19: Twilight

      Meirth pushed himself up from his chair when a knock came at the door, glancing over his shoulder to where Einsam was crumpled on his side on the floor. The boy had finally stopped laughing and was now mumbling to himself, fingernails picking at his lower lip as he stared off into space. "Einsam," Meirth called to him.

      "Love love love…" was the answer, followed by some breathless giggles. Meirth stopped in the doorway, waiting and watching as the Sequencer struggled to get up. He made it to his feet but couldn't stay there; once up, he swayed violently and ended up back on his knees. "Mmm," he hummed, studying the carpet around him. Finally he settled for crawling over to the second body, half sprawling on top of him. He rolled onto his side onto the floor and it pulled the dark haired youth with him, so now it was Nagi's head on Einsam's chest. Claws skimmed over his cheek before digging into his neck, and Einsam's smile was vacant.

      Meirth went and answered the door, arching an eyebrow at the man on the other side. "Why am I not surprised?" he asked. "Come for your youngest?"

      "If I thought you would return him," was Crawford's answer.

      Meirth smiled and stepped to one side, letting his brother see where Nagi's unconscious form lay. The precognitive gave the two younger Talents an assessing glance and turned his eyes back on Meirth. Meirth stepped outside and pulled the door closed behind him, leaning against it with his arms crossed over his chest. "You look like you've got chicken pox," he decided. "Looks good on you. I can't decide if you're brave or stupid for coming here."

      Crawford spared a glance for the little red dots on his clothes. Whoever Meirth had bought out from Tokyo's underground was set up around Schatten's house. As soon as he'd neared the subdivision, the first dots appeared from their guns targeting him. He had ignored them, though the number had grown rapidly the closer he got to the house. Crawford gave a light shrug, sliding his hands in his pockets, and regarded Meirth in silence. The quiet stretched between them for several minutes as they just studied each other, two brothers facing each other down as their fight to the death finally neared its end.

      "Are you happy now?" Crawford asked at last. "Are you happy with what it has come to? You've trapped yourself by a mind that's half-mad, moving only where he tells you you can go. You control him but he controls your future, and you've spent many years wrapped desperately inside the protection he can give you. You're losing, Kaleb. Rosenkreuz is going to catch you, and they're not going to let you live this time."

      "There should have never been a Rosenkreuz," was Meirth's bitter response. "You knew I wouldn't have wanted to go if I'd known such a place existed, but you let us be taken anyway."

      "You're the one that killed Elizabeth," was Crawford's easy answer. "They traced you."

      "You saw it coming!" Meirth sent back at him. "You *always* saw what I was going to do. You saw it coming and you let it happen because you wanted what Rosenkreuz could give you. Are *you* happy, brother mine? With powers like ours, we could have lived free forever. We didn't have signs on our backs that declared us Talents. We didn't have to go through Rosenkreuz, but you decided you wanted to. This fight and these deaths are your fault. You should have just let me go."

      "It wasn't my decision to drag you back." Crawford gave a light shrug. "You stole one of their most precious gifts and ran with it. Both actions were unforgivable, and they would have tracked you until they found you. It was your fault you got caught, because you thought you were clever and didn't stay far enough away."

      "Do you know what that was like?" Meirth asked. "We were on the constant move for two and a half years. Do you have any clue, the things I've seen, the places I've been? There's a whole world out there that was refused to me, and every place I saw just told me I needed to get away. I didn't want Rosenkreuz's training. I didn't want their scars. I didn't want their beliefs shoved down my throat. You put me there. I got myself away."

      "And you still lost," Crawford pointed out, ever helpful. "Rice and Nuboshi are dead, and Schuldich says Einsam won't last another week. You took your anger over Nuboshi out on him, and Schuldich heard him crack. His mind is bleeding, and you can't stop it. Let him go and shoot yourself before Rosenkreuz shows up here."

      If looks could kill, Crawford would be dead and rotted now under the force of Meirth's glare. "I won't," he said. "Not until I get what I want."

      "Schuldich?" Crawford asked. "Then pray tell, what was five years ago?"

      "Practice," was the snapped answer.

      Crawford just stared at him for a long moment. Meirth recognized the look on his face far too easily and he scowled at his brother. Crawford was good at making anyone feel incompetent with just a look, and Meirth had had it turned on him too many times in the past. At length the precognitive sighed, reaching up to remove his glasses from his face. He tapped them lightly against his hand, regarding his twin a moment longer, and then said, "It's a wonder that I can still pity you after what you did five years ago."

