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On to Part 10.

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
Website: http://www.therck.org
Last updated: 25 September 2003

Thanks to Amy the Evitable, Yochan, Hope of Dawn and Tritorella for beta reading, suggestions and general support.

Rheotaxis

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 9

Nagi headed for his suite with a certain relief. It's been a hell of a long day. I probably should have waited to talk to Schuldig. No. He'd just get angrier the longer he waited. As it is, he doesn't seem much interested in making peace. Maybe after his arm heals... Not bloody likely.

He began the process of getting past the security systems he'd put in place. At least, this will keep Schuldig out. He's pissed as hell at both of us. I don't think he'd hurt me, not physically, but... Yohji's another story entirely. He paused for a moment before entering the final code. Well, it'll hold until Schuldig finds someone who knows how to break the electronics and who he can manage to control. Judging by the looks and hesitations and outright flinches I've been getting, word's getting around that I'm not to be fucked with. He smiled in satisfaction, looking around while the scanner processed his handprint. Maybe I can get Crawford to send Schuldig away for a while. I don't want him anywhere near Yohji, not for a long time. And Schuldig should know there's a price for pissing me off.

Even if he meant well.

At least, I've got something to look forward to now. Yohji will be waiting. We can't do much, not till he recovers, but... He's mine. Maybe watch a movie... That should ease things a bit. Finally, the door opened. Nagi stepped inside and sighed with relief as it slid shut behind him. I can relax now. I've been wanting to get back-- He stiffened as the sound of laughter reached him. Yohji and-- He doesn't sound like that with me! His upper lip curled in a snarl. He clenched his fists, stifling his first impulse, his desire to charge into the bedroom and kill someone. No. See what's going on first. He moved further into the room as silently as he could.

The bedroom door, a normal wooden door with a crystal knob, stood ajar, and Nagi used it as cover. Yohji lay propped up in bed. Telat, the woman Nagi'd assigned to look after him, perched on the edge of the bed. She looked at Yohji and smiled. Then she pointed at the chair by Nagi's desk and said the Taisken word for chair. Yohji repeated it, mangling the word badly. She giggled at his pronunciation and corrected him. Yohji tried again with slightly better results and gave her a flirtatious smile.

Some of Nagi's anger had cooled when he realized that he'd stumbled upon a language lesson, but Yohji's smile provoked a new wave of cold rage. Mine! How dare she! Bitch-- Nagi's breath hissed between his teeth. And Yohji! He should know better. He narrowed his eyes as he struggled to control his rage.

Yohji went suddenly still, all animation slipping away, his laughter gone.

He sensed me. He's afraid of me. Good. Nagi flattened a hand against the door. No. I don't want him like that-- Not... paralyzed. His eyes moved to the woman who had noticed the change in Yohji's demeanor and was worriedly asking if he was all right. Nagi inhaled slowly through his nose, focusing his attention and anger on her. It's your fault. You distracted him, made him forget-- I should have known better than to trust you-- After how you acted in the cell, after what Schuldig said about your reactions-- He pulled his hand back and clenched it into a fist.

Bullshit. I picked her because she felt sorry for him, because she wanted to protect him in spite of me and Schuldig, because she's female. Being pissed because she's kind to him... I'm not that kind of hypocrite. But I don't want to be fair. And I don't want to blame him. He's got to use anything he can get, and I know he's resourceful.

Nagi closed his eyes for a second then opened them again and pushed the door open.

Telat rose instantly to her feet and bowed slightly.

Yohji remained completely still, staring at Nagi with an unreadable expression.

He's waiting to see how angry I am... Let's surprise him. Nagi crossed to the bed and reached out to caress Yohji's hair. "I'm sorry I've been gone so long, Yohji-kun. I had to take care of a few things." Nagi shifted a few strands and let a finger start to trace the outline of Yohji's ear. "Are you feeling better?"

Yohji flinched almost imperceptibly under Nagi's hand then very deliberately leaned into the contact. "Some," he said quietly. "I still can't walk to the toilet by myself, but--" A corner of his mouth drew up in an almost smile.

He accepts me. Good. Nagi found himself smiling at the humor in Yohji's words. He laughs about the damnedest things. Nagi leaned in and kissed Yohji's forehead. "Well, Telat and I are going to go talk about how you've been doing. I'll be back in a minute."

Yohji stiffened as Nagi spoke the woman's name, and concern flashed in his eyes before he managed to cloak it.

So you do care about her. Do you care about me at all? Why the hell should you? Nagi blinked, a little startled by the bitterness in his own mental tone. He hesitated. Maybe he'll think I misunderstood-- "Soon, Yohji-kun. I won't abandon you."

Nagi turned away and headed for the door, gesturing for the medical technician to follow him.


Yohji strained to hear the conversation in the next room. Though it's kind of pointless when I can't speak the damn language... At least, it's just voices. I was afraid... He sighed and lowered his head to the pillow. He was so angry. I don't know if I can deal with him being angry now. Of course I can. I've got no damn choice. I just hope I can do a better job than I have. I can. I really can. At least... I can as long as I keep track of what's him and what's me. Does he know about what I'm sensing? Schuldig must, but--  Yohji shuddered. Damn! I've lost fights before, gotten the shit kicked out of me before, but this-- I'm over-reacting. No. I'm not. I won't survive that again. I need time to recover physically and mentally. I don't think anyone's ever wanted to hurt me that badly, not just to hurt me.

