"Parry" is an experiment between Amiko and myself. We came up with one pairing and five set prompts, then sat down and wrote our drabbles completely separate from each other. The point was to see just how similar/different our stories turned out.
Although there are five prompts, these five drabbles are all part of one story.


Prompt : Drinking Contest

      The smell of alcohol was so strong he thought he'd get drunk just from breathing. He shifted restlessly and let his gaze rake around the room. Almost everyone here was trashed or well on their way there. They were stumbling and unsteady and loud. They would be pathetic targets, but that didn't stop him from looking. They were practically inviting his knife and it took serious effort to ignore that. He ran his fingertips over his blade, not quite hard enough to break the skin, and imagined the taste of blood.

      Not yet, Schuldig sent him.

      Farfarello dragged his gaze away from a clump of squealing women and focused on following the telepath. They worked their way from the door to one of the back corners of the bar. Schuldig couldn't see Kudou in this crowd, but he didn't need to be able to see him. He led Farfarello unerringly to where the ex-detective was waiting for them.

      The booth the man had snagged was covered in empty glasses, evidence that he'd been waiting a while. Schwarz had gotten held up with their client, with whom they were supposed to be spending this New Year's Eve. Schuldig had made himself so insufferable that Crawford had finally gotten rid of him. Why he'd sent Farfarello along, the Irishman didn't know. Drinking was one thing; drunken foolery was another. Death was his pastime of choice and Farfarello had expected trouble for their client tonight. He was not pleased by the abrupt change in plans.

      Schuldig was, however, and that rarely boded well for him.

      Schuldig snagged the glass Kudou was drinking from, drained half of it, and leaned in for a hard kiss. Farfarello had no interest in watching them go at it, so he moved for the bench. Stepping past Schuldig brought Kudou's companion into view. Fujimiya Ran was trapped in the corner seat. He had a dark expression on his face that said this was not at all how he'd been planning on spending his holiday.

      Farfarello paused beside the bench as Ran's gaze flicked his way. Ran had been nursing his own glass, holding it in both hands so he wouldn't strangle his drunk teammate. As soon as he saw Farfarello, he slammed the cup down on the table.

      "You said you were bringing the telepath," he said flatly. "You didn't say anything about Farfarello."

      Kudou and Schuldig had been fucking for almost six months now, but apparently six months wasn't long enough for Ran to start calling Schuldig by his name. Farfarello found it vaguely interesting that he was an exception. Then again, they were both swordsmen, of a sort. When Schwarz and Weiß had first crossed paths, Farfarello and Ran had only fought occasionally. In the recent months, both teams had been busy and had been overlapping jobs more and more often. Any time it led to a fight, Farfarello inevitably went for Ran. Ran kept it from being an easy fight, which made him more fun to play with than the other cats were. Just the sight of him was enough to kill Farfarello's dour mood. Farfarello shifted his grip on his knife, wondering if he'd get to end his night with a fight after all.

      "I invited him," Schuldig said, offering Ran a lazy smile. "Just like I told Kudou to invite you once I knew Farfarello was coming along."

      That earned him a hot look. "Shut up."

      "I haven't told him yet," Schuldig said, amused, then waggled his fingers at Farfarello. "Well, that him. Kudou's known for about a month."

      Ran reached for a sword he didn't have. Schuldig was not impressed. He motioned to Farfarello. The Irishman slid onto the bench and moved down until he was sitting across from Ran. Kudou flicked his teammate a sideways look, then studied Farfarello as if trying to figure something out. He seemed to be having trouble with it, because he turned a questioning look on Schuldig. Whatever he asked, he kept between their minds. Schuldig offered him a toothy smirk in answer and drank the rest of his stolen beer.

      Telepathy brought a waitress over to their table with four clean glasses and four pitchers of beer. She cleared all of the dirty dishes away. Ran started to push his new glass toward her. Schuldig snagged it and put it back, and the waitress disappeared.

      "Enough," Ran said.

      "Lush," Farfarello murmured, just loud enough for Ran to hear. The redhead flicked him a cool look. Farfarello answered it with a hooded look of his own. Ran and Kudou were both a bit flushed in the face, courtesy of their Asian genes. Farfarello idly wondered if Ran would turn as red as his hair. Blood would help. He lifted his blade and pressed it against his lower lip, imagining the tangy salt of Ran's blood.

      "He's actually doing pretty good so far," Kudou said, eyeing Farfarello a little warily. The Balinese was smart enough to know that screwing Schuldig didn't earn him any favors with Schwarz. Since Farfarello was Schuldig's tagalong of choice, Kudou had seen the Irishman more often these past couple months, but he'd never gotten comfortable around him. Farfarello figured Schuldig had warned him otherwise. The second Kudou relaxed, Farfarello would assume that meant Kudou didn't see him as a challenge, and he'd be obligated to prove him wrong.

