2: Rice Gonzales

      Two days later, things started to go wrong.

      Crawford didn't see it coming. None of Schwarz would have noticed that something had changed if Schuldich hadn't reacted so horribly to it. They were finishing up morning work, passing around a report one of Hasagawa's subordinates had sent them as if they were still going to do what the man wanted them to do. They hadn't told him yet that they were cutting his four month contract severely short, figuring it was unimportant and there was no reason to give him a warning. They attended his meetings and talked with him about his goals, but after they went home they worked on slowly worming their way into his little circle of business allies. Hasagawa had no clue what they were doing, completely focused on his own personal ambitions.

      The man returned from taking a call and had a subordinate with him who was carrying bags of take out lunches. Hasagawa picked the chair closest to Schuldich as the food was passed out, but no one took heed of the action until they were finishing up. Hasagawa talked to Schuldich as they ate, discussing this and that about the report, and Schuldich proved that he'd actually read it by keeping up with the conversation. He flicked his teammates a bored mental comment now and then about how much he didn't give a damn about the topic but his outward appearance was competent and his words intelligent.

      Hasagawa was satisfied with the conversation, and he nodded to himself with a pleased smile on his lips. He pushed himself up from his chair with one hand on the table and the other on Schuldich's shoulder, moving towards the door to find someone to collect their dishes. Crawford chose that moment to look up from where he was finishing his lunch and paused at the look on Schuldich's face. The German was staring straight ahead, through Nagi where the younger assassin was seated across from him, his expression perfectly blank. Crawford looked from Schuldich to where Hasagawa stood at the doorway and back again.

      //Schuldich?// he asked.

      The German's blue eyes flicked towards him before Schuldich dropped them back to his unfinished meal. He gave a slight shake of his head, reaching out and pushing the lid of his Styrofoam box closed before moving it off to one side. Crawford might have dismissed the matter as Schuldich just picking up on a very strange thought from their client if the German just went back to what he was doing. But as Hasagawa returned from the doorway, Schuldich pushed himself up from his seat and turned to face him, blue eyes locking with dark ones for a few moments before Schuldich lifted his hand and pointed towards the window.

      "You mind?" he wanted to know, digging his pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and giving them a small shake.

      "Oh, no. Go right ahead," was the response, and the man offered him a smile.

      Schuldich tilted his head to the man and slid past him, crossing the room towards the window. He ignored the fact that he'd just effectively drawn Schwarz's attention to him, not looking back or acknowledging the heavy stares that bored into his back. Hasagawa didn't notice the sudden shift of attention, speaking to the woman who'd come in to clear away the lunch mess. Nagi and Crawford pulled their gazes away from Schuldich as Hasagawa turned back to them, turning their eyes back on the work before he realized that something was off. Farfarello didn't care about Hasagawa; his golden eye was locked on Schuldich. Crawford guessed that he was picking up the threads of something with his gift.

      "Here's what I would like to cover this afternoon…" Hasagawa started, pausing and looking up from his briefcase when Farfarello's chair scratched against the floor. Farfarello didn't look his way but headed across the room to stand beside Schuldich. Hasagawa watched him go with idle curiosity, not over the man's actions but over the man himself. He wasn't quite sure what to make of the Irishman, Schuldich had told them days ago. He varied between fearful respect and hesitant curiosity. Crawford took advantage of Hasagawa's distraction to look towards his teammates, watching as Farfarello stole a cigarette from Schuldich and nibbled idly on it, not bothering to light it.

      Hasagawa considered them a moment longer before turning back to his work, and Crawford tucked thoughts of Schuldich aside to consider later. Whatever the German had caught from Hasagawa was something that bothered him personally; Schuldich had started smoking five years ago but in the last two years had cut back on the mad habit to generally smoking only when he was really unnerved or upset. Crawford wouldn't be able to get anything out of him while he was in this mood, so he would have to wait and approach his teammate later. For now, he would let Farfarello handle him. They only had Hasagawa for two more days but for those two days he was their client and they did what he asked them to.

      Schuldich wandered back to the table fifteen minutes later, following behind Farfarello. The Irishman took Schuldich's earlier seat, giving Schuldich an excuse to take one further away from the Japanese businessman. Schuldich's mask was firmly in place, and he joined in the conversation between Crawford and Hasagawa on his expansion ideas, taking over from Crawford to explain to their client why exactly it couldn't be done the way the man had originally planned. Things seemed normal again until halfway through Schuldich's explanation, when Schuldich started flipping through the papers on the table.

