Part Seven: Presents and Destinations

   Nagi flipped through the shipment files. What was there about them that seemed off? It was just a simple file, a standard procedure marking that something had come in. It was probably weapons, except the box was recorded to have been labelled with multiple FRAGILE and CAREFUL HANDLING stickers, and had been brought in personally by one of the workers. The name wasn't listed, but it did say where the box was stored. The package had arrived yesterday, so it was near the head of all files on the business of the corporation. Maybe when Crawford and Schuldig had gotten the required information they could do a quick check on it. It shouldn't be anything, but Nagi's senses were still agitated over it.

    Omi moved away from the computer, yawning. "Excuse me," he said, blinking and covering his mouth.

    Nagi looked over at him, a faint smile gracing his lips. "Why don't you rest, Omi? Take a nap. You deserve one. You've had a long day." He closed the computer files, standing. He was done working with them. He held out a hand to Omi, and the boy accepted it. Nagi led him over to the bed meant to be his, climbing onto it and crawling towards the pillows. Omi followed, laying down with a soft sigh. Nagi wrapped his arms around Omi's waist, tucking himself against Omi's back and positioning himself further up on the bed so his head was resting on Omi's shoulder. He didn't care that Ken had stopped in his channel surfing and was staring. The soccer player was not used to two guys showing affection for each other in such a manner. Nagi didn't care what he thought.

    Yohji finished his cigarette and turned back into the room. His eyes flicked over the two boys but he didn't say anything, nor did he hesitate in his journey across the room. Nagi briefly wondered if Schuldig had ever gotten further than flirting with the playboy Weiß. Probably. Schuldig _always_ caught his prey. The only person who had ever resisted his charms completely had been Crawford. But then, Crawford probably couldn't be tempted by anyone.

    Nagi trusted the others to wake them when it was time, and drifted off to sleep.


   Aya sat in a chair, glowering at the wall. Now he was more annoyed than he was before, and this time it was Crawford's fault. That stunt the American had pulled earlier had made him uneasy in more ways than one. He eyed his hands where they rested on the arms of the chair. His fingers were tightly closed over the material. He'd finally been able to put exactly what about Crawford bothered him into thoughts, though it took a great deal of honesty to admit the thoughts were his.

    One, Crawford intimidated him. The man was a clairvoyant, able to glimpse into the future, giving him an air of complete confidence on and off the battle field. Whether matching wits or fighting, it was hard to beat him as he always knew what was coming. Two, Crawford genuinely wanted Schwarz and Weiß to disband, and Aya's team mates agreed with him. Crawford was, in a way, asking him to forget everything of the past. That was too much for Aya to do, at least right now. Three, Crawford made sense. Aya hated having his thoughts and opinions challenged, and that was exactly what Crawford kept doing. The man seemed to have an argument for everything Aya said, and Aya knew even as he rejected his enemy's words that there was truth to them. Crawford had a view on everything that was very different from Aya's, and what was annoying was that it showed exactly how limited Aya's view was. Aya focused on the immediate things that pertained to him, his sister, or Taketori. Crawford watched everything.

    Four, Crawford kept touching him. Aya's hands dug tighter into the chair. What was up with the man? His rare moments where he'd touch Aya left Aya off-balanced and confused, not knowing what to expect, and he hated that. He wanted to know why Crawford was doing what he was. Aya wanted to know why he allowed Crawford to do what he did. Why had it taken him so long to break away from Crawford's grip?

    Aya frowned darkly. All in all, Crawford made Aya uneasy and slightly nervous, and Aya hated feeling that way. That was why he had lashed out so many times, and that was why he would continue to lash out. Most of Aya's anger wasn't directed at Crawford- but at himself for being unable to cope with the man's presence.

    Well, it didn't matter. After his sister was safely back Schwarz would be gone again, and Aya wouldn't have to worry about this anymore.

    "You going to be all right, Aya?" Yohji asked, stepping into view.

    Aya raised narrowed eyes up to Yohji. "What do you want?" he asked icily.

    Yohji crouched in front of him. "Just checking up on you."

    "I don't need to be checked up on. I'm not a child."

    Yohji smiled slightly, amused by the retort. "I wanted to see how you're holding things together. Sitting over here fuming and sulking isn't going to make the time pass faster. It slows it down, trust me. Come watch soccer with Ken and me. It'll help."

