SYN: When You Gonna Learn?

Part Ten

      Schuldich considered himself to have the worst sort of luck in the world. He had only been wandering around for three hours, following an aimless path through the city as his thoughts failed to sort themselves out, when he ran into the last people he wanted to see anytime that day. He hadn’t even been paying attention to which part of the city he was in when he turned the corner and literally ran into Weiss- Fujimiya in specific, but with his two younger teammates right behind him.

      There was never a quiet moment in the middle of Tokyo’s busy streets, but the silence that fell over the four of them was hard enough to cut a diamond on. Schuldich’s lips curved into a smirk that was more habit than anything else, because as shitty as his mood was, he really didn’t think playing with Weiss was going to make it better. That was an irritating revelation, because Weiss used to be some of his favorite unwilling playmates. Fuck Kudou, anyway, for messing things up.

      Fuck Kudou—?

      ~This is not what I wanted when I said I was bored,~ he reminded himself savagely.

      “So the kittens *do* leave their litter box during the day,” Schuldich commented, tone lazy, and he made a show out of dusting off his jacket where he’d bumped into the cats’ redhead. “Who are you off to kill this time?”

      Fujimiya’s expression was blacker than Crawford’s coffee. “Schwarz,” he greeted in a level tone, but behind that tone his eyes were screaming “KILL HIM NOW”. Schuldich was used to seeing it and he met that gaze easily, smile a pure taunt. He thought he saw Fujimiya’s fingers twitch at his sides and he knew the swordsman was wishing his blade was within reach.

      “What do you want?” Hidaka demanded.

      Schuldich arched an eyebrow at them. “Who says I want anything?” he asked, smirk widening at their immediate suspicion. The expression didn’t help convince them of his innocence but that wasn’t his problem or his intention. “For all you know, I’m just out looking for some fresh air to clear my mind.”

      Hidaka spat something rude off to the side that clearly stated his opinion on that supposed lie. Fujimiya ignored his teammate. “Get out of our way,” he warned Schuldich.

      “Aya, there are civilians around,” Omi said, pitching his voice so it wouldn’t carry past them.

      “Yes, and you don’t want the innocents to get hurt, do you?” Schuldich asked, feigning horror at the idea. If Fujimiya’s eyes narrowed any further they’d be little squints on his face and Schuldich wondered if he could push him that far. He lifted a hand carelessly, watching the way all three of them automatically flinched back, and offered them a scornful laugh as he pointed out at the crowd that moved around them. “Jumpy, are we? Let’s take a look at your so-called innocents.” He began pointing out random faces as he listed crimes, not really digging in with his gift to check. It wasn’t the specific people that were important, just the reminder that Weiss willingly blinded themselves against minor criminals to catch the big fish. “Adultery, incest, petty theft, stalker-“

      “Sodomy,” an easy voice came from right behind him, and Schuldich kept himself from starting only by turning around. It was stupid to put three of Weiss at his back when he was alone but maybe not so much when they were in public and Weiss was crippled by their fear of involving the locals in a fight. He was more concerned with having this particular man at his back than he was any of the three combined.

      Kudou had his key chain hooked around one finger and he twirled it, reaching up as he did so to pull his sunglasses down into his face. The glasses weren’t anywhere near enough to hide the bruise on his face and Schuldich’s stomach curled at the sight of it. Whether it was in memory of pleasure or in hateful satisfaction for having left that mark, he wasn’t sure.

      “I’m late,” Kudou said past Schuldich to his teammates.

      “You have good timing,” Hidaka sent back.

      ~What are you doing near them, Schuldich?~ Kudou sent at him mentally.

      “Ahh, and now we’re all here,” Schuldich commented, darting his gift back to alternate between the kittens’ minds. Kudou he could deal with- sort of. “We were just catching up. Glad you could make it.”

      ~What are you doing near them?~ Kudou repeated. ~If you’re upset about last night, that’s something you need to work out with me. Don’t drag them into this.~

      “Afternoon, Schwarz,” the Balinese said out loud.

      “You could sound less civil,” Hidaka hissed at him.

      “My bad,” Kudou said, tilting his head to one side to glance at Hidaka. His gaze slid back to Schuldich and he let his lips curve into a slow smile. “Hello, bastard. Did you come here so we could kill you? Was that better, Ken?”

      “Yohji,” Tsukiyono hissed at him. “We’re in public.”

