Part Seven: Falter
Some people seem to think
They always know what’s best for you
Their little minds try to
Create a world to keep you still

    "Why is the window open?"

    Omi looked over his shoulder at the other man's entrance, sparing him the barest of glances before turning back to the window. Outside a storm rocked through the sky. The rain had yet to start; the sky was covered in violent black and purple clouds, and lightning cast ghastly shadows everywhere. He found the bleak evening almost comforting, as it matched his mood perfectly.

    "I wanted it open," he answered at last, listening to the chair creak as his companion sat down.

    "It's cold. Shut it."

    He considered ignoring the command before finally freeing his fingers from their death grip on the windowsill. He hadn't noticed the chill, not after standing here for so long. His fingers were numb and clumsy on the window as he tugged it back into place. It clicked, locking in its spot, and he stared through the glass for a few moments longer. He lifted one hand to his face, tracing his fingers down his cheek. They were so cold. He had been cold for months now.

    "Come here."

    "Why?" he asked.

    The order wasn't repeated and his question wasn't answered. Schuldich never repeated himself and never explained anything he didn't want to. He sighed, turning away from the window, and crossed the room to stand before the seated man. He was put under serious scrutiny for several moments before the older man sighed and shifted, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He found his lighter from the other pocket and handed it over, perching a cigarette between his lips and looking expectantly up at the one towering over him.

    "It's a bad habit," he said, but he didn't really care.

    "Give me a light," the German said instead.

    A flame clicked to life, the only light in this dark room in between flashes of wicked lightning. He leaned forward, touching the end of it to the cigarette. He clicked the lid shut and held it back out in offering. His companion took it back and paused before reaching out with his free hand, giving cold fingers a light squeeze. There was just enough light from outside and the burning cigarette for him to feel the older man's heavy gaze on him. He ignored it the best he could. At length the other made a disgusted sound in his throat. Dropping his lighter off to the side, he reached out, tugging the younger man into his lap.

    "You're shaking, dumbass."

    "No I'm not."

    But he was. He just hadn't noticed. The other man scowled at him, shifting until he had wriggled out of his jacket, and draped it around smaller shoulders. Cold fingers unconsciously drew it closer, soaking up the heat that still clung to it. His companion reached up, plucking his cigarette away to exhale a cloud of smoke into the dark room, and fixed him with an intent look.

    "Make yourself comfortable," Schuldich told him. "You're going to be here a while. He says we can keep you."

    "For what purpose?" Omi wanted to know. He didn't really care. He supposed he should be angry. He supposed he should be terrified. But he felt nothing, just a comfortable, cool numbness.

    "Who knows?" the other man said, glancing to one side as someone else stepped through the doorway. He reached out towards Farfarello, who approached obediently. Fingers tangled together; Schuldich pulled his teammate down for a kiss. The youngest of the three watched in silence from his spot on Schuldich's lap. The two released each other, fingers and lips pulling away simultaneously, and the Farfarello moved to study the view from the window. Schuldich reached up, trailing the back of his fingers down Omi's face thoughtfully. His fingers were warm, almost hot. It was strange to feel, when Omi had been cold for so long. "Think of a reason and assign it to this."

    "Are you going to kill me?" Omi asked.

    "Do you want to die?" Schuldich sounded amused.

    Silence for a moment, then, "Perhaps."

    "All in good time." Schuldich draped his hand back on his chair and perched his cigarette back between his lips. Silence fell between them, and outside the rain started to fall.


    "Weiss is looking for you, you know."

    Omi looked up from where he was pushing his dinner around his plate at the words, meeting Schuldich's blue gaze with an impassive look on his face. He wasn't surprised by the words or the fact that Schuldich had been keeping an eye on his teammates in the wake of bringing Omi into Schwarz's household, and he couldn't work up the energy to care about his teammates. It didn't occur to him that they might be worried sick about his abrupt exit from their lives; he couldn't believe that such a thing would happen. They had already proved they didn't need him when they ran a mission while he was sick, and they had proved that they didn't want him when they hid in the flower shop and argued about shipping him off to a psychiatric ward. Lock *him* in a room with white padded walls? He didn't think so.

