Part Five

    Nagi hated their "client" on sight. The man oozed perversion like a rotten fruit dropped from a balcony oozed juice and Nagi could feel the slime crawling up and down his arms as he stood in the same room with the other man. The businessman didn't look up from his phone upon their arrival but gave an imperious beckon to call them in, and the four lined themselves up across the room. Nagi ended up between Schuldich and Farfarello and it was a bit of a nauseating revelation that he wasn't at all worried about the German when there was this other man to deal with.

    "What did you say?" Kurogawa demanded, and Nagi watched spittle fly from his mouth. He hoped it wasn't contagious; it was too much to ask that it wasn't diseased somehow. "I told you, I'm not paying more than that. No. No. You talk to Moriya and you make him understand. What sort of product you think you got? Last I checked, none of them bled diamonds! That's my final offer or I'm going elsewhere!"

    He slammed the phone down onto its cradle and gave grease-slicked hair a hard jerk. "What is the world coming to?" he demanded, and he finally looked up to eye his guests. His gaze went straight past Crawford to Nagi and Nagi felt his gift rip through his fingertips. The look in the other man's eye was the nastiest he had ever seen, going straight past the lust he had tolerated during his "job" to a murderous, sick greed.

    "You brought me a present," Kurogawa observed, pushing himself up to his feet.

    "I apologize for the misunderstanding," Crawford answered. "Nagi is one of ours."

    The easy use of his first name made his skin crawl but he kept his mouth shut, not wanting to say anything to annoy the precognitive when it seemed the man was going to stand between him and the glazed look in Kurogawa's eyes.

    "Your reputation precedes you," Kurogawa told him, giving a wave of his hand to dismiss the precognitive's words. He slid around the corner of his desk and started across the room towards them, and Nagi's stomach flinched when Schuldich moved further away. The telepath propped himself against Crawford to watch the businessman's approach through hooded blue eyes and the lazy smirk on his face did nothing to ease the roiling in Nagi's gut. "There are only three of you. Really, don't be so stingy. If you will not give him to me as a sign of goodwill for this contract, then how much would it take to buy him from you?"

    "You must be deaf," Schuldich noted, and Nagi's gaze bounced away from Kurogawa to stare in surprise at the flashy German. "You're getting a whole new shipment of wiggly jigglies. Leave ours alone and let's get this job started with."

    Nagi wasn't really sure what to say about Schuldich coming to his defense; the breezy words were more condescending than threatening and it didn't help much when he'd put so much space between them, but still… Yesterday he'd been all violent edges and unwelcome hands. Nagi wasn't sure what he was aiming for with an act like this.

    The thud of a shoe against the floor just in front of him dragged Nagi's attention back where it belonged- on Kurogawa, who was barely an arm's reach away. His gift seemed to burn holes in his fingertips and he waited for the man to speak, hoping that he'd spit again like he had when yelling at the phone. The thought of having to ingest such a thing was repulsive but he'd done it before and he'd do it again; he'd do anything it took to get foreign DNA into his system and processed to where he could use it.

    "We will make a new contract," the man decided, and Nagi's teeth clenched behind a stony expression as the spittle stayed where it belonged. "Or, if you insist that you need him, we will wait until your first contract is over."

    He reached out for Nagi then. The teenager was already leaning away when Farfarello's hand came out between them, and pale white fingers clamped down around Kurogawa's wrist. The man flicked him a look that was equal parts offended and surprised but the smile Farfarello offered him managed to wipe out both of those emotions and replace them with uneasiness.

    "Don't touch," Farfarello warned him. Kurogawa said nothing to that and seconds ticked by in silence before the Irishman finally let go. The businessman pulled his hand back as if he'd been burned and Nagi lingered over his relief as the man took a big step backwards.

    "If we could stick to the schedule…" Crawford spoke up. Kurogawa cleared his throat a few times and made a vague gesture with his hands. He seemed at a loss for words, so Crawford offered him another prompt: "You said something about a tour of the premises."

    "A tour," Kurogawa agreed. "Right." He moved past Nagi for the door. His phone started ringing on his desk as he pushed the door open and he snapped something at his secretary about how to handle the call if it was "that bastard Fujioka". Crawford was the first out of the room after him and Schuldich trailed behind, looking far too amused. Nagi watched them go, unwilling to take the first step out of the room after them, and then Farfarello lifted his hand in front of Nagi's face.

    Nagi looked from the half-curled fingers up to Farfarello's face, and the older man tilted his head to one side. "Only if necessary," he said.

    "Necessary…?" Nagi asked.

