Part One: The Kitten Game

// = Flashbacks

    Omi was up before dawn. He stretched, sitting up in bed and looking at the sleeping person beside him. Schuldig's face looked so different in sleep, he noted with an amused smirk. The German looked relaxed and vulnerable. Perhaps Schuldig was not vulnerable to most, but Omi knew that it was only a matter of time before the orange-haired man's weaknesses were made known to him. Just time, and he had plenty of that. After all, he didn't have a job anymore, unlike his ex-teammates.

    His gaze fell upon the kitten that had burrowed itself against Schuldig's other side. After blasting the older man's mind last night he had paused to feed it. A hungry kitten would continue to bother them, and it would be very annoying to be interrupted during sex because of a kitten's yowling or impatient nips.

    He reached over, stroking its head once before sliding out of bed. His and Schuldig's clothes were dropped along the bed, and he fished out what belonged to him. But why wear those clothes when he had a whole closet full of new ones free for the taking? Laughing quietly to himself so as not to wake the other man, he fished through Schuldig's closet. Settling on a pair of tight black pants and a long-sleeved baggy white shirt, he dressed himself quickly. The pants were, of course, too long, and he fished around the room in search of something to trim them with. One of Farfarello's knives was under Schuldig's dresser, blood drying on its metal surface. He seated himself on the floor and sliced at the material.

    He had been lucky last night. Schuldig had been a bit off kilter from his exhaustion, enough that he hadn't been able to react in time to Omi's advance. Add to that the German's pride and arrogance in thinking it would be easy to guard himself against a seventeen year old, and last night had gone well.

    He bundled his clothes up and tucked them under an arm, making his way to the vent that had allowed him entrance to the room. None of the Schwarz had alarms in their rooms, since it was laughable that someone would get in without them noticing. They hadn't counted on Omi having mental shields to hide his approach from Schuldig.

    Omi smiled, pulling the vent closed behind him.


    // "What do you want from me?" Blue eyes sparked with pain and anger as the boy tried to twist away from the tight grip on his upper arms. He tried to kick at his attacker, but that was impossible to do considering the man was sitting on his lap.

    "You've been a very naughty boy, Taketori Mamoru." Schuldig clucked in disapproval.

    "My name is _not_ Taketori Mamoru! It's Tsukiyono Omi!" Omi's eyes darted from Schuldig to the Irishman waiting against the wall, then back. "Don't call me by that name!"

    Schuldig laughed, the harsh sound making Omi cringe. He leaned forward, nibbling at Omi's earlobe and murmuring in his ear. "Who are you really, I wonder?" Omi squirmed in his grasp. "It should be so easy for me to tear your mind apart and find out." He moved his mouth to Omi's throat, pressing his lips to the sensitive skin right beneath the ear, smiling against the flesh. "I would find nothing you didn't want me to find, though."

    "G-get away from me! I don't know what you're talking about!"

    "Your power, angel," Farfarello spoke up, running his tongue slowly over his newest blade. It was the first time he'd said something besides how pretty Omi's blood was going to be and how much his death would hurt God since entering the room with Schuldig an hour ago. For most of that time Schuldig had just been quiet, picking through Omi's mind, but he seemed to have gotten bored of that. "The power inside you."

    "What power?" Omi demanded, jerking his head away from Schuldig's touch. Schuldig followed, lightly nipping at the skin before tilting his head back to give Omi a lazy smirk.

    "The one you keep using," he said simply. "The one we had trouble finding." //


    Ken's mind was definitely not on his work. He sighed as he went to fetch the broom. He'd just dropped his seventh arrangement for the morning. This went far beyond the limits of natural clumsiness, but he did not feel guilty for being so distracted. His eyes kept darting towards the door in the back that led downstairs. Manx had arrived, and Yohji and Aya had gone down with her. Ken hadn't been able to go because there was no one else to tend the shop. He had protested, of course, pleading that Yohji be the one to stay since he was such the lady charmer, but his pleas had fallen on deaf ears.

