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Slash and Yaoi Fiction
Title: Intimate Stranger
Author: Juxian Tang
E-mail: juxiantang@hotmail.com, http://juxian.slashcity.net
Type: One-shot (1/1)
Teaser: In the quest for his sister, Aya does things he didn't know he was able to do, and Schuldich gets in trouble
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: Some time closer to the end of anime series - when Aya-chan was missing, anyway :-)
Warning: rape, torture, angst
Keywords for Your Fic: Aya, Schuldich, rape, angst


His blood on my hand was shiny black-red in the bluish light. It felt warm and slippery, trickled between my fingers as I turned my hand palm-upward; already coagulating, already getting sticky. It would be nearly impossible to wash it out from under my fingernails when it got dry.

He moaned, his head hanging listlessly after my blow. The flashlight that I put on the littered floor illuminated his face, bloodied and half-hidden under the long strands of red hair. I didn't miss it when he opened his eyes. Flash of wild green through red. His lips, a narrow, pale line, curved in a shadow of a smile.

He swallowed blood that filled his mouth. His body passed from almost total limpness to complete alert swiftly, as he checked the bonds, trying to break out. No way. The ropes were solid and I knew how to make them inescapable. A loop around either of his wrists, pulling his arms up and apart - and two for his ankles, spreading them wide on the ground. He could struggle all he wanted, it just would make the ropes tighten harder.

He was no fool; it took a second and probably a couple of movements for him to recall it. Then his body acquired a different, composed stance - seeming relaxed for someone who didn't know better. I felt the telltale stirring in my head.

"You can't control my mind, Schuldich," I said. "Sorry to disappoint you."

"So sure of yourself? I like your arrogance, Aya. It'll make the things easier."

His voice was hoarse; I knew why. He must've screamed while I'd been away, must've called for help. Yesterday, leaving him, I told him it was no use - the place was an old depot office building; no one ever walked there. And those who did minded their own business. But Schuldich was a stubborn one; sometimes it seemed he did every possible thing just to cross me.

"Even if I am not sure of myself - I am sure of you," I said. "You are not at your best now." I ran my hand over the long scab on his left temple and cheekbone, the coating of blood cool and unpleasant on my fingers. I felt Schuldich try to recoil away from my touch; it must've hurt. He pulled on his tied hands harder. "The concussion tampered with your telepathic abilities."

"That sucks." His wide mouth twisted derisively.

Last night - another one of my sleepless, wandering nights - I had spotted him in the street and followed him to a sleazy district of narrow streets stuffed full with bars, tattoo shops and nightclubs that didn't look inviting despite the glimmering signs over their doors. In a club with the air thick with smoke, where fighters clashed in a combat without rules on an improvised ring, Schuldich noticed me.

//So, that's how you spend your free time, Aya.//

His voice sounded in my head - cold, quiet, amused, followed by a gentle sensation as if something was probing into my brain.

//Leave my mind alone, Schuldich.//

//If you insist. Want a spar?//

//Don't think so.// I saw a contemptuous, contented smile on his lips, a smile that made him look lazy and mysterious; made his eyes, shadowed by ink-dark eyelashes, seem almost warm.

//Coward. The hunter of light is afraid to damage his pretty face.//

He shook off his green jacket before coming out on the ring. He didn't look at me any more as he waited for his opponent, taking last few drags of his cigarette - but I knew he remembered I was behind him. Maybe, it was for my benefit he posed as his long, gliding fingers caressed the neck of the beer bottle almost warmly, almost intimately. Was he trying to impress me or play me? What a fool.

His rival was a tall man, as tall as Schuldich was, but much bulkier. Somewhere deep inside, I felt a trace of cold compassion towards the man. He probably had no idea how good the German was - and how ruthless. He really had no chance against Schuldich.

It started just like I expected; Schuldich's movements exact and yet carefree as he ducked away from the blows, delivering a cruel punch or two. He could've ended it within a minute - but he enjoyed playing with the man, giving him an illusion of advantage and taking it away immediately.

I didn't know if it was when the idea came to my mind. Most likely, I didn't plan anything consciously. I just watched Schuldich toy with his opponent - as he probably usually did. He must've felt unstoppable - superhuman.

But he was not.

//You are tough, Schwarz,// I thought, //but let's see how really tough you are.// I didn't know if he heard me; he might've tuned down everything when he was fighting. But I thought for Schuldich, as focused as I could be - a string of memories, of every encounter we had; every pain-distorted face, every dead body he and his partners left behind. Every scream I heard - Omi's, Ken's... my own as I found my sister's bed empty and cold.

I couldn't say for sure if it worked; perhaps it didn't. Perhaps it was my sheer luck. Schuldich lost concentration for a moment, looking like he tried to turn back, where I stood - and then his opponent grabbed the bottle from the closest table and hurled it on Schuldich's head.

It was enough to make him fall - and then he already couldn't get up. The man kicked him, venting out all his anger for every missed blow this night - and probably for all other nights when he lost to Schuldich and to anyone else.

No one stopped it - why would they? Not even when the crackle of a broken rib was heard. If it were anyone else on the floor, he probably would wind up dead. But Schuldich could take much more than an ordinary person could; I didn't worry for him.

When the attendants raised him, his head dangling and blood dripping from his hair, and argued whether he needed a doctor or could be just thrown out like this, I walked up to them and said I was his friend, I would take care of him. They were elated; they didn't want a bleeding man on their hands.

As I dragged him to my car, Schuldich recovered briefly and muttered with his split, disobedient lips:

"So, we are friends, Aya-kun? I didn't know you called it like this."

His narrow body pressed to me strangely intimately, although he probably just tried to stand on his feet, his arm wrapped around my neck - and I knew for any watcher we looked like two drunk buddies - or, maybe, even like two lovers making out in the street.

