SYN: When You Gonna Learn?

Part Nine

      Schuldich woke up in a dim room, lulled out of unconsciousness by his mind telling him it was getting uncomfortably hot in there. That was an odd enough mental message to rouse him, seeing as it was fall, and he blinked blearily at his room as he tried to figure out what was going on. It took a while to realize that yes, this was his room, and to remember that he had been at Kudou's place last night. He didn't really remember getting from point A to point B and the skip in his mind made his stomach turn.

      Breath ghosted against his chest and he turned his head on the pillow to look down at the covers that had been pulled up over him, and after a moment, he reached out to catch the edge. The sight of his wrist had him freezing and he stared at the dark lines that went around it. Memories were both unwelcome and pleasant in the same breath and he reached out, jerking at his sleeve to pull it down over the marks. Only when they were hidden did his stomach calm down and he lifted the blanket to peek under it. Nagi's dark hair greeted him where the boy was sleeping against his chest and Schuldich finally noticed the heat of an arm wrapped around his waist.

      He let the blanket fall back into place and looked for a clock. It said it was almost twelve, but his room was too light to be midnight. He frowned up at the window and realized that it was noon. Someone had just hung an extra blanket over the curtains to muffle the light.

      So… it was noon and he was back here. That didn't explain how he'd gotten here.

      "You're awake," a quiet voice said against his chest.

      "What am I doing here?" he asked.

      "Yohji brought you here this morning. You should have seen the look on Farfarello's face when he showed up at the door. It turns out you told him how to get here when he asked, so I was spared Crawford's lecture for giving Weiss such information."

      "I need to shower."

      "You showered this morning," Nagi told him. "Once at his place, once here. You showed up with wet hair."

      Schuldich decided to accept that even if he had no memories of it, and he lapsed back into silence. Last night came in jagged, bright pieces. Fingers, heat, moving, twisting, that laughing voice going dead serious as he tried to talk Schuldich down from trigger-panic. Pain and blood… He slid his other hand out from underneath his pillow and looked at the bandage that went around that wrist. Careful fingers and patience and a sincerity that he'd had to latch onto last night to get through any of that. He'd had to believe in that honesty to let himself get dragged down so far. Mentally collapsing in front of anyone was unfathomable, but to purposefully go to Weiss and risk it…

      He couldn't remember everything that had happened last night, but somehow, he thought he was okay with that. The denial that had been there that first time wasn't there now, and he couldn't work up a strong reaction over having to trust Nagi's stupid lover with seeing him lose it.

      ~Weiss is made up of such bleeding hearts,~ he thought, but scorn was replaced with an almost frustrated sort of incomprehension.

      "Schuldich?" Schuldich didn't answer. Nagi gave him a minute before speaking up again. Schuldich wondered if the silence was for him or for Nagi to think of what to say. "Farfarello is mad at me."

      "Join the club."

      Nagi reached up and pushed the covers back, letting cool air into the pocket of heat he'd collected around them. "I didn't expect you to go through with it," Nagi admitted. Schuldich ignored that, looking around his room and trying to think of anything except a mouth on his throat and fingers on sweat-slicked skin. "I thought you'd come back. I was mad that you didn't, because I didn't want to think that you seriously wanted him more. Farfarello hit me for it."

      Schuldich looked down at him at that and Nagi pushed himself to a sitting position. It took a moment to realize the shadow on Nagi's face wasn't a shadow and he pointed at the sheet over his window. Nagi tugged it down with a mental thought and Schuldich cursed against the sudden light, shielding his eyes against the sharp change from night to noon. A hand caught at his fingers but didn't pull, and when Schuldich thought he could lower his hand without getting stabbed in the eyes again, he took another look at the bruise along Nagi's cheekbone. Nagi didn't seem to notice the stare; his eyes were on Schuldich's wrist.

      "Schuldich, what…?"

      Schuldich jerked his sleeve up over the lines again. "You should see the other guy," he said, because it was all he could think to say.

      "I did see him," Nagi said quietly, and he gestured to his face. "We match. Schuldich, what happened to your wrist?"

      "Let go."

