Part Two: Allies

    Nagi woke to the sound of yelling. He frowned up at the dark ceiling. Crawford and Schuldig must be going at it again. Then he realized that neither of the raised voices belonged to his fellow Schwarz. He sat up slowly, warily, listening. Weiß! "Do you ever think before you act, Yohji?" an angry voice demanded. Nagi blinked, then raised a hand to his head as the events of the past night returned to him.

    "Do you have a problem with my actions last night, Aya? That's too bad for you. I took the mission and that's how I dealt with it."

    "It could be a trap," a third voice spoke up, barely audible. The first two voices dropped, and Nagi was unable to hear the rest of the conversation. He slid towards the edge of the bed, planning to sneak out to where he could still hear them talking.

    "You're awake," a voice greeted.

    Nagi almost jumped out of his skin as he spun, unleashing his powers without thinking. Omi slammed into the wall, uttering a sound of pain. Nagi stood still, gazing at the boy. "What am I doing here?" he asked in clipped tones, unrepenting of his actions. With his gift he turned on the light. Omi was struggling to get to his feet, one of his arms in a sling.

    "There was no other place to bring you. That building was destroyed as we left." Omi cocked his head to one side. "I guess you passed out before the explosion went off." Omi paused to rub his injured arm. Nagi drew in a deep breath. Destroyed? The he'd lost everything- all the files sored on those computers, his few possessions... "Because of the truce you called with Yohji-kun we didn't kill you, but htis wasthe only place we could bring you to. Needless to say," and the corner of Omi's mouth quirked, "Aya-kun was not happy to find Schuldig this morning." He looked away.

    "Why didn't you kill us?" Nagi eyed the older boy warily. This had to be some kind of a trap. "The truce was for last night only."

    Omi was quiet for a few moments. "I will probably never be able to forgive Schuldig for the things he's done," he said softly, eyes returning to meet Nagi's. "But not even he deserved what happened last night. Besides," he continued, brighter now, "what would be the point in saving you two only to kill you as you slept this morning?"

    Nagi digested these words in silence for a moment. "You do realize this does not make us allies."

    "Of course not." Omi smiled slightly. "As soon as they get enough evidence, you four will be our targets."

    Nagi sniffed in amusement. ~As if people like you could hurt us. Then again, Taketori was supposed to be just another useless weakling, and he...~

    "Hungry?" Omi asked, breaking him from his bitter thoughts. "I am. Come on. I didn't get to eat because I was supposed to wait up here until you woke up."


    Omi extended his hand. "To ask that the truce continue until both sides agree to drop it."

    Nagi eyed the boy with slight surprise. There was such an air of naive innocence about him. How could such a cheerful boy be an assassin? Nagi slowly put his hand in Omi's. Omi squeezed it lightly. "Do you even know what pain and suffering is?" Nagi asked quietly, voice hoarse. Parents he would never know, a future he would never have, a past lived on the streets...Why couldn't he have had those?

    "I don't have a past," Omi told him, and Nagi remembered hearing Crawford talking about the boy. The nephew of Taketori and son to Taketori's wife. He killed his own brother, loved his half-sister, and then even she was taken away when Farfarello killed her. Omi had had no past, due to amnesia, only to have to face the horror of reality. ~People like us, Omi, have nothing.~ He squeezed Omi's hand back and they released each other.

    Omi led him from the room. "Do you want to check on Schuldig?" he asked over his shoulder. Nagi nodded and followed the older boy to another room. Schuldig was on the bed. He had been cleaned up and his hair was pulled back out of his face with a rubber band. His face was pale, too pale, and when Nagi touched his forehead the skin was hot and clammy. "He needs a blood transfusion," Omi told Nagi, though the younger assassin had figured that out already. "However, we wanted to keep him here a while to make sure whoever was after you doesn't find you yet."

    More fragments of the previous night entered Nagi's mind. "You were shot," he remembered, turning away from Schuldig and heading towards the door where Omi waited.

    "Only once!" was the cheerful reply.

    "You took a bullet for me." Nagi paused in front of the other boy, peering into his eyes. Omi blinked, then smiled nervously at the scrutiny. ~No one has taken a bullet for me before, not even Schwarz, and they're my team. You were just acting on a truce, and you did.~ Nagi smiled at Omi, a faint but genuine smile. Omi was obviously surprised, but gave him a sunny grin in return and gestured for Nagi to follow.

