Author's Notes: Because the Comtesse de Montrève wouldn't leave me alone.
Disclaimer: I don't own Weiß Kreuz. Rated R for everything. AU and not.
I love Schwarz.
Blood on Black
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
"The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot
One. Blood on black. He watched as it flecked the mat and stained his gloves crimson.
Two. Bruises. He could already feel how swollen his face was and his mouth had a sharp, coppery taste.
Three. Pain. His arms ached, every part of his face hurt and his torso felt battered and sore from round after round of heartfelt battering.
Four. Light danced in front of his eyes and he saw images overlaying images, the here and now mixed with the then and will be.
Five. Somewhere the bell rang, signaling the end of a round. It took a moment for him to realize someone was leading him back to his corner, speaking loudly in his ear. He blinked rapidly in an effort to clear his vision.
"You're doing great out there man, really, really great."
His trainer Mac was talking to him as someone dabbed blood and sweat from his face. Every part of his body spoke in terms of pain, screaming at him insistently, begging him to stop, to rest, to slow down.
"I think if you just keep doing what you're doing it'll be an easy win for you pal. Just stick it to him and remember to duck now and then all right? You're getting hammered more than you need to be in there."
"Ngh." He turned his head to spit and wipe bloody foam from his mouth. "How long?"
"How long do you want me to wait before I knock him out?"
Mac laughed and slapped him on the shoulder, making him wince.
"That's why I like you Bradley, you've got balls. Now get your ass back out there and beat the shit out of that idiot."
He staggered to his feet and half-stumbled back into the middle of the ring. Seconds passed and he heard the bell chime distantly before the fight began once more.
One. Movement. A fist flashed in front of his face and his body bent away from it of its own free will, avoiding the blow.
Two. Strike. He landed a solid punch, felt meat give way under the weight of his glove before he darted back.
Three. Silence. He couldn't hear the fans screaming anymore. Everything was silent as he waited, waited for the right moment…
Four. His lungs were burning as he twisted around, keeping his weight perfectly balanced as he pivoted on his left foot.
Five. A tiny smile touched his lips as he struck, his fist flashing out and striking the other man hard in the temple. His rival went flying, the expression on his face one of shock as he found himself lying on the floor, staring up at the fluorescent lights. Bradley stared at him, half-surprised, as he always was when a match was over and he was left standing alone in the ring. Then, in a howling rush all the sound came back and he was deafened by people screaming his name.
"So that's what you wanted to show me."
"I thought you might be interested."
The two men were sitting in the box seats that overshadowed the ring, watching as the crowd cheered wildly for the new champion. Bradley Crawford looked somewhat overwhelmed, gazing about with a dazed expression on his face.
"I don't usually take them so old. They're hard to train once they reach sixteen or so and it's not worth the effort to tame them. Still…" The older of the two leaned his chin into his hand, considering.
"Come on Valhendt, you can at least use him for one of your experiments, right? Or you can use him as target practice for some of those little piranhas you've got back at that new school of yours. What do you say? You know you can't pass up a genuine precog just because he's a few years past puberty."
The man known as Valhendt sighed, a slight smile curving the corners of his mouth as he regarded his companion.
"All right Williams, you've got me there. The clairvoyant are rather difficult to come by at any age; catching them young is indeed a rarity. We find elementals and psychics aplenty but…" Valhendt leaned back in his chair. "What do you have on this one so far?"
"About fifty pages of data readouts on brainwaves, chemical functions and that sort of thing, medical records, family history, psychological analysis…just about anything and everything you could ask for."
"Hmm, that's good. Why don't you come by the office tomorrow morning? Bring your files. I'll need to discuss this with my associates before I make any final decisions."
Valhendt turned his attention back to the young man in the boxing ring, watching in amusement as the fighter was escorted away by his cohort of assistants. After a few moments he reluctantly stood up.
"I must be going now. Thank you for the inviting me by the way; I'm surprised you thought of me."