      Surprisingly, Nagi obeyed. Schuldich pushed himself up and raked fingers through his hair. The locks were still wet from his showers and he poked at the pillow to feel the dampness clinging to the pillowcase. It was a cold wetness, a familiar one, not the heat and need that had choked last night. Fingers tangling in light hair when Kudou finally trusted him enough to free his hands, lips and teeth and tongue and a hundred heated promises fulfilled.

      He thought maybe he was starting to understand.

      "I'm sorry," Nagi said, very quietly.

      Schuldich looked over at him but Nagi wasn't looking at him. His eyes were on his hands as he twisted them together in his lap and Schuldich remembered the feel of small hands on his face. Nagi's fidgeting got worse under the weight of Schuldich's stare. "I shouldn't have asked you to do that. I knew the risks of it, but I didn't really think you would do it. I was just…" He grimaced a little. "I couldn't let myself think you'd go through with it," he said. "I couldn't let myself think that I'd lose both of you."

      "Both," Schuldich echoed.

      "I had to give up on you months ago," Nagi said. "I may have started sleeping with Yohji to fill in that gap but…" He didn't finish the sentence and Schuldich was mildly grateful that he didn't.

      'The selfish side of me wants to turn you away, but I can't do that to him.' Words murmured against his skin even as fingernails traced over his back.

      Hearing Nagi laugh at Ming Yat, hearing the easy way they'd spoken to each other. Remembering Nagi's fierce defense of the other man, protecting the man he could have from the man he couldn't. Schuldich poked his fingernails into his forehead, trying not to dwell on such thoughts, because the arrows pointing every which way between them were confusing.

      "Are you… all right?" Nagi asked. He was fingering the sleeve of Schuldich's shirt, wanting to push it back and look again but not sure how Schuldich would react.

      "I'm indestructible," Schuldich informed him, sliding out of bed. He made it halfway to his feet before he had to sit down again and he grimaced at the pain of sore muscles. It was unfair that Farfarello had stolen the "can't feel pain" genes. Schuldich hadn't ever felt much envy over that particular ability, seeing as how telepathy was obviously more useful, but today he was in the mood to kick Farfarello for it. His wrists were starting to hurt and he rubbed carefully at them.

      'It's all right.' Smooth reassurances without a bit of mockery and just the smallest edge of concern. Salve and bandages and he thought he remembered Kudou pressing a kiss to white gauze. He pulled his cuff down a little to eye his left wrist and Nagi's stare seemed to burn holes in the bandage as he eyed it.

      "Are you all right?" Nagi asked again.

      "Don't ask stupid questions."

      "In this case, it's not a stupid question," Nagi pointed out. "You were completely out of it this morning, Schuldich. You were fighting against a mental trigger last night."

      "I'd like to point out that it was your idea." Nagi actually flinched at that and Schuldich looked over at him, studying the bruise again. "Did Farfarello really hit you?"

      "He tried again this morning when he saw you," Nagi said. "Crawford caught his hand just in time."

      Schuldich couldn't stop himself from grinning, a little amused by the Irishman's fierce reaction. For a ruthless psychopath, Farfarello picked the oddest moments to be protective of his small team. Schuldich wondered if that was also from sleeping with Crawford or if Schuldich had just never given Farfarello the opportunity to show it before. He was going to have so much fun harassing Farfarello about this, though he was sure he'd get a matching bruise for the taunts.

      "I should probably go see him, then," Schuldich said.

      Nagi gave him a considering look as Schuldich got to his feet, watching as his older teammate raked fingers through his orange hair to try and fix some of the wet mess. Schuldich hated sleeping with wet hair because it had a tendency to knot up and plaster itself to his face. At last Nagi gave a quiet sigh and Schuldich looked at him at the relieved sound.

      "You're all right," Nagi murmured.

      Schuldich thought that over and decided Nagi was right. He still wasn't quite sure what was going on but with the missing denial was the absence of nausea over the memory of what had happened. He remembered that last night had been hard and he remembered his mind trying to do its damned best to shut down on Kudou, but around the splinters in his memory he could focus on remembered pleasure. He must have shut down this morning when Kudou brought him back but he'd slept off the cracks in his mind's warning system and now…

      He'd survived. So why was sex a white noise?

      "Even more reason to talk to Farfarello," he said, and he hoped Farfarello had managed to remember to interrogate Crawford in between his attempted murders of their youngest.

