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On to Part 14.

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 form.

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.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: Nagi x Yohji. References to Crawford x Aya-chan.

Author: The RCK
Last updated: 31 August 2004

Thanks to Amy the Evitable, Hope of Dawn, Olna Jenn 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

Part 13

Nagi sighed and felt some of the tension leave his shoulders as the door shut behind him. I'm no closer to figuring out what's wrong with the damn computer, but I was definitely right not to hook Yohji up to the damn thing. The blowout this afternoon proved that. Pity it didn't fry her...

Telat had been sitting on the couch when he'd entered and immediately rose to her feet, bowing deeply. "Kudoh-san is sleeping, sir." She spoke in Japanese and didn't meet his eyes.

"Good." He suppressed a surge of disappointment. Was I expecting him to greet me at the door like a devoted housewife? Well... It would have been... nice. "Did he eat?"

"Several times, sir. He... The kitchen seemed to make him nervous."

She looks distressed. Why? Or is it just language hangover? I wonder if she could manage a sentence in any language other than Japanese right now... He allowed amusement from that thought to buoy him. I'd much rather it was personal distress than something about Yohji. "How so?"

"Naoe-san, I... He asked me to explain how things worked. I did. He... I think he didn't want to believe me." She looked at the floor and twisted her fingers together. "He made me... demonstrate several times."

Nagi blinked. The kitchen. What-- Oh. "Did he learn how to heat and chill things?" he asked mildly. How to find things, too...

She looked up and gave him a tentative smile. "Yes, but he wasn't really convinced that some of the food was safe."

She's so easy to reassure. Pity Yohji won't be as easy. "How long has he been asleep?" He walked past her to look at his aquarium. The corals almost glowed in the light from the sun lamps. He smiled at the contrasting blues, pinks and oranges, letting his eyes unfocus a little so that they softened and blurred into each other, contrasting with the background browns and whites. Did Yohji spend any time looking at this today? He spread his finger against the glass as a small striped fish darted past. This close in, he could see small particles in the water. Hm... Need to clean the filter again.

"A bit more than an hour." She remained silent for a moment then said, "Sir...?"

He waited a few seconds before turning back to her. "Yes?" I've never seen anyone actually wringing their hands before. What's she so upset about?

"Well, sir... Kudoh-san, he asked me... He wanted me to..." She pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket.

For god's sake, finish a sentence woman! Nagi extended his hand. "Yes?" His irritation sharpened the word. "What did he want?"

"He asked me to take it to the red haired man, Mr. Crawford's... brother-in-law." She stumbled a little both over the form of address and over the relationship.

Both Crawford and I insist on being addressed according to our native customs. I suppose it's humorous in a way. He took the paper and unfolded it. His mouth set in a hard line, and his teeth pressed hard together. What does Yohji have to say to Fujimiya? They have nothing to say to each other. Not now. Not ever. He half crumpled the paper and had to smooth it out again before reading it.


Your sister's safe; I'm sure of it. Crawford seems to be devoted to her. I'm fine, too. Take Omi and Ken and get them out. Aya-chan and I both have people to look after us. The three of you have no reason to worry about us, and we'll be better off if we don't have to worry about you.

You're the only one who can get them out. Just do it.


Nagi read the note through three times then refolded it carefully and handed it back to Telat. "Go ahead and deliver it." I wouldn't mind if those three weren't around anymore, and it's about time Fujimiya got the news that Yohji's mine. No matter what Fujimiya wants, how hard he fights. He smiled. "Thank you for showing this to me. You did the right thing."

She gave him a deep bow.

The day's tension started to ease. It's good to be home. And Yohji's acknowledging that he belongs with me. The notion warmed him, rather like a good meal or a cup of hot chocolate. "Is there anything else?" No? Good. Get out. But for once he felt no particular animosity toward her. I just want some privacy... with Yohji. "You may go. I'll call you if we need you again."

She bowed again and turned to leave.

"Oh, and let my assistant know what your decision is about your next assignment. He'll know what to do." Although until you're able to speak Taisken easily again, trying to talk to him won't do you much good.

"Thank you, Naoe-san." She bowed again then left.

He relaxed fully once she was gone. Time to look in on Yohji. He walked quickly toward the bedroom then hesitated in the doorway. Why do I care so much? He shook his head. It doesn't matter. I like having him here.

Yohji lay curled up on the bed, facing the door. He'd wrapped himself around a pillow. I should find out what happened to the cat... No. He probably bled on it. Just get a new one. No. I'm sure it can be cleaned, and it was the first gift I gave him.

Nagi crossed the room without really thinking about it. He looks so right there. Mine. He reached out to smooth Yohji's hair.

Yohji tensed minutely, and his hand shot out to grab Nagi's arm. Then his eyes opened, and he flinched. His arm fell to the bed, his fingers just short of Nagi's hand. "I'm sorry, Nagi-san," he whispered. He didn't quite look at Nagi but rather focused his eyes on his hand. His whole body seemed tense. "I-- I was asleep. I didn't know it was you." He raised his head, and Nagi saw that the pillowcase had left a dent across Yohji's face.

Nagi let go of the energy he'd gathered instinctively. The killer is still in there. Good. He was afraid he'd lost it. "That's all right, Yohji-kun. I didn't mean to wake you." He inhaled slowly. But I almost... overreacted. I thought Crawford said I was past that... That I wouldn't hurt Yohji just by losing my temper again. "How are you feeling?" He sat on the edge of the bed and stroked Yohji's hair.

"I'm fine." Yohji hesitated just for a second then leaned his head against Nagi's leg. "I was just a little... tired, and she was dull. I missed you."

Did you? I... I'd like to think so. Nagi sighed. "You're looking better. I think the bruises will be gone tomorrow." Did Crawford lie to me? Or did he just not See it? If he wasn't sure-- I might still kill someone without meaning to.

"I really am sorry. I meant to be awake when you came home--" Yohji's voice held just the barest hint of panic, but he remained completely still under Nagi's hands.

What? Oh... "I'm not angry with you, Yohji-kun. It's something else, not you." Nagi smiled and put up some sketchy mental shields. I hope this helps. "I've started looking into someone to teach you about empathy. I think I've found the right person, but... The language barrier is a problem for the next few days." Will he ask? I bet he will.

Yohji frowned. "I don't understand that. Yesterday, that woman couldn't speak a word of Japanese. Today, she couldn't manage anything but."

