The Other Side

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chapter seven

*******

Ken and Nagi hurried out of the elevator, eyes darting about to check the apartment for any sign of intruders or conflict. Their home appeared perfectly normal. Exchanging a look, the two assassins crept down the hall checking each room they passed. A light shone from an open door, and Ken cautiously poked his head into Crawford’s office. He spied the American sitting calmly at his desk busy typing an email.

"Ken, come on in. You too, Nagi."

The young men complied, though Ken stepped in front of his boyfriend when he spied Farfarello in the corner licking a knife. The madman had been screaming and tossing himself about earlier that morning; Ken had a hard time believing that the man had settled down in just a few hours. And why was he in Crawford’s office?

<Hidaka, what the hell is going on there? Where’s Aya?>

‘I can’t see him, Schuldig. But everything looks normal. Are you sure something happened to him?’

<Idioten. Yes, I’m sure. Kudoh and I are almost there.>

Ken rubbed his head as the telepathic connection was severed. Schuldig’s worry had been apparent throughout the whole conversation and made the athlete tense. He sought out Nagi’s hand and cleared his throat, hoping to attract Crawford’s attention. After his second try, the precog stopped typing and looked his way. "Where’s Aya? Schuldig’s worried about him, and we felt pain a little bit ago. Is he alright?"

"Aya is as fine as he can be." Ken’s eyes narrowed at the ambiguous statement, and he decided to continue searching the apartment. Turning around to leave, he saw a blur of white and then Farfie took position in front of the door. Okay, something sure as hell was going on here. Turning around once more, Ken glared at Crawford and voiced that sentiment out loud.

The older man raised a hand to comb his fingers through his hair, a weary look on his face. "Ken, Nagi… yes, something is going on here. Can you wait until everyone is present before I try to explain things?"

"Yes, Crawford."

Looking askance at the younger man who had so readily agreed to the request, Ken voiced his assent as well, albeit reluctantly. He wasn’t about to take everything Crawford said as the gospel truth like Nagi did. Then again, the man hadn’t picked him up off the street and given him a family, had he? "What’s the deal with Farfie? I thought he was gonna be locked up all day."

"I need him here." Getting up from his desk, Crawford walked around the piece of furniture until he was standing before his teammates. "There’s a favor I need to ask of you two. No matter what happens in the next few minutes, please remain calm and do not take sides. This will be between Yohji, Schuldig and I. All I ask is some time to explain my actions. Will you agree to this?" Blue eyes stared at them from behind glass, an earnest look in the orbs. Ken felt a twist in his gut, warning him that something bad was about to happen. Why his power wasn’t kicking in was a mystery.

About to turn around and leave the room despite the man’s plea, he was prevented from doing so by Nagi’s hand on his arm. "Of course we’ll listen to you, Crawford. But can’t you tell us what’s going on? Is it Aya?"

"The matter has to deal with him, yes. Please wait just a few more minutes."

Jerking his arm free, Ken tugged on his boyfriend’s shirtsleeve. "Nagi, something’s going to happen here, I-"

"I’m staying, Ken, and doing what Oracle has asked us." Nagi stared up at him, a pleading look in his eyes. The boy was most likely torn between siding with him or his leader, and clearly asking Ken not to make him choose. With a sigh, the older brunet nodded his head and walked over to the couch. Nagi instantly hurried over to sit beside him and grasped his hand. Guess there was nothing more to do than wait.

Crawford nodded his head, as if to assure himself of something and crossed over to his desk, where he leaned his hip against it. A hand waved in the air, and Farfie once more took his place behind the tall man. "Thank you. I promise things will become clear in the next few minutes."

They’d better, or Ken would worry about placating his love later and start hitting Crawford until he got some answers. His power remained mostly dormant, but there was a whisper in Ken’s head that warned him that he had better enjoy the peace while it lasted.

*******

Schuldig stormed out of the elevator, or at least tried his best to. It was a little difficult when he still had trouble just walking on his own. At least Yohji charged into the apartment, dragging him along. Both men had become very suspicious when Ken and Nagi hadn’t had much to report back to them earlier. Something was going on here, and the German bet a certain smug, secretive precog held the answers he needed.

"Schuldig, is he here?"

"I can’t tell, Blondie. I’m still not picking up anything from Aya; he could have been in the damn elevator with us for all I could sense." That bothered him more than words could say. For that to happen, Aya had to be either doped with enough drugs to put a normal person out for a week or two, or dead. Not liking the direction his thoughts were taking, Schuldig hissed at the blond to hurry up.

"I’m hurrying. Maybe my power will tell us something; I just need to touch one of Aya’s things to find out."

"…not a bad idea, Kudoh. Perhaps you have a brain after all. We’ll try that after having a little chat with Papa." Who had been ignoring his questions for the past half hour, only replying with ‘see me in my office’ when Schuldig had tried to get some answers. Dammit, why did the man have to have such good shields?

They walked into the room only to find Crawford leaning against his desk, arms crossed over his chest and handsome face impassive. Ken and Nagi were sitting on the couch looking uncomfortable, and Farfarello was standing in a corner of the room. As Yohji and Schuldig crossed the threshold, the Irishman took a step closer to Schwarz’s leader. Shit. Something had to be going on if Farfie felt the need to protect Crawford, and for the precog to let the man out of his room when his mind buzzed so strongly with insanity.

"Where the hell is he?"

"Schuldig, give me a moment to explain."

"Scheiß drauf, Crawford." He was prevented from saying anything else as Yohji suddenly left him without support. As Schuldig struggled to steady himself on his own legs, the blond charged at Crawford, pulling wire from his watch. It seemed that Yohji wanted answers just as badly as he did and had figured their leader would be more forthcoming with them if he thought his head was about to be removed from his neck. Schuldig wholeheartedly agreed.

When Yohji was less than a meter away from the precog, however, Farfie stepped into the charging man’s path. The Irishman allowed the wire to be wrapped around his bandaged wrist and used it to yank Yohji off balance, and then slammed him into the ground. He knelt over his teammate, knees pinning the blond’s arms to the floor as pale hands latched onto a golden neck.

Deciding not to pass up the opportunity presented to him, Schuldig ran at Crawford while his bodyguard was distracted. Something was definitely going on here. Let Crawford try to block out his mind when the man’s head was being slammed against the desk. Schuldig had left his lover in his leader’s care, and the only way that Crawford could be alive and well when Aya wasn’t was if he’d had some part to play in what had happened to the other telepath.

However, he didn’t fare much better than Yohji had. Just as his hands brushed against a silk jacket, Schuldig felt something grab ahold of his body and slam it against a wall. "Where is he? What did you do to him, you bastard?"

"Berserker, merely restrain Munin. You are not to harm him in any manner. Berserker, do you hear me?" Crawford ignored Schuldig as he took a step towards the two men on the floor, a frown on his face. At the American’s proximity, Farfarello finally let go of Yohji’s throat. While the blond man coughed and sputtered, Crawford returned to his desk ignoring the curses that Schuldig shouted at him.

"Answer him, Oracle. You promised us answers as soon as Yohji and Schuldig returned, not that you’d try to kill them. Where’s Aya?" Ken started to get off of the couch as he yelled, but was pushed back down into the cushions. Schuldig could feel his astonishment and hurt as the man stared at Nagi.

"I’m sorry, Ken, I really am. Would everyone please stop trying to kill each other so we can find out what happened?" Nagi’s voice was pleading, his mind filled with pain at the sight of his family turning against each other. Glaring at his leader, Schuldig did his best to approximate Aya’s melding of the team’s thoughts, excluding only Farfie from the mix.

<See what you’re doing to us, Brad? Give me a damn answer before I burn out the kiddo’s mind to make him let go of me.> That statement was met by a gasp from Nagi and a growl from Ken. Fuck the both of them, all that mattered was Aya.

And fuck Crawford as well for merely glancing his way calmly, as if Schwarz wasn’t falling apart and his lover gone. "Are you ready to admit what you feel for the man now, Schu?"

Oh, he was ready to kill the man. "Enough of the bullshit, Crawford. Where the hell is he?"

The American closed his eyes for a moment, and when they opened the amount of sorrow they contained actually stunned Schuldig silent. Along with the fact that the precog’s shields were slowly disintegrating away, allowing his thoughts and emotions to be clearly read. "Esset has him."

Scanning those thoughts, Schuldig renewed his struggle against Nagi’s telekinetic hold. "Du verfluchter Bastard! Du hast ihn mir gegeben! Verräter! Ich werde dich töten!" Rage filled the telepath, burned through every fiber of his being and was echoed by three other people in the room as the realization of what that meant sunk in. He couldn’t see anything other than his former friend’s neck, which he wanted to snap in two.

<Schu, calm down and search further. I didn’t just hand him over to them. I wouldn’t do that to a teammate. I had no choice in the matter if I wanted the rest of Schwarz to live, or for us to be free. Read my thoughts, damn you!>

Busy tearing into the man’s mind, Schuldig didn’t realize that he was released from the wall until moments after it had happened and fell down onto his knees. He pulled back enough from Crawford’s mind to scan the other ones present and found Yohji, Nagi and Ken to be throwing him their support. Nagi ripped Farfie off of the blond and slammed him into the ceiling as Ken managed to do what Yohji and he had failed to: lay hands on Crawford. The brunet had his hands wrapped around the precog’s neck.

"Hidaka, let go of him." Schuldig shouldered the younger man aside and punched his oldest friend in the jaw, sending Crawford tumbling back onto the desk. He resumed his scan, desperate to find out everything he could about Aya. Almost all of the precog’s thoughts were laid bare; Schuldig found out about Esset telling Oracle that Aya was to be the host for the Elder’s convergence ceremony and that he was to prepare the redhead. That was the real reason Weiß had been kidnapped; Yohji and Ken’s talents had been an added bonus beside the chance to resurrect some old, evil bastard. Along with that damning order was another: Weiß was to be stripped of their personalities and made completely malleable. The Elders didn’t want a personality to get in the way of their beloved leader being reborn in his boyfriend’s body.

Along with those orders were Crawford’s own plans to free Schwarz. He deliberately disobeyed the commands and did his best to ensure that Aya accepted his power and became comfortable with it, and that Ken and Yohji did as well. The precog had allowed Schuldig to take the younger telepath as a lover as a means of facilitating that. Schuldig scanned all of the plans he found in the man’s head and shared them with the rest of Schwarz. Nagi was relieved that Oracle hadn’t really betrayed them, Ken furious that his emotions for the boy had been used to make him join the team, and Yohji still wanted the man’s blood for allowing Aya to be hurt. As did Schuldig.

Yanking the American upright, Schuldig tried to break past the few remaining shields but found out that he couldn’t. Yohji tried as well, grabbing Crawford’s hand and squeezing it tight, but his power was also denied. Resisting the urge to punch his friend again, Schuldig let go of the expensive and now crumpled white jacket Crawford was wearing. <What are you still hiding?>

<The few things I need to, if we’re going to be free. Schu, I’m sorry, but there was no other way. I had to turn him over, or they would have killed all of us and taken him anyway. If you had known about it, you would’ve interfered and been eliminated, and there wouldn’t be anyone to rescue the man. Won’t you trust me on this?>

He stared into his friend’s eyes, trying to decide if that was possible. Bradley Crawford had spent the past few years convincing Schuldig that he was an arrogant, know-it-all bastard who would ruthlessly do whatever he had to in order to attain his goal. Which had always been to keep Schwarz safe. That was what inspired Farfie and Nagi to back the man devotedly, and the reason why Schuldig obeyed his orders. Searching through the precog’s mind once more, he had to agree that Crawford had indeed done all he could to ensure that Schwarz would soon be free and had not turned Aya over to Esset without some regret. But he didn’t like the fact that the man was still hiding some of the future from him.

"Okay, Brad, maybe I’m being an idiot but I’m going to trust you. I want Aya back, and I can see that won’t happen without your help. But I’m warning you now, I get him back or you die." All that mattered was rescuing his lover.

Yohji stepped beside the German. "Same here. Now what do we have to do to get him back? We’re not really going to leave him in Esset’s hands, are we?" For a moment Schwarz shared in Crawford’s vision, which had them rescuing Aya during the convergence.

Straightening out his jacket, the precog nodded his head. "I’m afraid so. We’ve no choice in the matter, not if we all want to be free and alive. Aya’s to remain where he is, while we take care of things for Esset."

Crawford looked up at the ceiling. "Nagi, please release Farfarello. It’s a bit distracting to hold a meeting when someone is floating in the air." The teenager did as he was bid, and Farfie was soon standing on his feet once more with a pout on his face. A quick scan of the Irishman’s mind revealed that the damn psycho had actually been having some fun up there. Schuldig shook his head and wearily made his way to the sofa.

"Okay, Vater, spill. What the hell do we have to do?" He didn’t want to think about the fact that Aya had to be left in Esset’s hands and desperately needed a distraction of sorts. The best one seemed to be concentrating on the future and ensuring that the one where Aya was back beside him came true. Schuldig’s chest was filled with agony each time the pale face flashed through his mind.

The precog resumed his position behind the desk, and the rest of Schwarz made themselves comfortable. Ken and Nagi squeezed onto the couch beside him, and Yohji sat on Crawford’s desk, idly toying with a strand of wire from his watch. The blond was making it clear that he still had some reservations over the situation and was waiting for an excuse to try strangling the American. While not happy with current events himself, Schuldig had a bit more experience putting up with Crawford’s little personality quirks. Hell, if Aya wasn’t involved he’d have barely blinked an eye at today’s events. Frowning, Schuldig refused to think of why the younger telepath mattered so much to him. Why was he this upset over a mere lover?

"We have orders to make sure that Esset encounters no interference when they arrive in Japan for the convergence ceremony. The convergence ceremony contains a ritual that, if successful, will bring resurrect the organization’s founding leader. The Elders hope to use Aya’s body to host the man’s spirit. Aya… was taken to be prepared for the ritual."

"Why was he chosen for the damn thing?" Yohji rasped.

Crawford shrugged his shoulders. "I’m not a hundred percent certain, but from the little digging I’ve done in the matter, it seems that the Fujimiyas attracted Esset’s attention when the man’s sister failed to age during her coma. If she hadn’t died, most likely she would’ve been chosen instead of Aya. As it is, his powers are unique, and no doubt the Elders hope to give their leader an attractive, powerful body to live in once more."

