Part Four: Schuldich and Reichi

    Yohji stepped into the cafe, wandering in the general direction of the counter. He paused at the ropes that neatly divided the area into lines to the cash registers, gazing up at the menu in search of something good for lunch. He had picked the place when his stomach had announced that it was ready and waiting to be filled. He wasn't ready to go back home now; Schuldich's challenge had been enough to unnerve him. He had the feeling that Schuldich would take the opportunity to prove to him that he had no problem following through on his claim.

    Schuldich stepped up beside him, close enough that their shoulders touched. Yohji gave a mental sigh, leaning away and flicking a warning glance in the German's direction. "Can't you leave me alone for just one moment?" he asked.

    Schuldich leaned as well, resting himself on Yohji again. "What's the fun in that?"

    Yohji closed his eyes, exhaling slowly as he struggled to control his temper. Schuldich was baiting him, as usual. This time, Yohji would not give into the temptation to snap at him. If he ignored Schuldich, the man would grow bored and would leave him alone. He repeated the words over and over to himself as he felt his muscles slowly beginning to relax. Tension seeped from him and he almost sighed in relief when he was pinched on his rear. His eyes popped open as he nearly jumped out of his skin, hopping away from Schuldich as if he'd been electrocuted and clapping a hand to the butt of his jeans. "Yamero!" he snapped.

    "Be quiet. You're disturbing the other customers." Schuldich grabbed his elbow and tugged him towards the register. "I'm ready to order. Aren't you?"

    Yohji wrenched violently out of Schuldich's grip, seething for several moments. Dimly he could hear Schuldich's voice as the German spoke to the boy behind the counter. What the hell was wrong with the telepath?! He had never acted this way before the Group had shown up. Why had he changed? Yohji felt invaded- he was not Schuldich's possession to play with as he chose!

    /Wrong. You are mine./ Schuldich's voice slid easily through Yohji's mind, amused. /You are mine to do with as I please until you become boring./

    Yohji gave Schuldich a murderous look when the German turned to smirk widely at him. "What are you ordering?" Schuldich asked, ignoring the way the cashier shifted nervously, uneasy with Yohji's obvious anger.

    "I'm not hungry anymore." Being touched had made him lose his appetite.

    Schuldich reached out, hooking a finger through a belt loop on Yohji's pants. "Eat," the German said, a taunting command. "You'll need the energy later." He laughed when he saw the way Yohji's mouth thinned and turned back to the boy. "Give him the same thing I'm getting," he told him, and turned back to Yohji. "Where's your wallet?"

    "Why don't _you_ pay?" Yohji asked, prying Schuldich's finger away from his pants.

    The corner of Schuldich's mouth quirked. "My wallet is still in my pants."

    Yohji hesitated as the implications of that sentence registered in his mind. The last time Shuldich had worn something of his own was before the Group had shown up. An image flickered in his mind of Schuldich handcuffed to that bar, sitting almost curled up into himself, clothes ruined as they lay on the ground around him. He saw Schuldich's mouth harden and knew the German had picked up on the unpleasant memory. The German looked away, disguising his rush of bitterness by asking the boy for the total. Yohji pulled his wallet from his pants, digging out enough money with a quiet sigh.

    Schuldich accepted their tray and wandered towards a booth, Yohji following. He stood to one side until Yohji sat, then slid onto the bench beside him. Yohji glanced at him. "There are two sides to a booth," he told him.

    "You're right," Schuldich answered, pulling his meal in front of him.

    "Has anyone told you how annoying you are?"

    "Once or twice." Schuldich smirked widely.

    "Yohji-kun!" Both men looked up at the delighted voice as Reichi approached with her tray. Her face was flushed in a joy she could not hide as she beamed down at them. "What a wonderful surprise to see you here! Did you come for lunch?"

    Schuldich answered before Yohji could. "No, we came for breakfast," he drawled.

    She blinked, glancing at her watch, momentarily confused by his words. Yohji hid a sigh. She was a bit of an airhead, but Schuldich didn't need to bait her. He was wary of getting in another verbal challenge, however, after talking with the ice cream girl. "Breakfast?" she asked. "It's after noon."

