SYN: When You Gonna Learn?

Part Seven

      Crawford and Farfarello were out, which gave Schuldich the apartment to himself for the few minutes it took Nagi to catch up to him. He wore out a path up and down the hall, heel of his palm pressed into his mouth, as he searched for anything to think about except Kudou. Socks. The tower by the sea. Juggling penguins. Chinese food on Tuesdays. No, that just brought him straight back to coming across Kudou and Nagi on a date.

      And from that… He could see those lips parting and sliding over the metal of his gun, could remember the wet heat of that mouth against his skin, and he couldn't stomach it. He slammed his hand out to drive it into the wall beside him, struggling to focus.

      He didn't get it. He didn't get any of it, not Nagi's interest in Kudou or vice versa. He didn't get Crawford and Farfarello's relationship and it made a hell of a lot more sense than Nagi's. He'd never understood the what or why of what Crawford was doing with Farfarello but he'd never tried to. He'd never cared to try. He'd found amusement in it, but the anger that seeing Nagi with Kudou had stirred up had never been there. He hit his hand against the wall again, trying to focus, trying to empty his mind.

      The doorknob rattled and Schuldich looked up as Nagi stepped inside. The telekinetic didn't look angry about walking in on Kudou and Schuldich despite his reaction yesterday morning. Schuldich couldn't read anything on his face and he didn't try; he just turned around and started back down the hall.

      Nagi's voice stopped him just a few feet from his door: "Crawford once told me that they put your white noise trigger in when you were nine years old."

      Schuldich's hand was hovering in the air where he'd been reaching for the door knob, but as the silence stretched between them, it slowly fell back to his side. "I didn't ask him," Nagi told him, not quite apologetic. "He just felt I deserved to know, and he told me about it out of the blue."

      Schuldich let his lips curve into a smile and turned around, leaning against the wall. "So?"

      "You shouldn't have been able to do it," Nagi told him, starting down the hall towards him. "You shouldn't have been able to sleep with him."

      "But I did," Schuldich pointed out.

      "You did," came the quiet response. "I asked him. He told me. He told me all of it, Schuldich." The teenager stopped just out of arm's reach to gaze up at Schuldich, and despite the fact that Schuldich was the telepath, he felt like he was a bug on a microscope beneath that gaze. Nagi must have learned it from Crawford, he supposed. "I had to see it today."

      It took Schuldich a moment to process that- just a moment, and then he was angry. "You set that up."

      "Why aren't you happy about it?" Nagi demanded. "Why didn't you say yes?"

      "I don't want your sloppy seconds."

      "Then why did you sleep with him in the first place? Your trigger shouldn't have failed."

      "It's just mental coding, Nagi, just one in a long string of security systems Rosenkreuz programs in their telepaths. It has nothing to do with this."

      "Except that sex is labeled as a white noise," Nagi pointed out.

      Schuldich just blinked down at him, not quite following that train of thought. He knew what the trigger was that Nagi was talking about; it was one of the few triggers the telepaths had actually been warned about because it had hurt like a bitch to get it installed in their minds. White noise activities were those that were too threatening to a telepath's stability, those that made it too easy to get lost in another's mind. Things like holding onto a dying mind and all that- it had seemed to be a list of common sense items, so Schuldich hadn't paid much attention to its presence among his thoughts. It was built in like an instinct: anything that made the list set off a warning in his mind that told him he needed to stop it immediately. Often it just never occurred to a telepath to do anything on that list.

      But sex…?

      "Who told you that?" Schuldich demanded.

      "Crawford did," Nagi said, sounding impatient, but the impatience wasn't directed at him. Schuldich still took offense to it. "When he saw— He told me. It didn't even occur to you to be interested in or bothered by Crawford and Farfarello. You never dated our clients, you never took them up on their invitations- you didn't even seem to notice the more blatant ones. Crawford saw it bothered me and he told me how you'd gotten to be twenty-one when you were so dense."

      "White noise," Schuldich echoed at length.

      "That's why I- didn't think you'd really done it. With Yohji. Your mind should have told you not to. He said he could see it. He said you had no clue what was going on."

      "That's enough."

      "He said you only got through it because you had to listen to him. White noise, Schuldich."

      "I said that's enough." Schuldich felt his lips curving into a smirk out of habit alone. "I don't ask you details of your escapades with him, so it would be healthy for you to keep your nose out of mine."

