The damned don't cry.
    - Eugene O'Neill

    How many had he had so far?

    How many more would it take?

    Schuldich tilted the glass back, emptying the rest of the liquor in one gulp. He had ordered the strongest drink this place had. He needed it tonight. He set his glass to one side, eyeing the small table he had secured along the wall. He couldn't count the glasses set before him. They were running around on the table and blurring together. He didn't really need to know; all he cared about was the noise in his mind. He had learned long ago that there was no way to completely silence the screaming of the world's thoughts. What he could do was blur the noise, letting all of the individual minds melt together into a senseless hum. Somewhere, at some magical number of drinks, he would have trouble thinking and would have a much harder time making sense out of the thoughts around him.

    He accepted that. He was satisfied with that. It was better than having no way to control the mess at all.


    Obviously he hadn't had enough to drink.

    /Schuldich, where are you?/

    Schuldich ignored Nagi's voice. The brat sounded disturbed, but Schuldich didn't care. Let the boy be upset. Schuldich had no interest in listening to anything the child had to say, had no interest in anything his group had to say tonight. He could still hear the screaming thoughts of Farfarello's victims ricocheting around his mind. It had been his mistake to lower his shields that much...He had chosen to drop them because Farfarello was so hard to read. If Schuldich allowed more to be taken into his mind he had hoped he would follow the psychopath better.

    His mistake, definitely.

    /Schuldich, you have to come home now./

    Someone appeared with two more drinks and set them before him on the table. He had set the command in the hostess's mind to replenish his drink supply whenever she saw he was out. He picked up one of the newly arrived drinks and swallowed half in two large gulps.


    Mmm...That was better. Nagi was getting fainter.

    /Schuldich, come home. Crawford told you you shouldn't be out tonight./

    The rest of the glass was emptied quickly. Schuldich picked up the second. Who cared what Crawford thought? While the oracle was sick his visions were shaky and unclear. The most the American had been able to say to Schuldich before the German had taken Farfarello out to kill was that if Farfarello got out of hand it was important that Schuldich stay home that night.

    Fuck Crawford. Schuldich wasn't going back to the flat until he had found his humming. He had heard far too much this evening. He didn't want to hear anything else tonight.

    There was a murmur in his mind that might have been his name. Schuldich let out a soft sigh, reaching up to touch his fingers to his forehead, and finished the rest of his drink. Almost there. Almost...

    He realized then that he had two full drinks. Huh. He drank the first quickly and sat at his table with the second cupped in his hands. He had found it...The world had faded to a loud hum. He gazed at his glass for a few moments before letting his eyes slide closed. He sighed again, a deeper one of relieved satisfaction.

    He had overlooked the fact that opening himself to Farfarello this night would also leave him very open to the Irishman's victims. He usually made a point to not drop his guard that far when Farfarello was playing. Then again, the Irishman had never gone so far before as he had tonight. There had been far too much lately that haunted the albino, far too much that rubbed salt in wounds the man had never been able to let heal. He had been horribly restless and uncontrollable for the past week, and it had been decided that Farfarello would accompany Schuldich so as to work off some of his energy and hate.

    Schuldich had opened himself to Farfarello in an attempt to find the core of the fresh hate and emotional chaos. Crawford had wanted Schuldich to find the source so that they could work to calm the Irishman down. Farfarello's mind was relatively clear when making a kill so it would have made mental scrummaging easier.

    But Farfarello hadn't killed tonight. He tortured.

    And Schuldich had gone along for the ride, open to both the victims and the abuser, trying to sink himself further into Farfarello's mind and making it even easier for the prey's thoughts to strike him. The massacre had not lasted long...It had probably taken Farfarello fifteen minutes to completely tear apart the dozen teenagers they had found exchanging crack in an abandoned building.

    For Schuldich, it had lasted thirteen lifetimes as he was embedded and battered with the sudden chaos of the room. He had not been Schuldich. He had been Farfarello and his victim of the moment at the same time, living both lives, knowing both too intimately. And it hadn't stopped until all twelve kids were dead.

    He should have been able to handle it. He shouldn't have had his guards that far down...He should have pulled out of Farfarello's mind when he realized what was happening. To pull out, however, would have only let more of the teenagers' mental screaming in to fill up the gaps. So he had stayed.

    He was never the brightest crayon in the box.

    At least his hands had stopped shaking, he mused absently, finally lifting his glass to take a sip. He glanced in the bartender's direction. All of the stools were taken now. She wouldn't be able to see him past the crowd. He would stay here for just a few more drinks...Then he would return to the flat and let himself sink into the blackness of oblivion.

    With oblivion would hopefully come a loss of memory. Something inside of him had torn under the onslaught of Farfarello's unleashed hate and the screaming terror of the victims. He had opened himself too far and he would need time to recover. Maybe he would be able to forget everything he had heard from them tonight. There were some things he never wanted to know. There were some things that everyone was better off not knowing. Tonight he had heard quite a few of those things.

    There had to be a way to forget.

    With a great deal of effort, he pushed himself to his feet. The world was dancing around him and he stood where he was for a few moments to try and let it calm down. When it refused, he gave a careless shrug and started moving in the general direction of the counter.

    One more.

    Maybe two.


    One more beer.

    Just one more.

    Yohji tugged the glass closer to himself, watching the way the liquid sloshed around within it. Foam spilled over the rim at the sharp jerk, splashing on his hand and spreading quickly on the counter. The bartender easily wiped a towel across the mess before moving away to take another order at the other end of the bench. Yohji studied the wet streaks against the pale counter. If anything, the woman's wipe only made it worse. She'd streaked it everywhere. He took a large gulp of his drink.

    The lights were changing colors above him. He hated it when they set the lights on rainbow like that. Some loved it, some claimed that it served to further distort reality. Others just loved the extra twist it gave their already alcohol-shattered wits. Yohji had never been fond of the rapidly flickering lights...They usually gave him a headache. Now they only served to make the smeared beer look more like blood as the dark reds and blues fought each other for dominance over the room.

    He had seen blood splattered everywhere less than an hour ago. He didn't need to see it here, didn't need to see it again so soon. Nausea twisted in his stomach and he had to close his eyes for several moments. He could hear his breathing over the music somehow, ragged in his ears as he fought to suppress the memory of their latest mission.

    He was afraid to open his eyes. He didn't want to see the mess. He'd move to another stool but the only other vacant seat had been taken by some bored looking teenager. He tilted his head upwards before forcing himself to open his eyes once more. One arm lifted automatically in a call for the bartender's assistance. She was quick to respond. He didn't think he could speak, so he merely pointed in the general direction of the mess.

    She glanced at his glass as she scrubbed a little more carefully at the spill. "Care for another?" she asked, tilting her head at his cup.

    It wasn't...He looked at it. Huh. Empty.

    The image of blood oozing down white walls flashed in his mind.


    Just one more.

    She offered him a faint smile and took his cup, wandering away to get him a new one. Yohji turned his back to the counter to wait, letting his eyes wander across the crowd. The alcohol didn't seem to be doing anything for him. He was more sober than he wanted to be after what had to be a dozen drinks. He'd come here with the intention of washing tonight from his brain. He wasn't stupid...He knew that drinking himself to oblivion was only a temporary release. He had come to realize, however, that temporary releases were all he would ever be able to attain. Peace was a dream for assassins...If peace lasted for only a night and was followed by massive hangovers and the irritation of his teammates, well...Beggars couldn't be choosers.

    Besides, he figured his teammates would forgive him this time.

    ~So many people,~ he mused. Most were drunk out of their minds, others were on highs from chemicals shooting through their veins. Their faces were plastered with ecstasy as they moved out on the floor. What they were doing was past dancing...They were too crowded to actually dance. Limbs entwined, they could only writhe mindlessly against each other. Some followed the bass that tore through the air to vibrate within their bones; others followed the pounding of their own inner rush.

    They looked so happy, so young.

    So alive.

    He turned away from them savagely, feeling his stomach wrench inside of him. The bartender was holding up his mug, about to place it on the counter. He made a weak gesture at her. "Hold it for me," he pleaded, quickly scooping everything from his wallet onto the counter to pay for what he'd had already. He didn't wait for her to agree before shoving himself away from the stool to head in the direction of the bathroom.

    Now he could feel the effects of the alcohol, as the world tilted around him. He stumbled and grabbed instinctively at the nearest object for balance. Said object was a girl who immediately clung to him in return, pressing herself fully against him. He released her, tugging free as he babbled excuses and apologies. When she realized that he was about to be sick, she scurried out of his path. Yohji stumbled on his way, squeezing past someone exiting the bathroom. The stalls were taken so he settled for hunching over a sink.

    There had been so much blood.

    Too much blood.

    His stomach turned and he threw up violently, his entire body shaking with the force. Fingernails scrabbled at the grungy porcelain of the sink as he struggled to stay upright. Finally his stomach was empty and he was left swaying on his feet, bent practically double. His hair hung around his face and his breathing was hoarse. His entire body was trembling. Dimly he heard a toilet flush and someone's disgusted remarks as they darted from the bathroom. He tuned out everything around him, trying to focus on the harsh burning in his throat.

    He needed the pain.

    He had learned that pain worked as a release when alcohol wouldn't. Whether that pain was his or someone else's had ceased to matter a long time ago, the moment he'd discovered that pulling his wire tight around his target's throat no longer brought regret. It had scared him for a while, that he had stopped caring. Then he'd decided to accept it and take it for what it offered him.

    ~Beggars can't be choosers.~

    But this burning in his throat couldn't take away the horror of the night, of the mission gone so dreadfully wrong. The terrible lighting in the bathroom did nothing to help, instead making what he'd gagged up look like blood.

    Everything was looking like blood tonight.

    He turned the faucet on, flicking water around to give the sink basin a cursory rinse. His throat burned and his mouth tasted something awful. He chanced a glance at the mirror although he was in no mood to admire his reflection. It gave his eyes something to do other than watch the mess he'd made swirl down the drain. Haunted emerald eyes stared back at him, seeing straight through him as they gazed at a nightmare.

    One more beer.

    Or two, or six, or ten. However many it took.

    He staggered out of the bathroom, hating the way he felt more sober after throwing up. He didn't want to feel sober. He wanted to feel dead-shit drunk, unable to separate reality from fiction. He wanted to blank the world out. He briefly considered finding a partner to let sex cloud out reality before trashing that idea. The last time he'd taken a partner when agitated over something he had hurt her. She had been encouraging him the whole way and neither had noticed the damage their rough play had caused her until afterwards. It didn't help that she'd been so high she didn't remember when morning came. The fact was that he'd hurt her and he hadn't been half as bothered then as he was now.

    So giving up higher thought processes for a walk on the primitive side was out.

    His stool was taken. Yohji didn't care. He squeezed himself between two bodies to stand at the counter, catching the bartender's attention with a wave. She brought him his beer and his change. He'd given her too much earlier. He left the pile of money where it was placed in front of him. He planned on drinking more than this would buy.

    "What a pleasant surprise," a husky voice drawled beside his ear.

    Yohji looked over his shoulder to see jade eyes burning into his. A hand lifted a drink that definitely wasn't beer to the widely smirking lips. Yohji watched Schuldich take a sip from his glass, wondering how to react. There was always the obvious route: anger and surprised suspicion, followed by death threats. Right now he didn't have the energy to do more than turn away from the German. Fuck it. The night had been bad enough. How could adding one psychotic member of Schwarz make it any worse?

