8: Life's Little Lessons

      Meirth's entrance into the kitchen was greeted with a quiet "Boom."

      It took him a moment to actually find the younger man. Under the kitchen counters were cabinets, and one of the doors was open a crack. The American made his way over to it, crouching in front of it and pulling the door the rest of the way open. Light spilled inside, showing him the youth that was squished into the corner. He had to have taken all of the pots and pans out to get in, but he'd pulled them back inside and stacked them around him. The way he was scrunched in there, tucked into a tight ball and hunched over because it was such a low cabinet, didn't look comfortable at all, but Meirth doubted he noticed any discomfort. Dark red eyes glittered in the shadows that still lingered in the back and a wide smile spread on Einsam's lips as he tilted his head to one side to consider the empath. Slowly the Sequencer uncurled a hand from where it was wrapped around his legs and held it out towards Meirth. The fist suddenly opened, fingers splaying everywhere. "Boom," he said again.

      Meirth took a pot, rose from his crouch, and shut the cabinet door. The pot was filled with water in the sink and he set it to boil on the stove. While he waited he pulled down two mugs, setting a tea bag in one and dropping a powder packet to rest beside the other. He leaned against the counter as the water heated, and when it was ready, mixed his tea and moved to sit at the table. The cabinet door opened again at the sound of his spoon scraping against the mug, like he expected it to. For a moment there was silence, and then slowly the pots and pans were moved out onto the linoleum. Einsam crawled out last and sat on the floor to put the dishes back. When he stood he used one bare foot to push the door shut and he moved unerringly for the mug on the counter, making his own drink before carrying the hot chocolate towards the table. He sat himself at the far end from the empath, clutching the mug in both hands, and waited.

      As convenient as it was to have a Sequencer, it hadn't taken long for Meirth to be annoyed by the boy tracing Meirth himself. Sometimes it was intentional, and sometimes Einsam knew what was coming simply because it had to do with himself. The boy's focused threads were starting to waver, and these days he didn't always get to pick and choose what he looked at. Regardless, being answered before he got to voice a question- oftentimes before he even thought it up or saw the necessity for it- and having things brought or done for him before he knew he wanted them, got old. It had been amusing for a while, and then he had learned to hate it. He didn't like it that the boy could predict what he was going to do so easily. It was like having Braddyn around all over again, besting him over and over because his gift and their shared blood let him track Meirth easily. It had taken getting Braddyn into the hospital wing for him to get away from Rosenkreuz without the other knowing what he was planning on doing, and *that* had been hell to accomplish. Now Einsam wasn't allowed to act on what he saw when it dealt with Meirth. It didn't matter that he knew as long as he didn't show that he knew, and no matter how long ago he saw things coming, he had to wait until Meirth actually voiced them to act upon them.

      "Well?" Meirth asked at last. It irritated him that that was the best question he could come up with. He didn't know exactly what Einsam would be able to tell him, and by asking specific questions he realized he often missed a lot.

      "You can't have the Sensitive yet," Einsam said. Meirth sent him a sharp look but the Sequencer was calm, almost distant. Red eyes gazed off into space for a few moments before he pulled his gaze down to his mug, and he lifted it to take a long swallow. It didn't matter that the drink was made from almost boiled water and too hot to gulp like that. Einsam needed little pains like this to keep himself focused, to give him something to deal with so he wouldn't lose himself down his tracks of probabilities. "He belongs to Schuldich. There were Sensitives back in Rosenkreuz, and Schuldich didn't like them. Didn't like their power. Called them leeches." He took another swallow before tilting his head to one side, red eyes studying the dark liquid that sloshed around inside his mug. "There's one in Schwarz. It'd have to be Schuldich's call. His, his…" He fell silent for a few moments before offering up another "His."

      Meirth set his mug down loudly, and Einsam focused again at the sound. "Schuldich will stay in for a few days," he said. "Sensitive will stick by him. Links and gifts and leeches, and you can't have them yet." He considered this for a minute and then his lips curved into a smile. His fingers tightened on his mug and he rose from his seat, looking towards the empath seated across from him. "But he will leave, and you can see Schuldich before you can have the Sensitive." Meirth leaned forward at such words, watching Einsam's eyes slide half closed until red eyes seemed to glow. "Boom," Einsam said. "Boom." He fell quiet, lifting one hand from his mug to trail his fingers over his lips. "Not the gift, it's the person," he mused. "The Sensitive has to be someone he wants to work with. Could work with. Personalities go click click and there you go. They have to get out some time." He rose from his chair and gathered his mug up in his hands. "I have to think," he said, and vanished from the room.