"It’s not their fucking body to hand out," Schuldig snarled. It was his. All of Aya was his, and the old pricks would be learning that very shortly. "Get the hell on with what it is we have to do."

Blue eyes stared at him with reproach. "I’m working on just that, Mastermind. As I was saying, we’re to make sure that nothing interferes with the Elders’ arrival or the ceremony. That means taking care of Kritiker."

Ken started, leaning forward with his arms on his knees. "Please tell me that doesn’t mean what I think it does. Please." A quick scan revealed that Hidaka didn’t want to have to kill his friend, Omi. Well too bad. It was about damn time the precog realized that he was Schwarz now, and not Weiß. Reading Kudoh’s thoughts, Schuldig found that the man was ready to kill anyone that stood between him and Aya. Good for Blondie.

"Yes and no, Ken. I’m afraid the organization will need to be… pruned a bit." Before the athlete could say anything, Crawford continued. "You’ve seen the havoc Kritiker has caused here in Tokyo the past couple of years, and it’s only gotten worse with the death of Shuuichi Takatori. I intend for Schwarz to follow Esset’s orders, but only so far. Weiß will be spared, along with those who are still loyal to Kritiker’s original vision. We will remove all of the elements that have polluted the organization and render it into a form more suitable for rebuilding.

"Weiß will be used as a stalking horse during the convergence. We will make sure that enough information about the event falls into their hands to ensure that they show up and leave the majority of Esset in their hands while we tend to the Elders." His grand plan revealed, Crawford waited for the rest of Schwarz to make their comments.

"Okay then," Schuldig said as he rose to his feet. "Who do you want killed first?"

"Berserker and I will handle the majority of Kritiker’s agents. Banshee… I am sorry, but you’ll be required to take care of a few of them yourself, along with Prodigy. I promise you, none of them will be your former acquaintances, and they truly do deserve their fate." Ken took a deep breath and nodded his assent, and Nagi sought out one of his hands and held it tight. Guess someone was finally burning his bridges right and proper. "The two of you will also be responsible for wiping out a few of their research centers."

Before Schuldig could open his mouth, the American treated him to a piercing look. "As for you, Mastermind, and Munin as well, the two of you will be primarily concerned with establishing contact with Vortex and enlightening him about what is happening. There will be a few assignments for you to take care of, but he is our primary concern." Glancing down at his desk, Crawford picked up a plain silver letter opener and toyed with it a moment. "I promised him we would be there when he needs us; regretfully, I imagine that will be the second he wakes up."

Yet the bastard had still turned Aya over to their masters. Swallowing his hate and anger, Schuldig turned his back on his leader unable to stand the sight of the man at that moment. "Whatever. You better believe that I’m getting in contact with Aya the second the drugs start to wear off. Let me know if you have jobs for me, but until then, leave me the fuck alone." That said, he left the office.

Schuldig entered his bedroom and felt the pain in his chest increase as he spied all the reminders of his lover. Walking over to the dresser, he picked up the black fedora hat and ran a hand over its brim, feeling the felt bend under his fingers. Dammit, he was just upset about Aya being in the hands of a bunch of sadistic bastards, something he would feel for any teammate. That was all. The man was a lover and a friend, someone he could trust to watch his back – and that was all. Placing the hat back on the dresser, Schuldig tried to convince himself of that as he fell onto the bed.

Which still smelled of his lover. Aya’s scent clung to the sheets, and the German wrapped them around himself, remembering how he had last seen the other redhead: exhausted, snuggled up in the middle of the bed with the sheets draped loosely over his pale body. A body which bore the signs of the passion that had consumed them both last night. Schuldig groaned at that memory, recalling how it felt to make love to Aya. To be so deep in that perfect mind and body and feel the love that radiated off the man, all for him. In the end, that emotion had even managed to overwhelm their combined lust until the two of them had curled up on the bed, wrapped around each other, sated and so damned content to just hold each other. Aya’s thoughts must have influenced his for him to be that happy just touching another person.

Burying his face in the smaller telepath’s pillow, Schuldig tried to convince himself that his assessment was true, and that all he really felt for Aya was desire and friendship. But the pain in his heart only grew worse the longer he was separated from his lover. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck! He was so damn fucked. Somehow the sneaky little ingrate had done the impossible and made him fall in love. Damn Aya, and damn Crawford as well, for knowing this was going to happen and allowing it anyway. He _had_ to get Aya back now, if only to smack the man for doing this to him. Then Schuldig was going to ensure that his little violet never left his side ever again.

*******

Omi sat on an overstuffed couch in a moderately decorated apartment. Aside from the sofa and a low table covered with pictures of his deceased uncle, the only other furniture in the room was a small stand that held an answering machine and phone, and two floor lamps. He tugged on the hem of his shorts as he waited for Manx to return home.

It was almost an hour later when the woman arrived appearing exhausted. As soon as she realized that someone was in her apartment, she dropped her purse after pulling a gun out of it. Green eyes blinked in surprise at Omi. "Omi, what are you doing here? How did you find out where I live?"

"A little judicious hacking gave me your address, Manx."

"You shouldn’t be breaking into Kritiker’s systems!" Manx scolded the youth.

Resting his elbows on his knees, Omi smiled sweetly at the woman. "I was just returning the favor of them monitoring my mail. I take it you heard about my encounter with Yohji, Ken and Aya yesterday?"

The redhead had the grace to blush as she put her gun back in the purse. "Omi… I’m sorry. Can you now understand why I didn’t want you reforming Weiß?"

"How much do you know, Manx? Did you know that Dayu and Kai were spies, and that they were keeping tabs on my phone calls and emails? Did you know about when Yohji tried to contact me before?" And most importantly… "And do you know what Kritiker plans to do to my friends if they get their hands on them?" Please, don’t let Manx have betrayed him and the others. Omi didn’t know if his heart could take it.

Manx sighed and sat down on the couch beside him. "My, that is a lot of questions. Yes, I knew about the monitoring and about Yohji trying to meet with you a couple of months ago, but I only found out about both things after the fact. I was allowed no input in the formation of Weiß 4, and only found out about Dayu and Kai’s true agendas after investigating their backgrounds. As for your last question… I… have my suspicions of what will happen to your old teammates if Kritiker finds them, which was why I am more than happy to see them remain lost."

Covering her face with her hands, Manx let out a small sob. "It’s nothing like it used to be, Omi. When your uncle was still alive, Kritiker seemed to have some sort of focus. But with his death… too many private interests arose, and the scramble for power badly fractured the organization. All anyone is interested in is gaining power, not making criminals pay. It actually makes me feel glad that Shuuichi isn’t here to see this."

"But Manx, how could it have gotten so bad in such a short period of time?"

"Because the last few years, Persia, your uncle, cared mainly about making your father pay for his crimes. He let things slide out of his control, and when he realized, it was too late to reverse the changes without a major shakeup. I think that’s part of why he formed Weiß. Why he wanted young men with powers. It’s my belief that as soon as he dealt with your father, he meant to use Weiß to help reform Kritiker. That was why he kept you such a secret."

If Omi hadn’t spent the past night hacking into Kritiker’s database, these revelations would have shocked him. But refusing to let the computer system stymie him any longer, he hadn’t quit until he’d cracked the security. He found many, many sobering facts. After that shock, all that had mattered was ascertaining whether or not Manx had been involved in any of the conspiracies against Weiß.

"Why didn’t you warn me about any of this?"

"Because…" Manx rested back on the couch, her eyes intent on the boy’s face as she regained her composure. "After I failed to discourage you, I began to hope maybe you’d find out and try to restore Kritiker to what it once was. You can do it, Omi. You’re a Takatori, and I know that your uncle hoped for you to replace him one day. That’s why you led Weiß. You can’t let things go on as they have been lately."

But he was only a teenager: one not even graduated from high school, no matter what his IQ or job. "Manx… all I want is to get my friends back and have some sort of life. Rejoining Weiß… it was bearable with the thought that one day Ken, Yohji and Aya would return, but how am I going to keep the truth from Ouka if I try to take the organization over? And who would follow a seventeen year old?"

"Birman, Botan and I, for starters. And a few others as well. Jou and Dayu too, I’m willing to bet; Dayu was not happy with what happened in the park and he’s been criticized for refusing to put more effort into capturing your friends." She gazed at Omi, conviction shining brightly in her eyes.

Suddenly uncomfortable about the situation and the burden being unexpectedly thrust onto his shoulders, Omi rose to his feet. "Manx, I, I… don’t know what to say. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I have to go now." He needed to get out of here and try to figure a few things out. Kissing the woman on the check, Omi made good his escape.

*******

"Verdammt." Schuldig snarled as he rested on his and Aya’s bed. It had been almost a week, and he still couldn’t reach his lover. A wall of pain and drugs blocked him from the man, and he was exhausting himself trying to tear it down. The only thing that made the situation bearable was that Yohji was failing as well. The man’s power seemed to be able to overcome just about any shields but the agony filled fog that surrounded Aya’s thoughts and emotions.

Still, he wasn’t going to give up. Not when Aya had spent the past five days alone and abused; he couldn’t let the man think that he had been abandoned as well. That would break the younger telepath more than anything Esset could do to him. Besides, he had promised Aya he would never leave him. Closing his eyes, he tried once more.

It was some time later when a knock on the door brought him out of his trance. His head hurting almost as much as his chest, Schuldig snarled once more. "Go the fuck away."

Yohji chose to interpret those words as ‘welcome’ and entered his room. Fucking bastard. The blond looked as exhausted as Schuldig felt and hadn’t bothered to change out of uniform. The two of them had spent the morning making sure a few Kritiker agents never lived to collect their pensions. "What the hell do you want?"

"Damn, no luck either?" Yohji sat on the bed beside the German, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and lit two of them. Schuldig accepted the offering as he shook his head. The past week had been an interesting one, as he and Blondie had spent a lot of time in each other’s company taking care of business in-between searching for Aya’s mind. Without the swordsman around to fight over, their constant battles had turned more into comradely sniping. They were both too worried about the man they loved to do more than vent some of their frustrations on each other.

"This isn’t good. The longer we fail to reach him…"

"The more he’ll believe that he’s been abandoned again. I was just thinking that." Taking a deep drag on his smoke, Schuldig flopped back on the bed. "But I can’t reach him, no matter what I try."

The mattress shifted as the blond lay beside him. "Neither can I. All I get is pain."

Which was frightening enough to think about, Aya suffering like that. Cursing once more, Schuldig jerked on his bangs, the spark of pain a welcome distraction from his worry. Dropping his hand back down to the bed, it fell on top of Yohji’s arm. Only the black shirt kept the man’s power from kicking in. Muttering an apology as he removed it, a thought occurred to the telepath.

*******

Pain. Everything was pain. It swallowed him completely, until the only thing Aya could differentiate anymore were the varying degrees of agony he felt. It spiked whenever someone touched him, washing through him in waves that had him arching against the restraints that kept him in the bed, and would fade to a constant, throbbing misery that threatened to dissolve his bones. Time had stopped meaning anything to Aya; he had no idea if he’d been here for hours or days or years. All he knew was that he was alone.

<Aya.>

Tossing his head to the side, the pale man thought he had imagined the word. His mind played tricks on him from time to time, making him think he felt the brush of Schu or Yohji’s consciousness against his ever so faintly.

<Aya.> This time the thought was stronger. Fighting past the pain and drugs that constantly flowed into his body, Aya mentally reached out, desperate for this not to be another dream.

<Mein Gott, kleines Veilchen, es ist kein Traum. We’re here.> Schu flowed into his mind, followed by Yohji’s presence. There was a brief vision of the two men lying on a bed, Aya’s hat in Yohji’s ungloved hands and Schuldig’s hand on the blond’s.

<Are you real?> If the pain had finally driven him mad, Aya didn’t care. Anything was better than being alone. He couldn’t take it anymore, and only clinging to the two men’s promises that they would never leave him had enabled him to keep the tenuous hold on sanity that he still had.

A phantom hand caressed his cheek, the first bit of pleasure he’d felt in what seemed an eternity. <Yes, sweetie, we’re real. We’ll never let you go.> Yohji’s voice soothed him, made the pain fade away the slightest bit.

<Let’s take care of this; no wonder you can’t think straight. Hey, Blondie, be of use for once.> The pain began to lessen, but Aya still felt a slight echo of it radiating from his loves. It occurred to him that they were taking the pain away, and his relief flooded through the two of them.

There was another soothing touch, from Schu this time. Aya reached out to drag the man’s mind deeper into his own, eager for anything that took him away from his current reality. He wanted to lose himself in the German’s thoughts.

<Shh, it’s okay, little one. I’m here.>

<_We’re_ here.> Yohji, his mind linked with Schuldig’s, was dragged in as well, not that Aya minded in the least. Their emotions filled him, making him feel warm and safe.

The three of them remained like that for some time, until the pain spiked once more, surprising Schu and Yohji. <What is that?>

<More drugs.> Aya answered Yohji. <They keep injecting them into me.> It would get worse after the pharmaceuticals filled his veins, as the doctors took to examining him without gloves, checking on his condition. Sure enough, the vile touches came, but this time his teammates sheltered him from it, soothing him and taking away as much of the agony as they could.

<Gods, these fucks are dead.> Yohji snarled, his anger matching Schu’s.

<Why? Why is this happening?>

Schuldig stroked phantom fingers along Aya’s cheekbone, making him shiver in pleasure. <We’re sorry, kleines Veilchen, but we didn’t know this was going to happen.> His lover shared the events that had taken place after he’d been abducted. Aya felt himself shiver once more, only not in pleasure as he realized he had to remain like this for the foreseeable future. <I’m sorry, but I can’t think of anything else to do. But I’m not leaving you alone again, I swear.>

<_We’re_ not leaving you alone.> Yohji snarled, making sure his presence was felt. <You won’t be alone for a single second if I can help it, Ayan. Even if I have to stay linked with this asshole the whole time.>

< Halt deinen verdammten Mund, Blondie. You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my idea to use both of our talents to reach _my_ lover. Go find a convenient blow-up doll or something.>

<Fucking bastard, are you jealous or something? Finally realizing you can’t possibly hope to compete with me? I bet->

<_Shut up_.> The thought was weak, but possessed enough of Aya’s anger to get the men’s attention. Instantly the both of them were contrite, trying to soothe him out of his temper. After sending the both of them a mental smack, Aya allowed the idiots to placate him. If he had to put up with this bickering, with pain as his only other option, the agony wasn’t looking quite so bad anymore.