      "Get up," Ran told Kudou. "I'm leaving."

      "What's wrong, your self-control feeling a bit shaky tonight?" Schuldig asked. "Kudou, let him up. I want to see what he looks like with his tail between his legs."

      There was no way Ran could leave after a comment like that, so he fixed Schuldig with a baleful stare. Kudou poured a round for everyone and lifted his glass in a toast. Schuldig clinked cups with him without hesitation and they went around the table. Ran knocked glasses with Farfarello's like he wanted to spill their drinks everywhere. Farfarello offered him a slow smile in response, amused by that challenge.

      It was all downhill from there.

      Farfarello drank from time to time, but he didn't make a hobby out of it for a reason. He liked his reflexes up and running. He'd made the mistake of getting drunk only once, when he was sixteen. He'd lost his eye in the resultant fight. Since then, he generally refused to have more than two glasses of beer at a time. Ran was the same, content to drink now and again but careful to keep from drinking one glass too many.

      Facing each other down over a table, though, seemed a good enough reason to break all of the rules. It wasn't quite the fight Farfarello had been looking for tonight, but once it'd started, he wasn't going to be the first to back off. He noticed when Kudou and Schuldig slowed down, couldn't possibly miss the amusement on Kudou's face or the knowing smirk on Schuldig's, but had to ignore them in favor of Ran.

      The second time Ran knocked a glass over, their partners decided it was time to go. Farfarello didn't know what time it was or how much he'd had to drink. He knew the bar was almost upside down by that point, but he thought he could still make it out of there one way or the other. The fact that Schuldig helped haul him to his feet made Farfarello suspicious, because Schuldig never went out of his way to be helpful. Schuldig saw that distrust on his face no problem and offered him a taunting smile.

      "You make it way too easy, Farfarello," he said.

      Farfarello reached for his knife but couldn't find it. He found it in Ran's hands a second later, but he didn't remember giving it to the redhead. Kudou had his arms around Ran's waist and was offering his body as a prop. Ran didn't seem to notice; he was turning Farfarello's blade over and over in his hands, looking fascinated by such a small weapon. Farfarello eyed his expression, watching the look in Ran's eyes as he tested the blade with his fingers. Ran cut himself on accident and sucked his thumb dry. He moved as if to wipe the blade off on his shirt, then realized he was wearing a leather jacket.

      "Don't think it," Kudou warned him when Ran looked over at his shirt.

      Ran lifted the knife to his mouth instead and sucked the blood off of it. Once it was clean of anything that would stain, he was able to dry it off on Kudou's shirt without argument. Kudou glanced at Farfarello at that, but Farfarello didn't notice. He was too busy studying the way his knife looked in Ran's hands.

      "I'd hoped you were joking," Kudou admitted.

      Schuldig laughed and pulled Farfarello out of there. Kudou followed behind him with Ran in tow, and they hailed a taxi cab. Ran got in back, and Schuldig shoved Farfarello in after him. The telepath followed them into the backseat and let Kudou take passenger. Farfarello ignored his buckle and sat sideways on his cushion, staring hard at Ran. Ran shifted in his seat, stuffing himself in the corner between the door and the back of the chair. He was at least smart enough to pull his legs up onto the chair. He propped his knees against his chest to form a small barricade between their bodies.

      "That is mine," Farfarello said, sending a pointed look at his knife.

      Ran offered him a bored look in answer. Farfarello reached for the knife, but Ran pushed at him with one leg. Farfarello caught his knee and shoved his leg down. He went after his knife with his free hand, but Ran pushed him with the other leg. Farfarello was not amused. The driver looked back as they started struggling with each other, but a couple words from Schuldig had him turning away again.

      At one point Farfarello lost his patience. Unable to get his hands around Ran's throat, he leaned in and bit him instead. Ran's leather collar saved his life, as it took most of the force of the bite. It was still hard enough to bruise, but the quick breath Ran sucked in didn't sound pained at all. Farfarello went perfectly still, staring past his shoulder at the neon lights that rushed by the window dizzyingly fast. The sudden stillness made him acutely aware of the fact that they were tangled together, hands knotted together behind Ran's back where he'd hidden the knife under him. Each of them had a boot on the ground for support; their other legs were pressed against each other, with Ran's on the inside.

      A second was all he got before Ran shifted to pull away. The sudden slide of his leg along Farfarello's crotch startled the Irishman into biting down harder. Ran went perfectly still, recognizing the threat for what it was. Slowly he relaxed his hold on Farfarello's hands. Farfarello stayed put for a moment more, then found his knife and pulled free.

