Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Weiss Kreuz characters or story elements used in this story; they were created by people far more talented than I. This piece was written solely to show my appreciation of this excellent series, and I am not making any money from this story.
Author's note: I've finally got a new chapter up! I'm so sorry for the long wait, and I especially apologize to all my reviewers and those of you who sent me private messages asking if I'd abandoned the story. I do promise to finish the story, no matter what, so you guys don't need to worry on that count. I think I'll be able to get the rest of the story out in fairly short order so you guys won't have to wait too long. The reason it look me so long to get this chapter up is that I applied to grad school this year and, surprisingly, I actually got into a few places, so for the past few months I've been traveling around quite a bit visiting schools and whatnot and deciding where I wanted to go. But, I've made a decision and everything has settled down, so now I can get back to writing again! Sorry again everyone, and I hope you enjoy the chapter. I worry that the long wait may have built it up too much, so I hope you guys aren't disappointed.
Yohji took the stairs leading down to the mission room three at a time. Omi was sitting at the computer, typing furiously, and Ken was looking over his shoulder, but both of them spun around as Yohji stormed into the room.
"Dammit Omi! Why wouldn't you pick up the damned phone! I've called you 18 times since you hung up without telling me a god-damned thing! What the hell is going on!"
Omi swallowed hard, and raised a hand in a gesture of placation. "I'm sorry for hanging up on you, I had to take care of something right away, and I couldn't do it and talk to you too."
Yohji took a deep breath in a futile attempt to control his temper and rising panic. "Alright," he said, making a supreme effort to make his voice sound calm and controlled. "Just tell me what happened."
Omi and Ken stared at him, eyes wide in pale faces, and Yohji fought down the urge to reach out and shake them until they told him what he needed to know. Finally, just before the frayed ends of Yohji's nerves snapped altogether, Omi said, "we don't know. I was tracking him on the computer through his com's signal, and just before I called you the signal started moving."
Yohji's impatience got the better of his resolution to remain calm. "Of course it did! He and Tanaka walked out of the restaurant!"
Omi visibly flinched at that, and Ken and put a hand on his younger teammate's shoulder before turning an uncharacteristically steely blue glare on Yohji. "Yohji, this isn't his fault, and if you want to help you need to shut up and listen."
Yohji took another deep breath and fought down a ridiculous urge to laugh. Ken was the most impulsive, excitable, and least experienced member of the team, but he was doing a much better job of keeping his head in this sudden crisis than Yohji was. And Ken was right, this wasn't Omi's fault. "I'm sorry, Omi. I didn't mean to interrupt you. I'm just…worried."
Omi managed a shaky smile. "It's ok, Yojhi-kun, we're worried about him too. You're right – the signal moved because Aya left the restaurant. But then the signal just disappeared. The com should have kept transmitting all the way back here, but it just disappeared!"
Omi's eyes were watering dangerously, and after giving the younger boy's shoulders a comforting squeeze, Ken took up the briefing. "I was in the garage. I hadn't been able to get anywhere near Tanaka's car, his driver never left the damned thing for a second, he was like a bloody Doberman or something, so I was keeping an eye on him from the valet booth. I saw him pull out, and so I traded off with one of the other guys and took the stairs back up to the street. I got there in time to see the limo pulling off. Aya wasn't anywhere around. I thought maybe he'd just walked really fast, so I went back to where he left his car. The car was still there, Aya wasn't. By then it was too late for me to try to follow the limo, so I called Omi, Omi called you. You know the rest."
Yohji raked his fingers through his hair. "This doesn't make sense. Aya wouldn't have left with the target. That wasn't in the plan, HIS plan!"
Omi shrugged helplessly. "We know. But if he didn't go with the target, he would have checked in with me."
Yohji knew Omi was right. Aya always checked in. "Fuck."
"That about sums it up," Ken said faintly.
"We need to know where that limo went." Yohij's voice sounded distant in his own ears, and he sagged into the lumpy embrace of the mission room couch.
"I'm working on that. That's why I didn't pick up those times you called me on your way back here."
