Part Six: Bitter Amber

    He woke without knowing where he was. The bed was unfamiliar; it was harder than his, and the sheets were made of a stiffer cotton. The ceiling that greeted him was a pale yellow, and the walls were decorated differently. There was no way in hell he would have put such pictures on his walls, and the wallpaper...Ug.

    /Decorated by a straight guy, obviously,/ a lazy voice murmured.

    Splashes of memory flashed across his mind as he rolled a tired- and sore- body over. Hot flesh against his, fingers burning into him, a mouth that could take him to heaven and back...Even now he could feel the remaining feelings of laziness and satisfaction that he had felt then, as he had wallowed in the afterglow. It was a sense of completion and contentment he could not remember an equal to.

    Schuldich was sprawled on the end of the bed, dressed in his pants only. He hadn't yet put on his headband or sunglasses, leaving his hair to spill across his face and the mattress around him wildly. The man tilted his head to the side to gaze over at Yohji, cocking his mouth in a smirk. "I'd ask you what you thought," he said, the hint of laughter in his eyes, "but that would be redundant."

    "Yes. It would." Yohji stretched slowly, eyes straying to the ceiling as his mind began to piece itself back together. He let his memories of the night before play over in his mind. So he'd done it...He'd slept with Schuldich. If Omi hadn't figured it out last night, he would know now that they'd been gone all night. He ran a hand through his hair, yawning and debating the pros and cons of that.

    "Don't start thinking _now_," Schuldich said, almost exasperated, rolling over onto his side. Yohji looked back at him, briefly admiring the view of the German's bared chest. There was sex with women...and then sex with men. There was a hardness and rawness to this new world of pleasure that he had not experienced before. He had not expected it; he had not expected to enjoy last night as much as he had. "I finally managed to make you stop. Don't start again."

    "I need to think." Gingerly, he pushed himself into a sitting position, unable to hide a wince. He heard Schuldich's snickering as he propped himself against the headboard. "Omi's not stupid...He'll figure it out."

    "Is that a bad thing?"

    Yohji lifted one shoulder in a shrug before realizing that that gesture was one of Schuldich's. "I don't know. It could be."

    "You can't take back last night."

    "I know." A small part of him regretted that- regretted that things had changed. Last night changed everything...Had it been inevitable? Ever since he'd gone on that mission and they'd first interfered with the Group, everything had been falling out of place. He paused, thinking that over. Out of place...or into place? Look at Omi, after all. No...He did not want to think about that. "Ken might figure it out."

    "So let him."

    "I don't know how he'd react. I'm not sure what he thinks about Omi and Nagi."

    Schuldich snorted. "You're sitting on the same bed as a telepath," he informed Yohji. "Part of him understands what there is between them, but the rest of him is still confused by it. He senses the changes as much as anyone else does. He'll change with it or he'll fall behind." Obviously, Schuldich didn't care which.

    "Aya's not going to change."

    Schuldich's mouth twitched and Yohji saw his eyebrow quirk briefly. Yohji frowned faintly. "Crawford wants him to change," Schuldich said, and his jade eyes almost seemed to challenge Yohji, as if he were betting against those who stood on Aya's side. "Americans have a tendency to be pushy, and he's no exception. He always gets what he wants. Like I do," he added.

    "Aya hates Crawford."

    Schuldich's shrug showed that that didn't matter. "It isn't reciprocated. Besides, Fujimiya can't last forever." When he saw Yohji's dubious look, he smirked, gaze flicking away briefly as if gloating over some private fact. "Even ice melts."

    Yohji digested this in silence. Before he could fall back into debating where everything stood now, Schuldich slid from the bed.

    "Come on." When he looked up blankly, Schuldich tossed his clothes at him. He tugged his own shirt on as he wandered to the door. "I've been waiting for you to wake up so we can get out of this hotel...It is way past breakfast time. Now quit fussing around. I know you don't think this much after sleeping with some of those club girls."

    "They were girls," was Yohji's distracted response as he slid to the edge of the bed, but the words fell upon an empty room- Schuldich was already gone. He gave a faint shrug as he pulled on his pants.