I took him to the place where I knew we were not going to be disturbed and tied his hands above his head and his legs to the steel reinforcements in the disintegrating floor.

"I want you to tell me where my sister is."

"Your sister? That cute girl with snub nose and two funny braids? The one in coma? Never seen her."

I hit him then - not only because he taunted me, talked in this flippant, brash voice about my sister - but also to show him who called the shots, to make him stop the crap. He tried to get into my mind then - and failed miserably.

I had never been afraid of his telepathy. I'd thought about it when I made my mind what to do with him - and I knew it was not going to be a threat. Once he'd said he had our lives - but I was sure Schuldich wouldn't be able to control me. I hated him too much, hated everything he was and everyone whom he served. It was just a bonus that the blow on his head prevented him from using his powers fully, no matter how he tried. And he tried - kept trying. I had to give it to him - he didn't like to give up.

But neither did I.

"You know where she is. I want you to tell me about it."

"Or what?"

"Or I'll make you."

"Just how are you going to do it? Torture me, nah? Or... is it why you took me here, not to your flower shop or wherever? Because your friends wouldn't approve your methods?"

Oh, they wouldn't approve, I knew that. They wouldn't let me do what I suspected I was going to do. Beat him - or kill him - whatever it was going to take.

I'd spent half of the previous night trying to make him talk - and tonight started as badly, with him provoking me again, making me split my knuckles against his teeth.

"I don't want to beat you," I said watching him spit the blood. The bruises on his face left from the last night were already dark - and I knew there would be more after today's session.

"Funny, I think I don't want you to do it either." Schuldich's voice was clownish - but I knew he hurt and he was afraid. At the moments when he didn't quite control himself, his face was tired, unhappy. "Why don't we both just go home then?"

"Tell me where she is."

"I don't know."

His head jerked under my blow, another trickle of blood slid out of his nose. He tasted it with his tongue, cat-like carefully. He probably didn't even realize he was doing it. There was a small frown trembling between his thin eyebrows.

"I really don't know, Weiss. What makes you think we have her?"

"You do." This time when I hit him, I put my hands in a lock - and he made a short cry as my knuckles crushed one of his teeth. He spat it out, blood and bits of white - and his stare became concentrated. He tried to get to my mind again, to make me do what he wanted.

"Stop that." I slapped his head and he whimpered. His eyes screwed up tightly. His presence in my mind was gone. "You can't do it. You are not so good at it, after all, you know. All you Schwarz guys are not so good. Why didn't your pre- cog warn you, first of all? That yesterday was not your lucky day or something like that. Or are you not important enough for him to have visions about you?"

"Maybe, he tried to warn me." There was a mysterious, almost sorrowful expression in Schuldich's voice. "Maybe, I didn't believe him."

Didn't believe what? That I was a threat? That I had it in me to do the things I was doing? He should've known better. I was a killer, after all. It'd been difficult once when I had to cross the line between not killing people and killing them. All the rest was - would be - easy.

I stepped away. There was a carcass of a table behind me and I leaned against it, fishing the cigarettes out of my pocket. They were Schuldich's cigarettes. When I had gone through his clothes, looking for everything that could remind a weapon or a tracking device, I found a pack of Galoises. Now I pulled out one and flicked open the metal cap of the lighter. Schuldich's eyes were on me as I took a drag.

"I didn't know you smoked."

"I don't." The smoke stung in my eyes but the sharp flavor in my mouth and burning in my throat actually felt good. Schuldich looked at me all the time I smoked, his stare attentive, unblinking. I thought he was fiending for a cigarette - not that I was going to offer him one. And only when I put it out and something like a hidden relief appeared in his eyes, I realized what he was afraid of. Of me putting it out against his skin.

At the first moment the thought angered me. He didn't dare project his own depravity on me. I was not going to torture him. I just needed the information.

Well, like beating the shit out of him was not a torture.

It was a wrong track of thoughts. I needed all my determination to break Schuldich, to make him talk. No scruples... and why would I have them? I'd never wanted to become what I was; I would have never become what I was - if Takatori Reiji hadn't crushed the lives of my family - my life - so mercilessly. It was him who started it; I just had to strike back.

And it was Schuldich and others who took my sister away from me. The fault was on him, not on me.

"You are too good, Aya-kun." Schuldich's voice, even without telepathy, seemed to penetrate right through my mind, cutting deep enough to reach the things in me I didn't know existed. "No one can achieve anything by being so good."

"Tell me. Tell me now." I walked towards him, my fist clasped threateningly.

"I don't know."

I hit him, knowing that he expected it, he couldn't completely make his gaze blank, no matter how he tried. He laughed, snorting blood in his nose, and then broke into a cough.

He probably was getting ill, I thought. It was bitterly cold in the building, as cold as outside - so cold that our breath came out with the clouds of white. Schuldich's thin cotton shirt clung to his body, soaked red on the front where blood leaked from his nose and mouth. I came up to him and started unbuttoning it, trying not to touch him if possible.

He wiggled, striving to get away from me, looking both nervous and cocky.

"Hey, what the fuck are you doing, you pervert! I can't believe it, Aya, I mean I didn't think you were interested..."

I didn't react. His words meant nothing, not one of his words - until he told me the only thing I wanted to hear.

"I am going to make you tell me."


He squirmed as the chilly air lashed over his bare chest. He looked even thinner than when clothed, the contours of his ribs clearly visible under the taut skin. He had an S-like scar going down the ribs, and another one under the collarbone.

There were vivid purple bruises everywhere on his chest - he'd taken it good from the man on the ring and from me. The bruise on his left side looked particularly sensitive - and I knew it was where his cracked rib was.

"You... won't do it..." Schuldich's voice was tight with apprehension but still defiant. His voice and his words pushed me further than I ever wanted to go.