    He waved the bartender over. His beer was empty. Funny that it emptied so quickly. Maybe there was a hole in the bottom.

    "Someone's not having a good night," Schuldich observed. At that moment, the man on the seat beside Yohji stiffened and scooted off the edge of the stool. Yohji watched him wander away, debating whether or not to take the newly vacated chair. The problem was solved when Schuldich easily slid onto the worn cushion. Jade eyes mocked Yohji as the man gazed up at him.

    "Leave me alone." Yohji took a long swallow. This night really was a nightmare, but Schuldich's presence couldn't be any more terrible than what he had seen.

    "You found Farfarello's masterpiece, didn't you?" The German sounded downright amused. Fingers brushed against Yohji's cheek, one reaching out to trace his ear lobe. "What did you think of it? Beautiful, ja?"

    The reminder of the nightmare would have been enough to set Yohji off. The tone, the way Schuldich sounded so fucking amused by the gross spectacle, was more than he could handle. He felt his stomach heave threateningly within him but nothing came up. Fingers tightened savagely on his glass as emerald eyes narrowed to slits. Everything he had been trying to forget came smashing back, crystal clear and terrifying.

    He could still see their bodies twisted, torn apart, shredded. Weiß had been sent to disturb a meeting, not to walk in on such a display of cruel power. None of them had walked away unaffected. Ken had bolted from the room after five seconds of shocked paralysis. He had been found shaking in the car when the others had finally left the scene, deathly pale and wide-eyed. Aya had managed to stay for almost half a minute before retreating to the hall, and he had dragged Omi out with him, somehow realizing that Omi couldn't move on his own.

    Yohji had stayed, barely registering the sound of Omi's almost frantic vomiting, staring at the grotesque scene before him. The victims were all young, late teens mostly, twenty-one at the oldest. Their lives had come to an abrupt and violent end, their dreams and ambitions shredded and left to fall to the ground with each drop of blood. Some of them didn't look human anymore, torn beyond recognition by a force that couldn't be human. They hadn't been human, hadn't been corpses, had simply been slabs of dripping muscle that had been sprayed across the room. Yohji had been pinned in place, his mind reeling at the disturbing violence, his stomach threatening to empty itself on the spot, his eyes moving without his consent to take in each abused form.

    For some reason, it was the blood running down the walls that bothered him the most. He had stood there for countless seconds, staring at the blood as it sluggishly trailed down the white walls. Then he had turned and left the room. Aya had been holding Omi's hair out of his face, one hand on the small of the boy's back as the boy alternated between heaving and sobbing. Yohji had stood and watched them, trying to burn the memory of what he'd seen from his thoughts.

    His mind could not concentrate on his fellow assassins, however. It kept drifting back to eyes wide in shock, mouths twisted in pain that followed the owners into death, flesh torn to expose shredded and cooled innards to the air, and blood trickling, trickling down the wall like rain on a windowpane.

    "We're leaving," he had said simply, and had headed away. The other two would keep up or be left behind. It wasn't his problem. He had driven the others home and left immediately. He had left his jacket in the backseat of his car and stopped at the first club he'd seen, desperate for something to wash away the images that haunted him.

    Here he was now, and the alcohol wasn't helping him.

    One more.

    One more, surely.

    Human bodies shouldn't be able to twist like that.

    He clamped that thought down savagely, closing his eyes tightly as his stomach churned in warning. He felt his whole body shudder as ice trickled down his spine to seep into his gut.

    Schuldich laughed beside him before tilting his head back to empty the rest of his glass into his waiting mouth. The bartender appeared immediately, switching out his empty glass with a full one. She glanced towards Yohji, taking in his expression and the glass in his hands. He didn't look up. She didn't wait for his acknowledgement. Another mug appeared beside him and he shoved the empty one away with more force than necessary. She caught it easily and vanished.

    Schuldich's fingers danced along Yohji's cheek once more. He tangled a few in some of the dark honey brown locks and gave them a sharp tug. Yohji swat his hand away, giving him a venomous look. "Get away from me," he spat.

    "So what did you think?" Schuldich asked Yohji again, taking another large gulp and leaning towards him.

    "You're the telepath. You tell me, asshole." Yohji shoved him away.

    Schuldich let himself be shoved and half sprawled on top of the counter. Jade eyes gleamed at him, sparkling with dark humor at Yohji's misery. They looked brighter than usual, more glassy. Schuldich took another gulp of his drink. He offered a smirk that seemed to be lopsided. "Nah ah. I want you to tell me." He reached out, poking a finger against Yohji's mouth. "I want to hear it from your lips."

    "Take it from my mind and leave me the hell alone."

    "Take it from you..." Schuldich seemed amused by this for some reason and laughed. He twirled his cup between his fingers, peering up at Yohji from where his head was pillowed on an arm. Some of his drink splashed over the rim, pooling on the countertop. It looked like blood. Schuldich didn't notice.

    Yohji considered leaving. He didn't want to stay here and listen to this bastard taunt him. He wasn't sure why he stayed, but he did. Maybe he could ignore the prick. Fingernails dug into the glass cupped in his palms, willing the cup to shatter within his grip. Or did he want to break it? To see it running everywhere like blood...He felt his stomach twist again.

    "He thinks it's beautiful," Schuldich said conversationally. "I think it was mildly overdone."

    So much for ignoring.

    "Mildly?" Yohji choked out. "MILDLY? What the fuck did he do it for? They were kids, for Christ's sake!!"

    Schuldich laughed. He actually had the gall to laugh. He shoved himself up from the counter with a little difficulty and took a long swallow from his glass, emptying it easily. The bartender moved over promptly and replaced the cup. "You've said it yourself," he said simply, grinning at Yohji as if the two of them had stumbled across some great and wonderful secret.

    Just looking at the telepath was enough to make Yohji sick. Yohji had known the German was a deranged psycho, but to look at him now...Grinning so cheerfully, eyes bright and in no way remorseful or bothered by their topic of conversation, chatting so easily as if it was the weather they were discussing...Yohji looked away sharply, inhaling deeply. It was a shaky breath that did nothing to calm him. He was going to be sick again...He could feel it, a vicious sickness tearing at his insides. He wanted to bring his cup to his lips but his hands were shaking too badly to manage it.

    "You've said it yourself," Schuldich repeated, but he spoke it differently this time. It was quieter, more thoughtful, as if intended for the German's ears alone. Yohji glanced at him, not wanting to see him but startled into looking over at a tone he never expected to hear from the other man. Schuldich was gazing at nothing, face temporarily blank. Then he took a sip from his new drink and turned his attention back to Yohji. His mouth spread wide in what should have been a smirk but was now more of a foolish grin, as if the telepath couldn't move his lips right. He sat up, propping his elbows on the counter and cradling his glass in his hands so that it hovered right in front of his mouth. He took two more gulps before speaking. "For Christ's sake," he said, quoting Yohji's words as if that clarified everything. "That's exactly why he did it." He tilted his head back slightly. "Once they were ugly with life and lies. Farfarello merely took away their ugliness. Beauty truly is in the eye of beholder."

    "He killed them," Yohji protested. "He tore them apart. They had families, they had homes, they had friends, they had dreams..." He had to stop there, because if he kept going in a line he was sure he was either going to be violently sick all over the place or start crying hysterically.

    "Life is shit, then you die," Schuldich said simply. For a moment his expression was thoughtful, his jade eyes so dark they appeared black. Then his lips parted and white teeth flashed at him behind a terrible, careless smile. Jade eyes were blank as if dead. It made Yohji sick to his soul to know that Schuldich didn't care what had happened to those people, didn't care what his teammate had done to innocents.

    "Fuck you," Yohji spat.

    "Are you offering?" Schuldich sang sweetly.

    Yohji released his cup with one hand to give the telepath a rough shove.

    He didn't expect his shove to be hard enough that it sent Schuldich toppling to the floor, but it did. Apparently the telepath didn't have enough balance to stay in his seat- or reflexes fast enough to grab at the counter to help steady himself. As it was, Yohji found himself gaping, momentarily dumbfounded, as Schuldich hit the ground. Schuldich started laughing immediately upon impact, careless of the glass that was now shattered around him, ignorant of the drink that stained the side of his shirt and his sleeve. He pushed himself back to his feet, wobbling slightly as he went, moving slowly as if it was an effort. Yohji didn't manage to drag coherent thought back together until the German was sitting back on his stool.

    Schuldich...was drunk.

    He had been noticing the little things about the telepath since his entrance that showed the other man wasn't in his full mind, but the realization only sunk in now. It stood out in his mind, sharply highlighted. Twisted among images of blood oozing down white walls was the picture of this bastard swaying as he struggled to stand.

    Schuldich eyed his hand. Small spikes of glass had impaled the flesh in multiple places. Blood slowly welled to the surface. Yohji had seen enough blood for the night, but he found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the sight of this blood, as if the fact that it was Schuldich's made it all right to stare.

    "Now how did that happen?" Schuldich mused, poking lightly at the glass. He gave a slight shrug and glanced around in search of the bartender.

    Yohji reached out without thinking, closing his hand around Schuldich's wrist and squeezing hard. He felt glass cut him, but he didn't care. What he did care about was Schuldich's reaction. The German jumped as if he'd been shot, jerking out of Yohji's grasp with more force than necessary. It was almost enough to send him off his perch once more, but he remembered to grab the counter this time. "Scheiße, you little bastard," Schuldich spat, scrabbling at the further embedded bits of glass. He was trying to get the shards out but his fingers were too clumsy.

    Blood trickled slowly down his forearm like blood down the white walls.

    Annoyed jade eyes flicked towards him and Schuldich offered a half-sneer, half-grin. "You didn't like Farfarello's work," he said. "Maybe next time he'll leave a better one. How about one that's a bit more personal?" He considered it, tipping his head to one side. His eyes glowed with pure malice as his grin stretched wider. "What a shame Asuka is dead, ja~, little Weiß?" Saying so, he raked his fingers through Yohji's hair in a mockingly affectionate gesture before pushing himself from his stool and moving away.

    Yohji remained frozen to the spot for several moments. He had stopped breathing. Perhaps his heart had stopped beating as well. Now all he could see was Asuka where those teenagers had been, her own body ripped and torn past the point of being identifyable. Her wide eyes stared up at him, terrified, pleading for an end to the agony.

    He took a deep, shuddering breath.

    Then another.

    Horror was being consumed by hate, hate for the person that could observe torture like that with such careless amusement, hate for the person who dared to suggest that Asuka could have ended up like those teenagers. He shoved his cup away. It was still full and it made a mess all over the counter, beer against creamy marble, blood against white walls, cascading outwards. He shoved the pile of money the bartender had offered back after the cup and spun around, emerald eyes seeking the current object of hate.

    Schuldich was moving well for someone Yohji had presumed to be drunk, weaving his way along the edge of the dance floor. There were two exits in this place- the one that emptied into the main street and the one that allowed the dancers to vanish into a back alleyway. Schuldich was obviously heading towards the back exit, and the easiest way to get there was to follow the wall around rather than try to brave the knot of people.

    They looked so alive.