    Aya continued to glare at Yohji, as if by glaring he could will the man to go away. He wanted to fume. His sister was still out there somewhere. Then again, if he kept thinking of it he'd start coming up with worse case scenarios, and that would drive him insane within minutes. He pulled himself to his feet and Yohji stood. Yohji paused, turning towards the kitchen, and Aya looked to see what Yohji was gazing at. Farfarello was laying on the table, playing absently with the blender cord. Something flickered in Yohji's face as he seemed to be remembering something he'd been told.

    "Farfarello," Yohji called. The Irishman's hand stilled but he didn't look up. "Did you know that watching soccer hurts God?"

    Aya glanced at Yohji before looking back in the kitchen. The bleach-haired man sat up in a graceful move, his hands propped on the tabletop and holding him up as he studied the two with one amber eye. "Soccer hurts God?" he repeated, seeming to think this over.

    "Come on. There's a game on. All four of us can hurt God. All right?"

    ~Is Yohji crazy? What is he doing?~

    Farfarello slid off the table, moving on silent feet towards them. Aya had to resist the urge to recoil from the scarred man's approach. The three headed towards Crawford's bed. Yohji sat on one end behind where Ken was on the floor. Farfarello sat on the floor beside the soccer player. Ken stared at him, wide-eyed with apprehension and fear, but Farfarello's gaze was locked onto the television screen. Aya sat further back on the couch, off to Yohji's side. The game had just started. Aya had never particularly liked soccer, but it _was_ something to do.

    His eyes caught the reassuring pat Yohji gave Ken on the shoulder. The brunette looked up at Yohji questioningly, his mouth twisted in a mix between a grimace and a frown. Yohji just smiled back, in a comforting sort of way, and motioned to the screen. Ken sighed quietly and turned his gaze to it. Aya saw the way Yohji's hand remained on Ken's shoulder, and his eyes flicked up to Yohji's face. Yohji glanced back at him, noticing Aya was watching him still. Aya again dropped his eyes to Yohji's hand. Yohji followed the look and grinned at Aya in a "You don't mind, do you?" sort of way.

    Aya blinked. Yohji turned back to the game. Ken didn't seem to notice the hand on his shoulder, or he did notice and didn't mind. Aya looked over towards the other bed, where Omi and Nagi were curled up, facing the direction of the television set. Their breaths were quiet and deep as they slept.

    "How does soccer hurt God?" Farfarello finally spoke up after several minutes of watching.

    Yohji replied easily, voice smooth. "They're kicking a ball around. God doesn't like that. Didn't you know that?" Farfarello tilted his head to eye Yohji, trying to see if he was being mocked. Yohji's face was earnest. "You can even ask Ken. He plays soccer, and teaches it, too." Ken looked uneasy when Farfarello's attention was turned on him. "Soccer hurts God, right, KenKen?"

    "Uh, yeah." Ken nodded.

    Farfarello seemed to be satisfied by this answer and turned his attention back to the game.

    "It's amazing how many things hurt God, hm, Aya?" Yohji murmured to Aya since the Irishman was no longer listening.

    "What are you trying to do?" Aya asked him, voice flat.

    "I'm merely keeping Farfarello entertained until we receive our next instructions. Schuldig wanted me to keep him out of trouble, so I am."

    "Hn." Both turned to the game.


   Schuldig was glad to have arrived at the building. Ever since he had given Crawford advice on what to do with Aya the man had slammed a barrier down on his mind and refused to talk to him or listen to him. It had been a very boring hour, probably one of the most boring hours Schuldig had had in a long time. He'd been forced to turn to the radio for companionship, but if there was one lesson he had learned well it was that Crawford hated anyone touching his car radio- and he particularly disliked the music Schuldig preferred listening to. The radio hadn't remained on very long.

    ~You try to improve someone's sex life and look what you get,~ Schuldig muttered inwardly as they exited the car. Two guards were standing by the front door. The men recognized Crawford and Schuldig. Schuldig briefly skitted through their minds, enjoying the taste of their thoughts and the fear lining them. They knew the two were Schwarz, and in these circles, everyone feared Schwarz. It was a good position to hold.

