Now the fic is finally finished, I want to thank all the wonderful people who've reviewed it and given me encouragement. I know I haven't replied to any reviews, but I'm really, really grateful that you took the time out just to let me know you liked it. It'd take way too long to reply to everyone here (which was my original intention), so I'm going to have to settle for thanking the following people:

Gale, Leah, Krimson, Bea-chan, Lupin, Kato_chan, Suisei Lady Dragon, Weiss Assassin, Chibi-chan, Rikkali, Phantom_Sunstorm, Joanna, random person, Pandora.81, Li, E-san, Fehu, Tysoyo Kalli, Sylph, MiniMorr, Lexicon Katzchen, Shi-chan, Laz, Tritorella, Vesta, Kelly, Tina, Cayenne, Miss J, Black Kitten, Evil Butterflies, Mon, Kisara-chan, Myka, Reillu, and Brennend.

I think I got everyone. ^_^

Extra special thanks go to my darling Min, who helped me brainstorm parts 5 & 6, betaed part 6, and told me where I was going wrong on the original ending. The fic is dedicated to Karen, as always, for being one of the most ultra spiffy people I have never met face to face. (Not to mention for being visitor #666 to my WK site, the Temple of Lunacy. ^_^)

Warnings: lots and lots of language, angst, and . . . some light smut. I can't work out if the smut counts as a lime or not - all I know is that it isn't a lemon. It was originally going to be a lemon, but then Schu decided he wanted plot instead. O.o Yeah, I know.
Pairing: I've finally got to the Schu/Yohji. ^__________^
Disclaimer: not mine, but damn I wish they were.
Archive: got moved around again. ^_^ Try Demented Minds (URL on profile page) for my ficcies.

by Anria
Part 6

I wake the next morning, and remember.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yohji hasn't come to the bar tonight. I feel like I should go apologise, but – fuck that. He started it.

Shit, I didn't just think that, did I?

I sigh, staring blankly at the row of bottles in front of me for a moment, before grabbing the one I need. I can't wait for this fucking shift to end, so I can go home and wallow in self-pity in peace. Is this how fights between friends are supposed to go? I thought most people fought, then made up, and then everything was hunky-dory again.

Maybe it's just me. I tend to screw up everything I touch, after all.


I move on autopilot, handing out drinks and collecting cash without really thinking about it. I didn't think . . . I didn't realise just how much of a space Yohji takes up in my life.

Took up. Took up.


But for crap's sake, it can't be normal to be missing one person this much. I mean, he's still alive, if I really wanted to I could just walk right up to his apartment and see him again. So it makes no sense to be missing him – which just means I'm being fucking stupid.

Right, time to stop.

I'm just fucking fine.

Just . . . fine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's been three days, and I'm bored out of my tiny little skull.

I bought a clock. Not a digital one, one of those irritating ones that goes tic toc the whole bloody time. The noise it generates makes my shithole seem less empty.

I shift on my bed, causing the springs to squeak and groan ominously. Rolling my eyes, I tuck one arm behind my head and take a drink from the bottle in my other hand, ignoring it. If the bed's gonna give out, it'll give out no matter what I do – I'm not likely to be having energetic sex on it any time soon, so who gives a fuck?

I'll need another drink soon. Heh. My shithole's turned into something like an abandoned bottle bank recently – recently being in the past three days. I don't remember drinking this much when Yohji was around.

. . .

Yohji, Yohji, why do my thoughts always come back to fucking Yohji? It's not like I give a shit! If he wants to throw a fucking tantrum and piss me the hell off, he can deal with the fucking consequences. It's not like it bothers me if I haven't seen him for three days. I don't give a shit. I don't.

"I hope you're fucking drinking yourself into a grave," I mutter, and down the rest of the bottle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Out of idle curiosity, I take up working on my shields again.

I figure the safest place I can do that is in the bar. There, even if I do cock up and blow my shields to hell and back, it won't matter because the only people who'll be around me will be self-absorbed drunken sots. Trust me, they are not the most stimulating – in either a good or bad way – of mental conversationalists.

