Part Eighteen: You Don't Belong Here
I spend the rest of the night in the den, sitting on the couch in complete darkness, my knees tucked up to my chest. I can’t sleep, as my thoughts are centered on what happened earlier. Schuldich went unconscious around five and Nagi brought him down the hall to the bedroom, using his gift to help him maneuver his limp teammate. I watched from the doorway of Schuldich’s room as Nagi managed to get the telepath dried and in some new clothes. He rubbed at Schuldich’s limbs for a while, trying to bring heat back into skin chilled from the rain, and he brought every blanket in the apartment to the bedroom to wrap the German in. I left them there, with Nagi lying on top of the blankets and against Schuldich’s side, and retreated to the den.
It’s ten in the morning now; sunlight lights up the floor in a line where it seeps through beneath the curtains. The cats are wandering around restlessly but I don’t know if I have the strength to get up and feed them. My thoughts are confused and fractured; they turn to last night’s events even as they shy away from confronting them. What happened was something I never expected and never wanted to see, and hours later I am still shaken. I almost feel sick, and I tilt my head against the side of the couch, hugging my knees tighter against me.
What happened? What is going on?
That was Farfarello’s collar…Where did Schuldich get it? Did he and his teammate meet up while Schuldich was gone? But why would Schuldich be given the collar? And what was Schuldich babbling about, about a dog and water? What about it could drive him to such an open display of grief? I am missing something big; I am missing something terribly important. I need to know what it is. If curiosity was what was driving me before, the events of this very early morning make me _need_ to know. I won’t be able to do anything else until I find out what I’ve overlooked.
I hear sounds, and after hours of silence the sudden noise makes me jump. I am off of the couch and instantly down the hall, wondering what is going on now. Schuldich is leaning over the side of the bed, getting sick onto the floor. Nagi is holding onto him, one hand keeping his teammate’s hair out of the way as his other arm is wrapped around Schuldich’s chest. His cheek rests against the German’s back and his eyes are closed, his face drawn in a tight expression of silent anguish.
I hesitate, wondering what to do. At length I wander back down the hall and fetch a cup of water. I study it for a few moments, trying to decide if I should bother. I should leave Schuldich to his pain and Nagi to care for him. This is not my mess; this is something that I don’t understand. It is for them to deal with; I am the outsider and I do not care for them.
But last night haunts me in a way I cannot explain, and I carry the glass down the hall. Nagi looks up when I set the cup down on the nightstand. “Get out of here,” Nagi tells me. His voice is shaking, a mix of pain and anger. His mouth twists into a frown but by the look in his eyes I half expect his face to crumple in just a moment. For a boy who seems to have perfected the stony expression, it bothers me to see such a look on his face. Schwarz is supposed to be strong, powerful, bad. The sight of any of them showing weakness, the thought of any of them being frail, is impossible to swallow. “Get out of here. Go home. You don’t belong here. Get out and don’t come back.”
Schuldich sits up unsteadily; there is still a glassy look in his eyes as he stares blankly ahead. His skin is pale and his forehead is beaded with sweat. I reach out, touching my hand to his face. I have just barely felt the heat there when my hand is smacked away by Nagi’s gift. The boy’s fingers tighten protectively on his teammate. “Get _out_ of here,” he says again, and Schuldich glances up at me. There is no recognition in that gaze; he is staring straight through me.
“He has a fever,” I inform Nagi, and touch the glass of water I brought in meaningfully. With that, I leave the room. It is all I am willing to do for them. Let them take care of each other. If Nagi wants me out and Schuldich isn’t in the state of mind to make me stay, then I’ll leave. I have no problem with that.
My shoes and keys are by the door. I offer Ain a farewell pat and slip outside, taking the elevator down. At my car I stop and turn, one hand resting on the roof the white vehicle, as I turn my eyes back to the building. I’m not sure what I expected to feel about receiving a breather from my captivity there. I think I believed I would have felt some sort of relieved triumph. Whatever I expected, this isn’t it- this torn curiosity and uneasiness.
I turn my back on the building, sliding into my car. As I turn the key in the engine, I find my eyes drawn the rearview mirror where the reflection of my ‘prison’ is.
What the hell has happened to Schwarz?
