SYN: When You Gonna Learn?

Part Six

      Schuldich decided that he'd never really understood the word "tense" until that day. Nagi didn't return home until late evening, showing up hours after Farfarello and Crawford both made it back. Schuldich had nothing to say to the precog-psycho pair and was content to sit in the kitchen and turn his pack-a-month cigarette habit into a two-packs-a-day marathon. He was positive he knew where Nagi had gone but not what would come of it; the telekinetic was out of his range if he had really gone to the Koneko no Sumu Ie. Schuldich was tempted to ask Crawford whether or not Weiss would lose an assassin that night, except the precognitive had already warned them that Kudou was not to be harmed. Besides, he was getting used to the idea of not talking to Crawford, the lousy unhelpful American bastard.

      They ate dinner in little groups that night, Farfarello and Crawford first, then Schuldich, and Nagi not at all. Schuldich was heading down the hall with a drink in his hand and plans to disappear into his room the rest of the night when Farfarello stepped into the doorway of Crawford's office and held his hand out.

      "The disk," he said. "Crawford wants your report."

      "All of it?" Schuldich asked snidely.

      Farfarello arched an eyebrow at him. "He already knows half of it," he pointed out. Schuldich didn't realize he'd actually raised his hand to hit the other man until Farfarello spoke, sounding more bored than anything else: "I hit harder than you and you know it."

      "Fuck off and die."

      "The disk," Farfarello said again, and he stepped back inside the office. Schuldich watched as he retreated across the room to claim the chair next to Crawford's and lowered his fist to scrub at his mouth. He could still taste cigarette smoke of a brand that wasn't his.

      The weight of a heavy stare on him reminded him that they weren't the only ones in the apartment and he flicked a look over his shoulder to see Nagi standing in the doorway to the den. The telekinetic's expression was as hard as stone and twice as unreadable, but Schuldich forced his mouth into a smirk when he realized Nagi had heard the exchange. Schuldich decided Farfarello had damned bad timing and turned his back on Nagi, continuing down to his room. He left his cup on his dresser and dug the disk out of his coat, turning it over between his fingers.

      How easily Weiss had let him take the data he'd been sent to collect. He'd fucked Schuldich with his clothes on and had just walked out, just like that. Just another conquest. Schuldich hissed air through his teeth and had to set the disk down before he broke it in his hands. Attempts to not think about it all afternoon had been hindered by the fact that he was bruised from it, both from the desk and Kudou's hands, and he could feel it when he turned or stretched to get dishes out of the cabinets.

      He turned around to go, one hand against the small of his back and the twinge there, and stopped when he saw Nagi in the doorway. The younger man said nothing, just stared back at him, and Schuldich wondered how his talk with Kudou had gone. He told himself he didn't care, but that was stupid, because the whole point of last night had been to screw up their ridiculous relationship.

      "Where's your smirk now?" Nagi asked.

      Schuldich forced it on his lips and dropped his hand from his back. He scooped up the disk again and started for the door. "How is your little kitty cat today?" he drawled.

      "Why did you do it?" Nagi demanded quietly. "If you're so mad about it, why did you do it?"

      "I was bored," Schuldich answered, waving the disk at Nagi in an order to move. Nagi didn't budge. "We always knew he was easy, but I didn't realize just how easy he was until he started banging you. Call it curiosity."

      "Call it idiocy," Nagi sent back flatly. "Why did you do it?"

      "For the look on your face," Schuldich answered. "It was worth it."

      "It was worth it," Nagi echoed, and that was the tone of voice that usually preceded Nagi throwing someone out the window with his gift. Schuldich rethought his idea to push the boy out of his way physically and stood in front of him instead, waving the disk at him.

      "Crawford is waiting for me."

      "Was it worth it?" Nagi asked, ignoring that, and from this close, Schuldich could see the resentment in his eyes. "Was it? You went out and got completely trashed last night. I suppose that's because you were in the mood to congratulate yourself."

