Part Seven: Bloody Favors

    "You want me to sleep with Farfarello."

    Yohji nodded once, clinging tight to his confidence as Schuldich stared back at him with that blank expression that he could not read. From a man whose face was usually in a scornfully mocking twist, it was unnerving. "Even if just once..."

    "Are you that afraid for your life?"

    "That's not what this is about." Yohji shook his head. "This is about neglect."

    "Neglect," Schuldich breathed. "Neglect. It's as if you're filing a case for some abused animal."

    Yohji gave a faint shrug. "It's a lot alike."

    He and Schuldich gazed at each other for a long moment, silence stretching in between them. Yohji struggled to keep a calm face as he stared back at Schuldich. Finally Schuldich uttered a sharp bark of laughter and sipped from his cup. "You're serious," he said, very simply, as he tilted his head to one side to study Yohji's face.

    Yohji exhaled slowly. "Yes."

    Schuldich shook his head, laughing softly to himself. "There is something wrong with every one of you," he declared quietly, setting his drink aside and leaning back in his bench. "You think _we're_ messed up..."

    "Schuldich..." Was he trying to change the subject _again_? Frustration spiked sharply in Yohji's chest, but before he could say anything else, Schuldich made a lithe gesture with his hand and crossed his arms over his chest.

    "You want me to sleep with Farfarello." Amusement danced in jade eyes. "I'll consider it."

    A fiery wave of relief and gratitude washed through Yohji's veins and he gave a quiet sigh, closing his eyes. Why did he even care? Sure, there was the similarities between the situations of Asuka and Schuldich, but still...Farfarello was Farfarello. ~I don't give a damn about you, Farfarello. I hate you,~ he thought, almost as if convincing himself. ~You're a psychopath. You have no mercy. You aren't human.~

    ~And yet...You can feel. Love? Lust? I don't know. Maybe I don't care.~

    ~Maybe I do.~


    He opened his eyes, detangling himself from confusing thoughts he wasn't ready to analyze, when he heard Schuldich rise. Before he could stand to follow, Schuldich took Yohji's chin in his hand, leaning over to bite lightly at Yohji's ear. Yohji couldn't help but shiver at the feel of the man's breath on his ear. "You want me to consider sleeping with Farfarello. A favor asked is a favor owed."

    Yohji tried to turn his head to look at the man, but Schuldich's hand kept his head steady.

    "I want _you_ to consider sleeping with Bugnuks."


    "Irasshai~!" Omi turned towards the door to the shop, shifting the heavy pot he was holding. "Ah, Reichi-san! Good morning!"

    The girl offered him a faint smile, stepping timidly towards him. Wide eyes took in the shop as if she had never been here before, or if something about it frightened her. Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest as if hugging herself. Omi frowned faintly, wondering what was bothering her. He grunted as he set the pot down, then moved to meet her halfway, brushing dirt from his arms. "Reichi-san, are you all right?"

    "A-aa." She offered a brief smile before darting her eyes around again. "Ano...Is...Is Yohji-dono here today?"

    "Ah...No, Reichi-san, I'm sorry."

    Where _was_ Yohji? Nagi had mentioned in an aside that Schuldich was stalking him, but Omi hadn't really thought Yohji would give in to him. Yohji was one of the biggest womanizers in Japan, or so he made himself out to be. The unimaginable had been realized when neither of the two men had returned home last night. He didn't think Aya had noticed, but Ken certainly had.

    "O-oh." She hesitated for a long moment, started to turn away, then turned back. "Is he out with Schuldich-san?"

    Omi racked his brain. What did she know about the two? "Yes, Reichi-san." Her face fell, and he hastened to explain. It was uncomfortable to lie to her. "They're good friends, you know. They don't get to see each other often since Schuldich-san works at a job that requires a lot of traveling."

    She raked her bangs out of her face with a trembling hand. "Yes, I've...heard." She sighed quietly before squaring her shoulders. "I suppose I'll buy a bouquet for them." She peered at him, as if trying to decide whether or not to say her next words. Omi hoped she would, and she did. "Schuldich-san was saying something about today being special to them..." She trailed off, waiting for confirmation.