    Yohji watched the German for a long moment, vision tinged red and anger pounding hotly in his veins. The need to hurt or be hurt pounded against his heart, suffocating him. The alcohol had not been a release. It was time to move to pain. He could feel his self-control slipping. Surely he wasn't so drunk that he was actually considering following Schuldich. Even smashed off his rocker the telepath might be a threat. But if Schuldich came out on top and killed him, perhaps that wasn't so bad, either.

    He was debating, struggling between reality and rational thought, when Schuldich stumbled.

    The flame-haired man had to latch onto the nearest body for support, fingers scrabbling briefly down a forearm before locking at an elbow. He remained bent over for several moments, swaying slightly as he struggled to discern up from down and left from right.

    Yohji was a killer. He stalked prey in the night and unleashed death upon those he had been commanded to kill. He knew when to strike and when to hold back. He knew how to approximate the danger his prey proposed. These hunter's instincts kicked in now, coming to life with a rush of adrenaline and dark promise.

    The hunter's hated had just displayed weakness.

    It could be a trap, but Yohji was no longer caring. He lurched forward, struggling to keep his balance. The time to strike was now, the time to find release was now, the one to hurt was there and he was weak. If it was the last thing he did, Yohji wanted to bash that careless smile from those wide lips. He hoped he could smash in the rest of the German's face while he was at it. Reason had flown away. What remained now was hate and the burning need to hurt. What remained now was a world that had swirled down to focus on the man just twenty feet away, who had found his footing but was now trying to remember how to walk.

    He caught up to Schuldich when he had made it a few feet along the wall, with the crowd jumping and twisting just an arm's length away. The music crashed against the walls, bouncing back to slam into them. Some were screaming along with the music, a noiseless rage that they were offering up to the chaos of the room.

    He gave the German a violent shove. The other man stumbled, startled, and banged into the wall. He almost lost his balance on impact; it was a miracle he managed to stay on his own two feet. He twisted a bit clumsily to face his assailant, eyes narrowing slightly as he saw who it was. There was a flicker in his jade eyes, a struggle for something, before it faded, lost with coherent thought in Schuldich's wasted mind.

    "Miss me already?" Schuldich asked him.

    Yohji hit him. Schuldich didn't hear it coming telepathically, apparently, and the speed he so enjoyed was missing as well. The man tried to move but he couldn't go quite fast enough. He was lucky that he managed to move as much as he did. What would have smashed his nose instead landed on his cheek. Schuldich swore lividly, reaching up to touch his face. "You ugly fuck, if that bruises..."

    Yohji didn't bother to respond, didn't allow Schuldich to finish the threat. He swung again. Schuldich ducked away but didn't have the balance to follow up the strike. He stumbled, losing his footing this time and slumping to the ground. Yohji's world tilted before his eyes, reminding him of his own precarious grip on balance, and he rested his chest against the wall for several moments. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply in an attempt to dispel the rocking waves of dizziness. Schuldich recovered slightly faster, pulling himself to his feet and planting a fist in the small of Yohji's back. Yohji snarled something incoherent, reaching over his shoulder and grabbing at whatever he could.

    Fingers snagged in long hair and he gave a vicious yank.

    Schuldich was spitting acid, fingers closing around Yohji's throat and digging in. Yohji rammed his elbow backwards and was rewarded with a choked sound of pain. Fingers slipped in their hold and Yohji pulled away. The quick movement caused him to stumble and he brought Schuldich with him, still holding him tightly by his hair. Fingernails raked at his hand. Schuldich's concern seemed to be focused solely on getting his precious hair out of Yohji's grasp. That was his mistake, for Yohji was interested in more than just yanking the man around by his head. He twisted, lashing out to hit whatever he could.

    He managed to deal a glancing blow to Schuldich's mouth with enough force that it snapped the telepath's head to one side. Yohji slammed the full weight of his body against the other assassin, sending his back crashing to the wall. He refused to stay at a distance where Schuldich could use some leverage to attack him so pressed forward, standing with just a breath between them. Power flooded his veins, a hungry, greedy power, as he gazed at the orange haired monster in front of him. Schuldich had been drinking a much harder sort of liquor than Yohji had been indulging in. Yohji could see it in his face, in the way his eyes didn't want to focus. Now and then some darkness swirled across the depths of those jade eyes, a violent attempt at concentration. Schuldich was struggling against the fogginess of his mind and was failing. Yohji had the upper hand because he had given himself up to the insanity his drink had promised him, because he had abandoned reason for desire and rational thought for impulse.

    Schuldich was struggling to catch his breath and his balance. He was having trouble staying upright- his legs wanted to give in and let him slump to the ground. Yohji watched the struggle for a while, watched Schuldich twist slightly against the wall each time his back started to slide down it. Schuldich won the battle of balance and finally managed to plant his feet somewhat steadily. He lost the battle in his eyes; he had had too much to drink to win back a right state of mind to counter Yohji effectively.

    His expression was less than amused, and blood was trickling from one corner of his mouth.

    Yohji allowed himself satisfaction at the loss of the careless grin. If Schuldich had been in his right mind, perhaps the look that was struggling to form on the German's face would have scared him. Wide lips were pulled into a snarl and jade eyes were narrowed. "Get away from me," Schuldich told him, shoving forward and bringing both hands up in an attempt to slam his fists into any part of Yohji's anatomy that was possible.

    Yohji caught one of the hands but missed the other. He grunted in pain as a fist connected with his abdomen and grabbed at the wrist. He felt warmth on his fingertips and heard Schuldich hiss- it was Schuldich's injured arm. He dug his fingers in cruelly, enjoying the way Schuldich's mouth twitched in a grimace.

    "You know, you're awful frightening when you slur your words," Yohji commented with a sweet smile. He was a little dizzy and he let himself lean forward, resting against Schuldich and grinning at the decidedly unhappy German.

    "Fuck you," Schuldich retorted.

    Something in Yohji clicked, a switch that should have never been thrown, a switch that was only available to him through the terrible events of the night and his drinking. He tilted his head to one side. One release was alcohol. That hadn't worked. Another was pain. But pain was only turned to when the alternative of sex was impossible. He had decided he couldn't pick up a girl because he'd hurt her.

    Something inside of him was screaming protests. Yohji couldn't make out the words over the haze that surrounded the edge of his thoughts.

    Yohji felt his lips curve into an unpleasant smile. "Are you offering?"

    Schuldich gave him a blank look.

    Yohji released Schuldich's uninjured hand and slipped his own between them, pressing his palm to the crotch of Schuldich's slacks. The German jumped as if he'd been shot, eyes flying wide in surprise. "What-" he managed to get out, twisting violently, shoving his freed hand between them to push Yohji back. Yohji allowed himself to be pushed, watching the world tilt briefly before his eyes. Schuldich stumbled forward, pulled by the wrist still held captive in Yohji's grasp. "Keep your hands off of me, you sick fuck," the German spat.

    "I'm the sick fuck?" Yohji asked, twisting himself and the German so that his arm was wrapped around Schuldich's neck. He tightened his grip, pulling the man's back against his chest. "I'm the sick one?" he asked again, growling next to Schuldich's ear. "He killed those people. He tortured them to death."

    "Cry me a river," Schuldich choked out, breathing raspy and shallow from such a tight hold around his throat. He slammed an elbow backwards and Yohji cursed at the pain that exploded in his middle. He tightened his hold on the telepath until he heard the other man gag and kept such a fierce hold. The German could not speak now; it was all he could do to get in air.

    Yohji gave himself a few moments to rest, letting the whirling in his mind slow down. Finally he turned Schuldich to point him in the direction Yohji wanted them to go. "Let's go, shall we?" he asked. "We can leave or I can break your neck. They'll think you passed out in a drunken stupor if you collapse."

    There was a moment of tense hesitation before Schuldich started forward. Progress was slow; it was difficult to walk with the two of them pressed together so tightly. Finally they reached the door and Schuldich shoved it open, letting them both outside. He kept one hand tightly closed on Yohji's arm as he tried to get more breathing leverage. Yohji was all but crushing his windpipe in his grasp, and now that they were outside and away from the music the white assassin could hear how few breaths the other man could actually get in.

    Well, he didn't want Schuldich to pass out on him. He loosened his grip and the German acted immediately, slamming both elbows backwards and ducking out of Yohji's arm. Yohji stumbled backwards and banged into the club door. Schuldich collapsed to his knees, off balance from the movement. Yohji rubbed his abdomen, wincing and glaring down at the man that was gasping to get air back into starved lungs.

    Deciding Schuldich wasn't going to get away easily if the man tried to vanish, Yohji watched and waited as the German slowly picked himself up. The other man half-turned to face him, head tilted to one side so long orange locks shielded part of his face. One jade eye glowed faintly from a dim street lamp closer to the end of the alley. His wide mouth was curled into a humorless grin, as if the teeth bared were a threat.

    "That mess Farfarello left really tore you up, didn't it?" the German murmured, a quiet taunt.

    "It disgusts me that it didn't bother you at all."

    Schuldich's form shook once with repressed laughter. Only a bark of the bitter sound escaped and Schuldich tilted his head back, grin pulled wider, eyes narrowed further. "You're right," he said, voice twisting with flat mockery. "I didn't care at all." Yohji took a step forward. Schuldich watched him come. "So poor little Balinese gets his fur ruffled and decides to make everything better with a fight?"

    Yohji let his lips curl into that dark grin that promised of terrible things to come. Perhaps it was his imagination, but he thought he saw a flicker of what could have been unease but probably wasn't- not from someone as cocky as Schuldich. Then again, Schuldich seemed to be down by three disadvantages...the loss of his speed, the loss of coherent thought...and the loss of his telepathy. The German didn't seem to be able to follow Yohji's mind tonight. Yohji had been victim to Schuldich's mental harrassing many times, and he would have thought the German would have something to say in response to most of what had gone through Yohji's head tonight.

    So perhaps Schuldich did have a reason to look upon Yohji warily.

    The feeling of power grew. It was a whole new experience to view Schuldich as someone who was not invincible. The German was vulnerable now.

    "Someone will pay for their pain tonight," Yohji told Schuldich. "Someone will pay for what they went through, for what they had and what they lost, for their families' grief. Someone will pay for the way tonight will haunt my friends."

    Schuldich's lips curled in a sneer. "Remind me to beg forgiveness for your mental trauma."

    Yohji paused right in front of Schuldich, locking eyes with the shorter man in a heated stare. He was almost touching the German but his opponent refused to back off to allow more room between them. "Duly noted," he agreed quietly. "You will."

    It was never clear which one of them struck first, but suddenly they were fighting. They fought blindly, intent on hitting flesh and keeping their balance. Yohji could taste blood when he got struck in the face. Somewhere along the way he managed to slam the slighter man against the brick wall of one side of the alley. There were some trash cans there and Schuldich went down with them. Yohji drove his foot into the German's gut as hard as he could, drinking in the telepath's choked gasp hungrily. The man instinctively tried to curl up and Yohji struck again, dealing a glancing blow to Schuldich's face that sent the man sprawling onto his stomach. He landed two more kicks along the other man's side before he had to stop and lean against the wall, struggling to recover his balance. He planted both hands on the bricks, breathing heavily and watching Schuldich as the world rocked back and forth.

