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On to Part 12.
Disclaimer: Weiss and Schwarz do not belong to me. I'm
borrowing them for my and (I hope) my readers' amusement only and have
no intention of trying to make money off of them in any way, shape or
Warnings: Yaoi. Swearing. References to past child sexual
abuse. Nonconsensual sex. Bondage. Although I'm setting this a couple
of years past the main series, Nagi's age combined with his actions may
squick some people. Also, I'm ignoring Gluhen and the drama CDs, so
don't expect this to be consistent with them.
Pairings: Nagi x Yohji. References to Crawford x Aya-chan.
Author: The RCK
Last updated: 30 December 2003
Thanks to Amy the Evitable, Hope of Dawn and Tritorella for beta
reading, suggestions and general support.
rhe-o-tax-is: the tendency of an organism to move in response to the
stimulus of a current of water, either with the current or against it
Yohji watched the door slide shut behind Ken. He's so angry and
confused. It's like a knife in my head-- He drew a ragged breath
and acknowledged silently that his own rage was the only thing keeping
him from panic. He
shot a quick glance at Nagi. I can't afford to give in to either
right now. He let himself slide off the couch and curled himself
the tightest ball he could manage.
Hurts. Hurts. Hurts. "Did you get what you wanted out of that,
Nagi-san?" The calm bitterness in his own voice startled Yohji more
than a little.
"Yes, I believe so." Nagi's response sounded absent, but Yohji could
feel the other man's fierce satisfaction.
A bit of a relief after how Ken burned... "I think--" Yohji
fought to stop the words then suddenly surrendered. If I'm going to
at all, there have to be parameters. "That was the cruelest thing
you've done to me." At least, I got Ken out of here. Nagi won't
hurt him this time.
"Was it?" Again, Nagi's words sounded casual.
Yohji shuddered as he felt himself become the focus of Nagi's
attention, of Nagi's concern. Well, he damn well ought to be
worried. It's just
too late. "Did you expect me to enjoy the macho posturing
how you were both keeping score by slicing off pieces of me?" Or
even realize you were doing it? That's worse, Nagi-san.
Nagi moved to sit on the couch behind Yohji. "I thought you'd want to
see him, Yohji-kun." He put a hand on Yohji's shoulder. "I know you
Liar-- That's not why you did it. No, be careful. He's still
jealous. The fight wasn't enough. Yohji forced himself to take a
"It's good to know he's alive, but--" I didn't want him to see me,
know-- I don't like being reminded-- "I can't deal with his
shit right now. What I do is no business of his." I'm a whore. I'm
whore. Yohji clenched his jaw against a surge of anger that blurred
vision for a moment. You're so fucking clueless, Ken. What would
do to survive? And what the hell did you really think you could do
Nagi began stroking Yohji's hair and neck. "You have nothing to be
Yohji stiffened. Bullshit. And you know it, too. You're taking such
pleasure in owning me. He took another deep breath and raised his
a little. "May I ask you two questions, Nagi-san?"
Nagi's hands stilled momentarily. "If you come back up here."
Yohji lowered his head and sighed. Then, feeling weary and brittle, he
unwound himself and pulled his reluctant body back onto the couch. He
quite force himself to look at Nagi.
Nagi put his hands to either side of Yohji's face, turning it until
their eyes met. Then Nagi ran his thumbs along the arches of Yohji's
cheekbones. "What are your questions?"
I am owned. Yohji swallowed hard, opened his mouth and found
that nothing would come out. God-- "Do you want to destroy me?"
He couldn't manage more than a whisper, but, to his horror, the full
weight of his agony seemed to come out in the words. I didn't mean to
do that. I didn't mean
to ask that. Not really. Not--
Nagi's eyes seemed to be searching for something in Yohji's face.
What do you want? I'll give it to you. Even if the answer's "yes,"
Yohji closed his eyes. He's hesitating. He wants... many different
things. Possessiveness. Challenge. Cruelty. Curiosity. Tenderness.
Even... I bet
that's as close to love as he comes.
Nagi pulled his hands back. "No."
Truth. Almost not but... True this time. You're torn, and you don't
much like it. Which possibility do you like less, Nagi-san? Yohji
released a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. I bet his
hands are shaking. All of those emotions were... intense.
"You're safe enough on that count, Yohji-kun." Nagi injected a note of
dry humor into the words.
Not really. You hesitated, Nagi-san. Part of you wants to do it,
wants to know what it's like. And I bet caring about me scares the hell
"Out of curiosity," Nagi went on, "what would you have done if I said
Yohji opened his eyes and looked directly at Nagi. Tried to see
what I could get out if it, what you might pay me for the privilege.
