Part Fifteen: Death and Drama
I would never have thought…that I could feel regret when it came to one of Schwarz. The only thing we could have regretted in the past was that our weapons were too slow to kill them. That was back when things were simpler, when Weiß was Weiß and Schwarz was Schwarz. That was when I didn’t know anything about Schwarz, and its members were just demons that we had to kill in order to get where we wanted to be. Loathing and disgust were easy at a distance; hatred for the ones that played the opposite side of the field as us and were much better at it came naturally.
Even after I came to Schwarz’s apartment, I resented them. I hated them for taking Aya away, for using her to blackmail me into coming here. I hated Nagi for his cold looks and Schuldich for his careless words and his damned cocky smirk. I hated them because there was nothing I could do against them, because I knew nothing about them or why I had been brought to their place. I could not see the logic behind dumping a white assassin into the shadows of the black assassins, and I resented the things they demanded that I do.
The hate remained as time wore on, but the imprisonment became easier. The two things they asked of me at the beginning were the only two things they wanted, and I soon realized they wanted my company no more than I wanted theirs. It was an odd little truce between us, a mutual dislike. Somewhere along the way, I think the hatred faded. I hated images, the image of Schwarz that had been presented to Weiß, and living with them ruined those flat images slightly. Schwarz is made of eight people: the people they appear to be and the people they are, and I still have not settled on what to feel for the men behind the battle field. I think I merely despise them now. I despise Schuldich, anyway. Nagi doesn’t want me here and I am in strong agreement, so I carry less hostility towards him than his teammate. Schuldich is the one who started this, who waves off my worries about my sister carelessly and who is quite happy to rewrite my life for me.
And now there is a new emotion, one I don’t want to feel, one I especially do not want to associate with Schwarz. Last night rings sharply in my mind; all I can see are those blue eyes lifting to mine, and the orange hair gives way to honey-brown locks. Schuldich melts away and Yohji is left in his place. The colors change; the emotions stay the same. I’ve seen that pain in Yohji many times before in our night gatherings…The café was the most recent time, and their expressions matched exactly.
It is impossible. It should be impossible for one of Schwarz to have that face. Surely it must be pretend, yet a part of me denies that quietly. The emotions were real, but I don’t understand them. Yohji and Asuka had a very complex relationship, a courting of each other for years with varying degrees of success based on the time of year. Yohji loved Asuka with all of his heart and soul; he wanted to always be with her and he couldn’t imagine being without her. Then she was taken from him, and she ripped a piece of him away. Behind the broken dreams is a hollow darkness. As time goes by Yohji struggles to deal with it, but it will never fade. It will be with him always.
And last night, that was the look that was on Schuldich’s face, over Farfarello. It was that same, broken face, that same look that Yohji had worn. Over that white-haired psychopath of Schwarz. In the same day I discovered that all of Schwarz did indeed live at the apartment, that Farfarello and Schuldich shared a room, and that Farfarello and Schuldich shared more than a bed. My suspicions were confirmed last night. But how could a relationship between people like them ever work? Something that had to be only physical could not have made Schuldich react like that last night.
What bothers me the most isn’t that Schuldich had those eyes…It’s that I associate those eyes and that pain with Yohji, and in turn, I feel the edges of guilt touching my thoughts. It’s ridiculous, and I try my hardest to push such foolish emotions away. Schuldich deserves any pain he’s feeling now. I don’t have time to waste feeling on guilty for rubbing in his face that he doesn’t deserve any sort of happiness, that he should always be alone. But when last night flickers through my mind, I still see Yohji instead of Schuldich, and I cannot bite down all of the guilt that follows…guilt that I made Yohji look like that, even if it was really Schwarz.
It’s making me mad, that I can’t shake it, that I’m dwelling on it still. Schuldich was gone before I woke up this morning, and I don’t think I would have gotten much sleep if not for the medicine I had taken. Even now my thoughts are there, drifting in a slow circle between the conversation at the coffee shop with Yohji and the confrontation with Schuldich last night. Yohji’s words and face haunt me. If the emotions matched, do Yohji’s words mean anything in regards to what Schuldich is doing now? Of course, Yohji was talking about someone who had passed away whereas Farfarello has just abandoned Schuldich for who knows where.
I am reading too far into this, I’m sure.
Just thinking about it is too much. I need to get my thoughts off of Schwarz. I need to concentrate on the fact that Schuldich took my sister for a reason. She’s the real reason I was brought into Schuldich’s game. There’s something about her that Schuldich wants, and I need to figure it out. Momentarily forgetting my hatred for the telepath can’t stop me from worrying about my sister. He said she would be safe as long as I did what they said, but I have to wonder what Schuldich’s ideas of safe are.