      "You're well on your way to becoming a telepath."

      "Or was it because you gave your first to a Weiss?" Nagi pressed.

      Schuldich felt his smirk vanish. "What did you just say?" he asked, and he could hear the ice in his voice.

      "Kudou told me," Nagi said. "He could tell."

      "Get out of my room."

      "I'm not in your room," Nagi pointed out. "I'm in your doorway."

      Schuldich shoved him aside even as he told himself to hold onto his amused, haughty fašade. He felt the smirk curve around his lips again but it was too late now and Nagi's stare was a little too knowing, a little too angry. "You're a nosey little asshole," Schuldich told him, sliding past him into the hallway. Nagi caught at his sleeve. Schuldich tried to pull his arm away but Nagi refused to let go, and he sent his younger teammate a hard smile. "He agreed without much of an argument," he told Nagi, "so what does that say about your hold on him?"

      Nagi practically threw Schuldich's arm away from him, stung by the words. "You're an idiot," he told Schuldich in a low voice that shook. "Now you know what it feels like, but it doesn't seem to make you any smarter."

      "It's news to me that sex makes any man smarter."

      "Not sex," Nagi said flatly, annoyed. "Go see Crawford."

      Schuldich tapped his head with the disk in a mocking farewell and went down the hall to Crawford's office. The other assassins had their chairs turned towards the door and eyed him as he stepped through the doorway. Schuldich kept moving out of sheer willpower alone and offered the disk up to Crawford with a lazy smile on his face. In place of Nagi's resentment there was something much more considering here and he thought he preferred Nagi's anger to this calm knowing.

      "Disk," he said needlessly, holding it out in offering.

      Crawford accepted it and handed it to Farfarello. The Irishman poked it into the computer and Crawford handed Schuldich a clipboard to fill out job details. Crawford would type it up later to give to their client in a progress report, so Schuldich propped himself against the wall to fill it out. At last the two turned their chairs around to face the desk but Schuldich could still feel Farfarello's eye on him as he scribbled out vague notes.

      It was quick to fill out when he was leaving out most of the details and he pushed away from the wall to set the clipboard down. "Anything to add?" Crawford wanted to know without looking up from the screen, and Schuldich eyed him.

      "No," he said, but it sounded defensive even to him.

      "You'll have another job tomorrow, then," Crawford told him. "Our client needs an escort."

      "Boring," Schuldich complained.

      "You were restless for work to do," Crawford pointed out. "I'll give you further details tomorrow."

      Schuldich muttered something in response to that and left. Nagi was at the door when he stepped out into the hall, but just as Schuldich spotted him, the teenager was gone. Schuldich went still, staring at the closed door, and then looked down at his watch. It was almost eleven, a strange hour for Nagi to be leaving. He wondered if the other man was going to the convenience store or on a walk to get away from the apartment, because surely Nagi wouldn't be going back to Kudou after he'd spent most of the day with him.

      Nagi wasn't back at midnight. Schuldich eyed the clock where he was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup, and a footstep in the doorway distracted him. Farfarello came in to get his own drink and Schuldich feigned great interest in his juice.

      "He's not coming back tonight," Farfarello said as he opened the fridge, and Schuldich slowly looked up from his cup to the Irishman's back. "Crawford said you should just sleep."

      "You make it sound like I'm waiting up for him," Schuldich said lightly. Farfarello just shrugged and Schuldich scowled at his back. "Crawford could sound a little bothered by the fact that Nagi's spending the night out with one of Weiss."

      "You're bothered enough for all of us." Farfarello pushed the fridge door shut and plucked up his glass of water. He half-turned to eye Schuldich and tilted his head to one side. "What was last night for if it changed nothing?" he wanted to know.

      "Shut up," Schuldich warned him.

      Farfarello just flicked his fingers in dismissal and left, and Schuldich was left alone to seethe.


