by Kuroi Fuji (黒井 藤)
“Target just got off the 9:15 train, heading west on 58th,” Shin murmured, leaning back in his chair, eyes flicking from one monitor to the other. He concentrated on the figure on the rightmost screen, fingers stroking along the glove in his hands. The visual wasn’t needed, with the vibe off the glove, but it never hurt. He felt the connection click with an indefinable hum, more bone deep than that of the computers around him, then leaned back, color and sound whirling against the velvet blackness of his eyelids. ….Hmm. The target’s timeline seemed stable, for what it was worth. Only a few weak streamers that started winking out even as he concentrated on them. Everything was still right on schedule. “Diversion in 10 minutes starting…now.”
“I don’t know about this, Shin.” Tai’s voice was doubtful in his ear, accompanied by the creak of leather over the channel. Probably him stretching his fingers like he tended to do when nervous. In the corner of his vision, Shin could see the vidfeed from Tai’s implant on one of the monitors: a view of nearly-deserted street as he looked out the back window of the van.
Nen’s vidfeed looked out the van’s windshield, his hands gloved and still on the steering wheel. “Tai, don’t distract him. Besides, if it won’t work, don’t you think he’d be the first one to know?” With Nen’s voice coming in on a different channel in Shin’s other ear, it was like having the two of them on either side of him, arguing. It was comforting, really.
“Well, yeah, but he only sees so far ahead, right? It might be ok tonight, but we’re talking about the Blade here. It’s not like he’s some kitten that no one’ll care about, right? And not like he doesn’t have sharp enough claws to come after us himself.”
Nen sighed, his vidfeed darkening as his eyes narrowed. “We’ve gone over this, Tai. It’s–”
Time stuttered in front of Shin’s eyes, a twitch in the timestream, tightening. “Diversion in….five minutes. It’s getting twitchy. Be ready. Same triggerpoints we planned.”
Shin stroked the glove again, slowly, eyes on the monitor. Tsume the Blade walked down 58th, then turned onto Cordona. His black coat made it hard to see him in the darkness, especially with the shitty municipal cams that Shin was patched into. When he passed under streetlights, the flourescents turned pale hair tawny, made his face a thing of sharp lines and shadows. His walk was predatory, ground-eating, purposeful. He was a man with somewhere to be and wasn’t about to let anyone get in his way. His namesake blade’s hilt poked just over his shoulder, in easy reach and most definitely not just for show. The bastard was pretty, too. Sleek smoky fur, bottle-green eyes that Shin couldn’t see right now but knew were there. Muscled, but built for speed rather than strength, panther rather than lion.
Pretty and dangerous enough to keep all the street-toms in the shadows, tails between their legs. They knew an alpha when they saw one.
So did Shin. It was what made this whole job so interesting. It made his tail twitch, among other things.
He watched as his partners watched the clock. Gave the all-clear just as the Blade rounded the corner. Watched as Nen slumped down in his seat so he wouldn’t be seen. Watched on the city cams as the Blade walked by the van without a second glance. Watched the Blade head towards the corner of 57th and Cordoba.
Watched the low, violent swish of his tail. Shin wanted to bite it.
Shin dropped into timespace as the Blade reached the corner. He was happy to see that the Blade’s thread wasn’t fraying anymore. They’d covered all their bases. The chance of failure was in the single digits and stayed there as the distraction–a mostly-empty city bus and a slightly-drunk thug hot-rodding in a modified Z6000–had a noisy, messy altercation at the corner of 57th and Cordoba, not twenty feet from the Blade. Shin watched through a slitted mind’s eye as the Blade turned away from the blocked intersection before he even did it. Watched as he headed back towards the van.
Before, he’d stayed on the safer street-side of the van, away from the narrow bit of sidewalk between the van’s side door and the brick wall that ran the length of the block. Shin hadn’t blamed him. It was a perfect place for a fairly unnoticeable snatch: sheltered from the street and the city cams by the van’s bulk. This time, though, he was a bit distracted by the accident, wanting to avoid the people and cars coming up the street to see what the commotion was about. And really, he wasn’t expecting any trouble.
