Long slender fingers ran across the length of the bathtub's porceline rim. Somber emerald eyes darted from the tiled walls to the moving digets, his breath quickened as Schuldig's fingers came threateningly close to the soapy bath water. Yohji's teeth clenched and he gathered up his will power. "Could you not do that... please?"

The red head chortled, a familiar sound in an otherwise alien situation. Of course, he didn't withdrawl from the water, instead he curled his fingers inward then let them spring out, flicking the surface of the tub and creating a small, sharp splash. At least Schuldig afforded Yohji the dignity of facing away from him. But that was it. The Schwartz telepath insisted on not only staying inside the bathroom while Yohji cleaned himself, but took a seat right on the floor next to him.

"I used to do this for Farfarello," he said, voice quiet.

Yohji blinked and drew up against the side. The motion stretched his wound and he hissed, fearful suddenly that he had broken something. The sharp pain at his belly decreased slowly into a dull throb and he relaxed his mind away from it. "Wh-what?"

Schuldig didn't seem concerned about Yohji's sudden outburst on pain. "Sometimes Farfarello is unstable." Yohji fought the urge to snort and snap out 'you think?' "And we worry about him being alone in the bathroom. Sometimes he does things. Not so much anymore though. He likes to take baths, and nowadays our biggest concern is him falling asleep in the tub. Might drown, you know. Or use up all the hot water. Nagi goes psycho when he wants to shower and there's no hot water."

At first Schuldig had wanted to give him a spongebath, the suggest nearly sent Yohji into another longterm fit of unconciousness, and after a bit of bickering the two had reached a compromise. Yohji wouldn't be allowed a shower, like he would have preferred. No, he had to settle with a bath - a bubble bath, with his stitches tightly enclosed in some plastic wrapping and duct tape. Yohji wondered why there was duct tape in the bathroom drawer.

But mostly he wondered...

"Why am I here?"

Schuldig sighed, "I know magic eight-balls who have a larger variety of phrases then you."

"You want to brainwash me and turn me against my team!" Yohji accused. His words were a challenge, and in retrospect, maybe it would have been a better idea to throw down the gauntlet somewhere other than the bathroom. With him naked and covered in vanilla scented soap.

"For WHAT purpose, Weiss." Schuldig snapped, voice dropping to a venemous hiss at the mention of his teams name. Up until now Schuldig had always refered to him as kitten or Kudoh. The sudden formality was a warning. With his back still turned to Yohji, Schuldig bared his teeth. "You are not our enemies or our targets. You NEVER were our enemies and it was only circumstantial that you became our targets."

"What about Takatori? Aya's sister?" Yohji rocked forward and regretted it, the pain on his side was now something he couldn't ignore and a hand went out to cover his injury.

A sharp laugh came from Schuldig then. "Takatori? Are you kidding? You stupid bastard, we GAVE you Takatori. We practically gift wrapped him for you and your little friends. Why else do you think you found him, abandoned and pancking in that burning building?"

He had always wondered... always wondered how Aya so easilly got rid of his arch-nemisis. Why Schwartz, Takatori's personal bodyguards hadn't been there to protect him. To protect his sons. To protect... Yohji's eyes widened, "What about Ouka, huh? What about her? I saw what happened that night, I was there. The gun, your white monster missed. He was aiming for Bombay and he hit Ouka."

Schuldig was silent for a long moment, then he moved. He made a sound, a sharp enhaleing through his teeth as if he had spent the last few minutes holding his breath. "That was..." He paused to search for words, "...there was more to that then you would understand."

Now it was Yohji's turn to respnd with cruel laughter. And he almost forgot the burning at his side. "Whats your game here, Mastermind? The tragic hero doesn't suit you. I don't believe that you or your messed up team are good people who are just misunderstood. And you can't coax me into buying that. Sure you saved my life, but how do I not know that you didn't cause the incident that got me seperate from my team and wounded? That would be just like you. Cut the crap, I've seen your tricks. I've seen how you can distort someones perception on things, like with Sukura. And I'm not going to buy it."

The speech left him winded, he was hurting and he used up more energy then he should have venting his anger. Yohji cringed against the pain and made to draw his knees up into himself when his eyes caught the water. It was turning pink. Pink with...


Schuldig's head snapped around and his eyes widened. Ignoring Yohji's cry of protest, he grabbed the Asian assassin by the knees and waist and hoisted him out of the water.

"Nagi! Get down here, NOW!"


The Koneko was unusually quiet that night. Usually around this time Yohji was romping down the stairs, dressed to offend, and talking cheerfully about it. Omi and Ken could be found on the living room floor, either watching tv, surfing the internet, or playing cards. Sometimes all three. Aya was up in his room, as usually, either reading or writing a letter to his sister - who was now going to college. The dark glare he'd give the door at the loud TV, Yohji's brash behaviour, or Ken's screams as he lost another Old Maid match was almost a noise of its own.

But now... now things were just quiet.

The door to the downstairs mission room opened and two heads looked up. One face was hopeful, the other withdrawn. Their expressions were answered with a sad shake of the head. Still no word from Yohji... and after all this time, Kriker Intelligence was beginning to fear the worse. Omi slide across the hallway and stepped into the living room, where the others were waiting on the sofa.