    "We got up late. We were busy last night." Schuldich tossed a heated glance in Yohji's direction and Yohji felt his jaw muscles tighten in response.

    "Oh," Reichi laughed. "You must like the nightlife as much as Yohji does."

    "Yes," Schuldich replied, waving a hand in a languid gesture for her to seat herself in the bench across from them. Yohji could hear an alarm going off in his head as she slid into place, watching her settle herself to her liking before beaming at them both. "I've found we have a lot of the...same tastes."

    "Not really," Yohji answered, managing to keep the acid out of his tone. Under the table, he dug his fingers into Schuldich's thigh in a clear warning. Not Reichi...She was a shop regular. She would tell all of the other girls and that would be the topic of the year around the Koneko no Sumu Ie. And the others...

    /Who cares about them?/ Schuldich asked breezily, moving his hand to brush his fingers along the back of Yohji's hand. Yohji allowed the contact, more interesting in keeping a death grip on Schuldich's thigh in case the man tried to say anything else. /Who cares if Weiß knows?/

    ~_I_ do, you hardass,~ Yohji snapped back.

    /I do not have a hard ass,/ Schuldich replied, mock offended. /If you don't believe me, you can touch it and see./ Yohji's fingers bit in harder and he was satisfied to see the German wince. /You shouldn't worry about Weiß,/ Schuldich told him. /All of Schwarz knows, anyway./

    "Isn't this weather we've been having lately wonderful?" Reichi asked dreamily, filling the silence that had fallen over the table. She took a sip of her drink, turning shimmering eyes on Yohji. For a girl of her age, she seemed to be younger than Omi. It was painful to look at her with Schuldich's words ricocheting around in his brain.

    "Yes," he managed to reply.

    All of Schwarz...Yohji shuddered to think of what would happen if Nagi said something to Omi. There was no telling what the boy's reaction would be, especially since Omi was with Nagi. What if Omi took it the wrong way or found it amusing? Yohji would never live it down.

    "It's especially good up at the zoo," Schuldich told her, pausing to eat a bit of his meal. She turned interested eyes on him. Later Yohji would wonder how Schuldich could act so civil, later when he was not fighting to keep Schuldich from opening his mouth about a relationship that did not and never would exist. "You really should come with us sometime. They have good ice cream."

    "Really?" Reichi asked, and briefly her hopeful eyes looked towards Yohji.

    "Yes," Yohji told her, somehow managing a wide smile as he stretched. "It's a great place to go. In fact, why don't you and I-" He fought to ignore Schuldich's soft laughter tearing at his mind. "-go. Schuldich, isn't there something you wanted to do?"

    ~Kami-sama, please let him play along just this once. Just this once, and I'll never ask for anything else again.~

    /God hurts those He loves,/ Schuldich mocked him, looping an arm through his as Yohji was lowering them. "You are too forgetful," he chided Yohji, his entire attitude breezily amused and teasing. "You promised me your time today."

    "Did I?" Yohji thought he would choke on the ice in his words as he tried subtly to detach himself from Schuldich's grip, wishing he wasn't here, that Reichi wasn't here and Schuldich wasn't here, that he hadn't gone on that mission and found Schuldich so that none of this would have ever happened...

    "Yes," Schuldich told him patiently, playing ignorant to Reichi's wide, confused gaze. He drummed the fingers of his free hand on Yohji's chest. When Yohji moved to swat them away he dodged and bapped Yohji's nose with a finger. "You said you would spend today with me because you've been so busy with your work lately..."

    "I don't remember that..." Yohji couldn't stop himself from glancing in Reichi's direction as he managed to catch Schuldich's hand.

    She was troubled and lost- he could see that. She rose, collecting her tray, and offered a bright smile that didn't reach her confused eyes. "I would love to, Yohji-kun, but perhaps on a day when you don't have other previous engagements?" Her expression briefly cleared. "And tomorrow...?"

    "Yes," Yohji assured her quickly, fingers crushing Schuldich's as he wished desperately that he could break them. "Tomorrow at eight."

