SYN: When You Gonna Learn?

Part Thirteen

      "For the record, today was a colossal waste of a day and I blame it all on you."

      Crawford didn't even bother to look up from his newspaper. "I expect something more substantial than that to be included in your report," he said, flipping a page. "Nagi has already filled out his page without your help. It's waiting on my desk for you."

      "And the rest of the paperwork?" Schuldich asked, flicking his youngest teammate a look. The telekinetic was sitting opposite the older pair where they were on the couch. He hadn't looked up since Schuldich had first propped himself against the doorframe and Schuldich wasn't expecting to be acknowledged any time this century. He was okay with that- maybe. He turned his attention back on Crawford and Farfarello instead. "Did you miraculously finish it by noon?"

      Farfarello offered Schuldich a lazy look. "It's finished."

      "By noon?" Schuldich pressed. Farfarello just slid his gaze Crawford's way and said nothing. Crawford ignored him and Schuldich lifted a hand to forestall anything Farfarello might say. "Didn't think so. Blatant favoritism, Crawford. This is why I like Nagi best."

      "Weep," Farfarello murmured, trailing a finger down his cheek.

      Schuldich scowled at him. "Whatever. I'm taking Saturday off. There's my advance warning. Don't give me anything to do."

      "Take an umbrella."

      Schuldich looked back at Crawford. "What?"

      Crawford turned another page, looking for the next pertinent article. Crawford seldom read newspapers front to back, but instead by topic. Politics came first, then business and economics, then international, and so on. He still read every article, but reading in a more orderly fashion than just first to last meant better results with his gift. "Take an umbrella. It'll start raining ten minutes into the second half."

      "So you really are a meteorologist," Schuldich observed.

      "You don't like getting wet and I don't like listening to you complain," Crawford said as an explanation.

      "Chances are I'll have the time to dry off before making it back here, anyway."

      "Yes," Crawford agreed, finally flicking him a calm look. "You will."

      Schuldich eyed him, wondering if it was worth asking just how much Crawford could see. He wasn't sure he wanted to know; he wasn't even sure if Crawford would give him an honest answer. The thought that the precog could see anything of Kudou and him fucking was enough to make his skin crawl and his fingers twitched tighter around his sleeves. The bandaged cuts burned under the pressure but Schuldich bit back on a wince. "You're creepy," he decided at last.

      "I try," was Crawford's dry response, and he went back to his reading.

      "Where are you going on Saturday?" Nagi asked, unable to help himself.

      "I've got a date," Schuldich answered. The word almost hurt coming off of his tongue but he managed a smirk anyway. The only reason it held was because he was looking at Nagi instead of Farfarello. The blank look on Nagi's face was much easier to tolerate than the flat expression on his other teammate's at hearing such a word. "I'm going to go watch a football game."

      "Football," Nagi echoed. "What do you know about football?"

      "What do I know about football, Crawford?" Schuldich asked, looking over at the American.


      "Enough? Stingy bastard." It was accurate, though, so Schuldich decided to leave it at that for now. He headed down the hall to Crawford's office alone and found the report where Crawford had said it would be. He snagged a pen as well and retreated to his bedroom to write, propping himself in the corner on his bed so he could slouch against the wall. The cuts on his arms made it hurt to write, as the slices just twitched and pulled open as his fingers moved, but he ignored it as best he could. It was easy at first, but with an entire day's mental observations to record, it grew increasingly more difficult, and at last he set his pen aside and took a break.

      The telepath sent an annoyed look down at his sleeves before lifting one arm and tugging at the hem. There was blood on the bandages and for a moment he worried that Kudou had cut too deep. That was brushed aside impatiently with the thought that he wouldn't be able to write if Kudou had done real damage. Still, he thought, they were going to have to find something safer than that damn wire.

      The sound of muffled footsteps in the hall warned him to pull his sleeves back into place and Schuldich greeted his youngest teammate with a bored look when Nagi stopped just outside of his doorway. It seemed Nagi remembered Schuldich's threat to stay out of his room.

      ~What do you know about football?~ Nagi asked at last, sending it at Schuldich's gift so the two in the den couldn't hear them.

