Part Nineteen: They Need Me

    I am dimly aware of Nagi climbing from the bed, but I don’t bother checking to see where he is going. He has been here all day, leaving only to go to the bathroom or to get me another drink. I’ve been in and out of consciousness the whole time, but this is the first time that I’ve been awake that I don’t feel as if I’m going to throw up. I lift my hand to my head, raking my fingers across sweaty skin into hair that is still wet. For a moment I wonder why it’s damp. It takes me a bit to remember that it was raining last night. It was raining most of the time I was out.

    I guess the rain isn’t such a wonderful thing, anymore…

    I close my eyes against a horrendous headache. I don’t know if it’s from everything I drank or if it goes along with the rest of the fun package of misery that includes everything from fatigue to a very sore throat. How much did I drink, anyway? It’s a giant black hole between finding Takada holding Farfarello’s collar to waking up here a few hours ago. Nagi informed me then that I’d been in and out for hours and that I had been missing for almost three days.

    What happened in that time? I don’t know; all I have are flickers of memories of wandering the streets without an origin or destination, and the taste of alcohol lingers in my mouth.

    Fingers lower to the collar around my throat, curling around it and tightening into a fist. Who would have thought you could hurt so much and still stay conscious? Seeing Farfarello’s collar again sent me right back to that day; I was living through it all over again. It wasn’t a memory, it was as if it was happening again, a consequence of my gift and what I did to it that day. Someone else…might have let go. Telepaths know better than to hold onto a mind as it dies. I let go of Crawford when he told me to, seconds before he fell through the floor and passed on. But Farfarello…

    I wouldn’t let go.

    Farfarello could not feel pain, but he could feel me. In his last moments…I didn’t want him to feel me let go. I didn’t want to take down that bond we had built and existed on for two years. He would have felt it disappear, and in his last moments I could not let go. I held on and I breathed his last with him. When he died, he took a part of me with him.

    And no matter the consequences, I don’t regret that.

    But it hurts _so_ much.

    Before I can spiral deeper into my thoughts, Nagi returns. Ran is behind him, and I watch them as they approach the bed. Nagi is carrying a bowl with him, and he sets it on my nightstand. I don’t bother to turn to see what it is. I have moved towards the middle of the bed, so Nagi has enough room to seat himself on the edge of the bed at my back. He holds out a hand towards Ran, who hands him whatever he brought in and then retreats to the wall to watch. Nagi busies himself with what he was given behind me before leaning over me to study my face.

    ~Schuldich, you need to eat.~

    Just the thought of food makes my stomach turn. I glance up at him. /Like hell,/ I answer.

    ~It’s soup. Eat it. You need something besides drinks in you.~

    /Oh, because soup is so different from water…/ I say snidely, closing my eyes to show I’m ignoring him. /I don’t want it. I’m not hungry./

    ~But you’re going to eat it,~ Nagi informs me.

    I open my eyes and scowl up at him. /Says who?/

    He takes hold of my shoulder and rolls me onto my back, giving me a Look. I wince; the world does a lovely dance before my eyes at the sudden movement and someone has stabbed a knife through my brain. ~I do,~ he says, as if that makes all the difference in the world. For one moment I want to claw his eyes out for bothering me. At the same time, I’m glad he returned to keep me from thinking too much. Nagi can be my buffer against things I don’t want to deal with and thoughts I’m not ready for yet. ~Don’t be an ass. Just eat the soup. You got yourself sick and now I’m the one who has to make you better, inconsiderate prick.~

    I can’t help but grin up at him and his indignant tone. The tone matches the front color of annoyance in his eyes, but in the back of his gaze and in the echo of his thoughts I can see his worry. Nagi takes my grin to be agreement and beckons for me to sit up. I sigh, pushing myself up as carefully as I can. My head protests moving and I reach up to rub carefully at my temples. My stomach isn’t happy, either, and I give it a moment to settle before accepting the bowl. /If this shit makes me hurl you’re the one who’s going to clean it up./

    ~Let Ran,~ Nagi answers breezily. ~It’s his soup.~

    I laugh at that, a hoarse, quiet sound, and ignore the offered spoon to sip at the soup. Two pairs of eyes watch me as I slowly drink it, and I ignore them both for as long as I can. Finally I turn my gaze on Nagi. /I’m drinking it,/ I tell him. /See? I don’t need an audience./

    He points to the glass on the counter. ~Juice, for when you’re done.~

    I blink at that, studying the cup. /When did we get juice?/ We didn’t have it the last time I was home. Of course, I _was_ gone for three days…

    ~Ran brought it back with him. He said you have to drink plenty of fluids since you have a fever,~ Nagi explains, picking at the threads on my mattress.

