Part Fourteen: Left With Nothing
“Yeah, well those bastards can kiss my ass,” I toss over my shoulder at Nagi. He nods in perfect agreement and follows behind me down the hall. Jesus, every step hurts. I really did a number on my back today…It was that damn rain. Mitomatsu slipped and went down as he was going up the ramp to unload our latest ship, and I was behind him. We almost fell into the water, but ended up bouncing and rolling onto the rubber mats. My coworker landed on me and I hit someone else on the way down; luckily for them someone else caught them as they started falling. But damn, my _back_. I landed in a twisted position because of the way we had fallen, and it took three people to help me get back to my feet. My supervisors don’t know I have a back injury, so they panicked over what might have happened to make it so hard for me to get up. Mitomatsu was all apologies- that bastard only bruised his ass- but I wasn’t really in the state of mind to either accept them (yeah right) or snap at him. I was too busy concentrating on breathing through clenched teeth.
The supervisors sat with me for a long time as everyone else returned to work. Kawamura, the second in command, only wanted to know if I was capable of getting back up. He wanted all hands to be working. I changed his mind pretty quick when I stood up and almost collapsed again. They had to catch me before I hit the ground, and they ended up sending me home early. They told me to go straight to the hospital to get my back looked at and to let them know as soon as possible what was wrong and how long it would take to heal. I skipped the hospital- there’s no point. I have Nagi, anyway. He’s dealt with my back enough that he knows how things are supposed to feel. If he thinks something in my back feels really wrong, then I’ll go see a doctor.
Kawamura’s thoughts as I left was that that meant I probably wouldn’t be available to work overtime this weekend. That’s what I’ve just told Nagi. He looked horrified for a second, as if he actually thought I would agree to working my weekend away again. Hell no…Once or twice a month is all I can stand. And right now, it takes all I have to stand, period. Every step I take sends pain up my spine.
Now he follows me to my room, as I prefer my bed over the couch when he checks me out for something this serious. I push my door open and take a painful step in.
Ran is perched on Farfarello’s dresser, wrapped up in the gray sweater I got for my lover. He is asleep, his book to one side of him and his head tilted to rest against the window. The overhead light is off- he must have been reading to the outside light. The sky is gray, so it casts a light glow over his already pale skin.
But for the first several moments, I don’t see Ran. I see my lover, curled up to watch a rainstorm again, thinking whatever he likes, whatever thoughts come by, as he watches the rain beat out a steady rhythm on the window. In a moment he will look towards me and beckon me closer, urging me silently to come look at the rain. He wants to share what he finds so beautiful about it, but since he cannot put it in words or even coherent thoughts, I can do nothing other than try to appreciate it because he does.
I don’t realize I’ve crossed the room to stand beside the dresser; I don’t feel the pain on the way over there. I just stare down at a face that is suddenly Ran’s and not Farfarello’s. I stare at a face smooth in a peaceful sleep. Farfarello was right all along, wasn’t he? Farfarello knew that Ran was his shadow…It amused him. I saw the similarities then but they never meant as much as they do when he’s here now, when I don’t have Farfarello. I just have Ran and the echoes of what used to be, and Ran is Ran. I wonder if the similarities are what makes me keep him here despite the fact that his presence hurts…In him, I can see what used to be. It’s comforting even as it’s painful; he is a physical reminder of my lover, the only real thing I have next to his picture on our black files. I can keep Farfarello’s possessions, but they cannot unconsciously make the same gestures. They are inanimate things, and Ran is breathing.
That is why I need his presence here as much as I hate it. He isn’t what I want; he falls short as a replacement and just the thought of him as one is nauseating. He’s here to help me sleep. He’s here because he’s the right height. And yet I find myself making other excuses and reasons for him to stay…The masochistic and lonely side of me watches him to see if he’ll make that move with his hand, if he’ll tilt his head like Farfarello used to do…
God, Ran, I hate you so much…
I reach up and touch his skin, brushing the back of my knuckles against his cheek to see if his skin is cold. I need to see…It’s warm. Despite the rain outside, he manages to stay warm. Warmth. Life. Not…the cold of a corpse. Not the cold of wild waters that ripped his body away from me. Ran is warm.
Why were you chosen to live…when Farfarello wasn’t?
But I know that answer already.
“That isn’t his.”
Nagi’s sharp words yank me from my thoughts, and I snatch my hand back and look over at him. He has moved up beside me, and now he is glaring at what Ran is wearing. It’s almost amusing to see him get so furious about Ran messing with Farfarello’s things when the boy never really had an interest in Farfarello when he was alive. I don’t think Nagi ever understood Farfarello until he died. It took him the man’s death to make him finally understand why I devoted so much time to the Irishman that Crawford declared insane.
