Ch. 2: "The Awakening"

Notes: Yes, I know the series ended differently. But you know me, I always gotta tweak the story line... =pp so I guess this is kinda AU. I mess a lot with the concept of the story. ^.^; Those with weak stomachs, don't proceed. *Sweatdrop*
Disclaimer: WK does not belong to me. Neither do the lyrics that proceed each chapter- they're taken from various songs from the "Queen of the Damned" soundtrack. Don't sue. =pp

You fell away
What more can I say?
The feeling's evolved
I won't let it out

I can't replace
Your screaming face
Feeling the sickness inside

Aya screamed.
"Manx," Yohji growled, coming up quickly behind Ken, a wild look in his eyes. "Tell your gorilla to back the fuck off or I'm going to kick his ass."
"Stay still," Manx repeated sharply.
"Manx-san," Omi cried fearfully.
"Quiet," Manx said softly, watching the whole horrible scene. "He isn't going to kill him. Just watch."
Aya's eyes opened, visible between Ryo's thick fingers, and their amethyst depths flashed, fury overiding the pain in them. He reached out and grabbed Ryo's arm in a tight grip.
Ryo's sleeve erupted in flames.
"Shit!!" Yohji cursed, leaping backwards. Omi was already jerking the fire extinguisher from the wall.
Ken gaped as Ryo released Aya and stepped back, calmly thumping his arm against his pants to quench the flames. Aya slumped to the ground on his hands and knees, trembling like a leaf and breathing harshly. Omi ran up then and turned the extinguisher on Ryo's arm, and Ken stumbled to Aya's side, dropping to his knees and seizing the slender man's shoulders. "Aya! Daijabou ka??" he asked frantically.
Aya didn't answer, his whole frame shaking.
Yohji turned on Manx. "What the fuck was that?" he demanded loudly. "What's going on??"
Aya reached up weakly to push Ken away, and Ken instinctively flinched back from the touch, heart pounding madly. He looked to Manx quickly, echoing Yohji's question. "What's going on here?!"
Manx sighed, waving a hand in front of her face to ward off the residue of the extinguisher. "Ryo awakened Aya's Gift," she said simply.
Aya lifted his head to glare at her from behind ragged bangs, face flushed and teeth clenched. He was still breathing hard, and Ken laid a hand almost protectively between his shoulder blades.
Yohji's eyes were hard as glass as he glared at Ryo, who ignored him and gazed calmly down at Aya.
"Gift?" Omi repeated, frowning uneasily, still holding the extinguisher. Ken flicked him a glance. Obviously the small boy was ready to use it as a weapon if worse came to worse.
"Calm down," Manx said calmly, crossing her arms over her chest again. "Let me explain."
"You'd better," Yohji growled.
Manx lifted an eyebrow at him in silent reprimand of his disrespect, but let it pass after a moment. "It's what I mentioned before," she said, watching Aya as he sat up carefully and leaned against the wall. "The reason you were hired in the first place. You all had the seeds of a Gift inside of you. Birman sensed it and recommended you; your individual talents as fighters only finalized the desicion."
"What do you mean 'Gifts'?" Ken interrupted. He looked at Aya nervously. "Just now... that weird fire.."
"Aya did that," Manx finished for him, and was met by incredulous looks. She shrugged a shoulder. "You have another explanation?" When no one offered a comment, she continued, "Ryo has a Gift much like Crawford of Schwarz in that he can see things that will happen in the future. Only he can see things that may happen much further down the road. He can also channel his energy into another person with a sleeping Gift and awaken it. That's what he just did to Absynnian. I'm sorry it was so painful, Aya, but he just released something that's been dormant your whole life. It's sure to hurt somewhat at first."
"What are you babbling about?" Aya growled quietly, glaring at her. "I didn't do that."
"Don't sink into denial, Aya," Manx said, unfazed. "You know you did it. You grabbed him with the intention to hurt, to kill. Your Gift, newly awakened, responded. You had to have felt it."
Aya glared furiously and said nothing.
"Wait just a damn minute," Yohji snapped, cutting the air with his hand. "You're saying all four of us have some kind of Gift? Like Schwarz?" He said the name like a curse.
Manx nodded silently.
"That's bullshit," Yohji snarled.
Manx straightened, fixing him with a cool stare. "That's enough, Balinese," she said crisply. "You saw it happen. Quit acting difficult and accept it."
"But why now?" Omi asked, looking helplessly from Manx to Aya. "If we do have these 'Gifts', why are you making us see them now? We've done fine so far without ever knowing about them."
Ryo spoke for the first time in a deep, gravely voice, his cold eyes sweeping over them all. "That's because you haven't come up against anything that you couldn't handle before. Schwarz was a problem at first-- we thought for awhile we'd have to awaken your own Gifts so you could counter them, but Schwarz has always seemed to prefer that you live, in the end. So it wasn't necessary."
"So you're saying now there's a bigger threat?" Ken guessed with a frown, his hand on Aya's shoulder. Aya either didn't notice the touch or was ignoring him; he didn't shrug him off.
Ryo nodded.
"You're going to have to learn to control it," Manx said, speaking to Aya. "It's a part of you; just like learning how to control your bladder or keep yourself from hitting someone, you're going to have to learn to keep your Gift under tight control so that you don't use it unconsciously. That could be very dangerous."
Ken thought suddenly of Aya's nightmares and shuddered. If Aya unconsciously used this new Gift in his sleep...
"Schwarz had a lifetime to perfect their Gifts," Manx said. "You don't have that long."
"How long do we have?" Yohji asked shortly.
Manx shrugged slightly. "I'm not sure. A few weeks perhaps."
"Just what is it that's so dangerous?" Omi asked keenly.
