran, though he goes by the name Aya now." Blue eyes watched intently for any reaction to the man’s image. Schuldig barely stopped his sulking to look at the redhead filmed setting up the front of what appeared to be a flowershop. Fujimiya kept his attention for a couple of seconds, then he sank back in his chair and closed his eyes. A bit disappointed, Crawford carried on. "Twenty years old, no surviving family members. His parents were killed over two years ago, his sister finally succumbed to injuries that she had received on that day almost a year afterwards. He’s suicidal, it will be a challenge to keep him alive long enough to give him something to connect to."

With a flash of insight the Japanese youth leaned forward, frowning slightly. "He’s taken a girl’s name, was it his sister’s?"

Crawford nodded. "Yes, he adopted it shortly after her death."

Giving the latest target another look, Schuldig bemusedly wondered out loud. "It suits him, he’s certainly pretty enough to be a girl. How are we going to keep him alive? I sure as hell am not force feeding the bastard." His leader smiled at the opportunity presented by that question.

"We will have to keep a close watch on him, maybe use his teammates as a means of preventing him from killing himself." The American then sent a thought to his friend. <I’m leaving the matter in your hands, Schuldig. Get inside his head, use whatever you have to and keep him alive. Focus on him, and Nagi and I will worry about the other two.> "We need all three of the men, it will reflect badly on us if we lose any of them."

<But why do I have to end up with the suicidal, depressed one? Can’t I swap you for the party animal? You said he was going to be trouble just as well.>

Crawford took to cleaning his glasses, both in irritation and as something to do to cover the lag of conversation. <We’re not trading, Mastermind. I have my reasons, now stop whining or I’ll give you Hidaka as well.>

Nagi stared at the screen, something tugging at his memory. He decided to take advantage of Oracle’s distraction and try to find an answer. Using his telekinetic ability, the youngest member of Schwarz pulled the laptop over to him. A few quick clicks and the boy had frozen clips of all three Japanese men on the screen. Nagi studied his newest teammates very carefully. "They seem familiar somehow. I swear I’ve seen them before."

"Watch out, Brad, Schwarz has a new precog." Brown eyes stared back evilly at the annoyance. Schuldig, of course, just grinned in response, irritation now gone.

"Children," the older man warned. The younger assassins recognized the tone and stopped the budding fight after exchanging another round of glares and smirks. "There’s a very good reason why. You are looking at three-fourths of the team that took out Nacht." He smiled slightly at the stunned silence that greeted that little fact.

<Are you seriously telling us we are recruiting Weiß? Especially after they took out those pompous bastards? Are the senile bastards serious? Or just trying to get some revenge on the team that ruined their plans for Japan?>

Crawford sent Nagi a look and waited until the computer slid back over to him before commenting further, careful of how he answered the telepath. "Siberian, Balinese and Abyssinian." He gestured to each man as he mentioned their codenames. "The three oldest members of Weiß. The team disbanded after they killed the Takatoris and of course Nacht as well. Upon investigating exactly how a relatively unknown team had defeated one supposedly many times their better, it was revealed during an in-depth search of the former Persia’s personal files that the young men were latent talents. Persia had recognized this fact, which was the reason he had pulled together these young men in particular out of all of Takatori’s numerous victims. He had a relative on the team as well, Bombay, and the youth monitored his comrades for the man. Kritiker never really knew what they had; Persia had covered for Weiß rather extensively. Now we are to recruit them, to put their talents to use for Esset, before word of them spreads. As far as we can tell, they never knew of Reiji Takatori’s connection to our organization. Persia very carefully kept them in the dark over that little detail. That fact should help with their assimilation."

"We will arrive in Tokyo early tomorrow morning. Only one day to rest and prepare, we will then make our move on Weiß starting Wednesday." Crawford begun to shut down the programs running on his laptop. "First Balinese, then Siberian, and finally Abyssinian. We’ll detain them for a day or two, then Zersplittern will activate them. After that our fun will start." The American looked at the Japanese men one more time, after a couple of seconds he closed their files and powered off the appliance. "Any questions?"

Finger tracing idle patterns on the tabletop, Schuldig leaned forward and rested his chin on his hand. "What are their talents? Any clue at all?"

Tugging on his cuff-links, Crawford very carefully hedged his words. "Esset believes that Siberian and Abyssinian are either _precogs_ or _telepaths_, of what intensity it isn’t very sure. They might be average or above, there is no way of telling until the blocks come down. As for Balinese, all they are certain is that he is clairvoyant to some extent, but that might include a _wide_ range of possibilities. We’ll have to be on guard around the men until we know for sure."

Jade green eyes studied Schwarz’s leader. <Someone didn’t happen to have a vision, did he?> Schuldig was not surprised when the precog refused to say anything or show any expression on his face. Once more Nagi’s attention was focused on the man, having been included in the mental conversation as well. The German knew he had to keep things short; there was a slight possibility of someone picking up on the fact that the team was communicating this way, and that would raise suspicions. Which would lead to mental scans for all of them, and reassignment of the mission at the very least. He longed for Tokyo and the relative freedom from constant surveillance and paranoia that plagued the team while they remained in Germany. <You’re up to something, Bradley, I can feel it. But I’ll wait til we land in Japan to ask anymore questions.> Crawford nodded his head the slightest fraction, acknowledging both the question and demand. "It’s bound to be an interesting assignment, that’s for sure. Though hopefully they won’t be completely stark bonkers like Farfie is. We only need one of those on the team." Reminded that they were most likely under observation at the moment, Schuldig straightened up in his chair, an eager expression on his face. Time to pretend that he was a happy little worker, or whatever. Even if it was completely bullshit.

He then stood up and stretched indolently, winking at Nagi when he caught the boy staring at him. "Well then, let’s see if I’ve grasped the situation here. We go, we grab, we sit as they get their brains scrambled and then we turn them into good little soldiers, just like us. What then? Come back home?"

Standing up as well, the dark haired American gathered the laptop and returned it to its case. "We will be taking Nacht’s place in Japan. That is why it is _imperative_ that we train and assimilate the recruits as quickly as possible. Schwarz is going to be very busy correcting all the things they messed up. I’ll meet you two at the main lobby in an hour and ten minutes. Remember to pack light. We can always pick up whatever we need in Tokyo." With that Crawford left the room, impatient to start the mission. He was finally taking the first step in making his dream come true; freedom from Esset.

Before he got more than two meters down the hall he caught a thought flung after him. <Remember, Bradley, you owe me answers when we get to Tokyo.> The precog sent back a silent affirmation and continued on his way. Mastermind would get some of the answers he sought, but not all. Things would be much more fun if he didn’t know what was in store for him. Well, at least for him, Bradley thought as his lips threateningly twitched into a hint of a smile.

*******

Aya rested his tired body down on the thin futon that made up his bed. He’d sought a futile escape from the reoccurring nightmares by practicing with his katana long past his bed time, now he needed to rest for a couple of hours before reporting to work. If he could he would do without sleep entirely, but knew if he turned up again with dark circles under his eyes his supervisor would send him home. A construction site was no place for an already fatigued man to remain at for long; there were too many potential accidents about waiting to happen. That was what the man told him each time he arrived for work plainly exhausted.