      Schuldich didn't make a habit out of fidgeting, and Crawford started paying attention again. To anyone else, Schuldich was just looking for examples in the papers to use for what he was saying. But Schuldich didn't use references. If he read something, he remembered it, and he didn't have to look it up again. Schuldich could spit back information at the drop of a hat after one reading as long as it wasn't numbers related. But everything he was saying was personnel and company history related, and after a few minutes Crawford realized that Schuldich hadn't looked back at Hasagawa. Blue eyes searched the papers and occasionally flicked towards Crawford, as if for confirmation, but he didn't look back at the businessman again.

      And when he looked at Crawford, the American could see a dull anger curling in the back of his eyes.

      //Get us out of here,// Farfarello said, bleeding off Schuldich's gift to send the message straight at Crawford. Crawford looked his way, meeting a serious yellow eye across the table. Hasagawa didn't notice, completely absorbed in what Schuldich was saying. //He's going to lose it.//

      ~What's wrong with him?~ Crawford wanted to know.

      //He's angry,// was the response after a moment. Sharp blue eyes turned on Farfarello; from experience Crawford knew Schuldich couldn't hear Farfarello's private messages but the German did know when his gift was being leeched on for such a purpose. //We're done here.//

      Crawford decided to believe Farfarello on this and managed to neatly bring an early ending to the meeting less than ten minutes later. There was a rustling of papers around the table as they packed up their things and then Hasagawa walked them to the door, making plans for the next day's business. Nagi wasn't quite sure what was going on; he knew that they were supposed to be here for another hour and a half at least. He didn't question any of them, however, following behind Crawford and their client towards the door. Farfarello came third and Schuldich opted to take the back, hands shoved in his pockets as he wandered after his team.

      They shook hands at the door. Hasagawa started with Crawford and moved down the line and when he made it to Schuldich all eyes were on them. The handshake was firm and two pairs of eyes locked over it. Hasagawa thanked him for his valuable insights during the meeting, oblivious to the way Schuldich's bland expression had frozen on his face. And then he let go, drawing his hand back from Schuldich's, and took a step back to watch them go. Schuldich had been in the back before; now he was right behind Crawford as they headed towards the car. He was the first in, reaching out to catch Crawford's sleeve before sliding past the man into the driver's seat. Crawford accepted this, moving around to the passenger's side, and as soon as the other two were in, Schuldich twisted the key in the ignition and pulled the car out of there.

      The ride back was silent. Schuldich had nothing witty to share with them today, and Crawford tried to remember when the last time was that the German had not been able to come up with a single thing to comment on. It wasn't that Schuldich couldn't think of anything… it was that he wasn't interested in talking to them. His teammates didn't press him, letting him deal with his own thoughts. Crawford was the first inside, Schuldich on his heels, and the moment he stepped into the den the German reached out, snagging him by his collar. His fingers twisted into a fist in the material and he moved up behind the precognitive, close enough that they were touching, and his voice came at Crawford's ear.

      "You keep him from looking at me," Schuldich murmured, and Crawford could hear the threads of anger seeping through his voice. The German was usually good at controlling his temper, swallowing the telltale signs and acting as if nothing bothered him. But he didn't bother hiding this, and it grew sharper as he continued. "You're Schwarz's leader. Don't let him look at me like that, Crawford. You keep him the fuck away from me."

      With that, he let go, taking a step back. Crawford turned, catching him by his wrist before he could vanish down the hall. Schuldich didn't bother to guard his gaze, and Crawford found himself staring into blue eyes that were an unhealthy shade of ice. Behind him, Nagi and Farfarello waited in silence. Crawford had the feeling Schuldich had forgotten they were there. He studied his younger teammate, searching those blue eyes for a moment longer, and then let go of Schuldich's wrist. Schuldich immediately folded his arms over his chest, taking a step back. Nagi had to move to avoid getting his foot stepped on.

      "I'll keep an eye on him," he promised.

      Schuldich's mouth was pulled into a thin line. "Yes," he said simply. "You will." And with that, he turned and vanished down the hall. A few moments later there was the click of his door pulling shut, and Crawford's remaining teammates turned expectant looks on him. They missed what Schuldich had said; he'd spoken his first words too quietly for them to catch. Crawford looked to Farfarello.

