A lone figure stood on the rooftop, leaning against the wind, expressionless blue eyes gazing out on the city. Far beneath him cars appeared to be no bigger than a pen cap, and the people were small colorful dots milling around on the sidewalk. He reached up with a hand when his bangs were thrust into his face by the powerful breeze, tucking them behind his ear with slender fingers. A slight smile curved his lips as his fingers moved to touch the two scars that ran from under his ears to halfway through his cheeks, one on each side of his face. His fingertips lightly rubbed over the damaged flesh, then dropped to his mouth to trace the smile.
It had been a while since he had really smiled- a true smile, not the kind to reassure old ladies that he was innocent. He couldn't remember when he had last made the expression. He used to smile a lot, but within the past seven months it had ceased to mean what it used to, it had stopped being so easy to form.
Now that he was home, maybe things were different.
He scoffed, turning his back on the grandeur that was Tokyo, now letting the wind buffet his back, fixing his eyes towards the clouds. Things were different, but things were the same. That was how life was. Tokyo would remain to be his home, the people he left might continue to be his friends, but he was not the same person he was when he had walked out of his room and out of the city half a year ago.
~No,~ he mused. ~I am much, _much_ different.~
The boy couldn't wait until _He_ saw the change.
"Looks like round two of the game begins," he murmured.
It was a short trip to the pet shop. The windows and door were covered with neon signs advertising that a grand sale was going on within its four walls. He paused outside, tucking his small ponytail inside his windbreaker and pulling the hood over his head so that it covered his bangs from view. Stuffing one hand in his pocket, he reached out with the other and opened the door, letting himself inside. The rush of cool air from the air conditioner washed over him, carrying with it the smell of shavings and pets and the sounds of excited customers cooing over the animals.
He slipped through the crowd easily, his feet carrying him towards the corner of the shop where the kitten display was. There were six, all of them small and adorable. A slight smirk quirked the corner of his lips as he ran his eyes over them. Two were small bombays, one was a siamese, one was a tabby, and two were Japanese bobtails. The boy turned, beckoning to the nearest sales agent.
The woman twisted her way ungracefully through the clump of school children to him, offering him a smile that showed her braces. "Can I help you, sir?" she asked.
He reached out, touching the glass that separated him from the cats, fingers spread out and bent so that only his fingertips touched the glass. "I would like to purchase the two black ones," he told her.
"Sure thing!" She bobbed her head and reached over, unlocking the glass.
The boy stepped aside, watching silently as she worked. She secured both kittens, picking them up by scooping a hand under each cat's stomach. He frowned slightly. ~Ignorant person,~ he thought wearily. ~Kittens have scruffs for a reason.~
She nudged the glass shut with an elbow. He reached over, locking it for her with the keys she'd left hanging from the bolt, and dropped the keys in the pocket of her apron. She gave him a grateful smile, again flashing those neon yellow braces of hers, and jerked her head in the general direction of the counter.
The crowd quickly parted for the girl when they noticed she was carrying two small cats, the females cooing in delight as they watching the small creatures squirm. He took advantage of the cleared space, keeping close behind her. At the counter she handed him the kittens so she could open a small carrying box.
"That's all right," he assured her. "I won't be needing a box."
She blinked. "Are you sure? The noise out there," another jerk of her head, but this time towards the entrance, "might give them a fright."
"If they get scared, that is my problem to deal with," he told her, his tone soothing.
"Well, if you're sure..."
~Must I repeat myself?~ He gave her a bright smile, easily hiding his annoyance. "I'm sure." He set the kittens on the counter, tucking his jacket into his pants and unzipping it halfway. "I'd also like two collars." He glanced over the small rack on display behind the cash register. "An orange one and that light blue one." He pointed. She turned obediently and lifted them down, and he gestured to the small "Make Your Own Tags- Fast!!" stand-up ad next to the register. "And two of those."
"Pick a shape and what you want on it," she told him, holding out a small case of oddly shaped tags. He selected two that looked like flowers.
"One of them is to say 'Feed Me' and the other 'If Lost, Please Meow'."