For as many answers as I have now, I don’t think I understand anything, anymore.
~Snap out of it,~ I tell myself. ~Get over it. You wanted to hurt him and you succeeded. It’s your first victory over Schwarz. Take it the way it comes. You know more now than you did before, and you can use what you know to survive the rest of the time there.~
That is, if Schuldich wants me to survive the next few months. Schuldich meant what he said- he controls his matching set of Fujimiya pets. He can kill us whenever he wants with his gift. So really, there is no point worrying about avoiding death. The only worry is making it through life, struggling through the days. Death will come whenever it wants, and there’s no guarantee we’ll have a say in when or how it visits. So I will not worry about Schuldich’s threats.
I will just go back to what I was doing beforehand, but I will be the wiser about the Schwarz situation now, and I will not feel sorry for Schuldich.
There will be no regret, no remorse, for the likes of him. Schuldich is not Yohji. Yohji is my friend, the only real one I have. Schuldich is a bastard. I write these thoughts firmly in my mind, and the satisfaction over last night’s argument comes easier. I feel my lips twitch into a faint smile as I return to weeding the potted plant before me, pushing everything else aside and allowing myself these few moments to feel almost content.
I arrive back at the apartment at the same time as Schuldich. He gets a spot against the sidewalk; I am in the row opposite him. I slide out of my car and close the door. Schuldich is climbing out of his car and I approach the building. I haven’t seen him since our argument; he didn’t come back to the bedroom that night and he was at work before I woke up this morning. I wonder what sort of mood he’s in. If he’s ready to fight, I am too. Seeing him melts away all of the misplaced emotions I worried over this morning; seeing him returns that dark satisfaction easily. I feel strong suddenly, even if it is foolish. I have a weapon against Schuldich; my words hurt him more last night than my sword ever could.
Schuldich closes his car door and leans backwards against his vehicle, eyeing me as I approach. I cannot tell anything from his face; his expression is smooth and his eyes calm. He lifts a hand then, beckoning for me to come to him. I approach, silent because I know any verbal gloating can’t compare to what I know he’s hearing in my thoughts.
I stop next to him and we study each other for a few moments in silence. We are right about the same height, but the way he is standing makes me taller than him. It only adds to the small feeling of power. Finally he reaches out, snagging my hand and lifting it. He holds it just a short distance from his face, studying my fingers in silence for a few moments. Finally he lifts blue eyes to mine and a familiar smirk curls his mouth.
“I declawed all of my kittens when they started tearing up my furniture. I suppose I missed one.” He tilts my hand and his fingers slide up to lightly run along the nail on my index finger. “I gave them two chances before I took them in. I suppose fair is fair; two chances and then all of these come off.” His finger slides down so that his fingertip rests over the whole fingernail. “Nagi will be your vet. Hear me?”
I feel the edges of my lips twitch into the faintest of return smirks. He can smirk if he likes; his words and last night proved that I hit a sore spot. “I wasn’t aware that it was my claws that cut you,” I answer simply.
He gives a quiet laugh, tossing my hand aside carefully. I lower it to my hip and he straightens so that we are eye to eye once more. “Anything else would take more effort than I feel like right now,” he tells me.
“Any greater threat just admits how important it is that I don’t scratch you again,” I correct him.
He studies me for a moment, and his smirk widens. It seems almost genuine this time, rather than the mocking expression he usually wears. “Touché,” he murmurs, and he sounds amused. With that, he turns and starts towards the door. He stretches as he steps up onto the walkway and I hear the bones in his spine pop. If he didn’t have a gift and I needed to make a quick getaway, I would make a note that his back would be the first thing to go for. One hit might be enough to take him down; it seems he has serious issues with it. The way he was walking yesterday when he woke me up from my nap surprised me; he had been leaning forward and to the side, his face drawn tight in barely concealed pain.
/Note that I _do_ have a gift,/ he says dryly.
“What a pity,” I respond.
“Besides…” he says cheerfully, holding the door open for me. I pause on the other side of the door from him, studying his face through the glass between us. Despite the tone of his voice, the smirk has returned to haughtily amused and his eyes are gleaming in cold anticipation. “Nagi would be delighted if you managed to land a blow on me. He’s been wanting to use his gift on you since you walked in.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” I say, the edge of sarcasm lacing my words, and step into the lobby. “If your teammate has such issues with my presence, I think you should cave in and just admit that I don’t belong here.”
“I admitted that long ago,” he tells me, reaching out to push the elevator summons button.