      "You fucked Yohji," Nagi said flatly. "I deserve to know why."

      "I already told you why. But you know what? *You* never told *me* why." Nagi's jaw worked but he said nothing, so Schuldich reached out with a foot to push him further back. He snagged his door knob and twisted it to push his door open and offered Nagi a smile that was every inch a warning. "And if you ever set me up again, I will kill you and let Crawford bill me for the replacement kinetic."

      With that, he turned away, but he hadn't even made it through the doorway when Nagi spoke.

      "I'd given up on you."

      Schuldich went still, staring in at his room without seeing it, unable to make sense of those words the way he knew he should. A minute dragged by between them before he took a few steps back out of his room and turned to stare blankly at Nagi. "…What?"

      Nagi fixed his gaze on Schuldich's throat. "Crawford told me because I… was interested in you. The way he's interested in Farfarello. I didn't know what to say or how to say it, so I didn't say anything, but Crawford still noticed. That's why he told me about your trigger. But I still… I still thought that maybe there was a chance, because you hated Tot so much for liking me, but then I saw the way you never noticed anything, blinded by that trigger against anything sexual and I…"

      Nagi looked up at him, falling quiet, but Schuldich had nothing to say into the silence. He could just blink down at Nagi as he tried to work his way around those words, and in his mind, he could hear Kudou: "Nagi would not be happy with either of us, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it'd ruin your chances with him."

      He seized upon that as something, anything, to say: "Kudou knows."

      "I picked Kudou because he reminded me most of you," Nagi told him. "He knew that when I went to him. He didn't really care. I could pretend you were someone else and he couldn't mistake me for Neu. It was enough."

      Nagi's annoyed retort as he stormed away from an argument, an agreement Schuldich hadn't been able to understand: 'You're right. I *do* have horrible taste.'

      Schuldich grimaced and turned sharply away, stalking into his room. Quick footsteps told him Nagi was following close on his heels and the telekinetic grabbed at his arm.

      "I gave up on you because of that trigger, but you still managed to sleep with Yohji," Nagi insisted.

      "I remember," Schuldich said sourly, all pretense gone. "Quit reminding me."

      "Why, Schuldich, why? You have to tell me. I picked him because I couldn't have you and then you slept with him." Nagi sounded almost desolate as he stared up into Schuldich's face and Schuldich knew he should look away, he just didn't know how. "Tell me why you did it."

      "You're Schwarz," Schuldich told him. "He's Weiss. I wanted to know why."

      "No," Nagi insisted. "That's not enough. Crawford said it was too hard to break a trigger. I'd asked him three times, Schuldich. I remember his answers. So why could you break it for Yohji? Schuldich-"

      Schuldich wrenched his arm free. "Quit calling him that! You sound like a damned traitor."

      "To Schwarz or to you?" Nagi pressed.

      That brought Schuldich up short. He stared down at Nagi as he tried to process that question and something tense and raw in Nagi's gaze seemed to melt away under the silence. Schuldich felt uneasy bearing the brunt of such a stare and sat on the edge of his bed to offer Nagi a wary look. The telekinetic looked away and reached up, yanking idly on dark locks as he thought. For a moment, Schuldich wanted to kick him out and tell him to think elsewhere, that this conversation was over. But Nagi understood what Farfarello and Crawford did, and this…?

      ~White noise?~ he asked himself, wondering how to react to that. He hadn't thought twice about his absolute lack of interest in sex because it didn't seem weird to him to not have that drive. He'd never thought twice about the smiles his Rosenkreuz classmates or the occasional client had sent him. ~Then why Kudou? Why Kudou, of all people?~

      It had been such a spur of the moment decision, though it hadn't taken him long to figure out it was a bad one. Farfarello had warned him not to do it, insisting that he wasn't the sort of person that could go through with such a plan. The warning signs had all been there, in hindsight, but no one had ever told Schuldich that sex was white noise, so he hadn't been able to recognize them as such at the time. The panic when Kudou got too close and the mess afterwards had been the result of a trigger he'd failed to listen to. He couldn't understand Crawford's assessment that it hadn't been another power game that he'd lost because he didn't know how to mentally process sex itself. He still didn't know.

