SYN: When You Gonna Learn?
The meeting didn't get out until past time for dinner and by then moods were pretty dour all around the room. The two groups had talked themselves in and out of circles all day long and neither was particularly happy with the compromises they'd settled on. The bodyguards outside were hungry and tense, knowing the delay wasn't a good thing. Schuldich and Nagi were bored out of their skulls and way past ready to eat.
They escorted Takayama back to his building when it was finally over and endured his furious tirade in tolerant silence. Training and practice kept their disinterest and disgust off their faces while he was around, but as soon as they were safely back at their car, the facades dropped.
"What a fucking waste of a day," Schuldich declared, flopping against the side of their car. "What did you do to piss Crawford off this time?"
Nagi sent him a cool look over the hood of the car. "Since when am I the one getting in trouble with Crawford?" he wanted to know, popping the locks.
"Tot," Schuldich sent back easily, but the retort brought him up short as he remembered Kudou. Nagi didn't notice the tightening of his expression, too busy opening his door.
"That was one time," Nagi said defensively as they climbed in the car. "Ouka was a bigger mess-up."
"I'm not the one that shot her," Schuldich pointed out. "Crawford should have seen it coming and talked to Farfarello about it."
"He did," Nagi admitted. "Farfarello ignored him. He and Crawford were still trying to figure out the balance of their relationship, and I think Ouka was supposed to be a statement."
"Don't use 'relationship' on them. It sounds too domestic." Schuldich twisted the key in the ignition and drove the car out of the parking lot. "How do you know, anyway?"
"Same way I knew they were together before you did," Nagi said. "I don't have a trigger. Besides, since I'd already decided I was interested in men, it was easier to pick up on the signs that there was something going on between them."
"Whatever, know-it-all." Schuldich pushed a button to roll down the front two windows and dug his cigarette pack out of his pocket. He propped a stick between his lips and lit it, but Nagi took the lighter and pack before Schuldich could put them away. Schuldich watched as he lit it, ignoring traffic in favor of how easily his youngest teammate smoked. He still remembered smelling Kudou's cigarettes on Nagi's hands that night he'd found out.
"Give me your phone," he said, turning his attention forward again. "I want to ask Crawford something."
"You're telepathic," Nagi reminded him.
"Like hell I'm touching their minds. They might be doing something and the last thing I want is to get bombarded with thoughts like those."
"Crawford would have seen it coming," Nagi pointed out, but that was a good enough excuse for him and he was already rummaging in his coat pockets.
"Crawford can't see everything," Schuldich said as he took the phone, and he pointed at his cigarettes. "Those too."
"Yeah, yeah," Nagi answered, and Schuldich took advantage of his short distraction to give the cell phone an easy flick out the window. Nagi didn't notice its absence immediately and Schuldich was able to take his cigarettes back without any trouble. For a half-minute they smoked together in silence, if the sound of the wind and early evening traffic could ever be called quiet, and then Nagi looked over at Schuldich with a small frown. "I thought you were going to call Crawford."
"I was going to ask him something," Schuldich agreed, and he breathed smoke into the air between them. The breeze from the windows snatched it and whisked it away immediately and Schuldich gave the road ahead of them a hooded look. "Hey, Crawford, did you know Nagi is an untrustworthy little bitch?"
"What?" Nagi demanded, startled and offended.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Schuldich sent back icily. "It's bad enough that you started fucking Weiss in the first place, worse that you actually tried to manipulate me through such idiocy, but this-" He jabbed a finger at his temple and sent Nagi such a hot look that the younger man actually flinched against the passenger door. "This is none of his goddamned business and I can't believe you went and told him everything you could about it."
"Schuldich, what-" Nagi started, looking completely blindsided by this anger after a day of normalcy. Schuldich wasn't interested in letting him finish and he pushed on before Nagi could get his mental footing back enough to argue.