    "Kritiker's got everyone searching," Schuldich continued breezily as he made his way steadily through his green beans. "The police, their other teams, their computer specialists… They've tagged your bank account, your school, the airports… You name it." He seemed highly amused by this and Omi decided his exaggerated emotions could make up for the complete lack of any within himself. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The storm was finally moving on. "I figured they'd close down the flower shop, but instead they're using the girls there to help keep an eye out for you. Rather smart of them, I think, considering how many fangirls you four have managed to accumulate. They've added at least one hundred other spies for Kritiker that you wouldn't have known to look out for."

    Omi lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "They'll get bored eventually."

    Nagi's dark eyes were sharp. "And he's to just stay here?"

    "Crawford approved it," Schuldich confirmed with a slight shrug of his shoulders. The American in question was missing from the house, and Omi could only assume he was off causing trouble somewhere.

    "Send him back to Kritiker in pieces. They'd be grateful to know what came of him."

    Farfarello gave a thoughtful sounding hum, but Schuldich just grinned. "So antagonistic," he mused. "Play nice with your new housemate. You're acting as if you don't want him here."

    Nagi banged his cup down on the counter. "How can you want him here with us when you're-" He cut himself off. Omi saw Schuldich pin him with an intense look, but Nagi had already looked away. An uncomfortable silence fell between them as Schuldich continued to stare at him and Nagi refused to meet his gaze. Omi wondered if the argument was over or if it had been taken to mental grounds. He had to admit he was a little surprised by the weight of Nagi's anger over his presence here. Out of all of the times they'd clashed with Schwarz, Nagi had seemed to be the quietest and the most unattached of the group; he had never quite fit. But then, Omi supposed he couldn't use that to judge the boy's character when he had only seem him on the job.

    Nagi stood up, giving a sharp wave of his hand to send his dishes slamming into the sink almost hard enough to break. He left without another word. Schuldich followed his progress with guarded blue eyes and Farfarello flicked the German a sideways look, tapping his cup thoughtfully against his chin.

    "He has a point," he said.

    "Shut up and eat your food," Schuldich sent back at him, turning back to his meal with a scowl on his face. Omi glanced from one man to the other before picking at his own food once more, but he didn't have enough of an appetite to seriously consider eating it. As he was debating whether or not to do what Nagi did and just throw it away, Schuldich stood up from the counter. He left his dishes there but turned to Omi, holding out a hand. "Jacket," he said, and Omi set his chopsticks down to shrug out of it. Schuldich pulled it on and left without another glance back. The front door opened and slammed shut just a few moments later, and Omi was left alone at the counter with Farfarello.

    The Irishman was contemplating his food with a half-lidded yellow gaze. When he noticed Omi's attention, he lifted one shoulder in a shrug and pushed his own plate away. Omi decided that meant it was safe to leave the table and he slid off of the barstool. Farfarello flicked his fingers at him in a beckon.

    "You're wearing one of his shirts tonight," he said. "Come."

    There wasn't much else to do, so he followed Farfarello down the hall to the bedroom. The Irishman crouched in front of one of the dressers to rummage around in it and Omi idly wondered what would happen if he kicked him while his back was turned. He was standing close enough; perhaps Farfarello wouldn't hear it in time to block it. Would the other man kill him for it?

    There wasn't a real reason to try the attack, nor was there any emotional drive behind such a thing, but Omi moved a step closer under the pretense of looking at the post cards on the wall. He lifted his hand to it, touching his fingers to the glossy surface, when Farfarello glanced his way. "Where is this?" he wanted to know.

    A gold eye flicked to the picture and Farfarello shrugged as he went back to digging. "Taiwan."

    Omi waited until the man had actually pulled a shirt out to eye it before driving his socked heel into the Irishman's shoulder blades. There was a moment of surprise that it worked, a moment of surprise that he wasn't wearing his shoes, and then Farfarello caught him around his ankle and gave him a fierce jerk to send him flat to his back on the ground. The impact knocked the breath from his lungs and he cracked his head against the floor hard enough that he saw black for a moment, and Farfarello moved to his side. He was still crouched, Schuldich's shirt now draped over his shoulder, and he folded his arms on his knees as he considered the fallen Weiss.

    "You were given long range weapons because you have no strength," the man decided.

