Chapter Warnings: NCS, angst
Chapter One Hundred: Hunt Me
It was early. The room was still dark, only the barest hint of pre-dawn gray starting to creep through the blinds. It was too early to be awake, so Aya laid still and tried to go back to sleep. He took a few deep breaths, unconsciously matching the rhythm of Yohji's chest as it rose and fell beneath him. It was strange, he thought, how close they slept, but Yohji was warm and it made Aya feel safe.
He didn't want it to. The last thing Aya wanted was to depend on someone. He wanted…he wanted…
Aya realized he didn't know what exactly he wanted. He had very clear notions of things he did not want. He did not want to go back, and he did not want to be beaten or abused, even if he did deserve it and, to a certain extent, felt that it was inevitable. He didn't want to have to give up his sword and the measure of strength it gave him. He didn't want to be forced from the life he had found here, the bright shop, the soft bed, the absence of pain.
But Aya hesitated to want anything, because what good would it do? If he wanted it, it just meant that it could be kept from him. Still, the rebellious part of his psyche kept insisting that there were already things he desired.
He wanted to see Aya-chan.
He wanted to make Yohji happy with him, though the reasons behind that kept shifting.
He wanted—and how he dreaded wanting this—he wanted to believe the blonde when he said Aya could be free.
It was painful, wanting that. Aya knew he didn't deserve it, that he couldn't have it, but something in him cried out each time Yohji told him he wasn't a slave. Yes, it said, that's right. It remembered what it was to be free and demanded he take the chance.
It wasn't that he didn't want to believe what the older man said; part of him wanted desperately to do just that. But the other part of him was so angry at Yohji for even suggesting it. It was dangerous to want anything, and yet, Aya thought he might want to be free. But it was a desire so long suppressed, so long despaired of, that he had nearly forgotten it, until Yohji started waving it in front of his face. Still, he told himself that it didn't matter, reminded himself that his own freedom meant nothing without Aya-chan.
Not that it mattered. Crawford would never let him go.
Turning his thoughts away from the subject, he tried to think of nothing, to drift back into sleep, but there was a strange, vague feeling of trepidation that edged him away from it. Aya tried to shake it off, and though he often felt that way after a nightmare, he couldn't remember having a dream this time; maybe he had just forgotten.
"What's the matter?" Yohji suddenly asked in a voice not clear of sleep.
"Nothing, Yohji. Just thinking."
"What you said…before…I…I…"
He couldn't say it. He couldn't tell Yohji that he wanted.
Yohji glanced over at the redhead. Aya looked good. He had dressed in a pair of trim, light wash jeans and soft, gray sweater that hung, just a little loose, down around his hips. He was piecing together an arrangement of iris as he sat close to the blonde. He had been close all day, quietly trailing behind Yohji. It was eerily similar to those first few days, though Aya didn't seem to be regressing. Yohji couldn't put his finger on it, but the boy had seemed worried all day long.
"Aya," he started, unsure of what he wanted to say, "Is something wrong?"
"I…I…." He shook his head, no, cutting off his own soft words.
"Are you sure?"
Aya nodded. Considering everything, there were bound to be off days. Maybe this was just one of them. There was a tickle of intuition at the back of his mind that told him that wasn't the case, but, after being unable to think of a reason why, Yohji let it go.
Yohji set down a pot of daisies, causing Aya to start. The blonde shook his head, slightly distressed with how on edge the other was. There was no way Aya could deal with the fangirls.
"Why don't you go out to the greenhouse?" he suggested. "Omi'll be home soon, so we should be fine out here."
Purple eyes widened slightly, and Yohji thought his offer might be rejected, but, ultimately, Aya just nodded his head and went. Still, there was a certain set of his shoulders that said he would rather not. Yohji found himself staring at the door long after it had closed behind the boy, trying to figure out just what was going on.
Calm down, Aya told himself. Closing his eyes, he breathed in the humid air of the greenhouse, enjoying the smell of the growing things and the peaceful lull. Okay. He was okay. There wasn't any reason he shouldn't be.
Determined to get it together, Aya went to the potting bench and pulled out the notebook in which he had been recording his planting. He was turning pages, trying to decide which seedlings ought to be moved to larger trays, when it happened.
