The Other Side

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chapter 6

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Ken retracted his bugnuks, letting the armed guard fall dead at his feet. That was the last of the security, and now Nagi could start destroying the foundation of this building so Schwarz could complete their mission.

<The computers have been totaled, and I’m moving on to the last objective now.>

<Huhn, someone’s been a little busy tonight. Trying for some brownie points, kiddo?>

<At least the boy knows what it means to work a little, Blondie. Some of us have real jobs, not just looking pretty and feeling up walls.>

<Bite me, Schu. Nagi wouldn’t know which pillars to take out if it wasn’t for me. I can do more than just shoot people.>

Great. Yohji and Schuldig were at it again. Ken was surprised that the two men had stopped bitching at each other long enough to take out the rest of security and the targets, not to mention Yohji using his power to find the building’s structural weak points. He wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen visions of the men working more or less together for once. <Uh, guys, we’re on a mission here. Could you please focus?>

<Shut up, Ken.>

< Halt die Schnauze, Hidaka.>

<The both of you will be quiet, _NOW_.> Aya’s mental voice washed through all of Schwarz, rendering everyone silent for a moment. <Get out of the building.>

The Japanese telepath must have used his power to back up that order, as Ken found himself heading for the nearest exit without any thought on his part. Dammit; he had wanted to stick around and make sure that Nagi was all right. The younger man would be exhausted after having used his power so much and might need assistance to leave the complex.

<I’ll be fine, Ken.>

<And I’m with him, making sure that he gets out safely, Banshee. We’ll meet you outside.> There was an amused note to Oracle’s voice, and somehow Ken wasn’t surprised that he had been excluded from Aya’s command. Knowing that the American would keep his word and see Nagi to safety, the athlete stopped trying to resist the order to leave. In a few minutes, he was outside in the parking lot where Yohji and Schu were smoking and exchanging glares with each other behind Aya’s back. The swordsman stood between the two of them, his hood pulled forward enough so one couldn’t catch a glimpse of his face, facing the direction of the office building Ken had just left. Farfie was covered with blood, as usual, and was singing a song under his breath as he stared at the little romantic triangle.

His power having gone dormant, the brunet assumed that Schwarz was done for the night save for the destruction of the building. They had orders to see it reduced to rubble, along with the people inside who had thought to try and double cross Esset. <I’m not picking up any more visions, so I guess that we won’t be bothered tonight.>

<No.> There was a hint of anger that accompanied Aya’s comment, most likely directed at the two idiots who were fighting with each other over the pale redhead. Quite frankly, Ken was surprised that the man hadn’t killed Yohji and Schuldig yet. The situation was getting worse with each passing day and the tension was beginning to get to the team. Seeking a distraction from yet another battle brewing between the two nicotine addicts, not to mention the fact that Nagi was still in the building working on its structural support, Ken continued with a topic sure to ensnare all three men’s attentions.

<So, guess we won’t see Weiß tonight.>

<No, those Schwachköpfe haven’t a clue that we are here.> Schuldig was clearly content not having to face the other assassin team for once. Schwarz had fought Weiß three times in the past month, and each time Omi and his new teammates were even more determined to beat Schwarz and regain Kritiker’s missing employees.

<That’s good. When is Crawford going to let you have a talk with Omi, Yohji?>

The lanky blond took a deep drag from his cigarette and flicked it away in Schuldig’s direction. As the German growled at him, Yohji sidled closer to Aya. <The man keeps telling us to wait until the time is right, so who the hell knows?> "Right, Aya?"

The quiet man only hn’ed at the question, his attention never leaving the office building. Yohji reached out a hand to touch Aya, but let it fall down to his side after a few seconds as if having thought better of it. Both he and Schuldig had learned a couple weeks ago to not try anything funny with swordsman during a mission. The both of them had been ignored for several days after the two fools had gotten into yet another fight during the stakeout of a restaurant that a target patronized; they both had tried to share the same booth with the object of their affections with the clear intent of groping him while they waited for the druglord to show up. Hell, even Ken had been able to pick up on that fact through the group’s link, and he knew that Aya had to be filtering some things out.

<Because there’s no sense in letting you talk to the boy before he is ready to hear what you have to say. It won’t be long now; Bombay is beginning to realize that more is going on than he is aware of.> Well, make that Aya usually filtered some things. Ken hadn’t thought his little discussion would reach the older precog’s attention.

He was soon distracted from that thought when he saw the man walk out of the building with Nagi in his arms. Ken rushed over to his teammates and grabbed the boy from Oracle, cradling Nagi to his chest. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just exhausted." The slight youth closed his eyes and rested his head against Ken’s shoulder. Holding his friend closer, the brunet turned to find the rest of his team staring at him smugly. Well, everyone but Aya; one couldn’t tell how the man was looking at you with the hood shadowing his face. "Can we go now?"

"Of course." Crawford led his team back to their cars, and no sooner than when they had left the building’s courtyard, the assassins heard a creaking moan that increased in intensity until it reached a low rumble. By the time Schwarz was a block away, the structural support of the building caved in with a loud crash, and they brushed dust off of their clothes before entering the vehicles.

Ken stared at the ruin that had been a ten story complex moments before and shook his head in amazement. To think that two men were able to do a more efficient job than their weight in explosives… "It’s incredible."

"Hm? Oh, the building? Yes, Prodigy and Munin did an excellent job. Quite a few people should become panicked when they read their reports of this incident in the morning. They will realize that Esset has a team that can do more than just kill people and read minds." The American’s voice held a trace of contempt, which caused Ken so shift about uncomfortably.

"Crawford, is everything all right?"

"I’m fine, Ken. I just don’t like having to reveal hints of our true strengths; I’ve always preferred it when Schwarz was underrated."

The man had a point. "Is Esset keeping us so busy just so they can show everyone how powerful we are?" For the past month, ever since Ken, Yohji and Aya had taken part in Schwarz’s assignments, the team had been out almost every night on some sort of a mission or another.

"We’ve been so busy because our supervisors want the chaos that Kritiker made of the criminal underworld here and in this area of Asia more or less straightened out. Your former organization has made a right mess of things by striking at first this syndicate and then another, and destabilizing the whole infrastructure until it is completely fragmented. There is no control over the situation that way, and various power struggles were initiated as the remaining groups vie for the available resources. Kritiker created one hell of a mess, and Esset wants things restored to some sort of order."

Holding Nagi close, Ken didn’t reply to that comment. When he had been in Weiß, he had helped perpetrate the muddle that he was now cleaning up. The athlete hadn’t thought of the vacuums that were created when his team had killed various drug lords or other criminals. Somehow, it was very karmic to be dealing with the mess he had made. "We thought we were doing good."

Farfie broke out of his reverie to laugh evilly. "They gave you a white cross to bear and sent you off to battle. You should remember your history, little banshee, and recall all the wars fought in the name of righteousness and honor. Evil loves to wear a cloak of goodness and holiness, then commit atrocities that would blanche even a devil. At least we acknowledge our darkness and don’t try to justify our sins. We are Schwarz, and spit in God’s eye." The insane man continued to laugh and occasionally mutter things under his breath the whole ride home. For his part, Ken reflected on how he always seemed to be betrayed by the ones he trusted the most; first Kase, and now Kritiker.

But so far, that didn’t seem to be the case with Schwarz. Due to the mental rapport that Aya instigated during all their missions, he had gained a good deal of insight into his teammates’ minds. The link seemed to be seeping into their personal life as well; Ken had realized during the past week or so that he almost always knew where his friends were and even felt the vague impression of their strongest emotions. As soon as he woke up, the brunet could tell if Farfie would have a good day or bad, sanity wise; if Nagi felt up to playing some soccer or would want to spend the day inside playing on his computer; or if it would be a bad idea to try and talk to Aya at all. The only one who remained a mystery now was Crawford, but there was a hint of concern, focus and determination that seeped through the precog’s impressive shields so that Ken didn’t worry about what the man was up to. Somehow, he knew that Crawford was doing his best to protect Schwarz and ensure that they eventually gained their freedom.

When they reached the parking garage, Ken slid out of the car with a sleeping Nagi in his arms. The ride up to their apartment was an uncomfortable one, as it was clear that Yohji and Schuldig had done something to royally piss Aya off. The two longhaired men could not look at each other without growling, and Aya was standing as far away from them as possible. Wishing that the swordsman would just pick one of the men and tell the other to go fuck off, Ken gritted his teeth and resolved to spend the day away from the apartment tomorrow.

<He has picked someone, and it’s _me_. Tell your friend Kudoh to leave mein kleines Veilchen the hell alone.>

<Yohji’s not going to take my word for that, Schuldig; he’ll only accept it from Aya. Stop pissing your boyfriend off so much, and maybe the man will say something to him.>

Schuldig stopped glaring at Yohji long enough to direct a look Ken’s way. <You are the last person who should be dishing out the romantic advice, Kenken, considering the fact that you still haven’t worked up the nerve to talk to Nagi. He has an excuse for chickening out; he’s never been in a situation like this. You should know better and tell the boy the truth.>

Ken ignored the German as he pushed past Aya to step out of the elevator, earning a few curses sent his way by Schuldig and Yohji for brushing against the man. As if Aya wasn’t covered head to toe, and there had been the slightest risk of their skin coming in contact. Damn, no wonder Aya couldn’t pick between the two men; they both were fucking idiots.

Making his way to Nagi’s room, Ken laid the teenager on the bed and stripped off the grey uniform. After a few minutes, his friend was tucked into bed and Ken sat on the edge of it staring down at Nagi. He couldn’t get Schuldig’s words out of his head. He really was a huge coward, unable to admit his true feelings.

Kase had been his only male lover; Ken had thought that his childhood friend was the only man he was attracted to. After they had broken up, he had found himself in relationships with women. The athlete hadn’t thought to find himself falling in love with another male, especially not one four years his junior.

He had to admit now that it was indeed love. Going on missions with Nagi had proven that to him beyond a shadow of a doubt. While Ken felt concern for all of his teammates, the thought of Nagi being hurt tore at his heart. But how did he tell a fifteen year old that he was in love with him? His friend was just too young.

Tracing his fingers over Nagi’s face, Ken sighed and rose to his feet. Maybe in a year or two he could admit his feelings, if the two of them were still together. Until then, he would keep on being Nagi’s friend and watch out for the boy the best he could. He would make sure that his love and the rest of Schwarz became free of both Esset and Kritiker, so Nagi could have a chance at a normal life. Even if he had to fight his former organization, including Omi, Ken would do anything to give the youth that much at least.

*******

Omi looked away from his computer screen deciding that it would be best if he went to bed. He had two exams tomorrow; while he was sure that he could pass them even half asleep, it would be best not to show up completely exhausted. Besides, he wasn’t finding anything but more encrypted programs. Omi was beginning to wonder just what it was that Kritiker was hiding, considering the fact that he had breeched so far into the organization’s computer system that he should be past such defenses.

The teenager closed a few programs and went downstairs to the kitchen to prepare himself a lunch for the next day. Omi was surprised to find Kai and Dayu sitting at the kitchen table, an angry expression on the tall man’s face. "Uhm, is everything all right?" Things had been inexplicably tense between the two assassins the past few weeks, and Omi couldn’t figure out why. It didn’t help that Kai was always in a foul mood after Weiß fought Schwarz and found themselves beaten yet again. Not wanting to think about his continued failure to save his friends, the teenager hurried over to the sink.

"We’re just going over a few past missions and trying to figure out ways to improve our teamwork," the younger man commented. Kai briefly nodded his head and then rose to his feet leaving the room without saying a word. Putting some rice into a steamer, Omi raised an eyebrow and glanced back at Dayu.

