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December 2006

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stairway

das_katzchen in aegis_weiss

Yokohama: the Pan Pacific lobby



The back seat of the cab was getting smaller by the minute, cramped and reeking of a hundred people's worth of cologne and stale cigarette smoke. The windows had gone dark what seemed like hours ago, the flash of lights and honk of car horns often the only sign that traffic was moving at all. He huddled down in the seat as far as he could, anxiety gnawing away at his insides, head throbbing with the line drawn down the center of his psyche, internal screaming of the opposing elements battling for whatever pathetic dominance Omi was.

Omittchi. Mamoru.

Fuck Mamoru; Mamoru was dead, had a death warrant and a nice little grave marker in one of Tokyo's nicer cemetaries. Not far from Ouka. Sometimes he'd catch it in his peripheral vision on the two days a year he brought her flowers. Never so much as lit a stick of incense for that headstone.

But that voice in the back of his head, the one that chastized and snickered and told him to stop being such a fucking baby, that sounded a lot like Mamoru. The person who itemized weaknesses, who baited Ken and Yohji and told Ken, that night, to go ahead and kill him; he looked a lot like Mamoru, in the mirror, in the way he moved and the way he'd drag Omittchi to the surface, kicking and screaming, when he needed the teenager to warm the world with his smile.

It was twisted, this place he had come to. Manipulating the people he loved the most in the world just so he wouldn't have to be alone. Acting on Omittchi's motivations with Mamoru's tactics. Growing into this hodgepodge of two people he hated, not able, ultimately, to let go of either.

The coat was warm, at least; it covered up the worst of the marks on his neck and smelled like Schuldig. He'd catch himself turning his nose against the collar and inhaling, once in a while, relaxing a little from the tension roiling through him and that fucking voice, How pathetic, prodding that moment just before he left the apartment and sneering.

Look at you, trussed up with makeup on your hickeys, wearing his coat, still sore from him inside you and here you are running off to meet Aya. You pathetic slut. You don't care about that bastard, Omi, and he doesn't care about you. Do you really want someone to love you so bad, are you really that fucking lonely, that you'd believe HIM?

Yes. He pays attention to me. Watches. Listens. No one else does that anymore.

He's using you.

I don't care.

No. No. We're going to get Aya. He'll care. He'll make everything okay again.

Nobody can make everything okay. But at least he'll be here.

The cab ground to a halt for the fifth time in as many minutes. They were in Yokohama already, a quick glance around placed the vehicle within blocks of the Pan Pacific. So close... no time. No time. Can't sit here a second longer---

"Thank you for the ride." He dropped a few bills on the front seat, more than was neccessary, glancing at the fare, enough that the driver wouldn't complain. Ducked out of the car and ran, weaving through the cars packing the street that might as well have been parked, feet finding the sidewalk and gaining speed, swerving around annoyed pedestrians who shouted after him, not caring, not caring about anything but getting past this block, around this corner, down this alley and there---

It could have been a scene from a movie, light rain starting to dampen his hair, stumbling to a halt with the hotel doors in view and panting, leaning against the side of the building to catch his breath---too late? Am I too late? Is he gone and now I have to spend five more years looking for him? God---and there he was.

Aya. That profile, right before his eyes, tall and black and red and lethal movements and perfect. Eyebrows drawn into that cool, calculating expression, corners of his mouth turned downward, profiled and shadowed in the light through the doors. Feral and beautiful. Aya.

And from that warm center of himself Omittchi was climbing, clawing his way out, wanting this moment, this instant of time more than anything. Waited so long for it, five years of wishing and hoping and chasing phantoms through darkened cities, wanted it so bad...

Mamoru smiled, retreating back into the dark corners of his mind, letting the boy surface.

Oh, no. No. Not like this, not Aya, not this. No. NO. NO!

And half in shadow, damp and shivering from the cold and the rain and running, that broken, childish voice, the one that hadn't left his mouth in five years bubbled to his lips, every inch of him straining forward and five years of loneliness compressed into a single moment, one word.

"Aya?"





His night of arrival had been simple; the redhead had showered and collapsed into bed. Hadn’t even unpacked, because his stay would be so short, what would it have mattered? Such short jobs were unusual in his schedule; he didn’t often spend only twenty-four hours in a place, but this job, and the last, were planned in this manner. It made things harder to organize, and was certainly more expensive. Though it had been Abyssinian who had chosen the Pan Pacific for his stay this time around, and it was NOT a cheap hotel. It was an all-out resort, the size of which had surprised him upon arrival the night before. He had nearly gotten lost.

After sleeping nice, long hours, Ran had awoken that morning to darkness-he hated having open curtains when he slept, and luckily, this place was nice enough to provide thick enough cover for the windows that he hadn’t had need to worry. It was perfect, though perhaps a bit too upscale for him.

