||Chapter 13||
"Blood & Silk"

"We need to talk."
Ran blinked, looking up from where he was cutting up garlic for the pasta sauce. He'd cooled down considerably since his sister had come down to assist him. "Nani? Is something wrong?"
She shook her head, eyes on the noodles she was stirring slowly, watching to make sure they didn't stick to the pot. "It's not about me. It's about you. I'm worried about you, oniisan."
"Me?" Ran quirked a brow, dumping a handful of garlic into the sauce and wiping his paring knife off absently on a handtowel. "Aya-chan, if you're worried about the Vampires.."
"It's not the Vampires. OK, that too," she corrected herself. "Of course I'm worried about the Vampire thing. But that's not what I wanted to talk about." She turned to give him a stern look, pointing at him accusingly with the spoon. "It's about Crawford-san. You two got in a fight again, didn't you?"
Ran scowled at the American's name and turned away abruptly. He reached for the sesame bread and angrily began chopping off large chunks, setting them on a plate. "I don't want to talk about that idiot," he said shortly. It's none of your business, Aya." He regretted the words the moment they left his mouth.
"None of my business??" Aya's voice went up a notch in outrage. "I'm your sister- it is SO my business! Will you quit being stubborn about this and just talk to him??"
Ran winced, waving a hand hastily to shush her. "Aya-chan," he hissed, embarrassed. This would be perfect timing for that smug bastard to waltz in. If that happened, he would sink into the floor boards. "Stop it," he snapped quietly. "Aya-chan, just drop it, OK? It's not important. You don't know what's going on."
"Oh, don't I?" She faced him fully, hands on her hips, and offered him a slightly watered-down version of the famous Fujimiya death glare. "Ran, I'm not that stupid. And you can't be so stupid as to think this is 'nothing'. Why do you keep pushing him away? Crawford-san isn't like Schuldich. And he isn't Schwarz anymore. You know he can be a decent man, so the problem can't be that you still hate him." She pointed at him accusingly. "You're afraid."
He turned on her, and twin pairs of amethyst eyes met and clashed with heated glares. "I'm not afraid of that arrogant murderer," he snarled. "But you don't understand the way that man thinks, Aya. This is all a game to him. Once he wins and gets the trophy, he'll be satisfied and he'll drop it for a new conquest. And while I'd rather it be me than you that's the focus of his sick little game, I for one do not appreciate being a prize!"
"You're wrong, and you know it," she said in exasperation. "He doesn't look at you like a..."
Abruptly Aya realized two things at her brother's heated words.
First, that even now, Ran referred to the other man as a 'murderer'. That was the biggest difference between her brother and Crawford-san. Ran regretted the killing he'd done, the blood on his hands. He hated who he'd become. Crawford had no such regrets.
And secondly, she'd hit the nail right on the head with her accusations.
Her brother was afraid.
She stared at him silently for a long moment, the anger fading from her face. Crawford had been actively wooing and seducing Ran for just a little over five months now. He was persistant, but never aggressive in his pursuit of her brother. Yes, the two of them still bitched at each other sometimes, and there were moments when the American went out of his way to push the redhead's buttons, just for shits and giggles. But if that wasn't enough to confuse the hell out of her poor brother, there was his chivalry to think about.
Yohji had once recounted, with a wicked grin on his face, Crawford's defense of the stone-faced swordsman when Talon had attempted to use her brother as a hostage. How he had fought the Hunter one-on-one to defend her brother's pride, and had won with fists alone. Even though her brother was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, with or without his Gift.
And his knee- she hadn't missed the guilt and confusion that flashed in her sibling's eyes whenever Crawford was having problems with the joint, or was leaning on his cane for extra support. That blow had been meant for her brother. Crawford had stepped in, taking the blow himself that might have killed the other man. It had shattered his kneecap, forcing him to make the slow journey from wheelchair to cane. It was an enormous blow to a man of such pride and strength, to have to depend on a cane simply to walk. Even though there was talk of surgery that would help enough so that he would not require the walking stick anymore, he would still have a permanent limp. He would never be able to run. Standing too long might aggravate the old wound.
And instead of being smug about the whole thing, it was tearing Ran apart.
He was afraid of Crawford's slow but steady advances. But most of all he was afraid of himself. About the way the other man made him feel.
That was why he kept pushing his most determined suitor away.
Ran was staring at her, watching the emotions play across her face. She didn't have to go on a tirade or explain what she was thinking. He saw the surprise, realization, and gentle pity that flashed in her eyes, and figured it out for himself. Partly because, deep inside, he'd already known these things himself.