      "Bleed his gift for two days," he ordered the European assassin. "Keep an eye on Hasagawa, and stay between them. If he makes one wrong move, you kill him on the spot. We won't be with him for much longer, so I doubt you'll have to act, but keep that in mind."

      Nagi frowned up at Crawford, surprised by such an order. "What did Schuldich get from him?" he demanded, looking from one man to the other.

      "Something old," Farfarello answered, lifting his hand to study it. His mouth pulled into the slightest of frowns before smoothing again. He didn't completely understand what he'd been able to pick up from Schuldich. He could pick up more than he should be able to for one of his ranking from Schuldich, but he didn't always know enough to put the pieces together. He lifted his other hand to trail his fingertips lightly down the back of his hand, tilting his head to one side before turning his hand and running his thumb over his wrist. "Something old and still ugly and unhealed."

      Nagi's eyes were on Farfarello's hands; he barely registered the words. Farfarello had just finished speaking when Nagi reached out, fingers locking around Farfarello's wrist in a death grip. The Irishman turned a gold eye on him, mildly surprised by the hold. Nagi didn't touch Farfarello unless he had to.

      "You kill him," he whispered, eyes bright with a sudden anger. "If he tries anything, you kill him and you make it slow."

      Farfarello blinked, and then made the mental connection. He'd been told a little of what happened five years ago. Not all of it had been explained, both because neither Crawford nor Nagi wanted to go into full detail and because not even they knew everything that had happened, but he'd been given an idea of what the aftermath of Schatten's fight had been like. Crawford saw when Farfarello finally was able to place what he'd gotten from Schuldich; the Irishman's mouth pulled into a deep frown and a yellow eye turned on Crawford for confirmation. Crawford just gave a slight nod and Farfarello looked down at his hands as Nagi drew his fingers back. He rubbed idly at his wrist some more, hands turned so he could study the back of his left one.

      "I will," he said at last.


      Schwarz made it to their final night as Hasagawa's team without incident. Farfarello did as he was told, making himself a neat little interference between the businessman and his telepathic teammate. Hasagawa didn't seem bothered by the Irishman's presence, and Schuldich seemed somewhat strengthened by it, and the two days passed with only small problems. Schuldich's interactions with Hasagawa were flawless, but he would go home and smoke in the den as Schwarz compared notes afterwards. And so it was that their contract with Hasagawa drew to a close, with only one thing standing in between them and their freedom from him. Schuldich and Nagi were the ones on call that day; Farfarello and Crawford had taken the train mid-afternoon to head to Nagoya. There were people there Hasagawa wanted slaughtered and a potential client as well, which was why those two had decided to go. Nagi had asked if it was wise when Crawford made the decision and Schuldich had scoffed at his concern, declaring that one giftless man couldn't do anything against people like them. Nagi had accepted this and they'd dropped their teammates off at the train station before making their way back to Hasagawa's building.

      By the end of the second hour, they were both bored numb and Schuldich wandered down the street to buy them drinks and a pack of cards. Hasagawa wanted them on call that night, as he had a job he wanted them to take care of in town as soon as the paperwork was done. He was in a meeting with their victim now, and it was guessed to take another hour. So Nagi and Schuldich played cards and swapped insults to pass the time, waiting with growing impatience for the two men to finish their business so they could kill the one and go home. Schuldich had suggested to Crawford earlier that they kill Hasagawa off as well, but the American's response had been that they couldn't do such a thing yet. Their potential clients would get skittish if Hasagawa were to turn up dead. He did promise that Schwarz would make a loop back and kill him when it was possible, however, and it was enough to keep the German satisfied.

      He took the last swing of his drink and set the empty bottle aside, reaching for his cigarettes for a lack of anything better to do. Nagi looked up from his hand at the movement, frowning when he saw what Schuldich was doing. He didn't comment, but Schuldich reached out with his gift to hear Nagi's disapproving thoughts. He didn't find anything worth responding to until he caught the half-wistful ~Wish things had never changed…~

      "If wishes were fishes…" Schuldich offered up, blowing a small cloud of smoke at his younger teammate. Nagi looked up, an almost guilty tinge to his thoughts when he realized that Schuldich had caught his thoughts. Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him, jabbing his cigarette at the younger man's cards before propping it between his teeth. "Now are you going to move or am I going to die here waiting on you?" he asked around it.