"I had her programmed with the language. It's a fairly simple process. Well, it is now." He pushed his remembered irritation behind his shields. "For some reason, Japanese wasn't one of the available languages until I asked about it last week. They had German and English and Mandarin and Spanish and Russian but not Japanese."

"Programmed?" Yohji sounded dubious.

"It's easy, really. Just a bit of time with a computer sending signals to your brain. I've gotten several languages that way. The worst side-effect is that you usually can't speak anything but the new language for a day or two."

Yohji fixed his eyes on Nagi's face. "There's more to it. Why can she have it and I can't? You're not going to convince me that Taisken's not available." His expression combined puzzlement with shrewd suspicion.

"Well..." Nagi found himself suddenly reluctant to explain out loud how little he had cared if Telat's brain got fried. Not that he doesn't know. But hell-- Why should I care? She's utterly replaceable. He ran his fingers through Yohji's hair and started to relax a little. I have to explain, though. Otherwise-- I bet he thinks I want him helpless. Doesn't he realize I want the killer? "The complex's main computer is acting... weird. There've been some things overloading, data getting eaten, that sort of thing. Until we isolate the cause and fix it, programming a person is a bit of risk. I spent the afternoon working on the problem. Crawford doesn't trust anybody else with it."

Yohji stared at Nagi for a moment then looked away.

"I won't put you in danger like that." Nagi felt he had to emphasize that point.

"So I'm valuable?" Yohji didn't sound entirely happy about it.

Nagi set his jaw and took a deep breath. After a brief hesitation, he said, "Very much so. At least to me." Nagi ran fingers along Yohji's jaw. Hm. He needs to shave again. Speaking of which... "The next few days may get a little confusing. Crawford's requested a stand alone language unit which won't be affected by our computer problems-- He doesn't want to risk harming Fujimiya-- but it's going to take some time to arrive." Carefully. He's not going to like this. "Tomorrow afternoon, I've got you scheduled for a simple medical procedure--"

Yohji's jaw tightened, and his hands clenched. He looked down at the sheets. Nagi saw him shudder.

"Relax, Yohji-kun. It's... cosmetic and painless. I don't like you with stubble." He touched the tip of Yohji's chin. "This will stop your beard permanently and not affect you at all." He smiled. "Unless you think you're defined by your hair follicles..." It will please me, Yohji-kun. And eliminate some... negative associations. Better for both of us.

Yohji managed a weak smile.

Close enough. "We'll also be seeing some people about clothing and about planning new quarters, and I plan to introduce you to your empathy teacher. I-- or Telat-- will translate for you." I won't always be able to be around. Much as I'd prefer to be. Yohji winced, and Nagi realized that he'd tightened his grip on Yohji's hair. He relaxed his hand and smiled in apology. "For tonight, I've got something more relaxing planned."

For just a moment, Yohji looked dubious. Then he nuzzled at Nagi's thigh. "I'm sure I can come up with some ideas--" he purred, rubbing his face gently against Nagi's crotch.

Nagi's gut tightened, and for a second, he couldn't breathe as his body responded to the stimulation. Oh-- Yes! He shifted a little, automatically trying to give Yohji better access. This wasn't-- Oh, god! He buried his hands in Yohji's hair.

Yohji was doing something with Nagi's pants, but Nagi couldn't spare attention to think about what. Yohji pulled back. "May I use my hands?" He kept his head bent, eyes lowered. He made no attempt to escape Nagi's hold.

What? Nagi blinked. Hands? He stared at Yohji then shifted uncomfortably as he realized just how tight his pants had become. Oh! "Go ahead." Just finish what you damn well started! Wait-- Isn't this a bad idea? I wasn't planning-- Not this, not now. But-- He shifted his grip on Yohji's head so that he could see his face. He leaned in to kiss Yohji's forehead. "My Yohji," he whispered, trying to project feelings of affection and tenderness to temper his lust. He is volunteering, after all...

Yohji's hands trembled visibly as he reached for Nagi's belt.

Nagi rocked his hips a little, silently urging Yohji to continue. He closed his eyes for a second. That felt so good last time-- Last time! A jolt of doubt went through him at the thought. He clenched his hands and attempted to think of something other than his arousal. "Yohji-- This is your choice-- not like-- last time--" Though if you keep doing that, I'm damn well not going to let you stop!

Yohji finished opening Nagi's fly and pressed a kiss against the tiny bit of flesh visible between boxers and shirt. He rubbed his cheek against the fabric covered bulge. "Last time was my choice," he replied calmly. "It just... I wasn't... ready."

Good enough. Nagi lifted his hips to make pulling his clothing down easier. "No-- No further." He put a hand on one of Yohji's, preventing him from pulling his pants any lower. I'm still that much in control. I-- Yohji ran his tongue along the length of Nagi's cock, effectively interrupting the thought. HE had to put his hands behind him to keep from collapsing backward. All his attention focused on his cock and on what Yohji was doing to it.

Warm wetness, just a hint of rough texture. He gasped as Yohji moved, leaving trails of warmth to cool. His fingers clenched on the sheets as Yohji finally wrapped his lips around his cock. He thrust upward, desperately wanting more. More warmth. More wetness. More contact. More...

It ended faster than he'd expected. His body tightened as he tried to hold on, but Yohji seemed to know exactly what to do to force him to lose control. He thrust upward one last time then gasped and shook with his release. He collapsed backward and lay gasping for several seconds.

Then he reached down to touch Yohji's hair. He felt a sudden, not wholly unpleasant chill as Yohji released his cock and laid his head on Nagi's thigh. I like having him there. He sighed. But I want him to feel... cherished now. He smiled. "Come up here, Yohji." He tried to make it a request rather than an order but wasn't sure he succeeded.

Yohji hesitated, pressing his face against Nagi's leg. Then he sat up and used his arms to pull himself to where he could lie down next to Nagi.

Nagi turned to take Yohji in his arms and pulled Yohji's head to rest on his shoulder. He laid his fingers over Yohji's lips and said, "Thank you." I could kiss him. That would be nice... No. He barely managed to contain a shudder. I bet he tastes like-- Bad idea. Very bad idea. He pressed his body up against Yohji's, and Yohji obligingly relaxed against him, face neutral and his breathing even.