That day had been simple, lonely, and smooth. Ran had practiced swordplay in his wide guestroom, though it wasn’t much of practice anymore. He had become so honed in his skill years ago that it was no longer much of a challenge, this business. Oftentimes he was killing defenseless businessmen who had no training, and whose guards were so inefficient they were hardly a chore. But. This was all he knew. And he could hardly call himself perfect. So, for hours that day, between breakfast and dinner (he had opted to skip lunch), the redhead practiced. And practiced. And not once did he come close to fumbling and harming anything in that room.

And then it was time. Seven in the evening, and he’d have to go to catch up with his target. Kurogawa’s contact in Yokohama wanted this man dead. He didn't care the reason, didn’t want the man’s name, only wanted the information nessacary to find and destroy. So he left his room, checked out, and left his things for Kurogawa’s man to pick up while he was out.

Ran strode from the elevator into the lobby. Heavy black boots reflected almost mirror-like on the polished tile floor beneath them. He wore a heavy coat that concealed him from chin to ankles, much in the same fashion as what he donned in Weiss. It was black, constricted (as to not flow and get in his way), and thick, to offer some sort of protection. On his back was fastened a long, slim, black package. Most people would probably think it to be an umbrella, but those who knew of his past life would know what it really was.

Head down, the assassin trudged out of the doors and out into the light rain. Rain made these things easier; washed the blood and could ruin fingerprints-not that his gloves made this a problem.

It wasn’t long after exiting that he heard a name, something that sent a quake down his spine.

Aya. He hadn’t been called that, nor anything other than Abyssinian in so long, he had nearly lost his identity. Quickly, smoothly, like an agile feline, his head lifted, and there he saw the young man. His movement froze, his mouth gaped slightly, and yet he said nothing.

Perhaps he was terrified of seeing a ghost. Or perhaps he was too fearful that Farfarello had been right.





That look... so out of place on Aya's features but no less welcome, it had been a long time, and if Ken and Yohji's reactions were any indication Aya had probably thought he was dead, too. Had probably resigned himself to it.

Two more steps, further into the light---right there, almost within arm's reach, air and raindrops in between and nothing else. Something in his chest constricted; the rational, adult part of him knew what he looked like, now, knew his extra height and lean muscle tone, knew his eyes would be wide and bright like they had been, before, that the lines of his face had softened. That Aya would see the boy and not the unfortunate person he had grown up to be.

"Aya." That one was for himself, so soft and defeated it couldn't even cross the short distance to the subject's ears.





His eyes remained fastened on the boy-no, he supposed Omi wasn’t a boy anymore. But that face was so utterly recognizable that it was difficult to image that he’d grown up at all. Ran’s hands clenched as his sides a bit, realizing slowly that Farfarello had likely told the truth about everything. But, he wiped that from his mind, knowing more important things were there. Like Bombay, who had been dead this whole time. Ran was still afraid to say anything, concerned that if he did, this ghost in front of him would become real, as though he wasn’t already. His expression faded to blank. His gape vanished. He straightened up a bit, lifting his chin and rather looking down-though not as much as it would have been in the past given the other’s height-to the younger man.

He didn’t want to acknowledge it. But, his mind snapped back to reality. Omi. Was. Dead. And his mind, raped of the past and any trace of a decent life, was slowly starting to decay. Maybe this vision was a ghost, after all; a hallucination. And maybe so was that meeting with Farfarello.

Ran had a “date” to keep. He had a hit to make. Taking a deep breath and pulling those violet orbs away, he turned slightly out of the path of the phantom and walked forward, past him, wordlessly.





No. No, don't leave, don't walk away from me now... Omi grit his teeth at the teenager's adoration, insistance, but Omittchi was in control. Just like the part of him that was a cruel, manipulative bastard wanted.

He darted forward, nearly flung himself at Aya and would have hugged him, wrapped his arms around Aya's slim waist and buried his nose against his chest---remember that smell, remember how gentle he could be when you were hurt, but would he shove you away, now?---Caught him by the wrist instead. Heard his voice crack like it belonged to someone else, like he was still sixteen and gaping at the man brazen enough to fistfight Ken amid the floral displays.

"Don't go. I've been looking---five years, I've been looking for you. Don't---if you leave now, I'll never find you again. Will I?" Didn't even have the guts to look up, into Aya's eyes, anywhere but at the glassy sidewalk. Heart hammering against his ribs.





Goddamn it. He felt that hand close around his wrist, and right then and there Ran knew it was real, all of it. Shit. He didn’t want to believe it. Fuck. But he had to, because this was reality now. If he dallied, he’d miss his hit, and miss his pay. Not that he needed it.

