Leaving the cart behind, Nagi crossed the cell to
where Kudoh lay. He went down on one knee and started looking for an
appropriate blood vessel. I think Farfarello'd find this amusing as
hell. Yes. That'll do nicely. Clean it off, and... Good. That damn well
better hold him for a while.
Nagi replaced the cap on the hypodermic then pushed to his feet. He
stood for a few seconds simply looking down at Kudoh. He's
definitely no threat like this. I think I like him better when he's
Nagi turned away to retrieve the cart. Wash him first.
He's pretty disgusting up close. Then the i.v. Then the rest of the
Nagi removed his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. Maybe
I should move him closer to the drain... Yes, I think so. Minimize
the puddle I end up kneeling in.
He frowned and focused. Kudoh's
body lifted into the air and began to move. About there.
Nagi sighed and disguised the slight slumping of his shoulders by
bending over the cart. I'm going to have to touch him. No time for
this working up to it. He may not notice, but there are other
He straightened up and looked at Kudoh. Let's
see... Feet or hands? Feet then legs then hands then
arms then... This is silly. It's
not like he can hurt me. It's not like he's ever been able to hurt me.
Eventually, he found himself kneeling by Kudoh's feet. I could so
have someone else doing this... No.
He lifted the right
foot and ran the soapy washcloth over it. Toes look really silly up
this close. Kind of squashed.
He hesitated then tweaked one
of the middle toes. It moved easily, back and forth, up and down. Will
it bend? A little.
I wonder if mine do that? Oh, what the hell. I hate
wearing wet socks.
He set Kudoh's foot down and backed off a
little. He removed his shoes and socks, tugging experimentally at one
of his own toes in passing. Yes, but it's different somehow...
Then he rolled up his pant legs. Not that that will help in the
least. That's not where the water's going to end up.
He worked his way gradually up Kudoh's right leg, finally stopping
mid-thigh to go back and wash the other foot and leg. Along the way, he
the movement of ankle and knee, the texture of skin and hair, the
scar. Look at each piece as a piece, not as part of the whole. That's
later. Coarse hair, kind of prickly. Damn little fat,
muscle and bone.
He traced the line where two muscles intersected
kneaded them a little. I bet he's got some terrible knots in there.
He pushed himself way past what his body could handle.
back with a sigh as images of Kudoh's activity flashed through his
mind. He started with speed, precision, a grace that made
everything look easy. I'm so glad I got that tape... Then
he fought with himself, mind ruling body.
Nagi bent his head to
hide his face from the cameras as he
smiled. Which one should I say won?
He pressed his fingers into
flesh. Yes, I bet that's not supposed to be there.
He applied a
stretching pressure to the lump he'd found and was surprised to feel it
a little. It's not that easy when it's my leg... Hm. I bet
would hurt like hell if he were awake.
He ran careful hands over Kudoh's legs. I didn't realize they were
so long. It's not so obvious when I'm... thinking of other
things. How the hell did he keep moving with these knots?
He massaged the muscles
for a moment then stopped. No. Actually, I should save this for
we get the i.v. in.
He shook his head. No. Better do it first.
I'm not going to want to move him a lot once that's in.
back and rolled his shoulders, trying to release some of the building
tension. I am
not going to lose to a god damned memory.
He glanced at his hands and was pleased to realize they were completely
steady. Just make the damned decision.
He sighed. This was
not covered in any of my lessons. I am not calling Crawford for
advice, and I am not going to screw this up.
He set his lips in a
frown and resumed the massage. Kudoh better appreciate this.
Eventually, Nagi moved on to Kudoh's right hand. Long fingers.
They don't look very strong, but they must be. I've seen the
power in his wrists... It's very different with the will gone.
No threat but no grace either. What would he do with them if
I didn't bind him? Try to kill me, most likely.
He traced a
hairline scar with his thumb. From his wire. Has to be.
At least that has the virtue of being both concealable and reusable.
But it's not really a distance weapon. Why the hell doesn't
he use a gun? Hm. Cut himself a lot, hasn't he?
He rested the hand in his lap as began working his way up the arm. More
muscle spasms. Maybe a relaxant? Do I want to be that
He traced the line of a muscle with his finger. This is
the power I take from him each time I bind him. I think I can
be generous; even if I give him a muscle relaxant and pain killer, he's
going to have a hell of a time moving. I want him to recover
quickly, so I can--
He paused for a moment. Good thing I have a
sense of humor. I can see the irony. I want him to
recover so I can push him till he cracks again. More than that--
I want him to be awake when I touch him, want to
see his eyes when I fuck him.
He sighed and shook his head. Not
to think about now. I'm going to have to wait for that. But it's a good
that touching him's not repulsive.
The tattoo came as no surprise. Even if Nagi'd somehow managed to
overlook it in his previous observations, he'd have known about it from
Kudoh's file. Their psych people analyzed the damn thing to hell
He didn't bother stopping to study it. I can already draw
from memory and recite Kritiker's top theories about what it means.
Somehow, I doubt it's the key to his psyche that they've treated it
Oh, important, definitely, but not... I wonder how many
After he finished both of Kudoh's arms, Nagi sat back to consider. Back
or front? I could wash his face and hair now, but... That can
wait until after everything else. I...
Nagi stared at the
body in front of him. It's just a body. One I've touched
before. One I own. Even if he were conscious, he
couldn't touch me.
But he knew that, if he lifted them, his hands
would be shaking. I
I am in control.
He wrung out the washcloth with
Nagi set down the washcloth and reached out to roll
Kudoh onto his stomach. No power here. I won't let myself
avoid him that way.
He took a moment to straighten Kudoh's limbs. No
point hurting him accidentally.
He closed his eyes and inhaled
slowly. He smells like... No! Not going there! Not.
Nagi clenched his jaw in an effort not to retch. I thought I'd
gotten used to the smell of masculine sweat living with Schwarz, but...
I wonder what this room smells like to Kudoh now?
distracted Nagi enough from his memories to let his stomach start to
settle. Poor bastard.
Nagi picked up the washcloth again and dipped it in the water. Add
a bit of soap...
He moved with a little more gentleness than he'd
used on Kudoh's limbs. I bet that's from the bullet that almost
killed him. Or is it that one? All incidental scars, I think,
just part of the job. Has anyone ever deliberately marked him?
