“Ne.. Schu…” Too breathless to talk, Nagi projected a burst of desperation instead. ::Stop! My heart’s going to burst! Schu!::
Shaking his head ruefully, the redhead slowed down and jogged back to the panting teenager. Both were dressed in running outfits and currently pounding one of the jogging trails in the park beside the expensive condominium Esstet put them up in.
“You’re out of shape kid,” Schuldig complained. “Don’t stop! C’mon, keep moving. Your legs are gonna cramp if you just stop.”
::Give me a break! It’s only my third run with you!:: Nagi retorted mentally, still winded as he obeyed, now walking at a brisk pace. ::And I’m not that unfit. I was taught how to fight and all that.::
::Yeah, in the dojo but not out on the field. Very different, kid. When Bombay starts running after you with those little poisoned darts, you gonna ask him for timeout?::
Nagi did not answer, moody thoughts again on the loss of his gift. Schuldig fell silent as well; he had not wanted to bring up the sensitive topic again, but with a mission that night, the first since the young telekinetic’s accident a week ago, he felt that the young assassin needed to accept his situation.
It’s been a week since Nagi got injured, and they had a new mission that night: locate a target, retrieve relevant files and kill him. It was a simple task – something they can easily fit in between the bodyguard jobs that were the main source of their substantial income – but the three older assassins were a little concerned for their youngest member. Nagi would be coming along as usual; his job was to erase all electronic records of the target, but though he was trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat, his primary weapon was his telekinetic powers. All, including Nagi, wondered how he would fare without his telekinesis.
The pair were now walking side-by-side and thinking deeply, unaware of the astonished glances from passersby’s; a tall gaijin whose flaming hair screamed for attention with and a slim Japanese boy with fine chocolate hair and elfin features. Though the caustic redhead often delighted in teasing and annoying the more introverted boy, living together settled both into an easy familiarity.
The assassin team Schwarz was odd. The members could be considered dysfunctional by society and there were no shortage of personality clashes and problems initially. But against all prior expectations – even Crawford’s, and he was the one who brought them together – they had meshed into a working team. No, not just a working team; they were one of the top teams Esset fielded, if not the best.
The chill morning air quickly whisked away the sweat beading on their skin; it was only seven in the morning and though there were people up and moving at this time, some on their way to work, others out exercising like themselves, the city was still hushed and sleepy.
::Sorry Nagi, but you’ve really got little actual battle experience. By that I mean actually getting close and dirty. I’m not putting you down intentionally or something but…:: Schuldig turned to look at his younger teammate.
::I know, Schu… I know.:: Nagi shivered, his lips turning down in a bitter frown as he looked up at the other.
::Ah, dammit mein Kleiner, I’m just worried for you, especially with the mission coming up tonight.:: To his surprise, the German swept him into a crushing hug. The redhead was as hot as his hair color; a veritable furnace, and after a momentary squeak of surprise, Nagi wrapped his arms around the taller man, muffling his face into the sweaty T-shirt. He didn’t even mind the embarrassing nickname.
Sometimes, Nagi wondered just how they managed to get along. Surrounded by hundreds of foreign thoughts, the telepath felt in danger of losing himself and thus acted mostly through feeling and instinct, not trusting the thoughts he could not always identify as his own. Schuldig was exuberant and emotionally high-strung, highly rash and impulsive. In front of their targets and enemies, he could be mocking and cruel, sometimes angry, often amused, playing the role of a sadistic bastard to the hilt. But to his teammates, that taunting never got malicious and he cared for them in his own way, especially Nagi.
Whereas the telekinetic could *not* afford to lose control – things happened when he did. Fragile stuff broke and things rattled when *he* was rattled. He hadn’t really lost control before, but he knew he could literally bring down the house if he wanted. Self-control was a necessary skill that became a personality trait.
Sometimes Nagi wondered what would happen when he had sex.
To the outside world, he seemed far older than his fifteen years with his solemn face and iron control. It was only back in the penthouse, when he was alone with his teammates that he could relax, where the unusual talents of the other psychics helped keep his in check. While Crawford could not always foresee every event, he could generally circumvent major incidents and minimize damage. When he was in danger of losing control, Schuldig was somewhere in the back of his mind exerting a grounding presence. And if things got really out of hand, Schuldig could always take over his mind. He had never done that, they all hoped it would never come down to that, but it was reassuring to the telekinetic that there was a safety net. To his surprise, Nagi realized that he would trust Schuldig with his mind.