      "I don't need your *pity*."

      "Shame." Crawford turned away but paused before taking the first step to say, "It's all you've ever had."

      With that, he started away. Meirth watched him as he headed down the walkway to the curb and stepped into the street. Someone melted out of the shadows beside Meirth, gun ready as they both watched the precognitive walk away. The man pointed at his gun and then Crawford in a silent question, using gestures because Nuboshi wasn't around any longer to act as translator. Meirth considered his twin for a long moment, then turned to face the man. He held up one finger and tapped his bicep, then pulled open the door to step inside. He heard the muffled sound of the silencer as the man fired and glanced back. Crawford stopped where he was as the bullet ripped into his left arm, and the American studied the wound before continuing on. He didn't look back, and as always, Meirth couldn't pick up the pain from him.

      Meirth bared his teeth at his brother's back in a silent snarl and vanished inside, closing the door behind him and throwing the lock into place.



      Crawford's voice pulled the German out of a light doze and he glanced up, blue eyes flicking over the other two men in the room before he answered the call. //Crawford?// he returned. The American had taken the second car just moments before Schuldich and Kudou got back, not bothering to give an explanation before he left. Farfarello hadn't pressed Crawford for a reason for his absence but had met the returning two in the hall. The Irishman had already showered, so Schuldich and Kudou had cycled through the bathroom to wash the blood and gore free. Schuldich had brought Kudou back to the den instead of letting the man retreat to a bedroom, and the three had been sitting here in silence ever since. //Finished?//

      ~Turning into the subdivision. I need the med kit ready.~

      //What happened?// Schuldich demanded, but Crawford didn't answer. Schuldich felt Farfarello's eye on him; the Irishman had picked up on the short conversation. With a low curse, Schuldich pushed himself up from the chair and left the room. The kitchen drawer had the basic supplies for small scrapes and cuts, whereas the med kit was kept in the counter under the bathroom sink. It was for bigger injuries, things that needed stitches and the like. They didn't have to use it often, and Schuldich didn't like that he was being told to fetch it now. He grabbed its handle and hauled it out, using a hand to shut the door as he returned to the hall. He heard the crunch of gravel in the driveway as the car was parked and he moved to open the door for Crawford, the kit hanging from his free hand.

      He took one look at the blood on Crawford's sleeve and swore. "Jesus Christ, Crawford, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

      Crawford didn't bother to answer that, heading towards the kitchen when Schuldich stepped out of his way. Farfarello appeared in the doorway to the den, drawn there by Schuldich's words and the scent of blood. Schuldich offered a scowl to Crawford's back, shutting the front door loudly before following behind the American. Farfarello was just a step behind him when he reached the kitchen, and Crawford was very carefully taking his jacket off. It gave Schuldich a better look at the wound; the American had been shot in his left arm from behind. Schuldich set the kit on the table and planted his hands to either side of it, blue eyes taking in bloody flesh and the band that was above it. It wasn't a makeshift tourniquet; it was one of their real ones.

      "Tell me you saw that coming, and I'll leave you here to stitch it yourself."

      "Was that supposed to be a threat? You don't stitch in a straight line," Crawford returned, tugging the med kit closer.

      Schuldich made a rude gesture and planted his hands on his hips, mouth pulled in a tight line as he watched Crawford rummage around. A quiet tap of a shoe against linoleum signaled Kudou's entrance, but the lanky assassin didn't approach. Schuldich glanced over his shoulder at him, a little surprised that this was enough to draw Kudou from his little haze of denial and despair. Then again, seeing Crawford with a bullet hole was probably the best thing to happen to him in the last week or so. The younger man's face gave nothing away and his green eyes were blank as he stood there to watch, and Schuldich turned away from him to face Crawford again. The American was arranging what he needed on the table in front of him and at last Schuldich gave a disgusted sigh, tugging a chair closer to help. Farfarello moved around to where he could see the wound better, standing behind Schuldich's shoulder. After a moment's consideration, he went to get a rag wet in the sink.

      "Care to enlighten your team now?" Schuldich asked, ripping open little packets of wipes. He left them on their wrappers to push Crawford's sleeve further out of the way. Just like Crawford… Get shot, go tourniquet it, and then put his jacket back over top. Arrogant prick. Schuldich wanted to kick him. They didn't need injuries right now. Kudou was unstable and Nagi was gone.

