~ Chapter Nine -- Beautiful Inchoate ~

by Talya Firedancer

The streets of Tokyo were slick and buzzing with light and fast cars in the early evening. It had rained, a light smattering over rooftops and quick-stepping pedestrians, as Ken and Omi moved from the building that housed the Koneko to an all-hours eatery down the street. Now the air smelled of ozone and wet asphalt and other things, and the streets were splashed with neon as one by one the stars came out.

"We'll make a short night of it."

Omi looked up from his half-eaten sandwich, eyes questioning. "Ken-kun..."

Ken looked back at him, hands clasped, brown eyes somber. "C'mon, Omi, you know I'm right. Neither of us are fresh, and Birman expects something to see by some time tomorrow. So let's take up the slack tomorrow, after we both get some rest." He nodded to emphasize his point.

For a long moment, Omi looked out the window. The rain had left trails of silver streaking down the panes, even though the clouds had already passed. It was true he was tired. And it was up to him; that was why Ken was asking. If Omi said that they should keep trying to find Yohji, or put together data for Birman, then they'd brew coffee and try to prop their eyelids open.

"All right," he gave in with a sigh. Summoning up a smile, he looked to Ken again. "I must be really tired if I'm just going along!"

"Aa, that's what I'm saying," Ken said with a relieved smile.

They finished up and tossed their wadded-up sandwich wrappings on the way out. The pavement was still dark with recent rain and the night smelled wet. After they got off of Ken's bike, circling the block once to find a parking spot on the street, Omi walked up the street with Ken beside him and looked at the sky. Ken was grumbling about someone stealing his parking spot; he hated parking his bike on the street. Right now it was clear and darkening into night, the veiling clouds in tatters on the fringe of the horizon.

"Naa, Omi," Ken said after a moment.


Ken put his arms behind his head as they walked. "What you said earlier...about trusting in really got me thinking, you know? I think I haven't been trusting him the way I should."

"It's what I believe," Omi said straightforwardly. "Yohji-kun's coming back to us, Ken-kun."

"It was good to hear you say that." Ken paused. "But what about Aya?"

Omi's eyes flicked to the other man. "I...I don't know," he said, subdued. "If it's true, if we find out from Yohji-kun that Aya-kun did that, then I don't know how it can be forgiven."

With a frustrated noise, Ken stretched his arms up above his head. "We don't know the whole story, though."

"I know," Omi said steadily. "That's why we need to wait for Yohji-kun to come back. He'll tell us what happened -- if we have a reason to be angry, or if it's none of our business."

"How'd you get so smart?" Ken asked him, slowing as they approached the front display of the Koneko. He squared off, looking at Omi with those serious eyes again. "You may be the youngest of us, Omi, but I swear you've got the most sense."

Omi shrugged off the compliment. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time, I guess. But I still trust all of you. I still trust Yohji-kun...and I think we need to find out what happened to Aya-kun, too. It's not too late to believe in him too."

"You're right," Ken said slowly. His eyes moved over the street, where cars whizzed past in colored blurs. "It's not like him. He's been acting strangely to begin with lately, so without knowing the whole story..."

Irrationally, Omi's spirits lifted. They didn't have any proof and, really, they didn't know what was going on but he felt better for no reason at all. "We have to trust in them," he repeated, sure of himself now. They had been through a lot. But because of that, the trust they had in each other was greater than any group that had been through less.

"Let's go upstairs," Ken said with an inviting look.

"Sure..." Omi took a step and his pocket began to buzz. "Wahh!"

"Your cell phone?" Ken cocked his head.

Flushing, Omi fumbled the device out of his pocket. Why he'd set it to vibrate, he wasn't sure but he didn't think he'd do that again. He flipped the phone open. "Omi here!"

"Hey, Omi," a warm familiar voice drawled into his ear. "I got your message last night."

"Yohji-kun!" He clutched the phone and flapped his hand frantically at Ken. "Yohji-kun, it's so good to hear your voice..."

The rich chuckle was reassuring and infuriating at the same time. They had been so worried. When Yohji spoke, though, he sounded serious. "I'm sorry. I've been an ass, haven't I?"

"Just tell me you're coming back to Tokyo," Omi appealed, trying to juggle the phone against his ear and share it with Ken at the same time, who was dancing impatiently beside him.

"You figured out that much, huh?" Yohji's voice was rueful. "I'm at the train station now. I should be back tonight, but it'll be kinda late."