      Nagi was still gone when Schuldich got up the next day, and the younger man wasn't back by lunch. Schuldich paced around his room in tight circles, oblivious to the way his fingernails had dug deep half-moon marks into his skin where his arms were folded across his chest. It was one in the afternoon and Nagi was still with Kudou, still far out of range. Schuldich's skin was crawling at the idea of them being out so long together and he stopped by his dresser to give it a hard kick.

      'What was last night for?' he heard Farfarello asking him, and he hissed breath through his teeth.

      What had that- that utter lack of common sense- that-

      What had he done it for if Nagi and Kudou could bounce back so easily?

      "Schuldich," Crawford spoke up from the doorway, and Schuldich shot him a quick look over his shoulder. "You should leave soon. Come get the file so you know what you'll be doing today."

      "How can you not care?" Schuldich demanded. "How can it not bother you at all that Nagi's sleeping with one of Weiss? It's idiotic, it's treachery. It's disgusting. Why did you let it happen? Why didn't you stop it?"

      "Nagi's loyalties are to this team," Crawford answered easily. "Regardless of whom he spends his free time with, we are his first priority. As long as he remembers that his place is with us, I see no reason to curtail his extracurricular activities."

      "Extracurricular-" Schuldich sputtered, choking on Crawford's word choice. "Is what you and Farfarello do extracurricular?"

      "Who are you talking about here?" Crawford wanted to know. "Nagi and Kudou, Nagi's issues with you, or Farfarello and myself?"

      "Nagi and I don't have issues."

      "Schuldich, your talent is a very useful gift, both for your own successes and this team's. It is profitable and complicated, but it is also a source of many migraines for those around you because of how thoroughly it blinds you."

      "It's a little cheap for a precognitive to chide others about their foresight," Schuldich snapped at him.

      "Telepaths are very moment-minded," Crawford answered, ignoring his teammate's tone. "They have a tendency to be reckless, spoiled, and self-indulgent, because they find it hard to look past the present moment. You judge things in an instant and move on them without stopping to think about what the consequences will be. That is why telepaths are always paired with precognitives. Your ability to hear hidden motives helps a precog see and a precog can in turn keep the telepath alive and grounded."

      "What does this have to do with Nagi?" Schuldich demanded.

      "You and Nagi have had issues for the better part of a year," Crawford told him. "You just have never seen it, too focused on each fleeting distraction. If Nagi's affair with Kudou restored some sort of balance to the team, then I had even fewer reasons to stop such a relationship."

      "You're not making sense," Schuldich told him, annoyed, and Crawford just beckoned for Schuldich to follow him. The telepath had little choice other than to follow him down the hall and for once Farfarello wasn't in Crawford's office. The precognitive handed over a file for Schuldich to read and motioned to the second chair before sitting and typing a few keys on his keyboard. The computer screen flickered and went black and Crawford looked towards Schuldich.

      "Takayama is having a meeting this afternoon with his three main men," Crawford said. "That alone means that someone must be on hand in case trouble shows up, which it probably will. Weiss cannot afford to pass up a chance at getting to these four, but the meeting was called barely an hour ago, which means they do not have time to get a proper mission together. They are likely to try anyway, so I am sending you to keep an eye on things."

      "Right," Schuldich sent back as he flipped through the paperwork Crawford had prepared them. "Let's stick one Schwarz in a building with four clients and see if Weiss shows up. Very smart."

      "Nagi will meet you there," Crawford told him. "If Weiss makes it, his gift will be enough to keep them back and out of sight where it won't bother our clients."

      "If Nagi's going, then let him do it," Schuldich sent back, setting the packet down on the edge of Crawford's desk. "I'll stay here."

      Crawford gave him a calm look that wasn't quite chiding. "How is he to know whether they enter the building or not without your gift?" he asked sensibly, and Schuldich muttered something unintelligible in response. "I am predicting Weiss will be there," Crawford told him. "Tell me that you will be fine with that."