"Oh, won't I?" I prepared to slam my fist into his ribs. I didn't; I thought better. I flicked away the cap of the lighter, and fear in Schuldich's eyes sprang to life again. I could feel him struggle away from me.

"No," he said.

"Not - if you tell me."

"I have no idea where your sister is."

What if he was telling the truth? A careful voice in my head suggested it suddenly and I shrugged it away. It was Schuldich trying to make me believe it, wasn't it? I was not going to fall into this trap.

I brought the flame to his chest and saw a narrow trace of red mark the pale flesh. Schuldich gasped, rose on the tiptoes, as much as he could - but I just moved my hand a little up. He didn't make a sound any more - he seemed to be unable to take a breath.

The flame danced, licking my own fingers as the draft came through the opening in the wall. Red turned brighter shade, almost crimson.

It turned out to be easier to do it that I expected. And I could let it go on as long as it was necessary... couldn't I?

"Nein, nein..." There were these small gasp-like sounds Schuldich made and it took me a few moments to realize these were words. "Take it away..."

"You are going to tell me?" I flicked the cap back, realizing that I did it too readily but going with it. His body slumped against the bonds.

"I don't know."

He tried to shield away from my blows but the ropes didn't let him. He got sick with bile and there was blood coming from his mouth - and I knocked out another tooth.

"Something tells me I'll have more scars than Farfie does."

"You will," I promised.

"Look, Aya... Do you have any idea," his words were half- coherent as he tried to talk through the gasps, "what you are doing?"

"I just want my sister back."

"The cause is sufficient, right?" His voice broke with pain, came off very small. He coughed up some blood, a dark, bright clot of it. "You really believe that?"

"I'll learn to believe in it," I said. The cause *was* sufficient. I closed my eyes and saw my sister's face, felt the warm sweet smell of her body instead of the burnt skin and thick, sickening smell of Schuldich's blood.

"You think it is so easy, don't you? Like you can do these things and just walk out on them later? Do you think you are better than me?"

"I am better," I said. It was not true and I didn't believe it - but what it mattered? With Schuldich not being able to read my thoughts successfully I could lie all I wanted.

"Whatever." Pain made Schuldich's eyes look resentful, like his eyelashes were too heavy to raise them. "Are you really doing it to get your sister back, Aya? Or do you just like doing it? Hitting me, making me scream? Does it turn you on?"

"I guess I am not going to answer it." I shrugged. "I'll keep you wondering."

He called for me when I was leaving, his voice whimsical and painful, nearly making me stop in hesitation:

"You can't just leave me now! I am cold! I am thirsty! I need to piss! Fuck you, Aya..."

He was impossible. After everything I'd done to him, he still thought it would work on me?

This night, lying in my bed and listening to the wind behind the window, I thought about the stares my friends gave to me when I returned.

"Dating someone?" Youji's question caught me as I was going to my room. "Be careful, it seems to wring you out, man."

Omi giggled and Ken looked at me with his warm, oh-so- accepting eyes. Would he be the same accepting if he knew the truth - where I'd been, what I'd done?

They didn't know and they would never know. I had to deal with it myself.

* * *

Schuldich raised his head when hearing my steps. Not so alertly as before - and I felt uneasy as I saw his hazy, too heavy-lidded eyes. My cheeks flushed when I realized what was happening, with irritation at his dumbness, at his bad luck. He tried to say something and coughed instead. Oh no, not that. He was getting really sick. I almost reached to him, to feel if he was in fever - and pulled my hand away abruptly. He was, I knew that. I didn't need to touch him.

His gaze focused on me slowly, taking in my appearance, the long coat I wore today.

"Cool outfit, Aya. Does it mean we are on the mission now?"


The coat was the only garment that hid my katana perfectly.

"I want my headband back." Schuldich's voice was cranky - like he was trying to make me feel ashamed or what. Like he didn't know how little tolerance I had to his diva manners.

I had taken his headband off when checking his head injury - and I saw no reason to give it back now.

"Later," I said.

"And what is for now, Aya?" He tried to sound sarcastic but the soreness of his throat made his voice just a rustle. I saw him wince as if talking hurt. He talked nevertheless; he had a flux of a mouth, couldn't stop even when it was not good for him. "Slivers under the fingernails? I'd probably give you some ideas but I think it is not in my interests."

I looked at his oddly fluttering chest; it seemed he was struggling with every breath both trying to spare his broken ribs and take more air. The burns on his skin looked dark red, ugly.

I found it difficult to look at the things I had done to him - but I found it even more difficult to look in his face.

"Why are you doing this to yourself?" For once I didn't try to press on him; I just wanted to know. Or I even didn't want to know, was suddenly too tired to care. The night just started - and I was already too tired.

"What to say?" It was a weird mixture, his choking voice and irony he still tried to stick to, pointlessly. "Maybe, I am a masochist. Maybe, I am hooked on self-destruction. Maybe, I am just so dumb I don't know what is good for me."

I could feel blood rush away from my cheeks. He'd just taken it all from my mind. I raised my hand to hit him, to make him get out of my head. Maybe, I'd have to hit him harder, several times, put him into near unconsciousness. I couldn't afford him to control me.

He waited for a blow; I could see it in how he cringed, in his widened, black eyes. He looked like a guilty cat waiting for a punishment. And there was something too habitual in this pose, like his body reacted instinctively, without the participation of his mind.

Seeing it and thinking about it angered me more than anything else did.

"Tell me where my sister is."

I had repeated these words so many times during last days that they almost had no meaning for me. I closed my eyes trying to envision the black cross cut on the hospital bed where my sister's had been.

If he didn't tell me where she was...

I barely realized it was the first time when I really contemplated this 'if'. What then? I could give him to the Kritiker; they wouldn't have a problem deciding what to do with him.