Yet despite the difference in their personality, the Japanese teen and German man clicked. The telepath treated the young telekinetic as a brother he never had, something Nagi realized he often failed to appreciate when he was pissed at the German for his relentless teasing and pranks.
::We all are. We’re killers and evil, but we’re not heartless – despite Bradley’s best attempting at acting otherwise – and we do care for you.::
Nagi definitely realized and appreciated it now, a warm feeling in his chest as he simply held onto the telepath. ::Really?::
::Hey, I’m a telepath, remember? The best Esset has.:: Schuldig boasted. :;Brad may have the best shields I’ve encountered, but Mr. Perfect slips up once in a while too.:;
Nagi smiled wanly. He knew they all cared, but it was nice to be told so. ::But what if my telekinesis abilities are required tonight?::
::Then Brad would have seen it, right?::
Nagi couldn’t help it; the stress of the past week finally caught up with him and he started giggling helplessly, his thin frame shaking against the telepath’s. After a moment, Schuldig started laughing as well and the two clutched each other tightly, almost desperately. A rare moment for the usually cold, impassive members of Schwarz in the middle of a park.
The mission was straightforward and simple. There was really no need for all four to be there, but Crawford thought it would be prudent for Nagi’s first mission without his powers to be an easy one, and each of the three older assassins felt that they had better come along. Just in case.
It was perhaps lucky the teenager did not realize just how his teammates kept hovering around him. As it was, he was fretting too much to notice anything else; feeling strangely naked and vulnerable without his powers.
On the bright side, the low-grade throbbing that appeared to pound very softly, very dully at his frontal lobe for the past week was finally gone. It wasn’t incapacitating but it had been irritating and distracting. Nagi felt momentarily grateful for small blessings as he opened his laptop, and then quickly bent back to his task.
He took down the security alarms in five minutes, Farfarello took down the front guards in the next five and once Schuldig made a mental sweep of the tall condominium block, they were heading up to the target’s apartment. Their target that night was a wealthy lawyer by the name of Makumi Taikawa. His private apartments covered an entire floor of the building, which made their job easier.
Again, they waited briefly as the young hacker overrode the alarm system in the apartment, and then they were in. Nagi shook his head as they entered the living room, casting a disdainful eye over the priceless artworks that lined the walls. “He’s an idiot who would rather spend money on useless paintings than better security.”
Farfarello paused, peering up at an abstract painting in gold, black and red admiringly. “Ye are a brilliant kid, but perhaps lacking in a classical education.”
Schuldig muffled a snort.
“Looks like a Modigliani.” Crawford said with a straight face.
Nagi eyeballed the monstrosity flatly. “No shit.”
Schuldig couldn’t help the bark of laughter and quickly clasped a gloved fist over his mouth.
Farfarello smiled, hand on chin thoughtfully as he regarded the painting critically from another angle. “Beautiful. Truly a masterpiece.” And then he grinned and calmly slashed the canvas diagonally with his needle.
Schuldig had collapsed on the couch by now, hysterical snickers muffled by the lush leather. Even Crawford had a tiny smile on his lips as he made himself comfortable on the other couch. There were some privileges with being the alpha male after all, and one of them included being comfortable on the target’s couch while underlings did the menial work.
Nagi glowered at everyone else on principle, and then stalked off to look for the study while Farfarello and Schuldig followed a step behind, though the room Farfarello was looking for was the target’s bedroom.
“Try not to get blood on yourself, Farf.” Schuldig called out as he followed Nagi into the study. “Blood’s a bitch to remove from leather.”
Nagi ignored Schuldig’s amused mutterings as the telepath prowled the study, seating himself at the heavy desk. He had lifted the target’s encrypted password from his packet-sniffing program and cracked it at home. He could have copied the files remotely, but console access was much faster and he wanted to erase the files as well. Taking out a small stick – advancement in memory disks was so rapid these days – Nagi quickly transferred the files.
While the computer was copying the files over, the two assassins rifled through the desk and bookshelf, checking for any printed records. Anything that looked interesting or relevant was stuffed into a large leather case, and everything else went into the wastepaper bin.
“I just love breaking into rich homes,” Schuldig smirked as he took out his lighter and set the papers in the large metal bin alight. “They’re such thoughtful hosts, so many delightful toys. Also, burning plastic smells.”
