We really do spend too much time in hospitals.

    /Ikida, I'm bored as shit and I want to go home./

    ~You're free to go whenever you like,~ is his tolerant response. ~If you leave Crawford here, of course.~

    I scowl up at the ceiling from where I'm slouched in my chair. /Can't we just take him home and do bed rest or something?/

    ~Am I to believe he'll actually rest if you sign him out?~ Ikida asks. ~I'm not that gullible, Schuldich.~

    "Apparently we're not leaving today, either," I observe.

    "And whose doing is that?" Crawford asks.

    "Oh, shut up," I grouse. If Crawford had his way, he'd have checked himself out two days ago. I didn't really trust him on his feet then, so I interfered and reminded Ikida that Crawford isn't a Five anymore. Since we have absolutely no ties to Rosenkreuz anymore and Crawford doesn't have his rank, that means Ikida has full authority over Crawford as his personal doctor. That means Ikida could veto Crawford's attempt to leave and basically manhandle him back to bed. Crawford was not amused. I, on the other hand, laughed myself sick.

    Two days later I'm rethinking that decision, though it's still a little bit hysterical to see Ikida finally trump the arrogant bastard like he's been itching to for years.

    I drag my gaze away from the ceiling to consider Crawford. Bandages still wrap around Crawford's eyes, but three days after our fight with D, the gauze is finally clean. The past couple days, they've been spotty with blood.

    My precog is blind again.

    He says that his sight will come back, that it's just a matter of his shields readjusting. I have to believe him, but it's still eerie having to wait on it.

    "Nagi said he'll stop by tomorrow," I say.

    "He'll want to talk about Kritiker," Crawford answers. "And Schwarz's supposed vacation."

    "Thanks for spoiling the surprise," I say, not that I care. Nagi's been our contact point with Kritiker the last couple days, acting as go-between with the serum and its cure. We needed test subjects to make sure the cure worked. Either of the girls would have worked, but Crawford and I decided against it. Now that we've left Rosenkreuz to its successful future, we'd like to secure our own. Starting a fight with Kritiker isn't exactly attractive. Instead we used leftover serum samples on random passer-bys. It took just a couple adjustments to get the measurements right, and now things are back how they should be with our four former immortals.

    Around his errands, though, Nagi has been alarmingly scarce around here. He knows what he did to Crawford's shields and what he almost did to Crawford's mind. It doesn't matter that it turned out to be necessary; that kid does guilt better than anyone on this team. Sometimes I think we've been misnamed.

    "We're not really going with him to Kyoto, are we?" I ask at length. "The idea of staring at temples all day makes my teeth hurt."

    "There's business to be had in Kyoto."

    "You know Nagi will kill you when he realizes we're going only so you can meet clients."

    "You know Nagi wouldn't expect anything else."

    True, that. "You're getting predictable, precog."

    "I suppose so."

    I grin and lean forward, easing out of my chair to sprawl against his bed. He doesn't need sight to reach out and touch me and he slides his fingers through my hair to help pull me in. I kiss him hard enough to push his head back into his pillow. I start to slide one hand down his chest towards his abdomen and below, but Crawford catches it with his free hand to still it. I know why when I hear a footstep at the door.

    "This is not considered bed rest," Ikida says.

    "Just let us go home already," I say against Crawford's mouth before kissing him again. Crawford's not really big on the audience thing, but he doesn't fight me. Maybe it's because it's Ikida. Maybe it's because of what almost happened four days ago. I don't know and I'm not going to ask.

    Ikida checks the machinery and makes a note of Crawford's vitals. "He's improving," he says. "There is a chance he will be able to leave tomorrow."

    "And his sight?" I ask, glancing at Ikida.

    "Time will tell," the doctor answers. "It's not a physical illness that's affecting them now. When his shields are healed again, he will open his eyes again. Have a little patience." He sets Crawford's charts back down and starts for the door.

    "Is this your last round of the night?" I ask.

    Ikida glances back at me, not really understanding that question. He looks from me to my hands and back again. It doesn't take long for him to catch on. "No," he says at length, "but it's almost time for my dinner break."

    "Goodbye," I say pointedly.

    "Subtlety, Schuldich," Crawford says as Ikida sighs and makes himself scarce.

    "What's the point?" I ask, and I don't give him time to argue. A few seconds is all I need to make sure he has no reason to.


    I'm woken up from a light doze at the brush of familiar minds against mine. Nagi has Tot with him, a small surprise when Farfarello is on his heels. I half-expect Farfarello to be making attempts on Tot's life, but he doesn't even seem to notice the girl's presence. Maybe he remembers our deal. It's kind of odd feeling Farfarello without his empathy, but odd in a good way. I don't think I'd ever have been able to get used to his gift on the bonds between us. This is something familiar, something we built years of teamwork around.

    The strangest thing, perhaps, is that he's still here. Rather, that either of them is. We can leave our past and our demons behind, it seems, but not each other. Farfarello's bored without us and Nagi doesn't seem as eager to leave again now that he's had a year and a half away from us to perfect his gift. After all, he's juggled school and Schwarz before. He could always do it again.

    I think I'm okay with that.

    I look up as Ikida enters the room with a clipboard and some dry cleaning. Crawford doesn't wait on the doctor's approval before he's pushing the sheets out of his way and getting to his feet. I watch the careful way he moves: slow, but not cautious. Ikida removed the bandages from his face this morning, but I can tell just by looking at Crawford that his sight's still gone. Even when he turns his head my way, he's looking through me.

    "Eager, are we?" Ikida asks, setting the dry cleaning down at the base of the bed.

    "I have things to do," Crawford answers.

    Ikida just shakes his head at that and stops in front of Crawford to hold the paperwork out. Crawford takes it with no problem, but Ikida has to indicate the line that needs Crawford's signature. "Here," he says, and Crawford slides his hand against the doctor's to place it. I get to my own feet and move up to Crawford's side to watch him sign his name. It's slanted a little more than it should be and it dips under the line instead of going straight across it. That's weird as all hell. Ikida takes his pen back and offers Crawford a searching look. At length he turns on me.

    "I would appreciate updates."

    "Of course," I answer, because I know Crawford wouldn't bother with them. Crawford slides me a sideways look that I pretend not to notice. I offer Ikida an amused smirk and his mouth twitches in response.

    "Should I call Nagi?" Ikida asks.

    "They're on their way," I answer, testing the distance between us. "They'll be here soon enough."

    Ikida nods at that and leaves so Crawford can get changed. I get the feeling Crawford can get dressed on his own, eyesight or no, but it's more fun to help. In the end there's more touching than helping, but he gets out of the hospital gown and into real clothes eventually and that's good enough. I crumple up the plastic bag his dry cleaning came in, stuff it into the trash can, and turn to face Crawford.

    "Are you ready?" he asks.

    It feels like déjà vu, but I can't place it. It feels more like a promise.

    I smirk and lean in, sliding my hands against his waist. "If you are."

    "Then let's go," he says.

    He says 'let's go', but neither of us moves. I linger for a couple moments more, content to stare up Crawford's sightless gaze, content to stare into eyes that see nothing but me and a future that's all us. Ten years or twenty or thirty, it doesn't matter. It's ours for the taking, and we'll make of it whatever we want.

    "Sounds like fun," I murmur, more at my thoughts than anything else, and I lean in to kiss him.

    The Oracle and the Mastermind.

    We are Schwarz.

    This is our life.

    This is our future.


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