Part Six: Anger

   Aya was the first to reach Wakasatzi's room. There was a guard outside it, but the man never saw him coming. Aya tested the knob. Unlocked. "Bombay," he spoke quietly to alert the boy to his whereabouts.

    "I see you," came the tinny reply. Aya entered the room, closing the door silently behind him. The room was dim, lit by a few candles that hadn't burned out yet. Aya moved towards the bed. Their target was sleeping on his back, a girl curled up against each side. Aya sniffed quietly in disgust. "Abyssinian, Crawford has reached your area."

    "Where are the other two?" Aya asked, keeping his voice down. The door behind him opened and Crawford entered.

    "Balinese dropped back to aid Siberian."

    Crawford joined Aya by the bed. Aya glanced at him before looking back at the target. Having Schwarz show up earlier at the house had been unexpected. The fact that he had given in so easily to accepting their help bothered him. All that mattered now, though, was his sister. Not any problems he'd had with Crawford, just his sister. It didn't make the swirl of confusing emotions in his heart any easier, though. Part of him seemed to take comfort in the older man's presence, but the rest of him was struggling against the man, angry and frustrated. Crawford confused him so much these days.

    The first step in securing the target would be to get the girls away from Wakasatzi. Aya motioned to one of them as a silent order to his temporary partner, heading towards the other. He and Crawford carefully picked up the girls. Aya's mumbled in her sleep, a hand reaching up to brush against his face. He turned his head away, frowning at the contact, and carried her into the bathroom. The rug on the floor was thick and soft, so the two girls were deposited there. Aya and Crawford left, shutting and locking the door. The two went back to the bed. Aya sat down on the edge, laying the sharp edge of his blade against the man's throat. He reached out with his other hand, giving the man a shake.

    "Not now, Areina. I'm tired. We'll do that when I'm rested some, all right?" the man mumbled. Aya struck him soundly across the face. The man's eyes popped open, shining with indignance and anger. "Who-" He froze when he felt the cold metal against his throat, and his eyes turned on Aya. Crawford remained standing behind the redhead, gun trained on their target in case he got away from Aya's blade. The man's now panicked eyes turned from one to the other.

    "Where," Aya said coldly, "is Taketori?"

    The man blinked as the question registered. "Taketori?" A wide grin spread across the man's face. "You must be that punk he said to look out for. He has a message for me to give you- 'Next time, we won't get interrupted'." Aya's teeth clenched and he lightly dug the sword into the man's flesh, watching as a trickle of blood made its way down the pale skin. Wakasatzi swallowed, closing his eyes, but continued on despite the obvious warning from Aya. "He told me all about you and him, you know. He is looking forward to seeing you again. He claims you taste sweeter than the German."

    It was a good thing Crawford was there to grab Aya's arm, or the sword would have hacked off their target's head in one clean movement. Aya was trying to figure out why Wakasatzi's head wasn't rolling across the floor yet when he saw Crawford's hand closed tightly on his wrist.

    ~Crawford heard that.~ That thought struck home with a sharp flare of both humiliation and anger, and Aya jerked his hand roughly out from Crawford's grip.

    "Keep your head," Crawford said simply. "He has what we want, and killing him will ruin all chances of getting her back."

    Aya knew Crawford was right. He turned back to the man, suddenly calm. "You're going to tell us where he is."

    "I don't think so."

    "Keep in mind that you have something I want very badly," Aya told him, voice steady and quiet. "And if the only way to make you talk is to cut you apart bit by bit, I will do it gladly. Where would you like me to start? A finger?" Aya's blade dropped to the man's hand, laying against a finger in a threatening manner.

    "You wouldn't." Aya smiled at the man. It was a chilling expression, and their target swallowed audibly.

    "Tell us where Taketori is, and we might let you live."

    Wakasatzi hesitated a bit too long for Aya, and he pressed down with the blade until it was embedded halfway through the chosen digit. The officer yelled in pain, and would have jerked way if he wasn't afraid of yanking his finger off in the process. Aya watched his face calmly. This man could not have strong enough ties to Taketori that he would defend the bastard to his death. He was correct, and the man started babbling. "All right! All right! The address is in the nightstand!"

