Part Three: Nightmares and Flowers

    Schuldig didn't remember falling asleep, but he definitely remembered the waking up part. He sat up so fast he fell off the bed, a strangled shout escaping him. "Nein!!!" He landed painfully on the floor, eyes darting around wildly. Where...? Right. With the Weiß. He took a deep breath, leaning back against the wall. His entire body ached now, especially his rear. He tucked his legs up against him, bringing the blanket with him and hugging his knees to his chest. ~I knew I didn't want to fall asleep.~

    He shivered violently. ~Mir ist kalt...Hilf mir, Nagi...~

    He sifted through the thoughts swirling through his mind before idly searching for his three team mates. Farfarello was reciting bible verses again. A half-exasperated, half-fond smile briefly curved Schuldig's mouth. Nagi was next, thinking bitterly about how all of the computers he had taken for granted were destroyed. Schuldig considered prodding him about it and changed his mind. He wasn't in the mood.

    ~I must really be sick if I don't feel up to nagging Nagi,~ Schuldig observed wryly, turning his mind in Crawford's direction. The pre-cog was reading the Wall Street Journal. Schuldig sighed, tilting his head back. The door opened. Yohji entered, holding a tray. He looked from the bed to Schuldig.

    "You know, the bed is probably more comfortable than the floor."

    Schuldig caught Yohji's thought- ~What was that yelling about?~. Inwardly he flinched. He smirked at Yohji. "Abandoning the shop to play nursemaid?"

    Yohji gave a shrug. "I don't mind. There aren't any girls down there over eighteen."

    Schuldig laughed softly, but his laughter was bitter. "Does anyone buy that story, Kudou?"

    Yohji blinked, confused. "I don't understand what you mean." He came around to where Schuldig was sitting, crouching in front of him and extending the tray.

    "You have no interest in girls, really, yet you chase them endlessly." Schuldig smirked at the other man. He eyed the plate. Nothing on it looked edible. "What is that supposed to be?" He raised an eyebrow at it.

    Yohji flicked his hair out of his face with a hand, amused but acting stung. "I made that, you know."

    Schuldig continued to gaze at the grayish-white mass. He wasn't really that hungry, but something about the food caught his attention. If he looked hard enough, it appeared to be a face...with gray and white hair. Taketori's face. Bile rose violently in him and in seconds he was away from the wall, past Yohji, and down the hall in the bathroom, retching into the sink. All that came up was stomach acid, harsh and bitter.

    ~I hate him I hate him I hate him!!~ He retreated a step, turning on the water and raising his hand to his mouth. He pressed the backside of it against his lips, holding his other hand against his stomach. Yohji appeared in the doorway behind him. His thoughts were both confused and concerned.

    ~What did I ever do to earn your concern, Weiß?~ The thought was as bitter as his bile. ~We're enemies, remember?~ He turned off the sink, turning around and planting a hand nonchalantly on his waist. His smirking mask was back in place.

    "I guess I'm not hungry."

    "I guess not." Yohji gave a slight shrug. "The food probably would have killed you, anyway." It was an attempt at a joke, and Schuldig was confused by it at first, then angered.

    ~Is your pity towards what happened so great that you are ignoring the past?~ Schuldig thought angrily. ~Don't pity me. I hate you. I'll kill you as soon as the alliance drops. I'll break you slowly.~ He moved away from the sink, every step painful. He collected his hair into a fist, breathing in. Phew. He needed a shower. That thought set off a stab of urgency in his chest. ~I need to get clean. Gott...I need to get clean NOW.~

    Schuldig winked at Yohji, jerking his thumb at the shower. "I'm going to borrow that."

    Yohji hesitated for only the barest of instances. "The towels are under the sink." He left. Schuldig closed the door behind him and locked it, dropping to his knees and yanking out the nearest towel. Stabs of urgent pleading ran through him. ~Have to...get clean...Get rid of his filth. I can still see the filth _they_ left years ago.~ He shed himself of his pants, starting the water and turning it on so it was almost too hot to stand.

    For several minutes he just stood there, letting the hot water crash into him. Then he was scrambling for the soap.