Nagi closed his eyes for a second. Most of mine... Do I have
any that are work related? I really should get those
He swallowed hard and continued his work, fighting to
keep his breathing steady as he moved
down Kudoh's back. If this is this bad, I don't want to think
doing the front. Steady. It's not like this is
But it is. I've looked, and I've hit, but...
He ran his hand
along Kudoh's side from shoulder blade to hip, detaching himself enough
to think only of texture and contour. I could enjoy doing that, I
think. Would he arch into my touch or would he flinch and fight
not to pull away? He'd hate himself either way.
fingers over the curves of
Kudoh's ass. I haven't really looked at it from this angle. He's
Nagi's lips quirked in a small smile. He's going to
wonder when he wakes... Will he ask me? I doubt it.
Would fucking him feel different with him unconscious?
throat tightened, and he shook his head. I didn't expect to like it.
Too many reminders... But it's different when I'm in
control, when I'm not the one who needs to be afraid. And he's
beautiful when he's awake. Right now... Now he's just a
mannequin, no life, nothing interesting about him.
He shook his head again and went back to washing. That's beside the
point. But... Hot and tight around me. Fear in his
eyes, tainting his scent. His body beneath me. No. Not
Nagi shifted uncomfortably, hoping the cameras couldn't pick
up the sudden bulge in his pants. Great. What do I do now? Not
that. Too damn close to necrophilia. Besides... This
is about owning him. Not about me getting off.
But nobody'd say anything if I did.
He closed his eyes for a
moment. Well, I'm done washing back here. I probably ought
to see about getting the knots out of his muscles, but... He'll
just have to live with them. Time to turn him over.
opened his eyes and leaned forward, putting his hands under Kudoh's
body and lifting. Kudoh rolled untidily, ending up with an arm pinned
under him. Get that in a second...
Nagi moved his eyes to
Kudoh's groin and felt most of his desire vanish. Triumph of sorts
that it's not all gone, but I wish... Fear's so damn
He snorted softly. Wonder how he feels about fear? Does he
feel it the way I--
He cut off the thought and stared at the hair,
the flaccid penis, the testicles. Looks pretty harmless, doesn't it?
Nagi busied himself washing Kudoh's chest and abdomen. He took his
time, pausing often simply to touch. I'm going to need to do this
more than once. At least I'm not
set his lips in a thin line as he drew nearer to Kudoh's crotch. I
don't think it's going to suddenly spring up and attack me. Well,
actually, my intellect doesn't think so, but the rest of me certainly
does. So smooth.
So soft. Nothing else on his body feels like that.
and rinsed everything carefully before setting aside the washcloth. This
the problem, my weakness.
It's his weakness, too. I don't think anything else I did
hurt him as badly... He didn't want to come. It was
something I made him do, not just something I did to him. That's
really what makes me doubt Kritiker's files; by what they say, he
should have wanted the pleasure desperately, found no shame in it. And
Crawford missed it, either that or he's choosing not to mention it,
which I doubt.
Nagi curled his fingers around Kudoh's penis and
began rolling and stroking it. Can I get
him hard this way? Apparently so. I wonder...
he was watching again as Kudoh's body arched under Nagi's telekinetic
He fought me on that, but he couldn't fight me now. He'd
even know, not unless I told him. How would he react if I told
He looked down at Kudoh's inert body and shook his head minutely. No.
If I indulge that sort of line of thought, I'll end up destroying
At least right now...
Nagi paused and stared off into space for a
If I do this correctly, he'll be mine forever. I need him to
me, rely on me. I
want him to.
He felt desire rise
him again and laughed softly. Enough.
He rose, carried the water he'd been using to the sink and poured
it out. He refilled the container and returned to where Kudoh lay. He
the pan down. "Back in a moment, Yohji-kun," he said. He rummaged on
cart for a moment before finding what he was looking for. What I
is never where I remember putting it.
He lifted the cel phone and pushed a button. "Mazi? I'm ready for the
next step, but I want some changes. Add a reasonable muscle relaxant
some sort of pain killer to all of the bags. No, I don't have anything
specific in mind. His muscles are knotted to hell and gone. Have the
doctors pick out
something that'll help. I want him to know how much he should hurt but
feel too bad. Right. Yes, good idea. Oh, and please send in my lunch.
a change of clothes. And something for me to sit on. Soon." With
luck, the drugs'll keep him calmer, too. After all, I waited
until he passed out because I didn't want him to panic and hurt himself.
Now, I wait.
Nagi set down the phone. I suppose I might as
well get started on his hair...
Washing Kudoh's hair required a few trips to the sink for more
water but was otherwise more messy than difficult. This stuff
smells nice. I wonder who picked it out. Crawford? Not
really his style. I suppose it might actually be Kudoh's; we
got everything from his place.
Nagi worked his fingers along
Kudoh's scalp before trying to move out toward the ends. The strands
tangled, sticking stubbornly together in spite of Nagi's best efforts. Now
that definitely would hurt if he were awake. I probably should
have combed it first.
He rinsed away the shampoo by the simple expedient of pouring water
repeatedly over Kudoh's head. Careful. Don't get his nose...
At least the floor slopes properly.
He blotted Kudoh's hair with
a towel. I think that's dry enough to comb now.
Nagi was still struggling to get the comb through Kudoh's hair a few
minutes later when the door opened. He didn't bother looking up. "I
want to set up over there, where it's dry. Not too near the bed or the
door." He gestured toward the area where Kudoh'd been lying after he'd
Someone moved past him, and Nagi tracked the movement with part of his
attention. This shouldn't be this hard. Kudoh does it all
"That'd be easier if you used conditioner," a familiar voice announced
in lightly accented Japanese.
Nagi froze for a second and schooled his face to hide his irritation
before looking up. "Schuldig-sempai."
Schuldig's answering grin had an edge to it. "Why is nobody ever happy
to see me?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Nagi asked dryly. "It seems
like something you'd rather not know."
Schuldig sniffed in a facsimile of thoughtfulness. "Anyway, that's what
conditioner's for, stopping the tangling. That's why Kudoh put it on
list of luxuries."