      Dinner should have been an awkward affair. Farfarello didn't eat with them; he didn't show up at the kitchen when the food was finished cooking. Yohji took his chair, thinking that there was something very surreal about eating supper with Schwarz in their own kitchen. Schuldich seemed to have forgotten the argument they'd had just thirty-five minutes ago, because the anger and violence were gone completely, leaving a breezy German in his place. Yohji idly wondered if he'd really recovered from the argument or if someone had told him that they had to behave. The Balinese himself still wasn't at all thrilled with Schwarz, but looking around the table at them, he knew it would be an argument lost before it ever started. He could yell himself hoarse, and it wouldn't do him any good. Weiss was in on this, and he had no way to contact them, no way to get to them. So he could sit here and hate Schwarz for what they'd done, but he couldn't do a damn thing about it.

      He could have shown his anger by sitting in a sullen silence through dinner, but he knew that that wouldn't bother them at all. They weren't interested in his happiness or his company. They only wanted him to be someone they could work with. So he made himself play along, made himself shove the anger and resentment deep and told himself that he had to live through this and Weiss had to live through this, if only so he could kick the shit out of Scwharz when it was over.

      "Pleasant thoughts, Kudou," Schuldich noted, eyeing the serving dish next to him as he debated how much of it he wanted to take.

      "Keep listening," Yohji encouraged him, taking the small tray of rolls Crawford was holding out. "They'll get more colorful if you give me time."

      "You don't have the imagination for it," Schuldich told him with a shake of his head, finally deciding on what he wanted. He forked the meat onto his plate and pushed the dish towards Nagi. Yohji gave him the rolls and Schuldich snagged two, taking a bite out of one before setting the dish down in a clear spot on the table and speaking again. "That's the problem with Weiss. You're too stuck on the notion of being goody-goodies, so you don't allow yourself to have any appreciation for the art of death." He set his rolls on his plate, leaning back in his chair and flicking his hair out of his face with long fingers before turning blue eyes on Yohji. "A death shouldn't be quick. That's no fun. There are hundreds of ways to-"


      Schuldich grinned at Crawford's interjection. "Not dinner appropriate conversation?" he asked, picking up his cup and taking a sip from it.

      "That's a shocker, considering you're Schwarz," Yohji commented, picking at his roll.

      "Apparently discussing ways to completely take a body apart when you're eating food that looks like this is bad etiquette." Schuldich gave a lazy grin and lifted his eyes from his glass, sending a glance towards Yohji. With the look came the mental picture of someone that might have been human once. She'd been cut down the middle and everything that had been inside had been taken out, splayed all over the place.

      Yohji fought back the urge to get sick, retaliating by sending Schuldich the first thing that came to mind- a picture of Takatori in a speedo.

      Schuldich choked on his water, and Nagi had to give him a telekinetic thump on the back to help him clear his lungs. Yohji felt supremely victorious and hid a smug grin in his roll, watching as the German coughed and tried to get his breathing back to normal. Schuldich ran the back of his hand across his mouth and sent Yohji a Look. "You're disgusting," he declared when he could breathe again. He opened his mouth to say something else, then blinked, hesitating as if something occurred to him. After a moment he started laughing. Crawford and Nagi were apparently used to behavior like this, because they'd gone back to eating without batting an eye. Yohji just watched Schuldich as he laughed, listening to the genuine amusement in it and deciding that he'd never really heard this laugh before.

      Schuldich got himself back under control and flicked Yohji a grin. "Farfarello says we should keep it off the mental wavelengths," he said. "Seeing as how I don't want to get knifed in my sleep, I think that's the end of things."

      "Score one for the Kudou," Yohji mused. Schuldich flicked him a rude gesture but there was no animosity on his face, and Yohji bared his teeth at the other man in a grin before going back to eating. The German's mood swings were going to take some getting used to. He distinctly remembered that the man had wanted to kill him- or at least maim him horrendously- less than an hour ago. Now the telepath's attitude was that of one who didn't care at all what Yohji had said or that he was here. Yohji was just a little thrown by it, so he contented himself to drop the conversation and eat.