    Schuldich pushed himself up on his arms slowly. He got halfway up when the dizziness proved too much. Yohji watched as he swayed to one side and fell again. The German was breathing raggedly as he tried again. One hand raised to gingerly touch his side and Schuldich uttered a soft hiss at whatever he found there. Perhaps a rib had been broken. Yohji decided that sounded nice.

    "Fuck Crawford, anyway," the telepath said to himself, sounding sullen.

    Yohji lowered himself to crouch beside Schuldich, tangling one hand in the long orange locks and jerking Schuldich's head back with a vicious tug. "No," he corrected. "You."

    Schuldich glanced sideways at Yohji, eyes narrowing briefly and mouth thinning. He didn't seem to think Yohji was being serious. That could be fixed.

    Schuldich had said Farfarello had been the instigator for the horrifying murders tonight, but Schuldich was the only available target to pay for the sickness that was eating Yohji from the inside out. Yohji would make Schuldich feel that pain. He would make him feel that rip in sense of self, the sense of losing everything. He would transfer his pain to Schuldich. If this was how he could do it, this was how it would be done.

    Someone had to pay.

    He slammed Schuldich's head down to slam against the ground and released the other man's hair. Schuldich buried his face in his hands, spitting acid in muffled German. It appeared the telepath had given up striking back until he had enough balance and wits to do so. For now he could do nothing but react. Yohji liked that.

    He shifted, placing a knee to either side of Schuldich's legs and sitting on his thighs. He could feel the change in Schuldich's tension as the man evaluated Yohji's new position. There was a pause between them as Yohji let it sink in to Schuldich's addled brain that he had been serious in his taunt. Yohji lowered himself until he was lying on top of the other man, resting his hands briefly on Schuldich's shoulders and lightly biting the other man's ear.

    "Cry me a river," he murmured.

    Schuldich lurched upwards, shoving both hands against the ground as leverage to raise himself up. Yohji could see blood on the ground where Schuldich's head had been...The slam of Schuldich's face against the asphalt had torn something. Good. He let Schuldich make it to his hands and knees and looped his arms around to the German's front, seeking the clasp to his pants. Schuldich shot an elbow up, crashing it into the side of Yohji's face. The white assassin grunted in pain but refused to relinquish his hold.

    Schuldich twisted then, flinging himself to one side and bringing Yohji with him. The back of Yohji's head connected with the brick wall. The world whited out for several moments and he unconsciously released Schuldich. The telepath twisted away and turned, driving a foot into the soft flesh of Yohji's stomach. Yohji grunted, balling up and squeezing his eyes closed. His stomach was screaming in pain. He could hear the scratch of shoes against the ground as Schuldich picked himself to his feet and struggled to squash his own pain. He forced his eyes open to see Schuldich a few feet away, half-leaning against the wall for balance. He was glaring down at Yohji as he took a step back.

    Schuldich wasn't going to stay for this fight, that much was clear. Yohji felt new strength flow through his veins. That could only mean one thing. Schuldich knew he would lose and he knew what was riding on this struggle between them. He knew what a loss would mean. He recognized the danger of this fight, and he, the most arrogant and self-assured man Yohji had ever had the misfortune of meeting, had chosen to retreat.

    Yohji uncurled, ignoring his stomach's threats to empty itself. Schuldich was backing away without hesitation now. The end of the alley was only twenty feet away from them and emptied into a main street. If Schuldich got out there Yohji would lose him in the throng of night wanderers.

    That wasn't going to happen.

    He forced himself to his feet. The first step forward was shaky and he almost fell. He kept his eyes trained on Schuldich's face. The German was glaring at him for all he was worth, hate in his jade gaze- hate that he was being forced to retreat, hate that he could not win, hate that he was losing to someone like Yohji, hate of what Yohji was proposing to do. He had to keep both hands on the wall for balance but made sure he was facing Yohji directly as he retreated. Yohji took another step forward, and another, until he was striding forward at an almost-run. Schuldich tried to speed up and stumbled, clawing at the bricks for extra balance.

    Yohji caught up with him when he was five feet from the alley's exit. He seized the man with both hands, taking fistfuls of the green jacket and dragging Schuldich back the direction they'd come. Schuldich was spitting in German again, beating at Yohji with both fists as he stumbled where Yohji pulled. Yohji did his best to ignore the blows that rained down on his head and shoulders. He kept going, passing the door to the club, pulling his victim back where only the faintest rays from the streetlamp could reach them, back to the dead end of the alley. Once there he flattened Schuldich against the wall chest first, pinning him tightly against it with his own body. He forced his hands between Schuldich and the bricks, ignoring the way he cut the back of his hands in the process. He found the clasp to the telepath's pants once more and undid it. He wormed his hands inside, ignoring Schuldich's ineffectual attempts to shove him backwards. Schuldich's arms had limited movement and his hands couldn't get a firm hold on any of Yohji's clothing. Yohji hooked his fingers around both the pants and Shuldich's underwear and yanked downwards.

    "Kein, kein, untersteh' dich, untersteh' dich! Fick dich, ich haßt dich, untersteh' dich!!"

    Schuldich didn't seem to have picked up on the fact that his German was falling on deaf and uncomprehending ears, for what he was saying only grew more heated and rapid. He twisted violently, trying to shove off of the wall. Yohji kept his feet planted firmly and managed to keep them both from sliding back more than an inch. His hands found the zipper on his own pants and he tugged it open, shrugging his pants to his knees.

    He needed no further stimulation. Having Schuldich so helpless was enough. He trailed a finger along the crack of Schuldich's rear, enjoying the way the German went rigid at the touch. With that exploratory touch, Schuldich's struggles ceased. He had been forced to accept his loss, Yohji decided, and was now using all of his energy to brace himself for what was about to happen. Yohji grinned, a dark, triumphant smirk. He grabbed Schuldich's hips in a bruising grip and shoved himself forward, impaling himself within Schuldich with one brutal motion.

    Schuldich arched away from the wall, fingers tightening around Yohji's hands. His head was thrown back and Yohji slanted his own head to one side to observe the German's expression. Jade eyes were wide and unseeing; teeth were clamped brutally down on a bleeding lower lip. The telepath's body was stiff but Yohji could feel a tremor running through it. He pulled back, ignoring the way Schuldich's fingers unconsciously spasmed tighter in preparation for Yohji's second stroke. Yohji drove forward with more strength than the first, slamming in with a vicious force. He could feel blood on his hands where Schuldich's fingernails had drawn blood. Schuldich had screwed his eyes shut and was gasping for breath.

    "Does this hurt, Schuldich?" Yohji growled in the German's ear, shoving in a third time. "Tell me that it hurts you. Tell me that what you're feeling is nothing compared to what your teammate did to those innocents."

    "Nnng," was his only response. Schuldich was having difficulty breathing; perhaps that had something to do with his uncooperativeness.

    Yohji bit his ear hard enough to draw blood, hissing angrily in time to his strokes. "Tell me could just stand there and he did that to them. Tell me can face me...and all...for...their...pain..."

    With that he climaxed. Any pleasure it brought faded quickly as he stood there, embedded in his silent enemy. He remained where he was for several moments before finally drawing out and stepping back, studying Schuldich. Blood and semen mixed to run in sluggish trails down the back of Schuldich's thighs. Stains were appearing on the man's pale slacks where they hung around his knees.

    Yohji watched the blood for several moments. Blood on flesh like blood on white walls...

    After almost a full minute had passed between them, Schuldich slowly turned to face him. The movement obviously took a lot of effort. His forehead had a nasty gash in it from where Yohji had made him eat asphalt. Blood ran down one side of his face to dribble off of his chin. Two smaller trickles ran from torn spots on Schuldich's lip. It was too dark to see what was going on within his eyes. They gazed at each other for a long moment, the only sound Schuldich's harsh attempts at breathing.

    Blood on flesh...

    Yohji took a shuffling step backwards, drawing his pants up around his waist. Any lingering desire to hurt had vanished. blood on walls.

    This had not helped at all. Even the satisfaction of his victory was cooling quickly. Yohji took another step back, fastening his zipper.

    Schuldich slowly slid down the side of the wall, his legs incapable of supporting him any longer. Yohji watched his progress. He stepped forward right before Schuldich could touch the ground, catching him by his underarms and pulling him back up. Schuldich fought against the physical contact but his blows were weak. Yohji struggled to keep the German balanced while he pulled the other man's pants back into place. Then he released Schuldich once more. As soon as he was released Schuldich slid down to the ground. Yohji watched him go.

    "Pity," Schuldich said hollowly, tilting his head to one side and gazing towards the end of the alley. He spoke so quietly Yohji almost couldn't hear him. "You pity them." A humorless grin stretched on his lips but he could not hold the expression for long. "I understood them. And this," he added, more to himself than to Yohji, "is what it felt like..."

    Blood on flesh and blood trickling down walls. Yohji could still see the room as he had last seen it, could still see those children mutilated almost past the point of identification. He felt sick to his stomach and stumbled a few feet away to throw up. Schuldich was still and quiet. Yohji wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, turning one last look on his fallen opponent.

    Then, slowly, he turned and walked away, leaving Schuldich behind to gaze into the darkness and bleed.


    Schuldich woke slowly. He felt very sluggish and very sore. His head and his body were screaming in agony together and he stifled a pained groan, slowly lifting a hand to touch his forehead. He encountered an ice pack there. It wasn't cold anymore. He shoved it aside and felt his fingers brush bandages. A slight frown curved his lips. Why was his forehead bandaged?

    "You're awake," someone said softly.

    Schuldich cracked open his eyes to watch as Nagi approached him. The boy was holding a fresh ice pack. His face was more blank than usual, his calm eyes guarded. He paused beside Schuldich's bed, hesitating, before reaching out to move Schuldich's hand out of the way. His touch was a gentle brush instead of a careless push, and he settled the new ice in place very carefully. He did not seem to want to look at Schuldich, though the German got the impression that it was out of respect that the boy was averting his gaze.


    "I will tell Crawford. He asked to be informed when you woke."

    Schuldich strained his mind, trying to figure out what he'd done wrong this time. Last night was a muddled blur. Hell, most of yesterday was. That was strange. Schuldich felt a frown tug at his lips. Nagi saw the movement and his expression softened slightly.

    "If you do not wish to speak to him now, I can wait..." he offered.

    Nagi was offering to delay obeying Crawford? That was new. Schuldich's frown deepened. What was missing? What was he forgetting? What had happened? "Nein, it doesn't matter."

    "Hai," Nagi answered quietly, then exited the room.

    Schuldich mulled over the boy's strange behavior before rummaging through his splintered mind. He recognized this headache...He had gotten seriously wasted yesterday. The rest of the pain that rippled through him wasn't a pain he could identify. Something inside him winced and pulled back when he brushed it. Something had happened yesterday...something that did not want to be remembered.

    There was a flicker in his mind, a mixed image of blood and hate-filled green eyes. The image vanished, shoved away unconsciously. He reached after it, struggling to pull it back. His concentration was broken when Crawford entered the room. The American's face was carefully blank. Schuldich watched him approach. He had lived with Crawford long enough to know when something was bothering him, long enough to know when Crawford was angry. The vibes the American was giving off now were a lot like those but were different in a small way that put Schuldich on his guard.