Nagi rocked back on his heels and met Schuldig's eyes. As was so often
the case, the German telepath stood too close, and the effect was
accentuated by the fact that he towered over the kneeling Nagi. Why
is he carrying a pillow?
Nagi kept the thought carefully masked
behind the minutia of his sensory impressions. Wet clothes. Hard floor.
Scent of shampoo. Hair wrapped around his fingers. "While that's good
to know for future reference, I think he's just going to have to live
with tangles." And what's he doing here? No. I know the
answer to that. It's always the same unless Crawford's ordered
him to do something. He's playing.
"He'll probably think less of you for it." Schuldig's tone managed to
be both light and patronizing.
Nagi remained politely silent, waiting for elaboration. I wonder if
he'll ever treat me as an adult. No. If we both live that long,
I'll have white hair-- He'll dye his, of course-- and
he'll still treat me like I'm ten.
He sighed silently. And
fighting him over it
only underlines to him that I'm not grown up, gives him a chance to pat
on the head with exaggerated respect.
"Kudoh rather likes you, at least when you're just talking to him."
Nagi summoned a towel and began drying Kudoh's body. He paused just for
a moment to look at Schuldig and raise his eyebrows.
"Hey! I just said I wouldn't interfere. Nobody said anything about
watching!" There was an edge of mockery in Schuldig's words in spite of
the near apologetic content.
This time, Nagi did sigh audibly. "And I suppose it's been a good
show." He didn't bother making it a question.
"If playing voyeur's all I'm going to get..." Schuldig shrugged.
"Crawford won't even let me play with Tsukiyono. I'm sure I could get a
reaction out of him, but no. Even Fujimiya could be fun, and I don't
see what Crawford's so worried about. It's not like he'd tell his
sister; he wouldn't want to worry her."
Nagi focused his eyes on Kudoh. "He's my project, sempai." :My
:And you're real close to breaking your toy, kid. I
thought I'd offer a few pointers.:
Schuldig smiled. "I
brought you a cushion to kneel on. They were going to send in a fancy
leather covered executive's chair before I stepped in."
"Fine. Put it over there by the door. I might as well be near the
wall." Nagi let skepticism leak into his mental voice. :You're
a lot better at smashing things than you are at keeping them for later
use, sempai. What sort of pointers do you have in mind?:
Schuldig tossed the cushion into the air. "Put it there yourself, kid."
Nagi reached out psionically and caught the pad before it landed in a
puddle. He moved it toward the doorway and let it fall. "You're very
he observed mildly. :And would Fujimiya really be that much
fun? He's very predictable.:
:And it drives him crazy because he can't figure out how I
keep pushing his buttons.:
"Of course I'm bored. None of you
will let me play."
Nagi lifted Kudoh and began drying his back. "You're not cute when you
:So is that what you like about Kudoh? That he's not
"I'm not pouting. I never pout." Schuldig
stepped in closer and crouched beside
Nagi, carefully keeping his pants out of the water pooled on the floor.
has gotten thin, hasn't he? Not that there was much there to begin
you like heroin chic?"
"He's been refusing to eat. I don't know if he's punishing himself,
trying to assert control over his body, trying to keep from throwing up
or even simply forgetting." :And I'm not asking you!:
it out of him later if it turns out to matter."
:No point asking him either. He's been too busy
running to have the slightest idea.:
Schuldig reached out
and trailed his fingers along Kudoh's spine. :I like the
waif look. Very delicate.:
Nagi's upper lip curled just a little. "Stop trying to bait me,
sempai." He rose to his feet and lifted Kudoh's body in his arms. He's
still a bit wet, but I don't think that will hurt any.
He looked to
see whether or not the technician was finished setting up.
"Does that mean you won't share?"
Nagi ignored the hurt in Schuldig's words. It's as much a lie as
anything else about him.
"Not even if you're dying of boredom."
"It's not as if he'd know--"
Nagi swung around and stared at Schuldig. "And where'd you find your
fun if he didn't know? I know you."
Schuldig grinned unrepentantly and shrugged. "I thought I'd tell
Fujimiya all about it."
"Lie. It's not like he'll know." Nagi turned again and walked toward
the technician. In Taisken, he said, "I think we'll want to put down a
blanket or towel for him to lie on; he's still a little wet."
"Of course, sir." The woman's response was soft enough that Nagi had to
strain to hear her. She bent to follow Nagi's order without quite
meeting his eye.
"Giving Fujimiya the full sensory treatment'd be more fun. I want to
see how he explains to himself when revulsion isn't his only reaction."
Schuldig sent Nagi an image of Fujimiya, sitting in front of a row of
monitors, flushed with righteous anger and fidgeting with embarrassed
"Hm." Nagi was too busy watching the technician to respond properly. I
can't play right now. I've got other things to do. :Sempai,
does it seem to you that she's moving a bit stiffly? Take a
look please. Do we frighten her? Or--?:
Schuldig strolled forward, stopping at Nagi's side, near Kudoh's head.
Schuldig caressed Kudoh's cheek. "So do you like the stubbly look and
feel?" :Her name's Telat, if you care. She's read
his file. His whole file. She feels sorry for him.
That's all. She's not planning to do anything about it. She
doesn't like working here, doesn't really fit her training or
Hell, I feel sorry for him myself.
Nagi buried the thought deep.
:How'd she get his whole file? A medical technician
shouldn't have that kind of clearance.:
"The look's fine. As
for the feel..."
"Not your favorite, eh?" :She thinks it was a computer
hiccup. The damn thing just popped up on her screen when she requested
the medical information.:
"You could get rid of it
permanently. The Taisken have a quick treatment."
"I'll look into it." The technician had a blanket spread on the floor,
so Nagi deposited Kudoh there. Then Nagi turned away. I don't need
to watch the tubes go in.
He met Schuldig's eyes. :I'm
sharing, sempai. Crawford was quite specific about the results
wants, and I'm not about to risk screwing up deliberately. Why
you spend some time with the tech? I bet she could show you how
get the computers to do what you want them to.:
"Selfish aren't you, kid?" :I could just take what I want.:
Schuldig's thought had hard edges.
:No, you can't.:
"What Kudoh wants has little
relevance." :I will protect what's mine.:
was a little surprised by the adamance of his own mental voice.
