Chapter Nine: Indications of Illness            

Brad came into the hall, pulling a shirt over his head. "What in the world is going on out here?"

            "Kuroyuri took a kitten," Schuldig answered.

            "Killed or kidnapped?" Brad asked, frowning, noticing that Hidika was gone and Omi was close to tears.

            "Kidnapped."

            The American glanced around, noticing Yohji's bandaged arm and the fact that the younger man was looking a little grey. He was hit too, Brad realized. Damn. "Was she angry?" he asked aloud.

            "More playful." Nagi answered.

            "Then we have time. Sushiko knows that Julia, Yohji and I are weakened, and everyone else is tired. He's letting her do what she wants. He's playing with us, and that will make him careless." Brad said half to himself, half to the group, his leader instincts kicking in.

            A grin spread across Schuldig's features. "So we're going to do something?"

            Julia rubbed her arms to try to warm herself up. "I think we should wait until morning. She's not going to kill Ken, I can tell that much. None of us will be any good to him exhausted." She said softly.

            The German man's shoulder's fell.

            "Schuldig, we'll get them. You can't always rush headlong into things."

            "I'll rush headlong when I damn well please."

            Julia glared at him. "He's not dead. Quit acting like he is."

            The telepath cocked an eyebrow. "'Scuse me?"

            "You're acting reckless, like Brad is already dead. So quit acting like it." She snapped.

            He glared, but gave a quick glance back at the clairvoyant to see his reaction.

            "She's right. We won't accomplish anything by going off exhausted." He said quietly.

            Yohji lightly ruffled Omi's hair. "Don't worry, Omitichi. We'll get him back."

            "It's my fault," Omi mumbled. "If I had watched closer…"

            "Hey, none of this is anyone's fault. It's our job, Omitichi. But we never leave our own behind, you know that."

            Omi nodded. "Hai, we'll get Ken-kun back!" he replied, determination sparking in his big blue eyes.

            Nagi placed a hand on his shoulder. "And we're with you, so with all of us, we'll get your friend back in no time, Omi-kun."

            "Everyone should get to bed." Brad said tiredly. "The sooner we get to sleep, the sooner we'll be off tomorrow."

            Everyone nodded and headed in separate directions.

            Aya entered the room he shared with Yohji first, and Yohji slumped against the door after he shut it behind them. His normally tan features were pale.

            "Long night," He murmured.

            "No kidding…"

            The brunette forced his way into the bathroom so he could clean up the mess he'd left. He folded the bloodstained washcloth so the blood wouldn't show and clucked despairingly at his ruined coat and shirt. He pitched them in the trashcan before sitting heavily on the side of the bathtub, breathing hard.

            "Yotan? Daijoubu?"

            Yohji started to reply, but coughed suddenly, blood splattering his lips and the inside of his hand. He cursed lowly.

            "Yohji!" Aya exclaimed, moving to his side.

            Red droplets hit the floor as the green-eyed assassin leaned forward and he cursed again.

            "Yohji, you're not all right. You're coughing up blood." Aya said as he steadied his friend.

            Yohji shut his eye and fought back a wave of nausea. "Ayan…"

            "I'm right here." Aya searched his mind for something to do. Anything. Adrian-san? Julia-san? He called out desperately, not even sure if it was possible for them to pick up on his frantic thoughts at the moment.

            Yohji gripped his arm. "Don't." He rasped. "Adrian's gone, and there's nothing Julia can do."

            "There got to be something someone can do."

            "Julia said she didn't know if I got the four days 'cause of being hit in the arm or just the symptoms. Ain't gonna know anything until…"

            Aya shook his head. "You'll be fine. You have to be." There was no room for argument in the redhead's voice.

            Yohji wiped the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand before placing a chaste kiss on Aya's forehead. "Ah. I'll be fine."

            Schuldig turned over in the darkness for the umpteenth time in the past fifteen minutes. His body and mind were restless. It also seemed that every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was Crawford, still and cold, lying in that alley when he thought he was gone for good. The image continued to haunt him as if reminding him if they couldn't reverse the attack that Crawford, his Brad, would die and there was nothing he could do to stop that. He turned again, peering toward Brad's bed, not really able to see him in the darkness.

            Can't sleep, huh? Brad called softly. He hadn't been able to sleep either, not that he was moving much. Every time he tried to roll over a pain flared in his side, so he'd settled for watching his partner. He ached for Schuldig, because he knew how devastated he would be if anything happened to the German. He sighed almost inaudibly.

            Nein. Schuldig responded.

            I'm sorry.

            Why? Not your fault…Schuldig turned onto his back.

            Isn't it?

            "Why would my being unable to sleep be your fault, Braddy?" Schuldig whispered, smirking into the darkness.

            "Because you'd be asleep and snoring if I wasn't going to die in three days, Schu." Brad replied quietly.

            "Doesn't mean that it's your fault."

            "Fine, fine."

            "So why aren't you sleeping?" Schuldig whispered, sitting up.

            "It hurts to move."

            Brad heard the German shift, stand, and pad over to his bedside. Schuldig knelt down and put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "You use to always take pain from me when we were younger," He whispered. "Let me help you how I can, ne?"

            I never wanted to hurt you…

            Schuldig smiled, feeling the slightest of pain entering his own body. Just don't die, ne? That'll hurt me worse than anything.

            Sleep was obscuring Brad's senses quickly. Schu…

            Hmm?

            Danke…He breathed before sleep overcame him.

            Bita, Brad, Schuldig whispered. Anything for you. He laid his head down next to where he was clutching the elder man's hand and slept.

            Julia stood at her window, a light breeze billowing around her. Adrian wasn't coming back. At least not that night. Or from what she could sense, the next. It didn't feel like betrayal… their link wasn't completely cut. It was severed, though, just enough to make her heart ache. He green eyes coolly surveyed the skyline outside her window. Bonds were shifting and quickly. Hers was broken. Brad and Schuldig…well…she could hardly be surprised at its strength. She almost believed it had been formed before they were born. Aya and Yohji's bond was strengthening. It might be enough. The bond between Omi and Ken was broken, but there was one forming between the youngest of Weiss and the youngest of Schwartz. She closed her eyes and a light gently flowed over her.

            The morning's light crept into the different bedrooms of Weiss and Schwartz, without being welcomed. Schuldig stirred and his golden eyes fluttered open. Brad's hand was still clasped in his as the American slept on, his black hair tousled. He sighed softly in his sleep, but made no move to wake up. Schuldig placed a pale hand against Brad's cheek, checking for any unwelcome fever that the earlier attack might leave him with. Brad's eyes fluttered open.

            "Ohayo gozimasu." Schuldig greeted.

            Morning, Brad murmured.

            Schuldig stretched and popped his neck loudly. "How ya feeling this morning?"

            "Normal… I owe you."

            "Nah. I've owed you for a long time, Brad. That was just an attempt at paying some of it back."

            Brad reached out and ran a hand through the German's hair. I think we can call it even.

            Schuldig stood and stretched again. "I'm gonna hit the shower before we get going." He looked back at Brad. "What do you see in store for us?"

            We aren't going to get Hidika back, Brad said quietly. Not today.

            Schuldig nodded and stepped into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.