She laughed at his choices, but typed them in and inserted the tags into a small machine. As he waited, he turned to the kittens, extending his fingers and wiggling them to catch the felines' attention. His two tags clinked onto the counter. He hooked the 'Feed Me' onto the orange collar, and the other tag onto the blue one, then slipped the collars around the two pets' necks. "That's it," he said in reply to the woman's silent question.
"All right, that'll be-" She froze mid-sentence as he let out a ripple of power, brushing it against her mind. She blinked a few times, trying to gather her thoughts, then gave him a wide smile. "Thank you! Have a nice day!"
"You too." He gently picked up one kitten by the scruff, setting it inside his jacket, then added the second one. They poked their heads out at the top as he turned away from the counter, heading towards the door. He laughed quietly at them, gently scratching their heads.
"Don't get too comfortable," he murmured, pushing open the door and stepping back out into the bustle of the city. His hotel was only a short distance away. In just minutes he was secure in his room and the two kittens were curled up on his bed. He stood by the window, gazing out through the window, holding the blinds out of his way.
He had a couple hours to wait until nightfall. He might as well waste some time. Turning away, he let the blinds slide back in place. Glancing towards the snoozing cats, he slipped into the hard chair by the small card table, opening his laptop computer. DeathQuest was a good way to pass time, he'd learned, pulling up the game. He could get at least three levels done before it would be time to ready his equipment for the night's expedition.
The small lock of the door clicked as it opened. He tucked the old key back into his pocket, sliding open the door to the shop and entering. Once again the kittens were tucked in his jacket. He closed the door silently behind him, moving on soundless footsteps across the storage room and into the front room of the shop. It was darker inside than it was out, but these surroundings were too familiar to him for him to get lost. He made his way easily to the front of the room, searching with a hand on the wall for the small switch that would activate the silent alarm system. His fingers brushed across it. With an expression more smirk than smile, he flicked it on.
This alarm was rigged to the apartments and communicators of the four owners of this flower shop, installed after enemies came to the shop once. Its purpose was that if one or two people were working and trouble rose, they could alert the others.
How long would it take for a response? He guessed between three and five minutes for Aya to get here, and just a bit longer for the others. The boy turned away from the switch, feeling around for a table and hoisting himself up. He took a small tool from the bag at his waist, drilling a small hole in the ceiling. The tool was replaced by a pencil-sized camera that he secured in the hole, stringing the wire along the ceiling tiles and then down the wall. It was obvious it was there, but it was meant to be obvious. Unrolling more wire he lightly dropped to the ground, one hand pressed to his jacket to try not to jostle the kittens too much.
He headed towards the railing that covered the front of the shop, unbolting it and sliding it up an inch, enough that he could stick the end of the wire- and the antenna attached to it- under the crack. Finished, he straightened, pulling a kitten out of his jacket front and tracing his fingers carefully over its tag. This one had less engravings for his finger to run across. Wrong kitten. He lifted the other one out, returning the first to its spot. From observation yesterday he had noticed there was now a small container in the middle of the shop that held bags of potting soil. With the kitten gripped gently in one hand, he felt around for the glass box.
It took a few tries and picturing the shop in his mind for him to find it. He tugged, tipping it over, and shoved the bags out of the way with his foot. He set the kitten inside, rooting around in his pocket for the small bag of meat he'd brought along. Fingers brushed against plastic and he pulled the bag out, emptying half of it in with the kitten. It was a chewy meat, so it would keep the kitten occupied long enough.
The other kitten smelled the food and pawed at the inside of his jacket, mewling pitifully.
"Soon, baby cat," he soothed it. "Soon you'll get your share." He couldn't resist handing over a small piece, though, and smiled slightly when the kitten greedily took it from him, needle sharp teeth nipping his fingers in the process.
His mental timer told him that it was time for him to leave. He crossed the shop, moving through the storage room. He locked the door from the inside before stepping out and pulling it shut behind him. He circled around the shop, heading across the street and settling himself on the stairs of another building. Light from streetlamps dimly lit up parts of the road and the front of the flower shop. He pulled his bag into his lap, pulling out a small hand-held computer. He'd never had much use for them, except to receive signals from small cameras like the one he'd rigged in the shop. He flicked it on and the screen lit up, then blackened as it relayed the inside of the shop to him. He waited.