    Crawford sat down on the edge of the bed, and Schuldich felt the uneasiness grow. Crawford wasn't angry at him. If he had been, he would have remained standing. That was a tactic the older man used- placing himself so he could look down on those that were on his current dislike list. Crawford had never sat down beside Schuldich when the German screwed up, had never come so promptly to Schuldich's side when he woke up after a night of getting wasted. He studied the precognitive's face carefully, searching his unreadable eyes. The man looked like he hadn't slept. Nagi had looked the same, he recalled distantly.

    There was silence between them for a long moment. Schuldich kept his expression smooth, not wanting any of his confusion to show. Finally Crawford spoke. "I gave you orders for a reason, Schuldich," he said quietly.

    What orders...?

    Something twisted inside him. He could feel himself falling, scrabbling at brick to stay upright. A hand tangled in his hair, yanking viciously.

    "Something happened last night," Schuldich said slowly, searching Crawford's eyes. It wasn't worded as a question, but he knew the American would recognize it as one.

    Crawford didn't answer immediately. Instead he reached out, testing the ice pack. It was a stalling tactic. Schuldich had never seen Crawford use one before. He reached up to push Crawford's hand away, feeling ice clench in his stomach. He paused when he saw his hand. He was bandaged from the first knuckles to a few inches below his wrist. Old blood stained the cotton.

    Fingers tightened on his flesh, driving glass shards further in.

    Something terrible was dancing just out of reach, just out of recognition. Schuldich gazed at his bandages, lifting his other hand to trail a finger down the bloodstain. "What did you tell me to do last night?"

    Crawford gazed at Schuldich, but Schuldich kept his eyes on his bandages. "I told you to come straight home and stay here if Farfarello got out of hand."


    Jagged images slotted into place: Farfarello's hungry face, terrified teenagers screaming as they were cornered, blood going everywhere as Farfarello injured them all enough that they couldn't escape, the chaos of the room as he had set about giving each his personal attention...

    He gave a slight shake of his head and was rewarded with pain at the movement. Crawford readjusted the ice pack when it started to slip. Schuldich pressed a hand to his temple, willing the drum corp that was performing within his skull to cut their show short. Something had happened after the job. Something had gone seriously, seriously wrong.

    "Why didn't you come home?" Crawford asked.

    Why hadn't he? He struggled to remember. Farfarello had been killing and he..."I got tangled," he said, moving his eyes to Crawford's face. He felt his lips quirk in a faint frown. "You wanted me to search Farfarello and I did..." He considered this. "I opened the shields too far, heard too much from people who were letting their lives explode in their minds in their dying moments."

    He had heard way too much...In those minutes he had known those twelve teenagers better than they knew themselves. He had seen their entire lives, had been privy to all of their intimate thoughts and dreams.

    "You went drinking," Crawford concluded, "to grow deaf."

    Schuldich didn't have to answer. It was obvious enough. Crawford had found out long ago that that was the reason behind most of his alcoholic splurges. Schuldich had told him in an irritated fit one day when the older man was trying to keep him from going. Crawford hadn't wanted Schuldich to get wasted the night before a job, and Schuldich had finally told him flat out why he had to go. To his surprise, Crawford had backed off after that and had allowed Schuldich his random sprees.

    Schuldich racked his brain, searching to see what had happened after that.

    "The vision I had of you was not clear enough," Crawford said. "All I could see was where you were going to be later and I could see that you had been in a fight. I could not see...I did not know..." Crawford's lips twitched into a frown as he was forced to admit his failing. Schuldich knew Crawford's visions were unstable while the older man was sick, but he must have missed something dreadfully important if Crawford would actually flat out say that he had been incompetent. Those words were the closest to an apology Schuldich would ever hear. "Someone turned you over to the hospital. That is where I knew you would be, and Nagi and I brought you back here."

    Silence stretched between them. Schuldich rummaged through his mind, eyes closed as he forced himself to remember.

    He dimly could recall Nagi calling him, unhappy that Schuldich was disobeying Crawford and staying out. Schuldich had achieved his humming and had been about to head home when something stopped him. He closed his eyes, struggling with his resisting memory. Weiß. Yohji had been there. Schuldich had harrassed him a bit, trying to relieve a bit of the shred his mind had experienced from Farfarello's massacre. The Balinese had been an easy target.

    No...That was far from the truth.

    Pieces were falling into place quicker now, all too clear. He had been leaving and Yohji had followed him. By then it was hard to think straight, much less move on his own. His body hadn't been cooperating, and all he had wanted was to find somewhere and pass out for a few hours. Yohji had taken advantage of this weakness and pressed forward, starting a fight.

    He could feel arms snaking around him, fingers tugging at his clothes.

    He didn't realize when his eyes flew open to stare unseeing at Crawford's face; he didn't hear it when his breath caught in his throat in dark, horrified realization.

    He had retreated. He had pulled back from the fight. He had almost gotten away but he had been too drunk to move quickly enough, too drunk to fight without further handicapping himself with a dizziness that made him nauseous to his soul. Yohji had caught him.

    And he-

    Schuldich rolled over, body heaving as he threw up on the sheets beside him. Shaking limbs kept his upper half pushed up from the mattress slightly as his entire frame shook with his harsh gagging. Someone was holding his hair out of the way.

    No. No no no.

    That hadn't happened. That couldn't have happened. Not to him. Not by Yohji.

    It couldn't have.

    But it had.

    Yohji had raped him.

    He had lost the fight. Yohji had raped him and walked away. Schuldich had stayed there for countless minutes before finally struggling to leave that place. He had only made it a block further before everything had blacked out from combined blood loss, his body's shock, and too much alcohol.

    He had stopped heaving but his body was still shaking, vibrating with tremors that ran through his entire frame. This wasn't right. He was Schuldich the Mastermind. He was a telepath and a sonic. These things did not happen to him. They couldn't. But they had. They had, they had. "Nein," he choked out hoarsely, not even aware that he was speaking. "Nein nein nein nein...Keineswegs. Das kann nicht sein..."

    It couldn't be, but it was.

    He was heaving again even though there was nothing left to come up. His vision was blurred at the edges from the strength of his headache and he wanted nothing more than to go to sleep again- to go to sleep and wake up and realize that this hadn't happened. He was only dimly aware of Crawford's hands holding his hair back, keeping the long strands out of the mess he had made. Later he might resent the unspoken support Crawford's presence was as a sign of his own weakness. Now he was grateful.

    He had thought himself stronger than this.

    He had allowed his gifts and his position within Schwarz to lull him into feeling powerful.

    A few drinks, and he was nothing.

    He had drank to forget, but he had only managed to come across something more terrible. He had drank to forget their lives, to try and forget the teenagers' sense of ruin of sense of self that had sharply embedded itself into his mind.

    Instead, he had experienced it all over again.

    And now he was nothing, nothing at all.


    Sunlight fell across his eyes. Yohji cracked open an eye slowly to send a baleful glare at the window before rolling over. His stomach was rumbling in protest of the movement and he stilled with his head buried in his pillow to let it settle. He had a headache, but judging from how his stomach wasn't sending him bolting for the bathroom and his head was just a four aspirin throb, he hadn't had as much last night as he thought he would have. The image of last night's massacre flickered in his mind and he shoved it firmly away. He wasn't ready to face it again. A night had helped take off the edge that made the image unbearable, but it was still blood-chillingly horrifying.

    His stomach calmed down as he waited and he considered this. He had not had enough alcohol to make himself sick, so what had he done last night? If he couldn't remember, he supposed it wasn't important. He glanced towards his clock, squinting against the light of the room. It was ten a.m. He had a few hours until he was scheduled to join his three teammates. Part of him thought it was sick that they had to have the shop open today. They had planned a big sale today and were getting a new shipment. None of them had thought last night would go so wrong. He felt sorry for his partners, who had been forced to put on the happy masks of innocents so early after it happened. He tugged his covers up, burying himself in them and letting himself relax once more. He could definitely catch more sleep...

    But he had to pee. Damn.

    Grumbling, he tossed the blanket back and slowly climbed from his bed. He padded towards his door, yawning loudly and raking a hand through his hair. For some reason, the finger combing hurt. In fact...Most of him hurt with a lingering hum of pain. It couldn't have anything to do with the mission gone wrong last night- there hadn't been anyone to fight.

    He wasn't going to think about that.

    He could feel flesh up against his, hands grabbing at him, scrabbling against his legs. He paused just outside the bathroom. Had he taken a partner last night? That would explain why he felt like he had had a workout the night before, but it wouldn't explain why it felt like he'd been battered. He shrugged and stepped into the bathroom, flicking on the light as he went and closing the door. As he turned to send an automatic glance at the mirror, he froze in his tracks, nature's call temporarily forgotten.

    He took a slow step towards the sink, staring at the mirror that hung on the wall above it. One side of his face was colored darkly with a bruise that stretched from his jaw to his cheekbone. He reached up, pulling his hair out of his face so he could examine it better, and winced at the pain that brought. Fingers sought out the source of the pain and he felt a bump on the back of his skull. He frowned faintly, gazing at his reflection. The edge of uneasiness glimmered back at him from emerald eyes. Dimly he could remember being flung and cracking his head against a wall. So he'd gotten into a fight while drunk last night?

    Annoyed that the other drunk had bruised his face into such an ugly shade, he hoped ferverently that his opponent had come out of the scrape worse off.

    With this angry thought in mind, he turned his head to examine the other half. He swore as he took note of his black eye and split lip. He didn't get this banged up on missions. He couldn't work the shop looking like this. He would have to talk the others into covering for him. He turned to head towards the toilet, muttering choice words about whoever had managed to lay a fist on him. When he found the guy, he was going to yank his long hair out by the roots.

    He paused. Long hair...

    Hateful jade eyes locked with his. He could hear a voice spitting at him in mingled fury and faint desperation. The words...were not Japanese. They weren't English, either.

    He sighed, relieving his bladder and mulling over how to get the others to rearrange the schedules for him. It was hard to concentrate. He was feeling a bit ill, a bit uneasy. His mind kept turning back to jade eyes. What about the fight could bother him so much?

    White teeth gleamed at him behind a smile that didn't look quite right. It was a careless expression, but the deadness of those eyes made Yohji think there was something wrong, something haunted and lost. He frowned, pausing in front of the mirror again to study his reflection. His eyes lowered to his hands and he ran his fingertips over the scratches. Some were obviously from fingernails that had broken the surface of the skin and drawn blood from digging in so tightly. Others were faint scratches, as if he'd dragged his hands along a rough surface.

    His fingers lingered on the indents. He could feel hands digging in, feel someone arching up against him. A sound of pain echoed in his ears - not what he had wanted to hear but it would have to do - a sound escaping someone who hadn't meant to let it go....

    Eyes squeezed tight, blood trailing down a chin when teeth broke the surface...

    A body pinned between him and the wall...

    There was a knock at the door that pulled Yohji from his uneasy thoughts. The sick feeling had spread. It was more than nausea, more like a curling of self-loathing and the feel that something had died inside. He couldn't speak; his voice had died on him for some reason. He settled for opening the door instead.

    Ken was outside, his mouth open as he was ready to call to whoever was within the bathroom. He gaped when he took in Yohji's appearance. "Holy shit, Yohji, what happened to you?" Yohji waved a hand in dismissal, moving to slide past Ken. The athlete grabbed his elbow, tugging him closer so he could study the large bruise taking up half of Yohji's face. He poked it lightly and Yohji smacked him.