"Is he upset about something? I know we haven’t had much luck when facing Schwarz, but he seems to be taking it a bit hard." As if Weiß stood a chance against a telekinetic, a telepath, and a guy who didn’t feel any pain. Not to mention the fact that they were outnumbered. Omi strongly believed that the only reason he and his teammates were still alive was because his friends weren’t trying to kill them. Each encounter with Ken, Yohji and Aya only convinced him more and more.

Dayu remained silent for a moment, then sighed as he rested his head on the table. "I don’t think he likes to lose."

Especially to Aya for some reason. Omi stared down at the cooking rice wondering why it was that as soon as he thought he had one answer, twenty more questions appeared. When he glanced back over to his roommate, he found Dayu gone. Wondering if the impression he had that the man was hiding something from him was just his imagination, Omi continued preparing his bento.

Just as he put the box in the fridge, Jou walked through the door whistling loudly. "Hey, Omi, you still up? I thought you had school in the morning."

"I do. How was the date?" Jou seemed determined to take Yohji’s place as the team’s playboy, much to their fan girls’ delight. He didn’t seem to mind dating girls under the age of eighteen, since he wasn’t that much older, and was out with a different one every night. At least the young man didn’t stagger home drunk and reeking of sex, or Omi would have had to teach him some manners.

"Great. The concert was fantastic. You the only one up?"

Closing the refrigerator door, Omi shook his head. "Kai and Dayu were here a few minutes ago." He started to clean up his mess.

Jou shooed him away from the counter. "Go to bed, kid. I’ll clean this up. So Quiet and Sullen are still up? Huh. I wish those two would stop fighting all the time; they make me paranoid when I walk into a room that they’re in and they shut up and walk away."

"Good night, Jou." So it wasn’t just him, Omi thought. Heading to his room, the youth had a feeling he wouldn’t be able to sleep right away as more questions started to plague him.

*******

Nagi woke up, for a moment unable to remember what had happened the night before. He recalled the mission and using his power as he rarely had before. Then he felt a flush on his cheeks as he thought of how Ken had held onto him in the car and carried him to his room. Getting out of bed, Nagi slowly made his way to the shower where he stood under the hot water for a long time.

"Nagi, you in there? Are you all right?" Ken was banging on the door to the bathroom, his voice tight with worry.

"I’ll be out in a minute, Ken." Turning off the water, Nagi hurriedly toweled off and slid on his robe. Opening the door, he found an anxious athlete sitting on his bed. "I was taking a shower."

"I know, I’ve been waiting here for over fifteen minutes. You sure you are okay?"

Sitting on the bed beside the older boy, Nagi played with the belt of his robe. "I’m just a bit tired."

"Well, you slept past breakfast, so how about I take you out for a bite to eat? You have to be hungry." Ken smiled at him, and Nagi couldn’t help but to smile back, his heart growing light at the concern being expressed for him.

"That sounds great." Possessed by a sudden urge, Nagi threw his arms around Ken’s neck and hugged him. Surely that wouldn’t be construed as anything but friendly affection, would it? Ken stiffened for a moment then returned the embrace when the younger man was about to pull away. They remained like that for several moments then Nagi felt a pair of lips press against his temple. Lifting his head to look up at the precog, he was surprised when a kiss was next placed on his mouth. Though shocked at first, Nagi quickly begun to kiss Ken back, parting his lips when a tongue pressed against them.

It wasn’t at all like he imagined it would be; in fact, it was much better. Something tingled inside of him as Ken’s tongue flicked in his mouth, rubbing against his. Moving his hands, he slid them through shaggy brown strands of hair and sighed as he was pulled onto the older boy’s lap.

Suddenly, he found himself being pushed away as Ken scrambled off the bed. "Oh god, I’m sorry Nagi, I’m so sorry." Before he could marshal his talent to keep the soccer fanatic from running away, Ken did just that, fleeing the room post haste.

Dammit, something had finally happened; something that Nagi had been hoping for shortly after he had met the other boy, and Ken had run immediately afterward. What did that mean for him? Was he so repulsive? Nagi felt as if his chest was full of broken glass and remained on the bed for several minutes before he found the heart to get up and pull on some sweatpants and a t-shirt. As he stepped out of the room, he found Schuldig, garbed in jeans and a white jersey, leaning against the opposite wall.

"Good, you’re dressed. Let’s go get something to eat." Nagi was unceremoniously hauled to the elevator, where Aya was waiting for them. Not a word was said as he was dragged and prodded to a Western style diner a few blocks from the apartment. It wasn’t until a large amount of food had been ordered that anyone spoke to him.

"So, Ken finally pounced on you, huh?" Schuldig raised a cup of coffee to his lips with one hand, and his other arm was about Aya’s black-clad shoulders playing with a long eartail. Judging from the way no one seemed to be paying the couple any attention, Nagi assumed that the telepaths were preventing anyone from noticing them.

"Have you ever heard of the word ‘privacy’, Schu?"

"Hmph, you live with two precogs, two telepaths, and whatever the hell Kudoh is; you think we don’t know what the hell is going on at all times? Especially when the two of you are practically broadcasting your emotions?" Schuldig looked ready to say something else, but Aya elbowed him in the ribs. "Ow, what was that for?"

<You’re not helping.>

Nagi had to agree with the redhead, and wondered why he was being subjected to this nonsense. "Is there a point to this, Schuldig, besides you enjoying the situation?"

"Hell, sorry kiddo, I wasn’t trying to be an asshole. Just thought you might want to bitch to a sympathetic ear or two." The German rested his head against his lover’s and smiled sheepishly. "And I thought you might like to know that dear Ken-ken was fleeing because he thought he was being a proper reprobate, and not because of you. He thinks you are a kid; you need to convince him otherwise."

Glancing over at Aya, who nodded his head, Nagi pulled the carafe of coffee over to him, using his hands for once, and poured himself a cup. Great, now Schuldig was trying to help him. This day was getting worse and worse.

<Hey! I heard that! You’re just as ungrateful as mein kleines Veilchen here. OW!>

A smile hovering on his lips, Nagi had to admit that watching Aya abuse the pest was very amusing, no matter how broken hearted he felt. A violet eye winked at him, as the pale man let go of the strand of reddish hair that he had been tugging on. The arrival of their food prevented Schuldig from doing little more than glaring at both of them, and Nagi soon forgot his other concerns over the need to appease his appetite. He always felt so hungry after using his power. The older talents picked and snacked while he ate; or least Aya did, while Schuldig nibbled on his neck and ear. The sight of the couple made Nagi jealous and despondent. They had each other, while he had no one.

<Listen, Nagi, Ken isn’t half as much stubborn as Aya here. Don’t give up on the idiot, especially when it’s so much fun watching the two of you together.>

<Almost as much fun as seeing Aya smack you, I imagine.> Nagi retorted. He finished his meal and sat back in his chair.

Aya prodded Schuldig in the ribs, prompting the man to pull some money out of his wallet. <He’s right, you know. Hidaka cares for you; he doesn’t adopt just anyone.> Rising to his feet, the quiet redhead gestured to the door. <Let’s go.> With that, Aya left the diner.

"You heard the boss, kiddo. Let’s return home, so you can torture the jock some more. Make him pay for running away." Catching up to his lover, the German captured the man’s hand and tossed a comment over his shoulder. "Though I agree with Kudoh; he is a pervert. OW! Fuck, you are a vicious bastard!"

There were times when Nagi thought that Aya was the best teammate ever.

*******

Yohji walked out onto the roof, where Ken was chasing after a ball, and stared at the idiot for a moment. What the hell did that accomplish? He didn’t understand how exercise solved any problems, unless it was of the highly pleasurable kind. Guess he was more of a traditionalist and believed in drowning his sorrow in vice and not exhaustion.

<Kudoh, we’re bringing Nagi back; have you found Ken yet?>

<Mission accomplished. I’ll try to talk a little sense into him. And you owe me dinner, since you went out with the prick for breakfast, twice.>

<Kudoh…> Aya’s telepathy was rather talented at conveying the man’s snarls, but Yohji wasn’t worried. The swordsman had found out in the past few weeks that unless he wanted Yohji and Schuldig to fight even more than usual, he had to spend time with both of them away from the other. And the blond was very insistent on getting his fair share of attention. <I pick the place.>

<Of course. Now let me talk to the pedophile here. Ow.> Aya was also very talented in sending little mental ‘smacks’ to people. Yohji rubbed his aching head, ignoring the amusement that filtered through the link clearly radiating from Schuldig. Let the man laugh now; later he’d be having dinner with Aya, and it would be the prick’s turn to be hurting. Flicking away his cigarette, Yohji stepped in Ken’s path. "Something bothering you, Kenken?"

"Yohji, go away. I don’t feel like talking right now."

"Tough shit." The playboy bent down and snatched up the ball, preventing Ken from ignoring him. "We’ve taken a vote and have decided that we’re tired of seeing you and Nagi dance around each other. While I personally think you’re a pervert, I also think you two deserve each other. Go down and apologize to the kid."

Ken looked at him first with bewilderment, then embarrassment, and finally anger. "Can’t anyone here mind their own business? Fuck, I kissed the kid once, about an hour ago, and you’re up here lecturing me?"

Someone was going to be stubborn. "Ken, we’re in a telepathic link most nights, you think we’re not picking up on how concerned the two of you are for each other? Or how happy you guys were, before you got an attack of your conscience? We’ve enough of a romantic mess going on between Aya, the prick and I, so go tell Nagi that you love him and be happy together. And damn well make sure your shields are up when you think perverted thoughts about him, since I don’t want to know anything about that."

"But… he’s a kid, Yohji. You’re right, I’m sick."

Why the hell had he been stuck with Ken? Yohji sighed when he remembered that it had been Aya who had asked him to talk to the athlete. Things were bad when he was completely wrapped around a person’s finger and not even getting any sex by way of compensation. He paused in berating the athlete long enough to light another cigarette. "No, he’s most definitely not. Nagi’s been with Schwarz for a couple of years now; he sure as hell is not a kid, mentally. Hell, you act more childish than he does." Ken glared at him for that comment. "Well it’s true. So stop kicking around a damn ball and do something. You dumb jock."

"Lazy pervert." Ken snatched his ball back and glanced at the blond out of the corner of his eyes. "You really think I should?"

Yohji stretched his arms over his head and offered the man a smile. "Yeah, at least so I can call you a pedophile all the time." He barely ducked the arm aiming for his head. "Go on, Ken. Get your happiness." The last came out tinged with bitterness, as that was something that Yohji hadn’t quite managed yet. The brunet patted him on the arm in sympathy then hurried over to the elevator. Lingering on the roof as he finished his smoke, Yohji hoped that things worked out between the two so at least he could have some hope for Aya and him. Not that he was about to give up any time soon. Nope, not until he had his happiness as well.

*******

Ken made a brief stop to his own bedroom to put away his soccer ball and make himself more presentable, and then decided to face his fears head on. If Yohji was playing a prank on him, he’d get the embarrassment of Nagi thinking he was a pervert out of the way and spend the rest of his day dismembering the blond. Feeling butterflies in his stomach, the athlete tentatively knocked on the younger man’s door.

It opened immediately after the second knock. Cautiously entering the room, Ken found Nagi sitting cross-legged on his bed dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt. The outfit made the telekinetic look so young, and for a moment he reconsidered the idea of confronting Nagi about his feelings. At least, he was until the door slammed shut behind him and the room’s chair knocked into the back of his knees, and Ken found himself sitting down.

"Uh, thanks for the seat, Nagi." The boy didn’t say anything, just looked at him with an impassive face.