The way one dies…can say a lot.
Fall alone, hm, Crawford…? Never.
“That shirt isn’t his,” Nagi says again, as if I didn’t hear him the first time, as if I didn’t know what he was talking about. “You bought it for Farfarello.”
“Indeed,” I agree.
Purple eyes slide open; our voices rouse Ran from his sleep. He blinks a couple times, disoriented- he doesn’t remember falling asleep. He tilts his head in the direction of the voices and his eyes meet mine. Two purple eyes on a pale face; he is still disoriented, and he looks towards Nagi. Nagi gives him a cold look in return. Ran knows if I’m here then it must be late. I wonder what time he fell asleep, and wonder if I’m not the only one who’s going to have trouble sleeping tonight. If only I had some alcohol…A nice bit of vodka and rum with a handful of sleeping pills will knock me on my ass. I know that from experience. If only I hadn’t promised Nagi…Feh. I hate promises; I feel obligated to keep them- otherwise it’s an outright lie- so I generally avoid making them. But Nagi made me swear on everything we had and lost that I wouldn’t touch it again. I think I scared him with my drug cocktails. He had never seen me stumble before, and then he saw me hit rock bottom. I guess he had a right to be scared.
“Didn’t I tell you not to take the clothes from this dresser?” I ask Ran. Now that he is awake, I’m reminded of my back pain, and I turn and limp towards the bed. I’m really in too much pain to be angry at him right now for digging through Farfarello’s things and going so far as to put on the sweater I bought my lover. If I could breathe without it hurting and if coherent thought wasn’t fractured over the pain, I would probably be laying into him. Nagi has no trouble with being angry, though. He is still glaring at Red; I give his sleeve a light tug as I pass to call him after me. Once I reach the bed, however, I can’t lie down. Nagi comes around behind me instead, crawling on and kneeling on the mattress.
Ran reaches up and rubs at his eyes, trying to erase the sleep from them. His thoughts are confused for a moment- there was something about the clothes…And in a whirl I can see all of his questions, all of his suspicions, rise to the forefront of his mind. He’s been nursing enough questions that discovering the owner of this dresser helps fill in some blanks. I hadn’t been paying enough attention to how much he was piecing together. It seems he’s too wary to fill in the biggest blank yet. He blinks in remembrance and looks back at me. “This isn’t your dresser,” he tells me.
“I hadn’t noticed,” I answer dryly, and hiss when Nagi touches my back. Nagi doesn’t stop; he just moves to a different spot and tests it.
“You said it was yours.” He frowns at me.
“No. I just said I was materialistic. I never laid claim to it. You just weren’t paying enough attention. I said something and you assumed it meant something else. It happens all the time; you’re not a good listener.” Fingers trace my spine carefully before pushing, and I lean away from my teammate. “Fuck, Nagi, what the hell are you doing? I want you to fix it, not break it further,” I snap.
“Oh, shut up,” he answers airily. “You wanted me to look at it, so let me look at it, and don’t be a baby.” He is more careful after that, however. I can’t relax, though, not when I’m waiting for a slip of his fingers to send fire through my back again. Fingers lightly move over the back of my shirt and I can feel the small brush of his gift. I let his gift guide me, let it twist my body gently. He’s feeling the way my muscles move when I’m turned.
“This was Farfarello’s room,” Ran insists.
“What do you want, a cookie?” I ask, trying to lean away from Nagi again when it starts hurting. His gift keeps me in place, however, and I bite back a curse. “Don’t bother me, Red. I’m busy right now.”
“You’re a cripple,” comes his quiet retort as he picks up his book.
Nagi lets go of his gift. Ran is slammed backwards against the wall behind the window with a loud thud before I can do anything in reaction to his words. He falls from the wall to the dresser, and he lands close enough to the edge that he slides off. He stumbles a bit on the floor but manages to catch his balance; then his legs buckle under him and he grabs at his calf, a sharp hiss ripping through his teeth. Only the barest threads of self control are keeping Nagi from tearing the muscles of Ran’s calf apart.
“There’s a difference between being a cripple and being injured,” I inform Ran coolly, eyeing him through half-lidded eyes. “I’m injured. You’re two seconds away from being crippled for life. It’s a very crucial difference.”
And you’ll never know how my back got injured in the first place, will you, Ran? I wonder whose side you would take if you found out what Takatori did with his golf club. You’d probably think it was the only decent thing he did in his life. The thought amuses me, but it is a bitter sort of amusement. /Let him go,/ I tell Nagi. /Maybe another time, yeah?/
“Hn,” Nagi snorts, and he releases his hold on the redhead. Ran gasps for air in the sudden absence of such a crushing pain and pressure on his leg.