      "Fine with that," Schuldich echoed. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

      "Balinese will be there."

      "That's my fucking business," Schuldich sent back and he shoved himself to his feet. "If you want to tell me I'm incompetent, go ahead and find the courage somewhere to lie to my face. Don't just insinuate that I can't do the job right. You and I have worked together for too long for you to say such things to me."

      Crawford considered his angry face for a moment before inclining his head. "I didn't mean that," he said lightly, and Schuldich knew it was the closest to an apology he would get. It was enough- from Crawford, even the smallest concessions went a long way. Schuldich could feel his annoyance evaporating, but in its place was the announcement that while Weiss "might" show up, Balinese "would". It was an important distinction.

      Schuldich wasn't looking forward to meeting up with him. "Whatever," he muttered, but he didn't know if it was in response to Crawford's apology or just tired defiance towards his own thoughts.

      "They are expecting you in an hour," Crawford said. "It will take you around forty minutes to get there with this traffic."

      Schuldich could practically taste the snide comment regarding Crawford's gift showing him such things as slow traffic, but he swallowed it in a fierce show of self-control. He saw Crawford's eyebrow quirk up at the restraint and it just made it harder to keep his mouth shut. "I'm out of here," he said instead, and he started for the door.

      "I will let Nagi know you're on your way," Crawford said, and Schuldich went still with one hand on the doorframe.

      ~Don't say it,~ he warned himself, but his mouth was already moving. He could still see Farfarello's odd little half-smile as he'd warned Schuldich that it would hurt to sit down so soon after letting Kudou touch him, and it was burned into his eyelids as he tossed the words out into the air between them.

      "You've let him push you down before."

      He turned just enough to look back at Crawford, who had a bland expression on his face despite the words Schuldich had just said to him. Schuldich eyed him, feeling the line between them and wondering if he'd crossed it, because Crawford and Farfarello's thing had always been their thing and Schuldich had no real reason to be poking around in their sex life- no real reason except that he couldn't understand what Crawford seemed to get. Farfarello had refused to answer this question, but that was Farfarello, andů

      Well, how was Crawford supposed to be different? But he couldn't just say that without following it up with some reason for saying such a blunt thing. "Why? You're Oracle. You're too strong to bow to anyone."

      Crawford just considered him in silence and for a minute Schuldich thought he wasn't going to answer. He waited for Crawford to turn away or change the subject but didn't leave or retract his words, hanging onto the slim chance that Crawford would humor him. At last Crawford gave a quiet sigh, the kind of sound he made when one of Schwarz was missing something he thought obvious. Usually Schuldich took offense to that noise, but this time he knew it meant he was going to get an answer.

      "Rape is about power," Crawford told Schuldich, very simply. "Sex is not." When Schuldich just blinked at him, the precognitive picked up Schuldich's abandoned files and straightened them. "If it's consensual, then neither is bowing to the other. Do you understand?"

      Schuldich thought he did, for one moment, but then it was gone, hanging out of reach. "No," he said, frustrated.

      "You will," Crawford said, and Schuldich left him there.


      Schuldich knew that Nagi had to be there with him, but the telekinetic hadn't sought him out upon his arrival. Schuldich wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or relieved at the absence and settled on annoyed because it was easier, because it suited him better. He paced the fifth floor of the building Takayama had claimed, keeping a stakeout one floor beneath the four men, and muttered angry things into his chain of cigarettes. Smoke curled out of his lips as he passed and he took a bit of comfort in the fact that these cigarettes were his brand.

      He poked his mind outwards, searching for Weiss one mind at a time. Silence met the first three, but on the fourth poke, he struck gold.

      "Fool's gold," he told himself sourly, because Weiss had come- but just the Balinese, as Crawford had said he would.

