Part Nine: Loss
It's all over but the crying
Fade to black I'm sick of trying
Took too much and now I'm done
It's all over but the crying

    Things were a little different around the Schwarz household ever since Schuldich woke. No one ever told Omi what was going on but he didn't need an explanation to know that Schuldich's collapse was supposed to be a very bad thing. There was some significance in the number two that he didn't understand but he kept it to himself and was content instead to watch as the black team slowly crumbled. It took him a few days to realize that was what was happening and he wasn't quite prepared for such recognition when it finally clicked. It shouldn't have meant anything to him and he was aware of that fact, but that didn't stop the gnawing feeling in his stomach when he realized that Schwarz was collapsing.

    Rather, Schuldich was collapsing, and his teammates weren't enough to hold him up.

    It was against everything that Omi had accepted as facts in his life. He'd come to term with his own failures and apathy just as easily as he'd accepted that Schwarz was far stronger than he'd ever be. Schuldich's mocking smiles and sly taunts made him king of the world, lord of a tower where nothing mortal and real could ever harm him. Omi's vision of him as such had been shaken during Schuldich's unconscious state but he hadn't allowed himself to dwell on it during those days when he'd been stretched out with Schwarz's middle two. His thoughts then had focused on the fact that Crawford had put him there and finally given him a place and purpose in the Schwarz household. There was something he'd been told to do that Nagi and Crawford hadn't been able to do, and that was stand guard over both Farfarello and Schuldich until the German woke again.

    Such a little thing, he supposed, but Nagi had fought Crawford over it and Crawford had still ruled in Omi's favor. It gave him the sense of being irreplaceable, as foolish and trivial as he told himself he was being. Still, it was something he hadn't felt in months, ever since Aya had started doing his homework for him and proved that he could so easily slip into the slot Omi had made for himself in the world.

    Omi was finally starting to think that he had something he had some say in, that he had some purpose to his existence, and then Schuldich ruined it all. Granted, he'd only been given such a notion because the telepath had collapsed, but Omi wasn't interested in the details.

    Schuldich's demise didn't happen suddenly, but rather over the course of the next week. He ate less and talked less, and he and Farfarello didn't sleep with each other anymore. They still shared the same bed, yes, but Omi was around them and the house enough to know that they weren't having sex anymore.

    It was the silence that Omi noticed first, because Schuldich had always been so loud. The meals that Schwarz ate grew quieter and quieter as the others ran out of things to say in Schuldich's place. It was never the telepath initiating a conversation anymore; instead he lingered on the outside of the group, adding a comment whenever something was just too ridiculous to him to ignore or whenever a teammate addressed him specifically. At first Omi wrote it off as exhaustion from his recent illness, except Schuldich seemed perfectly fine otherwise.

    When Schuldich started throwing away his meals, Omi realized that something was terribly out of place.

    Whatever was wrong with Schuldich affected the rest of Schwarz as well, though they reacted in their own ways. Nagi took Schuldich's path and withdrew further into himself; Omi hadn't thought the other youth could get anymore reclusive and he was quickly proved wrong. He left the apartment often and was in his room if he hadn't gone, and he had almost nothing to say at the meals. That left Farfarello and Crawford to pick up the slack, and it was obvious they weren't used to carrying the weight of the household between them. They talked a lot about business because it was the only topic they had in common to discuss around a dinner table and Farfarello watched Schuldich carefully through every meal.

    Farfarello was the only one that could make Schuldich smile.

    The smirk the German had always worn was in permanent presence now, but it was hollow where it had been icy before and Omi had a feeling the mockery had turned inward. Only Farfarello could say the right thing to have it relax into something more real, and since they weren't screwing each other anymore, they spent more time stretched out in bed side by side.

    Omi had glimpsed a place for himself in their odd hierarchy, and in the matter of days, he saw it killed again. He managed enough energy to be resentful of such a loss, but stronger than that was the small trickle of alarm at watching Schuldich waste away to nothing.