The silence erupted suddenly into a crash, and the green glass of the roof shattered inward. Crystal pieces rained down around him. There was a flash of motion, a streak of white and green and red, and Aya knew. He tried to move away, to run, maybe, but found his left arm caught tight. Without thinking he swung the other, only to find it easily captured and twisted behind him.
"Now, now kätzchen," Schuldig crooned as he drew Aya close to his own body, "play nice."
Omi was standing behind the register when the beeping started, a soft alert that a house alarm had been compromised. It took him a moment to figure out what alarm had even been set; then he remembered, the greenhouse. From the beginning they had set that one to keep Aya safe.
Had the boy accidentally triggered it? Had the cat?
Shaking his head to dispel the useless questions, Omi looked up and tried to find Yohji in the crowded shop. Quickly he rang up the purchase he was holding, heartbeat quickening as he realized Aya might be in trouble. He wanted to yell for Yohji or to break out in a run, but he couldn't alert the girls. Omi had never made change quicker in his life.
"Come again," he called back at the girl as he squeezed his way through the crowd towards the back door. Suddenly Yohji was beside him, grabbing his arm. Omi tried to shake it off.
"What's wrong?" the blonde questioned.
"Aya!" Omi hissed. "The alarm—"
He didn't get through anymore as Yohji took off, roughly elbowing anyone who got in his way. The girls began to look and chatter, and Ken started making his way up to the front.
"I'm sorry, but we're closing!" Omi yelled. Ken stopped in his tracks and began to herd the girls towards to doors, nodding at their regretful sighs, his eyes lingering on Omi as if trying to find an explanation in his face. Omi just shook his head and held open a door to get the girls gone more quickly.
They shoved the doors closed behind them, and Ken quickly dropped the metal shutters.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Come on!" Omi grabbed his arm, dragging him towards the back. Explanations would have to wait.
Aya struggled to breathe. He felt his chest tightening in panic, felt his knees threaten to give out on him.
/Easy./ Schuldig pulled him closer as they slipped down the shadowed alley; he forced Aya in front of him, his chest at the boy's back and hand pressed tightly over his mouth. /I've got you./
A car waited, Nagi standing at the door. Aya's heart sank. He fought, just for a second, tried to pull away again only to have Schuldig jerk him roughly back before tossing him through the open door of the towncar.
"Aya!" Yohji shouted as he came to stop in the middle of the empty greenhouse, eyes scanning quickly over the scene. Glass was everywhere; it crunched under his boots as he stalked to the back, thinking, maybe, Aya was crouched down there. Nothing.
Rushing outside, he checked the yard and street—nothing.
Where was he? What the hell had happened? Someone had come. How many damn times had he told Aya that it couldn't happen? Yohji hated that he hadn't listened.
"Shit! Where the fuck are you?" he swore as he paced, pulling at his own hair and trying to figure out what to do. The rational part of his mind said he needed to look for clues, and he hurried back inside, but besides the glass and Aya's dropped notebook, there was nothing. The door had been opened, but from the inside, the alarm set off when it opened. There was nothing, no quick lead, no anything. No Aya.
"Yohji-kun!" Omi yelled as he skidded to a halt just inside the doorway, Ken nearly running into him. "What happened? Where's Aya?"
"He's fucking gone! Somebody took him."
Yohji gave the boy an angry, exasperated look.
"If I knew, I wouldn't be standing here!"
"Who—" Ken started, only to be cut off by Omi.
Without explanation, the boy turned and ran out of the greenhouse, Ken and Yohji hot on his heels.
Aya knelt on the floor of the car, trembling as Schuldig used a thick, leather band to tie his hands tightly in front of him. He wanted to run, to scream, to cry out for Yohji to come and help him. He bit back everything, his words and his fear, closing his eyes and praying this was just a nightmare.
"Nothing," Omi sighed. He jumped as Yohji slammed his hand against the wall to his right. "The camera went out. I don't understand."
"Shit. What're we gonna do?" Ken asked, getting antsy just standing there.
"Get your gear. We're gonna get him back," Yohji stated coldly, anger suddenly suppressed under that cold calm they only saw in mission. For Yohji, that usually preceded some major carnage, and it was enough to make Omi turn around to regard him.
"We don't know where to look," he said, trying to stay calm under the force of Yohji's stare.