      It didn't matter. Nagi was downstairs somewhere and he could take care of Kudou and prove that he didn't have a problem with meeting Weiss on the battlefield. He sent the younger man a quick mental note and went back to smoking. The clock on the wall ticked away the time and they'd already been here for two hours. He was bored as hell and ready to leave. He'd wanted Schwarz to have jobs again, but he hadn't wanted the boring sort. He wanted the kind where things went boom and they got to kill lots of people. Things like this were a waste of his time.

      He sat down heavily in one of the armchairs of the fifth floor lobby and eyed the ornate elevator across from him. His cigarette was burned down to the filter and hot enough to burn his lips, so he stabbed it out on an ashtray beside him. He was leaning forward in his seat to dig another pack out from his pocket when the elevator dinged and two doors slid open.

      Balinese didn't look surprised to see him, and Schuldich decided that was not allowed. He curved his lips into a smirk and pushed himself to his feet. "Weiss," he greeted. "I see you made it past the guard dog. What'd you do, give him a bone to chew on?"

      "That's almost witty," Kudou answered, sliding his hands into his pockets and stepping out of the elevator. "So what, it's just you and then the guys upstairs? If they're the prize, does that make you the big boss of the level?"

      Schuldich pulled his gun out of its holster and turned it this way and that, admiring the way the overhead light gleamed against the metal. "Somehow I think the big boss is going to win this one."

      "Are you going to kill me?" Kudou asked, sounding amused.

      "I've thought about it."

      "Did Crawford retract his orders, then?"

      The gun went still and Schuldich looked over towards Kudou, somehow managing to keep the condescending smirk in place. Kudou was still moving towards him and Schuldich aimed the gun right at him. "Nagi said Crawford told you that I wasn't to be killed," Kudou told him.

      "Then Nagi's a fucking traitor," Schuldich said, turning a chilling smile on Kudou as the man stopped right against the gun. Kudou leaned forward a little into it and Schuldich refused to give ground to him.

      "I wouldn't consider it treachery," Kudou told him. "It's more like I asked him if Schwarz was going to have my head for touching you."

      "Crawford never said you had to be in one piece," Schuldich informed him.

      "You did ask for it," Kudou reminded him, reaching up for the gun. Schuldich refused to jerk away from him, but staying still meant that Kudou could wrap his fingers around Schuldich's wrist. The man pulled his hand up, letting the gun trail up his chest to his throat, and then he tilted away from the weapon enough that he could press a kiss to the underside of Schuldich's wrist. Schuldich yanked his hand back then, but Kudou refused to let go. The other man's body hit his, pushing him back a few steps, and Kudou wrapped an arm around Schuldich's waist.

      "I didn't mean to scare you."

      Schuldich's smile could have melted pavement. "I'm not afraid of you."

      "You looked it," Kudou answered. "For a moment, you looked it. I almost felt bad, but you'd asked for it. Maybe you should think things through next time."

      "Maybe you should die."

      Kudou leaned forward and Schuldich told himself to flinch away, except that would just confirm that he didn't want to be here, pressed against Kudou's body. "You had no idea what you were getting into, did you?" Kudou wanted to know, and the green eyes that glimmered at him were the same ones that had stared him down over a kiss just last night. Schuldich could feel himself tensing up and he pressed the gun into Kudou's throat again, trying to force his head back. Kudou just laughed and let it move him. "You didn't have a clue."

      "Shut up."

      "I meant what I offered," Kudou told him. "About being on my knees in front of you. Flesh to flesh and just dark heat. All you have to do is say okay. All you have to do is nod."

      "You're a fucking whore."

      "And you're not as scary as I thought you were," Kudou returned mildly. Schuldich's finger was starting to move on the trigger when Kudou wrenched his hand away, and then the other man's mouth was on his.

      ~Listen to me,~ Kudou told him.

      /I don't take fucking orders from you,/ Schuldich sent him acidly, struggling to get his hand free. With Kudou's arm around his waist, his other hand was trapped between them and he couldn't get enough room to shove the white assassin away from him.