Omi could all but feel the sleep evaporating from his eyes, fatigue slipping away and excitement making him stand up straighter from his slump. They had a lot of work to do. "Where are you, Yohji-kun?"

Pause. Static. Crackle. When he thought they had been disconnected, Yohji's voice gave out a quiet sigh over the line. "I had go back to where it all started. But I'm coming home now."

Omi pressed against Ken's warm side. "We can't wait to see you." Part of his mind analyzed the phrasing critically -- wherever Yohji had gone, he didn't consider that place to be home anymore. So even though it had taken a day away from them, from an ongoing mission, Yohji was coming back for good.

"Aa, thanks." Yohji was quiet for a moment again. When he spoke up again, he sounded more cheerful. "I'll see you guys tonight?"

"Tonight," Omi repeated, and Ken made a noise beside him; frustrated or impatient, he couldn't tell. "We'll be up. We've got a lot of mission data to go over and prepare."

"I'm sorry," Yohji repeated, and it sounded sincere. "Until tonight, then." Then he clicked off and the line went dead.

"Well, that's a relief," Ken said with an explosive sigh, running his hand through his hair and messing it up into brown spikes.

"I'll get started on the prep work," Omi told him with a nod, stuffing the cell phone back in his pocket and starting for the alley that led to their apartments. He was jerked to a halt and looked up in surprise as Ken pulled him roughly close.

"No, you won't." Ken nuzzled his hair briefly and turned him loose. "I'll take care of the prep-work, okay?"

"Ken-kun..." Omi shook his head. "That's a lot of work, I can't just let you..."

"Hey." Ken gave him a challenging grin. "Yohji said he'd be back, right? I'll start on it, and leave the rest to him. You are going to study for your exam."

"Huh?" Omi felt like he'd been broadsided, or as if he'd missed part of the conversation. "Ken-kun, I missed my exam. It's no use."

"But you've still got more," Ken countered. "And if we talk to the principal, he may let you re-take your exam, you know. Depending on the circumstances."

"That's true..." Omi said slowly.

"And we could make Yohji go in and beg for you!" Ken finished triumphantly, laughing at his own idea. "Imagine that, making him go in and press his forehead to the floor..."

"I think he owes us that much," Omi said wryly, then the smile fell away from his face.

"Omi?" Ken said quickly, looking concerned.

"Is it really that easy?" Omi said incredulously. "Can things turn around so fast?"

Ken snagged his arm, dragging him up the alley and towards the back staircase for their apartments. "Of course it can!" His smile was like sunlight. "It's not just us you can believe in, you know. You've gotta trust in yourself, too."


On the other end of the railway from Tokyo, the station was equally crowded.

Aya slipped through the packed masses of commuters in the early dark of the evening rush. Bodies jostled and the boarding call for the train returning to Tokyo echoed hollowly through the terminal. Somewhere in this nondescript town, a midway point between Tokyo and Kyoto, he would find Yohji. All he could do was explain, but what he really rated was a beating.

"Last call for the train to Tokyo," a tinny voice intoned. "Last call for the train to Tokyo. Next train departs at four a.m."

Frustrated, Aya slewed around, causing scattered exclamations as his tall frame made a hole in the crowd. He would never find Yohji before that, and he was in an unfamiliar town at night. Maybe he should book a bed for the night, or at least buy a return ticket for the morning.

He froze.

"Train for Tokyo departing now," the metallic voice crackled over the speakers, over the sound of stressed railings as the train began to pull away.

Aya stared into the shocked green eyes of Kudou Yohji, pressed up against the clear thick plastic of the bullet train's door only five meters away.

"I'm sorry," Aya said clearly, intent on the other man.

Yohji's lips moved and one gloved hand beat against the plastic, a muted thump. The train slipped away, picking up speed as it left the station.

Aya bowed his head. "K'so!" he gritted, fringe of jagged bangs pricking at his eyelashes. He lifted his head. Like a silver fish swimming upstream, the train was darting away. There wouldn't be another one until tomorrow morning, and Yohji was already gone. But he was going back to Tokyo. That was something.

A bed for the night, Aya thought, turning away from the tracks with a feeling of resignation. So his apology was delayed a little longer.

At any rate, just because he didn't have to search for Yohji didn't mean he had no quarry in this place. Aya's hands closed into fists. The hidden sword along his spine was like a weight when he thought of it, reminding him of the things he still had to do.

He turned and something hard clipped him across the face.