"So what do we do? Sit here on our asses while they . . . damnit!"
"Yohji-kun. We need to know where to start," Omi explained. "I'm not saying do nothing. I'm worried too."
Yohji stared, still obviously upset.
"Ken-kun, you go clean up the shop. Yohji-kun, you check out the greenhouse and the yard, look for anything odd and see if you can check the camera. I'll search the computer for anything I can find."
The car stopped. Aya kept his head down as the door opened. Schuldig climbed out and drug him after, keeping him on his feet and pushing him forward, through a rusted metal door. Aya watched the cement floor was he was pushed across the huge room and against the cinderblock wall.
The metal door shut with a clang that echoed through the warehouse.
Aya closed his eyes, and Schuldig leaned close to brush their lips together.
/Missed you, kätzchen./
"Hate you," Aya replied even though he knew he shouldn't. For a second, nothing happened. He opened his eyes to see Schuldig take a step back, something dark gleaming in his eyes. There was a crack, and it took a moment for Aya to realize the redhead had slapped him, hard, across the face. He tasted blood and realized his lip was split.
He stared into the dim, dusty light of the empty storage building wondering if he was dreaming.
/Get it together/ Schuldig demanded.
What? Aya didn't understand.
/Behave/ the other hissed in his mind /or you'll stay with us. Don't tell him anything. I'm trying to help you here!/
Before Aya could ask what he was talking about, there was the sound of footsteps clicking across the concrete floor, a steady approach. Aya looked up, dreading and knowing at the same time.
Crawford stepped out of the shadows.
Schuldig moved out of the way, leaving Aya leaning against the wall, biting his sore lip as he tried to stay calm even as his body shook with instinctual terror.
Crawford came towards him, so close, barely a foot away. Suddenly, there was new pain as the man punched him in the stomach. Aya doubled over.
"Look at the floor," Crawford said coldly, like it was beyond him to be truly affected by Aya's behavior.
Aya was slammed backwards against the wall, his head rebounding off its hard surface. But now he remembered, keeping his eyes down. He watched as Crawford's pale hand fingered the soft fabric of his sweater.
"Such nice things," he said. "You like them?"
A hard blow to the side of his head and a snapped, "What?"
Ken clutched the broom, hating, absolutely hating that he had to sweep out the shop what Aya was out there being put through who knew what. He and the redhead might not be the closest, but Ken didn't want anything to happen to him. Mostly, though, he didn't want to be stuck doing nothing.
With a soft fwip, Crawford flipped the long switchblade from its cover.
Aya felt his heart, already tight in his chest, try to constrict again, and for a painful second he expected the man to plunge the blade into his chest and be done with it. There was a terrible moment where he longed for that and feared it in the same instant, so that it was almost a relief when Crawford slid the cold blade down the neck of his sweater and began to cut away the fabric.
"Such fine things," he said flatly, "Such a nice owner. Does he take his time stripping you down? Removing these trappings before he uses you?"
Aya didn't answer. He was watching, now, as the knife shredded the gray fabric, letting Crawford's free hand pull it away from his body. Aya didn't want to lose it, but he couldn't think of a single thing he might do to stop the process. Each stray touch of skin on skin made him swallow hard over the urge to cry out.
"Answer me," Crawford demanded, turning the blade now to cut a long gash over Aya's shoulder, not deep, but stinging as it began to bleed.
"He will, and you'll be grateful for your training."
No. He wouldn't; Yohji wouldn't…Yohji. Aya's mind latched on to the thought. Yohji had promised to keep him safe, hadn't he? Wouldn't Yohji come now and save him? So much of the time, Aya didn't want to be saved, but he would sacrifice that shredded vestige of pride, would give up almost anything, if Yohji would come now and get him out of this.
A cool hand ran over is bare stomach, making him suck it in and try to back away only to be stopped by the wall, the cinderblocks hard against his bare shoulder blades. Crawford worked to cut away the last of the sweater, leaving him open to the cold air of the warehouse; his nipples tightened and peaked oat the chill and goosebumps raced across his flesh.
What could he do? Adrenaline rushed through him as his body demanded he run, a simplistic need just to get away, but he held himself still. He wanted out, and there was a whispered thought that he could fight, but then there was Aya-chan. So where did that leave him?