    Club girls...Of course he wouldn't think of them. They were but fleeting faces in his life. They were warm bodies at night and an excuse not to dream. Images danced in his mind, images of the countless times he had made rounds through the pulsing dance floor and bar. He had an appreciable reputation; there had been no girls able to resist him. He usually made a point to stay away from girls who already had picked up a partner, but there had been once or twice he had picked them up unknowingly. One time had almost ended in a fight, but the man's friends had held him back. Yohji could still see the furious look that man had given him. He hadn't paid it any attention- the little bit of guilt he might have felt was swallowed by the desire to get his newfound companion onto the nearest mattress.

    That look...

    An amber eye lingered in his mind's eye, glowing hatefully.



    They couldn't be the same expression...But they were.

    ~Oh, Jesus.~

    Jealousy. Pure and utter jealousy. That was that emotion that had been mixed in Farfarello's expression, the product of bitterness, frustration, and hate. Everything was suddenly making sense; everything about the man's hostility was suddenly understood. Farfarello- how many years had he been with Schwarz? How many years had he wanted Schuldich's presence? It was bizarre, almost unthinkable, to imagine that that man could feel any such feelings...But Farfarello was a human too...Maybe.

    Farfarello was jealous of Yohji because Schuldich had turned his attentions on him. The Irishman had not given a damn about him either way before that. It was only after Schuldich's advances began that the teenager had begun to protest Yohji.

    ~Damn...~ Yohji felt as if he was reeling from the realization. He sat on the edge of his bed, staring dumbly at the floor, his shirt wadded in his hands. ~So what does Schuldich...~ The thought couldn't finish itself. Schuldich _had_ to know. He was a telepath. It was obvious, however, that he didn't give a damn.

    He stood abruptly, slipping into his shirt and searching for his socks and shoes.

    He and Schuldich were going to have a talk.


    The morning was well gone- it was into the early afternoon. Yohji hadn't realized they'd lost so much time, but that was understandable. He and Schuldich had been up very late last night...Schuldich had been very thorough. The thought was enough to bring back that curl of satisfaction and Yohji paused before biting into his lunch. Schuldich was, this time, on the other side of the table. Perhaps that was because the lunch rush hour had forced them to take a window table with only one chair on either side.

    Finally Yohji lowered his chopsticks, unable to ignore the subject any longer. "We need to talk."

    "Oh?" Schuldich raised an eyebrow at Yohji, lowering himself to spare amusement. "About what?"


    "Farfarello?" Apparently the man was not on the list of Schuldich's present concerns, which was where he should have been. "What is there to talk about him?"

    "For starters, his jealousy," Yohji said quietly, looking up from his plate to peer into Schuldich's face, searching for his reaction. His words were obviously not what Schuldich had expected, but the other man controlled his surprise well. It was only betrayed by the way he paused for the briefest of moments before sipping from his drink and the way Schuldich's jade eyes flicked to him to search his expression. "That's a very good place to begin, I think, since it could very well endanger my life."

    "You didn't fear for your life before?"

    "He wanted to kill me yesterday after you kissed me."

    "He wants to kill everyone." The words were amused as Schuldich turned back to his meal, shoveling more rice into his mouth.

    "This is serious, Schuldich." Yohji reached out to close the fingers of his free hand on the end of Schuldich's sleeve, tugging slightly to get Schuldich's attention back. He succeeded, but he saw a guarded look hanging in the backs of the other man's gaze. "I don't know why we didn't see it before. I only figured it out this morning before we left. I've seen that look before that he turned on me."

    "You're reading into this too much," Schuldich told him, ready to dismiss him.

    Yohji tugged again. "Schuldich."

    Schuldich pulled away. "This is why relationships are only supposed to last for a night," the German told him breezily, rubbing the back of his hand against his mouth. He leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. The look he turned on Yohji was condescending. "Spend more than a day on 'em and they start to categorize and analyze your life," he declared airily.

    Yohji ignored the careless remarks. "He wants you."

    "He doesn't know _what_ he wants. He's fucked up in the mental department. Speaking of which, I think you need to go in for a checkup."

    Yohji shoved his plate towards the middle of the table, irritated. "Why are you avoiding the possibility that he wants something from you?"

    "I'm not avoiding anything," Schuldich started to say, raising an eyebrow disdainfully, but Yohji wouldn't let him continue.

    "You can see it," Yohji told him. "I know you can. You're a telepath, for God's sake. So why'd you decide to come after me when he was right there all along?" He found himself annoyed- for Farfarello. It was a strange sensation, but the lingering memories of watching Asuka flirt teasingly with their coworkers in helpless frustration washed against his mind.