    Schwarz was supposed to be invincible, and Schuldich was making it inescapably clear that they weren't. Omi realized in a harsh moment of truth that he had come to rely on their power, believing that there was a chance to be something too strong to break. He'd come to believe in them as the victors where he'd failed to survive long ago, and they'd offered him some sanity and a brush with reality. Now Schuldich was taking away the hope he had forced himself not to acknowledge and Omi didn't know how to react to this. He was finally strong enough to register despair again, and he felt sick as he watched Schuldich go through the motions with that funny smirk on his face.

    The German was a good enough actor outside of the house. Omi was brought with them on two more jobs that week, and Schuldich played the role of an asshole foreigner with an ease from years of practice. The only difference was that there was a mental silence between them all. Omi would have written it off as just indifference silence towards him, except that he was with Schuldich when the telepath gave Crawford a phone call from his cell.

    Schuldich collapsed again on the second job, and Omi finally watched the pieces fall into place. He'd been with Farfarello that time and he'd heard the German's sharp call of warning, cutting right across the mental bonds between them. There'd been a man with a gun coming up behind them at an angle where Schuldich couldn't aim properly, and it had been the only way Schuldich could get out a warning in time. Omi thought it was perhaps more instinctive for a telepath to yell out mentally than out loud; there was something more personal and urgent about it.

    Either way, Schuldich hit the ground before Farfarello was even finished with the gunman.

    That's about the time that Omi realized that Schuldich was dying.


    The room was dark and hot. Omi considered the body stretched out between him and Farfarello, uncomfortable from the sticky weight of the quilt but not caring enough to move to fix it. He couldn't see Farfarello through the telepath but he could see the Irishman's arm and he switched his gaze to it, eyeing it where it was draped around Schuldich's middle.

    It had been a day already now and Schuldich hadn't woken. Crawford had just given a shake of his head when Nagi demanded to know how long, and Omi decided that wasn't the answer any of Schwarz had wanted. Farfarello hadn't stirred since getting into bed and Nagi hadn't been able to make himself come visit. It was left to Crawford to trade out the cups of water and the hot water bottles, and other than that, it was just the three of them.

    They hadn't said anything since they'd first lain down to either side of the telepath but Omi finally picked that moment to speak. "He's dying, isn't he?" he asked, and his voice sounded funny in the silence.

    He wondered if Farfarello was asleep but somehow doubted he was. It was much more likely that he as awake and going to ignore Omi's question. Indeed, only silence met Omi's answer.

    "He's dying," Omi insisted again a few minutes later.

    "Everyone dies," Farfarello answered, and the bed creaked as he shifted to get comfortable. "It's a fact of life, whether or not mortals are ready to accept it."

    "Is he sick?" Omi wanted to know.

    "Does it matter?" Farfarello returned.

    Omi scowled at the Irishman's pale arm. "Would I ask if it didn't?"

    "I would assume you are bored," was the careless response, and Omi pushed Farfarello's arm with his own. "He is a telepath," Farfarello explained, and Omi tried to dissect the tone of his voice. It was amused, but not the sort of amusement Omi was used to. He thought he could remember hearing Schuldich use it, but it seemed funny coming from someone so unflappable and removed as the madman. "Telepaths are born sick in the head and they never make it past twenty-three."

    Omi lifted his head from the pillow, but he still couldn't see Farfarello past Schuldich. "Twenty-three?" he echoed. "How old is Schuldich?"

    "Three months shy," was the response.

    Omi thought that over, trying to put the pieces in place, and he was finally able to come to terms with Nagi's fierce animosity towards him. Schuldich was dying, and Schuldich was Schwarz. Omi was just a little Weiss assassin caught up in the middle of a mess that he had no real place in, distracting Schuldich from his team in his last few weeks. "His gift is killing him?" he asked disbelievingly.

    "Fact of life; he's always known it's coming."

    Omi thought of Schuldich's reaction to waking up from his first short coma and decided that no matter how long Schuldich had known it was coming, he wasn't anywhere near prepared to die. It brought to mind Schuldich's rant from the day the German had kissed him. Schuldich's voice rang in his head and Omi closed his eyes against the words and the remembered bitter tone.

