Part Five: Drifting
On a Monday, I am waiting
Tuesday, I am fading
And by Wednesday, I can't sleep
The car ride back to Schwarz's house was made in silence. Omi was a little surprised by the lack of harassment, but he was also enormously grateful. It was all he could do to keep himself together. His thoughts revolved around the conversation he'd walked in on, twisting and turning around the painful words he'd heard. He'd trusted Yohji. He'd trusted him to understand, and look what had come of it. So what if they didn't think it was natural or healthy? It made him happy. It helped him live. Was that really too much to ask for? He felt horrendously betrayed, and his hands were shaking where they were clenched on his bag of knives.
The ride took half an hour and then they were there. Omi wasn't really sure what he was doing, but here was far from the shop and that was enough for him at the moment. He wasn't afraid of Schwarz, wasn't afraid of dying. The pain over everything that had happened today kind of overrode that, and he wouldn't pretend to be afraid even if they wanted him to.
Schuldich got out of the car first. It took Omi a few moments longer as he struggled for control. The telepath pulled a bag out from the backseat and led the way to the door, and Omi trailed behind him. Schuldich toed off his shoes before stepping up into the house. "Get the door," the German tossed over his shoulder at him before disappearing further into the house. Trembling fingers found the knob and yanked the door shut as he was told and Omi stayed where he was, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He wanted to find a corner somewhere and just curl up into a tight ball. Maybe if he squeezed tight enough, he'd push himself out of existence.
There were voices but he couldn't see the speakers- Schuldich was talking to Crawford somewhere. Omi couldn't make out the words. It was all nonsense to him, a blur of noise as he waited by the door. Schuldich didn't come back for him and Omi didn't know if he was supposed to invite himself in. He didn't really want to go in any further, anyway. He didn't know why he'd gotten in that car, except that wherever Schwarz was, Weiss couldn't find them. Maybe he was hoping that Schwarz would kill him and save him from the sorry mess his life had become, and then his teammates wouldn't look down on him so much. It wouldn't be suicide, it'd be murder, and they'd remember him with fondness and conveniently forget everything they'd found out today.
Nagi rounded the corner then, a duffel bag hanging from his shoulder, and came to a dead stop when he saw who was standing in his house. The other youth just stared at him for a long moment without saying anything, and Omi had nothing to say to him in return. Finally the telekinetic let his bag slide down his arm to land on the floor with a heavy thud, and he did an about face and vanished further into the house. His voice carried back to the front door easily, and his words effectively killed Schuldich and Crawford's conversation.
"Schuldich, why the hell is there a Weiss midget standing by the front door?"
"You have a pet," Schuldich returned. "Why can't I?"
Crawford was the next to come around the corner to investigate and he took in Omi with a cool gaze as he fixed the buttons on the sleeves of his shirt. There was a jacket draped over his arm and Omi looked from him to the bag Nagi had left behind. They were on their way out, then? When he looked up again, Schuldich was back. The German was leaning against the wall, peering around the corner to study Omi in silence. He said nothing, and Crawford said nothing, and Omi decided they'd taken the argument to mental grounds. Apparently Schuldich won, because the tall American turned and wandered off once more. Omi tried to work up the energy to wonder what exactly Schuldich had been arguing for. The telepath still said nothing to him and followed after Crawford. There was the sound of things being rearranged- stools sliding against the ground, cabinets opening and shutting, and the crinkling of plastic.
Nagi returned and picked up his bag. "Get out of the way," he said, and Omi obediently shifted to one side. The shorter boy stepped past him, and the door opened itself for him. He left it open as he took his bag to the car and Omi watched him get it stuffed in the trunk. He came back and stepped out of his shoes easily before disappearing around the corner. The door shut loudly behind him, yanked closed by an invisible hand, and he didn't once look back at Omi. Omi considered this, looking from the hallway to the door, and then decided that the silence meant they weren't making him leave. He had nowhere else to go, so he figured he could stay here until something better came along or they kicked him out. Or killed him, whichever came first. He toed his shoes off and stepped inside, taking slow steps down the hall. He found three of Schwarz in the kitchen. Nagi and Schuldich were seated on two of the stools. Crawford was drinking from a mug as he studied the contents of a small travel bag that was sitting on the counter, and Farfarello was nowhere in sight.