"You've been telling one of Weiss how my gift works and where its shortcomings are and how it was programmed," he accused his teammate. "For a while he knew more about my gift than even I did. Weiss, Nagi! You could have lied or made up anything you wanted, but you told him the truth when it wasn't his to know. What am I supposed to think about this, that you're worth trusting on Schwarz?"
"I told you why I told him," Nagi tried. "At first it was to keep you from finding out about what we were doing, but after that-"
Schuldich cut him off. "You also told me you were going to stay the fuck away from him."
"I haven't seen him since-"
"What's his phone number, Nagi?" Schuldich demanded.
Silence pulsed between them and then Nagi asked quietly, "Where's my phone?"
"He was there today," Schuldich told Nagi, and he gave his cigarette a sharp flick to send ashes out the window. "He was there today and you know what? He'd heard from you this week. Come on. Give me a really good reason for that. Give me a really good reason for why what you just told him is any of his business."
Nagi didn't answer. Schuldich gave him a few seconds to come up with something before dragging hard at the steering wheel and taking them out of traffic. They almost hit a bike as Schuldich pulled up against the curb, not that either of them really noticed or cared. Schuldich punched the button to roll the windows up and went so far as to twist the key out of the ignition. The key ring was thrown down at the ground by his feet and he twisted in his seat to stare hard at Nagi.
Nagi's expression twisted but he said nothing. Schuldich wasn't going anywhere until he got something, though, and Nagi knew that. It still took him a minute to get his thoughts together.
"I needed to talk to someone," he said at last. "Every time I've talked to you since this first started I've only made things worse, and there's no way I could talk to Crawford or Farfarello. It was hard enough asking Crawford 'why' the first time, when I'd hit dead end after dead end with you. I mean, I know I could have. Crawford usually knows what's going on and how it will turn out and how to do things to get them to happen how we want them to, but we demanded the illusion of control years ago and he won't back down from that.
"But I can talk to Yohji," Nagi said, flicking Schuldich a guarded look. "I trust him. I've trusted him to some degree ever since he backed down from Tot. We bumped into each other outside of work for the first time six months ago, and even if that was an accident, we started seeing each other more often when we realized there was neutral ground there. I've had time to learn to trust him, time to learn I can talk to him."
Six months- it was the first time estimate Schuldich had heard since Kudou had said they'd started sleeping together two months ago. He almost wished Nagi hadn't said it. Six months- that was half of a year. That was one-fourth of the time Weiss and Schwarz had even known each other. Somehow their loyalty to each other finally made sense, but it was just enough to make his stomach churn. "Get a diary then, dickweed."
"I won't," Nagi contested hotly. "Crawford hasn't once told me to stop. In fact, he said the opposite. He said Yohji was good for me. We-"
"God dammit, there is no 'we'," Schuldich shot back. "You gave him to me."
"I gave him to you to sleep with. I never said I'd stop talking to him. Besides, you haven't even done anything with him in a week, so what right do you have to be angry?"
"It's what you're telling him, Nagi," Schuldich snapped. "About my trigger and why it works and why I couldn't give a half-assed damn about you."
For one sharp second, Nagi looked like he'd been slapped. It was that same frozen, blank look he'd worn the time Crawford had hit him over his dangerous devotion to Tot. Schuldich had seen it then and hadn't liked the way it looked on his teammate, even if he'd been relieved that Crawford had finally stepped in and done something about that disgusting girl. This time, though, Schuldich had been the one to put that look in Nagi's eyes- but this time, he couldn't care. He was too angry to care.
"Fuck you," Nagi said softly.
"Never going to fuck you, that's for sure."
"No," Nagi agreed, and he jerked at his seatbelt. Anger made him clumsy and it took him two tries to get it undone. "And you know what, Schuldich? I think I'm finally going to be okay with that."