But that's not the right answer. He smiled, letting a little of the
feral animal out. "I certainly couldn't stop you, if that's what you
wanted to do." He parted his lips just enough to let his teeth show.
"But I think I could
hurt you along the way." He sighed and let go of the momentary
"It's easier to have the question settled."
Yohji stared at him. That's not irony. There was a sudden surge
of... affection and... lust. He barely managed to avoid a shudder. No.
let him see that.
"Who'd have thought you'd be so pragmatic? That's definitely not
reflected in your Kritiker dossier."
He expects me to share the joke. He's proud of me.
managed a wan smile. It's just not very funny. At least, he's in a
"So, what's your other question?" Nagi's expression became more
serious. "It must be a big one to come after that."
No, it just wouldn't matter if you'd said yes. I wouldn't bother
asking then. Yohji looked away then down at his hands. His fingers
over one another. Stop that! You'll look weak. "What am I now,
Nagi-san?" He pulled back a little from Nagi. "What am I to you? I'm
not your friend. I'm not your lover. Am I a toy? A pet? A slave?" I
need to know. Just
what do you expect of me?
"Technically..." Nagi's hesitation was almost imperceptible. "Legally,
you're a slave."
Uncertainty. Embarrassment? Yes, that's it. Anger. Yohji
shuddered. He doesn't like not being sure. I... shouldn't have
asked. No, I need
to know. He worked at keeping his voice and his gaze level.
Nagi-san? There's not a nation on earth where slavery's legal." And
I do know how little those laws actually mean, but... "I think I
a better answer than that." Even if you don't want to look at what
me an answer would mean.
Nagi took hold of Yohji's chin. "I'm not joking. The Taisken-- that's
what our employers call themselves-- have their own legal code." He
slightly. "I doubt they much care that no nation on earth recognizes
code, and under that code, your status is fairly clear. At least, now,
Yohji blinked. What? A code? "Sort of like the Yakuza?" he
ventured. But he's happier going off into technicalities. Why
didn't he want to
answer? Because he thinks I'll spot weakness?
"Something like that," Nagi responded, "but not exactly." His face
showed a hint of a smile. "Correspondences are never that exact, are
He wants me to let it go, to give up on the question. Yohji bent
his head forward, letting his hair fall over his face. But... No,
go. If I piss him off now-- He shuddered. Why is it weakness?
"Yohji-kun?" Nagi's hand hovered millimeters from Yohji's head. "What
He really is concerned, protective even. Yohji felt his body
shake again. "I--" What do I say? Lying's a bad idea, but... "I
just keep getting hit by how little I know about all this." He kept his
and looked up at Nagi through a screen of hair.
"Crawford gave Hidaka some informational documents about the Taisken.
I'll see if I can get copies for you."
He's relieved that it's so simple. Good. I guessed right. "Thank
you." I think he's seeing less of me now, understanding less. Of
course. He's emotionally involved now, not detached. He wants my
reactions to come for the reasons he wants not... not the real reasons.
And then he wants something else, something contradictory. Right. He's
not seeing me because he can't look at himself. Is that a good thing
Yohji sighed audibly and let his body sag as Nagi drew him into an
embrace. Yohji pressed his face against Nagi's shoulder. He likes
"I'm not a whore," Yohji said. Doesn't matter why. Just give him
Nagi ran his hand down Yohji's spine in a gentle, comforting stroke.
"No. No, you're not. Hidaka's an idiot."
Yohji bit his lip as he felt a sudden surge of doubt equally suddenly
repressed. He's not so sure Ken's stupid, but he wants him to be.
So he won't look at it. Now what? Nagi's self-satisfaction wrapped
around them like a
blanket. Yohji laid his head on Nagi's shoulder. Powerful. That's
he feels now, and he likes it. He likes having the power to protect me
comfort me. If Ken had stayed longer, said what he was feeling-- I
Nagi'd have killed him. Yohji shuddered. He was that angry,
to demonstrate his power that much.
Nagi tightened his arms around Yohji's shoulders. "Don't worry about
him. I won't let him hurt you again." Nagi's voice became hard. "I
have let him in to begin with."
Then why did you? I bet you had a choice... But you're glad you did.
You like this. You like it too damn much. So are you going to look for
ways to get other people to hurt me so that you can step in? Yohji
managed to suppress another shudder. Or are you going to cut out
the middle man and hurt me yourself? Which will fuck me up worse?
"Ken doesn't matter." I will not let you hurt him out of
jealousy. "I don't want
him in here with us." I've got to make Nagi believe it. Got to.
"He was family," Nagi responded softly. "That means his opinion
mattered to you. I'm just... I'm sorry he rejected you."
No. You're damn well not sorry. Not in the slightest.
