||Chapter 5||
"The Jackal"

Omi sighed as he played idly with his Coke, watching his charges out of the corner of his eye. Aya had told him of her dilemma, and he had suggested a different approach to the bodyguard position he'd agreed to. Insted of hovering like a mother hen around her group, he would sit somewhere closeby, and let the girls have their fun. That way he wouldn't be butting into her "girls' night out", but he would still be close enough to keep an eye on her. He didn't mind watching after Ran's sister, but he did wish Nagi was there with him. He was bored. But his dark haired lover had a test to study for, and Omi wasn't about to drag him away from his studies for a few dances and a drink. That would be selfish.
Aya and her three girl friends were huddling over their drinks, giggling and eyeing the males in the club. He'd been surprised to see them with the alcohol- Aya was older than her school friends, but still not old enough to drink. Evidently her friend Umi knew the bartender. He'd considered putting a stop to it, but they weren't drinking much, and he didn't want to embarrass Aya. He would just have to put up with Ran's wrath if his little sister suffered a hangover tomorrow.
A woman seated herself beside him suddenly, smiling at him with cherry-red lips as she pulled a cigarette from its pack. She crossed her legs, showing off an indecent amount of thigh in her short skirt. Omi managed a polite if watery smile.
"Hey, sweety," the woman greeted in a throaty voice. She tossed her blond curls out of her face with a flick of her head before placing the cigarette between her lips. "Aren't you a little young to be here?"
Omi shrugged slightly. "I'm not drinking or anything. I just like the music." He smiled innocently.
"Uh huh." The woman's eyes turned towards his Coke can. "You sure that's just Coke?" she teased.
"Un." He offered it. "You can taste it if you like."
To his surprise, she took him up on the offer, taking the can from him and sipping at it before handing it back with a friendly nod. "Good boy. So..." She set an elbow on the bar and took a long drag from her cigarette. "See any girls you like?"
Omi laughed lightly. "I'm not here to look for girls," he said. "I'm already in a relationship. I'm actually waiting for my friends to meet me here."
"I see." The woman's blue eyes were shining with mirth as she lifted her martini for a sip. She wasn't buying it. Sharp and beautiful. Yohji would have called that a dangerous combination. But Omi was a little impressed.
She offered a finely manicured hand. "I'm Kiki. Mind if I keep you company for a little while? I'm waiting on someone as well."
Her grip was firm, and her palm was a little calloused. Omi liked her more. "I'm Omi."
"Pleased to meet you, Omi," she murmured, smiling at him.
Omi glanced towards Aya's table quickly as Kiki took another drink. They were talking to a couple boys that looked a little older than himself. Scooting his chair slightly so that he would be able to see them easier, he chatted with Kiki as they both "waited". But Omi noticed quickly that everytime he was looking back at her after checking on Aya, her eyes were somewhere else. Who was she watching?
A man swaggered over to Aya's table and started talking to them, looking suave and handsome. And definitely out of their league. He was at least Crawford's age. And he was obviously a little drunk. Omi was immediately on the alert. What business did a grown man have chatting up a handful of school girls?
Kiki noticed him looking and turned to see what he was watching so intently.
Omi said quickly, "That guy looks way too old for those girls."
"Yes, he does," Kiki murmured, but her eyes were hooded, and her mouth was set in a serious line. Omi instantly recognized it; he'd seen Schuldich get that way once or twice when he was studying a target. Was that the man she'd been watching?
The other boys who had been talking to Aya and her friends looked a little miffed. The girls were obviously flattered by the handsome older man's attention. Only Aya looked unimpressed. Definately her brother's sister, Omi thought wryly. The man reached out to trace a finger down her jaw, and she jerked her head back.
Omi rose abruptly, but Kiki was also getting to her feet. They both hesitated. "Why don't you order another Coke?" she suggested with a disarming smile. "That man looks my type. I'm going to go see if he wants a drink." She walked towards the table with a sway in her step, and Omi hesitated, torn.
The man was asking Aya something, leaning over the table towards her. She leaned back, made a face, and said something that was obviously rude, because the man straightened quickly, his face darkening. Omi started towards them.
Just then Kiki reached them and put her hand on the man's shoulder.
"Hello, Aki," Omi heard her say cheerfully as he approached. "Having fun picking up underage girls again?"
The man turned quickly and gaped at her. Then he swung a fist at her face.
Aya and her friends screamed, and Omi had a dart in his hand in the next instant.
Ducking, Kiki dodged the man's drunken blow. Seizing his arm, she turned and gave a wrench. Her captor howled as she got behind him, still holding his arm. She lifted her leg and pressed her knee ruthlessly between his shoulderblades. He sank to his knees instantly, yelling in pain.