    "It is for defense only. Anything else and Crawford will be angry with you." He didn't have to say anything else; just the thought of the sharp-eyed precognitive getting mad at him was enough incentive to behave. Nagi still didn't understand what the wraith was talking about, however, until Farfarello flexed his fingers. "His skin."

    He realized then that Farfarello's grip on Kurogawa's wrist had included fingernails and he reached up, taking hold of Farfarello's wrist. "Which one?" he asked, and Farfarello just gazed back in silence. Nagi gave up waiting for a response and slid his hand up onto Farfarello's, fingers moving around the foreigner's to spread them apart. He slipped a long index finger into his mouth, tongue darting out to test the skin around and just under his fingernail. His gift found nothing and he let the finger slide free, switching to the next.

    There it was… His gift curled eagerly around it. It was just the barest offering of Kurogawa's skin but it was more than enough. He could feel his telekinesis processing it and it was almost enough to make him smile.

    "Why would you give it to me?" he demanded of the taller man as he let Farfarello's hand fall free. The wraith eyed his hand for a few moments, ignoring the question, and then rubbed his two fingers against his shirt. Nagi found himself offended before he realized the foolishness of such a thing. Stupid or not, it was enough that he turned a scowl on Farfarello. "How do I know you're not going to just squash my gift again when I need it most?"

    "If it is in defense, then I won't," the other man said, and he stepped past Nagi out of the room.

    Nagi kicked in his general direction before starting after him. The other three were out of sight but that didn't seem to faze Farfarello; he just made his way calmly down the hallway and took the stairs down to a floor crammed full of cubicles. Phones were ringing all around and voices tangled together in a blur of sales pitches. The suffocating whiteness of it all him long for the neon lights and music of Osaka's nighttime streets and he let himself fall several feet behind his unwanted companion.

    He looked back over his shoulder towards the elevator, stomach roiling in a need to get away. His legs were screaming at him to just turn and run, but his brain warned him to wait for a good moment. It was three against one but numbers didn't matter. All he needed was the perfect timing.

    He bumped right into an unyielding body and jerked back, blue eyes bouncing up to see Farfarello had stopped and turned back towards him. Nagi offered him an annoyed look, refusing to look guilty or scheming. Farfarello didn't look overly impressed and picked idly at the black collar around his throat.

    "You won't make it," the man informed him.

    Nagi's heart skipped a beat. "What?"

    "Crawford already saw several attempts," Farfarello answered. "You won't make it."

    "You can't hold me against my will," Nagi started, but Farfarello's smile shut him up.

    "Be careful," Farfarello warned him quietly. Nagi couldn't look up from the smile on his lips to meet his gaze, but he could feel Farfarello's eye boring a hole in his head. "The more you fight, the more I want to hurt you. Don't set him off. He is already unstable."

    "…Him?" A hand in his hair tilted his head back and Nagi finally noted the warning in that hooded eye.

    "The telepath," Farfarello answered, as if Nagi should already know.

    "I don't understand," Nagi sent back, frowning, and he pulled Farfarello's fingers free of his hair. The other looked amused by such a move and Nagi looked around at the harried workers around them before eyeing Farfarello again. "What does that bastard have to do with this?"

    "He is a telepath."

    "That doesn't mean anything."

    "It means everything." Farfarello lifted one shoulder in a vague shrug and looked down the aisle. Kurogawa came around the corner with Crawford at his side and Schuldich several steps behind him, apparently finished giving the two a tour of this floor. Nagi looked past the two in front to the monster in back, eyeing the smirk and icy eyes.

    Farfarello and Nagi stood in place as the three moved by and Kurogawa didn't look at either of them. Schuldich noticed Nagi's attention and as he went by, their gazes met for a moment. The smirk on his face widened and looked a little too much like Kurogawa's, all bloody lust. Nagi didn't have time to react before Farfarello did- the wraith's hand snapped out and he caught Schuldich's wrist. "Stop it," he warned him in a low voice.

    "I know what I'm doing," was the aggravated answer. Schuldich shrugged his teammate off and kept going. Farfarello watched him as the three stopped by the elevators and then beckoned for Nagi to follow him.

    Nagi offered him an incredulous look. "I'm not getting on an elevator with them. Are you insane?"

    "An elevator is too small for what he wants to do to you."

    "That's the worst reassurance I've ever heard in my life."

