Part Three: Broken
Dreaming about Providence
And whether mice or men have second tries
Maybe we've been livin with our eyes half open
Maybe we're bent and broken, broken
Omi started doing his school work again.
He didn't give a rat's ass about any of it, but he started doing it again. He refused to let Aya continue doing it, refused to just sit back and watch as Aya succeeded in his place. He showed up on time for class and took his notes, took his tests, did his homework. He came to the shop on time and did his shifts with a smile on his face.
He hated every minute of it.
He was back to doing what was expected of him, back to acting the way they wanted him to instead of paying attention to how he really felt, but there wasn't really anything he could do about it. He had to do this, because it was either pretend or sit back and have it shoved in his face that no one needed him. The girls that he loathed were also his source of some solace, as they clung to him and professed their love with adoration in their eyes. He spent his entire shift talking to them, ignoring his teammates without being obvious. Yohji and Ken teased him about it after hours, but he didn't care. He let his disgust war with his need to feel needed, and at least in these girls' eyes, he couldn't be replaced.
He could see the relief in Aya's eyes; the first time he had shown up at the shop with a genuine greeting ringing out and a warm smile on his lips, the look the redhead had thrown him was stunned. Following surprise was an almost physical relief; he watched the redhead sag backwards against the counter. He hadn't acknowledged the redhead's reaction to his supposed recovery, but had tucked it aside to dwell on later. He found it curious that Aya had fought so hard on this, that the most introverted one of the group had been the one who struggled so hard to fix things.
He didn't forgive the man, though.
He would send a smile and cheerful words the swordsman's direction, but beneath the smile and beneath the mask was a cold knot of hatred and resentment. This knot was what was feeding him, what was keeping him going. It was the source of his strength and he clung to it desperately, digging his claws into the iciness to force him through a life and a routine he hated.
He wasn't worthless. He would prove it or die trying. Some days he thought the latter was going to come first, but he refused to give in yet. His indifference was replaced by his resentment towards Aya and he fed it whenever he felt it fading, finding entirely new reasons to hate the purple-eyed man who had only been trying to save him from his fall. He found them in Aya's impatience with the customers, with the way he would ignore his teammates, with the way he was so introverted. Everything that made Aya Aya was suddenly a fault for Omi to criticize and loathe him for.
And when hating Aya wasn't enough to keep him going, there was always blood.
Omi had abandoned the shorts he practically lived in, trading them for Capri's. The t-shirts with their mid-bicep sleeves were replaced with sleeves that went at least to his elbow. Everyone commented on the change in his wardrobe, and he responded that he was tired of dressing like a child. As the days passed he emptied out all of the clothes that used to be his, selling them off at a thrift store. He began to dress like his classmates, with their baggy shirts and the long sleeved shirts with the short sleeved t-shirt over-tops. The girls loved the change, and his teammates seemed to approve.
They also accepted his reasons for the change at face value, and that was enough to make his smile slip into a sneer sometimes.
Five weeks. Five weeks of living a lie and being what everyone wanted him to be. He was sitting in the tub, head tilted back, eyes closed. The water had gone cold around him. It hadn't been very hot to start with and he'd been sitting here for hours. He didn't feel like working on his homework yet. He was sleeping less these days. He did his school work but it was a fight to make himself do it, so he was staying up later and later, using caffeine to keep him running. Some nights he didn't sleep at all, running off unexplained energy rushes or an overdose of the caffeine medication he'd found. He was surviving this past week off of ten hours of sleep alone, and he was waiting for the aftershock to hit him. It always did. He could run a few days with an insanely low amount of sleep, and then out of nowhere he would be so tired it hurt to breathe. He was mildly surprised that he hadn't collapsed yet, that he could still be wide awake right now.
He had to stay awake. He had work to do.
He let his eyes slide open again, staring up at the ceiling before finally lowering his gaze to his body.