    But then, they were no longer Schwarz. They no longer belonged to this group. These men worked for Taketori, and whoever worked for Taketori was an enemy. Schuldig's smirk turned sinister. The door was opened for them immediately, and they entered. As Schuldig passed the two he calmly fried their minds. They thudded softly to the ground, and Schuldig closed the front doors behind him and Crawford.

    Their footsteps fell quietly against the floor as they crossed the welcome room and started up the stairs to where the large meeting room was. A waiter swept across the second floor, a tray of champagne glasses balanced expertly on a hand as he made his way towards the double doors to the same room the two Schwarz were after. He paused upon seeing them. It was easy to recognize any member of Schwarz, even for those who hadn't seen them before. One was American, one was a fiery orange haired German, one was a bleach haired scarred man who travelled in shackles, and one was a school boy.

    The waiter scurried to open the door for them, and they entered. Seated around the several dozen tables were men and women all in business suits. Schuldig sighed mentally. It looked like he was going to have to do some work this time. He began sifting through the thoughts that invaded his mind, sorting them. The man delivering a speech faltered slightly. Schuldig smirked. He made his way across the room, leaving Crawford on this side. All sounds in the room stopped- forks paused in their paths, light chatter stopped, and the man at the podium looked distinctly uncomfortable. Schuldig was enjoying the fear in these people's thoughts. It would make their deaths so much more satisfactory, knowing that they were afraid even before he'd lashed out.

    He leaned against the opposite wall. The crowd looked back and forth between Crawford and Schuldig, thinking the two were there on orders from Taketori. Finally the man giving a speech continued. Schuldig ignored what he was saying, eyes going through the crowd as he identified each person, trying to see who was there and who was not. At these meetings all were required to be present unless Taketori himself dismissed them. The one person that was missing was the key to Taketori's whereabouts.

    There were a few faces he didn't recognize, and he flicked their images to Crawford for identification. A waitress approached with a drink tray, offering him a glass. Schuldig accepted it, smirking into the drink. She was thinking about how frightening he looked, and how cold his eyes were.

    Crawford's mind was finally open again, and the American was ticking off each person as if scratching them off on a mental list. Schuldig finished first, and waited for Crawford's affirmative. It didn't take long. /I'm done,/ Crawford finally said across their bond.

    Schuldig sent him all of the names he'd gathered. When he was done he let Crawford go over them mentally. Crawford summoned him back to the other side of the room, and Schuldig once again was the center of attention as he obeyed his leader's order. The two exited the room, standing just outside the doors while Crawford thought. Finally he came up with a name.

    "Hayabushi Mitsutaka is absent."

    Schuldig scanned for Nagi's mind. It was uncomfortable to search at this distance, but he managed to brush against the boy's mind. Nagi was sound asleep. "Nagi's napping." He bounced to the next mind- Yohji's.

    /Go tell Nagi to get up and get his lazy ass to work./

    ~Schuldig?~ Brief confusion, and slight reluctance to leave his spot by Ken, but Schuldig knew Yohji was obeying him. Soon he felt Nagi's mind stirring and pulling back into the real world.

    /Find information on Hayabushi Mitsutaka. He's our key./

    Nagi murmured an affirmative. He seemed to hesitate before speaking again. /Schuldig...While you're there, will you look for a package? Supposedly it's stored on the first floor, in the back storage room./

    /Maybe./ Schuldig pulled out, looking over at Crawford with amusement. "Farfarello is hurting God by watching soccer." Crawford sniffed and adjusted his glasses. "Nagi wants us to look at something before we leave. As long as we don't need anything from these idiots, though..." He trailed off, smirk turning evil.

    "We're finished with them," Crawford affirmed. "Tell me what Nagi wants us to see and then you can wrap things up here. Just don't overdo it."

    "First floor, back storage room. According to Nagi's background thoughts it has quite a few labels on it." Schuldig turned and opened the doors, letting himself back into the meeting room. This was going to be fun. He slowly began to collect everyone's thoughts and stored them as he made his way towards the stage. His head began to ache with the volume of thoughts gathered in it, but he kept sweeping up more. He wanted the blast to be strong enough that they bled.

