Written for Stonecarnival for Weiss Day 2010. Thanks to Olna Jenn for cheerleading. Thanks to my husband and Hope of Dawn for beta reading.
Nagi took another step and tried not to think about how much his feet hurt. Ideally, I wouldn't think at all. He took another step and wondered where he was going. He had no idea which way to go to find his team. And I don't want to find them anyway. His feet slid inside his shoes, and his socks twisted wetly under his heels. If only it weren't raining. His head hurt, and he ached with hunger. If only I had money. Even a little would help.
He raised his eyes to look along the street ahead of him. All apartments and offices. Not even a convenience store to rob. The pavement stretched into infinity, unyielding and slick with rain. It has to end somewhere. It has to go somewhere. Doesn't it? He inhaled sharply and took another step.
"You should come home before you hurt yourself."
Nagi didn't need to turn to know who was speaking. "Like you care," he snarled. He stopped himself from lashing out with his power then wondered why he bothered. He turned slowly.
Crawford held a dark green umbrella. Rain had darkened the cuffs of his pants. He frowned. "This is the wrong time for disobedience."
Nagi felt his power gathering again. His head throbbed, but he focused through it. "What happened to her? She was gone when I woke up. She was dead. Then she was gone. What happened?" I shouldn't ask. I don't want Crawford's answers. Except I want answers. I need to know. Tot. I need to know.
"Obviously, you matter less to her than she does to you." Crawford's eyes met Nagi's. "I believe she simply got up and walked away."
Nagi snorted. "Bullshit. People stabbed by Farfarello don't get up and walk away." He started to turn away but hesitated. What else have I got? If she's alive- He shook his head.
Crawford shrugged. "The other options are more unlikely. I suppose Weiss could have taken her while leaving you." His tone said he didn't believe it. "They're not that sort of fools." He pushed up his glasses. "She might have disappeared into mist or flower petals or something similar, I suppose. Some people might have said she wasn't fully human."
Nagi's lips pulled back to show his teeth. He tried to speak but found words eluding him. He let his power flow toward Crawford, snapping the umbrella up and inside out. He crushed it slowly.
Crawford released his hold on the umbrella and stepped away. The rain covered his glasses and made his hair hang limply. "I might be able to find her, but I very much doubt that you can, not unaided."
"I don't want your help." I don't trust your help. This time Nagi did turn away.
"Do you have any other options?"
No. "Of course I do!" Nagi turned back to face Crawford.
Crawford said nothing.
Crawford shrugged. "Then go. You'll have about twelve hours before we start hunting you. Orders, you know. The elders will want you taken care of immediately."
This time, Nagi remained silent. I can't run far enough. This is a bad time to be a rogue agent. Eztet will show no mercy.
"You could always come home." Crawford's voice took on a coaxing tone. "We're Schwarz. We stand together against the world."
And you have plans for Schwarz.
"Have you forgotten your goals? Revenge on the world is within your reach."
"I don't want it with you." I want Tot. "You left me." Nagi couldn't keep the hurt out of his voice. He balanced it by glaring at Crawford.
"Staying would have bordered suicide. We'd probably have lost the Fujimiya girl. Trying to get you to leave with us- Yes. That would have worked well."
Crawford's heavy sarcasm made Nagi wince as he recalled the ruins in which he'd awakened. "None of this makes sense." He wanted dry clothes and warm food. Crawford would give them to me. "You have your plans and your lies and no answers for me." I hurt. You should hurt, too, Crawford. He shifted his weight to one foot so that he could give the other a break.
Crawford frowned. "We could continue this conversation some place dry."
"We could." Nagi didn't move. "That implies you have something to say." He glanced around, looking for something to break if he started to lose his temper. The light post is about it unless I want to start in on cars or buildings. Buildings are satisfying. Very satisfying.
Crawford pushed his hair back off his forehead and blinked once behind his glasses. "I do but only if you're mature enough to listen." He waved a hand to indicate something behind him. "I have a car no more than a block away. We can get a room somewhere with a bath. I have dry clothes in the car."
Nagi frowned. That's a lot of effort. "You need me!" The words came out as an accusation. What does he need me for?
Crawford waved a dismissive hand. "It's more convenient to have you on the team. I'll admit that. 'Need' is a strong word."
Nagi laughed. He couldn't help it. "You're out in the rain, trying to bribe me. You need me." Maybe he would help me find Tot. Maybe more than that. "I'm already soaked. I don't need to go anywhere." But it would be nice to be warm and dry, not to have to walk any further. He'd feed me. I'd eat anything. Anything.
"I'd take you home, but you'd kill Farfarello."
Nagi nodded once, sharply. Right now, I would. "I haven't said I'll go anywhere with you."
"Do you even have any money?"
Knowing Crawford already knew the answer, Nagi simply growled. Then he burst the bulb in the nearest streetlight.
Crawford didn't flinch.
Saw it coming. Bastard. Nagi twisted the light fixture until the metal tore. "I'm going to keep breaking things. It's the only way I can keep from breaking you." I should just break you. I could. Human bodies are easy.
"Perhaps, once you're dry and comfortable, we can go looking for truly satisfying things for you to break. Delayed gratification won't hurt you."
"Usually, you say things like that to Farfarello." Nagi bared his teeth. "I'm not sure I'll listen better than he does." His stomach rumbled. At least he can't hear that. "If I go with you, I want answers. I want to know what I get out of your plans and what else it's going to cost." I still want Tot, but you know that.