Nagi ran his hand through Yohji's hair and down his back, making small soothing noises as he moved. I wonder what this would feel like longer, much longer... He could feel each strand as it passed between, under his fingers. We can find out. "Have you ever worn your hair longer than this?" He lifted some of it and let the strands fall slowly from his fingers.

Yohji shook his head without raising it from its resting place on Nagi's shoulder. "No. Didn't want to look like a girl..." he mumbled into Nagi's shirt.

Nagi laughed "That seems unlikely. Which is just as well. If I wanted a girl, I'd get one." And I really could, couldn't I? I doubt anybody'd blink if I built a harem. Well, Schuldig'd make snide-- The recollection that Schuldig wasn't speaking to him ended his amusement abruptly.

Yohji's steady breathing stopped for about two seconds then resumed.

Nagi tightened his grip on Yohji. "It's all right, Yohji-kun. Just a passing thought. Nothing to do with you..." Well, not directly. "It's been a long and frustrating day, and some of it is hanging on." He rubbed Yohji's back and concentrated on recapturing the peace and pleasure he'd felt minutes before. "Would you like to go out tonight? I was thinking of a picnic and some star gazing..."

"Really?" Yohji twisted to look at Nagi's face. "Out? Just us?" His voice was half longing, half terror.

"Yes, really outside." Nagi couldn't keep from smiling. "I think you'll enjoy it. The garden's not as nice as it could be right now... I got kind of angry the other day and took it out on the walkways and benches. For some reason, at the time, it seemed better than taking it out on Crawford. But out beyond that, I've got my own spot for looking at the sky."

Yohji settled his head back on Nagi's shoulder and turned his face in toward Nagi's chest. "That'll be very nice. Thank you, Nagi-san."

Yohji pushed one foot carefully forward, probing for safe ground. Thank god he gave me shoes. This crap'd cut the hell out of my feet otherwise. He hesitated and looked around, trying to get a better impression of what Nagi had assured him was a beautiful garden, but the darkness hid all but a general sense of shape to the badly broken pathway and its flanking bushes. I think those are topiaries back there. And judging by the scent, there's a shitload of flowers around. Somebody's put a lot of time and money into the landscaping. He stumbled forward, toes connecting hard with one of the larger pieces of debris as Nagi tugged at the light leather leash fastened to Yohji's neck and wrists. Fuck! I keep forgetting. Hasn't he humiliated me enough?

"Are you all right, Yohji-kun?" Nagi stopped and looked back, letting the leash fall slack between them. Yohji could feel his concern.

How's he managing so easily? Yohji glanced at Nagi's feet. Are they even touching the ground? "I think I need to go a little slower, Nagi-san, or maybe walk on the grass." I should be better at this. It's my job! I sneak around in the dark all the time, and I'm really not that badly hurt any more. Not really. Yeah, but if I were sneaking through here, I wouldn't be walking on this-- Yohji'd bent to investigate when they'd first emerged from the building, while they were still close enough for light from the window to let him see details. Not a piece larger than the palm of my hand and not many of those. And
he did this. Because he was angry. I'm not going to think about that. Not.

"We can walk on the grass for a little bit." Nagi frowned thoughtfully. He touched Yohji's cheek. "I'm sorry, Yohji-kun. I should have thought to bring a light. I know the way so well I don't need one." He shrugged. "We'll come back during the day some time, so you can do more than smell the flowers."

Yohji studied what he could see of Nagi's face. What does he want? "How can we have a picnic in the dark?" He was afraid he sounded petulant, but he couldn't seem to avoid it. I hate not knowing what's going on. And I can't ask. "And we're not carrying any food--"

"I ordered a blanket and a meal set up out here before I left my office. If we hadn't... If we hadn't indulged in that very pleasant... interlude, it'd still be light out." Nagi sounded amused. He looked Yohji up and down and then looked at the path ahead of them. "There's a light waiting for us there, too. I thought we'd need it on the way back in."

So he didn't expect a blowjob? But he was-- is-- pleased about it. Volunteering was the right thing to do. Yohji considered the aftermath. Cuddling. That was... nice. Then clean clothes, even shoes and socks for the first time. Even if I did balk at the... leash. He closed his eyes. Did he think I wouldn't? That giving me other things would make that-- He tried to remember the expression on Nagi's face as he'd offered Yohji the choice between a delicate silver chain with equally delicate wrist cuffs and collar and a similar set up made of soft leather. He'd smiled as Yohji had tested both leashes and realized they were useless as actual restraints. No. He knew I wouldn't like it. He just... let me have a little control. Deliberately. And he did feel like he was telling the truth when he said it was 'necessary.'

"I just don't want to twist my ankle." Yohji shrugged, trying to look as if he didn't care. I don't want to look even more... stupid, don't want to be more helpless. "Whatever suits you, Nagi-san."

"I could always carry you..."

Nagi's amusement at the thought made Yohji want to smile even as his words made him want to cringe. No. Please. Leave me some dignity. "I can manage, and it's... nice to have a chance to stretch my legs." Not that I can stop you...

"All right." Nagi turned away. "This way then."

Yohji found his efforts to note details as he passed through the garden frustrated both by the darkness and by his need to concentrate on his footing. I wonder if I'll be able to see the nearest city? Probably. That'll at least be useful. If I could just see the flowers, I'd have some idea where we might be. Being a damned florist has to be good for something.

Eventually, they reached a path that hadn't been torn up by Nagi's power. Yohji kept his sigh of relief silent as he felt an even, paved surface under his feet. From what he could see the path was about a meter wide, with carefully pruned trees to either side. At least, I assume they're pruned. I haven't run into any branches yet, and I can see the sky. I wish the moon were fuller; a crescent's not enough to see anything by. Just shadows of leaves.

"We're nearly there, Yohji-kun." Yohji could feel Nagi's uncomplicated enjoyment in sharing something special to him. "I think you'll really like the view."

Maybe this won't be so bad. He doesn't feel like he's planning anything awful. There's a little bit of anticipation, like he thinks he'll surprise me, but it's... There's no cruelty, no sense of power over me. Maybe... Don't bother hoping. He took a moment to look up at the sky. "I'm sure it'll be beautiful, Nagi-san." He made himself smile a little, remembering that Nagi could 'see' with his power. He took a deep breath. "I'm already enjoying the fresh air." The heavy scent of flowers bred for show and perfume. Fertilizer. Damp soil. Does he even know what he's smelling? It's like a bit of home...

