Nagi/Schuldig (between Kapitel and Glühen). Sometimes beginnings are also endings.
Work was at night, if at all - the jobs dried up for weeks on end. Only the pettily ambitious were fool enough to want assassinations in this weather, and Schwarz didn't work for the petty.
Crawford offered him solo work from time to time; Nagi was flattered by the responsibility. It was hard to tell what Crawford wanted, overall, but he didn't seem to be displeasing him.
Nagi would explore his own body after washing, in the bathroom with the door locked. His profile, wondering how it would look without his eyes straining sideways towards the mirror. The small grotesqueries of his body. The creases in his belly that came from sitting hunched over with his legs drawn up. Quasi-scientifically, he might compare the effect of his teeth on his shoulder and the inside of his wrist, or check whether licking his elbow really was impossible like Schuldig said it was (it was). A routine comfort - he'd been doing this ever since he was old enough to bathe alone.
Sometimes as well, he used to sit on the floor of his room and listen in - for want of a better word - on the psychic backwash as Schuldig jerked off in the shower on the other side of the wall. He called it morbid curiosity rather than arousal at first; and when he changed his mind about that, he decided it didn't count anyway.
He observed Schuldig when he was tired and less likely to notice or complain. Watched him sprawled out on the sofa with his eyes half-closed, blunted rather than softened by the wearing on of the day. He looked different when he was asleep. Without motion, his face seemed oddly proportioned - the mouth a little too wide, the angle of the neck almost alarming, such that Nagi always wanted to wake him and check it hadn't been snapped. There was a bruise on his cheek today, faded to the murky colour of old seawater; from the last job, that one that had gone a bit funny.
A sense memory, the feel of the cool back of a blade against his neck, under his hair, /snik/. Everyday, intimate, the danger a tantalising shadow. Schuldig always used to cut Nagi's hair for him, when he was a kid. Hell, he still did. Someone had to, and it was easier than trying to look at the back of his own head. Now, though, he was - not taller than Schuldig, but as broad across the shoulders and straight-backed, confident with his telekinesis. He'd developed a taste for bitter foods, learned how to use a veneer of polite mock-sincerity to his advantage. Did this count? Schuldig still put sugar in everything he drank - what did that count for?
He was flighty and sadistic, he was intrusive, he treated Nagi like a kid. He had a funny accent, thick and glottal on the R, but only when he was angry, which only happened when he was upset. Otherwise, things that should have pissed him off just amused him. Nagi was used to Schuldig. For all that it made things difficult to measure, that was something that counted.
He'd let Nagi sleep in his bed too, Schuldig, when he was - life had taught Nagi never to trust anyone, but he was ten years old at the time and still child enough to fear being alone in the dark. Schuldig talked in his sleep, and had a habit of thrashing around and kicking the blankets off.
Wandering back from the convenience store as the tarmac began to sweat and wobble with heat-hazed air, Schuldig announced, 'I want to shoot something.'
'You can't put a gun rig on underneath that vest,' objected Nagi, practical.
Schuldig looked at him, /Oh yeah?/, lips wet and sugar-sticky from the neon-bright orange ice pop he was eating. 'Hey, look,' - he plucked the stick of Nagi's finished pop out of his hands - 'It says you've won.'
'Let's go to the beach instead,' said Nagi, to divert him.
They vaulted the barrier so as not to have to pay and got the train out of Tokyo, then rode a branch line through the next prefecture - right to the end, where it was tired and near-empty and smelling of old industry. There was a lone stand selling packaged snack food and shrimping nets above the shored-up fishing boats on the beach. Schuldig and Nagi walked, and kicked at the chemical spume at the edge of the water, and threw stones into the sea.
'This was a fucking stupid idea, coming here,' said Schuldig.
'Sorry. I was just -- thinking,' said Nagi.
He watched Schuldig go on before him, further up the beach. He had a shapeless purple vest on that exposed his pale arms, let show the needle-roughened skin on the inside of his elbows. 'Not that way, okay, kid?' Schuldig had told him once, when he had looked for a little too long. 'Medical stuff.'