    I glance towards Ran again. He hasn’t moved since he took up his spot by the wall. I can’t read his thoughts, not through this headache of mine. I can’t hear Nagi’s except what he projects at me. There’s a thick hum in the background of my mind, but the pain squishes it so that I can’t understand it. I give a soft snort, turning back to my soup. /Surprised you didn’t kick him out while I was missing./

    ~I tried several times today,~ Nagi says with a sigh. ~He kept coming back.~

    I consider that, finishing off my soup and displaying the empty bowl to Nagi for his satisfaction. He sets it on my nightstand and hands me my juice next. I grumble something about him being pushy but accept the cup. The conversation with Nagi has worn me out, even if it was all mental to avoid hurting my already unhappy throat. Nagi seems to realize this, and takes my half finished glass away. I watch as he puts it back on the nightstand, and he slides from the bed.

    ~Go back to sleep,~ he urges me quietly. As he turns his eyes fall on Ran, and he hesitates, looking back at me. My soup bowl floats from the nightstand to his hands and he gazes down at it. ~What do I do with him tonight?~ he asks.

    I tug at the blankets that are gathered around me as I slowly ease myself back down to the mattress. My head turns towards Ran again; blue and purple meet across the room. I can read nothing from his expression and it hurts too much to try and touch his mind. I’m not sure I want to touch it, anyway. I don’t know if I want just Nagi around so I can feel something that is Schwarz alone or if hearing only Nagi is just a sharp reminder of what is missing. I don’t know what to do with Ran, to keep him as a distraction or to toss him out as an intruder. I don’t want to look at him anymore; that’s all I know. I close my eyes against him. /I don’t know./

    Nagi accepts this in silence and I hear his socked feet moving across the floor to the door. ~Sleep,~ he says again.

    I’ll sleep…as long as I don’t have to dream again.


    Nagi and I sit across from each other at the table with our own soup. Nagi isn’t touching his; he’s gazing into his bowl and staring at something that I cannot see. His arms rest on the table and his hands are clenched lightly and resting against his mouth as he stares down at his soup. I wonder if he has eaten anything today or if he has been busy looking after his teammate. He has classes tomorrow; I wonder if it is good for him to go to sleep on an empty stomach. I suppose it isn’t my business, but I can’t help the thoughts.

    “Schuldich doesn’t care if you go,” Nagi says suddenly, his soft voice breaking the silence between us. He doesn’t look up at me. “I don’t know if he’ll want you back when he’s healthy, but you can return back to your own place while he is sick.”

    I turn his words over in my head as I swallow a spoonful of soup. “Mm,” I say at last, at a lack of anything better to say.

    Nagi isn’t done speaking; I can see a small struggle on his face as he decides whether or not to say what is on his mind. He finally gives up the battle with a soft sigh, his shoulders sagging lightly. “I don’t know how to cook what you brought home,” he says, and the spoon in his bowl begins spinning itself in lazy circles. “I have to go to my late morning class because I have a test, and I will be gone through lunch. I wanted…to leave a lunch here for Schuldich.”

    It takes me a moment to follow his train of thought; it still seems strange that he’s talking to me. But Schuldich is all Nagi has, and Schuldich is sick. I consider my own soup for a moment before taking a sip of my drink, and the silence stretches between us. “I can cook something tonight,” I finally offer. I should kick myself for doing him a favor. I am Fujimiya Ran. I hate Schwarz, all of Schwarz, whether they’re demon brats or boys. People don’t do favors and cook meals for people they hate unless they have to.

    But I’ve just volunteered to.

    Pity…Sympathy…These are not things I want to feel for them.

    I suppose I don’t have a say in the matter, not after last night. Last night changed everything. Last night, the masks fell and everything that was left of Schwarz shattered until there were just people behind. And I think I finally have to accept that the two are human, despite all of my attempts to deny it. Maybe they were always human and I just could never tell; our meetings with Schwarz were always brief and only gave us a glimpse of them on the job. If someone bumped into Weiß on a mission and then saw us in our flower shop, would they be as startled to find out that we’re normal?

    How can you hate someone that suddenly reminds you so much of your best friend?