“Now why don’t you pretend to be useful and go make dinner?” I ask, and he knows from the way I say it that it’s as far from a suggestion as they come. He pushes himself unsteadily to his feet; his leg throbs when he puts weight on it and it takes another moment before he’s brave enough to walk with it. He sends Nagi a wary look, me a searching glance, and then leaves the room.
“This is your warning,” Nagi informs me.
I don’t even get the words “Before what?” out before his gift wrenches against me. There’s a sharp crack and a rush of pain and I lurch away from him. If the air hadn’t been knocked from my lungs I think I might have yelled at such pain; as it is Nagi muted me with his blow and with the small hand that now claps over my mouth. I gasp air through the cracks between his fingers, reaching back and grabbing a fistful of his hair in my hand. Nagi doesn’t make a sound even as my fingers twist his short hair in a cruel grip; he is pressed up against me with one hand at the small of my back and the other still planted over my mouth. Time is frozen for several endless seconds as the backwash of his gift laces through me.
He lets go first, slowly lowering both hands. It is a fight to get my shaking fingers to unknot from his hair, and the second I let go his hand replaces it. My hands instead go to my back and I lean forward, uttering a string of obscenities that would give even the devil pause. “God damned brat,” I snarl, finishing it off.
“You’re welcome,” Nagi returns calmly, lowering his hand to see if there’s any blood on it. He was a wink away from being bald in that spot. Satisfied that he’s not bleeding, he lightly skims his fingers along his scalp again and lowers his hand to his lap.
“Fuck you,” I snap back, breathing through clenched teeth.
“I was as careful as I could have been,” he informs me. “The pain is from whatever was wrong.” That’s Nagi for you…He could tell what was wrong and he knew how to fix it, but he hadn’t a clue what he was messing with. He doesn’t care; he can do things like this because he trusts his gift and his own judgment. I’m not so pleased, however- that was MY damn spine he was just messing with.
When I can breathe without white sparkles clouding my vision, I ease myself to an upright position. My back is sore, but the pain that made it hard to move is gone. I don’t bother looking at Nagi; I can hear his smug ‘See?’ enough in his thoughts without having to see it on his face. I feel sick in the aftermath of his gift and his impromptu chiropractic shit, and I stumble to the bathroom in time to throw up in the toilet. Nagi is waiting in the doorway as I flush, and I wash my mouth and hands before turning to face him.
“Well?” he asks.
My back is just sore; I let out a soft sigh. “Next time you want to pull a stunt like that, warn me and I’ll kill you before it ever turns from thought to action,” I tell him.
A small smile curves his lips. “You might want to put something on that…It’ll be sore for a while.” With that, he turns and moves to the closet. He finds a hand towel- one of Crawford’s- and offers it to me. “Soak it and zap it in the microwave to get it warm.”
“Yes, Dr. Naoe,” I mutter, taking the towel from him and heading for the kitchen. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was telling me what to do.
Ran is working at the stove; he doesn’t hear me enter over the crackling of the oil in his pan. His instincts throw up a warning just as I reach him, and he twists to face me. My hand snaps up and my fingers catch his chin in a tight grip, turning his head so he has to look in my eyes. Now that the sharp pain has faded to a throbbing…I feel my lips pull into a wide smile of ice.
“Go take the sweater off,” I tell him, “and put it back where it belongs. And if you ever, ever wear anything out of that dresser again…I’ll kill you. Do you understand me, Red?”
He is silent for a moment, searching my eyes. He doesn’t doubt the sincerity of my words, and they don’t strike anything more than wariness into him. It’s not like I was expecting him to shrink away in fear. He doesn’t have to be afraid. He just has to know that I’m telling the dead truth. Purple eyes search mine, looking for answers I’m not willing to give.
“Do you understand me?” I ask again.
“Aa,” he answers. It’s not him surrendering, it’s not him backing down. He’s just agreeing. And that’s enough, I think. I release him and he reaches out, turning the stove burner down. He peels the sweater free as he leaves the room. I wait until he has entered the bedroom before leaving the kitchen for the den, and I stand in front of the window, one hand raised so I can see the rain. I remain there until dinner is ready.
I do believe, Schuldich, that I’ve found a weak spot of yours.