Ran supposed he could tarry, at least for now. He stopped, his body placed only a step or two past Omi’s, so he was close enough that it wasn’t a strain for the younger one to keep a grip on his wrist. Head turned to the side a bit so his eyes could catch the other’s expression, though he clearly couldn’t look back at the older man.

Bombay’s words were probably correct. He had always gone through trouble to hide himself. Five years, though; it had been that long already?

Ran shook his hand from Omi’s grip, unfamiliar with such contact now and not caring to engage it in, especially with what should’ve been a corpse. However, he did at least turn there on the sidewalk to face the younger one, ignoring the rain that was slowly picking up. In fact, he didn’t notice it at all. “Why are you here?” Direct, simple; as always. He really hadn’t changed. He hadn’t gone off to pretend he was something else, as he suspected Omi may’ve. And most of all, he didn’t answer that question. It wasn’t even important enough to warrant his attention.





So many possible answers to that question; because I had to see you at least one more time before I die. Because I used to love you. Because I want you to give a damn about me, at least for a minute, even if you just vanish again. Because...

But you can't say those things to him now. Not after what you did to get here. Not with that telepath's marks on your body. Imagine what he'd think, how he'd look at you. Imagine that disgust and loathing. Imagine that word on his lips---

Stop. "I want you to come back." I want my family back. I don't care if we're a family of killers or sinners or whatever, as long as we're together. As long as I'm not alone anymore.

He looked up, finally, warily, the lie in his eyes well-concealed but this was Aya. Met that purple stare and might have died, right there, if it hadn't been so overwhemlingly necessary to keep his head. Aya had to come back. Had to. There was no other option.





This was certainly not the same person he had known before. Now, Ran was glad he’d wrenched his wrist free for another reason-this Omi was practically a stranger to him. Five years had put a lot of experiences on this one’s plate, as was revealed from the hesitation, the tone of voice, and the slow, pained time it took for him to even look at the redhead.

The answer, however, was much too vague for Ran’s liking. He frowned just slightly, though it wasn’t so different from the expression the members of Weiss used to know him for carrying. “Back? Back where?” If Farfarello had been right… if those words had been true, Ran wanted to pry the same words from Omi. He wasn’t going to make such a decision based on subtle hints; he wanted outright answers. His own thoughts remained masked behind that blank stare. The idea that he didn’t know Omi anymore. The idea that a favor for him would be a favor for a stranger, and he’d want a payoff. And moreso, the fact that he was missing a large payment to talk with this kid. In the rain. Now, he noticed the rain.

Sighing, he looked skyward before allowing Omi to reply. And then, from his position slightly behind the other, he grabbed a handful of the coat collar-not aware it wasn’t his own-and roughly began to drag him inside the doors beside them so they could talk in a sheltered place. It may have come across as a caring gesture, despite the crudeness of it, but Ran was only considering it for himself, to get out of the rain, but remained too curious to just leave Bombay on the sidewalk while he sought shelter.





Something centered, snapped into focus. Maybe it was the lights inside making him blink, or the sudden warmth or the hand near his neck---oh, fuck, don't pull the collar down too far---or maybe...

Think that’s going to get our precious little Aya back? Going to get down on your knees in an alley and beg him back?

Damn you, Schuldig.

Omi found himself falling into that pattern, assessing the room and the people inside to find that spot, the right place to stand and talk and not be overheard or even noticed any way other than offhand. Paused there without even communicating---Aya would find it, too. He'd know, he'd have figured out exactly where it was half a second faster. "Come back to Tokyo. Ken and Yohji are already there, waiting. Kritiker is there, operational, but it's not Kritiker anymore. It's mine." Oh, they didn't like that, the two halves of himself. Omittchi had already retreated, mentally curled around himself at Aya's rejection. Mamoru, grinding his teeth at the failure of his plan. At Schuldig being right, most of all.

But Aya, he would always best the Takatoris.





Ran wheeled about and faced Omi sternly at the words, once they were situated in a quiet corner inside the lobby. Tokyo. That word had so many connotations to him, few that did him any good. The old shop, his disowned sister, and more. It had been his home once. He hated it now. Yokohama was hardly any better.

Ken and Youji, alive as well. How long had this been going on? How long before Omi had tracked him down? This was all still so sudden, he hardly wanted to believe it, but this was the second affirmation of such harsh truths.

“Why the hell should I?” he inquired coldly though without a change of tone or expression. Then added, “I don’t know you anymore.” Indeed. He had no idea what the purpose would be, or what Omi was plotting. Farfarello had mentioned Eszet, but maybe that was on his own agenda, with Schwarz. That may not have even been something Bombay was interested in.