    “Aa…” Nagi answers softly. With that, he rises from the table and leaves. The soup goes untouched. I know it will be no good reheated, so I end up throwing it away. The table is cleared and the dishes taken care of, and I rummage through the cabinet to find something to make for Schuldich’s lunch. I want to find something simple, something that he will actually be able to eat. I have no clue what to do with people who are sick. Omi and Ken get sick the most on our team; Yohji and I seem to have better immune systems. It’s the younger two that know what it’s like to have a fever and know how to treat those who have it…Omi tends to anyone who is ill. All Yohji and I could come up with is that sick people need drinks.

    When Aya was sick, it was always my mother that looked after her and she always sent me away so I would not catch whatever my sister had. I don’t know what my mother did for her.

    Aya…It bothers me that she has fallen from my thoughts recently. These past few days, my thoughts have been on the big changes twisting through Schwarz and I have almost forgotten why I am here in the first place. Now I am reminded, and I pause in what I am doing. How could I have forgotten her? Granted, dealing with Schwarz takes a lot of energy, but the only reason I am dealing with them is because Schuldich took her away.

    Schuldich has said countless times that he had no plans of killing her. He threatens doing terrible things to her when I make him angry, but he does not wish to kill her. There is something important about my sister that I don’t understand, something about her that Schuldich wants. But she has been in a coma for three years. What can she offer him?

    I think I can trust Schuldich’s feelings for Farfarello to be sincere. I even think I can tell myself that Schuldich is human.

    But I don’t think I can trust him with Aya.


    I’m sprawled on my stomach watching television when I feel the knife bite into my skin. I tilt my head to one side, glancing over my shoulder to give Farfarello a Look. “And what the hell do you think you’re doing?” I ask.

    He licks the blood from his knife, giving me a calm look. “Branding you,” he answers simply.

    “Do I look like a cow?” I want to know. Farfarello gives me a faint smile, his yellow eye amused, and I grumble at him before turning my attention back on the movie. My hand finds the remote and I turn the volume up a notch, propping my chin on my hands once more. I miss whatever the detective says, though, because there’s a warm mouth on my new cut and I feel a tongue brush across the slit Farfarello has made. It stings; it’s not a deep cut but it’s always the shallow ones that hurt the most. “Farfarello…” I roll away from him, lying on my back instead. The rough carpet digs into my cut and I try to remember the last time this carpet was cleaned. Farfarello reaches over me so that he has a hand on either side of me, and he gazes down at my disapproving look without any sign of remorse.

    “You’re mine,” he insists.

    “Or vice versa,” I answer with a grin, reaching up to curl my fingers through his collar. I use it to pull his face down. He doesn’t resist and we share a lazy kiss. “Now that that’s established, what’s the point in branding me?”

    “It isn’t for us,” he answers simply, uncurling my fingers from his collar and straightening. The knife point touches my skin again and he makes another shallow cut, this one across my chest. “It’s for everyone else.”

    I study him for a moment, the movie forgotten. Both of us are shirtless; we are fresh from the tub and wearing only our pajama pants. My eyes trail over his skin, over the rows of scars that decorate his own flesh. Farfarello’s marks- put there to show others that he has control over himself, that he owns himself. The fact that he likes the way the blood looks as it runs across his skin is just the bonus he gets from his own personal branding. I lace my fingers behind my head and give an exaggerated sigh. “Whatever,” I finally say.

    Farfarello offers me his odd little smile before leaning down to kiss the blood off of my cut. I am content to watch him as he works, knife and lips moving across my front.

    If Farfarello wants it, then why not?

    Besides, I don’t think I mind the idea of being unmistakably his.


    I find myself back at my apartment and sit on the edge of the bed, the clothes I quietly gathered from Schuldich’s room still held in my arms. I only have one outfit and my towel with me; I perhaps would have grabbed more if the German didn’t appear to be sleeping so restlessly. His nightstand was covered in glasses; Nagi took him five cups of varying kinds of juices in case he woke thirsty in the middle of the night. The boy returned to the kitchen after I was done making Schuldich’s lunch and watched where I put it, then wrote a note on a napkin and brought it to the bedroom where his companion could find it. He said nothing else to me that night, and I didn’t push for a conversation.

    His bedroom light was still on when I left, and I assumed he was studying for his test. At dinner he said he had one in the morning, but I barely saw him studying this weekend. He was too caught up with Schuldich’s prolonged absence to pay attention to his schoolwork, and now all he has is tonight to prepare himself. It reminds me of Omi, almost. Omi may not spend as much time in the shop itself but he does the accounts and runs the management side of it. He has schoolwork and Weiß on top of that, and his studying is always shoved to the backseat when something else demands his attention. The times I’ve worked afternoon shift with him I’ve seen him poring over his notes on his break, desperate to get everything learned.