Or... I could just... walk out. Maybe, a little while later his telepathic ability would resurrect enough for him to draw someone here to free him. Yeah, if cold didn't kill him first...

But I wouldn't know about it. I could stop now and leave. Never see his unhappy, battered face again, never hear this ragged, agonizing breath. And if I tried, I knew, I would even be able to delete all about it out of my mind. I would be able to look at Omi, Ken and Youji without feeling like they could look through me and see my dark secret, the man tied and tortured in a deserted depot building.

But how would I be able to think about my sister's face knowing that I could've found her if I was a little bit more persistent - and I gave up?

I couldn't fail her again.

"Already leaving?" Schuldich's voice was husky and heavy as I walked to the door. "Bored so fast? No boxing match, no lighter today?"

I didn't stop, didn't turn back. His voice reached me, almost desperate, when I was one stairwell down.

"Think about something better tomorrow, Aya! Maybe, it'll be your last chance."

He was right, too right. I didn't have much time. And I didn't have much choice - that was even truer. If I wanted to know where my sister was, I had to come up with something... With something that would put an end to it. And I had to do it now. It was a matter of being cruel to be kind. If pain didn't work on him... then I had to find something worse. Something that would surely break him.

I tried not to think whether it would break me as well.

* * * The man I found was perfect. Exactly the tool I needed. It took me less than an hour to find him - it was weird how many dubious skills my work had given me. In a different situation, under slightly more extreme circumstances, the man could've been serving the ones we fought and eliminated and been, thus, an enemy.

As it was, I explained him what I wanted and we agreed about the price.

I knew Schuldich didn't expect me to return - not so fast, anyway. He almost seemed out, sagged tiredly in his bonds, just shivering from time to time. But his head snapped up as a piece of stone screeched under the man's boot. For a moment his face became a mask of hope and despair - something he'd never let me see before - something he hid almost momentarily as he realized who we were. His dark, terribly weary eyes blinked in the light of the flashlight.

"Who's that? A new member of Weiss?" There was supposed to be sarcasm in Schuldich's words but there was none in his voice - none could get through the dead exhaustion of it.

The man, tall and broad, moved with residual grace of a lazy animal or of a former athlete; his clothes were a curious mixture between S&M club outfit and gutter rags. A member of Weiss? Schuldich's irony went unnoticed on him, though.

"You sure he likes to play that rough?" He meant Schuldich but he talked to me. Well, no wonder - I paid him.

"I'd never said anything about playing. No questions asked, remember?"

"Oh, Aya, you are breaking my heart..." Schuldich's voice was delirious - so light that it almost sounded like a laughter. Laughter that turned into coughs a moment later. He was probably getting pneumonia, I thought distantly. It took him almost a minute to stop coughing. There were thin trickles of sweat leaking on his temples, despite cold. He talked again, like nothing interrupted him. "You already tired of it being just you and me? Need someone else to make it more fun? Or you don't want to stain you pretty pale hands any more?"

"He likes to chitchat," the man said. "Why don't you gag him?"

"I need his mouth to tell me things," I answered.

"No, you don't..." Schuldich whispered. I wanted him to stop, how dared he make everything he said sound so intimate... But, on the other hand, what did I care? I just had to do what I planned.

I noticed how Schuldich's gaze froze at one point and knew what it meant: ransacking someone's mind. His voice was full of feigned shock as he talked again.

"So, that's what you are going to do... You have a warped mind, Aya."

I did. I'd warped my mind to come up with this idea - and, after everything, I was not sure it would ever be straight again. But I was going to do it. For my sister.

"It doesn't have to happen," I said levelly. "You know that. Just tell me where she is."

"Hey, I get my money in any case," the man put in.

"Of course, you will!" I hated Schuldich's laughter, I hated how he kept talking to the man even though he didn't answer him, totally ignored him. "I don't know where your sister is. Why don't you believe me?"

//Because you don't even make a good pretension that you don't know,// I thought pointedly. If he could read my thoughts, he surely could read this one. He didn't say anything that would show he caught it.

"If you tell me," I said again, "it will be all over then."

"Oh? Like a safeword? What makes you think I'll want to use it?"

He was hopeless. Everything was hopeless.

"Do it," I said to the man.

I settled on the table, folding my arms and hiding my hands under the sleeves of my coat. My fingers felt painfully cold.

The man strolled around Schuldich, with his animal-like neatness of movements - and I wondered suddenly if the smell of blood aroused him. His nostrils moved sharply, he must've been sniffing all the smells - blood and sickness and the whole degradation of the situation. His gaze slid up and down Schuldich's stretched body, stopping appreciatively on the trickles of blood that soaked into the shirt, on the traces I had left on his chest. As the man stopped behind, his hand sneaked around Schuldich, hovering as if hesitantly for a few moments, before his fingers ran over Schuldich's ribcage, down over the burnt skin, scratching, making it bleed.

This hand, blunt-fingered, with black-rimmed, broken nails against Schuldich's abused skin made me suddenly dizzy. But the feeling was faint, too far from surface to worry about it. I didn't want to feel anything and I was not going to. The sight just mesmerized me enough not to pay attention to Schuldich's expression for a little while. It was when the man's hand froze that I realized what was happening.

"Hit him," I ordered. "He is trying to get into your mind. Remember what I told you."

I meant slap him, it would be enough, just like I used to do - and instead of it I saw Schuldich's body thrown forward against the ropes, heard the blunt sound of the blow and Schuldich's painful gasp as the man slammed his fists in his kidneys. Schuldich's eyes opened, wide and black, and I knew he lost the link he tried to establish with the man. I felt relieved. I felt sick, too.

Oh, was it better when I was the one who hit him and made him cry out and try to escape my blows?

