SYN: When You Gonna Learn?

Part Three



      Four faces sat around the dinner table at Schwarz's place that evening; four places were set and filled. It wasn't something the team saw very often anymore. When units were new, they were required to eat all three meals together, to the point of postponing a meal for hours if one of them was out on a run and couldn't get back until late. As the team adjusted to its members and they began to accept and understand each other, they were allowed more freedom and the shared meals required of them lowered to just one a day, whichever was most convenient for them. After a year of that they were allowed to do what they like, and Crawford had decided to trash that group policy.

      Today they were all accounted for more out of chance than anything else, and Schuldich flicked looks around the table as he wondered what sort of mischief he could cause. On the one hand, having his teammates all in one spot meant it was much easier to get under their skin. On the other, having Nagi to one side of him and Farfarello to the other meant that they could also hurt him a lot quicker.

      He was weighing the pros and cons of this when Crawford spoke. "Schuldich."

      "I haven't done anything yet," Schuldich answered, an automatic defense.

      Farfarello offered him a coolly amused look, but Crawford ignored the words. "Weiss is trying to interfere with one of our western divisions. I'm going to send you to work interference for us."

      "When?" Schuldich wanted to know.

      "Tomorrow night. I'm going to call Morimoto in the morning and have him consolidate all of the files onto a disk for us. You're to go there and get the disk before Weiss gets its hands on it, and you'll stick around to make sure Morimoto walks away alive."

      "Sounds exciting," Schuldich drawled. "Am I allowed to kill the Weiss?"

      "No."

      "You're no fun."

      "It's not in my job description to be fun," Crawford reminded him, and Schuldich just shook his head and started picking at his vegetables.

      "I suppose Farfarello doesn't care how entertaining you are as long as you just keep-" He had to jerk his hand out of the way before Farfarello could drive a knife through it and he offered his teammate a lazy smirk. Farfarello gave him a calm look in response and freed the knife from the wood with a small jerk. "Careful there, Cyclops, or you might actually hurt someone."

      "Wouldn't that be a pity," Farfarello answered easily, and Schuldich grinned.

      "Keep smiling," Crawford told him as he refilled his glass of tea. "Weiss is sending Balinese."

      "Ohhh?" Schuldich asked, and he didn't miss the way Nagi took a sudden interest in the conversation. He nudged Nagi under the table with his shoe and the telekinetic kicked him in response. Judging by how much it hurt, Schuldich guessed it was reinforced with his gift. His teeth clenched under his smile and he sent the kid a cool look.

      "Perhaps you would like to explain your sudden interest in Weiss?" Crawford prompted him, setting the pitcher to one side, and cool hazel eyes lifted to his face. "I was wondering why you sought his company today."

      ~You did *what*?~

      Nagi sounded less than pleased. Schuldich offered Crawford an innocent smile as he moved his vegetables around on his plate. "I'm bored," he told Crawford. "You haven't given us a job in weeks and I'm two minutes away from juggling penguins out on the street corner just to keep myself entertained. Weiss are my toys and I've allowed them to get dusty in the corner; I just thought perhaps it was time to start playing with them again."

      Crawford accepted that without argument and Schuldich turned back to his food. It was questionable whether or not Crawford actually believed him, but if Crawford wasn't going to call him out on it then Schuldich didn't care enough to come up with anything better. He reached for the pitcher that Crawford had abandoned and poured his own cup, and blue eyes flicked to Farfarello's plate as the Irishman's knife scratched against the rim of it.

      "That's disgusting," he said, frowning at the sight of the shreds of meat. Farfarello's beef was only partially cooked, leaving the inside a reddish, wet mess, and it made his stomach churn. "Crawford, can't you teach your pet some table manners?"

      Crawford ignored them and Farfarello just offered him a lazy smile, pressing his fork down against the mound of meat to bleed blood out onto the plate. Schuldich looked away, feeling queasy, and Farfarello licked at his wet fork. "Maybe you should just learn how to eat meat," he suggested.

      Schuldich pretended he didn't hear that and finished off his rice. He was the first one finished and he pushed himself up from his spot, scooping up his plate in one hand. "Just give me a time tomorrow," he told Crawford, and the American nodded. His plate was set in the dishwasher and Schuldich left the room, heading for his bedroom. He wasn't altogether surprised when Nagi showed up just ten minutes later, and the telekinetic propped himself against the doorframe with his arms folded over his chest.

      ~I told you to stay out of my business.~

      /Several times,/ Schuldich affirmed. /But I don't take orders from you, runt, and you don't intimidate me. Don't even bother to remind me what your gift is or what level you rank at; I've seen telekinetics with half your power squish people into chunky puddles against the floor. But I've never had a reason to fear or respect you. Remember what Crawford said? Telepaths are too expensive and time-consuming to replace./

      ~That doesn't mean I'm not allowed to break a few things,~ Nagi pointed out. ~Crawford wouldn't be happy but I don't care.~

      /Here's a little lesson for you as someone who never went through Rosenkreuz,/ Schuldich said helpfully from where he was sprawled out on his back in bed. /Nothing you could ever do and nothing you could ever try to do could ever mean anything to one who has./

      Silence followed that for a long minute. ~What were you doing today?~

      /Just wondering what you saw in him,/ Schuldich answered. A sultry smile, a look full of dark promises, and honey hair that caught shadows just as well as it did sunlightů /I still don't see it./

      Kudou was Weiss's chameleon, switching between roles at the flick of a mental switch. Schuldich had seen him as Balinese, he'd seen him as the florist, and he'd seen him as the carefree playboy. So what he seen today? Another face, something darker and stronger than the rest, and Schuldich had a feeling he'd seen the Kudou that Nagi had gone home with.