Schuldich didn't try to stop him and didn't even watch as Nagi climbed out onto the curb and stormed away. Nagi didn't slow enough to shut the door behind him and Schuldich counted to twenty before leaning over and getting it himself. He already knew where he was going when he leaned down to retrieve the keys and he pulled back into traffic to turn around at the next light.
He knew the way to the Koneko no Sumu Ie from any point in the city, but traffic still made it take a good twenty-five minutes. He cast his gift out as he drove by and found that none of the kittens were back from their surveillance yet, so he continued on to the coin parking lot just down the street. He rolled the windows up to help block out the traffic noise and cut the engine off. The keys were left dangling from the ignition and he reclined his chair a little to get comfortable. Every ten minutes he did a quick check of the shop, and the third time he found what he was looking for.
/I'm hungry and you're going to feed me,/ he announced without preamble.
It took Kudou a moment to respond to that sudden, unexpected intrusion. ~I remember offering you a drink, not dinner.~
/You didn't think I'd accept, either, so that offer is null. You're going to buy me dinner./
Kudou considered that. Schuldich listened to him weigh dinner against a small meeting with his teammates to discuss the day's results and Weiss's next move. ~Where do I meet you?~
/I'm parked by the Lawson's./
~You came to pick me up? Don't I feel special.~
/Suck it, Kudou./
~Will you let me?~
/Why else would I put up with your face?/
~You fought with Nagi again,~ Kudou deduced. ~You're the first one I've ever slept with where spite is the major motivator. There's no way I'd stand for it from a girl, but somehow with you it's worth the small insult.~ He sounded amused by this. ~Give me five minutes to get away from them.~
It took Kudou seven minutes instead of five, but the man just shrugged at such words and helped himself to the passenger seat. He looked so unconcerned about being in the car with Schuldich that it was almost offensive and Schuldich told him so.
"Oh?" Kudou asked, watching as Schuldich put his seat upright. "Nagi was rather happy about it- the fact that someone could look at Schwarz and see them as something other than freaks or powerful pawns. I saw Nagi as a human and he needed that recognition from someone outside of Schwarz."
"If you're attempting to make me lose my appetite so I'll take it easy on your wallet, you're mistaken."
Kudou just shook his head and lit up. "Where to?"
The other man rolled his eyes at that. "Thanks," he said. "Well, I know this good yakiniku place…"
"I'm not having meat and I'm sure as hell not going to watch you play with raw meat either."
Kudou stared. "You're not a vegetarian, are you?"
"Nagi seems to be mixed up in what he can and can't say," Schuldich noted, disgusted.
"Don't you think it's kind of paradoxical for an assassin to hate the sight of raw, bloody meat?"
"You don't see me sticking shredded bits of our targets into my mouth, do you?"
"Ah, I must have gotten you confused with Schwarz's other psychopath."
"Food," Schuldich reminded him. "Some of us worked through lunch."
"No problem," Kudou answered easily. "I'm prepared for any situation. I took into account that I might date vegetarians or vegans one day and scoped out all of the places I could find in the city. There's a shop over in Nakano that's fantastic, a little hole in the wall place with a bigger menu than its seating capacity. You know where Uniqlo is out by the Chuo line? Get us there and we can foot it the rest of the way."
Nakano was a half hour from where they were and the drive passed in silence. Schuldich warred between annoyance that Kudou was so at ease and silent, private relief at the lack of tension after a shitty day that had just gone downhill since lunch.
Schuldich parked in Uniqlo's lot like Kudou had told him and they ground their latest cigarettes out on the asphalt before starting away. Schuldich wasn't one to follow Weiss so he kept pace with the other man, though the side street Kudou led them down had such a small sidewalk that their arms were touching from their shoulders down. Schuldich considered pulling away, but Kudou would likely just view it as a retreat, so he left it alone.