    Omi digested this in silence. What a mess that German was trying to make! No doubt Yohji would not appreciate his reputation getting squashed. He put on a warm smile, reaching out to grip her shoulder reassuringly. "Reichi-san, don't think anything of what Schuldich-san says." She gazed at him in incomprehension. "He loves to play games with people. If he said anything, that's all he was doing- causing trouble. There's nothing between him and Yohji-kun."

    She frowned faintly at his words. "Nothing?"

    "Nothing," Omi told her.

    Her face cleared and she bounced forward to throw her arms around Omi's neck. "Thank you, Omi. I had been so worried..."

    Omi hugged her back before she stepped away. "If you see Yohji-dono, will you tell him I'm looking forward to tonight?" She flicked him a last look of mingled happiness and embarrassment before turning and leaving the store. Omi watched her go. As soon as her form had disappeared out of view, he sighed, shoulders sagging.

    ~I don't understand...~

    ~But I'll trust you, Yohji-kun.~


    Yohji pushed open the door to the shop, stepping in. Schuldich followed and closed the door behind them. As he had done yesterday, Yohji paused just inside to listen for any sounds. This time it was not silence that greeted him, but two voices raised in anger. He frowned, starting forward. He had expected everyone else to be in bed already...Before he could make it to the den, he heard the too easily recognizable sound of flesh hitting flesh- followed by a thud.

    Moments later, Aya stormed past him, arms crossed tightly over his chest as he went. Yohji turned to follow his progress with his eyes, smouldering violet eyes and a mouth thinned to a hard line burning in the backs of his eyes. ~What...?~

    "Damn it..."

    He turned at the muffled curse and continued on his way to the den. Ken was inside, lying on his side on the ground. His hands were clapped over his face and blood was seeping through the spaces between his fingers. Startled, Yohji dropped to his friend's side, gripping one shoulder lightly while turning Ken's face towards him with the other hand. "Ken? Shit, Ken, what happened to you?"

    As if it wasn't obvious...The memory of Aya's violent expression danced in his mind.

    Ken opened his eyes at Yohji's touch, then averted his gaze at the question. "Nothing," he muttered, barely audible through his hands.

    Yohji eased Ken into a sitting position. Taking Ken's wrists in his hands, he gently pried the boy's hands away to get a good look at Ken's face. Well...Aya sure whacked him a good one. He gingerly poked the wounded flesh, earning a yelp and a shove from the younger boy. "Don't _touch_ it," Ken snapped.

    "I'm making sure it's not broken," Yohji told him, swatting Ken's hand away impatiently. "Some gratitude for a teammate's concern..."

    Ken sighed heavily and tried to rub the blood from his upper lip with the back of his hand before remembering that his nose was hurting. He winced and settled for lightly touching his nose. "Is it?"

    "Nah." Thank goodness. "Schuldich...?"

    "_You're_ the nursemaid."

    Yohji flicked Schuldich a narrow-eyed look. "Is it so much to ask you to get a warm washcloth?"

    Schuldich tsk-tsked, wagging a finger. "You've already asked a favor. Don't get comfortable with asking me for things. Besides...Call it an opportune moment." With a final cheshire grin, Schuldich turned and sauntered from the room. Yohji could hear his footsteps on the stairs.

    Yohji sent a dirty look after him before turning briefly to Ken, easing the boy until he was leaning forward. "Just hold your nose shut with your fingers, all right? I'm going to get something to clean up the mess you've made."

    "_I_ didn't make it on purpose," was Ken's sullen retort as he obeyed. He grimaced as he breathed slowly through his mouth. "Ug...The taste of blood."

    Yohji grinned, pushing himself to his feet and moving towards the kitchen. He waited by the sink until the water was hot before mixing cold to get a good temperature, testing it with his fingertips before getting half of a washcloth wet. He flicked off the faucets and made his way back to find Ken had moved to the couch and was flopped against one end of it, head still tilted forward and fingers in place. He settled himself on the ground in front of the couch and offered the rag.

    "Do you want me to do it or can you clean yourself up?"

    Ken plucked the rag away and began mopping clumsily at his face. After watching for several moments, Yohji snagged the cloth back. "Give me that before you hurt yourself further," he said, exasperated. As he began to wipe up the smears of blood, he shook his head. "He got you good, Ken. What the hell did you do to him?"

    "We were just talking," Ken said vaguely.

    "Just talking?" Yohji arched a brow at the boy. "I've 'just talked' with Aya lots of times and he hasn't ever hit me for it." He paused, considering this. "Well, he did once."