Home. Right. There's irony for me. I don't think any of us thought of it that way. It was a place we were passing through... A place none of us could leave.

The path slanted upward. Yohji hesitated for a second, trying to judge the angle. It's not just up. I think we're going along the side of something. Circling up. Just how high up will we be? I wish I had light--

"Nagi-san--" What am I going to ask?

Nagi turned back to look at Yohji. "Yes?"

I'm a moron. Damn it! Say something! "Why is this--" He tugged gently on the leash. "--necessary? I'm not going to run." Yet. The damn thing can't be just decorative. He didn't feel like that about it.

Nagi frowned briefly then smiled. "Not yet anyway." He continued walking forward, no longer looking at Yohji. For a long moment, he didn't say anything.

Yohji focused his attention on Nagi's back. Is he even going to answer?

"It's a symbol, like a caste marker but not. The Taisken are big on those. Normally, everybody, no matter who they are, wears something that tells people who they are, where they fit in, who they answer to. We're kind of lax about it here, apart from special occasions, but you... Slaves always wear a mark. Always. And... As long as you wear mine, only someone who outranks me can touch you without my permission. On this base, that means Crawford. Kind of." Nagi shrugged.

That feels... complicated. Pleasure and guilt and loyalty and pride and doubt and ambition and... I think the pleasure's from protecting me mostly, but I just don't think I want to... I'm not going to ask about Crawford. Yohji tangled his fingers in the soft leather of the leash. "And if-- What if I weren't wearing it? Or if you..." What if you take it away?

"If I take it away and I don't replace it with something else, then I've thrown you to the wolves." Nagi didn't look back.

And you're not saying you won't. Yohji's fingers tightened on the leather. Not that I'd believe you if you did...

"Don't go out without me." Nagi stopped and turned. He put his hands on Yohji's cheeks and pulled him down for a brief kiss. "I'm having something a little more permanent, a lot nicer, than this--" He tugged lightly at the collar. "--made for you."

Great. Something else to look forward to. Yohji suppressed his shudder by leaning against Nagi. He's warm, and he... He likes me. He wants to protect me.

Nagi put his arms around Yohji. "I changed the rules when I..." He cleared his throat. "When I took you to my rooms, you stopped being a prisoner and became a slave. Before, well... You were legally protected against anything... unofficial. You had some status. Now it all depends on what I think of you, whether people think I'll listen to you, protect you..."

Stay calm, Kudoh. Yohji's stomach clenched. This doesn't really change anything, and the idea pleases him. You can live with that. Besides, we're going to a romantic picnic. Throwing up is not going to help. No matter what he thinks of me, what he feels, vomit is not endearing. Especially at this range.

"But... Schuldig..." Nagi shrugged. "This way I can shield you from him. Otherwise... I don't think Crawford would."

But that's not everything. You... want too strongly for that. Yohji shuddered. "I'm... I'm not ungrateful." And I'm not. God help me. "It's just... hard to adapt." He turned his head a little to look away into the darkness. "I'm sorry, Nagi-san." He could feel Nagi's emotions as a swirling tangle of conflicting impulses. Pride, grief-- Does he regret Schuldig so much? Possessiveness. Anger. And lust, always lust. He fought not to shudder.

"You're doing very well. Kidnapping and empathy and weird technology..." Nagi rubbed one hand in little circles on Yohji's back. "And you really don't need to think about it right now. Come on--" He stepped away and put a hand on Yohji's arm. "We'll eat and look at the stars, and I'll explain a bit more about the Taisken."

Explain? That's... weird. I expected something more... passionate. Yohji followed along obediently, letting Nagi steer him along the path. He clenched his hands where Nagi couldn't see them. I don't like surprises any more. He hurts me the most when he's not trying to. I almost prefer it when he's not seeing me. That focus is terrifying. I can use it. I can so use it, but... Fuck.

"I wish we'd come up here while it was still light-- Perhaps we can do it in a few days-- I think you'd like the garden and the plants by the trail. You do actually like plants, don't you? You seemed to be good with them, so I thought--" Nagi gave a light laugh that sounded forced.

"I like plants okay." Yohji worked at matching Nagi's tone. He is planning something. He thinks it's good, but he's nervous. "I don't think they'd have been my first choice for a cover, being a florist, that is. The schedule's not really flexible, and--" He shrugged and didn't bother to finish the thought. "But with plants you can... I don't know, kind of lose yourself in caring for them, arranging them, and they're alive. When you kill, you need something to anchor you, something that isn't all blood." Damn. I'm starting to babble. Control. I need to keep control.

Neither man spoke for a while. The path continued to wind upward. Eventually, it widened and let out on the middle of a grassy open area that sloped gently up to a line of trees and down to foliage Yohji couldn't quite identify. Nagi led the way toward a large, light colored blanket spread on the carefully trimmed grass. There were small lights placed at regular intervals around its perimeter and a large basket lay at one end.

Yohji blinked and looked away from the lights, temporarily dazzled. He really has gone all out.

"We'll want to put out the lights so we can look at the stars." Nagi sounded pleased.

Yohji looked at him. He's looking at the sky, not at me.

"Look-- We're in time for moonrise." Nagi pointed. "I didn't think we would be."

Moonrise? But it's already up-- Yohji looked in the direction Nagi was indicating. And that's not where it is. But... Something is. His eyes widened as he saw a second moon edge over the horizon. No! The other moon, the crescent, was still there. There can't be two moons.

"I'd hoped to have the lights off already. I wanted you to see this clearly. I thought... I thought you'd need something concrete to prove I was telling the truth about the Taisken, and it really is beautiful..." Nagi didn't quite look at Yohji.

Yohji felt as if his throat were blocked and as if the ground were suddenly unsteady under his feet. No. Please, no. Fuck. We're not even on Earth-- His knees started to buckle. He staggered forward a couple of steps. This means-- This means... They can't get out. No matter what they do. It's for nothing. I've sold myself for nothing. Nothing at all. His despair was a bitter, devouring thing. It ripped at him, and everything around him seemed to blur and shake in response. I failed.

Nagi had a second to realize that something was wrong before Yohji's emotional response crashed into him. He felt Yohji's instant of disbelief and denial like a shock of ice water. Nagi blinked. I didn't know he could project, too. Then, like a solid wall, raging despair smashed into his psyche, just barely diverted by his shields.