"His loss." Yohji didn't bother trying to keep the pain out of his
voice. There, Nagi-san-- Something else to comfort me about. That's
what you want, isn't it? I'm sure I can keep feeding that-- Something
else I have to do. I can do it. I don't have a choice.
Nagi's cell phone rang.
Yohji couldn't stop a flinch as Nagi's sudden spike of irritation hit.
Puzzlement and suspicion-- Comprehension. Yohji sighed.
"It's all right, Yohji-kun; it's not aimed at you." The phone rang
again. Nagi pulled away from Yohji and stood. "I left the damn thing
somewhere... Ah." He snapped it open. "Naoe."
Yohji curled himself up against the arm of the couch and watched.
Irritation growing but curiosity's there, too. Yohji carefully
controlled his expression, letting just a little anxiety show as he
kept his eyes on Nagi. But what does it mean for me? He had to
fight the urge to lower his head to his knees. No, keep looking at
him. That has to be someone important or he'd be letting that
irritation out. He leaned his head
against the back of the couch. I need time to think. I need it
But he's not going to give it to me, not if he's smart.
"I don't see what you think I can do that they can't," Nagi said. He
paused, apparently listening to the person on the other end. "You're
going to have to trust them some time, Crawford-san." He gave an
Whatever it is, he's pleased to be asked. Yohji closed his eyes
just for a moment. There's some doubt, too, but... I should pay
attention. Whatever this is could be important. He opened his eyes
"I know, but-- You must understand that I don't know these systems as
well as--" Nagi's expression tightened. He looked over at Yohji and
gave an exaggerated shrug.
Yohji raised his eyebrows. Oh, yes, Nagi-san, I'm interested. I'm
"Yes, I do understand how much we rely on the computer. I've been here
the past year, too." Nagi rolled his eyes. "Fine. I'll be down. Just
me a bit of time to get things settled here."
He's leaving? Yohji's body tightened as he fought panic. No.
Calm down. That could be good. More than good-- But he won't-- No, he
If I play it right.
As he shut down his cell phone, Nagi gave
of his attention to Yohji. He's exhausted. I really shouldn't have
Hidaka visit. A brief smile touched his lips. But Yohji chose
Me, not Weiss. He can't undo it-- Hidaka won't forget. The small
of triumph disappeared. Not like he had much damn choice. Kudoh
one hell of a pragmatist. Why am I unhappy about that? He set down
phone and moved back to the couch.
Nagi sat down close to Yohji and pretended he didn't notice the other
man's rapidly controlled flinch. I shouldn't be so upset. It took
me work to get that reaction. He laid a hand on Yohji's cheek. Yeah,
wasn't what I was aiming for. "I have to go out for a while."
Yohji's body seemed to contract, and he met Nagi's eyes directly for a
moment before looking away. "And what about me? I mean..." But
he couldn't say what he meant. Instead he bowed his head, looking at
He's in no shape to be left alone. I don't think Schuldig can get
in. He probably won't try. Probably. But... He sighed. Yohji
can't even order himself a meal, and he's... He's very vulnerable right
now. Nagi ran his fingers through Yohji's hair. That feels
nice... I think the
Kritiker files were right about that much. He needs people.
tightened his hand then forced himself to relax when Yohji responded
a small whimper. I'm sorry, Yohji-kun. I just don't like thinking
you with other people... "You'll be fine here." I hope. I
leave him alone, but I can't take him with me. Nagi sighed. "I'll
Telat in as soon as I can." I'd rather keep her far, far away, but
don't have a better option.
Yohji twitched under Nagi's hand. "I don't need a babysitter." He
"Humor me, Yohji-kun." Hell, he's got to know I don't want her here.
"You're still not well." I think it's not just physical. No. I
know it's not just physical. Nagi brought his hand down to cup
chin, raising it so that he could see Yohji's face. "Just relax. Watch
movie. Read a book. Take a bath." Not with her watching. I'd have
"A bath..." Yohji's expression went vague. "Yeah... You said something
about that last night, didn't you?"
Nagi resisted the urge to pull Yohji into his arms. He's very...
vulnerable. I... What do I want from him? "I showed you the
bath this morning, remember?" He kept his voice calm and patient. Does
my voice matter when I'm not shielding my emotions? Why haven't I
started doing that? It's not like I don't know how. He frowned,
vaguely disturbed by the direction of his thoughts. He pulled back from
Yohji and stood up.
"Do what you want to in here, Yohji-kun, but don't try to leave." His
body felt stiff, and he knew his expression had flattened. "You might
able to get out." His hands started to clench, and he forced them to
He looked back at Yohji. "I'd just... advise staying in. My people
not find you first."
Yohji met Nagi's eyes, his expression offering no promises.
