Back to Index.
On to Part 2.

Weiss and Schwarz do not belong to me. I'm borrowing them for my and (I hope) my readers' amusement only and have no intention of trying to make money off of them in any way, shape or form.

Warnings: Yaoi. Swearing. References to past child sexual abuse. Nonconsensual sex. Bondage. Although I'm setting this a couple of years past the main series, Nagi's age combined with his actions may squick some people. Also, I'm ignoring Gluhen and the drama CDs, so don't expect this to be consistent with them.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: Nagi x Yohji. References to Crawford x Aya-chan.

Author: The RCK
Last updated: 25 Nov. 2002

Thanks to Amy the Evitable and to Nakki no miko for beta reading this chapter. Thanks also to Amy the Evitable for encouraging me to keep writing and assuring me that it all could and did work.

This chapter has won an award in a fanfic contest.


rhe-o-tax-is: the tendency of an organism to move in response to the stimulus of a current of water, either with the current or against it

Part 1

Yohji woke with his cheek pressed against a hard, smooth surface. His drool had puddled around his face. Must've been here a while... Those lights're awfully bright. Did I fall asleep watching tv? No. No noise, and I'd have the lights turned down. Dining room table? No, somebody'd have come through and wakened me before this. He pushed himself up. The floor then. Definitely the floor. He stared for a moment. But it's the wrong color...

"Crap." He swiped a hand along his mouth in an effort to dry it. One of his eyes was reluctant to focus, but he could see quite enough to know that he was not at home. We got no rooms like this. The walls and the floor were all the same color, just the blue side of white, so that for a second he couldn't quite tell where the walls began. A quick glance revealed surveillance cameras in all four corners, and he reflexively made an obscene gesture at one of them. This looks very bad... I don't know where this is, but... The lack of windows and general architecture are not promising.

One corner of the room held a brown box-- Probably cardboard. Anything else would be too damn useful-- an unscreened toilet, a small sink and what he thought might be a shower head. The floor over there seemed to slope a little toward a dark spot on the floor that was probably a drain.

He dragged himself to his feet. Given his surroundings, he was unsurprised by his nakedness. Stripping a prisoner not only helped prevent unpleasant surprises but also created a definite power dynamic when the naked person faced clothed jailers. Fortunately, being aware of that makes it a little less effective. He turned his head, looking around. Unfortunately, people who set up this sort of thing don't go in for due process. Lack of clothes'll be the least of my problems.

He staggered toward the sink. How long have I been lying here? My legs... I couldn't fight off Momoe-san's cat right now. His mouth tasted like the worst morning after he could remember. He pushed desperately at the faucet, braced his upper body against the sink, then lowered his head to let the resulting stream of cold water flow over at least part of his face. He gulped water, gargled and rinsed his mouth. That cleared the fuzz a little. He straightened and splashed water over his face and hair.

There was no mirror, but he took a moment to explore his face and scalp with his fingertips. No lumps. No splits. Nothing hurts when I touch it, and I definitely need a shave. My earrings're gone, and I don't see my sunglasses anywhere around here. He sighed. I wonder what the other guy looks like? He sighed again. I have no damn idea if there even was another guy. I just hope I wasn't stupid enough to take a drugged drink. He continued inspecting his body and found needle marks on his arms, including a large bruise. Poorly inserted or abruptly removed i.v. I'm clean, and I smell like antiseptic soap. Not my cologne of choice.

He thought about that while he used the toilet. I'm not hungry, but I've obviously been out for a while, not just a few hours-- Days? Then somebody else shaved me. My stubble's not that long. He gave a mental shrug. Time disorientation. Also effective. One of his teammates might have an idea as to what drug had been used, but he'd never bothered memorizing that sort of trivia. Whatever had been used had worked and had left him feeling as wrung out as he did. After effects will happen or not.

He knelt to look in the box and found it full of small luxuries. Toilet paper. Hairbrush. Soap, no scent. Shampoo, no scent. No conditioner. Washcloth. Toothbrush. Toothpaste, a very small tube. No floss. He grinned just a little at that. I'd rather have the floss, but I appreciate the acknowledgment of my abilities. Sadly, dental floss is a poor substitute for wire, but... I'll take what I can get.

Finally, he pulled out a shrink wrapped box. Nicotine patches. He rocked back on his heels, a bit startled by the discovery. They, whoever "they" are, know enough about me to know that I smoke and care enough to help me through withdrawal. What the hell? Withdrawal'd put me further off balance. He considered. I'd kill for a cigarette. He smiled and chuckled softly. Not saying much. I kill for a  living. But... He hesitated. Then he sighed and picked at the plastic. Any drugs they want to give me, they can manage without this much trouble.

Of course, I don't understand why they're doing this. Given my reputation for vanity... Leaving me dirty should work physically and psychologically. They can't know that it isn't altogether true. Can they? Or do they want something I haven't thought of?

After applying a patch, he brushed his teeth and then his hair. That helped a bit. He began a leisurely tour of the cell. Not like I've got anything better to do... He didn't expect to find anything useful, at least not immediately useful. But I'll feel like an utter moron-- instead of whatever partial state's indicated by getting caught in the first place-- if I don't look.

The drain was small. Might be able to get my hand in if I get the cover off. He shook his head. No point. In his experience, drains were slimy and smelly and didn't go anywhere useful short of their final destination. Not a chance in hell my arms are that long. He moved on. I could disassemble the shower head. Probably. It'd be a bludgeon of sorts. He snorted at the thought. Plastic'd crack on the first blow; I'd be better off unarmed. Still... He took his time over the plumbing. Call it an inventory of sorts. I need to know what's available if there are opportunities later.

The cameras were beyond his reach. A jump might let me grab one. I don't know how long the bracing'd hold. Could I? Not bloody likely. It'd be a more effective weapon than the shower head, but... He shook his head and looked up at the light. Not a chance. Illumination came from a fluorescent tube in a metal cage. Not even with my best jump, and there's just nothing to grab even if I do get that high.

Small vents opened into the room about eight feet off the floor on three sides of cell. The fourth wall held the door. The vents're probably a couple of decimeters high and maybe half a meter wide... All three were covered with slatted grates the same color as the surrounding wall. One vent blew warm air into the room; the other two seemed inactive. Want to bet they can't gas me? Yep. No takers here either.

The door held no surprises either. Definitely a prison cell. If I hadn't noticed the other evidence, this would tell me for sure. Somebody put a lot of money, a lot of thought, into the design. The door was the same color as the walls and floor. Only a thin line around it set it off from the everything else. No knob, lock or anything else. It's not meant to be opened from this side. Ever.

As he prowled the room, touching the walls, testing the floor, he thought about the implications. They're used to having dangerous prisoners. This wasn't built for me or even, more generically, for a member of Weiss. The enemy's big, has to be. Multinational or maybe governmental, with lots of money either way. The conclusion brought no comfort. His paces told him that the room was larger than he'd expected. Plenty of room for a workout. I can keep a routine going if I'm here that long. His steps faltered slightly before he covered for it. Do I hope for that or not?

Yohji could almost hear Omi's voice in his head. "If you ever get captured-- And I hope none of you ever will." A brief darkness had passed over the younger man's face as he spoke. Then his face had hardened in a look only those he trusted ever saw. "If you ever do, my rules and only my rules apply. Fuck Kritiker's priorities." Yohji remembered his shock at hearing Omi use obscenity. Yohji'd realized afterward that Omi'd done it deliberately in order to make sure his words made an impression. "Your first priority if you're captured is very simple: Don't die. The second: Don't let your teammates die; protect them if you can. Third: Escape if you can. Fourth: Help your teammates escape. Then, and only then, worry about the mission. You are-- none of you-- replaceable."

Okay, Omi. I remember. I won't die. I won't hope for it.

Eventually, much sooner than he'd hoped, his body gave out on him. His muscles trembled, and he had to admit that continuing to move might harm him more than sitting. Admittedly, when I'm sitting, I'm less ready to deal with anything that comes through that door, but I can do damn all if I collapse, and if I reach that point, I won't even be able to think. His lips thinned as he frowned at the room in general. My mind's a lot more likely to be useful when that door opens than my body is. Unless they don't know what sort of creature they've caged...

He settled himself against the wall across from the door. He leaned back against the smooth, almost slick surface and let himself relax. Just think about your breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Don't think about... Cigarettes. In. Out. Damn, I want a smoke. In. Out. His fingers curled as if holding a roll of tobacco. Several times, he barely aborted movements to reach and pick up something that simply wasn't there. Finally, he pulled his knees up and used his arms to hold them close to his body. Moving a hand will unbalance me a bit. Enough, I hope, to keep me still.

His mind wandered in circles. Did a mission go wrong? Are the other guys searching for me? Are they in cells too? Or worse on slabs in some morgue? Or is this worse... Did somebody set me-- or us-- up? I can't remember anything out of the ordinary. Just another day in the shop, selling flowers, avoiding being the one to make deliveries, bickering over whose turn it was to cook dinner... And avoiding the chore by making everybody remember the disasters I produced in the past. There was that show I wanted to see. I stayed in, but I'd have been better off skipping it. Damn disappointing. Unconvincing actors mangling inoffensive dialog. Went to bed fairly early. The guys were all there, I think. Once again, he began to reach for a cigarette. He stared at his hand. Damn it! I know better than this.

After that, nothing. I don't remember a mission. Not even a briefing. Omi said something about high level meetings for senior Kritiker personnel. Not the sort of thing we're supposed to know about let alone attend. He predicted changes in affiliations, not in operations necessarily or in goals, but... Does this have something to do with that?

He smiled. I do know a few things an interrogator might find useful. All things I'm not supposed to know, of course, the results of  paying attention and poking at things Weiss isn't supposed to notice. He and his teammates had come to a tacit agreement some time back that they were better off knowing more of what was going on than their handlers would ever let slip. We keep careful track of who's watching and why, picking the faces we show Kritiker. He leaned his head back against the wall. Being Balinese has actually been fun... As carefully choreographed a performance as what I do for the customers in the shop. Deceiving Kritiker's easier, I think.

They'd all asked for additional training with an eye toward covering the team's weak spots and, they'd hinted, toward making sure they had skills useful to Kritiker when they became too old or too senior for their current tasks. Kritiker encouraged a certain level of "appropriate ambition;" most field agents didn't end up achieving those ambitions, but having them meant staying focused on the organization's goals. They'd all played along when training inevitably became tests of their loyalty to Kritiker. In a way, they were constantly engaged in the toughest deep cover mission that any of them had ever undertaken. Can't afford to break character...

He let those thoughts chase around in his head for a while, obscuring his real worries. Damn, I wish I had a cigarette... Just one damn cigarette. That's all I ask. I think better when I'm smoking. Something to play with and watch while my thoughts slip into new patterns. An odor that doesn't remind me that I'm screwed. Not my sweat. Not antiseptic. Not this damn plastic. He closed his eyes. Whatever's coming will come...