    That’s all I need, I decide with a small snort, is to start finding comparisons for the little Schwarz just like I’ve found for Schuldich.

    I set my clothes aside and get myself settled in bed. It is a long time before I drift to sleep, and the night is dreamless. It seems that the moment I close my eyes the alarm is going off to wake me up. I don’t feel rested at all, and tired limbs push me up from the mattress. A hand seeks my clock to turn that annoying whine off and I sit on my bed for a moment to try and clear the fogginess from my mind. I glance to my side. The bed’s empty; I guess Schuldich’s up already…

    That thought is enough to wake me up and I rub at my eyes, offering a soft curse to the room. A month of having to share a bed with someone…I suppose I got used to it. It’s such a strange thing to realize, strange to think that it feels so odd to wake up alone.

    Yohji would be highly amused.

    There’s a soft rap at my door and I pull myself from bed, crossing the room to the door. It’s either Yohji or Ken; Yohji because he has morning shift with me or Ken because he’s back from his run. I open the door to find my older teammate. It isn’t bright outside yet but it’s still lighter than inside my room, and I squint up at my bemused companion.

    “What a surprise,” Yohji drawls, inviting himself to sprawl against my doorframe. I know he’s trying to get a glance over my shoulder to see if I’m alone, and I just barely keep myself from rolling my eyes as I retreat back inside my room. Yohji follows, closing the door behind him. “It’s quite a shock to find your car here first thing in the morning,” he informs me, flicking on the light.

    “Yohji,” I warn him, blinking to try and adjust to the harsh light. My teammate laughs and I glare at him, unhappy to be the source of his morning amusement. He’s not even dressed yet- he’s still wearing his sleeping pants. I spare a moment to wonder how they can be comfortable; they’re silk rather than cotton and they hang low on his hips.

    “Your car is never here when I first get up,” he tells me. “You show up sometime when I’m in the shower. Figured it was worth a try to knock but I didn’t expect you to answer…much less look like you just got out of bed.”

    “Has anyone told you that you’re nosy?” I ask him, folding my arms over my chest.

    “It’s curiosity,” he corrects me loftily. “Goes with the whole cat codenames, of course.”

    “Of course,” I echo dryly. Yohji tilts his head to one side, studying me thoughtfully, and I wonder what has caught his attention now. “What do you want?” I ask.

    He shrugs, but there is still a measuring look in his eye despite his amused smile. “I was just wondering if you spent the night here.” He sends a meaningful look at my bed. “Alone. My, my, your poor girl. Did she cry herself to sleep because you weren’t there with her?”

    There is a light edge to Yohji’s voice that is both a warning and a challenge. The amusement is still there but it is a mask over his words, and I hesitate, eyeing him warily. We stare each other down across the room, and I can feel my fingernails digging into my upper arms. Something is…wrong. Something about Yohji is very wrong; I search his eyes across the room and I can see a darkness behind his green eyes. It isn’t anger, or perhaps it is. I cannot tell; Yohji is good at hiding what he’s thinking a good bit of the time. The only way I can see it is because it is too great for him to hide it all.

    “Get out,” I say softly, taking a step back.

    “Tell me, is there really a girl?” Yohji asks, stepping away from the door. He approaches me with slow, steady steps. I want to retreat but I’m too stubborn to give ground. I’m silent as I watch him come. I can’t answer the question because I don’t want to outright lie to him. Yohji stops right in front of me and I stare up at him silently, struggling to figure out what’s happened. “No? No girl?” Yohji asks, taking hold of my wrist.

    “Let go,” I tell him, dropping my eyes to his hand because I can’t meet his stare anymore. I lift my hand to his fingers, trying to claw them free. “Get out of my apartment.”

    “How about a guy, then?” Yohji asks.

    I freeze for just a moment, a physical hiccup. Yohji takes hold of my other wrist, pulling my hand away from his. The playful tone is gone from his voice; there is something hard lacing his words. “How about a man with orange hair and blue eyes?”

    Purple eyes fly up to Yohji’s face. Yohji’s expression closes off; he sees the confirmation in my startled look. I don’t know what to say to him. “What…” I finally say, because nothing else comes to mind.