      “Ken said I was being too friendly,” Kudou answered with a shrug.

      “Charming,” Schuldich drawled.

      ~You and I need to talk.~

      Schuldich pinched his fingers at Kudou. /This is how much I care that you think that./

      ~Just stating facts. We need to talk about what happened last night.~

      “He’s doing it,” Hidaka snarled in a warning, and Schuldich heard a shoe scuff against the ground. He managed to duck neatly out of the way as Siberian lunged past Fujimiya for him, and the swordsman grabbed at Hidaka’s elbow to yank him back. “He’s doing that stupid mind thing on Yohji.”

      Schuldich offered him a condescending look. “I was rewriting him so that he’d kill you all in your sleep tonight.”

      “You fucking-”

      “Ken,” Tsukiyono tried again.

      “Oops, too late,” Schuldich told Hidaka pityingly. “The code’s already in place.”

      An image of tangled flesh and sheets caught him off guard- heat and sweat and breathy moans. Fingers on his skin and a mouth on his—

      He jerked back from Kudou without thinking, recoiling as if he’d been stung, and blue eyes locked with calm green. Kudou had pushed his sunglasses up again to offer Schuldich a hard look and the other three of Weiss went absolutely still.

      /If you ever fucking do that again-/

      ~Do what?~ Kudou interrupted his threat. ~Fuck you, or interrupt you when you’re lying to my teammates? If it’s the second, you can go fuck yourself—if your trigger would ever let you. These people are my best friends and my family and I’m not going to let you hurt them. Even Nagi understood that.~

      /I’m not Nagi,/ Schuldich reminded him flatly.

      ~That’s why we need to talk about last night,~ Kudou sent back at him. ~I’m the only one outside of your team who knows what’s going on, and like it or not, I’ve got a part in it. I’m the one that tried to help you break your trigger. I want to talk to you about it.~

      /I don’t care what you want./

      ~Quit being a selfish bastard,~ Kudou started, and Schuldich sent him a pitying look at such a useless remark. ~Nagi said that if last night worked, I was losing him. You owe me a conversation both for actually taking the time to fuck you last night and for agreeing that I would let him go if you managed to last until dawn. Maybe you didn’t approve of our relationship but your opinion means jack to me except that Nagi’s so damnably fond of you. You don’t give two shits for him and I do, so you owe me that talk if you’ve just taken him away from me.~

      /Blow it out your ass,/ Schuldich sent back, heavily annoyed by Kudou’s obvious attachment to his teammate.

      ~How *is* your ass today, anyway?~ Kudou asked.

      Schuldich’s hand moved as a blur, catching Kudou by his throat, and he was too fast for the Balinese to dig his feet in in time. The taller man was thrown up against the side of the nearest store with a meaty thud and he caught the alarm in the kitten’s mind just in time to duck away from Tsukiyono’s dart. The youngest Weiss had moved like liquid straight past his teammates as the only one besides Kudou who could carry his weapons out in public without too much trouble. Too many passer-bys had noticed the small attack on Kudou, however, which meant Tsukiyono was left to use his dart in close range like an ineffectual dagger. He couldn’t catch Schuldich but he could get in between his oldest teammate and the telepath, and Schuldich’s lips curved into a mocking smile at the warning in those blue eyes.

      “Such a fierce protector,” he drawled, lifting his gaze to Kudou. “If I were you, I’d be ashamed that I needed a kid to defend me.”

      “You have a lot more to be ashamed of than I do,” Kudou returned easily. “How are your wrists, by the way?”

      Schuldich’s mind tripped up on the memory but his mouth was already moving. “There you go with the civilities again,” he tut-tutted. “Your teammates are going to start wondering whose side you’re on if you’re being so friendly.”

      “Get out of here,” Fujimiya warned him.

      “That sounded a lot like an order,” Schuldich commented. “I don’t remember deciding to bow my head to any of you.”

      “Oh?” Kudou asked.

      If any of the others had managed to come up with a sharp comeback to that, they let it slide. None of them understood just what Kudou meant by that cold little threat; they saw it as a challenge. But Schuldich stared past Tsukiyono’s head into green eyes full of acid warning and he felt his stomach clench around shady memories of the previous night.

      Stop stop stop-

I’m not going to stop.