Lines crisscrossed across his flesh, red, pink, and white, in various stages of healing. He lifted his leg from the tub, letting his calf rest on the side, and reached out to run his fingers against one of the fresher cuts. The scab was loose from his long soak, and he used his fingernails to scratch it away. It colored faintly with blood- just enough for the red to show up, not enough to leak down his skin. He ran his fingernails across the open cut, feeling his nerves protest. His lips curled into a smile and he ran his hand down his thigh to the next scab, tearing it away with a little more force.
He hated his life. He hated having to do his work, having to show up to his shifts. He hated being what everyone wanted him to be. He hated that he had stopped caring for a few weeks only to find himself throwing all of his strength back into the lies. He wished he could just stop, that he could just back away and not give a shit anymore. He hated that he couldn't, that despite the fact that he didn't want to do any of this he was making himself do it anyway.
Hating Aya made it a little better.
This made it more so.
He lolled his head to one side lazily, picking every scab free from his leg. It had taken him two days after breaking the cup in his hands to bleed again. It had been the first time he had cut his flesh on purpose. It hadn't been planned, not really. He'd been choking on his anger, choking on his resentment that he'd shouldered once more what he'd tried so hard to give up. He'd retreated to his room after work, sick with fury, nauseous with dismay over what was going on. He'd gone to get a drink, to erase the harsh taste of bile from his throat, and the second his fingers had closed around the cup, he'd remembered.
He'd remembered what it had felt like to be happy. He'd remembered what it had taken to bring a focus and a sense of calm to his anger.
And he'd gone to find his darts.
They were the only thing he had on hand then, but they'd been enough. The tips were sharp enough to bury in the flesh of their targets; they'd been more than sharp enough to make bloody lines across his thighs. He'd had enough rational thought to put them where his shorts hid them, six long gashes that had bled beautifully.
It had been… cool.
It wasn't the right word, perhaps, but it was hard to find one that fit. It had been liberating, staring down at his bleeding leg, his dart in one hand, feeling the pain of torn skin and the pure rush of control.
He'd done it. He'd chosen to do this to himself. Feeling forced to answer to everyone else and do what was expected of him, he'd found a way to control himself, a way to defy them. It was something he alone could do, something he alone could choose not to do. It brought a focus to his thoughts when he was angry, calming him down when he felt close to falling apart at the seams.
He lifted his other hand from the water, watching the drops that fell from his fingers, watching the little rivers that ran down his arm, and ran both hands over his leg. A smile curved on his lips, a secretive, pleased little smile.
Eventually the scars had gone lower than his thighs, when he'd run out of room. They'd spread out to lace his arms and his chest, white lines raking across his abdomen and a few across his shins. He'd found it necessary to buy new clothes to hide them from his teammates. He didn't want them to know about this, didn't want them to try and take away this little bit of control he had, didn't want to deal with their shock and horror. Oh, but how would they react? How would Aya react? His smile was lazy and he turned sideways in the tub, lifting his second leg up to rest alongside the second. Fingernails skimmed lightly over injured flesh and he eyed all of the cuts with something that wasn't pride, something almost like satisfaction but a step higher.
"Mine," he murmured.
He craved the pain, craved the way it felt when the knives he'd bought cut through his skin. He loved the sting, loved the way the blood looked as it trailed down him. Hot, like life, when he was dead inside. He loved the way the scars looked on him, the knowledge that he'd put them there and no one could take them away. He loved the rush of relief, the pain that meant he was saved, that meant he could smile easier and keep them fooled. The hatred he felt at having to pretend was mixed with a cold superiority that he could fool them so well, that they accepted what he offered them and couldn't see past it.
Once in a while he wanted to cry, tears of frustration and anger. He let his skin cry instead. Blood could run quicker than tears and it was just as hot, so he found it a nice substitute.
After several minutes of consideration, he finally got out of the tub. He dried himself off roughly, liking the sting that came from rubbing injured flesh so hard, and changed into his pajamas. He was in a good mood as he sat down at his desk to do his work, and as he wrote he kept one hand on his thigh, gently running his fingers over sore flesh.