    ~I will never be clean...~


    Yohji sighed, looking around his room to make sure nothing had been moved by the German. Nothing seemed out of place, thankfully. He sighed, laying down on his bed. He'd spent the night on the couch in the basement, and it had been very uncomfortable. Why was he feeling so sympathetic towards the other twenty-two year old? He hated that he felt himself softening to the man. Schuldig was a bastard and didn't deserve his concern, nor his aid. But then, not even he had deserved to be raped. No one deserved that. How had it happened, anyway? Schuldig was a telepath, and could move with lightning speed. He shook his head, rolling over. He'd probably never know.

    He paused, smelling the pillow. ~What is this?~ The smell where Schuldig's head had lain was a clean but pungent fragrance. He'd expected the man to smell as bad as his reputation. ~Interesting.~ he sniffed again before sitting up. The German was going to need some clothes. Whose would fit him better- Yohji's or Aya's? Ken was obviously too short. He gave a shrug. Aya would kill him if he let the telepath wear one of his outfits. He rummaged around in his dresser, picking out a casual outfit that he wouldn't mind lending the man and laid it on the bed, then sat beside it to wait.

    He lit a cigarette, smoking as he rested. His eyes strayed to the clock. Minutes passed. ~How long is he going to take?~ he wondered as Schuldig's shower stretched on past thirty minutes. ~He's going to take up all the hot water.~ Irritated, he left the room and tried the bathroom door knob. Locked. "Schuldig?" he called, knocking. No reply. He knocked louder. Steam was coming out from under the door.

    /It hurts./ The words were dead, detached and quiet.

    Yohji blinked. ~Huh?~ He tried the knob harder. Something was wrong. Damn- how was he going to get in? He hit the door with a fist. ~Hold on, Schuldig.~ He hurried into Omi's room. Screwdriver...screwdriver... Omi had been fixing his crossbow the other day. A quick search found the tool on Omi's dresser. Armed with it, he returned to the offending door. Within moments the doorknob was off and the door opened. Steam rushed out, so thick and hot that Yohji almost choked on it. He entered the bathroom, jerking aside the curtain. Schuldig was sitting down under the spray, his knees hugged to his chest. His skin was red and rubbed raw in some places. Yohji reached for him only to jerk his hand back when it was burned under the hot spray. He swore, quickly turning the water off.

    "You trying to boil yourself?" he demanded, kneeling by the tub.

    Schuldig tilted his head slowly to one side, jade eyes fixed on the tub but seeing nothing. "It wouldn't come off." He eyes focused and he tried to smirk. It faltered badly. "Leave me alone."

    Yohji paused, then turned and grabbed the towel the telepath had laid out. He wrapped it around Schuldig's huddled form. It was unnerving to see the man brought so far down from his usual daredevil state. Suddenly Schuldig lashed out, cracking his fist against Yohji's cheekbone. The playboy hadn't been expecting it and slammed backwards into the cabinet under the sink. "What?!"

    "Verflucht! I don't need your pity," Schuldig snarled.

    ~He knows he went too far.~ Yohji rubbed his cheek. Part of him wanted to leave. Schuldig didn't deserve his concern. He'd just been trying to help. He took a deep breath to calm the anger swirling in his chest, returning to the tub. Schuldig glared daggers at him, wary of the way Yohji occupied his thoughts with reciting names of flowers. He didn't want Schuldig to hear what he was going to do. So the telepath was surprised when Yohji reached in and lifted him out, one arm around his shoulders and the other tucked under his knees. His skin was burning hot to the touch. Yohji raised an eyebrow at him as the man flailed once- an expected struggle in the man's startled state. "Roasted German for dinner, hm?" Schuldig glowered at him. Yohji had been expecting a smart remark as a reply. He sighed. Obviously the man didn't feel up to fighting.

    Yohji carried Schuldig back to his bedroom. ~I seem to be doing this a lot nowadays...Carried him out of the building, into the shop, and now out of the bathroom.~ Schuldig was lost in his thoughts and ignored him. Yohji sat him down on the bed, pointing to the clothes.

    "You can borrow those. I'm going to take my own shower, as long as you didn't use up the hot water."