"Very well." Crawford turned and started walking away.
Nagi took a few seconds to realize that Crawford was heading for the car he'd mentioned and another few seconds to start to follow. For now. Just for now. I can always leave later. He must know that, right? Having a goal, even a temporary one, made the pain of walking more bearable. One step. Another. He said a block. That's not far.
"You may find," Crawford said once Nagi had caught up, "that your power is a little erratic for the next day or two. You stretched yourself almost to breaking."
"I'm fine." Everything's working exactly the way I want it to. I can prove it. Nagi reached out to lift a car several meters away. He ignored the jolt of pain the effort caused. It doesn't matter. I can do this.
"Put that down carefully, please. That's our vehicle."
Nagi stared at the tiny, rusting car. "You drove that?" He blinked. He set the car down.
"Our wet clothing would hardly be good for our usual car, so I borrowed this one." Crawford's face wrinkled in distaste. "I had to vacuum it before I climbed in."
"We're going to a fancy hotel in that? They won't let us into the parking lot."
"You'd be surprised." Crawford pulled keys from his pocket. "We have the money we need. It doesn't take anything else."
Nagi stared at the passenger side seat for almost a minute before he got in. He could see crumbs that Crawford had missed in his cleaning. They seemed distant then appeared to grow larger as if drawing closer. He blinked. I'm going to pass out soon, aren't I? "Just who did you 'borrow' this from?"
"The building superintendent. He was quite sympathetic when I explained that you'd been caught out in the rain and needed a ride. He even offered to drive. Such a pity Schuldig had our car out just then."
Nagi pulled his door shut and watched the rain beat against the glass of the window. He sagged against the seat and just barely managed the effort of fastening his seat belt.
Crawford pulled open the glove compartment to retrieve a neatly folded and quite incongruous handkerchief. He used it to wipe and dry his glasses then tucked it into one of his pockets.
Nagi leaned back and closed his eyes. A nap. I need a nap. He's probably not lying about the hotel. He's probably not lying about any of it. Maybe. He allowed his breathing to deepen. He dozed until Crawford spoke again.
Nagi blinked twice, straightened in his seat then nodded. He tried to force himself back to alertness but gave up on it and let Crawford steer him through the lobby to an elevator.
"Not long now." Crawford guided Nagi out of the elevator with a hand on his elbow. "If you're up to it, I think a shower first, followed by dry clothes and food. Right now, you'd fall asleep in the bath."
"I may fall asleep anyway." Nagi couldn't quite bring himself to care that he was falling in with Crawford's plans so easily. I am cold and tired and hungry, and he's the only one offering.
"If you sleep without eating, the headache will incapacitate you tomorrow." They stopped in front of a door, and Crawford set down his suitcase to open it.
Nagi stumbled inside. He pulled off his shoes and started stripping off his wet clothing before the door was completely closed. He left his clothes in a pile on the floor and felt a flash of triumph when Crawford failed to object. He does need me.
The hot water felt good. Nagi hadn't realized how cold he was. He stood and let the water sluice over him. He didn't bother with soap or shampoo, just turned a little from time to time so that the heat could reach other parts of his body.
He used two towels to dry himself, wrapping one around his waist and draping the other across his shoulders. He shuddered at the chill as he stepped out of the bathroom. "You said something about dry clothes?"
"On the bed." Crawford sat beside the room's desk. "There's a power bar there, too. The real food hasn't arrived yet."
Nagi dressed rapidly. After a moment's consideration, he pulled back the covers and climbed into the bed. He wanted the extra insulation provided by the blankets. He ripped the wrapper off the power bar and started to eat, making a face at the lack of flavor. I need the calories. What I did earlier- "I should still be unconscious."
Crawford pushed up his glasses. "Most telekinetics wouldn't wake up at all after something like that."
Nagi rearranged the pillows behind him then took another bite of power bar. Most telekinetics can't bring down buildings. He considered turning on the TV but decided it would make his headache worse. Not worth it even if it would annoy Crawford.
A knock sounded. Crawford stood and stretched as a voice said, "Room service." Crawford opened the door.
I hope he ordered something good. Nagi made himself eat more of the power bar. He's supposed to be making me want to stay. Good food would help his case. He shifted, wanting to be sure he was ready to hold a tray on his lap.
Crawford set the tray down on the end of the bed and handed Nagi a napkin. "If there's something you want that I didn't order, we can call down again."
Nagi set down the power bar and draped the napkin across his chest. Deciding not to wait for Crawford, he reached out telekinetically to grab the tray. It felt heavy and slippery like trying to lift mud. He frowned and focused harder, ignoring the increasing throb in his head.
Crawford picked up the tray and handed it to Nagi. Once Nagi had it, Crawford retreated back to the desk.
A steak. He is trying to bribe me. Nagi picked up the small bowl of soup and started to eat. The vegetable tempura was still too hot to eat, so he turned to the steak next, alternating meat with rice. He tried to savor each mouthful, but he was so hungry that he barely tasted any of it.
As soon as Nagi finished eating, Crawford was there to whisk the tray away. "You should sleep now. There'll be time for more food after that."
Nagi sneered at Crawford but had to admit that sleep sounded like a good idea. I have no options when I can't function. He rearranged the pillows again so that he could lie flat. "We will talk when I wake up." And you'd better be convincing.
Sleep claimed him before he could hear Crawford's response.