I've worked here so long that I can do pretty much everything on autopilot. I let my mind wander, and try bludgeoning my shield, stabbing it, melting it, dissolving it, even fucking drowning it, and nothing works.

Shields belonging to a telepath are a bitch to deal with.


It's not just me that has a bitch for shields, though – any telepath's shield is strongly keyed into their weaknesses. What they'd yield to in real life is what their shield would yield to.

Which is why this is so fucking difficult. I never thought the day would come when I'd be cursing myself for being resistant to damn near everything.

I scowl at a mug ring on the surface of the bar, then turn and tell the boss I'm taking a cigarette break.

The alley behind the bar is dark, smelly, and damp. Pretty much standard fare, and I've got to know it too fucking well recently. Ever since Y—

No! No, dammit! I am not going to think about him!

I yank my pack of cigarettes out of my shirt pocket and light one hurriedly, inhaling deeply. I've been smoking more recently. Drinking more, too. Anything so I don't have to listen to the thoughts in my head for a while, though I've been lucky in avoiding the harder drugs so far.

It just occurred to me that the only thoughts I want to escape right now are my own. There's irony for you.

The door to the bar opens beside me with a squeak, and my boss steps out. He's a big guy for a Jap, almost as tall as me and about three times as wide. Got a bullshit tolerance of zero and absolutely no sense of humour, but still . . . he's a good guy to work for. Better than some I could name.

"Hey, kid," he says, looking straight at me. "You okay?"

I snort and turn away, taking a drag on my cigarette. "Just fucking peachy," I mutter, tucking the pack back into my pocket. Just what I need – my boss suddenly developing a pressing need to delve into my emotional well-being. Maybe if I ignore him he'll go the fuck away.

"Only . . . I haven't seen that friend of yours, for a while. Kudou, was it?"

Oh, great. Maybe bitchiness will work. "What's your fucking point?"

He folds his arms over his chest, leaning against the door frame. One foot is propping the heavy metal door open, which is just as well because otherwise we'd be locked out. I spare a moment to wonder who's watching the bar, then decide it's not my problem.

The boss' voice is totally neutral as he says, "The two of you have a fight?"

I finish my cigarette and drop it to the ground, crushing it under a boot heel. "You make us sound like a fucking couple."

There's no mistaking the surprise on his face. "You mean you aren't?"

"What the fuck?" I stare at him in complete shock. "Where the hell did you get that from?"

He shrugs his massive shoulders, face impassive again. "I must've read wrong, then. Sorry." With that, he disappears back inside.

I stand there in mute shock for a moment, staring at the now-closed metal door.

"You make us sound like a fucking couple."

"You mean you aren't?"

Fuck. Just . . . fuck.

I slump back against the wall, not caring what crap I'm getting on my clothes. A bunch of emotions I don't understand and can't fucking deal with well up inside me, stealing the strength from my limbs and grabbing my composure too, just for the hell of it.

I press a hand to my face, shaking a little. I can't deal with this, I just can't

Okay. Focus, Schuldig. Breathe.

I can't, I can't fucking—

My shields. I was trying to work out how to get through my shields. I grab onto the thought like a lifeline, desperately trying to focus on something as fucking unrelated as it can get before I break down, and—


I hammer at them with everything I've got, pounding the crap out of my walls from within my own head. I try everything I've tried before, and nothing works because nothing is ever going to work and I'll just be fucking stuck like this, on my own forever because I fucked up—

Please, I beg myself, please just fucking open up a fucking hole in the fucking shields for me before I start fucking crying—

—and there it is.

I don't believe it.

I don't fucking believe it.

I start to laugh, one hand over my face and the other arm wrapped around my stomach, and if it sounds hysterical, if it sounds like the laughter of a madman, I don't really care. It's so . . . so stupid.

It's so me.

All I had to do was say 'please'.