    -Let's go.-

    Nagi's foot slid against the ground and he shot a heated look down the aisle towards the three. None of them seemed to notice that the other two were hanging back, but Schuldich's contemptuous voice was still ringing in his head. His shoe slid further and then he was taking a step forward, and Nagi grabbed at the nearest cubicle in an attempt to stop himself from obeying the telepathic order. Farfarello wrenched his hand free and dragged him to the elevators. The doors were sliding open as they reached it and Kurogawa turned a slimy look on Nagi.

    "After you, of course," he said.

    Nagi was a breath away from wiping the floor with the man when Farfarello pushed him on first. He started to resist until he realized Farfarello was coming on with him. He caught just a glimpse of Kurogawa's disapproving expression before the rest of the elevator was blocked out. Farfarello had stuffed him into a corner and was standing in front of him close enough that his body was a barricade of sorts. It was uncomfortable standing chest to back with the taller man but compared to the alternative, Nagi decided he liked how it felt.

    "That's rude," Kurogawa said, and Nagi listened to their shoes against the metal floor as the other three boarded. "Such a display of distrust does nothing for our relationship, Crawford."

    "You are not required to like how we handle ourselves," Crawford answered easily. "You are merely required to pay us for our work."

    "If it's satisfactory," Kurogawa amended.

    "Are you saying we're incompetent?" Schuldich purred. It sounded more like a death threat to Nagi's ears. He heard a button beep as it was pushed and the elevator doors hissed as they slid closed. "You're the one that said our reputation preceded us."

    "Hm," was all Kurogawa said to that. "Here are the ID cards. You will need them to get in the basement. It's going to be a little quiet today," Kurogawa told them. "Usually we've got something going on at least every other day, but the newest shipment has been delayed. If he doesn't get his act together, that's going to be your first job, Crawford."

    "Of course," was the foreigner's easy agreement.

    It didn't take much longer before they reached the basement. Kurogawa led them to the end of the hallway, where they had to go one-by-one through a scanner activated by their ID cards. A door brought them to the other half of the basement and the smell of blood and bleach mixed in the air in a sickening stench. Their first stop was a studio all set up for filming, and at the sight of the bed and its empty restraints, Nagi's stomach did a trick that would shame most Olympian gymnasts. The picture from the file was burned into his eyelids when he blinked.

    "Perhaps you'll give it a try," Kurogawa suggested, turning towards him.

    "Perhaps you'll fuck off and die," Nagi sent back.

    "Manners, Nagi," Crawford reminded him.

    "He has spirit," Kurogawa commented. "Children with spirit are our greatest sellers."

    Crawford didn't answer that. "We will need complete schematics for the building, this basement included," he said instead, "as well as a copy of your schedules- both for your company and your productions."

    Kurogawa nodded absently, more interested in the bed. He rubbed his hands together eagerly and tore his gaze away at last. "My secretary can take care of it and you'll have it before you leave this afternoon. Let's take a look at Studio B. You're going to love that one. It's a customer favorite…"

    Schuldich took one look at the room and started laughing. Nagi fixed his gaze on his shoes and refused to look up again, tuning out Kurogawa's approving words to Schuldich. The telekinetic didn't look up again until long after the tour was over and they finally left at noon for lunch. Farfarello's hand on his elbow was probably all that helped him get to the car. He heard keys jangle as Schuldich pulled the key ring from his pocket and then-

    The sound of flesh hitting flesh was enough for him to look up at last. Schuldich had fallen back against the car and was snarling angry curses at a stone-faced Crawford.

    "I warned you," Crawford told him quietly.

    "I fucking tried, okay?" Schuldich snapped back, testing his jaw. "You want me juggling your pet and your newest freak show? I didn't even fucking do anything, so what's it matter if it bleeds over a little too much? Look, I haven't even touched your street rat."

    "Give me the keys." Schuldich glared at him for a minute in silence before finally shoving the ring into his waiting hand. Crawford held it out to the side. "Farfarello."

    The pale man stepped up and took them before climbing into the driver's seat. Crawford took passenger, leaving Schuldich and Nagi in back. Nagi pressed himself up against his door without trying to be obvious, but Schuldich didn't even look his way. The German was too busy glowering out at the street. They drove in silence for ten minutes before Crawford finally told Farfarello to stop, and the car pulled up to the curb in front of an expensive looking hotel.

    Schuldich didn't have to be told. Nagi looked over as the telepath got out, confused but not at all disappointed that they were getting rid of him. The German slammed his door without looking back and Farfarello waited just long enough to make sure he went inside before easing the car back into traffic.

    "He was trying," the pale man spoke up.

    "Not hard enough," Crawford sent back, and the conversation was over as soon as it started.

Part 6
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