      The car slowed to a stop. Schuldig shoved money at the driver and got out of the car. Kudou climbed out next and opened the door behind Ran. He had to catch his teammate before Ran fell out of the car onto the asphalt. Kudou laughed and got an elbow in the gut for the trouble. Farfarello helped push the redhead out and climbed out last, trying to figure out where they'd ended up.

      Somehow he didn't think Crawford would be pleased to find out Schuldig had brought the cats back to Schwarz's apartment complex. Schuldig likely thought he'd get away with it, seeing how Crawford and Nagi wouldn't be back until tomorrow. Even still.

      Schuldig let them in the lobby, but it wasn't until they were in the elevator that Ran finally figured out he was in unfamiliar territory. Farfarello would have said something, but alcohol and elevators didn't mix. He was too busy holding onto the railing for balance to warn Schuldig about their leader's certain displeasure. Farfarello could see Schuldig's smirk on the mirrored back wall of the elevator car and he made a note to hurt the telepath tomorrow.

      "Don't look at me like that," Schuldig said. "The drinking was your idea."

      Somehow they all got through the front door, and then Schuldig was propelling Kudou down the hall. "Get him in his straitjacket, Red, unless you want him to be loose all night. I really wouldn't recommend that, by the way."

      Ran looked ready to argue or storm right back out, but Kudou flicked him an amused look over his shoulder and held up Ran's wallet. "Good luck getting home," he added cheerfully. "Actually, just plain good luck. I'm rooting for you."

      Schuldig's bedroom door slammed behind them.

Prompt : Straitjacket Sex

      Ran and Farfarello stared down the empty hall, a little disoriented in the wake of such an abrupt exit. At length Farfarello sent Ran a sideways look. Ran still looked like he wanted to leave, but he wasn't stupid enough to think he could simply walk home from here. They were too far from the Koneko, and without his wallet, there was no way he could get a cab. Finally Ran made an annoyed sound in his throat and looked at Farfarello. Farfarello thought his death glare was a little ineffective when he was so red from the alcohol.

      "Where's your jacket?" Ran demanded.

      Farfarello considered that, weighing the pros and cons of picking a fight. He decided it would more amusing to play along for now. He set off down the hall in a not-so-straight line and Ran followed unsteadily behind him. Farfarello's room was the furthest from the door and the barest of the lot of them. His straitjacket was draped across his bed waiting for him. Farfarello set his knife down on his bed and eased into the jacket. He turned on Ran expectantly.

      Ran offered him a suspicious look, not trusting his easy acquiescence. He knew better than to argue and crossed the room to start figuring out the straps. Farfarello said nothing to help, content to watch Ran struggle. Alcohol made the swordsman clumsy. Farfarello found it to be an annoying illusion. Ran wasn't clumsy. Farfarello wouldn't have anything to do with him otherwise.

      "Fujimiya." Purple eyes flicked his way through messy red bangs. "I never said you could call me Ran."

      Farfarello guessed he'd said that last bit aloud. "I will not ask your permission."

      Ran's lips thinned to a hard line at that, but he didn't argue. He yanked the last buckle into place unnecessarily hard. Farfarello sat on the edge of his bed with a, "Straps." Ran picked up the last bands from the bed and eyed them. "Legs."

      Ran knelt in front of him and fastened the straps around Farfarello's calves. Somehow he seemed to have more trouble with them than the straitjacket. "Clumsy," Farfarello accused him.

      "Shut up," Ran sent back, getting to his feet.

      Farfarello snapped his legs up, catching Ran in the backs of his thighs with his shoes. Ran toppled forward onto Farfarello, snarling curses and death threats as they both fell back onto the bed. Ran steadied himself with a hand against Farfarello's shoulder and reached for Farfarello's knife. Farfarello shifted, meaning to get a second kick in, but the slide of body against body made them both go still.

      Oh. That was interesting.

      "Kitty cat is all red," Farfarello noted.

      Ran ignored that and snatched up Farfarello's knife. He shoved the blade hard against Farfarello's throat in a warning. Farfarello wasn't intimidated. His knives knew their master. They would never cut him.

      "Don't tempt me to prove you wrong," Ran said. Farfarello assumed he'd been thinking aloud again. He smiled up at Ran and shifted again, daring Ran to go through with it. Ran sucked in a sharp breath through clenched teeth. "I said don't."

      "Stop me," Farfarello said, a bored taunt. He knew Ran wouldn't. "Bite me."

      Ran stared blankly at him. "What?"

      "I want to see why you liked it so much."

      It took Ran half a minute to realize he was being serious, and another thirty seconds to decide whether or not he would actually go through with it. He pressed the knife a little harder against Farfarello's throat, a clear warning, and slowly leaned down. His weight and heat felt like an open invitation, felt strange in all new ways. It made Farfarello want to shift against him again, but he had the feeling Ran would retreat if he did.