    Crawford stepped away to rummage around in the drawer. Aya raised the blade from his target's hand to press the point against his throat. Crawford moved oils, lubricants, and bed toys out of his way in disgust, until his hand finally came across a scrap of paper. He lifted it, studying the address.

    "Are you sure that's it?" Aya asked calmly. The man nodded rapidly. Aya looked over at Crawford.

    "I recognize the place," Crawford said. "But wait." ~Schuldig.~

    There was a moment before the German answered. Schuldig could easily pick up in Crawford's mind what he was needed to do. /Yes, that's the place. Should we go ahead and meet you there?/ Crawford mentally envisioned the place Weiß and Schwarz were going to meet up again at when they left. They were bound to scatter during the process, and meeting at a coffee shop was the best place to find each other again. /Whatever./ Schuldig vanished again. Aya was watching Crawford, the target mostly forgotten as he waited to see if they had what he needed. Without meaning to, he loosened his grip on the sword slightly. Wakasatzi saw the movement.

    Crawford looked up from the paper in time to see Wakasatzi hit Aya upside the face with a pillow. The man rolled out of bed, tearing towards the door, as Aya scrambled after him. Crawford couldn't shoot or he'd hit Aya as well. He needn't have worried, as Aya easily caught up to the yelling man. A swing of his sword and the man crumpled to the ground, arm severed. Aya looked back at Crawford briefly. "It's the place," Crawford replied. Aya turned, and with a sharp stroke silenced the screaming man forever.

    The guards were going to be alerted. They had to leave now, before security started crawling over the place. "Bombay, we have what we need," Aya spoke into his microphone.

    "Affirmative. All agents pull out. Meet at agreed spot."

    "Understood," Siberian's voice spoke up over the headset. Aya was trailing his sword over the dead man's body as he listened to the brief conversation between his two team mates. Crawford moved to go past him, but Aya's hand snapped out, seizing his upper arm. Crawford looked over at him calmly.

    "Give me the address."

    "I'll give it to you at the coffee shop."

    "Give it to me _now_."

    "We don't have time for this, Aya." Crawford could already hear footsteps further down the hall, and was receiving brief flickerings of visions showing guards coming into the room. He looked back at Aya. In a way he supposed he understood why the man wanted it so badly. Having the paper in his hands would probably make him feel closer to getting his sister back. Aya opened his mouth, ready to argue, violet eyes snapping with anger and frustration, but the words remained unspoken as Crawford obediently handed over the paper. Aya hesitated for only the briefest of instances before snatching it away, tilting it so he could read in the candlelight. Crawford grabbed Aya's wrist. "We have to leave now."

    He opened the door, hurrying out and bringing Aya with him. The man stopped struggled after a few feet and instead ran with him, paper clenched in the hand whose wrist Crawford had a tight hold on, his sword in the other hand. A few guards rounded the corner, but Crawford had already seen them coming and shot them all before they could figure out that there were people there.

    "Let go," Aya snapped as they continued on. "I can't fight like this."

    Crawford released him, turning another corner just as another vision flickered into his mind, of a gun firing that wasn't his. Aya turned the corner right after him, and Crawford knocked into him shoulder first. A gunshot rang out as both hit the wall, the bullet that would have killed Aya grazing Crawford's arm instead. Aya was out of the American's grip in an instant and upon the guard, taking him out with a large swipe. The redhead turned back to Crawford, violet eyes taking in the wound before glancing up to meet Crawford's gaze.

    Crawford lightly touched the wound as he moved to catch up with Aya. He hadn't been shot in a long time. He'd forgotten what it felt like. It was not a pleasant experience, and now his suit was ruined. Aya beckoned to him to follow and took off through the building. Crawford switched his gun to his other hand, running to catch up. Each step only emphasized the burning in his arm. How stupid of him, to allow himself to be shot.

    And yet, if he'd avoided it, Aya would have been mortally wounded or killed easily. All in all, a worthwhile wound, though Schuldig was going to pester him about it until the end of time.