He turned away from her abruptly and continued to hack at the bread, his shoulders stiff. Aya opened her mouth, then closed it again with a little sigh. She reached out and touched his back gently. "Give him a chance, 'niisan.." she murmured.
He didn't respond, but it didn't matter because just then Crawford stepped into the room, the tap of his cane on linoleum alerting them to his entrance.
Ran gave a little jump and turned at the sound. His eyes landed on the stout staff and then lifted to meet the American's calm stare. Something like pain flashed in the redhead's eyes.
Crawford glanced from Ran to his sister, arching a brow. "Am I interrupting something?" he asked. His gaze wandered towards the stove. "When will dinner be..."
Ran set his knife down, and was across the room in a few long strides. He didn't stop to think, or give himself the chance to change his mind or be embarrassed. Crawford gave a little jolt of surprise as the redhead reached up and placed his palms on the precog's cheeks.
When Ran rose on tiptoe and pressed his mouth to the older man's, Crawford's eyes were wide with shock. The act had been so abrupt and spontaneous, he hadn't had even a glimpse of its coming. By the stove, Aya bit fiercely into her own hand to stop an ecstatic laugh.
It was a quick, chaste kiss, a brief press of mouth to mouth, and then Ran was pulling back, his face bright red, avoiding the older man's stunned stare.
"Dinner will be ready in a few minutes," Aya said cheerfully before one of them could say something stupid and ruin the moment. Turning back to the stove, she began humming happily as she stirred the noodles on the stove.
Ran walked back over to help her, and for an instant the two men's eyes met. Ran's were nervous and embarrassed, and Crawford still looked a little shellshocked.
Then some of the hardness that Ran had grown so accustomed to seeing on the other man's face fell away. "Aa," Crawford murmured. Then he turned and left silently.
A tightness he hadn't even been aware of faded from Ran's chest, and he had to fight to stop himself from smiling when his sister offered him a wild grin of delight.
"Don't even say it," he grumbled.
Aya just laughed happily.

In the other room, Crawford stumbled at the sudden onslaught of a vision.


Someone had called the fucking cops.
Schuldich gave himself a mental kick in the ass as he slammed his car door behind him and stared at the police car pulled up close to the apartment complex. He should've thought of this and come earlier. Someone must have witnessed Yohji's abduction and called 911. This just proved that it had happened at his home.
Sighing, he leaned against his car for a moment and slid a cigarette between his lips. He pulled out the zippo he'd filched from his lover just a few days ago, and lit his cancer stick, taking a few minutes to watch the investigation and paw lazily through the officers' minds.
A male and a female. The male cop was bored and ready to get home to his girlfriend. He was only half paying attention to the witness they were questioning. His partner was much more interesting.
Schuldich let his eyes rake up and down the cop's form in appreciation. This was the sort of woman Kudou might have brought home before the two of them had started living together. Slender waist, a nice bust size, shining golden curls, blue eyes, and full, sultry lips. Her mind was as sharp as a tack, too. She was one smart cookie. Too smart for the simple little disappearance of some random guy. Schuldich dug deeper. Why the interest in this case...?
He almost laughed out loud at what he found. She knew Tsukiyono. Or rather, had met him once, in a bar. Just the other night. Somehow she'd found out he worked at the flower shop, so of course she knew Kudou worked there as well. Now that Kudou had turned up missing, she was investigating. Something to do with returning a favor to Omi- a polite, chivalrous kid in her mind. "Lancelot", she'd called him. Schuldich sneered, lowering his cigarette to exhale a lungful of smoke. Oh, this was going to be rich. He pushed himself away from the car and strolled over. Well he didn't need any nosey cops getting their grubby paws into this mess. He was quite capable of taking care of his lover's disappearance himself. Besides, he had two of the sharpest hackers in Japan at his disposal. What did he need with police records?
The sudden sound of Crawford's voice on the bond startled him. Schuldich
Not now, Schuldich snapped mentally, and impatiently cut off the older man.
As he approached, he focused his attention on the male officer- Yoshika Mamorou. Not the brightest crayon in the box. Schuldich was not powerful enough to warp a person's perceptions or thoughts, but he could influence. The dumber the target, the better.
"Hey, Mamorou," he called out loudly. Both cops turned to stare at him as he waved, still walking towards them. He slid hints of familiarity and friendship into the other man's thoughts, easily, carefully, waiting for it to sink in.
After a moment, Mamorou gave a hesitant smile. "Hey.."
"Hey, Simon," the man said hastily, as if afraid the German had caught his hesitance. Where do I know him from? he was thinking frantically, hoping not to make an ass of himself. "Uh.. long time no see."