:And he's yours? I think you're very much enjoying
this game, Nagi. How... unexpected.:
Schuldig put a
hand on Nagi's shoulder and tugged. Nagi resisted briefly, then
acquiesced and turned to face his teammate. Amusement vied with sharp
curiosity for pride of place in Schuldig's expression.
Nagi kept his tone carefully neutral.
Schuldig tapped a knuckle briefly on the underside of Nagi's chin. "Are
you sure you won't give me something to make Fujimiya grind his teeth
over? He gives himself such lovely headaches."
Ignore the gesture. Growling will only give him something
else to patronize me over.
Nagi inclined his head to one side. "I
wasn't aware that Fujimiya felt that way about Kudoh." :Or
that you felt that way about Fujimiya.:
:Hey, I'll play with anybody who amuses me.:
he doesn't. At least not specifically. But because it's Kudoh, his
guilt doesn't quite swamp the rest of his response." :He
watched you last time, and it got him hard. He wondered what
it'd be like to be
Kudoh... And what it'd be like to be you. He hasn't
forgiven himself for the fantasies yet.:
Nagi swallowed against a sudden wave of nausea. That his own team
leader would look at him
that way-- I so did not need
to know that. At least, none of them, Schuldig, Farfarello,
even Crawford, ever looked at me with contempt or... or
But I could use it. If Fujimiya acts on the impulse or
expresses open contempt... Kudoh'd have nowhere to turn but to
He stepped back. "I think you should go, sempai. There won't be
anything interesting happening here for a while. I'm sure you can come
up with an ugly enough lie for Fujimiya." :I was hoping for
a little quiet time, and talking with you is distracting.:
Schuldig waved a hand, dismissing the previous conversation entirely.
"Are you getting what you want out of this, kid?" His smirk didn't
but his mental voice showed what seemed to be genuine concern. :This
can't be easy. If-- Don't let Crawford push you into
anything, Nagi. Give me a heads up if he gets pissed, and I'll
draw the heat.:
Schuldig's expression altered slightly to
become a smile of predatory anticipation. :Baiting our
fearless leader's one of my favorite hobbies.:
Affection for the telepath temporarily overwhelmed the irritation
Nagi'd felt since he'd first realized the man had entered Kudoh's cell.
:Thank you, onii-san.:
Schuldig's eyes widened just a little. :You haven't called
me that in a long time, kid.:
:Crawford said it was unprofessional.:
:I know. He's not always right.:
Nagi let a genuine smile flicker across his face. :It's
okay, though. If anything... upsets me, I've got an easy target.:
He let his eyes flicker to Kudoh's unconscious form. :And
Crawford doesn't really give a damn whether or not Kudoh survives.:
But I want him to survive, don't I? I don't think I'm supposed to.
learning a great deal, Schuldig-sempai. The whole thing's more complex
the books suggested."
"I could give you a pretentious line of shit about how life's always
like that, but I'd just bore us both." Schuldig shrugged, rolling his
shoulders. "In my experience, life's usually a hell of a lot simpler
than most people'd have us believe." :The tech's done.:
As if on cue, the woman spoke, "Naoe-san, please pardon the
interruption, but he's set to go."
Nagi turned to look straight at her. No, she's not going to cause
problems. At least not this time. Too damn scared of
"You started him on saline?"
"Yes, sir." She kept her eyes down and made a vague gesture, flicking
her fingers toward the floor. "That was what was indicated." She looked
up. "Do you need me to show you--?"
"No. That's all right. I'm familiar with the set up, and you'll be on
call anyway. Right?" :Onii-san, would you keep an eye on her
she leaves? I don't know if she'll grow a backbone, and I'd
not be surprised.:
:Not a problem, kid. Anything else?:
:Well... I've given orders for them to turn off the
sound surveillance on my cue. It's not that I don't trust my
people, but... I don't trust anyone. And I don't think Crawford
will be all that happy about it.:
Yohji woke slowly with a sort of floating feeling as if his mind and
body weren't quite connected. For a little while, he just lay there,
the sensation. Thought felt like too much trouble, and he was distantly
certain that someone would let him know if there was anything urgent he
needed to do.
Then he heard a small sigh and a rustling as if someone were moving. I'm
not moving, so obviously it's someone else. I'm not cuddled up, so
either they're up or I'm being horribly rude.
Twitching his hands
his body on either side took more effort than he expected. Nothing.
But this bed's hard as a rock. And what's that pinch in my
Then his right hand hit the edge of the blanket beneath him. I'm
a bed. Oh. Fuck.
He shivered as memory hit him.
He opened his eyes and turned his head to the left. The pinch he'd felt
was explained by an i.v. shunt letting liquid into his body from a bag
hanging above him. The wall seemed to be only a few inches behind the
rack holding the i.v. bag. Oh.
He blinked and licked his lips. He's
somewhere. Be damned if I'm going to look.
He cleared his
and said, "So what are you pumping into me?" He coughed a little, the
irritating his throat.
"A glucose solution right now, Yohji-kun." Nagi's response came
promptly and cheerfully. "There's a muscle relaxant in there too and a
painkiller. You really did a number on your body."
Oh. I did? Oh, yeah, I did. I don't want to think
Yohji closed his eyes again. Maybe I can just go
back to sleep.
"Go back to sleep if you want to, Yohji-kun. I'll be here when you wake
up. But when you do want to get up, let me know. You'll probably be a
bit unsteady at first."
Whatever I do, I must not panic.
Yohji turned his head and
stared across the room at Nagi. Nagi knelt on a pillow just to the left
cell door. He had a heavy looking book in his lap. A three tiered metal
cart sat a few feet to Nagi's left. Not that I feel like
What sort of drugs has he been feeding me? Maybe panic's not
a bad idea after all...
Nagi set the book on the floor. "Of course, you probably really need to
use the toilet about now."
Yeah, I do. Damn.
Yohji's hands clenched on the blanket
underneath him. Just as well I'm not panicking.
toward his right,
trying to lift his left arm enough to avoid tangling the i.v. His
felt sluggish, and nothing seemed to be quite where he expected it to
That damn tube has to go.
He turned his head to glare at the
Wait. Is that one of those with wheels? Yes. That's
to be the lock.