"So, that's what he tried to do?" the man muttered. "A funny feeling. Stay away from my head, slut."

He punched Schuldich again, without my order - angry at the attempt of being manipulated. //Well, no one likes it, you should've known,// I thought distinctly, for Schuldich's benefit - but I knew he hardly was able to pick it up, was too occupied with trying to take a breath, the sounds coming from his lips small, soft and pathetic. The sounds that could've belonged to someone young and innocent - like Omi, like my sister - only I would never, never want to hear them in pain.

With Schuldich it was different. He'd brought it all on himself. I'd tried to spare him - no one would say I hadn't.

The man put his arms around him, tugging the belt of Schuldich's pants. With his eyes closed, Schuldich's face looked practically blank - but his body was giving him away - the trembling of the muscles of his abdomen as if he tried to escape the contact with the hands that touched him.

"Do you really think it'll make me talk, Aya - or do you just want to enjoy the show?" His voice was tight, feigning calm.

"If this doesn't make you talk - I'll come up with something else."

A part of me rejoiced at this choice of words, like I made a small victory by coming up with this answer. Schuldich didn't have to know how much I hoped *this* would break him and I wouldn't have to do anything else.

The man pulled Schuldich's zipper down, letting me see a glimpse of the underwear. More than I would ever want to see. I would leave happily without ever seeing one of Schwarz in a position like that, still less orchestrating all this.

They had come into my life. First Takatori Reiji, killing my family, putting my sister into coma - and then they, taking Aya-chan away from me. Every means was justified in this battle. Any of them deserved more than they were getting - and Schuldich most of all.

I just longed for a cigarette. I almost wondered if it was my own wish or the one coming from Schuldich. My fingers curled slightly, as if trying to sense the slender form of a cigarette between them, my nostrils flared as if I could already sense the familiar harsh tang in the air.

The man hooked his thumbs on both Schuldich's pants and boxers and yanked them down.

Well, as far as they could go, anyway, with the tight-fitting clothes Schuldich was wearing and his legs spread wide apart. I felt my gaze un-focus, trying to see and not to see the paleness of Schuldich's belly, the narrow neat scar there - appendicitis? - the darker shade of his pubic hair and the shape of his limp cock. I looked up slowly, at his face. He met my eyes and a smile flickered on his lips.

He still thought it might be as bad for me as it was going to be for him.

The man's movements were rough, jerky, as he tried to yank Schuldich's pants further down - and failed. I saw a flash of steel in his hand and tensed instinctively - but he just sliced against the side seam of Schuldich's pants, letting them fall down.

"Oh, that was nasty..." Schuldich's voice was harsh, mocking. It made me want to hit him - that he still tried to laugh, no matter how insincerely it sounded. "Have you any idea how much they cost me?"

I didn't say anything. The man behind Schuldich answered for me:

"The fuckin' clothes gonna be the least of your troubles."

Well, it was an answer; as good as any other.

"Yeah, I believe you..."

His arrogant voice trailed away as the man settled behind him. I couldn't see it but I realized with a start that I could figure out almost everything, from the way the man's hands were positioned on Schuldich's hips. He must've been using his thumbs to force his way inside.

It hurt; I knew it. Schuldich could think he kept his face empty, with his eyelids half-mast that gave his face almost a dreamy, distant expression. But I could hear pain in his careful breath, in a small vocal sound he gave out as the man's thumbs sank into his body.

I didn't want to see that. I didn't want to understand what was happening, to take in every obscene detail of it. But it was me who'd come up with the idea. I was getting what I paid for.

"You like it, whore, don't you?" the man mumbled working his hands.

I saw it - a trickle of blood, chased by another, running over the inner side of Schuldich's leg. It didn't have to faze me - it was just blood, I'd seen enough of it in my life. I'd seen enough of Schuldich's blood in the last two days.

"He's tight," the man said to me. "I like them tight."

I wanted to tell him I didn't care and I didn't want to listen about his likes and dislikes - but I just shrugged. He wouldn't understand - what was the point? Why would I try to look better in front of him than I really was?

I recalled something, dug in my pocket and took out a square bit of foil. I'd bought it when I understood what I was going to do.

"Use this." I threw the condom to him. The man's reaction was as good as I expected, him having time to wrench his hand out of Schuldich and catch the small package. He looked at it as if he was seeing it for the first time in his life.

"I hate these things. It's not like he's gonna have a baby, right?"

"Use it." I didn't change the tone - but the man conceded. "Well, if you think I can catch something from this slut..."

"You are so considerate, Aya." Schuldich's voice was reedy with pain. I realized with a surprise that I already could distinguish almost every note of pain in his voice, got to learn it for our two nights together. I hated that. I didn't want to know him like that, so intimately. "You don't want AIDS to kill me or what..."

I didn't answer. I decided I wouldn't. He couldn't get through to me like this.

The man was a professional. It took him just seconds, for the zipper to go down, for the rubber to be rolled over his cock one-handedly - and then his hands were on Schuldich's hips again.

I saw the first thrust as clearly as it could've been recorded in one of Youji's skin flicks - Schuldich's body pushed forward and raised on tip-toes with the force the man shoved in with. Schuldich didn't make a sound; his face just sharpened, getting white, getting old - and his eyes, open, were not on me, not mocking me any more but staring nowhere. His gaze never flinched, not even when his body kept jerking at every abrupt, heavy thrust as the man entered him.

And as I watched it, I finally admitted completely what it was I was doing.

*I* was doing it. I never denied the responsibility - and yet I never felt it sharper than at that moment. I was doing it, even if it was not my body turned into a punishing instrument - but, maybe, only because my own body would refuse to cooperate in it.

I was doing it to Schuldich. And I was doing it to myself. I thought I'd break him - but, maybe, the truth was that something in me was getting broken as the resistance of Schuldich's flesh was ruined.