It was a short walk to the restaurant and Kudou hadn't been lying when he'd said it was small. There were eight stools at a counter and that was it, but Kudou hadn't been exaggerating about the menu, either. It hung above the stools and stretched for the full length of the counter, everything from drinks and salads to entrees. Happy-looking cows decorated the border with "Thanks" speech bubbles floating above their heads, likely thanking the diners for leaving them alive. Schuldich and Kudou bore the sole weight of that gratitude, as they were the only ones there. It was too early for dinner but too late for lunch, though it did land them in the window of late lunch specials.
The chef/owner/server behind the counter greeted them with a hearty hello that Kudou returned, and the man recognized Kudou from his previous visit. They made small talk about the weather as Schuldich helped himself to one stool, and Kudou took the stool immediately to his left. They had water and wet towels in seconds and the conversation turned on Schuldich, who ignored them in favor of reading the menu. Maybe it was because he hadn't eaten in ten hours, but everything sounded good.
"I like his hair," the owner declared. "How long did it take him to get it that color?"
"It's natural," Kudou answered. "I'd know."
"Maybe I just dyed it down there, too," Schuldich flicked at him.
"Did you?" Kudou asked, at the same time as the owner said,
"Oh! You speak Japanese!"
Schuldich gave him a pitying look. "I'm living in Japan," he pointed out.
"Ah, yes, but there are still a lot of foreigners in Tokyo who won't learn," the older man said, giving an apologetic wave of his hand. "Japanese is hard, I know, but still! They use English and gestures, and I speak no English."
"Do you speak German? He's German," Kudou volunteered.
"By blood," Schuldich sent at him. "English is my first language."
Kudou looked startled by that but Schuldich wasn't interested in explaining. If the man had a whit of common sense in him, he'd figure it out. It didn't matter where his parents were from or where Rosenkreuz was- for better or for worse, the universal language was English. Students born at Rosenkreuz were taught English first and foremost and it wasn't until they were seven that they started their secondary language. Schuldich had started on German then, then Japanese three years later when Crawford had first walked into his life.
"This," Schuldich said, pointing at a small display on the counter advertising the day's special. Kudou ordered the same and the owner vanished to start cooking.
Kudou waited until the man was out of sight before speaking again. "Were you born in America?"
"Infer that I'm American again and I'll bite your tongue off," Schuldich told him with a razor smile. "And for your information, America isn't the only country that speaks English."
"You're not a test tube baby, are you?"
"Every time we talk, my opinion of you just plummets further."
Kudou grinned a little. "It was a Weiss theory for a while, because we weren't sure how it was possible for people like you to exist. Then Nagi told me he was born 'in the wild', so to speak, so I guessed it just had to be a fluke of DNA. Still, didn't hurt to ask."
"Ignoring you now."
"So if you're not really German, does that mean you don't like football?" Kudou asked. Schuldich slanted him a sideways look and Kudou pulled two tickets out of his pocket. "Wrong season, I know, but they're having a sports festival next weekend and they're going to be playing seven or eight kinds of sports. It'll be everything from football to tennis. Ken won the tickets on a hotline, but then the father of one of his students invited him to go with them, so I got the pair. Don't know a damn thing about football other than the fact that the ball is white and black, but figured you might know."
Schuldich took the tickets away from him and considered them, reading the date and time stamped along the bottom. Kudou watched him think and was distracted briefly to smile thanks at the owner when the first of their plates arrived. He passed it to Schuldich and Schuldich tossed the tickets back at Kudou in favor of food.
"Is that a no?" Kudou asked. "Not European enough to like it? Though I guess psychotic world-class assassins don't know much more about sports than I do."
"They taught us football at Rosenkreuz," Schuldich said, turning his plate this way and that to examine what he'd been given. It looked really, really good and he felt his stomach grumble in anticipation. "Sports mean competition and teamwork."
"Makes sense," Kudou said, and he reached out to accept his plate as it was brought over. "Is that a yes or no?"
"How about you shut up so I can eat?" Schuldich suggested.
"Ingrate," Kudou grumbled at him, but the rest of the meal passed in silence.