      His mouth opened on a smart remark he couldn’t find, but he didn’t need to figure out the words. He saw the way Tsukiyono recoiled and he had an excuse to rip his gaze away from Kudou’s challenging stare to look over his shoulder. Farfarello was standing on the curb with Nagi at his side and the Irishman’s smile was the most unpleasant Schuldich had seen it in months.

      “Enough games, Schuldich,” Nagi said, sounding bored. “We’re running late. Crawford told you not to get distracted. Let’s go.”

      Schuldich looked back at Kudou, taking in the way his gaze had calmed at the sight of his former lover, and his stomach just clenched tighter. Sickness gave way to annoyance and he bared his teeth at the pair in front of him in a last wicked grin.

      “Maybe next time,” he offered.

      Kudou looked back at Schuldich at the words and Schuldich couldn’t explain why it infuriated him so much to see all of the hostility had evaporated into that quiet knowing and understanding again. ~The offer is still open, Schuldich. You know where I live.~

      Schuldich’s smile was brittle and he turned away, moving over to the curb. Nagi glanced up at him as he came up alongside the telekinetic, trying to catch his gaze and see how the telepath was doing, but Schuldich’s eyes were on Kudou’s face even as his hand moved up. Fingers caught Nagi’s chin and he reached down, dragging his eyes away from Kudou at the last moment as he pressed a kiss to the corner of Nagi’s mouth. Blue eyes flicked up again to Kudou’s face and he loved the way the other man’s expression had turned to stone. He barely noticed the blank looks on the other cats’ faces and he curled his fingers through Nagi’s hair, looking down at his teammate at last.

      “Can’t keep Crawford waiting,” he drawled.

      Farfarello was the first off the curb. Schuldich followed behind him and Nagi took up the rear, and Schuldich could feel Kudou’s stare burning into the back of his head until Weiss was out of sight.


      “Don’t kiss me,” came the quiet warning from his door, and Schuldich looked over his shoulder to see that the kid had followed him down the hall. Nagi’s expression was calm but there was a tension along the line of his shoulders he couldn’t hide, and instead of having his arms folded calmly across his chest, his fingernails were picking at the paint on the doorframe. Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him in a question and Nagi’s lips thinned to a hard line. “Don’t kiss me.”

      “Nothing personal,” Schuldich tossed him, giving a careless wave of his hand as he shrugged out of his coat.

      “That’s why you shouldn’t do it,” Nagi said simply. Schuldich didn’t bother to look back, not interested, and Nagi kept the distance between them. His gaze followed Schuldich over to the closet as the telepath went to hang his coat up and he waited until Schuldich had sat down on his bed again before speaking. “You were looking at him while you did it.”

      “He’s a rather annoying cat,” Schuldich told Nagi. “You have bad taste.”

      “I already told you why I picked him,” came the low response.

      “I’m trying to forget you said that,” Schuldich informed him. “I don’t like to dwell on insults.”

      Nagi opened his mouth for a response, but he couldn’t seem to find the words he wanted. His teeth clicked as he closed his mouth again and he looked over his shoulder, searching for some sort of inspiration in the empty hallway. Schuldich dug around in his nightstand for something to do, but the few books he had there had all been read a half-dozen times and there wasn’t much else. He did find a Yo-Yo he’d taken from Farfarello, who’d stolen it from one of his faceless victims at some point. Schuldich didn’t have a clue how to use it properly, but with its string tucked in it was a makeshift ball. He sprawled on his back and tossed it up and down to himself, never mind that throwing while lying down was more difficult than it looked.

      “Need something?” he asked when Nagi didn’t leave.

      “Why did Crawford send us after you?” Nagi asked.

      Schuldich caught the Yo-Yo and went still for a minute before lowering his arm to the sheets. Most of Nagi was blocked by the post at the foot of his bed but he could still see his teammate’s face from where he was. Nagi and Farfarello had brought Schuldich back to the apartment to look over a few files, but that cool look on Nagi’s face was a challenge bordering on a taunt.

      “We have a job,” he said, offering Nagi a smirk instead of the scowl he would have preferred.

      “Ah,” Nagi answered, and he turned to go.

      Schuldich pushed himself upright. “All right, genius,” he said, annoyed. “Why?”

      Nagi looked back at him. “Because you bumped into Weiss,” he answered, “and Crawford knows you can’t resist getting yourself into trouble when you see them. What were you doing around them?”