Once, twice, and his head snapped to one side, then the other. As he sagged, vision bleeding from color into shades of gray, the last thing he saw was Schwarz's Schuldich, handsome mouth twisted in a sneer.

Schuldich said something, and then the world drained away.



Fujimiya Aya-chan's head flew up from a mass of crumpled papers and study guides.

"What...?" She looked around, head swimming for a moment with the thickness of sleep, and an abrupt awakening. Her temples ached. Then reality came crashing town and tears filled her eyes. "My brother's gone..."

She spoke the words to an empty room. For the past few months, things had been the way they should again. Her brother had come back to her, and they'd been a family again. Now he was gone and she knew the truth. She knew the price he'd paid for her life, and she knew why he had changed so much.

Ran-niichan, it doesn't matter to me, she thought emphatically, wishing somehow there was a way her thoughts could reach her brother. You're still the same Ran-niichan to me.

She was afraid. Her temples were still pounding, and she was filled with irrational fear.

"What if I never see him again?" She passed a hand over her pale face. Lack of sleep and prolonged study were getting to her. Now she was talking to herself.

"What if I never have the chance to tell him...?" It didn't matter to her. She believed that whatever he had done, he'd done it because he thought it was right. And he had done it for her, hadn't he? She would always love her brother.

Aya-chan's temples throbbed dully, and there was a strange pain in her left cheekbone. She had a terrible feeling she would never see Ran again...or something was happening to him, right now.


Yohji raked a hand through his disheveled chestnut hair, grimacing at the limp rank condition of it. He should have suspected something right there, if Schuldich was so hot for his body when he hadn't showered in over a day. He was disgusted with himself. As soon as he got back to Tokyo, the first order of business was a shower, a shave, and a change of clothes. Then he'd worry about the rest.

Wondering, hesitating, he looked at the bullet train door he'd been crowded against earlier. Aya had been following him.

At that time, the only thing in his mind had been shock. Aya had been following him, and the flare of panic had been tempered with something else, a strong quiet voice that said maybe, just maybe, Aya had come because he was worried, and upset.

Then the redhead's lips had shaped the words 'I'm sorry.'

A faint smile touched Yohji's mouth. He felt like he'd made the right choice now, in leaving Schuldich. His suspicions were confirmed. The one who'd taken advantage of him might have been Aya in body, but it hadn't been Aya's choice.

Turning his thoughts back to business, Yohji flipped his phone open again. Omi had sounded so relieved to hear him it was gratifying. He'd forgotten himself for a while, and let his mind get clouded with his own misery and Schuldich's misdirection. He'd hurt his teammates simply by his absence, but he was going to make it up to everyone. And Aya...well, he'd have to talk with Aya.

But first, there was something important to take care of.

He dialed the number and waited, holding his breath.

The tone shrilled in his ear three times. Last time he'd wondered if it was the right number he was calling, but this time he had a feeling...

"This's Jack." The line picked up in the middle of the fourth ring. In the background, there was loud music and a clamor of shouting voices.

Yohji breathed. "Jack, it's Yohji."

"Yohji! Are you all right? What the hell happened?" The cool tone he'd answered in dissolved instantly to a palpable anxiety.

"Ahh, it's okay now," Yohji said, waving one hand flippantly even though the Chinese man couldn't see him. "So you heard."

"Yeah, I heard you, uh, disappeared." The line was muffled for an instant as if Jack had covered the mouthpiece with his hand, then when sound returned the background noise was muted. "You, uh, you okay now?"

"I'm on my way back to Tokyo," Yohji said, feeling relieved just saying it.

"That's good to hear." Jack's voice was warm in his ear.

"So...I told you I'd call you the next day..." Yohji felt embarrassed. He'd come to his senses and there was no good explanation for the stupid shit he'd done.

"It's okay," Jack said at once. "I talked to your teammates. I figure something must've happened."

Yohji paused. "I did call you," he said softly. "Someone else was using your phone."

"Oh..." Jack paused, then cursed under his breath. "G'dammit. I loaned my phone to Alien, part of the day. Shit, I'm sorry."

"It's done," Yohji said in response. He hesitated. "I'll be back by tomorrow. What's going on?"

"Shit, haven't you heard? Our side of things is goin' down tomorrow night. We've gotta move, or we'll mess up big time and..."

"Got it," Yohji interrupted. "I bet Ken and Omi are already working on it." Why had Aya been coming after him, then? He felt like he was missing something. Well, he'd just have to ask when he got back.