What has happened to the group that used to bother my team so much, that used to wreak such chaos and havoc upon the underground of Tokyo? Where is the devil that approached me in Aya’s hospital room a month ago? He has changed so much in that time.
Or has he not changed at all, and have I just seen the other side of him that we were never shown before?
I don’t know. I don’t know anything, and I really shouldn’t care at all. I should take this break for granted and enjoy the feeling of being back in my own apartment. I’ll have to come back here later today to gather my things…There’s a good chance Schuldich will call me back once he has recovered from his fever, but I will need clothes and my books for my apartment for while I’m gone. There isn’t any sense in taking everything back with me, just in case Schuldich does demand I return. I just can’t gather my things at this time…I have the feeling Nagi would kill me if I returned to the apartment now.
I force my eyes away from the mirror and leave the parking lot. There’s nowhere for me to go except to the Koneko no Sumu Ie, so I turn my car that direction. It doesn’t take long to reach the flower shop and I park in back. My feet carry me up the stairs to my room and I let myself in, closing the door behind me and turning on the lights.
My room is…strange. I gaze around, studying the room and feeling faintly out of place. It annoys me to feel like a stranger in my own room, and I move to sit on the edge of my bed. The only time I have been in my room since I moved in with Schwarz was for the mission, and that was just for the few minutes it took to change into and out of my jacket. I frown around at my things, wondering how they can be so familiar to me yet seem just the slightest bit wrong. A month shouldn’t have been long enough to make this place odd to me.
I lie down, lacing my fingers behind my head as a pillow and allowing my legs to dangle off the side. My bed feels different from his, I note, a small frown pulling at my lips. My mattress is harder; that’s what I notice first. It’s either made to have stiff support or Schuldich’s bed has just been broken in more.
…I won’t even go there.
I glance around the room from my bed, studying the scant furniture. I have a chair next to my bookshelf where I read. The lamp is still there for late night reading but the shelves have been cleared of all of my books. I know that my closet holds only my jacket and my sword. My room is mine, but it has been stripped of the things that made it personal and a month away makes the barren place strange to come back to.
It irritates me, that my own place has a tint of unfamiliarity to it.
Crawford and I sit across from each other, Crawford gazing towards the clock that sits on the wall and me staring down at the teenager resting on the floor in front of me. I have my legs spread so that he can sit between them, and he drapes his arms over my knees. A knife is dangling from his fingers and he is gazing off at the bed, where the girl lies. I frown when I realize he’s looking at her again and rake my fingers through his short hair. Before I can say anything to him, Crawford moves. It’s the first time he’s moved since he sat down in that chair an hour ago. I haven’t bothered him…He knows he’s going to die tonight and I wonder if, even though he accepted it a while ago, he’s using this time to consider what he’s done with his life.
He lifts his glasses from the bridge of his nose, replacing them with his fingers in a small pinch. His hands are lowered to his lap after a moment and he turns a considering gaze on me. I return his stare, searching his gaze, wondering what it would be like to be in his shoes. I can’t imagine not caring about my imminent death…I’m not interested in dying any time soon.
Not that I have much of a guarantee that I’ll live today. Crawford made us no promises when he talked about tonight. The most he gave us was that we had a chance, and he made that clear. “There is a chance you’ll survive,” he had said, turning his glasses over in his hands and gazing at something we couldn’t see. “Fall alone, and Nagi will protect you…but you have to want to make it.”
I give a quiet snort as I consider those words. Back then I was too startled by Crawford’s confession that he’d picked his own death day to comment on it. Not all of us are suicidal, Crawford. Not all of us would be content to die. I’m having too much fun with life. I have too much to give up and die just yet. I feel my lips twitch into a thin smile. What I want, in the end, has nothing to do with it…We’re going to be operating on luck, and as a member of a group that has always made its own fortune, I’m uneasy about today’s events. I don’t like relying on chance when it comes to things like this, not when Crawford gave us such a vague prediction of life or death.
“So?” I ask Crawford, studying his grim expression. I give him a lazy smirk to cover my own thoughts on today, skimming my fingers down Farfarello’s cheeks to cup his chin in my hands. He looks up at me and I drop my eyes from Crawford to focus on my more important teammate. Farfarello searches my gaze, though neither of us knows what he’s looking for. I lean down, closing the short distance between us to kiss him. Crawford watches us, though I have the feeling he’s gazing through us. The smirk is easier when I turn my eyes back to the precognitive. “What does the future hold, O Wise One? What do you see?”