    They padded downstairs. The rest of Weiß was obviously in deep conversation with each other, but their voices stilled when three pairs of eyes spotted the two boys. Yohji nodded to Nagi but the other two just gazed at him in silence. Omi gave them a thumbs-up. "Truce still stands." Saying so, Omi bounced down the rest of the stairs. Nagi trailed behind him, passing by the redhead as he did so. Cold violet eyes bore into his back. He ignoed the gaze, entering the kitchen with Omi. The boy rummaged around in the freezer for a moment before producing a box of frozen chocolate chip waffles. "How's this?"

    "It's...fine." ~Chocolate chip waffles?~

    Omi popped two in the toaster and set the table for two people. He filled a cup with milk and passed it to Nagi, then poured another for himself. They sat, sipping in silence, until bugnuks boy made a sound of surprise. "Manx!" the man greeted.

    "Where's Omi?" a female voice asked.

    Omi slid from his chair, jerking his thumb towards the toaster. "Those are yours." He hurried from the room. Nagi lowered his cup, listening hard. There was the sound of a door shutting, then silence. The waffles popped up. Nagi went to fetch them, peeking intot eh other room as he did so. The four boys were gone. He put the waffles on his plate, thinking this over as he buttered his breakfast. Manx...Manx...Hadn't Schuldig mentioned her once in an offhand way? Yes, that was it. She was a contact for the Weiß assassins.

    Nagi finished the waffles quickly. They weren't half-bad, actually. He downed the rest of his milk, paused, then popped down two waffles for Omi when the dart boy returned. He was rinsing off his plate when a door opened, and the five entered the kitchen. Nagi turned off the sink, setting his plate on the counter and turning to face them. Weiß looked grim, but Omi's eyes were sparkling. The redhead woman studied Nagi in silence for a few moments. He gazed back, expressionless.

    "So young," Manx finally said.

    "Old enough," Nagi countered smoothly.

    "We have been collecting information on the Group for a while," Manx told him. He put a hand on his hip, leaning back against the wall and trying to squish the squirm of fear that always accompanied the name of the organization. "They're quite interesting."

    "Your point?" Nagi asked calmly. Behind him the toaster popped. "Those're yours, Omi."

    Omi bobbed his head gratefully, sliding up beside Nagi to pick the food out of the toaster. He remained at Nagi's side, nibbling on one of the waffles. Aya frowned slightly. Manx had an odd expression on her face that quickly was swept away. "Right now the Group poses a greater threat than Schwarz, but neither you four nor Weiß can defeat them on your own. I have discussed this with Weiß. The only solution is a temporary alliance."

    "You want Schwarz to work with Weiß?" Nagi tilted his head to the side, eyeing her.

    "It's just one step more than a truce," Omi told him.

    Nagi wasn't sure he could make this decision. "Why don't you ask Crawford?" he asked, sniffing as if dismissing the matter. "He's the one in charge."

    "Yes, why don't you?" a calm voice asked from behind the group. The six turned to stare. Crawford was standing in the middle of the shop, Farfarello behind him.

    "Crawford!" Nagi cried.

    "A trap?" bugnuks boy asked redhead.

    "I merely came to collect my partners," Crawford said. Behind him Farfarello found a pair of shears and put them to work, slicing down his forearm. "The Group is a formidable enemy. Having an alliance might be wise."

    "I won't work with him," redhead muttered quietly, fierce violet eyes glaring at the American. Apparently he still held a grudge from human chess.

    "It is to neither of our pleasures that we team up," Crawford told him in a monotone voice, giving a shrug, "but to both of our benefits. Are you unharmed, Nagi?" The American's eyes flicked up and down him.

    "I'm find, Crawford-san." Nagi gave a small nod.

    "As to Schuldig...?"

    "He's upstairs," Yohji answered, "sleeping."

    "An alliance, then?" Crawford asked, offering his hand to the redhead. The boy eyed the hand like it was a poisonous snake ready to bite him. Crawford seemed amused by this.

    "Aya," Manx said, a hint of warning in her voice.

    Aya reached out reluctantly to take Crawford's hand. Farfarello paused to watch them, his golden eye fixed on their joined hands. They released each other and Crawford turned to Yohji. "I would like to see Schuldig."

    "Tie up your dog first." Yohji flicked his fingers at the one-eyed Irishman.

    Crawford beckoned for Farfarello to come up beside him. "Here, Nagi." He set a chain and shackle set to the side, following Yohji upstairs. Nagi moved forward, using his power to hold Farfarello still in case the man decided he wanted to see what telekinetic blood looked like. Nimble fingers wrapped the restraints around Farfarello's legs and slipped a collar over his neck. ~Where is the straitjacket?~

    /How are you doing, Farfarello?/ he asked across the Schwarz psychic bond.

    /Crawford has had too many visions./ Farfarello watched him calmly as Nagi hooked a chain through the collar. /God will cry soon./

    /God will not cry for us,/ Nagi responded, turning to the others. "Where do I hook him?"