      Schuldich finished first and moved his plate to the dishwasher before lifting another down from the cabinet. He stood behind his chair to fill it with food and then vanished from the room. Yohji decided the food was meant for Farfarello and idly wondered why they didn't just find a fifth chair and move it to the table. It would be a little crowded with five people but it would work. He decided not to ask, because he didn't care and he wasn't interested in putting up with Farfarello more than he had to. Nagi finished second and carried his things away, and when the youth made his exit Crawford set his cup down and turned his eyes on Yohji.

      Yohji studied the calm expression, the eyes that saw a little too much but couldn't see anything in this new war. It took him a moment to figure out what the westerner was waiting on, and then he decided Crawford was letting him react to Schwarz's usage of Weiss. He had the feeling that this was going to be the only time the American tolerated him speaking out against it. A million things ran through his head, accusations and declarations of hatred, of dissent. He could spend hours hashing out exactly why he didn't want them to drag his team into this and the risks that were now facing the three.

      But no matter what he said, it wouldn't change anything. They were in.

      "I won't forgive you," was all he said. In the end, it was rather pointless. Schwarz didn't want his forgiveness and there was a chance they were all going to be dead by the end of this, the black team included. He could only reassure himself that his team was competent, and that they would keep the risks in mind. Schuldich had said they were dealing with Marigold, whoever that was, but the German had implied that they didn't have powers. It would be just like any other mission the team had taken, just with a slightly higher chance of failure. He clung to the hope that they would make it out. Omi was smart. They were all smart. They would pull through.

      He had to believe in it.

      "Lock them away," Crawford told him. "Divide them away from you in your mind now, or you won't make it through this. Weiss is sentimental, and we cannot have your concern for their every move clouding your judgment. Find a way to forget about them for two weeks, or both Farfarello and Schuldich will go in and try to put a block in there. You do it on your own or they'll do it, and it will be permanent."

      He considered the words, turning them over in his head. It was met with a flash of resentment, but that couldn't be helped. "I don't need their help," he said at last.

      Crawford just nodded. Yohji stood from the table and moved his plate to the sink, rinsing it off before putting it beside the others in the dishwasher. He didn't look back at the precognitive as he left. The other three of Schwarz were in the den; a glance in as he passed showed Schuldich and Farfarello sitting across from each other at the low table and Nagi occupying the chair he'd sat in earlier. Yohji stopped in the doorway just long enough to get Schuldich's attention. The German glanced his way from where he was sitting, and Yohji waited for him to check things out in his mind. The telepath didn't comment and turned back to Farfarello. Taking that for approval, Yohji let himself into Farfarello's room and dug his things out of his suitcase.

      Schwarz's bathroom was large and tidy, and he stood just inside to admire it for a moment. It had been cleaned recently, and the marble gray counters reflected the overhead light easily. He closed the door behind him, feeling slightly envious of the other team's obvious wealth, and arranged his things where he liked them. He paused as he was putting them on the edge of the tub within reach, looking around at the other four corners. Only three corners were filled. The bottles were obviously complete sets, one for each person, but there were only three corners taken. He considered this with a small frown on his face, then reached out to one of the sets to pick through it. On the second corner, he found that there were multiples of a couple bottles, two brands mixed together in the same spot, but neither complete without the other. One brand had something that the other didn't, and vice versa. Curious, but nothing big to worry about.

      He saw no need to take a fast shower so lingered under the hot spray, washing away the grime of a missed shower, letting the hot water knead the stress from his shoulders. When he was finished, he dried his bottles off and put them back in their bag before drying himself. He'd brought his clothes with him so he wouldn't have to dress in Farfarello's room, and he opened the window to let some of the steam out before pulling on his clothes. It was a loose outfit, one he liked to wear around his room when he had nothing better to do, and a smile curved his lips at his team's thoughtfulness to include it. He'd gone through his whole suitcase when it'd been delivered to him, studying the things his friends had thought necessary to include. They were all his favorite outfits, along with the random accessories he chose to wear with them. And resting on top, when he'd first opened the case, had been three flowers: a rose, a gentian, and a freesia. He'd tucked them back into place carefully when he was done investigating his things.

      He carried his toiletries and dirty clothes back to Farfarello's room, setting the bag to the side of his suitcase and folding the outfit. For a lack of anywhere better to put it, it was placed on top of the suitcase. He studied the room he was in for a moment longer, taking note of the lack of barred windows and chains, the absence of medication and straitjackets. It was strange to think this tidy place belonged to Schwarz's maddest, but he was learning a lot that he hadn't expected to these past few days.

