21: Ende

      Yohji had been doing his best to ignore Farfarello- not because he wanted to, but because of the gleam in the Irishman's eye the one time they were in the same room. That was when he'd gone to fetch the water pitcher, and Farfarello had been sitting at the kitchen table. The look the younger assassin had turned on him promised him a lot of pain as soon as Crawford saw it fit to drop the 'Don't hurt the Kudou' rule. Although Yohji remembered muttering something to Schuldich in the garage about how it wouldn't be so terrible to die, his way of choice definitely didn't run parallel to Farfarello's. He'd pretty much insured that Farfarello wouldn't let him get away when he'd offered the teenager a brilliant smile that had a smug overtone to it. Farfarello had started to get up from his seat and Yohji had grabbed the pitcher and beat a hasty retreat back to Schuldich's bedroom.

      Schuldich had left at half past six to meet Crawford. It was after ten now, and neither of the men were back. That was what drove Yohji from Schuldich's bedroom a second time, and he padded down the hall to look for Farfarello. He found the younger man in the den, kneeling in front of the small table. He was idly pushing his knife around the surface but wasn't looking at it; instead, he gaze was fixed on the far wall. Yohji considered the dangers of approaching Farfarello when he had a weapon at hand but stepped into the doorway anyway.

      This was almost over. This fight was drawing to a close. He had to force back his grief for now, for just a little while. Schwarz had brought him here thinking he would be some help, and Crawford kept him alive because he trusted Yohji to prove useful. Yohji just wanted this fight to go well. He wanted to think that he could do something right before Schwarz let him die. In a short time, they'd kill him to cut the last of their loose strings and if there was an afterlife, his team would be waiting for him. Until then… He choked against the thought before approaching the table, going to kneel opposite Farfarello.

      He didn't owe Schwarz anything. Nagi wasn't bad; Yohji didn't mind him. He had a serious grudge with Crawford. Farfarello was just Farfarello, a source of both caution and amusement based on his tangled little dance with Schuldich. Yohji had heavily disliked him until he figured out the relationship between the two, and after that, Farfarello was just another interesting study. But Schuldich…?

      Schuldich… had stayed.

      "Why aren't they home yet?" he asked. Farfarello lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug, not bothering to look back at Yohji. Yohji considered this for a few moments, then asked, "Where did they go?" Still nothing. Yohji sat in silence for a few minutes, studying Farfarello as Farfarello studied the far wall. The Irishman was content to ignore Yohji, but Yohji wasn't interested in being ignored. He pulled himself up onto the table, on his hands and knees on it as he leaned over the Irishman.

      ~Kind of fun to taunt the devil,~ he mused. ~Not caring if you die takes the fear right out of it and makes it a game.~

      Farfarello flicked him a cool look and gathered his knife, starting to rise from his spot to go elsewhere. Yohji watched him with a smile on his face. "He tasted good," he offered up, and Farfarello froze in a half crouch to just stare at him. It took a few moments for it to register in the Irishman's brain that yes, Yohji had indeed just said such a thing to him, and then Yohji found himself thrown backwards off the table. The breath was knocked from his lungs on impact as Farfarello forced him onto his back. The teenager came over the table with him and now had him pinned to the floor, fingers curled around Yohji's wrists tight enough that just a little more pressure could do some serious damage. His gold eye was glittering with violence and Yohji could read the tension in his frame that said he was just barely holding himself in check from tearing Yohji's throat open.

      Yohji smiled at him. He was feeling reckless tonight. Maybe he was still drunk from this morning. Who knew? There was a certain thrill in taunting a man who could turn him into a blood smear against the floor in seconds flat. "Don't worry," he told the younger man, content to lie where he had fallen. He let Farfarello see the amusement in his eyes and allowed it to color his words. "It's just a little while longer until you get to kill me, and I'll be out of your way for good."

      "Why?" Farfarello demanded.

      "Why him?" Yohji asked. "Ahh, Farfarello, are you jealous? Sorry, love. I'll stay faithful from now on."

      Farfarello turned a look on him that could have melted concrete and shoved off of him, turning to snatch up his knife. Yohji pushed himself up, grinning at Farfarello's back. "So where did they go?" he wanted to know.

      "Would you rather die sooner than later?" Farfarello asked.