      Between his jacket and his collar, there wasn't much room on Farfarello's throat, but Ran caught him right at the base of his neck. He knew exactly who he was biting, which made him very careful at first, but Farfarello tilted his head back to get him better access. Ran hesitated for just a moment, then slid his leg between Farfarello's and bit down almost hard enough to draw blood.

      That was better than interesting.

      Ran had absolutely no problems interpreting Farfarello's ragged pant. And, perhaps luckily for both of them, he had just enough alcohol in his system to take Farfarello up on that offer. Farfarello felt it when Ran's self-control snapped, even if it took Ran another minute before he would let go of the knife. He wasn't foolish enough to loosen the straps on Farfarello's jacket; he knew Farfarello could get bored of this game in a heartbeat. It wasn't like he needed Farfarello's arms free, anyway. Farfarello didn't demand his freedom because he knew it'd make Ran wary of touching him. He was content to play by Ran's rules for now.

Prompt : Jazz Hands

      Farfarello and Ran didn't see each other for two weeks after New Year's. Their teams' paths had started to diverge at last, though Crawford said it was temporary. The prescient hadn't said anything about what had happened over the holidays, but Farfarello figured he knew. He saw it in the glance Crawford sent him on New Year's Day when he and Nagi had stepped through the front door. Farfarello took advantage of his discretion, if only because not all of his teammates were content to be silently amused.

      Schuldig was insufferable on a good day, but he was proving to be more so now that he'd succeeded in setting the Irishman up. He'd spent most of New Year's Day harassing Farfarello, demanding all sorts of inane details that Farfarello was positive weren't any of his business. Schuldig hadn't been positive that Ran would actually go through with anything, no matter that he'd noticed the attraction months ago, but he'd figured alcohol would help. Still, he'd assumed Farfarello would put up more of a fight for dominance. He thought the straitjacket was a nice touch, or so he said on more than one occasion.

      That was actually how Nagi had found out about the matter, was one of the days Schuldig followed Farfarello from room to room requesting details. Nagi found out more about his teammates' sex lives in that three-second pass than he ever wanted to know. At least he proved useful and locked Schuldig in his bedroom for the next several hours. "Useful" only went so far when Schuldig still had his telepathy, but it was the thought that counted.

      When telling Schuldig to shut up and go away failed to work, Farfarello took to giving him the cold shoulder. It was just as unlikely to deter the telepath, but at least Farfarello wasn't wasting his breath in arguing with him.

      Their first job of the new year finally distracted Schuldig, since it was a weeklong job with a lot of death and even more paperwork. After they were finished with that, they had a couple days to themselves. Schuldig took advantage of the mini-vacation and disappeared in search of Kudou. Farfarello ignored his invitation to come along. Instead he went to entertain himself with murders on the other side of the city.

      Schuldig showed up at Farfarello's bedroom door the next afternoon. "You missed out on all the fun. Your cat's cage is seriously rattled."

      "A cage couldn't hold that cat."

      "He's waiting for you to kill him," Schuldig informed him.

      "One day." Farfarello lifted his shoulder in a careless shrug.

      "As a word of advice, bring your jazz hands next time you go see him."

      Farfarello eyed him. "I don't have any."

      "If you don't understand that, you obviously don't spend enough time around Nagi." Farfarello said nothing, content to stare at him and wait for some sort of explanation. Schuldig splayed his hands at Farfarello. "Like this. I just meant make sure Fujimiya can see you don't have weapons on you."

      Farfarello didn't understand what jazz had to do with a gesture like that, but he didn't ask. "I always have a weapon on me."

      "Then you'll be lying, but who cares? It'll get you some ass." Schuldig waited for a response, but Farfarello had decided he'd had enough of the conversation and had already looked away. "You do know the ball is in your court now, right?"


      Schuldig sighed, disgusted by his teammate's refusal to play along. Farfarello ignored him because he knew Schuldig was in this solely for his own amusement. He went back to cleaning his knives. The empty clips at the end of the case were vaguely annoying. Ran had taken Farfarello's knife with him when he'd left. Farfarello thought it bold of him to steal from Farfarello, especially when he hadn't tried to be stealthy about it. He'd just picked it up and left. Farfarello had found it entertaining enough at the time that he hadn't killed Ran for it. Maybe he should have. He poked the clips, then picked at them with his fingernails.

      "Watch it, Farfarello, your OCD is showing," Schuldig said.

      "I am not obsessive-compulsive."

      "You're doing a bang-up job of convincing me that you're not, by the way," Schuldig said. "You could just go get it back."

      Farfarello knew that, so he didn't bother to answer. He picked at his case some more, then shut it so he wouldn't have to look at that empty rack anymore. He put the case under his bed and fixed Schuldig with a hooded look. "We're going."

