||Chapter 8||
"Losing Something Precious"

Omi tapped his pencil against the side of his desk with an impatient glance towards the clock. Just after eleven. He gave a silent sigh and returned his gaze unwillingly to the test before him.
His mind wasn't on the test, however; it was on the meeting Ken had called yesterday morning. He gave himself a mental kick in the butt for having to be here in the first place on a Sunday morning. It wasn't his fault he'd been on a mission the day his class had taken this test. But he should have tried to get it done earlier. Agreeing to come in on the weekend had been a bad idea. He couldn't concentrate. His gaze shifted towards the teacher seated at the front of the classroom, her own eyes on the clock. She didn't want to be here any more than he did.
He gave another sigh and forced himself to focus on his paper. Just five more questions...
He glanced up instinctively at the familiar brush at his mind. Nagi?
I just got a message from Crawford. Something's happened. Are you almost done?
Omi looked over to the window, and spotted his slender lover in the schoolyard below, leaning against a tree and gazing up at him solemnly. Just a few more questions. Is something wrong?
The teacher cleared her throat, and Omi hastily returned his eyes to his paper, scribbling nonsense in the margin to make it look like he was working.
I'll wait until you're finished, Nagi said. Otherwise you'll never be able to concentrate. I'll meet you here when you're done.
Hai He reached up to touch his temple with a small wince. Schuldich's bond made sure they were able to communicate with each other without words, but without the German being an active member of the conversation, it gave the others headaches. Telepathy just didn't come naturally to them.
He answered the next two questions, then got impatient and put down glib answers for the remaining ones. He handed in his paper to the relieved looking teacher, hiked his bag over his shoulder, and hurried out. He would probably get less than an A on the test, but that didn't matter to him right now. Nagi wouldn't have sought him out when he knew about the test and interrupted him unless it was important. He fairly flew down the steps, eager to hear the news and see his dark-haired lover.
Nagi was still waiting for him under the tree, and offered one of his small, quiet smiles when Omi came jogging over. They ducked around the tree, out of sight of any faculty still in the building, and Omi captured his partner's mouth in a quick kiss before the other could say anything.
Nagi gave a small laugh when Omi pulled back, his eyes dancing with amused affection. "Happy to see me?" he murmured.
Omi rolled his eyes, leaning his shoulder against the tree. "So did you just come here to distract me?" he demanded.
Nagi gave the hint of an impish grin, but it dissolved almost as quickly as it had appeared, giving him the serious, impenetrable face that he wore on missions. "Bad news from Hidaka," he announced. "Let's go back to the flower shop, and I'll fill you in there. It's closer than home."
Omi nodded, pulling his keys from his pocket. "How'd you get here?"
"We'll take my bike. C'mon."


Schuldich was being predictably obnoxious.
Ken offered the German a heartfelt glare as the smirking German leaned against the back of his couch, damp hair slung over one shoulder and trailing water down his bare chest. His long, denim-clad legs were crossed at the ankles, his feet bare. He'd taken a shower, and he no longer looked like a 'drunken slob' as Crawford had put it. But trust Schuldich to be literal. Now he just looked like a lazy slob. And a sultry one. To make it worse, Schuldich was flirting.
With everyone.
That was more proof than anything else that he and Yohji were on the rocks after all. Ken heaved an internal sigh of aggravation. He was not in the mood for Schuldich's antics.
Neither was Crawford. He fixed his teammate with a cool stare, his voice sharp. "Are you in heat, Schuldich?" he demanded.
Schuldich laughed. "You're just jealous," he jeered. He turned his unwanted attention on Ran, who looked icy and inpenetrable. "Aren't you giving him any, pyro?"
Ran's face turned crimson with fury and humiliation. His hand flew to his sword, and Aya had to seize his wrist hastily to stop him from drawing it on the smirking telepath. Crawford, who was closer, made no such move to stop the swordsman from running his partner through.
"Quit fucking around, Schuldich," Ken snapped impatiently. "Keep your libido in check for five minutes and check him out." He gestured to the Jackal, who had been watching Schuldich with barely veiled surprise and disgust.
"I did check him out," Schuldich said in a tone that meant he wasn't doing the 'checking out' Ken had meant. "Nice eyes."
Crawford's mouth tightened.
"So, Jackie, I hear you saved soccer punk's ass," Schuldich said airly, correctly judging that he'd pushed it as far as he could without risking bodily injury. He straightened, crossing his arms over his bare chest and looking the Jackal up and down. His eyes went slightly unfocused as he dug through the young man's recent memories and thoughts. The others watched in silence. The Jackal shifted uncomfortably, unsure exactly what was going on. Aya offered him a small, encouraging smile.