“They usually have quality computers too. Makes my work easier.” Nagi turned back to the computer with a grin and removed the memory stick. A simple recursive delete command – at the root directory – erased the hard drive, and then producing a small screwdriver from a pocket in his coat, he removed the computer casing. “And only one hard disk here. Lousy security but it makes my job easier.”
Yanking out a component, he replaced his screwdriver and took out a small automatic from another of his numerous small pockets. It was one of Crawford’s and the older man had insisted that he keep it on him that night. Nagi scowled bitterly as he placed a bullet through the hard drive, where previously, he would have crushed it with a thought. Guess I’ll have to get use to using firearms from now on.
“Isn’t that overkill?” Schuldig raised a brow, looking up from a paperback with a cheesy picture of a well-built man carrying a very well endowed woman and some German words on the cover. The man had flaming red hair.
“Just because the hard disk is erased doesn’t mean data can’t be recovered from it.” Nagi smirked as he pocketed his gun. “I can do it.”
“Not everybody is the precocious computer genius that you are, Prodigy.”
“Schuldig, Nagi.” Crawford suddenly appeared in the doorway, his expression serious. “Get Farf and let’s go. Weiss is on their way here.”
“We’re done.” Schuldig nodded as he picked up the leather case, discretely tucking the novel in before zipping the satchel. “Do you know how close they are?”
“Five to ten minutes.” Crawford frowned again as another vision struck him. “Schuldig, be careful of Siberian.”
“I can’t See exactly why. I See him tackling you and glass breaking, but that’s it.” The precognitive’s frown deepened; he hated not knowing. His visions were accurate and short, but sometimes they were vague or the scenario shown was not the important scene. Often though, they were good enough to warn of upcoming danger, a very valuable ability in a line as dangerous as theirs, even if the accuracy drops and distorts exponentially with the time of the event.
Sometimes he wished he had better control over his own gift, but prescience was very different from telepathy and telekinesis. His gift was powerful enough that he could maintain some control of the people, or the locus, he wanted to focus on but often, he was only given a privileged glimpse into the crazed and tangled skeins of time that swirled around them.
A blink. Another glimpse. “Balinese is somehow involved too. Just be on your guard.”
“Ch.” Schuldig made a dismissive noise. “Those kittens are no match for me.”
“I didn’t have much fun. Makumi cried more than his whore and wetted the carpet, that wuss.” Farfarello came out from the bedroom at the telepath’s mental call, licking his bloodstained knife, a disdainful sneer on bloodied carmine lips. “We play with Weiss now?”
“No,” Crawford ordered sharply. “Our mission tonight has nothing to do with them, and their survival is somehow important and linked to our future. Do not kill any of them.”
“We’ll just hurt them slightly,” Schuldig wheedled. Farfarello grinned in agreement, holding his knife loosely by his side.
“No.” Crawford repeated firmly. Whatever else he might have planned to say was lost as another vision hit him, his eyes losing focus for a second. “Bombay has discovered the downed security systems.”
“Elevator or stairs?” Nagi asked coolly. Inwardly though, he was as nervous as he had been on his first mission. He had never shot anyone before… He always had his telekinetic gifts. Though he didn’t blink at the things they did, he wasn’t really a killer; preferring instead to let Farfarfello or Schuldig do the actual killing. Gritting his jaw, he steeled himself. It’s them or us. Don’t freeze up.
“No time, they’re coming up the stairwell.” Schuldig’s eyes narrowed in concentration.
And then suddenly the door, previously left unlocked, was flung open. Weiss’s redheaded leader burst in with his katana raised and his familiar battle cry of “Shi-ne!”
Nagi scrambled back out of the way as Farfarello leapt forward to meet the down swung blade. The other Weiss assassins ran in right after, yelling.
“Schwarz! What are you doing here?”
“Doing your job for you,” Schuldig grinned, easily picking up the details of their mission from their minds. “You should be thanking us.”
Dismay and chagrin flickered across the three Weiss assassins’ expressions – Abyssinian was too busy with Farfarello to hear anything else – before hatred and determination settled. Nagi didn’t need Schuldig’s telepathy to know what they were thinking: ‘mission parameters changed. Get Schwarz.’
Turning his head wildly from side to side, he saw that Schuldig had already engaged Balinese, while Crawford was busy with Siberian.
That left... Where’s Bombay?
Seeing a flash of white, Nagi raised his automatic and fired off a couple of rounds. The youngest Weiss assassin gave a cry and rolled behind the couch. After a moment’s hesitation, Nagi dived behind one of the big armchairs as well, knowing that he didn’t have his telekinetic shield.