      They headed down the hall and met up with their teammates. Crawford drove. Their client was waiting for them at the harbor. So was Weiß, though it took Schuldig a couple seconds to place the cats. Crawford stayed with their client while the other three split up. Farfarello went straight for Ran. He'd made sure to bring his retractable blade this time, as it was the closest thing he had to Ran's sword.

      He melted out of the shadows behind the redhead, letting the hiss of his blade be Ran's heads-up. Ran turned to meet him, already swinging to take his head off. Farfarello offered him a lazy smile as their swords hit. Ran looked a little tenser than usual, unsure of what sort of mood Farfarello was in after Ran had drunkenly molested him two weeks ago. That flicker of uncertainty guided Farfarello's blade. They darted back and forth, boots sliding against the ground on their sharp turns, their weapons singing with skill and bloodlust. It was as much a fight as it was a dance as it was foreplay. Fighting with Ran here made Farfarello think of fighting in that taxi cab, made him think about them on his bed, harsh breaths and fiercer struggling.

      Memory gave him a bit of extra speed. He knocked Ran's sword high and bulled into him with his shoulder, slamming the older assassin up against the side of a building. He shoved his hands against Ran's, pinning their arms and blades over their heads. Ran started to struggle, then thought better of it as Farfarello sprawled against him. Farfarello hadn't realized how long they'd been sparring, but it'd been long enough to get them both a little out of breath.

      His answer came only a moment later, when Ran's earpiece crackled. "Mission complete," Tsukiyono said. "Weiß, pull out."

      Farfarello quirked an eyebrow at Ran, waiting to see how the swordsman answered. He could see the struggle in the other man's eyes, but at last Ran said, "Copy."

      Farfarello thought it over, trying to decide if it was more amusing to kill the man or keep him alive. At length he twisted his hands, forcing his blade to retract.

      "Put it away," he said, lowering his hands.

      He half-expected Ran to try and take his head off. Instead the swordsman lowered his arms. It took Ran another moment to decide whether or not he wanted to sheath his sword. Farfarello wasn't entirely sure why he did. He was less sure why the man reached up and turned his earpiece off. Farfarello studied Ran in silence, debating.

      "You have something of mine," he said at last.

      "It was yours," Ran said. "Now it's mine."

      Farfarello arched an eyebrow at that, amused by the other's bold response. He reached up and traced a finger along Ran's throat, miming slitting it open. He meant it as a threat, except Ran shivered a little at the touch, and that changed everything. Farfarello shifted his grip, curving his hand around Ran's throat, and leaned in to kiss him. It didn't taste like beer this time. He decided it was better this way.

      Ran pressed gloved hands against his vest a moment later, cautious at first, then harder when he realized Farfarello wasn't going to hit him for it. He grew quickly bolder and the weight of his hands against Farfarello were a silent demand in and of themselves. He pushed at Farfarello, not wanting to stay trapped against the wall. Farfarello gave ground to him because it amused him to, because a cat who thought he could control a Berserker was hard to come by. He caught Ran's glove with his teeth when Ran reached up to touch his face. Ran tugged at his hand to get it loose, leaving his glove behind, and raked a bare hand down Farfarello's arm. Farfarello reached up to catch the glove and Ran ducked in to kiss him again.

      Farfarello, we're leaving, Schuldig spoke up.

      Then go, Farfarello sent back.

      Oh, Schuldig said as he found Ran's mind. I guess the 'we come in peace' lesson was unnecessary.

Farfarello added helpfully.

      Just thought you might want to know that you're between Weiß and Kudou's car, Schuldig said. Which means you're going to have a lot of unfriendly company, T-minus ten seconds.

      Farfarello growled something unfriendly at that. Ran immediately went still, sensing he'd crossed a line. "Weiß," Farfarello said.

      Ran gave a quiet, impatient huff at that, but he let go. Neither man moved to put more space between them, waiting for the other to take the first step, which meant they were still standing up against each other when the first of the cats rounded the corner a couple seconds later. Hidaka's claws snapped out.


      Ran sent his teammate a hostile look, offended by the implication that he needed help. "What?"

      Such a careless response left Hidaka reeling, not really sure what to say or do. Kudou was the second to arrive. He glanced from Ran to Farfarello. The amusement on his face irritated Ran more than Hidaka's worry had, judging by the scowl Ran sent him.

      "Next time, have my knife ready," Farfarello said, waving Ran's glove at him, and he turned away. Hidaka glared a hole in the back of his head as he walked off, but Farfarello didn't bother to look back at him. He was too busy feeling out the warmth Ran had left behind on his glove.