    He climbed up onto the stage, steps lazily graceful. The speaker turned to him. Schuldig calmly flicked his fingers, motioning for the man to step away from the microphone. The man did so after only a slight hesitation. Schuldig reached over and picked up the microphone delicately between his thumb and forefinger. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Don't you think it's past your bedtime?" There was silence. Oh, his head was definitely hurting now. "I doubt Taketori told you this, so I'm going to let you in on the little secret. Schwarz no longer works for him. In fact, our next stop is his newest rat hole so we can kill him. Isn't that nice? Unfortunately for you, that makes you our enemies as well."

    There was a ripple of fear, so strong and intense that Schuldig felt a shiver of delight go up his spine. Shouts rang out, and the guards leapt forward, guns ready to take him out at his threat. Schuldig calmly shot the gathered thoughts of all seventy-nine men from the past forty seconds into every mind in the room. They didn't have time to scream before collapsing. Schuldig gazed around, smiling appreciatively at the mess. Blood stained many tables from where brain veins had ruptured. All in all, a nice piece of work.

    He stepped away from the podium, stumbling and swaying slightly. "Whoops, don't tell anyone I lost my balance there," he called to the dead people. "Ja~! Hope we meet again. This was fun." He let himself out of the room. Hm...Maybe he had overdone it just a bit. He was feeling tired and nauseous. He still wasn't completely healed after Meirth's tricks. He winced as he reached the stairs, reaching out and holding the banister tightly. He lowered himself to the stairs, leaning against the railing. Maybe he'd just rest for a bit.

    He had barely closed his eyes when he heard Crawford's startled thoughts. Schuldig's plucked open Crawford's mind to see what the matter was, and his own eyes snapped open when he realized what the man had found.

    He scrambled to his feet, using his gifts to flicker down the stairs and then down the hall, reaching Crawford's side in just a moment. The American turned back to face him, the package near him opened and revealing its contents to the room. Schuldig stepped towards it, eyes going down its shape. A smirk spread on his lips, wide and amused.

    "Well, well..." he drawled. "What a nice gift Taketori has left for us, ne, Bradley? Can we keep it?"

    Crawford didn't reply, as he was having a vision at the moment. Schuldig lightly pressed at his leader's mind when he felt worried and pained thoughts, only to get shut out when Crawford slammed a barrier down. It was much like getting one's fingers slammed in a window, and Schuldig sniffed in disgust. "Get it and go to the car, _now_," Crawford bit out. "We're leaving."


   Nagi typed in the name he'd been given, calling up all files Schwarz had on the man. They popped up immediately. Hayabushi was one of Taketori's smaller men, a perfect choice for someone who needed to get away and hide to go to. He quickly found the layout of the building and the address, looking over his shoulder. Yohji was back in place, eyes on Ken, but Aya was now looking at Nagi expectantly, knowing that Schwarz had to have sent a message for the boy to be up and about.

    "I've got a destination." Nagi went over to the bed, shaking Omi awake reluctantly. The boy needed more sleep, but he knew Omi wouldn't forgive him if he missed this mission. Omi woke almost immediately, blue eyes focusing on Nagi's face. "It's time." Farfarello snarled something incoherent when the television set was turned off, and Nagi briefly wondered what the Irishman had found so fascinating about whatever was playing. Usually Farfarello didn't pay attention to television shows. He spoke quickly to distract the man. "Farfarello, it's time to go kill Taketori."

    The man paused, turning to gaze at Nagi. Nagi beckoned for everyone to come to the computer, and they did so. Omi reseated himself in the fold-up chair they'd pulled up to the desk, and they quickly formulated a simple plan of action. It was built on the same basis that Omi's earlier plan was, but adjusted to add Farfarello in Crawford's place- as Farfarello was going to need someone with him to make sure he didn't go overboard. Nagi was going to be that person. They checked to make sure they still had the six pairs of headsets so they could keep in contact and left the room, locking the door behind them.

    "It's almost time," Aya murmured, more to himself than to Omi, who was beside him.

    "Almost," Omi agreed. They paused outside to double check and make sure all of their weapons were secure in the trunk. Since Crawford and Schuldig had taken one car, they were left with just Yohji's. It had been decided in the room that they would have to endure some cramped space, with Nagi in Omi's lap, in the trip to the flower shop. Once there Omi and Nagi would take Ken's motorcycle the rest of the way, and the other four would come in the car. The trip would take thirty-odd minutes, Nagi had guessed.