    It wasn't fair.

    This had to do with Omi. He deserved to be down there.

    He sighed angrily as he swept up the dirt. The girl who had ordered the bouquet was watching him with an expression of concern. "Ken-chan?" she asked tentatively. "Are you all right?"

    He managed a smile for her. "I'm fine."

    "Are you sure? Did you and Aya-san have a fight?"

    Ken blinked. ~Did Aya and I...?~ "No, no," he reassured her quickly, feeling blood rush to his cheeks. He still couldn't believe Yohji had announced to the entire shop on a crowded day that he and Aya were seeing each other. He had been so humiliated. Aya had very calmly ignored the girls excited and encouraging remarks, but the next morning Yohji had sported a black eye. "A friend of ours is just having some trouble."

    ~I don't sound real convincing,~ he thought despairingly, tearing his eyes away from hers and sweeping faster. ~I've never been good at lying.~ He finished tidying up quickly and remade her arrangement. She paid, wished him and Aya luck- proof that she didn't buy his story- and headed away.

    ~Well, I suppose it doesn't matter if she thinks Aya and I are spatting. It's still just a cover-up for the truth.~ His gaze wandered to the small hole where Aya had found the camera last night. Yohji had recognized it as soon as he'd wiggled it out enough to get a good look at it. It was one of the cameras that Omi used to play with, for fun. He'd even engraved "Bombay" into that particular camera.

    A bombay cat and a Bombay's camera.

    Omi was home. The question was- where was he, and why hadn't he returned to Weiß?

    Ken sighed, leaning against the counter. The small kitten, who Ken had called Blacky for lack of a better name, hopped up beside him and rubbed against his hand. He obediently pet it, turning his mind towards the past. Seven months ago a mission had gone sour. Weiß had realized Schwarz's true objectives too late to change their plan, too late to save Omi. The young boy had been snatched away, and he and Schwarz had vanished for two weeks. At the end of that time a Kritiker agent found Omi's broken body on the outskirts of the city near the sewage dumps.

    Omi had been unconscious for almost a week, and bedridden in a hospital for four days. Ken still remembered the look in Omi's eyes- an unnerving mixture between fear, fascination, and inner agony. Omi had not spoken to any of them during the fourteen days. They'd tried their hardest, as had Kritiker, to get him to open up. Kritiker had been there a good deal, trying to figure out if his mind had been twisted by Schuldig. It had been obvious to Weiß that the boy hated their intrusion on his silent time, as each day he seemed to be edgier and quicker to glare at the agents. Then, on the fifteenth morning, he was gone.

    Gone, just like that. He'd taken nothing with him except some miscellaneous mission equipment- like the camera and hand held computer he'd used last night.

    Kritiker had been unable to find him. They had doubted that he could get very far without being spot, and it had stunned the entire corporation that he evaded all of their searches. Weiß had had to readjust, since they had lost both an assassin and their strategist. It had been a rough transition, one that just served to throw in their faces how much they cared about and needed Omi's skills and cheerful attitude. The customers had been heartbroken as well.

    In the third month Manx had called them in and said Kritiker was setting down the chase. Omi was dead or he was in hiding, she'd told them, with the first choice the most likely. Omi had left before his wounds could completely heal, and she doubted he would have lasted more than two weeks with some of the injuries done to him. It had only been faint hope and Omi's relations to Persia that had kept Kritiker looking for so long.

    Obviously, Omi hadn't died. And now Omi was back in Tokyo.

    The back door opened and Manx passed Ken on her way out, lifting a hand in farewell. Ken watched her go until the door closed, then turned towards the others. Yohji moved towards him, scratching the kitten's back. "A bombay kitten," he murmured, shaking his head slightly. He and Ken looked at each other, and Ken was heartened to see the relief and eagerness in the back of those emerald eyes.