Schuldig snarled in his mind. <We heard that, you know. Shitty little ingrate.>

His world regaining a bit of its normalcy, Aya allowed his consciousness to sink deeper into that of his teammates. The bond felt so incredibly _right_, and it held the pain at bay. Contentment radiated between the three of them, happy to be reunited once more.

*******

Ken stared at Schuldig and Yohji, taking in how tired the two men appeared. Granted, no one in Schwarz was getting much sleep at the present, but those two looked as if they hadn’t seen a bed in ages. He guessed being in almost constant mental contact with Aya was the reason for that. But nothing could convince the two to break the connection.

Nagi nudged him in the ribs. "Come on, we’re supposed to take out the research center Blau this evening." It would be another night of death and destruction for them, as one more secret project of Kritiker’s was wiped off the face of the earth. Ken didn’t have any reservations left about taking on his former employers, not after the first such research center Nagi and he had taken care of. He’d never stopped to think about what had happened to all those experiments Weiß put an end to by killing their evil creators. It had been painful to discover that Kritiker had continued the projects on the sly.

"Hey, you guys need anything while we’re out?"

"How about some cigarettes? The German prick has smoked all of mine."

"Verpiss dich, Blondie. I did no such thing."

The two men were still fighting all the time, but the bickering had taken on a friendlier tone. Guess being linked together constantly had some small part to play in that as well. "Whatever. After I’m done killing a dozen people, I’ll stop by the store and pick up a carton so I can help kill two more. You guys do know it’s bad for your health, don’t you?"

In sync with each other, the two longhaired men, who had been lounging on the couch in the living room, reached for pillows and threw them at Ken.

"I’m a fucking assassin! You think that’s good for my health?"

"Idioten! Wenn du ein Gehirn hättest, dann wärst du gefährlich."

Ducking the objects, Ken ran from the room. He’d never thought the day would come when he’d see Yohji and Schuldig getting along so well, and had to admit that the sight scared him. It reeked too much of dark forces aligning or some other shit like that. The two men working together could spell the end to life as he knew it as far as the athlete was concerned. Ken never thought he would look back on the days the morons had been fighting over Aya with longing.

*******

Farfarello resisted the urge to stretch out a hand and comb it through the strands of blood coloured hair that was plastered with sweat to Aya’s head. Beside him some stupid doctor babbled on about the convergence and properly preparing the host, and it was almost as hard to resist slamming his knife into the man’s throat. Anything to silence the man’s yapping. Instead, the Irishman concentrated on the sight before him knowing his teammates were eager to find out how Aya was faring.

The redhead had lost most of the weight he had gained back these past few months, and his hair hadn’t been trimmed during his captivity. The white skin, made all the paler due to lack of exposure to sunlight, was pierced several times by various shunts and intravenous drips. Having spent a fair amount of time in hospitals himself, Farfarello sympathized with the ordeal the telepath was suffering. He longed to make the bastard doctors pay, but had been given his orders. Oracle had told him what to do and had expressly forbidden him from deviating.

A trickle of dust falling before his eye alerted the madman that it was time for some fun. Forcing himself from his teammate’s side, Farfarello walked away from the doctor and made his way up a staircase. His prey was hiding in the rafters above, and now he got to play. Moving without a sound, he easily snuck up behind the two Kritiker agents.

The only warning they had was the hiss of his blade coming out of its sheath. Charging at the one speaking over a headset, Farfarello plunged the blade into the man’s eye, killing him instantly. Knowing he didn’t have much time, he spun around to lash out his leg at the other agent, sending him to the ground. Pinning him to the floor with his knees, Farfarello decided to enjoy himself for just a few seconds. He leaned his face close to the Kritiker agent’s, who was too shocked to even fight back. Ach, the bastard was spoiling his fun.

He licked at the sweat on the man’s face. "You taste of fear, how sweet. But one thing tastes even better: death." Positioning his blade carefully, he shoved it under his prey’s ribcage, severing one of the arteries in the man’s heart. Pulling the blade out, he licked at it as the man bled to death. "Ah, much better. Tell God I’m not through with him yet."

Rising to his feet, he left the dying man behind him as he hurried downstairs and out of the building. It seemed there was a kitty he was supposed to rough up a little. He crept up on the woman as she sat in her car, trying in vain to contact her comrades. Oh, what a shame he couldn’t let her join the men, but Crawford had given him orders, and he wouldn’t disobey the man.

Farfarello plunged his hand through the windshield, slashing the kitty’s arm with his knife. He reached in with his other arm, hitting her in the jaw. Despite being slashed a couple more times, the agent managed to get her car into gear and drive off. He clung to the vehicle tenaciously, delivering a few more blows as the little kitty veered about the road wildly trying to dislodge him. Seeing her aim for a row of trees, Farfarello reluctantly let go and fell to the ground.

After rolling a few times he stood to his feet, absentmindedly resetting a broken wrist as he did so. Ah, that one had been feisty. Too bad he hadn’t been able to really play with her. But there were several other Kritiker agents that he could torment and then send to God this evening. Walking down the road, Farfarello smiled in anticipation of the blood to come.

*******

Hearing a crash in the front of the shop, Omi and Jou hurried forward to investigate the noise. The Koneko was closed, and there shouldn’t be anyone there besides the two of them. Rushing out front, they spied a bloody and battered Birman trying to regain her feet amidst the wreckage of several flowerpots. "Birman! What happened to you?" Omi slung one of the woman’s arms over his shoulders while Jou hurriedly relocked the door and closed the metal shutters. They took the agent upstairs where they could tend her wounds.

While Jou ran off to get the first aid kit, Omi sat Birman in one of the kitchen chairs. "You’re bleeding very badly. We should take you to the hospital."

"No, don’t do that!" Birman’s voice was filled with panic. "That’s not a good idea at the moment."

Omi waited for Jou to return, with Kai and Dayu at his heels, and once the worst of the cuts were taken care of, he asked his questions. "What’s happening, Birman? How did you get so injured? Why can’t we take you to the hospital?"

The dark-haired woman shuddered for a moment. "We… Manx and I didn’t want you to know. Kritiker is under attack, and most of our agents have been killed. I barely escaped tonight and I assume the men I was working with weren’t so lucky."

Kai exploded in anger. "You thought to keep that from us?" He slammed a fist onto the kitchen table. "What if we’re next? Why isn’t Kritiker doing something about this?"

"We don’t know why Weiß hasn’t been attacked yet and we’re hoping that as long as you were out of the matter, you’ll be safe. As for the organization, everyone is scrambling around trying to save themselves." Birman winced as Omi tended to a cut on her right forearm.

"Who is behind the attacks?" Dayu asked softly.

A bad feeling filled Omi when he saw Birman glance at him out of the corner of her eye. "It’s Esset’s doing. We’ve been monitoring them and found out that they are planning some sort of conference here in Japan, big enough that their leaders, three people who are called the Elders, have already arrived. They’re doing their best to ensure that Kritiker doesn’t find out what they are up to and put a stop to it, and have… ordered Schwarz to wipe us out. Which the team is happily doing."

"No… not Yohji, Aya and Ken. Surely not them," Omi whispered in anguish. His friends couldn’t be turning on him like this.

A ragged laugh filled the room. "I knew Abyssinian would be a traitor once more. He lives to kill his teammates." The tall man grabbed Omi and yanked him half over the table. "Still feel good about protecting your ‘friends’, Tsukiyono? The betraying bastards that they are?"

"Kai, leave him alone; this isn’t his fault." Dayu pried the swordsman’s hands off Omi’s t-shirt. "Can we please concentrate on the real problem? Birman, what are we supposed to do?"

"Nothing. I want the four of you to remain close to the Koneko and do nothing. We’re hoping that Kudoh and the others are protecting you somehow, which may be why you haven’t been attacked yet. Lay low for now, and hope that we find out what’s going on soon." The woman was fading fast, and the last words came out as a whisper. Omi and Dayu helped Birman to her feet and led her to the older man’s room, where they left her to rest.

They then made their way back downstairs. "We need to talk, Omi. Weiß needs to make some plans, in case your former teammates do decide to pay us a visit."

Reaching for his jacket, Omi shook his head. "I know, Dayu, but… not right now. I’m gonna check and see if Birman left some sort of trail to the shop; we can talk afterwards." He was really leaving to get some fresh air and try to put his thoughts in order, but the quiet man seemed to understand what he meant and only told him to be careful.

Checking the blocks around the Koneko, Omi found nothing. About to return home, he found himself unexpectedly shoved into a small, dark coffee shop. Opening his mouth to shout, the boy was surprised to find that he couldn’t speak. Looking up at the men who were herding him towards a table in the corner, he found his assailants to be Yohji and the foreigner, Mastermind.

<We’re not here to hurt you, Bombay, just talk. So spare Blondie the silly speech and tears about betraying you until you hear some facts.> Mastermind sat down beside him, and Yohji across from him. It was with some relief that the teenager finally realized that neither man was wearing a mission uniform. Yohji was dressed in blue jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt, his hands covered with gloves, while his friend was dressed in black pants with a pale blue shirt.

"Schuldig, let him talk now. Omi, you try to yell, and the prick over there will make sure you can’t speak for the rest of your life. I’m not in the mood to fuck around right now, so you better listen to us." The blond man appeared exhausted, his hair lank and dark shadows under his eyes. The other man, Schuldig apparently, looked much the same.

"Yotan, what is going on? Why are you attacking Kritiker?"

<Don’t play dumb with us, Bombay. I know you’ve been digging up stuff on your employers the past couple of weeks, and you know that they deserve this fate. As for us, we’re just following orders.>

"Take it easy on the kid, Schuldig. What’s going on isn’t his fault." Yohji glared at the other man for a moment before resting his elbows on the table and propping his head up on his hands. "Okay, chibi, you’re getting the condensed version. We don’t have much time, and pretty soon your new psychotic roommate is gonna come looking for you.

"The short of it is…" Yohji closed his eyes as if in pain. "Esset, the people we work for but don’t trust, have Aya. They want him for some ceremony they are planning on holding here in Japan." Omi tried to interrupt to ask questions, but found his voice gone once more. "I said listen, not talk. Anyway, they have Aya, which means we have to do exactly what they say until we get the man back. Which means we keep taking on Kritiker."

<And winning. My God, you guys are in terrible shape. But Aya isn’t the only reason we’re doing this.>

Yohji sighed and waved a hand at a waitress, holding up three fingers as he mouthed the word ‘coffee’. It only took a moment for her to come over to them with the drinks. Once she was out of hearing range, he started talking again. "Listen, chibi. The fact is, we hate Esset and we’re planning on taking them out. But we can’t do that until things are just right. So, while we wait, we’re cleaning house at Kritiker. Schwarz is killing off anyone who has forgotten what the organization is supposed to be and destroying a lot of unpleasantness associated with it."

<This is where you come in, Bombay. I can see that you’ve already been approached about this, now you get to hear it again. When we’re done with Kritiker, things will be perfect for you to take over. Don’t make all our hard work be in vain, and when things settle down, do something about what your organization has become.>

Sipping on his coffee, Omi tried to look rationally at the situation he currently found himself in. He was drinking coffee with two people who were his enemies, never mind the fact that one was among his dearest friends. They were his enemies because they were killing other Kritiker agents. Who were people who deserved to die, if his research was correct. And now he was being urged to take up the mantle of Persia for the second time this month. Omi wondered if now was a good time to develop a drug habit. It certainly would distract him from the mess that was his life. "How’s Aya?"

"Not good." Yohji’s eyes closed for a moment. When they opened they were filled with pain. "He says if you want to cheer him up, use Tonkinese as target practice." Omi smiled weakly at the joke. Then again, considering how much Kai hated Aya, the redhead was probably serious.

<He is. You’d be doing us all a favor, but wait a couple of days before you do so. We need Weiß alive and well at the moment.>

So that was why his team wasn’t being attacked. Omi frowned into his coffee mug as pain filled his chest.

"Shit, chibi, don’t think that. Yeah we need Weiß, but even if we didn’t, you wouldn’t be hurt. We don’t kill friends, and besides Tonkinese, none of you guys have done anything to warrant being taken out. Weiß is one of the few unsullied teams in the whole damn organization." Yohji reached over and patted his hand. "We like you too much to harm a hair on your genki little head."

"Thanks, Yotan." Omi stuck his tongue out at the man. "I feel so much better now."

Rising to his feet, Schuldig tossed some money down on the table. "Come on, Kudoh, we have work to do." <Okay, Bombay, here’s the deal. In two days time, the majority of Esset will be all together at the Ani museum. Weiß needs to be there as well. We’ll handle the big guns while you act as a distraction and take out as many people as you can.> Floor plans flooded Omi’s mind, and he noted with interest a well-stocked armory. <We’ll see you then.>

Remaining behind as the two men left, Omi sipped the last of his coffee as he thought on the past few weeks’ revelations. Why was it the more he wished for a normal life, the more bizarre things got? It was bad enough that Manx and Birman had urged him to take over Kritiker, now one of his best friends was doing so as well. All he wanted was to finish school, go to college and spend his life being hen-pecked by Ouka. Was that too much to ask? Apparently, it was.

When Omi caught a glimpse of Kai walking down the street through the shop’s dirty window, he decided it would be best to leave before the man came in and found him sitting alone at a table that held three mugs. Besides, he should get home; there were a lot of things to start planning for.

*******

Schuldig straightened out his jacket, wishing he was dressed in his familiar green one instead of looking like a damn milkman. At least the rest of Schwarz shared his predicament. <You just had to have us all dress up for this, didn’t you, Papa.>

<We’re supposed to be good little lackeys eagerly awaiting a new world order and have to look the part. Could you quit your bitching for five minutes? Please? God, I should have let you be killed back in Paris last January.>

Frowning at his leader, Schuldig grew even more angry when Yohji started to chuckle at the expression on his face. Reading the man’s thought, he found out he looked like some sort of demented ice-cream man. Great, a new low for him. "You don’t look much better, Blondie."

"Hey, my innate sexiness makes anything I’m dressed in look terrific." Yohji posed for a second then grew serious. "When will we see him?"

Crawford removed his glasses to clean them. "Soon. They’ll begin the ceremony shortly, and we’ll make our move then. Is he still heavily drugged?"