Oh, that stung. That stung, but... he heard his voice deepen, fervent, found the will to stare Aya in the face. "Because I want you back in Weiss. Like before, only now we won't be anyone's attack dogs. We'll be our own masters." He felt his lips curling up a bit, the thought of that, thought for a moment that he might have looked half-mad, maybe more like a monster Aya ought to be spearing on his sword. Something more powerful and resourceful than Omittchi had ever been.

Omi drew back for a moment, darting a glance aside almost self-consciously. The truth... the truth was so damn complicated. "And... I miss you."

And that, that was probably as close as he would ever come to confessing anything.





Ran surprised himself in that he actually began to think about the payout of this. Weighing is options. He could easily stay with his current array of employers, though his reputation would take a blow when they found out he just missed his hit that night. But the pay was wonderful. There was just the little fact he had nothing to spend the money on.

Omi’s addition to his first answer took him a little off guard, and his face softened back to that blank slate rather than appearing stern any longer. But that kid was probably the only one of those four old teammates that had thought of them as anything more than coworkers, as far as he knew. At least, Ran would have been the last one to have a friends or family mentality with Weiss.

He shifted his weight. “…” Silence hung heavy in the air, and Ran thought for a moment. He felt indifferent. Then, something came to him. A flashback, if you will, of cold metal to his head, sharp wire constricting him upon a rooftop. A forced entrance to an assassin organization, something he had had no choice but to accept.

And now, he had a choice. It was under different circumstances, but now he was able to say what he had wanted to years ago. “No.”

There was more weight in his thoughts than that horrible situation alone. There was the fact he knew most of the men he worked for now, and had known them for years. He could trust them. Knew they weren’t using him. And somehow, Schwarz had become involved with whatever Omi was dabbling in, so who was to say this wasn’t some sort of baited trap? “Not interested.”





That was not the right answer.

Threats, coercion, promises, deceit---these things wouldn't work on Aya. He was beyond them, as ever, able to step outside himself and fend off whatever was thrown at him. Even the truth, or as much of it as Omi could force out of his mouth, even that didn't bring Aya around.

So perfect.

Aya's never going to want you. And that was it, wasn't it?

"We need you." If nothing else; desperately. I might have led before you came along, but after that, we all followed you. "I have information that Eszet is returning. I don't know what's going to happen, then, but your sister..." He trailed off, folded his arms, decided not to go there. That was a last resort. He looked up---should have known it would go like this, should have known Aya, after all this time. "And if all those reasons aren't good enough, won't you at least do it for me? Not me, now. The person I was. The one you forgave for being your enemy."

There was another kind of desperation there, clinging from somewhere deep. Couldn't let go of it---didn't you ever care at all, Aya? Even a little?





Eszet, again. He dearly wanted to banish those demons from this world, and if there was already a cause bubbling up to handle it, maybe it was a sign. Remaining still for only a moment, at the mention of his sister, Ran visibly twitched; it was as though a small tremor had hit only him. Irritated at the natural reaction, he shook his head slightly, though not really at Omi.

“Eszet,” he repeated. More words from the boy’s mouth. He was clearly determined to gain the redhead’s membership into whatever it was he had created. Taking a short step forward, he leered across to Omi’s face, observing, trying to find traces of the younger boy that had once lived behind those eyes.

Maybe he could pretend that’s who this young man was.

Maybe he was meant for this.

He let out an annoyed sigh, knowing he couldn’t keep holding out. And Farfarello’s information came fresh to his mind. Ran was needed there. For more than himself. But if for no one else, his alienated sister. What was another night at the Pan Pacific, anyway, with the money he had to his name? Kurogawa’s man could be in touch when he didn’t see Abyssinian at the hit site later, after all. “Let me think about it,” he caved. At least, this could be considering caving for such a headstrong one.

“I’ll stay here again tonight, and get back to you once I talk with my contacts.” That business would have to be settled first, either way.





That mention, that near-unintentional slip, and that was all it took. Fuck. Omi grit his teeth at that flinch; he hadn't wanted to play that card, could tell himself it was because it wasn't fair to Aya; knew that really it was because he wanted Aya to agree to come back for him and not because he'd casually dropped the girl's name. Just because he asked.

Should have known better. Should have grown out of it, by now.

Hollow victory.

"Here." Handed over another card, another phone number. Didn't watch Aya take it. Schooled his expression to neutral and refrained from sprinting out of the hotel and as far away as his legs would carry him. "That line is always open, and secure. Whenever you're ready, just call."

Moments ago Omi couldn't have gotten here fast enough. Moments ago he'd been so sure... Nothing was certain.

Five years. No trouble to wait, just a little longer, after all.

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