Shin smiled, licking his incisors as this time the Blade stepped onto the sidewalk to go around the van.
As well as it was going, Shin hated this part of jobs. He’d done the set up, could watch practically the whole thing, but he could rarely DO anything at this point. On the microscopic, blow-by-blow level, there were too many variables, and things happened too quickly to predict. Even if he did want to nudge things one way or the other, often by the time he explained what he wanted to his partners, the opportunity was past. Better to stay quiet, claw the chair’s arms, and let Tai and Nen go to work.
Like right now.
Tai had already popped the latch of the side door and was holding it closed, waiting for Nen’s signal. Nen’s vidfeed was still slumped in the front seat, trained on the side mirror. The Blade passed the front of the van without more than an instinctive look to verify that it still looked empty. Nen’s voice in Shin’s ear was cool, precise. “Now.”
The timestream fluttered with possibility, but it was a futile twitch, almost every thread ending in the same way, and Shin pulled out, shaking his head to clear it. By the time his eyes found Tai’s vidfeed again, Tai had the door open and taken enough of a step to grab at the Blade. The Blade was fast, but Tai had a long reach, and the sidewalk was narrow, making him dodge to the side rather than back up. Tai caught his arm (his sword arm, his dominant arm, Shin noted with approval) and yanked, pulling the man in closer. Off-hand or not, the Blade didn’t hesitate to slash with his left claws, using the twist of his body to try to pull his right arm free. Tai dodged the clawswipe with a jerk of his head, brought up his foot into the Blade’s solar plexus, and used the winded, stunned pause to pull him the rest of the way in and hit the switch to close the door. “Go!”
Nen already had the van started and was slowly navigating the growing crowd on the street to turn the van around and head back the way the Blade had come.
Tai, meanwhile, still had his hands full of angry killer. He was stronger, though, if slower, and he kept ahold of the Blade easily, pinning him and keeping him from gaining his feet or going for a weapon. A brief flurry of claws and blows in the semi-dark, and Tai managed to get a hand free to go for the injector. Tai’s knee across his shoulders, holding him down, the Blade didn’t see as Tai put the injector against the side of his neck and the needle bit in. He twisted his head at the last second, but it was too late.
Shin could see the cold fury on his face through Tai’s vidfeed, and it made him slither in his seat.
Tai just held him down, waiting until the sedative took effect and the body beneath him went limp. The whole struggle had taken less than a long, silent minute.
Shin checked the timestream and whispered, “He’s faking it right now. Wait another minute.”
Tai grunted acknowledgment and waited before fitting the mag cuffs around their captive’s wrists. He turned the Blade over onto his back, peering at him. “He’s fast. Any other set up, and I’d have lost him.”
Nen turned the van onto 58th, weaving his way towards the highway. “Are we good, Shin?”
“Yeah.” Shin still watched Tai watching their captive. “Yeah, we’re good.”
Tai ran his thumb over one high-arched cheekbone. “Nice. I’m starting to like this idea.”
Shin resisted the urge to take himself in hand. Just a little longer…just a little longer and he could have the real thing. He hit a few keys, disengaging from the city cams. All the monitors went blank except for Nen and Tai’s vidfeeds. Those he left on and even turned on his own, setting them all to record on a two-hour delay. It was incriminating, but this was going to be too good a show to pass up.
Shin stood, picking his jacket off the back of his chair, trailing his claws over the Blade’s cheek on the monitor. “Tsume….” he purred to himself.
“What was that, Shin?”
“Nothing. I’ll meet you at the warehouse.”
Tai mrred, and Shin chuckled in agreement. Nen, hearing both of them through the link, just sighed.
The warehouse was rented and paid for by a Mr. Lawrence Pritchett. Mr. Pritchett did not, of course, exist, but his money did, and that was all that mattered. The warehouse was actually part of an old clothing factory that had gone belly-up ten years ago and wasn’t in a prime enough location to tear down and build over. It was in an old industrial area, surrounded by buildings that were either abandoned, not in use, or occupied with their own shady business at night. It was the perfect place for jobs like this. Shin and his partners had used it before, for this and that, though they wouldn’t use it again. Rather a shame, really.