Crawford began to shift out of his suit jacket, handing it over to a suddenly close Nagi. The tie followed, and a sick feeling of déjà vu began to build in Aya's stomach. Maybe Crawford saw it on his face, because the man's lips curved a cruel smile. Aya bent his head, looking away from the other's face until a strong hand took hold of his chin and brought it back up. So he shut his eyes as Crawford leaned forward to kiss him, roughly pushing his tongue into Aya's mouth.
Yohji stood in the greenhouse, feeling the cold air as he looked up, studying the shattered ceiling. Bits of thick, green glass clung to the metal supports, marking a clear point of entry. Bending down, he picked up a large shard, turning it over in his fingers. How the hell had someone broken through that? Why hadn't they heard anything?
The muscles in his arms stretched uncomfortably as Schuldig pulled Aya's tied hands over his head. They were secured above him, to some pipe or beam. It didn't matter what it was; everything else faded as Aya heard a soft slide of fabric. He knew what was coming. Though he faced the wall now, Aya could see it in his mind's eye, the hard look on Crawford's face as he wrapped the buckled end of his belt around his hand.
There was a moment of heavy silence. Pulled high enough that it was difficult to find purchase on the floor, Aya could do little besides tense his body.
With a crack, leather met skin and his back was laced by a line of pain.
Omi swore at the screen. He had lost not one but three cameras. Though rarely accessed the two exterior cameras ought to have been recording, but neither were working. He had run a diagnostic only weeks before, and the security system had been operating normally. Maybe it was just a malfunction, but the blonde was beginning to think not.
Schuldig watched Ran jerk under the rough lashes. The boy's thin body hung, nearly suspended, from a thick pipe running along the wall. Blood was beginning to drip down his back, running slowly from the edges of the red welts left from Crawford's belt.
He didn't like this, someone else touching what was his, but Schuldig clenched his hands and reminded himself why it had to happen. And, despite Oracle's vehemence at correcting the situation, he had, apparently, failed to pick up on one momentous occurrence: Ran had decided to really play with Weiss.
It would cause problems; Schuldig didn't need to see the future to know this, but maybe it would keep Ran together, give him a bit of something to fight with. The boy had been seriously fractured when they had turned him over, and while Crawford might not care if he was broken, Schuldig did. Even if it took Weiss and the blonde schwachsinniger to keep him sane. He could bite back his jealousy for now and plan on retribution later.
Oh, it would be sweet. A smile crept over his lips as he pictured it and remained as he watched Crawford throw the belt aside and unbutton his dress shirt. Ran drew long, hard breaths then seemed to stop breathing altogether as the precog stepped close to press against his bleeding back. His hands reached to unfasten Ran's stained jeans, then up, brushing down the boy's ribs before pushing the fabric down his hips.
"Anything?" Ken asked from the doorway.
Yohji dropped his spent cigarette to the sidewalk and ground it out under his boot.
Aya cringed as Crawford whispered to him, breath warm against his ear. He couldn't make the words make sense as a soft hand ran down over his belly. His sucked in his breath again, trying to move imperceptibly away from the touch, but Crawford only pressed harder against his naked body. One hand held his wait with bruising intensity, the other hand pinched at his left nipple, twisting the pale nub until it ached. The hand continued downward, following the line of his hipbone until soft fingers threaded through his pubic hair.
"Mine. You're mine," Crawford told him as his hand moved down to cup Aya's balls; Aya held himself still, barely breathing, trying to avoid punishment to the sensitive area. Crawford's slick tongue traced his ear as the hand tugged suddenly causing Aya's body to jerk in spasmic response. Nails dug in, and Aya's back arched, until finally the long fingers released him, moving up to circle his flaccid penis, working the tender flesh up and down.
No. The word repeated in his head. No, no, no. His mouth opened, but he refused to let it come out.
Teeth sank into his shoulder just as the hand tightened painfully. A soft whine escaped him. Biting on his lip, Aya struggled to keep quiet.
"Just shut up for a minute!" Yohji demanded. Staring at the alley behind the greenhouse, he tried to piece together the scenario. They had to have come this way.
"I said shut the hell up, Ken!"
Aya had denied it. Let it be a beating. Let it be a lashing. Let it be anything but that.
Then Crawford's cock pushed up against him, hard and hot against his bottom.