My breath hitches in the middle of my laughter, and I choke on the sudden tears that well up. All I can think of is one thing, feeling it more fervently than anything I've ever felt before.

I want to see Yohji.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I abandon the bar and run all the way to his apartment block. I hammer on the door until a security guard opens and I shove past him, slamming him hard into the doorframe on the way and knocking him out. I don't spare a moment to think of him, though, running up the stairs and down the corridor and to a dead halt right in front of his door.

And suddenly, the force of emotion that drove me all the way here is just . . . gone.

All that's left is me, and a door.

I'd left my coat back at the bar, and it started to rain while I was running. One of those goddamn annoying rains that's just a fucking drizzle but still gets you soaking wet. I'm out of breath, panting hard, and my clothes are sticking to my skin in awkward places.

What the hell am I doing here?

I don't know the answer to the question.

I just . . . I just. . . .

I have to leave.

The instant I make that decision, the door opens, and Yohji's standing there.

Talk about your damn ironies. I stare at him, mute, frozen still and feeling like an absolute prat because I can't think of anything to say. Not when I haven't seen him for five days – five days that feel like a lifetime – and when he looks like death warmed over.

The smell of his apartment drifts out. It stinks of alcohol, and so does he.

Yohji's staring at me, his green eyes wide. I can't stop myself thinking that even when bloodshot, I've never seen anything more beautiful.

His lips move, and his voice emerges as a croak. "Schu?"

I jump, and the strange paralysis that took me over dissolves. "Uh . . . yeah," I say. Oh, great, that was smooth. "Um . . . can I come in?"

Yohji stares at me for a moment, then moves aside, holding the door open. I force myself into his apartment before I can change my mind and bolt.

The automatic lock on the door clicks into place as it shuts, and suddenly I'm terrified.

I stumble into the living room and stop, standing a little stupidly in the middle of the carpet. I feel out of place, my black shirt and trousers contrasting starkly against Yohji's white room.

I'm dripping on the carpet.

Yohji follows me slowly, and stops near the doorway to the kitchen. The only light on in the apartment is in there, silhouetting him and . . . fucking hell, he looks like shit. His clothes are rumpled, his eyes are bloodshot, there's stubble on his chin and he doesn't look like he's slept in days.

I feel sick, suddenly. I feel like this is my fault. And I don't know what to say.

We stand there for an infinite moment, just looking at each other, and suddenly I have so much to say that I just don't know where to begin – I want to say I'm sorry, I want to say he looks like crap, I want to say I missed him, I want to say I care about him more than anyone I ever met before—

"You're wet," Yohji observes, breaking the silence.

I swallow. "Yeah," I say, a little stupidly. "It's . . . it's raining outside."

He shifts position slightly, looking uncomfortable. "Schu—"

"I'm sorry!" I cry, the words bursting out from inside me. "I'm so fucking sorry, and I would've said it sooner but I'm a fucking retard and convinced myself I didn't care, but I do care and I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been such a prat, I—"

In two swift strides Yohji crosses the room, and I gasp as I'm suddenly swept up in a fierce hug, his arms crushing me tight to him. "You shouldn't be sorry," he mutters into my shoulder. "You shouldn't be, it was my fault, my fucking fault—"

And then I'm holding him back, squeezing, trying to press myself as close as I can and is this what friends do, too?

The hug is a little awkward, with Yohji trying to hold himself away from the patches of bare skin on my face and neck and yet hold me as close as he possibly can. We keep babbling platitudes to each other but I'm not hearing a word because it doesn't fucking matter since I have Yohji back again. Nothing matters, next to that.

"I wish I could touch you," he mutters, arms tightening further. Fuck, I'm gonna have bruised ribs in the morning, but—

"You can," I say, pulling back a little to yank off one of my gloves, touching his cheek. "I figured it out, and you can touch me now—"

I cut myself off abruptly as I get a good look at his expression. His eyes are glittering, and the look on his face. . . .

For a long moment, neither of us moves.