He's less broken than he thinks. Nagi felt his lips start to
twitch into a smile. "You're doing a lot better than you were
yesterday, but..." You don't speak the language. You have no
shields. You're only about
half recovered physically, and it shows. "Schuldig's not the only
predator out there, and you're not up to dealing with any of them." He
let his smile widen a little. "Once you are--" He shrugged. I
so want to see
Yohji looked away. His body tightened slightly at the mention of
Schuldig's name, but he didn't respond otherwise.
Nagi sat down next to Yohji and pulled him in close. "Just for today,
Yohji-kun. We can renegotiate tomorrow when you're feeling better and
know a bit more about what's going on." Just have to get you the
Nagi went completely still as a new and unpleasant thought struck him.
Yohji, who had begun to relax against Nagi, stiffened.
He's so sensitive to my moods. "It's okay," Nagi said
soothingly. "It's not you. I just... thought of something." I am not
to hook him up to a machine controlled by a computer that's having
seizures. He doesn't need the language that badly. I'll just get a few
minions programmed with Japanese. I don't care if their brains
get scrambled. They're replaceable. He smiled. I'll start with
Telat, make her a bit more useful.
Yohji relaxed again under Nagi's hands. "Just for today," he whispered.
I wonder if he's telling the truth...
Yohji sat, frozen in disbelief, for a long
moment after Nagi left. He didn't-- There's some trick. There has
to be some
trick. He turned his head quickly, trying to see all of the room at
He's still watching. He'll wait until I'm doing something... stupid,
No. He didn't feel that way. He was telling the truth. Just
was telling the truth about us having privacy in here. He buried
face in the cushions. The faint scent of dusty upholstery calmed him a
little. Private until he brought in Ken. Ken. Could this
get worse? Well, it could have been Ran. No, Ran already knew. But
Ken... No, Ken'll cool
off. He has to. Why? I may never see him again. Won't if Nagi has
to say about it...
No. He sat up then pushed himself to his feet. I'm not doing
that. It can always get worse. He walked to the door and
put a hand on
it. It looks like wood, feels almost like but... not. He
surface with his fingernails then pulled his hand away as the tactile
increased. He tried tapping the surface. It's not metal, either.
No. The lock. Look at the lock. Could I get out? He leaned against
wall. Fuck. I'm in no shape to go anywhere. I bet I can't even
explore this side of the door before I fall apart. He sighed and
closed his eyes for a moment. He'll trust me more if I wait. And
Schuldig's easily distracted-- He might not be looking for me tomorrow.
Hell, he might not be looking for me now. I'll wait. I'm being
smart, not-- Not cowardly. Not weak. He straightened up and found
himself swaying a little. I should eat some more.
He put his hand on the door one last time, trying to evaluate the
wrongness. What is that made out of? I'll find out. We need
intelligence anyway. I'll just see what I can find out in here. It
makes sense. This is Nagi's private space. It makes sense. He felt
a creeping sense of shame and tried
to push it aside, but it clung like a stubborn cobweb. It makes
I'm being smart. I'm not surrendering. I'm not.
He turned away, looking toward the rear of the apartment. Food. I
was thinking of food... And I can tell a lot about a person by looking
at his kitchen. He took a deep breath. At least, I don't hurt
so much any more. The polished wood felt cold under his bare feet
as he walked. Would socks be too much to ask? Yes, or I'd have
asked. At least, I've got sweat pants and loose shirts in a variety of
colors. Even though it's just us in here... Only he gets to see
my body now. His lips pulled into an
ironic smile. Then he frowned slightly as the movement pulled on
were still sore. The bruises are taking longer to heal this time...
nearly killed me.
He hesitated in the doorway. That's the kitchen. He told me
it was the kitchen when we passed-- But-- It looked wrong, and he
couldn't quite articulate why. The floor changed from wood to what
looked like white marble. Got to be linoleum. Got to be. But white?
Who the hell would use-- Never mind. The line between the two was
only visible because of the difference
in coloration. It's not the floor that's bothering me. That's a
He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to release the sudden tension. It's
a goddamn kitchen.
Yes, but it's his kitchen.
He looked more carefully, trying to parse his uneasiness. The wall
between the kitchen and dining room proved not to be exactly a wall. To
the left of
the doorway lay a counter a bit more than a meter high. A sliding
the rest of the wall, covering the distance from counter to ceiling. So
kitchen can be open to the dining room or... not. And he prefers it
Why? He pushed experimentally on the screen. It moved easily under
hand. It didn't fold or roll but rather disappeared silently into the
He jerked his hand away and stepped back. How the hell? That wall
be that thick-- No. That's irrelevant. And it's not what was
He shrugged and looked around. At least there's nobody watching...
must look like an idiot. What would he think? Hell-- He grabbed the
screen and tugged it back into place. If that's how he wants it,
I'd better not-- He studied it for a moment, trying to decide if it
was the same as it had been. I can't tell. Will he be able to? I
wonder... The kitchen doesn't match the dining room. Is that why he
keep it closed? I wouldn't have thought he'd care... One more data
He turned back to the doorway and squared his shoulders. Here goes.