Shin pulled around to the back and pulled his bike in next to the van. A flip of his keycard at the door, and he walked inside, eyes dilating to take in the weak moonlight coming through the hallway windows. He put a hand out and counted doors on his left, turning and heading down the stairwell to the basement. A bare bulb was on here, where there weren’t any windows to show the light. Shin vaulted down the stairs and through the door.
The basement was one large room. Dusty crates and boxes still huddled in the corners, almost invisible outside the wide pool of light that filled the dark room’s center. In the middle of that sun was Tsume the Blade, still unconscious on the ground.
Shin walked up to Tai and Nen, who were standing beyond the light’s edges. Nen was still fully dressed, fur as dark as his black clothes. Tai had stripped down to his pants. The stripes of his markings stood out dark against white fur. He and Shin were cousins of some sort, a few litters removed, and their colorings were the same, but while Shin’s markings looked exotic against his pale fur, on Tai’s bulk they looked savage, like warpaint. Shin scratched his fingers down Tai’s back and Tai arched a bit, smiling back at him.
Shin grinned back and looked over at Nen. “Sure you don’t want to play?”
Nen shook his head, mouth quirking. “Someone has to keep a watch while you two enjoy yourselves.” He nodded towards their captive. “Besides. He’s going to run out of holes.”
Tai laughed. Shin grinned. “He’s going to anyway. I wouldn’t put anything in his mouth I didn’t want bitten off.”
Tai made a disappointed noise. “One at a time?”
“Best idea. Even if I am right.”
Tai turned, running his hands down Shin’s sides. “Too bad. He’d look pretty taking both of us.”
Shin purred in agreement. “Yes. Yes, he would.”
“Your kitten’s waking up,” Nen said. He turned, smirking, as he headed for the door to watch the stairs. “Don’t let him bite.”
“Oh, but that takes all the fun out of it!” Shin said, biting lightly at Tai’s shoulder before pulling away. He let his jacket drop to the floor, sent his t-shirt falling after it. Tai’s hands slid over his fur as they pulled apart. “Let me tease him first.”
“Greedy,” Tai rumbled, amused.
“Oh don’t worry. You’ll get your chance. I just want him to focus on me.”
Nen must have seen Tsume twitch when he woke, because he was doing a convincing job of playing unconscious right then. Probably trying to wait for the grogginess to wear off. Not that he’d be that lucky. Shin could sympathize, though, as he started following threads. This was going to be tricky, and staying in the timestream through all this was going to make him feel out of it, too.
“Good morning,” Shin purred as he stepped into the light. “I hope you had a nice little nap. All rested up?”
There was no response from the body on the floor. It probably would have been easier to do this, Shin thought, if they’d put him on his front to begin with. But really…that would have denied him the full, lovely view. That shade of unrelieved pewter-gray, from head to cock to toe wasn’t common. Tsume was purebred or Shin would eat his own motorcycle. Shin had to wonder what he was doing killing street toms for money, but that was neither here nor there.
Shin padded around his prize, admiring the view. “I know you’re awake. You’re probably wondering who we are, hmm? No one you know. No one you’ll see again.”
Tsume’s eyes opened, almost violently green and closed to slits against the light. Hot like boiling acid right now. “Let me go.”
Ooooh, and his voice was all sandpaper. Shin smiled. “After we went through all this trouble to catch you?”
“Let me go or I will kill you.”
Shin purred, moved closer, kneeling on top of Tsume’s thighs. “You have to get to me, first, Tsume-catling. Your claw’s over there.” He wiggled his fingers in the direction of their captive’s things a dozen feet away, his short sword lying on top of his folded clothes.
The thing about magcuffs, Shin knew, was that they gave a deceptive amount of play. You could slide them over each other and their opposite pole easily but not really get any leverage when you tried to pull away. He supposed that Tsume had to try, though, and the play of muscles underneath satin-smooth fur was truly a sight to behold as he tried to get a hand up to claw at Shin. Shin mrred appreciatively, rocking a bit against the muscled thighs between his legs. “Mmm? This place used to be a storage warehouse. Had magnetized runners and such under the floor, to help move inventory. Was pretty easy to fiddle the polarity so that they hold the magcuffs instead of palettes. Neat trick, hmm?”