It all happened almost too quickly to follow. Other people were standing up, talking excitedly. Omi stood close by Kiki and watched as she tossed her purse to Aya and said shortly, "Get the handcuffs out of there."
Another man who had hung in the background, watching Aki's moves on the girls with obvious enjoyment, moved forward threateningly. Omi seized him by his collar with one hand, yanking him back. He stopped the man's struggles by pressing a dart against his throat. "Hold still," he suggested quietly.
Startled and obviously a little frightened, Aya dug a pair of handcuffs from the purse and handed them shakily to the stone-faced woman. In a few quick, professional moves Kiki had Aki on his face, and was cuffing his hands tightly behind his back.
"You just fucked up big time, Aki," she informed him cheerily. "You were given strict orders to stay out of clubs, and definitely away from pretty young girls. Looks like your parole is down the toilet, my friend."
Aki offered a few loud, vicious opinions.
Kiki ignored him breezily, hauling him to his feet with a grunt. Glancing up, she caught Omi's eye, and flashed a smile. "Do me a favor, Lancelot. Get these girls home safe, will you?"
Omi nodded mutely. Kiki turned to the man in his grip, arching a brow. "Did you have something to say, sir?"
Omi lowered the dart a little, and his prisoner shook his head quickly. Omi released him with a shove, and stepped over to stand by Aya. Her eyes were shining with adrenaline and admiration as she watched it all.
Kiki gave Aki a push towards the door. "Thanks for the company, Omi," she called over her shoulder with a wink and a smile. "Take care, now."
"Oyasumi," Omi returned quietly.
Aya turned to him as soon as Kiki and her suspect were gone. "You brought a cop?" she hissed.
Omi blinked at her. "No, we just met about ten minutes ago. I didn't even know she was a cop until now."
"Hey, aren't you Tsukiyono-kun from class 3-A?" one of the girls- Momoko -asked.
"I want to go home," Umi said firmly, looking shaken.
Aya glanced from Umi to the rest of the club, and gave a little sigh. "All right. It's almost nine anyway. Let's go."


Aya's friends went home in their car, while Omi gave her a ride home on his moped. She waved goodbye to him as he roared off, and shut the flower shop's back door with a little sigh. Dropping the keys on the counter, she shrugged out of her jacket and folded it over a kitchen chair. She toed off her shoes by the door and walked over to the fridge to get out the juice, still thinking about that night's events.
She had been impressed by the female cop, and seeing Omi in action was an extra bonus. She felt proud to be his friend, and giddy over seeing the policewoman kick the bad guy's ass.
"Oniisan, I'm home," she called as she got a cup from the cabinet. There was no answer.
Pouring herself some juice, she left the carton on the table and opened the door leading to the upstairs rooms, carrying her drink. She walked upstairs, yawning a little. She doubted her brother was in bed already; he tended to wait up for her. His overprotectiveness could be annoying sometimes, but it was also endearing.
She reached for the lightswitch to turn on the hall light, but paused when she heard a curse come from her brother's room. Another voice answered calmly, the words muffled by the door, and she grinned to herself. That was Crawford-san's voice. He must have come over to keep her brother company. Poor Ran. He was so clueless. She cheered Crawford on silently and crept back downstairs. She approved of the American's courting of her skittish brother. Ran needed a relationship, and whether it was a man or a woman didn't make much difference to her, as long as they deserved him. She respected and liked Crawford-san, and thought it was secretly hilarious that her brother was so flustered and confused by his advances. She appreciated that he never pushed too much, but that he was patient and determined enough to woo her fiery sibling.
She shut the downstairs door quietly and seated herself at the table, sipping at her juice and reaching for the paper Crawford-san had left on the table that morning. She would give them some alone time. In about fifteen minutes, either Crawford-san would come calmly downstairs and take his leave, or she would make herself comfortable on the basement couch and snicker to herself with dirty thoughts of what would be going on above her head.
"Hentai," she accused herself ruefully, pulling the comics free from the rest of the paper and spreading them on the table.
There was a familiar squeak, and she looked up curiously as the back door opened a crack, then swung open further after a moment's hesitation. 'I forgot to lock the door,' she thought to herself, then realized a moment later that none of her brother's friends would have walked in like that without knocking or at least trying one of their keys. She sprang for the counter, yanking open a drawer and seizing a chopping knife.
Whirling around with the knife held defensively in front of her, she stared at the man who stepped inside, her heart pounding in her ears.
She didn't know him. The intruder froze just inside the doorway, staring at her in surprise upon seeing her weapon.