The suspicions I hold regarding you and your partner seem impossible because they aren’t normal, because they’re not what I would have ever thought up in a million years if his dresser wasn’t sitting here in your bedroom. If I hadn’t watched you react to someone bothering something of his…When I might have used his shampoo, you took it away. You carried them all away and hid them, and forbid me to bother them. You don’t want me touching the clothes in his dresser…How did it feel to walk in earlier and see me wearing his shirt? I did it to stay warm but if it bothered you I’ll say I did it out of spite as well.
I think…that I am right about you.
And I think that you are very touchy on this subject. Were you brushing me off earlier because Nagi was doing something for you or because you didn’t want to talk about it? Was it a mixture of both? I’d prefer that it makes you unhappy.
They aren’t coming back, are they, Schuldich? Crawford’s room is cleaned out, and I’m here where Farfarello is supposed to be. If I’m supposed to be here for a few months, does that mean that the Irishman is gone for a few months or does it mean that’s just how long you need to heal an injured pride? A pride battered…because he left you. Whatever thing you two had, he left, and you’re alone. That’s why I’m here. I’m here because you don’t want to be alone.
Tell me that I’m wrong, Schuldich.
Don’t ever let someone who hates you find out what’s bothering you, Schuldich.
I lie in bed, stretched out on my side. I took just a fraction of the pill with dinner; Nagi broke it neatly into three pieces without even looking at it and I swallowed a third. It hasn’t kicked in yet, so I lie here and think. Dinner was quiet, and perhaps a bit odd to see Schuldich sitting at the table and eating. I don’t even think the two spoke mentally; usually they accompany their conversations with little glances and changes in their expressions as they annoy or amuse one another. Tonight there was nothing; we were three people eating our meals and ignoring everyone else.
The door creaks open and Schuldich enters; I glance down the length of the bed to the doorway. Something is dangling from his hand. He sets it on his dresser and I face the closet as he changes. Soon enough I hear the bed creak. He settles himself on his end of the bed, and I roll onto my back to glance at him. He’s stretched out on his stomach and something is draped across his back. It’s hard to tell what it is in the darkness, but my best guess is that it’s a towel.
I reach over and turn my lamp on. Schuldich tilts his head in my direction, squinting at me through a mane of orange hair. “It’s too late to do any reading,” he informs me. “Turn it off and pass out.”
“Why did he leave you?” I ask, and squinted eyes smooth into a closed-off expression. “Did he grow bored of you?”
There is a short, almost violent pause in reaction to those words. “I think you should stay out of things you don’t know anything about,” he tells me. His voice is soft, dangerously so. If his face is smooth, his eyes are sharp; blue eyes are more intense than I’ve seen them before as they stare at me.
“I want to know the real reason why you’re doing this,” I tell him. “I want to know why you took Aya. I think I can now guess why I’m here,” and I let him know just what I think of his injured pride on being the one walked out on and his loneliness in a jumble of thoughts, “but Aya I don’t understand. I don’t see why you’ve brought her into this.”
“Keep this in mind, Fujimiya Ran,” Schuldich says, pushing himself up on his arms until his face is almost level with mine. I’ve never heard this tone of his voice before; it’s like liquid death, soft and harsh at the same time. “I can and will kill you if I so please. Why I haven’t done so when you’ve given me plenty of reason speaks for a self control I didn’t know I had. Your sister is mine, do you understand? I’ll do with her as I like. She is no longer your concern.”
“So my sister is the real focus of this twisted game you’re playing,” I tell him. “You’ll kill me, but my sister belongs to you. I’m here because you have Aya; you don’t have her so that I’ll listen to you. No matter what I do, you’re not going to kill her.”
“There’s still the option of tearing her precious skin into shreds,” Schuldich tells me, “and if you don’t think I want to and am capable of doing it, you’ve seriously misjudged something. Get this: I hate you both, and I’ll do what I like with you both. You are my pets now, and I’ll decide what happens to you.”
“If you hate us, why do you have us?” I ask, tilting my head to one side. “Perhaps to hide the fact that you’re alone, that somehow you weren’t good enough in a twisted relationship with the most deranged freak to ever walk the face of-”
A fist across my cheek cuts that sentence short; I absently note that it’s going to bruise as pain explodes through my skull. Then I tilt my head to one side, looking through my bangs at Schuldich. The movement is slow because it feels like my head might fall into a million pieces after that hit. Schuldich’s expression is no longer smooth- it is cold, colder than I have ever seen anything, while his eyes still burn with that lava-hot fire. I lift my hand, which I have been carefully holding since I came to bed, to Schuldich’s face. Rubbed into my skin is Farfarello’s shampoo, and I see the way Schuldich flinches back in surprise- he can smell it. He gives a small lurch back, eyes widening before narrowing again, blue eyes boring a hole in my palm.
