Part Five: Confrontation

    Aya leaned back on his heels when he was done, brushing his bangs out of his face as he twisted slightly at the waist to gaze back at Yohji. Yohji could see the way his mouth thinned faintly when Schuldich entered the shop behind him. He managed to give a helpless shrug, rolling his eyes as he approached Aya. "It's Ken's fault," he said carelessly, as if dismissing Schuldich's presence. If only it was that easy. He stopped beside the redhead, who was gazing at Schuldich with an expression Yohji had long ago learned to identify as disapproval and blatant dislike. Finally Aya flicked a final amethyst look at Yohji before returning to his work.

    "Where is everyone?" Yohji asked, raking his fingers through his bangs as he tried to ignore the footsteps that signalled Schuldich's approach. This follow the leader crap was getting on his nerves.

    "Some children came for Ken." Aya carefully set the new pot aside. Yohji used his foot to slide the next batch closer and Aya plucked up a larger pot from in front of him, tugging the bag of potting soil closer. "Omi went to find an apartment and brought Nagi with him." Yohji couldn't tell from his tone what Aya thought of that. He _could_ guess, however, who Aya was going to talk of next when he saw the way the swordsman's lips pulled back just enough for his teeth to show in a faint, antagonistic sneer. "_He_ went out."

    "Where to?" Yohji asked, curious.

    Aya's voice was crisp. "I was not listening to him."

    ~Some grudges...Jeez...~

    "You think so highly of Crawford," Schuldich said, amused, propping himself against Yohji. Yohji neatly stepped away and heard mental snickering from the orange haired pest. Did the man not realize that Aya's presence was only a brief distraction from Yohji's mounting anger? He could sense a confrontation coming.

    Aya flicked Schuldich an acid glance.

    That left Farfarello, but Yohji had no doubt as to where that psychopath was. He looked around, weighing his loathing for work and his desire to not be caught alone with Schuldich. It was with disgust that he saw they were almost equal. "Need anything?" he asked at last.

    Aya paused before looking up, needing a moment to digest the volunteer help. He took in the state of the shop, measuring what all was left to be done. Yohji could see that there was not much. His shift with Ken had not been all that productive- due to his tendency to take frequent breaks, Ken's clumsiness, and Schuldich's interference- but it seemed Omi and Nagi had been able to take up most of the brunt of their slack. Even still, there was a decent amount of work left for one man.

    Aya spoke at last. "There's more soil in the back room," he said, flicking his fingers at the mostly empty bag before him. "This won't last much longer."

    "Hai." Yohji trotted away and heard Schuldich follow. He sped up, entering the storage room first and swinging the door closed in an attempt to shut the other man out. The attempt failed and Schuldich laughed as he shoved his way through.

    Farfarello looked up at their entrance. He watched them in silence, eyes following Schuldich as the German propped himself beside the door. He did not appear to be a threat, so Yohji ignored him, more interested on keeping distance between Schuldich and himself. The telepath was taunting him silently just by the way he stood, with his arms crossed over his chest and his mouth curved into a cocky grin.

    ~This is fucking insane,~ Yohji thought as he struggled for control of his temper, refusing to turn his back to the man to retrieve the soil but refusing also to back up to get to it. He was sick of retreating. ~We're grown men, grown assassins on a temporary truce, and it comes down to this. What is wrong with the world?~

    Schuldich blinked, tilting his head to one side as he lowered his arms. He thought to himself in silence for a long moment before reaching out, silently pressing the door closed all of the way. Yohji's eyes watched as long fingers turned the lock, nerves jumping and heart skipping a beat. "What is wrong with the world?" Schuldich repeated, almost absently, reflecting on the words as if they held some significance for him. At length he shrugged faintly and detangled himself from his thoughts.

    That smirk was back on his face as he took the first step forward, his intent clear on his face.

    "You are walking on glass here," Yohji informed him, feeling earlier anger rising again now that they were alone.

    "You don't sound pleased or flattered at all by my attentions," Schuldich observed, a laugh riding on the edge of his words. He flicked his hair over his shoulder carelessly with one hand, using the other hand to rub his fingers along Yohji's shoulder. "Why is that?"

    "Were _you_ pleased when Taketori turned on you?" Yohji demanded, patience and tolerance snapping in one fierce rush of anger. He shoved Schuldich away violently.

    The man allowed himself to be shoved, stumbling backwards several feet. Before Yohji could step away from the wall, one arm shot out to crash into Yohji's abdomen with a blow that sent him banging back against the wall. There was an icy set to his mouth and his eyes were hard as he gazed back at Yohji. All playfulness was erased from him as he stared down at Yohji, who gazed balefully back. When he spoke, his words were soft but intense. "Do you dare?" he asked. "Do you dare compare me to him?"

    Yohji studied Schuldich's face warily, fingers on his watch. "Do I want this any more than you wanted that?" he asked, just as quiet.