And then we're kissing, and I don't know who started it and I don't care and I'll never care because I've never felt anything as fucking good, as fucking right as this. His hand fists in my hair, pressing my mouth harder against his as his other hand grabs my hips to pull me closer. I can feel my teeth pressing into my lips, his belt digging into my stomach and I don't give a shit because his tongue is in my mouth and he's hard against me and he tastes like fucking honey and I just want more.

I grab his shirt and yank it up, slipping underneath to touch his skin, exploring as much of his flesh as I can. He moans into my mouth and suddenly we're against the wall and he's thrusting his thigh between mine and grinding against me, and I never realised before but frottage is fucking wonderful. His mouth leaves mine to plant desperate, wet, open-mouthed kisses all over my face and neck - he kisses my cheek, my jaw, my neck, my nose, my eyelids before returning to my mouth. He slips his tongue back in again, and I moan at the taste of him, my hands slipping down from under his shirt into his trousers, gripping his buttocks to pull him tighter against me, thrusting our erections together.

Yohji's hands are busy roaming under my clothes, undoing my shirt so he can touch my skin. "Missed you so fucking much," he mumbles as his mouth leaves mine again. I dart forward and bite his neck lightly, sucking the skin into my mouth. Yohji groans and tips his head back, and as good as the physical is it's so much fucking better knowing just how much he did miss me.

[Missed you too,] I tell him.

He gasps as I nip on his neck, running his hands over my unclothed torso. "Wanted to do this for so long," he moans. "Want to kiss you, and touch you, and suck you and fuck you until you're screaming my name. . . ."

His words send a shudder of desire through me, because I want that as well – I've wanted it for so fucking long I don't even have to think about it any more, I just know that I've never wanted anything more and I'll probably never want anything else again.

I pull back from his neck to stare into his face, our hips still moving rhythmically together. "Want you," I gasp. "Want you so fucking much."

He kisses me again, pressing me into the wall with the full length of his body.

And suddenly it's all wrong.

I tear my mouth away from his and forcibly push him away, gasping. "We have to stop," I manage to get out, and it's both the easiest and the hardest fucking thing I've ever said.

"Why?" I can hear the surprise in Yohji's voice, taste it in his mind. "I want to fuck you, Schu," he says, his voice raw.

Don't I fucking know it. I shut my eyes and force out the feeling of his desire and mine, and it ain't easy, let me tell you that.

Yohji tenses suddenly, and pulls away from me a little. "You're not . . . you're not still pissed off about the Ken thing, are you?"

What the. . . . Oh, that just does it.

I jerk to my full height and glare at him. I must look pretty damn stupid with my shirt undone and hanging off one shoulder, hair messed up more than usual, lips kiss-bruised, scowling at him for all I'm worth – but I don't give a damn. "I am not pissed off about the Ken thing," I snap. "I was never pissed off about the Ken thing. I'm fucking pissed off that you're using the Ken thing to hide whatever the real thing that's been bugging you for weeks is about, and I'm not taking another fucking step towards your bedroom until I find out what it is!"

Yohji stares at me in the half-light from the kitchen and then, unbelievably, he begins to chuckle. "You are such a fucking woman, Schu," he says.

"I fucking well am not!"

"Oh, you know you are," he grins, and sing-songs at me, "You're jealous of a dead guy."

I narrow my eyes at him and step forward. "And you're avoiding the problem."

"You think I'm the one with the problem?" he mocks lightly, stepping backwards to avoid me. "Who's in denial here, you or me?"

"Right now, you," I growl. "I wanna know what got you so fucking upset. Is that such a goddamn big deal?"

"When I want to fuck you, yeah," Yohji snaps back.

"Not gonna happen 'til you tell me what the problem is, Kudou," I snap right back.

He glowers at me, and for a moment I think we're going to get into a yelling competition – and then he sighs and looks away. "We only just made up," he says. "I don't want to fight again."

The tension drains from me abruptly, and I say nothing.