      "Mm," was all Nagi said in response, flicking a critical eye over his hand before setting some down. Schuldich's return move was immediate and Nagi offered his teammate a small frown. "You aren't supposed to be reading my mind when we play cards, Schuldich. It's cheating."

      "So?" Schuldich wanted to know, moving his cigarette to flick ash into the ash tray. It crumpled in his fingers with just a stray thought on Nagi's part and the pack went sliding down the table so Schuldich would have to get up to get another one. The telepath turned a scowl on the telekinetic, who sent him an unrepentant look before considering his cards again. "Cut the shit."

      "It's a bad habit."

      "My lungs aren't the reason you want me to stop," Schuldich pointed out. Nagi didn't deny it, and two shades of blue locked across the table. Schuldich wasn't waiting for a response. Just a moment later he stood up, wandering down to snatch his pack back up and shake another one out. He knew why it bothered Nagi; they'd been arguing over it since he'd started five years ago. Nagi was the only teammate that still kept up the fight. The youngest Schwarz knew why he'd begun; he and Crawford both knew. That didn't stop Nagi from disliking it. But Nagi's opinion of it wasn't enough reason for Schuldich to stop. "My body. I'll do to it what I want."

      Nagi opened his mouth to respond but it went unheard as an alarm went off. Both heads turned to where a light was flashing near the ceiling, listening to the shriek of the alarm for a few moments before deciding to react to it. Schuldich tilted his head to one side, sending out a mental query. A smirk curled his lips at what he found and he chucked his cards carelessly to one side, pushing himself up off the couch. The alarm shut off with a push from Nagi's gift, saving them from having to listen to the annoying wail, and Schuldich led the way out of the room. He headed down the hall to the stairwell and gestured down.

      "Lots of the buggers," he said over his shoulder as he crossed the landing to start upwards. "There are about thirty on the first floor and ten on the sixth. Time to play exterminator with the cockroaches, Nagi."

      Nagi accepted this with a nod and Schuldich started up the stairs with quick steps. He drew his gun from his shoulder strap, checking the barrel. This wouldn't keep them entertained for long but it was a few steps higher than playing cards on the list of Fun Things to Do so he had no complaints. A check towards Hasagawa showed the man was safe; it must have been someone on the first floor that activated the alarm. The businessman was in his office like he was supposed to be, knowing that Schwarz would come to him in a situation like this. Schuldich abandoned him for the moment, sifting through the hum his gift picked up from the sixth floor and focusing on each mind briefly to place the intruders.

      He didn't bother sneaking around, didn't bother being quiet. If his boots in the corridor didn't alert the invading men, his gun without a silencer did, and he didn't have to hunt half of them down because they came to him instead. He stood among the dead bodies, surveying them with a bored eye, and reflected that the fun was over all too quickly. He checked his gun, saw that he'd used all of his bullets, and returned it to its holster. With a sigh and a shrug he used his shoe to shove one of the bodies out of his way, starting towards Hasagawa's office to let him know that everyone was dead. He didn't need to check with Nagi to make sure of that; the boy had probably already mopped the floor with everyone down there. Handy little gift, telekinesis, and Nagi had the highest ranked gift on their team.

      He opted not to knock, twisting the knob to Hasagawa's office and pushing it open to lean in. Hasagawa looked up from where he was sitting at his desk at the entrance. "They're dead," he said simply. "I'm going back downstairs."

      ~Schuldich, *RUN*!~

      Nagi's voice hit him unexpectedly, twisted with a sharp sort of terror, and Schuldich's hand flew up to his temple at the pain it brought. He forgot about Hasagawa, bewildered blue eyes staring straight ahead without seeing anything as he reached back towards Nagi. //Nagi, what the hell-//

      But Nagi's mind was gone; he felt it abruptly drop out.

      "Is something wrong?" Hasagawa inquired.

      Hasagawa's guest was still with him. The high backed chair was facing the businessman's desk so that whoever it was could not be seen by the door. At their client's question, however, the chair spun lazily around so the man could get a look at who was by the door. Schuldich glanced that way, more out of instinct than any interest as to who was there, his mouth open as he prepared to excuse himself from Hasagawa and find Nagi.

      The words died on his tongue. His mouth moved soundlessly and then shut with a clack of his teeth. His fingers tightened on the doorknob and he straightened slowly, blue eyes staring at the one seated across the room in stunned silence.