Tsume did not look impressed. He snarled, his face twisting in anger but then smoothing out, cooling, going icy, and that was much more becoming, in Shin’s opinion. Shin leaned down and licked a long line over his captive’s collarbone, down the line of his chest, right down along and off the tip of his cock. That got a response, an outraged hiss, but not before Shin felt soft flesh stir and twitch under his tongue. He smiled to himself, threads colliding in his mind’s eye, twisting and twining, sliding through the timestream, and he found the one he wanted.
Timing, timing, all about timing.
Shin pulled the controller out of a back pocket of his cargoes and dangled it just enough for Tsume to see what it was, then pushed himself up to his feet, keeping his voice cheerful and negligent as he started to walk away. “Want to see what else it can do? Oops.”
There was no sound as the cuffs at Tsume’s right wrist and ankle cut out, but there was scrabbling as he tried to take advantage of it by doing the only thing he could, which was to roll onto all fours. Shin smiled and activated the cuffs again, fiddling a bit with the magnetic runner controls to push the cuffs closer, forcing Tsume to bend a bit more at the waist. “Well. I must say that I like this position even better.”
Tsume, now stuck on all fours, forearms and calves flat against the floor, and looking pissed that HE was the one who got himself there, growled at him through a veil of smoke-colored hair. The sound went right to Shin’s cock, and Shin was pretty sure he could hear Tai’s purring growl out in the darkness. Shin growled back at him and tossed the controller over onto Tsume’s folded clothes. He stepped back, running hands over the smooth expanse of back presented to him, digging his claws in to scratch lightly under the fur. Muscles bunched and clenched under his hands, and Shin purred. “Yesssss…much better.” He circled, out of Tsume’s line of vision. “I think it’s time to begin, hmm?”
Tai growled in agreement. The sight of him stalking forward into the light, naked, cock hard and thick between his legs, was almost enough to distract Shin from their prize. Almost.
Tsume’s head snapped up. He couldn’t see Tai, but he could hear him. Could probably smell him, too. All the clawed gods knew that Shin could. The hot scent of male arousal made his mouth water.
Tai’s eyes were on Tsume, his grin mostly teeth. He popped open a tube, and Shin found himself a good angle to watch. Tsume’s tail lashed, low and violent, but it couldn’t fight as Tai stroked it once, then pulled it to the side, pinning it to Tsume’s hip with one hand as the other dribbled oil over the clenched hole and rubbed it in, pressing inside. Tsume hissed at the penetration, cursing under his breath, but the sound was almost lost under the deep rumble of Tai’s purr.
Shin mrred in agreement. “That’s enough. Not too much. He likes it rough.” He stood, circling back around to sit in front of Tsume, so he could watch both their faces. “Don’t you?”
“Fucking bastard, I’m going to NNNHHHSSSSsssst!” Shin moaned at the look of feral pleasure on Tai’s face as he thrust in hard, and at the look on Tsume’s as he took it. Shin’s hands went to open his fly, reaching in to stroke himself as Tai set up a hard, driving rhythm that rocked Tsume forward with every thrust.
Shin licked his teeth, eyes on Tsume’s mouth. Tai was right. He’d look SO good, taking it from both ends….
The timespace flickered around his peripheral vision, a hundred possible futures converging on the moment. Shin let them wash over him. There was a choice here, but it wasn’t his to make. He slitted his eyes, stroking his cock lazily as possibilities winked out around him. Most of them were the more unpleasant ones anyway. He smiled as Tsume’s thread smoothed, shining unfrayed into the future as Tsume’s growl twisted, almost imperceptibly, upwards into a moan, his cock twitching.
“Yesss….” Shin crawled forward, letting the timestream slip away. They were mostly out of danger, but he got a hand under Tsume’s jaw to keep him from biting anyway, just in case, then licked his way down his neck. His fur tasted of leather and steel and frustration. “That feel good? You look like you’re enjoying yourself, Tsume-catling….”
“I am going to kill you, you fucking bastard….”
“Mmmmmrrrrr?” Shin reached a hand under, to slide it down the silk of Tsume’s chest. “Do tell.”