It seemed Omi's decision to enter the house was all it took for Schuldich to acknowledge him again, because the telepath flicked his fingers in the blonde's direction. "I've decided to call him Omi," he told Nagi.
"Schuldich, shove it."
Crawford glanced Schuldich's way and the German shrugged. No one said anything else, so Omi turned and left. He found himself in the den and sat down on the couch he'd woken up on a week ago, staring at the little case in his hands as Schuldich and Crawford argued directions. There was a blur of white at the edge of Omi's peripheral vision and he looked up to see Farfarello staring in at him. He waited for the Irishman to say something, but silence stretched between them. He too had a bag hanging off one shoulder, and Omi wondered where they were going. Maybe they were moving out and leaving him here to rot in this house. It was a ridiculous thought but he toyed with it anyway.
At last Farfarello turned away, and Omi listened to the door open and shut behind them. After a few minutes the other three went by the room, still talking. The door closed and he heard the lock slide into place. Just a short time later a car engine came to life, and then Schwarz was gone.
Omi wasn't quite sure what to make of this.
Schwarz was gone for three days.
Omi spent the first day in the living room, only getting up when he had to use the restroom. The rest of the hours were spent sprawled out on his side on the couch as he tried to figure out what was going on. After that first day, he never again considered just getting up and walking out. It never crossed his thoughts, and instead he focused on his new whereabouts and wondered about the reasons behind Schuldich's "adoption" of him. He wanted answers; and yet, he was fine without them. Schuldich hadn't said a single word to him about the cuts the German knew were there, and after listening to Weiss call him sick and messed up, Omi didn't really want anything else from Schwarz.
As the evening drew near, he decided he was hungry, and he debated for a while whether or not he could eat the food in this house. Schwarz had left him here, but had they done so assuming that he wouldn't bother their things? Or did they understand the risk of leaving one of Weiss behind? Was he supposed to go searching for the nearest grocery store and buy his own food? He didn't even know where to begin looking, and he was afraid of leaving the house. He had the irrational fear that the moment he put his foot outside the front door, Weiss would know where he was and come looking. Kritiker was powerful, and while they hadn't yet been able to find Schwarz, they had an eye on a good part of the city. No, it was safest to stay in, and risk annoying his new housemates when he dug through their cabinets and helped himself to their food.
That decided, he got up and wandered into the kitchen, and took his time digging through the cabinets and fridge. He had no interest in anything he saw, but his body insisted that he feed it, so he finally grabbed some fruit and cheese and sat on one of the stools to eat. Blue eyes wandered around the room with a detached sort of interest, taking in the neat countertops and various kitchen accessories. After he was finished he remained where he was, and at length pulled some money out of his pocket and made a little pile of coins on the counter to cover what food of theirs he'd eaten. He thought that perhaps it was enough, and he left the little stacks there and went back to the living room. The couch was cold when he stretched out on it, and he stared across the room at the dark television set for a long time before he could convince his body to go back to sleep. He couldn't stay out for long, though, and woke up around midnight. One hand found the switch for the nearest lamp and he sat up on the couch, wondering what to do. Usually he'd go for a walk if he couldn't sleep, or maybe start on his school work. The walk was out of the question, and the assignments…
It occurred to him then that he wasn't going back to school. There was no way he could, as it would be one of the first places Kritiker would look for him. The thought startled him, though he wasn't entirely sure why, and he slouched against the back of the couch as he thought that over. He wasn't a student anymore. The schoolwork he'd tried to give up and then had gotten stuck with was no longer his responsibility. Tsukiyono the student wasn't there anymore, and there was no way Aya could try and cover for him now… There were no classes to attend, no teachers to have to deal with. He wasn't going back to the flower shop, so he had no work schedules to cater to, no girls to play nice with. He was free of everything that he had hated before, and the thought brought a smile to his lips even as it brought tinges of uneasiness to his heart.