    Schuldig gave a funny little smirk. "You can't say I didn't try."

    Yohji gave a nod, strangely heartened by the expression on the man's face, and left the room. He paused after picking up the door knob and screwdriver to gaze into the mirror. He touched his cheek gingerly with the end of the screwdriver. That was going to bruise. Good thing he didn't have a date that night. He smiled wryly. ~When was the last time you had a date, Yohji? At least four weeks ago. You should be ashamed of yourself.~ He turned away and knelt to fix the door. He had the afternoon off since he'd put more time into the shop yesterday then the others, but he wasn't going to leave until Omi got home from school. He wanted to hear how the genki boy had done on his exam. Omi had abandoned his studies last night to help Yohji.

    Yohji frowned lightly. Why had Omi come? He had said something offhandedly about how he'd had a bad feeling about it. That must have been one heck of a bad feeling for him to follow it through. Yohji gave a small shrug. He shouldn't question good fortune. Without the boy he would be dead and the two Schwarz...Yohji froze as something occured to him Omi had killed the telekinetic. That meant the Group was going to want a replacement. The only person who fit that slot was Nagi.

    He tested the knob. Fixed. After his shower he could figure out what Aya thought of Nagi's role in this. All in all the situation didn't look bright. Weiß was allied with Schwarz, a powerful group was out on a hunt, and the most powerful of their new allies- in Yohji's opinion- had tried to boil himself in the shower. This was looking better all the time.


    Omi sighed as he shoved his books into his backpack. Well...That exam grade would probably not be good. He sat back in his chair, waiting for the rest of class to be finished and the bell to ring. The substitute professor, Aitstetsi-sensei, came over to his desk and crouched beside it. "How do you think you did?"

    Omi smiled weakly. "Not good, sensei."

    The young man shook his head in amusement. "That's what you get for abandoning a study session, Tsukiyono-san."

    Omi bit back another sigh. The substitute had been so kind to offer him that late night study session. Aitsetsi-sensei was a kind, quick-witted man, and his explanation of the chapter had been easier to understand than the regular teacher's. They hadn't gotten very far, though, before Omi had begun to feel distinctly uneasy about Yohji's mission. His discomfort had grown until he couldn't stand it anymore and had excused himself. A good thing he had! Yohji could have been killed. "Gomen, sensei."

    "Please, call me Makino." The black-haired man smiled warmly.

    Omi smiled back. "Then please call me Omi."

    "It's a deal, then." Makino's amber eyes sparkled with good humor and amusement. "I must warn you, though, the next lesson builds off of what this exam was on." He laughed softly when Omi groaned. "If you would like to finish the study session sometime, just let me know. I'm free anytime you are." He put a small paper with his address, phone number, and e-mail address on it on Omi's desk.

    "Arigato, Makino-kun." Omi folded the paper up and slipped it in his pocket. Another student raised her hand and Makino left. Omi propped his elbow on his desk, using his palm as a chin rest. He gazed at his desk, thoughts straying towards Nagi. For some reason he felt compelled to trust the younger boy, which was odd considering that they had been enemies until recently. Perhaps it was the fact that the boy was so young. Maybe the boy's powers were the alluring thing. Omi considered it, then dismissed it when he realized what it was. Nagi's eyes.

    Nagi had beautiful eyes, and Omi was not ashamed to admit it. They were young but wise, telling the tale of a past of hurt. They were a doorway into the soul of the forgotten child who had been so wronged by the world supposed to nurture it. His eyes were strong yet gnetle, hard yet soft, closed but open. Omi had never seen anything like it. Ken's eyes were kind and tinged with naive confusion. Yohji's were playful and full of good humor. Aya's eyes were mixed anger, pain, and sharp observation. Schuldig's were cold and mocking. Farfarello's eye gleamed with insanity, and Crawford's were cruel and calculating. But Nagi...A hand slapped down on his desk, jarring Omi out of his thoughts and making him jump. His eyes shot up, startled, and he flushed for some reason.

    Makino grinned down at him. "The bell rang, Omi-san."