The redhead snorted at the thought. As if he cared anymore what happened to him. If only he hadn’t made his sister that promise, when she had briefly awakened from her coma before fading away forever. That he would live on and remember her always. The promise tore at him every single day now that he’d gained revenge for her, it was the only thing that kept him from running his blade down the insides of his arms and slicing them to the bone. As it was the white limbs were daily marred by thin scratches, Aya secretly hoping that one day his grip on the katana would slip and the blade bite deeply into his flesh. But as if his sister watched over him, like a Christian angel, it never did. So each night he would put the weapon away after finishing his katas, wash off and lay down on his futon, waiting for sleep and the inevitable nightmares to claim him. He was never disappointed in the last.

No matter how worn out he was, the dreams always found him. He would be haunted for most of the night by the events of the past. Aya dreamed that he was once more staring down at the still form of his sister, half covered in rubble from the building in which his father’s business had resided. Helpless to do anything to save her. Next came a long parade of dead, all bearing the marks of his katana, mocking him with the fact that all his revenge had gained him was a soul stained with blood. Taunting him with their deaths, with the fact that he was alive and had promised to remain so, no matter how much pain he felt. Finally there were his former teammates, standing with their backs to him. Reaching out a hand, Aya found himself unable to step towards the three young men, helpless yet again to do anything as they walked away from him. For one moment Kudoh turned his face and looked back at him, scorn evident in the lovely green eyes. Moaning softly, the swordsman curled tightly into ball and finally fell into an exhausted slumber.

*******

Stifling a yawn, Schuldig stood leaning against a wall as Zersplittern, an elderly, gaunt Austrian, went from room to room. The aggravating man was searching for the best one of the lot. "If anyone wakes me I will be turning their brain to mush. I don’t want to see any of you degenerates until the recruits are ready." That said their unpleasant guest slammed his bedroom door shut. Rolling his eyes, Schuldig shot a dirty look at Crawford and set about to the remotest room. He wanted to be as far away from the others, especially Berserker and Zersplittern, as possible. It wouldn’t provide much relief, but any lessening of the press of minds against his was welcome. Besides, the reprieve wouldn’t last long, they’d be bringing back the ‘recruits’ tomorrow.

The telepath couldn’t believe that Esset had rented them a whole floor of the apartment complex, combining several condominiums into a single humongous one. There would be enough bedrooms for all of them, even counting the new recruits, an office for Crawford and a sizable workout room. Not to mention individual baths, a kitchen, dining and living room. Such extravagance made him nervous, Schwarz wasn’t used to being treated like this. He was suspicious, sensing that the old fucks were up to something. They clearly wanted something from the team.

Upon finding that his room was equipped with a balcony Schuldig slid open the door and went outside, enjoying a cigarette as he watched people scurry about thirteen floors down. The German didn’t have to wait long before his leader joined him. <What are the chances that they have the place bugged?>

<Nice to see your paranoia is alive and well, Schuldig. Don’t worry, there are none. Esset doesn’t want to take the chance of one of the recruits finding any, they want to put them at ease.> Besides, his talent had shown him that their masters would have no clue as to what would happen inside the apartment walls. <Is Zersplittern asleep?>

Schuldig nodded his head. <Ja. Out like a light, the grouchy bastard. Here’s hoping he spends the whole damn time in that room, I sure as hell don’t want him around. Now spill, Bradley. What did you see?>

Settling a hip against the balcony railing, the American watched his colleague closely. <They’re our key to freedom, Schu. I’m not exactly sure on all the details, but if we can secure their trust, these young men will be the means by which we escape from Esset. Abyssinian in particular will be essential to the plan, which is why I want you to focus on him. Besides, he’s a telepath, it makes sense having you train him. Nagi will handle Siberian, and Balinese should not be much of a problem as long as we firmly hold on to his teammates.> At least not one in particular. For a moment Crawford recalled the glimpse of the distant future that he had caught and almost smirked. <We need to treat them carefully, to make them Schwarz, if we are to survive.>

<You’re not telling me everything.> Schuldig tossed his cigarette over the railing and glared slightly at Crawford. <What are you holding back?>

Blue eyes stared earnestly into green ones. <Only what I have to. That which would be detrimental if you or anyone else knew ahead of time.>

Jerking a hand through his hair, the telepath snarled. "Du bist ein manipulierender Kotzbrocken." But that was something the both of them knew very well. He decided to change the topic before he got the urge to try and beat some answers out of Oracle. Schuldig knew that would never work, he’d failed too many times in the past. <So the pretty boy is a telepath? And a powerful one at that?>

The dark-haired man nodded his head. <Extremely so. At the very least he’s a match for you when he learns to use it. Be careful.>

"Thanks, Vater, didn’t know you cared so much about me." Happy to have irritated the unflappable man the slightest bit, Schuldig looked down once more on the busy Tokyo streets. "Well, I’m for bed, unless you have anything else to enlighten me with. By the by, Farfie’s meds won’t last much longer, I can feel them wearing off from here. Why don’t you have him share a room with our guest? No? What a shame." With that he went back into the bedroom, nonchalantly stripping off his clothes as Crawford followed him and walked out the door. As he waited for sleep to come Schuldig reflected on his soon-to-be teammates. So Nagi got the jock, he wondered what the boy had done to deserve that burden. He much preferred being stuck with Abyssinian, having always had a soft spot for pale beauties. Not that the German would have been upset to be handed Balinese instead, that man was almost as gorgeous and he was willing to bet would be a lot more fun. But one such as him didn’t get to chose these things, at least not yet. If what Crawford said was true though… He would damn well make sure that the three men learned their places quick. There was no way in hell he was going to let his one chance at freedom slip through his fingers. The kitties were going to be Schwarz if he had to break their minds into pieces and reassemble them into docile little slaves.

*******

Yohji felt his jaw ache as he tried to suppress a yawn. It had been a very interesting night. He should have been home a couple of hours ago, but what’s-her-name had had such a nice, comfy bed. It had been too hard to tear himself away from it. At least until the woman had woken up and tossed him out of her apartment before getting ready for work. Which was something that he would have to do as well in another couple of hours. After catching a little more sleep, that was. One good thing about having his own business, he could set his own hours. Which was a necessity, considering how often he didn’t come home until the sun was up and shining.

Walking up the steps to his apartment, the blond let his thoughts drift back to his old job. If he’d been heading to his room above the Koneko there would have been a good chance of him running into Omi or Aya as they went about setting up the shop or getting ready for school. Which would mean receiving a lecture about curbing his wild behavior, or a glare, from the respective young men. It was funny that he’d killed people most nights yet they found the greatest flaw in his moral character to be his need to party. What a weird bunch they had been, Yohji reflected. Then he let his thoughts slide elsewhere, just as he always did when he thought about his time in Weiß. That was in the past, everyone had taken advantage of Persia’s death to go their own way. They all had been eager to escape Kritiker’s clutches. Everyone but Aya. The redhead had seemed so lost when he’d realized that the team was breaking up, that there would be no more missions. For a moment Yohji thought about how he should have asked Aya to come with him. Even if the distant man would have only refused his offer.

Stop that, Yohji firmly told himself. There’s no sense in thinking about those times now. About his old teammates. This was for the best, if they’d had stayed in Tokyo and waited for Kritiker to remember their presence it would have eventually meant their deaths eventually. One’s life expectancy as an assassin was never long. Now they all had real lives to live. Omi had school, Ken his brats, and him his old job and nights spent clubbing. And Aya had whatever it was he was doing now. A second chance at life. Maybe they didn’t deserve it, but they’d gained it none-the-less.