He let his head fall back for a moment, marshalling
strength, then rolled to his left.
Yohji ignored the warning in Nagi's tone. That won't support my
weight, but I can use it for balance. It'll work. It
has to work.
He struggled to his knees and found himself swaying. He blinked. It
shouldn't be that far to the floor.
He reached toward the metal
pole with his
right hand. His first attempt missed. Easy. Wait till you
the metal. Then grip. There.
His fingertips brushed
pole, and he held them there for a moment. Forward. Yes.
it. Oh. I have to unlock it. I won't be able to do that
I stand up-- If I bend over, I'll fall. I should have
unlocked the wheels first, shouldn't I?
The simple switch holding the wheels immobile snapped to the open
position. Yohji couldn't keep himself from glancing back at Nagi. No.
I'm not dealing with him right now.
"I don't need your help," he
growled. I didn't mean to say that. Shit.
"Of course not, Yohji-kun." Nagi gave him a gentle smile.
Yohji turned his attention to getting to his feet. He clung to his
dignity by pretending he didn't notice Nagi's power supporting him as
he wobbled. I can't stop him, and I'll look like an idiot if I
fight right now.
He took a few careful steps to clear the blanket. I do not want to
get the wheels tangled in that. Good. It's getting
He still felt clumsy, fuzzy, as if his mind weren't quite connected to
body. This isn't just the drugs. What the hell did he do to
He stumbled and would have fallen if not for Nagi's telekinetic hold. Not
Impressions of frantic, incessant movement flashed
through his mind. I-- He-- Schuldig-- No. One thing at a time. Get
the toilet. At least, now I know what the pain killers are for.
I should hurt like hell. Somehow, I don't think I'm going to
Yohji made his way slowly toward his goal. Once there, he collapsed on
the seat. Fuck dignity. It's not like I've got any left
He took a moment to take a physical inventory. My legs'll cramp if
I as much as twitch. My hands, hell, my whole arms, shake if
they're not supported. I don't hurt much, but... And
that ache-- I didn't do that. How long was I out? The
son of a bitch put
a fucking catheter in me.
He closed his eyes. I'd hate the
alternative too. Even the thought of him cleaning up the mess isn't...
The hell with it.
His immediate business dealt with, Yohji turned his attention to the
i.v. He looked at it with loathing. That has got to go. I
don't need it. I don't need anything from him.
He laid his
left arm across his legs and began picking at the tape.
"Would you like me to send for the medical tech, Yohji-kun?"
Yohji started slightly at Nagi's words. I'd almost forgotten he was
there. Not good. So very not good.
He shook his
can do it." He spoke flatly, leaving no room for argument.
In the end, he had to use his teeth to pull the tape loose. His arm
bled a little, and he was sure he'd have a spectacular bruise. But
the damn thing's out. And I did it myself.
He dropped the
shunt and looked at Nagi with as much challenge as he could muster.
Nagi regarded him for a moment. "Can you stand, Yohji-kun?"
"Stop treating me like a child!" Yohji snapped. Oh, yeah. Provoke
him. Real smart, Kudoh.
Nagi raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to stop acting like one?"
Unable to formulate an answer that wouldn't simply underline Nagi's
point, Yohji chose instead to struggle to his feet. He swayed a little
but managed to keep his balance without, he hoped, looking too
ridiculous. "So where
do you want me, Nagi-san? Flat on my back again?" Yohji clenched his
into fists. He trimmed my damn nails, too. Is there
didn't touch me?
"Or have you already taken care of that part of
routine?" Fuck. I've got to slow down. I can't afford to
off again. Tempting as it may be...
"Twice does not routine make," Nagi stated. His tone was flat, but
Yohji thought he saw a trace of humor in Nagi's features. "And you're
hardly in any shape for such an encounter. Sit down somewhere before
you fall. Or,
if you're feeling really ambitious, comb your hair and shower. Maybe
feel more friendly if you take care of something else yourself." Then
looked at one of the cameras and said a few words in a language Yohji
recognize. "Whatever you do, our meal will be here soon." Nagi picked
his book again and appeared to resume reading.
Is he really--? Does he really--?
Yohji distractedly ran fingers
through his hair then winced as they caught in multiple tangles. "What
the fuck did you do to my hair?" Oh, great. I'm going to be nasty
to him. How
long till he hits me this time?
Nagi looked up. "I washed it, Yohji-kun." He returned his attention to
But I don't think he's mad, at least not yet. Or if he is, he's not
letting it show. I can't tell... At least, if he does lose his temper,
don't think it'll hurt as badly. I'm too doped up to feel it much or to
fight. Then why--?
"If you did... the usual... Nagi-san, I don't
I'd feel it much." Great. That came out clearly. And it sounded
I want to be raped. Which I don't.
"Go and sit down, Yohji-kun." Nagi set his book down with a sigh and
met Yohji's eyes.
He's trying to be gentle, but... Something about his eyes. He's
trying to see what I'm thinking, feeling, wanting. But what does
"Over there would work." Nagi gestured toward Yohji's mattress.
"Oh." Yohji's eyes followed Nagi's gesture. "Yes." Yes. That would
be nice. Soft. Warm. Safe... And I wouldn't have to stand up
He took a step forward. Then he stopped and looked at Nagi again. That's
not really what he wants. He--
Yohji froze. That's lust.
He wants to throw me down and fuck me. He--
Nagi raised his eyebrows. "Well?" He pointed. "Go. Over there."
Yohji flinched at the irritation he heard in Nagi's voice. He's
losing patience. I... I don't want that. Not really.
Yohji focused his eyes on the mattress and his attention on lifting his
feet for each
step toward his goal. But I thought I saw... For a moment
thinking about it. About fucking me again. Wanting to
right now, right here. I know lust. But... He
move. I don't think he moved. If he didn't, there
for me to see. I... Just keep moving forward. Almost
I'm not going crazy.
The pallet seemed to welcome him, and he collapsed rather than sat. He
huddled there for a moment before reaching out to wrap his blanket
his body. He tucked the stuffed cat into his lap and pulled the blanket
tight around his shoulders.
That done, he looked up and around the cell. Nagi still knelt on his
cushion by the door. Yohji wasn't quite certain what the other man's
facial expression meant. I think... I think he feels sorry for me.