Sweating, Ken wiped a hand over his eyes and offered a weak grin. "Did you get anything to eat? I can go get you something, if you are still hungry." Trying to get out of the chair, the older boy found himself unable to do so.

"Ken, if you try to leave without talking about this morning, I will ask Aya for advice on how to really, really hurt you. Do you hear me?"

And the redheaded bastard would only too gladly give Nagi the advice. Chuckling nervously, Ken told his friend that wouldn’t be necessary. "Look, Nagi, I’m really sorry about this morning. I guess I was so worried about you that I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing." Ken’s resolve to face the matter had wilted when he was in the telekinetic’s presence. He found out that he really didn’t mind being a coward after all, and decided that Yohji was the last person to listen to concerning romantic advice.

Nagi was silent for a few seconds, his head tilted to the side. "Aya says that you are really sensitive about your hands, and that I should start on them."

"Fucking bastard, I thought he was my friend!" Ken yelled when he felt pressure on his hands. "All right, I’m in love with you! Are you and everyone else happy? Ken Hidaka is in love with a ki-mph"

Something was covering his mouth, preventing him from speaking. Ken watched as Nagi shifted to the edge of the bed and let out a muffled yelp when his chair scooted across the room and stopped by the bed. "Listen to me, Ken. I am not a kid. I haven’t been one since I had to run away from home, and not even for a while then. You’ve seen what I’ve had to do; would a child be able to handle all the death and destruction Schwarz deals with?"

"No, Nagi. But you aren’t exactly legal age, either." Finding himself able to move and speak again, Ken got out of the chair and sat down next to Nagi. "I’m sorry about the kiss, really I am. I never should have forced myself on you like that."

"Well I’m not. Do you really love me, Ken?" Nagi suddenly became very interested in the cuffs of his sweatpants. "Because I feel that way about you." The younger boy’s voice was so soft and forlorn that Ken didn’t think twice about grabbing Nagi and pulling him onto his lap. At first the teenager was stiff, but he soon relaxed and hugged Ken’s arms tight about him. "I’d do anything for you."

"I’m familiar with the feeling." Inhaling the scent of Nagi’s hair, Ken rested his chin on the youth’s shoulder. "I do love you, but I wish you were a few years older."

Nagi twisted about to face him, and Ken found himself being kissed rather thoroughly. What skill his love didn’t have by way of experience was easily made up for with enthusiasm. He couldn’t resist pulling Nagi close and kissing him back, remaining that way for several minutes until Ken realized that he was pressing the boy’s groin firmly against his and rocking back and forth.

"Oh God, Nagi, I can’t do this. I want you so bad, but you’re too young." He felt ashamed of himself for wanting a fifteen year old.

Nagi glared back at him and smacked him on the side of his head. "I’m not a-"

"-kid. I know that, but…" Ken didn’t know how to put it into words.

"But I’m too young to have sex with you? Is that it, Ken?"

Blushing, the older boy nodded his head. "Okay then, we just won’t have sex for a while." Nagi seemed proud of that solution and wrapped his arms around a stunned Ken’s neck. "We can wait til I’m older, like sixteen."

Ken didn’t really see how much of a difference that made. "I think eighteen would be better." That way no one could say he had taken advantage of the younger man, and his conscience would feel much better. Though looking at Nagi’s pouting face, the athlete realized that he had over two years of cold showers to look forward to. Lots and lots of cold showers.

"Eighteen is too long. Sixteen."

"Eighteen."

"Okay then, seventeen." There was a dangerous glint in Nagi’s hazel eyes. Ken realized he was getting as much of a compromise as he ever would get, and that he was arguing with someone who could slam him through several walls. Then he also realized he was arguing with a minor over when they would be having sex. Feeling himself blush again, Ken mumbled his agreement only to forget about his discomfort when Nagi hugged him.

Resolving to get used to being called a pedophile and pervert by Yohji, Ken fell back on the bed and held Nagi tight as he let the happiness he felt wash away his doubts. He really did love the younger teen, and he didn’t think that Nagi was lying to him about his feelings. Maybe it was his time to find that special someone and get a break for once in his life. Though with the way his new boyfriend was squirming on top of him, trying to get comfortable as he snuggled close, Ken knew he would certainly be taking a lot of cold showers in the future. Yep, starting as soon as he got off the bed.

<Hee, I’ll have Bradley remove the hot water faucet from your shower. Way to go, Hidaka. You’ve made the kid so happy, even Aya is blissed out from his emotions. Though I warn you now, you’ll need more than cold water to help you out when Nagi decides he doesn’t want to wait for over a year after all. Good luck with that.> Schuldig’s amusement filtered through the mental link, echoed by the rest of Schwarz. Blushing furiously at the thought of what busybodies his teammates were, Ken tightened his hold on Nagi. If he ever got too frustrated with the wait, he could always vent his emotions by beating up on Schuldig and Yohji. Somehow, he didn’t think that Aya would mind.

*******

Yohji walked into the living room on his way to the kitchen, only to find Aya curled up on the couch reading a book. Deciding that he really wasn’t hungry after all, he plopped down next to the redhead, so close that his leg was pressed against the man’s feet. Aya graced him with a glare but continued reading. Happy that he was allowed in the pale man’s presence, especially since Aya had actually been _hissing_ of all things at both Schuldig and him when they had started to insult each other at breakfast this morning, Yohji grabbed the remote and turned on the television.

He flipped through the channels, finally deciding to watch some videos since he wouldn’t have to pay that much attention to them. Yohji then stretched out his arm along the back of the couch, which put his hand in the proper position to play with soft crimson locks of hair if he so wished. Aya hn’ed softly in warning but continued to read.

Ken and Nagi entered the room, most likely intent on playing some games, but upon seeing the older men sitting together on the couch, shook their heads and quickly left. Yohji was grateful for that, since he now had Aya all to himself, and because it was downright diabetes inducing to watch the teens together. The couple was practically inseparable now that they had admitted their feelings, and Yohji couldn’t take any more snuggling and kissing. It was bad enough to watch Aya with Schuldig, and they were by no means as sickeningly sweet as Ken and Nagi. Yohji didn’t need any reminders of what was denied to him at the moment. And it would be for quite some time, unless he convinced Aya to leave the German prick for him.

The object of his affection slumped down in the couch, shadowed lids drooping over violet eyes as the redhead slowly fell asleep. It wasn’t surprising that Aya was exhausted; last night’s mission had entailed taking out a target and his entourage in the middle of a crowded theater. Aya’s job had been to keep the other patrons from suspecting that anything was wrong, while Yohji, Farfie and Schu had killed the high-ranking Yakuza officials. He didn’t want to think of how many minds Aya had influenced, especially when Farfie had decided to have some fun with the boss’ teenage son. The young man had been wearing a large gold cross; Schu had been hard pressed to keep the insane foreigner from turning the theater into an abattoir. Yet no one had suspected a thing, despite the screams and the blood everywhere.

When the book dropped to the couch, Yohji used his arm to coax Aya into leaning against him. He felt a flash of irritation in his mind as the pale man growled softly, but Aya was soon resting his head on the blond’s shoulder as he gave up the fight to stay awake. Leaning his head on top of the smaller man’s, Yohji’s talent let him feel the man’s exhaustion and sense of comfort from his presence. He’d found out in the past few weeks that Aya didn’t mind his touches and casual holds since they helped to block out other people’s thoughts and reassured him that he was being shielded from a touch that would cause him pain. It amazed Yohji, the amount of trust the swordsman placed in him and gave him hope that one day soon Aya would see him as something other than a playboy who would use then abandon him. Hell, he had the man sleeping next to him like this, didn’t he? He knew that Aya had some kind of feelings for him, or else the man would have killed him for his behavior these past few weeks. Yohji was acting like a possessive, immature idiot, but didn’t know of any way to stop it.

Because Yohji could no longer deny that he loved the stubborn twit. Not after he had realized that Aya meant so much to him. Only one other person had evoked this feeling from him, and she was dead. He refused to let anything harm his new love and wouldn’t stop until the man was his. Even if he had to kill Schuldig to make that happen. Well, maybe not kill. Maim, yes, but he might get into trouble for killing the German prick. Unless he could make it look like an accident.

Aya mumbled in his sleep and curled up closer to Yohji. Savoring the feel of the slender body against his, the older man closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment. All too soon, Schuldig, Farfie and Crawford would return, and the peace would be shattered. Schuldig would be sure to snatch Aya away, probably pissing the smaller redhead off and starting another fight. Yohji wasn’t sure why Crawford hadn’t smacked his and the foreign telepath’s heads together and told them to behave, since the fights were causing tension in the team. But the precog didn’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of them; they only lived in the past and the present.

Just when he was about to join his friend in a nap, the missing members of Schwarz returned home. Yohji could feel the jealousy and anger pouring off of Schuldig when the man stepped into the living room and found him curled up with Aya. Flashing the prick a grin, he pressed a kiss to the awakening man’s head. Feeling a mind brush against his, Yohji knew that Aya was reading his thoughts and judging from the scowl being directed at both him and Schuldig, figured that both of them were once more in trouble for being jealous assholes. Guess there went seeing if Aya wanted to go out with him for dinner. For a second, Yohji wondered why the swordsman put up with the two of them, and why he and the prick weren’t dead already.

Aya rose to his feet and stormed out of the room, Schuldig hot on his heels. The German was an idiot for wanting to face his lover while he was that pissed off. Maybe Aya would do Yohji a favor and kill Schuldig for him. A rumble from his stomach reminded the playboy that he had meant to get something to eat about an hour ago, and he decided to head towards the kitchen. It helped that the room was in the opposite direction of the one a very pissed off redhead was in, since it meant he was less likely to be gutted in the immediate future.

"Yohji, one moment please."

Glancing at Crawford, Yohji paused on his way to the kitchen. "Yeah?" Was he finally going to be yelled at for interfering with the telepaths’ relationship?

"I think it’s time for you to have a talk with your former teammate. If you would come with me into my office, we could discuss how you should go about that." Crawford didn’t wait for a response, but just turned around and left the room.

It looked as if the meal was going to have to wait a little longer; talking to Omi was more important. As Yohji followed the American, he felt a smile spread across his face as he heard a loud yelp from down the hall, clearly the sound of Schuldig protesting being hit. "Give him hell, Aya."

*******

Swearing in frustration over his failure to break the encryption on the files he wanted to access, Omi banged his head against the monitor. He just _knew_ that those files had something to do with his kidnapped teammates, but there was no way for him to read them. Why the hell was Kritiker acting this paranoid? Granted, he was hacking into the system, but he was probably the only person to have ever gotten this far before. The organization was really being overprotective.

Omi rubbed at his eyes as he considered taking a break from all the hacking he’d been doing. He had promised to meet Ouka for dinner and some shopping; it wouldn’t do to show up in a bad mood because of his failure to read top-secret documents. The girl would pick up on his temper and insist on knowing what was going on. It was hard enough keeping Weiß a secret from her; Ouka didn’t need any more reasons to pry into his hidden life.

About to turn off his PC, a faint chiming sound indicated that he had a new email. Thinking it might be from his half-sister, Omi opened the file. His eyes grew wide when he realized who had sent the letter.

*******

Schuldig looked over at Aya getting dressed for his little trip to the park. Tossing his cigarette out into the air, the German left the balcony and walked over to his lover. He cautiously hugged the man, trying to decide if Aya was still pissed off at him from yesterday. Someone hadn’t appreciated being woken from a nap then getting yelled at for falling asleep on a certain blond bastard. Schuldig should have killed Yohji, but figured he was in enough trouble with Aya as it was. His ribs still hurt from the punch.