      "I'm just making sure I keep you interested," Yohji returned easily, and Farfarello turned on him- presumably to tell him that wouldn't a problem. He had to tilt back as he turned because Yohji had moved so close to him, but whatever the Irishman had to say was forgotten. His mouth opened but he said nothing, and Yohji watched as the teenager went still. Farfarello's expression went perfectly blank and his gold eye stared through the man in front of him. Yohji blinked, curious at the change in Farfarello, and then a phone started ringing. With one last look towards Farfarello, who made no indication that he even heard it, Yohji pushed himself up from his spot and went to find it.

      The house phone was in the kitchen, and he lifted the receiver, hoping for a familiar voice on the other end of the line. "Hello?"

      "Kudou." It was Crawford. "You and Farfarello are to come meet me. I'm parked at in the Jusco parking garage, fifth level. Bring your watch and gun, and have Farfarello come heavily armed."

      Yohji was alarmed. His mouth was open to ask if something had happened when a knife buried itself in the cabinet right beside his face. He leapt back so fast he slipped and fell, and wide green eyes turned on the Irishman. Farfarello had thrown the blade from the doorway and was now stalking towards him, murder in his gaze. "Jesus *Christ*, Farfarello!"

      "Get moving," Crawford said, and there was a click as he hung up.

      Farfarello reached Yohji at that moment and ripped the phone away, almost taking fingers with him, and he held it to his ear. When he realized Crawford was gone, he slammed it back down onto his stand and grabbed the collar of Yohji's shirt to haul him to his feet. Yohji choked as the collar dug into his throat and he was pulled up too fast to balance. He went stumbling into Farfarello and grabbed at the other man for balance. He regained his footing quickly and stepped back to stare at Farfarello's face, hands still curled around the Irishman's arms.

      In that moment, he realized he had never seen Farfarello truly pissed before. He was looking at it now, and it chilled him to the bone. His breath stuck in his lungs as he watched Farfarello pull his knife from the cabinet with a brutal wrench. Farfarello turned to go then and Yohji caught his elbow, yanking the other man around to face him. His other hand caught Farfarello's face, palm against his cheek, to keep Farfarello from turning away. Farfarello was staring through him at something only he could see, his mouth pulled so tight his lips were bloodless. There was a light tremor running down his frame that Yohji attributed to fury, and his knuckles were white where they held onto his knife.

      "What happened?" he demanded, giving Farfarello's elbow a small squeeze to try and get the man to focus on him. "What happened?"

      "Schuldich went to Meirth," Farfarello said, anger making the words sharp.

      Yohji didn't remember moving, but Farfarello was suddenly slammed back against the refrigerator. Farfarello bared his teeth at the taller man in a silent snarl but Yohji didn't notice; the hand that had been on Farfarello's face was around his throat. "You're lying."

      Farfarello shoved him away and stalked from the room, and Yohji hurried after him. Farfarello threw his door open with such a force that Yohji knew the door knob would leave a dent in the wall. The teenager yanked open the drawer of his dresser and grabbed up everything in sight. Yohji swore viciously and snatched up his own weapons from on top of his suitcase. "Crawford was with him," he said. "How the hell did that happen?"

      The look on Farfarello's face when the teenager turned from his dresser said that he didn't know, but that he was going to have *words* with Crawford when they found the American. Words that involved blood and knives, if he had a say in it. They were down the hall quickly, Yohji on Farfarello's heels, and Yohji grabbed the keys because Farfarello's arms were full of weapons. He didn't stop to lock the door; he barely slowed long enough to slam it shut. "I'm driving," he told Farfarello. "I know where. You get that shit on."

      He opened Farfarello's door first and went around to the driver's side, shoving the key in the ignition almost hard enough to snap it. His own weapons were set between the chairs for safe keeping and metal hissed against metal as Farfarello began strapping on his knives where he could get to them. "Buckle," Yohji warned him, pulling out of the parking space. Farfarello ignored him until Yohji floored it. That was when the Irishman decided it wouldn't be good to be sent out of his seat on a turn when he still had a lapful of knives. Yohji didn't bother with his own belt, as he was too busy driving. There were traffic laws for a reason but tonight Yohji practiced selective memory and forgot them. The trip to the department store Crawford had picked passed in a blur of color, lights, and screaming horns. There were a few shrieks from pedestrians but he was pretty sure he didn't hit anyone.

