It's been one year, four months, and twelve days since she disappeared from her room like a ghost in the company of a madman.
       Over a year since she left Japan on a plane full of murderers in order to save her life and keep us safe.
       And it's been exactly seven months and twenty-one days since her last letter. The first and only letter she sent. The letter riddled with codenames and warnings of a visit that might never come and an ignored plea to burn the letter. I still have it; flimsy and creased horribly from being read and re-read countless times, tucked safely in the very back of the drawer in my bedside table. A letter that arrived seven months and twenty-one days ago-- the only word from my absent sister in all this time.
       Omi tries to reassure me. "Maybe it's just too risky to write," he says with a hopeful smile. "Or the post office won't send a letter with no return address. There's been no word of Schwarz or Rosenkreuz or anything like that. Any day now she'll come walking through that door and things will be normal again."
       But how long can they expect me to wait? She made it clear in her cryptic letter that she might not be able to return; that the men of Schwarz might keep her from me. I won't accept that.
       I don't know where she is, or if she's all alone, or even if she's all right. I can't get through another day not knowing. This worry gnaws at me and eats me alive.
       Omi says to be patient, to have hope. Ken flounders and tries to change the subject to more cheerful things. Yohji just smiles and looks away with concern in his eyes. He, at least, is just as anxious as I.
       Well I'm tired of waiting.
       I've pulled every string I know, hunted down every scrap of evidence, every possible lead that's appeared.
       If she won't come to me, then I'll go to her myself. The moment I have a real lead, something solid....
       I'll find her.

Notes: Jesus H. Christ. It's a sequel for Mystery Man >_O; Blahh... I must be out of my mind. MM finished fine, I think; I'm doing this for me, though, for my own amusement, because I liked working on MM. Also, this part is strange... the above part is in Ran's POV, but the rest of ch. 1 is in 3rd person past. Starting from chapter 2, however, it will switch back to the first person present I used in MM. Hope that doesn't throw anyone too much. (By the way, for anyone that hasn't read Mystery Man, this fic won't make any sense, so reading MM first would help ^^;;)
Warnings: Violence, gore, some angst, yaoi, het, heavy lime(s), cursing
Disclaimer: Weiß Kreuz is not mine, yadda yadda. I'm just borrowing these lovely characters for fun, not profit. Don't sue me, my paycheck would probably make you laugh. =pp And "The Jabberwocky" is by Lewis Carroll, from his book Through the Looking Glass. The picture of the Jabberwocky in the pic above was drawn by Sir John Tenniel.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

~Excerpt from Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky"~

Chapter 1

       "Nice welcoming committee."
       The girl in white turned towards the speaker, her face composed. The body at her feet gave one last convulsive twitch, but the life force was long gone. She stepped over the jerking leg and approached the new arrival, hands absently smoothing the front of her plain dress. Not a spot of blood had landed on it. "They were expecting you." It wasn't quite a question.
       The German's smile flashed like a knife blade across his face. "Told you Crawford smelled a rat."
       "Huh." She crossed her arms over her stomach and tilted her head to regard him from a few paces away. Her gaze was steady and unnerving for someone so young. "It's been awhile," she noted.
       "Yeah." His eyes flickered to the side as a shadow peeled itself away from the darkness. "Hey, Farf."
       The solidly-built man walked closer, his pale skin even pastier under the glare of the jet's lights. His scars were more garish in contrast, his clothing darker than the night around them. He fixed a single golden eye on the taller man, face expressionless as he slid his bloodied knife into its sheath at his belt. "You're late."
       The girl shifted her weight to one foot, leaning to the side a bit to peek around the foreigner. "Crawford isn't with you?"
       The newcomer flapped a hand dismissively. "He's trying to put out fires on his end. He sent me ahead."
       "And Nagi?"
       "He'll meet up with us." His eyes swept the landing pad, taking in the scattering of bodies. Three were bleeding profusely from every facial orifice, while the remaining two were slashed to ribbons. "Three at once," he noted, voice neutral. "You've gotten stronger. What's your limit?"
       Her shoulder rose and fell in an unconcerned shrug. "I've never had the reason or opportunity to take out more than that at once," she admitted. "I could proably do four."
       The man sneered. "I'll be impressed when you can touch and kill five at once," he teased, turning his attention on the silent Irishman. "At least Paris isn't burning to the ground. I kept an eye on the news, just in case. Especially now that you've infected this little twat," he jerked his head in the girl's direction, "enough to make her nearly as bad as you."
       "Bite me, Schuldich," she retorted automatically, flicking her braid over her shoulder and going over to loop her arm through her lover's. "Come on. We'd better get out of here before someone comes along. Somehow I doubt you filed a flight plan."
       "Yeah right." The older telepath reached out and tweaked at a strand of the Irishman's short reddish hair. "I see the natural look's workin' out for you."
       Farfarello's calloused fingers gestured vaguely towards the small private jet. Get rid of it. His mental voice spiked at Schuldich's mind with its familiar barbs.
       "Ja, ja, hold your horses." He went back up the steps and shouted some orders to the pilot. Snatching up his bag, he hurried back down onto the improptu runway as the steps slowly rose and the jet began to roll backwards, its engine roaring. So take me to your dump already. And please tell me the French eat something other than snails. I'm starving.
       The vaguest hint of a smile played at the young woman's full lips. Not even Farfarello will touch escargot. I'll cook.
       She cooks, she cleans, she's got the body of a goddess, Schuldich heralded mockingly. Farf, what a lucky man you are.
       Farfarello sent him a hooded look. Cleans?
       Schuldich burst out laughing. "Damn, princess, you don't do windows?"
       "Hey, I'm not a fucking housewife." Aya flipped him off. "And don't call me princess."