He closed his eyes and tried to let his breathing even out. Maybe I can sleep again. Maybe he'll be less angry later. Maybe...

He roused from a light drowse when the bed dipped under a sudden new weight. He opened his eyes to see Nagi regarding him seriously.

"I didn't mean to wake you, Yohji-kun," Nagi said quietly. "You need the rest."

Why? Yohji suppressed the urge to ask the question out loud. I don't want to know his answer. "I wasn't really all that tired, Nagi-san. More... bored." And why hasn't he brought up what happened before-- before Schuldig? Given how we've... interacted so far, he should punish me somehow. He fought the urge to curl in on himself. If it's proportional... He's reacted so badly to such small things. And this--

God, I can't believe I did that. No. I believe it. Attacking him that way was stupid, but... I needed to reclaim some part of myself. I'll just have to deal with the consequences. He met Nagi's eyes. "I think..." Hidden by the blanket, his hands clenched. "You're being very kind to me right now." What do you want? I need to know that.

"Don't worry about it." Nagi shifted to move closer to Yohji, slipping his arm behind Yohji's shoulders. "I'm not going to punish you this time."

Yohji felt a little of his tension ease. But he's still angry.

"Not unless, that is, someone actually told you you were an empath and showed you how to control it." Nagi started stroking Yohji's hair.

He knows. Yohji turned his face in toward Nagi's shoulder. What the hell is it about him and my hair? He shook his head a little. "Is it drugs? Did you give me something that made that happen?" God, I hope so...

"No. Not the drugs. Though they probably didn't help you any." Nagi fell silent for a moment; then Yohji felt him sigh. "Stress, necessity, pain..." He pulled Yohji closer. "Negative stimuli can make certain... abilities... stronger, at least when those abilities make surviving easier. Or sometimes just when you're very hurt, very angry or... very desperate. It's not pleasant when it happens to you." Nagi laughed bitterly. "Crawford did it to me, too, when he had Farfarello stab her." He stopped and shook his head.

He's back there again, isn't he? Yohji stifled the urge to offer comfort. That'd set him off again, and I bet it'd be worse. He might mix me up with Crawford. After all, he may not think... No. Nobody who saw his reaction could misunderstand.

After a moment, Nagi went on, quiet bitterness filling his words, "Crawford could have prevented it, you know, avoided the confrontation, but he needed me to... break through."

Yohji stiffened a little then sighed and forced himself to relax. This is important. This is... private. He's... He's trusting me with this. Give him something in return-- A surrender. Tears weren't hard to find, and he let them flow to soak Nagi's shirt. Should I give him more? No. I might set him off. And this is weakness enough. "Crawford knew?" Of course, he fucking knew. He's the fucking precog.

He felt Nagi's chin touch the top of his head as Nagi nodded. "He knew, and he didn't bother to tell me. If he had... If he had, I'd have handled... things... better."

Bullshit. You didn't choose what you were doing. You kept losing control when I... pushed the wrong buttons.

Nagi's arms tightened around Yohji's shoulders, just enough to offer comfort. "What happened, what you did-- It was almost inevitable. You covered it well, when you realized. That was very clever."

I'll be damned! He sounds proud. Of course, he's proud. I'm his dog and learned the trick in one lesson. God, I'm glad he can't see my thoughts. Or sense my feelings. Yohji felt himself tremble. But it was clever. It worked, and he didn't have the slightest clue as to what had hit him. And if I tell myself that often enough, maybe I'll manage to convince myself.

"I can't teach you much about controlling your empathy, but I can tell you that it won't go away."

He flinched at the finality in Nagi's tone. "I don't want it, Nagi-san," he whispered. But do I really want to lose it? If I can figure it out... Don't tell him that!

"You don't have that option," Nagi responded in an unyielding tone. "You haven't had that option since Kritiker sold you to us." Nagi rolled Yohji away just enough that they could look each other in the eyes. "If I'd known, I'd have worked to bring it out. I'd just have been more... careful." He ran his thumb along Yohji's jaw.

He stared at Nagi. I don't think he even knows he's lying. Well, he's kind of not. If he'd known, he'd have guarded himself better. I don't think he'd have let himself start-- Yes. He cares now, and he didn't then. I don't think he meant to. I wonder if Crawford knows that-- He must by now. I wonder why he let it happen...

Nagi frowned a little. "We will have to do something about this--" He ran a finger across Yohji's cheek, testing the growing stubble. "Fortunately, there's something fairly easy we can do. One treatment, and it'll never come back."

Images out of his nightmares flashed through Yohji's head. Hands all over me-- Disassembling me, reassembling-- No! He wrenched himself back, away from Nagi, then contracted at the sudden agony the movement caused. Ow! He gasped, choking back a sob. Fuck! Hurts, hurts, hurts...

Nagi sat up and looked at Yohji with some concern. "You should be careful," he said mildly.