      Farfarello was out of the car before it was stopped, going for Crawford's throat. Yohji threw the car into park and hurried out after him, not caring that he was stopped in the middle of the parking garage. He caught up with Farfarello as the Sensitive came to a stop in front of Schwarz's eldest, and was mildly relieved that Farfarello left his knives in their many sheathes. Yohji was pissed at Crawford at the moment, but he hoped there was a reasonable explanation for all this. The Irishman stood rigid in front of Crawford, face carved from stone. Crawford's own expression was guarded and he looked from one to the other. He explained Schuldich's plan quickly, and the clipped edge of his words told Yohji that the precognitive was tense. He couldn't read it on Crawford's face, but he could hear in his voice as Crawford explained that the precognitive disapproved of Schuldich's wild idea. He explained about Nagi and Einsam, and the younger two heard him out.

      Farfarello lifted his hand to his face when Crawford was finished, running his fingers across his lips with a shaking hand. "You let him *go*," the Irishman said, and it came out a ragged whisper. Even so soft, Yohji could hear the twist of hate and anger in it.

      "Why didn't you hear him planning this?" Yohji demanded of Farfarello, and the Sensitive through an acid look his way.

      "We kept it out of Farfarello's range," Crawford answered. "Schuldich knew he would disapprove, so we went to argue it where Farfarello couldn't hear. Until I moved here, he was stripped of his precognition, and until we get much closer to Meirth's house, he has no telepathy either. Schuldich kept it from you because he believes it will work and he was willing to take a chance on it. He chose to go back into that house and try, and he knew the consequences."

      "Is he all right?" Yohji wanted to know, whirling on Crawford. The American didn't answer.

      "Get in the car," Farfarello snarled, pushing at Yohji. "Get in the car."

      They hurried back towards the second vehicle, Crawford moving with them. Farfarello took the back seat and sat still and silent as a stone, a black look on his face as he stared out the window. Crawford was passenger, to Yohji's mild surprise. He was careful driving until after he'd turned in his change for the time at the booth, and then he pulled out into traffic and floored it. Crawford told him how to get there and then fell quiet, letting Yohji concentrate on driving. Horns blared as he cut through traffic, weaving through the intersections regardless of the color of the traffic light. He remembered his teammates teasing him, saying they never wanted to be in the car with him when he was driving.

      "Reckless?" he'd asked, laughing at their playful accusations. "You haven't *seen* reckless."

      This… This was reckless. He didn't know everything Meirth had done to Schuldich in the past but he didn't need to know. He'd had over a week of observations, watching Schuldich struggle to keep his mental footing and thinking of Nagi's mentions of Schwarz's history with Schatten. Watching Farfarello react to this just made it a hundred times worse, because he'd never seen Farfarello like this. It closed the gap between driving crazy for the hell of it and driving insanely out of sheer desperation to get there in time. He wasn't altogether surprised to hear sirens but he didn't bother slowing, forcing the car faster down the streets.

      "You've got to be the worst driver I've ever seen," Crawford commented as the car just barely avoided a crash, zipping through the gaps between two cars as he ran a red light.

      "Then why did you let me drive?" Yohji bit out, not really caring what Crawford thought of his driving skills. He chanced a glance at his rearview mirror, counting the flashing lights, and focused on traffic again.

      "I knew you wouldn't crash us," was the answer.

      "Then shut up," Yohji sent back.

      He took the exit down from the main street and zipped down the road. Crawford was pointing out the turn and he took it too fast. Tires squealed and the car slid but he didn't slow, ignoring the fact that he'd just left gouges in someone's yard as he made for Schatten's subdivision. Crawford told him to stop and he did, bringing the car to a halt a few streets down from the subdivision entrance. Crawford said something about not wanting the shooters to have sitting ducks and then the three were flying from their car, leaving the doors open and the keys behind. Yohji stopped just long enough to grab his weapons and then they went racing down the street. Behind them, the police cars came screaming after them.

      Yohji saw someone step out into the middle of the street perhaps a hundred feet down, and there was the sound of a small explosion and a crackle of white light around him. The asphalt rippled under the force of the push and Yohji swore, but Crawford caught his arm so he kept running towards it. Whatever it was, it didn't hit the three of them. He looked back just in time to see it reach the police cars that had been following them, and all eight of them when flying into the air and exploded in great balls of fire. Then Crawford yanked Yohji between the two closest houses before Nagi could turn his attention on the three on foot.