    “Makiko and I had lunch yesterday,” Yohji informs me. “I asked her how she knew you. She said you moved in with some foreigners in her apartment. I was curious; I asked where they were from. She had no clue, but she described Schuldich to me perfectly. _Schuldich_, Aya. Look me in the eye and tell me that she’s wrong, that there’s another orange-haired man with blue eyes wandering through Tokyo.”

    “Let me go,” I try again.

    “What the hell are you thinking?” Yohji explodes. “How the fuck can you hide something like that from us?”

    Yohji has never…been mad at me before. Irritated by my failure to open up to him as much as he would like, perhaps, but never…mad. And he is furious now. I have no clue how to react to his anger; it bothers me more than I ever thought it would to have him angry with me. He is…my friend. My only friend. My mind scrambles for something to say to him, but I realize that he would never understand, that nothing I say would make him understand. I can’t tell him why I went there because Aya’s absence is supposed to be a secret. Schuldich said that my teammates have no memories of her existence anymore. How am I supposed to explain that I’ve been living there for a month? How can I tell him everything I’ve learned about Schuldich and Nagi?

    He won’t understand. If he wasn’t there himself, he won’t believe anything I say. If we switched places and Yohji tried to tell me everything he’s concluded about Schwarz, I would blow him off as being insane.

    “What would make you live with Schwarz?” Yohji demands. “What are they threatening you with to make you go there every day? Why didn’t you TELL us?”

    And out of everything I could have said, out of anything I could have used to try and calm him down, I find myself saying instead, “They aren’t Schwarz anymore.”

    “Oh, that’s rich.” Yohji practically throws my hands out of his grip and I find myself stumbling backwards. I hit my bed and end up sitting on it. My mind offers up the knowledge once again that this bed is too hard and I kick that part of me. “Aya, have you lost your mind?”

    “No,” I answer softly, but I know he won’t believe me.

    Don’t be mad at me…

    “Then why?” Yohji asks. The eyes staring down at me swirl with anger towards me and them, hatred towards Schwarz, hurt and betrayal that I didn’t trust him enough to tell him what was really going on. I don’t want to see that in his eyes but I can’t make myself look away.


    Why did I find myself returning to their apartment when Nagi kicked me out? Why did I bring Schuldich juice? Why did I make him his lunch? I see Nagi’s mouth drawn into a tight line of worry as he waits for his missing teammate to come home, I see Schuldich the night we fought over my reason for being there, I see Schuldich as he was when he came stumbling home yesterday.

    And I know the answer.

    “Because they…need me…” I answer helplessly.

    Because Yohji said I need to be needed, and somehow I managed to find that with Schuldich and Nagi. Schuldich needs me because he can’t sleep alone at night, because he still hurts over what was ripped away from him so long ago. Nagi doesn’t like me but he tolerates me- because of Schuldich. I think of their cats and their nice apartment, I think of Schuldich grinning at me in delight when I made tempura for them. I think of the instant meal we had for the first meal I was there and Nagi saying yesterday that he cannot cook what I’ve brought back for them. Even if they don’t need me for much, even if they don’t realize it, even if I’ve only just figured it out…It’s there, and that’s what pulls me back.

    And…I think I do trust Schuldich with Aya. I can trust him not to kill her, at least.

    Schwarz was a strong, powerful group.

    But Schwarz has fallen apart, and there are only people left behind.

    “That’s bullshit,” Yohji snarls, and I find myself flinching away from the anger in his eyes. “You’re brainwashed. That fucking telepath did something to you; no wonder you aren’t acting like yourself lately. You aren’t going back to see them anymore, do you understand? I don’t know what they’re threatening you with, but-”

    /Schuldich, help me./

    The thought comes out of nowhere. It’s driven by the need to get away from Yohji’s anger, the desire to flee from this sudden fury from my only friend, from the hurt I feel because he feels betrayed. It isn’t until later that I reflect that I called Schuldich before I tried to escape on my own- not that I would be able to make it past Yohji to the door.

    And, by some miracle, Schuldich is awake when I call him. Yohji suddenly stops mid-sentence. His green eyes are almost gray as he turns around and heads towards the door without another word towards me. He leaves the door open and in a few moments I can hear him banging on Ken’s door.

    “Oiiiii, come on, don’t you dare be late for your shift, Ken!”

    I think I’m going to be sick. I push myself up and cross the room to the door on unsteady legs. Shaking fingers push it shut and throw the lock into place. I lean my back against the door and slowly slide towards the ground, hugging my legs to my chest and burying my face against my knees. Yohji and Ken pass by my door just moments later, and I can hear them laughing as they go.

Part 20
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