He rubs a hand over his face, and it suddenly strikes me just how tired he feels. "Sorry," I mutter, looking down. Yohji makes me feel so many new things, and most of them are good, but before today – before today, I'm fairly sure I'd never felt guilty.

He slumps into a chair, his familiar sprawl making something ache in my chest. I hesitate and spare a moment to wish I was still up against the wall with his hands on me, before stepping over his legs to settle myself onto the couch. No point in complaining when I'm getting what I wanted.

"I missed you so much when you were gone," he says quietly. "You made me happy. You made me forget. I never had that before."

I look at him blankly. Our connection still holds, so I guess I could go rummaging around in his head to find out what the fuck he's talking about, but it's better to hear it from the horse's mouth, as it were. Besides, my 'talent' has never really been an issue before so I have no fucking idea where the boundaries are – don't want to overshoot one of them by accident.

"Look, Schu—" he stops abruptly, and rubs his hand over his face. When he speaks again, his voice is flat and lifeless. "You know about Asuka? And Neu?"

I nod slowly, then realise he isn't looking at me. "Yeah," I say.

"I nearly missed the anniversary of her death. Her actual death, you know, the one where I strangled her and killed her. I nearly missed it because I was having so much fucking fun just being with you."

I sway slightly, overwhelmed by the sudden surge of bitterness and self-hatred flooding from him. Reaching out blindly, I grab the arm of the sofa and force myself to stay upright, clenching my jaw and swallowing. Blinking rapidly helps to dull the tears down, and I wonder how he can sit over there and look so fucking calm when he's in so much pain.

"There must have been some other way to save her. I've been over it a thousand times, thinking that I could have done this or I could have done that, and she'd still be here today and she'd be Asuka, too. But I killed her, because she said she loved Masafumi and I hated her right then because it meant that I wasn't good enough. I lost to an evil sadistic bastard and that makes me worse than him, because I gave up on her out of jealousy—"

"None of that's fucking true!" I burst out.

"Isn't it?" he glared at me out of bloodshot eyes.

"It isn't," I insist.

Yohji stares at me, and speaks slowly and clearly, as though speak to an idiot. "I killed the woman I loved—" ouch "—because she loved somebody other than me. I was going to knock her out from lack of air, and then take her back with me and find some way to help her – but instead I killed her because she chose him over me. I killed her, Schu, and a year later I've almost fucking forgot about it because I found someone else."

I open my mouth, then close it a moment later. It sends a ridiculous little thrill through me to hear him say "I found someone else," but commenting on that won't help anything.

I'm not sure why I'm trying to help. Schuldig of Schwarz wouldn't have bothered.

But then . . . Schuldig of Schwarz wouldn't have cared in the first place.

I wrack my brains, and can only think of one thing to say. Yohji won't like it, but. . . .

Right now, there's nothing I could say that he would like.

"She would have thanked you."

Yohji stares at me, and I can almost see his metaphorical hackles rising. "What . . . the fuck did you say?" he asks, dangerously low.

"She would've thanked you," I repeat, then sigh. "Look, just calm the fuck down and let me tell you something. You said you wanted to try and help her become Asuka again, right? Take it from me, that would never have happened."

"Why?" he demands, voice hard.

"All of Schreint were too far gone to return to who they were, who they should have been," I tell him flatly. "Neu was one gaping black hole as far as my telepathy was concerned. There was no personality left there, just a series of reactions. It wasn't Asuka who said she loved Masafumi, Yohji, it was the fucking reactions that he conditioned into her. All that was left of whoever she'd been – Asuka or not – was the vague feeling I got that somewhere inside, she was screaming." I shiver at the memory. "Gave me the fucking creeps."

Yohji stares at me, and he feels fragile. "Schu . . . I killed her, Schu."

I sigh, and shut my eyes. "Think of the Asuka you knew. Would she have wanted to live as a plaything and killtoy for an insane scientist?"

For a long, long moment, nothing happens. I keep my eyes shut, staring at the inside of my eyelids, and wait for him to either hit me or start yelling.