      /Rosenkreuz taught us sports,/ Schuldich answered.

      Nagi considered that for a few moments. ~You played?~

      /For a while./

      ~Were you good?~

      /Is this twenty questions?/

      ~I'm just curious,~ Nagi answered, frowning at him. ~We've been teammates for years and I didn't know this. All these times we've bumped into Weiss and they've got Hidaka on their team and you never said anything.~

      /Shouldn't you still be sulking somewhere over today?/

      Nagi grimaced a little. ~I've had years to get used to your stupid up and down moods,~ he said. ~I still think you're being a selfish jackass, but I don't want to fight with you. Do you want to fight with me?~

      /You make absolutely no sense, just so you know./

      ~I'm saying I know I was wrong,~ Nagi said. His mental voice sounded almost impatient, but Schuldich knew the edge was something else entirely. There was a greater chance of being struck by lightning than there was of one of Schwarz admitting that they'd stepped out of line. The fact that Crawford and Nagi had both done such a thing within the last couple weeks was enough to make Schuldich wonder if the end of the world was coming. At the very least, he wanted to be nowhere near metal stadium benches if Saturday's rain turned into a thunderstorm. He made a mental note to ask Crawford.

      He eyed Nagi for another minute more, testing the line that still sat tense and strained between them, and then shrugged. For now, with the link between Nagi and Kudou broken again, maybe things could start to be fine again. Schuldich would just have to keep the link between himself and Kudou strong enough to keep Kudou and Nagi apart.

      /Good enough,/ he answered at last.

      Silence stretched between them for almost a minute, both out loud and on the bond between them, and then Nagi tried again. ~Were you any good?~

      /They only let me play for one month,/ Schuldich sent back. He flexed his fingers to check his arms and decided to try writing some more. /Football teams are too big. I have no interest at all in watching out for that many people. It took them six tries until they found the right size for my gift./

      ~Maybe you should have done track or something.~

      /Too individualist, even with relays. Telepaths aren't allowed to be one-man teams./

      ~Then what did they end up with?~ Nagi wanted to know.

      Schuldich put down his pen again and gave Nagi a pitying look. /How many people are on Schwarz?/ he asked. /It's Crawford's team, but they built it around me. It's the largest team I'll cooperate with, is four people. Any more questions, genius?/

      Nagi made a face at him. ~What sport?~

      Schuldich made a face right back at him. /Yeah. You go ask Crawford that, and if he tells you, then you can know. We were on the same team./

      ~So it was embarrassing,~ Nagi guessed.

      Schuldich made as if to throw the pen at him, but Nagi didn't look all that impressed. Considering he could stop bullets and take buildings apart with his mind, he had no reason to fear a pen. Schuldich opted not to throw it just because he wasn't sure Nagi would throw it back and instead set to work on finishing up the report. Nagi watched him for a little while longer in silence and Schuldich let him, feigning not to notice the telekinetic's lingering stare.

      At last the younger man left and Schuldich relaxed a little more against the wall. He couldn't stop his lips from twitching into a smirk. He gave himself a few seconds to feel like he had everything perfectly under control again and then satisfaction and his teammate were brushed from mind in favor of finishing up his paperwork.


      "All that foresight and you couldn't think to pass the warning on to me?"

      Schuldich slanted a sideways look at Kudou and tilted his umbrella a little to get a better look at the man. It was just drizzling now, but the color of the sky warned them both that it would only get stronger. Rain drops were already plastering Kudou's precious hair to his skull despite his attempt to pull his jacket up over his head and Schuldich offered him a lazy smirk.

      "Didn't see a reason to," he said.

      "Somehow I expected a telepath to be a little less stingy. Guess I was wrong."

      "Now suffer the consequences for being wrong." Schuldich turned his attention back on the game. The teams were actually fairly decent. Kudou had explained that the city's club teams had all competed for two months to win a spot at this festival. Schuldich wasn't all that into sports, really, but if he was going to spend a day out with Kudou, then he at least felt the teams should be good enough to have earned his presence.

      "You wouldn't consider sharing?" Kudou asked.

      "No reason to."

      "I'm going to get my upholstery wet."

      "Guess you should have checked the weather channel this morning."