He did not have to wait long before lights came on on his screen. Biting his lip to keep from laughing, he watched the computer eagerly to see how this would play out. Aya was standing to one side of the shop, violet eyes taking in the shop. He'd entered from the back way, through the same door the boy had used, in hopes of surprising whoever was inside. It was obvious the redhead was confused. He'd expected trouble- a thief, perhaps. Two more people entered behind him. Yohji and Ken. Yohji moved up by Aya.
"No one's here," the lanky man said, voice tinny.
"Obviously." Aya frowned, moving towards the area where the switch lay hidden. He moved off screen, but his voice was still audible. "What tipped it off?"
"Who knows." Yohji shrugged.
Ken knelt, vanishing from view, then reappeared as he stood. The kitten was in his hands. "Hey guys, lookit this." The two other men turned towards him, gazing at the cat for only a split second. Ken cuddled the kitten against his chest. "How'd you get in here, little one?" He beamed at Yohji. "It's purring!"
Yohji reached over, turning the collar so he could read the tag. "'If Lost, Please Meow'."
Aya spoke up, voice low. "Yohji." The man turned at the sound of his name, then looked up towards the camera- probably because Aya had gestured to it.
"Who would go through all the trouble of setting up a camera and leaving us a cat? I doubt Schwarz has that much free time," Yohji muttered, climbing onto the same table the boy had used, his profile blocking out everything else as he began to fiddle with the camera, loosening it from his spot. "What kind of cat is it, anyway? It's pretty."
"I think..." Ken hesitated, and the boy could imagine him screwing his face up in concentration. "I think it's a bombay cat."
Silence. The camera paused mid-jostle. "Aya?..." Yohji finally spoke up. "Come here and take a look at this camera." Then the image fizzled out as the camera was jerked from its spot, its wire popping easily out of the back.
The boy stood, petting the kitten through his jacket. One down, one to go.
Schuldig was almost asleep when something landed on his chest. Grunting in suprise, he opened his eyes. Slit-pupiled yellow ones gazed back just inches away. Schuldig blinked, sitting up. The kitten mewed as it was knocked into his lap. The light was still on in the room, as he'd been too exhausted to turn it off upon arriving home. He'd just closed the door and dropped into bed, sprawling across it sideways.
Where had this kitten come from? He turned the collar to look at the tag, arching an eyebrow at the two word message. Before he could do anything else, the presence of another mind suddenly appeared to his right. He turned, sharp jade eyes narrowing. Someone with mental shields was in his room. He paused, taking in the figure at the foot of the bed, the figure of a person he had not seen in many months, a person he had passed off as being dead.
The boy was kneeling on the ground, his arms crossed and resting on the edge of the mattress, his chin perched on his arms. Calm blue eyes met Schuldig's, and wheat colored hair framed a face that used to look childish. Two scars adorned the cheeks, and Schuldig felt his mouth curve into a wide, amused smirk. The boy smiled back, tilting his head to one side and brushing at his bangs with his fingers.
"Hello Schuldig," the boy greeted.
"Welcome home, Omi."
Omi stood, making his way silently around the side of the bed. He sat beside Schuldig, one leg tucked under him. "Do you know why I'm here?" he asked, his eyes locked with Schuldig's, both of them searching each other's gaze. Schuldig prodded at Omi's mind and hit shields that didn't use to be there. Interesting. Apparently the boy had gotten himself able to shield himself enough from Schuldig that the German didn't even notice his presence, but also just block his thoughts like Crawford could.
"You're wearing shields," Schuldig told him.
Omi smiled slightly, then moved the kitten from Schuldig's lap to the floor. His small hands reached up, cupping the sides of Schuldig's face. "Lets just say I'm very, very bored tonight and I'm in the mood to be fucked," the boy whispered before leaning up and covering Schuldig's mouth with his own in a brief kiss, then lowered his hands from Schuldig's face to his chest. The smile he turned on Schuldig was darkly amused. "We'll see who wins this round of the game, ne, Schu?"
Power exploded within the telepath's mind.
Continue to Part 1