      "Meirth is unhappy tonight," Crawford said.

      "That's a no shit statement if I ever heard one," Schuldich returned, taking the rag from Farfarello to clean the blood off of Crawford's arm. Blue eyes bounced to the other man's face, studying the tight lines there that were the only sign of pain. "You're insufferable, Crawford, but traveling across the city to rub his failures in his face is stupid."

      Crawford managed the ghost of a grim smile. "Necessary," he said.

      "Necessary…" Schuldich breathed, using the wipes for the wound itself. One hand cleaned; the other was closed on Crawford's wrist. He could feel the muscles tensing under his fingertips. "You went and taunted him and got your arm shot because it was *necessary*. Elaborate before I strangle you." He gathered up the wrappers and wipes, gave the wound a long look, and went to throw away the trash. There was water in the fridge, so he poured the American a tall glass and brought it back. Crawford couldn't open the small bottle of pills with one hand so Schuldich did it for him, shaking one out onto the table. He waited until Crawford took it before reseating himself, folding his arms over his chest as he gave the drugs a few minutes to kick in. Blood sluggishly moved down skin that had just been clean a moment ago and Farfarello came up behind Schuldich once more.

      "The people Meirth bought out are stationed around his subdivision now. They're out of sight but I would guess at least twenty, all armed. I caught a glimpse of Nagi and Einsam before the conversation. Nagi is still unconscious and Einsam isn't faring well." Crawford sipped at his water some more, slowly draining the glass. "I told Meirth Einsam won't make it through the week, told him that you said he was going to die within the next few days."

      "You told him that," Schuldich echoed, and Crawford glanced over his shoulder at the telepath. "It would have been a little more amusing to have him wake up one day and realize that Einsam was gone. You're a killjoy, Crawford."

      "It will save Nagi," was the precognitive's answer. "Meirth can't afford to let Einsam slide right now when he hasn't gotten what he wants. If he didn't think he was in danger of losing the Sequencer, he would be busy trying to rewrite Nagi to his wishes. As it is, until Einsam is stabilized at least to where he can sequence again, Meirth is going to have to keep Nagi either drugged or complacent only through forced emotions. He doesn't have time to twist the memories to turn Nagi against us."

      Schuldich considered this for a long moment in silence, turning it this way and that.

      "Nagi?" Kudou asked.

      Schuldich glanced his direction. The brunette hadn't moved, and his expression hadn't changed, but his thoughts were confused. "Don't tell me you didn't notice that we're missing someone," he said, and then realized that of course Kudou wouldn't have noticed. He was too busy grieving, then cutting Nuboshi to pieces. If his broken mind registered that Nagi wasn't around, he could have dismissed it with the thought that the youth was in his room. "Meirth has Nagi now. He was caught while Farfarello and Nuboshi were fighting."

      Kudou just looked at him for a long moment, then his green eyes turned on Farfarello. "You let him get taken?" he asked.

      Schuldich thought that that was a strange way for the man to react, but he couldn't place what was wrong about it. Farfarello lifted one shoulder in a seemingly careless shrug. "I was busy," was his answer- as if he hadn't tried to stop them, as if he didn't have a foot long tear down his back where Nuboshi got him when he was trying to drag the telekinetic away from the men sent for him…

      Kudou had nothing to say to that, and silence fell in the kitchen. The clock above the stove clicked away the seconds and Schuldich reached down through his mind, searching for Einsam's link. He found the battered mind waiting there and listened to the mumbling thoughts for a few moments. He was singing a commercial ditty, stopping every few words as he tried to remember what came next. Schuldich doubted the German knew what he was saying. He wondered if Einsam even knew that he was singing.

      "Twilight…" he murmured.

      Dying at last. Schuldich didn't know what to think of it. He'd always known that an early death was coming, but now they were down to a handful of days. What had always been something that would eventually come was now on their doorstep.