Hungover still and exhausted, the blond never realized that there was someone in his apartment until too late. Busy closing and locking his door, Yohji heard his floor boards squeak and turned around in time to catch sight of a bespectacled foreigner swinging a fist at him. That was the last thing he saw before stars and then darkness filled his vision, as said fist impacted upon his chin. He fell in an inelegant heap onto the floor.

"Can I say that I’m a bit disappointed," Schuldig remarked. "One hit and down he goes. This from the man who took out Fenris? Also, did you really need to punch him in the face like that? What a shame."

Crawford sent his annoying friend a stern frown before reaching down for Balinese’s arm. "Are you done with the commentary for now? If so then shut up and make sure no one sees me carrying him to the car." Giving the apartment a thorough visual check, the precog made sure that there wasn’t anything suspicious left behind. Mastermind and him had already cleared out the man’s clothes, making it appear that Kudoh had simply gotten bored and left town. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering his reputation and past. It would be several days at least before Kritiker heard anything and came investigating. By that time the man’s talent would be activated and it would be too late to change anything. Heaving the unconscious blond onto his shoulder, Crawford jerked his head towards the door. "Let’s go."

"Heil Kaiser." If the damn German wasn’t so useful he was going to give in to the urge to shoot him one day.

*******

Waving goodbye to his kids, Ken started to pick up the soccer gear scattered all over the locker room. It took him a few minutes to gather up all of the balls and put them in the sack, to double-check and make sure that no equipment was left lying on the floor. Everyone was so excited about their win today that the kids had just tossed their stuff aside; there would be several receiving lectures about that tomorrow. Ken grinned at the thought. He’d at least try to give them a lecture; a couple would start sniveling and he’d just cave in. Damn Omi for ruining him for that type of thing. The teenager had certainly known how to work a pair of big blue eyes, that was for certain.

The athlete put away the equipment and closed up the room, turning out the lights and locking the door behind him. He made his way across the field, staring off in the distance at his motorcycle, the lone vehicle in the parking lot besides a delivery van. Wondering what the van was doing there when the school had been closed for a couple of hours, Ken spied a young boy walking towards him. "Hey, you here to pick up your brother or sister? Everyone else besides me is gone."

The youth didn’t say a word, just kept walking towards him. Ken began to feel nervous, though why he couldn’t tell. The kid appeared to be about thirteen or fourteen years old, and was wearing a school uniform of some sort. "You looking for someone in particular?" Still no response. Hearing a car door slam, Ken glanced over at the vehicle to spy a pale foreigner now standing in the parking lot. There appeared to be bandages on the man’s arms.

Now feeling very nervous, the brunet gripped his motorcycle helmet tighter. He didn’t know what the boy and the other guy were up to, but he was prepared for a fight if it came to that. Though he was pretty close to his bike, hopefully he could just jump on it and drive away. Something screamed at him that things were about to get very, very bad, so he tossed aside his sports bag and dashed for his bike.

Only to find himself suddenly stopped a meter short of it, as if a huge, invisible hand had grabbed him. "What the he-" Before he could finish the curse Ken was suddenly slammed against the side of the van. Dazedly sliding to the ground, he tried to shake his head clear of the pain and stand up, never forgetting about the foreigner. He was able to get on his hands and knees before being overcome by the urge to curl up in a ball. That prevented him from having his ribs broken by a vicious kick, but the impact still hurt and sent him sprawling onto his back. The other man landed on top of his chest, pinning his arms underneath white-clad knees. Hands covered with fingerless gloves gripped his throat and begun choking him. Ken stared up into an amber eye as he tried to buck the stranger off of him, but to no avail. His sight growing dim, the assassin barely heard the two words over the rush of blood in his ears. "We’re sorry."

*******

Body aching from abuse, Aya made his way home from the dojo he’d spent the evening at practicing. It had felt good to exercise in an area bigger than his tiny apartment, though it was a pleasure he didn’t allow himself often. People tended to ask him too many uncomfortable questions when he worked out in public, such as where had he learned his technique and who his teacher had been. So he went to the dojo rarely, even then only late in the evening when everyone was more interested in finishing their practice and going home or elsewhere than to inquire about him.

He could have driven the Porsche, but anymore the pale man looked for reasons to wear himself down, for any risk to take. Walking through this neighborhood definitely qualified as that, though no one ever tried anything with him. A cold air surrounded him, an almost visible aura left over from his days as Abyssinian. He was a killer, and no one understood that better than the lowlifes that lurked in these back alleys.

Ducking down a side street that would add another two blocks to his walk, Aya’s head lifted as he slowed his steps. Make that no one had tried anything before tonight. Dropping his bag to the ground after pulling out his bamboo sword, he stood at the ready, waiting for the person following him to show their face. Aya watched impassively as a man with long, reddish-orange hair stepped out of the shadows.

"Now that was impressive, I’m certain that I didn’t make a sound. How did you know I was after you?" Schuldig smiled at the smaller man, even after he didn’t receive an answer. The telepath quickly learned that it was a waste of effort to try and pry the reason out of his target’s head, Abyssinian had very impressive mental shields. "I heard you Japanese guys were big on being polite, aren’t you going to say anything?"

"I have no money. Go." Violet eyes never drifted from the foreigner, Aya didn’t let his attention waver for a minute.

<But what if I’m not after your money, hm? What if what I want is you?>

Aya gripped his sword all the tighter, suddenly wishing it was his katana. He could swear that he’d heard the voice inside of his head that time, that the other man’s lips had remained still. Suddenly he spun around, realizing that it wasn’t just the two of them in the alley. The redhead brought his sword down on another foreigner, who barely managed to jump out of the weapon’s path. As he tried to turn and face the longhaired man at his back he was slammed into the ground. Wondering how the man had moved so swiftly, he drove back his elbow, causing Schuldig to yelp in pain but not loosen his hold. There was a shuffle of feet and Crawford was back again, this time injecting something into Aya’s arm. He cursed at the two men as everything slowly faded away. The last thought in his head was that he hoped that they were here to kill him.

Groaning as he stood to his feet, Schuldig looked down at the swordsman as he rubbed his sore ribs. "I think I like Balinese better, he at least went down without any trouble. I’m going to be bruised for a week, how much do you want to bet?"

Crawford took the time to adjust his glasses before glaring at the telepath. "What, upset because you had to work for once? Pick the man up and let’s go, you wuss."

Schuldig picked up the target, frowning when he realized that the man was nothing but skin and bones. He then transferred the frown to his companion, not happy over the comments. <Why do I have to carry him?>

"Because I carried the last one. Do you ever stop bitching, Schuldig?" He held the door open so Mastermind could deposit his burden in the back seat of the BMW. "I hate to break it to you, but this was the easy part. The real work begins when all our sleeping beauties wake up."

Schuldig looked back at Aya after he slid into the car. Who would have expected such a slender and delicate looking man to pack such a punch? That wasn’t the only thing that was unexpected about Abyssinian either. "You were right, Bradley. He is a powerful telepath, I could barely crack his shields. And about the death wish part as well, his last thoughts were that he hoped he’d never wake up. One messed up fellow, have to admit that right now." But a very intriguing one as well. He could still feel his mind literally thrumming after delving ever so shallowly into the redhead’s thoughts. It was always a thrill of sorts to go mind to mind with another telepath, but this time there had been none of the negative backwash that usually happened on such an occasion. Schuldig pondered why that was, until he heard Crawford’s voice. "Huh, what did you say?"