Then I hear a small, choked sound, and my eyes snap open. Yohji's hunched over in his chair, hands covering his face, pressed to his mouth, muffling the sound he makes as he cries. Impulse drives me over to his side and I yank him off the chair into my lap, cradling him as best I can – he's too big to fit properly, and he's gotta be uncomfortable with his legs scrunched up between me and the chair, but I don't give a shit. He rests against me bonelessly, and his hand falls to my chest. I half-expect him to shove me away, but. . . .

He finds the edge of my shirt, clutches it tightly, and all I can do is hold him as he cries.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've discovered something.

There is nothing more awful than the helpless feeling you get when a person you l– care about is suffering, and you can do jack shit to help them. I've practically moved into Yohji's apartment, staying with him twenty-four seven – and can only watch helplessly as he sinks into a deep depression. I've been sleeping in his bed (and not for a good reason, either), I've been making him come to the bar with me, I've been hiding his stash of booze, I've even been fucking feeding him, and nothing I do makes a damn bit of difference.

I must be mad.

We've settled into a kind of routine. I make him come to the bar with me every night while I worked, and spent the entire time trying to cajole him into a good mood.

It never works.

When we go home, I spend most of the time talking to him and he spends most of the time not saying a fucking word. I've withdrawn from him telepathically whenever he's awake, because I can't take the maelstrom of pain that washes through him.

. . . I've been behaving like someone's fucking mother. Or wife.

This is not amusing me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"What's up with him?" the boss murmurs to me two days later, as I'm serving some drinks at his end of the bar. He points down the row of drinks to Yohji, sitting at the counter and nursing a diet coke. I caught hell from the boss for skipping out earlier on in the week, but once he saw Yohji he shut up. I've even caught the other drunks in the bar giving him concerned looks.

"His whole family and his girlfriend died a year ago," I mutter briefly, not looking at him as I rummage around for a fairly clean half-pint glass. It's as close to the truth as anything else.

"Shit. Poor guy." The boss peers down the bar, frowning at the coke bottle. "Doesn't he want anything stronger than that?"

"Probably, but I'm not giving it to him."

"Customer's always right, Schu," the boss says, his eyes on me.

I shrug. "Not when the customer's a friend who'd drink himself into an early grave if I gave him half a chance." I turn away, about to move off – when the other half of what the boss said sinks in.

He knows. He fucking knows my real name. Shit.

"Knew it when I hired you," the boss grunts after a moment, when I haven't moved, guessing why. "I don't know much German, but even I can figure out that no mother would name her kid 'John Doe'. And your blond friend kept calling you 'Schu'. It's not rocket science."

"So what now?" I ask heavily. "You going to fire me?"

"What the hell would I do that for? You're a good worker, and it won't be the first time an employee of mine has lied about who they are. If you'd brought any trouble my way it'd be a different story, but so far, so good."

I turn around slowly and stare at my boss, incredulous. "And that's it?"

He shrugs. "I don't know who you are or what you did, and I don't want to. But." He fixes me with a hard look. "If you do bring me trouble, any trouble at all, I promise that you won't like the consequences. Do I make myself clear?"

I nod, and turn away when the boss dismisses me.

It's just so fucking nice to be reminded that I'll never escape my past.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A week later, and Yohji's still depressed

I'm on the verge of tearing my hair out from frustration. I wish desperately that Brad was here – he'd know what to do. He always fucking knew what to do.

But it's just me and my own incompetence.

I drag Yohji into the bar and steer him to a seat, leaving him propped up at the bar before darting behind it. Opening the fridge put to the side of the glasses, I grab an old bottle of diet coke – one of the few non-alcoholic drinks we have left at the bar – and pop the top off, dumping it in front of him. "You want a glass?" I ask, and he just shakes his head as he takes the bottle. He doesn't drink from it, just stares blankly at the condensation on the outside.