"Hey, don’t forget about your hat."

"Hn." Aya leaned back in his embrace, closing his eyes as he let Schuldig support his weight. The older telepath held him tight and lowered his head to nuzzle a pale ear. <I won’t. Be careful tonight.>

"Heh, it’s just me and Crawford going to explain a few things to a few thickheaded mob goons. Hell, I don’t even know why I’m being dragged along, Vater could handle this by himself. He’ll have the yakuza licking his boots in ten minutes." Schuldig wanted to tell his lover to be careful himself, but didn’t want to start another fight. Aya would accuse him of not trusting either him or Kudoh, and things would go downhill from there. He did trust the younger redhead; with anything other than the blond that was. Aya’s feelings for the man let the bastard take advantage of him, and the thought of the two of them alone together made Schuldig’s blood boil. Kudoh better not try anything, or he’d kill the blond. "Watch out for Weiß."

<I will.> Aya turned around to kiss Schuldig, and the older man groaned at the emotions he felt through their link. There was irritation, anticipation… and something that made his knees weak to experience, as it always did since the German had figured out what the emotion was. Aya was his, completely and utterly. All he had to do was make Kudoh realize that and leave his boyfriend alone, free Schwarz from Esset, and he would be perfectly content. Schuldig deepened the kiss, drinking in Aya’s taste and the way the man shivered in his arms and tried to slide his hands down the black pants his love was wearing.

<Schu, I have to go.>

<No you don’t. I have a much better idea of how you can spend the afternoon.> He let out a yelp when a hand pressed against his sore ribs, and Aya used his surprise to slide out of his arms. The vicious bastard walked over to the closet to get his hat, but Schuldig didn’t let him get past him on the way to the door. He grabbed the smaller man, and when Aya glared at him, adjusted the fedora so it rested at a rakish angle on the crimson hair, yet hid most of the pale face. "Now you’re ready to go." Schuldig kissed him softly on the lips, then pushed the Japanese man towards the door. "Get out of here before I finish what I started."

Aya paused in the doorway to flash him a rare and breathtaking smile, then disappeared from his sight. Tugging a hand through his hair, Schuldig told himself that the feeling in his chest was just hormones and happiness, and that he didn’t have time for such silliness. He grabbed his green coat and decided to go pester Crawford a bit, since the man was the reason he wasn’t accompanying the others to the park. If Schuldig had to be miserable, he might as well share the joy. Besides, he felt like hearing yet another reminder of how he wasn’t allowed to kill Kudoh, as he tried not to think of the fact that the man was going to be alone with Aya for the next couple of hours. His jealousy was perfectly understandable; he was just guarding what was his. Too bad a certain telepath and precog didn’t understand that.

*******

Omi glanced around the quiet corner of the park, seeing nothing but grass, maple trees and a bench half hidden by shadows. Checking his watch, the teenager frowned as he realized it was five minutes past the time that Yohji had designated to meet him here. Where was the blond?

"Right here, chibi. We just wanted to make sure that you didn’t bring any company." Omi whirled around to stare at the bench, which now was occupied by two men. One of them was Aya dressed in black slacks, a long sleeved polo that matched his eyes, black gloves and a fedora. Beside him was Yohji, slouching down on the bench with an arm around the redhead’s shoulders, dressed in tight jeans, a white button down shirt that was left untucked as well as a pair of gloves. Both men appeared to have been there for a while.

"Yohji? Aya? How long have you been here?"

"About twenty minutes. Aya’s been keeping everyone, including you, from noticing us." The playboy pulled himself off the bench and approached Omi, then cautiously enfolded him in a hug. "You look good, Omi. I think you’ve grown a couple of centimeters. Haven’t been able to tell before, since you are usually throwing darts my way."

Throwing caution to the wind, the archer hugged his friend back. "Oh, Yotan, are you alright? And you too, Ayan? What have they done to you?" He buried his face in Yohji’s chest, clutching the man tight. "It’ll be okay, we’ll figure out a way to keep you safe. Now where is Ken? Why isn’t he here as well?"

"Ah, chibi…" Yohji chuckled for a moment, holding Omi close before prying the youth away from him. "We don’t have much time, so let me try and answer your questions. Aya, Ken and I are fine, and all that’s happened to us was that we were kidnapped, had this foreign prick mess with our heads to activate our powers, and had a bunch of unpleasant truths shoved down our throats. Aya and I are here to try and give you a head’s up on the situation; there’s a lot you need to know about what’s going on with Kritiker and Weiß."

Yohji’s voice was more serious than Omi had ever heard it before. He could only stare up at the man while trying to make sense of what he had been saying, wondering what he had meant about Kritiker. "Powers? You really have powers? I know the other men in Schwarz do, but…"

<You’ve never seen us use them when we face Weiß. Ours are a bit… less flashy than the others.>

"Aya?" Omi glanced over at his silent friend, wondering if he had imagined the voice inside his head.

<It’s not your imagination.> The redhead’s lips remained pressed in a firm line, though there was a hint of cool amusement in the violet eyes. Feeling a hand clasp his shoulder, Omi turned to find Yohji smiling down at him.

"He’s a telepath; there’s nothing he can’t find floating around in your head, and he’s developed a bossy streak as well."

<Shut up, Kudoh.>

Yohji’s smile grew brighter, and he raised an eyebrow in a ‘see, I was right’ manner. It made Omi smile in return, though he grew confused when the older blond took off one of his gloves and ran a hand down the tan shirt that Omi was wearing. "Ah, I see that Ouka is still hanging around the shop. You ripped this shirt a couple of weeks ago while moving some inventory, and she offered to sew it for you. But the poor girl doesn’t have many domestic talents, and her mother ended up doing it instead. That’s why she was blushing so much when you thanked her for repairing it; she was so glad to see you happy, but too embarrassed to tell you the truth." At the youth’s astonished expression, Yohji patted him on the head with his gloved hand. "The powers are real. Ken’s a precog; how do you think he always knows where your darts are going to land? Apparently, we always had them; they were just latent. Esset sent someone to activate them, and Schwarz has been teaching us how to use them."

"Which is, in part, why we’re staying with them. I’m sorry, chibi, but we’re not coming back to Kritiker. If we did, we’d end up mindless little slaves, and I doubt that you’d ever see us again." A frown on his face, Yohji pulled a pack of cigarettes from a back pocket and lit one. "That’s why we’re here. They’re using you, Omi, to try and get us back. Kritiker isn’t as pure as we thought it was. It has its own agenda, and it doesn’t care who it hurts or uses to achieve that."

He knew that more was going on with the organization than he had suspected before, but Omi didn’t want to believe what his friend was saying. "Yohji, who told you that? Your new teammates? How do you know you can trust them?"

<Because we’ve been in their minds, Tsukiyono. We’ve seen visions that convinced us otherwise. Esset might be evil, but Kritiker is not without its own taint. Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? Find out for yourself.>

There was a flash of images; Ken, Yohji and Aya standing before Birman, Kai and a few people Omi didn’t recognize, their faces expressionless as they watched a videotape. The young men were almost unrecognizable, as none of their usual personalities showed in their stances or actions. Aya even shivered in fear as Kai stroked his cheek, and the vision shifted. It now showed the three men slaughtering a bunch of men in a dark alley; the only one showing any emotion was Ken as he laughed while tearing into one body after another. When the killing was done, Manx stepped out of the shadows, a look of sorrow and disgust on her face as she ordered the assassins to follow her. The scene repeated several times; more people being murdered, his friends appearing less and less human with each vision.

<Tonkinese and Burmese have orders to capture us at any cost. Burmese is like you; raised by the organization from a young age, and thinks nothing of obeying any orders given to him. Tonkinese… we have a bit of a shared past together. The man is unstable, and has been promised that I will be given to him if he returns me to Kritiker. He blames me for someone’s death, and longs to make me pay for the perceived crime.>

Omi hugged his arms tight against his body while staring at Aya, who was perched on the end of the bench, gazing back at him. The swordsman’s words made sense, considering the suspicious manner in which his new teammates were acting, and the encrypted files he had found. But the youth didn’t want to think that the organization that his uncle had worked for could be so cruel and ruthless. "But… why didn’t I find out about this beforehand? How could they have hidden this from me?"

"Because, as far as we can tell, your uncle kept Weiß away from the worse of it. We were his private soldiers, and he protected us. Maybe because of you, or maybe because he didn’t believe in all the things that Kritiker was doing." Flicking away his cigarette, Yohji sat down beside Aya, causing Omi to blink in shock when he snaked an arm around the smaller man’s waist, who allowed the touch. "But Schwarz has spent the past several weeks trying to straighten out the mess that Kritiker has made here in Tokyo. Didn’t you ever wonder that no matter how many ‘dark beasts’ we took down, there were several more taking their place? There was a pattern to our assignments when we worked for Persia, taking down Reiji Takatori’s empire, but the rest of them did nothing but create chaos."

Each word was a weight in Omi’s chest as he thought for the first time what purpose Kritiker could have, besides making sure that people beyond the reach of law were made to pay. "We… we did do some good. We took out murderers and rapists."

"Yeah, I know chibi. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but I think that Kritiker has lost its perspective on things. And somewhere along the way, it decided that it owned its operatives and could do to them whatever it wanted. Maybe in the cause of a ‘better good’ or what, I don’t know. But if we come back, we’ll be slaves. At least Schwarz has left us our free will."

"But…" This wasn’t going at all how Omi thought it would. He expected to come here and find his friends seeking help, not telling him that they would continue to fight for the enemy, and that Kritiker couldn’t be trusted. It was too much to take in.

<I’m sorry, Tsukiyono, but there isn’t any more time. They’re here, Yohji.>

"Right on cue. One day Crawford will be wrong, but not today."

Confused by the conversation, Omi looked up to find the older men rising to their feet. They were staring off to the side and moments later, Kai and Dayu emerged from a grove of trees, dressed in their Weiß uniforms and had guns in their hands. "What are the two of you doing here?" How had the men known about this meeting? He knew that his email had encryption on it that not even Kritiker should be able to break.

"Bombay, step away from them, please. We’re here to make sure that they don’t get away this time." Dayu appeared uncomfortable as he said the words and refused to look Omi in the eye. For his part, Kai stared at Aya, grey eyes burning with hate. The tall man had his gun pointed in the redhead’s direction.

<Tranquilizer guns.>

"Yes, and at the first sign of movement, we will fire them. You want to surprise us all and come willingly, Abyssinian?" Kai’s voice was harsh and mocking.

Yohji sighed and frowned at the man while shaking his head slowly. "First tasers, and now tranqs. Oh, wait, Omi doesn’t know about that time, does he? I tried to get ahold of you a couple of months ago, chibi, to arrange a meeting. But Tonkinese answered the phone instead, and he traced my call. Bastard tried to take me down in a bar, at least until Aya kicked his ass real good."

"Tonkinese, is that true?" Omi stared at his teammate, who had a furious expression on his face. The man remained quiet, then after glaring at Aya for a minute, fired his gun at him.

Letting out a yell, Omi twisted around to look at his friend expecting to see Aya crumpled on the ground. Instead the redhead was gone, along with Yohji. Dayu let out a curse as he whirled about trying to find the two assassins, while Kai stared at the empty space.

"If you won’t play nice, we’ll just have to take your toys away."

Omi turned to his left upon hearing Ken’s voice and missed seeing his teammates’ guns go flying from their hands. His eyes were riveted on the brunet and the teenaged boy at his side. The two of them were holding hands, and as they came to a stop, Ken protectively tugged the younger man closer to him. "It’s good to see you again, Omi. Perhaps one day it will be under better circumstances."