Crawford lifts his glasses to his nose again and rises from his seat with another glance towards the clock. It’s time to go. Farfarello rises so I can stand; his gaze strays once more to that girl-thing before he turns back to me. I study him as Crawford considers my question, looking over the way his white suit looks on him. Not bad at all, though it’s odd to see Farfarello in formal wear.
Later tonight, he’ll be wearing nothing at all. I grin in anticipation, sliding my hands into the pockets of his pants and tugging him up against me. He comes without protest and I feel his teeth on my throat. Later tonight we’ll have our own victory party, as Estet rots and hopefully one or more of Weiß is lost under the waves. It will be strange to not have Crawford around anymore, but I would rather keep my lover than Crawford. With Crawford standing somewhere between partner and friend, there is a vast stretch of space between him and Farfarello on my priority list. If I spare a minute to reflect on what it was like to work with Crawford, I will give my lover a day of my time.
I’d definitely enjoy the time more, too.
“Red,” Crawford answers at length, as I brush my lips against Farfarello’s ears. “A lot of blood…”
It’s not the best prediction Crawford’s ever made, and I frown at him over Farfarello’s shoulder. Farfarello, on the other hand, gives a soft laugh against my throat and his fingers curl tighter against my back. “Sweet blood,” he murmurs, eager for the bloodshed that is coming and not really caring who it belongs to. “Let’s make them regret everything,” he breathes, tilting his face back so his cheek rests against my jawbone. I can feel his smile.
“Let’s,” I tell him. Crawford holds my disapproving gaze for a moment longer before turning to where Nagi rests beside Fujimiya Aya’s bed.
“Bring her,” he says, turning and leaving the room.
Nagi follows obediently, Aya’s bed rolling along in front of him. Farfarello and I are the last to leave the room; I stare after them as I consider Crawford’s words and Farfarello is content to stay where he is. Whose blood is Crawford seeing? His own? Is he reflecting on the fall of the elders or something else? He doesn’t seem overly happy about whatever he’s seen, and that bothers me.
Farfarello is the first to move, lifting his hand from his back to curl his fingers in my hair instead. He gives the orange locks a tug to beckon me forward and turns to go. Crawford’s words don’t bother him. He has faith in our unit. I brush away my ridiculous hesitations. Schwarz is powerful…Giving up our control to chance will do nothing that we don’t want it to do.
We’ll make it today.
We have to. We’re Schwarz.
I open my eyes to see the clock declaring it to be half past five. I blink, rubbing at my eyes and sitting up. I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep…I hadn’t even realized I was tired. I stretch before settling myself on the edge of my bed once more, and I look around to try and figure out what to do. There’s nothing here for me, and I’m hungry from not eating breakfast or lunch. I sigh, considering my options. I’m used to having my dinner at eight, so it’s too early to have a meal. Perhaps I could find a small snack somewhere.
As for my room…I guess it’s time to get this over with. I need to gather my things from Schwarz’s apartment. But as I collect my keys and step out of the door, I find that I am hesitant to go back for more reasons than the obvious one. It would be stupid to want to go willingly back to Schuldich’s place, but on top of that I’m not sure I want to go back and see Schuldich and Nagi again. I should be thrilled that Schwarz is falling apart, but they’re not falling apart in the right way. This isn’t what I ever had in mind for watching them collapse; it’s wrong on several levels.
If I could, I would burn last night from my memory.
Scowling to myself, irritated at feeling the way I do, I head down the stairs to my car. The drive to their apartment is taken up wondering if I’ll even be able to get to my possessions. The key to their apartment hangs from my key ring, so I don’t have to knock and just get ignored by Nagi. I’ll actually be able to make it inside before he kicks me out, I decide dryly. If he does, maybe he’ll do me a favor and at least throw my stuff out with me. Or perhaps I can just grab hold of a cat so he’ll be hesitant to toss me back in the elevator.
Fully aware of the danger of a distressed Nagi, I turn the key in their door as quietly as I can and open it just as carefully. I manage to get inside and close the door behind me with enough stealth that even the cats aren’t alerted to my presence. My shoes are eased off and socked feet carry me down the hall. I don’t bother looking to the den or kitchen as I pass, not wanting to appear to be sneaking around. It leaves me wide open to any sudden attacks from Nagi, but it’s not like there’s anything I can do to protect myself from his gift anyway.