“At least you still have this,” I inform him. “Go ahead and kill me, and you can tuck yourself in with your precious shampoo bottles at night and pretend that he’s going to come back to you one day. I’ll lie in my grave and laugh at you, and Aya will dance beside me. He won’t come back. You’ll always be alone.”
Schuldich flicks his eyes to mine, just for a second, but that second is more than enough. It’s as if the world freezes around us for one second. Then it’s over, and Schuldich rolls out of bed. The towel is cast aside, and Schuldich leaves the room. I am left alone, my thoughts and my triumphant glee over finding something to torment him with grinding to a dead halt. My breath has stopped in my lungs; disbelief and confusion whirl in my mind. In the background I hear Nagi’s voice and a snapped rejoinder, then a door slams.
Something went wrong; it must have been a trick of the light…except the lamp gives off the perfect glow to see his face. I turned it on because I didn’t want to miss anything. I wanted to see his eyes and judge whether or not I was hitting the right spot with my words. But was I imagining things?
Those eyes, in that final glance, were not angry. They were not cold. They were not even hurt.
No, they were Yohji’s eyes, in the café almost a week ago, as he talked about Asuka.
They were the reflections of shattered dreams, only blue instead of green.
A vicious kick sends her nightstand flying. The flowers the nurse brought in to liven up the room hit the wall and the vase shatters in a spray of glass and water. The little table leaves a gouge in the wall before falling to the ground. There is nothing in between me and her bed now, and I loom over Fujimiya Aya’s limp form. I want to kill them, I want to kill them both. But Aya would have to go first- as big as Ran talks, his sister’s death would kill him. Let him die on the inside before I cut his life off on the outside.
My fingers are around her slim throat and I’m choking on my breath as I struggle against the burning need to wring her neck. Just kill her, just fucking break her neck. If only she was awake, if only she could struggle and scream for help and I could watch her little eyes pool with blood.
I manage to wrench my hands free and I bury them in my hair, whirling away from the bed. “I HATE YOU!” A fist takes out the window; glass sprinkles outwards like falling stars to the sidewalk far below. I hate her, I want her to die so badly. How dare she be so important. How dare she be coveted! She has no right, no fucking bloody right at all. I hate her because she is special, because she is cherished. And because she is special, I can’t touch her. I can just fantasize and wish that I could tear her open. I would make Ran watch as I took a scalpel and cleaned her from her insides out.
I whirl and kick her bed frame. Her small body gives a little jump with the bed; in the background, the machinery ticks on steadily. There are so many ways to kill her. She won’t fight back, she won’t struggle, and while that takes some of the fun out of it, it means that there are so many more ways to play with her. I wouldn’t have to worry about restraints, and when I got bored I could switch to a new approach. She wouldn’t even know she was dying…She’ll just suddenly stop existing and I’ll be free of her and this whole mess.
God, I want to kill her…If only I could.
I lean over her, planting my hands on either side of her face. She doesn’t stir, she doesn’t open her eyes. “You’re going to ruin everything for us,” I snarl at her. “We toted you around long enough, we did our part to pretend you were Estet’s. Is this how you repay us for taking you away from them? Do you have no fucking clue what you’ve done?”
People will go to incredible lengths for the ones they love, for the ones they cherish like family. I don’t understand; I don’t want to. I don’t want to deal with her. I don’t want anything to do with the Fujimiyas. I want them both dead. I want them both dead and out of my hair.
Ran is free; he is mine to kill whenever I like. But the girl…the girl must not be touched, and she’s the one I really want to hurt. It was a stupid thought; it was a stupid bit of sentimentality. And here I am, suffering for it. If I had my way, we would have let her fall into the ocean with us. If I had my way, I would never have crossed paths with her or Weiß after that day. As of two weeks ago, I am stuck with both.
“Rot away,” I whisper in her ear. “Rot away to nothingness so that I will be rid of you. Let your skin decay and crack; let the worms slide through. I’ll bring Ran through for his last visitation just before I blow his head open, and the blood across your darkened skin can be your funeral roses. Just die, and do me that tremendous favor, selfish little bitch.”
With that, I shove off of the bed. I cannot stand to look at her anymore. I shove my hands into my pockets and storm out of her room. I pass several people as I go down the hall, but none of them will ever remember that I came by here, and when the morning nurse finds the mess in Aya’s room, she’ll have no clue what’s happened.
I end up wandering the streets for almost two hours, dressed in just my jacket and my pajama pants, nursing a cigarette and the wish that one day I’ll just wake up and none of this will have happened. Both the ashes and my hopes are whisked away by the night wind, and in the end I am left with nothing.
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