He awoke some indeterminate time later, grateful to be roused by pressure in his bladder. His dreams had been unpleasant. Disembodied hands grasping at me, holding me down. Screaming... I recognized the voice, but... My own wire, wrapped around me... All in Technicolor. He shook his head to dispel the images as he got up to deal with the physical problem. He drank more water. I ought to be hungry, but my stomach's still quiet. Does that mean it's given up protesting? He returned to his spot opposite the door and lay down. If I'm going to sleep, I might as well do it right.

If he dreamed again, he didn't remember it afterward except as a sense of wrongness, but he woke to find himself sprawled several feet from the wall. Damn! I only move like that when I start fighting in my sleep. Least this time I didn't have anybody sleeping next to me. He got up, brushed his hair, drank more water, then showered. He forced himself to sing as he rubbed soap over his body. Everything I do's on camera; might as well give 'em a show. As he washed, he discovered to his surprise that the bruises on his arms had disappeared entirely. I thought they were worse than that... How long was I asleep? Was I hallucinating or were they part of one of my dreams? They should have stuck around for days before they faded. I can't possibly have been asleep that long!

In response to an almost unbearable craving for a smoke, he replaced the nicotine patch he was wearing. I thought these damn things were supposed to make this easier! He sighed. It's just not the same. I want a cigarette, to hold it, to bring it to my lips and inhale, to... At least, it'd be something to do. He paced a bit and debated working out. I have the energy, and I want-- no-- need to use it. But they still haven't fed me... My energy'll last longer if I hoard it. Oh, fuck it. They can wait me out regardless. I might as well have some fun.

He started with stretches, working the kinks out of his muscles, then moved on to more complicated and athletic movements. It's not the same without a partner, without my wire, but... He kept at it and managed to work up a sweat. Some things felt odd without any clothing, but gradually, he lost himself in the routine, forgetting where he was and who might be watching.

Some time later, he showered again. There seems to be plenty of hot water, so there's no point staying sweaty. He still hadn't come up with any answers to the question of how he'd ended up in this cell. The last thing I remember is stumbling to bed after that show, a bit of bsing with the guys and a few too many beers. Anyone pulling me out of there'd have to get past the security system, the rest of the team and my vigilance. It's almost easier to think I've forgotten the mission that went wrong.


He settled himself opposite the door with his back to the wall again. After a few moments, he found himself fidgeting with his hands, trying to find something to do with them. Damn, I need a cigarette!

Having no better idea, he started building himself the mental image of a cigarette. Pull the pack from a pocket and tap one cylinder out. Put the pack on the floor next to me and pick up the lighter. He closed his eyes to better preserve the tactile illusion. Light the cigarette. He could almost feel the slight flare of heat as the tobacco caught. Set the lighter down. He lifted his hand to his lips and took a drag.

No smoke in my lungs, no rush from the nicotine. Well, I can live with that. I have to. He went through the motions of an introspective smoke before finally flicking away the imaginary butt and reaching for the pack to extract another.

He'd gone through half a pack when he heard the first sound. It was just the merest click from the door or perhaps from behind it. He focused his attention fully on the door but forced himself to remain visibly relaxed. Unless I'm rescued or they make a mistake, I can't win this war, but I can show well in a skirmish or two. It's all I've got. Attitude, it's all about attitude.

As the door opened, swinging outward, he wished more than ever for a real cigarette. It's so much easier to play the attitude with the props to help, and I don't even fucking have clothes.

Since that's the point, I might as well not think about it. He flicked imaginary ash from his imaginary cigarette, focusing on the rhythm of the smoke. You're getting nothing from me.

The door revealed a small antechamber, and he felt his hopes flicker a little further. Closed door on the other side. No mechanism for opening it from the inside either. These people are damned paranoid. About the size of an elevator and monitored too. Only way I'm getting out is with help from the outside. Well, or a fucking miracle...

He looked at the two men standing just inside the newly opened door. I should be surprised to see them, but it's too fucking much trouble. He nodded once. "Crawford." A drag on his cigarette. "I suppose I should thank you for the patches. An unexpected courtesy." Why the hell couldn't they stay gone? My life was just fine without Schwarz, thank you.

The other man stopped a few feet inside the cell and regarded Yohji steadily for a moment. "Balinese." His voice was uninflected.

Crawford stepped slightly to one side to allow his companion to advance. Naoe's grown. A given, I suppose, at his age. More height, more bulk. How long has it been since I saw him last? No real point thinking about it. The door swung shut once Naoe had cleared the doorway. Even without his powers, he looks like he could hold his own in a fight. What the hell's in that? Yohji tried not to stare at the heavy looking black briefcase Naoe carried.

Yohji leaned his head back against the wall. Naoe didn't seem to be exerting himself yet, but... I'm sure it's just a matter of time, and I sure as hell don't want far to go when I end up pressed to the wall. "Naoe," Yohji said, letting his cigarette hand fall to his knee.

Naoe nodded an acknowledgment, but Yohji judged that the boy had most of his attention on Crawford. Well, that's where I'd put my attention if I were him. But he looks... anxious. What-- No. I don't even want to think about it.

Yohji let his eyes wander a little, trying to give the impression of nonchalance. I don't think I'm fooling anybody. Almost reflexively, he ground out his imaginary cigarette.

He wasn't at all surprised to feel the sudden pressure of Naoe's power pushing him against the wall. An invisible band wrapped his throat, just tight enough that an effort to move would choke him. His instinct was to rip at the obstruction or at least to lower his chin to try to get it between the pressure and his vulnerable throat. Like hell I will!

Instead, he raised his chin a little higher and looked directly at Naoe. Yohji told himself that his bravado bought him a victory when their eyes met and Naoe looked away. Yohji's eyes shifted back to meet Crawford's. Yohji suppressed the urge to flinch, to snarl, to babble, and kept his face blank. I won't give you that.

Crawford smiled, and Yohji felt ice in his guts. "Don't worry too much, Balinese. We're not here to question you."

Yohji raised an eyebrow and wondered how long he'd be able to keep up the facade once they really started in. He very deliberately kept both his mind and his eyes from touching on the briefcase.

Cool amusement colored Crawford's voice. "We're not here to torture you, either. There's nothing you have that we haven't already gotten elsewhere."

Yohji's right hand clenched till his nails dug into his flesh, but he gave no other response.

Crawford walked a little further into the room, moving at a slight angle and stopping far enough from Naoe that Yohji could no longer quite track them both at once. "Kritiker's so eager to get into bed with our new employer that they gave us their files and Weiss without blinking." Crawford paused and pushed his glasses up even though, as far as Yohji could tell, they hadn't slipped at all.

No! Yohji refused to let his reaction show on his face, but he knew he'd tensed for just a second. But it's possible... Naoe believes it. Crawford's too careful with his body language. I can't--

"Of course, I have the impression that certain people thought that Weiss might be getting ideas. A very dangerous thing, killers who think."

Well, I suppose I shouldn't expect Crawford to follow my script. Yohji let that flicker of amusement slip through his mask and nursed it into a smile. "You want something. You'd let me rot otherwise." Assuming you didn't just put a bullet through my skull...

Crawford paced forward. "I always want something, Balinese. Always." He stopped a few steps from where Yohji sat and reached a hand in Naoe's direction. The briefcase floated into Crawford's grasp, and he set it down on the floor. Yohji continued to keep his eyes on Crawford's face. "You are, all of Weiss is, a valuable commodity."

No. "No," Yohji said, his voice sounding oddly hollow even to himself. "I won't kill for you. No."

Crawford went down on one knee and laid the briefcase flat in front of him. "Yes, you will. Oh, not now. Not for quite some time. But it will happen. And once it does, you'll wonder what the fuss was about." He popped the catch and opened the briefcase. He looked directly at Yohji and smiled. "Today's... proposition... is simpler."

Yohji's mind seemed to be trying to follow a dozen different lines of thought. So damn sure... A vision? What's in the briefcase? I don't want to know. If he wanted information wouldn't he have brought Schuldig? At least the psycho's not here. What does he want? Playing with me... Sadistic bastard.

Crawford kept the upper half of the briefcase perpendicular to the floor, very deliberately obscuring Yohji's view of what lay within. "And it is a proposition. You're free to say no. If you do, we'll move on to one of the others, but I think... You're better suited to this than Bombay or Abyssinian, and Siberian is currently indisposed."

Indisposed? Ken! Yohji forced his expression to remain neutral. What the hell have they done to Ken? God, Ken, can't you think things through? Tell me you didn't do anything stupid.

Crawford cocked his head a little to one side, and Yohji thought the American's amusement increased. "Basically, we've been teaching Nagi a few things he needs to know to get ahead in the world, and we've gone as far as we can with the books. It's time for the lab course."

Yohji let his eyes stray to Naoe and was surprised to see that the boy looked embarrassed. What are they going to have him do to me?

"Nagi's been studying human sexuality and its uses as a tool in dealing with people. He's worked with a couple of women we... acquired, and he has had experience as uke--"

Naoe must have seen Yohji's assumption on his face. He interrupted his commander, "Not Schwarz. Before... Just not Schwarz."

"Pedophilia is one of the perversions our current employer frowns on," Crawford said dryly. "If any of us had indulged in that particular... unpleasantness, Nagi'd be the only surviving member of Schwarz."

"No," Naoe responded. "You'd still be alive. You'd just wish you weren't." He met Yohji's eyes. "You weren't my first choice for this, but..." He shrugged. "A body's a body."

This is just wrong on so many levels. Yohji opened his mouth to protest then realized he had nothing to say. He blinked. "How is this a choice?" The words slipped out before he could stop them. Balinese, the man Kritiker thinks I am, could do this. Can I?

Crawford regarded him steadily and closed the briefcase. "If you say no, Nagi and I leave."

"If you say no," Naoe said, "it'll be Bombay." His eyes darted sideways at Crawford. "You have skills that might be helpful if you're cooperative; he doesn't." Naoe shrugged. "It'll be Bombay. Siberian's too badly injured, and Abyssinian..."

Yohji found himself wondering what lay behind Naoe's expression. The boy-- no, young man-- seemed to be working to mask his opinions. "Siberian?" Yohji asked while he tried to keep his mind away from the thought of Omi as sex toy.

"He resisted capture rather strenuously."

Is that admiration in Crawford's voice? Yohji wasn't sure.

"He has several broken bones. He'll heal."

Yohji closed his eyes. "What's in it for me?" I'm going to do this. I don't want to do this.

"What do you want?" Crawford's voice was gentle. "We won't-- can't-- let you, any of you, go, and I won't give you cigarettes."

Yohji let amusement leak into his words. "There go my first two requests." He opened his eyes. "I want to see them all," he stated. "That's not negotiable." His lips quirked. "I wouldn't object to a few amenities, luxuries like food and bedding. The place is a little bare. Oh, and conditioner. And scented soap." Yes, add a few frivolous items... "A cup."

A small noise from Naoe startled Yohji into looking at him. Yohji thought it might have been amusement. He hoped so. A sense of humor might make this bearable. Assuming Crawford's even telling the truth...

Crawford cleared his throat. "As it happens, I anticipated your request to see the others."

Yeah, Crawford, we're all of us predictable that way.