The bitterness of this thought overwhelmed me for a few moments, shielding me from everything else - but then the reality came back. Their bodies were unmoving, almost merged together. Linked - so close, Schuldich's hair hanging like a red curtain, dirty red, against the paleness of his face - as the man held him in his arms, his hands locked on Schuldich's belly, as if he still tried to enter him a tad deeper.

"Is he allowed to enjoy it?" the man asked, his hand brushing over Schuldich's genitals. The question, the gesture was completely obscene. I tried to keep my face empty, my eyes emotionless. "Oh no, I don't think he'll enjoy it." The man smiled showing his blackened, uneven teeth.

He pulled out and slammed back, Schuldich's body thrown forward again, another sigh-gasp escaping him. Suddenly with shocking clarity I realized I wanted a contact with him, wanted him in my mind. To know how he hurt, to know how close to breaking he was, to know if he was plotting again, trying to manipulate me or the man. I wanted to hear his voice in my head, him taunt me, resist me, try to piss me off.

His gaze was fixed, his expression of determination to go through something that was bound to end soon. And he was right, wasn't he? How long could it go on? Fifteen minutes? The man had a reputation of being long-winded - and yet...

"You make me work hard, bitch, fight for every stroke," the man said between the gasps. His fingers were buried in Schuldich's hips, so hard that I could see blood under the crescents of his fingernails. "Is it how you like it?"

Schuldich didn't like it. I intentionally tried not to look at his groin - but with my peripheral sight I could see it: he was soft.

"Well, maybe, you'll like something else better." I realized the man had to be thinking about the same thing. He tossed Schuldich's hair away, baring his neck, sinking his teeth over his collarbone. It made Schuldich give out a small sharp cry.

I didn't know why I was clutching on these little sounds he made. Like I needed a proof he was hurt, he was going to break. He hurt all right, his breath getting broken and sob- like, almost whimpering at a particularly brutal thrust of the man. The little words Schuldich said were in German, and this alone could tell me how far he was gone.

It didn't matter. Nothing mattered except my sister... He had to tell me. He would tell me.

His shriek singed my nerves. The man's hands were on Schuldich's chest now as his mouth was latched on his neck again; fingernails scratching against the blistered flesh. It was bleeding again, this blood mixed with the trickle than ran from under the man's teeth. Schuldich was crying - uncontrollable moans breaking from his lips - and sweat and tears rolled over his face. It surprised me distantly that he could cry. Oh, of course, he could... why did every sign of him being human, an ordinary person surprise me so much?

Why did it frighten me so much?

His cries became faint as the man's slamming grew fast and messy. The man caught my gaze.

"Can I come? Or should I go on?"

"Come," I said. It didn't make any difference.

I watched him climax - them two linked into the most possible closeness, with Schuldich's head braced against the man's shoulder, almost as if in a post- coital exhaustion. But his throat, marred on one side with red-purple circles of bites, was trembling unceasingly as if he tried to swallow and couldn't.

He went limp in the ropes as the man yanked his cock out and pushed him away. With sick feeling I saw more blood rolling on Schuldich's legs.

"Yeah, you were right about the rubber," the man said. "I wouldn't like this mess on my cock."

The juicy sound of the used condom hitting the ground made me wince. And, almost unbelievably, it made a tiny smile flash on Schuldich's bloodless, bitten lips. I couldn't see his eyes, his hair hid them - but his mouth I could see. He smiled at me.

"And this is a bonus for you, bitch." Suddenly the man made a step towards him, reaching his hand between Schuldich's legs. I didn't have time to understand what he was going to do. The motion was abominably cruel. It almost seemed to me I could hear something tear there - the sound drown by Schuldich's desperate shriek, broken in the middle as he blacked out. The man wiped his hand against Schuldich's shirt.

"Are you satisfied?" he asked me.

"Yes. Absolutely." I pulled the money out of my pocket, put it into his hand. He had blood permeating the chaps on his skin, as well as dirt, I could see it very clearly for a moment. He tucked the money away and left without saying another word, without looking back.

* * * I turned to Schuldich and he was still unconscious. His body was limp, hanging down on the ropes, in the circle of unfaltering light - the light that made his skin look bluish, his blood almost black - and his hair incongruously red, alive flame around his face. His breath was so shallow, so hoarse, even though with him oblivious his broken ribs didn't have to hurt. His ballsac the man had wrenched so cruelly already started swelling.

It was not the way I wanted to see him... Without Schuldich looking at me, insulting me, fighting me - it was just not right. Nothing was right. He didn't have to look like this: his narrow body painfully stretched, his tailor-made shirt torn and smeared - and his pants around his knees. So derogatory... I didn't mean that.

Oh well, I surely meant that. I had done it to him for my sister. That was what I was going to remember. Even if I probably would never be able to chase away the memories of his face going white in pain and blood leaking on his legs.

I took a bottle of Perrier from the package I'd brought with me and stepped towards him. The water bubbled as I poured out some of it into my palm. It had to be the sound - or, maybe, my closeness; he came round with a jerk, his eyes with almost no shade of green in them, all black, so close.

The water was running through my fingers as I raised my hand to Schuldich's face. I wanted to let him drink; or, maybe, I wanted to wash some blood off his face. Both things looked weak; I tried not to think about doing them.

He didn't notice my hand. His face was so pale - but almost smooth, the strain evident just in how his body trembled as he tried to move away from me, as far as the ropes allowed him.

"Do you really think it worked, Aya-kun?" For the first few words his voice sounded almost normal - the voice that, if I closed my eyes, would make me see Schuldich as he usually was - ruthless, vain, in charge. It broke then - another fit of cough that sounded like cracking of dry wood. I waited out for it with my eyes closed. "Why do you think it should've broken me? Because it would break you? The worst thing you can imagine happening? Why do you think it had never been done to me before?"