"If the limo went back to the lab or to Tanaka's apartment, then we'll know soon. Kritiker left a skeleton surveillance team in place at each location, and they have orders to copy me on Tanaka's movements."
"Nice to know they have so much confidence in us," Ken muttered under his breath.
Omi ignored Ken, and continued, "If Tanaka went to either of those places, we'll know soon. But if he went somewhere else things get a little more complicated. So, while you were on your way back here, I hacked the police database."
"You did what?" Yohji yelped, jolting erect on the couch.
"I hacked the police database. I tagged Tanaka's Limo as "stolen" and flagged it as a Priority One vehicle, so its plates should get transmitted to all mobile units immediately. Hopefully an officer will see the car and report on its location. With a few modifications, one of the Kritiker transceivers is now picking up police frequencies." Omi brushed back some of his hair, revealing a communicator in his left ear. "I'm listening in now."
Yohji blinked. "Are you sure you haven't missed it? I mean, with the talking and all."
Omi gave Yohji an exasperated look. "Yes I'm sure. They've arrested one man for public intoxication on the south side of the city and stopped one green Suzuki Aerio on Chou Don since you've been here. Although if you would stop asking me questions, this would be-" Omi broke off abruptly and his eyes went blank and unfocused as he listened.
Yohji tensed, his muscles quivering with the effort of remaining still and silent. Omi listened for what seemed to Yohji like hours, but in actuality was probably less than a minute before whirling to face his computer and typing rapidly on the keyboard.
"The cops found the Limo," Omi said, not taking his eyes from the computer screen. Yohji and Ken moved up behind him as the boy continued, "the driver showed his registration and license and is getting the mistake sorted out. The incident should be put down as a computer error. I'm getting a map now. Here!"
A map flashed up on the computer screen. "It's about 30 minutes away."
"Right, let's go." Yohji headed for the stairs.
"Wait!" At Omi's exclamation Yohji paused, but didn't turn around. "What are you going to do?"
"Get him back."
"Any ideas on exactly how you're going to do that? We don't know anything about this place! There was nothing about it in the mission file; for all we know there could be 100 guards in there. We want Aya back too, but he'd be the first to tell us that we can't run into this blind."
"He's right," Ken interjected. "Can you imagine how pissed Aya would be if we got ourselves killed, or worse, compromised the mission, trying to rescue him?"
"I don't care!" Yohji glared at his teammates, his hands unconsciously forming into fists.
The gesture was not lost on Omi or Ken, and the two younger assassins moved closer together.
"Alright," Omi said. "We'll go. But recon only, at least until we see what we're up against. Deal?"
Yohji nodded once, sharply. "Can we go now?"
As Ken and Omi stood, Yohji thought of something else. "Omi, let's leave Kritiker out of the loop for now, at least until we know what's going on."
Omi's brows drew together. "But mission protocol says…"
"I know what mission protocol says. Just leave them out of it, ok?"
After a moment's hesitation, Omi nodded. Yohji could see the question in the younger assassin's eyes, and he was grateful when Omi didn't voice it. Yohji couldn't explain to Omi and Ken why he was so certain that Aya wouldn't want Kritiker to hear of any mission-mishaps. It was something to do with the girl in the photo that Aya kept in his room; he remembered the flash of protective panic in Aya's eyes that night when he'd found the picture. There was something going on there, and Yohji was willing to bet that Kritiker was tangled up in it. So, for now, until they could get Aya back and he could decide for himself what he wanted to tell or not tell his employers, Yohji would make sure no one said anything.
For the second time in a period of time far too short for his liking, Aya woke in an unfamiliar bed. The sheet beneath his cheek felt like silk this time, not cotton, and Aya wondered vaguely if the upgrade was intended to impress Yohji's curvaceous, sloe-eyed date. Although if that was the case his own presence in the bed would likely prove somewhat inconvenient. Why had Yohji brought him here, then? Had Yohji gotten him drunk again? His head felt as fuzzy as it had last time, and he was having just as much trouble putting his thoughts together. But, no – Yohji couldn't have gotten him drunk. They'd had a mission. He'd been at dinner with Tanaka, then what? A piece of his hair was tickling his cheek and he lifted a hand to brush the offending lock away.