"You damn freaks, let us go. This was a trap, wasn’t it?" Glancing back at his teammates, Omi found Kai and Dayu suspended in the air a good meter or so off the ground, their arms trapped at their sides.

"Like you have any room to talk, Tonkinese. We knew that you’d crash the party, and came prepared," Yohji replied drolly as he lit another cigarette. The blond appeared out of nowhere to stand in front of the captive men and made sure to blow smoke in Kai’s direction. Aya was once more at his side, the fedora pulled low over the pale face. "We were having such a nice party, too, before you showed up. Omi, I think this is our cue to leave. I hope I don’t see you any time soon, but if we do, remember that we’re not leaving Schwarz. Bye, chibi." Yohji walked over to him and gave him a quick hug goodbye.

Aya walked over as well, but stopped a meter away and nodded his head. <Now you see that we weren’t lying. There is a lot that we can’t tell you at this point, other than not to trust Kritiker and your new teammates, or believe that Schwarz is evil. We do what we have to in order to survive, and we have our reasons. Take care, Tsukiyono.>

As the two older men walked away, Ken and the boy, Prodigy, remained behind. "Hey, there," Ken called out, fidgeting a bit as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other and tugged on his orange soccer jersey.

"Hey there yourself, Ken-kun. I guess you are going too?"

"Yeah. I’m just here to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand, and I wanted to tell you something." A pair of brown eyes stared at Omi intently. "You remember that discussion we had a while ago, about where we really belonged?"

It had been when Omi had found out that he was a Takatori and had been torn between trusting his brother Hirofumi and remaining with Weiß. Ken had tried his best to cheer him up and had told Omi to find out where he truly belonged, then do everything in his power to be there. "I remember, Ken."

"Good." The athlete paused for a moment, then he grasped Prodigy’s hand between both of his. "I’ve found it, Omi, and it’s made me… content. Can’t say downright happy, because a few things still hurt, but it’s home. I hope you find it yourself one day." With that, Ken waved goodbye and walked away, Prodigy by his side the whole time. Omi couldn’t do anything but watch his best friend leave until he heard something crash into the ground and a few curses.

Kai rushed forward, running in the direction that the four young men had taken off in, and returned a few seconds later, his face twisted with anger. "You let them get away."

"As if I stood a chance against a precog, a telekinetic, a telepath and… well, I don’t know what Yohji is, he never explained. If the two of you failed to take them down, what makes you think that I would succeed?"

"Because you were their friend, and they trust you. Don’t tell me you don’t have any darts on you; you should have been able to at least take one or two of them down!" Kai hissed before he spun around and pulled a cell phone out of his pockets, storming off in the direction the former Weiß had disappeared in.

Omi rubbed a hand over his eyes as he watched the furious man leave. When he felt that his own anger was under control, the blond calmly looked over at his remaining teammate, who was massaging a swollen ankle. "Would you care to explain to me how you knew about this meeting?"

Dayu had the courtesy to blush at the question. "Your email is monitored. Our supervisors thought that the others might try to contact you and ordered me to read all of your messages. I’m sorry, Omi."

"Do you really have orders to do whatever it takes to get them back?" The reserved man wouldn’t look at Omi, preferring to glance down at his injured ankle. "That’s what you and Kai were fighting over after our first run-in with Schwarz, wasn’t it? When you decided to help the immigrants instead of fighting the other team." There was more silence, prompting Omi to try a different track. "What do you think will happen to Ken and the others if we do manage to capture them?"

"Kritiker will reverse the brainwashing and return them to work." Dayu appeared to believe this statement, causing Omi to wonder if he was the only one being lied to. He was also remembering how hard Manx had tried to talk him out of rejoining the organization. Did she know about its plans for his former teammates and the other shady things Kritiker was involved in?

With a sigh, Omi realized that he would be doing a lot more hacking on his computer in the foreseeable future and that he needed to arrange a meeting with Manx very soon. He reached down to help Dayu to his feet. "What happened to your ankle?"

"I, uh, twisted it as I fell down." Dayu accepted his aid, but kept his face turned away. "I’m sorry for spying on you, but why did you let them go? I thought you wanted your friends to be safe."

Because Omi suddenly wasn’t sure that his friends weren’t safer where they were. At the very least, he seriously doubted they would be well if they returned to Kritiker. "There really was no way for me to stop them." Assisting his teammate off the ground, Omi wondered what Kai would report to their supervisors and if he really cared. "Let’s go back to the Koneko." For the first time since he had reactivated Weiß, Omi couldn’t call the place home.

*******

Schuldig looked over at his leader, who was driving the car and offered him a smile. "Aya’s a bit pissed about not being able to kill Tonkinese, but other than that, things went well."

"I’m glad to hear that." Crawford’s voice was faintly amused, and Schuldig knew that the man must have foreseen most, if not all, of the encounter.

"Huhn, as if you‘d have let them go if there was going to be any trouble. I just don’t trust Kritiker and anyone associated with the group." Especially when it was so intent on regaining his lover. Schuldig had not been very happy upon being told that he would be going with Crawford instead of Aya and the others for the talk with Bombay, since he wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on the man. He hated to leave Aya’s well being in Kudoh’s hands, never mind that the swordsman could take care of himself. Not liking the direction his thoughts were taking, Schuldig instead decided to see what his lover was up to.

Only to come across a shield in Aya’s mind. Deciding not to press at the moment, the German slid down in his seat, a frown on his face as he tried to figure out why the man was shutting him out now. Did Aya need a little privacy, or was he hiding something? "Oh wondrous Kaiser, you haven’t had any visions concerning a certain redhead lately, have you?" It was safer to ask his friend than to question his boyfriend, considering the younger telepath’s temper.

"Schu…" Crawford didn’t say anything for another kilometer to two, which made Schuldig rather apprehensive. The man clearly wanted to say something, and his reluctance was a bad sign.

"What the hell is it, Vater?"

Pulling the car into a parking lot, the precog turned to face Schuldig. "He’s… oh hell, see for yourself." There was actually a hint of a blush on Crawford’s face. Probing the man’s mind, Schuldig found the vision his friend had had of what Aya was planning.

"Nur über meine Leiche, dieser kleines-"

"Schu, calm down. I didn’t tell you before because I didn’t want you to go off the deep end."

Laughing bitterly, the telepath motioned back to the road. "Get us back home, right now. I have a certain blond I need to kill."

"No. I can’t let you do that. We need him alive." Crawford glared at the smaller man as he pushed his glasses up his nose. "This won’t affect things between the two of you, but it has to happen. Act like a jealous asshole, and you’ll lose him and cost us our freedom. Now calm down so we can continue to this meeting."

"What, are you nuts? You show me something like that, and expect me to just let it happen? You’ve finally lost it, Bradley."

"I knew you were going to act like this." Putting the car in neutral, Crawford grabbed Schuldig by the lapels of his jacket and yanked him close. "All right then; tell me what has you so upset, and we’ll go back home."

The man had definitely lost his marbles. <You ask me that, after your vision? Aya’s mine; I won’t let anything happen to change that.>

"Why is he yours, Schu?"

<Because he is. You gave him to me, and I’m keeping him.>

Crawford shook his head and let him go. "You are such a stubborn bastard, refusing to admit the real reason. Listen to me for once; that fact won’t change after tonight, if you just leave things alone. Aya and Yohji have a few things that they need to realize and that won’t happen unless this occurs. The future will remain the same."

"Prove it to me." Schuldig pressed against the precog’s mind and was surprised to be allowed access. Another vision filled his thoughts, but this time the sight didn’t fill him with fury. What he saw was Aya and him sitting in a small café, somewhere other than Japan. Europe, maybe. The smaller man was smiling at him, leaning in close to lick off some foam that clung to Schuldig’s lips after he sipped his drink. The gesture turned into a long kiss, and then the vision faded. Another one took its place, this time the two of them were curled up on a couch together, with Aya asleep, his head resting on Schuldig’s shoulder.

"There are more, but we don’t have the time." That said, the American put the car in gear and drove off.

Thinking of the visions, Schuldig resumed staring out the window. <Crawford, I trust you, really I do, but I still feel that you know a hell of a lot more than what you are telling me, and I get the impression that there will be one or two more nasty surprises in the future. Why are you playing things so close to the chest this time? You’ve never kept us in the dark this much before.>

"Because the stakes were never this high. I promise you, Schu, that I haven’t ever lied to you, especially these last few months. But the closer we get to our goal, the less chance I can take of things going wrong. It’s easier to keep you in the dark than risk you doing something stupid and ruining things, such as running home and bashing Yohji’s head in." Blue eyes glanced his way for a moment, filled with regret and compassion, two emotions that Schuldig had never before associated with his leader. "There’s a reason for all of this, but it won’t be clear until the end. Just trust that I know what I’m doing, and that it will all turn out well."

"Hmph. There’s definitely something nasty that you are hiding from me. If something goes wrong tonight, Crawford, you’ll never hear the end of it from me." The American only snorted at the comment, and Schuldig closed his eyes as he sought out Aya’s mind once more. The man’s shields would most likely be slipping at some point that night, letting him find out why the little fool was acting like this. If Schuldig didn’t like the answer, he’d give the man one hell of a headache and lower Blondie’s IQ a few dozen points.

*******

Aya sat on his bed, staring down at the fedora in his hands. It had been Schuldig’s but the hat could be considered his now, since he was the only one to wear it. He didn’t feel dressed anymore, unless he was wearing both it and his gloves when he went outside. Funny how one got used to the oddest things.

Like how the redhead didn’t know what he would do without that stubborn, irritating, German lech in his life. Closing the door on Weiß as he had today, Aya had found himself deep in thought on the way back to the apartment. He’d realized just how… happy he was, and that feeling shocked him. Any time in the past that Aya had experienced joy, it hadn’t lasted for long. Fate had a way of snatching it away from him, leaving him alone and hurting.

And this time, he was the one setting himself up for the fall. Aya should have never let things proceed beyond that one night between Schuldig and himself. But he’d wanted a bit of pleasure so desperately, and that, compounded with the guilt he had felt for using the German’s lust as a way to get past his shields, had made him give in to the man. But Aya had been so sure that he wouldn’t make the same mistake as he had in the past and had come to depend on Schuldig. What a fool he had been.

The realization of how much he wanted to go home and spend some time with his lover had come as a shock, since it meant that somewhere along the line, Schuldig had become very important to him. As important as Aya-chan, the only other person whose company he had craved that much. The only other person who had made him feel better just by being near.

That was a bit of a lie, Aya thought bitterly. There was one other person who could make him feel that way, one whose mere presence had comforted him while he had felt Tonkinese’s hate and madness flood his mental senses earlier. As important as Schuldig was in his life, Yohji had a place there as well. How the man had crept under his guard was a complete mystery, considering how Yohji had burned him once already.

So now he found himself in the intolerable situation of caring for two people; one who wanted him for his talent, the other for his body. Both of whom would leave Aya as soon as Schwarz managed to free itself from Esset. And both of whom refused to be discouraged from their interest in him no matter how much Aya snarled at them or hit them, or yelled at them for their jealous fighting. It figured that he’d pick the two most obdurate idiots on the face of the planet to fall in…

Rising to his feet, Aya went to stand on the balcony outside, hoping that the wind would help clear his mind of such troublesome thoughts. He liked to stand out here and just feel the breeze on his skin, a touch that wouldn’t hurt him. But Yohji and Schu plagued him even there, until he had to close his eyes and clench his hands tight around the iron safety railing. Aya didn’t think he could take being abandoned again, not when Weiß’s disbanding had almost shattered him. Not when he knew what it felt like to experience pleasure, and knew what the touch of anyone else would mean for him.