After a few minutes of this intense scrutiny, Schuldich abruptly turned and strode towards his kitchen.
"What are you doing?" Ran demanded.
"I'm hungry," Schuldich said over his shoulder as if it should have been obvious. "I'm getting something to eat."
"Well?? What did you find out?" Ken asked angrily.
Crawford gave a slight shake of the head, and Ken realized belatedly that Schuldich's relaxed manner could only mean the Jackal didn't intend to harm them.
"That's right, scarface," Schuldich called from the kitchen. "Boy, aren't we the quick one."
The Jackal looked understandably confused. "What's going on?"
Schuldich appeared in the kitchen doorway with a can of dill pickles. He was munching on one with a glint of sardonic amusement to his eyes. Ran made a face at the snack. "You pass, sonny," he said dryly. "You're as clueless about the whole thing as Ken-ken here. You'll help us because it's what your sister would have wanted. You'll protect Ken if you can, or Aya if his order still stands." He waved half a pickle arily. "He's clean," he assured the others.
Ran frowned, debating internally. "But what about Crawford's premonition?" he pointed out. "He said we would fight again."
Schuldich looked to the American, brow arched in question.
Crawford gave a slight shrug. "It was vague," he admitted. "Perhaps you two will have to pretend to fight at one point to fool others."
Ran still looked unconvinced. Aya turned to the Jackal with a sunny smile, determined to bring the heat off of him. "Excuse me, is it ok if I call you by something else? I mean.. is the Jackal the only name you have?"
The Irishman hesitated, then relented grudgingly, "It's Tomás. But I'd rather you just called me the Jackal."
Aya blinked. "All right, if that's what you want," she agreed.
"Welcome to Tokyo, Tomás Hannigan," Schuldich said with a derisive sneer. "Too bad you had to visit under such.. odd circumstances."
"Ambush and assassination aren't what I'd call 'odd'," the Jackal snapped, anger making his eyes darken to royal blue. Aya watched, fascinated despite herself.
He caught her staring and turned a Look on her.
"Uh- gomen," she stammered, embarrassed. "It's just... your eyes. They looked like they changed color..."
"They do," Schuldich said around a mouthful of pickle, not bothering to look. He paused for a moment as he lazily dug his answers from the frustrated Irishman's mind. "When he's pissy, they get dark, when he's really happy they're almost sky blue. When he's sad, they're like.." he laughed rudely. "'Like shattered crystal'. Or that's what his sister used to say, anyhow."
"Stop it!!" the Jackal shouted furiously, eyes blazing darkly. His hands flew up to the sides of his head as if he could somehow block the German's mind. "Stay out!!"
"Knock it off, Schuldich," Ran growled. He hated it when the other man dug through his mind; on this, he could sympathize with their new ally.
"I've never heard of that before," Aya said hastily to stop the argument. "Eyes that.. that change color, I mean."
"It's very rare," Crawford observed, looking unruffled and unimpressed. "I've only known one other person to have eyes like that."
"Who?" Aya asked, still watching the Jackal warily out of the corner of her eye. His eyes were still dark. If only Schuldich would stop pestering the poor man..!
Crawford's mouth twitched into a bitter smile. "It doesn't matter," he said dismissively. "I haven't seen it in a long, long time."
Schuldich snorted and popped the rest of the pickle in his mouth.
"Where's Kudou?" Crawford asked abruptly. "We need to update him."
"I don't know," Schuldich said with a casual shrug. His sudden intense scrutiny of the pickle jar in his hands betrayed his unwillingness to talk about the other man. "Sleeping, I'll bet. Lazy bum."
"Pot calling the kettle black," Ken observed.
Schuldich made a face at him.
"I don't care about your spat or whatever it is," Crawford said firmly. "Get ahold of him and fill him in."
Schuldich gave a loud sigh and rolled his eyes in huge exaggeration. "FINE, fine, geeez." He screwed the lid back on the jar and disappeared into the kitchen. A few moments later he returned, sans pickle jar. He gave a shrug. "He's not answering. He's passed out. Told you he was lazy."
"Well, wake him up," Ran snapped.
Schuldich slowly shifted his gaze towards the redhead and arched a brow. His smile was chilling. "Anything else, sir?" he asked in a voice dripping with honey.
"I'll call him," Aya said a little louder than necessary, interrupting. She flicked her brother a warning look that clearly said Leave Schuldich Alone, and picked up the phone. Sulking, Schuldich told her the number, and she dialed it.