"If you'll settle for a remote viewing, we can deal with it now."

Yohji looked at the American and could almost hear the subtext. Settle or do without. He won't give me more. "If that's all I can get."

Crawford nodded and let the upper half of the briefcase fall to the floor. He pulled out a brown box about the size of a backgammon set. He put it on the floor and pushed it toward Yohji. "Nagi," Crawford said in a voice of command.

Yohji felt the pressure on his body release and reached for the box. It had a flat screen and a touchpad. The touchpad had plastic labels stuck on. He didn't recognize the underlying symbols.

"The power button's on the left side," Crawford told him. "You'll get static until you give it a destination. Who do you want first?"

Yohji shifted position to kneel. He moved very carefully not wanting to look like he was about to try something. Then again, he was half inclined to make the effort. Getting the crap beaten out of me might keep from thinking about what I'm agreeing to do. I can do this. Who first... "Bombay." Omi's codename slipped out before he even realized he'd made a decision. He pushed the power button and waited.

"435 enter," Crawford said as the screen fuzzed with gray light.

Yohji typed the three digits carefully. The screen resolved into a color image. Omi lay curled up in a corner of a cell that appeared identical to Yohji's. Omi was naked and seemed to be sleeping. He'd laid out his toiletries within easy reach. I bet he plans to throw them if he's threatened. Good for him.

He looked up at Crawford. "You been feeding him?" Seeing his friend that way disturbed him, so he let an edge slip into his tone.

"Actually, yes," Crawford replied. "We had to drug him to get the cutlery back. That's why he's sleeping."

Yohji studied the American carefully, searching for clues as to his intentions. I can't read him. I don't know what he's thinking. Yohji looked down at the screen and stared at it for a moment, trying to memorize details. "What happens to him now?"

Crawford shrugged infinitesimally. "I haven't decided how to approach that question yet. This is harder on him than on the rest of you."

"You might try giving him some fucking clothes." The venom in his own quiet words startled Yohji. He looked away from Crawford and Naoe, letting his eyes rest on the drain in the floor. "If you don't plan to question us, what's the point in torturing him?" He brought his attention back and pinned Naoe with a glare. The boy-- No, man. Naoe's old enough to take responsibility for his actions. I wouldn't call Omi a boy anymore. Well, not unless I'm trying to annoy him.

Yohji let the glare soften just a little and straightened his back. "It is torture. Never doubt that." His lips twisted.

Naoe's expression became uncertain, and he looked toward Crawford who simply shrugged.

"And never doubt," Yohji went on, the words getting away from him, "that whatever happens between you and me will be rape. Even if you're kind, even if you offered me an illusion of choice, anything in this cell..." His stomach twisted. I shouldn't have said that. Thank god I haven't eaten recently. I didn't want to think about that.

Naoe's eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to protest but didn't speak.

"He's right." Crawford nodded and then smiled thinly at Yohji. "That's the kind of insight we're hiring you to give him."

Yohji thought that Naoe looked vaguely sick, and he wondered at that. Had Naoe really not understood? Probably not, he admitted. Probably been too busy being embarrassed. Yohji almost-- almost-- felt bad. He addressed Crawford, leaving Nagi to compose himself, "You're not hiring me."

"It has a more pleasant sound than 'coercing' or 'blackmailing,'" the American retorted.

Yohji didn't bother to respond. He straightened his spine. "That's something else I want. Give him clothes, at least a damn blanket; then show me Siberian."

"Very well. Those amenities will, however, have to wait until after I leave here. Is my word sufficient?" Crawford paused and waited until Yohji gave a grudging nod before going on, "1-3 enter."

Ken reclined in a hospital bed. The portion of the mattress under his upper body had been raised so that he was almost sitting. His right leg appeared to be in a cast. His visible flesh bloomed in the greens, yellows and purples of healing bruises. Yohji found himself wincing in sympathy, imagining the beating that could produce such injuries.

Ken had a file folder on his lap. As Yohji watched, Ken flipped a page and light glinted off metal circling his wrist.

"Chains?" Yohji demanded incredulously. "From the look of him, he can barely move!"

Naoe answered this time, "Before we put the chains in place, he kept dragging himself out of bed and as far toward the door as he could manage. The doctors started getting annoyed." Yohji looked at Naoe just in time to see him shrug. "They said drugging him was a bad idea and that he was setting his recovery back."

Ken frowned at what he was reading and flipped the page back. Whatever he read didn't seem to please him more the second time through. Yohji recognized the look from any number of incomplete mission briefings and plans obviously conceived by morons.

"What's he reading?" He tried for a casual tone, hoping that one of them would answer without making him pay for it.

"You'll see the files eventually." Crawford actually sounded amused. "At the moment, Siberian's options for amusement are severely limited, so he's actually learning about our new-- your new-- employers."

"I see." Actually, he didn't but be damned if he'd admit it to Schwarz.

"Abyssinian is 3-0-9-4 enter," Crawford said in the carefully patient tones of a man with better things to do.

Ran stood, leaning against the edge of a desk. Yohji'd almost have called it lounging except that his teammate was obviously in a cold rage. Someone unfamiliar with Ran might not notice the tension in his shoulders or the pressure his hands seemed to be exerting against the surface behind him, but Yohji recognized the signs and was almost glad that he didn't have to deal with Ran directly. I don't think I could face him being difficult right now. I don't have Omi's patience.

Ran was dressed in his standard street clothing and seemed to be staring intently at something that Yohji couldn't see. Ran raised his left hand and brushed his hair back. As he lowered the hand, his fingers twitched. His lips moved, and he turned his head as if to address someone in the room with him.

Yohji's eyes widened a little, but he manage to suppress any other reaction. A tug on the earlobe meant "I hear you." The finger twitch had produced Weiss' code for "I see you." The gestures were not normally all that subtle, intended for stealth by silence more than anything else.

So, there's someone in the room with him. Someone I can't see who he'd rather doesn't know that signals were passing. "Why does he have clothes?" The words emerged with more of a whine than he'd intended, but he thought that that might hide his sudden increase in tension. He brushed his own hair back but carefully didn't touch his ear then twitched his own fingers. I don't hear you, but I see you, Abyssinian.

"His sister insisted," Naoe interjected before Crawford could respond.

"Nagi!" Crawford sounded angry and embarrassed. Yohji was startled to see a tinge of pink suffuse the American's cheeks.

"Aya-chan?" Yohji knew he sounded stupid, but he couldn't help himself. He gaped at Crawford for a second then glanced back at the screen to see Ran's reaction.

Hands moved. Hostage. Ran sighed then signaled in broader gestures. Schwarz. Schuldig. I've been compromised. Guard Bombay.

Yohji looked at Crawford again. The American had recovered from his brief and, to Yohji at least, inexplicable embarrassment. "Hand signals?" Crawford raised an eyebrow. "Quaint."

"You utter bastard." Yohji hunched down, trembling a little with the effort to curb his desire to attack. He wasn't sure which was worse, the realization that Schwarz had Aya-chan or the realization that Ran had heard him agree to be Naoe's fuck toy. There's no way he'll understand... No, he'll understand that decision. He won't understand my surviving after. It's not honorable by his code. Why'd it have to be him watching?

Naoe laughed softly. "Wait till you hear--"

"Nagi!" There was genuine anger in Crawford's tone. "Enough!"

"Afraid, Crawford?" Yohji drawled. "Let him finish; I'm curious." He glanced at Naoe and realized that the two of them were briefly united in the desire to make Crawford miserable. Naoe's expression had a nasty edge that Yohji found frightening. Christ, and I've agreed to sleep with him.

Crawford pushed up his glasses and glared at Yohji. "The two of you deserve each other," he replied softly. "I wish you the joy of it."

Yohji returned the glare, and Naoe said, "It wasn't my idea. None of it." Crawford and Yohji both looked at him as he went on, "And I won't do it while you're watching."

Crawford and Naoe stared at each other. After a moment, Yohji looked away. The outcome of that fight wouldn't change much for him. Instead, he looked down at the screen again. Schuldig now stood beside Ran. Yohji could almost see the effort Ran was exerting not to attack the red haired telepath.

Abyssinian injured? Yohji signaled. He mentally cursed the awkwardness of trying to communicate this way. Their mission shorthand couldn't quite convey what he wanted.

Ran scowled for a second then responded. No injury. Balinese?

No injury. Siberian?

Injured. Down.


Ran hesitated for just a moment. He frowned. Schuldig said something, and Ran shrugged angrily. No injury.

Yohji frowned in response. Give me a hint here, Ran! Bombay? he repeated urgently.

No injury. That hesitation again. Then, very quickly, Down.

Schuldig grabbed Ran's shoulder and spun him so that they stood face to face.

Yohji brought his fist down on his thigh in frustration. Damn! What's he trying to tell me? There was something wrong with that picture, but... Think about it later. He focused his attention on the screen. Ran risked Schuldig's anger to tell me something. The least I can do is watch what happens. Hm. The German's at least as amused as angry, I think, and Ran's just being Ran. Wish I had sound... And popcorn. Yohji managed a brief smile. But that response was almost gentle, at least for Schuldig... Why didn't Schuldig hit him?

He continued to listen to Crawford and Naoe with half an ear; he'd been certain at the beginning that Crawford would win, but he was interested to note that Naoe seemed to be having some moral qualms about the situation. Apparently the word "rape" pushes his buttons. Well, good for him. Yohji couldn't quite keep an edge of sarcasm from his thoughts.

Eventually, Ran turned back to look at Yohji, and Yohji asked another question, Hostages?

Yes. Ran paused for a moment as if trying to figure out his phrasing. Reverse.

Reverse? Yohji wasn't certain what that meant and hesitantly repeated the phrase. Normally, the signal indicated that one of them had found something inaccurate in the briefing or that plans needed to be revised to change the order of actions. That doesn't make sense...

Hostages reverse, Ran repeated.

Hostages... Aya-chan... Oh. Yohji nodded. "Aya-chan's not a hostage for Ran," he said aloud. "Ran's a hostage for her. What the hell do you want from her?" he demanded, interrupting Crawford's lecture to Naoe.

Crawford had risen to his feet while talking to Naoe, and he seemed somehow larger now to Yohji. All expression left Crawford's face as he turned to look at Yohji again.

"You won't like it," Naoe commented.

"She's fine," Crawford said, and for a second Yohji wasn't certain how that was relevant. Then Crawford smiled.

The bastard looks almost human, Yohji thought. Is he blushing?

Naoe snorted. "You're besotted," he stated. "It's affecting your judgment."

Yohji watched the interplay, fascinated, as his mind shied away from the inescapable conclusion. "You're-- You're sleeping with Aya-chan?" he blurted, his mouth getting ahead of his mind. In the periphery of his vision, he could see the screen on the floor. At Yohji's words, Schuldig had buried his head in his hands and seemed to be shaking with laughter. Ran glared at the floor.

So... Not only true but no surprise to Ran. I wonder how long it took him to calm down when he found out...