      ~Did you see this coming?~ he mused, keeping the thoughts away from the link. ~You let Nuboshi get killed. You had to know that Meirth would react so violently. Look what he did to you. You could have lasted a few weeks longer.~

      He sighed and brushed his bangs out of his face, then glanced towards Crawford to see if he was ready. The American didn't stop him, so Schuldich went to work. He was in charge of digging out the bullet lodged in Crawford's arm, and it was left to Farfarello to stitch it up. The Irishman was the best at it; years of practice made it easy for him. They worked in silence, switching places in the chair to tend to the wound. When Farfarello moved, Schuldich sat down again to wash the skin once more, and he liberally covered it with antibiotics. Long fingers wrapped a bandage around Crawford's forearm, tight enough to stay without cutting off the circulation. When Schuldich was finished, he leaned back in his chair and arched an eyebrow at the precognitive.

      "When Nagi hears that you got yourself shot for his sorry ass, he's going to be mad at you," he informed Crawford, a light smirk pulling at his lips. He gathered up the last bits of trash and pushed himself to his feet, one foot hooking around the leg of his chair to move it back where it belonged. "He's going to feel guilty as all hell and he's going to take it out on you."

      "Teenagers…" was Crawford's murmured response.

      Farfarello just arched an eyebrow at him, and Crawford's mouth curved in the faintest of smiles in response. Schuldich washed his hands at the sink and dried them off on a towel before stabbing a finger at the door. "Get out of here and go sleep the drugs off," he told Crawford.

      Crawford turned a considering look on him. Taking into account the fact that he had strong drugs in his system, Schuldich was absently impressed by the sharp look to the American's eyes. He couldn't bring Crawford's mind into focus but he could feel it sliding as the medicine worked its way through his veins. After a moment, he folded his arms over his chest. "What?" he asked. "You know I hate it when you look at me like that."

      "Tomorrow?" Crawford wanted to know, a small frown pulling at his lips.

      "Tomorrow I'm taking Kudou into the city," Schuldich said.

      "The fish," was the American's response, and he thought about it for a long moment, as if he couldn't remember what he was supposed to be saying. "In the square."

      "Mm-hm. Go to sleep." The precognitive didn't rise immediately, and Schuldich turned on the other two. He wanted some time to think, but he couldn't think if he was watching for Kudou to slip again or when Farfarello was around to slip in and out of his thoughts. He needed some time to himself to consider the day. "Kudou, bed. Farfarello, bed."

      The look Farfarello gave him at being ordered to bed was faintly amused, but Kudou didn't need any further encouragement. He vanished down the hall. //Take the pills,// Schuldich sent after him, and he had a feeling that he was going to be obeyed this time.

      At last Crawford rose to his feet and left the room, leaving his jacket behind as he slowly picked his way to his bedroom. Schuldich wandered back to the table, standing beside Farfarello as he put the med kit back together. When it was packed again, he had left just one bottle behind, and he turned to face Farfarello. One hand caught the buttons of the Irishman's vest and he pulled them free, letting the dark shirt hang loose on Farfarello's shoulders so he could study the man's bandages. One or two were wrapped around Farfarello's arms, and there was a dried scratch across one cheek. The two big cuts were what bothered Schuldich- one across his chest and the other down his back.

      "You're supposed to dodge," Schuldich informed him, giving the vest a push so it would slide the rest of the way down Farfarello's arms. It caught at the man's wrists but that didn't matter; Schuldich just needed it out of the way so he could see his teammate's back.

      "Really?" came the dry response.

      Schuldich ignored that and moved around behind him, studying the bandages. "They're stained," he told Farfarello. "Not bad, but I can see the dots. How deep did he get you?"

      "He didn't hit anything."

      "Saa~ Must be nice to not feel pain. I don't think I'd be as cheerful if Nuboshi caught me on his knives." He pressed his fingers to the material, applying a little pressure in one spot before moving to a new one. He moved over what he guessed was the path of the cut and was satisfied when the touch didn't draw any more blood into the bandages. "Nagi will be mad at you, too. I'm betting they're going to scar. Think of the stories we could have told if they were matching. We'd tell him you got impaled for his sake."

      Farfarello gave a quiet snort at that and Schuldich came around him again, picking up the bottle and holding it up in offering. "Go sleep," he said. "Those will heal faster if you're not moving around."

      A single golden eye flicked over the sleep medication before returning to Schuldich's face. "I don't need those," was the simple response.

      "You're so wired from getting to kill someone that you'll be awake for a while without some help." He unscrewed the lid and pulled one capsule out, holding it between his index and middle fingers as he waved it in front of Farfarello's face. "Be a good Farfarello and take it."

      "Good Farfarello?" the teenager questioned, arching an eyebrow at him.