There was another pause, but he could still hear Jack's presence over the line. "Hey, when you get back..."

Yohji waited. Finally he prompted, "Yes?"

"You still interested?" Now Jack sounded his age, and unsure.

Yohji grinned. "I'm calling, aren't I?" he asked rhetorically. "Tell you what. When the mission's over, you've got a date."

"Now, there's incentive," Jack's voice purred in his ear. "Looking forward to it."

"Yeah," Yohji said, mouth suddenly dry. What Schuldich had offered was the illusion of what Yohji needed; what Jack wanted to give him was real.

"Hey--" there was a muffled noise on the other line, a scuffling, a slammed door, then the background noise was back. "I've gotta go, okay?"

"Yeah, I'll talk to you later."

"Later," Jack repeated, drawing out the word, making it a promise. Then the line clicked and went dead.

Yohji looked at the phone thoughtfully for a moment, then put it in his pocket. He still had a lot to think about, and a lot to catch up on, but now he had something to look forward to.


On the snowy white page the dark ink shapes were beginning to blur and run together, English words becoming Japanese, strokes of kanji running into one black stream that would become a rushing river and sweep him away if his eyelids got any heavier and he tumbled into the page. Omi's eyes felt foggy. He'd been studying English for so long he thought he could dream the right words.

A hand clapped down on his shoulder, and Omi jumped with a yell.

"Whoa! Calm down, Omittchi!" Ken's voice was startled.

"Sorry." Omi sat up straight, rubbing at his eyes. "How's the data coming along?"

Ken pulled up the chair beside him, straddling it backwards. He held out a can of milk-coffee and Omi took it gratefully.

"You're a lifesaver," Omi told him, popping the tab and gulping some down. At this point, massive infusions of caffeine were the only things keeping him alive, once his burst of energy from earlier had drained away. He glanced at Ken, who was studying the tabletop. "Ken? The data?"

"What? Oh, sorry." Ken pulled a face. "It's not coming along at all right now."

Omi took another long pull from the can and wiped at his mouth with the back of one hand. "Okay, I'll--" He started to get up.

"Uh-uh, sit back down," Ken said firmly, rising enough to push Omi back into his chair, then seating himself again. "We've hit a stopping point, anyhow. I'll have Yohji take a look at it once he gets back. You know that this is stuff any one of us can do, Omi. But you're better at it so you usually end up doing that kind of work."

Omi shrugged. Compliments embarrassed him.

"Just keep studying," Ken continued.

"I don't know how much longer I can do that," Omi said helplessly. "I've been doing it for hours and no matter how much caffeine I drink, I'm going to hit my limit soon."

"Then go to bed." Ken folded his arms across the back of his chair, rested his chin there, and gave Omi a smile.

This wasn't a smile that asked anything from Omi, but for some reason it made him flush and feel strange. "Well, if you're done with the data, are you going to bed too?"

"Why, Omi," Ken said with a laugh, winking at him, "I never knew you could be such a perv..."

"That's not it!" Omi objected, flushing even more. "It's just...I mean, I don't want to... I just want to sleep, Ken. But I think I'd feel better if you were there."

"Gotcha," Ken said with a nod, scraping his chair across the floor as he stood all of a sudden. His brown eyes were warm and steady on Omi. "That sounds good to me. And tomorrow..."

"That's right, tomorrow..." Omi felt a little sick. So much hinged on things he had no control over. He had to plead to take his exam over again, and they had a very important mission.

"Tomorrow can take care of itself," Ken finished, snagging him by the arm and pulling him out of the kitchen area. "Come on, we're going to have Yohji beg for you, remember?"

"That's right," Omi said, not particularly reassured. "What about Yohji? He said he'd see us tonight."

"Then I'll wake up later and take care of things," Ken said. He gave Omi a firm look. "But you'll keep sleeping, okay?"

"Hmm..." Omi said by way of response. If Yohji was coming home tonight, then Omi wanted to be a part of things too.

"Come on," Ken said, taking his hand.

He smiled anyway, and let Ken pull him towards the bed, and then let Ken strip his clothes off, and then they slept curled against one another's bodies, two strong heartbeats reinforcing one another in the night.


Yohji fumbled with his keys on his way up the steps until he remembered he had left it unlocked. Good job, Kudou.