The young man couldn't be much older than herself. His short hair was strawberry blond, and slicked back. He had an ordinary face, with a sharp nose and a thin mouth. The most compelling thing about him were his eyes- a sparkling azure that caught the attention and held it. He was wearing a dark gray turtleneck and loose black jeans. He wore a long coat over it all- almost long enough to be a trenchcoat -that looked like genuine leather. Aya recognized the familiar bulge at his side, underneath the coat, and felt her mouth go dry. She'd seen the same shape underneath her own brother's coat.
"Get out!" she shrieked, and hurled the knife like Farfarello had taught her.
The boy hadn't been expecting her to know how to use the knife, much less throw it, and just barely managed to dodge in time. He snarled something in a language Aya thought she recognized, and with a hiss of steel drew a sword from its sheath at his side. But it wasn't a katana like her brother's. This was a western-style blade, and he was holding it like he knew what he was doing.
Aya had already grabbed another knife.
"Whoa whoa, hold it," he protested quickly in heavily accented English.
The door by Aya slammed open, and Ran burst out, looking around quickly. He'd heard his sister's scream and had come. Armed. He spotted the man in the doorway and rushed him, yanking his katana from its sheath and swinging at him.
The stranger hastily brought his own blade up to counter the blow, and Aya jumped at the sound of steel crashing against steel. Crawford arrived an instant later, and pulled Aya back by her shoulders. "Get out of the way," he ordered her sharply.
"Stop!" the boy shouted angrily. "Let me explain-!"
Ran ignored him, slashing again, and they danced around the kitchen thrusting and blocking with their swords.
"Ran," Crawford said loudly, "stop. Let him talk."
The boy leapt clear of one of Ran's slashes and held his blade up quickly over his head with one hand, leaving himself open. "Wait wait!" he shouted.
Ran hesitated, the tip of his blade almost touching the intruder's throat as he snarled, "Who are you? What are you doing here?"
"Ken sent me," the boy said hastily, watching the katana warily. "Will you put that away before you cut my throat for chrissakes??"
"Do it, Ran," Crawford said quietly.
"Drop your sword," Ran growled.
After a slight hesitation, the other man did so. Ran backed up reluctantly and lowered his own blade, though he didn't sheathe it. "Who are you?" he repeated.
Aya looked up quickly as Crawford swayed a little, his eyelids fluttering. He was having a premonition.
"Jackal," the boy said curtly. "Just call me the Jackal. I'm not here to hurt you. Ken sent me."
"Ken?" Aya frowned at him suspiciously. "You don't look like a Vampire."
"I'm not. I'm the Feeder for the Irish Lord- she's my sister."
"There was a meeting tonight with some of the Vampire Lords," the Jackal said impatiently. "The Irish, American, and Japanese Lords. Don't you know anything?"
Ran's blade rose a notch, his eyes hard. "You still haven't told me what you're doing here. And why did you pull your sword on my sister?"
"Because your sister's psycho," the Jackal said bluntly, pointing towards the knife imbedded in the door. "She tried to kill me."
Ran's eyes narrowed. Crawford chuckled quietly, patting Aya on the shoulder approvingly.
The Jackal blew out a sigh, running a shaking hand through his hair. A dozen emotions were warring on his face- frustration and pain among them. "The three Lords were supposed to meet tonight," he explained. "To make alliance. Since Farfarello-sama's new to the job and everything. Alliances have to be reformed everytime a new Vampire Lord takes the throne. But we were ambushed."
Aya had calmed down a little, and felt more secure with her brother and Crawford-san in the room. She was also suddenly afraid for Farfarello and Ken. "Oniisan, please put your sword away. Sit down, Jackal-san. Please tell us what happened."
Ran slowly put his katana away. The Jackal prudently left his own sword on the floor and sank into a chair by the table. He took a deep breath. As he spoke, Crawford translated parts of the English that Ran and Aya couldn't keep up with. "My sister Sarah is- was -the Vampire Lord of Ireland," he said in a carefully controlled voice. "I'm her Feeder. She keeps the other Vampires away from me, and I try to watch her back as much as I can. We arrived here by helicopter. We met the American Vampire Lord- Ryan Park -and were waiting for Farfarello to show up. My sister asked me to go back to the helicopter because she forgot the gift she was supposed to give as a sign of her alliance." He clenched his teeth, his eyes burning. "I got to the helicopter and the pilot was dead. His throat was torn out. I hurried back as fast as I could, but I was too late." He dug his fingers into his hair and closed his eyes tightly. "They killed her. They killed my sister."
"Who?" Ran asked quickly.