      ~Why is sex dangerous?~ he wondered, because Crawford and Farfarello didn't seem to be suffering.

      Nagi turned back on him at last. "Why Kudou Yohji?" he asked, compromising on the name. "What did he do that could blind you so much to a trigger? Think, Schuldich."

      Schuldich frowned at him, trying to remember. Lips around a gun and heat against him – fucking white noise – and what had Kudou said?

      "You told him about my gift," Schuldich remembered. "You told a stupid Weiss how my gift worked. I wanted to hurt you."

      Nagi took a careful step towards him. "He asked why you'd never heard in my mind that I wanted you," he said. "I had to explain." Another careful step until there was only a small gap between Schuldich's knees and Nagi's legs, and Schuldich couldn't decide if that was regret or determination in his teammate's eyes. It was an eerie mix. "It doesn't bother you," Nagi noted. "I just told you that I spent the better part of a year wanting you and it means nothing. That trigger is catching it."

      "Do you want me to react with surprise or horror?" Schuldich asked lightly. It was a rude response for such a confession but rudeness was safe and this was sounding more complicated by the minute.

      "Why is it white noise?" Nagi asked him. "Sleeping with him didn't hurt you. That's why you're so upset, isn't it? There's a flaw in the code, a flaw in the trigger, and your mind knows it deep down that it failed. He slept with you and you're fine. That means the trigger is wrong. It means it can be rewritten." A careful hand came up between them and Schuldich eyed it where it paused a breath from his face. "I can be glad that it was him," Nagi decided, "because you looked afraid of him today."

      "Fuck you."


      "Get out."

      "Don't be afraid of me," Nagi entreated him, and he pressed his fingers to Schuldich's lips. Schuldich could feel the younger man's heart pounding against his skin and Nagi reached up with his other hand to slide it into orange hair. "The trigger is wrong. This can't kill you."

      Saying so, he slid his hand free and leaned forward to kiss the telepath. Schuldich leaned back away from him but there wasn't really anywhere to go, and Nagi's mouth was warm against his. Two shades of blue stared each other down through the small space between them and Nagi eased forward to seat himself on Schulidch's lap. Schuldich reached up and pulled Nagi's hand free of his hair before leaning back away from the kiss.

      "Don't you think this is a little bizarre?" he asked Nagi. "You're my teammate."

      "You were mad at me because I was sleeping with Weiss," Nagi reminded him. "Isn't this a better alternative?"

      "This is weird." Having a lapful of Nagi was not something he'd foreseen and Schuldich was still trying to figure out what he thought of the teenager's confession. His lips were still warm and Schuldich prodded at his mind uneasily, looking for the trigger to go off. White noise, huh…?

      "Then why were you so mad at me for choosing him?" was Nagi's quiet demand. "Which one of us were you mad at, Schuldich? Tell me. I have the right to know. If you're mad that I took Kudou, then just tell me and I'll back off him. I wouldn't leave him for anyone except you, but if it's you… I don't have a trigger. I can find someone else if I look and I'd be fine if you two were fine. But if you're mad at me because I picked him, then tell me. Which one of us do you want?"

      "Kid, you're a telekinetic, not a telepath. Try to remember that distinction."

      Annoyance burned through the edges of regret that still lingered in Nagi's stare. "I saw the way you looked at him today. You wanted what he offered, even if you didn't know how to take it. Did you want the offer or the man?"

      "I want nothing to do with your fucking stray cat-" Schuldich started, angry at the accusation, angrier at the truth in Nagi's words. He didn't get to finish the sentence because Nagi's mouth was bruising his lips, a year of restrained want and need that had finally found a small outlet. Schuldich's fingers uncurled from Nagi's wrist, not his own doing but a pull of Nagi's telekinesis, and hands smaller than his own were on his face again.

      /Nagi, out of every dumb idea you've ever had, this is the dumbest./

      ~If you could get excited for that 'fucking stray cat', then why can't you at least let me kiss you without arguing?~ Nagi sent back tartly.

      Schuldich bit him and Nagi pulled back with a curse. "Schuldich-"

      "Get out of my room."

      "Why?" Nagi demanded stubbornly.

      "Because you're weirding me out, that's why," Schuldich said, and he pushed the younger assassin off of his lap. Only Nagi's gift kept him from falling on his rear on the ground and Nagi floated for a moment before he could plant his feet against the floor. "I don't want anything to do with either of you."