       The apartment wasn't quite the "dump" Schuldich had predicted, but it was tiny. A general lack of furniture was the only thing that left the three occupants breathing space.
       Schuldich looked around the one-room place with his eyebrows up, and his lips twitched into a displeased frown when his gaze fell on the single scrap of furniture-- a queen-sized bed with plain sheets. "Great. You're gonna make me sleep on the floor, aren't you? You'd better not have wild monkey sex while I'm here."
       Aya moved past him towards the wall closet, ignoring that last comment completely. "We have extra blankets. Paris gets cold in the winter."
       "I'll bet." He dropped his bag on the ground with a thump. "Jesus, Farf, you could've afforded a better place than this. You have shitloads of money in your off-shore account that you barely touch. And trust me, Crawford checks it periodically. All you ever seem to use it for are groceries and plane tickets."
       "We don't like it here," Aya interrupted shortly, coming back with an armload of quilts and blankets. Farfarello wandered towards the miniscule kitchen area to find something to eat. "The city is too crowded and the people annoy us. We had planned on leaving soon. I've seen what sights I wanted to see. There really isn't anything else for us here."
       Schuldich ticked off the countries on his fingers. "Ireland, Spain, France. Where the hell else do you plan to go? You can't go to Germany, I told you that. Not while Crawford and I are still there."
       Aya tossed the blankets onto the floor by their guest's bag. "Weren't you going to move to America?"
       Schuldich shook his head, face lapsing into something more serious. "That's on hold until we deal with this. We need to nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand."
       "Are Nagi and Tot still in China?"
       "What's with this selective hearing bullshit you've suddenly developed?" Schuldich demanded. "Listen, princess, if you think you saw the worst of Rosenkreuz back in the land of the rice cakes and sushi, you're in for a big surprise. There are bigger, badder things out there than telepaths and telekinetics."
       Aya arched a brow. "What could be more dangerous than a telekinetic?"
       Schuldich chuckled, low and unpleasant. "Plenty. And I don't plan in going head-to-head with anyone strong enough to wipe out a Berserker and a telekinetic without breaking a sweat."
       "Hm." Aya glanced towards Farfarello as he returned with a chunk of bread. Are they really that dangerous?
       Farfarello's amber eye flickered her way as he nibbled absently at his snack. Yes.
       "You'll have to find a hotel when the others arrive," Aya said, returning her attention to the other telepath as he began a curious exploration of the apartment. "It's going to be crowded enough with just the three of us. Though Farfarello and I don't stay inside much."
       "You stay out all night?" Schuldich asked, sending a hopeful glance towards the bed.
       "Sometimes. We'll be quiet coming in if we're out late." She reached out and ripped off a corner of Farfarello's bread, popping it into her mouth. "When will they get here?"
       "Crawford, maybe a day or two. Nagi will be here by the end of the week."
       "And Tot?"
       "He'd better leave the little twit behind if he knows what's good for her."
       "He won't like leaving her alone," Aya pointed out, snagging another piece of bread.
       Schuldich rolled his eyes. "He'll like watching her die even less, I'll wager." He paused by the narrow window, peering at the streets below. Faintly he could hear the strains of "April in Paris" from somewhere outside. He picked up the room's single decoration from the window sill and held it up, sending Aya an amused look. "Sentimental value?"
       Aya strode over and plucked the stuffed rabbit from his grasp. "Leave it alone."
       He reached out, finger brushing the long golden earrings she wore before she drew her head back. "Like these?"
       "They're reminders," Aya said firmly, setting Tot's rabbit back on the sill.
       "Of what? A life you can never return to?"
       She leveled him with a cool look. "Sometimes I forget my promise. To Ran. These help remind me. And..." her gaze slid towards the view outside. "Yes, I suppose they are all that's left of my old life. I want to remember where I came from. And what I lost."