    They pulled in back of the flower shop and the two young boys spilled out of the car, Omi adjusting his computer bag on his back as he did so. They watched as the other four juggled seats- neither Aya nor Ken wanted to be next to Farfarello, and Yohji was the one driving- before vanishing in the storage room. There were the sounds of doors slamming from the car, then the sound of its engine faded as it pulled away.

    "Farfarello is probably sitting passenger seat," Nagi muttered to Omi as they made their way across the dark room. "It's strange, how he kind of listens to Yohji now. He used to only pay attention to some of what Crawford said, and recently he pays more heed to Schuldig." He crinkled his nose. ~We all now know _why_ he listens to Schuldig...Ew.~

    Omi grinned in the darkness as his hands finally came in contact with the two motorcycle helmets. Omi had bought his own when Ken started to teach him how to drive the bike. He fastened his headset on, and Nagi did likewise, adjusting the microphone/speaker sets to their own frequency. Yohji's group had the map, so Nagi would have to tell Omi which way to go. That would be impossible without the electrical devices. When finished, Omi handed his helmet back to Nagi, taking Ken's and tightening it on his head. It was still just a tad loose, but that didn't matter. They picked their way through the bags of soil and large plants that were laid out on the floor, making it to the parked motorcycle with only one stubbed toe. Omi kicked up the brake and they walked it towards the door, closing it behind them when they made it outside.

    "Been on a motorcycle before?" Omi asked.

    "Maybe once," came the muttered reply.

    Omi grinned reassuringly back at the boy. "Just relax and go with it. You trust me driving it?"

    Nagi gave him a skeptical look that dissolved into a small grin of his own. "I suppose I can."

    Omi laughed. "Good. Just hold onto me." He slid in front, securing his computer between his legs. Nagi hopped on behind him. Omi revved the engine quietly and pulled away from the shop. Nagi pressed close against him.

    "Can you hear me?" Nagi asked as they quickly picked up speed.

    "Loud and clear, Nagi-chan!" Omi said back in a singsong voice.

    Nagi grinned to himself. "Then turn right up here." He would have pointed, but there was no way he was going to loosen his arm from its deathgrip around Omi's waist. The bike swerved around the corner. Nagi yipped in surprise, fastening himself tighter to Omi if it was at all possible. He thought he heard Omi snicker.

    "That wasn't funny."

    "Of course not, Nagi-chan!"


   Taketori calmly paced the ornate and well-lit study he was occupying, a glass of champagne in one hand and the other made into a fist placed at the small of his back. He raised the cup to his lips, gulping it without ceremony. A waiter hurried forward from his spot by the wall to refill it. Taketori moved closer to the window, lifting his little finger and ring finger from the cup's long and slender handle to move aside the blinds. The time was quickly approaching that his guests would arrive. He'd known it wouldn't be long before they showed up for Fujimiya Ran to claim what was his. Taketori smiled. They were all fools. If Taketori even risked letting Weiß get her back, he lost. What kind of idiot did they take him to be?

    Sure, he had blundered in the past, but that was over. One mistake made a man wiser, two made him feel foolish, and several meant he was stupid. As far as Taketori was concerned, he had only made a mistake once, and that had been to not listen to Hayabushi Mitsutaka before making a deal with the Group. He had asked around about them before answering to Meirth's offer, especially about the beautiful blood-eyed beauty that took to hanging around in Meirth's shadows. Who wouldn't have been cautious of that creature? Such a young thing, weilding one of the most sought-after powers there was...He had been reassured by everyone he'd spoken to save the man he resided with now, who had warned him to steer clear. Einsam may have been totally absorbed by his cold leader, but was mentally unstable.

    Hayabushi had ties with the Group from long ago, yet Taketori had not listened to his warnings, and look what happened. The little chestnut haired bitch had turned on him- had turned on all of them. Well, this time there was no Group to mess up his plans. Now Taketori knew what he wanted from them. He wanted the redhead, and he wanted him _now_- to take or to kill. Hayabushi's guards could take care of the other three. Four assassins were not a problem, especially not since he knew they were coming.

    He smiled, turning away. He'd be alerted when his guests had arrived.

Part 8