   Aya and Crawford were the last to the coffee shop. The others were sitting in a small clump at separate tables of pairs. Nagi and Omi were sitting at one, Omi doodling on a napkin a few equations to keep himself occupied. Ken and Yohji were at the other, a table that was just inside the smoking section so Yohji could smoke. Even Schuldig and Farfarello were there, the Irishman licking his knife impatiently and practically sitting in Schuldig's lap. Schuldig had his chair turned so the bleach-haired man could be there, and his jade eyes were the first to spot the newly arrived pair.

   "Nice suit."

    "This suit costs more than you're worth, Schuldig," Crawford said calmly, seating himself at a table. He had tied his tie tightly above the wound to help stop the blood flow, on Aya's orders. He had very little education in the healing and bandaging area of this line of work. Aya took the seat opposite him, but Crawford was sure it was only because that seat was closest to Omi and Nagi's table.

    "Not as much as Aya's worth, hm?" Schuldig asked lazily, a smirk on his face.

    Crawford ignored him, taking off the jacket and keeping his wince inside as it brushed against the wound. The bullet had cut several millimeters into his flesh, and had bled pretty badly. It seemed to have stopped, though. He studied it silently.

    "What's next?" Aya asked Omi, ignoring both Schwarz men as he tossed the paper with the address before the younger boy. Omi and Nagi both leaned close to look at it.

    "We've been there before," Nagi said, looking up at Omi. "It doesn't make sense, though. It doesn't seem like that would be the place Taketori would be."

    "Why not?" Omi asked.

    "This is just a place with a large group of meeting rooms, that's it. I've only been there once, as usually it was Crawford that he took with him. Why would Taketori have gone there?" The boy looked over at Crawford.

    "The most likely reason is because that is a place he could go and get any of his cronies to pick him up," Crawford answered, using a napkin to dab up blood that was coming down from his wound. Farfarello was watching in rapt fascination. Omi excused himself, vanishing outside. Crawford gave a slight shrug with his good arm. "Meaning this is going to be another place that we have to go hunting for him. All of his workers know that building, so he could have gotten help from there easier than he could from leaving the police station."

    They were quiet for a moment. Omi returned with a small box of medical supplies. "Do you need help wrapping yourself up?" the boy asked.

    "I can handle it myself," Crawford answered, eyeing the rolls of gauze and small tubes with long names he faintly recognized. Omi nodded, trusting his words, and sat down again. Someone else entered, and a faint breeze washed over them. They remained in silence, thinking over this latest development as Crawford attempted to figure out what all of the tubes were necessary for.

    "The question is," Schuldig finally spoke up, jade eyes locking with Aya's purple ones, "who gets to kill Taketori?" Crawford glanced over. There was something wrong with Schuldig's tone, some slight inflection that meant he was after something. Crawford only recognized it because Schuldig had used it on him multiple times.

    "Stay away from him," Aya said quietly, tone cold. "He's mine."

    "So I'm sure you'll be happy to see him again." Aya's eyes narrowed slightly, and unconsciously his right hand fingers dropped to his left wrist. Schuldig smirked, obviously getting what he wanted. "I thought I heard my name in someone's thoughts," he said. "I don't appreciate the comparison, though."

    Except for Omi- who had heard Wakasatzi's words through Aya's headset- and Crawford, the others were lost. Omi's eyes darted towards Aya's, meeting the man's briefly. Aya's jaw tightened in cold anger and he turned away, seeking a place to vent his frustration- and finding one. He swatted Crawford's hands away from the rolls. "You're taking too long," Aya snapped, grabbing up a few tubes. "I'm not going to wait on you forever just because you got yourself shot."

    Crawford allowed the redhead to clean and bandage his wound. Aya's movements were quick and agitated, but also efficient. The mess was taken care of in a matter of moments. Omi moved to gather the medical supplies and carried them out towards the car. Aya looked over towards Schuldig, cold violet eyes meeting faintly amused jade ones.

    "If you touch him," Aya said calmly, "I'll kill you."

    Schuldig's smirk widened as he said something into Aya's mind. The redhead stood abruptly and stalked out of the store. Crawford guessed that it was either walk out or try to strangle the German, which wouldn't be a good idea when there was a psychopath in Schuldig's lap. Omi returned, worried eyes crossing over the group.

    "What's wrong with Aya _now_?"