    "So?" he asked, straightening and looking back and forth between his friend and his lover. "What'd she say?"


    // "What power?" Omi demanded.

    Schuldig planted his feet on the ground, lifting himself off Omi long enough to push the boy backwards, knocking him down against the mattress. He was on Omi again in an instant, lying on top of Omi's body, his fingers twined with the small boy's and their arms stretched above their heads. Omi's eyes were wide with fear- but also, in the back, anger. He smirked. "You have a gift, young Mamoru-Omi. Did you not realize that?" Omi didn't answer, merely stared back. "You are Zanzou." The German leaned down, covering Omi's mouth with his own, prying open the boy's lips. At the same time, he forced his mind into Omi's.

    The pain was enough that- although Schuldig was on top of him- Omi arched completely off the bed, screaming into Schuldig's mouth. Farfarello let out a harsh pant, licking harder at his blade as he watched the young boy's obvious agony.

    Schuldig twisted himself through Omi's mind, sifting through memories. They all began at the same place- the night he was kidnapped. Schuldig laughed, pulling the memory to the forefront. *Look at this, Mamoru-Omi,* he told the boy. *What a nice memory you crafted for yourself.*

    ~I don't...understand!~ Coherent thought was hard above the pain.

    *You have the power to manipulate memories. Your own, others...Memories are your playground.* Schuldig drew back into his own mind, ending the kiss between himself and the child but hovering nearby to nibble on Omi's lower lip. *Something happened to you back then. Did you cover it up because you were scared, or because it's safest this way?*

    ~You're not making sense!~

    *I bet you didn't even notice you'd done it. Your power exploded, and you rewrote the memories of those around you to match the kidnapping farce you made up in your mind.* Schuldig released his lip, moving his lips to the base of Omi's throat.

    Omi shook his head. "No!" he choked out. "I don't know what you're talking about!"

    "Stupid, stupid little boy." Schuldig tilted his head to the side. "Ah well. Farfarello, come join me. This is going to get fun." //


    Nagi looked up from where he sipped his hot drink at the table. Schuldig had just entered the room, a faint frown playing on lips that usually smirked. "Why is there a cat in my room?" the German asked, looking from Nagi to Crawford to Farfarello. They gazed back in silence. Schuldig lifted a hand, displaying a small black kitten.

    "Perhaps last night's lover left it there," Nagi finally suggested, even as Crawford held out his hand for the cat.

    Schuldig moved to Crawford's side, handing over the feline, and gave Nagi a Look. "I didn't have a lover last night." There was a tightness to his voice, though, that was easy to pick out.

    "Yes, you did. I have the room right next door to you. I heard you." Nagi grimaced slightly. Most of the time Schuldig took his flings elsewhere. He didn't understand why Schuldig had had one in his room- or how he could have had sex when they had all been so exhausted last night. Nagi had lost some well deserved sleep over the noise in the next room. He felt a light probe at his mind and lowered his shields, allowing Schuldig to enter and confirm Nagi's story. Schuldig blinked, his frown deepening.

    "This is a bombay kitten," Crawford spoke up, setting the cat on the table.

    Farfarello reached eagerly for the animal, lifting it ever-so-gently and depositing it in his lap. "Bombays are fun to play with," the Irishman said gleefully.

    "Bombays..." Schuldig pressed a hand to his forehead, as if trying to remember something. After a split second his eyes shot open. "Unmöglich!" the German breathed, turning sharply away. Nagi looked at him quizzically, trying to figure out what was wrong. Farfarello continued to play with the kitten, oblivious. Crawford, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly what had just crossed Schuldig's mind.

    "Schuldig," Crawford said flatly, setting down his mug. Schuldig hesitated. "Just how many kittens did you have in your room last night?"

    The German sent him a jaded look. "I don't remember." With that, he vanished through the doorway.