That's good, isn't it?
Out of the corner of his eye, Yohji saw the blanket he'd been lying on
when he awoke twitch. A corner lifted into the air, pulling the rest of
the fabric up after it. That looks silly.
Yohji giggled. I
just do that, did I?
Nagi smiled, and the blanket began to dance. The leading corner moved,
and the rest undulated gently after. He's controlling more than
the corner now...
Yohji began to laugh. The blanket spun, the
near the corner twisting a little while the bottom billowed out in an
skirt. If I were steadier on my feet, I'd ask it to dance.
Yohji was never quite certain afterward just when the tears started,
but his laughter gradually transformed into sobs. He folded himself to
put his knees against his chest and his cheek against his knees. As he
rock, he was dimly aware that the dancing blanket stilled. A moment
he felt its weight settle on his shoulders, draping over the first
Why am I crying? I can't feel much pain right now. These
tears don't burn me. No sharp edges... He's being kind
As long as I don't fuck it up again... I can even use this.
I'm just so damn tired. It's just so hard to focus, to keep up
A small moving object caught his eye, a white square of cloth. A
It stopped and hovered in front of him. Why stop? Oh.
I have to choose. He makes me take the damn blanket but only offers
Yohji sniffled then extended a very tentative hand. Cotton. Very
fine weave. Oh, nice...
He tugged on the fabric, and it
into his hand. He used it to blot his eyes and to blow his nose then
it on the floor.
Yohji made himself look at Nagi and coughed a little to clear his
throat. "What happens next?" He knew the moment the words were out of
that Nagi would not understand. But saying it hurt so much... And
didn't really want to ask. My editing sucks right now.
"Our meal should be here in a minute. After we eat, we talk."
Yohji shook his head. "I'm sorry, Nagi-san. I meant-- After all
of this. After you've learned what you're going to learn. After you're
tired of the game. After... Will you kill me then?" I don't want to
Holding his head up took effort, and his eyes ached with the intensity
of his focus. Will you even tell me? I shouldn't have asked.
I couldn't have if...
"Do I call these good drugs or bad drugs?"
Nagi sat very still for a moment after Yohji finished speaking then
rose to his knees. "I have no intention of killing you, Yohji-kun. I'm
Do you want to die? Is that what this has been about?"
He-- I-- So fierce. Owning me matters to him. It's a change.
A big change. Would he disobey Crawford over it? That
might be too much to hope for, but... Maybe. Maybe. Should
I tell him the truth? I don't think he cares what I want. I
think it'll change what he wants, what he does.
Yohji shuddered. He
inching backward, trying to get his back against the wall.
"If it helps, Yohji-kun, nobody's listening. I had the sound monitoring
turned off. I thought it might be easier to talk that way." Nagi
to a kneeling position again.
"What about watchers? Ran-- Abyssinian?" God, especially Ran.
"He's otherwise occupied," Nagi responded flatly. "He's not watching
He doesn't like Ran.
Yohji found the wall and let himself lean.
I don't think... That's not all of the truth.
eyes. "I don't want to die." But I'm not afraid of it, either.
just don't want to hurt any more." Damn! My focus is slipping
What I'm saying is too close to what I feel. I can't afford this.
or bad?" he mused.
Nagi chuckled. "You hurt a lot less than you should," he replied.
"But I keep saying things!" Yohji sighed and let his head start rocking
from side to side, rolling along the wall. "Bad. Good. Bad. Good.
rhythm was interrupted by the sound of the cell door opening, and he
his eyes again.
Nagi rose to his feet to take a large tray from a woman who didn't seem
to want to come near him. She flinched slightly as his hands brushed
hers. Then Nagi said something sharp sounding in a language Yohji
The same language as before? I think so. What the hell's she so
The woman crossed to the abandoned i.v. rack and coiled the tubing
before pushing the apparatus toward the antechamber. She glanced in
Yohji's direction but didn't quite meet his eyes. She paused in front
of Nagi, looking at
the floor, and said something.
"Yohji-kun, before I let her go, do you want her to put antiseptic on
your arm? Or... Are you feeling any excessive discomfort? I can have
you something additional to take the edge off."
Yohji found himself pressing his back harder against the wall, and he
shook his head. No. Not someone else doing things to my body. Not.
Then he hesitated. I think there's a reason I shouldn't say no,
What would Balinese do? He'd take it. No question.
Because it'd feel good. No. I can't.
"I can't. I
just can't. Please?" He choked a little on the last word, hoping the
implied 'do I have to?'
would be clear. It's not like he doesn't already know I'm not
And he doesn't like Balinese, anyway.
Nagi smiled. "It's up to you. I just didn't think you'd want to miss
out on attention from a pretty woman."
Is she pretty? I hadn't noticed. I should have.
his attention on the woman but couldn't seem to really see her. "All
women are beautiful when viewed in the proper light, Nagi-san." And
really a sequitor, but... Maybe he won't notice.
Nagi frowned for a second then spoke to the woman again, waving a
dismissive hand. She continued on into the antechamber, and the door
behind her. Nagi knelt again and bent over the tray. "Here. You start
this." A tall, lidded cylinder lofted toward Yohji. Reflexively, he
his hands to catch it, but he moved more slowly than usual and would
missed if the thing hadn't paused at the last minute then settled
into his grasp. "It's probably a bit too sweet for your taste,
but I want you to drink all of it."
Yohji hesitated, contemplating the plastic container in his hand. It
was cold to the touch, and water had started beading on the surface.
"What is it?"
"This and that. Protein. Vitamins. That sort of thing. The medical
people recommended it, said you ought to be able to keep it down." Nagi
up a bowl and spoon and began eating.
He's watching me a lot more carefully than he wants me to realize. I
think he's worried.
Yohji frowned and tried to figure out how to
lid off his meal. Ah. There. Well, I suppose he should be worried,
least if he does want me to survive. I'm not in very good shape. I've
at breaking my body, and my mind...
Yohji sniffed dubiously at the frothy yellow liquid. Some sort of
He did say sweet...
He took a cautious sip. Definitely fruit.
His throat wasn't quite sure what to make of a
substance too thick to be liquid and too thin to be solid. He frowned
and looked at Nagi. "Yellow fruit flavor?"