      With a sigh, he dug his bag of watch tools from the front of his suitcase and left the room. The den was empty; he could hear voices coming from the kitchen. He took over the room, settling himself down on the couch. The bag was set on the cushion to his left and his watch, which he'd taken off for his shower and put on again immediately after, was unhooked from his wrist. He set it in his lap and rummaged through the bag for the screwdriver and pick, prying the top half open so he could get to the wire. He pulled the center coil out, gently pressing the springs and latch that would release it, and set about unrolling it. The wire was completely undone and he ran a light rag over it to clear it of dust before slowly winding it up again. It was slow work; the watch could hold a hundred feet of wire and he hadn't used that much of it lately. Round and around and around, pulling it tight and lacing it about carefully to make sure it wouldn't catch. He focused on the work so he wouldn't have to think, fingers twisting the coil this way and that to get his wire settled right. When he was finally finished, the fingers of one hand kept it from unwinding again while he used a small cloth and straight tool to clean out the inside of the watch. His coil was put back into place last, the springs reset and everything twisted right so it would come out smoothly. He studied it for a few moments, making sure it looked right, and was startled from his thoughts by a voice.

      "What kind of gun do you use?"

      He looked up from his spot to see Schuldich lounging against the doorframe, watching him. Absently Yohji wondered how long he'd been standing there. He hadn't noticed the other man's entrance, too focused on his work. "Gun?" he echoed.

      "Gun," Schuldich said. "Shoots bullets. Bang bang."

      Yohji scowled at him for the words and tone. "I don't use a gun. Haven't in years."

      "Please tell me that dinky tinsel really isn't all you've got." Yohji looked from his watch to the German again and arched an eyebrow at him. Schuldich made a disgusted sound in his throat and pushed himself away from the doorframe. His first stop was at a cabinet at the back wall of the den, and Yohji half turned in his seat to watch him. Schuldich pulled open one of the drawers, rummaged around for a moment, and pulled a handgun out. Without bothering to shut the drawer behind him, he came over to the couch, moving around it and holding the weapon out in offering to Yohji.

      "I don't need that," Yohji told him, not moving to take the handgun.

      "So you say."

      "This is my weapon," Yohji insisted. "It was enough to take out the telekinetic."

      "Yes, it was. Congratu-fucking-lations. Get up." At Yohji's small frown of incomprehension, Schuldich tossed the gun to the cushion beside him and made a sharp gesture with his hands, taking a few steps back. "Get up," he said again, and this time Yohji rose. He followed Schuldich into the center of the room where it was clear and there they stopped, just a few feet apart. Schuldich's blue eyes were cool as they studied his face. "Put your wire around my throat," he told the other man.

      Yohji just stared at him. "What?"

      "You heard me."

      "You're crazy."

      "What, afraid you're going to miss?" Schuldich asked, a taunt lacing his words. He planted his hands on his hips and tilted his head back to expose his throat. Yohji lifted his eyes from that smooth skin to turn a narrowed gaze on Schuldich's face. The man had to be insane. "Come on. You're three feet away."

      Yohji looked down at his watch and snapped the lid on, pulling a line of wire out and holding it taut between his fingers. He considered it just a moment longer and then the German, who was waiting with an inscrutable expression. Taking a deep breath, he moved, letting the wire fly.

      A knife bit into his throat before he even realized that Schuldich wasn't there anymore, and he froze. Schuldich was behind him, pressed up against him. One hand held the blade- though where it'd come from, Yohji didn't know- against his neck. The other hand was splayed on his abdomen, keeping the white assassin held back against him. He felt warmth; the knife hadn't cut deep but it cut enough to let a trickle of blood down his skin. Orange hair spilled over Yohji's shoulder as the telepath tilted his head forward.

      "Bang," Schuldich murmured, lips almost brushing his ear he was so close, "you're dead."

      He let go and took a few steps back, and Yohji turned to face him. He was suddenly a slight bit uneasy, but he wasn't sure if it had to do with the demonstration that had showed him how easy it would be to kill him or the man who had done it. Schuldich's knife had already disappeared again, and the telepath moved to the couch to scoop the gun up. "You killed the telekinetic," he said. "Fair enough feat for someone who hasn't got a gift, to be sure. But your little tinsel tricks aren't going to work on the other three, and it won't have to do with your reflexes or your aim. Einsam will see it coming. Meirth will make you not want to hurt him or will make you let him go. He could cripple you with pain before you even thought to take it to him. And Nuboshi… Nuboshi will do what I just did."