Yohji held himself without moving until the pain eased. That was stupid. Stupid. But what is he going to do to me? Wait-- He closed his eyes. What good is this empathy thing if I can't use it when I want it? He took a deep breath. He's... amused? Yes. Concerned, too. But there's no... meanness. He owns me, and he likes that. He can do what he wants with me, but... I don't think he's planning something that will hurt me. At least not this time. "I... I can't stop you, can I?"

The shadow of a frown crossed Nagi's face. "Do you want to?" He reached out and tapped Yohji's nose twice before brushing Yohji's hair back from his forehead.

He's... Yes. Disappointed. What does he want from me? He-- he wants me to want his approval. Christ. We're a hell of a long way from a simple fuck. That I understood. This-- This is going to get messy. Who am I kidding? It's already--

A tentative sounding knock interrupted his thoughts and saved him from having to answer Nagi's question. Telat stuck her head in and said something that Yohji couldn't understand. Nagi responded briefly in a tone of command, and the woman stepped in.

Oh. More food. He regarded the covered tray without much enthusiasm. He smiled at Telat, automatically assuming his make-the-lady-feel-good manners. What was the word for "thank you?" Ah, screw it. "Thank you," he murmured.

He felt the sudden change in Nagi's mood. Sharpening attention. Hostility aimed at... her. Fuck.

Nagi said something else and rose to take the tray. Telat flashed a smile at Yohji and left. Crap. She doesn't get it. She hasn't noticed. He turned his full attention to Nagi. Have to make him feel secure. Soothe him. Why the hell does he have to be so possessive? It's not like I'm going anywhere. Hey, don't knock it, Kudoh. It saved you from Schuldig--

Nagi set the tray down on the nightstand, but his eyes remained fixed on the door for a moment longer. He chewed on his lip then turned to look at Yohji. "What would you do, Yohji-kun, if I ordered you to kill her?"

He felt his expression flatten. First, don't die. Right. Not my job to tell him it's stupid to kill her, that it'll alienate other potential subordinates. He looked at the door and let a flicker of his professional demeanor through. He raised his hands, flexed his fingers and regarded them thoughtfully. "May I wait till she's asleep? I'm still weak, so she could probably take me if she sees me coming." She doesn't deserve it, though. But if it's what he wants, if it'll keep me alive-- I've killed people like her before. Petty minions. He felt a sudden surge of emotion from Nagi, an odd mix of revulsion and lust.

"The question was rhetorical." Nagi's response held just a hint of rebuke.

Bullshit. Yohji looked down at his hands. The question was a test, and we both know it. "I apologize, Nagi-san." He's not going to make me do it. Thank god. At least, not this time. Was that revulsion at me or at himself? I deserve it, but... He deserves it more. It's a good sign if he recognizes that, isn't it?

Nagi nodded. "You're still not quite yourself." He seated himself on the edge of the bed again.

It was at himself. That's shame, and it's not mine. It tastes different. Yohji regarded Nagi with a steady gaze. I'm surprised I can think this clearly. The painkillers on top of whatever other crap they've been giving me, not to mention Schuldig... "You stopped the drugs, didn't you?"

Nagi cupped a hand to Yohji's cheek. "Not the painkillers, but, yes, everything else. I thought you'd deal better with... what happened if there wasn't anything... extra... interfering. You're doing better than I expected. Schuldig--" Nagi shrugged as if he couldn't find the right words.

Yohji twitched when Nagi said the name. He did his best to turn the twitch into a shrug. I don't want to talk about it. You're safe and sane in comparison, and I... I don't like that. Without the drugs, maybe I can fight you longer, but... I'd already decided to surrender. Yeah, and that went real well. But that doesn't mean the decision was wrong. It's still my best hope to survive. He shuddered. If Schuldig gets me again, I won't survive. And Nagi seems to be glad that I'm-- Well, I'm not exactly okay, but...

"I told you, Yohji-kun, I won't let him near you again." Nagi edged in close again, his fingers stroking reassuring patterns on Yohji's skin.

This is nice... He sighed and forced himself to relax into Nagi's touch. You like this; you're pleased. As long as I give you what you want... "I know. It's just..." What piece of the truth can I give him? I can't afford to make him angry. I... need him too much. "I didn't expect him." And you're really worse, Nagi-san. With him, it'd be over, no more hope. With you... I have to keep fighting because I might win. Or at least not lose. Is it losing if I own a little bit of you, too?

Even if I lose, would that be so bad? He's dangerous, but... I could like him. Is that so terrible?

Nagi snorted gently. "Of course, you didn't." He smiled. "Let's see what we've got to eat." He lifted the lid off the tray. A little more of a challenge to your stomach this time-- Grilled eel with vegetables."

Yohji forced a return smile. It is a treat. I just-- We're feeding the damn nanites, not feeding me! He inhaled. Smells good. Why didn't I smell that before?

Nagi picked up chopsticks and used them to pull loose a choice bit of eel. "Here. I think you'll find this works."

Yohji thought he managed to conceal his reaction to Nagi's action. I can damn well feed myself! He suppressed a sigh. At least, my hands aren't tied this time. He opened his mouth. Obedience. Cooperation. Flattery. He swallowed heavily as his throat went dry. Sex. I need to find a way to make this better than just not dying. I don't want to die inside just to keep breathing.