Nagi also frowned, but his eyes reflected amusement. "I have it on the
highest authority, Yohji-kun, that the flavor is peach."
"Ah." Yohji returned his gaze to the container and raised his eyebrows.
"Peach." Not. Well, kind of, but...
He took a deep
go easier if I drink it fast. Won't notice the flavor or
He tilted his head and the cup, pouring the liquid down as
as he could swallow it, pausing only when his throat threatened
It will stay down. It will. God knows what he'll do
When he felt more settled, he looked at the container. Only
half. Can I do that again?
Yohji's revulsion must have been visible because Nagi said, "All of it,
Yohji-kun. You don't need to rush it, but you do have to drink all of
it. The doctors say you need it badly."
"Or what, Nagi-san?" Anger edged Yohji's voice.
Christ! Don't go there, Kudoh. You so don't want to do that...
are you going to do if I don't?" And do I really care? I
if I do which I suppose means I don't... I just want to know what he'll
"Do you really want to know?" Nagi's response was calm, but Yohji
thought he saw an underlying tension in the other man's body.
I really should care about this...
"I'm sure you'll enjoy
telling me." Yohji raised his chin and set down his drink. Shut up,
Kudoh! You're being stupid, acting like a child, testing limits. Just
drink the stuff
and keep him happy.
"It's what you want, isn't it? More ways to own
me? Well, go ahead! It's not like I can do anything to stop you." But
will he do?
Nagi's expression went flat, and Yohji thought he felt the air go
utterly still just for a moment. Then Nagi shook his head. "Not today.
Yohji found himself starting to shake. But he wanted to. Oh,
wanted to... And I--
Yohji pulled the blankets in closer
about himself. What the hell am I doing? Acting like a stupid
Yeah, way to go, Kudoh! Just because he wants something doesn't mean
you have to fucking give it to him.
Yohji spent the next several minutes just looking at his hands,
concentrating on breathing and on not throwing up. Actually, when I
don't think about the rest of it, what I've already drunk doesn't sit
so badly. And
the damn stuff probably is good for me. I've worn myself out...
I should be smarter than that, better able to cope. With
with Schuldig, with being trapped. Right now, it's the drugs. Before...
They're disassembling me pretty damn well.
"There's no hope for me, is there?" The sound of his own voice startled
Yohji. Oh, no...
"That depends, Yohji-kun," Nagi replied. "Define hope. Then maybe I can
answer your question. You asked earlier if you'd live. You will.
Beyond that--" He shrugged. "It depends on what you're really asking."
How can he be so sure? What if Crawford-- But I want it to be true.
"I--" Yohji found himself staring at the floor, uncertain of exactly
what he wanted to say. If I really ask, I admit how close I am to
apart. He may guess, but... I don't think he knows where the fractures
"I don't know, Nagi-san." He looked up at the ceiling. Yes, that'll
"Will I see the sun again? Feel the wind and the rain?" I just want
someone to hold me, even if it's him. I don't think there is any hope;
owns me now. So no hope, not really.
"Do you miss those things so much?" Nagi's voice was warm with
sympathy. He sighed. "I like to look at the stars. The view here's
pretty good, less light pollution than Tokyo. You'd almost swear you
were about to fall upward."
We're not in Tokyo.
"I almost never left the city until I
started working. The schools I attended were never good ones." Yohji
let his head fall back against the wall. "But you must know that."
"I know Kritiker's opinions." Nagi waved a dismissive hand. "That
doesn't tell me how it really was, though."
"Oh, well..." I wish I had a cigarette.
"I doubt that a better
school would have made any difference. I'm a natural slacker." I
that craving for a while. I thought it'd be more all consuming.
"I was just glad to get out."
"A slacker, Yohji-kun?" Nagi sounded amused. "I suppose that's why
you're so good as an assassin. Such an easy job. No need for practice
"Hush! Don't give away my secret. People'll start expecting actual work
out of me!"
"You should have picked a weapon that didn't require finesse. Speaking
of that-- I always wondered-- Why don't you carry a gun?"
"Because you haven't given me one," Yohji replied instantly.
Nagi laughed. "And I'm not likely to any time soon, either. All right,
you, any of Weiss for that matter, carry a gun?"
How to say this... I've got to pay attention; I'm not scared
enough to do this right.
"Persia-- the Persia that was, not the
one-- He had some idea that the whole endeavor was nobler if we stayed
from firearms. Something about making us traditional Japanese
Yohji snorted. "At least, that's what they told us." And if Ken had
even one decent ranged weapon... Ken, you idiot, you should
"After he died..." Careful.
"Ran-- Abyssinian-- using
offends his sensibilities. Not Japanese enough. He got pretty damn
when I pointed out that he was agreeing with a Takatori, but... He
want us to be imitation American thugs." Yohji felt a small smile
him and hoped that it could pass as amusement at Ran's pigheadedness as
to the more awkward pleasure at telling his lies properly. Ran just
a convenient excuse to withdraw our request after Birman... Her
went so damn cold when Omi asked. It's not like any of us were
listening to Ran then.
"That's pretty silly."
But Nagi seems satisfied with the answer. "Ran's like that."
Nagi smiled. "So everyone says. I've never actually talked to him.
Crawford complains about him nonstop, though. I gather he's not very...
He hasn't talked to Ran, but... I don't think he likes Ran at all.
Why not? Usually that takes personal experience. Wait a minute-- Why do
I think he doesn't like Ran? He's been sitting so damn still that I'm
I can get anything from his body language.
"Then why do you dislike
him so much?"
Nagi hesitated and cocked his head to one side as if considering. "I
hear far too much about him. He doesn't seem worth the effort of
talking about." Nagi's expression sharpened. "I don't understand why
you let him have that kind of power over you."
No, he doesn't like Ran. Is he
jealous? Of what?
shrugged and bit his lip. There's nothing good I can say to that.
Nagi's expression softened. "Try a little more of your drink,
Yohji-kun. If you can keep that down, we'll try some real food."
Yohji felt a sudden surge of irritation and bit his lip harder. That
feels so small, but if I let it go, I'll say something really bitter.
He picked up his cup and contemplated the liquid within. Oh,
come on, Kudoh. Just drink the stuff.