      "I was busy this morning."

      "I told you to stay away from our clients. Maybe if you'd listened to me, you wouldn't have been so busy."

      "Can't I reverse that and tell you to stay away from our targets?" the Balinese asked. "I'm getting soaked."

      "Get soaked for another ten minutes."

      "This is the gratitude I get," Kudou griped. "After everything I've done for you…"

      "You didn't have to agree to any of this," Schuldich told him. "You could have said no way back at the start."

      "What, back at the office? No way. I'd already heard about your trigger, so I wanted to know how it would play out. Besides, I have to admit I was curious. Nagi talked about you often enough that I wanted to know what could be so good about you."

      "Your mistake."

      "Is this a mistake?"

      "Take this storm as a lesson," Schuldich sent back. "If you'd brought a girl here but been too busy to check the weather, how would you explain it to her when she got doused?"

      "I'd give her my jacket to hide under during the game, we'd run laughing back to the car all helter-skelter, and then I'd dry her off back at my place and we'd warm each other up. I'd probably say something about the unpredictable weather being symbolic of young, spontaneous love."

      "Don't you ever get embarrassed listening to yourself?"

      "Not really, no. It's tried and true and it works. You obviously don't know what girls want to hear. Just trust me. I know everything there is to know about women."

      "And you're not a host because…?"

      "Hosts work at night," Kudou answered easily. "My nights are busy."

      "I think you'd be making better money otherwise."

      "Probably," Kudou agreed. "I was a host for half a year, you know? I needed money for the move to Tokyo way back when and it sounded like a good way to earn it. How do you think I got so fabulous at being me?"

      "I'm not answering that."

      The rain sped up a little and Kudou hunched under his jacket a little more. "You still not considering sharing?"

      "I think I answered that one already," Schuldich said, but then he heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. He tilted his umbrella back to look up at the clouds, then looked down at the metal benches and over at Kudou. "On second thought, you're taller. Come be a lightning rod or something."

      "Good enough." Kudou shifted right into his personal space and took the umbrella from them, holding it so it would protect both of them somewhat. He was pressed against Schuldich's side so they both could fit and Schuldich scowled out at the football field.

      "You're wet."

      "Yeah, I know. Maybe you should have let me under sooner," Kudou pointed out. "Oh man, my hair…"

      "Nothing worth crying over."

      "Zing." Kudou pressed a hand against his chest. "I guess we really are a well-rounded abusive relationship. I provide the physical, you provide the emotional."

      "You don't have anything in there to get hurt," Schuldich told him.

      "Now that's cruel," Kudou said mildly. "I talk myself into loving all of my dates, even if it's just a little. It's important, you know? I mean, I could go home with anyone anytime and get anything I wanted physically, but… To be able to go places like dinner or games or the movies and really walk away feeling like it was fun, there's got to be a stronger connection there. It makes for better memories, I think, and something good to hold onto through the rest of this blood."

      Schuldich flicked him a flat look, not appreciating that joke. Joke? It had better be. "Not with me."

      Kudou offered him a smile that Schuldich didn't recognize. It was a shade too distant to be calculating. "You're taking a bit of work," Kudou admitted.

      "Not with me," Schuldich said again, harder now.

      "No worries," Kudou assured him, raking a hand through orange hair once. "We'll figure it out."

      Schuldich refused to acknowledge that and instead turned back on the game. They watched the last few minutes play out in silence and then it was a long shuffle back through the crowd to their cars. They reached Schuldich's first, only to find it was blocked in by four or five others, and Schuldich scowled at it for good measure before following Kudou to his. It was better than waiting around in the rain, anyway.

      The car idled for a few minutes, both to let some of the parking lot traffic clear and so Kudou could mourn his bedraggled appearance in his mirror. "Well, that settles it," he said at last. "I'm cooking. I'm hungry but we're not going out in public looking like this."

      "Since when can you cook?"

      "Since when would you know, anyway?" Kudou returned easily. "Just because you can't cook doesn't mean no one can."

      "I can cook toast," Schuldich sent back.

      "I'm amazed by your prowess with a toaster."