After all, I don't think he's got something in there that'll attack me.
briskly though the doorway, ignoring his body's complaints about the
The floor felt hard, slick and cold under his feet, colder than the
had. Doesn't he heat this place? He curled his toes a little. Not
linoleum. He turned slowly.
The counter to the left of the door seemed set up to be an area for
informal dining. A single tall stool stood next to it, and the
countertop extended out from the wall, leaving space for knees.
Underneath lay a footrest that seemed to be made of the same material
as the floor. There's room for more
than one-- Why only one stool? Because that's all he needs. He doesn't
company. But... He turned and looked back at the dining room. That's
full formal set up, room for six, easy. And-- His eyes narrowed,
he leaned back against the counter. The stool doesn't match
in the apartment, not in color, not in style. It does match
His hand groped for a non-existent pocket in search of a non-existent
Three styles, here. No. Four. The furniture. The rare personal
The shell of the apartment, apart from this room. He realized what
was doing and clenched his hand into a fist. I'm never going to
them, am I?
He looked around. And finally, this room. The décor sucks.
Well... It doesn't quite suck. It's just weird. I wouldn't put these
colors together; they're not.. comfortable together. Maybe it's just
that they're not Japanese? He has spent time in other countries, right?
Maybe he just doesn't care what the place looks like? Or didn't he get
to pick? That thought rattled him.
No. He's stronger, more important than that. I don't have to worry
that. He promised to protect me.
He gripped the counter in an effort to steady himself then seized on it
as a distraction. He tapped it with one finger. Pale gray and feels
like stone. What's holding it up then? It must weigh a ton. Is stone a
here? Trailing his fingers along the surface, Yohji walked along
counter until it ended at the corner. He turned. That's a sink.
the one in the bathroom. He pushed a tentative finger into the
shallow basin, feeling almost surprised at the lack of resistance. Of
course there's nothing in the way. You're an idiot, Kudoh. It's just a
sink. A ridiculously shallow one-- How could you wash dishes in it?
He ran a finger over the side and along the bottom of the basin. No
grease, no soap scum, nothing. Either he's obsessively clean or he has
someone come in to clean for him who
is. He frowned. Probably the latter. If he were obsessive that
he wouldn't have had to search for his phone, and he'd have wanted to
the bed. Does that mean someone'll be coming in soon? Another thing not
He studied the faucet. Push that down for water... That lever for
temperature. Push again for off. What the hell does that do?
He touched the textured lump next to the temperature control. Probably
push... Should I?
He pulled his hand back and cradled it against his body. Why not? He
set his jaw. The damn thing's not going to bite me. It's probably
just the garbage disposal. He gave the drain a dubious look. It's
got one, right? Not all kitchens do, but this one... He looked
around the room again. This place feels... new. It's really clean,
even smells new. How long has he been living here? He set
his jaw and reached out. The lump squished under his finger, feeling
oddly rubbery even though it looked metallic. Ick.
The faucet spat a lump of wet crystals that glistened in the light. Crushed
ice. The fucking sink does crushed ice? Why does he want a sink that
does ice? Well, it is kind of cool. Assuming it is ice. He
lump again. Then he touched the pile of melting fragments. Cold.
else would he want coming out of his faucet? He picked up a sliver
two fingers, brought it to his lips and let it dissolve on his tongue. Yes.
He blinked, a little startled by a sudden surge of satisfaction. That's
of proportion. I'm a bit... unbalanced, aren't I? That really should
scare me... Fuck it. There's damn all I can do about it.
He pushed the pile of ice toward the drain. I've got good reason to
be unbalanced. This... This situation's bad. I had to... alienate Ken.
He was really pissed at me. No. It's Ken. He'll get over it. He
won't understand, but... He'll get over it. Omi's catatonic. Unless
Nagi's lying. No. I don't think he would about that. He doesn't want me
to think about any of them, to care. Then there's Ran... What's going
through his head now?
Doesn't matter. Only he matters now. He straightened
up. I was after food... He gave the sink and its odd controls a
last measuring glance. Just see if there's a cupboard down there
and what's in it... He stepped back. A... drawer? The area
below the sink was faced in a slate blue material. Just below the
bottom of the basin, there was a distinct rectangle with a handle in
the middle. It's kind of big, and... that's a weird place for a
drawer. What about the pipes? He reached for the handle,
hesitated, then grasped it firmly and pulled.