Searching with his mind, Schuldig started to pick up a hint of consciousness from his lover. "He’s waking up."

"Good. We’re going to need his assistance in this matter."

Biting his lip, the German refrained from commenting that he didn’t know how much help his lover would be considering he’d spent almost the past three weeks being pumped full of drugs. Aya’s thoughts had been so weak right before he’d been rendered unconscious from the medication. It seemed that Esset hadn’t wanted to chance anything happening and hadn’t even left him in the semi-awake state that had prevented Aya from using his power these past couple of weeks. No, they had doped the smaller telepath to the gills last night.

"Oracle, I hear someone coming down the hall." Ken stepped back from the door where he’d taken up surveillance.

"Good. This is it. Mastermind, Munin, do nothing. We’ll make our move during the ceremony. Are they here yet?"

The telepath didn’t need to scan for Weiß’s thoughts, he’d heard them as soon as the men stepped foot on the island several minutes ago. <They’re here and moving into position. Bombay is heading for the armory, and plans on a nice loud distraction.>

Nodding his head, Crawford motioned Ken and Nagi away from the door. <I know of his plans, and it will be much more than a mere distraction.>

<If you know everything, why bother asking me?>

<To distract you.> That said, a long cart was wheeled down the hall with Aya laying on top of it. Schuldig’s heart contracted as he saw how thin his lover was; the white pants and tunic he was dressed in hung on his spare frame. A moan slipped past Kudoh’s lips, and Farfarello stepped in front of them blocking their view of the swordsman.

Vowing that it wouldn’t be much longer before the man was safe and by his side, Schuldig slid a hand under his jacket and stroked the grip of one of his guns. Beside him, Yohji took to playing with his wire, pulling out and letting go of a strand over and over again.

<Mastermind, link us up now.> Using his power, Schuldig did as he was told pulling all of Schwarz’s minds into a meld. It strained his power doing this with six people, and he couldn’t manage it as effortlessly as Aya did. Unless he was broadcasting a simple command, his power worked best on a one to one basis, unlike his lover’s, which had no problem with large numbers of people. Schuldig understood now why the man had been codenamed Vortex; his talent pulled minds into his so easily.

Once everyone was more or less linked, Crawford explained what he wanted from them. <Prodigy, you are going to have to try and stymie the Elders’ powers as much as possible. Berserker and Banshee, you will be the ones to take them out. Munin, you will protect Vortex, and Mastermind, you will be assisting me in making sure that no witnesses escape.>

<Why is Blondie protecting Aya? Shouldn’t it be me?> The other redhead was his lover, dammit.

Blue eyes glared at him. <Do as I say or we’ll fail, and Aya will pay the worst price of us all. Munin’s power is mostly useless to us in this situation, so he will guard Vortex. Now shut up and be prepared.>

Snarling at the American, Schuldig did just that in-between checking on Bombay’s progress. The rest of Weiß were moving through the museum, setting up explosive charges and killing any Esset agents who crossed their paths. An alarm going off signaled when Bombay started to attract the enemy near the armory, and almost distracted Schuldig from the start of the ceremony. It was when he felt the pain building in Aya that the German realized the convergence had commenced.

"They’re hurting him…" The only good thing about the agony coursing through Aya was that it was waking the man up, snapping him out of the drug-induced haze.

"Let’s move." Yohji stepped beside Schuldig, and with a gloveless hand grabbed his wrist. The two of them started to drain the pain away from Aya, helping him to regain his center and fight back against the alien presence that pushed at his mind. It seemed the Elder’s precious leader was eager to be reborn. Fucking dead bastard.

<Schu… Yohji…>

<It’s okay, sweetie, the cavalry has arrived. Hold out a couple more minutes.> Yohji poured strength into the swordsman, and Schuldig quickly did the same. They felt Aya rally his wits about him and try to reinforce his tattered mental shields. The weeks of being continually touched in addition to the drugs pumped into his veins had eroded holes in the defenses.

"Yohji, I’m counting on you to protect him. Fail, and I’m gonna fucking gut you and let Farfie play jump rope with your entrails, hear me?"

Kudoh glared at Schuldig over his sunglasses. "Nothing will harm him." He could feel the blond’s resolve and knew that the man’s love for Aya would drive him to make any sacrifice for the younger man. Schuldig knew the feeling. Fuck, but this love shit sucked. Aya better be prepared to reward him for the hell he’d suffered during the man’s absence.

Walking down the hallway leading to the amphitheater where the ceremony was taking place, Schwarz leapt into action when they felt the ground beneath their feet shake. Bombay had blown up the cache of weapons as Weiß set off the rest of the explosives. It was time to have some fun.

The odor of burning flesh and hair warned Schuldig of what awaited them in the open area. Most of the people attending the ceremony were on fire, running about trying to put out the flames as they burned. Nagi made a gagging sound, and Ken muttered a few soothing words. Farfarello started to laugh as he ran forward to confront the Elders, who had protected themselves and some of their followers with a telekinetic shield. The pain radiating from Aya eased slightly as the ceremony was interrupted, but the man still struggled with the consciousness that threatened to invade his mind. <Fight him, you little ingrate!> Pulling out his guns, Schuldig started to shoot people as he cursed his lover, trying to make the man angry enough to fight back.

*******

Watching as his team burst into action, Yohji hurried over to Aya’s side, flinging out his wire at anyone who thought to get in his way. Finally reaching the platform, he felt the redhead struggling to dispel the Leader’s consciousness, desperate to force the alien presence out of his mind. Without a thought, Yohji gathered Aya into his arms, his ungloved hand stroking the long ragged hair off of the pale face.

Aya jerked at the contact, sucking Yohji’s mind into his. He then used the blond’s mental presence to ground him, and Yohji’s energy to finally repel the dead man’s mind. They remained like that for several moments, until a gunshot and a mental ‘pay attention, Blondie’ snapped him back to reality. When he opened his eyes, he found one man lying by the alter, dead from a bullet to the head, and barely got his wire out in time to kill another agent about to shoot Aya and him. That taken care of, Yohji wanted to make sure that Aya was alright and held him close. Violet eyes drifted open as he was tugged onto the playboy’s lap. Sparing a moment to bend down and kiss Aya on the lips, Yohji turned his attention to the battle raging around him.

A quick toss of a wire took out another lackey who was training a gun on him. That taken care of, Yohji watched as Crawford and Schuldig methodically shot any remaining Esset agents they came across, every now and then taking random potshots at the Elders. Nagi was sweating with the effort of keeping the old bastards’ powers from having much effect on their teammates, but the boy was obviously hard pressed to do so. Ken and Farfie would gain some ground on the Elders only to slide back across the room moments later, slamming into a wall or marble pillar. Various objects would be tossed about at Schwarz that were narrowly avoided thanks to Nagi’s power or the chaotic visions the team received from Ken and Crawford. Schuldig was clearly having some difficulty in relaying more than simple thoughts to his friends while fighting, and the team was suffering because of it.

"Do you really think you can defeat us? We’ll crush you and continue with the ceremony, and you’ll have accomplished nothing," taunted the old fart with the ascot. Through the link Yohji could feel Farfie’s desperation to get near the man and sink his knife in the hidden, wrinkled throat, felt Schuldig’s worry for Aya and Crawford’s frustration at how things were falling apart. Then a head slumped against his chest as the abused telepath started to pass out.

Shaking Aya by the shoulders, Yohji then motioned to what was going on about them. "Aya, don’t pass out on me now. We need you, sweetie. We need you to link everyone up. I can’t make sense of Ken’s visions, and Schuldig is too busy to hold up the link anymore." He could faintly sense the other men’s exhaustion through the mental link Schuldig had established, but the connection was fading fast.

"Kudoh…" Aya growled weakly as he wrapped his arms about Yohji. The pale lids dropped down once more, but he could feel the link grow stronger as the man concentrated. With sudden clarity, Yohji could sense all of Schwarz’s thoughts, could sense what they were feeling and could see the precogs’ visions.

Aya mentally reached out and tapped into the team’s strength, using it to maintain the meld. Ken’s visions flooded all of their minds, and the brunet and Farfie were once more able to attack in tandem while Nagi could conserve his strength and use his power sparingly and with better accuracy. There was no more of the team being slammed into things, and Schuldig and Crawford could now devote more of their attention to the Elders, throwing the old bastards more off-balance.

The old lady was the first to fall as she clutched at her stomach, which had been sliced open by Farfarello. Her death shook her comrades, breaking their concentration and the man wearing the ascot was the next to die, his throat slashed by Ken’s bugnucks.

The bald dude pressed against one of the marble pillars scattered about the amphitheater, pleading for his life as Ken and Farfie closed in on him. The fight seemed to have left the senile bastard as Nagi staggered over to join Yohji and Aya, physically drained from blocking three other telekinetics. Yohji scooted over to give the boy some space, not needing to watch what was about to happen. He already knew that Farfie would enjoy repeatedly shoving his knife into the man’s chest, courtesy of Ken’s vision.

A gurgling sound indicated the end of the Elders. Now that the rush of adrenaline was fading away, Yohji could feel how tired and battered his friends were. Fighting the Elders had not been without cost. Pulling Aya further onto his lap, Yohji looked up to see Schuldig hurrying over to them. But the man stopped short as another of Ken’s visions flared into existence.

It was thanks to that warning that Schuldig knew to jump to the right, narrowly avoiding the chain that crashed into the ground where he had been standing. Weiß had arrived on the scene and judging from the thoughts that Schu and Aya were picking up, three of the four assassins were very, very upset with Schwarz. Thanks to a vision of Crawford’s, the team realized that they had one more battle to fight. Damn, this was what one got from coddling the bastards in all of their other confrontations; the idiots didn’t have the sense to run for their lives now that their usefulness to Schwarz was gone.

<Fight them, but don’t kill them. Weiß still has a role to play in the future, and it will look suspicious if only Bombay survives the confrontation.> The team heaved a mental sigh at Crawford’s declaration and forced their tired bodies to move. When Nagi got up from the altar to assist his friends, Yohji yanked the boy back down beside him.

"They can manage them on their own. Rest, you look as if you’re about to collapse."

<Thanks, Yohji. Keep him safe for me.> Ken flung him that thought as he ducked out of the way of Angora’s spear.

Schuldig, busy taking on Omi, who kept mentally apologizing for his teammates as he halfheartedly threw darts the German’s way, tossed Yohji a furious look. <I will get you for this, Blondie. Only you could end up sitting on your ass while the rest of us do all the hard work. And if there is as much as one scratch on mein kleines Veilchen, you’re dead.>

<Mastermind, shut the fuck up.> Crawford parried Tonkinese’s blade with one of his guns, using his power to keep himself alive. He also acted as shield, preventing the swordsman from getting near Aya, which the homicidal prick longed to do. <And Berserker, if you kill Burmese, there will be no Simpson’s for a month, do you hear me?>

The Irishman grumbled as he merely slashed Burmese along the arm, not the throat like he’d been planning. Yohji got the distinct impression that the Gaelic that filled the man’s mind was basically swear words, and would have to ask for some translations later. He nudged Aya on the shoulder, making sure that the man remained awake.

Hampered by the fact that they couldn’t kill the other team, Schwarz dragged the battle out in hopes of wearing Weiß down before they themselves collapsed. Hugging Aya close, Yohji missed the first tremor, but the next one caught his attention. A vision from Crawford warned Schwarz that the museum was about to fall in on their heads.

<Dammit, Bradley, did you not think to warn us about this?>

<I’m sorry that I can’t predict every little fucking thing, you whining bastard. Prodigy, can you keep our heads from being caved in?>

<…I can try.> Nagi stopped leaning against Yohji as he tried to sit back up, grasping at his power in an effort to keep falling marble from crushing the heads of his friends.

"I suggest we call this a draw, Weiß. I prefer my fights on more stable ground."

Tonkinese ignored Crawford as he leapt forward once more, and Burmese and Angora followed his example.

"Weiß, we have to retreat!"

"No fucking way, Bombay. They need to pay for what they’ve done." Hate burned through the grey-eyed man’s mind. He kept swinging his katana at Crawford, trying to kill the man so he could reach Aya. Ken barely managed to avoid Angora’s spear, his body no longer able to keep pace with his visions.

<Oracle, can we kill these wankers now? Please?> Farfie was the only one who was still somewhat fresh besides Yohji, who was pouring most of his strength into Aya and beginning to feel the drain.

<I’m seriously considering it, Berserker.>

The ground trembled once more and started to break apart. A major part of the ceiling fell down, and Nagi used the last of his strength to divert it away from the men beneath it. As the teenager slumped against him, Yohji tightened his hold on Aya. <What the fuck are we supposed to do now?>

<Protect him, Yohji!>

<How the hell am I supposed to do that? I’m not a fucking telekinetic.> It was only through Ken’s visions that Schwarz was now avoiding the falling debris.

Crawford managed to knock Tonkinese into one of the remaining upright pillars. <Vortex, do something.>

Wondering what the hell Aya was supposed to do, considering the fact that he was a telepath, Yohji felt his strength flow into the redhead at an increased rate. Aya reached out with his mind, and green eyes went wide as the air about them became charged. Somehow Aya was tapping into Nagi’s power, and used it to toss Weiß across the room.

Moments later the ground finally gave way beneath them. Grabbing Nagi by the hand, Yohji held onto the boy and Aya for dear life as they fell into freezing water. The air was knocked out of his lungs and saline stung his eyes. It was only through his link with Aya that he knew that the man was using Nagi’s power to prevent Schwarz and Weiß from being dragged down into the undertow as the island sank. Aya allowed a current to pull the other team away from them then focused on getting his friends onto the beach. Letting the man drain away most of his strength, Yohji found himself actually praying that his love managed to get them out of this alive.

It seemed like an eternity before his head broke through the water. Gasping and sputtering, it took Yohji a second to think about his companions. He yanked Aya and Nagi’s heads up, and as tears flooded his eyes, he saw the rest of Schwarz emerge as well. Ken swam over to him, grabbing Nagi and holding his chin above water. Doing the same with Aya, Yohji hugged the man close as he swam for the beach. "Aya, I fucking love you." A pair of arms latched onto his neck, almost choking him before the redhead passed out for good.

Struggling out of the water, Yohji half crawled onto the sand, refusing to loosen his hold on Aya even for a second. As soon as he was free from the tide he collapsed on his back, holding the smaller man on top of him. A dragging sound turned out to be Schuldig, who crawled over to the two men. The German brushed back the hair hanging on Aya’s face and then fell face down into the sand.