    "Asshole," Omi sent back.

    Farfarello clicked his tongue at him, draping the shirt over his face. "Such language," he mused. "How much angels learn when they fall from grace. One would have hoped the bad habits would have remained out of their reach."

    Omi pushed himself up, mouth open to answer, but Farfarello had already reached out and caught the hem of his shirt. He pulled it up in one swift move. It caught at Omi's arm but it was still enough to reveal the crisscrossing lines across his skin. Omi grabbed at the shirt and shoved it back down, scooting a step back. Blue eyes were narrowed as he turned a fierce look on Farfarello. "Get away from me, you freak."

    "Freak?" Farfarello echoed. "Did I earn that name?"

    "You were born with it," Omi sent back at him, scooting back again when Farfarello started to reach for him. The Irishman was undeterred and caught him by his ankle to pull him back. Omi took a swing at him, but the foreigner caught his wrist easily. In the next moment he was crushed to the floor, pinned there by his hand and another pale hand on his chest. Farfarello slid so that he was sitting on him, ignoring the hand that pushed at his face. Fingers tightened around Omi's wrist and he went still, hissing at the pain.

    "Why?" Farfarello wanted to know. He didn't sound annoyed by the slur; he seemed rather bored by it. "Because of this?" He released Omi's chest to lift his hand to his face, touching pale fingers to spiky white hair. They moved to his eye patch next. "This?" At last they settled on the scars across his face. "…These?"

    "Weiss kills people for the good of society and we take no pleasure in it. They're quick, clean kills. You massacre people without a sense of right or wrong and leave them in bloody messes across the floor." Farfarello shrugged and reached down again, catching the hem of his shirt once more to pull it up. Omi started to move to block him and he felt the bones in his wrist creak in a warning as Farfarello tightened his grip. "Get *off* of me!"

    "Be quiet." Fingers traced his scars, whisper light, and Farfarello tilted his head to one side as he studied them. "Did they hurt?"


    "Did this hurt?" Farfarello reached down to his boot and pulled a small blade out. He waved it at Omi and blue eyes watched the way the light glittered off of its metal surface. "If I cut you here, would it hurt you?"

    "What does that have to do with anything?" Omi wanted to know.

    The words earned him an eerie little smile and Farfarello lowered the tip of his knife to Omi's skin, tracing it ever so lightly over the lines that were already there. "Injuries, whether they're caused by an enemy or one's own hands, always hurt," the Irishman told him. "It's a pain that lets us know we are still alive, that lets us know we still know what it means to feel. But what is one supposed to do when he forgets how to feel…? When one ceases to feel, they cease to exist."

    He shrugged and pushed in, and Omi's breath caught in his throat as he felt the knife break through the skin. The stinging pain was familiar by now, as was the immediate heat of blood. "Sometimes he can remind himself what it is to feel. Sometimes he can remind himself what it is to hurt. Pain's the strongest emotion, you know…" He traced a line across Omi's middle, from his waist up to his breastbone, and showed Omi the bloody blade. "So were you cutting to remember, or cutting to forget?" Farfarello wanted to know.

    Omi looked from the blood to Farfarello's scarred face, then over at the scarred arm holding him down. "What about you?" he asked.

    Farfarello turned his knife this way and that, eyeing the blood, and then lowered the knife to Omi's mouth. Omi started to turn his head away, but Farfarello wasn't trying to carve his face open. He rested the wet edge against Omi's lips, pressing the flat of the blade against his mouth insistently. "You are dead emotionally," Farfarello decided. "But you can still feel physically, and you cut to remind yourself what it is to feel something, anything, in a world that isn't yours to control anymore."

    The words twisted in Omi's mind and he stared up at Farfarello in silence. "I am dead physically," Farfarello continued. "So the only way I can feel is through others. Through their pain, through their hatred, through their death. Through their dying moments when they can remember nothing but what it is to hurt." It brought a half smile to Farfarello's lips and he pressed harder. "Open."