"That I’m always right. When have you known me to be wrong?" Crawford merged into traffic, intent on getting back to Tokyo as soon as possible.

"What about the incident in Dresden? The one that ended up with me being shot in the thigh? Another couple of centimeters and I would have been able to join the Vienna Boy’s Choir."

The American waved the matter aside. "Oh, that one. I knew you were going to be shot, just wanted to have a couple days of peace and quiet while you recovered."

<Crawford!!!>

*******

"Mastermind, Prodigy. One of our guests is about to wake up, go greet the man." Crawford didn’t bother to look away from the computer he was setting up, merely kept playing with cables as he waited for his order to be followed. Besides, the two idiots were out in the hallway, arguing over who got to pick a movie to watch.

Schuldig stuck his head in the office. "Why are we the welcoming party? Don’t you think it should be you, since you are our illustrious leader?"

"Because your two talents are a touch more convincing than mine. Kudoh and the others will need some proof before they accept the fact that things such as telepaths and clairvoyants actually exist in this world. Now go."

"But Crawford-"

The American cut off his subordinate with one word. "Nagi." Before Schuldig could complain any more he was grabbed and floated down the hall, an invisible gag stifling his mouth. <Arroganter Bastard!> Crawford ignored the insult with long-practiced ease and resumed his task.

*******

The first thing that he noticed was the pain in his jaw. Then Yohji became aware of his dry throat, and the fact that he desperately needed a cigarette. Immediately after that he realized that he had been sleeping in a room that didn’t reek of tobacco. Which meant it sure as hell wasn’t his. That was when he recalled returning to his apartment and being knocked unconscious. Forcing his body to react, Yohji quickly opened his eyes and tried his best to sit up. For some reason his body didn’t want to cooperate.

<That’s because of the drug we gave you, to make sure that you didn’t wake up while we were carting your ass back to Tokyo.>

Standing by the door were two strangers, a foreigner with long, reddish hair and a teenaged Japanese boy. Yohji glanced at them for a moment, taking in the smug grin on the man’s face, before directing his attention to the room. It sure as hell was a lot nicer and cleaner than his apartment, and he spotted what appeared to be his clothes piled on top of a chair. Checking for his watch, the blond wasn’t surprised to find it gone, along with everything but his boxers. Failing to see anything near at hand to use as a weapon, he looked at the strangers again. "Who the hell are you and what do you want with me?" His voice was raspy and broke on several words. ‘Sure as hell setting a nice impression here, Kudoh.’

<Yes, you certainly are. Love the tattoo, by the by. As for your questions, you’re looking at your new teammates, who want you for your mind. That ought to be a first for you.>

"What the…" Yohji swore that neither of the strangers’ mouths had moved, yet he had clearly heard the words. And how had the person speaking known what he was thinking? His body started to tense, waiting for a chance to tackle the longhaired man, to get past him and out the door.

Schuldig smirked some more as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it, knowing that Balinese was craving one very badly. <Get ready, Nagi. He’s going to try and take me down, make sure to give him one hell of a display that he’ll never forget it.> Yohji decided to attack right when he blew out a lungful of smoke. The German looked on in amusement as the lanky blond was halted in midair and just floated there, the most dumbstruck expression on the man’s face that he’d ever seen. Laughing out loud for a moment, Schuldig flicked his cigarette and then clamped it between his lips. <You should see your face. Here; catch.> He sent Balinese an image of the man suspended in the air, looking like a fish.

For his part Yohji thought that he had to be dreaming. Here he was, floating midair, unable to move any part of his body but his head. In a room with two strangers. Yep, he certainly had to be making this up. Why couldn’t he just stick with the normal wet dreams and nightmares?

<Sorry to be the one to break the news to you, Blondie, but you’re wide-awake. This is really happening. Welcome to the real world. One where telepaths and telekinetics truly do exist. And guess what, you’re part of that world now. Always have been.> Removing his cigarette Schuldig tossed it in an empty trashcan and gestured to the bed. "Put him down there, Nagi, but keep an eye on him." He watched as the lanky blond was dropped on the bed, the air knocked out of him by the fall. Balinese curled up and stared at him and the kid warily. "We’re not here to hurt you, as long as you cooperate. Here." A cigarette was lit and carefully extended to the other man.

Taking hold of it, Yohji sniffed the stick for a moment before setting it in his mouth. Unfortunately it seemed pure tobacco, he couldn’t even blame what the hell had happened on some funny weed. "So who the hell are you, really? Why bother with someone like me?" Maybe if he appeared all rational like he’d get some decent answers and another chance at the two.

"Back to those questions already, how boring." The telepath was finding Yohji’s refusal to believe what had happened to him to be a touch tedious. "I’m Schuldig, he’s Nagi. We’re part of Schwarz, an assassin team that works for a group called Esset. Which you’ve never heard of before, so let’s move on. The reason you are here is because as of now, you are a member of our team as well. Welcome aboard, you’ll find out we are much more fun that Weiß."

Shit. So the bastards knew about Weiß, Yohji had been hoping that all of this wasn’t connected to his past job. "Pardon me, but I don’t remember signing on. So why don’t the two of you just let me go?" When all he got was two heads shaking in unison, Yohji went for his best Omi impersonation. "Pretty please?" He had to get out of here somehow, there was no way in hell he was sticking around with these crazy fucks.

"Sorry, but no can do. We aren’t allowed to let any talents just wander on out of here, you know. Now get used to the idea, you’re Schwarz until you die. For real this time. Esset won’t ever let you slink away like Kritiker did, _Balinese_." < Try another attack again and Nagi will slam you around this time. We know all about you, you see. What you’ve been doing for the past several years, what you are capable of. If it wasn’t us, it would be some other group sweeping you off the street, one a lot less nice than we’ve been. So stop refusing to listen and get this straight. You are one of us now.>

"The hell I am!" Once more trying to charge Schuldig, the blond had barely moved forward at all before he was slammed back on the bed, his ribs creaking painfully from the force exerted against them. "I don’t know why the hell you sick fucks have to mess with me. Leave me the hell alone!"

Thoroughly impatient now, Schuldig let out a string of German obscenities before smacking his new teammate across the mouth. "Listen, Arschloch, I’m getting tired of repeating myself. You are now Schwarz. Don’t even try to deny it." Ruthlessly he froze Balinese’s ability to talk. "How the hell do you think a high school dropout like yourself ever survived, much less been remotely successful, as a private investigator? All those ‘lucky breaks’ of yours that helped to solve your cases, to track down what you’d been hired to find? That was because of your talent." Schuldig dug deep into Yohji’s brain, not caring about the pain he was causing. A little thing like stupidity was not going to stand in the way of him being out of Esset’s reach forever. He searched out and found the memories he’d been looking for, of Balinese and the ‘miraculous’ connections he’d made in the past, and then replayed them for the blond’s benefit. "Your power is not fully active yet, but that will be taken care of shortly. Once that happens you will be fair game for whoever wants that power, unless you are under our protection. Do you have any fucking idea how easy we are being towards you? You want to go spend the next couple of years in a hell where they break you until you are a good little soldier, all trained and obedient? Well just keep it up, you’ll end up there if you don’t stop fighting. So behave, put on some clothes, and resign yourself to the fact that you’re a free man no longer. Never should have been in the first place, Kritiker was just a couple weeks at best away from tracking your ass down and dragging you and the rest of Weiß back to work."