"You deserve this. You want it," Crawford told him, letting go of Aya so he could guide his erection. It brushed insistently over Aya's sensitive entrance. What could he do? Yohji had said…
Where was Yohji?
Crawford entered him in one rough, burning shove. Aya choked on his own breath and bit roughly on his tongue to keep from crying out. Tears stung at his eyes as he tasted blood, but he refused to cry. It had happened, again. Yohji hadn't come, and he wouldn't; Aya had failed him by not fighting. Aya had failed and he deserved this. Now he wouldn't let anyone down by crying over it. But it hurt.
His chest was crushed against the stone wall as Crawford moved against him in rhythmic thrusts, his way soon slicked by Aya's blood. He felt it seep down his leg, felt smooth hands tugging his penis, felt teeth bite at him again, but then the physical sensations began to fade beneath the intense hollowness of failure.
"We have to start looking," Yohji insisted, leaning over Omi's computer chair as the other studied city maps.
"What do you want me to do with him?" Schuldig asked.
Crawford finished buttoning the cuffs of his shirt. Taking his crisp jacket from Nagi, he never looked back to Ran.
"Take him down."
"Is he going with us?" Nagi asked quietly.
Crawford just walked away.
He had considered it, taking Ran back, but the boy wasn't a threat, not after this. The pathetic child was wary already, and he would realize that Schwartz would indeed return to collect him if needed. Crawford would let Weiss keep him, let him be a distraction to the group. There was more than a chance that Kritiker would recognize him, but they could do nothing with their limited knowledge. Let them all buzz about while he continued to do the real work.
Schuldig sat on the hard concrete floor, Ran's head in his lap. He gently touched the boy's bruised face, cast an appreciative eyes down the length of his naked, bruised body. He had lasted through the first beating and the rape, but then Crawford, unsatisfied with his silence, had taken a thick plank to his sides and back, eventually putting him out with a blow to the head.
He could have been a damn bit more delicate in Schuldig's humble opinion.
Running his hand through the boy's hair, he found it slightly sticky with blood. Nothing too serious. Probably a few cracked ribs, some bleeding, maybe a concussion—the standard pain and humiliation designed to keep Ran in his place and liberate them. When the boy woke up, they would have a little chat, then Schuldig would take him back.
He was in no hurry, lingering over the soft touches. Too soon, Ran began to stir, instinctively pulling away.
"Shh, lay still."
He did, but his body was tense now, all the pliant softness lost to wary anticipation. Schuldig ignored it, continuing to stroke his arm.
"I'm sorry he hurt you so badly."
The boy said nothing, and Schuldig began to worm his way inside Ran's mind. It was surprisingly easy compared to late. Once he had sorted out the pain, he encountered the disbelief and uncertainty jumbled with chaotic, uninterpretable messes of shame and regret. There were mixed images of Crawford and himself, interspersed with imagined scenes of the sister and remembered moments with the schwachsinniger.
/If you're good, I'll take you back to him./
Hope, there, small but a definite, bright pulse against the roil of despair.
/Give me a kiss./
He had expected resistance, repulsion even, but when Ran struggled to sit up, it wasn't to pull away. He balanced precariously, turning up his beautiful, bloody face to stare hard at Schuldig who smiled in return.
"A kiss?" he questioned, words slightly slurred. He licked his lips, took a breath that looked painful.
"Yes. Then I'll take you back."
"Go on, then," Ran muttered.
"No, you kiss me. I know you've been practicing," Schuldig purred, stroking the boy's back and making him shudder.
There was something, a tiny flicker of the old, resistant Ran he had so loved to play with, but it was subsumed, quickly, washed away in the memory of what had just happened. Ran, in fact, seemed to lose connection with the present entirely, and it took a shake from Schuldig to get him to focus.
"Now," he demanded, unhappy that Crawford had cost him his fun. Ran wasn't pleasant to play with when he was this out of it.
There was no expression, and Ran leaned in to perfunctorily brush his lips against Schuldig's. The German picked up some unattractive thoughts, the topmost being that this indignity was nothing in comparison, that it cost Ran nothing he hadn't already lost, and that it was worth it to get back to Yohji who would make things alright again.