    "Pray tell, little Weiss cat- who would ask for a life like this? Here's a statistic for you. Eight out of ten people in this world are fucked over by fate in some shape or form. The chances of you being one of the lucky two are pretty slim.

    "What I want to know is how some people can make it when life throws rotten fruit their way, and how some people give up. Why do some people eat the rotting apples to keep from starving, and others feel they're too good to? What is it in your brain that is so different from my own, that you would want to die?

    "How does it feel to know that you have a way out? This self-imposed misery and exile; you could leave at any time and you know how to turn them back on your side. Why do you have a plan b when no one else does?"

    Dying… Omi wondered what he was supposed to feel. Regret? Triumph? Satisfaction? Pain? He didn't know.

    "Farfarello…?" There wasn't an answer. "Why did he bring me here?"

    The Irishman gave a quiet snort, shifting his grip on Schuldich. "He is dying," he said, and Omi saw his fingers tighten briefly against the unconscious man's side. "He knows that you're enough of a pet project to keep me busy when he's gone."

    Omi wasn't sure what to say to that. He didn't know how to respond to either the words or the tone, and he just watched as Farfarello pushed himself up. The Irishman slid off the bed and started toward the door. He didn't offer an explanation and he didn't look back, and he closed the door quietly behind himself. A few minutes later Omi heard the shower start; he could hear the pipes groan faintly through the walls.

    He sat in silence for a while longer before pushing himself up on his arms, staring around the room at post cards that Schuldich had so meticulously collected, evidence of a life well lived. Proof that it had been worth it? Omi had to wonder if there had been some desperation in his packrat habits, trying to fill his life with everything he could because every day he lived brought him closer to the end. If he was down to the point where just using his gift sent him into such a state, Omi had to wonder how much longer he could live- or even if he was going to wake up from this.

    He looked down at Schuldich's pale face, reaching out to test the water bottle.

    "You're an asshole," he decided, and the whisper seemed almost too loud in the air. "You're an asshole for leaving him like this. You're an asshole for hurting him like this. I hope you're sorry for what you're doing. I hope you're sorry that you're-"

    And suddenly it was just too tragic.

    Omi didn't know where the empathy came from and he couldn't stop to justify it. All of a sudden it just hurt too much and he sagged down against Schuldich's chest, fingers clenched in the material of his sweater as he cried into the wool. He wasn't sure which one of them he was crying for, and in the end, decided there wasn't a reason to figure it out. In the end he cried for all three of them and for how cruel the world had dealt their cards.

    "How does it feel to know that you have a way out?" Schuldich had demanded, and in that moment, Omi desperately wondered if that way was still there. He thought of Aya doing his homework, Aya making excuses to the teachers. He thought of the redhead sagging against one of the tables in the Koneko when Omi had bounced in with a smile on his face one day. He thought of his teammates doting on him when he'd fallen down the stairs and gotten a concussion, and he was distinctly aware that he'd lost his way out with them.

    "I want a way out," he babbled hoarsely, and he felt his knuckles creak as he tightened his fists. "I want a way out, I want a way out."

    Everything about the room was a nightmare all of a sudden. The trinkets and post cards he'd once felt such envy for meant nothing at all. They were the deliberate collections of a mind that was dying and a man that had no way out, and now Schuldich was going to die and he was leaving them all behind. Omi wasn't sure he had a reason to feel abandoned but he couldn't shake it, and he clung to Schuldich like a lifeline.

    He didn't want this to be what he was. He didn't want this to become all that he was. He didn't want this heat and this darkness and these post cards that had bled black and gray in the unlit room to be his life. He wanted something more. He wanted that plan b Schuldich had taunted him about and that way to feel again that Farfarello had said was possible.

    He had finished crying by the time Farfarello returned to the bedroom but he hadn't gotten rid of the sick feeling in his chest, and he leaned over Schuldich to catch the Irishman by the collar of his shirt. He didn't know what he was doing or how to do it but Farfarello let him kiss him anyway, and a tight hand on his chin tilted his head to fix the angle. It hurt; Omi thought that maybe his lips and chin would both bruise. Schuldich was lying so still between them and they had nothing else to hold onto. Omi tasted blood as Farfarello bit down on his lower lip hard enough to break the skin and the taste was reassuring, was something familiar and real.