The tiny portion of his mind that was neither caught up in the emotion nor struggling to shore up his shields wondered how he could still be standing and then noted in a vague, detached way that Yohji hadn't moved physically either.

there's no hope
I failed
for nothing
they can't escape
I failed them

Nagi wasn't sure afterward just how long it took him to protect himself well enough to start thinking again. Most of his attention remained focused on seeking ways to better shield himself, but he could think. Words. I'm getting words. I shouldn't be getting words. Why--

:Actually, you aren't.: A familiar mental presence made itself known, slipping through the gaps in his shields. :You're just too damn close.: Schuldig gave a mental push, strengthening Nagi's shields and starting to fill in the holes. :Just what the fuck are you doing anyway? Your shields are for shit, and you're hanging with an empath.:

:Thank you for your help, sempai.: Nagi found he had no interest in explaining the situation. I was getting by. Kind of. He set his jaw and clamped down on his emotions. I'm not letting Schuldig see me panic. :Now go away.:

Schuldig settled into Nagi's mind, an unwelcome visitor sprawling in the best chair. :You took him outside? Oh, smooth, kid. I told you you were going to break him. You're so hard on your toys.: The comments almost glittered with gleeful malice. :You can keep playing, get those last exquisite drops of agony, break whatever he's got left...:

Nagi remained quiet, working on keeping his reactions hidden from his unwelcome guest. He wasn't sure how successful he'd be under the circumstances, but trying was almost automatic after years of dealing with Schuldig. 'I meant well' doesn't cut it. Especially-- No! He shook his head and closed his eyes as he felt Schuldig attempting to hijack his senses to observe Yohji. :Ask permission first.:

:Why?: Schuldig seemed genuinely curious. :The kindest thing to do now-- assuming you want to be kind-- would be to put him down. He's too damaged to recover.: His mental voice carried a profound satisfaction that Nagi found repulsive.

No! Nagi hardly cared that his instinctive protest was open for Schuldig to hear.

:There's almost nothing left, kid. Time to move on to the next toy. Something better looking, more even tempered--:

:Shut the fuck up and get the hell out of my head, Schuldig.: Nagi's mental voice went utterly cold. And stop lying to me!

:You can't keep him out on your own. Your shields suck.: This time the malice was aimed at Nagi. :He's stronger than our infallible leader thought. I doubt there's anyone with any trace of sensitivity who's not picking this tantrum up, at least not within a kilometer or two. Just kill him. Put him out of our misery, and we can all get back to normal.:

Get back to normal? Is that it? If Nagi'd felt less off balance, he might have tried to hide his sudden understanding of Schuldig's motives, to keep himself from revealing any pity or compassion, but his recent irritation at the telepath's actions combined with his fear that he really couldn't save Yohji. :Schuldig nii-san, there is no normal any more. Everything's changed, and it's going to keep changing. Killing him won't change that. I'm busy now. Please leave us alone.:

Schuldig's presence in Nagi's mind went cold and still. :So sorry to have bothered you. Have fun.: The sneer was audible. :I won't bother you again.:

And if I believe that... Nagi braced his own shields as Schuldig's protection dissolved. Part of him wanted desperately to call Schuldig back, to have him fix the problem. Except he wouldn't. I don't want what he wants. He took a deep breath. I can do this. I can. He clenched his hands into fists and stared blankly at Yohji for a moment. Focus. Look at him. See him.

Yohji was on his knees. Both hands were clenched around clumps of grass he'd pulled from the ground. He stared up at the sky, frozen, eyes wide.

How the hell do I fix this? I don't even know what 'this' is. Yohji's despair was angry, ravenous, and it clawed at Nagi, trying to pull him in, suck him under. Why does where we are matter? I mean, sure, I didn't tell him before, but... Why is not being on Earth so terrible? He cleared his throat and said tentatively, "Yohji-kun?"

Yohji didn't move. Nagi'd have thought Yohji hadn't heard, but fresh anger crackled through the emotional storm at the sound of Nagi's voice.

Anger. That's better than despair, right? So I give him something else to focus on. Nagi swallowed hard. Yes, well... I knew this wouldn't be easy. I just... I knew it. "Yohji-kun." Nagi forced his voice into firmness. "You're projecting. To everyone in about a kilometer." Certainty. Authority. Not-- He pushed back his own doubts and hurt feelings. "Everyone's feeling what you feel. Everyone." He took a step forward then hesitated. He might lash out. I would. But he... doesn't feel like he... It's like nothing can be worse for him now. He might do anything.

Yohji's despair became a quieter and more invasive thing, seeping into everything. It felt like a film between him and everything else.

Yohji bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Nagi-san." The words sounded mechanical, lacking animation.

Shit. Schuldig's right. Nagi swallowed hard. Maybe not... He moved closer and went down on one knee so he could better see Yohji's face. "What difference does it make? What planet we're on, I mean. I thought--" I thought you were... content... to be mine. Nagi shook his head, trying to deny the ache cramping his gut. I knew better. I understand what... I raped him. He's trying to keep me happy by acting... I knew. I did. I know how this sort of thing works. He-- I-- So why does it hurt?

"I told myself the others would get away, that I was helping them." Yohji still spoke in a dead monotone, his pain only obvious because he hadn't stopped projecting it. "Anything to buy that... Any price."

Nagi buried his jealousy beneath his concern for Yohji. "What would make it... What would feel worthwhile, make it not a betrayal?" How much will it cost to buy you? If I can't have you any other way...

Yohji looked up, his eyes meeting Nagi's. "I--" He shook his head. "How did we get here?" He almost succeeded in sounding as if it were a matter of academic interest, but the tremor in his voice spoiled the effect. "You said-- That first day, you said it hadn't been long, but this-- How did we get here?"

Is that accusation? Yes, I think so. But of what? He-- Never mind. "We came through a gate. It's small, more or less portable--"

"So we just kind of... stepped through from Tokyo?" Yohji studied Nagi's face.

What's he looking for? "More or less." I don't think he needs details. Wait-- Is that it? "Yohji-kun, I've left a lot of things out, let you assume things, but--" Nagi hesitated for a moment, searching his memories of their conversations. He nodded firmly. "I don't think I've lied to you. Not explicitly."

Yohji laughed, a choked, painful sound. "You wanted my trust." He looked at the ground. "Lying would have been... counterproductive."

Making a conscious effort to be gentle, Nagi hooked a finger under Yohji's chin to lift it. "I still want your trust."