Or tried to. As he tried to move his arm he was met with resistance. Aya went very, very still. A surge of fear-induced adrenaline flooded through him, scattering the fog that clouded his mind, and one fact became terribly clear.
This wasn't Yohji's bed. Yohji would not have tied his wrists together. An experimental twitch of a leg revealed that his ankles had also been tied, and Yohji would not have done that either. Not if he expected to be among the living for any longer than about three seconds after Aya got loose.
Now fully in mission mode, Aya thought back quickly, coolly, trying to reconstruct the events that had led him to this decidedly inauspicious position. He'd been having dinner with Tanaka at the Flowering Vine. Yohji and his aggravatingly gorgeous date had been sitting a few tables away, Ken had been playing valet, and Omi had been on the com. Tanaka had been speaking, and Aya had been trying hard to pretend like he was listening while in reality he'd been focusing all of his attention on not looking over at Yohji and his date. Tanaka had ordered wine, and Aya had taken a sip or two to be polite. Then things started to get a little hazy, muffled, as though he'd been surrounded in a cocoon of filmy gauze. He dimly recalled Tanaka signaling for the check, and then Tanaka's hand clamped like a vise beneath his elbow guiding him to the door. Then he'd been slumped against a car door, and there had briefly been hands on his throat, chin, and in his hair. The hand's hadn't lingered, they'd moved quickly, professionally, and he'd heard Tanaka murmur a few quick words, heard a higher pitched reply followed by the mechanical whirl of the partition that divided limo driver from the passengers in the rear. After that, everything was a blank until he'd woken up here.
Well, he could piece together the blanks easily enough. There must have been something in the wine, and Aya cursed himself for assuming that since the wine had come directly from the kitchen it was safe. He'd walked out of the restaurant with Tanaka, apparently of his own volition; Yohji would have been too far away to notice that anything was wrong. Ken should have been outside, but he must have gotten held up in the garage. Omi would have been tracking him, but Aya remembered with a sinking feeling those fingers in his hair, around his ear, and knew even without being able to check that his com unit was gone.
This was bad. In fact, this was about as bad as it could get. He was captured and, since Tanaka had known to look for the communicator, clearly compromised as well. He'd failed to complete the mission – even if he did somehow manage to get loose, there wasn't a chance that Tanaka was going to let him near any sensitive information now. For an instant he was consumed with a sickening, paralyzing, dread. What would Kritiker do when they found out? His contract with them stated that if he was ever captured or killed while on a mission that they would ensure that his sister was taken care of, but Aya had never been so naïve as to actually believe them. That's why he'd been funneling practically all of his earnings into an account that he'd set up with Magic Bus Hospital. There was a small fortune in there – working for Kritiker was lucrative, it was the main reason he'd signed on, but Aya's care was horrendously expensive. He didn't think he'd saved enough to support her for more than a couple of months. If Kritiker didn't keep up their end of the deal – well, he couldn't think about that right now, not if he wanted to stay sane. And even if he got loose, when Kritiker learned that he'd compromised the mission – well, he couldn't think about that either.
About the only thing he could hope for was that the rest of his team hadn't been compromised as well, and that they had enough sense not to remedy that by coming after him. He'd done his best to keep his distance from his team, to ensure that none of them felt any personal affection for him, in large part to make sure that if something like this did happen they wouldn't be overly eager to risk their lives to save his. He'd caused too much death in his life, and he didn't think he could handle being the cause the deaths of three people he worked with, was responsible for, and, against all of his better judgment, had come to care for. Now, he prayed that he'd succeeded. A few days ago he would have said with confidence that there was practically no chance that his team would defy Kritiker mission protocol to come after him, but now he recalled with a feeling of foreboding the conversation he'd had with Yohji a few nights ago. "I care about you," Yohji had said. God, he hoped for everyone's sake that wasn't true. But if it was, against all odds, true then Aya had to get himself out of here before Yohji came looking for him and got himself killed in the process.