      “The usual,” Schuldich answered. Nagi pushed away from the doorway and started towards Schuldich’s bed. Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him. “Maiming, destroying, wrecking all shreds of self-confidence…”

      “You’re a liar,” Nagi accused him. “Even Farfarello knows you weren’t on top of that. He told Crawford that you’re off-balance.”

      “Whose fault is that?” Schuldich reminded him.

      “You could have stayed,” Nagi sent back easily. “You didn’t have to go.”

      “Now why would I let *anyone* get away with a sappy happy ending- especially you and Balinese?” Schuldich asked him.

      From up close it was easier to read the tension in Nagi’s expression. His lips were pressed together so hard they were white and he leaned forward into Schuldich’s personal space. “Do you know what else Farfarello told Crawford?” he asked, and Schuldich just eyed him. “He told him what you said at the bar last night.”

      “We said a lot of shit at the bar last night.”

      “Farfarello said you went because Yohji couldn’t have me.”

      “Kudou,” Schuldich corrected him.

      “I was right here, Schuldich,” Nagi told him in a low voice. “I was right here. Why didn’t you just come home when you said that? Why couldn’t you just understand that enough to come back? I’d have let you.”

      “You’d have let me,” Schuldich echoed slowly, and Nagi flinched a little as he realized just what a mistake he’d made. Schuldich’s lips curved into a sharp smile as the telekinetic started to straighten and he reached out, catching the younger Talent by his collar to keep him from retreating. His other hand beckoned for Nagi to move closer and Schuldich pressed his cheek to Nagi’s, feeling the other’s breath ghost across his neck, feeling the way Nagi trembled a little at the feel of Schuldich’s breath on his ear.

      “You don’t know me at all,” Schuldich told him. “And you know what? You’re never going to.”

      “Schuldich, I-”

      He tightened his grip on the other’s shirt and Nagi shut up. “I want you to listen to me. Ready? You’re going to turn around and walk out of my room, and you’re never going to be stupid enough to walk back through that doorway. I don’t care if Crawford orders you to come find me. You step into my room again and this team is going to have serious issues to deal with.”


      /Farfarello, we’re going killing,/ he flicked at the Irishman’s mind.

      “Out,” he ordered Nagi, and he let cloth slip through his fingers. It took Nagi a few more seconds to straighten, but the telekinetic wasn’t looking at him when he turned away. He reached the doorway at the same time as Farfarello and the Irishman propped himself against the doorframe, watching Schuldich as Nagi slipped by.

      “The occasion?” Farfarello asked.

      “You don’t need an occasion to kill people, Farfarello, so shut up.”

      “You do when you’re not being paid,” Farfarello pointed out.

      “I said shut the fuck up.”

      His gun was in the nightstand and he snatched it up before heading for the hall, and he snagged the car keys from their hook. Farfarello followed him down to the car and slouched in the passenger seat as Schuldich drove towards the outskirts of the city. He said nothing but Schuldich didn’t miss the chilling little smile on his lips as he realized where Schuldich was going. With Schuldich’s gift and Farfarello’s skill they could kill anywhere in the city and not be heard, but the pair went out to the Tokyo suburbs when they wanted to make a big mess. Farfarello was only allowed out there once a month on Crawford’s command, but Schuldich didn’t really care what Crawford wanted from them.

      In under an hour they had a trail of thirty-two bodies behind them, and only then did Schuldich lower himself to sit on the curb in front of an isolated vending machine. Farfarello picked the lock on the front and swung it open to get them an armful of drinks. He sat a short distance down from Schuldich to stack their stash between them. Schuldich grabbed the closest thing without really looking and the Irishman fingered through the rest in search of whatever interested him most.

      Schuldich almost forgot Farfarello was there as he dug through his thoughts, and he peered through the open tab on his can at the dark liquid inside without really registering it. Most of his anger had faded but he still didn’t know who it had been directed at: Kudou, for looking at Nagi like that and for so easily managing to upset him today; Nagi, for setting him up and then having the gall to be upset by what had happened; or himself, for not having a clue what was going on and not knowing what to do.

      Out of everything, he knew only one certainty: he couldn’t take this fight to Rosenkreuz. If he brought up the trigger’s newest mess, they’d either reinstall it in him or they’d demand Crawford keep an eye on what he was doing. Part of him thought it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Rosenkreuz reinforced the weakened code and just cut this entire sex mess back out of his life, but the other part…

      “You have to learn to analyze things,” Crawford had warned him over and over, both when Schuldich turned in messy reports and when the telepath’s reckless behavior got him into trouble. “Analyze and then act.”