"I..." Yohji refused to meet Nagi's eyes. "That's... It's not that easy."

Nagi forced a smile. "The things worth having never are." He laid his hand along Yohji's jaw. "What do you want, Yohji-kun? I can't give it to you if I don't know." I think he's calming. He's not as... loud now. He let his shields soften a little then winced. Not calmer. Quieter, maybe. Exhausted. He's not... shouting any more, but... It's still very intense. He concentrated on restoring his protections. How can he stand hurting that much?

"I--" Yohji shook his head and hunched his shoulders. "I want to please you." He still didn't quite look at Nagi. "I do. I really, really do." He spoke rapidly, urgently, his desperation coming through clearly like an icy thread binding the words together.

Does he think I won't believe him? Probably. "I know. You do that very well." Nagi tried to project a solid approval of Yohji's success in that direction.

Yohji took a deep breath and seemed to center himself. "I want..." He shook his head as if he'd lost track of what he was saying. "Please. Please, don't... I can't..." His voice broke as he spoke, and he seemed to be having trouble controlling his facial expression.

"You can tell me. Whatever it is, Yohji-kun, I won't punish you for it." I have to know.

Yohji cleared his throat and bowed his head. "I want not to be hurt..." The words were barely a whisper. "Please... Don't hurt me any more?"

This is when I should tell him he deserved it, asked for it, when I should bend him more, but... Nagi's throat felt tight. But that would wreck him, and I want-- I want something else. "I don't think that ought to be a question." He did his best to put humor into the words. Not that he'll necessarily appreciate it. And I wonder... Does he realize what he's giving me now? What I could do with it? "That's... something you can want. You're allowed."

Yohji bowed his head further, dipping it almost to the ground. Then he straightened up and looked at Nagi's chest. "I..." He gripped his hands together in his lap and raised his chin. "I want to be safe from other people hurting me." He looked down at his hands and then went on in a low voice. "and I really, really want my family to be safe--" He cleared his throat again and whispered, "I'll do whatever's necessary for that..."

That's the heart of it, isn't it? The heart of him, even... Nagi couldn't move. This isn't just surrender. His fingers twitched. I could-- But that's not what I want. Not... Not really.

Yohji's jaw tightened under Nagi's hand. "Nagi-san...?" He started to look up then froze and lowered his head.

He's waiting. I have to say something, but what? Nagi sighed. "It's all right." He moved a hand to rub Yohji's back. "I asked the question."

Yohji leaned against Nagi.

There's a plea there. I've taken the last of his dignity, and it was... not private. "I won't let anyone else hurt you." Nagi wrapped his arms around Yohji. That's the easy one. Fuck it. Not like he doesn't know me. "I am not... Kindness is... alien to me, a weakness I've never been able to afford." And I seem to hurt you worst when I'm trying to be kind.

Yohji tensed then sighed heavily, turning his face in toward Nagi's shoulder. A shiver ran through him. It grew till his whole body shook.

Nagi tightened his arms for just a second then continued to rub Yohji's back. What now? Right. His... family. Weiss. Knowing that Yohji couldn't see him, Nagi let his lips curl in a sneer. The bastards don't deserve him. He-- Wait. He had to clamp down hard on a sudden spike of anger and jealousy. That whole thing with Hidaka, it was a game, a show for my benefit.

Yohji flinched.

No. Stop. He can't take my anger right now. "It's okay, Yohji-kun. I'm not mad at you," Nagi lied. At least he didn't try to pull away. Fuck. I've got to stop being pleased by things that show he's broken. No. He's not broken. He can't be. I won't let him be.

As afternoon progressed into evening, Omi found himself relaxing. I missed Ken. Ran doesn't know how to keep me steady. He resolutely refrained from looking at the fact that Ken's presence was temporary. And Ken's handling Ran just right. I haven't seen him this... content in a long time.

:Actually,: Ouka put in. :I'm surprised Crawford left him here this long.:

Omi's mental voice had a sharp bitterness that he couldn't conceal. :Thanks so much for reminding me.: He leaned back against the cushions of the couch, laughing as Ran threw a small pillow at Ken in response to a teasing comment.

:Well, I'm thinking it's time to move back into our room. Who knows how much warning we'll get?: Ouka's tone made it clear that she, too, would regret having the evening end. She gave Omi a gentle, comforting, emotional caress. :He's doing okay, nii-san. I'm sure he'll be back again.:

Omi nodded abruptly and opened his mouth to speak.

Ouka moved sharply inside Omi's head. He felt her push hard against his mind, and then she faded back as if her attention were elsewhere. :Ouka-chan?:

Ken reached up to block and catch the pillow but fumbled as his hands started to close over it. He jerked back in his chair, fingers clenching into fists as his arms fell.

"Ken-kun!" Omi was on his feet and at Ken's side before he even had time to think about it. He fumbled, grabbing at Ken's arm and feeling for a pulse as he noted other physical signs. Eyes open, but not focused. Jaw, neck, shoulders tense-- Seizure? No. No rigidity. It's more like he's in pain. Heart rate up... No noise. Not even a whimper. "Ran-kun, give me a hand. I want to lay him on the couch." :Ouka-chan? What's going on?: He tried to suppress his panic. Probably just Schuldig...

No response from anyone.

"Ran-kun?" The name came out more sharply than Omi'd intended. After several seconds, he heard Ran stand. About time.

:Um, Nii-san--: Ouka sounded distant and strained.

Ran's steps moved away. The sound was rapid and irregular, as if he were injured but moving as fast as he could.

What the hell? Omi turned to see Ran stagger toward the kitchen. :What's happening? Are we under attack?:

:Not exactly.: Ouka's voice gained strength as she spoke, but Omi could tell he was only getting a fraction of her attention. :You have to go after him, nii-san.: She spoke with absolute certainty. :Ken-kun's not going anywhere. I don't think...: The last sentence sounded quiet and unsure, as if she hadn't really intended Omi to hear it.

:But--: Omi glanced down at Ken and hesitated.

:They're hearing-- well 'hearing' isn't the right word-- Yohji-kun. It's... bad. Now go after him. Now!:

Ouka's tone sent Omi after Ran before he'd even had time to register her words completely. As he crossed the threshold into the kitchen, he froze for a fraction of a second. :Yohji-kun? He's in trouble?:

:Not nearly as much trouble as Ran-kun's going to be in if you don't get over there and get that knife away from him.:

Ran stood next to the cutting board. He'd picked up the knife he'd used earlier to chop vegetables for dinner. As Omi watched, Ran shook his head and put it down. He reached for another knife from the storage block.