      The man Hasagawa was entertaining had an exotic look about him. He was from Spain and had richly colored skin. His eyes were dark but his hair had been bleached mostly yellow, with an inch or two of dark roots still showing. He was dressed in a simple blue sleeveless shirt with a jacket pulled over top. Tight jeans hugged slender legs that were crossed at the knees, and slightly worn tennis shoes adorned his feet. The left hand had two rings, the right, just one, and a gold chain hung from his neck.

      The only thing new about him was his hair color.

      "Hello, Mastermind." The greeting came in English, simply because the other man had always had trouble with German.

      Schuldich did the only thing he could think of in a situation like this, even though he knew it was doomed to fail before he moved. He threw himself backwards, back out of the office, ready to use his speed and get the hell away from this office and that man. He'd only made it six feet when a tight, invisible grip grabbed hold of him and yanked him back. It released him when he was inside but he was going too fast to catch himself, and he ended up losing his balance and falling to his knees right in front of the other Talent's chair. The older man uncrossed his legs, reaching forward to cup a dark hand to Schuldich's skin. There had always been a contrast there; now, with the blood drained from Schuldich's face, it was even more obvious.

      "You don't look very happy to see me."

      "…Rice…" Schuldich managed to get out.

      Rice Gonzalez, twenty-five years old. He was ranked by Rosenkreuz as a step above Nagi. They'd been in Rosenkreuz together but neither had meant much to the other until after they'd both graduated. Five years ago they'd made a lasting, unpleasant impression on each other.

      After all, Rice had been Schatten's telekinetic.

      "What are you doing here?" Schuldich wanted to know, swatting the other man's hand away and rising to his feet.

      "You're not any less rude than you were five years ago," Rice decided, perching his elbow on the arm of the chair and resting his cheek against a loose fist. "Where's the hello? Jumping straight to business… I thought you were the one that always played around."

      "I said, what the fuck are you doing here?" Schuldich demanded, voice tight. This was impossible. This couldn't be happening. Where one of Schatten was, the rest of the team was, but Rosenkreuz had forbidden them from coming anywhere near Schwarz again. Rice couldn't be here without disobeying that direct order from Rosenkreuz, and he wouldn't be here if he thought he couldn't get away with it. Schatten could get away with almost anything, however, as Schwarz had discovered five years ago. All it took was a brown haired boy with blood red eyes.

      Rice's power hit him without warning, a solid crush against his chest that sent him flying across the room. He hit the wall shoulders first and head second, skull cracking hard enough that his vision blinked black for a moment. He took a stumbling step forward, one hand straying behind him for balance, blue eyes wary as Rice got to his feet. The other Talent started towards him with lazy strides, dark eyes hooded. "Just wanted to check up on you, see how you were doing these days," he murmured. "Aren't you grateful for my concern?"

      Actions spoke louder than words, so Schuldich spat in his face. He found himself crumpled on the floor ten feet to Rice's left in the blink of an eye, gasping for breath even as every inhale felt like it was tearing his lungs in half. Rice started towards him again and Schuldich gathered up his power, sending it in a solid strike at the other's mind. It sent a dull throb of protest down his spine, as his gift wasn't meant to be used in such a way. He ignored the pain, pushing himself up on his arms as Rice staggered back under the mental punch. The telekinetic swore, a harsh Spanish expletive, one hand flying up to his forehead. Schuldich sneered at him when narrowed dark eyes turned on him. The other Talent was going to have a bitch of a headache for days.

      The power hit him straight on and a strangled sound escaped him as he was crushed between Rice's gift and the floor. Fingers dug into the ground as his breath was squeezed from his lungs- it felt like every bone in his body was going to break. Rice made his way over towards him, crouching beside him with one hand still resting on his temple.

      "You smell like nicotine," the telekinetic observed. "When did you start smoking?"

      Schuldich's mouth moved soundlessly as he fought to draw in air, but he couldn't get a breath in. A moment later Rice let go, and Schuldich sucked in air greedily, blinking back the black sparkles that danced in front of his vision. "You aren't allowed to be here," he managed to get out, words ragged as he struggled to sit up. Moving hurt but he forced himself up anyway. "Rosenkreuz-"

      A dark hand tangled in Schuldich's hair, giving the orange locks a savage yank to tilt Schuldich's head back. A lazy smile pulled at Rice's lips. "Meirth doesn't care about Rosenkreuz," he said simply, smile widening at the way Schuldich flinched at the name. "All he cares about is getting to you." Schuldich fought to keep his expression schooled, blue eyes searching Rice's gaze as he continued. "We're free of our chains. Meirth sent me as the messenger to let you know that we're here and no one can stop us this time."