I was just -- thinking. After the tower fell, he had pulled everyone out - or so Crawford told him; he didn't actually remember - and then slept for a week. 'That was kind of creepy, you know,' said Schuldig, catching the thought. We were starting to think you wouldn't wake up.
'Oi.' Never asked before butting in telepathically. He did it to everyone - it would be more adult to ignore him, probably, but. Nagi wanted him to do something. He knew Schuldig wanted him to do something; felt him as a copper spring, coiled, when he closed his eyes.
He could close his eyes and still see now. Ever since he'd woken up after the tower, it had been there, shimmering and biddable where once it had been obscure; this power, ghosting across his vision like after-images of the sun. It was a bit like predicting the future. Kinesis, of course, but potential as well.
At some point, he had started to respond to Schuldig's cheerful invasion of his personal space with pushing back of his own. Every time, Schuldig wound himself a little tighter - before, he'd just laugh or take out petty revenge at the next opportunity. Weird, but still, there was nothing better to do that summer anyway. Come September, Nagi would have to watch his back again and talk in code and get some decent clothes maybe, ones that ironed well. Crawford had suggested he might do well to work a while as an independent unit, get some practice in, and Nagi agreed with him.
In the station on the way home, the yellow light permeated everything but the shadows, which were purple. The hairs on their skin looked golden; Schuldig's mane bleached out. He was quiet, his face half-shadowed and inscrutable, smoke trickling from his mouth.
Nagi idled before the door, sweeping dead beetles through the railings with his feet as Schuldig drew back the bolts. 'Hey, you know --', he started.
Schuldig snapped back at him, 'What?', half turned. 'You've been making me twitchy all day, you spaz.'
'You -- '. Enough already.
A step, and he was pinning him upright there, outside their flat, holding him at the one wrist and the other shoulder. Intoxicating, that he could actually do this, that it was okay to do this. Their bodies aligned, almost-touching, taut with surprise and with potential.
And then, Schuldig smirk-smiled at him, encouraging and mocking - Well? - and he couldn't not rise to that; he kissed Schuldig hard, pushing back so much that Schuldig's hair fanned out flat like a halo against the wall. He tasted a bit of sweat and salt-grime now as well as the cheap, sweetly chemical stuff he usually smelled of - hairspray, cigarettes, cherry menthol chewing gum. The air around them hummed with cicada noise, and the cracking sound of the drainpipes cooling and contracting with the setting sun.
Schuldig was thin as a wire, thin and mean in his bed; he taunted Nagi for his clumsy hands, easy as a brother and cruel. It was a comfort, in its own way. His mouth tasted of thunderstorms - Nagi didn't notice till afterwards the blood drying in the dent of Schuldig's upper lip.
He could have killed him. Really, he could have killed him - a little more pressure, a little further back - and Schuldig had still let him do it. Maybe he was the type to get off on that sort of thing; Nagi didn't know. He listened out vaguely for the sound of the others coming back in. It was almost dark outside. The sheets were starting to stick in uncomfortable places, but he couldn't get up without disturbing Schuldig, who had gone to sleep and was mumbling in the same way he'd used to when Nagi first slept with him as a kid, when it was just sleeping.
'So, you're fucking him?'
'Schuldig. Not everyone thinks like you.'
'He said, I'd have a place there. Some kind of assurance, not all this freelance stuff. It makes sense.'
'Do you like him?'
'You sound like Crawford.'
'You like Crawford. Why are you angry with me? I thought you'd be pleased. It's not like I'm leaving the country. Schuldig -- '
'Okay. So, what about him?'
'I think he's -- interesting, okay?
'Interesting like that dead girl?'
'Don't be so juvenile. Schuldig, please. Look at me, Schuldig. Schuldig -- '
'...hey. Hey, quit that.'
'Say, Schuldig, do you have a cigarette?'