Light glinting off metal. The sour smell of blood gone rancid. The slow, monotone dripping of rain against the window, drip-drip-drip, enough to drive one up the wall if only listened to long enough. Monotony is the mother of madness, as the saying goes.
Chipped nail polish. He has been nibbling on the thumbnail of his left hand for a few minutes now, the black polish coming off in tiny flakes that taste dull and chemical on his tongue. At times, his teeth dig into the flesh around the fingernail as if testing the solidity of it; not hard enough to break the skin but hard enough to leave indentations on the pale flesh. He keeps his nails long - long enough to raise welts on another's body, short enough not to break off when he makes a fist and drives his knuckles against the wall, against a face, against any surface that seems promising enough to deserve a punch.
It is quiet in his room, safe for the rain splattering against the window. Beyond the door, silence reigns.
Silence is the mother of dreams.
In his dreams, he is a hero. The image of tumbling walls and clouds of dust rising from ruins is replaced by his heroic attempt to safe a life. He would run, debris, glass and metal marking his path, and he would safe her.
In his dreams, he is a brother. The image of a cold, armed killer is replaced by a young man with a sunny smile, holding his arms open for his sister to fling herself into them, and they would laugh about the little things teenagers, adolescents, and sometimes even the adults laugh about.
In his dreams, he is Ran Fujimiya.
In this room, this room where rain splatters against a window, this room where silence lurks in the corners, he is Aya Fujimiya.
He has been living with it for so long, he almost loves it.
He flinches. The edges of his teeth dig into his thumbnail hard enough to leave a dent. For a moment, he concentrates on the steady rhythm of the raindrops, pretending he has not heard the call. For a moment, he hangs onto the fleeting comfort of half-remembered and often-sought visions and daydreams, caressing them with gentleness worthy of a loved one's body.
"Aya, we have to leave. Aya?"
He rises from the floor, his thumb still caught between his teeth, and walks to the door, each of his steps sounding with a hollow thump of combat boot heels connecting with the floor. He runs his fingers over the sleek material of his coat that hangs on a hook next to the door, the buckles jingling faintly.
He opens the door. Youji, standing with his ear pressed against the flat wood, nearly tumbles into his room, managing to catch himself on the doorjambs in the last moment.
"You were listening on my door," Aya states flatly. He watches the beginnings of a blush creeping over the other's face and beats down the urge to slam his fist into the handsome, aggravatingly inviting smile that follows a moment later.
"Yeah. You didn't answer, that's why." Youji straightens up, adjusting his shades as he does ever so often. "What were you doing? Didn't you hear me?"
"What if I didn't want to?"
He takes his coat off the hook and drapes it over his arm. The katana, resting against the wall beneath it, is handled with reverence as he picks it up and steps out of his room, closing the door behind him.
"Anyway," Youji ignores the last remark, "It's time to move out. Omi and Ken are already waiting."
The smile wavers, irritation replacing the confident air Youji Kudou carries with him like a second skin. Aya studies the man for a long moment. He sees the cracks in the façade, the nervous flitter of eyelashes as the survey becomes intensive. Driven on by a need to redeem someone dear to him, just as Aya is driven on by a need for revenge and a hope that long since has become nothing but a daydream haunted by demons, Youji Kudou is as insubstantial as a soap bubble carried by a strong wind. It would not take much to break him. Aya has listened to him scream in his nightmares, picked up on the pretence of falls cheeriness the morning after, the slight tremble of fingers as they light a cigarette. Being an assassin teaches one to look for weaknesses first - if they were found in friend of enemy is beside the point.
Weiß is, under closer inspection, a joke.
"Let's go." Aya turns down the hallway, listening for the soft footfall that follows a heartbeat later. Together, they walk down the stairs that lead to the flower shop.
Four young men, thrown together by a shady organisation that claims to be good by sending more or less trained assassins out each night to kill what they considered bad. A psychologist would have had a field day with each of them, Aya muses, contemplating the motives that had brought them together. Betrayal. Death. Lost love. How many people on this planet are buried under the same past Weiß share but beat it down and get on with their lives?
"It's raining," Youji remarks conversationally as they pass a window on the ground floor on their way to the backdoor. Aya turns his head and looks at him.
"You are stating the obvious," he answers.
A long, suffering sigh. "No, I am trying to strike a conversation with the human manifestation of an icicle, it seems."
Even he, Aya, is insubstantial. So yes, his sister has been crushed under a skyscraper. So yes, she is in a coma now. So yes, he is trying to avenge her, trying to come to terms with the helplessness he felt that day as he tried to lift the chunk of wall off of her mangled body, nearly slipping in the puddle of her blood.
But will he ever come to terms with it? Will killing ‘bad' guys make the helplessness disappear? He doubts it. His sister has been at the wrong place at the wrong time.
These things happen every day.
"So what's the plan?"
"We go in, kill everyone, get the information we need, and get the hell back out again?"
"Sounds good to me." Ken Hidaka chuckles, studying the building on the other side of the road. Their transportation, a small, black delivery bus, is parked amid a row of others, the lights turned off. At four in the night, Shinjuku West is deserted. The fluorescent lights coming from the streetlamps and skyscrapers fall on bleak and empty streets littered with trash from the day's hustle. They have been standing here, on the west side of the Kita-Dori, for nearly an hour, and nothing has moved.