Somewhere in the back of his head, he'd had the notion of leaving his apartment key in some prominent place, a grand gesture to Birman and Manx and the others that he'd left for good, a final 'so long.' Now he was glad he'd forgotten that idea in his haste to get out of the city.

On the second floor, the lights were out as he passed Omi's place. Of course. It was past midnight, and the heart of exam season even without the added stress of mission data to prepare. He felt a pang. He'd been acting selfishly, even if he'd thought he had a right to it. Omi shouldered so much of the responsibility already, and grown men shouldn't need nursemaids.

There was a note tacked to the knocker on his door, and Yohji examined it and its accompaniment as he approached.

A smile touched his lips. The waxy, sweet-smelling blossom would have been hard to find in the middle of the night. Yohji plucked it from the knocker, unfolding the note and lifting the cattelya to smell its fresh scent.

The note inside said simply 'Thanks.'

Yohji slipped it into his pocket. It was from Jack, he had a feeling, though how the man had known or gotten it here he had no idea. Maybe he could ask Ken or Omi. But that would be later, after he showered.

He opened the door and looked at the mess he'd left behind. "Tadaima," he said to an empty room. "I've come back." This time he meant it. This time he was home, for better or for worse, he'd revisited the choices he had made and this was his life.

Revisited sin.

Was it his own sins he'd been angry over all those years, or another man's? The worst thing, he thought now, was that he hadn't done anything about it. He had taken all the shame into himself, let it consume him and burn his life to ashes, and walked away.

One night couldn't change him. One sticky summer afternoon couldn't ruin him. He was the man he'd become, and only he controlled what could change him in the future.

He wouldn't run away again.

Yohji tossed his jacket onto the table in passing and stripped his clothes off, carelessly letting them fall to the floor on the way to the bathroom. His eyes skimmed over the details of his room between the kitchen area and the bathroom; he didn't want to see the floor and its stains, or the blood-specked sheets, or the coat-rack in the corner. It was one thing to realize what Schuldich had done, and another entirely to divorce the event from Aya and absolve him from blame.

It had been Aya's hands that beat him, and Aya's body...

Yohji shuddered, stepping into the shower for a quick one.

He thought of Jack instead. Their mission still wasn't finished, and he would see the Chinese cop again. He found himself looking forward to the prospect as the light at the end of the tunnel after this whole sordid mess.

The apartment was a disorganized wreck, but Yohji continued to ignore it as he rummaged around first for something to wear, then for something to eat. It was late so he shouldn't have coffee even though he didn't feel like sleeping.

Someone knocked on the door.

Yohji jumped, spilling tea leaves over the counter. The cupboard was nearly bare but yielded some snacks, rice crackers and leftover cup ramen, good enough for an emaciated assassin on the prowl.

"Yohji?" The voice was Ken, wary, maybe hopeful. "The light's on..."

Ambling over to the door, Yohji hitched his pants up into the range of 'decent.' Ken's face was so surprised when he opened it, it made Yohji's lips stretch in a grin.

"Sorry for all the trouble I've put you through," Yohji said at once, bowing deeply, recalling that he'd ditched shifts that he was supposed to share with Ken.

"Don't worry about it," Ken said in the next breath, and words hovered on his lips, questions in his eyes.

Both of them were relieved when neither made it out into the open.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Ken said with a sharp nod, glancing into the apartment beyond, then his face shut down into 'assassin-mode,' presumably so whatever thoughts crossed his mind wouldn't make it into his expression.

"The place is a mess," Yohji said with a deprecating shrug, his careless look belying the tight set of his shoulders. "I was just about to eat, but why don't we go to the mission room and take care of things there?"

"Good idea," Ken agreed.

After Yohji had seized his cup ramen 'to go,' they moved in that direction.

"Hold it!"

The words, snapped out in English, surprised them both. Yohji spilled hot ramen-water over his hand as he whirled, and cursed. Ken had joggled his elbow.

"Where are you two going?" Omi said, squaring off with them on the narrow catwalk that led along the line of apartments. He was still dressed for sleep in loose shorts and a tank top, and his eyes were half-shut with fatigue. Omi looked almost worse than Yohji felt, and that was saying something!

"Omi, go back to bed," Ken said in a tone that denied argument and filed it away without a hearing.

"You need me, so don't be silly," the teenager said, then focused on Yohji. "Besides, I was really worried...Yohji-kun, welcome back."

"It's good to be back," Yohji responded, rubbing at the nape of his neck with a sheepish expression. "I'm sorr--"

"Don't apologize," Omi interrupted him fiercely. His expression turned considering. "Well, during that first awful day I would've made you bow and put your head to the floor before I even thought of forgiving you--"

Yohji winced.