      "I'll talk to Kudou…" Nagi started, but Schuldich fixed him with a hooded look that stopped the telekinetic on his way to his feet.

      "No," Schuldich said, "you won't. We had a deal and I won. You're staying here."

      Nagi was quiet for a moment. "So you do want Kudou, even if you said yesterday you didn't."

      His voice was calm but Schuldich had worked with Nagi long enough to know he was unhappy. He thought about Nagi's comment that he didn't want to lose both of them and he idly wondered which idea was more upsetting: that Schuldich had picked Kudou, or that Nagi had lost Kudou to Schuldich by his own ultimatum. It was an eerie little reverse of Nagi's demands towards him the other day as to which one Schuldich was more upset by and he heaved a sigh, annoyed that Kudou managed to land smack in the middle of all of this.

      He left Nagi there and left the room, tugging absently at his sleeves as he went in search of his teammates. Crawford's office door was closed and he rapped on it.

      "Kitchen," Crawford's voice spoke up from further down the hall, and Schuldich headed that way. Farfarello and Crawford were fixing an early lunch. A mug of coffee was on the table and Schuldich stole it, not really caring whose it had been originally.

      Farfarello abruptly abandoned what he was working on to come stand across the table from Schuldich and the telepath endured his teammate's intent look in amused silence. As it stretched on he couldn't help but smirk at the idea of Farfarello ever being concerned and he hid the expression in his mug. Farfarello looked annoyed at the sight of his amusement and Crawford glanced back at them.

      "I told you he would be fine," Crawford told Farfarello.

      Farfarello flicked him a cool look and Schuldich lowered his mug. "I'm waiting for my explanation," he informed his younger teammate, and he looked past him to Crawford. "You didn't tell Nagi everything about the trigger, but you're going to tell me."

      "I did leave something out," Crawford said, "because Nagi did not need to hear it." He began putting away their lunch items and brought two plates over to the table. Farfarello sat as his plate was set down at his place and pulled the dish closer to him. Instead of eating he seemed content to just go back to watching Schuldich, as if waiting for the telepath to start unraveling. "I did tell him that triggers could be weakened, but that they could only be broken by another telepath and on Rosenkreuz's approval. I don't think he passed this on to you. To date only two telepaths have ever received approval, and those were because the trigger worked the way it was supposed to."

      "Oh?" Schuldich asked, tapping his fingernails on his mug. Rosenkreuz? That was unpleasant news. He couldn't imagine showing up in Austria asking for a little mental tweaking over something like sex.

      "There are a few reasons telepaths aren't supposed to have sex. The most obvious is that a telepath could forget himself in his partner's mind and get lost, which has happened enough times that the trigger was put in place. The other is that Rosenkreuz fears its telepaths will form attachments to their lovers and their loyalties to the school will weaken. Being susceptible to another's thoughts could undo years of work. For that reason, empaths are similarly stunted."

      "Loyalty, hm? But in the hypothetical situation of a telepath and his own teammate…"

      "Completely hypothetical, of course," Crawford agreed, and Schuldich buried his insult in his coffee so he wouldn't distract Crawford from explaining. "There are leeways built into the trigger for that, but they're very specific. Pre-approved relationships for a telepath within a team are limited to two people: the team leader, whose loyalty to Rosenkreuz will keep a telepath grounded in the case of team fights, or the telepath's required precognitive."

      Schuldich blinked at him. "In both cases, you."

      "In this situation, yes."

      Schuldich looked over at Farfarello, who said nothing but started eating. Schuldich looked back at Crawford. "You didn't tell Nagi that part."

      "He wouldn't have appreciated it."

      "I can't imagine banging you," Schuldich told him.

      "Don't try," Farfarello offered up.

      Schuldich kicked him under the table. Farfarello kicked back, but the Irishman was wearing his boots. Schuldich almost broke his teeth on the ceramic mug. "Asshole."

      "The chances of Rosenkreuz approving a telepath-telekinetic pair wherein the telekinetic has never gone through Rosenkreuz's training and doctrine are slim to none," Crawford told him. "The chances of them removing a trigger for a telepath and dead mind are zero."