    "Don't touch it," he said.

    "What the hell did that?"

    "An elbow," Yohji answered automatically. He thought about it for a long moment, allowing Ken to inspect his face. elbow. He could feel it crashing into his face as someone thrashed beneath him. He had gotten them pinned down...He had been practically lying on top of the guy, saying something. Whatever he had said, the other had not liked it one bit.

    "You look like you need some aspirin," Ken said. Before Yohji could decide whether to agree or not, another voice beat him to speaking.

    "Ken-kun, are you done with Arisato-san's bouquet?" Omi called up the stairs.

    "Almost," Ken called back. "Hey, Omi, Yohji got the crap knocked out of him. Can you bring him some aspirin?"

    "Alert the entire household, why don't you?" Yohji muttered, tugging out of Ken's grip and padding down the hall. He couldn't shake the feeling that something had gone terribly wrong last night, something that he didn't want to remember. He'd gotten in a fight. What was so bad about that? People did that.

    Omi came scrabbling up the stairs just a few moments later, carrying a juice box and a container of pain reliever. He came to a dead halt when he saw Yohji's face, blue eyes widening in shock. "Yohji-kun, what happened?"

    Yohji lifted one shoulder in a shrug, swiping Omi's drink and pills. He shook a few into his hand and swallowed them with one gulp of the apple kiwi drink the kid was so fond of. He had gotten in a fight. Wasn't that obvious?

    He had just gotten in a fight......

    He froze in his tracks, eyes widening as he pivoted slowly to stare at Ken. "I got in a fight with Schuldich..." he said hollowly, his jagged memory piecing together enough for him to realize that. He could hear the harsh German words bouncing off his ears as he ignored the man, could feel his fingers tangling in orange hair. Those mocking jade eyes had been so dark last night, dead until he had been pushed enough that they colored with hate.

    "With Schuldich?" Omi's voice was higher than it should have been.

    Ken made a sound of surprise and hate, scowling. "I hope you made him cry," he said, speaking as if he knew it would never happen but was still hoping.

    He could hear his own voice: "Cry me a river."

    Too much fell into place. Too much hit all at once. Yohji bolted for the bathroom, throwing up violently into the toilet.



    He hadn't.

    He wouldn't have- he couldn't have- he hadn't-!!!

    A body slamming against the brick wall repeatedly, rocked forward with each of Yohji's thrusts. Blood and semen mixing to run sluggishly down pale legs. Schuldich slowly sliding to the ground, staring ahead without seeing anything before him.

    He could hear his friends' concerned voices. Omi was saying something to Ken about fetching a drink. Then small hands were on his back and the only sound in the room was the sound on Yohji's harsh gagging. One hand gathered up his hair and pulled it back to keep it out of the way. The other hand remained on Yohji's shoulders and fingers tightened slightly in a gesture of support and friendship. Yohji's skin crawled at the contact. He could too easily replace Omi's hand with Schuldich's as the man struggled to get away.

    Jesus Christ, how could he have done that? No one deserved that, not even Schuldich. And he- how could he have committed such a horrendous act? It made him sick to his soul and worse. He liked to think that, despite the fact that he murdered for justice, he could still retain some scrap of humanity. Last night he had done the worst thing he could imagine to another human being because he had been upset over a torture scene. Last night he had shown himself to be worse than he could have ever imagined himself to be, a monster equal to those they hunted and killed.

    He had...

    Oh, God. Oh God oh God oh God.

    He didn't realize when he'd stopped hacking and actually began murmuring the words brokenly. "Oh God oh God oh God what have I done what the hell have I become???"

    "It's all right, it's all right, Yohji-kun," Omi murmured soothingly.

    The boy's comforting tone made things worse. Yohji had thought he was done throwing up but it started anew. His entire body shook as he choked on stomach acid. His throat and his mouth were burning, but the burn was nothing compared to the stinging in his eyes or the pain that wrenched his heart and soul apart.

    When he could throw up no more he merely knelt there, body shaking, struggling against his horrified thoughts. Omi eased him back and Yohji let himself be guided backwards. The boy squeezed around him, flushing the toilet and crouching in front of his oldest teammate. He had a small cloth and he used it to wipe gently at Yohji's mouth. He held a glass of water to the playboy's lips and Yohji obediently sipped from it. Yohji stared straight through him. The image of Omi kept being replaced by the image of Schuldich when Yohji had left him in the alley. What if the man was still there? What if he had been so out of it that he hadn't been able to get away?

    No...Schwarz would have noticed they were missing someone, and Yohji doubted they would let a telepath go missing for long. And Crawford- the oracle- had to have seen that something was going to happen. So why didn't he stop it? Was his gift not strong enough? Not clear enough? Damn that insufferable American! Why couldn't he have seen this coming? Yohji would much prefer that Crawford had warned Schuldich and the German had shot him last night than have to face what did happen.

    "Yohji, are you all right? Yohji?"

    Omi studied Yohji's face for a long moment. "Ken-kun, someone needs to watch the shop with Aya-kun."

    "Yohji's more important than-"

    "Ken," Omi broke in, dropping the honorific and taking on a tone that was decidedly harder, "someone needs to help Aya." He lifted his gaze to stare straight at Ken. There was a tense moment as Ken struggled between concern for his teammate and obedience of the team leader. Omi had dropped his normally light voice for a slightly cooler one, taking on an "I know what I'm doing and you're going to listen because you don't know how to handle this" tone. He had taken to using it when he felt that his teammates must listen to him and when it came to matters that he took very personally.

    Finally there was a small shuffle as Ken backed away. Omi was quiet for several moments before turning his attention back on Yohji. "Come, Yohji," he said gently, lightly tugging at the man's sleeve. "Let's go."

    Yohji obeyed silently, rising to his feet and trudging from the bathroom. His mind was a wreck. Everything he'd ever thought of himself was in tatters. He allowed Omi to guide him down the hall and into the younger boy's bedroom. Omi closed the door behind them and sat Yohji down on the mattress firmly. The boy sat down in front of him, studying him for a few moments in silence.

    "Yohji...Are you all right?"

    Yohji stared blankly at him. All right? Had he ever been all right? Could he ever be all right again, after what he'd done? He wasn't sure whether he wanted to start giggling hysterically or cry.

    "Do you want to talk about it?" Omi asked, not giving much time for a response to the first question. Yohji guessed the boy could see the answer in his eyes. He reached out, taking Yohji's hands in his own and giving them a slight squeeze.

    Yohji flinched without meaning to, images flickering in his mind: fingernails, desperate, digging in to express pain because the German was too proud to cry out even when totally smashed. Yohji was willing to bet that pained half-whimper, half-moan was all anyone would ever be able to expect out of such a cocky man. How badly Schuldich had torn his lips to keep from letting anything else out...

    He was shaking worse. Part of his vision was blurry. Oh, what he'd done...How could he have done such a thing?

    Omi's expression melted to one of pained concern and the boy released Yohji's hands, rocking forward to wrap his arms around Yohji's neck. Yohji's initial thought was to shove him away, not wanting to touch anyone else. The last person he had touched...But after a moment he wrapped his arms around Omi, nearly crushing the boy to him as he buried his face in Omi's shoulder. Omi had initiated this contact. This was a mutual contact. This was not what had happend last night. He took a shuddering breath, trying to calm himself down. This was Omi...This was the boy he would trust more than anyone else in Weiß. Aya...who would trust Aya when it came to needing this kind of contact, when needing some advice, when bleeding on the inside? Aya wasn't a total ass, but he was too hard to reach and clung to his own security too much. Ken wasn't stupid, but he could be naive about the wrong things. He could get uncomfortable with things and would back away or stumble through them. Omi had the gift of offering everything of himself and everything people needed. He could forget his own biases when he had to in order to listen to and help others.

    Omi said nothing as they rocked slowly on the bed. He knew that whispered nothings meant to be soothing would only make things worse. He could sense it. He merely held Yohji and let the man hold him and waited. It wasn't until Yohji's arms loosened their death grip slightly that he spoke again.

    "Did he hurt you, Yohji?"

    Yohji knew the younger assassin wasn't referring to physical wounds- those stood out quite clearly on his face. Omi was searching for a deeper pain, searching for mental havoc. They'd faced Schwarz enough to know that that was the game Schuldich loved to play. Omi had seen his fair share of it.

    Yohji's arms tightened and he drew in a ragged breath once more, fighting back the tears. He had no right to cry for what he'd lost. He wasn't quite sure which one of them had walked away more damaged- he or Schuldich- but right now he was willing to bet it was the telepath. "I-iya," he managed to choke out, though he wasn't sure how clear it was when he was speaking into Omi's shirt. He was the one to blame here. He'd committed a terrible act. There was no way he could go back and erase it. Right now the only thing he could do was keep his teammates from thinking Schuldich had been playing another twisted game. He closed his eyes, squeezing them tight.

    Omi was rubbing his back slowly, comfortingly. Yohji gave a slight shake of his head, tilting his face up so he was gazing over Omi's shoulder. He fixed his gaze on Omi's headboard. "We were both drunk," he said softly. "He was completely out of it." A careless grin was tilted towards him. Then it had infuriated him. Now, in his sober mind, he could notice what was off about the German's expression. "I didn't see that something was terribly wrong with him. I was just torn up about the mission. But his eyes were dead, Omi. They were the eyes of someone who had suffered greatly and was struggling to distance himself from the pain."

    His fingers clenched in Omi's shirt. "He made me so mad...The things he said...The way he could so easily shrug off what his teammate had done to those teenagers...He was leaving but I followed him. I followed and I started a fight. I knew I would win. I hadn't had as much to drink. He couldn't even stand on his own two feet." There was nothing funny, but he uttered a hoarse laugh anyway. His fingers curled even tighter in the material of Omi's tee. "Jesus Christ, Omi...I hurt him. I tore him apart in the worst way possible." He bit his lip savagely. It was easy to rip the barely healed flesh from the night before. "He knew I was winning. Omi, he retreated. He was trying to run away from me, but I pulled him back and I hurt him..."

    Anyone else might have shrugged off his concern and asserted that Schuldich needed someone to lay into him. Omi was smarter than that. Omi knew from Yohji's behavior and tone that there was something deeper and terrible that had occured. He knew that Yohji was dead serious when he said he had hurt the German- and the fact that what he'd done bothered Yohji this badly was almost enough to frighten the younger man. He pulled Yohji's head back to his shoulder, hands cupping Yohji's neck, and he resumed the slow, faint rocking. Yohji continued to struggle with his breathing. A hot tear escaped an eye to slide down his cheek and fall to hit Omi's thigh.

    "What have I done? What have I become?"


    The day passed painfully slow. Yohji was set up in the storage room, fetching the pre-made bouquets and repotting plants. He found it hard to concentrate on his work, with no little reason. He had no grasp on time; the world had blurred around him. His mind was repeating the events of yesterday over and over as much as he tried to stop it. It was a small relief when the door to the room opened and his teammates slipped inside. Aya remained by the door, violet eyes hard as he raked Yohji's face, taking in his injuries. Ken stood to one side, fiddling with a pair of shears. Omi stood closest to Yohji, in front and to the side of Aya.