Prompt : No Smoking

      The next day Farfarello invited himself to the Koneko no Sumu Ie at closing time. He made sure to go around back, not interested in dealing with the crowd that was still gathered out front. He stood for a minute in the back street, considering the building. The first floor was the shop, while the second and third had Weiß's apartments. Schuldig had told Farfarello which one was Ran's. Farfarello hadn't even had to ask him. He decided Schuldig was getting too nosey for his own good.

      He started up the metal steps, but high-pitched peeping distracted him before he could continue up to the third floor. He followed the sound to one of the bedroom windows. It was propped open a crack with a thin book. On the other side of the window was a desk with a shoebox on it. Inside the shoebox was a bird's nest with three baby birds in it. Farfarello leaned against the glass, watching as they vied for more room.

      It was a foregone conclusion that he would take the nest with him. He pushed at the window until he could fit his fingers between it and its sill, then pushed it open enough to take hold of the box. He didn't bother to close the window again but continued upstairs to Ran's apartment. He dropped the box off to one side so he could pick the lock, then toted the screaming birds inside with him. He left the door unlocked, left his shoes at the step, and lost the shoebox somewhere along the way.

      He left the nest on Ran's bed and invited himself to tour the place. The studio wasn't particularly large, but it looked roomy when Ran hadn't done much to fill it in. Farfarello rummaged through his desk more out of boredom than any real curiosity. He found a magnifying glass in the third drawer, and suddenly he wasn't bored anymore.

      He collected the nest from Ran's bed on his way by and went to sit near the window. The angle wasn't the best, but there was enough sunlight pouring through that it would work. He set the nest on the ground in front of him and played with the magnifying glass, trying to get a beam pointed at the nest. In the end he had to shift around between the nest and the window, since his arm kept casting a shadow in all the wrong places. He held the glass up by his shoulder and settled in to wait.

      A minute later, a key turned in the knob. There was a pause as Ran realized his door was unlocked, and then he quietly stepped inside. Ran said nothing immediately, trying to figure out exactly what was going on. Finally he shut and locked the door.

      "What do you think you're doing?"

      Farfarello didn't bother to look up from where he was crouched. He had one elbow propped on his knee to make a perch for his chin. He kept his hooded eye trained on the nest of screeching baby birds and, more importantly, the spot of light on one's back. He didn't see any smoke yet. Idly he wondered how long it was supposed to take.

      Ran left his shoes by the door and crossed the room to stand behind Farfarello. A shadow fell over the Irishman and his temporary pets.

      "I asked you a question."

      "It was not a question," Farfarello pointed out. He reached behind himself, pushing at Ran's legs with his elbow. The redhead didn't budge. "It was a demand."

      "So you did hear me."

      "It was…" Farfarello tilted his head to one side, trying to remember the right word. Schuldig used it all the time on Crawford. The fact that it always had a negative outcome didn't really matter. Ran didn't have the power to make Farfarello's life miserable. All he had was a sword, and Farfarello might be able to take him. "Rhetorical," he remembered.

      Ran reached down and tried to take the magnifying glass from him. Farfarello pulled out of his grip easily and got to his feet in the same move. He turned to face the swordsman. Ran looked wholly unimpressed by his antics. He reached for the magnifying glass again, and Farfarello moved it neatly out of reach.

      "They're Omi's," Ran said. "He rescued them from out back."

      "They were in his room," Farfarello agreed.

      "Give them to me."

      Farfarello tilted his head to one side, considering that flat command. The swordsman needed to learn to stop using that tone, but Farfarello wasn't going to be the one to tell him that. Then again, Ran might already understand what he was doing. The more anyone demanded of Farfarello, the more he would refuse, and it inevitably led to a fight. With anyone else, a fight would end in the other man's death. With Ran, there was an equally strong chance they'd end up in bed.


      "You'll set off the fire alarm. If the sprinklers destroy our apartments, I'm not going to be the one who pays for the repairs."

      Farfarello blinked at him, needing a moment to process that. He looked from Ran's irritated expression to the magnifying glass to the birds behind him. Slowly he let his gaze drift to where the smoke detector was built into the wall.

      Someone else might have challenged him to the fight for the sake of a couple worthless chicks.

      Trust Ran's principles to be a bit more simplistic.

      At least that explained why Farfarello was here with him instead of with someone else. He held the magnifying glass out in offering. Ran caught hold of it, but Farfarello didn't let go. Instead he let Ran's tug pull him along, and he pinned the swordsman against his window. Ran's annoyed protest got smothered in a hard kiss. That changed the tone of the fight immediately. Somehow they managed to fight their way over to the bed.

      It was much different, Farfarello realized, when he could use his hands.

Prompt : Camping

      "I take it Crawford's still mad at me."