    "Back room." Aya pointed.

    Nagi led Farfarello in that direction. Something was definitely wrong. The psychopath was too calm, too docile and clear. He found a few hook sin teh storage room- probably for handing packages from- and hooked Farfarello to them. He turned, facing the man with a worried expression. /Farfarello?/

    The man just smiled, the manic gleam returning to his eyes. "God will cry tonight!" he rasped, reaching a hand up to stroke his injury.

    Nagi wasn't going to be able to get anything else from the man. He turned and hurried from teh room and the sudden coldness there, back to the warmth the kitchen had to offer. Back to the only person that radiated warmth, Omi.


    Crawford sat on the edge of the bed next to Schuldig. Yohji had left the overhead light off but they'd turned on a small lamp. Schuldig didn't look good at all, but there was something about him that made Crawford unable to take his eyes off of him. Schuldig looked so vulnerable, so peaceful, so different from his usual brash and confident self.

    ~Why couldn't I have had the vision earlier? Why when there was no time to warn you?~ Crawford sighed softly, reaching out ot lightly shake Schuldig's shoulder. A vision appeared to him. He shook a bit harde. Schuldig bolted awake, a strangled German curse flying from his lips as his fist came up. Crawford caught his wrist calmly, letting Shculdig's panicked jade eyes focus on his face. The fear and pain were tucked back under his mask until his eyes were the usual cold chips that made up his mask, a smirk curling the wide mouth.

    "Seems like you wanted to get yourself killed, waking me," the redhead remarked as Crawford released him. He frowned lightly, a hand going to his hair. He yanked the rubber band out, tossing it aside. Crawford kept a hand firmly against his partner's chest, keeping him flat against the bed.

    "Don't sit up too fast or you'll pass out. You obviously lost a lot of blood." Crawford's eyes took in the bandages, bruises, and too-pale skin. ~It's a good thing they got him out of there.~

    Schuldig caught the thought. "Yes, aren't I lucky to have such considerate enemies?" The German waved a hand grandly towards Yohji, tone mocking, but his cold eyes were intently fixed on his leader's. Crawford gazed back calmly.

    /I didn't have the vision until after Arikatsu was dead. There was no time. And Nagi couldn't help you./

    /I never did find out why. Perhaps he fell back asleep./ Schuldig sounded amused, but Crawford knew there was pain and darkness under the words.

    /According to my vision, Kudou knocked him out temporarily. That doesn't matter anymore. It happened. There was nothing any of us could have done to prevent it./

    "What's this about an alliance, anyway?" Schuldig asked aloud, briskly changing to a safer subject. "Weiß wants to hunt the Group too? Open season, then." Schuldig raised an eyebrow, picking up on someone's stray thoughts, and laughed. His laughter turned into coughing until he lay, spent, limp on the mattress. Crawford reached out and dabbed sweat off his forehead calmly.

    "Don't overdo it. You don't want to be weak when the Group decides to show up."

    Schuldig sighed, eyes closing. "You're a bastard, Brad. Anyone ever tell you that?"

    "I believe you have, multiple times." Crawford stood, turning off the lamp. "Get some rest."

    "Ja," Schuldig agreed. As Crawford reached Yohji by the doorway, he spoke up again. "Keep an eye on Nagi, why don't you?"

    Crawford picked through his previous visions, an inner voice saying so quietly that Schuldig could not hear, ~I will not be able to~. "Of course." He paused, looking back at his partner. The telepath's future only held more trouble for him, though hopefully none of it would prove to as painful and shattering as what had happened last night. Crawford turned away, this time thinking loud enough for the younger man to catch. ~Your mask is good, Schuldig, but I know you were hurt badly.~

    Schuldig ignored him. Crawford returned downstairs. Everyone was gathered in the shop. Nagi was beside Omi, two feet of space between them. Omi was straightening a bow on a bouquet of flowers. Aya and Ken were by the counter, Ken leaning against it and Aya behind it, cutting lengths of ribbons. Cold violet eyes burned into Crawford. He returned the gaze calmly. Yohji remained at the bottom of the stairs, lounging against the railing lazily, though wary eyes followed Crawford as he went to stand by a wall. It was almost like a face-off, he observed with detached amusement.

    "Explanation," Aya said flatly.

    "Are you speaking to me?" Crawford asked, his gaze unreadable as he looked at his rival.


    "Then I do ask that you address me in a more civilized manner. We _are_ allies, afterall." It was intriquing how many dark emotions could swirl across those purple ice chips in less than a second. Ken, too, frowned.