He let the radio keep him company as he worked, let the music fill up the room so that he couldn't hear his breathing, so that he couldn't hear the scratch of his pen against paper, and he pretended in these moments that he was far away from here, that he had already died and moved on to where he wouldn't have to pretend.
Maybe one of these days he would even fool himself with his smile.
He took a lot of walks to avoid what life was forcing on him, leaving his shifts at the shop to wander around the city. Sometimes they were short and he'd find himself back at his room just a half hour later. Sometimes he was gone until past midnight. The walks turned into runs; he would start out at a lazy trot and suddenly he'd be racing as if trying to leave the world behind him. His shoes beat against the sidewalk and he'd run until his lungs burned, until his side felt like it was ripping open, and run further.
One of these days, he would run so fast he would fly.
One of these days, he would run so fast he really would escape everything.
He stopped for breath, one hand on a brick building, gulping for air as his blue eyes looked around. He didn't recognize the buildings around him, but that was all right. Most of his impromptu runs ended up with him lost. He took in shuddering breaths until his side stopped hurting enough for him to walk, and he pushed himself away from the building. The night was cold but it took a while for the chill to seep in through his sweaty skin, piercing through the remains of his rush to cause goose bumps on his arm.
He wandered down the sidewalk, not interested enough yet to try and find his way back. A few teenagers roamed the streets, laughing and talking loudly. One or two businessmen were on their way with fast strides, ignoring everyone around them. Traffic was still heavy despite the hour. A few drunks stumbled this way and that; one girl was unable to stand up and had two friends pulling at her arms.
He gave a small sniff of amusement. He'd seen Yohji in that state before. Once upon a time he'd chided the man for it. These past weeks, he'd come to understand it as the man's escape. He had his blood, his knives and his pain. Yohji had drinks to free him, to let him fade from this reality into another one. It allowed him to forget for a while, allowed him to not care about anything. Omi still wore the mask the others expected to see on his face, but he'd stop chiding the man for coming home late drunk, stopped saying anything about Yohji's hangovers the next day. Yohji's hangovers were Omi's scars, just less permanent.
Idly he wondered how well alcohol worked as a cure.
He turned the corner onto an empty street, shoes scuffing lightly against the ground as he wandered. He was in an apartment district, so the only lights came from the spaced out street lamps and the occasional lit window. He wandered onwards, humming whatever came to mind. The chill had a sharp bite to it and he rubbed at his arms, reveling in the sting that came from his hands running roughly over relatively new wounds.
His fingers found the band aids he'd pasted all over today's gashes, and he stopped where he was, rolling up his sleeve to survey them. They'd come loose in a corner from his rubbing, and with a shrug, he pried the string of seven off. The wind carried them away and he studied the fresh blood on his arm, running his fingernail roughly down the scratch. He lifted his finger to his face, sniffing the blood, and tugged his sleeve back into place before continuing on. A glance at his watch showed him that it was one in the morning. He thought of the presentation he was supposed to give tomorrow that he still hadn't started on.
That was all right. His caffeine was tucked into his pocket, a permanent companion these last several weeks.
Thought of the medicine reminded him that he'd already been up two nights in a row, and a headache made itself known behind his eyes. He lifted his hand to his forehead, rubbing a fist across his temples as he turned another corner.
He ran smack into a hard chest and went stumbling a foot back. Blue eyes lifted to see who he'd bowled into, his lips opening to spit out an automatic apology he didn't feel.
A single yellow eye gazed back down at him, and he blinked in surprise. The fear that had been absent the last time he had randomly bumped into Schwarz made itself known now, a small curling of ice around his stomach. He took a few more steps back from the man, eyes narrowing warily. Someone moved behind the psychopath, stepping up from the shadows to prop his elbow on Farfarello's shoulder. It was Schuldich again. Blue eyes studied Omi in amusement, lips pulled to one side in a smirk. A cigarette dangled from his fingers and as he lifted it to his mouth, Farfarello moved forward, dislodging his arm with the step.