      Farfarello glanced over at Schuldig, hearing all the answer he needed in the telepath's dry tone. The man had the hood of their car open and was watching a trail of black smoke drift up from the engine. Schuldig waved a hand at it, trying to dissipate it enough to see what was wrong, then gave up. It was almost too dark to see the smoke; he certainly didn't have enough light- or expertise- to figure out what had gone wrong with the car itself. He caught at the hood and slammed it shut again.

      Schuldig opened up one of the back doors and pulled his bag out. "Looks like we're footing it the rest of the way."

      Farfarello went to retrieve his own bag. He slung it over his shoulder and pushed the door closed. Schuldig stayed behind a minute longer, making sure they hadn't left anything valuable behind. Farfarello didn't bother to wait on him, and Schuldig didn't rush to catch up. He knew better than to get in hitting range. They both knew this was the telepath's fault. He hadn't destroyed the engine, but he'd irritated Crawford enough that the prescient hadn't bothered to warn them what was going to happen.

      They would have just spent the night at the car, but Crawford had sent them out for a reason and expected them back tonight. They had six kilometers to go until they reached the main cabin, but after the first it was almost too dark to walk. They went three more before it was pitch black out. Farfarello slowed down so he wouldn't run into anything and Schuldig kept close to him, placing him by his thoughts. The telepath was muttering nasty things under his breath as he dug his phone out of his pocket. He started his phone call off with a, "You are amazingly easy to amuse if you think this is funny, four-eyes."

      A second later he said, "Bastard hung up on me." Farfarello wasn't at all surprised. Schuldig was irrationally offended, though, and called back. "You're the one who wants this package. …What? Farfarello, where's the box?"

      Farfarello felt around in his bag until he found it. Schuldig waved a hand around in the dark until he found Farfarello's arm, and he followed it down to the box. "Opening it isn't going to do us any good if I can't see what's inside it," Schuldig told Crawford, but Farfarello could hear him tearing the seal anyway. Schuldig moved his phone away from his ear, letting the light from his screen illuminate the inside. Farfarello leaned in a little to see, and the two found themselves staring at bricks.

      "Son of a-" Schuldig started, but his phone went dark as Crawford hung up on him again. He swore viciously. "People call me immature."

      "You are," Farfarello pointed out.

      "I'm going to beat him senseless as soon as-" Schuldig went quiet. "Oh, never mind. Farfarello, we've got cats coming up quick."

      "For a fight?" Farfarello asked, thinking the night be salvageable after all.

      "No," Schuldig said, sounding a bit disbelieving. "They're going camping."

      It didn't take long before they saw headlights. Schuldig moved out into the middle of the road as soon as he could see whereabouts it was. Farfarello supposed that meant Kudou was driving; any of the others would have accelerated as soon as they saw Schuldig. The car braked a safe distance back and the headlights dimmed. Schuldig and Farfarello waited until the lights had been turned down before turning to face the car. Doors opened as all four Weiß climbed out.

      "Schwarz," Hidaka spat. "That was your car back there? What are you doing here?"

      "Planting mines in the road and stopping you from running them over," Schuldig answered easily. "It would be terribly inconvenient if you died before we wanted you to."

      The four exchanged wary looks before Tsukiyono ventured to say, "If they're not for us, who are they for?"

      "Call it unfriendly persuasion for an uncooperative client. We live to destroy our employers' vacations." Schuldig shrugged expansively. Weiß kept a careful eye on the package he was carrying, looking really uncomfortable now that they thought it was full of explosives. "I suggest you stop for the night. Nagi's going to come through and clear the mines out tomorrow morning. Farfarello, we're going." He started towards Weiß.

      Kudou put an arm in his way. "I think it's best if you stay here."

      "Yohji, you are not keeping him here," Hidaka hissed at him.

      "What, you'd rather have him and Spiky McKnife running around loose?" Kudou asked, arching an eyebrow at him. "Yeah, I feel much safer that way."

      "Frankly, I'd feel much safer if they were dead," Tsukiyono said.

      "Chip off the old block," Schuldig said.

      Tsukiyono reached for his darts. Ran moved then, putting a hand on his shoulder to stop him. "Yohji is right. We're safer if we keep them here," he said.

      "Aya," Hidaka said, disbelieving. "You've got to be kidding me."

      "This way we'll know when the road has been cleared," Aya said. "Yohji can keep an eye on his telepath."

      "I have a name," Schuldig said drolly. "You'd think eight months would earn me that much at least."

      "It's earned you a free bouquet at your funeral," Tsukiyono muttered.