Even the rain has stopped.
"As long as it's easy, it sounds good to Ken," Youji grins at the rude gesture in his direction and flips the butt of his cigarette out of the open window. "What's the security status on this building, Omi?"
The youth perched between Ken on the right and Youji on the left side in the front seats of the bus, closes the lid of a small laptop and cracks his knuckles. "Low. They have state of the art security cameras installed in the entrance hall. On the upper floors, there is close to none security safe for a few guards."
"Masafumi Takatori sure is trusting," Ken remarks. "He leaves this baby nearly unguarded?"
"So - "
Youji turns his head and looked into the back of the bus. He is aware of Ken and Omi doing the same, and yet, somehow, he feels alone all of a sudden.
Their most silent member sits on the floor of the bus, whetstone in his right hand, katana cradled in the crook of his left arm.
With painful precision, Aya runs the whetstone across the length of the blade, sharpening metal that needs no sharpening. His head is bowed, eyes fastened on the task he is performing with a monotony that makes not only Youji think of a robot. Cross-legged, his heavy coat spread around him, the young man seems oblivious to his surroundings; the only existing things in whatever world Aya Fujimiya escapes to minutes before Weiß begin their missions the sword in his hand and his thoughts - both of which he keeps safely away from others.
Watching Aya is both unnerving and hypnotizing. For a man who literally explodes in a fight, he carries his personal silence around with him like a shroud that keeps him hidden from others. More than once during the last year, Youji has wished to tear down that shroud and expose the man behind it. He holds back only because he does not know if the man exposed will not be worse than the man who sits in the back of the bus.
Aya's eyes rise from the katana and whetstone, his hand stopping the movement, and looks at his teammates with an intensity that seems devouring.
"It is time to begin."
Youji glances over at Omi and Ken. They are as transfixed by Aya as he is. A rustle of leather announces Aya is finished with his pre-mission preparations; he stands, bowing slightly under the low roof of the transportation, and opens the slide door of the bus to step onto the sidewalk. Ken, Omi and Youji hurry to follow him. By the time they make it to the edge of the street, Aya is already crossing it.
"I'd like to know what goes on in his head," Omi says softly, checking his weaponry.
"Do you really?" Ken asks, meeting the stare he receives from his younger teammate dead on. He makes a fist, the claws worked into his heavy gloves springing forth with a sound of metal sliding over metal. "Well, do you?"
Youji, standing behind the two, nods in affirmation. No, he does not want to know either. When he thinks about it, he comes to the conclusion that he has enough to carry on his conscience. He does not need Aya Fujimiya's demons to haunt him, too.
"The theatre crowd's arriving." Farfarello says with a small smile.
From their vantage point in the bell tower, Schuldig and Farfarello watch four shadows flit across the street in front of the Kourin building. They have been waiting here for a little more over two hours and spent their time reminiscing about their time in Canada. Occasionally, Schuldig has checked on the activities inside the underground lab; Schreient are busy, they are testing the child monster Schuldig and Farfarello have seen earlier that day. Even though the creature's world is limited to the primal urges of killing, it still does feel pain, and the screams Schuldig has listened to through Hell's ears have, admittedly, been a bit revolting.
At least Farfarello's question has been answered. The creature's blood is as red as their own.
They move from the bell tower into the dusty, cobweb-ridden attic of the former school building and quietly descend a flight of stairs into the second floor. As with most school buildings, the entrance hall is vast, echoing; from their perch on the second floor walkway, they have a good view of it. As Crawford predicted it, Weiß have met a stage appearance, and Schuldig smiles, for it will make tonight so much more interesting. They watch the lights on the security cameras fade and blink out as a command from outside overrides the system, they listen to the near-inaudible creak of the front door as it opens, and then they observe the four members of Weiß cautiously move into the entrance hall. Their shadows precede them until one of them closes the front door.
Little do they know that the chequered floor they walk on is spiked with pressure sensors. Little do they know that Schreient have stopped their scientific research and are staring at a surveillance camera that operates independent of the system Weiß have disabled; Schuldig can literally feel the surprise and the anger radiating from Hell and her companions as they hurriedly shrug out of their lab coats and into their battle gear, and he has to bite his lower lip to keep from laughing out loud as he sees what kind of gear they wear through Schön's eyes as she stands before a floor-length mirror and ties her hair up.
Weiß vanish through a side door that leads into the square Schuldig and Farfarello stood in earlier. The German and the Irishman walk back up into the attic and onto the roof from there on to avoid the pressure sensors; like cats they travel across the roof until they can overlook the walled-in square with its single tree in the middle. It is only a matter of seconds until the four members of Weiß have discovered the door leading into the hallway leading towards the underground laboratory; the telepath and the Irishman wait for two minutes before they climb down the façade and follow them, keeping their distance. Before they slide through the door, Schuldig captures Farfarello's hand in his own and smiles, laughing silently and breathlessly.
"Oh, you should - " He laughs again, and has to press a hand over his mouth to keep it from getting loud. "Unbelievable!"
"They," Schuldig says, smirking as he nods towards the dark mouth of the door, "will bring us many hours of entertainment."
He has to know. He has just been in their minds.
And oh, what minds they are.
Part 2: Chapter 3 | Fanfiction