Long fingers caught Omi's wrist, pulling him forward. Omi dug in his heels but it was useless; he brought his free hand forward instead in a fist to Farfarello's face. The man caught it easily, giving both arms a rough jerk in opposite directions. He felt his arms creak in protest and bit down on a pained sound, swallowing it before it could escape. Fear twisted with anger and he glared defiantly up at the other man, bolder than he'd ever been when facing him before.
"Hello again, runt," Schuldich greeted. "Out past your bedtime again, I see."
"Shove off," Omi sent back at him.
Schuldich gave a sharp bark of laughter- amused and surprised by the words, it seemed- and propped his cigarette between his lips. He moved closer, coming up to Omi's side, and reached out a hand to trail his fingers across one cheek. Omi chose to ignore Farfarello in favor of glaring at him instead. He didn't want company. He wanted to be alone, to think. Company just meant he had a role to play, had to be something that others wanted him to be.
"You're a terrible actor when someone can read your mind," Schuldich informed him, tugging lightly at the stud Omi wore in one ear as he moved behind him.
"You smell like blood," Farfarello said.
Omi grit his teeth, blue eyes bouncing back to Farfarello's face. Fucking maniac, how could he smell such a thing? It wasn't like Omi had gone out and killed someone and bathed in their blood, it was just a little scratch. Schuldich's fingers tightened on his ear, a cruel grip, and he tried to squish his thoughts. This was his, this wasn't theirs to see. It wasn't anyone's.
"Let *go*-" he said, lurching backwards in Farfarello's hold. He kicked at the man's shins, but it did him no good. Farfarello gave his hand a cruel twist, yanking it up to his face. He studied the bloody fingertip for a moment, yellow eye examining the red dot. After a moment he quirked his eyebrow at Omi.
"Paper cut?" Schuldich asked behind him. His voice was soft, a little too soft.
"Yes," was the flat response.
A hand grabbed hold of his sleeve, yanking it upwards, twisting it roughly in a direction that would let the nearest lamp light it up. Farfarello almost didn't let go of his wrist in time- for a moment Omi thought his wrist was going to snap and then he was freed, being yanked around by the telepath of Schwarz instead. Schuldich's grip wasn't tight, and he pulled out of it, snatching his arm back as if the German's touch burned him. He glared daggers up at the other man, furious at the both of them for bothering him.
He gave a yank at his still captured hand, but Farfarello didn't let go. Schuldich reached up, taking the cigarette from his lips, and dropped it to the ground. The heel of a boot ground it out and he exhaled smoke to one side. His stare was heavy as he gazed down at Omi. For a few minutes, no one spoke. Finally the German broke the silence, but only to say "Let's go, Farf. Crawford's waiting on us."
The Irishman didn't respond, and it was a long moment before fingers slid free of Omi's wrist. The Irishman stepped past Omi and the two started away. Neither looked back. Omi watched them go, reaching up to roll his sleeve back into place. His wrist protested the movement and he glared daggers at their backs, sending dark thoughts their direction in the hope that Schuldich would pick up on them. He felt ashamed of his cuts, suddenly, and that made him angry. There was no reason for him to feel dirty for doing such a thing. They were his lifeline to sanity, and he shouldn't be disgusted with them over people like *Schwarz*.
Keeping that thought firmly in mind, he set about trying to find his way back to the Koneko. He was still in a foul mood when he finally managed to make his way back home, however.
Omi's thoughts revolved around the German for a week afterwards. He couldn't look at his scars, couldn't drag his knife across his skin, without feeling that heavy stare on him. The weight of such a gaze lingered; the sense of being judged grated on his nerves. It made him more irritable, and even the pain wasn't enough to keep his frayed emotions at bay. At times, the pain just made it worse. He cut to stop caring, he cut to feel, he cut and he thought of bumping into Schwarz in the dead of the night, of Schuldich seeing the fresh cut and turning such assessing blue eyes on him.
He told his teammates he wasn't sleeping well, which was true even if it wasn't why he was grumpy. Spring term finals started next week, so his teammates kind of expected him to be distracted and stressed. They gave him more shifts off to study, but he stared blankly at his books, his fingers running over his arms like invisible knives, willing away the feeling of that man staring at him and seeing through him, seeing everything he'd become, everything he'd allowed himself to become.