He pulled harder, succeeding only in having the handle bite into his
hand. What the hell? He resisted an urge to kick or hit the
drawer. The force
of his desire to break something startled him. Deep breaths, Kudoh.
breaths. Of course, you want to break something. You want to kill a few
too. Or at least beat the crap out of them. It's a way of exerting
Of saying he can't make you do anything, can't control
everything. Well... If you go there, you lose. It's simple.
He closed his eyes for a second and ran his fingers over the facing and
handle. There-- He pressed, twisted and pulled. The drawer slid
to reveal two mugs, two spoons and two glasses. From last night and
breakfast. I recognize the pattern on that mug. He spread his hands
gauge the width of the space. Big, deep. You could put a lot more
It's a silly place for storage, too. He lifted a mug. It's
No trace of hot chocolate. He set the mug down again and looked
the room. This whole place is clean. Almost... sterile. Nobody
here. He doesn't cook in here. Does he even cook? He made the
chocolate, didn't he?
He shook his head. There should be crumbs on the floor, drips of
unidentifiable... stuff on the stove. For that matter, where the hell
is the stove? And I only see one electrical outlet... Way over on the
other side of the room. And where's
the dish soap? Shouldn't there be a dirty sponge or a rag, even a hand
somewhere here? And where are the other dishes from dinner and
Why can't I smell last night's plate scrapings?
That's what's creeping me out. He smiled, pleased at having
teased that out. I mean, that there must be the fridge. It's the
only thing that could be, but... Absently, he pushed the drawer
shut. How could anybody cook in here? He almost missed the
solid click as the drawer closed.
A low, humming whirr interrupted his thoughts. What the hell?
stepped back. It's coming from in there-- He reached out and
the handle with one finger. A buzz like a tiny motor vibrating raced
his hand. What's it doing? I didn't do anything! He fumbled at
handle, trying to find the mechanism for opening it again. Shit!
going to kill me--
No. He pulled his hands away and forced himself to step back. Think
damn it! It's probably supposed to do that. It must be supposed to do
that. And it's only a couple of dishes... And he left them
there. He put his hands to either side of his face and tangled his
fingers in his hair. "It's okay. It's okay. It's okay..." It's got
to be. He lowered his hands. "I'm overreacting--"
He took a deep breath and walked toward the thing he thought was a
refrigerator. I just need to get food and get out of here. He
stopped and put a hand
on the probable fridge. It feels like stone. Everything in this
like stone... He shook out his shoulders, trying to fight off a
No obvious handle... He ran his hands along one side and found
felt like a groove. He wrapped a hand around that edge and tugged. The
swung smoothly out. He stepped forward and leaned to peer into the
lit interior. It's not cold. He frowned. There's a pitcher
juice, some rice milk, beer... Ice cream? But it's not cold! He
the carton. It is cold but only the ice cream. It's solid--
He grabbed half blindly for the orange juice and slammed the door shut.
I don't want to know. He turned and started to leave the room,
stopped himself. I should find a glass. He glanced at the
the sink but looked away quickly. There have to be other
Maybe I should just drink from the pitcher... I don't think I want to
it back. He walked slowly over to the stool and set the pitcher on
counter. Will he mind if I drink all of it? Good orange juice is
And I'm being stupid, thinking he'll care. Look at this place! He's
not living on a budget. He sat down and leaned on the counter. I'm
I'm so messed up I can't even deal with a kitchen. Just as well
didn't try to get out... I'd probably have had a panic attack right
the fucking door. God, and what do I do with the pitcher afterward? I
just leave it... There's nothing out of place here. Nothing at all.
He let his head rest on his arms. I can do this. I can.
Really.He took a deep breath. Nagi attacked Schuldig to
protect me. He's not
going to kill me over a pitcher of juice or a couple of mugs. He left
alone here. He had to expect me to explore. He didn't tell me not to.
if he's expecting me to explore, I'd damn well better do it. I can't
to disappoint him. What if he decides I'm too damaged? And what if I
He sat up and lifted the pitcher. He contemplated it dubiously. I
really should look for a glass. Pouring juice down my front isn't going
to make me
look competent, and he prefers... He turned. Probably over
there-- That wall's all cupboards. As he turned, he looked squarely
at the fourth wall, the one between the kitchen and the living room,
for the first time. What the hell? He just barely managed to
maintain his grip on the pitcher.
That-- A window? No. No way! He turned and carefully put
the pitcher down. I... I didn't see it from the other side. Was I
that out of it? And that... doesn't look like the back of the aquarium.
He walked over to the window. As he approached, he blinked, trying to
clear his vision. That's not the back of the aquarium...
He stopped about three feet away and stared. A beach. That's snow
on the driftwood... I bet it's windy. Look at the whitecaps. He
wrapped his arms around his body and shuddered. The window in the
bedroom looks out on a hill covered with trees.