I have decided that Schuldich pisses me off, and I scowl inwardly. He seems to like rubbing in my face that even though none of us like my presence I am being forced to stay. It just doesn’t make any sense. I suppose he’s just being his usual bastard self, and upon reflection I wonder where any guilt this morning came from. He deserves a lot more than what I gave him, and if I ever get the chance again I won’t hold back.
The elevator opens to reveal a woman and a child- Makiko, didn’t Schuldich say? She steps out of the elevator with her head bowed, and I step aside to let her pass. Her boy is dragged along behind her, his little hand waving a small plastic airplane cheerfully. As she steps by me I glance back and see discolored skin. Without thinking, I reach out and catch her elbow, stilling her. She stops in her tracks, startled, and glances back at me. There is a bruise gracing her cheekbone.
“Excuse me,” she says softly, looking away. She reaches up with her free hand to remove my fingers from her elbow. I allow her to do so and watch as she ducks her head and continues on her way. The boy hurries behind her, making loud noises to accompany the swooping of his toy.
“Are you coming?” Schuldich drawls. He is in the elevator, his foot holding the door open.
“Do you honestly not care?” I ask him, stepping on.
“Not at all,” he returns breezily. “It isn’t my business to worry about her life and problems.”
I scowl at him and turn away, and thus miss the way his gaze remains pointed out of the elevator until the doors have sealed the lobby from us. We ride up in silence. Schuldich uses his key to let us in and we toe our shoes off at the door. The cats gather around our feet and Schuldich scoops Eins up. It was not hard to figure out that she is his favorite of the six. She’s definitely the most mellow and friendliest of the bunch. Schuldich curls her to his chest and begins wading through the remaining five that beg for equal attention. “Move it, move it, don’t make me trip over you or I’ll make sure I land on every last one of you…”
Despite his words, I have a feeling he would rather break something than hurt the cats. It’s an odd thought. When I got here, I thought it was impossible that he would be able to care for the pets. In the time I’ve been here, however, I’ve watched him spoil them silly. He’s dropped what he’s doing before to play with one, and though he grumbles when they climb all over him, he’ll always get them settled in his lap and pet them until they’ve fallen asleep.
The kittens come crying to me that Schuldich is ignoring them and I crouch just inside the door to pet them. The yowls and pitiful cries are replaced by purrs, and Schuldich mutters something about them being shameless beggars.
Nagi steps out from the kitchen, holding the phone out to Schuldich. Whoever Schuldich is supposed to call is offered mentally, and Schuldich offers a weary curse as he takes the receiver from Nagi. His teammate gives him a Look and Schuldich turns away with a “Don’t look at me like that.” He carries the phone to the bedroom and shuts the door, leaving the cats and the two of us behind. Nagi looks down the hall towards me. His mouth is drawn in a thin line as he studies me. Finally he turns away and stalks back into the kitchen. I give into the childish impulse to make a face in his direction, sneering at the spot he was just in.
Something about Nagi’s apparent frustration and hate for me gives me a bit of relief…It is good to be unwanted, I believe, when it comes to Schwarz. At times it amuses me that Nagi can do nothing about it. It has been three weeks today since I was brought here- three weeks of Nagi being angry and annoyed by me. If I’m not to be happy, I don’t see why they should be, either. My amusement over his frustration is equal to my dislike for him, so it balances out very nicely.
Needle teeth sink into my hand and I jerk it back, eyeing the little indents left before glaring at the mob around me. Zuwai glares back, unrepentant. He figures I deserve the bite since I stopped petting them to watch Schuldich and Nagi.
“Schuldich should have gotten the lot of you detoothed,” I tell him, rising to my feet. They’re instantly apologetic, rubbing themselves against me. I ignore them, making my way to the den. I don’t feel like starting dinner just yet, and I cannot go to the bedroom. I perch myself on the arm of the couch and ignore the kittens that are immediately crawling all over the cushions, butting each other out of the way to get to me. Zuwai is on the back of the couch and he butts his face against mine, demanding that I pet him.
I lift my hand and poke him square in the forehead. He swats at it, and I give in to him and wiggle my fingers for him to bat at. Schuldich returns from the bedroom just a few minutes later and vanishes into the kitchen.
“Oi, Red, going to feed us any time soon?” he calls.
“Do I have to?” I call back.
“You’re turning into such a mouthy little kitten,” Schuldich notes, returning from the kitchen to stand in the doorway. He lounges against the doorway, lacing his fingers behind his head and gazing in at me. “I suppose that means you’re used to us, if you’re favoring us with your catty side. What progress…I’m so proud of myself.”