Shit… this is harder than I expected. I don’t think I got him. I hope he doesn’t realize that I’m not using my powers, but it won’t take him long. He’s not dumb. I’m no good at hand-to-hand combat, not that it would help here. Bombay uses projectile weapons… What now? We hide behind the couch and take pot shots at each other?
Grabbing a throw cushion, he flung it out and an arrow immediately buried itself in the unfortunate cushion. Shit, and he has better aim than me too.
Nagi tensed, mind racing as to his next course of action when suddenly, he heard the twang of a bowstring again. From his vantage point, he watched in horror as the arrow flew towards Crawford’s unprotected back.
To his immense relief, the American clairvoyant ducked at the last second and the arrow zipped harmlessly past his left shoulder. Either he had heard Nagi’s cry or he had been warned by a vision. Balinese jerked to the opposite side to avoid the arrow, both fighters rolling to opposite sides of the room. In that stunned lull, all four parties heard the spat curses and turned.
Siberian had spun his wire out but was no match for Schuldig’s speed; instead, his own wire was now tangled around his shoulders and upper arms, effectively trapping him. The tall German telepath was grinning nastily as he tugged, wire wrapped around his closed fists. The action pulled the wire tighter and the blond Weiss assassin gave another pained curse as he struggled. It was obvious that Schuldig wasn’t seriously trying to kill him, but only toying with him insultingly.
“Yohji!” Balinese gave an angry growl and charged across the living room. “Bastard!”
Schuldig turned his head at the enraged cry, eyes widening in shock but he couldn’t step back in time before he was caught in a flying tackle. Everything seemed to slow down; Nagi could see the telepath stumbling back, the brawny brown-haired Weiss assassin still crouched low as he carried through with his powerful tackle. The lanky redhead fell back again the large window with a yelp, shattering it.
Raising his gun and firing recklessly, Nagi sprinted towards the two. A bullet clipped Balinese on the shoulder and he faltered, crumbling to the ground and clutching his shoulder. But the worst was done. Carried by the momentum, Schuldig fell out of the broken window.
Nagi dropped his gun and leaned over the window, unheeding of the jagged glass that dug into his stomach as he flung both hands out and grabbed…
…at empty air.
Nagi could see the redhead’s wide eyes as he fell, further and further down. He could hear the telepath’s gravelly baritone and he could do *absolutely* nothing.
::Sorry Nagi, sorry…::
No! He can’t just lose Schuldig! Purely by instinct and habit, Nagi *reached* deep within him. Only to smash straight against that cursed blank wall again.
He could see Schuldig’s frightened eyes and at the same time, he could *see* that wall. Panic and fear ripped through him, the raw emotions abruptly fueling his strength and he hammered at that wall, screaming. The wall began to crack.
::I guess this is it, huh kid?:: Schuldig continue to fall, eyes closing, a sad smile on his lips. ::Know what?::
The other assassins in the room stopped fighting in their shock, and even Farfarello and Aya Fujimiya were still. Nagi was screaming, an anguished wild sound. A very faint but familiar bluish white glow started around him, zephyr whispers lifting the ends of his fine hair.
Crawford held his breath in trepidation; he had no visions at all, no idea how this would turn out. Farfarello had slipped out from his bloodlust, stunned and smiling, whispering under his breath. “Aye Nagi, I know ye had it in ye all along.”
Nagi pushed harder, his pounding getting more and more frantic.
::Love ya, Nagi.::
The wall shattered.
Tumbling headlong into a silvery pool, he deftly caught himself from years of training and *pulled*.
He saw the figure jerk limply as if caught by a giant hand, gasping in shock. The force required to stop the redhead’s freefall was tremendous but the teenager hung on tightly, wrapping his precious burden more securely and gently pulled him up. However, once the initial shock was over, the rest was easy to a telekinetic who could fling grown men about easily.
Somewhere at the back of his mind, he was grinning happily and crowing in delight, splashing wildly in that pool of moonlight. The familiar rush of his power filled him and more. He *never* felt this way before; so much power, cool and fiery, trickling through his cupped hands and tickling at his senses.
When he felt his hands grip something warm and very solid, he blinked in surprise and saw a familiar grin in front of him, emerald eyes sparkling with pride and joy and relief. He pushed the difference in his power to the back of his mind to analyze further at a later time, concentrating instead on the telepath in front of him. Carefully, he set the redheaded German down and finally released his power.