This is how every night had been since that mission. All three of them on the same couch, dead silent; thinking, maybe if they stayed awake long enough their friend would come stumbling through the front door, drunk and staggering as he had always been.


"Kriker..." Omi's force faltered. Purple and brown eyes trained upon him, willing him to continue. Omi couldn't take his focus off of his interlaced fingers. "...Kriker said... said that if we were having problems, they could send another agent. To...to help with the shop...and...and missions."

Aya leapt to his feet and the sound of his boots slamming on the floor made the other two cringe away. The red head scowled and his mouth formed a silent reply: no. No. He stomped to his bedroom.

Omi, the leader of Weiss, turned to Ken for guidence. The young mans eyes were shining and he couldn't hold it back any longer. "Ken... K-ken, I don't know what to tell th-them."

The former soccer player didn't hesitate. He wrapped his large arms around Omi's shoulders and pulled him into a tight embrace. Omi sagged against Ken and began to shake silently. Ken's breath quickened at the emotion and he brought his arm up to Omi's back to rub tight circles around his shoulder blades. "Just tell them 'no', Omi. 'No, we aren't giving up on him.' He's going to come back, and... and we aren't giving up on him."

Omi couldn't bring himself to speak, so he just nodded against the inside of Ken's shoulder.

They stayed like that for a long time. The sun came up. And no matter how long they waited, Yohji didn't come home.


Crawford picked up the phone and listened.

It was 3 AM.

"Weiss isn't faring so well without their precious Kudoh," The voice on the other line reported cheerfully, "I'm beginning to wonder if they can hold it together."

"It's a normal reaction when you think someone close to you is in danger. Or dead." Crawford replied evenly.

"Nows the time to strike, the iron is quite hot. Everything must be going according to plan, not that I would know anything about it of course. But if I were to kick a fallen dog, now would be the time."

Crawford changed phones from one hand to another and ran a hand through his fine ebony hair. "What of Kriker?"

"Oh, they have tons of agents willing and ready to replace the leecher. We can only count on Weiss' soft heart not allow themselves to rebuild so soon. With them in their current condition..."

"Yes, I know." He interupted. Crawford's gaze pointed in the distance, "Hm. Continue doing what you're doing. I'll get back with you at the end of the week."

"But of course! Any special orders?"

"Don't... let Weiss do anything... drastic."


"You really are an idiot... Schuldig." The teenager reprinded. Naoe Nagi didn't like being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to do his normal duties - like taking care of Farfarello if he was having one of his fits, or helping Schuldig find his way to his bedroom if he came home shit faced. Or calming down... Nagi frowned and glared at the sleeping Kudoh. If he didn't like nursing his own team members, then he defiently didn't take well to nursing someone elses team members. Especially over something as stupid as a bubble bath.

"He rip anything?"

"No, not really." Nagi was cleaning up the mess he made patching Yohji back together. "I just had to tape him up a little tighter. What were you thinking, let him soak in water anyway?"

Schuldig shrugged in his typical Schuldig I-ignore-all-the-rules way. "He smelled bad."

"You're an idiot, have I mentioned that before?" Nagi snapped the lid of the medical kit closed with a tight slam and shoved it back into the drawer. "We should get him on a schedual now that he seems to be awake and with it. I have school tommorow, but you can wake him up at a decent hour and make him eat. Keep him entertained. The longer he dozes the slower he'll heal. And then we'll be stuck with him forever."

"God forbid, Kudoh being stuck with us forever." Schuldig snorted. "He's got such a mouth on him, huh?" He turned towards the dark shadows of the open hallway. Nagi followed his gaze, eyes trailing from the carpet of the bedroom to the open door, finally to the darkness beyond. "Don't you think, boys?"

Two shadows emerged and stared hungrily at Kudoh.

"He doesn't belong here." The first shadow, Farfarello, said.

"It's okay, I guess." Replied the second.

"But we can't return him." Farfarello said with a frown.

"Not yet, anyway." Said the second.

Nagi looked annoyed, "I don't see why we're protecting him."

Schuldig, who had been sitting on Yohji's bedside the entire time, reached forward and pushed aside the Asian's brown bangs. Yohji sighed in his sleep, comforted by the touch. "It just turned out this way. And I'm kinda glad."

Nagi's eyes narrowed, "You've always been protecting him."

Bitter words, Schuldig could easilly recognize them. "Like you were always protecting Toto?"

The teen drew a sharp breath and the other two bodies in the room reacted to it. Farfarello took a step forward while the boy beside him took a step back, melting once again into the safty of the shadows. Nagi caught the movement and turned sharp eyes to glare at them. "Why... why are you two going along with this?"

Farfarello smiled while the other boy slipped away, retreating down the hall and into another bedroom. The vague look on the pale Irish man was only halfsane. "I want them all dead. All of them. And this will hurt them more. If we cuddle one of their white angels while we kill them. Did you know angels are the knights of God?"

"Don't play ranting heretic with me, Farfarello." Nagi snapped, "I know there's something else."

"Go to sleep, Nagi." Schuldig said tiredly, cutting off any reply Farfarello was ready to make. Nagi turned on the German, temper ready to flare up. But Schuldig matched his glare with one of his own. "Go to sleep, Nagi, before I make you."

Crawford had just gotten off the phone when he heard the slam of their telekentic's bedroom door.