Kudou paid when they were finished and they moved to stand out on the sidewalk and smoke. Schuldich was already memorizing the restaurant's location, because he had a feeling he'd come back later on his own to investigate the rest of the menu. It never hurt to have a new place to eat, even if it was a bit of a trek from Schwarz's apartments. They were in the city enough for work that it wouldn't be so out of the way all of the time.
Kudou said nothing until they were both finished with their cigarettes. As he ground his butt out beneath one shoe, he turned an expectant look on Schuldich. "Are you going home?"
"It's too early to head back," Schuldich answered, flicking his own butt to one side to burn itself out on the sidewalk.
Kudou reached over and buried one hand in Schuldich's back pocket. "Then come with me." Schuldich eyed him for a half-minute before taking a step towards him. Kudou's mouth curved in a smile that was all heat and he leaned in, stopping just shy of a kiss to murmur against Schuldich's lips: "This way."
"I'm not paying."
"If I pay for both dinner and the hotel, we're calling this dating."
"That's still the condition."
Schuldich thought of Nagi. "Whatever."
"Good," Kudou purred, and he started them down the street. He didn't take his hand out of Schuldich's pocket until they reached the love hotel and then he needed both hands to get money out of his wallet. Schuldich busied himself with inspecting the scenery, as it was his first time inside such a place. Honestly, he'd expected something a little grungier, but Japan was almost obsessive-compulsively clean.
They took the elevator up to their room on the fifth floor and Kudou let them in. It looked like any other hotel room, save for the color scheme, and they abandoned their shoes at the entrance. Kudou's self-control was the second thing to go and he had Schuldich up against the wall in a heartbeat. He was all heat and weight and hands and mouth and Schuldich was pushing at Kudou's shirt when a leg joined the mix. He groaned against Kudou's mouth as a knee forced itself between his legs hard enough to hurt.
On the tail-end of pleasure came a sharp, warning stab of pain from his head. Schuldich let go of Kudou's shirt with one hand to grind the heel of his palm against his temple, suddenly too aware that he was pinned in against cold plaster. He pushed hard at Kudou with his free hand, trying to free up room to breathe.
The Balinese let himself be pushed but dragged Schuldich with him, refusing to let go. "I don't have any rope," he said, aiming a kiss at Schuldich's mouth and catching his ear instead when Schuldich twisted his head away. "I do have my wire, though."
"You're kidding yourself," Schuldich informed him.
"We'll see," Kudou answered, and he helped Schuldich peel their shirts off. "Shit. I've been thinking about fucking you for a week now. It was so hard to concentrate on the job after kissing you in the elevator. I just kept imagining stopping the car between floors and fucking you up against the wall, so hard and fast that you'd never know what hit you."
Schuldich blinked against the images on his eyelids. "I think it's safe to say you have a one-track mind."
"Whore," Kudou reminded him needlessly.
Kudou tried to kiss him again and Schuldich made himself stand still for it. Hands roamed freely over his chest as Kudou took him apart from the top down and Schuldich knotted his hands in the other man's hair as both an anchor and a warning. Kudou got them over to the bed without too much trouble and they fell together in a tangle of limbs. The sheets were getting in their way but not as much as breathing was and Schuldich only dimly remembered them shedding the rest of their clothes.
Kudou was on top of him then, crushing him against the mattress, and Schuldich's reaction was instinctive and immediate. Kudou had been expecting a negative response and that was all that saved him from getting thrown off the bed. Schuldich snarled a curse at him as Kudou fought back easily and Kudou endured his struggle with a serene look on his face.
"This is the only way I do it," Kudou told him. "I want to see your face when I'm fucking you. You know I'm not going to hurt you, so stop freaking out."