    Schuldich arched his brows in a fair imitation of someone stunned. "_Tomorrow_? You're going somewhere tomorrow, on our-"

    Yohji clapped a hand over Schuldich's mouth, almost afraid to hear what Schuldich had been going to say. He locked eyes with Reichi briefly, struggling between anger and embarrassment. "Tomorrow," he repeated.

    She hesitated, nodded, and hurried away. As soon as she was gone, Yohji shoved Schuldich roughly. "Get out of the way," he snapped. "Get the fuck away from me."

    Schuldich laughed, sliding from the bench. "Where to now, oh brave leader?"

    "_You_ go walk off the end of the world." Fuck this. Fuck the world. He was going home.


    The shop was quiet when Yohji stepped in, and he paused just inside the door, frowning and cocking his head in an attempt to catch any sounds. Schuldich gave him a slight shove from behind, planting his hand boldly against Yohji's ass to do so. Yohji swat at the hand, twisting as he moved out of reach to level a warning look at the German. "Didn't your mother teach you to keep your hands to yourself?"

    Schuldich gave a careless shrug. "She tried. It didn't stick."

    Yohji voted to ignore him and wandered further into the shop, praying silently that someone would be here. He had weighed the pros and cons of being around his teammates. Schuldich might try something, so he did not want anyone else around in case the German did. At the same time, he did not want to be stuck alone with Schuldich. That was why he had chosen to come here. He did not want to run into more people he knew- or even strangers. He would rather risk being here, where at least his teammates might pass off Schuldich's advances as being a joke.

    Schuldich had followed him back, of course, saying that Yohji was going home with his tail between his legs. Yohji had ignored him. He had had it. He could feel his patience wearing thin. What more did he have to do? He had taken Schuldich home from that building, had wrapped him in his own coat and had carried him out. He had defied the Group when challenged for possession of the German. He had cleaned him and fed him, had given up his own bed for the other man to sleep in. He had played nursemaid to a man who mocked his gestures of friendship and had even struck him when he'd stopped him from injuring himself in that shower. He had offered his clothes and the truce. He had been there for Schuldich when the man had acted as antenna for Nagi.

    He had given so much. He deserved- he demanded- respect.

    "You think too much," Schuldich observed. "Has anyone ever told you that?"

    "And you think not at all," Yohji answered tightly, annoyance choking him. He had bounced between pity and anger too often- the jumping was dizzying him. Schuldich could be so vulnerable, as he had been in those first days after Taketori's attack. Yohji could see it still haunted the man in the darkness in the backs of his eyes, in the way Schuldich would react to any mention of that night. At other times the man was as mocking and sadistic as always, giving no thought to anyone else's concerns. He picked his own path through life and uprooted everyone else's along the way.

    "Who is it?"

    The voice startled Yohji from his dark thoughts and he focused on the here and now. Aya was kneeling in the middle of the store. The redhead was obviously too busy to turn around at the moment and see who had entered the shop. He was in the process of filling in the pot around freshly transplanted begonias with soil.

    "Just me," Yohji answered, unable to hide the warmth of relief that circled his chest. Out of anyone, Aya was perhaps the best choice to have at home right now.

    /Not bad,/ Schuldich said thoughtfully, gazing at Aya. /He almost looks human when he's working- less icy and unruffled./

    Yohji supposed the German was talking about the way Aya's perfectly tidy appearance was gone. He was used to it by now, but he found himself examining the younger man anyway. The sleeves of that godawful orange sweater were rolled up to his elbows and his pale skin was flecked with dirk. Yohji already knew that when Aya turned to face them, his face would be faintly messy and his hair out of place from countless times of brushing it out of his way with a hand.

    Once he had joked about Aya's attire to the man, teasing him about how he would never get a date in such tacky clothes. He still remembered the look Aya had given him, a brief flick of irritation that Yohji thought of nothing else, a look that showed how much he didn't care about the prospect of never dating or getting laid. "I know," had been his simple response as he'd gone about his way around the shop.

Part 5