"--but in the end, I trust you. And Ken trusts you too." Omi bit his lip, and there was something else in his eyes, the same kind of knowledge that Yohji had seen in Ken's. Thankfully, Omi was too tactful to broach the subject either. "Now that you're back we won't say anything more. Unless you need to talk about it."

I don't think I'm ever going to want to talk about it, Yohji thought bitterly. A pale face surfaced in his memory, violet eyes unmerciful. Except, he amended, with just one person.

How much had been Schuldich's force driving him, and how much had been Aya's suppressed desire?

That was something he wouldn't know until he tackled the source.

"Thanks, Omi," Yohji said abruptly, realizing the moment had stretched too thin before his reply. "For now let's focus on business, okay? Jack told me their operation is happening tomorrow night. Brief me on how much I've missed."

"Big sales on May Day," Ken said blandly.

Yohji scowled at him. "Come on."

Ken cocked his head, appearing to consider, then said, "Your boyfriend stopped by."

Yohji gaped. He reddened. "That has nothing to do with this--" he began, outraged.

"Easy, easy," Omi soothed, getting between the two of them as they headed for the stairs. "You have to admit, Yohji-kun, the evidence..."

"Omi! Not you too!" Yohji gritted his teeth. Whether there was something between he and Jack, maybe something in future blossom, it was between the two of them and no one else.

"Enough said," Ken added abruptly. They were ambling down the stairs, Omi still trailing them in sleep clothes. "At any rate, he stopped by to let us know. That is, after he stopped by to see if you were okay."

"I was wrong," Yohji cried, antagonized. He was spilling hot ramen-water over his fingers again. "Now can we just drop it?"

"Uh, sure..." Ken sounded choked. A sidelong glance revealed that he was blushing now.

"The bottom line is that we have to be ready for tomorrow night," Omi continued, picking up the real thread of the conversation. "It won't take too much prep work, I hope..."

"And who's working the shop tomorrow morning?" Yohji interrupted. He blinked as a glance was shared across him, between Ken and Omi.

"We decided to keep it closed for now," Ken said, unexpectedly somber. "Until we finished up Weiss business, until we had something to show Birman, and until we knew what was going on."

"Oh," Yohji managed, once again staggered by the depth of problems he'd created simply by his absence. How could he have ever thought it would be okay just by leaving?

"Well," he said, "why don't I open it up tomorrow?" He was feeling penitent and they should take him up on it while he was willing to agree to just about anything.

"No, I still think we should keep it closed," Omi disagreed, then gave him a sly glance. "Because tomorrow morning you're coming to school with me, Yohji-kun, to apologize as my guardian and beg for a chance for me to take my exam as a make-up."

"Wha--!?" Yohji was staggered. Was he even allowed to DO that?

"Ken and I agreed," Omi said, a shade smugly. "Since it is your responsibility..."

"All right, all right," Yohji said, succumbing to his hunger and slurping up noodles as they pushed their way into the back of the shop. "Hey...wait just a...did you say 'Ken?' You forgot the '-kun,' didn't you?" Come to think of it, hadn't he said 'Ken' by itself earlier, too...?

"Uh...I..." Omi stammered, and his face flushed crimson.

"Never mind that!" Ken cut in hastily. "Let's just focus on putting together a mission, okay? And we're going to have to account for Ran's absence..."

Yohji dropped all expression, diverted by that one statement. That's right,, 'Aya' is gone now, in the place I just came from. Still he glanced at Omi from the corner of his eye, determined to get the truth out of him later.

"You're right," Yohji admitted. "We have a lot to do, and it's my fault it had to wait until the last minute."

Omi slipped into his serious mission-mode. "Let's do it, Weiss."



Panting, bound and hurting, Aya struggled yet again to free himself by even a finger's worth of his bonds. He was tied up so tightly he was starting to lose feeling in his hands, numbness spreading in warning prickles. His cheek rested against something rough and a bruise already ached there, overlaying the one given to him earlier by Farfarello.

It was dark and he breathed harshly, thrashing again in his attempts. He wasn't scared of the darkness. The only thing he feared was what waited for him within it.

Schuldich's face returned to him in blood-hazed waves of recall. Aya remembered the smirk on his lips, and the last thing he'd said...

"I won't let you have a happy ending."

~to be continued~