"Just trying to return that favor that I owe you, you know, the one from Beijing…"
"Oh believe me Williams, it will take a great deal more than this to pay back that debt." Valhendt gave a polite bow and was gone, leaving the younger man to stare after him.
Williams gave a hearty sigh then, picking up his wine glass.
"I was afraid you were going to say that." He muttered sourly. Then he raised his glass in mock salute towards the door, tilted his head back, and proceeded to drink himself into oblivion.
Gunner Valhendt was not the type of person you wanted to owe a favor to.
"So how many more of those am I going to have to win before I can take a nice long vacation?"
Bradley Crawford was sitting in his favorite diner with Mac and his agent Walter. It had become a tradition after every match to get something to eat at Mary Jo's, where everything had been deep-fried and smothered in gravy. Well, almost everything anyway. The peach cobbler didn't come with gravy.
"That all depends on how you want to plan your career." Mac said, munching on some chilly-cheese fries.
"If you want to retire early you have to keep at it for a few years, win as many championships as you can and grill your ass into the ground. If you're willing to take a few chances you can have a longer career and take a few vacations."
"What kind of risks?" Walter inquired, taking a chunk out of the massive ketchup drenched sandwich that he held in his hands. When he spoke again bits of meat and lettuce flew out from between his lips, catching in his beard.
"Boxers, after a while, start to wear down. You can only take so many hits before the muscles tear and the joints stiffen and the eyesight goes…" Mac shrugged. "That's the problem with long-term careers, the longer the career the more danger you are in of getting knocked out one too many times and not waking up again."
Walter glanced over at Bradley, who was making his way through his third burger.
"The way he keeps going it won't matter how long his career is; he's never been knocked out."
"But his eyesight is already weak." Mac pointed out. "Unless I'm wrong he's quickly becoming near-sighted."
"So we get him some glasses and he looks smart on top of being an amazing fighter. We sell more tickets and in a few years it won't matter how bad his eyesight is; he can get surgery with all the money that he'll have by then." Walter said. "I don't see what the problem is."
Mac turned to the young man.
"What do you think Brad?"
"I want a vacation." The boxer said around a mouthful of burger. He reached for his drink and took a sip, licking his lips. "Walt's right, in five years it won't matter if I can see or not right? And it's not like I'll be going blind. I'll just wear glasses, or contacts. Doesn't bother me much."
"I hope you know what you're doing."
"Yeah, yeah." Bradley signaled to the waitress then. "Hey miss, can I get some of that peach cobbler?" She nodded and hurried back towards the kitchen. When she was gone the fighter grinned. "You should know better than to argue with me about my health Mac, I'm not all that interested in it."
His trainer rolled his eyes.
"Fine, but you're going to regret it."
"I can live with regret." Brad said. "I want five titles and a vacation at least once a year." He looked to Walter. "What do you think?"
"I think you've got it in the bag Crawford boy. Just keep winning like you have been and," Walter snapped his fingers. "no one's going to be able to stop you."
"Here's your cobbler honey." The waitress deposited the dessert on the table with a wink at Bradley, who smiled up at her as he dug in.
"I still don't like it." Mac grumbled.
"You're allowed to dislike it." Bradley said. "Just as long as you don't get in my way." Then he was plowing through his cobbler, and all discussions were ended. For the moment at least.
"So Jess, what do you think?"
Valhendt was sitting in the small, bright yellow kitchen of the woman that his company had deemed their official oracle. He had been in this room many times before, watching the clairvoyant bustling around as she made them both tea. They had found Jesselyn Moraven years ago, saving her from false criminal charges in exchange for utilizing her skills. Back then she was a tiny, terrified little slip of a thing who started at her own shadow and was suspicious of everything and everyone, including him.
Now she was calmly handing him a teacup, smoothing long dark hair back from her face as she settled into a chair.