However, the two men wouldn’t leave him alone. Schuldig had some damn mistaken idea that Aya was his, and Yohji… What the man wanted was much simpler. Reflecting on the thoughts that he had picked up from the blond, Aya began to wonder if there wasn’t a way out of this mess after all. One that would drive the men away from him while he thought he could bear the pain. Standing on the balcony, the redhead dwelled the idea a bit more, too lost in his thoughts to feel the brush of another mind against his since it was such a familiar sensation.

*******

Yohji stared in the bathroom mirror as he made sure that his hair was tousled just so. He was going after a sexy, ‘just tumbled out of bed after thoroughly ravaging some lucky soul’ look, and was now satisfied that he had achieved it. Aya didn’t stand a chance against his charm and gorgeous looks, especially after he changed into a pair of tighter than skin black leather pants and an emerald coloured silk shirt.

With Schuldig out on ‘business’ with Crawford, Yohji was planning on cajoling Aya to go out to eat with him, hopefully get the man a little tipsy, then lay on the Kudoh charm so thick that the redhead would cave in to him. Yep, tonight was going to be the night that Aya Fujimiya realized the huge mistake he was making by choosing a loutish German over Yohji Kudoh. The man would soon be his, and he’d do his best to make him happy. Aya wouldn’t know what hit him.

Tossing the towel around his waist over to the clothes hamper, Yohji strolled nude out of his bathroom only to come to a screeching halt in his bedroom. Aya, dressed in a pair of skin tight black leather pants of his own and a thin red sweater that was sliding down one pale shoulder, was sitting on his bed. Aya was in his bedroom, looking good enough to eat, and all the playboy could do was stare.

<Aren’t you a little cold?>

"Huhn, what?" It was then that Yohji realized that he was naked. Flustered as much by that fact as by Aya sitting on his bed, the blond made to cover himself, then thought better of it. A smile on his face, Yohji leaned against his dresser, his arms crossed on top of his chest, and glanced down at his crotch. "Heh, if this is me cold, I’d have a real problem walking when I wasn’t." Nope, nothing to be ashamed of in that department. And while he’d never been able to pack on the muscles like some men could, Yohji knew that he looked pretty damn hot out of his clothes. "So what brings you here?"

Aya’s eyes lingered on his body for a moment, and then the violet orbs focused on a spot just over his right shoulder. "Do you want to go to dinner?"

"That’s funny, I was planning on asking you out, once I got dressed, that is. I’ve love to, Aya."

"Good." The redhead remained on his bed, showing no sign of leaving.

"Was there something else, Aya?"

"Where do you want to go?"

Something wasn’t right here. Aya was in his room, uninvited, which didn’t bother Yohji in the least, but it was out of character for the swordsman. Not to mention the fact that he was standing here stark naked, and Aya wasn’t batting an eye. Nor looking at him directly. Could it be that someone was a little embarrassed? Smiling once more, Yohji sat down next to the pale man, so close that their shoulders rubbed together.

"Let me think for a moment. I’d like to do something a little different for once." When Aya didn’t move away from him, the blond started to lean against the man ever so slightly. "Haven’t had any Italian for a while; how does that sound to you?" He stretched out his arm until it rested right next to Aya’s hip, and brushed his fingers against the leather pants.

"Italian is fine."

And now the telepath had spoken to him out loud several times in a row, without any prompting on Yohji’s part. Yep, something was definitely going on here. Deciding to take a chance, Yohji leaned in some more and brushed his lips along an exposed, white shoulder.

Part of him heard Aya’s indrawn breath, but the rest of him concentrated on the emotions he picked up from the man. There was desire, confusion, determination and apprehension, all swirling together. Yohji could pick up the fact that Aya had indeed come here for a reason, and that the redhead wanted him. That was good enough for him, and he didn’t think to probe any further than that. Not when the man he’d wanted for so long was melting in his arms.

Aya leaned back against Yohji, tilting his head to the side and exposing more of his neck. Seeing a remaining bruise or two from Schuldig, Yohji became determined to leave a few marks of his own. He didn’t want there to be any trace of the German anywhere on Aya, not when the man had finally chosen him. Pulling on the slim figure, Yohji tumbled the both of them back on the bed, making sure that he was on top at the end.

Settling between Aya’s legs, he ravished the man’s neck, overwhelmed both by the sounds the smaller man was making and the emotions emanating from him. With a growl, Yohji shifted up enough that he could yank the red sweater off and send it flying across the room. As soon as more of their skin came into contact, the two men moaned out loud, their minds becoming more entwined.

Yohji had never experienced anything like this. He was feeling what Aya felt, and was catching the echo of his own emotions from the telepath. It was like an endless loop, pulling him in further and further, deeper into Aya’s mind and into pleasure. And whatever bliss one of them felt, the other did as well. It was so fucking intense, and all he was doing at the moment was sucking on the redhead’s neck as their hips ground against each other’s.

There was the sensation of Aya probing through his mind, and Yohji gasped as the smaller man threaded one hand through his hair, while the other massaged the small of his back. He adored it when a lover did those things to him, touching two spots that made his skin tingle, and it sunk in that here was a lover who could, in an instant, know what he liked and what he didn’t, and put that knowledge to good use.

It was also sinking in that he could return the favor. Yohji used his talent to delve further into Aya’s mind, and searched out the pale man’s erogenous zones. He’d already guessed that one of them was the man’s neck, and soon had a hand ghosting down Aya’s spine, causing him to arch away from the ticklish touch. "Mmm, sweetheart, you’re still wearing too many clothes."

Yohji licked his way down to Aya’s collarbones as he worked the leather pants open and pulled them down. Aya lifted his hips to aid him, and was rewarded with a tongue delving into his navel, causing the man to once more mewl out loud. The redhead retaliated for the teasing touch by intensifying their bond, making Yohji shudder in pleasure as he felt as if a tongue was running down his body as well. Oh gods, just when he thought that things couldn’t get any better, they did, tenfold.

Aya took advantage of his amazement to push the blond down onto the bed, and after kicking off his pants, straddled the lanky man’s hips. It was Yohji’s turn to moan out loud as a teasing mouth moved down his chest, sucking and nipping at his nipples, whirling around his navel, and continuing on its way. He arched off the bed, thrusting into Aya’s mouth as the man engulfed his cock, crying out the redhead’s name. Yohji could feel the teasing bastard’s amusement as his hips were held down and Aya pulled back, until just the tip of his cock was in the man’s mouth. "Gods, Aya, don’t you dare stop now."

<Why would I want to? But first, a little fun.> A tongue swirled down and around him, traveling back up and lapping at the fluid dribbling out of the twitching shaft. Yohji caught the pale man’s intention to drive him wild with pleasure, until he couldn’t think straight. And oh, was Aya doing a very, very good job of that. In fact, his mind blanked when that hot mouth swallowed him once more, and his hips were released. Grabbing hold of silky red strands, Yohji made sure that Aya couldn’t pull away again and started thrusting into the man’s mouth. Aya continued to suck, letting Yohji set a furious pace. Just when the blond felt that he couldn’t take any more, he found his muscles frozen, and the telepath pulled away from him, stretching out beside him.

Trying to catch his breath, Yohji sent his thanks for being stopped before he had gone too far. As once more the swordsman’s amusement washed through him, he found himself able to move, and rolled over so that Aya was lying beneath him. Smiling wickedly at the raised eyebrow he was presented with, Yohji proceeded to kiss his lover breathless while a hand grabbed his bottle of lotion. <My turn now, and I won’t stop. I want you screaming out my name, sweetheart.>

<Stop talking, Kudoh, and do it.> Ah, someone was a little impatient. Greasing up his fingers, Yohji decided to prove to Aya that he was a man of his word. Still kissing the man deeply, he circled a finger around the tight opening, moving it away when the telepath tried to push his hips backwards. It wasn’t until Aya growled that he finally pushed it inside, and moaned as he felt the same things that the other man did.

Wanting to feel what it would be like to have his cock buried in the man, experiencing both of their pleasure, Yohji impatiently added another finger and started to twist them about. He bit his own lip when the digits brushed against Aya’s prostate, shaking both of them with a wave of bliss. Needing to feel every bit of ecstasy that the redhead did, Yohji pushed deeper inside of his mind.

There was another wave of pleasure, and he experienced Aya’s hunger and need. But buried beneath those emotions was a hint of sadness and resignation. Wanting to know what was upsetting his lover, Yohji probed deeper. If the man was worried about cheating on Schuldig, he would set things right immediately. The German prick had no claim on Aya, and the younger telepath was free to choose whomever he wanted as a lover. Besides, he had wanted Yohji first, but had been prevented from having him because of his talent.

Expecting to find guilt over Aya’s supposed infidelity, Yohji was stunned to find out what the man was truly thinking. Aya had purposely come to his room this evening planning to have sex with him, just to prove to himself that it was all Yohji wanted from him. Afterwards he would leave, never planning on being his lover again. That way, Yohji would have what he had wanted, and Schuldig would have a reason to leave Aya, which he was sure the older telepath wanted to do, but found himself bound by some stupid promise. Both men would be happy, and the swordsman would be left in peace, waiting for the time when Schwarz would break up and go their separate ways. Aya had decided that this time he wasn’t going to wait for the people he cared for to leave him, but would break things off on his own terms.

In other words, Yohji could have the man, but it would only be for one night. One night. He wanted to spend each and every fucking day of his life with the stubborn fool, and Aya expected him to be happy with one fucking night. No way in hell. Letting his shock and anger wash through their bond, Yohji rolled off of the redhead. "You really think that all I want is to fuck you?"

Aya lay silent on the bed, his eyes closed and his chest heaving. <It’s all you’ve ever wanted, Kudoh. Now’s your chance.>

The little fool was a damn telepath, and he still couldn’t accept that Yohji wanted him as more than a one-night stand. How the hell did he break through to Aya? "I want you, sweetheart, more than I can put in words. But if all you are going to give me is one night, then get the hell out of here. I won’t treat you like that, and I won’t let you treat _me_ like that. I fucking love you." He hadn’t meant to say that last bit, but he hadn’t been able to hold it back. He really did love Aya, and it tore at him that the man still didn’t think of him as anything other than a slut. "I really do love you."

That seemed to get through to the man, as Aya’s eyes flew open and he jerked upright. <Don’t lie to me.> Not surprised that the pale man refused to believe him, Yohji yanked him close and kissed him. Their minds linked once more, he showed Aya just what he felt for him. In return, he sensed confusion, denial, fear, and deep down, want and love. For a brief instance, the blond was filled with hope.

<You love me too, Aya. Don’t you dare deny that.>

<It doesn’t change a thing, Yohji.> With that statement, Yohji found his body frozen again as Aya scrambled off the bed, barely pausing to scoop up his clothes before fleeing the room. When he was able to move, the older man cursed out loud and fell back down on the bed.

Yohji wanted nothing more than to track down the redhead and shake some sense into him. But he didn’t see what good it would do. Aya was determined to ignore the truth as long as he could, and if Yohji saw the man at the moment, he’d try to drag him off to the nearest horizontal surface and ravish him. Which would just reinforce the smaller man’s delusion. So he would stay here, frustrated and aching, and hope that maybe his refusal to take what Aya had been offering would sink into the fool’s head.

He was still lying on the bed some time later when his door opened and closed. Footsteps approached his bed, and Yohji looked up in time to catch a pair of his jeans with his face.

"Put those on."

"What’s the matter, Schuldig? Jealous? Feeling a bit inferior at the moment?"