      They bickered the whole way back to Kudou's place, but it wasn't until the other man started laughing at something particularly unfriendly Schuldich had said that Schuldich realized that the mood between them was still fine. For all of the back-and-forth squabbling, the tension in the car was still nearly nonexistent. Schuldich just listened to Kudou laugh as he tried to figure that one out, but he still hadn't decided what to think about it by the time they parked. Schuldich could say things to Crawford, but there was only so far he could or would go, because disrespecting Crawford just didn't make any sense. He could snipe at Farfarello until the other man got bored of it and hit him for it. He could argue with Nagi more than either of the others, but it usually ended with a riled Nagi lashing out with his gift if it went too far.

      Schuldich was starting to think there wasn't a "too far" with Kudou, and that the man really could just roll around everything Schuldich said. He wasn't sure that was a good thing, but if it wasn't, then why wasn't he upset?

      They ran up the stairs to Kudou's place both to keep from getting wet and so as not to be found outside by Weiss. Kudou let Schuldich wait at the entrance while he fetched towels for them both and he offered Schuldich a lazy smile as he handed one over.

      "Want me to dry you off?" he asked.

      "I dare you to try."

      Schuldich didn't mean it literally, but Kudou took him at his word because it was what he wanted to hear, and they ended up scuffling at the door as Schuldich tried to fight Kudou's hands and towel off. Somehow they lost their shirts along the way and Schuldich dimly thought he'd helped with it, and then Kudou had his towel looped around Schuldich's back to pull the German up against him. Schuldich had to latch onto him for balance and his hands worked their way across Kudou's damp skin, still curious about the feel of another living body. Kudou's hands were full with the ends of the towel but his mouth did the work for him and they gave up the fight in favor of kissing.

      "I thought you were hungry," Schuldich told him, not that he cared.

      "I am," Kudou answered, low and raw enough that Schuldich knew exactly what hunger he meant.

      The door shuddered under their weight, but they knew it would hold. Kudou dropped the towel and touched Schuldich instead and the heat of his hands and body seeped through Schuldich's clothes easily. Kudou's hand on the back of his knee was pulling his leg up out of the way and Schuldich's fingernails dug into a shoulder and shoulder blade as Kudou ground hard against him. He felt the unyielding door at his back and the harder man in front of him, and he could feel it when his mind started reacting. Instead of pushing, he pulled, sliding his arm around Kudou's shoulders. He grit his teeth against the need for space and pressed himself harder up against the other man instead, biting down hard on his hand where it was digging into Kudou's skin.

      Kudou worked a line of kisses down his throat, then across his jaw and onto his ear. His hands and his body never slowed and he just pushed harder, looking for a friction that almost hurt. Schuldich's hand jerked against his arm in an aborted attempt to lash out and he felt skin give beneath his teeth, tasted blood as he gasped for breath around clenched jaws.

      "Call me Yohji," Kudou growled at his ear.

      "Fuck you," Schuldich managed to get out. Kudou's hands were between them, jerking at their buttons, and he pulled back away from the door. Schuldich stumbled after him, cursing at the loss of pressure, and Kudou offered one bare shoulder a kiss that was more teeth than lips. He managed to get Schuldich's pants undone and shoved them down over the German's hips, finding enough leeway to slide his hands over Schuldich's ass.

      "Call me Yohji," Kudou insisted again.

      "I said no."

      "You can call me it now of your own free will or I'll wait until you're so close you can taste it and force you to say it," Kudou told him, drawing his hands back to yank at his own pants. Schuldich let go of him but hadn't pulled back very far before Kudou caught at his wrists. He kicked the rest of the way out of his pants and pressed a close-mouthed kiss against the pale scars that lined Schuldich's forearms. His eyes never left Schuldich's and there was a promise in them so dark and hot that Schuldich wasn't sure whether to rock forward into it or back away. "Right there on the fucking edge, gasping and needing and straining, and I'll keep it from you until I get what I want. You give it to me now of your own choice or I'll take it from you then. You decide."

      "That doesn't really sound like a choice to me," Schuldich told him. "How about I just leave?"

      "Would you really?" Kudou asked, and he dropped Schuldich's wrists in search of harder skin. Schuldich ignored his words and followed him onto the bed, and they tangled together as Kudou pushed him down. "Schuldich," Kudou tried again.