      "Twenty-two guards," Crawford said as the three moved along the fences, and he told them where the men had last been guarding.

      "I hear them," Farfarello said, narrowed gold eye sweeping across the darkness. "They're in the same areas, but shifting a little."

      The three split up then, separating to work different paths through the subdivision. Farfarello would have the easiest time of it with his borrowed telepathy and Yohji watched him disappear into the shadows. He pulled his wire tight, a grimace tugging at his mouth. Worse than the shooters hiding out here were Schatten and Nagi, and he wasn't looking forward to bumping into any of the three. He kept his guard up as he moved, slowly working his way closer to Meirth's house. Closer to Schuldich.

      ~Please be all right…~


      It didn't take Einsam all that long to double back to the house. He waited until Meirth found Farfarello before moving, so the empath wouldn't be able to track his movements by his aura. Meirth had chosen to square off with the Sensitive because Farfarello was the one with the highest chance of making it to the house. Now that he was within range of Schuldich, he could hear everyone and track them accordingly- everyone save for Meirth. Einsam thought it a small pity that he couldn't watch the fight, for he was sure it would have been interesting, but he took his chance and raced back down the yards towards their house. He fell four times because he kept forgetting what he was doing. His mind wandered off and his body would pause to listen, and he'd miss a step and fall.

      By the time he pushed open the door to their house, his knees were muddy and sore. He kicked his shoes off at the door and ran down the hall, flying up the stairs to Meirth's bedroom. He pushed it open and went to stand beside the bed, staring down at the form that was stretched out there. He didn't have to look to know what had happened. He'd seen it all already in his mind when he sacrificed Nuboshi for this. Long fingers pulled his hair out of his face as he looked anyway.

      Schuldich was asleep, face pale and tense even as he rested. He was tangled in the sheets but wearing nothing. Red lines from fingernails ran down his skin where Meirth had dug deep enough to draw blood. Blood and bite marks lined the German's body, and a small smile pulled at Einsam's lips. What he was looking at was nothing. It was what Meirth had done with his gift that made the scene so terrible. Physical pain was nothing compared to an empath's power, and Meirth had been waiting to have the German back within his grasp for five years. Einsam laughed quietly to himself, reaching out to brush Schuldich's hair out of his face with gentle fingers.

      "I gave him what he wanted," he murmured. "Now I'll give you what you want."

      He had been the one to call Crawford. If Schwarz waited on Schuldich to wake up, they'd lose their chance. Meirth had knocked Schuldich deep, so Einsam had called Crawford and talked him into coming here. He justified it by the fact that he'd come straight to this bedroom after hanging up, waking Meirth up from his satisfied sleep to tell him Schwarz was coming for their telepath. Meirth had left Schuldich behind, bringing Nagi back downstairs. A few more touches from his gift and Schatten was ready to meet their challengers. Meirth didn't really care for the outcome of the battle, now that he'd had Schuldich.

      That was the loophole Einsam had latched onto, and he refused to let go. Meirth wanted Schuldich. Einsam had given him Schuldich. Meirth had said all along that once he had the German, he wouldn't care if Rosenkreuz got him.

      So now Einsam was here.

      "Wake up, my beautiful hated friend…" Fingers danced over Schuldich's cheeks.

      Twenty-one years old. Einsam should have been dead years ago. Meirth had refused to let him die, twisting and breaking his mind to keep him alive. Einsam was tired of hanging on. Tired of the pain and the smiles and the nightmares. Tired of hearing Schuldich's voice in his mind and dreaming of Germany, reaching out to touch the wisps of memory and finding himself unable to draw up any sort of concern for the man had that had fought for him so long. Five years ago, Einsam had laughed and watched as Schuldich's world became a nightmare. He still found himself absently amused and a bit satisfied by what he'd seen back then. He couldn't feel anything else, not after what Meirth had been doing to him for years.

      Einsam was tired of it all, and he was ready for his way out. He'd done what Meirth wanted of him. He'd fulfilled his purpose in life and there was no longer a reason for him to hang on. He'd done what was needed and now he was ready to let go.