Licking at the blood leaking out of his split lip, the lanky man glared at his captors. He tried grasping at one last straw. "I have friends, they’ll get me out of here. You’re dead when they find you." At least he hoped the rest of Weiß would be coming to his rescue. Omi would get suspicious when he didn’t email the kid in a couple of days. While it was a depressingly slim hope, Yohji held on tightly to the belief that his former teammates were just a few days away of showing up and kicking these freaks’ asses.

<Oh this just gets better and better. Hate to break it to you, Balinese, but you’re not the only one we grabbed. Maybe if you settle down we’ll let you talk to Siberian and Abyssinian later. When they wake up as well.>

"You’re lying," Yohji whispered. The prick had to be. His stomach sank as even the kid took to smiling evilly at him. Next thing he knew his mind was being filled with more pictures, of Ken and Aya lying asleep in rooms just like this one. "Fuck." It had to be a bluff.

Schuldig reached out and patted him on the head. <Sorry, but no. Get it through your thick skull, you make me say it too many more times and I’ll burn it in that grey matter of your until it’s the only thing you can think of. You, and your friends, are now Schwarz.> "Come on, Nagi, we need to let our new friend think a few things over in peace." Holding the door open for Nagi to leave first, Schuldig took one last look at Balinese. The man was lying on the bed, a study in abject misery as he kept repeating ‘it’s a lie’ over and over. Not the most auspicious of beginnings, he had to concede that. He hated to think of how he had to go through it another two times.

*******

<Schuldig, come here.>

About to take a bite out of his sandwich, the telepath cursed softly and decided to ignore the summons. Master Crawford could wait until he got something to eat, he was too fucking drained after putting up with what had to be two of the most stubborn idiots on the face of the planet. Siberian had been even worse than Balinese, and had the makings of being as much as a berserker as Farfie. Only Nagi’s presence had kept the man from ripping out his intestines with his bare hands. Although the athlete at least had acknowledged his and Prodigy’s talents much easier than Balinese had, guess being slammed into a van had helped with that. Still, the man wanted nothing more than to murder his new teammates, and had really flipped out when he’d learned that two other members of Weiß were being held here as well. All in all, it wasn’t a very good day. And tomorrow promised to be even worse.

<_Mastermind_.>

<Hold your water, Bradley. I’m eating. Whatever it is can wait til I’m done.> That man needed to find a new hobby or something, anything other than having him jump when the American snapped his fingers. Too bad he couldn’t rummage about in Crawford’s head and turn on his non-existent sex-drive. Maybe if the man had a girl or boyfriend he’d have more time for himself. Munching on some pickle slices, Schuldig tossed his dish in the sink and poured himself some coffee, then went to see what Mr. Anal wanted him for. He found the man waiting for him in Abyssinian’s room. Who was still down for the count. <What do you want now?>

Crawford waved a hand at the sleeping figure. "He should be up by now, I didn’t give him that strong of a dose. Zersplittern can’t do anything when he’s like this, besides, it’s not natural. Wake him up."

"I am not a human alarm clock," the German sputtered. "Wake him up yourself."

"I. Tried. Water, pain, shaking, none of that worked. Now get in his head and find out why he’s still out of it." Crawford crossed his arms and waited for Mastermind to do something.

Hissing softly, Schuldig shoved his coffee mug at the precog and sat on the bed. A mental probe came across nothing but the impressive shields. "It’s like he’s not at home anymore, Brad."

"Well find out where he is and bring him back. We need him awake and activated, this isn’t helping matters any."

With a sigh Schuldig tried it again. Still nothing. He had to get past those shields if he wanted to find the man. Brushing back the overlong bangs, he was startled to sense _something_ at the touch. Pressing his hand against a pale cheek, the telepath was surprised again to sense the shields thinning a bit. Hmm, looked as if physical touch was a way to breach them. So he yanked down the blankets and gathered the smaller redhead into his arms, feeling the barriers weaken even more as more bare skin came into contact with his. Resting his forehead against Abyssinian’s, Schuldig finally broke through.

Darkness. It was all darkness. <Here, kitty kitty kitty, come on out now. No fair hiding in here.> Ah, over there had been a spark of consciousness. Seeking it out, Schuldig found himself standing in the middle of a hospital room, watching Abyssinian, who sporting longer hair than he had now, holding the hand of a fragile young woman. "Promise me, brother… promise me. I’ll live on through you now." He watched as the other redhead sobbed and swore to the girl that he would remain alive. Time flowed swiftly, and he saw the young man crying again as the slender form in his arms went limp. Feeling a stab of pain he looked over the bed, into a pair of shining violet eyes. ‘This was the last day I cried. The last day I lived.’ With that the swordsman disappeared back into the darkness.

Shit. He wasn’t supposed to let the pale bastard get away. Chasing after Abyssinian, Schuldig came across another scene. This time he saw the other assassin stabbing his sword through a heavy set Japanese man, the two of them on a rooftop and surrounded by flames. Glancing about he caught sight of Loki’s body lying by the stairwell. Standing over the dead leader of Nacht was his quarry, watching as the older man slid to his knees, the light dimming in his eyes. ‘Nothing, all that sacrifice, and nothing. Aya-chan was still dead, me a murderer.’ Those gorgeous eyes lifted to meet his. ‘Get out and leave me alone. I’m not going back.’ Again he vanished.

Oh, he was going to put a leash on the bastard when he caught up to him again. This was preposterous, Mastermind being reduced to running after an untrained neophyte. Very grateful that his other teammates weren’t here to witness this, Schuldig gave chase once more. This time the scenario took place in a flower shop filled with shattered pots and broken glass, a few dead blooms scattered about. He recognized three of the four young men, and assumed that the teenager was Bombay. The assassins were arguing about something, shaking their heads and waving their hands about. "No, Persia’s dead, I’m not staying here any longer. I’ve had it with killing people." With that Siberian turned and stormed out the door, followed by Bombay. Balinese paused for a moment, looking at Abyssinian as if he wanted to say something, then departed as well. The redhead was left standing alone in the middle of the abandoned shop, arms tightly hugging his chest. Schuldig searched out and found the real Abyssinian standing in the shadows, staring at the door his friends had walked out of. He lunged after the man, snagging him by the wrist. <Ah, ah, you’re not going anywhere this time.>

Almost too fast to see the other man swung an arm at him, smacking him in the head. <None of that!> Schuldig slammed Abyssinian against the wall, using his height and weight advantage to making sure the enraged swordsman stayed put. He barely reflected the knee aimed at his groin. <My, you’re a nasty fighter. Relax, I’m not here to hurt you.>

‘Get out of my head. _Now_.’ The telepath was shocked to find himself retreating back to his body, about to leave as he had been ordered to. Oh fuck, Brad hadn’t been wrong about how powerful the man was. Firming his resolve he sent out a tendril of agony, breaking Abyssinian’s concentration, making the smaller man gasp in pain and start to slide down the wall. Following him to the ground, Schuldig gathered him into his arms. Once again contact seemed to be the key to getting through to the stubborn fool. <I’m not leaving, not without you. So decide if we stay or go. I could get real comfy in here.> He had to get the man back to reality, and was perfectly willing to carry through with the threat. Abyssinian seemed to pick up on that, how he didn’t know, and tensed in his arms.

‘I’m not going back.’

