Cold metal dug into his abdomen. How the gun fit between them when they were so tightly pressed together, Ken didn't know. He tasted blood on his tongue from where the other man's fist had found his mouth. It was such a familiar flavor, but even after all of these years it still wasn't a pleasant taste. He worried his lower lip between his teeth, feeling the sting of the gash as teal eyes gazed up at his opponent's face. He could feel Schuldich's cool breath washing over his cheeks. They were both out of breath and their chests moved against each other. He could feel Schuldich's heartbeat, and he told himself it was racing because they'd been fighting.

      Schuldich considered him for a long moment and finally released Ken's hand. Pain shot up his arm when it was freed; Schuldich had wrenched it to one side before Ken's bugnuks could find his flesh. Ken didn't mind. He had been aiming knowing that the telepath was going to be able to stop him.

      There was a loaded gun pressed into his gut, but Ken felt a smile pull at his lips.

      "Regrets?" he asked the other man.

      Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him. "I'm the one holding the gun," he pointed out. "You?"

      Ken laughed, slowly lowering his arm back to his side. Schuldich didn't need to hold onto it; no attack Ken tried could move faster than Schuldich's finger on the trigger. Ken wriggled his hand free of the thick glove and reached up, burying his fingers in the German's thick hair. "Why should I?" he asked, mouth pulling in a wry grin. "I wouldn't have this happen any other way."

      Schuldich snorted at that, letting Ken tug him down by his hair. Schuldich's mouth was rough against his own, but there had never been any sort of tenderness between them. The German tasted like smoke, as always. It was appropriate, Ken decided. It suited the German's personality. He lifted his other hand to Schuldich's hair, digging his fingers into the German's skull as he tried to get as much as he could from his lover. The gun never wavered, but Schuldich's free hand hooked in the hem of his pants.

      They'd always known it was going to come to this. They'd known it since they first started, and they'd kept going with the agreement that it would happen with no regrets on either side. Weiss was Weiss; Schwarz was Schwarz. White and black, good and bad, and while one couldn't exist without the other, there could never be a happy ending for them.

      They'd always known it was going to happen, and yet…

      I wanted things to be different.

      He drew in a ragged breath, tilting his head to one side to give Schuldich access to his throat. Desperate fingers raked over the telepath's shoulders, trying to soak up as much of the older man as he could. Schuldich's mouth was hungry against his skin and he felt something violent wrench in his stomach. What Schuldich wouldn't say was clear in the hand that was tightening on his side, in the fierceness of his kiss.

      I wanted to think that this would work. That we could be happy.

      I just wanted…

      Yeah, don't we all?

      The gunshot was deafening. The silence afterwards was louder. It took Ken almost half a minute to realize that it didn't hurt.

      Half a minute to register that there was heat pouring against him, and then Schuldich offered him a slow smile that let blood trickle between his lips. Ken could just stare up at his face in a dawning sort of horror and he lurched backwards away from Schuldich, staring down at the gun between them.

      The gun wasn't pointed at Ken; it was pointed at the German himself.

      "What-" he started to say, but he choked on the word.

      "That asshole had it coming to him," Schuldich purred around a mouthful of blood, and he slowly sagged towards the floor. Ken grabbed at him but it wasn't enough to keep the telepath upright, and he ended up on his knees with Schuldich propped against him.

      "Schuldich, what have you done?!"

      Schuldich offered him a lazy smile, blue eyes hazy. "Crawford's lost his mind," he said, reaching up with an unsteady hand to smear blood across his face. "Can't have that, can we…? He'd fuck us all over in a heartbeat for his own future…"

      "Schuldich?" Ken's fingers tightened around him. The German's blood was almost hot enough to burn and the thick smell of it made him sick. "Schuldich?"

      "I just wanted to prove it to myself," the German decided, gazing off into the distance. "Just wanted to see…" His lips twitched into a smirk that was all self-mockery and he let his gaze slide closed. "Just wanted to know that someone would still hesitate and it wouldn't be because I was the Mastermind."

      "Schuldich, you're not making any sense." The telepath didn't answer, and Ken gave him an urgent little shake. "Schuldich, answer me! Schuldich!"

      Schuldich gave a wet sigh. "Nagi has the files," he said. "Don't hurt him, yeah? He's just a kid."


      The German cracked his eyes open to consider Ken. His smirk relaxed into a smile, and just like that… He was gone.

      Ken heard someone screaming in his headset. The sound chilled him to the bone as he stared down at the limp body in his arms. He was shaking all over as he realized that that was indeed what Schuldich was- a body. Not Schuldich. Not Schuldich anymore or ever again.

      "I don't understand," he whispered, and he couldn't keep the frantic edge out of his voice. "I don't understand."

      The screaming died out and Ken forced himself to let go of Schuldich, gently laying the telepath down. It was hard to get to his feet and it took everything in him to turn away from the telepath. He had to find his teammates. He had to find them before Schwarz killed them. He left the room at a run because he didn't know how he'd make it out of there otherwise. His breathing was ragged in his ears and all he could smell was Schuldich's blood, all he could see where those blue eyes staring vacantly through him.