      ~Your loss, then,~ Nagi told him. ~But you're not required to understand. You're not the one sleeping with him.~

      'I wouldn't fuck you for all the money in the world.'

      /I'm not that desperate,/ Schuldich assured him with a wave of his hand, but so many hours later the words still annoyed him.

      What was that comment supposed to mean? Was it just an automatic response to the taunting? Was there a meaning behind it? What did it mean when everyone had someone to sleep with besides him? Even Farfarello was getting fucked, and Schuldich knew beyond a doubt that he was much more visually appealing than his one-eyed teammate. Kudou couldn't possibly be referring to his looks, though Nagi looked more normal than he did.

      ~You don't know what you're missing out on, Kudou,~ Schuldich thought scornfully. ~Why the hell would you pick a *kid* over this?~

      The thoughts just annoyed him more, because he shouldn't be stung by Kudou's opinion. What did he care? Kudou was a wuss and Schuldich wouldn't sleep with *him* for all the money in the world. So his words meant nothing.

      ~Just stay away from us,~ Nagi warned him.

      /If you refer to the two of you as an 'us' one more time, Crawford's going to hear about it,/ Schuldich warned him, stabbing a finger at him. /I just ate and, while I enjoyed it very much, I don't want to have to taste it a second time./

      ~You're right,~ Nagi said, sounding irritated. ~I *do* have horrible taste.~ With that he turned sharply away, and Schuldich sneered at his back as he stormed out. Nagi's door shut further down the hall just a few moments later and Schuldich shifted his gaze to the ceiling to try and think this all over. He was sick of thinking about it, but he couldn't let go.

      'My lunch break isn't long enough for me to hang out here and listen to you fuss at me because I got to Nagi first. Take your jealousy somewhere else; I've got work to do.'

      That made no sense at all.

      Then again, neither did Nagi's parting shot, because Schuldich had no clue why Nagi would have agreed with him.

      ~When I complained of being bored,~ he told himself, ~this is not what I envisioned to keep myself busy again.~

*

      By the time the next day had rolled around, Schuldich was more than thoroughly annoyed with both Nagi and Kudou. He couldn't really explain his "obsession" with their relationship other than the fact that it really shouldn't have been able to exist. Seriously- Nagi and Kudou? How much more opposite could one get? Or were they opposites at all? It made him wonder, and the thought that he'd pegged them both incorrectly when he was the telepath was annoying. He didn't like admitting the possibility that he'd made a mistake.

      He was spending entirely too much time thinking about them, but he couldn't really stop himself. It annoyed him that Crawford and Farfarello didn't know. Surely they didn't know, or they would have said something a long time ago. Surely Crawford would have put an end to it. It was outrageous to think that one of Schwarz would associate with Weiss outside of smearing the ground with their blood.

      At least there was a lot to think about, from the "Why" to the "How" to the "What the hell" of their words to him. He didn't understand why Nagi had agreed with him as a parting shot the previous night and he still didn't see how either of the two would even approach having a relationship. If he thought about the way Kudou looked when he had been talking to the Yoshinoya waitress, he could grudgingly- very grudgingly- admit that Kudou had been easy on the eyes. He'd never say it out loud, but in the depths of his own mind he could think it over and accept that it might be true. But even if Nagi had noticed that about him months ago, what had he done- walked up to Kudou and been like "Hey, I hate the world and everything in it but you're okay so you can fuck me"?

      "Argh." Schuldich snagged his pillow by the corner and plopped it down on his face. It was cool against his skin and he scowled against it, thinking in the same circles he'd been following for hours.

      Kudou had to have initiated it. Kudou had a reputation as a shameless slut; he must have taken one too many sniffs off of something and gotten up the courage to make a move on Nagi. By that time Nagi must have already decided Kudou was okay, otherwise he would have crushed the man where he was standing. And somehow it had continued from there. Right? Something like that. Maybe.

      It just didn't make any sense.

      How could those two have had something going on for two months without any of Schwarz knowing?

      What had happened two months ago to drive them together? Weiss and Schwarz had been seeing each other for almost two years now. Why would Nagi just all of a sudden decide it was okay? Why would Kudou even get an interest in someone so young and dangerous after so long? Surely the interest should have existed in the beginning, not after Weiss had been given ample time to figure out that Schwarz was deadly.

