Author's Note: This ignores the Aya-Omi flashback in Weiss Side B, oops. And... probably all of Side B, actually. Sorry. It does, however, make reference to a certain conversation in the Fight Fire With Fire drama CD.


Rex knows that somewhere in the bottom drawer of Persia's desk, buried under neatly-kept files and stacks of official correspondence, there is a photograph of four young men and time-strained sunshine. As long as it remains, even if never brought back out into the light, she can hope that some part of Takatori Mamoru remembers.

It is hard to pinpoint when Tsukiyono Omi died. If he had to do so -- and so far he has not -- then Mamoru would say it was at some point of the helicopter ride away from the ruins of his last mission. After all, Omi's obligations ended with his call to Rex. Perhaps the shift took place some seconds after Ken said Aya would bring Youji back with him, when Omi's reassured smile faded and gave way to disdain at such blind optimism. Or perhaps it was when Knight asked, not entirely in jest, "So is the old King going to keep using us against Weiss?" -- and Persia said with quiet confidence: "My goals and that of the Takatori family will not conflict again."

But by the end of the helicopter ride the result was clear. The whirring of the blades calmed into silence, the two Crashers members left, and Ken broke the long wordlessness between them.

"Hey, Omi. Someday, right, after Aya drags Youji into hospital-- someday we'll all go somewhere, yeah? Together. Away from the flowers and, and insane high school students. It'll be a holiday. Weiss gets holidays, yeah?"

Mamoru recognised the sentiment; acknowledged that there was little distinction between inventing futures, as Ken had done, and reclaiming a past that never existed. The difference was that Ken had got the details wrong, whereas Mamoru was always exact.

"Right, Omi?"

The lapse again. But Mamoru nodded, unwilling to correct him. "Of course we will. Someday, surely--"

Aya returned several months after his escape to New York, brought back to Japan by an article in a foreign newspaper and rumours from the Tokyo underground. The location of Persia's office had not changed; that was one constant, at least.

"Good morning, Aya. I wish I could say this was a pleasant surprise, but I've been expecting you."

"Your bodyguards seemed surprised enough."

Hands folded together on his desk, Mamoru smiled. "You've kept a sense of humour. I'm glad."

He even sounded sincere. "I've heard what Weiss has become," Aya said, stepping forward; Mamoru pushed his chair back slightly, looked up. "And what you've done to the others."

"Done for them, Aya. I gave Youji what he wanted: an escape. Stability."

"And you put Ken in jail."

"I gave him what he wanted, too. As I did for you."

"I chose this."

"And I let you have it."

If Mamoru had sounded self-satisfied or mocking, Aya could have felt justifiably angry; as it was he could find nothing to resent in Mamoru's gentle, matter-of-fact tones. He tried again: "Persia isn't always right."

The corner of Mamoru's mouth twitched. Aya could not tell if it was irritation or amusement until Mamoru spoke, and then he knew it was the latter. "That's very diplomatic of you, Aya. You can say what you think, you know. Go on." His voice slowed, patient and helpful, strangely infuriating. "What you want to say is that Persia shouldn't assume he knows what's best for others, right? That Persia makes decisions on the behalf of his team, and that the decisions don't always work out. You're thinking of Balinese."

"Youji was--" Aya broke off, his own anger a surprise; willed his hands to unclench, willed the right words to come. His hands relaxed. The words did not appear.

"Yes?" Was that pity in Mamoru's eyes? "Balinese was a mistake. I accept that. But making the right choices is not an exact science. You understand, surely. You made a mistake as well, choosing Aguri--"

"Don't. That's not the point. I'm here because you... made a request of me, once."

Mamoru laughed. It should have been a sinister sound or a hollow one, something befitting a Takatori, but instead it was clear and light and painfully familiar. "No. I told you what I knew you would do. A prediction, if you will."

"You made a request," Aya insisted. "'When Weiss becomes something that doesn't protect the innocent, when Tsukiyono Omi disappears'. I know you remember."

"Weiss is a tool of the Takatori Group now, yes. And Omi is dead. But you're not really here for that today, are you? Aya-kun."

He flinched. Mamoru shook his head. "Oh, Aya. I know you have a gun with you; perhaps more than one. But you're not ready to do this if you still hope that Omi's alive, despite all evidence to the contrary."

"I should have realised," Aya said slowly, "that Omi died long before the final mission. Persia had no qualms about manipulating his own Weiss team."

"Is this about Izumi Sena, now? Your second chance? Or perhaps your third -- the second was Aguri, after all. But it didn't work, did it. I could have told you, Aya. I warned you about Aguri. You can't save anyone from becoming Weiss. And besides, you agreed to my plans for Izumi. I told you his past, I told you to keep an eye on him... you must have known what it entailed. I trusted that you'd understand--"

"I trusted you."

Mamoru -- patient and smiling and kind -- laid one hand lightly on Aya's shoulder. "You trusted Tsukiyono Omi. Sometimes, Aya, I think you place too much importance on the dead."

A week after Aya's visit, Mamoru builds the fifth Weiss.

It is an enlightening exercise. Omi's experiences in Weiss gain a new value, theoretical rather than practical, and Mamoru picks up the patterns with ease, knows what choices to make or not to make despite what the official data may say.

The thing about Kritiker is that it is a business. As he told Knight, no one is indispensable. Yet wrong choices are costly and replacing Kritiker agents is expensive, so he has to estimate how long they will last: how many years he is likely to get out of each one before the job incapacitates them, whether through death or softer, insidious means.

It seems that his father had not been particularly good at such analyses. But Mamoru remembers Abyssinian's conduct in the third Weiss, and is not willing to take such a gamble on Ogasawara. The metaphor, like the rest of Knight's speech, was inaccurate: the standard ranks of chessmen are insufficient. Persia builds his own teams. And if he has to discard a piece or two, well -- strategies find proof in their results, not their morality. And yes, he knows what Rex thinks about his refusal to appoint Ogasawara. She's wrong, of course. But he'll let her think whatever she chooses to. Sympathy helps bind employees to their employers, and for similar reasons he still keeps a certain photograph in his desk drawer and makes sure that she knows it is there.