He was hating the older assassin again, even though the reasons had changed since the last time he'd felt such a thick emotion towards the telepath. He studied little, unable to concentrate and completely uninterested in the subject matter. His walks became longer as he wandered the streets at night, a part of him hoping to bump into the German again. He wanted to yell at the other man, demand to know who he thought he was to be able to judge Omi.
But Omi didn't see him again that week, and a part of him knew that he wouldn't even before his foot left his apartment. He still tried, however, and the angry words refined themselves everyday until what would have been incoherent shouting melted into a questionably rational argument. He never got to use the argument, but he tucked it aside, keeping it close on the faint chance that he would bump into Schuldich again any time soon.
The week passed by agonizingly slow, and then school was out for testing. He had few shifts to work during exams, but he was on schedule to help the shop take care of the seasonal clean-up. The shop was going to trade out its flowers, and in the shift from spring to summer, they would have a week long sale. It would be both to clean out what they had left of the spring stock and to let people get a head start on summer plants. They stayed up late the day before the sale, trying to clean the place up and get it prepared to handle a crowd. There was a chance of girls actually buying things this week; when flowers were cheap they were more willing to spend money.
The plants had been taken care of, weeded and trimmed and watered. Their pots had fresh plastic wrapping and colorful bows. The shop had been rearranged, and after the dirt was swept from the floor Ken had started mopping. Omi was in charge of hanging up signs, and he stepped between a stool and any free spots on the counter to get to the walls. Yohji was wiping down the glass front, and Aya was straightening up the back room.
Omi's thoughts, of course, were far away from here, resting on blue eyes and orange hair. He was enough lost in thought that he didn't hear Ken's warning to him, so when he leaned back to study his poster and saw that it was straight, he stepped straight backwards off the counter to where the stool was supposed to be.
Except the stool wasn't there- not really. It had been moved to the side some, so that his shoe only touched the edge of it. He felt it give under his weight and yipped as he fell backwards, an involuntary sound of surprise. He felt a sick sense of déjà vu; he heard the stool hit the counter when his foot slid off of it, and then he was colliding with something warm. His fall was broken by another body; they both hit the ground and he heard a grunt in his ear. The stool fell on top of him and he stared up at the ceiling, trying to figure out what was going on. His legs were bent, his knees in the air. The heel of one shoe was touching the counter; his other foot had been tangled somehow through the legs of the stool. He pulled his leg down, rolling off of his landing pad the best he could with his other leg still twined through the stool, and turned surprised blue eyes on Yohji.
"You all right?" Yohji wanted to know.
Omi found it kind of amusing that Yohji asked the question first. "Yeah," he answered. "Thanks."
Ken was standing over them, holding out a hand to help them up, his brown eyes worried. "Sorry," he said, mouth pulling in a concerned frown. "Should have checked to make sure you heard me say I was moving the stool. You guys all right?"
"Peachy," was Yohji's dry response as he pushed himself up. He accepted Ken's hand, letting the man pull him to his feet. Ran appeared in the doorway to the back room, alerted by the crash, and approached them after a quick survey of the shop.
"What happened?" he wanted to know.
"I moved the stool to mop under it," Ken said, leaning over to help Omi untangle himself from it. "Omi didn't hear me say it…"
"I've got it," Omi tried to say, batting at one of Ken's hands.
"No, it's all-" Ken started. His response died, and his fingers went limp. The stool fell back onto Omi and the youngest assassin wriggled to get it free, yanking his Capri's down where they'd hitched up on his legs in the fall. He pulled himself to his feet, blue eyes turning a flat warning on his teammate.
Ken missed it; his eyes were locked on Omi's legs. However much he'd seen was hidden under cloth now, but apparently he'd seen enough. Yohji frowned, noticing the way the athlete had gone rigid. Aya didn't seem to notice Ken- his sharp eyes were on the way Omi's expression had changed. Omi flicked his eyes that direction, lips thinning to a small frown, and saw something indefinable flicker across the back of the redhead's eyes.