    Omi opened his mouth, and Farfarello slipped the knife inside to let Omi taste his blood. It was harsh on his tongue and Farfarello waited until it was clean before setting the knife on the mattress to his side. He shifted his grip on Omi's wrist, sliding back onto the younger man's thighs to consider the bleeding cut. One pale finger ran down the length of it, pushing against it almost too hard, and Omi hissed at the sharp pain. "You want to remember," Farfarello decided, "or you wouldn't cut. But the only way to remember… is to be hurt like you haven't been hurt before."

    "Are you speaking for yourself or for me?" Omi demanded through gritted teeth as Farfarello raked his fingernail over the line.

    The man considered that for a few moments. "For the both of us," he decided. "Time is ticking away. I'll have my salvation soon enough, and a harsh one it will be. But you? What have you got to save you?"

    "I don't want to be saved," Omi choked out, but he wasn't sure which one of them he was trying to convince.

    Farfarello looked amused. "Of course not," he murmured. "Of course not." He lifted his bloody finger to his hand and licked it clean before leaning down, touching his mouth to the cut. Omi gasped as the Irishman sucked the blood up from his skin, twisting to try and get away. He couldn't get his legs up to kick Farfarello in the back with the way the man was sitting on him, and he had just lifted his hand to Farfarello's hair to push at his head when Farfarello's grip on his wrist tightened. It hurt enough that he couldn't stop from crying out, and Farfarello laughed at him and shifted, leaning forward to plant his mouth on Omi's. Blue eyes flew open wide to stare up at an amused gold. He tried to twist away but Farfarello wouldn't let him, and a moment later there was a hand on his abdomen, pushing down against the cut.

    He could taste his blood on Farfarello's lips. The blood that he'd come to recognize as life and sanity was there, harsh and sweet in the same breath, and his nerves were cringing at the weight of Farfarello's hand against his cut. The same pain he'd given to himself so many times these last few months… He twisted again, trying to get away, and Farfarello's hand slid down, worming under the hem of his pants.

    He cried out a protest into Farfarello's mouth that the man ignored, and Farfarello shifted again, yanking at the button and zipper on Omi's pants. Omi struggled beneath him but every move sent pain knifing down his arm all the way to his shoulder. He didn't dare bite Farfarello like he had Schuldich; he doubted the man would think twice before snapping his wrist. Fingers pushed past underwear, seeking the flesh underneath, and Omi squeezed his eyes closed against the amused gleam in Farfarello's gaze. He finally managed to turn his head away and he gasped for breath. "Get off of me!" he choked out. "Get off of me!"

    "What will you do?" Farfarello wanted to know. "Scream for help? You think someone will save you?"

    ~Tell me he's not really doing this,~ Omi thought frantically as Farfarello fisted him. ~Tell me he's *not*…~

    Farfarello finally let go of his wrist to drag his hand along the cut once more, digging hard against the skin. Omi hissed, grabbing at his wrist with his good hand, and the man planted his hand over Omi's mouth. Omi bit him and tasted blood- his own and Farfarello's. The man wasn't at all bothered about the bite and didn't let go of him. Omi's stomach and chest were tingling with sharp pain and Farfarello's fingers moving on him had heat pooling into his stomach. His mind was still in a shock that this was happening to him, but his body was reacting to the touch. He clawed at Farfarello's arm and Farfarello pushed harder, driving his head into the ground.

    "They say pain is a state of mind," Farfarello told him, ignoring his struggling. It was almost hard to breathe around Farfarello's hand; it was pressing against his face almost too close to his nose. He made a strangled sound in his throat but he wasn't sure if it was a protest or not. "They also say it's mind over matter. If this is true, then why can we not simply just turn the switch in our minds and change states? Why can't we just flick from one setting to another until we are set how we wish to be? Until then it is left to us to go on as hollow drones with only a few chances at feeling alive again. Pain, pleasure… Somewhere along the way they blur into one ragged line."