      ~This isn't happening… This can't be happening…~ Schuldich cast his power out, searching for Nagi. The boy was still out; someone had gotten to him. He reached for his other teammates next, bypassing Crawford to go straight to Farfarello. Crawford was too far away for Schuldich to get a hold of, but it was very, very rare for Farfarello to not hear him when he called. The Irishman couldn't reach Schuldich's gift or use the overstretched bond to respond, but he would hear. //Farfarello,// he sent out. //Farfarello, drop what you're doing and get *back* here. Get back here, *NOW*.//

      "So…" Rice lowered his hand from Schuldich's hair to his shoulder, and a violent hit of his gift had Schuldich sprawling on his back. He thought he tasted blood but he wasn't quite sure. His head hurt where it had cracked roughly against the hard wood floor and he stared up at the ceiling for a few moments, a little dazed. There was the soft scrape of wood and Schuldich managed to turn his head to watch as Hasagawa approached them. "This is a little gift," Rice said, "from Meirth to you. A little reminder of what it's like, a friendly little way to start off these games. Something for you to think about."

      With that, he rose to his feet in a lithe movement and took a few steps back. Hasagawa moved to where he had just been, crouching beside Schuldich. Dark eyes were bright with greed, sharp with hunger, and the smile that curved his lips was predatory and eager. Schuldich felt his stomach twist at the expression and he looked from Hasagawa to Rice. The telekinetic offered him a thin smile, a mocking wave, and started towards the door.

      He was leaving them alone.

      Schuldich shoved himself quickly up off the floor- or rather, tried to. He gave his body the mental command to move but it refused, and he realized the other Talent still had a hold on him. He tried again, but his struggles froze for all of a moment when a hot hand touched his face. Blue eyes flew back to Hasagawa's face and then to where Rice had paused at the doorway to look back. He snarled something vicious in German, trying valiantly to fight back as Hasagawa used his wrists to move his arms out of the way. He couldn't fight the man; he had to just lay there and let the man move him as he liked. As soon as Hasagawa had guided them where he wanted them, Rice's grip readjusted and Schuldich's hands were practically crushed against the floor.

      And then Rice was gone, with just the soft scuff of a shoe to betray his exit.

      //You fuck,// Schuldich shot at his mind, fueling the words with as much anger and hatred as he could so the panic wouldn't bleed through. //You sick twisted psychedelic fuck, when I get my hands on you you're going to be in so many fucking pieces that no one's going to be able to tell who you used to be.//

      ~Why don't you stop bothering me and just enjoy the experience?~ was the careless answer. ~Sit back and relax.~

      //Fuck you.//

      ~I'll form a line.~

      Schuldich was forced to cut off the conversation there. Hasagawa had shifted, sliding a leg between Schuldich's, mouth moving across the German's jaw. Fingers pushed his shirt up, nails clawing at the flesh there, making Schuldich's skin crawl. It took everything Schuldich had to keep his expression from giving away how close to panicking he was; only sheer desperation kept his breathing calm.

      ~Not again. Not this, not again.~

      //Nagi,// he tried frantically, but he couldn't get the boy's mind to stir. //Nagi. Nagi. God damn it, *Nagi*!//

      Hasagawa was talking to him, voice clouded by lust, words a sick mumble. Schuldich couldn't understand him; he didn't try. He could barely hear over his own heartbeat, over the voice of a raven haired, gold eyed bastard who had taken everything away from him. He tried to keep his eyes open but lost the battle and they slid shut as fingers yanked at his pants. He fought Rice's hold valiantly- if he could just get a hand free, just one…

      ~No… NO. I won't let this happen again. I can't let this happen again. You can't have this.~

      He shoved his gift forward, wrenching it for a second time to slam it up against Hasagawa's mind. The man swore, rocking backwards and clapping both hands to his face at the screaming pain ricocheting around his skull. Schuldich found the strength to sneer at him from somewhere, and Hasagawa turned a slit eyed look on him. "Don't fuck with me," he breathed, tangling his fingers briefly in his dark hair before reaching for Schuldich again. He yanked at the German's pants roughly and Schuldich tried to pull together his bruised gift for another attack.

