||Chapter 26||
"Cry, Little Sister"

Schuldich was "preoccupied" again.
Or sulking, depending how you looked at it, though brooding was probably closer.
He hadn't had any set destination or plan in mind when he'd left the shop and his teammates behind. He'd just suddenly wanted to be away from them- far away. He dropped by his house long enough to stuff a duffel bag full of a few outfits, then had caught the subway and gotten off at a random station. He hadn't bothered to buy a ticket, opting instead to jump over the wickets. It had earned him stares from others taking the train, but no one had dared say anything to him.
He ended up in Shinjuku, and wandered the streets and alleys for hours, not bothering to go into any of the shops, merely drowning in the dull roar of the crowd, opening his mind and letting their thoughts wash over him so that he couldn't concentrate and couldn't hear himself think. Aya's words, Nagi's words, and memories he wished he could forget- they all sank into the background as the crushing minds of Japan's population pressed against his. He figured the headache was worth it.
He was looking for a place to sleep when he'd sensed the thoughts of his trackers.
Blood hounds. Farfarello had sent some of his peons out searching for him. He'd lost them easily enough, and settled into a cheap, seedy hotel for the night. The next morning they were back; he even caught a glimpse of one of them lurking in the shadows by his hotel as he left. Persistent little fuckers. He'd done an abrupt about-face and stormed up to his room to wait. They'd remained outside for the rest of the morning, making sure he didn't leave.

So as he lay on his back on his balcony railing going through his pack of cigarettes, he wasn't surprised to sense the familiar darkness of Farfarello's mind approaching a couple hours later. He was caught off guard by the mind accompanying him.
What the hell was Aya doing here?
He hadn't bothered to lock his door, and Farfarello walked right in, eye scanning the room before drifting to the open balcony doors and finding him. Aya came in a moment later, looking a little nervous. Schuldich barely even spared them a glance, his expression carefully blank as the two approached him.
Farfarello stood beside him, staring at him in silence while Aya fidgeted behind him. Schuldich continued to gaze up at the sky, blowing smoke rings as he waited for one of them to demand he return to the flower shop.
Fuck them.
Farfarello studied him for a few more seconds before reaching out abruptly and giving him a push. Aya gasped fearfully.
Schuldich thrashed wildly to regain his balance as he nearly fell over the banister, yelling a German curse. Farfarello seized his arm to steady him, then gave a firm tug. Schuldich fell in an ungraceful heap at his feet, howling threats and curses.
Farfarello did not look particuarly impressed as he squatted by the irate telepath and met his glare solemnly. "Baka," he intoned.
Schuldich sat up quickly, baring his teeth in a snarl at the Irishman. "What the fuck is your problem, Farf?" he demanded angrily. "You trying to kill me? Get the fuck out of here," he jerked his chin towards Aya, "and bring this bleeding heart with-"
"Gomen nasai!" Aya blurted, bobbing a quick, deep bow.
Schuldich gaped at her stupidly.
Farfarello continued to stare at him.
Aya straightened, her eyes glistening and her face a mask of sorrow and pained regret. "Gomen nasai," she repeated desperately. "I shouldn't have... I..." She fell down into a crouch beside Farfarello, staring deep into the speechless German's eyes. "I'm sorry for slapping you," she babbled, tears threatening to fall. "I'm sorry I didn't understand why you say such mean things. I'm sorry for.. for..." A single tear slipped free.
"O-oi-" Schuldich sputtered, flicking a frantic glance from her to Farfarello and back again. "What the hell's the matter with you??" He reached up unconsciously to wipe the wetness off her face, but as he did so, he reached out and pawed at her mind as well.
His hand froze in midair, his breath hissing out from behind clenched teeth.
She knew.
That fucking bastard had told her. Told her everything.
He got to his feet in a rush. "Don't you fucking dare," he snarled as she stared up at him in surprise. "Keep your damned pity to yourself, sweetheart. Get out of my face. Both of you." He turned a hot glare on Farfarello as the man rose smoothly to his feet. "And you can tell Crawford he'd better watch his fucking back." He stormed past them, into his room. Farfarello followed, and Aya scrambled to her feet, running after them.