"He's going to cost you a lifetime's worth of trouble." She said. "Regrets, mistakes, years of despair, when he's finally finished you're going to wish that you had never met him."
"Come now Jess," Valhendt pouted. "you say that about all of my friends."
"You don't have any friends Gunner, just employees and colleagues." She smiled as she said it, taking some of the bite out of the words. "And I mean it about this one, he's going to be your undoing."
"But will he be successful?" Valhendt pressed. "If I put him in the program, will he make it worth my while?"
"Oh yes." Her eyes were sad as she spoke. "He will succeed where all the others have failed. He will be the best leader you've ever had, of the best team that you've ever seen. In five years there will not be a single organization in existence with a group to match his."
"Then I don't see a problem…"
"Seven years from now you will be celebrated in your company as the best of the best, a go-getter, someone who put Rosenkreuz into power. You will be at the top of your game."
"All the better then…"
"And nine years from now you will be a dead man, and that boy will be the cause."
Valhendt was silent for a long time, staring at her. Then he looked down at his tea, gazing into its depths as he considered her words.
"You say nine years?"
He smiled reassuringly and took a sip of his tea before setting the cup and saucer down on the table.
"Nine years is enough." He ignored her protests then, standing up and reaching for his jacket. "I'll come and see you again soon, all right? Maybe I'll bring some of those cookies that you're so fond of, or a cheesecake from that dessert restaurant downtown."
"You did hear what I said, right?"
"Mmhm. Nine years." Valhendt flashed a playful grin as he moved towards the door. "I think that's a fair exchange for power and success. Take care Jess, and don't worry about it, all right?"
She watched him go, confusion and irritation warring on her face. When he was gone she went back into her kitchen, gazing at the two half-empty cups still sitting on the table.
"What an idiot." She murmured sadly, collecting the dishes and carrying them to the sink. "He didn't even bother to ask me how he could stop it."
Bradley Crawford was having a nightmare. He did not have them often; usually he fell into a sleep too deep for any kind of dreams to penetrate his mind. Every great once in a while however some dark whisper would find its way into his skull and he would spend a night in a cold sweat, whimpering and muttering as he tossed and turned on his pull-out sofa.
"You're being a fool Bradley."
As always his father was wearing a suit, always the business man, always too cool and intelligent to be ruffled by the appearance of his son. They hadn't seen each other in three years, not since he'd run away from home at sixteen to follow his own light-hearted hopes.
"What are you going to do when you can't even see the numbers on the alarm clock anymore? Do you really think that your money and your success are going to comfort you then?"
"Shut up old man." Bradley snarled. "Leave me alone."He tried to shove past the old man and failed, stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
"They're coming for you son."
"What the hell are you talking about?" He demanded angrily. "Who's coming?"
"They know about you. They're coming to take you away, just like I always said that they would. They're coming with their pills and their padded rooms and their science lab to do experiments on you. They'll poke you and prod you until there's nothing left but a brain in a jar."
"I said LEAVE ME ALONE!"
In the waking world Bradley shouted incoherently, nails digging into his palms as he struggled with an invisible force.
"I can hear them coming Bradley, can you? You'd better start running now or they'll catch you. Run little Bradley, run away so they can't find you…"
He jolted upright in bed, gasping for air, his body slick with sweat, his heart slamming painfully in his chest. There were tears in his eyes as he shoved the blanket away from his body and stumbled to his feet, trying in vain to read the blurry red numbers on the bedside clock. Angry and terrified he rubbed his eyes and blinked rapidly, straining to make out the fuzzy lines.
"Agghhhh!" He slammed his fist into the wall and pressed his hands to the sides of his skull. "What's wrong with me?" He whispered. "What's wrong?"