"Ran-kun?" Omi spoke softly, trying not to startle the other man. :We're going to have a Talk in a few minutes, Ouka-chan.: He spread his hands wide to show that he wasn't carrying a weapon.

Ran didn't look at Omi. Instead, he tested the new knife against his thumb, drawing blood. "Better," he said grudgingly. He looked up at one of the invisible and no longer functioning monitoring devices. "I'm sorry, Aya-chan. I can't do this any more--" His voice broke, and he shuddered. "...and you don't really need me any more." The last words were almost inaudible.

"Abyssinian!" Omi put more command into his voice and took a step forward. If I didn't know him, I wouldn't know what he was saying. This is the down side of convincing him he doesn't need to protect her.

Ran continued to ignore Omi. He appeared to be contemplating his wrist. He shook his head. "Damned nanites," he muttered. "Need an artery. Need to go fast."

Shit. What's he thinking? Scratch that. He's not thinking. :What's he getting hit with? I need to know now.: Omi didn't even try to moderate his mental tone. He felt the heat of anger warring with icy terror in his guts and somehow not canceling each other out.

:It's... Yohji-kun is angry and hopeless. More than that, really.:

That doesn't sound so bad. :Let me feel it. Now.:

:No.: Ouka hadn't sounded so adamant since-- Actually, Omi couldn't remember her ever sounding that way before. Shock froze him for a moment.

Ran raised the knife toward his own throat.

No! Get the knife-- Fear for Ran broke Omi's temporary paralysis, and he darted forward to grab for the knife, terrified that he'd be too late. His fingers closed over Ran's wrist. Lock. Hold. He raised his other hand, palm toward his face, in case he needed to block. This would happen when I'm in crappy physical shape.

For the first time, Ran looked directly at Omi. His expression seemed surprisingly lucid, given what he was doing. "I promised, didn't I? To look after you, I mean. I failed that, too. I'm sorry." For a second, his shoulders slumped, and his fingers loosened on hilt of the knife.

Omi turned Ran's wrist, trying to take the knife, and started to hope that the worst might be over.

Ran resisted. His eyes widened slightly, and a spark of grim energy twisted his face. He tried to turn the knife to attack Omi. "I'm afraid it's all I can do for you," he explained in a reasonable tone as they struggled for control. "Please hold still."

Fuck that! Omi used his leverage to twist the knife from Ran's hand. He used Ran's own momentum to trip him so that he crashed head first into the wall. A quick nerve strike turned Ran's temporary disorientation into unconsciousness. Thank god. He started looking around for something to use as a restraint. He discarded the dish towels as too short. And if I rip them up, Ran-kun'll have to explain it. Hell, he'll have to explain this anyway. I may have to wake up officially. He shook his head and started out of the kitchen. I'm going to have to look elsewhere. Clothing? Probably all we've got. He hesitated, knowing he should keep going and find a way to restrain Ran before he regained consciousness. But I need to know how Ken-kun is doing...

Tears streaked Ken's checks. He'd gotten his hands on the pillow and wrapped his arms around it, clutching it to his chest. He looked up and met Omi's eyes. He almost managed a smile. "You must have amazing shields, Omi. You didn't even twitch." His voice sounded thick.

:How does he know that? Ran-kun had no idea what hit him.: Ouka sounded more tired than curious.

:How should I know?: Omi suppressed a surge of tired irritation. :Maybe Crawford's given him more than just the language...: He chose not to acknowledge Ken's implied question. "I'll be back in just a minute." He gestured vaguely back toward the kitchen. "Ran-kun's--"

"I heard." Ken looked away. "I'm sorry." He rocked back and forth in his seat then appeared to catch himself. He sat up straight. "I'm sorry I didn't-- couldn't-- help."

"It's okay. We're okay." Omi shrugged and kept walking. "I'll be back with you in a few minutes." :Now, Ouka-chan, tell me about Yohji-kun.:

By the time Nagi carried Yohji back in from the garden, he had a much better understanding of the difficulties Yohji'd had on the walk out. It's not so simple walking around the debris when I can't see it any more. His back hurt. I didn't realize he was this heavy. But he's in no shape to stand, let alone walk, and I don't dare let my shields go.

He glared around the brightly lit entry. Why the hell couldn't someone come out and help me? There must be someone in this place with shields up to the job. But Crawford had said no. In fact, he'd insisted that Yohji be kept in a shielded room and have no contact with anyone but Nagi till he was calm again. Well, actually, he said, "You've alienated the only person who might have volunteered, and I'm not ordering anyone to expose themselves to Kudoh right now. Drug him, put a limiter on him or lock him somewhere shielded. I don't give a damn as long as he stops causing trouble immediately. We've got two deaths and several injuries from this... mess. So far."

At least, he agreed to have them put shielding on my rooms. He sighed and looked around, getting his bearings. Hopefully, that won't take too long. In the meantime... He nodded and headed for one of the training rooms. I'm not drugging him until he's some place he knows, and those limiters hurt.

Yohji turned his face away from the light, almost burrowing into Nagi's shoulder.

Nagi leaned down to press his lips into Yohji's hair then cursed softly as he felt one of his hands slip a little. If only he wasn't so damned tall! When he'd first picked Yohji up, Nagi had had just enough power left over after reinforcing his shields to relieve himself of some of Yohji's weight, but he had quickly discovered that he was better off bearing Yohji's full weight and using his telekinesis to hold Yohji's limbs in close.

He walked faster.

The nearest practice room was small, maybe three meters across, heavily padded, and completely unfurnished. Nagi didn't like the color scheme, a combination of browns, grays and greens that reminded him of military camouflage. But it's better than the alternatives. Hidaka's in the infirmary, even if he's not in the shielded area. I'm not sure I wouldn't kill him right now. As for the other alternative-- The shielded cells look just like the unshielded ones. Yohji'd think I was abandoning him.

"We're going to stay in here for a while, Yohji-kun." Nagi set Yohji down, leaning him against the wall opposite the door, then sat beside him. He stroked Yohji's hair, pushing it back off his forehead. "As long as we're in here, nobody else can hear you, so if you need to be upset, go ahead." Please don't. My shields won't stand too much. He tried to project calming, comforting feelings but knew he wasn't completely succeeding. I'm not a calm, comforting person, I guess.