      "Wake up, Erik…"

      He reached down onto their link, digging deep beneath the sequences. The voices sounded drunk, slurred together as they mumbled to themselves and to others. "Wake up, Erik, or you're going to lose them." The guns outside had silencers but he knew they were firing. Schwarz was in the middle of a violent battle right now. Farfarello couldn't feel pain but Meirth didn't need pain to work with, and Meirth wasn't facing the Sensitive alone. Nagi was going to be there by now, along with several gunners. Crawford and Kudou had the rest of the guards to worry about, and Einsam… Einsam had only a little time before Meirth figured out what was going on.

      "Your brother wants you…" he murmured, and the words amused him. He found their link and found everything Schuldich had shoved his way.

      Five years ago he'd let Schatten tear Schuldich apart until there was nothing left but little pieces of who he'd been. Five years ago he'd laughed as it happened, his claws trailing little lines down already abused flesh. Just a week and a half ago, he'd tricked Crawford and Farfarello and left Schuldich at the businessman's mercy.

      'Do you trust me?' he'd asked.

      And Schuldich… hadn't hesitated.

      He thought he should cry, but he couldn't find the tears. He found everything Schuldich had left him and pushed it back the way it'd come. Schuldich came awake with a lurch and a strangled sound, flinching back violently on the bed. Blue eyes darted around the room; it took the telepath a moment to focus on who was in front of him. Einsam offered him a smile and reached down, digging through the clothes that had been shoved carelessly off the bed. He found what he knew had to be there and lifted it, turning it this way and that as he studied it. It was a little wrist sheath that Schuldich had been wearing, and he pulled the knife free before lowering himself to the edge of the mattress.

      "My brother came for me…" he sang.

      Schuldich pushed himself upright, and red eyes were interested as they watched the move. It was obvious it was a struggle. He turned a smile on Schuldich and moved closer, settling himself right in front of Schuldich. Consciousness brought the pain back. The blue eyes that were looking at him were splintered and cloudy. "You can't kill me with this," Einsam told him, fingers grazing across Schuldich's temple. He found the German's hand and picked it up, sliding the knife between limp fingers. "It won't take Meirth long to realize you're awake. He expected you to sleep all night."


      And there were the tears that he had been waiting on. He felt them stinging at his eyes even as he smiled at Schuldich, one finger touching the older German's lips to tell him to shush. There wasn't much either of them could say. Meirth had used Einsam to tear Schuldich apart, and despite everything, Schuldich hadn't given up on him. Schuldich still *trusted* him. He thought perhaps it would be appropriate to whisper sweet things, to beg for forgiveness for everything he'd done. He swallowed such words because he didn't want Schuldich's forgiveness. He didn't feel the need to ask for it, because with Meirth's touch in his mind, he couldn't care.

      He didn't ask because he knew Schuldich understood and he knew he already had it.

      His smile was bitter as his fingers danced over Schuldich's face. "I hate you," he breathed. He had taken so much away from Schuldich already and now he was demanding this as well. "Do this for me, and quickly, before Meirth hears. You have to run. You *have* to run. Run, run, run… All around the mulberry bush and I always felt sorry for the weasel, anyway. Can you do this?" he wanted to know. "Trust me. Trust me, Erik?"

      A hand brushed over his cheek and warm lips touched his forehead. Einsam closed his eyes against the tears, forcing down the distaste over the touch. He chose instead to linger on the bitterness, and the smile on his lips was edged. "They'll take care of you," he told Schuldich. "They both will, if you let them."

      "I know…" was the soft answer. Schuldich's hand tangled in Einsam's hair, gently pulling the long locks around front. "Beautiful," he murmured. A finger touched the back of Einsam's neck and Schuldich counted down the vertebrae, searching for the right spot. "I always knew you'd be beautiful."

      Einsam laughed at that, leaning forward to wrap his arms around Schuldich. "Do it," he said. His fingers dug into Schuldich's back and he forced down the inevitable stab of fear at the thought that he was going to die. He wondered if there was an afterlife, and if there was, if he would be himself again there. He wondered if it would be like how it was years and years ago before Meirth had ruined things, if there would be the bakery with the lady with so many cats, and the bed that they could bounce on, and Schuldich's father, who would squeeze them in such terrific hugs. His fingers dug in tighter and he buried his face against Schuldich's throat. Was there such a thing as an afterlife? Was there such a thing as a happily ever after when they died?

      "There is," Schuldich told him, and there was something raw in his voice. Einsam could feel it tearing away at every layer Meirth had ever put in place and when he smiled, it didn't seem to hurt his face so much. "There is."