Manx laughed mirthlessly. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Birman will brief you when you've all had time to get your individual Gifts under control." She nodded to Yohji. "Come here, Balinese. It's your turn."
Yohji stiffened, glaring at Ryo, then glanced towards Aya and stepped slowly forward. Ryo reached out calmly and wrapped his big hand around Yohji's face.
Yohji flinched violently, gritting his teeth, but he didn't make a sound. He stood there shaking for a moment before Ryo finally released him. Yohji stumbled back, collapsing onto the couch and holding his head in his hands. Omi hurried to him and touched him cautiously on the shoulder.
"What about him?" Ken asked in a voice that shook a little, looking at Yohji closely.
"You mean what's his Gift?" Manx shook her head. "Who knows? He'll discover it soon enough. Your turn, Siberian."
Ken swallowed hard and rose to his feet with a supreme effort. Aya grabbed his ankle, and he stopped, startled. Aya shook his head at him, lips a thin line.
"Let him go, Aya," Manx said sharply.
Ken hesitated, then pulled away and walked over to Ryo, gritting his teeth.
Ryo reached out without hesitation and seized his face in his calloused hand.
A jolt went through Ken, and immediately he felt as if his brain had shattered. He gave a sharp cry and grabbed the big man's wrist, trying in vain to pull free. Hot waves of pain washed through him, and his palms began to burn sharply, as if being pricked by thousands of needles. He cried out again, feeling his knees buckle. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't see. The world was exploding in bursts of white pain.
Then Ryo pulled his hand away, and the light from the overhead light stabbed into Ken's eyes. Breath slammed into his lungs and he gasped, falling bonelessly to the floor. He clutched at the carpet as the room rocked around him, and dimmly he could hear Omi's concerned voice calling to him.
He felt like he huddled there for hours, gasping in deep lungfuls of air as the room swayed and the pain in his head throbbed like a jackhammer. But eventually even that began to fade, and he pushed himself backwards, landing heavily on his bottom. He hissed at the dull pain in his hands and clenched them into shaking fists, squinting blearily up at the huge man towering over him.
Ryo was inspecting his arm with a raised eyebrow. Manx frowned a little and strode over to look at where Ken had grabbed Ryo's arm in an attempt to wrench free.
Surprise flickered across her face and she gave a low whistle. She turned a wry smile on Ken. "Looks like we have a Healer on our hands."
"What?" Yohji's voice was weak.
Manx pointed to Ryo's arm. "The burn marks Aya gave him are gone," she said simply.
Ken blinked dumbly and opened his fists, staring at his tingling palms. Healer? What the fuck?
"All right, Bombay," Manx said almost cheerfully. "Come on."
"No-" For some reason the thought of the petite blond going through that shattering pain was unbearable. Ken struggled to rise, and the room swayed again. Ryo reached out and nudged him with a boot, and he toppled backwards again.
Omi hestitated, looking frightened, then clenched his jaw and stepped slowly towards the big man.
Ken couldn't bear to watch. He twisted onto his stomach and grabbed fistfuls of the carpet helplessly. He clenched his teeth at Omi's scream, wanting to break something, wanting to break Ryo's face with his fist. But he felt pathetically weak; he could barely move without the room spinning. His gaze rose, and he locked eyes with Aya, still leaning against the wall. Aya's eyes were dark with a smouldering anger, his jaw flexing. He wasn't looking at Omi either. Every time the younger boy screamed Aya's fists dug into his legs. A tongue of fire flickered on Aya's arm, then another one in between his fingers.
"Aya," Yohji said sharply. Omi quieted at that instant, and Ken turned quickly to catch him as he collapsed in his lap.
Aya's jaw clenched almost hard enough to shatter teeth, and slowly the flickering flames faded.
"Very good, Aya," Manx murmured, watching him carefully. "Learn to control it."
Aya looked up at her slowly, his face a mask of tightly controlled fury. "Get out," he said, his tone hard as steel.
Manx looked ready to berate him, but Ryo turned to go. "Our job is done here," he grunted. "They should get some rest and be alone."
Manx frowned, then turned on her heel to follow the big man. "Don't open the shop tomorrow if you don't feel up to it," she called over her shoulder. "You must learn to control your Gifts. We'll be checking on you periodically. Good luck, Weiß."
Then she and Ryo were gone.
Ken held Omi's trembling form and looked from Yohji to Aya.
Yohji was lying limply on the couch, glaring up at the ceiling in cold silence. Aya took a deep breath in an attempt to keep his temper under control and reached up to grab the edge of the desk where Omi did his hacking, using it as support to pull himself slowly and painfully to his feet. "Yohji." His voice was quiet, drained.
Yohji turned his eyes to regard Aya.
"Can you stand?"
Yohji hesitated, then sat up slowly and rose to his feet carefully.
Aya gestured to Omi's huddled form. "Carry him to his room. Put him to bed."
Yohji strode over and wordlessly gathered Omi's small form in his strong arms, cradling him gently against his chest, dark emotions still flashing in his eyes. Ken pushed himself to his hands and knees and accepted the hand Aya offered. As he leaned on the older man for strength and regained his feet, Omi lifted his head, and the four assassins looked at each other in grim silence for a long moment.
Then they turned silently and ascended the staircase one by one. Whatever was going to happen tomorrow was a mystery that scared each of them to some extent. But for now that didn't matter. They were there for each other; they understood what each had gone through, and knew what would happen if they couldn't learn to control the 'Gifts' that had been awakened.
Whatever happened, they clung to this fact almost desperately as they each retired to their rooms to fall into a deep sleep devoid of dreams.