Yohji made no effort to move, but he started to tremble. His breath came raggedly, and placing his hand on Yohji's chest, Nagi could feel Yohji's heart pounding.

He needs to sleep. Nagi smoothed Yohji's hair. I think that calms me more than it does him. But then, calming me makes him feel better. He sighed. I should at least offer. "Do you want a sedative? There are several things that might calm you down..." If I call, someone would drop it off outside the door. It'd be easy. "Or would you like something to eat? Something to drink?" He wouldn't keep it down, but if he wants to try...

Yohji shook his head and clutched at Nagi's arm.

Nagi jerked away, not quite able to suppress his instinctive response.

Yohji whimpered and curled himself up, facing away from Nagi.

"I'm sorry, Yohji-kun." Nobody can see us here. Nagi sighed. "It's not you." He pulled Yohji back against his chest.

Yohji's reply was soft enough that, for a moment, Nagi wasn't sure he'd really heard it. "Then why do you keep punishing me for it?" His voice was thick, and he coughed after the last word, a soft, sticky, throat clearing noise.

I don't! Nagi's arms tightened around Yohji who didn't react at all. But... He cleared his throat. "Because you're there, I suppose." I haven't, have I? He closed his eyes. I have. "I don't plan it, you know." He can't possibly be up to discussing this-- He felt a surge of possessive pride. "You keep amazing me..."

Yohji started to shake with something stronger than the constant tremor that had been with him since he'd seen the second moon.

Startled and worried, Nagi pulled Yohji closer, trying to figure out what was wrong. Oh-- He's laughing. How can he be laughing?

After a few seconds, Yohji's silent laughter changed to a quiet sobbing.

Nagi started humming a song, something Tot used to sing. He couldn't recall the words, but the tune had stayed with him. He nuzzled Yohji's hair. "It'll be all right. Really." He went back to humming. Gradually, Yohji relaxed.

Nagi let his head fall back against the wall. I just want to get him settled and go and think... I need to think this through. I-- When did I lose control? When did Kudoh Yohji become something-- someone-- I need?

He started humming another song, one he'd learned from Farfarello. I suppose I should be glad Yohji's unlikely to know the words...

Yohji sighed and curled himself in against Nagi.

How do I show him that things have changed, that we're not back in that cell any more? Because he is, I think. I've been... stupid. Just because I know things are different... I'm forgetting my psychology. It's not the place that matters to him. It's me. I'm everything that's bad and everything that's good. He forced himself to face it squarely. Even now, he can't tell when I'm going to... I don't mean to! Yeah, but he's easier to hurt than he was, and the physical is the least of it. Uncertainty's the fastest way to break someone...

An hour later, when the shielding was finally in place, Nagi carried Yohji back to the suite and put him down on the edge of the bed. Yohji didn't say anything and didn't look up.

"Yohji-kun, are you up to taking off your shoes or would you like me to do it?" Nagi hesitated, looking down at Yohji. He's so exhausted-- I don't know if he can do it without falling over. I'm certainly not going to suggest anything more complicated.

Yohji shook his head then bent to reach his shoes. He swayed, and his hands shook visibly. "I-- I'm sorry. I... can't."

Nagi pushed Yohji back to a sitting position. "It was a genuine question."

"I don't want you to have to do it."

"I don't have to." Nagi managed a laugh. "If I minded, well, that's what minions are for." He knelt and slipped Yohji's shoes off his feet.

"Aren't I a minion, Nagi-san?" Yohji blinked at Nagi, looking bewildered.

"No. No, you're not a minion." Nagi stood up. I'm not sure exactly what you are, but you're not that. "We'll talk about that tomorrow." After I figure it out myself... "Do you need to use the toilet?" He kept his voice as gentle as he could. "I'm going to give you something to help you sleep, and you'll be out for a while."

Yohji shook his head.

Is that true or just what you think I want to hear? Damned if I can tell any more. "All right then." Nagi maneuvered Yohji under the blankets. "I'll be right back." He patted Yohji's leg.

Retrieving the hot chocolate he'd ordered before coming back to his rooms took only a few seconds. Finding the sedative he wanted, the one with extras to blunt a psychic strain headache, took a little longer. He measured out a careful dose then frowned. How much does he weigh? He cut the dose just a little then mixed the drug into the cocoa.

Yohji had retreated across the bed until he was almost pressed against the far wall. He hugged one of the pillows against his body.

Definitely get the cat cleaned. And he expects me to join him. Good. Nagi smiled. Of course, after what I said last night-- Guilt was a foreign sensation, one Nagi didn't much like. "I mixed it into hot chocolate again." He raised the mug. I don't think I can trust him to hold it himself. I bet he hasn't stopped shaking yet. He climbed onto the bed, giving himself a little telekinetic boost to make things easier and to help keep the contents of the mug from slopping out. "Here."

Yohji drank obediently, almost mechanically. He didn't stop until he'd swallowed the last drop. Then he sat still and stared at Nagi.

He's empty... "Yohji-kun--" I was going to wait, but I think he needs this now. Nagi floated the mug to his bedside table. Something to hold on to. "I can't give you a lot of promises, and I think most of it can wait till later, when you're awake, when you're feeling better. Just... about your family..." I want to be your family. The desire, the need for that connection squeezed him, leaving him almost breathless for a moment. God... That hurts... "I can give you something there. Unless they attack me or you or someone I need to protect, I won't hurt them. Not Hidaka, not Tsukiyono and not Fujimiya. I can't promise I won't say nasty things to them or about them. I'd end up breaking that one. If Fujimiya and Tsukiyono try to escape, I won't try to stop them. I won't help them, but I won't stop them."

Nagi took a deep breath. Now for the tricky one. I do not want to explain Hidaka's... situation tonight. "As for Hidaka--" How to say it? "If he chooses to leave and tells me so in a rational manner or is moving under his own power, aware of what he's doing, I won't stop him at all." I won't have authority to if he's sane. "I give you my word." He met Yohji's eyes. It's not all for nothing. You haven't failed.

Yohji nodded, and something intangible in him seemed to relax. He yawned.

"Go to sleep." Nagi smiled, feeling almost painfully relieved. "I'll watch over you. Tomorrow will be easier."

Note: I used pictures at this website: as inspiration for describing Nagi's aquarium.

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