"Please don't be mad at him," she cried. "For telling me, I mean. He said it might help something in the future-"
"Help who?" Schuldich barked over his shoulder, shoving his clothes into his duffel bag. Farfarello watched him for a moment before wandering into the bathroom. Schuldich didn't seem to notice, his narrowed eyes on Aya as he crammed his jacket into the bag. "He doesn't regret it, so he only told you because he thinks it might make something easier for him down the road. If he thought having you come out here to bat your pretty eyes at me would somehow miraculously earn him some kind of god damn forgiveness-"
"But he didn't send me!" Aya cried, rubbing roughly at her eyes in an attempt to stem the sudden, unwanted tears. "And how do you know how Crawford-san feels? You can't hear his thoughts like you can hear ours. What about his father-"
"Thomas was an asshole. So what?" Schuldich yanked the zipper on his bag closed with excessive force and jerked open the bedside table drawer to retrieve his gun. "The apple never falls far from the tree."
"I'm not saying that what he did wasn't wrong," Aya said heatedly, feeling helpless in the face of his seething fury. "I know you can never really forgive him, but-"
"But nothing," Schuldich interrupted in tones of steel, shoving the gun into a side pocket of the bag and sliding the strap over his shoulder.
"Schuldich!" Aya pleaded desperately as he headed for the door. Her eyes stung again. She realized suddenly that if he walked out that door, he might never come back. "You can't go! What about-" she searched desperately for an excuse for the German to stay. "What about Yohji-san? When we get him back, things will be better."
He turned sharply to glare at her from across the room. "What the fuck is with you and Kudou?" he demanded angrily. "If he dies, he dies! Jesus!"
"But you lo-"
"Don't even say it," Schuldich snapped. "Don't be dense. 'Love'? You think I 'love' that slut?" His harsh laugh made her want to cry again. "Don't be naive. The thing between us isn't 'love' by a long shot."
"But you loved before," Aya said- then wished she hadn't.
For the barest instant she thought she saw pain flicker across the older man's face. His eyes seemed to darken slightly before cold anger replaced whatever she had seen. He turned his back on her and yanked the door open. Farfarello appeared in the bathroom doorway, running his fingers over the bristles on the forgotten toothbrush as he watched in silence. Aya realized he wasn't going to prevent the German from leaving.
"Schu-san," she cried as the telepath marched out the door. He was leaving. He wasn't coming back.
Aya tried to imagine life in the flower shop without Schuldich- without his constant teasing and smartass remarks, the brush of his mind against hers, the way he baited her brother and Crawford and the way he laughed so carelessly at everything. Things were hard enough with Yohji and her brother gone; now Schuldich was leaving her as well.
"Schuldich!!" she ran for the door.
The toothbrush hit the ground with a small clatter, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Farfarello draw a knife from his belt with blurring speed.
"The little punks downstairs were shitty bodyguards," a sneering voice said from the balcony. Aya whirled around in shock.
It was the telekinetic from the other day.
She screamed as he glanced her way, hurling her across the room with a single thought. She hit the far wall hard, the breath knocked from her body as pain shot through her in merciless waves.
"Remember me, cunt?" he said with a wicked grin.
She lay in a heap on the ground, choking for breath, her eyes watering as she lifted her head painfully to stare at him in horror. Farfarello snarled and rushed him.
A young girl- younger than Aya -stepped from the balcony to stand beside Hwang. "Let me," she insisted, eyes intent on the Irishman racing towards them. She grinned sadistically and lifted a hand, pointing a single finger at him.
A jagged bolt of lightning shot from her fingertip and slammed into Farfarello, twining about him. His body jerked convulsively, and he fell, his muscles locking as electricity shot through his body.
Aya struggled to get to her feet. "Farfarello!!" she shrieked. The girl at the balcony door was laughing in delight at her handiwork as the Vampire Lord struggled to breathe.
Hwang looked around the room, frowning. "Where's the Prince of Lies? He can't sense us past Souma-sama's shields, but shouldn't he hear all this noise?"
The girl beside him didn't remove her eyes from Farfarello as the electricity around him slowly sparked out, leaving him twitching on the ground, his limbs refusing to cooperate. "He is not stupid," she said with a heavy accent. "He must have taken off as soon as he heard that little bitch over there start screaming." She stepped over to Farfarello and kicked his knife across the room when he reached for it with convulsing fingers. His single golden eye turned upwards to glare at her in pure hatred. She sneered at him. "So nice to see you again, Berserker." She added something in Gaelic in a gleeful tone. Farfarello's fangs flashed as he snarled silently in response. She merely giggled.