The routine is familiar, now, and that brings me no comfort at all. Sighing, I move down the bar leaving him with his thoughts.

All I can think is that I want the old Yohji back. I want the Yohji who ordered whisky from me and then paid for it with my money, the Yohji who told me things I really didn't want to know about bar peanuts, the Yohji who . . . who was just more Yohji than that – that—

Goddamn. Walking. Corpse.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I slump on the sofa, and stare at the glass in my hand.

The liquid in it is clear, which makes sense because I'm drinking fucking water. Not the alcoholic drink I so desperately want – although vodka's clear, too, so I guess I could get away with that. But no, because Yohji would be able to smell the difference. There's no way in hell I'm letting him have any right now.

. . .

What I wouldn't give for a shot.

I sigh briefly, and rub my face with my free hand, shoving the glass onto the table. I'm so fucking tired – watching over Yohji's dreams every 'night' means I don't get much sleep. But I'll do it for however long I need to. At some point, I made up my mind to stick by Yohji through this – I'm not sure when, but that doesn't matter. I'm not going to let a fucking dead woman have him.

Or a dead man, for that matter. He's mine, now, and I'm going to take care of him. I'm not the best the world can offer him, but I'm doing a better job of it than he is.

I sigh again.


I jump at the sound of Yohji's voice, my head whipping up to see him standing uncertainly in the doorway. He hasn't talked much recently, and he's certainly not started a conversation before now, which explains why his voice is a little rough. "Y-yeah?" I reply, unsteadily.

Okay, so Yohji's not the only one who's fucked up at the minute.

"I figured out why I didn't love Ken."

Well, that came out of nowhere.

I sit there blinking stupidly at him. After a moment, I realise he's waiting for a reply, and say, "So why didn't you, then?"

Yohji shifts his position a little, looking away from me. "Ken was . . . he was too nice," he says. "It made him . . . a little delusional, like he couldn't operate at the level of the real world. When he had to, it hurt him. I couldn't . . . he was just too naïve."

Yohji lifts his head suddenly and I realise he's been crying again, his eyes red and puffy. I put my drink down and stand up, cautiously, not sure where the fuck he's going with this.

"That's not the main reason, though," he says hoarsely. "The main reason . . . all the time, I kept waiting for a certain type of person, someone who was – someone who was just. . . ." Words fail him, and he stares at me beseechingly. I stare back, completely lost – I have no fucking clue what you're trying to say, Yohji, so . . . so find the words quickly, goddammit, because I want to know!

"I wanted someone who was perfect," he says finally, his voice stronger and more clear than before. "Perfect for me, I mean, and Ken . . . was too perfect to be perfect for me."

Because that made sense.

"So the real reason I couldn't love Ken was that . . . he wasn't you."

I stare at him.

He wasn't you.

Part of me really, really wants to know where the fuck this came from. The rest of me . . . the rest of me doesn't care, so long as it stays here.

Yohji offers me a shaky smile, and it's like the sun coming up. "I love you, Schu," he says.

I keep staring at him, struck dumb.

Without any conscious direction, I reach out and gently touch his mind. I've been avoiding doing this for the past week, and – and if I had, I would have realised that he's been healing all along. His depression this past week was just the last wave of the storm. He's not whole, not yet – he's scared and shaky and still far too raw, but he's healing. He's healing.

I feel like nothing could stop the smile that breaks loose from me, stretching so wide it hurts. But it's a good hurt, one I wouldn't trade for the world. I can feel the peace inside him where before there was only pain, and it occurs to me that I did that. I helped him. I gave him what he needed. I didn't fuck up.

I don't remember moving, but suddenly he's in my arms or I'm in his and we're both laughing and kissing and holding each other tight. Leaning forwards, I kiss the corner of his mouth. "I love you too, Kudou Yohji, you fucking sentimental bastard."

And he's laughing too as he kisses me back, and murmurs, "Pot, meet kettle."


I am very, very sorry it's taken me this long to finish the fic. I hope it was worth the wait!