      He gave Yohji a moment to think that over, then held out his hand. "Now. Gun."

      After a slight hesitation, Yohji reached over and took it from him. He studied it, the awkward weight it was in a hand that hadn't held a gun since his PI days. It was heavier than the gun he'd used back then, and then it was gone as Schuldich took it back. The German waved it in a beckon and Yohji followed silently over to the cabinet. There were several guns inside, various models and sizes, and they went through them until Schuldich was satisfied. Yohji didn't have to comment on them; Schuldich was just picking it up in his gift before he could voice his reaction to them. None of them were brands Yohji had ever used. Being a PI didn't make one rich, and he and Asuka had had pretty low incomes when they worked. There was no way he would have been able to afford these models back then. Finally they settled on one and Schuldich slid the drawer closed. The telepath turned to face him, poking the gun that rested in Yohji's palm before letting his hand linger there, adding weight to the weapon. Blue eyes were serious when they met Yohji's gaze.

      "Know this," he said. "Nuboshi does not move faster than bullets. He moves faster than people. All it takes is you moving this gun in his direction and he'll know that you're going to try a shot on him. You can't let him see it coming, or you've lost already and he'll come at you. You do not let go of this in a battle until he's in your face, until his hand is on it and he's ripping it away. You let go of it for one reason and one reason only."

      "And that would be?" Yohji wanted to know.

      Schuldich shifted his free hand slightly and lifted it to where Yohji could see. It was his knife, a little one and a half inch blade still lined with the faintest bits of blood. "To grab this," he said simply.

      "I'm not a knife fighter," Yohji informed him.

      Schuldich's smile was amused. "You're not," he said, and slowly tilted his head towards the door. "Yet."

      Yohji had a sinking feeling in his stomach that he already knew what was going to be waiting for him when he looked, but green eyes slid that direction anyway. Farfarello was resting in the doorway, posture identical to how Schuldich had been resting there just a short while ago. His face was an impassive mask, his yellow eye half lidded as he watched them. Yohji considered himself to be the unluckiest man on the face of the planet. "You've gotta be shitting me," he mumbled.

      Schuldich laughed, moving his hand from the gun to shut the drawer. "Let's go," he said.


      Yohji learned very quickly that Farfarello was not a forgiving teacher. The Irishman told him he didn't want Yohji to be, rather didn't expect him to become, skilled with a knife. He simply wanted Yohji to "not be incompetent". Yohji decided quickly that he and Farfarello had very different ideas of what was less than incompetent, as he would have been content to stop a long time ago. It took forever for the pale man to be satisfied with how he held the knife, not to mention how long it took him to figure out which knife was best. They'd gone to Farfarello's room, where Schuldich had sat on the Irishman's bed and just *grinned* over Yohji's fate. Yohji himself had been taken over to Farfarello's dresser, where he learned that one of the drawers was devoted completely to holding knives. That wasn't to mention the set in his closet, or the case of them under the bed. Yohji decided the man was obsessed.

      They'd gone through what had to be a million knives. Farfarello hadn't been interested in Yohji's opinion. He'd simply put a knife in Yohji's hand, made him close his fingers around it, and fixed his hand until he was holding it right, only to pry the fingers apart and put the knife back. Yohji hadn't been able to figure out what Farfarello was looking for, but was glad the other man was taking care of it as several knives had all seemed to feel the same. When the Irishman had been satisfied, he'd put all but four knives back and they'd started work on the first.

      Apparently, Yohji was still very incompetent, because they'd been in Farfarello's room for an hour already. Farfarello kept correcting his grip with a small and a rough readjustment of his fingers, fingers paler than Yohji's own tugging him back into place. Yohji was pretty certain he hadn't moved most of the times and that the Irishman just wanted to be picky, but he kept that opinion to himself. Whether the other assassin heard it or not, he didn't comment. Once the grip was right, he'd made Yohji stand there and just move his hand with it. That's where most of the readjustments came, as Yohji seemed to shift his hold when he moved. Schuldich and Farfarello stood back and watched as he moved it, getting used to the weight, and then Farfarello had stepped forward once more. Pale fingers pried Yohji's hand open and let the knife rest loose in his palm, and Farfarello had set about telling him exactly where the pressure in holding a knife had to be centered and where the weight of the knife was going to rest depending on which moves Yohji made with it. Yohji didn't think he needed to know such details, but he let the Irishman talk. He started drifting off once and Farfarello pinched his hand to bring his attention back.