Trees and summer leaves... He felt his breathing speeding up as he
panic. Where the hell are we? And what is that? It can't be a real
Is the one in the bedroom? I thought it was a clue. I hoped it was a
Seeking distraction, he scanned the rest of the wall. What's that?
He spotted what looked like a control panel in the corner. That's
light switch-- He turned back toward the door to confirm what he
he remembered. Yes. That's at that end. I'll just pretend that thing
doesn't exist. He stared at the small panel. Six buttons, each
a lever. Should I? He reached out, hesitated, then let his hand
He bit his lip. I've got to. Not because I need to know what it
If I lose my nerve now, I won't be able to keep up any sort of
Before he could change his mind again, he shot out his hand and pushed
one of the buttons. The wall started to bulge, and he almost couldn't
stop himself from jumping back. No. It's got to be harmless. Well,
more or less... He
doesn't strike me as the type to booby trap his kitchen. He took a
breath and grasped the lever above the button he'd pushed. It moved
like a joystick than a true lever. As he moved it around, the bulge in
wall formed itself into a counter. Oh, I see. This controls height
depth. He played with it a bit, watching in fascination as the
He walked over to the new counter and ran his hands over it. It
feels like... He rubbed his fingers against his thumb. It's
like the floor of my cell. Neutral color. An easy work surface, I
guess. How the hell do they do it? Rubbing the back of his neck, he
turned back and pressed the
button again. He was relieved that that reversed the process. I
to know. I don't.
The cupboards proved rather more mundane. Inside, he found a plethora
of snack foods-- Mostly Japanese. He favors salty and sweet--
and just add water meals, a number of small appliances that looked like
they'd never been used, a few pots, a drawer full of chopsticks and
Western style flatware, an assortment of mismatched dishes and a full
set of formal china. He doesn't
cook here. He couldn't. No measuring cups. No knives. No spoons for
Even if he had food that could be cooked... He felt himself
to relax. At least something in here is more or less normal, more
what I expected.
So how does he get food? He hasn't gone to the door for it;
I've been paying attention. Ah. In one corner, he found an empty
removable shelves. One of the shelves had a sticky spot that he
tentatively identified as a partially dried spill from that morning's
breakfast. A dumbwaiter? He pushed and prodded but couldn't
make anything move. That's the only thing that makes sense. I bet
there's a control panel here somewhere. There's pretty much got to be.
I'll find it next time. Right now... I need to eat, and that bath is
sounding better and better.
Nagi looked across his desk at Telat and did
his best not to let his distaste show. I'd much rather do without you.
I just haven't had time to find someone more... suitable. "You
understand what I want?"
The woman bowed, her expression earnest. "Yes, Naoe-san. I'll take care
of him. I'll make sure he eats and rests, and I'll call you if
And don't flirt with him! Not that she did. That was him. He should
know better. He does know better. He's just... resourceful.
"Continue with the language lessons if he wants." Nagi's face felt
stiff with the effort of keeping his polite mask in place. "It'll be
easier once you have Japanese." I still need her. I wonder... I
might have another use for her after all.
"Yes, sir." She fidgeted a little under his gaze, edged a little away
and very carefully didn't ask the question that was obvious on her
Why don't I give him Taisken? He's valuable. You're not. And
you annoy me. I don't want you getting ideas. He watched her
carefully. Hoping I'll dismiss you, are you? Not yet. Not yet.
He let his eyes narrow, and
he glanced down at the small screen set into his desk. "I'm surprised
find someone with your... personality profile... working here. I'd have
you'd be more suited to... something else."
She looked embarrassed, reddening slightly. "I'm-- Hasn't my work been
Sadly, yes. You're giving me no excuse. "Oh, quite." But
there's more than one way to get rid of you. "I just wondered if
you were really happy here." He gave her a smile that she probably
didn't recognize as false. "You've done well at some difficult tasks
for me." He shrugged. "I reward my people."
Her eyes widened, and she inhaled sharply. "I'm a scholarship student,
Naoe-san. I'm sure my file says so. I go where the High Lord needs me."
"Yes. Of course." He tapped his fingers on his desk. "Your grades are
excellent. Your evaluations as well. Your personality profile,
however... Wouldn't you be happier at a public clinic or a school? You
don't seem to have the... military
mindset." You have compassion. You sure as hell shouldn't be here.
She looked at the floor. "This is a... a high priority installation,
sir. It was an honor to be chosen."
He leaned back in his chair and smiled, not quite masking his pleasure
at her apparent discomfort. He shook his head. "No, it wasn't. This is
the ass end of nowhere. Everyone here is under the command of a couple
of barbarian upstarts--"
She started, her eyes flying to his face. She opened her mouth to
protest, but he waved her words aside.