It was evening.
Farfarello sat on the floor, playing idly with one of his knives, his single golden eye following the movements of his self-proclaimed 'leader'.
Crawford was speaking to them about the new employer they had acquired now that they were free of Taketori. The Beserker was only half listening, more intent on the fluid way his teammates moved, on the nearly inaudible, soft thumping of their heartbeats.
"Evidently someone is going around tearing Hashikata's men to shreds," Crawford was saying calmly. That got Farfarello's attention. Crawford flicked him a look. "Much like the way Farfarello rips into his victims," he added.
Farfarello said nothing, sticking the tip of his blade in his mouth and gazing calmly up at the older man.
Crawford turned his gaze away, and Farfarello allowed his eye to drift towards the lanky man sprawled on the couch. The Mastermind. The man who had piqued Farfarello's interest from the beginning with his casual indifference to the madman's perverse pleasures and his mocking laughter that rang out when he killed.
"Maa~" Schuldich sighed, looking unimpressed. "Just what does he want us to do about it? Send Farf out to track down this lunatic?"
Farfarello chewed slowly on his blade, intrigued at the notion.
Nagi gazed impassively at Crawford from where he was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, also waiting for an answer.
"One man?"
Everyone turned to look at Farfarello when he spoke. The Irishman looked sideways at Crawford from under a hooded lid. "One man?" he repeated tonelessly.
Crawford shook his head slightly. "No one knows; anyone who's seen this murderer hasn't lived to tell about it. It could be one man like yourself, it could be a team. Who knows?"
"And we're supposed to find out?" Schuldich sighed, running a hand through his wayward bangs. "Ch'. That's cheap. Bodyguards for the bodyguards."
Nagi closed his eyes in tolerance of the loudmouthed man. "It's what we get paid to do," he said in a quiet, inflectionless tone. "You just like to complain."
Farfarello gave a brief, fierce grin of vague amusement. Everyone knew Schuldich enjoyed the sound of his own accented voice, subtly different from the others' because of his German heritage. It was rare that Farfarello displayed his amusement, and Schuldich grinned openly at him in response.
Farfarello liked the cocky man, in his own strange way. "Like" meaning that he might actually hesitate to kill him for pleasure. He was comedic relief, and he seemed to understand the Irishman on some level, or at least accept him. Crawford accepted Farfarello for what he was because it was good for business. Schuldich respected what Farfarello was and did for his own twisted reasons- mostly out of some perverted amusement.
"Well, Farf?" Schuldich drawled, stretching languidly on the couch. "Feel like doing a little hunting?" Nagi opened his eyes partly to glance at the Irishman sideways.
Contrary to what most of their employers believed- what they made sure their employers believed -Farfarello was in no way stupid. People assumed that because he rarely spoke coherantly and because he enjoyed slaughter, he was insane, even slow.
Farfarello was indeed quite mad. But he was not stupid. He spoke little because he chose to keep most of his thoughts to himself. But behind that glittering eye a mind sharpened with years of hard experiences whirred like a timebomb. Everyday he got closer to the crossroads that would either take him into the oblivion of complete bloodlust and insanity or the path Crawford seemed to be nudging him towards: an intelligent if deadly weapon able to fight off his own impending dementia.
Farfarello flicked Crawford a brief look, a silent question.
The tall American reached up to push his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, looking unconcerned. "You can track him if you want," he agreed. He held up a finger, dark eyes stern. "But I'm warning you, Farfarello... You hunt only this man. No going out of your way to massacre a group of people."
"I need to eat," Farfarello pointed out in a calm voice.
Crawford lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "I know you only need one a night. That's it. Just one. Other than that, I want you to concentrate on finding the man that's killing Hashikata's men. If you disobey me," his tone hardened, "you'll be locked in your room without food for whatever time I deem necessary. Is that understood?"
Farfarello rose gracefully to his feet, knife whirling in a blurring pattern in between his fingers. The look he turned on the taller man was a steady, almost piercing look that spoke volumes. Without a word, the Berserker strode out of the room and out into the cool evening to begin his Hunt.

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