"I fail to see what business that is of yours." Crawford's words were precise, armed with sharp edges. He stood up a little straighter and pushed his glasses up on his nose. Naoe laughed quietly, and Crawford shot him a look that silenced him. "I can see that my presence here is no longer required," Crawford went on. "Just a detail or two left. How do you want him, Nagi?"

Yohji's stomach clenched, and he knew he'd flinched visibly.

"I don't think that's really necessary, Crawford-san."

The American shook his head. "It is, and I insist. For now." He turned his eyes to Yohji and explained with a disquieting detachment. "Until certain matters are resolved, you will wear restraints while Nagi is... working with you."

In other words, until Crawford's certain I won't try to snap the kid's neck or take him hostage. Yohji kept his expression flat as he nodded, reminding himself that any emotion, any weakness, he showed would be seen by Ran as well. Oh yes, I understand.

"Since Nagi doesn't care which method we use, you may express a preference, Balinese."

Oh, I may, may I? Yohji suppressed a growl. "What are my options?" he inquired evenly.

"Wrists to ankles." Yohji felt a slight tug on his arms. He flicked his eyes to Naoe's face and saw Naoe nod very slightly. Yohji sighed and allowed his arms to move. They crossed themselves behind him so that his right wrist rested on his left ankle and his left wrist on his right ankle. "Wrists to wrists and elbows to elbows." His arms uncrossed and pulled together till his elbows connected. He arched his back a little but couldn't relieve the strain on his shoulders. "Wrists to neck." This one felt ridiculous, but Yohji knew it would be fairly effective. His elbows bent over his head so that his arms crossed behind his head. His hands lay flat on his shoulder blades. "Or wrists to forearms." His arms made a square with his shoulders, his forearms overlapping behind his back.

Crawford raised an inquiring eyebrow, and the force that had been guiding Yohji's arms released him.

Yohji frowned and rolled his shoulders. None of the choices were precisely attractive. He certainly wouldn't be able to do much to resist anything Naoe might do. Well, running's possible with most of them. He looked around at the barren cell and snorted softly.

"I'd suggest the wrists to forearms," Naoe said softly. "There's no risk of choking, you'll still be able to stand, and it won't hurt quite as much as..." He waved a hand vaguely. "But it's your choice."

Yohji met Naoe's eyes and tried to puzzle out the expression he encountered there. Is that sympathy? Probably too much to hope for. He closed his eyes for a second and let his head fall back on his neck. Then he nodded. "Wrists to forearms." Attitude... He shrugged and grinned. "A pity though, I'm very good with my hands."

"Stand." Crawford ordered.

Yohji took a moment to glance at the screen on the floor in front of him. Ran was looking straight at him. I see you, Yohji signaled. Ran nodded and then, very deliberately, turned his back. Yohji blinked. I don't think I could do that. One less witness... At least kind of. He'll still hear everything.

Yohji took his time climbing to his feet. He stood for half a second and very deliberately met Crawford's eyes before looking at Naoe. Again, he couldn't parse the younger man's expression. He shrugged, pushed his hair back out of his eyes and turned his back. He let his arms hang at his sides, obviously relaxed, and wondered if his audience realized how much work that nonchalance required. Probably, he thought sourly.

A telekinetic push at his back sent him stumbling toward the wall. He managed not to smash his face against it, just barely, and stood waiting. He was fairly sure that the man who finally approached him was Crawford, but he didn't look back to see if he was right. It didn't matter enough.

Fingers grasped his left arm, and he thought about struggling but simply didn't see the point. Naoe could easily overcome any resistance Yohji could manage. For a moment, he wondered if his cooperation was a mark of cowardice, but he dismissed the thought. Courage and cowardice are both lies in this situation.

The other man's hands slipped his left hand behind his right elbow and then folded his right arm under his left. Leather, I think. Yohji closed his eyes and tried to think about something else. Ran looks healthy. Pissed but healthy. Something cold and metallic touched his skin. A buckle? By the sound of it, yes. And not where I can reach it. Ken... I wonder how he really got hurt. None of the rest of us seem to have seen anything coming. Something cord thin cut into his flesh. Tight. Taking no chances, is he? At least I don't feel any knots. Omi... Yohji frowned a little. There was something off about that scene. It bothered me before Ran-- What was it... Oh. Crawford said they'd drugged him to take away some things, but there weren't any gaps in that grouping of possible weapons. Omi'd have kept even a spork close to hand. If they lied about that... Why'd they drug him? Did they drug him?

Is that another buckle? How many of the fucking things are there? Oh. Ran said "no injury." Omi's fine, physically, but... Crawford said this was "hardest on him." Damn them all! The kid's having more fucking flashbacks, isn't he? Why does it matter if I know that or not? Oh. His stomach clenched again, and he shuddered. I might think they can't use him for this. But they would. Crawford's cold enough for that. And it'd destroy him.

It might destroy me.

The man behind Yohji seemed to be done. Yohji heard footsteps moving away. He waited, counting mentally to five, then turned to look at Crawford and Naoe. He noted that the screen that had shown him the rest of Weiss no longer lay on the floor but that the briefcase, now closed, remained. He cautiously tested his bonds and wasn't at all surprised to find them professionally tight. He could move his hands just enough to brush fingers against the cords that held him.

Crawford looked at Naoe and held out his hand. Naoe handed Crawford the screen, and Crawford asked him, "Do you want him gagged?"

Naoe shook his head. "Actually, I was planning to talk to him."

Crawford raised an eyebrow but offered no other comment to Naoe's statement. "I'll leave you two to it, then." He turned and walked toward the door. When he was almost there, he turned back and looked at Yohji. "Balinese, Nagi's making you a better deal than you'll get anywhere else. I suggest you... accommodate him. It's not this or something better." Crawford didn't wait for a response. He strode toward the door which opened for him and then through it into the antechamber, and the door swung itself closed behind him.

Yohji looked at Naoe, and their eyes met. Naoe gestured minutely, indicating a point on the floor. "Step away from the wall."

Yohji waited just long enough to be able to tell himself that he had a choice before complying.

Calm. Just breath evenly. Just sex, that's all. Yohji worked at remaining still as Naoe circled, pausing to test the bonds. He made a small sound that seemed to indicate satisfaction before continuing on his way.

"So, do I meet with your approval?" Yohji asked. He regretted the edge in his voice; there was no reason to let Naoe know that this upset him.

"You'll do." Naoe moved a few feet away. "Kneel."

Yohji folded himself to the floor, never taking his eyes off of Naoe.

Naoe smiled with one corner of his mouth. "Will you do anything I tell you to?"

Yohji shrugged. "I don't know yet." Ow! Good way to dislocate my shoulders! I won't be doing that again.

"Good enough." Naoe stepped in closer and knelt a short distance to Yohji's right. "Are you afraid of me?" Naoe's voice seemed to indicate only mild interest in the answer.

Yohji almost shrugged again but stopped himself. It wasn't a question he could answer. The truth would sound like groveling, and a lie would be obvious. He looked at the floor, wishing it had some sort of pattern or variation that he could focus on. Stop freaking, Kudoh. Play it like Balinese, the man he thinks you are. Look for the pleasure in the moment-- Yeah, right. What pleasure? Maybe an adrenaline high...

"Good." Yohji's eyes flew back to Naoe's face. "You should be." Naoe's fingers brushed Yohji's cheek as the younger man leaned closer. The next words were so quiet that Yohji felt them more than heard them. "The trouble with working for a precog is that you never know what's whim, what's careful but fallible planning, and what's honest to god necessary and Seen. So I do what Crawford tells me. Even something like this. Actually more easily something like this. He wouldn't ask it of me just because he's pissed with Abyssinian."

Yohji closed his eyes and focused on the soft breath on his cheek and the words it carried. So that's what that argument was really about. Naoe wanted to know if Crawford really meant it. So why's he telling me?

Naoe's fingertips trailed down Yohji's cheek and neck, never quite leaving the skin. "As long as I don't kill you or do anything physically crippling, he really doesn't care what else I do. For now. Later, if he tells me to, I'll hurt you. Badly. I'll do it as easily as I'd kill you. I make no pretense otherwise. For the rest..." He brushed hair back from Yohji's forehead. "I'd rather have this time be as-- as not unpleasant for you as we can manage. I have that option." Naoe hesitated.

Yohji shuddered, and it took all of his resolve not to fall forward. Hell. I'm in hell, and he's trying to be nice. I can't... I can't fight that. At that moment, all he wanted was to curl in on himself, ignoring Naoe's words, hiding from the inevitable repercussions of his earlier decision.

Naoe drew back. "Are you all right?" he asked in something closer to a normal tone.

Yohji met the other man's eyes and for a brief moment almost wished he were facing Schuldig. The telepath would understand his next words perfectly. Of course, he also wouldn't care... Yohji licked his lips. "I want to keep my soul," he whispered.

"I can't promise you that, Kudoh Yohji," Naoe responded softly, flattening a hand against Yohji's cheek.

Yohji leaned into it just a little, just for a moment. It's not weakness. Not. He wished desperately for the use of his hands. They've stripped me not only of my ability to attack but also... Gestures and postures create the facade. Without them... "I know," he answered. He pulled back a little, and Naoe didn't follow him. Another topic. Now. "What am I supposed to call you?"

Naoe shrugged. "Nagi's fine, but I don't insist on it. I'd prefer courtesy, but... If calling me names makes you feel better, by all means go ahead. I doubt you can come up with anything that I haven't heard before." He smiled before becoming more serious. "Call Crawford Crawford and, if you see him, Schuldig Schuldig. I won't stop them from enforcing reasonable wishes in that regard."

Yohji managed a small almost-smile. "So I don't have to address them as omnipotent god-emperors?" He was pleased when Naoe responded with a puff of laughter. Better. We're away from threats and promises, mostly. I can still use words well enough. Then another question occurred to him. "What should I call Farfarello?"

Naoe's face went utterly still for a moment. "I don't know." He licked his lips and looked down at his hands. "I haven't seen him for weeks. Crawford says they'll be able to heal him, but even he's not sure what Farfarello will be like when he's sane."

"But-- I thought his--" Yohji fumbled for words. Will he still kill if he's not psycho? Will he feel pain? Why the hell is he telling me this? "Will he still be useful to Schwarz if he's cured?" See how he handles that one...

"You don't think much of us, do you?"

Is that anger in his voice? Yohji struggled to shrug, pretending that it didn't pull his bound arms. "Do I have reason to?" He put as much dry irony into his words as he could and very deliberately looked around the cell before meeting Naoe's-- Nagi's-- eyes again. I have opinions still, and you are not my friend.

Nagi looked away. "No, I suppose you don't." Silence stretched, making the pause an almost physical presence between them. Finally, Nagi went on, "Whatever else you may think of us, we look after our own. This is the first time Crawford's Seen a treatment that worked, that didn't make things worse. That's why, whatever Abyssinian may think, Aya-chan is utterly safe. After the baby's born--"

Yohji's head snapped up. "What baby?" he snarled.

Nagi flinched but didn't shift. He met Yohji's glare. "It's nothing to get upset about. She agreed."