“I’m sure you are,” I answer dryly, giving Zuwai an apologetic scratch at the abrupt ending to our game before sliding off of the couch. Schuldich watches me as I pass him, an inscrutable look on his face. His sarcastic comment about my rising attitude with him is true…With my teammates, I guard my thoughts and feelings. It’s how I started with them and I see no reason to change. Only Yohji’s gotten close in seeing what’s really on my mind. Here I know that Schuldich can see my thoughts anyway, so over three weeks I’m growing bolder with my retorts. As long as I’m going to think them and he’s going to hear them anyway, I might as well say them aloud. There’s more satisfaction in voicing a comment than just thinking it and having it overheard.
Considering how much is on my mind about Schuldich, I having a feeling I’m starting to grow very vocal compared to how I used to be. Schuldich doesn’t discourage it; he always seems more amused when I voice my opinion of him. I don’t know how often he and Nagi talk through his gift, but Schuldich and I have more conversations out loud when we’re both here than he and his teammate have. Of course, the majority of our conversations are us poking at each other with acid remarks or dry sarcasm…
Feh. I’m being corrupted.
/Glad to hear we’re so influential,/ Schuldich returns.
~Where?~ I return. I’d be more than happy to bite a finger or two off, though I’d be washing my mouth out for days to erase the horrible taste.
Schuldich laughs out loud; I can hear him from here. /My ass./
~That was Farfarello’s job, wasn’t it?~ I return airily, pulling the ingredients for dinner out of the fridge.
/Fuck off,/ comes the lazy answer. I feel that faint smirk ghost along my lips again and set about making dinner.
At least there’s some satisfaction in being corrupted.
I hear the sirens as we’re eating. Schuldich continues eating, uninterested. Nagi looks up with the same curiosity I have. At first I dismiss them as a passing car, but they grow louder and linger. I rise from the table and move to the living room, pulling open the curtain and looking out. I can see part of the parking lot from here. I don’t see any police cars, but I can see their lights flashing off of the building beside ours. I frown, wondering what’s happening. I consider the lights for a second longer before turning to go, and I give a small start in surprise. Nagi is off to my side, looking out the window as well. I didn’t hear him enter, and I’m mildly surprised that he’s curious enough over the noise to come anywhere near me. Granted, there’s at least a foot of space between us, but still.
I glance back out the window as a new siren wails, and I see an ambulance pull into the parking lot from the other entrance. It passes the building beside ours and vanishes out of view to park beside the police cars.
/They’ll need to call a hearse soon,/ Schuldich speaks up. /Oh, the drama./
I send a sharp glance Nagi’s direction. That was his voice, but it was off a bit. It was closer, more focused, like Schuldich sounds when he’s speaking mentally. /Someone died, is all,/ Schuldich says. /Aneurism of the brain. Nagi, you going to eat this? If not…/
~Leave my plate alone.~ I was looking at him then; his mouth didn’t move. He turns on his heel and leaves the room. Perhaps Schuldich opened his explanation to both of us, and Nagi’s return comment was echoed on the same link.
~Who died?~ I send at Schuldich.
/Does it matter?/ he asks, and I leave the den to return to my plate. Schuldich is forking some of my meal from my plate to his, most likely because Nagi has shifted himself and his portion down the table out of the German’s reach. I pick up my chopstick and hit Schuldich’s hand with it; he glares up at me and I return the look easily. “You don’t really want ALL of that, do you?” he asks.
I give him a Look, still wielding my chopstick. He scowls and retreats back to his own plate, shoveling what he managed to steal into his mouth before returning to his own portion. I seat myself again and continue eating. That night I eat another third of the pill Nagi broke for me and retreat to bed. It does not knock me out immediately, and I lie in bed with my thoughts. Schuldich enters as I’m drifting off, fresh from a shower. The last thing I remember is him closing the door behind him, almost as if its click is what sends me finally to sleep.
That following Monday is a school holiday, so Omi and Ken have the afternoon shift together. Yohji and I have morning shift together, and I study him across the shop as I twirl a rose between my fingers. We’re on lunch break now and waiting for the other two to show up. Finally I make up my mind and turn to set the rose down on the counter. Folding my arms over my chest, I face Yohji once more.
“Come with me,” I ask of him.
Yohji looks up from where he’s flipping through a magazine, startled both by what I’ve said and the fact that I’ve spoken up. He’s been leaving me alone this morning, both because we’ve been flooded all day by rabid schoolgirls and because he can tell something’s on my mind. He peers at me over his magazine. “Where to?” he asks.
I doubt he would come if I tell him, so I just shake my head. Yohji considers me for a moment, wondering at what I could want. He’s not the type of person to refuse me, though, and he closes his magazine. “When?” he asks instead.