"Don't bother. I know what people say." If I were fool enough not
have noticed, Schuldig told me. Repeatedly. A sudden sharpness in
gut reminded him that the days of pleasant conversations with Schuldig
over. He'll get over it. "My point is," Nagi went on, "that
only here because you lack a... patron." He pushed back from the desk
stood up. "That I am a barbarian does not lessen my status in the High
eyes." He walked around the desk and then sat on the corner.
She did not, quite, step back as he invaded her space. "Sir?"
So you've got some guts after all. A brief flicker of irritation
escaped him and expressed itself as a frown. Oh, you've got it
Don't play stupid. "Do your best for me, and I'll sponsor you.
you'd like to go--" He gave her a smile that ought to have drawn blood.
Far away from here. Another possibility struck him. Maybe...
"If you'd prefer to continue working directly for me, I have a..." What
should I call her? "...relative who needs fairly constant
supervision. She's on Earth now, but I'd like to move her some place...
safer." You'd be good at the job, and Tot would like you, but
you're damn stupid if you take it. You'll be buried somewhere and never
get out. His smile became gentler, more pleasant. Poor Tot. She
never understood how I could... outgrow her.
Telat managed a tentative smile.
That's right. I'm doing well by you. You can go tell everybody how
wonderful the High Lord's new Level I telekinetic is. I don't want
people working for me just because they're afraid of me.
"May I have some time to think about it, sir? Both of your offers sound
appealing, and you're right-- I'm not... suited to working here." She
backward and gave him a deep bow. "If I may go, sir-- I should...
given me a task, and I--"
He waved a dismissive hand, rather enjoying the power. "Go. I don't
want him alone too long." He smiled a little as she departed. That
was a full formal bow. She acknowledged my rank. Voluntarily. Good.
After she left, he turned to the display that connected him to the
complex's computer system. "You know there are things I'd much rather
be doing," he told it, a bit of humor leaking into his voice. Well,
maybe I can get something
useful accomplished, too. He pulled out a PDA. I think Yohji
are going to need a bigger apartment. Now that I know how much... pull
got, what do I want in my living space? And what might Yohji like?
I still can't believe he left me alone.
leaned against the side of the tub and closed his eyes. The heat of the
made movement easier. He shouldn't have. He's giving me time to
head together, and that might... I might be able to keep some
He stretched his legs out. He's doing all right for himself. This
Why did he leave me alone, give me time to think? Why did he
risk me running? His hands started to clench. He took a deep breath
and extended his fingers, stretching then releasing them. That's
what I should be doing right now-- Trying to get out of here, not
bathing. I've eaten, so I'm not doing too badly that way. That's no
Except... I can't.
He spent a few minutes focusing on his breathing, letting the heat
relax knotted muscles. I wouldn't get far. He'd find me and drag me
back, and whatever trust I've managed to get from him would be gone.
So, just live in this moment for right now... No thinking about what
anybody else might say. They're not here, and I'm following Omi's first
Ken. That hurt. A lot. Nagi could have wrecked me with that. Why
didn't he? Maybe he didn't orchestrate it for the effect on me. That
might have been...
incidental. Nagi felt surprised after, like he hadn't thought
how much it would hurt me.
Not that he was unhappy about it. He wants to cut me off from Weiss.
But that wasn't his plan to begin with.
Then what was his plan? He must have had one. He found himself
tapping his fingers against the side of the tub. Damn I want a
smoke. If it wasn't me... If it wasn't about me, it was about Ken. What
about Ken? Nagi said that
Crawford wanted something from Ken, didn't he? Is that it? Was he even
me the truth?
Yohji began a pantomime smoke. No nicotine rush, but... Does that
mean Nagi wouldn't have killed Ken? No. Nagi was angry. He doesn't
think when he's
like that. He doesn't mean to lose control on me, either, but... He
the muscles in his shoulders start to tighten. Relax. Relax. He
his mind as blank as he could for a few moments. He sank down, holding
breath, letting the water close over his head, only keeping his
cigarette hand dry. I could just stay down here... Let everything
No. First, don't die. I could almost hate Omi.
He resurfaced after a moment, shaking his head to throw his hair off
his face. Ken was angry. But with Ken that... passes. He blows up,
and it's over. But he wasn't just angry with Nagi. He didn't
understand, and I... hurt
him. Yes, well, at least he's still alive. Is there anyone Nagi
to keep me?
He wrapped his arms around himself. That intensity's scary, but...
There's some security in it. Assuming I can keep him from hurting me
too badly. He sighed and relaxed his arms. I should seduce him
soon. I'm doing well enough. Really. And it's better than waiting for
him to force me.
I can do this. I can.
Back to Index.
Back to Part 10.
On to Part 12.