"Hey, are you guys alright? What were you doing in the water? Did you see the island sink?"

"Give them a moment, Yuri, they look half dead. Maybe they were on a boat that capsized when the museum went under." Peeling back an eyelid, Yohji saw two young men approach him. One of the men held a net filled with crabs in his hand.

Even with the link gone, Yohji knew what was going to happen next. Seeing Farfarello rise to his feet, he closed his eyes and held Aya tighter. The first man didn’t make any sound, the second one managed to choke out a cry as he was killed.

"Berserker, weigh their bodies down and cast them into the sea. Banshee, help me empty out their van so there will be space for all of us."

"Give me a sec, Oracle." Someone shook his shoulder, and Yohji opened his eyes to see Ken leaning over him. "Here, keep an eye on him." An unconscious Nagi was lowered beside the blond, who was beginning to think he should take up a career as a babysitter.

<Great idea there, Blondie. I so can see you changing dirty diapers. Now give me my boyfriend.>

"You can’t even sit up, Schuldig, so go away." He wasn’t letting go of Aya, not when he had the man back, safe and sound, if completely drained of energy. Schuldig snarled at him but couldn’t do much more than flop over onto his side.

When Ken came back to reclaim his boyfriend, Yohji struggled to his feet, hampered by the dead weight Aya had become in his arms. Good thing the man was on the skinny side or he’d have fallen back down. Leaving Schuldig lying there, he crossed the beach to where a rusted van waited. The two men must have been fishermen, judging from the stink of fish that emanated from the vehicle. Settling down on some nets, Yohji cradled Aya in his lap. It took a bit of struggling, but he managed to peel off his jacket, which he then draped over the pale man. It was a moment later when Schuldig crawled into the vehicle and held out his arms.

"Gimme."

"Go to hell." Aya’s arms were still latched around Yohji’s neck, and he wasn’t letting the man be taken from him. Schuldig would have his lover back when the swordsman woke up: for now, Yohji was going to enjoy holding Aya.

"Kudoh, give him-"

"Schuldig, sit the hell down and shut up." Crawford peered into the back of the van, deep lines of exhaustion worn into his face. "You’ll have your lover back shortly. Here, eat this." He handed over what must have been the fishermen’s lunch, keeping back some dried fish for himself as the American started the van. Ken, Schuldig and Yohji made short work of the rest of the food.

Once on a paved road, Schuldig scooted over beside Yohji and opened the thermos of tea. He held the cup to Aya’s lips, forcing the warm fluid into the man’s mouth. Aya ended up wearing about half of the tea, but Schuldig got enough down the man’s throat to satisfy the both of them. The telepath then tossed what remained of the beverage to Ken, who did the same with Nagi. The two unconscious men needed to replace some of the energy they had expended.

Everything after the meal was a blur to Yohji. Aya was safe and in his arms, Schuldig was pressed against him, and he could hear Crawford and Farfie murmuring about what city they should drive to. Drifting asleep, he didn’t wake up until Farfie smacked him a few times on the cheek.

"Come on, crow, on your feet. As for you, guilty one, it’s time you did a little work." How the hell could the man be so chipper after what they had been through? He really must be insane, Yohji thought as he scooted out of the van with Aya still in his arms. "I’m gonna dispose of the lorry, and if there isn’t a bed waiting for me when I get back, I’m gonna carve the entire book of ‘Ulysses’ on someone’s body." Flashing a quick grin, Farfie walked back around to the front of the van.

Mumbling about the benefits of not feeling any pain, Yohji trudged over to where the rest of Schwarz waited. When Schuldig nodded his head indicating that he was ready, they approached the posh hotel across the street.

Walking up to the counter, Crawford rang the bell. A man in a black suit approached him. "Can I help you, sir?" The man’s eyes traveled over Yohji, who held Aya in his arms, Ken who was holding Nagi, and Schu as if they weren’t even there. No one seemed to notice any of them other than Crawford, or the fact that the American was clothed in a tattered, stained white suit.

"Yes, I would like your best suite, please."

"I’m afraid that is reserved, sir." The concierge’s eyes blinked. "Certainly, sir. May I see your credit card?"

"I already gave it to you." Anyone who was familiar with the tall man could tell that Crawford was hard pressed not to lean against the oak counter in exhaustion. Things were bad when Oracle was worn out.

"I beg your pardon, sir. Here is your key. Do you need any help with your luggage?"

"No, it’s been taken care of." Crawford walked away as the concierge bowed and wished him a pleasant stay. The six of them entered an elevator, and Schuldig rubbed his temples during the ride to the top of the hotel.

The suite ended up containing three rooms. "Aya and I got dibs on one, and whoever gets the bright idea of waking us up will be shot." Schuldig grabbed Yohji’s arm and dragged him to the nearest bedroom. When he entered the room he went to the bed and yanked down the sheet. "Put him down, Blondie."

With great reluctance, Yohji did just that. It hurt to pry Aya’s arms from his neck and felt cold and empty without the man near him. Schuldig caressed a pale cheek for a moment before stripping the man of his top and jacket, leaving the loose white pants on his boyfriend. Yohji understood why; they needed to remain somewhat clothed in case they were tracked down and attacked. Next, the German quickly stripped to his boxers and crawled into bed with the other redhead. "Thanks, Blondie." The words were for keeping Aya safe.

About to leave the room, Yohji glanced behind him at the couple, who barely took up any space in the king-sized bed. Figuring that either Crawford, or Ken and Nagi had claimed the second room and not wanting to share with Farfie in the third or sleep on a couch, Yohji shrugged his shoulders as he stripped to his pants. A green eye gazed at him as he slid into the bed, curling up against Aya. "What do you think you’re doing?"

"Going to sleep. If you’d shut up, I could do it sooner." Yohji tucked aside a strand of crimson hair that was tickling his nose.

"If I wasn’t so tired I’d kick your ass out of bed right this minute. Steal the blankets, and I’ll find the strength to do it anyway."

"Quit your bitching, you German prick."

"Arschloch."

A smile on his lips, Yohji decided to let the foreigner have the last word just so he could go to sleep. He was alive, Aya was safe, and all of them were free. He could resume the battle tomorrow.

*******

Schuldig stared at the man he held in his arms. Ever since he had woken up, he hadn’t been able to tear his eyes away from Aya. It was as if a part of him couldn’t believe that his lover was safe and back at his side, and he’d never let him leave again. Not if Schuldig had anything to say about it, and he was one hell of a vocal bastard.

The pale man stirred, finally drifting awake. Yohji started to wake up as well, but Schuldig used his power to make the blond stay asleep. He wanted a few private minutes with Aya. Violet eyes gazed blearily at him, and the German felt the moment when Aya’s brain kicked into gear. The younger man almost couldn’t believe that this was real, that he was safe and with the ones he loved.

<Oh, it’s real all right. Let me convince you of that.> Schuldig pressed his lips against Aya’s, letting his pleasure flow into the man as his tongue pushed inside his mouth. God, Aya tasted so damn sweet. He’d missed this taste so incredibly much.

<Schu… thank you.> Aya pulled away to bury his face in the crook of the older telepath’s neck. Schuldig stroked his lover’s hair, pressing kisses on the top of the man’s head. He could feel the love and gratitude pouring off Aya, the emotions expressing what he was never comfortable saying. Schuldig felt the same, letting his emotions surge forth unchecked for once.

Violet eyes stared at him in shock as Aya realized that he loved him. <You little ingrate, why wouldn’t I? You’re gorgeous, smart, and vicious; in other words, perfect. And I absolutely adore your ass.> Schuldig bit back on a laugh as he was glared at, then yelped in pain when a fist slammed into his stomach. Seemed that someone wasn’t too exhausted to abuse him. Things were back to normal.

Initiating another kiss, Schuldig tried to roll Aya onto his back, only to be prevented by Yohji’s body. Damn, he had forgotten about Blondie. Wondering if he could just shove the man onto the floor and leave him there while he ravished his little violet, Schuldig felt Aya’s attention shift to the lanky blond.

<Schu… I…>

<I know, you feel the same way about him.> For once he wasn’t filled with anger when he thought about how Aya felt about Kudoh. The other man had done too much to get Aya back for Schuldig to even remotely hate him anymore. <But I’m not letting you go.>

<I don’t want you to.> Aya pulled his head back down for a kiss, one that was so tender it took Schuldig’s breath away. <I want… I’m not sure what I want.>

If Schuldig couldn’t feel how much Aya loved him, he’d be torn up with jealousy at the moment. <You want us both.> Hell, he couldn’t really blame his lover; Kudoh was a sexy bastard and had even attracted his attention. At least, before a certain ingrate had stolen his heart. That thought got a smile from Aya. <He’s a stubborn bastard though, sexy or not. He won’t go away unless he’s dead. And somehow I doubt you’ll let me kill him.>

Aya shook his head, a frown on his lips.

A bit disappointing, but not unexpected. <Ah, thought so. Well, that only leaves one other option.> Schuldig was crazy for even thinking of it, but it would make everyone involved happy, for the most part. As long as his violet understood that whatever arrangements they made, he would _always_ remain Schuldig’s. Aya stared at him in shock when he picked up on the thought. <Any other bright ideas? No? Well, all I’m going to say is never forget that you’re mine. Never.> He hugged the smaller man tightly.

<Always, Schu, always. I can’t seem to get rid of you even if I try.> Aya nipped at his chin. <Now, any suggestions on how to go about this?>

*******

Yohji felt a teasing touch along his cheek, one that moved along his face and into his hair. Tilting his head, he opened his eyes and found Aya staring at him while the man played with Yohji’s hair. Upon seeing him wake up, the redhead released the strands and resumed stroking his cheek. At the touch, the man’s thoughts and emotions flooded into his head. Yohji felt how tired Aya still was, but that faded away before the love and want that took his breath away.

This had to be a dream, but Yohji wasn’t going to complain, unless someone tried to wake him up. Scooting forward, he captured the smaller man’s mouth with his waiting for Aya to pull away. Instead, the telepath opened his mouth and threaded slender fingers through his hair once more. Oh, this truly had to be a dream. Deepening the kiss, Yohji wrapped his arms around Aya and pulled him close. Pleasure coursed through the both of them as more of their skin came in contact.

Afraid that this would be a repeat of the last time he’d been in bed with the man, Yohji scanned Aya’s mind looking for an ulterior motive or catch. All he found was love and need and lust, all of it for him. Aya was finally ready to give himself to the blond, no strings attached. Letting out a groan, Yohji rolled on top of the redhead.

<Actually, Blondie, there is one small string…>

Hearing Schuldig’s thought in his head, Yohji turned to look at the side of the bed. The German sat there in a chair, dressed only in his boxer shorts and was staring at the two of them. Yohji clutched Aya closer, not willing to give up the man now that he had finally gotten him. Friends or not, he wasn’t letting go of this. Aya was going to be his.

<You don’t have to, Yotan. All we’re asking of you… is to share.>

Yohji stared down at the man he was holding, unsure if he was hearing that correctly. Aya opened his thoughts to him, showing him the agreement the two telepaths had reached. Aya didn’t want to be torn between the two people he loved anymore and wanted to make them both happy. This was the only way he knew of making that wish happen. Okay, that was a bit surprising, but not as much as the fact that Schuldig was willing to share. But the man wanted Aya to be happy as well, and also saw no other way out of this mess.

"I’m not sharing, you Dummkopf. Not exactly. I’m just letting Aya find out how no one else can compare to me, and look forward to showing up your ass in the future." A thought accompanied that statement, a clear indication of how this relationship was going to work. Biting back a smile at a few of the images, Yohji almost felt sorry for Aya. Almost.

As the smaller man hissed in a show of his displeasure with Schuldig’s take on how things were going to be, Yohji directed his smile at the foreigner. "Huh, you don’t stand a chance, you German prick." Then again, neither did Aya. The poor man was going to seriously need to take his vitamins while involved in this relationship. "But that’ll have to wait for later, I want him all to myself at the moment." He’d been waiting for this for over a year now and he wasn’t going to share his first time with Aya. Not when he’d have to share the rest of them.

<No, you have a point there, dammit. But I’m not going away. And leave the little violet with some energy for later.>

"No promises." Sensing Aya’s fury at his and Schuldig’s conversation, Yohji set about turning the passion of wanting to break both of their bones into something much more enjoyable. Resuming the kiss, he stopped the man’s hisses as he once more tasted how sweet Aya was. A hand soon flexed again and again in his hair, crushing the strands to release them and then start all over again, and the other crept down to the small of his back.

Dragging the kiss out for several minutes, Yohji finally broke it off and trailed his mouth down a pale chin and latched onto Aya’s neck. The bliss that flooded into him had him snapping his hips against his lover’s until the man mewled in pleasure. Which only made the emotion stronger as the both of them shared in it and intensified it to a frenzied peak. In between the feel of the fingers in his hair and against the small of his back were ghost sensations of lips and tongue and teeth on a sensitive neck, and clever fingers tweaking puckered nipples was the feel of a hand skimming down a chest, brushing against a hardening shaft.

Schuldig had joined in the mix, mentally at least. Amidst the ecstasy that was building between Yohji and Aya was the excitement and pleasure the German got from watching the two of them and feeling what they experienced. It pushed things to an unimaginable level, surprising the three of them as it overwhelmed them. It added to the lust as well, and Yohji found himself moving down Aya’s chest, taking one of the erect nipples into his mouth as his hands started to push down the man’s pants. Once they were past his knees Aya kicked them off and returned the favor by tugging off Yohji’s. As soon as they were both naked Yohji settled between his lover’s thighs.

The feel of their erections rubbing against each other’s, creating the most maddening and delicious friction imaginable had all three of them moaning aloud. Yohji flailed about with a hand and grunted thanks when Schuldig placed a container of lotion on his palm. Aya’s need tore at him, driving him out of his mind with the desire to fulfill it, and was made all the worse by what he himself was feeling and was echoed by Schuldig as well. The ecstasy continued to build, driving him wild as he pushed a slick finger into the pale man. Aya let out a gasp and pulled his head down for a passionate kiss as he pushed back onto Yohji’s finger. He groaned at the feel of the tight heat waiting for him, and his lover’s eagerness for him to be inside his body. Their minds became more deeply entwined in each other’s, reverberating with want and need.