Nagi hesitated. "You do like eel, don't you? If you don't like the food, let me know. I may still make you eat it anyway if the doctors say you need it, but I'd rather know."

"I like eel." He tried to inject some enthusiasm into his voice. I especially like it better than some of the other things you've fed me. But I won't say that. "Why are you being so kind to me?" I'm curious as to what you'll say.

"Don't try to analyze it too much, Yohji-kun."

"Just enjoy it while I've got it?"

"More or less. Here, eat."

Neither of them spoke for a while as Nagi fed them both. Yohji relaxed a little, realizing that no further demands would be made on him for a while. I think he's tired too. How long was he gone and what did he do? I slept a lot; he could have been gone for hours. He tensed suddenly as a thought occurred to him. Shit! I'm in his bed. Where's he going to sleep?

"Problem, Yohji-kun?"

I can't-- No. Why the hell not? "Where are you going to sleep?"

"Ah." Nagi set down the chopsticks. "The bed's big enough to share." His eyes hardened a little. "Or do you want me to send you back out there again? I'm sure Schuldig would take you in."

Yohji reflexively tried to draw his legs up to protect his belly. The pain that screamed through his nervous system as a result paralyzed him for a second. When he recovered a little, he turned his head away. "No, Nagi-san." That was cruel. But... It was a reminder. I can't afford to reject him. "Aren't you afraid I'll try to kill you?"

Nagi laughed. The sound carried a weight of bitter humor. He reached out and tugged Yohji's chin, forcing the older man to look at him again. "I'm assuming you're not that stupid." He ran his thumb over Yohji's lips. "You're mine. I got Crawford to accept that; what he wants won't affect you any more, not unless it's also what I want. I'm going to be standing between you and everything else."

He shuddered at the intensity of Nagi's emotions. He likes owning me. No, he needs to own me. I think... He might kill to keep me. I'm not fool enough to give up that protection, not when I've still got so much to lose. He wants to protect me, likes doing it-- Why the hell shouldn't I let him?

Nagi's expression softened. "I scare you a lot, don't I?" His fingertips brushed gently over Yohji's face, carefully avoiding the healing bruises.

"I'm not a fool." He forced the words out through stiffened lips. He likes scaring me, but he also... He's wistful, wanting me to trust him. Does he even know I can't do both?

"I wouldn't keep you if you were." Nagi straightened a little.

No, I suppose you wouldn't. He let his lips quirk a little with humor. "I'm pretty, too. Got to give me that." Or is that not part of what he likes about me?

Nagi relaxed enough to smile. "You're not looking your best just now."

"It's been a rough week." Longer than that, I suppose. I wonder how everybody else is doing... Can I ask? Given how he's reacted to casual mentions of Ran, who's by no means my favorite person-- Will he get jealous? And what will happen if he does? Yohji sighed. I need to know, and I don't think he'll hit me when I'm already this messed up. "Nagi-san-- I... Schuldig stuck some things in my head--" But if this does set him off... If it does, I'm dead.

Nagi stiffened, looking alarmed.

"Nothing really bad, I don't think. Just painful. He showed me the night Kritiker... sold... us, from Ken's point of view, and... He showed me where Omi is right now-- mentally, emotionally. At least, he said it was all true, but he wanted it to hurt me, so..." He trailed off uncertainly. Did I do that right? Yes. I think so. Now, don't push, just let him say what he'll say.

"We haven't hurt Tsukiyono, if that worries you, and we're not going to. What did Schuldig show you?" Nagi's expression was carefully neutral.

He's not sure I really know. And he is jealous. I just-- He doesn't want me to see it. Does he think I won't know? Oh, of course, he's not used to thinking about this empathy thing. Hell, I'm not used to it. I just can pretend I'm doing something else, doing what I always have. I suppose I am... "Omi's trapped in his head, back with those bastards who kidnapped him when he was a kid. He's terrified." Shit! Now I'm echoing it-- Yohji felt himself start to hyperventilate and clutched at the sheet that covered him.

"Calm down, Yohji-kun!" Nagi wrapped his arms around Yohji, lifting him. "You're safe. Breathe slowly. In... Out... In... Come on!"

He fought for control. Put it aside. Just put it aside-- You can do it. You've put things aside before.

"Tsukiyono's with Fujimiya now. He hasn't... come out... yet, but Crawford thinks he will. He's a lot calmer, hasn't even hit Fujimiya once. I went and visited. He doesn't look bad. Fujimiya's even been doing some PT to make sure Tsukiyono's muscles don't atrophy."

He finally managed to relax. Ran'll look after him. I can trust Ran to do that. He won't let any of them touch Omi. But can Ran rescue Omi? Ran's not exactly... No, he'll do it. He doesn't give up, not ever. Look at what he went through for Aya-chan. Thank god.

Christ. I'm only playing for me now. Ran won't let them touch Omi, and Nagi's damn well hooked on me anyway. I'm only playing for me now... He turned his head to bury his face in Nagi's shoulder. What's my life worth?

Nagi stroked the back of Yohji's head. "He'll be all right, Yohji-kun. He'll be fine. And you'll be fine."