"Who's freaking out, jackass?" Schuldich demanded, trying to get his hands free of Kudou's. It wasn't working very well. It was a telepath versus someone who needed a lot of upper body strength for both of his jobs and Schuldich had already commented on Kudou's strength earlier that day. The losing battle wasn't helping his stomach any. Schwarz versus Weiss and he'd always written Weiss off as pathetically weak, but then, he'd never been stupid enough before to let himself end up in such a position. "You're so heavy I can feel my spine creaking."
Kudou just shook his head and let go, and Schuldich planted his hands against the white assassin's shoulders to shove. He heard the familiar hiss of wire too late. He could move one hand but not the other, and then there was a loop of wire around his wrist. He grabbed at it at its first bite against pale skin and only managed to get his second hand tangled up. Kudou jerked hard at it, pulling it tight enough that Schuldich felt the first layer of skin give way, and in the next instant he had his fingers laced through Schuldich's and he was pinning Schuldich's hands against the sheets over his head.
"Get that the fuck off of me," Schuldich warned him.
"I know what I'm doing," Kudou answered, kissing him. Schuldich bit him as hard as he could and got an answering jerk at his wrists that made him let go. "You know this is necessary as much as I do. It doesn't matter that you called me today to get to this point; it doesn't matter if you want this. You're still going to fight me and I'm not interested in your hands around my throat. When you stop fighting- when you can stop fighting- I'll take it off."
He shifted his grip to free one hand and sent it snaking down over Schuldich's side, nails skimming warm skin. "It'll be all right," Kudou promised him with a kiss that tasted like blood. "Just relax and I'll take care of it."
"I'm so relieved," Schuldich said nastily, and he dug his fingernails into Kudou's hand until he thought he felt blood on his fingertips. Kudou didn't even seem to notice and instead kissed a line up Schuldich's throat to his ear. His thumb was moving in slow circles somewhere near Schuldich's hip, just barely grazing the skin there, and he licked a drop of blood away when it started beading at the corner of his mouth. "Take it the fuck off," Schuldich insisted.
Kudou just offered him a slow smile that was almost hot enough to erase Schuldich's icy anger. "Give me two minutes," Kudou promised him in a soft drawl. "Two minutes and you won't even remember it's there."
It took him three, not that Schuldich was really counting at that point. He remembered that he still fought; he remembered the burning sting of skin breaking open. He couldn't tell sweat from blood at that point, but it almost didn't matter. He didn't remember when Kudou took the wire off; he just remembered dragging his fingers down Kudou's back and arms. It was easier to let go this time, even with a week between the last time Kudou had pushed Schuldich down. Schuldich didn't stop to wonder why, didn't really want to think any of the technicalities through.
They stayed there for an hour, burying themselves deep in each other and the escape from the day and their jobs. Afterwards, Kudou washed Schuldich's arms clean while the telepath just laid there and watched him. They had nothing they could use as bandages, but Schuldich's sleeves would cover it, and he pulled away when Kudou was finished.
"Get yourself home," Schuldich told him.
Kudou didn't argue, didn't say anything about being left behind in Nakano, and just watched as Schuldich put his clothes back on. He caught up to Schuldich at the door to kiss him and Schuldich let him before pushing at him.
"You can't call Nagi," he said. "He doesn't have a phone anymore."
"You know he'll get a new one," Kudou said. "If he calls me, I'm not going to hang up on him." He kissed Schuldich again. "What about next weekend?" he pressed. "Are you going to come with me?"
"You're pushing your luck, Kudou."
"Yohji," Kudou said, pressing himself fully up against Schuldich. "Call me Yohji."
"I'm leaving," Schuldich told him.
"Good." Kudou smiled against his mouth and backed off, and Schuldich let himself out of the room. He took the stairs down because he wasn't interested in bumping into anyone in the elevator and he made it all the way back to the Uniqlo parking lot before he had to stop and have a cigarette. It was dim enough out now that the parking lot lights left his reflection on his window and he stared himself down on the glass.
"You do know that this is all a very bad idea," he informed himself conversationally.
At length his reflection just shrugged, and he climbed into the car and started back to the apartment.
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