"I’ve seen bigger, Kudoh." The German sat down in the chair across the room and stared at Yohji. It was a safe bet that the man had to have some sort of clue as to what had happened, and it amazed the blond at how well Schuldig was taking it.

Yohji slipped on the pants and decided to get the fight started. "He loves me, you know."

"I know." Schuldig spat out the words, then fished a cigarette out of his pocket. Deciding that he needed a smoke as well, Yohji grabbed the pack sitting on his nightstand, and the only sound heard for a few minutes were the clicks of lighters and exhaled smoke. "But you’re not the only one he loves. Trust the little one to fall in love with two men at the same time, and refuse to admit it to even himself."

Grinding out his cigarette, Yohji glared at his rival. "He loved me first, you prick."

"Maybe. But he’s in my bed."

"Not tonight, he wasn’t."

Schuldig hissed in anger and rose from the chair to start pacing around the room. "Aya’s trying to get the both of us to leave him alone so we won’t hurt him. He only came in here because he was so sure that you would take any opportunity to jump him. Why the hell didn’t you just fuck him? He’d have never looked at you again."

Wait a second… "You knew about this, didn’t you?"

The other man looked at him with disgust. "I’m almost always in the man’s mind, Blondie; of course I knew about this. And I felt what was going on the second you pounced on Aya; the bond we have is that strong." Stopping in front of the window, Schuldig rested his head against the glass. <I’m not letting him go, Kudoh. Sooner or later, Aya will realize that I’m not walking away from him and he’ll be happy. So back the hell off of him. He’s mine.>

Yohji shook his head as he searched for a top to wear, picking a mostly clean white t-shirt off the floor. "That won’t ever happen. I know he loves me now, and I’m not walking away and making things easy for you." He’d already lost the only other person he had ever loved, and Yohji wasn’t about to let this second chance pass him by. "You’re just afraid because you know you don’t stand a chance against me."

One minute he was sitting on the edge of his bed, and the next one found Yohji lying down on piece of the furniture with Schuldig sprawled on top of him, a hand grasping his throat. He could feel the telepath’s jealousy, fear and hate. <It would only take one thought on my part, and you wouldn’t ever look Aya’s way again. Don’t fucking tempt me, Arschloch.>

The thing with both of them being psychics was the fact that Yohji could break through the man’s shields and sense Schuldig’s thoughts and emotions. While the man was better at cloaking his thoughts that Aya was, Yohji’s power let him bypass those defenses. "But you can’t do it, can you? Crawford told you to leave me alone." Yohji smirked at the foreigner, but the smile quickly faded from his face as he caught a new emotion. "Fuck, you love him too, don’t you?"

"Don’t make me laugh. He’s mine, Kudoh. Love has nothing to do with this. Crawford gave Aya to me, and said I’d never lose him. You don’t stand a chance, so go find someone else to fixate upon."

What was it with telepaths and denial? Both Schuldig and Aya were refusing to see the truth, and Yohji was suffering because of it. Though it was not all bad, the German refusing to proclaim his love for Aya. That meant that he had a better chance of stealing away the smaller redhead. "I’m not giving up on him any time soon, Schu. And Crawford has to be wrong at some point; maybe this is it."

Schuldig snarled and moved off both him and the bed, leaving the room in a green and reddish blur. Massaging his sore throat, Yohji rested an arm over his eyes and thought about how fucked up this situation was getting. Both he and Schuldig were in love with Aya, who loved them back, and he was the only one admitting to the feeling. Yohji Kudoh, Tokyo’s most notorious playboy, the king of fucking them and leaving them. And Aya had convinced himself that Yohji and Schuldig would only hurt and then leave the swordsman, and that damn prick thought Aya was a prize of some sort. No wonder he didn’t fall in love more often, since this was the sort of mess that happened when hearts were involved. Hell, even Hidaka had straightened out his romantic life, even if the pedophile had another year or two to wait for some real action. Yohji wasn’t going to wait that long to make Aya his lover, no way in hell. He’d just lie here tonight, and try to come up with a new plan to make the man his.

*******

Schuldig entered his bedroom, stripping off his green blazer as he did so. He knew that Aya was standing out on the balcony, waiting for him to show up in a fury and break off their relationship. He had to give the man credit for deviousness; if Schuldig hadn’t been warned about what would happen and found out why Aya had done what he’d done earlier, he would indeed be too pissed for words. But he wasn’t about to let the little fool’s paranoia and doubt make him do something rash. The longhaired man also removed his white shirt, and went to join his lover outside.

Aya was leaning over the railing, looking down on the busy street. The setting sun set his hair on fire as it blew in the strong breeze, and cast a rosy glow on the pale skin. The man was dressed in his loose, black cotton pants and one of Schuldig’s shirts. "You better not be thinking of jumping."

The joke seemed to startle the smaller man, but Aya didn’t turn around to look his way. Schuldig pressed against the slender back, his arms going about his lover’s waist as the man tensed at his touch. He kissed the side of a pale, bruised neck, trying his best to ignore the anger at seeing Yohji’s marks on _his_ boyfriend. "Are you going to stand out here all night?"

He could feel Aya sifting through his mind, and blocked only his conversations with Crawford and Kudoh from the other telepath, who was now very confused. Schuldig wasn’t acting according to plan, wasn’t yelling in jealousy and calling the swordsman a slut and breaking up with him. Poor Aya, to have his plan fail on both fronts. Picking up the anger the smaller man felt at that thought, Schuldig chuckled softly and spun Aya around to face him.

<Sorry, little one, you are going to have to try much, much harder if you want me to leave you. I told you that you were mine, and that I wasn’t going away. >

<Is this a game to you? To see who gives in first, you or me?> Aya’s anger flooded his senses upon find himself treated like this. Trapping the smaller telepath against his chest, Schuldig captured the snarling mouth for a kiss.

<Are you leaving me now, Aya? Was that the reason for crawling into Kudoh’s bed? While I think the man is insane for tossing you out of it, I have to give him credit for catching on to your plan. So what now? You going to walk out of here on your own, or come up with another hair-brained scheme? Because I’ll tell you now, if I find the prick touching you again, I’m breaking both of his arms and beating your ass until you can’t sit down for a week. You’re mine.>

The Japanese man broke off the kiss and tried to shove Schuldig away. <I’m not yours, you asshole! Let me go.>

Taking a deep breath, the longhaired man tightened his hold on his lover. "Then walk away, Aya. Leave on your own." Violet eyes glared back at him for a moment, and then snapped shut. "You can’t, can you? You said that everyone leaves you, and you want that to be proven true yet again. It justifies you shutting out the rest of the world, locking deep inside the little bit of Ran that’s left to you. But that doesn’t work if you are the one doing the leaving, ne? Want me to let you go? Then walk out that door."

He could feel the emotions overwhelming the other telepath: pain, fear of being hurt yet again, confusion, anger, need and love. Aya might not be willing to admit to the last two emotions, but they were there, prompting the redhead to do something as stupid as offer himself to Kudoh to spare himself hurt. The younger man wanted to end things before they got any more serious, because the pain would be too great when he was abandoned once more. However, those emotions just ensured that Schuldig was never going to let him go. Not when he couldn’t recall anyone ever feeling this way for him before.

When Aya didn’t move, unwilling to be the one instigating the pain, Schuldig resumed the kiss. Aya didn’t resist him this time, and let himself be led back into the bedroom. Stroking his hand down a trembling back, the German slowly undid the buttons of the borrowed shirt, then took to touching the revealed skin. Their minds pushing deeper inside each other’s with every caress, the telepaths moaned in unison as they tore at each other’s pants, needing more contact between them. They fell on the bed in a tangle of limbs, and Schuldig pinned Aya down, roaming his mouth all over the man’s body, making his lover forget all about Kudoh’s touch.

His little violet, Aya was his alone. Schuldig used every bit of his knowledge and talent to drive his lover wild with passion, to tease him until the man pleaded with him, both vocally and mentally. Hearing his name chanted again and again as Aya wrapped those long legs of his tight about his waist while pushing back on the fingers twisting inside of him inflamed Schuldig to the point that things became completely blurred. Even though he knew he was pushing inside the smaller man’s body, he felt as if it was his body being penetrated, that it was his cock being stroked in time with the thrusts that were pushing so deep inside of him, being shoved repeatedly back onto the bed, hitting that spot inside of him until he was calling out Aya’s name, drowning out the sound of his own. Nails scratched down someone’s back and teeth bit down on a shoulder in return, and neither of them could tell who was doing what. All that mattered was the ecstasy and need and love that drove them on, trying to take in as much of the other they could, either physically or telepathically.

The two of them came at once, the pleasure burning through them and leaving them shaken and drained. Mentally pulling back enough so he could once more differentiate his body from Aya’s, Schuldig rolled onto his side, making sure the pale man shifted with him. Slender fingers were clenched in his hair, panted breath warmed his neck, and sorrow filled him, originating from the other man. "I won’t let this come to an end. You’re mine, kleines Veilchen."

<I’m nobody’s, Schu.> Aya’s thoughts were tired and doubtful, and he only wanted to savor the calm and illusion of togetherness as long as he could. Schuldig let the argument drop, deciding that he would make love to the stubborn fool again and again until the sorrow and doubt was gone. Until Aya wouldn’t even think to look in Kudoh’s direction ever again.

It wasn’t love that he was feeling. Not in the slightest. All he felt was an echo of what the swordsman felt for him. That emotion had been burned from Schuldig years ago, back when he had started his training at Rosenkreuz. He needed Aya, knew that he would never find a better partner for him, but all he felt for the man was desire and affection and a possessiveness that took his breath away. Schuldig tilted up his lover’s face, devouring the swollen lips with a desperation that he refused to acknowledge, determined to drown out both of their doubts and fears with pleasure.

*******

Crawford stared at his monitor, forcing his eyes to focus on the glowing screen as he recovered from his latest vision. It was time now. He’d done everything in his power to ensure that things were ready for this next stage, and would have to trust that they were. Fingers flying over the keyboard, the precog sent an email to his supervisors.

*******

<Mastermind, wake up. Get your lazy Kraut ass out of bed, I have work for you.>

"Geh weg. Es ist niemand zuhause." The German snuggled closer to the warm body curled against his chest, blowing aside a strand of hair that was tickling his nose.

<Mastermind, get your ass in gear or I’ll give you so many assignments that you won’t see your bed or lover again for at least a month.>

< Verpiss dich, Ich schlafe noch.>

There was a wave of irritation, but Schuldig ignored it as he drifted back to sleep. There was no way in hell he was getting out of bed, not after the night he’d had. Aya stirred against him, clearly unhappy to be catching part of the conversation.

<Vortex. I have a mission for Mastermind; kindly give him the necessary incentive to get his ass here in my office.>

There was a low growl, the only warning that Schuldig had before teeth clamped into his left shoulder, startling him awake with the pain. "Was zur Hölle?"

A bleary, bloodshot violet eye opened long enough to glare his way. <Go see what he wants.> Along with that command, Aya sent his annoyance at having been woken up, and the impression that if he was disturbed again, Schuldig was going to be very, very sorry. Not that the older man had any chance to remain in bed, as he found his body responding to the telepathic order, sliding out of bed and picking up a pair of pants before pulling them on and continuing his way to Crawford’s office. The damn pants were Aya’s, pinching him rather uncomfortably in rather distressing areas, and thus only added to Schuldig’s foul temper.

Which was temporarily lifted when he found a rumpled, irate Kudoh standing in front of Crawford’s desk, wearing only a pair of wrinkled boxers and slippers. The American was impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit, light grey with pale pink shirt and tie. "Hail, Kaiser. What the fuck do you want?"