    // Omi screamed as Farfarello continued to slice at him. Schuldig leaned against the doorframe, holding a cigarette to his lips as he watched. Amusement and condescension danced in his eyes as he ignored the boys pleas for help and for them to stop hurting him.

    *We'll stop hurting you when you give us what we want.*

    Omi's voice was hoarse from screaming so much. Farfarello just laughed, continuing to hurt him. Omi had long ago lost track of what they'd done to him. He hadn't thought someone could experience this type of pain and continue to survive. Suddenly Farfarello's fingers strayed to his eyes and the Irishman paused, contemplating his next move. For a few moments the only sounds were Omi's harsh breaths and ragged sobs.

    "If your right eye causes you to sin..." he murmured, pressing a finger lightly against Omi's eyelid. He pressed harder.

    "No! Don't! Please don't!"

    "Farfarello, that's enough for now," Schuldig spoke up, moving across the floor. Farfarello looked up at him, glaring. He was having too much fun to stop now. Schuldig gave him a mental shove that sent the man scrambling away. Schuldig crouched beside Omi, twining his fingers through Omi's hair and lifting his head from the floor. Relief flooded through Omi despite himself. He preferred Schuldig's interrogation over Farfarello's. It was shorter, easier, to let the man dig at his mind in vain than to have Farfarello slicing at him.

    "My, my," Schuldig clucked. "You are quite a mess. Farfarello, you might have ruined him."

    "God cries over him," was the reply.

    "I'm not even sure there's anything there left salvaging." Jade eyes took in the bloody mess beneath him. "Do you play with broken toys?"

    Omi was up in an instant, his arms around Schuldig's waist and his face buried against the German's chest. His small body was convulsing with sobs as he clung to the man. "Don't! Please don't! Don't let him hurt me anymore. I can't take it."

    Schuldig blinked, looking down at the blood-soaked wheat colored hair. The boy was too shaken now to get anything useful out of him. He sighed in irritation. Another day wasted, another day that Weiß got closer to them. They were running out of time, and Crawford was not going to be happy if Schuldig gave him a negative report. Before Weiß came they either had to have accessed Omi's gift or killed him. Normally Schuldig would have killed the boy by now, but pure curiosity about the teenager's real past made him keep the boy alive and well enough to last each session.

    He stood, pulling Omi to his feet. "Come on," he ordered, and turned away. He hadn't gotten more than two feet before the boy collapsed with a small cry. He glared down at the weeping form. Omi had lost too much blood to walk. Growling a curse, Schuldig reached down and lifted him, slinging him over a shoulder. It was either carry him out or leave him for Farfarello to tear apart- literally- and his curiosity hadn't been sated yet. He carried Omi out of the room, shutting Farfarello's door behind him and bolting it. //


    Schuldig leaned against the streetlamp. Its bulb was dim, its light not needed until night fell. It had several hours left to wait, as it was still morning. Schuldig's gaze was trained on the flower shop across the street. The three florists of the Koneko no Sumu Ie were standing idle in the front room, obviously in the middle of a heated discussion. Schuldig skimmed through their thoughts. Omi had returned to the city and had left them a small cat. Kritiker was looking for Omi. No sturdy information to go on. Three minds, and all he got was trash.

    "You don't look happy," a familiar voice said at his side.

    Schuldig felt a small surge of relief that he didn't jump, even though Omi had taken him completely by surprise. He turned to face the teenager, taking in the boy's appearance slowly. Omi was wearing clothes that were his. A hand held computer was clipped to his belt. His hair had grown enough to be pulled back into a two inch ponytail. His face was thinner than it used to be, and his eyes weren't as cheerful and naive as they used to be. Instead darkness lingered there, along with amusement. Schuldig's eyes traced the scars that Farfarello had given him on his face. Farfarello had wanted to carve whiskers into the boy's face, but Schuldig had stopped him after two.

    Omi reached out, flicking his fingers against Schuldig's chest and tilting his head back to smirk at the German. "You performed very nicely last night, Schuldig."