Still maintaining the fiction of sleep, Aya began surreptitiously testing the bindings on his wrists and ankles. They were made of some sort of slippery, sleek, substance, which he thought might be silk. That was a good sign. No one who really knew what they were doing used silk. Silk looked artistic, but its slinkiness made it difficult to tie good tight knots. And whoever had trussed him had tied his hands in front of him rather than behind his back. If he was alone in the room, he could probably use his teeth to undo the knots. Cautiously, Aya cracked his eyes open. He couldn't see much from where he was lying. A pile of finely embroidered pillows in shades of red, black and gold obscured most of his vision, and the only other thing he could see was the corner of a delicately carved wooded writing desk and matching chair. He was about to risk shifting slightly, hoping to make it look as though he was just shifting in his sleep, in order to get a better look, when the question of whether or not the room was empty abruptly rendered moot by the sound of a door unlatching somewhere nearby. Aya shut his eyes and listened as booted feet thudded against the wood floor, pacing leisurely around the bed and coming to rest in the vicinity of the writing desk. There was a squealing noise as the chair was pulled out and its legs dragged across the floor, and then the sound of a body dropping into the chair. Then there was silence, and Aya's muscles tightened with the effort of keeping still. And then the figure in the chair spoke.
"I know you are awake. Come now, this childish deception does not become you."
Aya stiffened at that, his eyes coming open in reflex. Tanaka was sitting in the writing chair, legs casually crossed, lips quirked in a small smile. The smile widened as Aya glared at him.
"Why, are the accommodations not to your liking? I have given you the finest bed in the house and, I assure you, this is a very fine house."
"Do you tie up all of your guests? Or am I just special?"
"Oh, you certainly are that. But I'm afraid that this arrangement is necessary for my security, and that of my employer. You haven't been entirely honest with me, after all, have you Mr. Ryo." The last words were mocking. "I would greatly appreciate it if you would tell me your real name. I know what you are, and further pretense is pointless."
Aya didn't reply. Security for his employer, Tanaka had said. Did that mean Tanaka's employer was here? Aya felt a small fluttering of hope. Maybe he hadn't failed completely after all.
Tanaka waited for a moment, and then sighed philosophically and continued in a conversational tone. "Well, you will tell me soon enough. Perhaps when I bring in your blonde friend and cut off his fingers, one by one, while you watch."
Aya's mind went blank with uncomprehending terror. How –
Tanaka laughed softly, reading the question in Aya's eyes. "How did I know? My dear, I have eyes. I don't think anyone in the Night Pleasures that night missed the way he looked at you. And then we went to dinner and lo and behold! There he was again. And this time, not only did everyone notice how he looked at you, everyone noticed the way you very carefully did not look at him. Also, I have not risen to my present position without learning to spot a plant or a tail. Ordinarily, you, your blonde admirer, your brown haired friend, and whoever was on the other end of this" Tanaka pulled Aya's missing com unit from his jacket pocket and dangled it negligently between two fingers, "would be dead right now. The agents your organization has watching my home, my place of business, I have ignored because they are harmless. I know what they seek, and they will find nothing. But you and your friends, well, you are of a different sort, yes? But you are fortunate. My employer and I have taken and interest in you, and for this reason and this reason only you continue to breathe in and out. Unfortunately I cannot extend the same consideration to your friends if they come searching for you, and I would be willing to stake a substantial portion of my not insignificant fortune on your blonde friend arriving in the very near future. So, my dear Ryo, you have two options. You may choose to cooperate with me, beginning with giving me your actual name, and your friends will die quickly. Or you may choose not to cooperate, and their deaths will take significantly more time, and I will ensure that you see every moment. Now I will ask you one more time. What is your name?"
Aya shut his eyes, and his legs and arms curled in tighter, instinctively balling around the sick fear that roiled through his gut. "Aya. It's Aya," he said softly, and Tanaka smiled.