      ~This is impossible,~ he thought. ~Someone's got to do something about it.~

      But what? If Crawford wasn't going to do anything to break it up, then what was there for Schuldich to do? He shoved the pillow away to stare up at the ceiling again, wondering what was to be done. Nagi had already threatened bodily harm if he hurt Kudou, but there was more than one way to skin a cat.

      It was unacceptable that Nagi would be sleeping with Kudou. He simply couldn't allow it, not for the good of Schwarz.

      He'd find a way to put an end to it tonight. How convenient that it would be Kudou he saw.

      A glance at the clock told him it was still too early to leave, but not by too much, and Schuldich decided to skip the last half hour of waiting time and get a move on. He pushed himself up from his bed and headed for his door. Nagi was in the hallway, heading back to his own room from the kitchen, and the youth gave him a suspicious look. Schuldich answered it with a lazy smile and Nagi stabbed a finger at him.

      ~Consider yourself warned, Schuldich. There are a hundred ways to make these things look like an accident.~

      /I'm sure Kudou would cream himself in lovey dovey delight if he knew you were so concerned for his health,/ Schuldich sent back at him with a sneer. Nagi wiped the sneer off of his face by giving his shoulder a hard push with his gift, and the telepath grabbed at the wall and missed as he slammed into the doorframe for Crawford's office. He swore at the pain as his hip made contact and swiped at Nagi. "That's going to bruise, you shit."

      ~You shouldn't be so clumsy, then.~

      The door opened to reveal Farfarello, and the Irishman looked from Schuldich to Nagi with a hooded yellow eye. Nagi gave him a calm look in response and continued on down the hall, and Schuldich sent a scowl after him before pushing away from the doorframe.

      "I'm out of here," he said.

      "You're leaving early," Farfarello pointed out, and Schuldich heard the office door click shut behind him. Soft footsteps followed him down the hall and Schuldich shrugged, lifting his keys down from the peg by the door.

      "I've been waiting far too long for us to have a job," he said. "I'm ready to get out of here."

      "Maybe," was the odd response, and Schuldich reached for the door. Farfarello reached past him, pushing the door shut before Schuldich could get it more than a few inches open, and the telepath turned a curious look back on his younger teammate. Farfarello said nothing immediately, seemingly content to study the German in silence, but there was a serious edge to his expression. "Don't do this," Farfarello said at last.

      "What?" Schuldich asked.

      "Crawford knows what you want to do," the Irishman said, drawing his hand back, and Schuldich turned to face him, folding his arms over his chest.

      "Doesn't Crawford have better things to keep an eye on?" Schuldich asked. When Farfarello didn't answer immediately, Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him. "What, did he make some dire predictions about tonight that I should be aware of?"

      "Crawford doesn't care what you do," Farfarello answered.

      "Then there's no problem." Schuldich started to turn away and Farfarello reached out again, planting his hand against the door. It put his arm along Schuldich's chest as a barrier of sorts and Schuldich looked back at him, annoyed by the other's interference. "Do you mind?"

      "Don't do this," Farfarello said again. "You're going about it wrong."

      "I am, of course, deeply touched by your concern and interest in my life, but as long as Crawford hasn't said I'm going to die some horrible death or contract a nasty disease, bug off."

      "You're stupid," Farfarello decided.

      "And you're in my way." Schuldich reached up to push his arm away and Farfarello just reached out with his other hand, pressing it to the door on Schuldich's other side. It pinned Schuldich in between him and the door. He was surprised and a little wary by such a move and his reckless smirk faded to a frown as he turned back on his teammate. "Why?" he asked at length. "Why shouldn't I?"

      "Don't tell me you think you can do this," Farfarello said. "Don't tell me you think you'll be able to walk away scot-free."

      "I'm pretty sure I'm going to piss off a few people in the process," Schuldich answered. "I'm well aware of that."

      Farfarello just stared at him for a long moment as if he couldn't believe Schuldich was missing something so glaringly obvious, but Schuldich had no clue what he was supposed to be worried about. His frown deepened. "What?" he demanded.

      "You're not the type of person that can do that," Farfarello said at length, but Schuldich didn't understand. Farfarello could see the incomprehension on his face and that seemed to annoy the Irishman; his teammate gave a dismissive "Keh" and drew his hands back. Schuldich scowled at him, annoyed by the other's vague warning. "He knows you won't like it," Farfarello said, meaning Crawford, "but he's not going to stop you. It's your own mistake to make."

      "This whole 'Ooooh, I've got a secret but guess what, I'm not going to tell you' attitude of yours gets really old really fast, Farfarello. If you have something to say, spit it out. If you don't, then just keep quiet and stay out of my way. These are my games to play; I've been playing them for years."

      "Think what you like," Farfarello said, giving a shrug. "You've never played this game before. Enjoy it while it lasts. I'll be at Pandora afterwards."

      "It makes my day to hear that," Schuldich muttered, and Farfarello just shrugged again. Schuldich gave him a minute to say anything else but Farfarello seemed to be finished, so the German turned away. This time his teammate didn't stop him as he left, and Schuldich brushed Farfarello's warning from mind as he headed for the front door.

      Crawford would have told him if this was a bad idea.

      Right?


Part 4
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