Yohji snarled again completely unable to find words. I got a reaction, a real one I think. There's something there...

This time, Nagi smiled. "She agreed. She's got Crawford twisted around her little finger, and she knows it perfectly well." Nagi reached out toward Yohji's face, and Yohji ducked away. Nagi let his hand fall back to his lap and smiled again with just a hint of challenge.

He could, but he'll let me go this time. So he doesn't feel like he has to prove it. That's wrong. He shouldn't be that sure.

"It's not like this, Balinese." His eyes flickered over Yohji's bound arms to the cameras to the door and back to Yohji's face. His tone was matter of fact, not at all apologetic.

"No?" Yohji felt the fragile acceptance of the situation that he'd started to build collapsing around him. "Then why is Ran-- Abyssinian-- a hostage?" Answer that you son of a bitch! Can you? Every muscle in his body felt tight, poised for him to call for maximum effort. Flee, fight, do some damn thing! I'm going to start shaking soon. I'm not trained to wait.

Nagi shrugged and said nothing. Yohji raised an eyebrow and settled back on his heels, trying to force his muscles to loosen. So Naoe doesn't know either. Damn adrenaline!

"You'll probably be better off if you don't think about it," Nagi said. "You can't do anything to change her situation or anyone's but your own."

Laughter tasted of bile. "And I can do damn all about that." This time, he made no effort to avoid Nagi's touch. He was fairly sure that the other man meant to be comforting. I wish... What do I wish? That I weren't here. Definitely. But... I wish I weren't desperate enough to find his hand comforting. Does he know? How the hell could he not?

Nagi ran his fingers through Yohji's hair. "So, Balinese, do you have a preference as to what I call you?" The question was soft and sounded almost tentative.

Yohji shook his head, letting it fall forward so that his hair masked his expression for a moment. Does it matter? Yes. I think it does. If I pick, I tell him how I want him to see me. If he picks, he defines what he expects. And I bet he doesn't actually want the killer, the professional, and that's who he thinks he's addressing when he says Balinese. He wants the hedonist, the man of emotion and impulse, the malleable one.

Nagi lifted a few strands and tucked them behind Yohji's ear before leaning in and murmuring, "Or would it be kinder to leave you your privacy?" He dropped the lock he held so that it fell back over Yohji's face.

Oh, yes, kinder... But not so much to remind me that it's your choice. "Call me whatever you like, Nagi-san. Balinese. Kudoh. Yohji. You know them all." I'm so tired, and I just want this to be over so that I can curl up and sleep, forget where I am and what I've agreed to. Forget the audience... Fuck. How many people are watching this charade? "Just--"

Yohji was never certain what he'd been about to say for at that moment, the door to the cell opened again. He jumped a little, but Nagi remained calm.

"That will be your meal," he observed, rising to his feet.

Both men looked at the revealed antechamber. Lying within, they saw a covered tray, a rolled pallet with a folded blanket and a thin pillow on top of it, and a cardboard box. Yohji wasn't really surprised when, one by one, the items moved, seemingly on their own, from the antechamber to the cell proper. Nagi telekinetically piled the bedding in the corner to the left of the door before floating the box to the corner with the shower and toilet and the tray into his own hands. Once he held it, he looked rather expressionlessly down at Yohji, ignoring the movement of the door as it closed.

"Do you want to eat now or... wait until after?" Nagi asked.

Yohji blinked in surprise and tried vainly to blow some of his hair out of his face. The stubborn wisps remained where they were, tickling his eyelids and making him long to sneeze. I'll be damned. That's a genuine question.

Nagi brought the tray down to the floor. "Do you want help with that?"

Yohji looked up at Nagi, feeling utterly ridiculous. "Please." Sort of thing you don't think twice about when you can do it yourself. How many more surrenders will I have to make? How many more can I afford?

Nagi's fingers moved gently over Yohji's face. "Did I get them all?" At Yohji's nod, Nagi smiled. "So, do you want to eat now or later?"

"Given that I'm starving--"

Nagi frowned. "It's just that... Well, I threw up after my first time. And a lot after that. Not eating before helped."

Yohji's belly clenched at the other's words. So damn matter of fact. Just something that happened, and now he's going to do it to me. Okay, Kudoh. Let it go. Freaking will just make you more vulnerable.

Something of Yohji's reaction must have shown in his face because Nagi went on, "It was a long time ago, Yohji-kun, and the bastard's dead now. Schuldig's a great believer in creative violence as a mechanism for dealing with trauma." Nagi shrugged slightly. "It's better than nothing."

It does still bother him, not overwhelmingly, but... Probably the only time in his life, Schuldig did something worthwhile. Yohji nodded with a sad smile and said the only thing he could think of, "It's not my first time." He felt tremors in his chest and back, tiny waves that seemed to travel in all directions. If they're not visible now, they will be soon. And he'll hear them when I speak again.

"I'd guessed that." There was a certain humor in Nagi's tone, but Yohji couldn't bring himself to look at the other man's face until Nagi's fingers caught his chin and tugged gently. Nagi leaned in close. "Are they good memories?"

Yohji closed his eyes and nodded minutely, just enough that Nagi should be able to feel the pressure of it. One more surrender. I don't-- Hell. I am not going to cry, and I am not going to let him taint those memories. They're mine. Mine.

Nagi released his grip on Yohji's chin. "I'm glad," he said softly. "I hope it helps."

He means that. Yohji blinked in surprise. I do believe he actually means that. His trembling eased a little.

Nagi turned away to take the lid off the tray. "Miso. Rice. Nothing too complicated. If we go slowly, your stomach should handle it all without trouble."

The odors wafting from the tray after Nagi lifted the lid had Yohji's stomach announcing that it damn well could and would handle every bite. He leaned forward a little then turned red as he realized that he couldn't feed himself. I want my hands back. My hands and a fucking cigarette. Couldn't they leave me that much?

Nagi lifted the miso and the spoon. "We'll start slow," he said. His eyes met Yohji's, and Yohji thought that those eyes acknowledged Yohji's shame while still encouraging him to move past it.

Another surrender. How many does that make and how much territory do I have left? "Hai." Yohji dipped his head a little before raising it and opening his mouth to accept the first spoonful of soup. He kept his attention focused on the spoon, not wanting to see the expression on Nagi's face. I should look at him, smile at him, show him it doesn't bother me. I can do that. I should. So do it already. No, just think about something else.

They continued in silence until the bowl was empty. Nagi made no move toward the rest of the food. "How does that feel?" he asked the older man.

Like I just ate a bowl of miso. Yohji suppressed his urge toward sarcasm. I am not stupid. "Um... How long?" Yohji knew he wasn't being dreadfully specific, but Nagi had shown unexpected understanding already, so Yohji hoped his words would be sufficient. And he doesn't seem to mind questions. Would he tell me about Omi? Probably not. I think Crawford already gave the party line...

"Not quite a week."

Figures. Yohji wasn't all that surprised, not really, but it did bother him. They could have done anything to me. "Why?"

"We worked with Siberian first, then Abyssinian. Crawford said that you and Bombay could wait. I think he needs them more than he does you or Bombay."

Ran, I understand, given Aya-chan, but why Ken? Yohji stared at Nagi for a moment. "Nagi-san," he began carefully. "I don't understand why--" He shook his head. "You keep answering my questions--"

"Crawford didn't tell me not to. If there was something I could tell you that he didn't want you to know, he'd have said so, and I don't see that lying to you will help the situation. I don't get my kicks by torturing people."

Their eyes met briefly, and Yohji ventured a small smile. I heard that implied "unlike some people," Nagi-san. I'm paying attention. Is that a reminder to count myself lucky?

Nagi lifted the bowl of rice. "This may have started to get cold," he commented.

Yohji closed his eyes for a moment as he obediently opened his mouth for the first bite. He chewed and swallowed without even thinking about it. His mind kept trying to go into analysis mode which meant that he was relaxing and not viewing Nagi as a threat. Since Nagi's still definitely a threat... Shit. Yohji's throat went dry, and his jaw seemed to lock, the flesh over it tightening and pulling in minutely. Okay, so I am stupid. Sentries sleeping on watch and all that. He felt panic building and had to fight not to back away. Calm down! He didn't get all the way in. And it would be a hell of a lot easier if I just let him soothe me... He hated himself for that thought. Balinese shouldn't be trapped that easily. I shouldn't be trapped that easily.

Yohji pulled back and shook his head as Nagi offered him a second mouthful. Nagi hesitated with chopsticks raised, then lowered them back to bowl.

My move. How should I-- How should Balinese respond? Yohji opened his mouth, hesitated, then said, "Just how much training have you had in psychology, Nagi-san?" Lightly. Lightly. Don't show the freak out. You don't want him to know.

Nagi's lips twisted in a rather rueful grin. "Quite a bit actually. Why? Am I overplaying it?"

Not in the slightest which means you're more dangerous than I thought. Yohji shook his head and answered as calmly as he could, "Not really, at least, not assuming that you want me to get comfortable having you near." And I think that is what you want. You're too damn easy to talk to. You almost trapped me.

Would that be so bad? At least it doesn't hurt very much. Yohji firmly squashed the thought and set his jaw, meeting Nagi's gaze as squarely as he could manage.

"That is the idea, Yohji-kun." There was a quiet humor in the tone. "I can work at scaring the hell out of you, if you really want. I can be nasty and terrifying; I learned from the best after all. I just thought it'd be... counterproductive." Nagi returned the bowl of rice to the tray, looking away from Yohji's face for a moment.

Yohji felt an emptiness in his belly that had nothing to do with hunger. I can't-- I don't want-- Oh, hell. "Ah-- No, that's all right, Nagi-san. I'd rather... I just want to know how much is real!" He hadn't meant to vocalize that last, but the words got away from him. You already scare the hell out of me, Nagi-san. He looked away, afraid that his momentary despair showed in his eyes. He knew his trembling was visible now, and he knew there was no chance that Nagi didn't see it. And that makes me shake harder. Damn it. Why won't my body obey? He wanted to laugh and wanted to sob but somehow managed to suppress both impulses. He looked back at Nagi knowing that pushing for a pretense of pride would help.

Nagi became very still. His eyes met Yohji's steadily. "I don't want to hurt you. I don't particularly want to break you, but I'll do it if I need to. Do I need to?"

Yohji met those eyes without flinching for a second before dropping his gaze to the floor. He shook his head minutely. He knew that that gesture was a surrender, one more profound than his acceptance of Crawford's "proposition." Then I gave up something that could have been beaten out of me with just a little effort. I just said I'd let them do what they could do anyway. Now... He sighed almost inaudibly. How far will I go to stay whole?

He kept his head bowed as Nagi's fingers stroked his hair. Yohji knew the gesture was meant to offer comfort as much as to assert ownership, but he found himself wishing he hadn't asked the question. He felt fairly certain that Nagi would not have forced him to confront this truth, at least not this time, maybe not ever. Stupid, Kudoh. Should have left well enough alone. It's easier to play to win when you don't admit the game's rigged so it's impossible for you to do so. Stop it, Kudoh; this is getting you nowhere. Put it away. Put it all away and keep just what you need for the game. He gave a shuddering sigh and started trying to compress the parts of his personality that weren't needed for what was about to happen. If it's not exposed, it can't be damaged. At least, it's worth a try...