    Aya broke the silence first. "You fought Schuldich."

    Yohji's stomach turned. He was going to be sick. "...Aa..."

    Omi glanced towards the other two before turning his attention back on Yohji. "Manx is coming by in just a bit," he said. "She wants to know...what happened last night."

    Yohji's first thought was that Manx would ask him about the fight. Then he remembered the failed mission- the meeting that wasn't where they had been told it would be, the horrible scene they had come across. The image didn't help his queasy stomach. Omi was slightly paler as well, and Ken's fingers closed into tight fists on the handles of the shears. Aya grimaced very faintly. Silence fell in the room for several moments as they wrestled to regain their mental footing from the gruesome memory. Omi swallowed hard before speaking again. He managed to keep his voice from betraying how sick he must be feeling over last night.

    "She will ask about your face, Yohji-kun." She would, Yohji knew she would. His lips thinned and he looked away from Omi's unreadable blue gaze.

    "She won't be happy to hear it," Ken said. "First that...mission..." he sounded as if he would choke on the word, "and then Schuldich..."

    "We aren't going to tell her about Schuldich," Omi said.

    There was a pause before anyone answered. Aya, of course, was the first to respond. "He fought Schuldich," he said, pinning Omi with his amethyst eyes. "Who knows what that madman could have planted in his brain?"

    "We have to tell her," Ken agreed. "It's for everyone's safety."

    Yohji could feel something icy trickling down his spine. He wouldn't tell Kritiker. Sure, he could lie easily. He could say it was a fight that they were both too drunk to walk away from. Kritiker would still put him under surveillance, however. They would pry every last detail out of him and it was hard enough to keep his composure right now in front of his team. There was no way he would be able to sit through their interrogation without getting sick, and then they would know that something was wrong and they would never leave him alone.

    "We are not," Omi said again, and Yohji glanced back towards the younger assassin to see Omi turning to fix Aya with a calm gaze, "going to tell her about Schuldich. Yohji merely got in a fight with some nameless drunk." There it was again- the drop of honorifics and Omi's patient "Don't argue with me" voice. As light-hearted and youthfully innocent as Omi could seem at times, he did know his position within Weiß and he spoke now using that authority. He was challenging Aya, challenging the redhead that he usually followed. His eyes told everyone that he was not going to back down and he would push the issue until he was listened to.

    Aya frowned faintly, eyes narrowing slightly in reaction to the challenge.

    "Schuldich didn't mess with my mind," Yohji offered up quietly. He hadn't even realized he was going to speak. He lifted his eyes slowly to meet Aya's gaze. "He couldn't."

    "Couldn't?" Ken repeated.

    "He was completely smashed..." Yohji said, weaving lies and truth together softly. "He didn't even recognize me at first. I saw him. I'm the one that initiated the attack...I wasn't thinking straight. I was just upset over what we had seen. He didn't hear me coming. He didn't have his speed. He couldn't even focus on the fight."

    Aya's frown deepened.

    Somehow- from somewhere- Yohji managed to crack a grin at the younger man. Luckily he didn't have to hold it long, for it opened the tears in his lips and he could hide under the pretense of wincing in pain. He reached up to touch his fingertips to his lips, touching the blood and ignoring the faint pain it brought to poke the wounds.

    There was a suspicious gleam in the backs of Aya's eyes. The redhead didn't believe him; he knew something was being left out. He didn't have to say anything. His gaze was loud enough. Ken didn't look convinced either.

    After a long moment, it was Omi that spoke. The boy turned fully to face him, his eyes still set in a sky-blue, calm gaze. "What did he say to you?"

    It was an opening. Yohji looked away, allowing himself to remember Schuldich's taunt on Asuka, allowing himself to remember the hatred he'd felt in that moment enough that he felt a small surge thrum through him. He felt his jaw tighten for a moment before slowly relaxing. The hatred couldn't stay for long. Anger remained, but he could no longer hate the man. He hated himself more, for what he'd done.

    "Yohji...?" Ken asked, and there was quiet concern in his voice now.

    Yohji spoke slowly. "He talked to me about Asuka." He glanced back towards his friends. Some of the skepticism had faded from Aya's gaze, and Ken's expression had softened at Yohji's words. Omi had given Yohji a good opening to weave something that would make the others believe his unnatural quiet was not from a mental thrashing. Yohji didn't have to lie on this, and because his emotions were true and the pain was raw in his eyes he could pull the others to believe him. At the same time he wanted to scream at them, to tell Ken not to look at him with such sympathy, to tell Omi not to try and defend him, to tell Aya to find his sword and run him through. He wanted to yell at them until they realized what a monster he was. At the same time, he could not. He could never show them, because they were all he had. They were his family. A part of him was forever sealed from them now; a part of him had been barricaded away where their light could not reach. If they were to look at him with horror and disgust...He would deserve it, but he did not want to lose the family he had. are such a fucking loser...~

    Aya broke the silence. "You don’t want us to tell Kritiker at all that Yohji had contact with Schwarz?"

    "Exactly," Omi responded simply.

    Aya and Yohji met and held gazes. Yohji could not calm the pain that swirled with violent self-hatred inside of his heart and he knew the younger man could see it in his eyes. Finally Aya gave a quiet sigh and inclined his head faintly. It was a gesture directed to Yohji but Omi accepted it for what it was. Aya would not press the issue- at least not at this time. As insufferable and single-minded as the redhead could be, he would back away now and trust his teammates to do what they felt was best. It was a rare concession.

    Yohji wanted to grab him and shake him, wanted to demand the man to be angry at him. He wanted Aya to press the issue so he could snap something back in defense, something that would pierce Aya as deeply as Yohji felt himself cut. He wanted the other man to be angry at him, to hate him. Those Aya hated generally wound up dead, and Yohji wouldn't mind that. He would not have to deal with this horror if he were dead.

    But Aya said nothing, and Yohji said nothing, and after a long pause the younger assassin left the room. Ken ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “I suppose it is better,” he said slowly, reluctantly. “Enough went wrong last night without us throwing Schwarz into the mess.”

    “Aa…That’s for sure,” Omi answered softly.

    Yohji’s mind was resonating with blood trailing down white walls and blood trailing down flesh, eyes wide and frozen in horror and eyes staring blankly ahead. He was no better than Farfarello…He felt a shudder ripple down his spine and fought viciously to focus on his teammates instead of his terrible thoughts. Omi and Ken looked thoroughly exhausted now that they’d dropped their cheerful facades required for working in the shop. It was obvious neither had gotten decent sleep the night before; nightmares mocked them from the shadows of their rooms, keeping them awake and miserable in the cold night hours.

    Yohji had not suffered as they had. His intoxication had seen to that. While his teammates had lain awake in silent horror and grief he had been deeply unconscious- unconscious and still smelling of someone else’s blood and his own semen…

    He drew in a shaky breath, fumbling for a cigarette. For once, Omi did not chide him when he lit up. He had only managed to inhale twice before Aya pushed the door open again and beckoned to them. “She is here,” he said simply.

    His eyes offered a calm warning, communicating what he had left unspoken: “She is not happy.”

    Well, Yohji thought Manx could go fuck herself. None of them were in the mood. He stubbed his cigarette out on the nearest table and peeled his apron off, moving forward slowly to follow his teammates from the room.


    He finally turned the water off because it was getting impossible to breathe. A shaking hand twisted the knob viciously into place and the spray stopped. Schuldich tilted his head back, watching the last few drops leak from the head of the shower. He was leaning against the tiled wall. He lacked the strength to stand on his own but it hurt to sit. He shoved the shower curtain open, gingerly stepping out onto the mat. He could not see his reflection due to the thick steam that had built up during his very long and very hot shower, but he could see his hands as he reached for his towel. His skin was an angry dark pink, heading towards red. Unsteady hands mopped up the excess water that ran down his skin. He scrubbed rather viciously at his legs, drying them quickly. He could not stand the feel of liquid spilling down the backs of his thighs. Even though water ran swifter than blood, it was too close for him to be able to stomach the sensation.

    He did not feel any cleaner for the shower despite his valiant attempts to scrub that worthless God-damned white assassin’s taint off of him. His mind was still reeling at the realization that that man- a pathetic ball of past angst and a powerless nobody- could have done such a thing to him. How could Balinese have managed to overpower him?

    Nausea twisted in his stomach. He could still feel those hands on him, fingers wriggling under his clothes. It made him want to grab at his pants to keep them up, but he wasn’t wearing any. Instead he wound his towel tightly around his waist and pushed the door open. Steam rushed out into the hall and the much cooler air of the hall swept in, chilling the remaining water that stood on Schuldich’s skin until it felt like he had ice cubes running down his shoulder blades.

    He very slowly knelt to gather up his dirty clothes and rose just as carefully, clenching his teeth against the pain movement brought. He stepped out into the hall, reaching out with his elbow to flick the bathroom light off.

    Farfarello was just a short distance down the hall and was watching him with a gleaming yellow eye. Schuldich could hear the dark amusement in the albino teenager’s mind and he sent the younger man a withering glare. “I’m not in the mood, Farfarello.”

    Full lips parted in a mocking smile. Schuldich tried to keep up the glare but found his gaze sliding away from the gleeful condescension in the man’s single eye. He had not even realized he’d looked away until he heard the man’s soft cackling. He felt his jaw clench and he shot another glare back at his teammate. Farfarello was lounging indolently against the wall, head tilted back as he gazed at Schuldich.

    “You’re limping,” he announced.

    “Shut up, Farfarello,” Schuldich bit out.

    The man laughed again.

    As Schuldich stepped past him to get to his door, the man reached out and tugged lightly on the towel as if debating whether or not to rip it away. Schuldich reacted without thinking, jumping away and lashing out. The backhand he dealt Farfarello’s face sent the younger man sprawling. Schuldich stared down at him without seeing him, instead seeing someone else towering over him. Hands dug into him; teeth bit at his ear as a voice rumbling with dark humor like he’d never heard it before asked him to cry. It was Farfarello’s soft laughter that brought him sharply back to reality.

    The man was stretched out on his back and Schuldich watched as the Irishman lifted a hand to touch his finger to a bleeding lip. He said nothing, apparently content to just grin like a satisfied cat. Schuldich turned and disappeared into his room, shutting the door loudly behind him.

    Two retreats within twenty-four hours…

    Damn it.

    He stood before his closet, gazing in at his clothes without really seeing them. If he had been anyone else he would have seriously considered crawling back into bed- regardless of the mess he had made in it just an hour and a half ago. But he was not just anyone. He was Schuldich of Schwarz. He had a role to play, a reputation to keep. What had happened to him did not matter to anyone; no one really cared. Crawford was most likely disturbed because it was a severe flaw in his gift to miss something that devastating and because he was debating whether it would affect Schuldich’s performance. Nagi was unnerved because Schuldich had crafted an image of himself as powerful and invulnerable to everything life threw at him.

    Farfarello found it to be highly amusing, the fucking bastard.

    He finally just tore the nearest thing off its hangers and carried it towards his dresser. He stood for a moment before it, gazing in silence at his reflection in the mirror that hung on the wall. His face was marked with bruises and cuts. He set his outfit down on top of the dresser and lifted his hands to his face, fingers brushing over the signs of abuse. For a moment, his jade eyes flickered, replaced by a look that was almost haunted. Would he ever be able to drink to forget again? He would never be able to trust that release. He had learned long ago to not try to get drunk within the Schwarz flat. It was healthier for everyone involved if he did not come home until he had reached a release.