What had Persia done, picked his private team not only for their talents but for their thick heads? He’d never run into such an obdurate bunch before. <Listen to me, yes you are.> Remembering the first scene he had stumbled upon, Schuldig decided to go for guilt. <Or are you going to break your promise to your sweet little sister? You damn well know this is a form of suicide.> He felt the pale man flinch and try to withdraw. <Besides, we have your teammates. Have our orders regarding all three of you. You die and they will pay for it.> Expecting the same denial over possessing a talent that he’d faced with Balinese and Siberian, the German was unprepared to find his own mind suddenly under assault. The images of the two Weiß were ripped from his thoughts, along with his orders regarding the Japanese men. Schuldig barely prevented Abyssinian from finding out about his talk with Oracle, and only by instinctually lashing out with more blinding agony, making the slender man in his arms writhe with pain. <Oh fuck, I’m sorry. What the hell were you doing? Don’t do that again.> Panicked, he patted a pale face, hoping he hadn’t injured Abyssinian’s mind. Crawford would skin him alive if he had.

It took a few minutes for the smaller redhead to stop panting, to be able to open his eyes and stare back weakly at him. ‘Can’t you just let us go? Why?’ Abyssinian started to struggle in his grasp once more, Schuldig merely held on even tighter.

<Because, kleines Veilchen, it would mean our lives if we did so. Orders are orders, you should understand that even better than your sturen teammates. We all survive together, oder überhaupt nicht.> Realizing that he was slipping back into his native language, Schuldig tried to shore up his thoughts. Too much mental strain, things were starting to get to him. Yet curiously Abyssinian had seemed to understand him. Cautiously he allowed the man back in his mind, let him see what would happen to him and his friends if Schwarz let them go, the mad scramble there would be for three untrained talents. Then he showed the fate that would befall his team for failing their mission. What would happen to the former Weiß if they were sent to Rosenkreuz. Abyssinian shivered and closed his eyes again.

‘Let me stay here.’ It was almost a plea, as much as the reserved assassin could form one. Schuldig merely shook his head.

<All or none. You’ve been living for your sister, now you have six more lives in the balance. Ain’t fate a bitch?> He caught a fleeting hint of amusement before cold resignation and even colder despair washed through the Japanese man. For a minute Schuldig ached to grant him his wish, feeling just how much Abyssinian hated to go on living. Crawford had no fucking clue just how deep the pale man’s death wish ran. He’d have to keep a very careful eye on his new teammate. <Come now, back we go.> Tugging at the other talent he pulled him into consciousness.

Coming back to reality, Schuldig found himself lying on the bed, Abyssinian wrapped tight in his arms. He stared deep into violet eyes for a moment, until the other redhead realized that they weren’t still in his head. Then the man started to struggle, to free himself from the embrace. Schuldig reluctantly let him go, wondering at the almost pain he felt when their skin was no longer in contact with each other’s. The former Weiß tugged the blankets about him again and after a very impressive glare went back to sleep. Skimming a hand along a delicate cheekbone the telepath made sure that Abyssinian wasn’t retreating back inside, but merely giving in to exhaustion and pain. A white hand batted his away and there was a slight snarl. He couldn’t help smiling. "Such a grouchy kitty."

As he pushed himself off of the bed Schuldig caught sight of Crawford watching him. "Don’t worry, he’s just sleeping. I was a little rough on him, trying to drag his ass back here."

"I know, I thought he was having a seizure at one point. Be more careful in the future."

Snorting softly, Schuldig retrieved his coffee and eagerly drank it down. "There better not be a future, he’s too strong for words. Once he gets some training into him I’m not sure I’ll be able to do anything like this again. As is, he fully understands the situation, I think I have Abyssinian’s cooperation and put his suicidal nature on hold for a little while."

"Fujimiya Aya."

"Huh?" Exhausted as well, the German blinked at his leader. "Was?"

Crawford moved towards the door, motioning him to follow. "His name is Fujimiya Aya, not Abyssinian. He and the others are no longer part of Weiß, those names are no longer theirs. So from now on think of them as Fujimiya Aya, Kudoh Yohji and Hidaka Ken. At least until we find out what their new codenames are."

Schuldig reached down once more and brushed back an eartail that was laying across the sleeping man’s face. What an odd hairstyle, but it suited the man somehow. "Aya." He then left the room, locking the door behind him. "Okay, I’m off to bed now. Don’t even think of waking me before Zersplittern is ready, unless you want a brain-eating zombie on your hands. These guys have totally exhausted me. Aya’s going to sleep all night if I judge it correctly, Kudoh’s searching the room for the nth time to see if there is some way for him to break out, and Hidaka has worn himself out from trying to tear his apart. Any disasters, you are stuck handling them yourself." Nagi was already asleep in bed, tired from using his power all day long and wanting to be prepared for tomorrow. "Gute Nacht."

"Night, Schu. Even though it’s not even seven o’ clock."

"Technicalities, oh noble Kaiser." All he wanted was to collapse on his bed. Tomorrow would be bad, that was when Zersplittern would activate the three men. Never a good day when there was the possibility of things exploding. Schuldig hoped that Crawford was right and that none of the men were telekinetics or pyrokinetics. Things would be very bad then. As it was, having a very strong telepath suddenly unleashed was going to be bad enough.

Taking off his shirt, Schuldig reflected once more on how strange it had felt in Ab-, no, Aya’s mind. So pleasurable, unlike all the other telepaths’ minds he’d been in. Oh, there had always been a thrill involved, but the sense of ‘otherness’ had ruined things. But that sense had been missing here. He thought all about it as he showered off and brushed his teeth.

It was as he pulled on some cotton pants that it hit him. It was because Aya was untrained, because he hadn’t been run through the mill at Rosenkreuz, so to speak. The smaller man hadn’t built up the automatic defenses that one did when a bunch of psychotic assholes regularly pillaged one’s subconscious, all part of the training curriculum. It was supposed to create a stronger telepath, but Schuldig remembered the great delight his tutors had taken in raping his mind when he had first started the training. As he grew older and mastered the defenses that delight had faded, until he was left alone. That was when the sense of ‘otherness’ had become so strong, had tainted the pleasure that could be found in another telepath’s mind. Aya didn’t have those defenses, in fact didn’t need them because of how powerful he was. Hell, the man had pretty much stymied him until they’d physically touched, and that was while Aya had been unconscious and latent. Once activated…

The longhaired man let out a moan at his next thought. _He_ was the one responsible for Aya’s training. It was up to him to decide whether to include those defenses or not. Here was the chance to train another telepath without all the pain and sadism, and in reward for his kindness would be that wonderful bliss each time they touched minds. Schuldig felt his mouth pull up into a grin, and worked up the energy to send out a thought. <Crawford. You said before that Aya was mine, right? That I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I kept him alive. Am I correct?>

<Don’t forget sane, Schuldig. Sane would be very nice. As you said, we don’t need another Berserker.>

Schuldig blew a mental raspberry at the older man. <I know that. Now were you being honest?>

No one heaved mental sighs as well as Crawford did. <Yes. Keep him alive and sane, have him be a part of the team, and he is yours. My word on it. Now leave me alone, you have no idea the amount of paperwork I have to take care of.>

<You need a life, Bradley.> But Schuldig cut the connection, let the man get back to his work. Nothing could make him assume Oracle’s position, he was more than happy to let the man take the brunt of the organization’s bureaucracy. Instead he focused on the given promise. Aya was his, to train, or not train, as he wished. This was almost as good as finding out that Schwarz might finally win their freedom. It would certainly make the wait for that moment all the more bearable, having one delicious mind to dive into any time he wished. A haven from the constant pain that his gift left him with, the never-ending buzz of voices. And it would work both ways, since he had no need of those defenses around the younger man. Aya would crave his presence just as much.