      "Hmm…oxymoron." But Schuldich took advantage of his teammate's open mouth to poke the pill in, and Farfarello's lips closed lightly over his fingers before he could draw them back. Schuldich's breath hitched in his throat at the feel of the Irishman's tongue under his fingertips, and Farfarello gave the fingers a small, lazy suck. The sensation sent heat straight up Schuldich's arm and down through his chest. For a long moment, neither of them moved, eyes locked on each other. Finally Farfarello swallowed the pill dry and Schuldich let his hand slip free. Two damp fingertips trailed down Farfarello's chin and he let his hand linger there. Silence stretched between them, and then Farfarello shrugged his vest back into place. He didn't bother to fix the buttons, as he would be taking the vest off in just a few minutes, and Schuldich's blue eyes briefly raked down pale skin lined with bandages and muscle.

      ~I want…~

      He didn't let himself finish the thought, and forced his gaze back up to Farfarello's face. He couldn't read the other man's expression, and after a moment Schuldich lowered his arm to his side. "Go to sleep," he said.

      There wasn't a response. Farfarello lingered a moment longer, studying his face, then took a step back. He turned and left the room, and when Schuldich heard the Irishman's door shut he let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. One hand rubbed at his face before pulling out a chair for him to sit on, and he let his other hand sit on the table. Blue eyes studied tingling fingers before he drew his hand back, letting it fall to his lap.

      "What you want can't hurt you…" he muttered, quoting Kudou from the other night. He gave a soft, derisive snort, studying the table in front of him. Kudou knew nothing. Funny how he had sounded like he believed it when everyone knew it was a lie. Kudou should have known better than to say such a thing, considering he had nightmares about a woman who had been dead for years. Schuldich muttered under his breath and slouched lower in his chair. Kudou knew nothing at all.

      Schuldich put his trust in very little in this world. He trusted his gift not to fail him. He trusted Crawford to know what was best for Schwarz and Nagi to do his job. He trusted Farfarello. But he'd learned five years ago not to trust any sort of emotions, most of all what one *wanted*.

      There had been want, back then. There had been need. Twisting and turning in the lines between pain, hatred, and fear, there had flickered the edges of a desperate desire that had cut through him just as surely as the others. His mouth twitched into a grimace and his stomach curled in protest of the thoughts, telling him it didn't appreciate this line of thinking. The memory of fingers ghosting across his skin haunted him, and he could almost feel a thumb wiping away blood that trickled down his chin from his mouth. He was aware that he couldn't stand up, that he'd fallen somewhere along the way and he didn't have the strength to push himself back up from the floor. There was blood under his hands- too much blood. His breaths where ragged with pain and he could barely think through the agony that burned his nerves. He couldn't think but he could feel, and he felt too much.

      "That was beautiful," he heard a voice murmuring, but he couldn't get his eyes to focus on the one crouching in front of him. He didn't need to focus to know who it was or to see the hungry smirk on his lips. Fingers danced along his jaw line and with each touch came a throb of pain that twisted his lungs to shreds. "Do you want some more?"

      "Please," had been the answer, barely more than a whisper. One part of his mind had known he'd already taken more than was healthy, but it didn't matter. He *needed*. He *wanted*. And he asked for more. A rough mouth against his own, teeth cutting his lips, and he remembered leaning into it, a moan in the back of his throat. He remembered two hands gliding over skin slick with blood and sweat and leaving the feeling of flesh tearing open in their wake. The desperate fear that he was going to leave, that he was going to take this all away, grew inside him even as the pain flared white hot. "Please," he'd managed again, as that mouth moved to his cheekbone before biting his ear hard enough to draw blood. "I want- I want-"

      Meirth had wanted freedom. Schuldich had wanted his 'brother' back. A chase across the world had ended up with both him and Einsam being dragged along behind the rogue empath. They'd gone up the eastern coast of the United States, through Canada, through Alaska. He remembered the biting cold and the snow, and how easily blood stood out against it. He'd never met Meirth face to face before the search group caught up with him that one night, and Meirth had not made the best of first impressions. He had not been at all pleased to have someone track him so easily. The only thing that had saved them was that Meirth couldn't stop, couldn't slow to take care of them. He was on the run and Crawford's group was still close behind.