"Ah, nice of you to decide to join us after all, Schuldig." As if he had any choice, once Aya had been sicced on him. Crawford ignored the two pairs of green eyes scowling in his direction as he handed a piece of paper to Yohji. "I need you to go to those addresses and use your talent to find out everything Roger Holmes knew about Esset and a private company named Eisen."

"Then send Schuldig and not me; he can rummage around in the man’s head while I go back to sleep."

"I’m afraid not; Holmes was killed two days ago. I also want you to find out as much as you can about his last few days of life. Get going." The dark haired man turned his back on his subordinates, once more typing away at his keyboard.

Schuldig glanced at Kudoh and scratched at his head. "Why am I tagging along if the guy’s dead? Not even Blondie here can fuck up this mission."

"You shitty little-"

Crawford turned around to look at the two men, his blue eyes glowing with anger. "Gentlemen, be quiet." Schuldig and Yohji immediately stopped their bickering. "Mastermind, you will be assisting Munin today, helping to focus his talent and ensuring that he comes to no harm. Now get going." The precog’s voice brooked no more dissension, and once more Crawford turned his attention to the computer.

Yohji sighed as he rubbed at his eyes. "Well, the sooner we get this done, the sooner I don’t have to see you any more. I’ll be ready in five minutes."

"As if spending the day with you is a fucking prize, Blondie." At least that meant that the man would be staying away from his little one. Tugging at the crotch of the tight pants, Schuldig headed back for his bedroom, hoping that Aya was sound asleep. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he woke the man while he changed, but considering how his shoulder was throbbing, a certain swordsman was in a grouchy mood that morning.

Glancing over at the pale man curled up on their bed, Schuldig had to walk over and tuck a long eartail back off of Aya’s face. The man was asleep once more, not even stirring when a hand stroked his cheek. Bruises and scratches, testament to the raging passion that had consumed them last night marred the white flesh on display. Schuldig was sporting a few bruises, bite marks and sore muscles himself, but it had been well worth it. Even if he was up after only an hour or two of sleep.

After a quick shower and pulling on a pair of grey slacks and a dark green, short sleeved shirt, Schuldig leaned over to kiss his lover on the forehead and left the room. Yohji stood by the elevator, dressed in jeans and a blue shirt, sipping from a mug of coffee. The drink’s aroma reminded Schuldig that he had skipped dinner the night before, and he frowned at the blond. "Where’s mine?"

"Sorry, this was the last of the coffee. You can get something while we’re on the way to the first destination." There was a hint of a malicious smile on Kudoh’s lips as he made a big production of slurping his coffee, radiating contentment the whole while. Gritting his teeth, the telepath reminded himself that he couldn’t kill the man just yet, not until Schwarz was free. Which better be soon, or else spending the rest of his life as Esset’s slave might not be a bad thing, as long as he got to repeatedly bash the smug prick’s head against a solid surface until it burst.

*******

Aya prepared a pot of tea, waiting for the water to heat so he could have some to drink. He winced as he set the container of loose tea back on its shelf, and spared a thought for the man who had him aching more after a single night than the last few missions had left him. A sense of boredom and irritation came through their link, along with smugness and a halfhearted apology when Schuldig caught his train of thought. <See how funny you think it is when you spend the next few nights on the couch.>

<Now, now, mein kleines Veilchen, you must admit that you had one hell of a good time last night.>

<Hn.> Severing the connection, Aya poured the hot water into his pot. He wanted to enjoy reading Crawford’s papers while drinking the bitter tea, and then try to loosen up his stiff muscles by practicing his katas. Schu and Yohji would be gone for another couple of hours, Ken and Nagi were off shopping, and Farfie was locked in his room, beating himself against the padded walls as he screamed in Gaelic. Crawford was holed up in his office, so Aya pretty much had the apartment to himself. He intended to enjoy the peacefulness as long as he could. When Schu and Yohji came back, things would most likely become tense once more.

Sipping his tea, the redhead wondered how he had found himself in this ridiculous situation. After his sister’s death, he had tried to keep anyone from becoming special to him ever again. But somehow, Kudoh had snuck past his defenses, just as Schu had. And now both men knew that he loved them, and wouldn’t leave him the hell alone. Aya was still afraid that one day he’d believe their assurances that they would never abandon him, and only be hurt again. It didn’t pay to let people get close to him; something bad always happened to them, and he would be alone once more.

However, considering how his plan had blown up in his face, Aya wasn’t sure of how he was to proceed. He’d gone from being alone to wanting two men who were just as stubborn as he was. And nothing in his previous existence supplied him with a suitable resolution, other than to take off running and not stop until he had left both Yohji and Schu as far behind as possible.

Aya picked up his pot of tea and made his way to the dining room, determined to ignore his problems for a couple of hours. As soon as he set the pot down, he became aware that the elevator was descending from their floor. Not expecting any of his teammates to return home so soon, he sent out a probe, briefly brushing against three unfamiliar minds, all of them possessing very strong shields. About to breach the mental barriers, Aya was prevented from doing so by Crawford.

<Don’t worry, I’m expecting these gentlemen. Aya, leave their thoughts alone, and please make a pot of coffee for us, then bring it to my office.>

Doing as he was told, the telepath remained in the kitchen as the coffee brewed and assembled a tray with four cups and a pot. When the beverage was ready, Aya picked up the tray and headed for Crawford and their guests.

The three men were all foreigners, and he caught a snippet of German as he entered the room, something about a convergence. All four men fell silent at his approach, and Aya was aware of three sets of eyes appraising him. At Crawford’s nod, he poured them all something to drink and passed out the cups, as he had done for his father’s clients years before.

"Ah, I have no more doubts, now that I’ve seen him. The Elders will be pleased," responded a man with thick glasses, dressed in black slacks and a dark blue shirt. The man’s hazel eyes followed Aya’s every move as he spoke in German. His two companions shifted about, and one of them reached a hand into his coat pocket.

<If that is all, Crawford, I think I am going to leave.> Aya had the sudden urge to be somewhere other than the apartment, at least while these men were here. Something about them made his skin crawl. He bowed to his leader, and started to gather up the serving tray.

<Aya, know that this is happening for a reason, and that Schwarz will be there for you when you need us. I’m sorry, but this is the only way to make our dream come true.> The American’s voice was thick with sorrow, causing Aya to pause in what he was doing and stare at him in curiosity, a frown on his face.

<What do you-> Pain flowed through him, setting his nerves on fire as one of the men wrapped a hand around his neck, choking him as a cloth, soaked in a cloying chemical, covered his face. Trying to strike back at his attacker, Aya used one of the tricks that he’d picked up from Schuldig to strike viciously at the foreigner’s mind. It was a mistake; the hands about his neck and face loosened, but what had been intense pain before flared to something even more awful as he felt the hurt that he’d inflicted on the stranger recoil back on him. There was a flash of three old people, foreigners as well, and the word ‘convergence’, then the agony became too much and Aya found himself passing out.

*******

Crawford watched as Schniederman and the man’s associate who was still standing hurried over to Aya’s crumpled form. "He’s very strong, to be able to fight back like that. We will need to keep him heavily sedated." The assistant nodded his head as he reached into a pocket and pulled out a syringe. Once Aya was sedated, the two Germans turned to their fallen companion. Blood dripped out of his ears and trailed down from his eyes. It was clear that the man was dead. "Yes, very strong. He will make the perfect host." With that, Schniederman pulled out his cell phone and called for assistance.

While they waited for help to arrive from the first floor, the German man glanced over at Crawford. "You have done an exemplary job preparing him. I take it you foresee no problems with his former teammates?"

"No, they have been suitably broken as well, and will not cause us any trouble. Let me know if there is anything further that Schwarz can assist you with."

"Hmm, Esset will need your help in the upcoming weeks. Everything will need to be made ready for the Elders’ arrival and the convergence. Kritiker must be dealt with; I will leave that matter to you. I will be in touch soon, after I get the host to our labs and we start preparing him." Schniederman ran his hand along Aya’s chest as if the redhead was a precious object of sorts. A moment later, and two large, well-muscled men entered the office. One of them picked up Aya, cradling him in his arms, and the other quickly placed the dead assistant’s body in a bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Good day, Oracle."

"Good day, sir." Crawford stood by his desk as the men left, his face a blank mask. As soon as the elevator started to descend, he removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. That had gone as well as he could have hoped for; now for the hard part. Nagi and Ken should be returning in a few minutes, and he would need them for when Schuldig and Yohji came storming in here. Striding out of the room, the precog went to release Farfarello. The next hour would be the critical point; if he could keep his team together, they had their best shot at gaining their freedom. That thought was all that kept him from spitting out the bitter taste of betrayal that filled his mouth.

*******

Yohji rubbed his sore temples, then tugged on his leather gloves. "Okay, I think I’ve gotten all the information I’m going to get from this guy’s office. What say we check out his house, and get our asses back home." He wanted to talk to Aya, maybe see if the man wouldn’t be ready to listen to reason yet. Which was how the two of them belonged together.

<Dream on, Blondie. For the millionth time; the man is _mine_. _I_ was the one fucking his brains out last night, making him shout out my name, and I’ll be the only one doing that in the future. Accept your loss and move on.>

"Fuck you, Schu. You’re not the only one he loves, and as long as he feels the same way about me as I do him, I’m not going to rest until he’s mine." Never mind the fact that Aya would skin the both of them alive if he ever caught wind of this conversation. One did not dare to claim the swordsman as if he was a possession, at least not in his vicinity.

Schuldig shot him a dirty look and began to swear in German. After about a minute he abruptly fell silent and clutched at his head. Yohji felt a stab of pain in his own head, and it took him a few seconds to realize that it wasn’t originating from him.

Then he fell to his knees as it took on a blinding intensity, and bit into his tongue from the agony. A moment later it was gone, and Yohji shakily got to his feet. Schuldig was lying half on top of Holmes’ desk, clutching its sides in an effort to keep from sliding to the ground. "Schuldig, are you okay? What the hell was that?"

"Aya." The German coughed a few times, then forced himself upright. "Something’s happened to Aya. We need to go home."

Shit. Had someone accidentally touched the man, Yohji wondered as he threw his teammate’s arm over his shoulder and hauled the man out of the office. They had to get home right away and make sure that Aya was all right. He didn’t like how the pain had suddenly died out, or how he couldn’t talk to the swordsman through their link.

"He’s unconscious. I can’t feel _anything_ from him, which might mean that he has been sedated with something powerful enough to knock Farfie out for a week or two, in order to block our link like this. I’m not even picking up any more pain." Schuldig’s voice was thick with worry, and the man kept trying to get his feet to work properly. "Hurry up, Blondie. I can’t reach Crawford, but Nagi and Ken are almost home, and will find out what’s going on."

"You think the place was attacked? Could Kritiker have tracked us down?"

The German growled low in his throat. "I don’t know. But if someone has harmed Aya, they better beg for death right now. I’m gonna fucking gut the bastard who touched him."

"You and me both, Schu." Yohji hurried his pace, ignoring the odd looks the two of them generated as they walked through a busy hallway in the office building. All he could think of was the agony he had felt before the pain had gone away. Aya had definitely been hurt. And if Kritiker or Weiß were behind it, he was going to kill a few former co-workers.

*******

Shut up - Halt die Schnauze

Over my dead body; the little... - Nur über meine Leiche, dieser kleines...

Go away. No one’s home. - Geh weg. Es ist niemand zuhause.

Fuck off, I’m sleeping. Verpiss dich, Ich schlafe noch.>

What the hell? - Was zur Hölle?"

*******

Thanks, Enna, for the German help!!

*******

 

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