      Schuldig sent Kudou an amused look. Kudou sent him a quick look, silently warning him not to voice whatever he'd sent telepathically. Farfarello could guess it had something to do with Tsukiyono's sister. She was still a point of tension between him and Schuldig, no matter that she'd died a year ago. Things had gotten really ugly when Tsukiyono had found out about Kudou and Schuldig. They'd expected that, which was why he was the last of the cats to know about their relationship. Ran had been the first to know. Farfarello hadn't understood that choice, but then, that was before he'd found out where he figured in the equation.

      "That still leaves him," Hidaka said, pointing at Farfarello. "I don't have chains."

      "Do you have a straitjacket?" Schuldig asked, but he was looking at Ran as he said it. Ran sent him a withering look in response.

      "I knew we forgot to pack something," Kudou said.

      "Come here," Tsukiyono said, and the rest of Weiß followed him to the other side of the car to argue. Schuldig shamelessly eavesdropped. Farfarello could hear the hum of angry voices, but he didn't strain to hear what they were saying. It took several minutes, but finally the four came back. Tsukiyono fixed Schuldig with a cool look and motioned to Farfarello. "He has to be restrained. We can use some of our camping rope."

      "Unanimous bondage vote?" Schuldig asked, amused. "Kinky, cat. You two are meant for each other." Ran ignored him. Hidaka and Tsukiyono eyed Schuldig, not really sure what that meant. Kudou was watching Schuldig, likely warning him off mentally. Schuldig was doing a spectacular job of ignoring him. "Farfarello, you don't mind, right?"

      "No," Farfarello answered, and Ran's gaze slid his way. Farfarello met it calmly, already imagining the feel of rope digging into straining flesh. He could taste blood and sweat and reached up to press his thumb against his lower lip, trying to feel some of that heat and moisture. There wasn't any- yet. The thought made his lips twitch into a slow smile.

      The littler two Weiß were suspicious of that calm agreement and made more than a little uneasy by the look on his face, but Farfarello ignored them. He quirked an eyebrow at Ran and started towards the swordsman.

      "Rope, Omi," Hidaka said, tensing himself for a fight.

      Farfarello feigned not to notice the little Weiß ducking away. "My knife."

      Ran said nothing immediately, but he seemed to realize there wasn't any way he could hide this from his teammates all night. Schuldig was likely to keep dropping his sly comments and Farfarello had no reason to be subtle. Finally Ran held a hand out to Hidaka, warning him not to attack, and moved to meet Farfarello.

      "Aya," Hidaka tried.

      "Ken," Kudou said. "It's fine."

      Hidaka flicked a sharp look at Kudou, who had already buried his hands in Schuldig's pockets. By the time Hidaka looked back at Ran, Ran and Farfarello were standing almost close enough to touch.

      "My knife," Farfarello said again.

      Ran rolled one of his sleeves up, showing Farfarello where he'd strapped the knife to his forearm. Farfarello took his wrist to turn his arm and slowly slid the knife free of his sheath. Ran kept his eyes on the knife, watching the way the headlights made the blade shine. Farfarello thought of Ran's mouth on the knife on New Year's and lifted the blade to his own lips.

      Tsukiyono came back with rope and went rigid when he saw Farfarello with a weapon. "Aya."

      "I will buy you a new one," Farfarello said, ignoring the child. "You can't have this one."

      "Because he's OCD," Schuldig supplied.

      "I am not obsessive-compulsive," Farfarello said, sending a cool look at the German. "It's special."

      "Whatever," Schuldig said. "It's from a set of eight, Red. He's been twitching ever since you nicked it. He should have known he'd get his pockets picked if he brought a stray cat home. Well, bed ransacked. Details."

      "That was your idea," Farfarello reminded Schuldig. "Therefore it's partially your fault I lost it."

      "That was Red's idea," Schuldig said. "Maybe the alcohol and straitjacket hadn't been part of the original plan, but embellishment doesn't make me the mastermind. I was just the enabler."

      "I really hope I'm confused," Hidaka cut in. "What?" Schuldig, who had been oh-so-helpful with information up until that point, went quiet and offered Hidaka a helpless shrug. Hidaka and Tsukiyono looked from him to Kudou to Ran to Farfarello. "…Aya?"

      "Your teammate is despicable," Ran told Farfarello.

      "Yes," Farfarello agreed easily, figuring that was common knowledge by now.

      "I'll run him through later." Ran reached up and took the hilt of Farfarello's knife. Farfarello relaxed his grip on it and let Ran pull it out of his mouth. Ran tilted his head in, replacing metal with a kiss. It tasted like cold steel that was quickly warming around body heat. Farfarello figured it was the most appropriate taste for people like them.

      He didn't miss the frozen looks on the kid cats' faces or the self-satisfied smirk on Schuldig's, but he wrote them off as unimportant. He most certainly didn't miss the way his knife disappeared into Ran's sheath again, but he decided to let it go for the time being. He would get it back later. For now this was good enough.

The End
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