~Don't judge me…~
~Don't judge me when you're the ones that drove me to this…~
"Ken?" Yohji asked.
"Omi…" Ken breathed, startled to speaking by the sound of his name. "What the hell happened to your legs?"
Of course Ken wouldn't keep his mouth shut. Of course he wouldn't think to save it until later. Ken was too trusting, too open. Weiss was his family and he shared his problems with them, and he couldn't understand some of the things the others chose to keep from the group. He couldn't understand why some things were secrets instead of shared among what he viewed as tightly knit friends.
"His legs?" Yohji asked, turning his eyes on them. Omi couldn't look back their direction. He couldn't pull his eyes away from Aya. "Omi, something wrong?"
"Well…" Ken started, fumbling as he tried to figure out something to say. Omi finally managed to jerk his gaze away, flicking hard blue eyes back at the next oldest Weiss. This time Ken saw the warning, and he shut his mouth with a small click, staring at Omi in bewildered concern. Yohji was frowning at the both of them, and Ken managed a watery smile, raking a hand through his hair. "It was just the light," he mumbled lamely.
"There's nothing wrong," Omi added, forcing his lips into a smile.
The pretense died the moment Aya took a step towards him, because Omi retreated. His eyes bounced back to Aya's face, to the guarded expression there. He'd often wondered what would happen if his teammates found out about his scars. In his mind he'd always been cool. He'd laughed at them in some, showed them what they'd driven him to with a mocking smile and cold eyes. In others he'd brushed it off as if it was nothing. Either way, he'd always come out on top. He'd never expected this sense of panic, this tight squeezing in his chest.
He thought he might cry.
Where was his knife? He needed his knife. He needed the pain right now.
Aya took another step forward, and Omi retreated again. He felt his eyes sting and he blinked away the treacherous tears, lifting his chin defiantly as blue eyes warned the redhead to not come closer. It wasn't a threatening expression, especially not when his lips were trembling where they were pulled tightly together. Yohji took a step away from Ken, towards the other two, and Ken caught his elbow to stop him.
"What's wrong with your legs?" Aya asked, too quietly.
Omi grabbed the nearest thing and hurled it at the redhead, flinging the potted plant at him with all the force he could muster. Aya was too close to dodge- all he could do was catch it. Omi was already moving, blurring past him. He heard Ken's shout, heard the stool clatter across the floor as someone kicked it in their haste to follow him. He flung the storage room door shut behind him, but was only halfway across the room when it was thrown open again. Out the back door and into the street, running as if his life depended on it.
Tears prickled at his eyes, hot and heavy. It hurt to breathe, and he'd just started running.
Just his luck that it was Ken, the most fit of their team. The older man caught up with him by the end of the street, grabbing his elbow to stop him. Omi whirled around, beating at him with a hand, and saw the look of shock and pain twist Ken's face. It wasn't from the blows- Omi realized suddenly that the tears had slipped free to spill down his cheeks.
"Let me go," he begged. "If you're any friend at all, just let me go."
"Ken!" he could hear Yohji- the other two were chasing after them.
Ken's expression was pure grief as he stared down at his teammate, bewildered, uncertain, and torn. And then his fingers slipped free, and Omi tore away again before he could change his mind. He heard shouts from the others as Ken let him get away but didn't slow, diving headlong down the nearest subway station. He made it just as the doors were closing. He was seen and the doors opened again, just long enough for him to slip inside. As the train started moving he saw Yohji and Aya appear on the platform, chests heaving with exertion. Omi held Aya's gaze until the train vanished down the dark tunnel.
He rode it for six stops before leaving, the first out of the doors, feet flying up the stairs. He pelted out of the subway at a headlong run, racing aimlessly until he couldn't run anymore. He made it to a park and clung to a tree, gasping for breath as dizziness rolled over him in a thick wave. Emotionally shattered, worn out from running, and sick from bad sleep, he only had the warning of bark sliding against his fingers before he slid to the ground, unconscious.
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