Schuldig moaned for them, busy as their mouths were devouring each other’s. The feel of a hand stroking an aching shaft was added to the meld, another drop of pleasure that they were drowning in. Aya grabbed the lotion and squeezed some into a pale shaking hand then stroked the blond’s cock, making him close his eyes as he tried to find the control to keep himself from sheathing it in the tight body underneath him right that second. Yohji added another finger to the one stretching Aya and shoved them in deep, brushing against a spot that had all three of them groaning in need.

"Mein Gott, fuck ihn endlich."

Oh, there was no doubt of that anymore. Yohji pulled out his fingers, drinking in the mewl their loss wrung from Aya. Fingers dug into his ass, urging him forward as Aya hooked his legs onto Yohji’s shoulders. Entwining his fingers in the man’s hair, Yohji stared deep into dark violet eyes, desperate for any and all connections he could make with his love. He slowly pushed forward, against the tight ring and into the luscious heat.

Oh gods… Bliss. It was fucking bliss: perfect, tight and hot. It surrounded him, drew him in deeper, and beneath the ecstasy Yohji experienced in making Aya his was the feeling of something so incredibly solid and warm pushing its way inside of him, filling him with pleasure and an undeniable presence to base his world around. The feel of being stroked off joined in, reminding Yohji to move his hand along Aya’s cock in time to his thrusts. It was even more pleasure, so much more that he felt he would burst from it as it filled every inch of his being. It poured out of him into Aya and Schu, and they returned it to him tenfold.

Panting as his thrusts grew more frantic by the second, Yohji couldn’t break his gaze from Aya’s. He was in the man, mentally and physically, something that he’d despaired of ever happening, let alone feeling this fucking incredible. But the violet orbs shining with love and passion grounded him, made all of this real. Aya mewled out his name, the sound causing shivers to run up and down the blond’s spine, and Schuldig was gasping as he jerked off at the sight of them. Yohji caught a glimpse of the two of them through the German’s eyes: of him pounding into Aya, pale legs wrapped tight around his waist, their skin flushed with passion and covered with a sheen of sweat, their eyes never leaving the other’s. If this was a dream he never wanted to wake up.

The pleasure coiled and twined back on itself amongst them, until the three of them couldn’t separate who was feeling what anymore. All of them were thrusting into Aya, all of them writhed in pleasure as Yohji pounded into the smaller redhead causing spark after spark of ecstasy, and felt Schu jerk himself off in time to those same thrusts. It built to an impossible crescendo, one that slowed down time and made everything else outside the three of them fade away. Then someone cried out, or all three of them did, and the pleasure wiped away even that tenuous grip on reality.

Yohji came back to himself gasping for air as he lay on top of Aya, his face buried in crimson strands. Oh… fuck. Oh… oh fuck. That had been… he gave up on trying to put it into logical thought. That had been heaven, and he wanted to experience it again and again and again. His whole body thrummed with pleasure, making him almost miss the kiss that was placed on the side of his throat.

Shifting off Aya, Yohji stared down into a pair of heavy-lidded violet eyes. He could feel the man’s exhaustion and satiation, causing him to tenderly brush back a strand of damp crimson hair. "Aya… I love you."

The pale man didn’t say anything at first, just let his feelings for the blond wash through Yohji while yanking him down for a kiss. When they broke apart Aya huskily said the words back to him, knowing how Yohji longed to hear them out loud. "I love you."

"Yech, don’t get all mushy on each other now." The two of them glanced over to see Schuldig shakily stand to his feet, his boxers in hand. The foreigner used the material to wipe himself off and then crawled into bed with them. Yohji shifted over to Aya’s side and smiled as Schuldig cleaned up the smaller man as well. He got his reddish hair yanked for his efforts as Aya rolled over and scooted backwards until he was pressed against Yohji’s chest. Draping an arm over the too thin waist, the blond pressed kisses against his lover’s neck and shoulders as Schuldig kissed the man on the mouth. Damn. It looked as if it was time to start sharing. He’d have to convince Aya to send his rival out on lots of errands in the future so he could get his sweetie alone.

<Ha, you’ll be the one running those errands, Blondie. Now scoot back some more, my ass is hanging off of the bed here.>

<Do you always have to bitch, Schu? Gods, you never shut up.> Yohji did as he was told though and made sure to tug Aya along with him. The feel of the man’s ass pressing against his groin was giving him ideas. <Why don’t you run out and get a pack of cigarettes or something?>

<Not a chance, Kudoh. I’m not gonna be jerking off again any time soon->

<Both of you _shut up_.> Aya’s irritation and anger washed through the both of them, and as an elbow was driven into Yohji’s ribs and Schuldig lost a few more strands of hair, the pale man made clear his displeasure of the idea of being treated like a bone being fought over by two dogs.

Schuldig growled as he recaptured the man’s mouth. Rubbing himself against Aya’s ass, Yohji nibbled on his love’s neck, making sure the anger was replaced by pleasure. It seemed to be working as the slender man relaxed under their ministrations and purred. Groaning out loud, Yohji wanted the man right that second.

<Yohji….> He caught the image that Schu was trying to send him on the sly and almost moaned again. Oh gods, yes. It was of him thrusting into Aya as the man was crouched before him, his mouth wrapped around Schuldig’s cock. Considering their link, it would be a fuck and a blowjob rolled into one, and was making him hard again. Poor Aya, the man wasn’t about to get any more sleep tonight. Not when his two lovers were exchanging ideas on various positions they could bend the thankfully very flexible swordsman into. Yohji skimmed a hand down Aya’s side to his groin and buried the other one into the crimson strands to pull the man’s head back. That way Schu and him both could work on the pale neck.

Aya seemed to be catching on to their intentions as the anger returned, but as two mouths nibbled on his neck, and a hand stroked his returning erection while two more played with his nipples, it was a losing battle against his passion and their lust. With a snarl the man gave up the fight, and the bliss started to build once more. Yohji fell into it eagerly and spared a thought to his already deepening addiction to the sensation.

*******

Schuldig scrunched down a little more into the bed so he could rest his chin on Aya’s shoulder. His lover was already unconscious, his head tucked under Yohji’s chin and his limp form caught between the two of them. Kudoh was well on his way to joining the man, and Schuldig was having a hard enough time himself staying awake. But he had a question he wanted answered.

As soon as Yohji was asleep, he sent out a thought. <You awake, Papa?>

<Of course. Someone has to do the work while the rest of you have your fun.> Amusement colored the thought, along with a tinge of exhaustion and satisfaction. Crawford was working too hard, but what else was new?

<You knew about this, didn’t you? This is what you were hiding, wasn’t it you perverted bastard? You enjoy the visions about the three of us?> Schuldig’s lips twisted into a smile as he chastised the precog.

Laughter bubbled in his head, a rare phenomenon where Bradley was concerned. <That was the last secret I’ve kept from you. Are you mad at me?>

<Depends. Were the visions you showed me before about Aya and me a lie?> For an answer, the visions flooded into Schuldig’s mind once more. He saw his violet and himself sitting at the café, but their kiss ended as Yohji took the seat next to Aya, draping an arm over the man’s shoulder and kissing him on the ear before waving a server over. It switched to the two of them sitting on the couch, only this time he could see that Aya was flanked on the other side by Yohji. More were revealed to him, of the three of them living and fighting together, always by the others’ sides. Damn, it did indeed look as if he was going to have to share Aya from now on. But considering the fun he’d had the past couple of hours, he could deal with it. At least Aya had someone else to abuse now, and Schuldig had someone to help him keep an eye on the little ingrate. <Thanks.>

<You’re welcome. Is all forgiven now?>

<Yeah… Brad, I’m sorry. I know you did the best you could and doubt I’d have managed to pull it off. Thanks.>

<It’s nothing, Schu. We all got what we wanted. Now get some sleep, we need to talk tomorrow, to decide on what we’ll do from now on. Try not to ravish Aya too much.>

Schuldig kissed a pale shoulder. <As Blondie would say, no promises. And what’s this bullshit about ‘deciding our future’? You telling me you don’t have it all planned out already?>

There was another chuckle. <I have to leave you with some illusion of free will, now don’t I?>

<Bastard. Get some sleep yourself.> Severing the connection, Schuldig snuggled closer to his lover. Yohji mumbled something and stretched out his arm, now draping it over both his and Aya’s waists. Smiling once more, Schuldig thought about how lucky he was to have two gorgeous lovers. Kudoh would grow on him; he already held the man in high regard as a friend and a lust object and didn’t see it as a terrible burden to spend his life with him. Now he never had to worry about losing Aya, but instead finding a little alone time with him. He was sure that Blondie and him would have one hell of a fun time, trying to maneuver around each other without pissing the little violet off too much. For once, fate wasn’t being quite the bitch it could be.

*******

Ken groaned as he heard someone knocking on the door. Pulling himself away from Nagi, who had been curled up beside him on the floor, he made his way to the hotel room’s door. Along the way he noticed that Yohji wasn’t sleeping on the big couch as he’d thought the blond would be. Wonder where he crashed. Ken doubted it was in the rooms that Farfie and Crawford had taken over.

Opening the door, he blinked as three of the hotel staff pushed in silver carts loaded with food. Ken could only watch as the carts were wheeled into the center of the hotel room, and Crawford came out of his bedroom, impeccably dressed in black slacks and a white shirt, and signed for the room service. "Ken, would you mind waking the others up? I’ll get Farfarello."

"Uh, no problem." Now that he was awake, his stomach was making it known just how empty it was. Damn, he could eat the entire contents of a cart himself. He crossed over to the bundle of blankets that had been his and Nagi’s bed and found the teenager rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "You hungry, love?"

"Yeah, starving." Nagi rose to his feet and kissed Ken on the lips. Preventing the boy from walking away, Ken wrapped his arms about his boyfriend’s waist and deepened the kiss. They stayed like that until Crawford came back into the room, followed by a robed Farfie, and cleared his throat.

"Okay, I’m on it." He crossed the suite with Nagi in his wake, and wondered if Yohji had crashed in one of the other rooms after all. Or left the hotel altogether. Figuring he’d ask Schuldig when he woke the man up, Ken pushed open the closed door. And couldn’t help but stare at the sight before him.

"Ken, what’s wrong? What?"

Barely noting Nagi’s presence beside him, the athlete stared at the rest of Schwarz. Yohji was lying on his back with Aya curled up at his side. Tucked behind the swordsman was Schuldig and judging from all the naked flesh and tangled limbs, the three men had been doing a hell of a lot more than just sleeping together. Letting out a meep, Ken grabbed Nagi and placed a hand over the boy’s eyes. "All right you perverts, breakfast’s here." He dragged his boyfriend out of the room and slammed the door shut behind them.

"Ken, did I just see what I thought I did?" Nagi asked in a quivering voice.

"Unfortunately, yeah you did, babe." Well, guess he knew where Yohji had spent the night.

*******

Yohji woke up to the sound of Ken yelling and a door slamming shut. He groaned at the noise and hugged Aya closer. The smaller man mewled softly but remained asleep. Gods, his sweetie had to be wiped out not to have been woken by that ruckus.

<Can you blame him after last night? Not to mention yesterday.> Schuldig propped himself up on an arm and smiled smugly at Yohji over their lover, his hair sticking up all over the place. Smiling in return, Yohji toyed with a long eartail.

<We might have gone a touch overboard with our affections.> But none of the men had been able to get enough of the pleasure their new bond gave them, at least not until Aya had practically fainted from exhaustion, Schuldig and him not far behind. Ken had said something about breakfast, and as hungry as Yohji felt, he didn’t want to wake his love up.

<Sorry; I feel the same way, but we have to. He can’t afford to skip any more meals.> Schuldig ran a hand down a bony ribcage and frowned. Dammit, Aya looked almost as bad as when Yohji had first seen him after having his power awakened. If the Elders hadn’t already paid with their lives for what they’d done to the man, Yohji would hunt them down and hurt them some more. He could feel that Schuldig shared the sentiment. No one hurt Aya, no one, and they would make sure that the whole damn world learned that.

Tangling a hand in the crimson locks, Yohji tilted Aya’s head back until he could kiss the man. Schuldig rubbed a pale shoulder, whispering the man’s name as the younger telepath drifted awake.

They could feel how weak and tired Aya was and became resolved to make sure the man ate something. Something else also came through the link; Aya’s joy at finding the two of them still beside him, and that everything hadn’t been a dream and he wasn’t alone.

<We’re not going anywhere, kleines Veilchen. Well, other than grabbing a shower and some food, but you’re coming with us.> Schuldig helped the man sit up in bed.

Yohji then tugged Aya out of bed "Come on, some hot water will do you good." He got a weak glare in return, and he concentrated on sending his lover some energy. Schuldig did the same until Aya could stand on his own. The three of them made their way into the bathroom, which thankfully had a big shower stall.

It was a little tricky getting all of them in there and wet, and helping Aya wash his hair made Yohji a touch excited. Schuldig was in the same state, and the two of them started to trap the slender man between them intent on a little fun.

At least, until they both were hit in the ribs. <No way in hell. You guys had your fun last night, and I’m still sore from it. Touch me and die.> All Aya wanted was to curl back up in bed and sleep for several days.

"Sorry, sweetie. We’ll save the playing for later." That earned Yohji another jab, and he swooped in to kiss Aya breathless in retaliation. From Schuldig’s chagrined thought, the German had never thought about fighting anger with passion, and the future appeared promising as Aya just snarled and enjoyed the kiss. Or it did, until Yohji found his hair yanked and a knee driven into his inner thigh. Wincing in pain, he glared at Schuldig as the man laughed while rinsing out his hair. The rest of the shower passed without incident.

There was a bit of a scuffle as Yohji and Schu fought over who got to dry Aya. The swordsman settled the matter by mentally smacking the both of them and storming off with a towel wrapped around his waist. By the time they were done snarling at each other, Schu and he entered the bedroom to find Aya searching about for something to wear. After finding the complimentary robes, the pale man slid one on. Picking up the towel that had fallen to the floor, Yohji immediately put it to use drying the crimson locks as he stuck his tongue at Schuldig, who had thought of doing just that a few seconds too late. Aya allowed the action, even leaned back against him as Yohji combed his fingers through the silky hair to restore it to order. "You need a hair cut, love." The man’s bangs hung down to his jaw, and hardly could be called bangs anymore.