The door to the bedroom is still open and I step inside. Schuldich is where I last saw him, though he is shifting under the blankets. My first thought is that he is awake; the second is that he is either having fever dreams or he’s just uncomfortable in his sickness. Nagi is missing, but there is an indent on the bed still from where he was lying. I hear the dim sound of water running and glance over my shoulder; someone is using the sink in the bathroom.
Well, at least I’ve made it this far. I enter the bedroom, heading towards my nightstand to gather my books. Another glance in Schuldich’s direction as I lower myself to my knees shows me that the cup of water I brought in earlier is empty. Out of curiosity I reach out, touching the dent where Nagi was earlier. The spot is still warm; either he’s been here since this morning, which I doubt, or he returned to rest by his teammate’s side recently. I turn back to my work, trying to force away my curiosity over what got him in such a state.
Looks like Nagi has returned. I send him a cool glance over my shoulder. A damp towel hangs between his hands on the look he gives me is quelling. “I told you to go away.”
“I did,” I remind him. “But I came back.”
“I don’t have much of a place to go back to when all of my things are here,” I say simply, turning back to the shelf to finger through the books. I am picking out all of the ones I haven’t read yet, and I set these on a small pile on the floor. “If you think I want to stay here, think again,” I say when I realize he hasn’t moved. “I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t need my things.” With that, I look towards him, trying to decide if he’ll reject my excuse and crush me into little Fujimiya Ran pudding against the floor.
He considers my words for a long moment before stalking towards the bed. His annoyance and agitation over my presence is instantly hidden once he climbs up onto the mattress. He moves across the bed as carefully as he can and uses the towel on Schuldich’s face. I open the closet doors, turning my back to him to find clothes. My orange sweater is still missing, and I wonder if it’s worth bringing it up with Schuldich later. I want it back.
I pull out a week’s worth of outfits and stack them beside my book. It’ll be easier to carry everything if I have something to put it in, and the best this apartment has to offer is a trash bag. I go in search of one, and as I lift the box down from the cabinet Nagi enters the kitchen. He is carrying Schuldich’s cup and he steps up to the sink beside me in silence, filling the glass from the faucet. I glance down at him and realize his precious stone expression is still gone. He looks worn down- not from today, I think; no, from something that has been going on longer than this.
He looks like…a child.
The first time we saw the telekinetic, we thought of him as a child. Such notions disappeared the moment he used his gift on us- he instantly evolved from a child to a demon brat. This is the first time in the long months since then that I look at him and see a boy. There is something almost defeated but still determined to his expression; his eyes are lost and tired but his mouth is curved into a faint frown that says he can still fight on.
What has done this to Schwarz?
He looks up at me when he realizes I’m staring, and in that moment he’s too tired for hostility. He says nothing to me but turns away again, starting towards the door.
“What happened to Farfarello?” I ask.
The words are out of my mouth before I can think of the question. Nagi stops in the doorway and for a long time there is silence between us. At last Nagi half turns to face me, and there is an odd, eerie smile on his lips that doesn’t match the sudden swirl of emotions in his eyes. In place of the cold indifference or outright disdain dances a mix of resignation, hatred, self-loathing, and loss. “He’s dead,” he says simply, his words barely a whisper. “Does that make you happy, _Red_?” he asks, lilting Schuldich’s nickname for me as scorn edges his words. At the moment, I have no clue who the scorn is directed towards. I’m too caught on what the boy has just said. “All of Weiß walked away, and two of ours never left the water again. Isn’t it funny how the world works?”
But there isn’t anything funny about it, especially the way he says it. And then Nagi is gone, and I hear the bedroom door close behind him.
How is that possible?
How could Weiß survive when Schwarz didn’t?
Schwarz is dead?
I set the garbage bags back down on the counter and seat myself at the table. I have to sit down; Nagi’s words were not what I expected at all. All of my questions about this place and the remains of Schwarz swirl around in frantic circles, trying to fix themselves with this new bit of knowledge. Crawford and Farfarello moved out, didn’t they? No? They’re dead?