      Schuldich offered him a smirk that was all mockery. "Yoooohji," he taunted the other man.

      It didn't seem to matter that it was all spite. Kudou just groaned something unintelligible and proceeded to kiss the last bit of oxygen out of Schuldich's veins.

      Schuldich later guessed that Kudou had no reason to mourn such spite, because he still got what he wanted. He held good on his promise- threat?- and he made sure Schuldich came with "Yohji" on his lips. Schuldich fought him as best he could but his body betrayed him in the end. As soon as he had the breath and the energy to move again he bit Kudou's arm as hard as he could, earning a pillow-muffled curse and a small smack against whatever body part of Schuldich's Kudou could reach without having to move. The fight was over as quickly as it had started and they went back to getting their breaths back.

      They were slower to pull apart and Kudou rummaged around for their clothes. Schuldich sat further up the bed from him and stared down at his hand. It was streaked with dried blood and he picked at the drops that were already clotting, trying to get a glimpse of how deep he'd ended up biting. Now that he wasn't distracted, his hand hurt like a bitch. He moved his fingers one at a time, making sure they were all okay, and did his best to ignore Kudou's heavy gaze.

      "We didn't need ropes," Kudou said, following Schuldich's train of thought.

      "I'm hungry," Schuldich said.

      Kudou tossed his clothes his way. "Yeah," he agreed. "Me too."

      Schuldich just watched as the man got dressed and started for the kitchen, then looked back down at his hand. It took another minute more before he finally got up and he padded to the bathroom to rinse his hand clean. He invited himself to a quick rinse-off shower while he was at it, needing to get sweat and semen off his skin, and left water all over Kudou's floor when he went back into the bedroom to find his towel.

      The towels had somehow ended up over the back of Kudou's computer chair and he ended up jostling the desk enough of clear the screensaver. Schuldich went still with the towel hanging from one hand as he stared at what was open on the desktop: today's weather forecast.

      "You retarded liar," he sent at the kitchen, and he heard pots go still. Schuldich met Kudou in the kitchen doorway as the other man started out to see what was going on. "You knew it was going to rain."

      "I'm actually a little offended that you believed I wouldn't have time to check such a thing," Kudou said, quirking an eyebrow at him. "I'd also like to point out that you mocked my dry off and warm up strategy, and that you completely overlooked the romantic appeal of huddling under the same umbrella."

      "What's so romantic about that?" Schuldich demanded, mirroring Kudou's expression. "It was cramped and you were wet."

      "You're hopeless." Kudou dropped his eyes to study Schuldich's wet skin. "Go again?"

      "Feed me," Schuldich sent back at him, and he padded away to get dressed. It took Kudou a few seconds before he dragged his gaze away from Schuldich in favor of cooking and the telepath sought him out once more. The kitchen was pathetically small and seemed worlds smaller with how complicated this dinner seemed to be. Ingredients and bowls lined every inch of counter space.

      "Look good?" Kudou asked him. Schuldich feigned not to hear. "How did you get to be a vegetarian, anyway?"

      "How did you get to be such a whore?"

      "Sheer determination and a lot of practice?" Kudou guessed, offering him a smile. "I'm just curious."

      "Curiosity killed the cat."

      "Except that you can't kill me," Kudou reminded him helpfully. "I want to know. You know that I can keep all of this separated from Weiss. Would it really be so bad to tell me?"

      Schuldich studied him in silence, thinking about Nagi and the vegetarian diner and the football game and Kudou's lazy smile. "I'm learning how to play you."

      Kudou blinked. "Say again?"

      Schuldich didn't answer that, content to just study the other man's face. The telepath had always been happy to write Weiss off as a game, but he'd never realized that Kudou wasn't one of his own designs. This was all one of Kudou's games, where Kudou knew the rules and knew the scoring. But Schuldich could- would- learn. He couldn't help but think he was already starting to figure it out.

      And somehow, that was finally enough. Just a few weeks ago, he'd been bored out of his skull and looking for entertainment.

      Maybe this really was exactly what he needed.

Part 14
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