Maybe that's even true. Maybe. Okay, ball's in my court. How-- Yes. "You told me once, Nagi-san, that Schwarz looks after its own." He kept his face pressed against Nagi's shoulder. "Well, Weiss is family too. My family, and they're hurting." That's sympathy. Good. I don't want him hurting any of them because he's jealous. "Only thing Ken, Ran and I always agree on is taking care of Omi. He-- he's the youngest, after all." And the one Kritiker screwed the worst. Manx did her best, but... No. Can't get distracted now.

"What was it like? I have my own strange family, but... Yours is different. More... normal." Nagi's laugh sounded almost natural.

What's safe to say? "We wouldn't be friends, you know, not if we met normally. It really is like family-- We didn't choose each other. Kritiker pushed us together." Yohji turned his head a little to keep from mumbling into Nagi's shirt. "And none of us had family. Well, there was Aya-chan, but I don't think-- I'd never say it to Ran-- I don't think Kritiker ever thought she'd wake up."

"Crawford always said she would. He was actually kind of pissed off when you snatched her after the summoning."

Yohji looked down at the blanket. "Does he-- Does he really... care about her? Ran never wanted any of us to meet her. We were all too... tainted. But she meant something to us. Family. Innocence. The normal world... We'll always be apart from it, but we were kind of connected to it through her." He took a deep breath. "So it matters. Does he care?"

"Surprisingly enough, I think so." The pressure of Nagi's arms around Yohji's body eased a little. "It annoys the hell out of Schuldig. I don't think he likes the way things have changed in the past couple of years."

There's a story there. Wonder if I can get it-- I didn't flinch at his name that time. Does that mean I'm getting better? Or am I trusting Nagi more than... Hell. "Is he going to hurt her?"

Nagi's expression went flat. "No." His tone left no room for question.

He doesn't want to go there. I-- No pushing right now. Will I ever be able to afford it? No. Not going there right now. He lowered his eyes. "Good." He pushed a little satisfaction into the word. "I'm glad somebody's safe." Is he going to lie now and tell me I'm safe? Do I want him to? Would I believe him?

Nagi didn't respond verbally, merely stroked Yohji's hair.

Guess not. What now? Ah, well... Let him lead.

"Were you happy with Weiss, Yohji-kun?" Nagi's question sounded idle, but Yohji sensed an underlying tension.

What? He felt a sudden craving for a cigarette. Will that ever go away? "Being owned sucks." Make of that what you will...

Nagi's hand faltered, just for a second. "I wasn't intending to ask about Kritiker. I'd be worried if you were... pleased with them at this point." He traced a circle on Yohji's cheek. "Was Weiss a good family?"

Was? No. Please, no. He closed his eyes for a second. I suppose from his point of view... He wants it to be past tense. That doesn't mean it is. Not. "We... took... care of each other." Give him his past tense. It's not a big concession. "Making sure everybody ate, that nobody had to face nightmares alone." Not that any of us wanted to share, to admit weakness. "Tend each other's wounds. Keep each other's secrets." He sighed. I don't think he likes hearing about the good things, so why did he ask? Somehow, I don't think lying's the way to go either. "We drove each other crazy, too. Ken taking a little too long to shower after his coaching sessions and lecturing us on proper nutrition. Ran with his definite ideas about how things ought to be. Me searching for ways to escape. Omi... Cheerful gets old after a little while. All of it got old after a while." He let exhaustion creep into his voice. I'm not tired from talking, but he won't know that. I'm just tired from... all of it. "What do you want, Nagi-san?" I'll try to give it to you, even if I have to lie to do it. I'm just so damn tired...

"I want to know about you, and they matter to you."

He thought he detected a hint of frustration in Nagi's voice. No. Not in his voice. Or, at least, not exclusively. I'm just more... comfortable... with objective indicators. So, is he having trouble understanding me? Or is he just frustrated that I still care about the guys? Or... It could be something else, I suppose.

"Well... Ran used to hog the remote. Ken and Omi'd bicker while they played video games. Ken'd complain about how unrealistic the sports games were." No need to say that we all knew he wasn't all that serious...

Nagi frowned. He raised his hand as if groping for something. "You all sound very... normal, but... Who are they?"

I can't. I just... can't. He looked away for a moment then forced himself to meet Nagi's eyes. "You have me." He kept his voice calm. I accept that. "You want them, too? I... I should be jealous." That joke fell flat. I'm too scared to be properly mocking. Does he see that? It might be better if he does.

Nagi looked amused, but Yohji felt certain that was mostly façade. After a moment, Nagi sighed. "You'd let me do anything to you if it protected Tsukiyono. Fujimiya's opinion matters to you. God only knows why. Hidaka..." Nagi shrugged. "To understand you, I need to understand them."

To control me, you mean. Yohji inhaled deeply. "If you make me give them to you, too..." If I do that, it'll destroy me, and you've already shown me you don't want that. You can have me, but I won't give them to you. He pasted a cheerful smile across his face but let bitter humor leak into his voice. "You have a special one time chance to remake Kudoh Yohji into the man of your dreams. Don't like the sense of humor? The attitude toward authority? Taste in music?" He felt a sudden crack in his self control as his anger slipped out. "Just what the hell do you want from me? Who do you want me to be?" He slapped his hands down on the bed, ignoring the pain that produced, and pushed back his emotions, trying desperately to rebuild his mask. He looked down at his hands. Killer's hands. What's stepping further into the darkness? He licked his lips. "If you tell me, Nagi-san, I'll try. I'll honestly do my best."