“We have time to wait on Omi and Ken,” I tell him.
A light frown graces his lips, more thoughtful than disapproving, and he nods. I give him a light nod back and turn around, gathering flowers to make a bouquet. We’ll bring them with us. As I finish tying the ribbon around their tissue paper, our teammates show up. Yohji is eyeing the bouquet with interest, probably wondering if he gets to meet my ‘lover’. No doubt he’ll be disappointed when he finds out the truth. We endure a round of greetings and I evade Ken’s curiosity over who the flowers are for. Yohji is in a cheerful mood as he helps us get out of the shop quickly, enthused by his hope to meet whoever I’m spending my time with.
His good mood fades when I park in a crowded church parking lot, and he blinks up at the building before looking at the people milling around outside. “What’s going on? A wedding?”
“A funeral,” I answer.
“A funeral?” he asks. He heard me right; I don’t bother answering. I have Schuldich’s permission to do this; I told him yesterday what I was going to do and he said he didn’t care. It doesn’t make a difference to him; he’s still at work and I’ll be back in time for dinner. “Someone you know?”
“I know the widow,” I answer, sliding out of the car. Yohji stays behind for a long moment, digesting this. I’m sure he’s quite shocked and heavily disappointed that I’ve asked him to come to a funeral with me. As he gets out of the car, I look over the roof at him. He is staring up at the church, a confused look on his face. “We don’t have to stay,” I said. “I just felt obligated to come for a moment.”
Three days ago, the abusive and cheating husband of Yamaguchi Makiko died of a brain aneurism. His lover was the one that called the police, or so I gathered from the animated talk in the lobby the next morning. When Makiko left, it was because the lover was going to come over and her husband wanted her out of the house. That blow he landed on her was the last time he ever touched her, the last time she ever saw him alive. I am silently pleased that he is dead.
Yohji carried the flowers in the car so I could drive, and I let him hold onto them as we cross the parking lot. Most of the people hanging out are businessmen and associates of Yamaguchi’s, I’m sure. Schuldich had said he was a powerful man and strong in the business. I wonder how many people will suffer now that he is gone. I don’t care; it will make one person’s life easier and that is enough for me.
We step into the churchyard and I rake the crowd with my eyes, wondering if Makiko is even here yet.
Trust Yohji to find her first- his eyes instantly find the three women out of everyone else. “Damn,” he comments, and I glance towards him. He is staring off in another direction, and I look. It takes me a moment to see what he is staring at, and that is when I see Makiko. Her face is devoid of any sign of grief, her expression calm. The two women beside her each have one of her arms looped through theirs, and their fingers are interlocked. They are the only two anywhere near her- the others don’t care.
“What?” I ask Yohji.
“She’s pretty,” he tells me. “The middle one,” he says, though he doesn’t think I care.
“Give her the flowers,” I tell him.
He looks towards me, surprised. “I thought they were for the widow.”
“She is,” I answer him, meeting his startled gaze calmly. “She is the widow of an abusive cheater. Do not think she’s mourning for him. The flowers are for her because they will be kinder to her than he ever was.” Yohji frowns at me, searching my eyes, before looking in her direction once more. “I saw her cheek,” I tell him. “It was a fresh bruise. He gave it to her the day he died.”
I know instantly that I’ve touched off hatred for the dead man inside of Yohji. Yohji goes through women like water through a sieve, but he treats them all kindly. He does not get involved with anyone that dreams of emotional attachment because he does not want to hurt them. He fears of hurting them, he told me one night when he was drunk, because he believes it is his fault Asuka got hurt. He still carries the guilt of the death of Neu on his soul, truly believing it was Asuka. I don’t know if it’s true about that girl, but Yohji believes it and the pain eats at him. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone like he did her. Therefore Yohji despises anyone who treats women callously, and he is quick to jump to their defense and protect them. I have just given Yohji someone else to feel protective of.
I touch his elbow, giving it a light push in silent encouragement. He looks back at me. “And who am I supposed to say they’re from?” he asks. “She has no clue who I am; I’m just a random stranger popping up.”
“Tell her the shop name,” I say, because there’s nothing else I can give him. If I tell him ‘the sixth floor’ so she knows it is from the three of us that live there, there’s a chance Yohji could find the address and then discover who lives there. I won’t give her my name alone. I watch as Yohji approaches her. The girls look to him as he approaches, and he nods greetings to the two flanking Makiko before offering her the bouquet. I head back to the car as they talk, thinking it best that she doesn’t spot me. Yohji will know where to find me when he’s done.
It takes him several minutes to come back to the car, and I am strangely content with that.
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