    But now what? He had gotten drunk and look what had happened.

    And by the unlikeliest of people…

    He sneered at his reflection, ignoring the way the scornful expression ripped his lip open enough to bleed. Weiß so loved to play the part of the tragic heroes. They loved to view themselves as people in a line of work they hated but could not escape from, as miserable, wretched souls struggling against a cruel fate. They were idiots, all of them. Idiots…

    His fingers dropped to his towel and he fingered the soft material, hesitating before pulling it free and letting it fall to the ground. He dressed slowly, disliking the feeling of being undressed but unable to move faster due to the pain moving brought.

    /No worries, Schuldich,/ Farfarello sent towards him. Schuldich felt his teeth clench as he yanked the buttons of his shirt closed. Damn if Farfarello wasn't insufferable after such a satisfying kill. The man would be unbearable for days, his insanity and hunger sated enough for him to be calm and resort to verbal cruelty. Schuldich had always been able to deflect the Irishman's words before, but today he was not up to the struggle. /He probably won't even give you a second thought./

    If his teeth were ground together any tighter Schuldich was sure they would shatter. /Why don't you crawl in a corner and chew on your leg or something?/

    /He won't even remember it happened if he was as drunk as you.../

    The world whited out for one eternal second and Schuldich froze. Jade eyes stared down at the buttons in his fingers without seeing them. When everything slid back into place, Schuldich realized he was shaking faintly. He lifted a hand to his mouth, pressing the side of it fiercely against his lips. The thought- the suggestion- that Yohji would have been drunk enough that his memory would have blurred the events of the past night-

    He gagged harshly and only barely managed to catch himself from fully throwing up. There might have been the sound of Farfarello's laughter in the background, but he could not be sure over the dull roar in his ears. The world rocked under his feet and suddenly he was clawing at the edge of his dresser, leaning heavily over it to try and keep from losing his balance the rest of the way. His stomach was twisting violently within him and his breath hissed out from behind clenched teeth.

    If Yohji had- if Yohji didn't-

    There was the sound of his door opening and two voices snapping back and forth at each other. He ignored them, too busy concentrating on not throwing up. All he could see was Yohji's face last night, his mouth twisted in a smirk that promised of forthcoming pain, his eyes glowing with anticipation.

    "Schuldich." A hand closed tightly on his upper arm. He lashed out without thinking and lost his balance. Only two hands practically squeezing the blood out of his arms kept him from falling to the ground. He shoved roughly at the chest that was too close to him and was obediently released to fall to his ass on the ground. Jade eyes darted up the legs in front of him to land on Crawford's face. The American's expression was impassive, his eyes unreadable.

    Schuldich struggled to control his ragged breathing and it was all he could do to hold Crawford's gaze. Silence reigned between them. Finally, slowly, Schuldich picked himself to his feet once more. Crawford continued to stand in silence. The telepath spared a glance towards the doorway, expecting to see Farfarello lounging there. What he could see of the hall was empty.

    "What did he say to you?" Crawford asked.

    Schuldich's stomach twisted threateningly within him. "Nothing."

    Crawford tilted his head to one side. "You've stumbled, Schuldich," the American said. Schuldich found he couldn't look back at the older man. He pretended that the doorway was more interesting. Crawford stepped up to him. "Try not to fall." With that, Crawford moved past him and started towards the door.

    "I won't," Schuldich managed to bite out before Crawford left. The precognitive paused, listening. Schuldich looked over at his reflection. It gazed back steadily. He could not fall; he could not afford to. He couldn't..."I'm not going to. Worry about something else."

    Crawford did not reply but disappeared through the doorway. Schuldich continued to gaze at his reflection. Then, slowly, he reached out and touched the Balinese's mind. It was roiling with self-loathing, shame, and grief. Yohji remembered. Schuldich released him, exhaling slowly and shakily. After a few moments, he finished buttoning his shirt and opened his top drawer. There was a gun there, and he lifted it from its spot. He checked the chamber and slid it into his pocket.

    He was going to pay Yohji a visit.


    Yohji sat out front of the shop, perched on the curb with his long legs stretched into the street. A cigarette was dangling from his lips. He'd been smoking nonstop ever since Manx had left in a desperate hope that the nicotine would help calm him. Now the others were gone on their lunch break and Yohji had managed to convince them to let him stay behind. Omi was the only one with a fierce belief that Yohji was unaltered. Despite everything that had been said this morning, Ken and Aya would have their suspicions. He didn't blame them. If he had been one of them, he would react the same way.

    He stubbed out his cigarette with a shaking hand when he realized it had burned all the way down to the filter. Unsteady fingers pulled another from his pack and he lit it quickly.

    "If you're trying to die, I know quicker ways than lung cancer," a quiet voice said behind him.

    There was a sharp edge to a tone that used to deliver such mocking words with almost cheer. Yohji felt his spine go rigid before he slowly turned, wide emerald eyes staring up at Schuldich. His cigarette fell from his fingers to burn against the sidewalk. Jade eyes were narrowed as they gazed down at him and Schuldich's mouth was pulled into a hard line. Yohji opened his mouth and closed it again. He wasn't sure what he could say. He was dimly relieved that the man looked like he'd just had a good washing; it meant Schuldich had been found by his team instead of sitting out overnight.

    Last night...His stomach twisted violently. He wished it hadn't happened. He wish that he could forget that it had happened, that they both could forget.

    "You want to forget?" Schuldich asked, mouth curling into a faint sneer. "That is what the great Balinese decides, is that he wants to forget his conquest and go on with life as a merry little do-gooder." He tilted his head to one side, eyes dark with angry emotions. "I have the power to wipe your mind clean, you know. I could clear us both out and we could never remember that happened."

    Part of Yohji felt it wouldn't be fair for them to forget that something so violent had occured between them. On the other hand, neither of them would suffer the aftermath of what had happened. Neither of them would have to face their own darkness and weakness.

    "But I won't do that for you," Schuldich continued, just as quiet.

    "Don't you want to forget?" Yohji managed to get out, slowly standing and facing Schuldich.

    "Out of curiosity, little cat," Schuldich asked, and Yohji could hear violence struggling to burst forth from him in the way his voice shook, "how would it be possible for me to forget?"

    Yohji frowned faintly, not really understanding.

    "Even if I were to blank us both, I would hear it again from my team and would dig through my mind to find out what they were referring to. Then I would remember again and you would remain clueless. I do not think so."

    "Alter your teammates..."

    "Nein," Schuldich spat at him. "I am forbidden."

    "Just this once..."

    Schuldich grabbed Yohji's chin in a brutal grip and jerked his head down so they were staring at each other eye to eye. The German's hold would cause bruises later, but Yohji didn't care. "You are so eager to run away," he growled. His eyes were a swirling jade mix of icy anger and bitterness. "At least take responsibility for what you've done," he said coldly, giving Yohji a rough shove backwards. Yohji let himself stumble back and only barely managed to keep from stepping off the curb into the street.

    Responsibility for what he'd done...Yohji's eyes traveled over Schuldich's face, taking in the cuts and bruises. A few bruises disappeared under the collar of the foreigner's shirt. He lifted his gaze to meet Schuldich's eyes once more and could again see that violent internal struggle plain there. He turned his head away- he could not look at Schuldich anymore. He could not look at those wounds he had put on the once invulnerable and proud man. They only reminded him of the deeper wounds he had inflicted on Schuldich.

    "Get that damn pity out of your mind," Schuldich spat. "No one here needs it." Yohji said nothing. "Look at me," the other man commanded. Yohji gave a faint shake of his head. A fist cracked against his cheek and Yohji was sent backwards into the street. "Look at me!"

    "Honto ni...gomen nasai..." Yohji lifted his eyes to Schuldich. Everything he'd done seemed so much worse now when he was faced with the man he'd hurt. Schuldich had always been on top of everything in their struggles; he had always handled everything with an air of condescending amusement. Yohji had never seen the man so ruffled and bothered before. Now it was obvious that Schuldich was thoroughly off-balance.

    "Shut up," Schuldich hissed. Silver flashed and Yohji was suddenly staring down the barrel of a gun. Yohji looked up from it to meet Schuldich's eyes. So Schuldich would kill him? "That's what you want, isn't it? You want death. You want an easy way out of what you've done, out of what you've learned about yourself."

    "Gomen...gomen nasai..."

    "I don't want your fucking apologies!!" Schuldich exploded, stepping forward and shoving the gun into Yohji's throat. "Apologies won't take back what you've done!!"

    Silence fell between them, broken only by Schuldich's ragged breathing. Yohji could feel his heart and throat tighten. He was not truly sure why Schuldich had come. Even Schuldich killing him would do nothing to help the German's situation. All that was happening was that Schuldich was slowly falling apart before Yohji's eyes. He doubted Schuldich had expected being faced with Yohji would jolt him so badly, even after what Yohji had done to him the previous night. Schuldich had come with some specific purpose in mind and now could not stop the way he was reacting to Yohji's presence.

    He was broken from his thoughts by a loud click- the sound of an empty gun firing.

    "You want me to kill you," Schuldich said, slowly drawing the gun back from Yohji's throat. "but I won't. I would dearly love to blow your fucking head from its neck, but it would do nothing. Instead I will let you live, just as I will let you remember. I want you to remember it. I want you to know what kind of person you are and what kinds of things you can do. You will no longer be able to cling to your foolish illusion of being something worth more than the scum you kill."

    "Schuldich..." Yohji reached for him, not really sure why but wanting with all of his soul to offer some sort of comfort. He deserved what he was getting; he deserved more than that. What could he have to offer Schuldich? How could he even think he could offer any sort of condolence? He had raped Schuldich.

    "Do not touch me," Schuldich said, backing away from Yohji's questing hand.

    Yohji let his arm fall. Silence fell between them once more. Finally Schuldich slid his gun into his pocket and they gazed at each other. Yohji could see as the man fought to get his mind under control. Slowly Schuldich's eyes calmed to an unreadable but cold jade. With a quiet sigh he stepped back again.

    "I will not fall," he said simply. "You cannot make me."

    With that, he turned and walked away.

    Yohji could only stand there and watch him go. Everything within him was swirling. Schuldich had come to face Yohji simply for the point of being there. He had come to judge what Yohji had done to him. Schwarz and Weiß would clash again in the future- who knew how many times? Something terrible had happened between them but neither could allow it to damage their groups. Schuldich had come to force himself to face Yohji after what the other man had done to him. He had come to face the repercussions of Yohji's actions and to tell himself that he could recover. That was what Yohji needed to do as well. Weiß needed its Balinese in the future. As much as he hated himself for what he'd done and grieved for what Schuldich had lost, he could not allow that to bring his teammates to harm.

    It would be very hard, but it had to be done. If Schuldich could try, then Yohji would too.

    Slowly he crouched and lifted his cigarette from the ground. With a hand that only shook faintly, he perched it between his lips and tilted his head back to look at the sky.

    It looked like it would rain later. The sky would cry for what had happened since neither of them could afford to.

    "Cry me a river," he asked of the gathering clouds.

    With that, he headed into the shop and locked the door behind him.