Aya pressed her back to the wall, shooting a frightened glance from Hwang to his companion, then to Farfarello. She tried desperately to think of what she could possibly do against the two Gifted.
Hwang tilted his chin towards her, glancing towards his teammate. "I have business with this little shithead. Go ahead and get the Berserker out of here."
"Nein," the girl snapped. "We only came here for this one," she kicked Farfarello's side, "and Schuldig. Just leave her. She is no threat to us. She will die soon enough. Besides, it will be more fun if she runs to tell her little friends what has happened here."
Hwang glared at her furiously, then strode over to Aya with a malicious glint in his eye. She tensed, her hand shaking as she readied herself to use her bugnuk, hidden underneath the jacket's sleeve. He gripped her suddenly with his power, making it impossible to move. "You lucky little bitch," he muttered.
His fist struck her full in the mouth. For a moment she saw stars.
"Hwang! We do not have time for this."
"Yeah yeah," he snapped, releasing his hold on Aya. "Just giving her something to think about..." He backhanded her viciously, his ring slicing her cheek open. The blow knocked her sideways, and she struck the dresser hard with her shoulder before sinking to the floor with a pained cry.
Hwang snickered and turned his back on her.
Rage rushed up to wrestle aside the terror and the pain, and Aya flexed her wrist, the blades on her new weapon snapping out from their sheathes. She swung her arm as Hwang walked past, and sliced deep gouges in his calf.
He howled, stumbling, and the girl by Farfarello started shouting at him irritably in a language Aya didn't recognize.
Hwang managed to get his balance and whirled on her in a fury. He swung his good leg, his boot connecting with her chest so hard it lifted her from the ground and slammed her onto her back. She felt more than heard something inside her snap, and screamed in agony. The coppery taste of blood sat on the back of her tongue from the blood on her face, and she nearly choked on it.
He came for her again, but his partner's impatient shout brought him up short. He hesitated, glaring down at a sobbing Aya before turning sharply and limping over to Farfarello. The two of them argued heatedly as he seized the Irishman in his strong Gift and sailed him out the window.
They followed after him, their harsh words fading, leaving Aya behind to sink into unconsciousness.


Schuldich's bag slipped from his fingers and landed heavily by his feet, unnoticed. His face was grim as he looked around the room, eyes flicking towards the balcony.
He'd heard the shouts and screams as he'd headed downstairs, but realized even as he turned to rush back up that getting himself captured wasn't going to help anyone, much less himself. Besides, he thought irritably, what did he care? He had turned his back on them; let them deal with Nebel and Rosenkreuz themselves.
His eyes landed on Aya, and he breathed out a German curse, striding over to her quickly. Christ, it looked like they'd beat the shit out of her...
He dropped into a crouch beside her, reaching out and seizing her arm to check her pulse. He hesitated a little in surprise at seeing the bugnuk on her slender hand- and the blood on the blades. His mouth twitched in a quick, morbid smile.
She was a Fujimiya all right.
He reached for her other hand instead, and quickly found a pulse. A little thready, but there. Still alive.
He sighed heavily, running a hand fretfully through his loose bangs when they fell in his face. He looked around before returning his gaze to her, his mouth pulled in a frown. Part of him was telling him to leave her. What did it matter if he left her? Let someone else clean up the mess. If someone got there in time, of course. If no one came back to finish it. If she didn't slip into a coma or something again, or die. "Kuso..." he gritted his teeth, drumming his fingers in agitation against his knee as his gaze swept over her, taking in her wounds. A dash of yellow against the denim jacket caught his eye, and he reached out to pluck the cloth sticking out of the pocket.
He held it up, staring at his bloodied bandanna in silence for a long moment.
"..Ch'." He stuffed it into his back pocket, feeling angry with himself as he shifted and slid his arms underneath Aya's limp form. He rose to his feet, her weight hardly noticeable as he arranged her carefully in his arms so that she was tucked securely against his chest with his arms underneath her knees and her shoulders. Her head hung over his arm, and for a moment he was reminded sharply of a similar situation- when Schwarz had taken Aya away from Estet, and away from her brother.
Of course, she hadn't been covered in blood at the time.
He muttered something to himself in German and hurried from the room, crouching briefly to nab his bag.