Drifting off to sleep, the image of violet eyes set in a pale, beautiful face filled his head. Ah, das kleine Veilchen. Sein kleines Veilchen.

*******

In his office Brad Crawford rested his head on the back of his chair, an uncharacteristic smile on his face. Things were going according to plan.

*******

Nagi eyed Farfarello nervously. <Do we really need to let him out for this? I thought that there was a chance that things might go wrong while having a latent talent activated.> He still wasn’t used to the insane man’s presence, not after finding Berserker slicing snowflake patterns into his chest one afternoon.

Schuldig rubbed his temples, feeling the tension build in his head already. <There’s a very good chance of that happening. Which is why Farfie is out here; it always pays to have a psychopath who can’t feel pain on hand when the shit hits the fan.> At least the man was mostly sane today, it seemed that the change of location was doing the Irishman some good. "Remember, Farfie. These men are our teammates now. No playing."

Farfarello nodded his head. "I won’t touch them, Crawford already told me that. There will be others to hurt soon. Ones that won’t pain God by stealing His glory, shining brightly with power."

"Whatever."

<Schuldig, what’s going to happen to them? I mean, all I’ve heard about the procedure is that it… isn’t very pleasant.>

<One hell of an understatement there, kid.> Schuldig weakly chuckled for a few seconds. <The sadist is going to go in there and break down almost all of their shields, leaving just enough so they have the basic, most rudimentary control over their power, and then drag their talents kicking and screaming to the fore. It’s painful as all fuck, especially the older one is. These guys are on the border, another couple of years and the pain would most likely permanently damage their minds. As it is they are going to wake up wishing we’d killed them.>

Brown eyes blinked. <Oh.> Nagi suddenly wanted to get this over with, he never had been a huge proponent of torture.

For his part Schuldig was thinking similar thoughts. The foreseeable future was about to be very, very unpleasant. Seeking a distraction, his mind searched out those of their newest recruits, each one in turn. He lingered with Aya, not being able to pick up very much from the man other than he was practicing some sort of martial arts. A door opening broke off his thoughts. The telepath looked up to see Crawford and Zersplittern step out of the American’s office. "Who’s first?"

"Hidaka." With that the Esset agents moved through the apartment, towards the brunet’s room. Crawford unlocked the door and waved Nagi over. "Mastermind?"

<He’s behind the door. I’m freezing him now, but it won’t last long.> However, that was all Prodigy needed to get inside the room and put a more permanent hold on the athlete. When Oracle waved him in Schuldig shook his head. <No thank you, not even I’m that sadistic. I’ll wait out here with Farfie while that prick gets off on ripping Hidaka’s mind apart.> For a moment he caught his friend’s wish that he could stay out there with him, but then the man went all leader-like again. Once again he didn’t even Brad his position.

Inside the room Ken was letting out a torrent of abuse, cursing everyone he could see. Crawford surveyed the damage to the room: the torn bedding and curtains, the shredded pillows, the few pieces of broken furniture littering the floor. This was coming out of the man’s salary, that was for sure. "Can we get this over with?"

Zersplittern sent him a dirty look, clearly relishing the task at hand. The Austrian hmphed and walked over to the held man. "Halt den Mund, Dummkopf." Before Ken could snap back any reply a bony hand touched his cheek. As Crawford watched he saw the man writhe in agony, tears and blood from a bitten lip streaming down the handsome face. In contrast the expression on Zersplittern’s face was one of orgiastic bliss. Crawford shuddered in revulsion and turned to glance at Nagi. The Japanese boy looked ready to cry from watching the agony that was being inflicted on a new teammate. He reached out and patted the youth on the shoulder.

Fortunately the spectacle didn’t last for long. Soon the breaker was stepping back, looking eagerly out the door. "Where’s the next one at?" Ken twitched in the telekinetic grip, covered with sweat and body completely limp.

"Nagi, put Hidaka to bed. When we’re done I want you to come back and look after him, he’ll be unconscious for the next few hours and then wake up in pain." Blue eyes watched as the young man was tenderly tucked back into bed, then as Nagi tried to cover him with the ruined bedding. "The next one is Kudoh. Right this way."

Crawford stepped out into the hallway and found a pale Schuldig waiting for him. <Two more to go, then we can send the monster packing. Keep your shields up a little longer.> The telepath nodded his head.

"Kudoh’s sitting on his bed, pretending to be all reasonable. He’s hoping to lull us into thinking he’s come to his senses. Nagi can handle this one on his own." The longhaired man rested against the wall and waited for the next attack to begin. He felt Kudoh’s surprise upon coming across the man who had punched him the day before, quickly turning to anger. It spiked when Nagi held him still for Zersplittern to do his trick. Then came the contrasting wave of bliss and agony, making him moan at the intensity of the emotions. Knowing that the sensations would go on for a few more minutes as the Austrian laid waste to most of the barriers blocking Kudoh’s power, Schuldig tugged on his hair as a futile distraction. Then was surprised when the feelings were replaced by a familiar madness. He opened his eyes to find Farfie touching his arm. "Danke." He lost himself in the madman’s mind, normally a harrowing experience but right now infinitely more pleasurable than what was currently happening in the other room.

When the door opened Farfarello stepped aside and Schuldig shoved away from the wall, intent on reaching Aya’s room. Once more his mind sought out the other redhead’s thoughts, only to find that somehow Aya had picked up on what was happening to his roommates. "He’s waiting for us, I don’t think we need Nagi for this one. I’ll handle him." Zersplittern walked past him, eager for his next victim. The Austrian radiated pure pleasure, he was getting his fill of pain and power today. Schuldig resisted the urge to strangle the prick as they approached Aya’s room. He sent a warning to the man inside. <We’re coming in. Don’t try anything, I’m sorry but it won’t work and will just make things worse.> For a moment it seemed that the swordsman was about to fight after all, then he felt the man still. Schuldig quickly unlocked the door and stepped inside. Crawford shot him an incredulous look as he followed.

Aya was standing before the window, watching the three of them enter his room. Nothing showed on the pale face, no emotions at all. It was clear that the redhead had recognized the breaker from Schuldig’s mind when his hands clenched. <I’m sorry, Aya, you know this has to happen. It will hurt less if you don’t fight it.>

Violet eyes sought out his. ‘I don’t want this.’ There was a quick flash of thought, of Aya bursting into motion and striking out at him, but it vanished as Nagi stepped into the room. Aya obviously knew when he was outgunned, and refused to do any useless posturing. ‘I don’t.’

<I know. I’m sorry, fate’s a->

‘Bitch. I’ve learned that well by now.’ Aya remained still as the elderly man approached him, a salacious grin on the gaunt face.

Schuldig gritted his teeth as a liver spotted hand stroked the beautiful face. For some reason he wanted to break the gnarled fingers, but a warning grip on his shoulder prevented that. Next came a wave of intense pain, building to an impossible crescendo. His nails dug into his palms as he struggled to keep from being overwhelmed by it. Aya twitched about, as if suffering a seizure, while sweat broke out on Zersplittern’s face. The agony lasted for several minutes, then all hell broke loose. It was as if a million voices were screaming at the top of their lungs, all at once. Everyone in the room was affected by it.