Coffee. He thought suddenly. I just need some coffee to calm my nerves and then this pounding pain in my head will stop and I'll be able to see the clock just fine…
He made his way into the kitchen, bare feet making a whisper of a sound as he went to retrieve the coffee-maker from its hiding place behind the toaster. When he was finished setting up he collapsed into a chair to wait for the coffee to brew. Almost before he had settled in he felt a familiar prickling at the base of his spine, a chill as his hair stood on end. Pain shot through his skull and he groaned, closing his eyes…
When he opened his eyes he was standing in a room he'd never seen before. Outside it was raining, he could hear the water drumming on the roof and the periodic bursts of thunder that exploded in the sky overhead. Somewhere he could hear someone screaming, a terrible, maniacal howling that made him want to cover his ears. It seemed to be coming from just down the hall, from the locked room that he could just barely glimpse over the edge of the couch…
"You should take it easy."
He blinked, turning to stare at the dark-haired boy standing beside him who was busy with the first aid kit. After a moment the boy leaned forward and began meticulously cleaning the wound on Bradley's arm, wiping the blood away and applying the antiseptic with a practiced hand.
"You're always getting injured. I would think with your gift this wouldn't happen as often as it does." The boy smiled slightly and finished his work, standing up. "I'll go see to Farfarello. He sounds like he's about to tear through those restraints again."
"Take care he doesn't bite your fingers off chibi." A voice from his left said, the words coming out with a strong foreign accent. Bradley couldn't turn to see who it was, but he had the impression of fiery hair and a mocking expression before his gaze was pulled back to the boy.
"Farfarello doesn't give me any trouble." The boy was saying. "Besides, he can't break my hold. I'll be back in a few minutes. Don't kill each other while I'm gone."
Bradley wanted to open his mouth, wanted to protest, wanted to beg the boy not to go into that room…
Then he was sitting in his kitchen again, staring wide-eyed at his reflection in the window. A friendly hissing sound from his coffee-maker told him that the coffee was ready and he stood up to get his mug.
When he sat down with his hot drink and the last traces of his vision still clinging to his mind, he found that he still couldn't read the numbers on the clock.
"So, are we in agreement then?" Valhendt looked around at his colleagues, trying to read their expressions.
"It's your school Gunner." One of the women said, folding her hands on the table. "Although I do think that he's a little old for you to be considering as a candidate for your first class. Are you sure you told us everything that Moraven said? It seems that you're leaving something out…"
"Nonsense." Valhendt said. "She told me that he would be successful; he will build the strongest team that we've ever had. Isn't that enough?"
"Jess usually adds warnings to her advice." A man pointed out, frowning slightly. "What did she say about that?"
"She just said not to get too overconfident and to keep him firmly under control. As long as we do that he'll remain obedient and we'll have a good weapon on our hands."
He could tell that the others didn't like it. They'd been listening to him for ten years, but Jess had never given such a positive reading before and they were still suspicious.
"Look," He said finally, spreading his hands. "You can go and ask her yourself. She said that in five years there won't be another organization to match him and in seven years we will be at the top of our game, unopposed by anyone and in complete control of our business. Her advice not to be overconfident was sound, and aside from pointing out that we should avoid giving him too many liberties there was nothing else of note."
They were reluctantly nodding, glancing at each other questioningly but still unable to come up with a reason to say no.
"Now, unless you have some other objections or you would like to hike out into the woods to talk to Jess, I would suggest that we begin planning his recruitment as soon as possible."
There were a few tense moments then as they waited for someone to speak up, to dissent. Five minutes passed without a word and, smiling contentedly, Valhendt leaned forward.
"All right then. Shall we begin?"
Author's Notes: (for real this time) Yes, I have original characters. Before you throw a fit though there's something you need to understand. The focus of this story is on the future members of Schwarz and how they were shaped into the men they are in the series. All original characters were created for the sole purpose of interacting with Bradley, Schuldig, Farfarello and Nagi. So relax and give the OC's a chance before you dismiss them completely.
Please, if you're going to review leave something that's worth reading. Tell me what you think of plot, characters, etc and what you think I can improve on.
Updates are possible but not yet definite,
Talk to you later,
Borglemash the Conqueror