    Ken was silent for several moments before shrugging slightly, eyes searching Yohji's face. "I was talking about the disbanding."

    Yohji paused, meeting Ken's gaze. "That was a dangerous thing to do without back-up."

    Ken glanced away. He had never been good at hiding his thoughts or feelings, and Yohji could see now how troubled the younger boy was. Boy? Perhaps. Ken was more boy than Omi was, at times. "It's just...Tomorrow the deal is off, you know? Omi is going to be heartbroken. And me...Maybe you don't give a damn, but I can't keep killing forever." His eyes dropped to his free hand and he flexed his fingers, watching imaginary bugnuks slide through the air. "I can't keep doing it. I'm not an assassin. I'm I'm just Ken. I play soccer."

    Yohji studied Ken's face in silence. There was a hopeless yearning in Ken's voice that he rarely heard. When he'd declared to be on Aya's side at the beginning, it was because he was used to this line of work. This seeking and delivering justice was what he did. It fit him just as it fit Aya. But Omi and Ken...He hadn't paused to consider them then. Without Nagi's presence, Yohji wondered if Omi would have even bothered rooting to disband. The kid had been raised by Kritiker. He had his life in reverse order from his friends. The rest of Weiß got to experience life before being sucked to darkness. Now he was reaching for the light he'd never seen. And Ken...There was no way Ken could last here. He could see it now, could see the way Ken would forever falter.

    No, Ken was not an assassin.

    He turned Ken's face to his, absently noticing that he'd dropped the rag at some point. Long fingers gently cupped the boy's chin as he searched Ken's eyes. That flare of hope and energetic life he was so used to seeing was gone, extinguished by the fight he and Aya had had.

    "No worries, Ken," Yohji told him quietly, seeking to reassure the boy. When he saw Ken's faint frown, he continued. "Schuldich told me that Aya has to cave in sometime. Schwarz isn't so ready to relinguish everything they have now. Let Crawford deal with Aya. He'll know what to say."

    "But Aya's so..."

    Yohji smiled, pressing a finger to Ken's lips. "Trust Schuldich on this one. I'd side with a telepath. Wouldn't you?"

    Ken blinked, considering that, pausing with his fingers wrapped around Yohji's from where he'd been moving to take the man's hand away. "I guess so..." He mulled over this, then brightened, smiling against Yohji's finger. "If he's right and Aya gives in...We'll be free, Yohji." Yohji chuckled at the choice of words, dropping his finger with Ken's hand still attached. Ken's hope was returning, and with a new brightness that could have matched Omi's genkiness. "We can go anywhere, do anything!"

    Yohji couldn't think of a good response for that, so he settled for a simple "Hai."

    /His ability to bounce back at such vague words is almost sickening./

    ~Be nice, Schuldich.~

    /It's not in my job requirements or genes to be nice, Kudou./

    ~I've noticed.~

    Ken's good humor had returned enough for him to rake Yohji with a teasing glance. "I think Yohji is developing a nice side," he mused, grinning.

    "Don't get too comfortable with it."

    "Why?" Ken laughed. "I like this side."

    Yohji made as if to swat him and Ken laughed again, bringing up his arms to shield his face. As he did so, he banged his arm into his nose and yelped, clapping his hands to his nose. This time Yohji laughed, pushing himself to his feet. "Hopeless, Ken. You're hopeless."

    Ken sighed in response and stood. He lightly touched his nose and smiled briefly when he realized it had stopped bleeding despite the knock into it. Yohji studied Ken's face as the boy stretched. Consider sleeping with Ken?

    It was strange, to try and analyze Ken in this new light. Ken was his friend, his teammate. Ken was the clumsy one, the sporty one, the one who loved kids. Ken was a world of his own.

    "Crawford's in the kitchen. He probably saw the argument coming and decided to wait until it was over. He'll need the den to sleep." Ken gestured for Yohji to follow and headed towards the doorway. "I guess we should go to bed."

    /Yes, I guess you should./


    Ken hadn't been waiting for a response and was already halfway up the stairs. He tossed a farewell over his shoulder. "Oyasumi, Yohji!"

    /What a wasted chance.../

    Yohji didn't even bother to answer but sighed and started upstairs.

Part 8