      "Do it," Einsam said again. "Schuldich, Erik, brother. *Now*."

      He felt Schuldich take in a deep breath against him and hold it, felt a small tremor run through the body he was resting against. He felt the first prick of the knife against his skin- and then there was absolutely nothing at all.


      Einsam was smiling. Schuldich held the Sequencer's face in his hands, staring down at an expression smooth in death. The smile on the German's mouth was more like the smile he remembered, not the one Meirth had put there these last several years. Shaking fingers brushed Einsam's hair out of his face, touching skin so he would remember later the warmth of it. Too soon, he would be cool- just another body, just another person to die at Schuldich's hands. They'd come so far together, and this was where it ended. A bitter smile pulled at Schuldich's lips and he reached around back, drawing his dagger free. He let it fall to the bed, fingers sliding through the blood that ran down Einsam's back.

      Dead. Dead at last.

      He didn't know how to feel about that. He didn't know how to react. There was just a numb sensation now but he had a feeling it would hit later. Later was better, when he was away from here, when he was somewhere where he could be sick. He drew his eyes away from the wound, turning them back on Einsam's face. The younger man's arms were limp around him and Schuldich drew in a deep, slow breath. It was hard to believe that it was really true, that the other Talent was dead instead of sleeping. He let himself sink into that dull sort of confusion, pulling it closer around him.

      'Run,' Einsam had said.

      He carefully untangled the younger man from him, letting the Sequencer rest against the mattress as he reached for his pants. His entire body hurt. It hurt to think, it hurt to breathe, it hurt to move. Breath hissed out between his clenched teeth and he struggled with his gift. He ignored his headache, reaching out past the walls to find his team. Crawford was moving. Kudou was the closest to the house. Farfarello was having a hell of a time with Nagi and the strain to his mind said Meirth's gift was in there somewhere. Meirth's touch was in Kudou's mind as well, but Farfarello was keeping it down. But where was Meirth himself? Schuldich fought his way back towards Kudou's mind.

      //Farfarello,// he sent, and the pain in his head almost made him throw up right there. //Help Farfarello.//

      If Kudou answered him, Schuldich couldn't hear it. Meirth had fucked up Schuldich's head first thing so he couldn't use his telepathy on the other two in the house- not like he would have had the concentration for it. His hand was bloody from Einsam's back and he got the blood on his pants, struggling into them. That was as far dressed as he cared to get and he got to his feet. He fell the first time he tried, knees cracking painfully against the wood, and he swore breathlessly, hunched over with his forehead against the floor. It took him a few moments before he thought he could try again, and he used both the bed and the nightstand to help him up. Careful hands pulled Einsam from the bed and he lifted the German into his arms, starting slowly towards the door. Twice he almost fell as he made his way down the stairs, and then he was stumbling down the hall towards the main door.

      He came out onto the porch and stood there for a minute. He was cold, but Einsam's blood ran warm down his stomach. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, steeling himself for what was about to come.


      He reached down through his mind to touch his speedy gift, and tore off.

      It *hurt*.

      What hurt much more was Meirth's touch, just a few seconds later when he was almost to the end of the street. Pain rocked through him like a bolt of lightning, frying his nerves, and a strangled cry left his lips as he crashed against the ground. He twisted as he fell, hitting the nearest car with his back before falling to the street. It kept Einsam from getting crushed in the fall even if it knocked the breath from his lungs. The world flickered black above him from his head hitting the asphalt and Schuldich's mouth worked soundlessly as he struggled to breathe again. Pain was eating him alive from the inside out and he had a feeling the moment he caught his breath he would be screaming and he wouldn't be able to stop.

      Meirth materialized out of the shadows, tracking him by the pain, and came to stand over him. The pain died down enough that he could focus on the face over his. Meirth had his hands on his knees as he leaned over Schuldich, and the expression on his face was cold as he took in the limp body in his arms. "So you got him back," he said. "You killed him. Such brotherly love."

      Schuldich managed to push himself into a sitting position, and he leaned against the car he'd crashed into for balance. He said nothing in response, just smiled up at Meirth. He didn't have to say anything. There was the soft scuff of a shoe against concrete and Meirth straightened at the sound, whirling around to see who had approached them. Schuldich knew Meirth knew who it was before the empath ever turned, and his smile widened.