       "It's too late, you know," Schuldich said bluntly. "I don't even have to do much digging in your head to see that much. You wanted to see your brother again before you got too close to the edge. Well sorry, chica, but you've toppled over the edge and are falling down the cliffside. You really think he could handle seeing you like this? Besides, we know Rosenkreuz replaced Schwarz at their post in Japan. There's a new team there, now. Eventually they would run into you or Farfarello and put two and two together."
       "You don't know that."
       "A Berserker and a telepath ain't exactly inconspicious, twinkletoes," Schuldich pointed out dryly. "Believe me, I know."
       Farfarello looked over, sensing the turbulence in Aya's mind, and offered the German a long stare. Schuldich shrugged and changed the subject. "I thought you said you were gonna cook. This I gotta see."
       Aya's face smoothed out as if nothing had happened, and she headed for the kitchen without a word. Schuldich watched her go, frowning to himself. Her walls were high and thick, blocking him from her mind so thoroughly he couldn't even get a hint of her real mood.
       Farfarello came to stand beside him by the window, single eye gazing down at the streets below.
       "You know I'm right, Farf," Schuldich said calmly, propping his elbows on the window sill and looking at his old partner sideways. "It's too risky with Rosenkreuz's people in the mix."
       "She wants to see him," Farfarello stated.
       "Which is some small surprise in and of itself," Schuldich admitted. "I was sure she wouldn't give a damn about anyone else but you and her by now." He studied Farfarello's dark scowl and grinned to himself. "But then, I guess big bro will always have some niche in there. Even if after a few years she forgets why she cares about him at all."
       Farfarello turned his head slightly and studied Schuldich with a unnerving, slightly unfocused gaze. Schuldich stared back, nonplussed. He opened his mouth to make a smart remark and--
       Farfarello's prickly barriers had lowered, making it easy for the telepath to taste his mind without even trying.
       There were no words in the mess that tumbled out and fell against his own shields like a writhing, clawing animal. There were images, feelings, ideas. Splashes of red and black and flourescent green. Barbed wire wrapping around and around and around and bursts of images and thoughts and sensations that made no sense, that couldn't be explained in any language.
       With a strained gasp, Schuldich slammed his walls down, cutting off the flow from the link, and stumbled away from the window. He propped himself up against the wall because his legs felt funny, and stared at the younger man as he struggled for breath. The back of his throat tasted like something dead, and his head was ringing. Everything was too bright, and it was hard to concentrate. He shook his head sharply, and slowly everything became muted and normal again. Farfarello was staring out the window as if nothing had happened.
       "Fuck, Farf," Schuldich growled, pushing himself upright angrily. "What the fuck was that for??"
       Farfarello ignored him, and after a tense moment Schuldich let it go. It was a rhetorical question, anyway. He already knew what Farfarello had been showing him.
       It had been a harsh reminder, a cold fact. A clear statement without words:
       'You have no idea what this is.'
       Schuldich shuddered inwardly and rummaged in his coat pocket for his cigarettes. Sometimes he forgot; so many years as the Berserker's partner, and he'd let himself forget. Despite his shields, Farfarello had managed to infect him to some degree, even if he was nowhere near as twisted inside as Aya had become. He had thought he understood, or maybe he just accepted what Farfarello was, and so thought he knew what to expect.
       I don't, he admitted to himself as he lit a cigarette with a nearly-steady hand. I don't understand it. And I really don't want to.


       Many miles away, the dangers of a psychotic telepath were being discussed.
       Brutal interrogations finally provided a clue and a location.
       And a call was made to take care of the problem for good.

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