"Omi, Kritiker's been tracking Tanaka for weeks, right? How could they have missed a place like this?" Ken said. He and Omi knelt shoulder-to-shoulder on the ornate red tiles of the roof of a house in the most expensive district of the city. The house they were currently using as a look-out point was bedecked in elegant carvings and graceful gardens, and it had probably cost its owner a small fortune, but it paled in comparison to the house across the street. It was this house that was currently the focus of all three assassins' attention. They'd arrived at the address that Omi's work with the police scanner had provided a quarter of an hour ago and, after a few minutes of searching, they'd spotted Tanaka's limo parked at the end of the gated driveway of an enormous baroque monstrosity that was jarringly out of place among the traditional Japanese homes that comprised the rest of the neighborhood. They'd climbed onto the roof of the neighboring house, and were now trying, unsuccessfully, to look through the drawn curtains of the mansion.
"They couldn't have, unless…" Omi trailed off, glancing nervously at the still figure crouched a few yards further down the roof. Yohji's face was as still and impassive as one of the stone gargoyles ornamenting the corners of the roof. Not so much as a flicker of an eyelid gave any indication that he was following his teammates' conversation, but Omi lowered his voice anyway. Yohji's temper had been explosive and unpredictable since they'd taken this mission, and Omi hadn't missed the fact that those explosions of temper centered on a certain redhead of their acquaintance. "Unless he hasn't come here since Kritiker's been watching him. Unless he saves this place for…special…guests."
"Like Aya, you mean." Ken didn't lower his voice, and Omi winced and took another covert look at Yohji. Yohji still didn't look over towards them, but the faint glow of light from the mansion's windows outlined the rigid muscles of his clenched jaw. Omi turned back to Ken.
Abruptly, Yohji stood and stepped back from the roof's edge. He turned to his teammates, and the expression on his face sent a tingle of ice down Omi's spine. His face was pale and tight under his tan and his eyes had narrowed into slits of green ice.
"This is ridiculous." Yohji spoke softly, but Omi could hear an edge of steel in his voice. "We can't see anything from here. We need to go in."
Omi didn't want to say it, but someone had to. "Yohji…" he stopped, unable to continue in the face of his normally genial teammate's sudden cold fury. Then he felt the reassuring weight of Ken's hand settle on his leg, and he found the nerve to continue. "We went over this back at the house. You know we can't go in there. We have no idea what kind of security systems the place has, how many guards-"
"I know, dammit! But I also know that Aya is in there somewhere with that man, and that every second we stand out here arguing is another second that he, that he-" Yohji shuddered and stopped, and the icy anger his eyes cracked apart, revealing naked terror. Instinctively, Omi reached towards him, to help, to comfort, but Yohji took a step back and closed his eyes for a long moment, seeming to collect himself. When he opened his eyes, the terror was once again buried beneath a frozen crust of fury.
"I'm getting him back. Now. Tonight." Yohji's voice was so low as to be almost inaudible.
"You two have a simple choice. You can help me, or you can get the hell out of my way. Decide."
Omi looked at Ken. Ken's dark blue eyes were clouded with worry, but he met Omi's gaze and nodded. Omi put his hand on top of Ken's and gave it a squeeze before turning back to Yohji. He knew as well as Ken that the choice Yohji had given them was no choice at all. "Alright, let's do it."
AN: Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the chapter! If you have a second I would really appreciate hearing what you thought.
Also, I have a question, and if any of you could help me out, that would be fantastic. I don't know how to space dialogue on this site. It drives me crazy that I can't do indents so that multiple lines of dialogue are indented as they are in traditional print media, and I don't know if it's easier for you guys to follow the conversations if I put a blank line between every line of dialogue, or if I just leave them in a block. For this chapter, I put blank lines in between. If you guys tell me what you think, or if you have any suggestions for formatting on this site, could you please let me know? I would really appreciate it. And while I'm asking for favors, I may as well mention that I'm still looking for a beta reader! If anyone would be willing, please let me know.
Thanks again for reading.