He heard rather than saw Nagi move closer to him. What now? The other man's clothed leg moved into place beside his own naked one, and Yohji flinched from the contact. Stop that! He's not hurting you. Yet. Air seemed to solidify, pushing Yohji to raise his head and turn toward Nagi. Yohji met Nagi's eyes for just a second as Nagi leaned toward him. He's not planning to hurt me this time, and if he wanted to humiliate me he'd be coming from behind. Yohji closed his eyes and didn't try to resist. Lips touched his softly, just a brush of flesh to flesh. How sweet... The memory of Nagi trying to kiss that blue haired Schreient girl flashed through Yohji's mind. What was her name anyway?

When Yohji didn't flinch, Nagi pressed in for something more closely approximating a kiss. Yohji kept his eyes closed and fought an impulse to clench his jaw. Instead, he let his lips part a little. I'm not sure if that's cooperation or just lack of resistance. Hell. Does it matter? Yes. It does. Nagi's tongue caressed Yohji's lips and slipped a little way between them without, quite, entering the older man's mouth. The distinction's all in my head, and that's where I can lose. Yohji opened his eyes. If I had my hands, I could do what that girl did and kiss him properly. Should I mention-- No. I don't think he knows I saw that, and... We both have our heartbreak. As long as he doesn't mention Neu-- Asuka--

Nagi pulled back physically, but his power continued to hold Yohji's head still. Nagi raised a hand and ran a finger over Yohji's lips. Nagi's attention seemed focused, and he smiled a little as if some question had been answered.

Yohji did flinch this time. Oh, stupid Kudoh! Get your mind back on what's important! If you bring her up, it won't matter if he doesn't. He tried to set his face in an unreadable expression. And I bet I'm failing... "That was... not unpleasant." He tried to capture the rhythm with which Nagi'd spoken the words earlier and was rewarded by a soft chuckle. I should turn this into a seduction. I should... He met Nagi's eyes. Maybe... he cut off the thought before it could go further. Hope might be as dangerous as despair right now. He licked his lips and cast about for something to say. "Have you-- have you had a lot of practice doing that?" Apart from the blue haired girl... I bet he'd be pissed as hell if he realized I saw that.

"Not nearly as much as your reputation suggests you've had," Nagi responded dryly. "Of course, it's mostly been with women. Is there anything different in the mechanics?"

In spite of himself, Yohji felt reassured by the quiet humor in the other man's voice. Yohji tried to match the tone when he spoke again. "Apart from dealing with the whiskers? Not that's a male-female thing. People are all different. You seem to be good at picking up cues." Yohji tilted his head to approximate a shrug. Damn it's hard to seem expert without my hands! And my odds are a hell of a lot better if he lets me lead.

Nagi raised a skeptical eyebrow, and Yohji managed his own small laugh. "Your teammates play by different rules, Nagi-san. Very different rules than the rest of us." He could tell from the other's expression that Nagi didn't understand at all, and Yohji suppressed his instinct to explain. Maybe that lack of confidence will help me some day... He's already got enough advantages. Instead, he changed the subject, "Kissing me would be a lot more pleasant for you if you let me shave."

Nagi actually laughed. "I suspect, Yohji-kun, that giving you a sharp implement goes well beyond what Crawford would allow." He seemed to consider for a moment. "Could you stand to have me shave you?"

Yohji hesitated. "I... think so." After all, I already let you feed me. And I'm going to let you fuck me with god knows how many people watching. What's one more humiliation? He looked at the floor. But Ran'll be sure I'm insane letting any member of Schwarz put a blade to my throat. Like I could actually say no. Fuck it. Ran's not going to understand any of this anyway. He doesn't do compromise. "You and Crawford have both made it clear that I'll have to let you do whatever you want anyway, Nagi-san." I shouldn't have said that. I shouldn't have said that. Ran needed to hear it, but it blows my position with Nagi. And it won't make Ran think I'm any less... tainted.

"If it bothers you that much, you should have said no." Nagi traced a finger along Yohji's collarbone.

Yohji's shoulder twitched in response to the stimulation. He hadn't lost sight of his power. A near snarl rose in his throat, but he choked it back. No sense provoking him. He's just playing the damn game. "You know perfectly well that I couldn't do that." And it could be a fun game if that's really what it was...

"Oh, you could. You just wouldn't." Nagi pressed his lips against Yohji's again, this time penetrating a little further with his tongue.

Just let him do it. Yohji relaxed his jaw. I'm going to have to start pushing soon. I think he's more complicated than I'd hoped.

Nagi drew back, running his tongue over his own lips. "You taste like miso."

"You find that surprising?" Yohji raised an eyebrow and let his eyes wander toward the discarded soup bowl.

"Not really." Nagi smiled and leaned back a little. "We came in knowing you'd say yes. If you'd said no, we'd have known that our dossiers-- Kritiker's dossiers-- weren't worth the paper they were printed on. And," Nagi's tone became decidedly chilly, "we'd probably have killed you."

Yohji hunched down a little, trying to thaw the sudden ice in his belly. Stop it, Kudoh. You knew they were ruthless. "Only probably?"

Nagi shrugged, reaching with one hand to brush Yohji's hair back from his face and with the other to caress Yohji's chest. "Crawford might have had another use for you. I don't know." He pinched at one of Yohji's nipples, rolling it between his fingers. He frowned slightly at the hardening flesh as if it were a foreign phenomenon and pinched harder.

Yohji whimpered. He hadn't meant to let any sound escape, but he hadn't expected the roughness. Nagi looked at him sharply, and Yohji looked away. If you want to hurt me, Nagi-san, I'm hardly in a position to stop you.

Nagi's hand flattened on Yohji's chest, then brushed lightly over his skin.

Yohji closed his eyes with a sigh. No use thinking about the rest of it right now. Balinese wouldn't, not as long as something felt good. Which... Well, I don't think he's practiced this part of it as much. He made a small encouraging noise. Like a purr... I can enjoy this. I just have to pretend that I really had a choice, that the lack of choice is the pretense...

Nagi moved his other hand to Yohji's shoulder. "Is that genuine or are you just trying to keep me happy?"

Yohji opened his eyes and twisted his body to pull back a little from Nagi's hands. "I'm not sure where the line is," he confessed. And I'm not. If he were a lover, I'd be rewarding him for reading cues and going in the right direction, trying to build his confidence. What I want here is survival. He doesn't... repel... me. Ran would say he should, but... Nagi doesn't repel me. Yohji felt himself redden a little and looked away. Shame. Is that because Ran's listening? Because I could get off on this? Or because I couldn't answer his question? I'm slipping already, too damn fast. He closed his eyes and turned his face back toward Nagi. "Men need a lot less... foreplay than women do." Let's just get it over with. Please. "For best effect... direct stimulation seldom fails."

Nagi responded with a thoughtful noise, and Yohji had to fight the urge to look at the other man's face to gauge his reaction. It doesn't matter if he's happy with me! I can't let it matter. I can't...

Nagi pulled Yohji sideways. Yohji stiffened as he found his cheek resting on Nagi's shoulder, his stubble catching just a little on the weave of Nagi's shirt.

"I'm just making this harder for you, aren't I?" Nagi put one arm around Yohji's shoulders and let the other hand rest on Yohji's hair.

Yohji forced himself to relax, taking one deep breath after another. He nodded slightly. No harm saying that; it won't make him angry. He felt tears building behind his eyelids and had to hold his breath for a second to stifle a sob. This is too much too soon. I'm crumbling way too fast. I should be tougher than this. We haven't even gone anywhere that I haven't been before. Admittedly, then we had safe words and... And more often I was on the other side. The hell with it. "Nagi-san?" I probably don't want to know. "Is the food drugged?" He was proud that he managed to keep his voice steady as he spoke. Can I even handle the answer?

"Probably." The arm around Yohji's shoulders tightened a little, and Nagi's fingers stroked Yohji's head. "I'm sorry that bothers you so much, Yohji-kun. If it helps any, it's not a Masafumi special." Yohji could hear Nagi's smile in the last sentence.

He'd say that anyway, and I didn't want to know. Not really. Then why am I disappointed? Yohji started to tremble and turned his face into Nagi's shoulder, preferring not to share his tears with the cameras. Of course, if I hadn't asked, I'd think it was just me being weak, breaking way too easily. He shuddered. I still might be... "Probably." Damn. He felt the hard muscles that covered Nagi's chest move as the younger man shifted to take more of Yohji's weight. He smells of soap and sweat and laundry detergent. Nothing threatening there. He even feels nice. If I were in the mood, I might pick him up in a bar. If he weren't Schwarz... Yohji felt his stomach clench. I've got to choose. I can surrender now; he'll let me. I think he'd be pleased. But if I do, it'll be for good. A sob escaped him. I can't. I can't. I'm not that weak!

Okay, Kudoh, make it count. He nuzzled at Nagi's shoulder. He does gentle and protective so well. What happens when I beg for it? He protected that Schreient girl, and she didn't even ask, just needed.

Nagi's hand began to stroke Yohji's hair, and the younger man made small comforting noises.

Yohji struggled to raise his face from Nagi's shoulder. He knew he had to look terribly pathetic. Crying so doesn't suit my complexion. He let himself visibly fail to force a smile. I can do this. I know what he wants right now. I can play him. I can.

Nagi removed his hand from Yohji's hair and placed it under Yohji's chin. "Yohji-kun?"

I'm not "Yohji-chan" yet. I wonder how long it'll take to get there? He's still leaving me some dignity. Yohji felt a frustrated snarl rising from his belly and let it fuel his next action. He pushed upward, grinding his shoulder against Nagi's just enough to give the contact a sexual edge. He was rewarded by just the slightest flinch from Nagi before Yohji pressed in for their third kiss. I'm still better at this than you are, Nagi-sama! He wanted to laugh at the bitter, desperate sarcasm tinging his mental voice, but he kept himself focused on the matter at hand. He left no space for sweetness or gentleness, taking Nagi's lower lip between his teeth and teasing it with his tongue, then seeking to get his tongue into Nagi's mouth.

Nagi's response was stronger and more spectacular than Yohji'd expected. Nagi pushed Yohji away, and Yohji smashed against the wall. He hung there for a moment before Nagi released him to tumble to the floor.

It took Yohji a few seconds to get his mind working again. He lay sprawled half on his back, half on his side, next to the wall. That hurt! Well, I didn't expect it to feel good... He tasted blood in his mouth and wondered what he'd bitten and whether or not anything had broken. Then he blinked a couple of times to clear his vision. Nagi sat with his spine rigid and his hands clenched in the fabric of his pants, glaring at Yohji. And how does that feel? Yohji only just kept his lips from twitching into a sneer. I guess that stuff about being raped wasn't just smoke... Useful to know. I almost feel guilty. Almost.

Yohji forced a grin. "You taste like toothpaste, Nagi-san."