    "Do you..." Schuldich couldn't finish the question. Yohji wasn't sure, but he thought Schuldich was trembling faintly in barely repressed anger. He instinctly glanced to one side, finding the door, a search for survival. His eyes darted back when Schuldich moved, but the German was only running his hands through his bangs, exhaling heavily in an attempt to calm himself. His eyes were closed, and when they opened again, they were calmer. "Congratulations, Kudou. You're harder to break than I thought you would be. I figured you would be an easy job."

    Yohji frowned faintly, unsure of whether to be offended or take that as a compliment, still anxious to get out of the German's company.

    "That doesn't," Schuldich stressed, stepping forward, "mean you're impossible."

    Impatience and frustration balled into one. "Schuldich," he started, but was never given a chance to finish.

    Schuldich flickered forward- first there, then here- wrenching Yohji's hands apart. Yohji gasped- first in pain, then surprise- when he heard his watch shatter. Then a mouth crushed against his, and his wits scattered with the first rough invasion. He was pinned between the wall and Schuldich, but he could not get coherent thought together to struggle. Schuldich's knee pressed against his thighs, forcing them apart to get between them. His hand slid down Yohji's shirt to slip under the hem, spreading fire where it touched his skin as he raised it to tease at a nipple. Yohji moaned helplessly in Schuldich's mouth, feeling the world spin wildly around him.

    He had never been forced out of control in a relationship, had never been the one treated with such an aggressive and demanding passion. There was no way he could react to it, no way he could brace himself against hte way it splintered everything he knew and everything in him. Schuldich's hand slid downwards, fingernails running along well-defined muscles and sleek skin. He broke the kiss and Yohji gasped for air, lifting a hand to plant it against Schuldich's chest. He could not gather enough strength to shove the man away, so instead curled his hand into a fist in the material of Schuldich's shirt. Kisses trailed along the underside of his jaw and Schuldich lightly nuzzled at his exposed throat before biting it lightly. He lifted his knee and slid it downwards along Yohji's inner thigh again, then repeated the process, applying more pressure to Yohji's groin as he went up to make the other man groan.

    Yohji's other hand had made it to the back of Schuldich's head by now and long fingers were cupping the back of the man's skull as Schuldich began to kiss him again, long, thorough searches that left Yohji breathless and panting. This was raw desire, pleasure that made Yohji's blood run like liquid fire.

    And then Schuldich withdrew, easily detangling Yohji's fingers from his hair and shirt. He stepped back to gaze back at Yohji. Yohji stared off at nothing in particular, wondering distantly if his legs would be able to support him. He did not think they would.

    Fingers cupped his chin, tilting his face upwards, and he met Schuldich's eyes.

    "That," Schuldich said calmly, "is the difference between Taketori and I. There is desire here. You do not see it because you afraid of this leap between lifestyles and enemies. Do _not_ confuse us," he said, fingers tightening, "ever again."

    He could not form a response, could not even nod his head. He tried to swallow, but his mouth had gone dry. Under Schuldich's unreadable gaze, Yohji felt himself sagging slowly downwards to the ground, unable to stay standing any more. He had not felt this weak or shaken since Asuka. In life, she had been enough to steal his breath and to make him so very conscious of everything he was and did. In death, the biting guilt and loneliess had eaten into him, as well as the desire to recapture that strange giddiness her presence had provoked.

    He exhaled raggedly, lifting a hand to press his palm to his face as he tried to reteach himself how to breathe. There was no more fooling, no more denying. Schuldich was offering something he could not turn down, something he could not hide from or back away from.

    "Do not think of her," Schuldich told him, flicking his fingers in either disgust or exasperation. "You wanted her emotionally. You were in it for the long haul. Me? I'm just here for the sex, and when I find someone more interesting I'll move on." He could hear the amusement in Schuldich's voice. The telepath's good humor was returning and the man turned away, heading towards the exit. Yohji watched him go, digesting everything. Schuldich passed Farfarello without looking down, but Yohji's eyes were drawn to the pale man.

    The look he was given was venomous to frightening extent. Yohji's blood ran cold and he clumsily reached for his watch, belatedly remembering that it was broken as he struggled to analyze the Irishman's hostility. Possessiveness, fury, and bitterness swirled into a deadly combination, a look Yohji recognized but could not place. He put the thoughts temporarily on hold when Farfarello began to test out his bondages with a fierce impatience. Chains rattled as he wrenched an arm away from the wall, willing the chain to snap and free him.

    "You have no place with him," Farfarello spat.

    He would think over those words later, Yohji decided as he struggled to his feet. One thing was too clear for comfort...If Farfarello could get free, the man intended to kill him.

    He was almost to the door when he remembered the reason he'd come back here in the first place and scooped up a bag of potting soil, eyes on Farfarello the entire time. Hopefully he would be able to escape to a place where he could remain unbothered for a little while. He had a lot to think about. He wanted a chance to analyze everything before his hormones could take control again. It was obvious now that Schuldich had already won.

    Now Yohji needed to find a way to lose- gracefully and in a way that would not haunt him.


    "Yohji~! Dinner!"