      ~Don't you want to know what it's like?~ Schuldich bit down on his lip hard enough that he tasted blood. He heard Kudou hum against his lips. ~I can see you dripping sweat, shaking with need, Schuldich. I can see you twisting as you find out what pleasure really is. I can see you liking it so much you won't want it to stop. I can taste you. I can see me sucking you off until you can't stand it anymore and licking you clean. Can you taste it?~ A hot mouth moved over his cheek, open lips ghosting over warm flesh to let his breath tickle over an ear. ~Can you feel it, Schuldich?~ He pushed his leg forward, grinding it between them, and Schuldich's lips parted on a harsh pant.

      ~It was quick last time,~ Kudou told him. ~I could make it last. Like nothing you've ever felt before. All you have to do is say yes and let me.~

      'If it's consensual, then neither is bowing to the other. Do you understand?'

      ~I don't,~ he thought, angry and frustrated. He didn't understand anything. He didn't understand why he'd let Kudou fuck him last night or why he wasn't struggling as hard as he could right now. One part of him was curling greedily around the heat Kudou brought with him and the heady promise in his voice, but the other was digging in against the thought of giving Kudou anything more than he'd already mistakenly given him.

      ~Tell me yes,~ Kudou urged him. ~I know you want to say it.~

      "Shut up," he warned Kudou, and he hated that his voice sounded strained.

      "Do you really want me to?" Kudou murmured, lips moving over his ear. "Hmm?"

      Schuldich wrenched free of him so hard he felt something in his wrist twist. Kudou let go of his hand almost a second too late and Schuldich shoved the gun in his face. "Go home, Weiss," he warned Kudou in a low voice, and he tried to ignore the fact that his hand was unsteady. "Go home or I *will* shoot you."

      Kudou considered that for a moment if weighing the sincerity of it, then leaned forward slightly. Schuldich felt something in his stomach clench as those lips parted and slid over the barrel of the gun. Kudou's green eyes were half-lidded and murky as they stared up at him and the tip of a pink tongue slid out, gliding against dark metal. Schuldich could feel the gun moving in his hand as Kudou fucked it in his mouth and he felt his arm sway a little as he struggled to draw his eyes up from the other's mouth.

      ~Say yes,~ Kudou told him, a dark purr against his thoughts that send all of the need and heat downwards.

      Schuldich's mouth moved silently. Chairs clattered above him as the meeting was finally adjourned and Schuldich jerked, startled out of his daze. He yanked his gun free and Kudou straightened, licking his lips a little as if he could still taste the cold metal. "Maybe next time," Kudou offered.

      "Fuck you," Schuldich breathed.

      "Next time, then," Kudou agreed, and he was turning away, jacket swirling around him. The clients upstairs were likely to take the elevator down so Kudou took the stairs, and Schuldich watched the door swing shut behind him. Only after it clicked into place could he move and he retreated a few steps to sit down in the chair he'd abandoned just a few minutes ago.

      He let the gun fall from his hand and stared down at his fingers, gut clenching with need and heat. "Fuck," he whispered, and he tightened his fingers into a fist and bit down on his knuckles. "Fuck."

      There was the soft tap of a shoe off to his left and Schuldich flicked a quick look there to see Nagi leaning against a doorframe. The telekinetic's expression was smooth as he considered his teammate and Schuldich tucked his gift in close to his head, refusing to reach out and see what was going on behind that easy mask. For a minute, neither of them said anything, and then at last Nagi started towards him.

      "You really are a clueless idiot, aren't you?" Nagi asked, reaching out to catch his hand. Schuldich let him push it down from his mouth but barely noticed the blood dribbling over his knuckles. He shook off Nagi's touch and pushed himself to his feet. It was easy to snatch his gun up from the ground and he didn't look back at his teammate as he started for the door.

      Nagi didn't follow him, and Schuldich didn't wait.

Part 7
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