    Omi looked around. Indeed, the classroom was empty. He felt his cheeks grow hotter. "O-oh," he managed to stutter, climbing to his feet. ~I look like an idiot!~

    Makino made his way back to his desk, throwing a playful taunt over his shoulder. "Daydreaming about a hot girl?"

    "No, I was just thinking." ~So why do I feel so guilty about it?~ "Sayonara, Makino-kun." He pulled his backpack over his shoulder and hurried from the room. His footsteps in the hall were quiet, covered up by his schoolmates' chatter. He raised a hand to one cheek. ~Why did I blush? There's nothing wrong with thinking about Nagi. He's an ally now. He doesn't seem to mind my presence, either. In fact...~ He opened his locker and paused, lips tightening into a confused frown. Why did this just now occur to him? No wonder Manx and Aya had looked at him funny.

    ~Nagi called me Omi.~

    He switched books and closed his locker, calling cheerful goodbyes to his friends. His mind, however, was on the telekinetic boy. ~The rest of Schwarz calls us by our family names. Nagi did that, too, after he was reminded what they were. But even after he heard Crawford call me Tsukiyono, he called me Omi. That's interesting.~ He brightened. ~Maybe it's a sign of trust!~ Heartened by this, he hurried towards Ken's bike. He'd traded shifts with the older assassin last weekend in exchange for the permission to use the motorcycle. He slipped into the seat, turning it on and hurry home.

    ~I'm so glad it's Friday,~ he thought with a happy sigh. ~I can take a break from school and concentrate more on this new problem Manx and Schwarz presented us. I wonder if Nagi found out anything else that could help us.~ He pulled in back of the shop, giving a wry smile when he realized he could hear the girls' chatter all the way back here. He hooked the motorcycle up in the store room, eyes flicking to the still Irishman. Whatever Crawford had given him had worked miracles. The man was limp in his chains, his single eye closed.

    ~That doesn't make him any less terrifying,~ a small voice spoke up in his head, and he hurriedly scooted past the man, never taking his eyes off him. He slipped through the door silently into the shop, grabbing his apron as he went and fastening it on while he closed the door with his foot. The bell jingled above the crowd.

    "Irasshai!" he called cheerfully, moving into the crowd. Ken and Aya looked up, and a smile exploded across Ken's face.

    "Oh, great, Omi, you're home!"

    Instantly three girls attached themselves to Omi's elbows. "Omi-chan! I need some pretty flowers! Will you find me some?"

    "Omi-chan, which flowers do you think I should buy?"

    "Omi-chan, please pick me a bouquet!"

    Omi smiled warmly at them, hearing their giggles. "One at a time, please. I can't get you the best flowers if I try all three at once." After an exchange of glares, two girls finally fell silent. Omi headed over to where the flowers were growing, his small swarm still glued to him. Two more girls added onto the bunch, and were hotly informed that they had to wait in line.

    ~And so begins another hectic workday...~

    Two hours rushed by in what seemed like minutes- very cramped, stressful minutes. Omi gave a slight sigh of relief as the schoolgirl crowd began to thin out, until a delighted shriek went up. "Do you work here too?" Omi turned to look and saw that Nagi had been cornered. His face was expressionless but his eyes were a little wider than they were supposed to be.

    "N-no," he answered them.

    "Buying flowers for your girlfriend?" another girl asked eagerly.


    Ken laughed. "Looks like he's got himself a fan club."

    "If you're not going to buy anything, get out." Aya sent at the group. They pouted, but the only way they could stay to flirt with the new boy was to buy something. When they turned to find anything to latch on, Nagi slipped out, vanishing into the back. A wail went up when they realized their prey was gone. After that, most wandered out with their bouquets and baskets. Finally all of the schoolgirls were gone. Ken let out a sigh of relief, wiping his forehead in an exaggerated gesture of relief.

    "From here on out it should be easy!"

    "I didn't realize this shop was so popular," a quiet voice observed.
    Omi turned to see Nagi. "It's wildest on school days." He gave a shrug. "Where is everyone?"

    Ken frowned thoughtfully. "Yohji and Schuldig are upstairs, Crawford's downstairs with Manx and Birman, and Farfarello is still in the back." He shuddered.