“…you and the fucker behind me…nngh…”
“Yessss? Fun, isn’t he? Nice and big and splitting you open?” Shin flicked a nipple with a claw, biting at Tsume’s neck.
“NHHHSssss…and the bastard on the other end of the room that I can smell….NNNsss….”
Shin hissed softly in pain as claws dug into his thigh. He pulled his leg away from Tsume’s pinned hands. “Got me. Sloppy of me, hmm?” He laughed, delighted, letting go of Tsume’s jaw and sliding to the side, where he could get underneath him without being in reach of fang or claw. “Mrrr, so pretty.” He scratched over velvet-covered muscle, hand finding the assassin’s cock hard and leaking. “Sssso pretty.” He ran his tongue over the wet head just to taste the man’s bitter salt and hear his growl.
Shin’s hand found Tai’s thigh, felt the flex of it as he drove in, rocking Tsume’s body above him. Tai’s growl was low, hungry, and Shin could tell from the tension there, the cadence of his thrusts that he was close. Shin smiled and teased their captive, whose breath was growing hard and desperate, sounding oh so needy despite the cursing and hissing, voice pitching high as Tai splayed his fingers over Tsume’s hips and drove in, fucking him so hard that Shin could feel it all the way to his toes as Tai came with a roar and Tsume’s cock twitched against Shin’s lips….
Shin wrapped his hand around velvet-covered balls and coaxed them away from Tsume’s body, oh so gently, not letting go until the man writhed, laughing as Tsume trembled and cursed but didn’t come. His promise of nine lives of pain was interrupted with a hitch of breath as Tai pulled out, eyes heavy-lidded and sated. With a pleased mrr, he reached for Shin and pulled him up, wrapping strong arms around him and positioning him behind their frustrated captive, finding the oil and wrapping a slick hand around Shin’s cock so fast that Shin hissed, claws digging into Tai’s forearm until Tai eased up and nuzzled his neck in apology.
Shin licked his lips, leaning in. “What’s the matter, catling? Still hungry? You look it.” He chuckled, hand stripping down Tsume’s tail, which was twitching high and drunkenly over his back. “Can’t even keep your tail down, you want it so much.” Tsume’s hips fit into Shin’s hands. “Not so much as my partner over there, but I think I can give you something good, hmmmMMMMRrrrrrr oh yesssss kitten….”
Slick with come, already stretched wide by Tai’s cock, Tsume felt like fine, wet silk, and Shin’s hiss was half moan. “Ssso good, catling.” In and out and IN hard, to hear the stutter in Tsume’s low growl, to see the toss of his head, feel the clench of him. Shin rocked in hard, to feel that again, then again. He didn’t have Tai’s girth or sheer punishing strength, but when he found the angle that made his kitten nearly choke on his tongue, he used it, claws digging into Tsume’s hips to HOLD him there, right THERE, so he could fuck him good and hard and make him shake and tense and yowl in unwilling pleasure, ass clenching around Shin and forcing him over the ragged edge with a shout of his own, coming so hard that he saw the timestream without even trying, saw a hundred hims fucking a hundred Tsumes in his mind’s eye….
He bit down, hard, on the back of Tsume’s neck, and the assassin came under his teeth.
When Shin came back to himself, he’d already pulled out and was just kneeling there dazedly. Tai was at his back, arms wrapped around him, keeping Shin from falling over as he wiped him down gently with a towel. Shin nuzzled against his partner’s shoulder, floating a bit as he gathered his strength. With a deep breath he pulled away, checking the timestream. Another knot of possibilities coming up. Time to nudge things in the right direction.
Shin stood, stalking only slightly unsteadily to grab a bottle of water from the edge of the light and then around into Tsume’s field of vision. Their captive’s body still trembled, his hair hanging in his face, the floor underneath him splashed with seed. Oh, but he looked pretty all debauched like that. Shin dearly wanted to think that they’d get to play like this again, but the threads were still too tangled to tell. Maybe he’d know in a few minutes.
He squatted down in front of Tsume, reaching out to toss his sweaty hair out of his face. “Was it good for you, too, Tsume-catling?”