"What do I have left?" he wanted to know, and his voice seemed overly loud in the silent house.
Everything that had defined him, everything that had been his- he'd left it all behind. His clothes, his possessions, his room, his teammates, his work, his school… He'd run from all of it, bringing just knives and cash with him. So what was he now? Who was he know? Where did he go from here?
Well, Schuldich had to have brought him here for a reason… Right?
He got up from the couch, too awake to sleep again, too unsettled from this revelation to just sit there anymore. He moved to the doorway of the living room and stared down the hall, reflecting on how odd it was to be in a house. It was too big; he was used to his little apartment above the flower shop. He considered the dark hallway for a few moments and then flicked the hall light on, starting down the hall to check out the doors once more. They had been locked the last time he'd been in this house, but he tried them again anyway for lack of anything better to do.
The first door was locked- no surprise there. The second door was as well, but as he was about to move away, he caught the sound of metal rattling from within. He went still, listening closely, wondering what could be causing such a sound. He pressed his ear to the door to hear better, but he couldn't place the sound. He tried the door knob again- no luck. It hadn't miraculously opened in the past few seconds. He frowned at the door for a few moments, listening to the rattling speed up before fading away. Perhaps Schwarz had someone else in here? He lingered for a long moment, debating, and then went back to the living room to find his knives.
It took some work to get the doorknob off, and he pushed the door open and reached for the light switch. What he saw wasn't a person, though, but a plastic cage. He was so surprised by it that he just stood there in the doorway for a long minute, gaping.
Sitting on top of the dresser was a gerbil's cage. The little rodent in question was having the time of its life on a stationary wheel, running as if there was no tomorrow. Omi moved towards it, leaning over to peer through the side at it, and it didn't stop to consider the attention being given it. After a few minutes it finally hopped free of the toy and ran to get some water, licking at the little water bottle fastened to the side of its cage.
"You have a pet," Schuldich had said.
Omi looked around the room. So this was Nagi's bedroom, then? There was a computer in the corner, and a stereo on the far wall. CDs were stacked haphazardly around it, and the remote was resting in the middle of a messy bed. Omi looked back towards the cage in front of him, studying the little animal with fascination as it headed back to the wheel for another go. He'd never had a pet before. Why could Schwarz have a pet but not him? It wasn't fair.
He reached up and pressed a finger to the side of the cage, watching for a few minutes more as the small creature had its workout. "Kind of depressing, isn't it?" he asked the animal. "No matter how fast you run, you stay in the same place. You can't break free of this cage unless he lets you out, so all you can do is try and try… and find yourself exactly where you started. I know what that's like." He lifted his other hand to the plastic wall, sliding his fingers along the cool surface. "Nothing ever changes… The scenery's always the same. Maybe he comes along and cleans it now and then, but the cage never gets bigger. There's this giant room out here that you can never have, because it's dangerous. If he let you run free, what would you do if he didn't see you and stepped on you? Fear of that keeps you here, but can it make you happy? Are you happy with what you have? Food, drink, shelter… I suppose most people are content to have just those. But what of us that want something more? What of us that want to run away?"
He had to walk away then, because the sound was just depressing. He wondered if the creature could truly understand that it was trapped. Or was it so simple minded that it honestly thought it had managed to do something, that no matter where it got off along the way, the food and drink were always close by to feast on? He didn't know, so he pulled the door shut and put the door knob back into place. The rattling carried through the door faintly, and Omi shook his head and continued on down the hall.
He was surprised when the third door he tried opened easily under his touch, and he hesitated before pushing it open the rest of the way and stepping in. He didn't bother with the light switch, moving instead to let the hall light shine where it could. He circled the room slowly, studying the furniture and the decorations. At first glance, the room looked like Nagi's. There was a boom box on the bedside table, and stacks of CDs on the shelves beneath it. The blankets were a crumpled mess at the base of the bed, kicked there when the sleeper woke up. The floor was mostly clean, though there were a few papers and a random sock strewn about on the carpet.