Nagi's body didn't relax, but he responded in an even tone, "Are you surprised, Yohji-kun?" Nagi crooked a finger at Yohji. "Come back here."

Yohji regarded the younger man incredulously for a moment, trying to figure out how he was supposed to manage that. Nagi gave a hard little smile that told Yohji that that was his problem. I suppose that buys him some time to put himself back together. Bastard. I hate it when the bad guys are smart.

Yohji took a deep breath. No cracked ribs, I think. Damn, I hate pushing to see what gives! Right. How to manage this... He squirmed until he lay fully on his back. Not kind to my shoulders, but I sure as hell can't get up from lying on my side. Now, bend the knees. That's easy enough. I'm sure I can manage a sit up... His abdominal muscles screamed as he pulled his torso up until he could rest his head on his knees. I'll just rest here a moment. Let him think I'm trying to figure out the next step. He closed his eyes, trusting his hair to hide his face. Now, legs around and down to the side. Keep my ass firmly planted or I'll have to do the whole thing over again-- His muscles complained, and he very nearly lost his balance, but he managed to end up sitting with his legs curled to one side. Now just one more push to get up and over--

As he completed the last wrenching twist, he felt just the slightest brush of Nagi's power and realized that the telekinetic hadn't wanted Yohji to fall. He risked a peek at Nagi and saw that he still looked angry. I don't think I was supposed to notice that. Or maybe I was. Was that kindness or something else? Yohji stopped to catch his breath, keeping his head bent so that his hair fell over his face. I hope it was kindness... If it was... No. No hopes. Just focus on now.

"I didn't think you could manage that unassisted." Nagi's tone conveyed a sort of vague surprise. "Very good."

Yohji tossed his head, throwing most of his hair off of his face. Then he smiled, a broad, lazy, Kudoh-the-seducer grin. "I think you'd be surprised at what I can pull off." This is going to hurt like hell.

Nagi's power seized Yohji's hair, pulling it so that his neck bent, his head moving back and to the side at an uncomfortable angle. "And I believe I gave you an order. Or did you miss that part?" The pull twisted, forcing Yohji to arch his back.

Yohji allowed his expression to become sullen. That's right. I concede the skirmish. Just don't look at the war... He inched his knees forward and made a show of reluctant cooperation. Balinese wouldn't do any more than this. I wish I didn't have to be Balinese...

Nagi stood. Yohji felt a tug on his bound arms that became a steady pressure pulling them up and out from his body. He tried to rise to follow only to find that the pull on his hair remained steady. He fought panic. Is he trying to break my neck? His scalp burned, and his shoulders felt like they were starting to tear. He opened his mouth to curse but never had the chance to speak. A heavy blow landed in his gut, driving the air from his lungs. His body tried to collapse forward, but the telekinetic hold on his shoulders denied him that relief.

Hurts. Shit. A half strangled gasp was all he managed before the next blow struck. He writhed, trying to escape, and nearly succeeded in dislocating his shoulders. Panic nearly overwhelmed rational thought as he realized that Nagi could strike him from any direction without warning. Can't see-- Shit! He tried to keep his eyes on Nagi, hoping for some clue, but Nagi stood motionless, watching with a facade of indifference. Is he going to kill me? Omi-- I'm sorry!

The pull on his hair released, and he felt a moment's relief before a blow across his cheek rocked his head back. A slap. A fist. A kick. Front... back. Can't fucking scream. Smug son of a bitch-- Not getting hands dirty! Yohji curled his lips in a half hearted snarl. His shoulders burned. He could feel things tearing and stretching as he struggled. Got to stop. Got to-- Another belly blow made him try to double over. Never... my arms again-- His lungs screamed for air while refusing to open enough to allow anything in.

Finally, he slumped in surrender, simply enduring. The agony in his shoulders dulled a little, but the beating went on, continuing for a subjective eternity, until Yohji almost forgot that there had been or could be anything else.

Then it stopped. Only Nagi's hold on Yohji's arms kept him from collapsing. Nagi lowered Yohji to a kneeling position and released his arms. Yohji panted and gasped and let his head fall forward. I never want to move again. I don't think I can move again. And he wasn't even really angry, just kind of... I never want to move again.

"Come here and finish your rice." Nagi's tone was icy, implacable.

He won't tolerate disobedience. Yohji raised his head to look at the other man. His vision seemed oddly blurred. Am I concussed? Crying? He could still tell, however that Nagi was poised for further action. "Hai," he whispered, unable to manage anything more. No more fight right now...

Nagi stared at Yohji for a moment, then nodded acceptance. He turned away and walked toward the pile of bedding.

Yohji watched Nagi go, knowing that he had to move but not quite certain he could. He bent forward, wanting, needing, to rest for just a moment before trying to go on.

Invisible fingers stroked Yohji's back. They ran the length of his spine, carefully detouring around the worst contusions, then stopped to squeeze his ass.

"Yohji-kun," Nagi said softly. "Whether I see you or not, there's nowhere in this cell that I cannot touch you. Not a distance great enough to stop me. Do you understand?"

Yohji shuddered and couldn't force himself to reply. He felt frozen in despair. There's no hope, is there? I can't do anything... No. It's bad. He's smart. He's powerful. But... I made him do that. My choice not his. Mine. He forced himself up on his knees and began to move forward. The bowl of rice lay on the floor and seemed impossibly far away. Each movement sent new pain burning through him as his knees, shins and feet complained. And he didn't touch me there. I did all that trying to get away. Abrasions. Bruises. I bet I'm bleeding. But I don't think I can make it to my feet, and I don't know what he'd do if I tried...

When Yohji reached the bowl, he darted a glance at Nagi. The other man still faced away; he'd picked up the blanket and was inspecting it. "Eat," Nagi commanded without looking back.

Yohji closed his eyes for just a second before bending to put his face to the bowl. I'll need this later. He was a little surprised that his tortured abdominal muscles didn't give out on him, but he managed not to fall. Probably amuse him if I did. He began to eat. The rice had become cold and dry, but he managed to choke it down.

Nagi unrolled the futon and shook the blanket out over it. Nagi, Yohji noted, actually did the work physically. Is he tired or does he just want to take his time? Or is he too busy "watching" me? Yohji studied Nagi's posture. I think he's afraid he'll give something away. And he would. He has to think about his body language more than he should.

Yohji lowered his head for another mouthful of rice. His mouth and throat were already dry, and the grain seemed to steal what moisture he had left. Just a little more... By the time he finished eating, his bruises had reached the intermediate state between the sharp pain of injury and the stiff pain of starting to heal. I could move again if I had too. At least for now.

Nagi was watching when Yohji raised his head after emptying the bowl. Nagi walked back to stand over Yohji and very delicately removed a few grains that were clinging to Yohji's nose, chin and other parts of his face. Nagi held his hand out in front of Yohji's mouth, silently offering the remnants.

Yohji hesitated. I've got to take them, but... How? I can challenge or I can surrender. The hell with it. I can't take another beating right now; if they can't use me, it's Omi. He looked up at Nagi as if to say that this was a temporary state of affairs and then leaned forward and carefully used his lips to capture a grain at a time.

Nagi ran his now clean hand over Yohji's hair. "Don't make me do that again, Yohji-kun."

Yohji looked down. He didn't want Nagi to see the determination in his eyes and didn't want to make any promises the other man wouldn't believe anyway. How long till I really believe that it's my fault?

Nagi went down on one knee next to Yohji. "Lie down."

Yohji bit his lip. I could do it. Probably. Maybe. He pulled his shoulders up to either side of his head, ignoring the pain the movement provoked. He turned and looked at Nagi. Time to crack a little... "Nagi-san? I--" He let his voice crack and his neck bow. "Please."

"Of course." Nagi placed an arm around Yohji's back and a hand on his chest. "I won't let you fall." Paying little heed to Yohji's bruises, Nagi guided the older man's body to the floor so that he lay on his back with his knees bent and his feet flat on the floor.

Yohji's bound arms produced an unnatural arch to his back that made lying down uncomfortable, but he offered no complaint. When Nagi rose and moved away, Yohji closed his eyes. It's almost over. He knew that he ought to raise his head, to follow Nagi's movements and study his body language, but Yohji simply couldn't muster the energy. I'll just rest for a moment. It's not like I don't know what comes next.

But he hurt too much to relax, and his mind kept offering suggestions as to things Nagi could do that would be much worse than what had already happened, so Yohji listened, hoping for clues. The rice bowl went back on the tray. The cover went on the tray, and footsteps carried both away. Yohji raised his head enough to see Nagi's back as he set the tray by the door. Look at him. So stiff. You'd think he'd been beaten instead of... I don't think he wants to do this.

Yohji let his head fall back and stared up at the ceiling. No patterns there either... Footsteps coming back. The slapping sound of the briefcase being flipped open. Small noises. Retrieving something. Is that good or bad? I'll be an optimist.

Then Nagi was there by Yohji's feet, pushing them apart. Yohji stifled an urge toward hysterical laughter. Part of his mind kept protesting that this couldn't be happening while the rest of him responded with annoyed instructions to shut up and to pay closer attention to events next time. Yeah, where the hell were you? For some reason, he found that funny. He just didn't think Nagi'd appreciate the joke.

Yohji raised his head again to look at Nagi and caught a glimpse of an expression of intense focus on the other man's face. That disappeared behind a mask of controlled indifference the moment Nagi realized that Yohji was watching. Their eyes met for a second and held. Nagi held up a hand holding a tube and a plastic wrapped packet. He took the packet between the thumb and forefinger of his other hand and waved it back and forth.

"Even Kritiker's not sure where you've been, Yohji-kun." Nagi smiled cheerfully, but his words had a vicious edge.

They held each other's eyes for a second longer; then Yohji let his head drop again. And the real message there is "We're using lube." Thank god for that at least. I'll think about the insult later. Maybe. He offered no resistance as Nagi pushed Yohji's legs up and back, adjusting the tilt of his hips, but couldn't stop an occasional noise at the pain some of the movements caused.

Yohji turned his head to one side; he wanted to see as little of this as possible. He heard a rustling of cloth.

"Keep your eyes on me, Kudoh Yohji." Nagi pinched the inside of Yohji's thigh to emphasize his point.

Yohji dutifully turned his head back so that he was looking upward, but he didn't bother to raise his head. I'll see what I see. Be damned if I'm going to strain my neck so I can watch Naoe Nagi fuck me. He wasn't entirely surprised to feel his head lifted, but the insertion of a folded pillow to keep his head at the level Nagi'd selected did come as a surprise.

Nagi ran a careful finger down the crack of Yohji's ass, lingering to circle his anus. Nagi's eyes met Yohji's again, this time with a certain challenge.

He's enjoying this, the power of it. The realization chilled Yohji. He'd been pretty sure that Nagi hadn't been aroused by their physical contact earlier, and Nagi's reluctance to commit rape had seemed genuine. Never mind. It doesn't change anything right now. Don't think about it...

Nagi pushed a lube slicked finger into Yohji's body. He kept his eyes on Yohji's face.