      Crawford was waiting there for him. Crawford had been here before either of them. The moment Einsam had died, he had known exactly where to find Meirth, and he had been waiting on them to arrive. The precognitive offered his brother the ghost of a cold smile as he started down the driveway towards them. The car Schuldich was resting against was parked at the curb, which left Meirth in the middle of the street with nowhere to run.

      "Boo," Crawford murmured. "I see you."

      "Braddyn." Meirth slid his hands into his pocket as he watched his twin approached. His expression was sour and his eyes were on the gun Crawford had aimed at him. "So good to see you again. How's your arm?"

      "Fantastic. Thanks for asking."

      //Farfarello…?// Schuldich reached out for the Sensitive's mind. The Irishman responded instantly- not in words, but in the way his mind reacted to Schuldich's touch immediately. A tired smile pulled at Schuldich's lips. //I want Nagi back.//

      Schuldich watched as Meirth glanced off back the way he'd come. Farfarello was leeching off of Meirth's power to completely remove everything the empath had put in place in Schwarz's telekinetic. Judging from Nagi's thoughts, Meirth wasn't fighting the cleansing. The empath knew he'd lost, and there was no point in him struggling now. He sighed and raked his bangs out of his face, amber eyes flicking towards Schuldich before turning on Crawford.

      Schuldich tilted his head back to rest it against the car. Silence fell on the street; none of them spoke again until the rest of Schwarz had appeared. Schuldich heard their footsteps but didn't open his eyes until the other three had stopped. His attention was on the body in his arms, that was cold underneath his fingers. His stomach clenched at the sensation, and at last he opened his eyes to study his team. Crawford and Nagi were fine. Kudou looked like he'd taken a shot. Farfarello looked how Schuldich felt, the results of squaring off against two Talents and too many shooters. He was messy and a light touch to his mind showed that it was strained and bruised. Farfarello didn't care; his eye was on Schuldich. No one save for Crawford seemed to realize that Meirth was there.

      Meirth eyed the team, his gaze lingering on Kudou the longest. "A Talentless…" he muttered, disgusted. Kudou flashed him a smile that was all teeth, hate in his green eyes. Meirth shrugged, lacing his fingers behind his head as he arched an eyebrow at Crawford. "No regrets," the empath said, smirk edged as his words drew three hateful glares. Schuldich couldn't work up the energy to feel angry right now, and Crawford's expression was carved from stone. "It was fun, and I would do it all over again."

      "Good," Crawford answered. "Then you understand why I'm not going to kill you."

      Meirth blinked, lost for a moment, and Nagi offered him a lazy smile. "It's much more convenient for us if we let someone else do it for us," he said. "We're a bit tired at the moment, you see, and the Cabinet is infinitely more creative than we are."

      Schuldich watched the color drain from Meirth's face when the Talent realized they were shipping him off to Rosenkreuz, and the empath glanced his way. Schuldich just smiled the dreamy, vacant smile that had graced Einsam's lips barely a week and a half ago. "Good bye."

      Nagi hit him hard, and the empath crumpled unconscious to the asphalt.

      Silence fell for a long moment as the five studied his fallen form, and then Crawford glanced towards Schuldich. The German just tilted his head, and Crawford started away to get the car. Farfarello started towards Schuldich and crouched down in front of him, pale fingers dancing over Schuldich's face as the Sensitive's gift rolled lightly across his mind. Schuldich offered him a faint smile but didn't hold Farfarello's gaze, turning his blue eyes on the slight body in his lap instead.

      //Let's go back,// he offered up to them. //I need a shower, and then I'm going to sleep for a week.//

      Nagi was in charge of getting Meirth into the car, though he grumbled about having to touch the empath. He didn't care that it was his gift that was moving the man, though he was a bit mollified when he realized the only room they had for Meirth was in the trunk. Kudou and Farfarello both got Schuldich to his feet, because he refused to let go of Einsam, and even though he was offered shotgun, he sat in the middle in the back. Nagi and Farfarello sat to his sides and Kudou sat up front, and they started away. They had to wait on the police to leave. Nagi's gift had been barricading more police cars from coming down into the subdivision, but now he let them through. The police didn't notice Schwarz, and as soon as they were all down in the subdivision, Crawford drove away.

      "They're gone," Nagi murmured beside him.

      "Yeah…" Schuldich agreed softly, fingers trailing over Einsam's cheek. "They're gone."

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