      Schuldich still remembered the way Einsam had screamed when he tore the youth's gift to pieces. He'd thought the screaming would never end, and he remembered being terrified that he'd ripped it beyond repair, terrified that he'd ruined the younger German in his attempt to get them both back to Rosenkreuz. Einsam had cried for days, unable to walk in the aftermath of the attack. Unable to Sequence, and Schuldich had carried him like Meirth said even as he dragged Crawford back on their trail.

      Meirth had screamed louder than Einsam had when the Cabinet got their hands on their runaway empath. Einsam had been unconscious for it, drugged to the gills by the medical ward, but Schuldich had carried him to the courtyard to watch the show. He'd stood at the front of the crowd with the unconscious youth in his arms and watched, memorizing it all to show to his friend later. He'd been excused from classes for a while after his return to Austria. His had been the gift that tore Einsam's to bits, so he was the one called forth to stop the mental bleeding. He'd spent two weeks in the ward putting the pieces back together, and Einsam was young enough that he'd recovered.

      Meirth had wanted revenge.

      Five years ago, he'd gotten his hands on the older German Talent, and he'd had it. And Schuldich had wanted him to have it, because Meirth chose it that way.

      "Asshole…" Schuldich raked his hair out of his face, sliding a little further down into his chair. It had taken so long to put the pieces back together and start living again, and Schwarz had dragged him out of the hole Meirth had left him in. Two and a half years until he felt normal again, and five since they'd seen the other team. Schatten was back now, and Schuldich wondered what more the empath could expect from him after everything he'd taken the last time around.

      Meirth had Nagi.

      And now Einsam was ready to die.

      Schuldich really didn't like the idea of the empath having his filthy hands on Schwarz's youngest, but what Crawford said made sense. The American had gone and gotten himself shot to deliver a warning to Meirth- clean up behind himself or lose before he even got close to what he wanted. He was still going to twist Nagi, because he would want the youth's gift at his disposal, but the focus of his concentration would be on trying to get Einsam to last the week. Nagi was as good as Schatten's now- if they ran into him in the street, he'd try to crush them into little smears. But he wouldn't be doing it for his own reasons, rather for what Meirth stirred up in him. They wouldn't have another Einsam or Tsukiyono to deal with, and when Schuldich got his hands on Meirth and killed the fucker, Nagi was theirs again.

      Schwarz couldn't afford for Einsam to heal.

      Einsam had *chosen* this. Schuldich frowned at the table. Meirth had twisted the sequencer enough that he wanted to see Schuldich dead. Einsam needed his gift to do that; he wouldn't give up and die before he got what he wanted, same as Meirth. But for him to throw Nuboshi away and let Meirth take a step too far…

      It just meant he'd probably already figured out a way to get what he wanted.

      Pleasant thoughts.

      A familiar mind gave out in his mental range then, and Schuldich uttered a tired curse, letting his head fall to the table. "Gets better by the minute," he muttered sourly to himself.


      They'd locked him up in a room by himself.

      They had questioned him for only a few minutes when they got a call that said Ken and Birman were killed, and he had been locked away as they reacted to this. If any of them had thought of bringing him along to the hospital with them, such a notion had died when he'd started laughing. He hadn't been able to kill Ken, but Nuboshi had apparently taken care of it for him. He'd thought it a pity that he hadn't been the one, but at least Ken was dead now.

      That had been hours ago. Some people had stopped by later to try and figure out what had happened, and he'd told them why he did it. It had turned into a heated argument as they tried to figure out what was wrong and why he claimed to hate his team. They'd been horrendously upset, grieving for Weiss and their agents. He hadn't cared for their sorrow and had told them to find better people to waste their tears on. At that point the people questioning him had switched, as the first group could no longer stand to be in the same room with him. The second team had asked him about Yohji, and Omi had been all too happy to tell them that Yohji had turned traitor on Weiss and teamed up with Schwarz.

      "Against Weiss?" they'd asked, stunned by this news.

      "Against Schatten," Omi had corrected them, and a long explanation detailing the past week had followed. He'd told them everything about the other team because he didn't see a reason not to. They'd not been happy to hear about the presence of a second team of gifted men in Tokyo, and none of them had been quite sure what to make of it. Eventually they'd retreated for the night, and he'd been left alone again.