    "He doesn't like our company," Schuldig drawled.

    Omi looked back worriedly towards the door. Ken shook his head. "Don't go out there. He'll use you as a venting bag. He'll calm down in a bit and come back. The question is what to do next."

    Nagi ran a hand through his hair. "If I have a better system, I can access the building's mainframe and figure out what's going on tonight. Our hotel isn't far from here. Why don't we all go there, and I'll get us on. It won't take but a few moments to do the link-up. I've been in that network before." He glanced at Crawford for the man's approval.

    "Farf and I could have stayed in bed if you'd come up with that a bit earlier," Schuldig muttered.

    Ken looked over at the two. "Say what?" he squeaked.

    Farfarello smiled evilly through his blade. "Sodomy hurts God."


   Schuldig and Farfarello had walked to the coffee shop, and since six couldn't fit easily in Weiß's car, they opted to walk back. It was going to be a short trip for them, and they'd probably get there before Crawford and Aya did. Crawford was in charge of making sure Aya got to the hotel, and so he set off to locate the furious redhead. It wasn't hard. Aya was standing in back of the shop, hands in his coat pockets and glaring up at the sky. Crawford approached him, shoes crunching softly on the gravel. Aya turned, violet eyes flashing. "What do you want?"

    "We're going back to our hotel," Crawford told him simply. "Nagi needs the computer that's there to get information for our next hit point. Come on."

    "No. I'm tired of putting this off. Taketori needs to die _now_, and I'm going to be the one that kills him."

    "Do whatever you wish to Taketori, but you're going to have to wait before you can. Have patience."

    "I _have_ patience," Aya snapped, turning away from him. "But patience doesn't last long, and I've been waiting forever!"

    "Aya, if you want to make sure this job gets done correctly, you're going to have to calm down. Anger and revenge will cloud your judgement and blunt your blade." Aya was clearly not listening to him. He moved closer. "You're not going to get your sister back if-"

    He was cut off when Aya turned back around to him in a quick move, hitting Crawford's chest with the the side of his fist. Crawford blinked. It was not a blow meant to injure, or it would have been much harder. "Don't tell me I'm not going to get her back," Aya said coldly. "I've been waiting for her for a very long time, Crawford. I'm not going to let her slip away _now_. He has no right to take her from me."

    Aya was definitely off-kilter emotionwise. He was still sick, obviously- Nagi had told Crawford on the way to the flowershop earlier that the man was sick from an overdose of painkillers. He had been harrassed by both Schuldig and Wakasatzi about the near rape- full rape?- encounter with Taketori. He could feel his sister slipping further away from him. Once again Crawford felt his mind split into two parts- one that was thinking of how Aya was going to affect the whole mission if he didn't calm down any, and the other doing the acting. Crawford took Aya's upper arm in his hand and pulled the shorter man closer. Aya didn't have time to resist, eyes widening, as he was pressed up against Crawford's body.


    Crawford lay two fingers on Aya's mouth, silencing him. Now that Crawford had Aya here, what was he supposed to do with him? Violet eyes stared up at him, confused and uncertain. Aya could fight back against Crawford when the man argued with him, or when the man used force, but these small spurts of just touching seemed to throw him completely. They weren't what Aya expected, and he had no idea how to react to them. "Just relax," Crawford told Aya quietly. "Come back to the hotel with us, all right?"

    ~Why do I feel I have to protect you?~ Crawford wondered, looking down at Aya. ~So recently an enemy, someone to take the downfall for my actions...Why now do I feel that you must be defended from the world?~

    Aya pulled away from him, taking several steps back, his eyes narrowing as he reached up to touch his mouth. "Don't touch me, Crawford," he said through his fingers, voice icy low.

    Crawford ignored the words, turning away. "It boils down to two things, Aya- you come back with me now to the hotel, and find a way to get your sister, or you stay here and clueless as to what's going on and she dies at Taketori's hands." He headed back towards the front of the shop where the car was parked. He knew Aya was still angry at Taketori and Schuldig- and now, angry at _him_ for invading his space- but Aya had finally accepted the fact that his anger would get them nowhere right now enough to calm down a bit. After a long moment, Aya followed, his footsteps falling softly to the ground behind Crawford. They made their way to the car, sliding into the seats. Aya refused to look at him during the drive, and followed silently behind him when they'd reached the hotel.