    "Have you taken a peek into his mind recently?" Schuldich asked. "It's total chaos in there."

    "It's not total chaos or he wouldn't be any use to Schwarz." Yohji recognized this tactic of Schuldich's by now. Whenever something was brought up that the German didn't want to discuss or think about, the man would irritate those around him until anger replaced thoughts of the subject. It was his way of backing out, of retreating.

    "Retreating?" Schuldich echoed, a little bit stung.

    "Retreating," Yohji snapped back. "You're running away."

    "You're a little cocky, aren't you? Tell me, do you always make assumptions about those you hang around with? Did my fucking you give you some permission to sit back and try to dictate my life to me?"

    "I didn't want to sleep with you in the first place," Yohji reminded him, refusing to let Schuldich draw him away from the point he was trying to make. "You're the one that initiated everything. I want to know why you never noticed that Farfarello wanted you."

    "If you're so interested in Farfarello's sex life, you go sleep with him," Schuldich told him, waving a hand in dismissal.

    "I'm not the one he wants."


    "I think you're afraid." This was an exhilirating sense of control, a rush of firm confidence. For the first time, Yohji felt like he had one-upped the other man. He had caught Schuldich at his own game, and the look on Schuldich's face now was priceless. It was a mix of offended and stunned as Schuldich stared back at him, not able to believe what Yohji had just said to him. He could not swallow the fact that Yohji had made such a bold accusation.

    "I'm _what_?"

    "You're afraid. You said it yourself when we were in the storage room: you were in this for the sex- not the emotions, not the long haul. Farfarello's got to have some distance attachment if he's reacting so negatively to me." He saw Schuldich's lips thin. "You're the telepath. You tell me _how_ _long_ he's been waiting for anything from you. It has to have been some time."

    "We are not talking about Farfarello."

    Yohji allowed himself to make a Schuldich expression, arching a brow in superiority and propping an elbow on the table, perching his chin on his hand. "Aren't we? Do you avoid longterm relationships purposefully, Schuldich? Is that why you ignore him and refuse to acknowledge what you can so easily see? Weren't you ever in his position, or can you not understand what you're doing to him? Did you never want to be a part of something? Did you never want to make anything work?"

    There was silence for a long moment as Yohji caught his breath, eyes defiant as he gazed at Schuldich. The other man said nothing, and Yohji decided he would be content with the quiet- it meant Schuldich was thinking.

    Then Schuldich spoke, and with his words Yohji could see and sense a subtle change in the German's attitude. Something raw flickered in the backs of his eyes and he could see a faint tension vaporizing in the man's frame. The corner of his mouth twitched into a self-deprecating smirk that came out hollow. "Once."

    Yohji stared at Schuldich in surprise, chewing on this mentally. Honestly, he hadn't expected Schuldich to answer. It was an admission of past pain. If he did answer, Yohji had expected a no. It was hard to imagine the brash German ever giving a damn about anyone enough to want a relationship. Hell, the man didn't even have the best of bonds within his own team. But then, the idea of Farfarello wanting a relationship was just as foreign. Even so, he could feel an aching curiosity as he studied Schuldich's face, intrigued and pained by the admission. There was something in that single word that perfectly aligned with the feeling of frustrated despair Yohji had experienced in his time with Asuka.

    "So you know, then," Yohji said quietly. "You know what it's like, but you did it to him anyway. I thought you were cold before, Schuldich, but now..." He took a deep breath. "You have described Farfarello to me before. You've referred to his looks as exotic. You've called him untouchable, but you know you can touch him."

    That hard edge was back in Schuldich's eyes. "You're a fine one to preach to me about relationships," he declared, and there was a mocking slant to his voice that was painful to hear.

    Ah, yes...How did someone like him have the right to say anything? He had retreated from any chance of a longterm relationship after Asuka. He had purposefully turned down repeated dates with the same person. He and Schuldich were a lot alike. It was understandable that the man would react the same way. But Schuldich wouldn't be so touchy on the subject if the temptation wasn't there.

    "I have no place to ask this," Yohji said quietly, folding his arms over his chest, "but I want you to take him." Schuldich's face had cleared of any expression before the words even left Yohji's mouth, and now he gazed unyieldingly back at Yohji. "Like you did me."

Part 7