      "Not negative?" Schuldich taunted him.

      "There are no negative chances," Crawford pointed out.

      "Crawford, stop being so literal. It's not endearing." Schuldich thought that over, thinking about last night and Nagi's confession the day before. He'd gone home with Kudou to break the trigger and he knew he'd weakened it, but if it couldn't be broken except by being removed…

      "Rosenkreuz knows your trigger is active," Crawford told him. "For the most part, it's a dormant thing, a string of code whose individual pieces can react independently. Your trigger kicked in months ago when your mind started to react to Nagi's attempts at subtle courting. As your teammate, you naturally already had some attachment to him, but when your mind realized what he was pushing for, your trigger kicked into place and shut it down. It was my responsibility to report it."

      "And Weiss?" Schuldich asked, not liking the idea of the school tracking such things.

      "He is bothering your trigger on a different level," Crawford answered. "You have no emotional attachment to him, so for the time being, it has more leniencies towards him."

      "For the time being," Schuldich echoed, offended by Crawford's word choice.

      "If that were to change, your mind would write him off completely."

      "And he would mean nothing," Schuldich concluded.

      "You would not react to him," Crawford agreed calmly.

      He didn't have to say "Like you already can't react to Nagi", because Schuldich heard it in the silence between them. Nagi was a complete blank slate because his mind saw the threat in being attached to him, but Kudou was "safe"- still a serious breach of Rosenkreuz rules, but safe.

      "Why aren't all relationships taboo?" Schuldich wanted to know. "Who's to say you favoring Farfarello won't direct your visions more towards what's good for the two of you and not our team? Why would any Talents be allowed relationships except for those relegated to breeding?"

      "Precognitives and other Talents can't get lost in another's mind," Crawford answered.

      Schuldich thought that over, not liking how it sounded. "So I would have to go to Rosenkreuz," he said, "and they'd still say no."

      "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

      "Why don't you act like a class eight prescient and just give me a straight answer?" Schuldich demanded.

      "If it's worth it, then fight it," Crawford told him. "If it's not, leave Kudou and Nagi alone. Kudou is good for him, as surprising as it sounds."

      "I didn't need to hear that."

      "Is it worth trying?" Crawford asked.

      "What is that supposed to mean?" Schuldich wanted to know, annoyed.

      "You know that it is hard for a prescient to see Rosenkreuz. It is one of our triggers to keep us from ever seeing flaws in them. I cannot see the outcome of what would happen if you went to them, though all signs point to a rejection because he is not a precognitive himself. Such a case has never been approved before."

      Schuldich mimed shooting himself. "Don't you think you should have said something months ago?" he asked.

      "No," Crawford answered easily. "Months ago it wouldn't have mattered because you didn't care."

      "And now?" Schuldich asked, thinking of the complete lack of a reaction to Nagi's offer yesterday.

      "You went home with Kudou," Crawford told him. "I think things have changed."

      Schuldich looked over at Farfarello. "How can you stand him?" he asked. Farfarello just offered him a funny little half-smile and Crawford reached out, planting his hand over Farfarello's mouth. Schuldich rolled his eyes and pushed himself to his feet. "Don't you dare answer that, Farfarello."

      "You will have to talk this over with him," Crawford told him. "He has Kudou now. Whether or not the trigger was removed, he is already involved with someone else."

      "So I get stuck explaining all of this?"

      Farfarello pointed and Schuldich looked back to see the telekinetic standing in the hallway just outside the door. The telepath turned an annoyed look on Farfarello. "You're going to have to stop that," he said.

      Farfarello moved Crawford's hand out of the way. "You should pay attention to your surroundings."

      Schuldich offered him a middle finger, but Farfarello's attention was caught by the marks around his wrist instead. The Irishman sent a flat look past Schuldich to Nagi even as Schuldich quickly pulled his sleeves up again and he didn't look at Crawford, not wanting to see the other man's reaction to the telltale bruises. "You're both bastards," Schuldich decided, and he turned towards the door. Nagi moved out of his way as Schuldich stepped out into the hall and the telepath paused there, wondering where exactly he was supposed to go.

      An empty stomach gave him enough reason to get out of the apartment and away from them, and he grabbed his keys at the door on his way out.

Part 10
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