Yohji bit his lip in an effort to swallow the whimper that invasion produced. What's he looking for? He donned a facade of indifference, knowing perfectly well that it wouldn't hold if Nagi tried to break it. He pushed. Push back. "It doesn't hurt," Yohji said. He curled his lips into a smile, pretending that he didn't realize that the imprint of his teeth still showed on his lower lip. You haven't beaten all the life out of me...

"Do you want it to?" Nagi responded in an interested tone. "I thought you didn't."

Yohji shuddered a little at Nagi's tone then pulled back instinctively as Nagi bent and wiggled his finger. Easy. He's exploring. Yohji bared his teeth. "I didn't think this was about what I want."

Nagi's answering smile chilled Yohji. He looks like Crawford.

Nagi's power tugged at Yohji's hips, pulling them back into place. "Satisfy my curiosity, Yohji-kun. Do you want me to hurt you?"

What would Balinese say? He's a playboy who runs from his emotions, a hedonist who grabs what he wants, all bravado and loyalty... He wouldn't want it to hurt, but I don't think he could admit that-- Yohji gasped and lost his train of thought as Nagi's finger brushed Yohji's prostate. Nagi paused, just a second's hesitation, before rubbing the spot again. Yohji groaned with pleasure, and his cock started to expand.

Nagi's finger pulled back. Yohji only just managed to stop himself from thrusting his hips toward Nagi. No. What was I-- Oh, right-- Use it. Yohji pulled his face into a grin of confident promise. "I can enjoy myself whatever happens." He knew that the tension in his body as he awaited Nagi's response gave lie to his words. And he'll notice, too.

"Liar." Nagi spoke without heat. He ran a hand over Yohji's foot, grasping his ankle. A second finger joined the first inside Yohji's body.

Yohji desperately wanted to look away, but he didn't quite dare. He worked to keep the confident expression on his face, not to let it quite falter, and knew that he failed. There must be something I can put between me and... this.

Nagi snorted derisively. "So if I do this--" Yohji felt the fingers inside him scissor apart with what seemed impossible force and couldn't quite stifle a small scream. "You'll enjoy it?"

The pressure continued, and Yohji was certain that his flesh was ripping. It's not just his fingers-- Telekinesis! He's using his goddamn telekinesis! Terror gave him a temporary strength, and he strained at his bonds then tried to curl his body away from Nagi. Hurts! Please-- No. Won't. Let. Him. Win. Won't!

"I could tear you apart, Yohji-kun. I've never done that before. Shall we try it?" A keening whine of pain cut its way through Yohji's control, and the pressure eased until it was just Nagi's fingers again. "Shall we do that, Yohji-kun?" Nagi leaned forward and smiled.

His eyes... I think he would, just to find out what happened. And not regret it afterward. I... Yohji's body shook, and he couldn't keep the tremor out of his voice. "No, please, Nagi-san. Please, no..." He couldn't meet Nagi's eyes.

"Look at me!" Yohji flinched at the sharpness of Nagi's command and fixed his eyes on Nagi's chin.

Nagi pulled his fingers out of Yohji's ass and rose on his knees. Yohji saw that the younger man had already unfastened his pants. Nagi pushed his clothing from his hips then settled back. He's not going to-- Of course he's not going to strip. Why lose that edge? Yohji couldn't keep his eyes from moving lower to where Nagi's still flaccid cock lay. Realizing what he was doing, he wrenched his gaze upward only to encounter an amused smile.

"You can look if you want to, Yohji-kun." There was something very like a laugh in that statement. "I don't mind." Yohji could just see Nagi's hands begin to move, stroking his cock to erection.

Yohji swallowed hard and tried to think of something clever to say, but all his words seemed to have deserted him. I want to be somewhere else... There really is nothing I can hide behind now.

Nagi raised the wrapped condom until it was within Yohji's line of sight then tore the package open. He tossed the wrapper to one side and looked down at himself with an intentness that Yohji might have found amusing under other circumstances.

Although he'd been trying to prepare for this moment since Crawford's departure, Yohji still found himself struggling as Nagi entered him. No! Yohji twisted and tried to kick, but Nagi's hands and weight kept Yohji's legs pinned between their bodies. No... Please. Please.

Nagi thrust hard and fast. Yohji's mind and body seemed to disconnect as each push rocked him back on his bound arms and added new bruises to the marks already adorning his body. Whimpering sobs emerged from his throat, and he knew that full tears would soon follow. Shh. It's almost over. He's not even trying to pace himself. Any time now...

Nagi came with a strangled cry, throwing his head back. His hands spasmed, fingers digging into Yohji's flesh. Nagi remained where he was, motionless, for a moment before looking down at Yohji. "That was better than I thought it'd be." The words came out softly enough that Yohji thought he might be the only one to hear them. Nagi smiled.

Yohji turned his head away and squeezed his eyes shut. He knew Nagi'd already seen his tears, heard his sobs, but he wanted, needed desperately, to maintain some illusion of privacy. If he'll allow me that...

Nagi brushed gentle fingers through Yohji's hair before he levered himself off and out of Yohji's body.

As soon as Nagi's weight was gone, Yohji twisted himself onto his side, curling up in as close to a fetal position as he could manage with his arms still bound behind him. Pulling his body in so tightly hurt, but he felt as if that contraction of muscles was all that was protecting some vulnerable, newly fragile part of his soul. Vaguely, he noted the sound of the toilet flushing and the sink running.

Then Nagi's hand was on Yohji's head again. "You'll rest better on your futon," he said quietly.

Yohji shuddered and didn't even try to speak, but he did finally open his eyes again. He felt himself lifted by Nagi's power. Nagi bent and physically retrieved the pillow before taking it and Yohji over to the pallet he'd prepared earlier. Yohji sighed a little as Nagi lowered him toward the mattress. It looks so safe... Was it kindness that he didn't do it over here? Never mind. It's over. For this time. Yohji's body tensed a little at the thought, and his breath was driven out of him as he fell the last few centimeters to the bed. He stiffened in an attempt to stifle the resulting flares of pain from his injuries then groaned as that effort proved inadequate.

A small noise from Nagi informed Yohji that the drop hadn't been intentional cruelty, but Nagi offered no explanation or apology. Instead, Nagi pushed Yohji onto his stomach and began undoing the straps holding his arms. Nagi's movements were gentle, but they sent new shocks of pain into Yohji's shoulders. Yohji pushed his face into the mattress to keep from crying out.

"Remember to breathe." Again, Nagi's words were soft enough that Yohji thought only he could hear them. "Pain's transitory. Suffocation's a little more permanent."

"Permanent sounds good," Yohji mumbled. He spoke into the cloth and rather thought that Nagi didn't notice. No. Remember Omi, he admonished himself.

Nagi made short work of the bonds. He carefully straightened Yohji's left arm and then the right. Yohji's body shook, as much at the terrible intimacy of the action as from the pain of release. The one who inflicts the pain is also the one who comforts it. How long before I stop caring?

Yohji barely managed not to scream when Nagi rolled him over onto his back. His arms didn't want to cooperate, and one got twisted beneath him. Nagi teased it back out without inflicting too much more pain.

"Rest and recover, Yohji-kun." Nagi tucked the pillow under Yohji's head and planted a kiss on his forehead. "I'll return when my schedule permits." Nagi pulled the blanket over Yohji's body, rose and turned to go.

Yohji turned his head to watch Nagi's departure. Nagi stopped briefly and put the restraints in the briefcase. He closed the briefcase and carried it with him toward the door. Once there, he paused expectantly in front of it, and, on cue, it opened. He pushed the tray that had contained Yohji's meal through with his foot before looking back to smile at Yohji.

Yohji continued to stare at the doorway long after Nagi'd departed and the opening had closed. Then he curled himself on his side facing the room. One more thing to do... Somehow, he got himself to his knees; his arms weren't as much help as he'd hoped. He looked across the room at the toilet then bent himself and let his shoulders shake as if he were suppressing retching. Shit, it's a long way... That's okay. About halfway should do it. Look more real if I don't make it. He thought about Nagi raping Omi, about Crawford with Aya-chan, about the smell of food when he was hungover. His stomach roiled a little, but he could tell that it wasn't going to surrender the food he'd eaten easily.

He lurched to his feet and staggered forward. Falling'll hurt less than crawling. One step. Two.

:Bravo, Kudoh!:

Shit! Schuldig! I forgot Schuldig! Yohji managed another step, but he knew his knees wouldn't hold for much longer.

:And here I thought I was unforgettable.: The voice in Yohji's head snickered. :Anyway, great performance. If I didn't know better, you'd convince me. Fujimiya's pretty upset.:

Another step. Yohji stumbled and fell to his knees. What's the point? Schuldig knows.

:Ah, but I won't tell.: Schuldig's mental voice took on the whine of a spoiled child denied. :Nagi says he won't learn anything if I play too, so Crawford made me promise not to interfere. So you just play your games and have fun. I'll be watching.:

Somehow, throwing up had become easy. Yohji bent over and emptied his stomach. Wrenching spasms kept him doubled over even after everything had come back up. He was still shaking when the retching stopped, and the thought of laying his head down on the cool floor tempted him. It would be so much easier... But he craved the perceived safety of his bed. It's not real, not really, but... It's all I've got.

Moving very slowly, he turned and crept back to the mattress. Once there, he curled himself up with his back to the room and pulled the blanket over his head. It didn't quite keep the light out, but the fabric had a solid weave that at least gave him some privacy.

He desperately wanted to sleep, but he hurt too much. Even though he knew shifting wouldn't help, it was all he could do to remain still. I'll look more broken if I'm still. That food'll be wasted if I don't carry it off. He pulled his legs in closer. That wasn't so bad... He shuddered. Okay, so I'm lying. Nagi could have done worse, but not as bad as it could have been isn't the same as not bad.

Nagi'll break me. The only advantage I've got is that he's aiming at Balinese, the Kudoh described in Kritiker's files. He had, they all had, worked at biasing their dossiers, at presenting a slightly different view of themselves to Kritiker. He'd made himself a man easily manipulated through his physical desires, a creature of impulse rather than thought. Ken had emphasized a streak of sentimentality, Ran had taken single mindedness to a ridiculous level, and Omi'd gone for a cheerful, eager to please style. All true as far as it went but also far from complete. Ken could be a ruthless pragmatist, Ran could see the big picture, and Omi could be callously indifferent to the needs or wishes of others.

As for Kudoh Yohji, he controls his vices rather than being ruled by them.

I just have to make him think he's broken me before he actually does. But when does acting cease to be a lie? Yohji started to shake. I don't know. I just don't know.

Eventually he slept.

Notes: Physiological withdrawal from nicotine takes 3-5 days, so Yohji's actually past the physiological dependence when he applies his first nicotine patch and so readdicts himself. Psychological withdrawal takes considerably longer, so he should be excused for mistaking his craving for something a patch would help. The nightmares that follow are the normal and expected reaction to a sudden unaccustomed rush of nicotine. Putting those patches in the cell was not an act of kindness on Crawford's part.

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Part Two