      After that, he'd moved on to telling Yohji exactly what the knife he was holding was capable of, and that was more than Yohji wanted to know. The mental images were going to haunt him, and in the back of his mind he could see bodies left over from Farfarello's kill, the gashes lining their dead bodies matching what the Irishman was telling him. He tried once to interrupt and Farfarello had silenced him with a look. Yohji had sent him a black look in return, and Farfarello had gone back to his monologue.

      Finally Farfarello was satisfied and he took a step back. A yellow eye was cool as it turned on Yohji's face. "Strike me with it," he said.

      Yohji had the sick sense of déjà vu, and decide he wasn't interested in watching how Farfarello proved whatever lesson he was getting at considering how Schuldich had dealt with it. "Tomorrow?" he asked. He was sick of dealing with the Irishman, sick of playing around with weapons. He just wanted to rest and retreat, and get as far away from this chilling and irritating man as fast as possible.

      "Now," Farfarello insisted.

      Yohji sighed, gathering up his resentment and stuffing it deep to just leave aggravation in its place. "Where?" he wanted to know. Farfarello just shook his head to indicate that it didn't matter. The taller man studied the knife in his hand for a moment before glancing back at the white haired psychopath, then carefully curled his fingers around the hilt of the knife. He studied the way his fingers were curled for a moment, checking to make sure they were right. There was no correction from Farfarello and he allowed himself a small moment of satisfaction before eyeing Farfarello again. Just another moment for thought, and then he slashed at the yellow eyed demon.

      Fingers dug into his wrist; blinding pain shot up his arm as he was yanked forward. A hand slammed forward into his face and he was only absently aware that he'd let go of his knife. He found himself on his knees, holding his nose and swearing at the pain. It was the second time this evening that he'd had it bashed, and it was informing him very loudly how unhappy it was with him.

      Farfarello leaned over to look at him, fingers still digging into Yohji's wrist. "You're dead," he informed Yohji.

      "Glad to hear it," was the sour response.

      "This," and Farfarello shook Yohji's hand about, "isn't all you have. That's why you lost. The second I grab this, your other hand should be going for your gun and you shoot me before I can get that away as well."

      Yohji said nothing, and Farfarello let go of his hand. Yohji gingerly felt the injured skin when he was satisfied that his nose wasn't broken. Farfarello was bored with him, it seemed, because he moved over to the bed to sit beside Schuldich. He slowly leaned backwards, propping himself up on his elbows. Pale fingers flicked in a careless gesture. "Those are yours," he said, and Yohji looked where he indicated to see the other three knives still sitting on the dresser.

      "All of them?" Yohji asked, feeling a little overwhelmed.

      "The two you're the least incompetent at," was the response.

      Yohji accepted that, gathered his knife, and rose from his spot on the floor. He set the knife alongside the others and glanced back to see Schuldich had drawn his little knife again and was idly picking at his fingernails with the edge. Farfarello was watching him, and after a moment, Schuldich turned to the Irishman with a grin. "My turn," he said simply, and his teammate gave a small snort. Schuldich pushed at him and got to his feet, wandering over to the drawer and digging a larger knife out without stopping to consider the selection. He held it easily and he tapped the flat of the blade to his face, waiting on his teammate. Farfarello studied him a moment longer before getting up, and Yohji took a few steps back to watch. Farfarello reached down, leaning over slightly to unhook a knife from his boot. Long fingers dug a cap out of his drawer and he clicked it into place over the blade before turning to face the German. Schuldich didn't comment on the precaution, as if he was used to it.

      It was fast. They both moved as a blur of color, and it startled Yohji before he remembered that Farfarello could pick up on all of his teammates' powers. That included the strange speed Schuldich possessed. It was still scary to see Farfarello move that way, and Yohji wondered for a moment why he'd never stolen Schuldich's speed in a battle against Weiss before concluding that it would have made it even more pathetic of a loss on the white assassins' part.

      The two came to an abrupt halt, their sides facing Yohji so he could see them perfectly. Farfarello's arm pinned Schuldich's against his chest, both of them bent upwards but Schuldich's hand forced back so the blade was out at an angle that couldn't touch the Irishman. Farfarello's arm was a mirror of Schuldich's, but his other arm was wrapped loosely around Schuldich's waist, his left hand at the German's left side. A second knife was held in his hand, and the tip of this blade was resting at an angle to Schuldich's side. Yohji took a moment to study the angle and decided it was placed where it could slide between two ribs, straight through to the heart.