"Hn." Violet eyes gazed longingly back at the bed causing Yohji to hustle Aya out of the room before the man crawled back into it as soon as he grabbed a robe himself. Besides, if his sweetie got back into bed, it wasn’t going to be to sleep. That thought earned him another elbow in the ribs.

Entering the main room, Yohji found the rest of Schwarz waiting for them. A blush spread along Ken’s cheeks when he looked at the threesome, only deepening when Schuldig settled on one of the couches and pulled Aya onto his lap. Yohji sat down next to the two men, helping to support the smaller telepath’s back. He had to tuck his robe about a little to keep his skin from coming in contact with the furniture, but the slight discomfort was more than worth feeling Aya settle into his arms. Then he realized that none of them wanted to move to get the food.

<Get off your lazy ass and get it, Kudoh. Aya needs to eat something, and bring me some waffles while you’re up.>

<Fuck off, Schu. If you’re so hungry, get your own. I’ll keep an eye on Aya.>

<Sorry, Blondie, but I can’t exactly stand at the moment.> Schuldig wrapped his arms around the smaller redhead’s waist and kissed a pale temple. "Now move."

"Schu-"

"Stop it." Aya glared at both of them, letting his anger be felt. Both of the older men instinctively flinched and fell silent at the look.

A muffled chuckle drew their attention to Ken, who was standing to his feet and crossing over to the serving carts. "Seeing how you guys don’t want to move, I’ll get the food. Aya looks too tired to have to beat some sense into you." Crawford surprised everyone by joining him and brought them three mugs of coffee. Aya wrinkled his nose at the beverage but started to sip it. For his part, Yohji immediately gulped the hot liquid down and held out the empty cup.

"More, please?" The precog raised his eyebrow at the request and returned with a whole carafe for the three of them to share. There was a short battle over it as Schuldig had finished his cup as well, but another snarl from Aya had them behaving in no time.

It wasn’t until about half of his blood volume was replaced with caffeine and his stomach stopped rumbling that Yohji paid any attention to anything other than breakfast and Aya. Glancing about the room, he found Ken and Nagi snuggled together on a bundle of blankets on the floor, the older boy encouraging his boyfriend to eat some more. Nagi looked almost as washed out as Aya did, which was something, considering the redhead didn’t seem to possess any pigment whatsoever in his skin even on a good day. Schuldig chuckled at that thought, and Aya mentally smacked the both of them again. Yohji resolved to stock up on some aspirin as it looked as if this relationship would contain many, many more of those smacks in the future. But remembering last night, it was more than worth the small aggravation.

Crawford was sitting in a plush chair somehow dressed in a clean suit, while everyone else, including Farfie who was sprawled out on the other couch, was wearing robes. Yohji wondered if the precog had a magic power, like the girls in the cartoons who could magically summon a new outfit by spinning around. Schuldig chuckled again at the image of Oracle twirling around holding a shiny wand in his hand as sakura petals fell down on his naked body, forming an impeccable Armani suit. Even Aya smiled at the thought.

"Something amusing the three of you?" Crawford asked, an eyebrow arched over a sparkling blue eye.

"How the hell did you manage to dig up a clean suit, Vater? And what about the rest of us? We expected to wear these robes out of here?"

"I’m extremely grateful that the three of you are managing to remain clothed this long." That earned the man a shi-ne glare and two rather close approximations of the look. "As for my outfit, when one is determined to have something other than ‘fun’ in the morning, much can be accomplished. I also have clothes for all of you. Now, if we are finished with breakfast, can we tend to some important matters, such as what we are going to do in the future?"

The complacent mood was immediately shattered. Ken and Nagi got to their feet and gathered up everyone’s plates, stacking them on the now empty carts and wheeling them back into the hallway. When they returned they settled back on the floor, Nagi sitting in the athlete’s lap. Farfie sat up on the couch, and Yohji tightened his hold on Aya, burying his face in crimson hair for a moment.

"Whatever is decided, the three of us are staying together." Schuldig’s voice was quiet and serious as he gazed with challenge about the room. Yohji could feel Aya’s shock at the statement, and he nodded his head in agreement as he sent his mental assent to the swordsman.

<We’re not leaving you, Ayan. You’re stuck with us forever. Even if I have to put up with the German prick.> Schuldig’s amusement washed through him, and for once an elbow other than Aya’s jabbing his ribs.

Nagi was the next to speak up. "Ken and I are remaining together as well." The older brunet kissed him on the top of his head and hugged him close.

"Well, I’m with you, Crawford. Should we be planning a wedding or what?" That earned the Irishman a dirty glare. "Seriously, what else am I going to do?" Farfie didn’t even look up as he traced the scars on his right hand with a pale finger.

"I’m glad to hear that, Farfarello. Would I be able to entice the rest of you to remain by my side as well?"

Ken tucked Nagi’s head beneath his chin. "It depends on what you have in mind. I know that I don’t have much job expertise outside of flowers, soccer and killing, but I don’t want to be a murderer for hire. At least with Weiß and Schwarz I had a reason for what I did."

Yohji shared the sentiment and could feel that Aya was of the same mind. Schuldig could care less what he did, as long as he had his lovers and his freedom. A rather simple way to look at life, but the blond knew that he’d pretty much go with anything the other two men agreed to in order to remain with them.

Crawford smiled enigmatically. "No, I don’t think that we need to worry about money for quite some time. It seems that many of Esset’s funds have gone missing with the organization’s collapse." Ah, maybe that was what Nagi had been working on so hard the last two days before the convergence. Yohji had been too worried about Aya to spare it any thought. "But it would be to all of our benefits to remain together, seeing as we would be prey to other organizations if we split up."

"Oracle, just spit out your grand master plan. I wanna get back to bed sometime today." Schuldig sent Yohji an image of what they could do to Aya next, now that the man was feeling a bit more energized. It involved a blindfold and the belts from their robes, tying a pale body to the bed. Picking up on the thought, Aya tried to jump off Schuldig’s lap but was held in place by two sets of arms. His sweetie wasn’t getting away that easily.

Fortunately, Crawford interrupted before mass bloodshed ensued. "Can we please focus here? You can play later." Aya hissed a little more and settled back down, but his eyes glowed with fury. "Here is my proposition; we’ve created quite the vacuum, what with Esset’s destruction and Kritiker’s reorg, and I feel it is our duty to repair the situation."

"You don’t mean that we will take Esset’s place, do you?" Nagi asked.

The American shook his head. "No, I don’t intend that. What I mean is, we monitor the situation and make sure that no other organization takes its place and ensure that the new Kritiker doesn’t become the monster it was turning into either. This would keep us together, put our talents to use and keep us mostly out of trouble. Well, it would prevent us from being too bored."

The room fell silent as everyone but Farfarello and Crawford thought about the idea. Schuldig was all for it; he didn’t relish a life on the run from other organizations that would seek them out for their powers and would rather be on something other than the receiving end for once. The idea held its attraction for Aya as well; the pale man couldn’t conceive of any other life than as an assassin at this point and liked the idea of providing a balance of sort in their world. Well then, Yohji was all for it. Lounging around on a beach for the rest of his life would have been perfect, but he knew better than to even think that would ever happen. "Count us in."

After several minutes of whispering, Nagi and Ken joined as well. "I guess I can see the need of a group like us, after witnessing what became of Kritiker and the damage they did. And I sure as hell don’t want there to be another Esset." Ken closed his eyes for a moment, and from his lovers’ thoughts, Yohji knew the man was laying to rest his dreams of ever reviving his soccer career, either professionally or teaching. But judging from the thoughts in Nagi’s head, the man wouldn’t regret his decision.

"So, are we still Schwarz?"

Nagi’s question set everyone thinking, and it was almost ten minutes later before Aya spoke out loud.

"Grau."

"Huh, what was that sweetie?"

Yohji got a glare for the endearment; it seemed that someone had finally noticed what he’d been called the past couple of weeks. Too bad, Schu got away with ‘little violet’, Aya would have to deal with ‘sweetie’.

"A perfect choice. Neither black nor white anymore, but grey." Crawford nodded his head in approval. "We’ll stand between the two from now on."

Grey. Well, he’d given the other two a try, Yohji was ready for some middle ground for once. "So, we’ve decided to stick together and have a dandy new name. What now?"

"Another day of rest, and then it would be best if we left Japan for a short while." Crawford rose to his feet, a hand tucked into the small of his back as he tried to work out a few kinks. "We’ll catch a flight to Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon and remain there for a couple of months. Once we are sure that Kritiker is progressing well, we will turn our attention to Europe. It will be pretty hectic, the next few years."

The bastard probably had everything all planned out decades in advance Yohji thought. Schuldig snorted under his breath.

<Hell, he’s probably gotten every day of our damn lives all mapped out. ‘Free will’ my ass. No wonder I listen to him, there’s no sense in going against his orders, you never win. Now how about us turning our attention to more… enjoyable matters? Unless you want to go get some cigarettes.>

<No way in hell.> Smiling at each other, the two longhaired men attacked in concert. They let their lust overwhelm Aya, breaking up and sweeping away his anger. The poor thing didn’t stand a chance, not when their minds were made up like this. It was the simple benefit of numbers, and the fact that they were such horny bastards. Aya let out a soft mewl and allowed Schuldig to carry him to the bedroom, Yohji hurrying forward to open the door for them. "Uhm, you better make sure and order a ton of food for dinner. We’re gonna need it. But make it a late dinner." Hearing Aya mewl again as Schuldig laid him down on the bed, Yohji shivered in anticipation and started to close the door. "Make that a very late dinner."

*******

epilogue

*******

Ken cautiously turned down the volume of the television, and when no more moans could be heard, nudged Nagi in the ribs. "I think it’s safe to order their dinner now. Poor Aya, he probably really needs it." He felt sorry for the man who had both Yohji and Schuldig as lovers. The redhead was never going to be able to walk normally again. For his part, Ken just wanted to get out of this hotel as soon as possible, and into a new apartment that hopefully had some decent soundproofing. There was no way in hell he was going to be able to survive the next year or so if he had to constantly hear the three perverts go at it all the time. And something told him they would certainly be doing that.

The day had been spent lounging around, recovering from yesterday’s, no wait, the day before yesterday’s battle. Time had become a bit confused in the athlete’s mind, what with recent events. But all that Ken cared about at the moment was the fact that he was warm, dry and safe with Nagi curled up at his side. Thoughts about the future worried him a little with the surety of constant battle, but the fact that he would have his friends and love by his side cheered Ken. It was also nice to recall the many visions he’d had of the future, involving him and his teammates fighting and seeming to hold their own. Hell, after taking on the Elders, any other foes should be a cakewalk.

So tonight he’d just remain here on the couch, snuggled with Nagi, and enjoy his last day of living in Japan for what was probably going to be quite some time. Ken hugged his boyfriend tight as he thought of setting up a new residence in Hong Kong. He’d never been crazy about the place the few times he’d been there during his soccer career and kept in mind that it would be temporary. Then Schw- no, Grau would be moving to Europe, a place that, in his mind at least, was suitably soccer-mad. Ken couldn’t wait to attend all of the games there.

And at least tonight, the two of them could sleep on the big couch which he and Nagi had graciously left for Yohji the night before, not counting on the man to find sleeping arrangements elsewhere. Especially not in the same bed as Aya and Schuldig. Now that was a weird development, though Ken had to admit it should help with all the tension between the two older men. He guessed what shocked him the most was the fact that Aya was actually allowing himself to care about not only one other person, but two. And at the same time at that. What a change from cold, distant Abyssinian. Then again, all of them had changed so much. Aya had become more… human, or at least more accepting of other people and somewhat sociable; Yohji had shockingly become monogamous, or whatever the hell it was when one went from literally hundreds of lovers to just two. While the man’s power played no small part in his change of lifestyle, Ken couldn’t imagine Yohji sleeping around anymore even when he gained control over it, not after the way the man had worried about Aya the past couple of weeks and seeing the threesome together during breakfast. He recognized love when he saw it, and the playboy had fallen hard for the former ice prince.

As for him… Ken had changed as well. He’d given up on some of his dreams, realizing that some things were much more important than fame or a simple life teaching soccer. He had several good friends by his side and someone to love. Someone he could safely say wouldn’t betray him like Kase had, and wouldn’t have to hide so much of his past and true self from, like with Yuriko. No, Nagi would make him very content for the rest of his life, however long that was. If not a wee bit frustrated for the next year and a half.

A knock on the door signaled the arrival of the threesome’s dinner. "Hey, lovebirds, your food is here!" Ken got up to go retrieve the cart laden with several dishes. Nagi had ordered, among other things, steaks for the men, most likely figuring they needed something rich in protein after what they’d been up to for the past several hours.

Wheeling the cart into the hotel suite, Ken was met by a severely rumpled Schuldig. The German nodded his head in thanks, and then tried to manage both pushing the cart and holding his robe closed at the same time. About to ask where the man’s belt was, Ken immediately thought better of it.

<Aw, what’s the matter, Kenken? Not wanting any ideas while you aren’t able to do anything about it?> There was a smirk on Schuldig’s face which was framed by a wild shock of hair, defying gravity by sticking up in several different directions.

"If it involves the three of you, it has to be perverted as all hell." He settled back down on the couch beside Nagi.

"True, but it was most definitely very enjoyable." Opening the bedroom door, Schuldig paused to look back over his shoulder. <I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with plenty of ideas during your little wait. Nothing stirs the imagination like a bit of anticipation, and you’ll certainly have that for the next sixteen months.>

The fucking bastard. As if Ken wasn’t painfully aware of just how long he had to wait for Nagi to turn seventeen. Feeling his love snuggle closer to his side, the soccer fanatic distracted himself from his own perverted thoughts by imaging all the different ways Aya would be abusing Schuldig and Yohji in the future.

*******

He was drowning. Water rushed into Omi’s lungs, burning his insides as the weight of it pressed against him, ever more forcefully the farther he sank. No matter how much he struggled, there was nothing the youth could do to save himself. Just as everything became dark, he felt something grab ahold of his hood and yank him upward.

From cold dark ocean reality shifted to a pleasant evening, the scent of cherry blossoms heavy in the air. Omi felt himself lying on grass, his clothes still soaked, and struggled to sit up.

"Hell of a nightmare there, chibi."