      "But you're selfish enough to not want us together?"

      Schuldich offered him a lazy smile. "I've been known to be selfish before."

      "On numerous occasions," Nagi said flatly. "If you kick me out of your room tonight, Schuldich, then don't you ever say anything again about what I do with Yohji. I will make your life an absolute living hell if you do and you know I'll succeed when I've had you three as my teachers. I know we can break that trigger, Schuldich, but you have to want to try."

      "Triggers, my dear misguided teammate, are put there for a reason. Sex wouldn't be labeled as a white noise just for the fun of it, not when Rosenkreuz could make a fortune from breeding telepaths."

      "That's a no, then."

      "That's a stupid ultimatum."

      "Fine," Nagi said tightly, but Schuldich couldn't miss the hurt in his eyes. He'd never seen such an open look on his teammate's face. It sent a crawling feeling around in his stomach that was altogether highly unpleasant and he wanted to reach up and plant a hand over Nagi's eyes so he wouldn't have to look at it. "Fine. I give up on you. You can keep your trigger and your idiocy, and I'll keep Yohji. If you ever touch him again, I will hurt you, and you can save your breath on the whole 'I'm a Rosenkreuz graduate so I don't care' spiel. Fuck you and fuck Rosenkreuz, and you don't have to care, because you're still going to get bones broken. Just stay away from the both of us. Give our report to Crawford. I'm going out, and if he asks, I'll be back sometime tomorrow. Good night, Schuldich, and good *bye*."

      There was a flat finality in those words as Nagi turned away, and Schuldich could just watch him as he stalked towards the door. He was leaving- going out. Out. To Kudou, Nagi meant, for another overnight stay.

      'Better yet, why don't you call him Yoooooohji.'

      'Maybe I do.'

      Schuldich thought of wet heat and possessive hands and the thought of Kudou touching Nagi made his stomach roil. But Nagi…? He gave his hair a hard yank.

      ~Fuck you, Crawford. I don't understand. Not a damn thing.~


      He realized he'd spoken only because Nagi had stopped in the doorway, but he wasn't really sure why he'd stopped him. The silence stretched between them and at last Nagi turned an annoyed look back on him. "What do you want?" he asked, and that was the Nagi Schuldich remembered, that was the Nagi Schuldich knew. It wasn't the hurt or the confession of ten months of waiting and watching and wanting. It was a Nagi that Schuldich couldn't hurt, because Nagi didn't give a damn about anyone.

      Small fingers and a warm mouth, and a lapful of heat. Not demanding, like Kudou had been, but wanting.

      "Give him to me."

      He heard the words as they hit the air between them but he was sure they weren't his. For a moment he thought he'd imagined them because Nagi's expression hadn't changed. There wasn't surprise at Schuldich's demand or hurt that Schuldich had asked for Kudou. At last Nagi turned around and came back in the room, moving towards him, and Schuldich got to his feet so Nagi couldn't look down at him. Nagi fixed that with a hard push of his gift that had Schuldich hitting the mattress again. His mouth was open for a warning when Nagi caught his hair, and the telekinetic leaned close to look Schuldich in the eye.

      "Tell me why," Nagi said.


      "You want me to give him up to you when you said you wanted nothing to do with him, when you've been threatening violence towards him. You expect me to trust you with him?"

      Schuldich offered him an edged smirk. "You shouldn't spare so much concern for a Weiss. You said you'd give him to me."

      Nagi's gaze turned calculating, another look he must have picked up from Crawford. A flash of realization was quickly hidden behind a careful mask and Nagi straightened, letting go of Schuldich. "Fine," he said. "You can have him- if you can have him, that is. If you can go to him tonight and take what he offers, then you can have him. If you can't, then he's mine, and you'll stay away from us."

      That didn't sound good. "Maybe I'm tired from the job and I'll wait until tomorrow."

      "Get out, Schuldich. The offer stands for tonight only. Or can you not bear to see him?"

      Schuldich scowled and got to his feet, pushing the telekinetic roughly out of the way. "File the report," he told Nagi, and he took the silence for an affirmative. Nagi followed him out into the hallway but not to the door, and Schuldich stood in front of the elevator and wondered just what he'd gotten himself into.

Part 8
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