All eyes were on her as she stood with one hand on her hip, the other holding the phone to her ear. After a moment she blinked and turned a puzzled look on the others. "It says the phone's no longer in service or has been disconnected..."
"He forgot to pay his phone bill," Ran guessed.
"No." Schuldich frowned. "We-- He just paid it last week." He strode over and took the phone, placing it to his own ear. He listened for a few moments, his frown darkening. Finally he hung up and shifted his unfocused gaze to the far wall.
"Did he mention any plans?" Crawford asked Ran.
The swordsman shook his head. "Nothing unusual."
"Just how many of you are there?" the Jackal demanded a little warily. "What are you, anyway?"
Ken looked at him for a second before answering. "Assassins."
The Jackal's mouth moved in the beginnings of a smile, obvious disbelief on his face. Then he glanced towards Ran, who was watching him coldly, hand resting on the hilt of his sword. His smile faded. "Jesus."
"Take your pick- Vampires or Assassins," Ken said quietly.
"But- you're all human, right?" the Jackal's eyes narrowed slightly. "You have some connections with Vampires. And you're assassins. But I still don't see how you expect to face up against a bunch of Purebloods who could benchpress a Toyota."
"They all have Gifts," Aya piped up defensively. "And they can fight! They're not weak-"
"Aya," Ran murmured. She subsided a little sulkily.
"We can take care of ourselves," Crawford assured the Jackal with an unamused little smirk. "For the most part."
Schuldich muttered a German curse, and all eyes were instantly on him. He faced them with a scowl. "He's unconscious, all right," he said, "but not asleep. Not naturally, anyway. I should have been able to drag him out of it. Especially this late in the morning."
"Something's wrong?" Aya asked, alarmed.
"They're moving," Crawford murmured, his eyes hooded. "They're acting quicker than I thought they would."
Ken took a calming breath and crossed his arms over his chest. Without quite meaning to- without realizing it -the others glanced towards him to hear if he had an opinion or a plan. He was too upset to really notice it. If he had, it would have thrown him for a loop. Hidaka Ken was not one that people typically turned to for guidance. It was people like Ran, Crawford, and Manx that these killers had come to expect leadership from. But Ken had changed in the last five months. He'd had to, to survive. He had also had more dealings with the Vampires. The Jackal had perhaps more experience with Vampire politics, but he was new. And he didn't know about them or their Gifts.
Or of their suspicions about the group Rosenkreuz.
"I told the Vampires last night what had happened. They're not all happy about me being in charge- even if it's only temporary -but they're too afraid of Farfarello to do much about it. They have no way of telling if he's alive or dead yet." Ken paused to fight back the pain that statement caused. He knew Farfarello wasn't dead. But for how long? "The Purebloods in the caves are outnumbered, so they're keeping a low profile. I've sent some spies out to try and figure out what's going on- who's behind it and all. I'll let you know if we find anything out. If it is Rosenkreuz, and if they got to Yohji, I think we should be prepared for another 'Salem' incident." He glanced towards Schuldich. "If it's Vampires, then I don't know how much longer he'll be alive. Let's hope they're going to try to use him as leverage, because for that they'll need him alive."
Aya's fingers clenched and unclenched helplessly by her sides as she stared at Ken with wide eyes. Her brother's comforting hand on her shoulder kept her from blurting out anything thoughtless.
Schuldich's face was twisted in a failed effort to hide his warring anger and frustration. "Ch'!" He spun on his heel and stalked out of the room. Crawford watched him go silently.
The Jackal's azure eyes darted around the room to each of them in turn, his mouth turned in a frown as he tried to pin down the underlying emotions on the air and analyze them with what he was hearing. After a long moment of awkward silence, he cleared his throat and turned an expectant look on Ran. "Can I have my sword back now?"
Ken blinked and stared at him. Ran scowled darkly.
"He told you I've been telling the truth," the Jackal reminded him, tilting his head in the direction the German had gone. "How am I supposed to protect the girl without my sword?"
"Maybe I don't want you 'protecting' her," Ran pointed out in a growl.
"Don't be difficult," Crawford murmured.
"It's all right," Aya said hastily.
Ran looked irritated. "No, it's not all-"
"Excuse us," Crawford said politely. He seized Ran by the arm and limped from the room breezily, dragging his highly offended partner with him.
"Let go of me," Ran hissed angrily as Crawford pulled him into the kitchen. He tugged at his arm, but hesitated before giving a firmer wrench. He didn't want to jar Crawford and make the cane slip.