Turning to the sound of the voice, Omi saw Yohji, Aya and the foreigner, Schuldig, lounging under a cherry tree whose flower-laden branches were decorated with paper lanterns. Aya was sitting beside Schuldig, his head on the man’s shoulder and an arm about his waist, and Yohji’s head rested in his lap. The three psychics seemed very much at ease in each other’s presence, and something about the scene had Omi blushing.

Yohji smiled and winked at him, and Aya hn’ed as he played with the blond’s hair. His cheeks refusing to cool down, Omi stuttered out a question. "Wha- I... is this a dr-dream?"

"Do you mean is this happening in your head? Yes, but this isn’t your imagination at work here, but a benefit of telepathy. They’re useful bastards, what can I say?" That earned Yohji a hard tug on his hair making the playboy wince. Aya hn’ed once more and resumed stroking the honey blond strands while Yohji pouted.

"So, you three survived the museum sinking? And what about Ken, is he okay too?"

It was Schuldig who spoke this time. "Ken’s perfectly fine. All of us made it, though we’d appreciate it if you kept that quiet for the time being. A lot of people are going to be after us for what happened to the Elders, and in hopes of using us like Esset did."

"You guys did it, you’re free."

"Yeah." Yohji smiled again as he rubbed his cheek along Aya’s thigh. "We did it, now to live with the consequences of it. Like they say, chibi, no rest for the wicked. This little visit is primarily to let you know we’re alright and to say goodbye."

The happiness Omi felt at the news of his friends’ survival faded with those last two words. "Where are you going?"

"Not too far away, but we have to leave Japan. Listen, Omi, there are a lot of repercussions from Esset’s destruction and Kritiker being seriously compromised." For once there was a serious expression on Yohji’s face - on all three of the older men’s faces. He had the impression that he should listen to what they had to say. "We’re going to do our best to make sure that no other group steps into the vacuums created by recent events, and that means we’ll have our hands full. Have you given any thought to what we discussed the last time we spoke?"

"Yeah…" Thinking about him taking over Kritiker had all but consumed Omi once he had awoken on the beach after fighting Schwarz. "Yohji, do you really think-"

"You can do it, Tsukiyono," Aya said, his deep voice quiet. "It will require some sacrifices, but I have no doubts of your abilities."

For those words to have come from Aya, considering how much the man hated his father, made Omi smile. "Thank you, Aya-kun. You are certainly right when you say it will be a lot of work."

"But things are ideally situated for you to take over, Bombay." Schuldig rested his head on top of Aya’s as he gazed at Omi. "We made sure of that. Anyone who would object to you seizing power has been dealt with, except Tonkinese. The remaining Kritiker agents will all be loyal to you. And they are looking for someone to step forward and give them direction."

Manx and Birman had pretty much said the exact same thing when they had arrived to whisk Weiß away to a safe house. Omi didn’t think he could put off the two women for much longer by citing a need to recover from the battle and almost drowning.

"Listen, we might not be sticking around in Japan for much longer, but we won’t be too far away either, chibi. We’re making you this promise; if you need us, we’ll be there for you. It’s the least Grau can do for you after everything that happened. Uh, that’s us, by the way. We’re not Schwarz anymore."

Grey. It made sense, considering how the group was comprised of both white and black. The promise of aid cheered Omi considerably. "How will I get in contact with you?"

Schuldig smiled as he tapped his forehead. "I don’t think you need to worry about that, considering the team has two telepaths and two precogs. We’ll be keeping a mental eye on you, never fear."

"To make sure that I don’t need help, or that I don’t make things worse?"

"You’re a smart one. Both."

That statement filled Omi with relief. He didn’t have to worry now about becoming a monster like his father, not with Yohji and Aya keeping an eye on him. They would be sure to step in before he got out of hand.

The German shook his head as his smile grew wider. "A little tidbit for you, Bombay. Reiji never was your father. Oracle showed me the files; Shuuichi was your papa, which was why Reiji never paid your ransom. He confided that fact to one of his bodyguards who’d been supplied by Esset. Your real father never knew the truth."

The news shocked the youth; at first, he felt the relief that he wasn’t the man’s son wash through him, then was followed by sadness that his father had been so close, yet so far from him his whole life. And that Persia had never known the truth before he died. "Thank you, for that." Somehow, it seemed right that he resume control of Kritiker now. In a way, he was inheriting it from his father.

He sat in silence for several minutes as his mind raced through all the plans that filled it. With a bit of regret, Omi realized that his school days would officially be over. He’d have to come up with some way to explain it to Ouka. Maybe it would be for the best if he and the rest of Weiß left Tokyo; let their friends there believe them dead so they could concentrate on rebuilding Kritiker. Omi resolved to put the question to his teammates as soon as he woke up. It would be painful to leave his sister behind, but it would probably be best for her.

"A wise choice, chibi." Omi glanced over at his friends and blushed once more. The three men were all reclining on the ground, Aya resting half on Yohji’s chest with his hand under the man’s shirt and Schuldig propped up on one arm behind him, massaging his back. "Now if you don’t mind, all of us have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, and we want to be able to enjoy this dreamscape while we can. Bye for now."

Omi caught sight of Yohji yanking Aya’s head up so he could kiss the swordsman before everything became dark. The next thing he knew he woke up in his bed to the sound of Jou’s snoring. For a moment he just lay in his bed, cherishing his memories of the dream then reality settled in once more. He had a lot of things to do and had already spent enough time lounging about. It was time to get to work. Omi silently rose from his bed and left the room, searching out Manx and Birman to talk to them about his future plans.

*******

Aya batted away the hand that toyed with his new fedora. Crawford had supplied him with one that fit a bit better than Schuldig’s had, but he still missed the old thing. <Leave it alone.>

"Your hair’s too long, the hat’s not hiding it anymore." Schuldig tried tucking the crimson strands up under the felt. Annoyed at the attention, Aya scuttled off the German’s lap onto Yohji’s. He could feel Schu’s anger and Yohji’s amusement and happiness at his change of seats.

Grau was crammed into the back of a limousine, hence Aya sitting on the lap of one of his lovers. It was either that or someone had to sit up front with the driver, and that idea had been vetoed as the only one who volunteered had been Farfarello. Resting his head on Yohji’s shoulder, the swordsman felt his eyes drift shut in exhaustion. He hoped they’d get to the airport soon.

It had been a very tiring couple of days, especially considering his lovers’ voracious appetites. Aya let them feel how tired and sore he was after the two bastards had taken advantage of him almost the entire time he’d been awake after the convergence. Other than some breaks for sleeping and eating, not taking into account the dream last night, he’d been pounced on non-stop. As soon as he recovered Aya planned to put an end to that and teach the lechers some control.

<So we’re just going to have to keep wearing you out.> Yohji’s lips pressed against his forehead, and he could feel the smile on them. Too tired to even yank on a strand of long blond hair, Aya just snorted. Unfortunately, he could very well imagine Yohji and Schu doing that to him, constantly dragging him off to a bed or some other location to be ravaged silly.

<Do you really mind it that much, kleines Veilchen? Besides a sore ass, I don’t remember you having much to complain about.> Schuldig played with one of his eartails for a moment before stroking his cheek. <Though if you’re that tired, we can kick Kudoh out of bed for a couple of nights and give you some time to recover. You’ll get twice as much sleep that way.>

Yohji’s chest rumbled under his cheek as the blond growled at the suggestion. Aya snaked an arm around the man’s chest as he opened one eye to glare at Schuldig. <Or I could kick the both of you out and have a night of uninterrupted sleep. I like that idea better.> In response to that, the two men instantly swamped him with desire, making him mewl softly as he squirmed on Yohji’s lap, his need for sleep completely forgotten.

"Gentlemen, I am _not_ going to be happy if you try to start something in the back of a very cramped cab in which I happen to be sitting. Behave."

Schuldig and Yohji heeded Crawford’s warning and stopped sending the emotion. As his body calmed down, Aya snarled softly at the smugness that radiated from his lovers. So, they thought they had him controlled, did they? He sent them both a vicious mental smack that had them yelping in pain. <Remember, at some point you’ll have to stop doing that, and then I’ll get my revenge.>

<Oh, I don’t know, I think I could manage projecting that twenty-four seven, what with you being so fucking gorgeous. You up to the challenge as well, Blondie?>

<Of course.> The lust started to build once more, but before it could overwhelm him Aya sent out another harsh smack. The rest of the ride to the airport passed with him ignoring the comments about him being a vicious little ingrate before he took a quick catnap.

When they reached their destination, Grau poured out from the back of the limousine, unhampered by any luggage as they checked in. Aya marshaled his strength to prevent anyone from recognizing them. Energy poured in from Schuldig and Yohji making the task easier. Walking to their gate, Aya yanked on a strand of one of his lover’s hair while hitting the other in the ribs as he started limping once more. Fortunately, Ken managed not to make a snide comment about his condition as the athlete had this morning. The man’s head was still hurting from the mental whack he’d received for it.

Crawford had timed things perfectly; the team arrived at the airport, got their tickets, walked to their gate and immediately boarded the plane and sat in first class. In another twenty minutes they would be up in the air. Aya took a window seat to avoid anyone brushing against him as they walked down the plane’s aisle, and Schuldig slid in the seat next to his after winning a slight scuffle with Yohji. "Du bist erschöpft, little one. Ruh dich aus. Ich schaffe die Leute im Flugzeug auch alleine."

<I wouldn’t be so tired if it wasn’t for you.> Aya snapped at the man even as he tilted up the seats’ armrests and lay his head in his boyfriend’s lap. A hand stroked through his hair, and he felt Yohji’s jealousy and Schuldig’s pleasure. He hoped the two idiots worked things out soon. It was tiresome having the two of them fighting over him all the time, even if it was nothing compared to what it had been before his abduction.

Humming softly as a blanket settled over him, Aya gradually allowed himself to drift asleep. Schu and Yohji, in fact all of his team would keep him safe so there was no need to remain awake and on guard while they were on the plane. It amazed Aya at how protected he felt at the moment. He guessed it had something to do with him finally accepting that here were people who wouldn’t abandon him, who would be there for him when he needed them.

<Such a stubborn little ingrate. What have I been telling you for the past couple of months? I’m not going anywhere, and neither is that Blutegel, Kudoh, unfortunately. You’re stuck with us forever.>

<Fine. Just promise me I’ll get a little sleep in-between all the ravishing, and I’ll manage somehow.>

<Sorry, sweetie, we can’t promise that. Guess you’ll just have to wear the both of us out if you want any rest.>

Aya had the distinct impression he was never going to be able to walk normally again. As the two molesters’ laughter bubbled in his head, he thought about asking Crawford for his stash of sleeping pills. Not sure who he wanted to drug, Schu and Yohji or himself, Aya finally fell asleep, taking advantage of the opportunity while it lasted.

*******

As soon as the plane was in the air, Yohji unclasped his seatbelt and rose to his feet, moving to where Aya and Schuldig were sitting. He lifted the smaller telepath’s legs out of the man’s chair and took their place, resting the long limbs in his lap after he sat down. Aya didn’t wake the slightest during this activity, which warmed Yohji greatly over the amount of trust being shown towards him. If anyone else had done that, they’d have lost a limb, at best.

Schuldig bared his teeth at the blond as the foreigner buried his fingers in strands of crimson hair. <Can’t you leave us alone for five minutes, Blondie?>

<I think the flight’s gonna take a bit longer than that, but ‘no’. You’ve had Aya all to yourself these past few months, be prepared for some serious sharing from now on.> That said, Yohji removed Aya’s shoes and started to massage his feet. He swore that the swordsman started to purr after a minute.

<Ah, that’s not your imagination.> Schuldig commented dryly as he shifted about in his seat. <Damn, I really wish he’d stop that. Or wake up.>

Chuckling softly, Yohji glanced down at his sleeping lover, taking in the shadowed eyes. <Don’t get any ideas. I think he’ll kill us if we wake him up. Gods, he looks wiped out.>

The German nodded his head and sighed. <I hate to say this, but…>

<I know, we need to give him some time to recuperate.> Dammit but that was the last thing that Yohji wanted to hear. But he could feel the exhaustion that radiated from his sweetie, and knew it was for the best. His hormones could wait a day or two, and his lover really needed the break, which meant that Yohji would sacrifice whatever he had to so Aya felt better. Besides, once Aya was rested from his ordeal…

<Heh, then we can _really_ pounce on him.>

<Exactly.> The two longhaired men shared an evil grin, and soon were telepathically sending various ideas of how to play with their lover once the man recovered his health. This exchange led to some serious shifting about in their seats, which prompted a sleepy snarl from Aya as his cushions kept moving. Both men instantly stilled, and after catching the worried look on the other’s face, started to laugh. <He’s really got us trained, hasn’t he?> Yohji asked as he ran a hand along Aya’s spine.

<Completely.> Schuldig toyed with an eartail for a moment and then resumed combing his fingers through Aya’s hair. <Ah well, there are worse fates.>

<Most definitely. But none better, unless you happen to be crazy about the idea of swearing a vow of chastity and running off to some monastery. Any such luck?>

Schuldig scowled and muttered insults under his breath. <Dream on, Blondie.>

<Ah well, it was a nice thought.> Smiling, Yohji tilted his head back onto his seat and closed his eyes. Aya wasn’t the only one who was a bit tired, and he wanted to be in top form for when his sweetie was recuperated. He didn’t plan on getting much sleep once that happened, and knew that Schuldig felt the same. Oh yes, life was good.

*******

Some loose translations of the German:

Fuck that, Crawford… Scheiß drauf, Crawford

You fucking bastard! You gave him to them! Traitor! I’m going to kill you!…

Du verfluchter Bastard! Du hast ihn mir gegeben! Verräter! Ich werde dich töten!

My God, little violet, it isn’t a dream…. Mein Gott, kleines Veilchen,es ist kein Traum

Shut the fuck up.... Halt deinen verdammten Mund

Fuck off … Verpiss dich

If you had a brain you’d be dangerous..... Wenn du ein Gehirn hättest, dann wärst du gefährlich

My God, fuck him already Mein Gott, fuck ihn endlich

You’re exhausted, little one. Go to sleep, I can manage the people on the plane….

Du bist erschöpft, little one. Ruh dich aus. Ich schaffe die Leute im Flugzeug auch alleine

Leech…. Blutegel

*******

A/N:  Hmm, I think there are unavoidable parallels here at the end to Jacque Koh's awesome fic, 'As You Slumbered', though I did try to avoid them.  Not much else to say than I was inspired by one of the best.  I hope no offense is taken.

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