"Yup." Schuldich transferred his grin to the other officer, for once wishing he had his lover's easy charm and friendly smile. This one- Kiki -was arching an elegant golden brow at him with a polite little smile, waiting patiently for him to finish his converstation and leave them to their investigation.
"So what are you doing around here?" Schuldich asked, sliding his hands in his pockets and continuing to grin at Mamorou as the other man chattered something about "crime scene investigation" and "shouldn't take too long". Inwardly he was digging into the minds of Kiki and the nervous looking witness she had been questioning. Evidently the old woman had been getting into her car when it had happened and she had seen the whole thing. A handful of men had ambushed the blond assassin as he left the building. Unfortunately, she hadn't gotten a good look at their faces. Useless.
Wait. Backtrack.
He frowned slightly as he dug further into the woman's memories. Just before the ambush... he'd caught a flash of a familiar face in her mind's eye.
The bible beater.
He had to stop a scowl. That lunatic he and Kudou had seen the other day- the same one who had pestered Aya -had gone inside just a few minutes before Kudou's abduction. Was he a part of it? The little greaseball was really starting to get on his nerves.
He could sense Crawford's thoughts tinkering at the edges of his shields, and irritably relaxed his guard. What the fuck is so damn impor-
There should be a kevlar vest in the police car, Crawford snapped. Get it and put it on.
A jolt of adrenaline shot through Schuldich at the other man's sharp words. He lashed out at the mind he was currently exploring, and the old woman collapsed in a pitiful heap without so much as a cry of pain. Kiki and Mamorou immediately dropped into a crouch and tried to revive her with exclamations of surprise. Not checking to see if he'd killed the old bat or not, Schuldich strode quickly towards their car and opened the driver side door. He reached down and pulled the lever underneath the seat; the trunk popped open behind him.
"Hey!" It was Kiki, twisting on her toes and already reaching for her gun. "What do you think you're doing?!"
Schuldich ignored her. He went quickly around to the back and found what he was looking for: two kevlar vests nestled in a corner of the trunk. He moved swiftly, ignoring Kiki's shouts, even as she advanced rapidly, gun aimed at his back. Shrugging out of his garish green overcoat, he pulled the vest on and secured the side straps.
He glanced up fleetingly as he bent to retrieve his coat. Kiki was glaring at him furiously from less than a foot away, shoving the barrel of her gun in between his shoulder blades. "Drop the coat," she barked. "Put your hands over your head and straighten up."
"Or what?" Schuldich sneered. "You'll shoot me?" She opened her mouth to respond, but he was already attacking with his inhuman speed. He swept his arm up in a vicious chop that knocked the gun from her hand and sent it skittering under a parked car, and dealt her a heavy backhanded smack that had her stumbling from him. He was vaguely impressed that she neither fell nor cried out as he slid his arms through the sleeves of his coat and tied the sash tightly to hide the sight of the vest underneath. Mamorou was still crouching by the old woman's still form, gaping in shock at him.
All right, genius, now what? Schuldich demanded.
Inside- quick.
Schuldich dashed for the front doors, internally cursing himself for forgetting his gun today. Damn, he was getting careless. And cocky. Usually his Gift and the presence of his team made having a gun pointless.
He cast out with his mind as he burst into the apartment's foyer, looking around quickly. He almost missed what he was looking for because he was so used to the familiar mind riding in the back of his.
A woman getting out of the elevator screamed and ducked, instinctively covering her bewildered child's body with her own. Schuldich whirled, and came face to face with the shining barrel of a glock.
"I was wondering when you'd show up," Yohji said with a wicked little grin. He lowered his head slightly, allowing stylish shades to slide down his nose so he could peer at Schuldich with glittering emerald eyes. "They said you'd come back here."
"Jesus," Schuldich gasped, taking an instinctive step away from the gun. He stared at his lover in baffled surprise. Yohji was wearing unfamiliar clothing: a tight gray shirt, slate-gray slacks, expensive shoes, and dangling silver earrings. The overall effect was a strange mix between professional and hot, and Schuldich's eyes unconsciously carved a path up and down the other man's slender form. "What the hell are you doing?" he snapped angrily, his flash of lust quickly drowning in irritation. "Get that fucking gun out of my face, Kudou."
Yohji cocked his head slightly, and gave a little frown. There was no recognition in his mind at the sound of his name.
The realization crashed into Schuldich's brain an instant before the bullet slammed into his chest.