      //Nagi-// he tried, then //Farfarello--// because he didn't know what else to do.

      ~Somebody stop him. Somebody. Anybody.~ His shirt was hitched up under his armpits and a hot mouth and wet tongue trailed over exposed skin as Hasagawa quickly undid his own pants. A grubby, calloused hand grabbed him between his legs and squeezed and Schuldich nearly tore his lip open to keep from even gasping at the sharp pain. Hasagawa laughed against his chest, apparently amused by it. Hands grabbed at his legs, fingers digging cruelly into his thighs, and the businessman lifted one of Schuldich's legs, hooking it over his shoulder.

      "Look at me," he breathed.

      ~Anyone…~ Schuldich cast his gift outwards, blue eyes sliding open against his will to lock with Hasagawa's hungry stare. The older man murmured something that sounded like approval and leaned down, covering Schuldich's mouth with his own. His gift found an open mind and he knew he should recognize it, but at the moment he couldn't concentrate enough on it to place it. He had just touched it, shoving his gift forward against the other, when Hasagawa thrust into him.

      It was a savage thrust, and Schuldich gasped into his mouth, fingernails tearing his palms open with the effort to keep from making a sound. Pain washed out coherent thought and he gave up on controlling his breaths as Hasagawa drove into him, each time harder than the last. He could feel something tearing, something physical and something old.

      Five years. Five years of putting himself back together again and now it was back to this.

      He was going to lose it. He could feel his control slipping as teeth bit his throat and shoulders, as fingernails took off layers of skin, as he was nearly split in two by thrusts that were too strong, too hard. He couldn't breathe; his lungs had frozen in his chest.

      //Not again—//

      Something sharp slapped across his senses and he jerked at the hit, one hand flying to Hasagawa's shoulder as it cut deeply through his mind.

      They froze. Hasagawa stared down at him and Schuldich stared at the hand that had moved. It took him all of a second to realize Rice's hold had dropped and less than that to act, his free hand flying up to crack into the businessman's face. Hasagawa cursed floridly, catching Schuldich by the throat and digging his fingers in until the German choked. His free hand caught one of Schuldich's wrists, twisting violently. Schuldich knew it was just a breath away from being broken, knew that it was going to break if he fought, but he didn't care right now. He brought together the remains of his abused gift, ignoring the pain in his skull, and threw everything he had forward. The world gave a violent spin around him and he felt his stomach give a threatening lurch, but it was enough. Hasagawa straightened, hands loosening on Schuldich, and Schuldich ignored the world that was spinning crazily around him. He pushed himself up, throwing his weight behind a punch straight into Hasagawa's throat.

      The man made a sick sound that Schuldich would treasure the rest of his life, eyes bugging out. Schuldich twisted, freeing his leg and using it to push Hasagawa away. The man sagged to his back on the floor, making gurgled gasps for air, and Schuldich threw himself forward, fists driving into Hasagawa's chest with every intent of shattering his entire ribcage. He didn't stop for rational thought; he wanted this man dead and he wanted it now. Hasagawa started coughing blood and then there were two hands on Schuldich's shoulders, pulling him backwards.

      "He's dead," came a voice at his ear. "He's dead, he's dead."

      He fought against the one holding him, struggling violently. He was speaking without knowing he was, ragged German spilling from his lips as fast as it could come. At last he managed to hit the one behind him hard enough that he was released and he struggled to get to his feet. Moving was a mistake; the world spun around him in a dizzying rush of colors and blurred shapes, and he was only halfway up when he fell again.

      He was only dimly aware of falling backwards against someone, collapsing into waiting arms.


      To say Yohji was freaked out would be a major understatement.

      He scrambled to catch the German as he collapsed, stopping him before he could hit the floor again. The other man's weight sent him back to his knees from the half crouch he'd quickly risen into, and he stared down at the unconscious man that rested against his chest. Schuldich's hair was a wild mess around his face, spilling everywhere. His face was pale and Yohji could see the faint edges of colored patches that would be bruises later. His breathing was thin and uneven and one hand had fallen palm up off to the side, showing little drops of blood where fingernails had broken the skin and bit deep.

      "Jesus…" he whispered, keeping his eyes on Schuldich's face because he didn't think he could stomach looking anywhere else.