For a moment, Nagi didn't answer. He buried his fingers in Yohji's hair, and Yohji flinched as those fingers reawakened bruises he'd almost forgotten. He's not trying to hurt me, he reminded himself. At least... I don't think so.

"You really were surrendering yesterday, weren't you?" Nagi's voice remained flat, but Yohji sensed a combination of wonder, pleasure, pride and lust.

He felt a flush of shame suffuse his face. His voice shook a little as he answered, "Yes. Yes, I was." He swallowed hard, trying to clear his mouth and throat which felt as if the words had been coated in something slimy, vile tasting.

You broke me. Are you happy? No, you're not entirely. Why not? "Isn't that what you wanted?" He flinched as he recognized the slightly plaintive note in his voice and pulled a little away from Nagi, raising a hand to his own face, trying to pretend that he wasn't shaking. "Christ, I'm whining." He hesitated then looked at Nagi. "There's not a lot of me left. I'd like to keep what I can." I'm not making myself utterly vulnerable here. Not quite. Just almost.

"When you're better, Yohji-kun, I'll find someone to teach you shielding-- My own skill there's a little... primitive to be of use to you-- I think you'll find there's more left than you think."

I don't think he's certain of that. It's what he hopes, though. Strange... "I'll need to know the language first, I think." Unless he wants Schuldig to-- He shuddered and hunched in on himself.

Nagi ran a gentle hand along Yohji's back. "True. That's not too hard, fortunately."

Not Schuldig. Thank god. He sighed and allowed himself to relax. "I'm not very good with languages, I'm afraid. Well, not beyond a certain point. I can ask for booze and cigarettes in about a dozen languages and proposition someone in five or six more."

"It'll be all right." Nagi pulled Yohji back, and he cooperated.

I could use a little cuddling...

"Our employers have some techniques for making the process easier. I think you'll be surprised." Nagi wrapped his arms around Yohji's shoulders.

Just who the hell are these people? No. Don't ask now. It doesn't matter. Right now, he's all that matters, and he's not going to... hurt me... tonight. Probably not tomorrow either. He stiffened momentarily as he forced away memories of Nagi on top of him, of Nagi holding him down, thrusting into him. No! I can't afford that! Not right now... He took a deep breath and leaned back. That hurts, too, but... Everything hurts right now. Damn Schuldig! No. Nagi's being kind because of Schuldig; I'd still be in that cell if... Hell.

"Would you like to watch a movie, Yohji-kun, or are you too tired?"

What? He blinked.

"A movie," Nagi repeated patiently. "You know-- Pictures on a screen. Sound. Hopefully a story... I've got a pretty good collection."

Yohji could sense the other man's amusement. And something under that... What is it? "A movie... sounds good." That sounded more like a question than an answer, like I don't know what he wants to hear. And I don't. I should be better at this.

"What would you like to watch? If there's something I don't own, I can order it for some other time. It shouldn't take more than a day or two to arrive." He resumed stroking Yohji's hair. "I don't even know what sort of movies you like... Your file says you'll watch whatever your date wants to see."

Yohji forced a chuckle. "Half of my damn 'dates' were Kritiker agents checking up on me. I could always tell-- They were the ones who didn't really want to be there, at least, not there with me."

Nagi made a small encouraging noise.

"They wanted to see if I'd give away anything when I was drunk or if I engaged in any babbling pillow talk." He felt his lips twist a little with bitterness. "And they were all really damned obsessive about using protection." I made it a game-- Figuring out who was Kritiker and who wasn't, letting Omi know so he could cross check my guesses. After a while, there weren't so many of them. Guess they decided the whole thing was a waste of time.

"The doctors here say you're clean, if it's any consolation."

"I knew that." But it's good to be sure. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against Nagi's chest. "I was pretty damn careful." My life expectancy might suck, but there was no need to go courting miserably slow death.

"About that movie--" Nagi wrapped his arms around Yohji for a moment then slid sideways and off the bed. "Let's see what I've got." He walked over to a wall and pushed at some sort of catch that Yohji couldn't see. Part of the paneling slid back to reveal several shelves of DVDs.

I'll figure out how the catch works later. At least, now I know it's there. Yeah, and what sort of good's that going to do me? Well, at least, I'll be able to find the DVDs...

"Anything look good?"

Yohji strained, trying to read the titles. Then he let himself slump back. I can't tell from here. He shrugged. Maybe I can recognize something if I see more than the spine.

Nagi looked slightly quizzical then shrugged in return. He reached in and fiddled with something. As he drew back his hand, the shelves lifted to reveal another set of shelves which in turn moved forward.

How many fucking DVDs does he have? Has he even watched all of them? Any of them? Doesn't matter. He frowned slightly as one of the cases caught his eye. Is that-- At least, it's something. Even if it's not what I think it is, it's a movie. We won't have to talk for a while. "How about that one?" He gestured vaguely. "Third shelf. Yeah, there."

Nagi put a finger on the case. "Do you even know what this is?" He sounded amused.

Um... Well, I'm guessing, but... "It's an old American movie, probably older than you are."