    He didn't know how long they did that, didn't know how long they sat to either side of Schuldich. He just knew that Farfarello was a different heat than the sickly heat of the bed and that Farfarello knew how to teach him to feel again. He didn't know what was in this for Farfarello and he didn't care. He just needed to feel something besides that sickening hollow sensation that was chewing its way out through his spine.


    It was three more days until Schuldich woke up again.

    Omi and Farfarello kept to their own sides of the bed, but Omi now lay with his arm resting against Farfarello's. The Irishman never moved him away and didn't comment on the contact between them, and Omi decided Farfarello couldn't say anything against it. Whatever Schuldich was to Farfarello, Farfarello was losing it, and it took Omi two of those three days to fully realize and appreciate that his presence was the only one tolerated out of Schwarz. He didn't know why it was that Farfarello would lie in the same room with him as he grieved in his own way for what he was losing, but he knew that the others weren't welcome. Farfarello made that quite clear.

    Three more days, and then Schwarz gathered once more in Schuldich's bedroom. Omi had a sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched Farfarello ease Schuldich upright. The German looked drugged and confused and sat resting heavily against his Irish lover. Blue eyes were hazy and distant and Omi had to wonder if he had any clue where he was.

    Omi handed over a cup of water and Farfarello managed to get Schuldich to swallow some of it. He only took four sips before he let the fifth dribble out of his lips again and Farfarello handed the cup back to Omi. Pale fingers brushed Schuldich's chin clean and the Irishman wrapped an arm around Schuldich's waist. Omi didn't know if it was to keep Schuldich balanced or just to have something to hold onto, and a part of him desperately hoped it was the former because he wasn't ready to see a second one of Schwarz so close to giving out.

    "Schuldich," Crawford said at last, breaking the unhappy silence that lingered in the room.

    Schuldich didn't respond; he merely continued to gaze straight ahead of himself. Farfarello wasn't looking at his face; his gaze was pointed down the German's front to where one of Schuldich's hands lay limp on the sheets.

    "Schuldich," Crawford said again.

    "Farf…?" Schuldich tried.

    "You're awake now," the Irishman told him.

    "Mmm." Schuldich considered that for a few minutes, blinking slowly as if trying to focus on what was in front of him. His team gave him the time he needed, waiting in silence. Schuldich's gaze didn't clear completely but there was a lucid edge to it at last and he dragged his gaze up from the sheets, tilting his head as he tried to look at Farfarello. "Did he get you?"

    It took Omi a moment to remember what had been happening when Schuldich had collapsed. "No," was Farfarello's response, and Schuldich's lips quirked into the meager attempts of an amused grin at the scorn in Farfarello's voice.

    "That's good." Schuldich yawned and lifted one hand from the blankets to rub clumsily at his face. "How long, Farf?" Farfarello didn't answer. "Farf," Schuldich pressed, and the tone of his voice made Omi look away. The despair and anxiety that had cloaked his last waking were gone. Schuldich already knew that the answer was a bad one; he spoke his lover's name with something that was more reassurance than a demand.

    Farfarello just shook his head soundlessly. Omi saw it out of the corner of his eyes and he clenched his fingers in the sheets he was sitting on. That silent gesture, that silent refusal and denial- that was what he had been hoping so fiercely to not see from Farfarello. Farfarello couldn't make himself say it out loud. It had been a lot easier for him to talk of Schuldich's impending death a few days ago, while Schuldich had been unconscious, but not even the Irishman was prepared to face the reality of it now that Schuldich was awake again. He refused to say it, as if it made this more real.

    Omi thought bitterly that it couldn't get anymore real.

    "Farf, it's all right," Schuldich murmured, moving his hand to Farfarello's face instead. Omi looked up against his will as those long fingers curved around Farfarello's cheek, trying to turn him to look back at Schuldich. Farfarello resisted the pull, gaze fixed resolutely elsewhere, and Omi could see the muscles in his jaw tightening.