Why? Did I think that? When the thought had come to my mind, I couldn't really think past the horror of it. Yes, the worst thing I could think about. What... did he mean that it'd happened to him before?

"I don't care," I said quietly.

He tossed his head back, laughing. I saw tears running from the corners of his eyes but he probably didn't even notice it.

"Tell me where my sister is," I said.

"Or what?" His voice was sober, humorless just for one moment - and yet there were the golden sparkles of insanity in his pain-dilated pupils. "Or you'll bring someone else to fuck me? Two, three of them?" He was talking faster, even though his voice sounded breathless with the wheezing in his chest. He talked too much. I wanted him to stop. "Or you'll do it yourself, Aya-kun? The passage is broken for you, it won't hurt you nearly as much as me. Or will you put something else inside me? Your fist? The bottle? Your katana?"

"Shut up!" I backhanded him, messily, his hair slithering against my palm like soft seaweed. Blood appeared on his lips.

"Shut up, Aya? First you want me to talk - and then you want me to keep silent? You'd better first decide what it is you want from me."

I couldn't stand his feverish, giggling voice - no more. I hit him with the bottle, across his chest, the blow sounding surprisingly heavy. The water splashed on my hand and on Schuldich's shirt. The sound Schuldich made was pure agony, his eyes staying shut as he apparently waited for the pain to subside. His voice had that broken note in it as he talked again, with mock-reproach.

"You cracked me another rib, you know? Well done. Not as good as with a golf club - but it still works."

I let the bottle slip out of my hand.

"Shut up..."

I put my hands on his ribcage, unmistakably on the both places where his broken ribs were. I could feel the slight shift of the bones under his skin - and how he held his breath, his body taut as a string in my hands. I knew he was afraid - I'd learned him so well during that time, every expression of his.

*This* somehow felt right - touching him again, hurting him again by my own hand. It'd been a mistake to bring someone else, the man, to try to spare my body from the participation in this ugly dance of pain and destruction. All the last years - or, maybe, all my life I was trying to keep myself from a contact with anyone else, from any intimacy that could be turned against me - and I was right about it, I knew the threat. But now I didn't care. Whatever I was going to do, I had to do it myself.

I jammed my fingers into the fragile places and Schuldich's moan reverberated through my body, so close we stood. I felt him strive up and away from me - yet to be thrown back into my grip by the ropes that held him. His eyes were slightly open but no irises visible, just the whites.

He slumped in my arms, against my shoulder - and I held him in my arms. I felt his smell. It was an assault on my senses, all this blood, old and fresh, that was soaking into the front of my coat - and the man's smell on him. And I knew that the slight, salty tang that I could feel from Schuldich's face were his tears drying out.

He moved convulsively, taking a shuddering breath - his body on the verge of consciousness making a weird dance of struggling away from my grip and somehow snuggling closer, maybe, because I was warm. I moved my arms away quickly, almost superstitiously.

"Aya..." It took him two gasps to say my short name. I felt something break inside me, going down swiftly, like an avalanche. I couldn't... I had to get to know where my sister was...

"Please tell me."

Now I begged. I could barely believe my voice could sound so pleading - but I didn't care, it didn't matter how I sounded, what I said, I was ready to say anything just to make him talk. Saying anything was surely the lesser price than doing to him... anything.

"Why don't you tell me? What is she for you - she is just a girl, she is useless. Even if she is of any use for you - is it worth going through all of this? Is keeping her worth it, is being loyal to your employers or whoever worth it?"

I saw him swallow. His lips were so dry I didn't know how he still could talk. His eyes were half-closed - and I waited, I hoped - I wanted to believe I had managed to break something in him and it'd given way. Just like his broken ribs gave in under my pressure.

"I'll tell you and you kill me? Find another fool," he said tiredly.

I felt a flood of relief - relief so strong that it hurt, it swelled my chest, didn't let me breathe. Tears choked me but I couldn't cry, they never came out.

"Schuldich, I won't kill you. I swear I won't. Maybe, later, in a fight - but now, if you tell me - I'll let you go. I swear with my sister's life on it."

He knew I was telling the truth; I couldn't give a more significant vow to him.

I looked at him; he shivered, his eyes, surrounded by blackness, were closed and his lips were a white line crossed with bleeding splits. I waited.

"Tell me. Tell me, fuck you, fuck you to hell!"

He couldn't be silent! Not now, not when I'd broken him. I hit him and his head dangled and I caught him by his shoulders, clasping my fists on the flimsy cloth of his shirt, shaking him.

If he was not broken, then I was. I was weak and a failure. I was giving up.

"I just want my sister back. Is it so much? I just want her back, she is the only person in the world I have! You bastard, do I have to kill you? I swear I'll kill you now!"

I reached for my katana and unsheathed it, the sound it made against the cloth like a snake's hiss. I held my arm around Schuldich's body, not letting him move - and he didn't try.

His hair was soft against my cheek as his head almost lay on my shoulder. I could feel his thin body pressed to me, so close - it couldn't really be any closer. I could feel his ribs under my hand, whole and broken - and, through the thin material of his shirt, the old scars on his back. I had never held anyone so close before - and what an irony was it was that the one I held was my enemy and tortured by me and I was going to kill him now.

His chest was pressed to mine and I knew it had to hurt him, the buckles of my coat against the burns on his skin - but Schuldich didn't try to get away, he even stopped shivering. Maybe, he was not cold any more. And he didn't feel cold - he felt like he was on fire, his skin almost burning against my fingers. The place where our groins were connected burned, his uncovered, soft cock against mine. I didn't realize it until my arm made a convulsive movement, trying to pull him even closer, my hand sliding over his back, touching the smooth skin of his flank, so close to his ass. A little more and I knew I could smear my fingers with sticky blood that still leaked out of his torn opening.