      He came to a stop at the top of the stairs and had to grab at the railing to keep his balance. Teal eyes stared out at the mess on the first floor and he felt numb through and through as he took it in. Weiss was still standing; that registered in his mind with a sharp sense of relief and confusion. Nagi was crouched halfway across the room, face buried between his knees and fingers knotted in his hair. That was when it clicked that the screaming he'd heard hadn't been from any of his teammates, and somehow that bit of knowledge just had Ken closer to getting sick. Farfarello stood off to Nagi's side, staring silently in the direction of Schwarz's fourth. Crawford was laying face down, bleeding out his ears, and Ken realized he was dead.

      His mind wanted him to put two and two together between Schuldich's suicide and Crawford's death, but Ken wasn't in any shape to do the math. Instead he started down the stairs towards his teammates and each step hurt. He reached the ground floor and just stared across the room at them, and the three in turn stared back as they wondered what to do from here. Omi was the first to move, walking over to his side to check him for injuries. Ken heard a voice saying that it wasn't his, that none of it was his, and it took him a while to realize that the voice on repeat was his own. Omi whispered reassurances that Ken couldn't hear and at last Nagi pushed himself to his feet.

      The telekinetic didn't look at them; he dug something out of his pocket and hurled it across the room at them. It hit the floor and slid, and after a long moment Yohji leaned down to pick the bag of disks up. Nagi was already moving, running towards the stairs, and he didn't slow as he passed Ken and Omi. Ken could hear his feet pounding down the hall as he sought out the room Schuldich had been in and Ken lifted his gaze from Crawford's fallen form to study Farfarello.

      The Irishman looked up at the same time; yellow and teal met across the room.

      Farfarello started forward, and Ken didn't have it in him to even tense as the Irishman stepped past him and followed Nagi up the stairs.

      Crawford was left behind, and Omi ushered all of Weiss out of there just a few minutes later.

      Ken didn't remember the ride home.

I'm not a perfect person, I never meant to do those things to you
and so I have to say before I go, that I just want you to know

I've found a reason for me, to change who I used to be
a reason to start over new, and the reason is you
I've found a reason to show a side of me you didn't know
a reason for all that I do, and that reason is you

      I don't know if any of us have come to terms with Schwarz's self-destruction yet. It happened two months ago and we're still trying to recover, still trying to put the pieces in place to figure out just went wrong- or right- that night. In the end we found most of the explanations on the disks Nagi gave us, but even if they cleared things up, the events of that night aren't any easier to accept.

      Apparently the one Kritiker was after was Crawford all along; Schwarz's precognitive was set to inherit the reign of Estet and Rosenkreuz. The files were Schwarz's as the younger three left each other messages and logs about their leader's sudden stray from team-oriented to self-fulfilling monster. Schwarz fell apart at the seams and they knew Crawford was going to screw them all over in the end if they didn't find a way around it.

      In the end, Schuldich was the answer. Schuldich was the only thing that could have changed. He'd been partners with Crawford for long enough that he had ties to the other man's mind, and Schuldich killed Crawford by killing himself. Farfarello later said that it was almost impossible to one-up a precognitive regarding his own future, especially when Crawford was so carefully watching his bright one fall into place, so Schuldich did what Crawford would have never expected from him and forfeited his own life. He did it for his team; he did it for himself. He did it because Schwarz was all he ever had and Crawford had ruined it spectacularly. He did it because he'd had enough and he finally saw a way out.

      There's still a lot about the team that we'll never understand, but I guess we'll have to live with it. My teammates have accepted this and moved on; I'm finding myself a little slower to adapt. It's still strange seeing Farfarello and Nagi occasionally where Kritiker has taken them in. What Schuldich did has put Schwarz on Estet's death list, and the telepath ordered the two to find a niche in Kritiker and stay there. I'm not sure what sort of work they do these days, but Omi seems content with the arrangements.

      As for me…

      It'll be a long time more, I think, before I've come to terms with everything.

      His ashes are in my room like I promised him, in a black vase with his sunglasses off to one side. I don't know if Farfarello and Nagi know; I'm not sure they'd care. Then again, remembering the way Nagi screamed when Schuldich finally got what he wanted two months ago makes me think that perhaps they'd be happy. I keep thinking of their anger over our relationship as they tried so hard to keep Schuldich level and safe, tried so hard to convince him that there was a different way out, even as Schuldich laughed them off on every front. I've finally forgiven them for their animosity.

      Schuldich was… one of the better things to ever happen to me, I think. I think he managed to fix a lot about me that I never realized was broken. I miss him now that he's gone, more than I think I should, but I refuse to stop thinking about him. After all, I'd told him that one of my greatest fears was dying and being forgotten.

      I have no intentions of ever forgetting that Schuldich's the reason my team is still alive today and that, for a good few months, he was my reason to live.

The End
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