Yohji's mind was twisted and all wrong. He didn't recognize the name Kudou because that wasn't this man's name. He was no longer Kudou Yohji.
His name was Silk. And he had come here to kill Schuldich.


Farfarello snarled in fury, straining against the chains holding him to the wall, heedless of how the manacles cut into his pale wrists and shred the skin cruelly. His feet scrabbled for purchase as he strove in vain to reach the woman not six inches out of his reach. It was maddening. He envisioned her gory death a thousand times as he struggled mindlessly to get those last few inches and bury his fangs in her face.
Birman's eyes flicked momentarily towards his bonds. "You're sure the chains will hold?"
"They will hold," the Chief of Security behind her said in gruff reassurance. He scowled distastefully at the snarling, bucking man before them. "He's just an animal, after all."
His comment earned him a vicious snarl and a flash of amber as Farfarello aimed a deadly glare his way. The bolts securing the chains to the wall gave a quiet yet ominous creak as the scarred Vampire Lord heaved against them with all his considerable strength.
"He could do this all day," Birman pointed out, prudently taking a step back. She reached up to run her fingers down her burn-scarred face in an unconscious nervous habit. "There's nothing to keep him from doing so- he feels no pain."
"I still say we should take him out," the Chief grunted with a dark scowl. "He's no use to us alive; he's a constant threat. Why not just kill the bastard?"
"I've already gone over this with your people," Birman snapped impatiently. "We need him as bait. And I still think he could make a valuable addition to the team."
"Then why not just warp his mind and get it over with?" the bulky man demanded. "Is your precious Eraser so afraid of this brat that he won't come close enough to touch him?"
That was part of it, but Birman wasn't about to admit that. "If we used him as bait and he was already warped, the Mastermind would know. That's why we wait until Silk has killed him. Besides, Farfarello's mind is still so twisted that even Souma has a hard time working with it. There's no telling if Iragadachi-sama will succeed."
Farfarello's fangs cut gashes in his lips and gums as he gnashed his teeth in mindless fury. They were planning to kill Schuldich, and there was nothing he could do about it. His sanity had been plunging with the absence of blood, the conditions, and his own rage. He dug his heels into the blood-spotted dirt floor and heaved against his restraints with all his remaining strength. Muscles bulged, tendons strained, and blood leaked down his arms in streams, until at last the bolts gave one last scream of protest and snapped from the walls.
Birman managed to duck in time, but one of the flailing chains caught the Chief of Security upside the head, and he fell with a grunt of pain.
"GUARDS!" Birman shrieked, scrambling out of the Berserker's way. "Put him down!"
The cell door slammed open and half a dozen guards spilled in, aiming their stun guns at the pale man. Farfarello gave an inhuman snarl and rushed them, swinging his chains with blurring speed and cutting down any who came too close. Birman watched in horrified fascination from where she was huddled in the corner as Farfarello took down all six guards in a frighteningly short time. Shuddering and panting, he seized one of the men by the collar and lifted him bodily. His victim gave a gurgled scream as fangs sank into his throat.
"Fuck," Birman cursed softly, and melted into the wall behind her. Sliding through the concrete, she stumbled into the hall and took off running for backup.
Farfarello drank every last drop from the limp man in his grasp, then tossed the body scornfully aside. Life sang in his veins, and he felt a rush of adrenaline shoot through his body. Unnoticed, the horrible wounds on his wrists began to heal themselves. Digging through the unconscious Chief's pockets, he found the keys and quickly unlocked the hated chains. After a moment of hesitation, he wound them around his arms to use as weapons, and dashed out of the open door.
He met little resistance- the guards hadn't had time to call for backup. This time he paid careful attention to where he was going, his single golden eye darting about for an exit sign. He almost rushed right by the stairs in his hurry. Taking them two at a time, he went up three flights and reached the main hallway. Using all his skill as an assassin, he flitted through the building like a shadow, taking out anyone he came across. He passed the hated interrogation room where they had first taken him, and then he was at the main entrance. The security guards there were no problem, and he killed them brutally, even as the alarm began blaring, red lights flashing above the front desk. A metal gate began rattling down to cover the door, and he rolled underneath it just in time.
Harsh sunlight flooded his vision, and he hissed with reflexive pain, squinting his eye closed and lifting his arm to shield it from the light. Blinking rapidly to adjust to the sudden transition from darkness to sunlight, he cast about until he spotted a nearby humvee. A vicious fanged smile flashed across his scarred face.
Farfarello was free!

Author's Notes: A glock is a gun, for those of you that didn't know (*cough* mami). However, whether I spelled it right or not is beyond me o_O;;


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