    "Would you so mind," Aya bit out, sarcasm and hate lacing the words, "to explain this mess to us?"

    Crawford gave a slight nod, approving the corrections, hiding a smirk when he saw how the gesture irked the other man. ~Careful. One too many prods and then they'll never be able to defeat the Group because of inner squabbling.~ Deciding he'd bothered the redhead assassin enough, he crossed his arms over his chest. "Back when the four of us were first collected into what is known as Schwarz today, there was another organization out to get us. They were called the Group." Crawford saw a slight shiver run up Nagi's spine. Aya's eyes flicked in that direction before returning to Crawford. "They already had their own team of special agents: a telekinetic, a sequencer, an empath, and a man with sonic speed not unlike Schuldig's. What they were missing was a telepath, and they craved Schuldig's power."

    Ken frowned. "I thought an empath and telepath were the same thing."

    "An empath is more like one who can sense other's feelings and presences, not as mind-direct as a telepath is," Nagi spoke up, glancing towards his boss. Crawford gave another nod.

    "If they already had people, why would they want you four?" Omi asked, pausing in his work.

    "Schuldig they wanted to incorporate into their forces. The rest of us would become merely what the ones before us were: batteries." Their confusion was obvious, and understandable. "The Group's agents are frail creatures, weakened by their gifts. There were originally six people would would become Schwarz. The other two were weak-minded though their talents were strong. They were taken and erased, doomed to live a long life as an empty shell whose life source was drained away for the team." He flicked his fingers in dismissal. "We four were stronger. Esset at the time was more powerful than the Group, and they protected us. Eventually we were assigned to Taketori." He could not hide the darkness that crossed both his face and tone. Aya's eyes almost turned black with hate, they were so dark, obviously thinking of his sister. "It is of my opinion that the Group got to Taketori first and turned him to them."

    "You're the pre-cog," Yohji spoke up, eyes unreadable. "Why didn't you see what was going to happen?"

    ~I don't know. Oh yes...I do.~ He blinked as the solution hit him. "The Sequencer must have had a role in it."

    "Sequencer?" Omi asked blankly.

    "A Sequencer can always see all reactions to a situation that he can affect, and trace them as far as he wishes. Therefore, I can guess he sat down and plotted a course that would leave me blind to Taketori's actions."

    "He can do that?" Ken sounded doubtful.

    "They are powerful," was Nagi's quiet reply. "Stronger than us." Crawford briefly pondered over those words, debating whether it was to their advantage or not that the boy had let that go.

    /Quit thinking, you're making my head hurt./ Schuldig sounded grouchy.

    /I told you to go to sleep./

    Silence for a moment, then /I don't want to dream./

    Crawford's expression softened slightly at this admission. Schuldig was having his weaknesses shoved in his face, and there was nothing he could do about it. Nowhere he could run to, no one he could turn to. Schuldig was not one who was used to running. How deep did these forced admissions poke his pride? He kept these thoughts quiet where Schuldig could not hear them. /Would you prefer a drug or a companion?/

    /I'd prefer a gun and a clean shot at Taketori's ugly head./ Another pause. /Kudou has interesting magazines up here./ A soft mental chuckle, strained but trying for good humor. Then Schuldig's presence was gone.

    Ken had just finished asking something that Crawford missed. Nagi answered him. "We take them one by one, of course- split them up until they are no match for us. It's eight against four."

    "I don't think your German buddy is in much shape to fight," Yohji pointed out.

    Crawford turned cool assessing eyes on him. "Don't underestimate any of us, Weiß."

    There was a long minute of uncomfortable silence before Omi ventured to ask, "So what do we do now?" He was looking towards Aya.

    "Manx has gone home. She left the files downstairs." Omi, catching the unspoken order, vanished through a back doorway. "We will learn what we can so we can be prepared to strike."

    A slight smirk curled the edges of Crawford's lips. "Investigate all you would like to. You will learn that that knowledge does not help much against them. I am going out. You do not have the sedatives here neccessary for keeping Farfarello under control."

    Nagi's eyes were expressionless when they met his gaze. /He knows what you know,/ Nagi said quietly across their bond. Crawford did not answer, merely passed him on the way out the door. Several pairs of eyes followed him. He stepped out onto the sidewalk, heading south. Sedatives for Farfarello.

    ~Naive people,~ Crawford thought absently, hands in his pockets. He filtered through his visions, sighing heavily now that he was alone. His head was throbbing with both the pain and the weight of being a pre-cog. And yet, if he could do it all over again and choose whether or not to have the gift- a choice that had never been offered to him- he would still pick this. Even if it meant what was coming up.

    ~Gomen, Schuldig...~

Part 3