“Schuldig!” Nagi threw his arms around the taller man, almost sobbing in relief.
::You’re embarrassing me kid.:: The telepath complained, but returned his hug tightly as well.
The touching moment was broken by a growl. “Schwarz!”
Nagi dropped his arms immediately, whipping around with a scowl. Abyssinian had his blade held out warily in front of him, stance firm and battle-ready, his eyes flickering between Schuldig, Nagi and Farfarello. The Irish had lowered his knife in the confusion, but at the Weiss leader’s challenge, raised his own blade threateningly again with a keening growl of his own.
And suddenly, the teenage telekinetic had enough. The stress of the week and the adrenaline rush of the night caught up and crashed right on top of him. He felt exhausted, mentally and physically, and wanted nothing more than to go home and curl up in bed. The mission was done and it had been simple, but those stupid Weiss twits had to come along. Schwarz had made it clear that they weren’t out for a fight that night but still those idiots persisted in attacking them, when they were nowhere in their league.
Idiots! Goddamn fucking stick-up-..no, TREE-up-their-ass stinking hypocritical morons!
Schuldig started at the testy thoughts the telekinetic was practically projecting, and then he smirked darkly. Stepping back, he threw the other members of Schwarz a mental equivalent of an expectant wink as he threw their shared link wide open. Crawford was still stunned by the vulgarity that was running through the youngest assassin’s head and Farfarello almost dropped his knife laughing.
The bluish-white glow flared up around the telekinetic again, phantom winds ruffling at his fine dark chocolate hair as he thrust his palms away.
“We AREN’T out to kill you tonight and if we were, you would DEFINITELY know!”
Heavy couches and sturdy coffee tables in the living room were pushed back only by the force of his mind, the carpet curling up and fluttering away. Books, papers and cushions flew around wildly and the Weiss assassins were slammed back into the walls with simultaneous muffled thumps.
All these took perhaps two seconds, or three rapid eye blinks. Nagi tossed his head and stalked towards the main door, muttering peevishly under his breath. The Weiss team was either knocked unconscious or stunned, but either way, they didn’t utter any sound.
“Well, see you around Weiss. Have a good day.” Crawford was the first to recover, smirking as he pushed up his glasses and strode off after their youngest member.
“It’s way past Nagi-kun’s bedtime, you see,” Schuldig snickered as he swept out after the Schwarz leader, smoothing his flyaway carrot hair back under the ever-present bandana.
Farfarello did not say anything as he brought up the rear of the smirking procession, his knife twirling idly. The gleam in his amber eye spoke volumes. Mostly insulting.
Nagi was already waiting impatiently in the elevator when the other three got to the lobby, ire rapidly fading from his face as a sheepish one took its place. He had thrown a rather spectacular teenage tantrum after all.
Schuldig stepped beside him, smirk widening as he ruffled the fine coffee brown locks. “Good work, Nagi.” His grin was almost unbearable in its smugness, but there was a hint of dazed wonder in his eyes as well, as if he couldn’t believe that someone would care all that much about him.
“So you got your power back,” Crawford said blandly.
“Hai. When I saw Schu falling, I just knew that I…” Nagi ducked his head, his voice trailing off to a whisper, a faint flush of embarrassment on his cheeks at the previous show of emotion; he who had always prided himself on his control. “..had to…”
::I’m touched, Nagi.:: The voice in his mind was a faint whisper as well, the owner also unused to displaying open affection.
“Did you See this, Brad?” Schuldig asked.
“No,” Crawford muttered in annoyance. It was ironical that he was fastidious about control in his life, almost to the point of anal paranoia, and yet his powers, the one edge over his opponents that always enabled him to come out just a little ahead, was random. And in a circular twist, it was this unpredictable ability that gave him the means to maintain the control he liked.
“Why?” Farfarello asked mildly.
“Because if you *had* Seen me fall, *and* you did not say anything, I would be forced to hurt you very badly,” Schuldig replied steadily, an edge in his voice. Then he sighed and slung an arm comfortably around Nagi’s tensed shoulders. “But this is part of our job and everything did turn out all right. So kid, are you really tired?”
“Um…” Nagi blinked as he did a quick assessment of himself. “N..no, not really.”
“All right! Let’s go out to celebrate the return of your powers kid!” Schuldig cheered. “Brad’s treat.”
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