    Crawford let them into the room he'd been sharing with Nagi. Schwarz and Farfarello had the room next door. His eyes took in the group in his room. Farfarello and Schuldig were in the kitchen, playing with the hotel's blender. Yohji was leaning out a window, smoking. Ken was channel surfing. Omi and Nagi were seated in front of the computer. Ken looked up.

    "That didn't take as long as I thought it would," he commented.

    The pair headed towards the computer. "Find anything?" Crawford asked.

    Nagi didn't look up and his work didn't slow. He and Omi were watching as screens of information and numbers flicked by rapidly in front of them. "Possibly," he replied in his quiet voice. Crawford waited, knowing the boy would continue. If it were Schuldig or anyone else, Nagi would probably wait until he was prompted again, but Nagi knew better than to do that with Crawford. Crawford expected the information, and Nagi was to give it. That was the way things ran. "There is a large meeting tonight, and Taketori is not expected to be present. No names are listed. That means we have to go in and take roll ourselves." The boy finally looked up, meeting Crawford's eyes. "There should only be two of us going. More would make them suspicious."

    Crawford thought this over. "Schuldig will go, because his power will be useful. I will go, because I will be expected to. During Taketori's absence I have gone to keep an eye on things there."

    "How long?" It was Aya speaking. His voice was cold but quiet, subdued, in a way.

    "It takes an hour to get there. As soon as we find the destination, we will call back and you six can take care of Taketori."

    "Schuldig will not like being left out of it," Nagi spoke up carefully.

    "Schuldig will have to learn to deal with my decision."

    /Trying to keep me from Taketori?/

    Crawford answered across the bond. /He is not yours to kill. Don't complicate things. If it makes you feel better you can scramble all of the other department heads' brains when we're through getting what we need from them./

    /Whatever./ The reply was nonchalant, but there was a faint bitterness to the undertone. Schuldig hated Taketori so much. He resented being denied the chance to kill his enemy. Crawford knew, however, that Aya had to be the one that killed Taketori. The results of Taketori's death varied greatly depending on which man killed him. With Schuldig as the murderer, Aya would still carry the grudge and burden of Taketori's actions, and would become more withdrawn when he was unable to justify the wrongs with killing Taketori himself. If Aya killed him, Schuldig would eventually push the abuse against him to the back of his mind and Aya would possibly thaw out some.

    "Schuldig," Crawford said, heading back towards the door. "Come along."

    The German came out of the kitchen. The pair paused by the door, glancing back towards Nagi to see if he had anything to say. "I'm going to keep digging around for a bit longer," the boy told them. "There's a shipment order that was filed away, and something about it doesn't seem right. We'll be waiting for your message."

    Crawford turned towards Schuldig, and the two stood in silence for another moment before Schuldig smirked. "Are we going or what?"

    They headed down towards Crawford's car. Before Schuldig got in, though, he leaned against the side of the vehicle, crossing his arms on the hood and propping his chin on it. He gazed at Crawford across the car top. "Here's a bit of advice for you, Bradley boy," the German said with a wide grin. Crawford eyed him warily, not liking the expression on Schuldig's face. "Earlier you asked yourself a question- 'Now that I've got him here, what I am supposed to do?'. Remember that question?" Crawford didn't reply. "The answer's simple." Schuldig gave a shrug, sliding back off the car and opening the passenger door. His smirk widened.

    "You kiss him."


   She was cold. She was distinctly aware of that uncomfortable feeling. Had she kicked her blankets off during the night? Maybe. She was forever doing that. She sighed mentally, trying to reach out with a hand and fix the blankets, but her hand didn't want to move. It felt heavy, dead.

    ~I must be more tired than I think...~

    She _was_ exremely tired. She wondered if she was going to be able to get back to sleep without her blankets. The next morning she was probably going to be scolded and told she was going to give herself a chill if she didn't wear her blankets. Ah well. The cold wasn't as noticeable now, and she allowed herself to slip back into a fathomless pit of black.

Part 7