Crawford released him and turned to face him solemnly, both hands resting on the top of his cane. "Don't let that one vision warp how you see the Jackal," he said firmly. "For all you know, he could save Aya's life by being her bodyguard."
"And what if you're wrong?" Ran demanded, jabbing a finger angrily in the taller man's chest and glaring at him heatedly. "What if he betrays Ken, and turns on Aya-chan? Like in your vision. I'm not going to make a mistake now that could get her killed later!"
The corner of Crawford's mouth quirked just the slightest before he controlled it. "You're being difficult," he said in a monotone.
Ran's eyes narrowed in supsicion. "What are you grinning about?" he demanded.
Realizing he'd been caught, Crawford chose not to lie. His mouth turned in a slow smirk. "It's amusing seeing you get so ruffled, Abysinnian."
Ran's eyes widened slightly in a mixture of surprise and anger. Before he could explode, the American reached out and touched his fingers to the redhead's cheek. Ran turned his head aside hastily to avoide the carress, his jaw tightening. Crawford sensed the sudden rigidity and dropped his hand.
"Why do you do that?" Ran demanded quietly from behind clenched teeth, face still averted. "Why can't you just leave me alone?"
Crawford arched a brow. "Do you want me to leave you alone?"
Ran's head snapped around as he glared up at the American. "Of course I-"
Strong fingers seized his chin, and then the Oracle had captured his mouth in a slow, deep kiss that raised goosebumps on Ran's arms and sent a jolt through his middle. After a moment he tried to push the other man away in a half-hearted attempt, and was a little surprised when Crawford released him instead of stubbornly drawing him closer like he usually did.
"Very well," the American murmured, his mouth set in a hard line. He walked away, cane tapping on the floor. Ran watched him go in bewilderment.
What the hell??


Omi ran his hands fretfully through his thick hair as he leaned back in his desk chair with a heavy sigh. "So, Farfarello is gone," he murmured. "This can't be good for Vampire politics. Poor Ken-kun."
Nagi was leaning over his lover, arms draped around Omi's shoulders as his slender fingers danced on the computer's keyboard. His eyes glowed with the light from the screen.
Omi watched him for a moment, tracing a hand absently up and down the other boy's arm. He glanced up at a muffled knock from upstairs. "I wonder if it's Manx," he mused, slipping away from his lover and the computer. "She said she'd get in contact with us as soon as possible about all of this."
"Here, I'll get it," Nagi offered, stretching. "You're better at firewalls."
"All right." Omi reseated himself, eyes glued to the screen as his partner disappeared upstairs.
"Yosh'," Omi muttered to himself as he worked. "I know there's got to be some information on Rosenkreuz's existence. Surely someone in the underground knows if they're really alive or dead..."
A harsh scream of horror from upstairs caused Omi to leap to his feet, heart pounding. Nagi never screamed. Not unless he was in agony.
"Nagi!!" Omi pounded up the stairs, his darts appearing in his hands like magic.
He skidded to a halt in the kitchen, looking around wildly. His lover was standing by the open back door, his back rigid, his legs shaking slightly. Omi rushed over and grabbed his shoulder, peering outside. "Nagi, what-"
The telekinetic stumbled backwards, pointing downwards with a trembling hand. His eyes were wide, and his mouth was closed tightly to prevent either vomit or another cry.
The smell assaulted Omi an instant before the sight did: an open leather jacket, with entrails piled on top, blood soaking through the material into the ground. There were other indistinguishable bits-- what looked like a toe, an ear... maybe part of a kidney or liver. Omi's stomach flopped, and he had to clap a hand over his mouth swiftly and breathe in through his nose.
"It just- startled me," Nagi gasped, closing his eyes momentarily, quickly regaining part of his composure. He still looked a little pale.
Omi forced himself to crouch, knees shaking, and reached out hesitantly to touch a golden curl atop the mess. Picking it up delicately between thumb and forefinger, he stumbled to his feet, fighting to keep his breakfast in his stomach and the world from swimming.
"Omi?" Nagi's voice sounded far away.
Omi barely heard him. He was staring numbly at the lock of honey-colored hair in his grasp. "Yohji-kun..."

Author's Notes: *flees from flying bricks and rotten eggs* aaaaccccckkkkk don't kill the demented authoress!! X___X;;
...I apologize for the choppiness and overall suckiness of this chapter. I do not apologize for the evil thing at the end. Why? I like makin' you all squirm. XD mwahahah- *gets clobbered by Schu* x_@ itai.


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