The Jackal shook his head jerkily. "I don't know... I'm not sure. It was dark. There were Vampires that I didn't recognize. I guess they were Japanese. At first I thought Farfarello had betrayed us... but they had him. He was unconscious. Ryan Park was surrounded by Vampires. One of them had a human by the throat, so I rushed them. I got the human and we ran, but he didn't want to leave Farfarello. I figured he was the Feeder, and I was right."
"Ken," Aya guessed weakly.
"Yes." The Jackal shuddered. "We just barely got away. We found the American's Feeder nearby, hiding. She was terrified. She was lucky to escape. Ken took her, told me he had to warn the Vampires, and that I had to come to this shop and tell the people I found here what happened." He looked up at them suddenly, glaring at them. "But you're just humans! How can you help?" His voice was strained.
Aya stepped in before either Ran or Crawford could respond. "You've had a really hard time," she said soothingly, her heart going out to him when he glanced towards her with haunted eyes. "Thank you for telling us. You should try to get some sleep. We'll figure something out with Ken-kun. We'll make sure we get the people who did this. You can sleep here if you want," she added without looking to her brother for permission.
Ran started to protest, but Crawford interrupted. "I had a premonition a minute ago," he said quietly. "While you two were busy playing Musketeers."
The Jackal stared at him, nonplussed, but Ran looked up quickly. "What was it?" he demanded sharply.
Crawford shook his head slowly, his face solemn. "It was vague. All I can tell you is you two will cross blades again over Aya-chan."
Ran's eyes turned hard as he looked quickly at the Jackal with obvious distrust.
"Ok," Aya sighed, "maybe you should stay with Ken-kun instead. He'll make sure none of the Vampires touch you if you don't want them to." She said it with more confidence than she felt. With Farfarello gone, how much power and respect did that leave Ken? Would the Vampires turn on him now that Farfarello wasn't there to protect him?
"Actually, I'm supposed to stay here," the Jackal said reluctantly. "Ken ordered me to protect you."
"Me?" Aya asked in surprise.
"She doesn't need your protection," Ran growled, stepping in between them.
"Look, technically Hidaka Ken outranks me," the Jackal pointed out irritably, glaring up at Ran. "Farfarello is stronger than my sister is- was." He swallowed hard at the correction. "And Ken is stronger than Elsie or I. He's a necromancer. So I don't have to take orders from you. In the absense of another Lord or Feeder, Ken is next in line for who I take orders from."
"Who's Elsie?" Aya asked hastily before her brother could explode.
"The American's Feeder."
Crawford-san gave a little sigh, taking off his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose, eyes closed as he warded off a headache. "For tonight stay with Ken. Tell him why- he knows how suspicious Ran is, and it's a good reason to be suspicious. Ran and I can watch Aya for tonight. Tomorrow," he said, glancing at Ran sternly to forestall any arguing, "Schuldich can check you out and make sure you're not lying."
"Who's Schuldich?"
"A telepath," Ran said in an ominous tone. "A strong one. So if you're lying to us, you'd better get up and run now. Because if I find out you sat here and lied to me, I'll run you through and ask questions later."
Aya placed a hand on his arm to calm him.
The Jackal stood abruptly and strode over to his sword. He picked it up and sheathed it in a quick, practiced move. Glancing back at them over his shoulder with obvious scorn, he left without a word.
Aya let out an explosive sigh. Crawford replaced his glasses and gave her a level look. "Well done," he murmured. "You handled that well." Aya felt a shiver of happy pleasure go through her at the precognitive's rare praise. He looked over her head at Ran, and they held a silent argument with their eyes- or perhaps over the bond, she was never sure -before Ran made a noise of disgust and turned away.
"It's late, Aya-chan," he said heavily. "You should go to bed."
She wasn't tired anymore, but she knew better than to argue when her brother was so emotionally worn out. She nodded silently and kissed him on the cheek before hurrying upstairs.

Crawford locked the back door and turned to find Ran scowling at him. "I told you I'd help you watch her tonight," he said calmly. "I'll sleep downstairs if it will make you feel better." There was a spark of amusement to his eyes.
If he'd been hoping the younger man would relent and let him sleep upstairs, he was wrong. "I'll bring you a pillow," Ran snapped. Crawford cut him off as he headed for the door. Ignoring the man's sputtered protests, he looped an arm around the assassin's slender waist and captured his mouth in a slow, deep kiss.
When he finally pulled away, Ran was dangerously close to limp against him, his eyes unfocused. Crawford swallowed his desire with a great deal of difficulty, careful not to let it show on his face how much he was affected by the other man's dazed looks. "Oyasumi," he said with a smug smirk.
Ran gave him a withering look and shoved him roughly aside. He stomped upstairs muttering darkly to himself while Crawford chuckled quietly in the kitchen.


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