"Schu. What. The hell. Happening?" Crawford was hard-pressed to remain on his feet under the barrage.

"His shields are… broken, power all free. Aya’s- Aya’s broadcasting what he’s sensing."

The precog shoved his subordinate in the direction of the out-of-control telepath. "_Do_ something."

If the situation wasn’t so damn serious Schuldig would have retorted back with a scathing comment. But all he wanted to do at the moment was shield Aya before the man’s mind truly did shatter. It was so close to doing so right then and there. He violently shoved Zersplittern aside and threw his arms around the shuddering redhead. The voices lessened somewhat, but not enough. Seeking more contact with the neophyte, Schuldig pressed his lips against Aya’s. The touch was enough to let him sink into the man’s mind, to pull Aya behind his own shields. Gradually the voices faded away, and if it wasn’t for Crawford’s sudden support the two redheads would have fallen to the floor.

"Mastermind, can you hear me? What’s happening now?"

Carefully working an arm up under the black tee that Aya was wearing, Schuldig ended the ‘kiss’. He made sure to keep his skin in contact with the younger man’s though. "His shields, the prick completely shattered his shields, letting his power out unchecked and unprotected. Aya has no walls whatsoever to keep the voices out now. Dammit, he should have left some of them up, this could have shattered his psyche." Jade green eyes glared at the old man lying on the floor.

"He was struggling, I had to-"

Crawford treated the old man to an icy look. "You almost broke his mind, not unleashed his power. We could have lost a very powerful talent. Get out of here, I want you gone now." There was quiet menace in the American’s voice, a hint of barely leashed fury. "Say another word and our superiors will hear about this." Zersplittern’s scowl broke at that threat and he scrambled off the floor, eager to be gone. Letting out a sigh, Crawford maneuvered Schuldig and Aya towards the bed. "What the hell do we do now?"

"Help us towards my room. It’s quieter there." Frowning slightly, Crawford did just that. They stepped out into the hall to find Nagi huddled on the ground, Farfarello patting his back awkwardly. "Nagi, are you alright?"

A tear streaked face lifted. "I- yes."

"Go get some rest. You can look after Hidaka later, he’s sure as hell not going anywhere right now." When the teenager looked ready to argue Crawford treated him with a look. "I said now." Nagi gulped and did as he was told. "Berserker, make sure that Zersplittern leaves the premises within the next twenty minutes, if he fails to then do what you will with him. Then check up on Prodigy and report back to me."

Schuldig chuckled weakly. "Hey Vater, worry about the kid later and get us to my room. I can’t stay on my feet much longer." Him and Aya were suddenly propelled down the hall and unceremoniously dumped on his bed. The fall caused Schuldig’s hand to lose contact with Aya for a moment, and the both of them let out a moan as the voices came back. He quickly pressed it against the man’s back, letting his shields overlap Aya’s mind once again. "Crawford, get our shirts off. We need to be touching as much as possible."

Doing as he was told, the American set about stripping the two telepaths. "If this is one of your pranks, Schu, you’re dead."

That earned the older man a snort. "Like I’d be playing a joke on you at a time like this. I’m shielding Aya, but that requires me to be touching him. As in skin on skin. Don’t ask me how, this is what happens when a powerful telepath runs around untaught for twenty years. They develop the weirdest twists. This is his. Which means that until he builds his shields again, we have to be touching. Won’t that be fun. Thanks for giving me the pretty one, Crawford." He tried for a leer and failed miserably. It dawned on him that one had to be careful what one wished for, he’d be getting more than his fill of Aya’s mind for the next few weeks.

Now understanding part of his vision much better, Crawford started yanking down Aya’s pants. "In that case, we better take these off as well. The more the two of you are touching, the better. How long will it take for him to build up his shields again?"

Schuldig used his free hand to unzip his jeans and made a second attempt at a leer when the precog helped him remove the pants. "Always knew you wanted in my pants, Brad." The older man frowned and yanked the clothing off a little more roughly than necessary. He was sure to have a friction burn down the one leg. "A couple of weeks or so, give or take. If we’re lucky and have another prodigy on our hands. Even then they will be the most basic of barriers and not very effective." Schuldig pulled Aya closer to him; the shielding seemed more secure the more they touched. He tucked the smaller man’s head under his chin and entangled their legs together. "Could you pull up the blankets, hmm? Danke, Papa."

Crawford shook his head as he did as he was bid. Things were progressing perfectly, Schuldig and Fujimiya were already in bed together, though not under circumstances he would have preferred. "What exactly happened back there. You said Zersplittern took down all of his shields?"

"Ja." The German buried a yawn in Aya’s hair, not about to use his hand to do so. "The Schwanzlutscher completely obliterated them. Nothing’s left at all, not even a foundation for Aya to build anything on. I need to check the other two as well, chances are he did the same to them." Closing his eyes, Schuldig rested his cheek on the crimson maned head. "Sorry, Brad, I should have been paying better attention to what he was doing."

Crossing the room to close the curtains, Bradley Crawford shook his head. "It’s not your fault. The bastard is entirely to blame, it wasn’t your job to supervise him. If Farfarello doesn’t kill him I’m writing one hell of a report to our supervisors. This makes our job all the harder, if none of them have any shields left. Fujimiya and Kudoh are going to need special care." But in a way Schwarz benefited from it as well, this would bind the men to them even tighter. "Nagi and I will worry about Kudoh, just concentrate on Fujimiya. Now get some rest, I don’t think you’ll get a whole lot once he wakes up."

Snorting again, Schuldig for once obeyed orders without any complaint. He snuggled closer to Aya, delighting in the slight tingle that resulted from wherever their skin touched. The man was too out of it to have any thoughts whatsoever floating around in his pretty head, so everything was all peaceful and warm and pleasurable. Drifting off to sleep, it never occurred to the telepath to ask his friend if that last bit was a wild guess or a confirmed vision.

*******

Zersplittern – Shatter

Du bist ein manipulierender Kotzbrocken – Very loosely translates into "a manipulating pain in the ass". Very, very loosely.

Vater – Father

Kleines Veilchen – little violet

Sturen – Stubborn

Oder überhaupt nicht – Or not at all

*******

The other side

Meet me on the other side

Meet me on the other side

I’ll see you on the other side

See you on the other side

 

Honey now if I’m honest

I still don’t know what love is

Another mirage folds

Into the haze of time recalled

And now the floodgates cannot hold

All my sorrow all my rage

A tear that falls on every stage

 

Meet me on the other side

Meet me on the other side

 

Maybe I oughta mention

Was never my intention

To harm you or your kin

Are you so scared to look within

The ghosts are crawling on our skin

We may race and we may run

We’ll not undo what has been done

Or change the moment when it’s gone

 

Meet me on the other side

Meet me on the other side

I’ll see you on the other side

See you on the other side

 

I know it would be outrageous

To come on all courageous

And offer you my hand

To pull you up on to dry land

When all I got is sinking sand

The trick ain’t worth the time it buys

I’m sick of hearing my own lies

And love’s a raven when it flies

 

Meet me on the other side

Meet me on the other side

I’ll see you on the other side

See you on the other side

 

Honey now if I’m honest

I still don’t know what love is

~ lyrics by David Gray

*sigh* It’s the song I heard while trying to figure out the damn title to this fic, and I felt the title of the song and its lyrics fit pretty well. So I chucked my other ideas and went w/ this one.

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