Schuldig pulled back with a growl, the hand he had held against Ran's hair fisting suddenly to yank on red strands and tilt the boy's head back painfully.
"Where was your protector, Ran? Where was he while your Master beat you? I was here," Schuldig leaned in, bending his head even further back but unable to shake that blank look. "I know, and I still want you. Are you so sure he will?"
"I don't care," Ran said, but it was little more than a strained whisper. And it was a lie.
Omi and Ken shared a worried look, both concerned about the pacing Yohji behind them.
Without comment, he stopped suddenly and walked out of the room.
"Should I go after him?" Ken asked.
"Wait a minute, then go."
He had to check the greenhouse again. Yohji didn't know precisely why, but he had the sudden impulse to return. His rational mind told him that he had been thorough and would find nothing new, but some compulsion made him walk out just the same, mentally reconstructing the scene as he went, trying to think of what might be triggering him to return.
Pushing open the canvas-covered door, he nearly tripped over his own feet.
The boy was there, kneeling among the shards of glass, bound and gagged. He wore only his stained jeans and the dark collar; his bare chest was a mess of bruises and there was some blood. But he was alive. Violet eyes trained instantly on Yohji, desperate and sad and pleading.
"God," Yohji breathed, worried and relieved beyond belief. He rushed to Aya's side, kneeling to work the gag out of his mouth. "Are you okay?"
Aya just looked at him while Yohji untied the leather bands, freeing his hands from behind his back. That done, he went to brush back red bangs, only to have the boy flinch from the touch. Aya's cheek was bruised, his lip split and swollen, blood crusted on the left side of his head and neck.
"What happened?" Yohji asked, reaching again with similar results. He wanted to touch Aya, to know he was really there, but used every bit of restraint he had to back off just a little.
"He…" Aya started, his voice dry and incredibly quiet. Those eyes met Yohji's, fell away. "I told you."
"You told me what? Who did this?"
Aya shook his head and winced at the motion, "Master."
"How'd he get you out of here?"
"Did he knock you out?"
No, Aya shook his head.
Someone had come in and taken the boy away, conscious at that.
"Why didn't you yell for me? For us?" Yohji questioned.
Aya was silent. Standing, Yohji took a step back from the redhead.
"Did you even try to fight?"
Again, Aya said nothing.
Until that moment, Yohji didn't realize how angry he was. Frustration at himself turned quickly into rage that Aya had let himself be taken. The boy was able to fight—Yohji had made sure of it—but he hadn't even tried! He'd walked out f there like some docile puppet without even thinking Yohji might be able to save him or even trying to save himself.
"Do you have any idea how worried I was?" Yohji questioned, his voice rising without his notice. "Can you even imagine how I felt when I came out here and you were gone? No! Because you just gave up and went with the fucker!"
In that moment, Yohji thought Aya deserved each and every bruise he had.
"Do you trust me at all, Aya? Are you even serious about what we're doing, because it seems like it doesn't mean shit to you. Stop trying to fucking please me and get it together! If you don't fight back, then you're never going to be anything else but a slave! Is that what you want?"
Aya fought to remain upright. He back and chest and head ached, and he couldn't get the room to focus just right. He tried to concentrate, to focus in on what Yohji was yelling, but part of him just didn't want to hear it.
Yohji was angry. Aya should have fought. But how could he when Aya-chan was held over him?
He would never be able to protect her if he couldn't even manage to protect himself.
Still, he had thought, stupidly, that Yohji would make it better. He had held on to that tenuous thread, let it sustain him through the torment his Master enacted. The pain was nothing, the humiliation was nothing, as long as he could get back to Yohji. Yohji, who saw him as something beyond a body to be manipulated and abused, who had taken him in and taught him how to start a kind of life, who had made him hope. Yohji would make it right again.
But now the blonde was yelling at him, angry and with every right to be. Aya was such a failure. Useless. But he had hoped Yohji would help him because the blonde said he was more.
"…you're never going to be anything else but a slave!"
The fragile hope that he had held on to shattered at those words. Aya felt it in his chest like a tangible thing, and, freed, despair rushed up to choke him. If Yohji, the only person who thought he was anything, was condemning him, then it was so.
Aya wanted to die. To give it up and let the pain have him. But he couldn't move. All he could manage was lower his head, hoping Yohji wouldn't see him cry.