      This was supposed to be a simple job. This was supposed to be an easy in and out assassination. It had been easy, but Yohji had the feeling the images left over from this job were going to haunt him for a while. He'd broken in easily enough and had known immediately that something was wrong, because the first sound that greeted his ears had been the sound of conflict. He'd picked his way that direction and found the youngest of Schwarz completely destroying a large pack of men. Blood, screams, and the sound of cracked bones had filled the air as he worked his way back, hitting the first row hard enough to kill them immediately and letting the aftershock ripple through the rest. Yohji had watched, fascinated despite himself, impressed by the sheer power the boy wielded. Nagi's expression had been bored, uninterested in his targets. Yohji hadn't been overly thrilled to see Schwarz there but he'd been warned that rumors were that Hasagawa was using the black unit.

      He hadn't actually thought he'd be able to one-up the child. Nagi had gone over to the mass of bodies, wanting to check something out on their uniforms. Yohji had taken the opportunity, choosing to take the risk rather than just sneak away while the going was good. Silent footsteps had brought him up quickly behind the boy and when Nagi had sprang to his feet with a strangled sound, he had leapt right into range. A well aimed blow and he was down and out for the count. The youth hadn't even seen him coming.

      Yohji had spared a moment to feel proud of himself, a well-earned moment in his opinion. He'd done what none of them had been able to do and taken out one of Schwarz. A few seconds were spared for gloating and then he'd started upwards, searching for Hasagawa's office and moving cautiously in case Schwarz's telepath was around and had picked up on Nagi's unconscious state. He'd made it to the sixth floor when something had hit him. He'd felt Schuldich's mind touch his, that familiar press against his thoughts, and he'd prepared himself to deal with the telepath. He'd expected a taunt, some mocking words, perhaps.

      He hadn't been at all prepared for what came from the telepath. In place of words had come a strangled, agonized sound and it had been very loud, crashing against his thoughts with an almost physical pain. He hadn't been sure what to make of it but had pressed on, albeit a bit more cautiously. Footsteps had warned him someone was coming and he ducked into the nearest room. As soon as the other person had passed the door, Yohji had leapt out with his wire. One violent tug had been enough to cut through half of the man's throat, promising an almost immediate death. The second his wire had bit through skin he'd been hit by a power much like the one Schwarz's youngest wielded, and it had been a strong enough punch that he'd gone flying down the hall. He considered himself extremely lucky that he hadn't broken anything, though it had taken two tries to get back to his feet. Two telekinetics down in one day; Yohji had congratulated himself heartily and hurried on.

      His good mood died the moment he found Hasagawa's office, the moment he heard ragged curses and stepped into the doorway to spot the two struggling with each other on the floor.

      Jesus Christ, what he'd walked in on…

      "Shit," he whispered, lifting a shaking hand to rake his bangs out of his face. Schuldich made a small noise, mouth pulling into a thin line before relaxing again, and Yohji slowly lowered him back to the ground. He was as careful as he could be pulling the German's pants back up, and he rose to his feet slowly to stare down at the telepath.

      "Shit," he said again, looking around quickly. How was he supposed to react to such a thing? The nausea he felt went past his stomach, curling much deeper inside. Green eyes flicked to the fallen businessman and he lost it, lashing out and driving a kick into the dead man's side. "Mother fucker," he breathed, voice shaking with a deep horror.

      No one, no one deserved that to happen to them. Not even Schwarz.

      Schuldich made another sound and Yohji looked over his shoulder at him. The German's attackers were dead. The youngest Schwarz would wake up soon. Yohji should leave him here for his teammate to find; he would be safe here. He should just leave him here and walk out, and go home and drink until he burned that mental picture away. He should leave him there because they were enemies and he doubted Schuldich wanted him anywhere around when he woke up again.

      He should leave him there.

      But he didn't think he could just walk away, so he shoved aside his common sense and reservations on the matter. It was a bit of work to get Schuldich back off the floor but he managed to get an arm around his shoulders and his other under his knees, and he carried the other man away. He expected Schuldich to wake up as he was moved around, but between being placed in the car and being taken back out, he never stirred, and Yohji managed to get the German to his apartment without bumping into anyone he knew.

      Later he would wonder why he took Schuldich home instead of to a hospital.

      If he'd done otherwise, perhaps things would have turned out much differently for him.

Part 3
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