It was a horrible day for a funeral.
It was a horrible day for a funeral.
That was really the only thought that went through his head as he watched. Observed, really. All from a distance, the back of the temple, where no one would think to look when that smiling portrait demanded attention. It was a large group, considering, and those who were there seemed genuine enough in their mourning.
But still. It was bright, sun streaming through windows and cracks in the doors.
Ken thought that Nature could at least have provided a bit of grey in the sky. Something to make the situation that much easier to accept.
Youji had always had a thing for rain.
So, this is how the first of us goes, Ken mused. His hair was shorter now. Clothes newer and eyes a bit calmer, that expression a person found themselves with when they realized there was no escape, just this, and simply stopped fighting.
Ken rather liked the expression. Jaded, Youji had called it, as if it were the very definition of the playboy himself.
A bell rang, somewhere.
Another passing, this one of time.
Shaking his head, the ex-Weiss member looked away from a white grin and blond hair. The more tangible were a mixed variety. Probably half the population of redheads in Japan were amongst the crowd. All two of them.
But Aya-Ran, now-wouldn't look at anyone and Manx was nowhere near the woman she once was. None of them were. None of them could be. Flashy threads and razor-edged weapons replaced by dull suits and dying lilies. Amongst rows of black hair, those two would always manage to stick out. But it was /different/.
Omi had showed up, of course, in a black limo with a crew of dark-shaded guards. Paid his respects to the dead as others paid respect to him.
What a mess.
Ken noticed he was lingering, eyes and mind, and stopped. Youji probably wouldn't have dwelled. The blond would have lit a cigarette and cracked open a can of beer in toast before getting laid for the team.
Half the team had given him trouble for that.
Ken thought Youji was probably the smartest of the lot.
"You're probably right, Hidaka."
Startled, the brunette jumped and turned to the speaker, one arm half-raised in defense or attack. Whatever was deemed necessary.
"Ah, ah. No fighting here. Old instincts die hard though, huh?"
"You look different too," was all Ken said, inching back with a wary eye. As if he would really cause a scene here, now, with everything bare and everything hollow.
And Schuldig did look different. At least, from the last time that the German had made himself known. Sleek and aged, as if the kid had finally grown up. Longer rust-colored hair tied into a low ponytail, no longer untamed. Black lenses hid what used to be wicked eyes and charm. Another damn suit.
Ken wished the German would smirk.
"Oh, I'll get to that, Kitten. Just give me a second," Schuldig drawled. His hands were stuffed into the pockets of his trench coat, the vague outline of a fist. No weapon, but since when did the telepath really need one. "I'd have thought you'd appreciate the fact that I'm not attacking you as we speak."
"I do. I guess. Why are you here? When did you come back to Japan?" It had, as far as the Wiess member knew, been years since Schwarz had been spotted in his home country.
The redhead shrugged a shoulder, one red brow arched but not looking towards his companion. "Same reason you are, I suppose. And I've been here for those very same years, off and on. You just didn't need to know about it."
Ken bristled, the same righteous anger he had once held onto for dear life returning for a brief moment. It felt good. "If you're here to start trouble, you bastard, you'll be the next portrait hanging on that wall."
Thin shoulders tensed, mouth tightened, then it was done and finished, loose limbs and sullen nature. Not caring, not wanting, not anything but a man who had probably been through more than Ken could conceive of.
Unsure now, the Japanese man dropped his act, a feeling of disappointment as it drained away. "You didn't even like any of us. We were enemies, I mean..."
"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to assume things?" Schuldig asked, lips quirking and finally looking at the other man.
"Why, what did yours tell you?"
"Nothing. Didn't have one, but I still know not to take wild guesses in the dark. Your buddy just didn't mention anything to the rest of his litter. You wouldn't have gotten it anyway."
The brunette frowned. "Youji didn't like you."
"Youji knew when to let a pointless grudge drop."
"/You/ hated /us/."
"Don't take that personally. I hate myself on most days too. I'm pretty fair in my giving." Schuldig snorted, seemingly amused. He looked towards the coffin once more and Ken was given the impression that the conversation was over. To the German, at least.
"Should have quite when I told you to, Kudo. It was a nice run though. Save a spot at the bar for me down in hell." A smirk and salute to a body and memory, then the telepath turned and walked out the door, ponytail trailing after him in a curl of fire.
"What do you mean? Were you responsible?" Ken near shouted, stalking towards the taller man. He grabbed one black clad arm and twisted, making the redhead halt his escape.
Schuldig moved as fast as he ever did, viper strike with no warning and Ken was up against the side of a wall, one scarred hand twisting into the collar of his shirt. "I'm not going to be your fucking scapegoat for this one, kid. You and your little team barely spoke a word to him after the shit hit the fan. But guess who did? Guess who used to grab a drink and a smoke with him, take a ride in that stupid-ass car of his, even just sit on the couch and reminisce?"
The choking grip eased and fell away. Schuldig snatched the sunglasses off his face and rubbed his eyes. They were bloodshot. "I'm fuckin tired, Hidaka, and so was Youji. At least now he's getting some peace and quiet."
"Shit," Schuldig continued, glaring at the scenery around them. "Fucking horrible day for a funeral. He would have hated this."
Ken couldn't help it. He laughed.
"Jesus, the idiot finally snapped," the German muttered, watching with a vaguely astonished expression. "How could you even blame me for his death to begin with? It was lung cancer."
With a wheezing sound, Ken shook his head, helpless, one hand waving in a "how the hell should I know?" gesture.
Eventually his apparent delirium faded. Blue eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, face flushed and hiccups making his chest hitch. He thought he might feel better now.
Schuldig watched, knowing, and Ken caught a glimpse of that jaded acceptance he had missed seeing reflected back at him. Comfortable and familiar. Something to grab, if only momentarily.
Then the sunglasses went back on, hiding them from harsh light and prying eyes.
Too late, Schwarz, I saw what I needed to see, Ken thought.
Schuldig offered a wry curl of lips. "Sure you did. Now, do you want to go get smashed with me or do I have to find some other company?"
Ken considered. Decided he couldn't wander back into that bright shrine. "Why me?"
"Kudo always liked you, kitty. You might just be entertaining enough for me," Schuldig drawled, already setting off in a seemingly random direction. "Besides, he thought you needed to get laid big time. What better opportunity than a funeral?"
The brunette choked.
Somewhere, Youji was laughing his ass off. He just knew it.
Because some things never change.