    Schuldig tensed inwardly. He hated the fact that last night just drew a blank. He remembered going home and flopping onto his bed, fully dressed. That didn't explain how he'd ended up naked with a kitten curled up against his stomach, nor did it explain the blood and semen on his sheets. The obvious conclusion was that he'd had sex, but he hadn't been drunk enough that he wouldn't remember it.

    "What's wrong, SchuSchu?" Omi asked him, giving him an innocent look. "Don't remember?"

    "What are you doing back in the city, Zanzou-chibi?" Schuldig asked, warily circling Omi's mind. He didn't welcome the prospect of having Omi using his gift again. He could sense Omi's power now. The boy had left to hone his gifts when he disappeared those many months ago. With a light brush against Omi's mind he encountered shields. *My, you came prepared,* he said, amusement lacing his tone as he pressed hard enough against the shields for Omi to feel.

    "Do you want inside?" Omi asked, a smile curving his lips.

    "Those scars look good on you," Schuldig remarked, lighting a cigarette and raising it to his lips. He was hoping to get a reaction out of the boy- preferably a rush of anger that he could use to his advantage.

    Omi laughed softly. "Glad you like them."

    Schuldig was suddenly very aware that he was being faced with an opponent he hadn't seen in months, one with the talent to read and twist memories however he wished. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if said-opponent was still his normal genki self. This Omi was the Omi he and Farfarello had torture-interrogated. This Omi was the Omi that had already used his gift- last night. Schuldig leaned bonelessly against the pole, his usual arrogant mask covering his inner thoughts. "You never answered my question. Why are you here?"

    Omi smiled. "I'm back to play the kitten game."


    // "What a disappointment you kittens are," Schuldig said, sprawled out beside Omi's form. Bored and frustrated, he had come up with a compromise that had suited both of them. Omi hadn't wanted Farfarello to play with him, and Schuldig was long overdue for a fuck. Since Schuldig was not yet in the mood for more S&M between himself and Farfarello in bed, the small Omi had been the perfect choice. Omi, for his part, had to cooperate. It was more fun that way- especially since the boy hadn't been able to deny that he had enjoyed himself. The boy would probably angst over that revelation for a long time.

    "Why?" Omi whispered, on the verge of sleep.

    Schuldig smirked, running his eyes over the wounded flesh before him. It had taken a full day and a half for Omi to heal from Farfarello's fun, and the scabs were plenty. Despite that, though, there was beauty in the silken skin that laid against his own. Interesting, really. He had a sudden fascination for Omi's wounds, and he'd spent the last fifteen minutes lightly touching each one. "Kittens play with their food."


    *Such an intelligent response,* Schuldig sniggered. "Cats play with their prey. They find a bird, they pounce. But do they kill? No. They bat a bit, chew a bit, let it run so it thinks it's free, then strike again to play some more." Omi digested this in silence. "You four," and derision was clear in his tone, "kill your prey immediately. Schwarz is more cat than you are. I am a better cat than you are, Zanzou-chibi."

    He leaned closer, smirking, his mouth next to Omi's ear. "This is the kitten game. I am the cat. I bat a bit, I chew a bit, I let you run so you think you're free, and drag you back to amuse me some more. It's a very entertaining game."

    Omi didn't answer, but his thoughts were uneasy. Schuldig ran his fingernails down Omi's arm, opening scabs. "Rest well. Farfarello gets you when you wake up." Laughing, Schuldig slid from the bed and exited the room.

    Omi was left to his own thoughts. They were a mixture of terror and anger, but two words echoed above all other thoughts: "Kitten game". Omi slowly firmed his resolve. He was going to survive this, if only by thinking of the condescending way Schuldig had talked about him and his friends, if only by remembering how Schuldig had admitted to his enjoyment at toying with Omi.

    ~One day we'll see who's the better cat...~ //

C ontinue to Part 2