    Omi's hips were trying to move without his permission. He shook his head and Farfarello laughed at him, turning his head away from the fingers that tried to claw at his face. "Whose pain? Whose pleasure? When does it matter? Did it ever? It is still something to hold onto…"

    Harder, faster. Farfarello pulled his hand back from Omi's mouth and leaned down to swallow his gasp in a hard kiss that still tasted like blood. Fingers slid across his front, tracing old and new scars before digging at the new cut. Fingernails drove into the slice mercilessly and Omi felt his back arch from the floor. Hands grabbed at Farfarello's arm and his eyes flew open to stare up into Farfarello's face and the cold truth there. Farfarello shifted off of him, sliding his legs to either side of Omi's hips to brace himself up, and Omi was finally free to rock in time to the hard strokes. He wanted to stop but he couldn't make himself still. All he could manage was a strangled sound in his throat. Farfarello bit down on his neck hard and Omi gasped. He knew it should hurt and it did, but with Farfarello's hands on him he wasn't sure if it was pain or pleasure or something in the middle like Farfarello had said, something he was a stranger to but that still worked the same and made him feel alive and focused for one sharp moment.

    This wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't supposed to be like this. There was truth in Farfarello's words; there was something there that resounded with everything in Omi. It was the past several months put into words in a way he himself was unable to do; it was a perfect and complete understanding. That it came from Farfarello, the madman of Schwarz… Omi wasn't sure what to think about that. He didn't know whether to feel a bitter sort of relief at finding someone who truly understood or to resent the fact that someone else could see through him so well.

    In the end, he decided not to think, and he decided to just take what Farfarello was giving him. The understanding, the pain, the pleasure. He gave up on thinking and just *felt*, twisting his fingers into short white hair almost hard enough to pull the locks out. Whether Farfarello was expecting that surrender or not, he took note of it immediately and his mouth was back on Omi's. It was clumsier than it should have been- Omi didn't know what he was doing- but neither of them cared.

    Harder, harder, harder, until it almost hurt, and Omi choked on a cry as release shuddered through him. Farfarello swallowed the sound. They stayed like that for a long moment afterwards, considering one another with their mouths still pressed together, breathing in and out of each other.

    At last Farfarello pulled back, sliding off of him, and Omi pushed himself up. The pain in his wrist made him wince and it hurt to fasten his jeans. He didn't look away from Farfarello as he worked and Farfarello seemed content to hold his gaze. Omi didn't know what was going through the man's mind but he didn't even try to guess when he couldn't figure out what was going through his own. Farfarello plucked up Schuldich's spare shirt from where it had fallen and held it out, and Omi hesitated before reaching out to take it.

    "What will Schuldich say?" he asked.

    "What would he say?" Farfarello wanted to know, pushing himself to his feet. He turned and left the room then, leaving the door open just a crack in his wake, and Omi stared at the thin line of light along the doorframe for several minutes before moving to change.


    Omi woke up in the middle of the night when Schuldich returned home, and he floundered for a moment when he realized he was curled up on the bed. He'd gone to sleep on the floor but now he was in the middle of the mattress, and warmth at his back told him Farfarello was sleeping there. It was Schuldich's weight on the bed that woke him; the German was seated on the edge to set a few things down on the nightstand. He saw the man shift as he woke and Schuldich looked back at him. In the faint light coming in from the window he could see the smirk on Schuldich's face.

    It seemed as if the man had recovered from whatever had happened at dinner, and Omi started to sit up to leave the bed. A hand caught his shoulder and pushed him back down and Omi realized then that Schuldich's entrance had woken Farfarello up as well.

    "Stop moving," Farfarello told him.

    "I'd listen if I were you," Schuldich told Omi, sounding amused. "He gets cranky when he's tired."

    "Tell him to let go," Omi said.

    Schuldich laughed. "He's still crying for you to let go? Some impression you must have made, Farf. Shut up, Weiss, and go to sleep." He finished tidying things up on the small bedside table and laid down, stretching out on his back.

    "I'm not sleeping up here."

    "What, you let Farfarello jack you off but you won't sleep in the same bed as him?"

    Omi pushed himself up, angry. "I didn't *let*-" he started, but he wasn't allowed to finish before Farfarello flattened him against the bed once more.

    Schuldich yawned loudly to drown out anything else he might have said. "Technicalities, pipsqueak. Now shut up and go to sleep. I'm tired and we have a very long day ahead of us tomorrow." A blue gaze slid towards him and he could see Schuldich's teeth behind his smirk. "We're taking you with us tomorrow on a run," he said.

    Omi didn't have time to react to that before Schuldich reached towards him, and the moment the man's fingers touched his forehead, he felt everything drop out from under him and he was swept unconscious.

Part 8
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