What got Omi's attention, however, were the pictures.
There were post cards taped all over the walls. Omi finally flipped on the light to try and get a better glimpse of them and did a slow circuit of the room. He didn't recognize most of the pictures, and he was pretty sure that a good number of the places weren't in Japan. Some he recognized because he'd seen the pictures before; others, because he'd been there. Kyoto and Tokyo were easy. Hiroshima was up there somewhere, and Okinawa's had the name scrawled across the bottom. There were pictures of shrines and statues, images of castles and misty forests, mountains and glistening lakes. Omi studied them all, fascinated. Every one had to have a story behind it- the one who slept here had been to all of these places. Was it for business or pleasure? Magazine cutouts of hotel and cuisine ads were tacked up between the postcards, so that it was all a massive trail across the walls. Mementos of places traveled, of a life lived… The entire room was like a scrapbook.
He reached out with shaking fingers to touch the pictures as he passed, studying each and every one. Something painful twisted in his chest as he made his circuit but he refused to stop, wanting to see everything.
Whose room was this?
The moment he was done he ran to the dresser, yanking the drawer open so fast he pulled one side off of its hinge. He dug through the unfamiliar clothes, wanting to find some sign of the owner. Another smaller drawer was yanked open, and brushes and a small sewing kit was scattered. On the third try he was almost desperate, and what he found was a black box. He pulled it free and set it on the dresser, staring at it for a long moment. His breathing was ragged but he didn't know why. He couldn't explain all of the reasons why it hurt *so* *much* to be standing here and looking at all of these things. There was just something heartbreaking and viciously unfair, almost, about staring at evidence of a well-lived life. He hadn't been able to go on any of his school field trips growing up because he'd always been busy with Kritiker. Classmates had been classmates, never friends- he'd listened to them laugh about movies and trips to the zoo or to Tokyo Disneyland and had always been on the outside. They'd tittered about attractive faces and clothes sales and he'd dwelled on murder and tactics.
~I wanted something more. I wanted something more than what I had.~
His fingers were trembling as he pried the black box open, and he sifted through the contents. Ticket stubs for plays and movies. Folded programs for high-class events. Little bags of coins, one bag a complete set of Japanese yen, the others all foreign. Airplane ticket receipts. Folded newspaper articles. A pair of earrings. Keys. A bullet, at the bottom. Wrapped toothbrushes, the kind left in hotel rooms by the cleaning staff, all printed with different logos. A box of knickknacks, of things that had held meaning once upon a time, that still had enough sentimental value to be kept.
Omi closed the lid slowly and set the box back where it belonged. He was feeling cold, so he went to sit on the bed. Shaking hands clenched on the material of his long shorts and he stared down at his white knuckles. He could watch his vision turn blurry and his eyes prickled sharply. He thought for a moment that he should force the tears away, that he should get up and find his knives so he wouldn't lose it, but he abandoned the thought as soon as it appeared. When the first tear fell, he buried his face in his hands and just let himself cry until it didn't hurt so much to breathe.
On the second night, Omi moved into the third bedroom.
He went through the black box again, sprawled out on his stomach in bed, as he carefully emptied the box piece by piece. He gave every item serious consideration as he tried to come up with the significance behind them. He toyed with the foreign money, interested in the strange designs engraved on them. If he recognized the movie titles on the ticket stubs, he tried to remember what his classmates had said about them. He spent an hour going through the little items before finally tucking them back into the box, and he lay on his side as he considered it. He thought perhaps he should get up, but he wasn't interested in going anywhere. There was nothing here in this house for him- everything he owned was still in his room above the Koneko no Sumu Ie. So he stayed where he was, content to lie there until he fell asleep a few hours later.
On the third morning, Omi finally decided to take a shower.
He stood in the doorway to the bathroom, torn between using Schwarz's things and the thought that he needed to get clean. He had no clean clothes to get into, no towel to try off with, and no toiletries to use. He supposed he could find the last at least in a convenient store, but he still didn't want to leave the house. The same thought from the first day- that putting foot outside would alert Weiss to his whereabouts- haunted him, so he supposed he would have to make do.