      The two didn't move for a long moment. They just studied each other, blue and yellow locked together, faces giving nothing away. Yohji wondered idly at the delay to separate, watching them curiously. Schuldich was the first to move, finally relaxing his fingers on his knife to let it droop towards the floor. It wasn't the only move Schuldich made to concede the fight; a small frown pulled at Yohji's lips as the German looked away. His blue gaze was pointed past Farfarello's shoulder, studying the far wall. Farfarello considered the gesture and released his teammate, taking a step back. Idly Yohji wished that they hadn't been using their speed, as he would have been interested in seeing the short fight clearly.

      Schuldich turned away first, leaving Farfarello to study his turned head. Blue eyes sought out Yohji. "Tomorrow we'll figure out how much you remember about taking care of a gun. I think the games are over for today."

      Yohji just nodded. Farfarello's hand was already waiting when Schuldich moved to give the knife back, pale fingers accepting it easily and carrying it back towards the drawer. All three knives were slid inside and Farfarello closed the drawer, lingering there with both hands pressed against the pale wood as Schuldich left the room. It left just Yohji and Farfarello behind, and Yohji studied the other assassin a moment. Farfarello was studying the surface of his dresser, but he relaxed just half a minute later, his fingers curling against the wood before he turned away from it. He said nothing else to Yohji but moved towards his bed, lowering himself to sit on it and falling sideways to rest on the mattress.

      Yohji decided that was his dismissal and left the room.

      Schuldich was in the den, stretched out on his back on the couch and playing idly with his gun. He didn't look Yohji's way as he stepped into the room but aimed his gun that direction. "Once upon a time in a land far far away, the moon and stars went out to play. 'Bang bang,' said the sun, 'bang bang, bang bang.' 'Bang bang,' said the sun, 'bang bang.'" Yohji arched an eyebrow at the man. "You a poet now?" he wanted to know. Schuldich just shrugged. "Your nursery rhymes would make toddlers cry."

      The German grinned at that. "At least I'd feel accomplished."

      Yohji just shook his head, dropping into the chair Nagi had used earlier in the day. They both fell silent, and after a few minutes Crawford stepped into the room. He brought a mug of coffee with him and took the second chair, setting his mug on the stand beside him and studying his sprawling teammate. He didn't look at all impressed with the gun that was pointed his way, and after just a few moments, Schuldich lowered the gun back to his stomach and moved on to contemplating the ceiling.

      Yohji looked from one to the other. "How are we going to figure out where Schatten is?" he wanted to know.

      Schuldich gave a small snort. "We already know where they are," he said. "I know exactly where Einsam is. Knowing where Schatten is doesn't mean anything." He gave a vague wave of one hand. "Einsam could be separated from Meirth and Nuboshi, so we don't know exactly where all of them are. Either way, anything we plan on and try to execute will just be seen by him."

      "You've got Nagi," Yohji said. "Go have him squish their place or something."

      "Einsam will see it coming and they won't be in there. Not only that, but they'll be waiting for Nagi and he'll have figured out a way to catch him. If we all go with Schatten, that's just going to push a confrontation that they'll already know the results of, and we won't like them because Meirth isn't done playing yet."

      "So we're just going to sit here?" He couldn't keep the disbelief out of his voice.

      "For the moment," Schuldich answered. "Give Einsam another day or two and he'll be locked on, and that's when the damage can start."

      "Locked on?" Yohji echoed.

      Schuldich offered him a dry smile, lifting his hand to his face to touch his fingers to his temples. "The link I've got between Einsam and me works two ways. I can find him anywhere within a certain range, have free access to his mind, and know exactly where he is and what he doesn't say. And Einsam… When you give him enough time to adjust, he's going to be in sync perfectly with what I do. From that, he'll know every move I can make and every move I will."

      Yohji just stared at him. "Is that supposed to be a good thing?" he wanted to know.

      Schuldich lifted his gun again, turning it idly between his hands before lowering it to rest barrel first on his temple. He turned his head to eye Yohji. "It's all we have," he informed the other man. "Once he's in, he's open full time to me. I can do and say whatever I want to him. And we're going to blow them the fuck out of the water with it."

Part 9
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