    Yohji looked up at Ken's voice. Hopefully this dinner would go better than the previous one...Yohji hoisted himself from the couch, flicking off the television set as he passed. After that event in the storage room, Schuldich had aborted the follow-the-leader game, remaining suspiciously absent. Now he could see the man was back- the German was in the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against the doorframe.

    "Who cooked?" Yohji called as he approached the kitchen. "Not you, Ken, right?"

    The teenager made a face at him before seating himself. "Aya made it."

    "Good...I'm hungry."

    Schuldich gave a quiet laugh, easily snagging Yohji's elbow as the man paused. Yohji glanced over his shoulder at the telepath. Schuldich's smirk pulled wider as he flicked his eyes meaningfully up and down Yohji's wirey frame. "You didn't tell them we weren't staying for dinner?" he asked, condescending amusement in his voice as he met Yohji's gaze. Yohji stared back in silence, searching his eyes.

    "Not staying?" Omi asked, and Yohji glanced towards the table. Everyone else was seated already, save Aya, who was- as usual- steadfastedly ignoring the group. He had taken to giving them the cold shoulder when they were gathered in a Weiß-Schwarz mix, particularly when Crawford was present. Crawford, on the other hand, always seemed to have something to do near Aya, or needed something by Aya, anything that would subtly highlight his presence and remind Aya of Manx's proposal.

    Nagi's gaze was assessing as he studied Yohji, and Omi flicked his boyfriend a hesitant glance, raking Nagi's face before slowly looking back. "Why not, Yohji-kun?" he asked.

    Yohji looked away from Omi, passing his gaze over the rest of the table. Crawford had lost any interest and was pouring his drink. Ken was curious. Farfarello had that look on his face again, a look Yohji found himself unable to tear his gaze from.

    ~I know that look...~

    "Well," he started.

    Schuldich finished for him. "Bugnuks suggested we entertain each other," he said, the corner of his mouth twitching at the hidden meanings behind such words. Omi glanced at Ken. "This morning it was Kudou's turn. Now," and he easily pulled Yohji towards him, "it's my turn to show him how to have a good time. Ne, Kudou?"

    Yohji had to fight not to react to such obvious words when he heard Nagi's exasperated sigh: "Hopeless."

    Omi darted a quick look at Nagi again and Yohji knew then that the Schwarz boy had told him about Schuldich's advances. He struggled to keep anything from showing on his face when Omi looked back at him, easily avoiding the boy's eyes.

    "A-aa," Yohji answered as Aya turned away from the stove. The redhead looked at him, but only for a moment, dismissing him without concern or interest. He was too used to Yohji vanishing in the evenings- and if he took Schuldich with him, that was an added bonus, Yohji mused dryly. Yohji saw Ken's confused frown and managed one of his usual, easygoing smiles. "Only fair we take turns, right?"

    "Hai," Ken agreed, reassured by the normal expression enough to lift a hand in farewell and turn to his dinner.

    Farfarello looked as if he might follow them and Yohji sent a quick warning to Schuldich, asking the telepath to enlist Nagi's help. He saw Nagi glance that way just a moment later and saw Farfarello rock backwards in his seat from the subtle telekinetic push. The Irishman hissed softly, tossing a glare in Nagi's direction, but Schuldich was already leading Yohji out of the room by then.

    And then they were in the open night air, the cool evening breeze washing over them, and Yohji felt a shiver of anticipation and- yes, fear- run down his spine. Or perhaps it was just the cold...He was not dressed for an outing.

    "Why do you hesitate?" Schuldich asked, turning to him in the darkness. His hands were warm as they brushed against Yohji's skin, easily heating up the flesh they touched. Yohji shivered again. He gazed into the darkness, waiting for his eyes to adjust. He exhaled slowly and shakily. "Do you think I'm going to hurt you?"

    "No," Yohji answered quietly, tentatively. His own words reassured him, burning the reality of this evening into him, bracing him for what was to come. There was no turning back. "I know you won't- I know you can't." There was a pause as he debated whether or not to speak the next words. He did at length because it did not matter if they were spoken- they were plain in his thoughts for Schuldich to hear. "Not after Taketori."

    Schuldich reflected on this in silence for a few moments before giving a faint sigh, almost an agreement.

    "I guess it's just that this changes everything...and it's _you_."

    Schuldich gave a slight shake of his head. The movement drew Yohji's eyes back to him. He could see the dim glow of a streetlamp reflected in the jade eyes that studied him. "I gave you an afternoon to think," the man said. "I gave it to you so you would quit giving me such a headache. Your time is up. Thinking changes nothing; it is overrated." He gave a faint shrug. "There is no thought to this. I told you that. It is recreation. It is sex. It is what you used to take from those nameless, faceless girls you found in the clubs before you found they no longer satisfied you. That is why you stopped dating in the recent weeks. You're looking for something new."

    He lightly planted a hand to Yohji's chest. "Here it is."

    Yohji gazed at him in silence, thoughts hissing past each other as they twisted violently in his mind. Finally he turned his eyes upwards, to the stars, and heard everything quiet down until there was only now, only this moment. When he dropped his eyes to Schuldich's again, he spoke.


Part 6