    Omi wasn't ready to see the role reversal between them, where Schuldich so easily embraced now what he'd been in denial over last week and Farfarello finally had to face the facts. Omi wasn't ready to see the change between them because it meant Schwarz hadn't come here to watch Schuldich wake up.

    They'd come here to watch Schuldich die.

    "Farf…?" Schuldich pressed. Farfarello shook his head again and Schuldich leaned towards him, pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth. At the foot of the bed Nagi moved, and Omi looked towards him to see him scrubbing at his eyes. "You remember what I told you, Farf? We'll be fine. We'll be just fine." He was hard to listen to; there was a slur to his voice that Omi knew wasn't from the prolonged sleep. "Right?"

    Farfarello finally managed to speak. "I remember."

    Schuldich smiled, and it was the best smile Omi had seen on him in weeks. He looked alive for a moment; he looked young. Omi wished Farfarello was looking to see it. Schuldich was beautiful in that moment, beautiful when Omi would have never before associated the word with him.

    Twenty-two years old and no way out, nowhere to go but down.

    Omi wondered how he wasn't screaming yet, watching the pair on the bed.

    "Nagi?" Schuldich asked, but he didn't take his eyes from Farfarello's face. "I am sorry, you know."

    "Shut up," was the hoarse whisper in response, and Schuldich made a sound that was almost a laugh. Almost, but not quite, because he didn't have the breath for it.

    Schuldich looked towards Crawford. Blue and hazel met and held, and Schuldich's mouth quirked into a grin. He said nothing, not because there was nothing to say, but because they'd already said everything they had ever needed to. They'd known each other for long enough that they could understand each other without words.

    At last Schuldich's gaze dropped to Omi's and they stared at each other in silence. Again Schuldich's mouth twitched into a grin and he looked away. "You'll be fine," he murmured, and Omi wondered which one of them he was talking to- him or Farfarello. In the end he thought perhaps it was both. "You'll be fine."

    Schuldich's other hand came up to Farfarello's face, fingertips brushing over his chin, and Schuldich offered him a lazy smile, blue eyes closing.

    "Do it," he said.

    Farfarello didn't move immediately, but Schuldich didn't press him to act. At last the Irishman forced himself to reach out, and Nagi moved around the bed to press one of Farfarello's blades into his hands.

    Omi wanted to yell at them to stop such nonsense, wanted to scream at them that this wasn't right. He wanted to scream that this wasn't fair at all.

    Farfarello moved Schuldich's hair out of the way, brushing it over one shoulder, and the knife trailed down his back as he searched for the right spot. Pale fingers found Schuldich's chin and tilted his head back and Farfarello was kissing him when he shoved the knife in.

    For a long moment, no one moved.

    Omi heard the sick sound of a blade sinking home in flesh and saw Schuldich give a small jerk. He saw the twitch of Farfarello's body as he forced the knife in, and then the seconds ticked by in frozen silence.

    When Farfarello's mouth relaxed against Schuldich's and blood trickled down their chins, Nagi lost it. The door slammed against the wall as he threw himself out of the room and Omi could hear things exploding next door. Nagi's scream was heartbreaking and somehow, it just drove home that this was real, that this had just happened.

    Crawford left silently to react however Crawford planned on reacting, and Omi was left to stare at Farfarello where his hand was shaking against Schuldich's face.

    He saw the Irishman's expression twist, watched as he buried his face in Schuldich's throat, and Omi didn't remember leaving the room. He was out of the bedroom and out into the street before he realized he had moved.

    Bare feet slapped against the asphalt as he ran and he didn't stop running until the stitch in his side brought him to his knees. He didn't know where he'd run to or how he was supposed to get back but he didn't care. All he could see was that last second in the bedroom burned into his eyes, and he tangled his fingers in his hair and screamed into the indifferent grass beneath him.

    He screamed until he couldn't breathe, until his throat couldn't manage any other sounds, and the rain fell softly all around him.

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