His broken breath resounded through my chest - and I could hear the fluttering of his heart. I raised the katana and pointed its tip between his ribs, there where I knew his heart was. I had to move my arm far away to do it, the katana was so long. And so sharp it started sinking between his ribs almost without me pushing it.

I stilled my hand.

Not yet. Please not yet. Just one minute more. It had to be his thoughts, not mine. He was going to die, I didn't. Had I ever hesitated before killing an enemy?

I grabbed his hair and yanked his face up - and his lips were parted as if he knew what I was going to do. Well, with Schuldich there was no need in 'as if'. I plunged my tongue between his bleeding lips, into the dry, bitter taste of his mouth. I felt him struggle away from me - as if I hurt him. But his tongue caught mine and drew it deeper into his mouth.

I had never kissed anyone like that before. There was no gentleness in it, no caring, no thought of the other's pleasure. I knew I would never kiss anyone like that again. If I was ever to kiss anyone, it would be soft and giving and lingering and light and sweet - and not with me sobbing in Schuldich's mouth and his blood slithering over the blade of my katana, wetting my hand.

I pulled his face away from mine, holding his hair. There was blood smeared around his mouth - his blood that I could taste on my tongue. I kissed his face, feeling the salt of his tears.

"How I hate you," I whispered between the kisses. "I had never hated anyone more than you, even Takatori."

"I know," he said.

I pressed him to me again, my hand in his hair not gripping any more but putting his head on my shoulder, patting through the soft mess of his hair. His burning temple was pressed to mine. The katana stuck between his ribs, not going further. I started turning it flat.

//She is with Schreient girls. They have this warehouse fit out for a laboratory in Asakusa.//

I heard it in my mind. His voice so clear, so distinct, nothing of shivering, breathless quality in it.

I pulled the tip of the katana out of the shallow wound. Less than an inch of steel was smeared in blood. But, maybe, an inch more and it would be too late.

I stepped away from Schuldich. A part of me was mesmerized that I felt no joy at his words, rather disappointment - that I had to let him go, that there was no more reason for me to hold him. It's because he probably lied to me, I made myself think.

//No, I didn't. You know that.//

"How can I know?" My own voice sounded unfamiliar - so bitter, so broken. As if there was nothing whole in me any more. But - there wasn't.

I didn't know if I believed him. And even if he lied - it still changed nothing. I couldn't go through it with him once more.

I looked at him. There was an exhausted, half-expectant, half-apprehensive expression on his face. Like he didn't know if I was going to keep my promise. My katana flashed, cutting the ropes that tied his hands.

He flopped on his knees, with his ankles still tied apart - and his arms fell against the ground in front of him deadly. He moved them with an excruciating effort, freeing his wrists from the loosened ropes. I saw the bracelets of raw flesh on his skin.

I cut his ankle bonds with two more motions, the katana whistling in the air, but Schuldich didn't flinch at the sound. He moved awkwardly, pulling his legs under himself. I could see the sharp little stones cutting his knees but he seemed not to notice it.

What was I still doing here, watching him? I should've been away, looking for my sister, before Schuldich gathered enough strength to get out and warn his employers of his mistake.

I stayed.

In the circle of light, Schuldich's pale hands groped blindly. I couldn't understand what he was doing - until he picked up his headband and his glasses from the floor and pulled them to his chest. There was something so absurd in it, something that made me feel anger against him - that he had to reach for these worthless things first, his shades having one glass gone and the other all cracked. Like he had nothing else to do, nothing else to fix.

His fingers were clawed, he couldn't really close them as he held his things to his chest.

"You broke my glasses, you know that?" he mumbled.

"You'll buy new ones," I said.

"They don't make this model any more, you moron."

I couldn't help it - laughter bubbled in my throat, and I didn't know what was more dangerous: to try to stifle it or to let it go and turn into a cry of anguish. I'd thought I would feel happy when Schuldich told me, I would feel easy and light. But I didn't; nothing was easy.

Nothing would ever be again.

I looked at Schuldich, on his knees in front of me, curled protectively around his stupid things. I should've hated him - for what he'd done to me, for ruining everything - because deep down I knew everything was ruined. Nothing would be the same any more. Maybe, it was his plan all the way - to take me so deep into darkness so that there was no way back.

But even if it was his plan, I wondered if he knew what I felt when holding him in my arms and hating and wanting him more than anyone ever. There was a moment then when he became the center of my life, more important than anything else in it was.

I knew I would never be able to forget it.

The feeling was gone now; I could see him soberly again - bleeding, sick and pathetic - but still vain, careless and manipulative as always. Schuldich I knew. Schuldich I could fight when we met next time.

I heard him cough, a painful sound that seemed to tear his lungs. It surely sounded like pneumonia. But well, there were medicines for that. He would be taken care of as soon as he got to Schwarz.

He'd get to Schwarz, I didn't doubt it. He just, maybe, didn't have enough clothes for the night this cold. I reached for the buckles of my coat, loosening them slowly.

His head snapped up, his eyes green - surrounded by the deep shadows but cat- like green.

"Don't bother. You'll need it to hide your katana under it."

"Stop reading my thoughts," I whispered.

"Make me." He was baiting me. I almost couldn't be angry with him; just how stupid he could be.

I turned away from him and walked to the door.

"See you," Schuldich said behind me.

I didn't answer.

"You know your sister is probably already not there." His voice caught me again, making me stop. "I bet Crawford had a vision and they moved her somewhere else. They even could set a trap for you."

The wall hit painfully against my shoulder as I swayed slightly. He was right, I knew it, he was probably right. But if it was a trap, at least I was not taking my friends into it.

I was going there alone.


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