With his mind he reached out and touched a familiar presence, crushing his resentment and anger with a mental heel. He needed a car. He sure as hell wasn't going to carry an unconscious, battered young girl through the subway.
His face was made of stone as he called out to the last person he wished to see. Crawford. Get your ass over to Shinjuku. Now.


When Crawford arrived, he took one look at Schuldich's burden and brought them straight to a hospital without speaking.
They got her to the emergency room and Crawford calmly introduced himself as her uncle to the nurse. When she asked how his "niece" had gotten so roughed up, he told her she'd been ambushed by thugs in the train station. Since she kept glancing nervously towards the scowling foreigner behind him, he told her Schuldich was a friend from work, and had been the one to save her from the assailants.
While Schuldich sat tapping his foot impatiently in the waiting room, Crawford filled out the paperwork and signed his name for the bill. When he was finished, he seated himself beside his partner and picked up a nearby magazine, flipping through it idly- the picture of calm composure. He hadn't said a word to Schuldich since picking him and Aya up at the hotel, and the telepath was more than happy to keep it that way. He was still burning with resentment at the fact that his teammate had had the gall to tell Aya things about him that were none of her damned business. He felt like breaking Crawford's cane over his bad knee.
Finally, about an hour later, the doctor called for them.
"She's going to be fine," he assured them, wiping his hands absently on a small towel and glancing from one man to the other. "A cracked rib is the worst of it. She's asking for her brother."
"He's away visiting friends," Crawford lied smoothly.
"Ah. Maybe you two should go see her, then." His eyes flicked towards Schuldich. "She asked for you at one point. You're... 'Schu-san', right?"
Schuldich scowled, but before he could respond, Crawford said, "I'm going to call the others and let them know. Go check on her, Schuldich." Ignoring the German's glare, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and headed for the waiting room again. Muttering, Schuldich stuffed his hands in his pockets and followed the doctor to Aya's room.
She was lying in a hospital bed, her face carefully patched. She offered Schuldich a tired, lopsided smile when he entered without knocking. The doctor left them by themselves, heading off to check on other patients.
"Arigato, Schu-san," she said quietly. Her voice was hoarse from screaming. "For coming back."
"Ch'." Schuldich dropped into the chair by her bed, glowering at her and crossing his arms over his chest defiantly. "Don't get your hopes up, Queen Bruise. When Crawdad gets back in here, I'm outta here."
Aya turned her head away to look up at the ceiling. "'Queen Bruise'..?" She chuckled wearily. "I guess I must look pretty bad right now."
"Don't worry. You're always ugly."
Aya started laughing, but then winced and stopped when the action only put strain on her ribs. "Baka.." she breathed.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Aya took a wavering breath, closing her eyes to stem tears. "They took him," she whispered. "They took Farfarello and I.. I couldn't do anything..."
"It looked like you tried," Schuldich pointed out with an arched brow, his gaze flicking towards her hand. He'd taken the bugnuk off before entering the hospital, and stuffed it in his bag to avoid awkward questions from the hospital staff.
"There's nothing you could've done, runt," Schuldich pointed out bluntly, his voice coming out angrier than he intended. "Were you not listening when we told you twerps how Nebel is the only team on our level? You don't have a Gift. Or a gun. You were SOL."
"But Farfarello-"
Schuldich shrugged, glancing towards the window. "Farf can take care of himself. He got away before. Anyway.." he smirked, anticipating her response, "the Jackrabbit is gonna have an epilipsy when he sees you."
Aya turned her head to look at him, eyes a little wide. Her cheeks reddened. "Sch-Schuldich," she protested. The German snickered.
She looked at him sadly for a long moment.
"Please come back," she whispered, barely audible. "We need you in this."
Schuldich stared at her silently, his face expressionless. "No you don't," he said at last.
When Crawford came in a few minutes later, Schuldich got up and walked past the American without a word or a single glance. Crawford turned to watch him go, then turned to Aya. She turned her face away from him, squeezing her eyes shut when they began to sting again.
Crawford stood watching her try to hold back tears and squashed his pride with an irritated sigh. "Nothing is ever easy with you, is it, Schuldich?" he murmured. Then he turned and headed after the telepath.


Author's Notes: title is taken from the theme song of "The Lost Boys".
*sighs* My head is pounding. This is all Schu's fault. >_< Mrrgh.. *slinks off*

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