The full significance doesn’t hit me until several moments later. I’m too startled by the thought that Schwarz could die to realize what it really means. Schuldich and Nagi are all that’s left…That’s why they live here together. They don’t have anything else.
Our argument from several nights ago comes flying back to me and I remember the way Schuldich reacted when I told him Farfarello was never coming back. I remember the pain in his eyes that was so identical to Yohji’s, the pain of a deep and irretrievable loss. But I had dismissed it in my own amusement over hurting the telepath and had reassured myself that he was feeling nothing more than bruised pride over being left. But I was right; Farfarello was never going to return and retake his spot in that bed, because Farfarello didn’t make it through the battle by the sea.
Too many things are starting to make sense, and above the questions rattling through my brain waiting for their answers to be corrected is the mental image of Schuldich as he was last night.
I can’t sit here any more. For some reason I feel sick. I rise from my spot and slip into my shoes, letting myself into the elevator when it arrives. I head down the sidewalk with my arms crossed tightly over my chest, not knowing where I’m going but wanting to leave my thoughts behind.
They follow me every step of the way.
When I return to Schwarz’s apartment, it is eight and I am carrying two plastic bags with me. I let myself into their place, not bothering to be quiet about it this time. The cats come running to greet me and follow me to the kitchen. Their dishes are empty- I wonder if Nagi has thought to fed them today, or if he has been too busy with Schuldich to think about it. I set my bags on the counter and fill their dishes; as I turn to put the container away Nagi is in the doorway.
He doesn’t even bother asking; his eyes just want an answer from me.
“I didn’t take my things with me last time,” I tell him. “You shut me out of the bedroom.”
It’s the truth, but not the reason. The reason was that what Nagi told me rattled me too much to think about packing up and moving out. Nagi says nothing, looking back down the hallway towards Schuldich’s bedroom. I put the cat food away and return to the counter, emptying my bags onto the counter. I have brought drinks home with me- a variety of juices and flavored waters. They’re what Yohji said someone with a fever needed. Nagi watches me as I set them in the fridge and I ignore him the best I can.
My walk earlier brought me to Yohji’s café. I’m not sure why; that’s just where I ended up. Yohji was there and even though I was hesitant to intrude on his Asuka reminiscing, I found myself in the rare need for company. Yohji invited me to sit with him easily enough; he knew instantly that something was wrong. I wouldn’t tell him what was bothering me…I skipped his questions and said that someone I knew had a fever. Yohji didn’t know much about what to do for one save to give them plenty to drink, so after I left I stopped by the supermarket to buy juices.
Nagi is still watching me as I drop the bags into the recycle bin, and I study him across the kitchen. We stare each other down in silence for several minutes, and then I sigh, turning my eyes to the clock to take them off the strange sight of Nagi as both a human and a child.
Schwarz isn’t supposed to look human…but Nagi looks like a child and Schuldich…looks like Yohji.
“I might as well stay long enough to make dinner,” I say. Nagi doesn’t answer me, so I rummage through the cabinets to find something we can eat. I wonder if we can wake Schuldich long enough to get anything down his throat, and I sigh quietly at the thought, damning Yohji and Schuldich both with every breath I take. Nagi finally steps into the kitchen again, moving to the fridge and opening it. “Those are for Schuldich,” I say, knowing he is studying the groceries I brought home. “They have more to them than water does, and I would guess they taste better.”
“Why?” Nagi wants to know.
Why am I doing this?
Because I talked to Yohji tonight. Because we were in his café and he was thinking about Asuka. Because I saw him, because I watched his face before I approached him. Because when I think of Schuldich now I think of Yohji, and I can’t turn away from that. Because I don’t know, because I just am. Because of a hundred other reasons I don’t want to ever think about and refuse to consider.
I just shrug. It’s the only answer I can give him, the only answer I can give myself.
It’s good enough for Nagi. He closes the fridge and heads towards the hall.
“Dinner in ten minutes,” I say after him, finally lifting a can of soup down from the shelf. Schuldich should be able to stomach it, and it’s probably the best thing to give someone who is sick. Nagi pauses briefly in the doorway; that’s the only way I know he’s heard me. Then he vanishes once more to Schuldich’s bedroom, and I stare down at the can of soup sitting before me.
“Fujimiya Ran, you’ve lost your damn mind,” I inform myself quietly.
Back to Mami’s Fics