He put the cup to his
lips and tilted it. Swallow. Swallow. Oh, god--
choked a little and pressed his arms against his chest. His throat
spasmed once then settled. Stay down. Just stay down. Please.
"If you really can't manage any more, Yohji-kun, we can wait a bit and
"That was most of it, Nagi-san, but..." Yohji set the cup down again. About
three centimeters left. I can do that. I can.
"I'll try." If I
throw up on my bed, will he replace it?
"You've done quite a number on yourself," Nagi said conversationally.
"Not without your help." And Schuldig's.
Yohji met Nagi's eyes.
Why the hell did I say that to Schuldig? Insisting that he
reality when he doesn't want to. I don't give a damn if he
Nagi's a child or not. Well, I did piss him off. That
its upside. Is Nagi a child? He's old enough for me to hold him
Is he old enough... Never mind.
Nagi seemed to consider. Then he smiled just a little.
"And you're damned proud of it, too." I shouldn't have said that.
Yohji pulled his knees up again and laid his cheek on them. "I hate
Nagi-san." He spoke without heat, almost without inflection.
Nagi's laugh held almost no humor. "Is that supposed to surprise me,
"No," Yohji whispered. "No, it shouldn't." He wasn't even sure Nagi
could hear his words. But I think it disappoints you. And
now you want to come over here and make me look at you. You,
the new center of
my sick little universe.
"I'm not going to let you do this again, you know."
This? Do what? I'm too tired... Does he mean sleep? No, he said that
was okay before. Something else, then.
Yohji found his mind
retreat. But I could sleep again now. If he's restrained
himself so far, he's probably not going to touch me if I make myself
"Any comfort's better than none..." he murmured. And
I can't predict what he's going to do. No routine, and my brain's
somewhere in outer space.
"What did you say?"
Yohji raised his head. "Nothing, Nagi-san." If he didn't hear that,
I'm sure as hell not giving it to him deliberately.
Their eyes met and held for a moment before Yohji looked away. Yes,
Nagi-san. You could force me to say it again. I'd lie
or twice along the way, but I've broken far enough that you could do it.
You'd just have to be willing to shatter me in the process, and for
reason you don't seem to want to do that.
He felt a sudden tension
his body as realization dawned. I just have to look fragile. You
want to shatter me, so you'll back off if you think I'm close.
But you're not stupid, so I'll have to
his face on his knees and started to rock. And I am close. Even
these damned drugs, I'm close.
"Don't hurt me, please." He tugged
at the blankets as if trying to get them to swallow him. "Please,
It's part pretense. Really.
"Yohji-kun," Nagi said sharply.
Obediently, Yohji raised his head. Almost a reflex now. That's
bad. That's very bad.
He whimpered, swallowing words that
wanted to escape. But I think I scared him. That's good,
"Pay attention," Nagi ordered.
Yohji nodded, not taking his eyes from Nagi's face. "Yes, Nagi-san. I'm
listening." His voice trembled, and he felt a surge of shame at his
weakness. It's not all the drugs. I wish it were.
"We are not going to do this again." Nagi's expression was momentarily
grim. "More specifically, you're
not going to do this again."
I could pretend to misunderstand. I don't think it would help.
need to exercise, Nagi-san," Yohji protested mildly. He gestured around
the room. "It's not as if you've given me a lot of other things to do."
"Nevertheless." Nagi picked up a cup from the tray next to him and took
a sip. "You are not to... get carried away... again."
Yohji looked away. "I can't promise that." I can't.
"I know." Nagi let the silence stretch for a few moments before he went
on, "That's why I've given orders to my people. You can work out.
However, when you fall, you will stop. One stumble, that's all. After
you are to rest. You may sleep, shower, eat. Anything else, and we'll
you. I will not permit you to damage yourself this way again."
Yohji bit his lip. So my body's yours, and you don't like what I'm
doing with it. I will
not say anything!
He took a
deep breath. Okay, there is something I can say...
stumbles, Nagi-san. Please."
"Two. I don't want some over zealous twit gassing me because I trip on
my way to the toilet."
Nagi smiled. "I suppose that's a reasonable concern. One or two of the
technicians aren't really that bright."
I should have asked for more.
Yohji fought the urge to lower his
head again. "It's all I've got, Nagi-san."
"It doesn't have to be. You know that."
Yohji felt his eyes widen. That's new. What does it mean?
mind went blank for a moment, refusing to process the possibilities. He
lowered his head to his knees for a moment. I can't think.
"You've never-- So far, it's been a choice between less pain and...
more pain." Pay attention, Kudoh! This is important.
his head again.
Nagi looked thoughtful. He hesitated for a moment before saying, "I
suppose I haven't explicitly
offered you anything."
No, you damn well haven't. I'd bargain. Oh, hell. Is he springing
this on me now because I can't think?
Yohji shook his head.
"I-- can't think."
"I'd be surprised if you could, but you do have a lot of mental
discipline. Not something reflected by your dossier." A corner of
Nagi's mouth curved in an ironic smile.
No, I don't. I can't. Balinese doesn't--
Yohji shook his head
again then made himself meet Nagi's eyes. God--
"You know..." I
shouldn't have said that. He guesses; he doesn't know. He
can't be sure.
Got to get my head together.
"I haven't told anyone, if that's what worries you." Nagi lifted his
cup and took a sip. "Crawford would want to... dissect the differences,
dissect you. I just... appreciate them. You're more interesting than I
He doesn't want Balinese; he wants
his knees in tighter. He'll get me eventually.
want?" There're some things I can't give, some things I won't. At
"What do you want that you can't just take?" I didn't
need to say that. Focus. I need to focus. I've got to
saying things I don't want to.
"Some things can't just be taken. For the moment, however... Perhaps we
should start simply. I suspect there's only so far I can-- should--
Yohji laughed without humor. "Smart man." Start simply! I don't
think he even knows what he wants from me. No, he wants everything;
not sure where to start.
"I think... Your price is too high." It
isn't, though. If it was just me... I'd cooperate. I'd bend. I could
come back from that.
He lowered his head. I'm tired.
"Finish your drink, then, Yohji-kun. After that, you can take a nap.
I'll be here when you wake up."
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