Nagi smiled and pulled the case from the shelf. "The Blues Brothers. Never watched this one. Good?" He raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Yohji sighed in relief. I guessed right. "You've never seen it?" He managed to inject a note of incredulity into his voice. Guess he hasn't watched all of them.

Nagi's smile broadened. "A gap in my education? I'm sure we can remedy that. Is there anything you particularly like to snack on while watching a movie?"

"Do you have any senbei? Oranges are good, too." He forced himself to answer calmly.

Nagi nodded and smiled encouragingly. "I've got pocky and chips, too. Whatever you'd like."

Why do you care, Nagi-san? You're trying too hard. Oh. Fuck. He leaned back and closed his eyes. He's courting me. Great. What's next? Flowers? How do I deal with this? Calmly. It's an advantage. I can use it. I can play it, make him... make him love me. He shivered just a little. But I'm already close to the abyss. He's the center of my universe now, and that could be... I could love him. I-- Would that be so awful?


As the second movie ended, Nagi found himself yawning and stealing glances at Yohji. He's tired. He's got to be. Why won't he just relax? Yohji kept his eyes focused on the TV, apparently absorbed in the credits. Which he isn't. He's tense as hell. I'd try to massage that out, but till the bruises heal... "Yohji-kun--"


Yohji turned to look but didn't answer.

For a split second, Nagi wasn't sure exactly what to say. Too many possibilities... Keep it simple. Don't let it sound like criticism; he's not dealing with that well right now. "You need sleep to heal."

Yohji nodded but didn't speak. His eyes looked wary.

No, it's not a trap, Yohji-kun. "You don't want to sleep, do you?"

Yohji's eyes widened briefly in an almost flinch. Then he shook his head. "He's going to be there when I close my eyes."

Nagi sighed. "I understand." I really do. I've been there. He reached out and touched the side of Yohji's face. Carefully. He's very fragile right now. He splayed his fingers, making only the slightest contact. "I used to have nightmares, too. I'll be here to help you through." If you'll accept the help. But why the hell should you? Just because I'm all you've got... He felt Yohji freeze under his hand. All you've got can be-- has to be-- enough, no matter what it is.

Yohji lowered his eyelids and looked up at Nagi through a veil of eyelashes. "Thank you, Nagi-san." The words came out with carefully neutral courtesy, and Nagi felt a brief clenching in his belly. "I-- I should probably get ready to sleep."

But you won't sleep like this, will you? Nagi refused to look at his own reaction to Yohji's attitude. "If I get you to the bathroom, will you need additional help?" I'd like to give it. Nagi looked away. What the hell do I want here? This could be an opportunity to get used to him.

"I..." Yohji hesitated. "I think I'll be able to manage."

But you're not sure, are you? You just want the privacy. I don't think he even realizes how he's trying to play me here. Just as well-- If he were trying, he might succeed.

Nagi heard just the slightest tremor in Yohji's voice as he spoke again. "Might I... I've been wearing these pants since I got here..."

I can give him that. Nagi suppressed a smile. Can't let him see that; it'd be patronizing. But it's a good sign that he can ask. "I think I've got another pair around here somewhere. Tomorrow, I should have something a little closer to your size." Nagi rose and went to rummage in a drawer. In here somewhere...

"Thank you." Yohji seemed almost to choke over the words.

I suppose it is a turning point. Nagi turned back to smile at Yohji. See, I told you things could be better. Just keep cooperating... "You should be up to a bath tomorrow." You'd like that, wouldn't you? Not to mention that getting you cleaned up will be an improvement from my point of view. Antiseptic and bed sweat... I'll have to make sure we've got all your toiletries

Yohji sighed and slumped back against the pillows. "That would be wonderful."

Creature comforts. I can give you those easily. And take them away just as easily. We both know that. "Ah, here we go." Nagi's fingers closed around the pair of sweatpants he'd been seeking. "I'll get you to the toilet now." Should I touch him or just use my power? Fuck it. I want to touch him. Nagi returned to the bed and tossed the clothing to Yohji. "Can you move this way on your own?"

Yohji hesitated then nodded firmly. He inched toward the edge of the bed, pausing from time to time as he miscalculated and caused himself a sudden spike of pain. He bit his lip as he shifted to let his legs slip over the edge of the mattress.

He really hates physical helplessness, doesn't he? A sudden surge of sympathy startled Nagi. "You'll be better soon enough, Yohji-kun. Then we can start sparring again."

Yohji looked up, apparently startled. Then a grin flickered briefly across his face. "Good to know you're looking forward to it."

"Does that surprise you?" Nagi put a shoulder under one of Yohji's arms and got the older man to his feet.

"Not so much anymore," Yohji admitted. "You have a strange sense of humor."

No stranger than yours. "You should be glad of it."

Yohji leaned heavily on Nagi. "I am. I really am. It... helps."

He masked a surge of triumph. There is something you like about me! "You're still going to have an awful time falling asleep, aren't you?" Should I even ask you? I wish... No point in that, but I do wish. I want you to be comfortable with me. I do need to ask-- If I just drug you, you'll expect it every time I give you anything. "If I give you something to help you sleep, will you take it?"