His clothes were dropped in a messy pile on the floor and he turned the water on. As he waited for it to get hot, he studied himself in the mirror. Blue eyes traced a lean body lined with scars of varying sizes and depth. Fingertips ran over skin to feel the small indents and it reassured him. He could see steam rising from the tub on the mirror and turned away, pulling the plug to move the water from the faucet to the shower head. His shower was long, not because he meant it to be but because he got distracted with thinking thoughts of nothing. When he realized that he should probably get out, his fingers were wrinkled like raisins from the water, and he idly sucked on one as he reached behind him for the knob. A few twists cut the water off and he stood where he was, letting water drip from his hair, before seating himself in the tub. He folded his arms on the side and propped his chin on them, waiting in the foggy bathroom to air dry. It took a while but he had nowhere better to go, and when he was dry he dressed himself in the same clothes as before and left the room.
Lunch was taken from the fridge and he left a little pile of coins on the counter with the rest of the money he'd dropped off there, and he sat on a stool to eat his sandwich in silence. He thought he heard the hamster's cage rattling from where he sat, but it might have just been his imagination.
He went from the kitchen to the living room, where he turned on the television and stared through it. The day passed slowly; blue eyes watched the clock creep on. He wanted to go for a run, but he didn't dare leave, so he had no choice but to get up and wander around the house in laps that evening. Boredom drove him to bed at half past five that evening and he drifted off into a restless, unhappy sleep.
He wasn't sure what woke him a few hours later. He realized he was staring at the ceiling without knowing what had stirred him from sleep, and he lifted a hand to rub at tired eyes. The room was dark; there was a soft bit of light coming through the window from a street lamp but it was the only source of light. He was tense without knowing why, and he inhaled slowly and held his breath, trying to relax. As he held his breath, he heard a quiet sound- someone else breathing.
Slowly he rolled over in bed, and he found himself face to face with a sleeping Schuldich. The German was still dressed; all he'd done before getting in bed was unbutton his dress shirt. He was half on his side, half on his stomach, sprawled out on top of the blankets. Omi's eyes were wide as he stared at the sleeping form just a few inches away from him, and he sent a startled glance around the room at the dark blotches that were the postcards on the walls. This room- it was Schuldich's? It made sense, he supposed, for he couldn't imagine it belonging to Crawford or Farfarello, and he'd already decided Nagi's room was the one with the trapped rodent.
He hadn't heard the German come in. That disturbed him almost as much as it did that he and Schuldich were both stretched out in the same bed. He pushed himself up on his arms, feeling the springs move beneath his hands, and started to inch backwards towards the edge of the bed.
He didn't get very far before he bumped into something else, and he froze. It was something large and warm.
Slowly he twisted, and a single eye glittered at him in the darkness, catching the bits of light that came through the window. Omi's own eyes went wide as he stared down at the Irishman. His mouth opened but no sound came out, and he looked from one man to the other. When he couldn't think of anything to say, he shut his mouth and beat a retreat down towards the end of the bed. Farfarello watched him go and Omi stood uncertainly at the foot of the bed, wondering what was going on. Schuldich muttered something that Omi couldn't understand; it was slurred from sleep and didn't sound Japanese. Farfarello said something back and the German quieted.
Omi looked over his shoulder towards the door, wondering if he was supposed to leave, but Farfarello didn't say anything to him. Instead the Irishman looked away, presumably going back to sleep. Silence fell in the room and stretched on. Omi stood where he was for several minutes more as he wondered what to do now. It was cold; he'd been comfortable under the blankets. He wasn't interested in going back out to the living room. He wanted to stay here with the post cards.
The blankets were hanging off the foot of the bed, so in the end Omi curled up against the baseboards and let them drape over him. It was still a little cold, but he didn't want to wake Schwarz by tugging the blankets down more.
It was a while before he could sleep again. He pillowed his head on his arm and watched the numbers dance on the stereo as he waited to grow tired once more, and let the shadows of the room keep him company.
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