Tsume’s voice was rough. “I am going to kill all three of you bastards.”
“Mmmhmm….” Shin tucked Tsume’s hair behind his ears for him, and the other man didn’t even have the energy left to bite at him. “Here.” He twisted open the bottle of water, took a long drink himself and then set the rest down next to Tsume’s hands and backed off. A moment later the mag lock on his right wrist blinked out. Another minute passed before the hand moved, reaching for the bottle.
“You should be grateful, you know,” Shin mused, walking around his side. He ran a hand along the damp fur of Tsume’s back, smiling when muscles rippled underneath the skin, an aborted instinct to attack, even if only with one hand.
Tsume hissed something that might have been a curse on his parentage in response.
“Mmr.” Shin knelt behind him, both hands scratching down the smoky fur, enjoying the feel as Tsume tensed, apparently wondering if he was about to get fucked again. Shin just draped himself over his lower back. “Want to know why? Want to know what would have happened tonight, if we hadn’t picked you up?”
Tsume didn’t hiss, at least. Shin took that as a yes. “You would have gone and done your job. 94% success rate. You’re good. It would’ve taken all of five minutes. Then, 95% chance that you would have walked down to the Claw on 56th street. 85% chance that you would have picked up a big, strapping tom that you don’t know. Who, I might add, would not hold a candle to my partner over there.”
Tai chuckled out in the dark, and Shin flashed a smile in his direction before nuzzling back at soft fur. “81% chance that you two would have gone to one of the upper rooms, where you would have tussled as foreplay, and he would have proceeded to fuck the living daylights out of you. From behind. Like this.” Shin slid along Tsume’s fur, his spent cock twitching again just from the remembered vision. He murmured between tensed shoulderblades. “And just as you came, so pretty, neck arched….” Shin swiped a claw across Tsume’s throat, just enough to scratch. “95% chance he’d slit your throat.”
The body beneath him went still for a long moment. “You’re lying.”
Shin laughed. “Why would I? See, we were just hired to delay you. Keep you from making that appointment that you were supposed to make tonight. Your tom, though…he was hired to kill you.”
Tsume’s head turned, glaring at him through pale hair. “Delay? You call this delaying?”
Shin grinned at him, caught the man’s twitching tail in one hand and set it between his teeth, biting gently. “Worked, didn’t it? Thought we’d have a little fun. Thought you might like it.”
Tsume growled, and Shin laughed, standing, stretching, catching the clothes that Tai tossed to him. He dressed unhurriedly, enjoying Tsume’s glare, then smiled down at him. “You might be able to find us, though we’re good at hiding. But just remember that we didn’t hurt you, hmm? Even though we could have.” Shin trailed a finger along Tsume’s side. “Even showed you a good time, hmm?”
“Fucking bastard,” came the low reply.
Shin laughed. “Maybe. Oh, and by the way? That tom’ll come for you again, since he missed you tonight. Watch out for a tawny tom with blue eyes and one white hand.” He leaned down, for one last nuzzle at the tempting fur at the base of Tsume’s tail. “Wouldn’t want you to die before we can play again, hmm?” A long lick for a last taste, and Shin straightened, sauntering out of the pool of light. “I’ll release the cuffs once we’re out of the room. The door’ll open in another hour. Be safe, catling.”
The water bottle came hurtling at him, missing by inches, and Shin laughed all the way to the door. He pulled the door behind him and hit first the timer lock, then the release sequence on the mag controller before bounding up the stairs.
Tai caught him up as they hit the cool night air, nuzzling at his neck. “Mmm…is he going to come after us?”
Shin draped his arms over Tai’s shoulders, letting himself follow their threads off into the uncertain future. “Hard to say,” he murmured when he got back, nibbling on Tai’s ear. “50% right now.”
Nen snorted. “Those are shitty odds, Shin. He’s an assassin.”
Shin turned his head, smiling over at Nen, nabbing his hand and pulling him over. Nen frowned but went, and Tai and Shin brought him close, nuzzling into his neck. “50% chance he’ll find us. But only 5 that he’ll try to kill us.”
Tai chuckled. “What’s the other 45?”
Shin just purred.