      Omi offered a quiet sigh to the room, letting his legs dangle over the side of his bed. A glass of water was held between both hands and he lifted it to take a long swallow. Blue eyes watched the water slosh around inside the cup and a frown pulled at his lips. He'd been alone for almost three hours now, left with nothing to do but think. He'd spent a while savoring the deaths of Aya and Ken, wondering why he'd started shaking as he thought about Aya's blood and the look in Ken's eyes. From there his mind had wandered down a less pleasing track.

      "Why did you kill them?" one of the ladies had been shrieking at him, a broken record as two agents dragged her from the room. "Why did you kill them? Why did you kill them?"

      "Because I hated them," Omi murmured to the empty room.

      But after hours to himself to think, he wondered if he was really supposed to.

      It ate away at him as he thought about how he'd been able to exact his revenge on his hateful teammates. He thought about waking up at Meirth's place and he remembered watching the news on the television as they talked about the Koneko no Sumu Ie blowing up. He remembered that he was up all night, talking to Nuboshi about *why* he hated them, and he remembered the conversation twisting and turning as he felt the hot need for their deaths grow. He remembered getting only a few hours of sleep the next day as Meirth and Nuboshi continued to talk to him about Weiss and their plans of how he could get close enough to kill them.

      He remembered that Meirth was an empath, able to control emotions.

      "Because I hated them," he said again. He searched for good memories with the two and he found them, but no affection for the two lingered in his thoughts despite the seemingly innocent scenes his mind provided. He hated the two, and they were dead now. He didn't regret their deaths.

      He thought of the tears on his face as he'd killed Aya, and told himself that perhaps he should. Maybe he should be screaming over killing them. Maybe they really were the good teammates like everyone here at Kritiker seemed to think. Maybe they really had been his friends. But he couldn't feel regret through the sharp loathing and triumphant satisfaction. He wondered if Yohji knew who did it, if the oldest of their team knew who had killed their partners. He wondered how the older man would respond, and told himself that it didn't matter. Yohji had left Weiss for Schwarz. He'd abandoned all of them for *them*.

      He let his cup fall to the floor, blue eyes watching as it shattered against the hard ground. Water raced across the floor and he contemplated the mess for a long moment. If Kritiker let him out of here, where was he to go? He'd killed his team. They wouldn't let him have a second chance. They wouldn't give him new people to work with. Weiss was completely destroyed. Two were dead, one was a traitor, and one had murdered his own teammate. He doubted Kritiker would let him live after what he'd done, after spending time with Schatten. They needed him still, to try and figure out where Schatten was and how to get Yohji back, but they wouldn't need him forever. Omi couldn't help them with either. His phone was at Meirth's place with Nagi's number in it and he had been unconscious on the ride to Schatten's house.

      His team was gone, and he didn't regret it. He would do it all over again.

      He leaned down and picked up the largest of the glass shards between his fingers, turning it this way and that to consider the jagged edges.

      Meirth had done this to him, and he knew it. He knew it, but knowing didn't change how he felt. Once upon a time, the four of them had been happy. Now they were gone, and he couldn't bring them back. Didn't want it back. But through the dark emotions he felt towards the older three of Weiss was the sharp realization that he'd failed Weiss. Meirth had done this to him, and he hadn't been strong enough to fight it off. The results were permanent. The next time someone brought up Ken and Aya's deaths to his face, he'd laugh at them, just like he had earlier today. He knew he should be crying, but he wasn't interested in the tears. It was confusing, to know what should be and to find it so starkly contrasted against what was.

      "Failed Weiss," he murmured to himself, trying to evoke some sort of grief over it. "Failed Aya. Failed Ken. Failed Yohji." Nothing, when there should be. He smiled instead, and dug the glass deep into his arm. He pushed it in as far as it would go, sucking in a sharp breath against the pain. Before he could think better of it, he tore it up his arm, gouging a line from wrist to elbow. He was gasping for breath when he was done and tears of pain stung his eyes as he studied the blood spilling over his flesh.

      "I killed you, he murmured, letting the glass fall to his lap. Shaking fingers ran over the cut, lightly pulling at torn skin. Blood dripped to the floor and streaked down his arms, staining his shirt as it ran down his skin to soak the mattress. He laid down in bed, tucking his arm up to his chest, and felt the mattress grow warm beneath him. "I killed you, and I don't care."

      He couldn't give them back whatever Meirth had taken from him. But he could give them this.

      "More than you deserve…" he murmured, and let his eyes fall closed.

Part 20
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