      He’d made this all worse because it simply wasn’t in his nature to think things through, but he didn’t know if he could change it now. Things had gotten more messed up now than he could remember them ever being for him.

      The thoughts made no sense in his head, and at last he scowled down at his drink and set it down in the street right in front of his shoes. ~Think,~ he ordered himself. ~Think.~

      Kudou… Kudou liked Nagi, but Schuldich didn’t care. Nagi was Schwarz’s and Weiss didn’t have a place in that. Kudou had done what he’d done last night to try and help Nagi- and to some extent, to help Schuldich. The telepath had had to trust him last night, even if it had taken hours to get to the point where he trusted that Kudou was just trying to help. He could find enough honesty in himself to remember how he’d felt at noon: he wasn’t mad that last night had happened, despite the pain and panic that had clogged half of it, but he was mad that Kudou had used last night against him today when defending his teammates.

      Nagi… Nagi liked Schuldich but had written him off as a lost cause when he saw how unfailing the trigger was. With work like theirs, the only constants for Schwarz were Weiss and Rosenkreuz. In Weiss he’d found a man he considered to be a substitute for Schuldich, but Schuldich wasn’t ever going to try and figure out how Nagi had made that mental connection. Nagi had started sleeping with Kudou, but now that Schuldich had gotten involved with it and revealed just how brittle his trigger could be, he’d actually helped make things worse in his desperation for a chance with the telepath.

      Nagi *didn’t* know his teammate if he’d really expected things to turn out any other way. But Schuldich wasn’t really sure he knew himself right now, either. Crawford said Nagi meant nothing to him because his trigger had closed him off, but he’d still gone back with Kudou last night to try and break that trigger.


      Because maybe Nagi was right, and maybe Schuldich could recognize that his disgust for Tot had grown out of Nagi’s interest in her. Maybe it helped explain just why he hated hearing Kudou’s name on Nagi’s lips and why he’d been so mad to hear both of them say that they had an emotional investment in each other. Maybe it explained just why he’d been so mad to see Kudou transform today the second Nagi reached the scene.

      Maybe it was all wrong- how was he to know? Maybe Nagi was seeing things and Schuldich was just reacting like a sane teammate should to a disgusting relationship between Nagi and Kudou. How was he supposed to know if his mind wouldn’t let him see anything about Nagi? If Nagi had never gotten together with Kudou in the first place, none of this would have happened. Schuldich could have kept going through life, merrily oblivious to the white noise trigger deep in his mind. Things would have been much simpler.

      They could be simple again if only Schuldich could live with the fact that Rosenkreuz had written a code into his mind over something that wasn’t dangerous. That was a major snag in keeping him from just walking away, because Schuldich wanted to understand. But if only-

      Water dripped onto his can and the soft sound it made was enough to distract Schuldich from his thoughts. He tilted his head back to look up at the overcast sky and realized it was drizzling. A glance at his teammate showed it had been for some time; water dotted the spikes of his hair and had left spots all over his clothes. Farfarello seemed content to ignore it and sip at his drink as he watched the street turn dark under each droplet of water.

      “Fucking rain,” Schuldich commented, though he didn’t really care.

      “Finished?” Farfarello asked.

      “I don’t know,” Schuldich answered.

      The simplest thing to do would be to just walk away from all of this, to forget what had happened last night and forget that burning need to rebel against anyone who thought they could control him. “Simple” wasn’t really simple when it would cost him so much to walk away from this, but he had the distinct feeling that it’d be easier to walk away than to see where it led him.

      “Not a fucking clue,” he murmured. “I’d be happier walking away.” Farfarello considered him for a long moment and Schuldich looked over at him, frowning a little at the considering look in Farfarello’s gaze. “Farf?”

      Farfarello said nothing at first but gathered the drinks up and stuffed one in each pocket for the ride home. Schuldich took the remaining two and then picked up his half-full can from the asphalt. “Farf?” he asked again.

      “Would you?” the Irishman asked at last.

      Schuldich muttered something incoherent that could pass as an answer. Farfarello didn’t push it but followed him back to where they’d left the car.

Part 11
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