    "Did you find anything useful today?" Omi asked, checking the moisture of soil in an iris batch. Hm, it needed just a little more. He went over to the sink to get a cupful of water, distributing it carefully among the roots. As he worked he looked over to the others for their answer.

    "Well, Yohji pointed out something interesting that we overlooked," Ken said, glancing at Aya. The man was busy emptying quarter rolls into the cash register, so he continued. "You killed the Group's telekinetic man when you and Yohji saved Nagi and Schuldig. That means that besides not having a telepath, they are now short on the gifts in Nagi's department."

    Omi frowned. "Meaning they're going to want Nagi, too."


    "I'd rather die." The words, though quiet, were vehement. Nagi's eyes were narrowed, defiant anger lurking in them. Omi found himself trapped in those eyes. There was pain, fear, but most of all that look that said "I won't give in". Nagi glared at each of them in turn to make sure what he said was clear, turning on Omi last. Silence stretched between the two schoolboys. Something warm seemed to seep through Omi's chest, odd but not altogether uncomfortable.

    He smiled gently. "They won't get you, Nagi-kun. They'll have to go through all of us first."

    Faint surprise but still wariness was his response. "When this is over, Weiß and Schwarz-"

    Omi wouldn't let him finish, knowing what he was going to say. ~Why do I feel such a strong urge to protect Nagi? He _is_ Schwarz. Never forgive the bad ones...Right?~ "Don't worry about the future. That's Crawford's job. Not yours."

    Nagi frowned lightly, puzzled but accepting the answer. "I will never understand you, Omi."

    "That only makes things more interesting, ne?" The bell jingled and Omi spun around, a cheerful smile lighting up his face. "Irasshai!"

    They took care of the customer and then Aya spoke up. "We have nothing to do until Manx and Birman get us more information. There are several gaps in what Kritiker has collected on the Group- including no photograph on the empath."

    "If nothing's going on tonight, my teacher offered to redo the study session." Omi ran a hand through his bangs, grinning. "I didn't do well on that exam today because of last night." Although he had the whole weekend to do it, he'd prefer to learn the mathematics before what he already knew was gone, just to cement it all in place. And that way he would have Saturday and Sunday to concentrate on the Group.

    Yohji ruffled his hair affectionately. "You regret saving my life?" he teased.

    Omi stuck his tongue out. "Who ever said I went to save _you_?" he countered playfully.

    Yohji put a hand dramatically over his heart. "Stung! And I even put my date back so I could welcome you home." He shook his head in mock-pity.

    "You and your dates," Ken sighed. "Who'd you get this time?"

    Yohji pushed back his sunglasses, willing to give out every single detail of the upcoming night. Omi listened to the man go on and on about his date, smiling and shaking his head now and then. ~You are such a playboy, Yohji. Girls are never going to be serious about you if you keep this up.~

    Yohji finally finished his epic and stretched. "Well, I should be going. Someone keep an eye on Schuldig while I'm gone, ne?" Waving a hand airily, he left the shop.

    Aya shook his head in disgust. "Omi, get more ribbon from the back. We're out of the blue kind."

    "Un!" Omi nodded and slipped into the back. He paused as he closed the door behind him, though, when he found a yellow eye fixed intently on him. Farfarello was awake. His heart sped up and he pressed his back against the door, watching the man warily. Farfarello's gaze on him was fierce. Omi began to inch away from the door, moving sideways so he could keep his eyes on the madman. "Aren't you supposed to be sleeping?"

    Farfarello lifted a hand, displaying the shackles. "Hurt God with me, pretty boy."

    The shackles were off.

    ~Oh God...~

    Omi glanced around for a weapon to defend himself with. This was not good. The man took a step towards him. "Stay away from me," he ordered, but it came out a little more strained than he wished it would. He wondered whether or not he could make it to the door and inside without getting caught. Once there he could always get Nagi to hold back the psycho. The Irishman started towards him, humming to himself, and picked up a pair of shears along the way. Omi's eyes widened. "We're _allies_ now, Farfarello! You're not allowed to hurt us!"

    A golden eye blazed with manic delight. "God will scream over your death." With that, he lunged. "YIYIYIYIYIIII!"

Part 4