The arm across Nagi's shoulders tightened briefly. "I..."

"You don't have to decide yet. Just think about it." Nagi maneuvered carefully to get Yohji through the door. "There. You remember how everything works?"

Yohji nodded, pulling away from Nagi.

"I'm going to leave the door open so that I can hear if you call. I'll be in the kitchen." Hopefully far enough away for you to relax a little. Nagi paused for a moment to reassure himself that Yohji really was going to be able to remain upright. Hot chocolate, I think. That should be soothing.


Yohji curled on his side, facing the wall. Part of him wanted to press against the wall, pulling as far away from Nagi as possible while part of him craved the security offered by Nagi's embrace. Not like there's a real choice. Maybe if I let him know how much it hurts...

Nagi still sat on the other side of the bed, sipping his hot chocolate. "You should consider drinking what I prepared for you, Yohji-kun. It'll relax you, and the chocolate's top quality."

"No more drugs, please." He didn't even turn to look. If you want to make me, I can't stop you, but...

"I don't think coercing you will make you relax," Nagi responded with conscious irony. "I'd prefer that you relax without... chemical assistance, but I don't think it's going to happen."

No, I think you're right. "I don't care." He frowned at the hint of petulance in his voice.

"All right, but I think you're cutting off your nose to spite your face." Nagi sounded for all the world as if it didn't matter, but Yohji was certain that the younger man was worried.

Guess I am, but... He turned his face toward the mattress. Hell. Just drink the damn stuff. It'll make him happy, and you'll have a reasonable night's sleep. You may even forget he's there. And... He's letting it be a choice. I've got to encourage that.

He rolled onto his back and groaned as his body protested.

"There are easier ways to do that."

Yeah, but they all require asking you for help. He stared up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. Rolling onto his side to face Nagi proved easier than he'd expected. Oh. He helped, didn't he? "Help me sit up?" I didn't mean that to be a question. He sighed. At least, he's wearing pajamas. I don't think I could deal with him naked. But who'd have thought he'd wear plaid flannel?

"Of course." Nagi set his mug down and reached to offer his hands to Yohji. "What helps most?"

That pleased him. He wants to take care of me. Yohji grasped Nagi's hands. "Just pull up, please. There." Progress, I guess. He let me put my hands on him. I didn't think he would. Hell, it's not like I'm a threat now, but I wasn't ever before. His hands... Very fine boned... And very strong. He released Nagi's hands. "Do you work out?"

Nagi smiled over the top of his mug. "Of course. Using a power like mine depends on strength of will and strength of body both."

"Oh." He wasn't certain what to say. Why did I even ask? Why did he answer? Doesn't matter. My mind's running in circles. "I'll drink the damn sedative, Nagi-san."

Nagi's smile broadened then vanished. He nodded. "Good. I think you'll feel better in the morning." He set his mug down again and picked up the mug he'd offered to Yohji earlier. "Here."

Yohji accepted it carefully. Don't spill. Heavier than I thought it'd be. Still warm... He sniffed at the steam, searching for any trace of the drug. Just chocolate and cinnamon. So harmless. He hesitated. "Why did you tell me? I might not have guessed."

Nagi folded his hands in his lap. "You'd have guessed eventually. I'd rather not lie to you right now." He shrugged. "Go on and drink. It's no good cold."

Right now? Does that mean you'll do it other times? Of course, you will. Yohji sipped cautiously, trying to gauge the danger of scalding his tongue. Sweet. He let the liquid sit in his mouth for a moment then swallowed. Not too hot. I can get through this quickly, before I think too much. Pity, though. I'd like to enjoy it. He felt Nagi regarding him intently and had to fight the urge to respond. Let him do what he wants, Kudoh. He's still damned dangerous. You're making progress, but... He wrapped his hands around the mug and drank quickly. His stomach churned a little. Psychosomatic. Has to be. I didn't taste anything that would set me off like that.

"Carefully, Yohji-kun. You don't want to choke."

He took a quick breath then responded, "I'm fine." He offered the mug to Nagi. "I'm done."

Nagi accepted the mug with a small nod. "Then you should probably lie down again. I'll just take the cups to the kitchen and turn off the lights. I won't be long."

Yohji slowly maneuvered himself back toward the wall as Nagi left the room. He's being very kind now, giving me all the things he took away before. What does he want? Owning me seems too simple. Don't think about it tonight. He sighed and curled in on himself again. I actually miss that damn stuffed cat. What happened to it? Never mind. Maybe I can be asleep before he gets back.

A few minutes later, Nagi returned. Yohji tensed as the other man climbed into bed but forced himself to relax. Nagi curved his body along Yohji's back, pressing close.

Don't. Please...

"Relax. Sleep," Nagi whispered. "I'll keep everything away." He draped an arm over Yohji's waist.

That's what I'm afraid of.


Note: Thanks to Retsuko for her suggestions regarding movie watching munchies (I thought that popcorn would simply be too American). Here's what she told me:

The snack items I would suggest are rice crackers (senbei), Pocky (long twig-like cookies), and mandarin oranges (mikan) although these last ones depend on the season; they're a winter fruit and considered to be very healthy. There is also an infinite selection of bizarrely-flavoured chips (curry, shrimp, etc.)

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