[[ Salvation Is Here ]]

AUTHOR: K. Koumori

SERIES: Weiss Kreuz.

CATEGORY: Angst.

PAIRING: Implied Schuldig/Aya.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The Pretty Boys of Weiss and Schwarz = Don't belong to me. Neither do the two songs that inspired this. ...wouldn't mind owning Amy Lee, though.

RATING: G.

WARNING: Angst on Aya's part (what else is new, right?), character death.

SPOILER: Tells what happens at the end of the series, but otherwise, none.

FEEDBACK: is worshipped. Flames are kept, mocked, and occasionally laughed at. I have da fiyaaa...

NOTES: The song 'Hello' by Evanescence originally inspired this short little story, but I stumbled upon 'I Dare You To Move' by Switchfoot just as I was finishing it, and I found it to be utterly perfect.

Annnd there may be some OOCness where Schuldig is concerned, but you'd have to take into account that Schuldig is still human, and still has human qualities. Things can affect him, too, no matter how much he hates it.

- - -

"Fujimiya-san?"

Heavy footsteps paused on the damp grass. It'd been raining off and on, something Aya found symbolic in a bittersweet way. The sky looked like it wanted to unzip itself, and dump rain on everything below it, to restore everything to life, and breathe sweet breath into Earth and all it held.

The sun did not threaten to squeeze curious fingertips out from behind the ominous gray clouds. The sun was hiding. Aya didn't blame it.

"Fujimiya-san. I'm... I'm sorry about this loss. I know this is very hard on you... and if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw whoever it was - it sounded like the woman who'd been Aya-chan's nurse - bow deeply. He thought he was the only one still around, really. He tried to drive home, following the others back to the shop, but he found a side-street, turned around, and came back. He'd hoped the others wouldn't follow him. He was thankful that they didn't.

"My prayers are with you. S-sayonara." On the verge of tears, it sounded, but Aya kept his eyes straight ahead. There was the end of the one-sided conversation, and Aya took the opportunity to continue onward, without giving so much as a mere grunt of acknowledgment.

Things were unfocused and bleary, and time was lagging like cold molasses. He hadn't had her with him, physically, since the accident, but even so, the world seemed so empty without her. Aya-chan had loved the sunshine so much, and the sun was paying its respect by offering her grieving brother nothing but endlessly gray clouds. The sun was in mourning, too. It had to be. It couldn't possibly shine now, not when the strong flame of one of the brightest people to ever grace existence had flickered, and died out.

Nobody was at the grave anymore when he reached it. It looked nice, dressed in various elegant flowers, delicate rosaries, and intricately orchestrated festoons. Everything else may have seemed gray and dead, but ironically, the tombstone looked eerily festive and cheerful.

He stopped in front of it and stared at the epitaph, short and sweet, with vacant eyes. He hadn't cried. He'd been very sure to keep his eyes dry, to stop the tears from pouring down. He didn't want to be like Sakura. The girl was a sniveling, sobbing mess of hysterics at the funeral just hours prior, clutching onto Yohji's arm with a vice-like grip and shedding her worthless tears into the material of his black suit. Yohji had been sympathetic, accepting her uninvited, but apparently not unwelcome, plea for comfort. Ken and Yohji had been just as stoic as he had. Omi shed his own tears, but they were silent, and few.

Aya didn't want that. Crying wasn't being strong for her. Crying was feeling guilty and sorry for himself. He was always strong in Aya-chan's eyes, a fortress that couldn't be shaken, even back when he had a sweeter, friendlier disposition. True, he had clammed up, and had become viciously aloof and cold since the girl fell away from consciousness for so many long years, but he always had his strength.

He had to wonder, what happened? as he knelt down in front of the grave, his eyes glued to the way her name looked engraved into the solid, gray stone. She woke up, and seemed to be perfectly fine for a week. He fully blamed himself. Completely. He left her alone. He left her alone so he could go back upstairs and close shop. He lingered. Inspected a few plants that appeared to be having problems. Fed and watered a few sickly flowers. When he came back downstairs, she was out again. Out for good.

It was a relapse, for certain, but he couldn't seem to wrap his head around the thought.

- It was a relapse. -

Aya felt his back stiffen, but the adrenaline that usually came rushing into his system upon hearing that dreaded, nasty mental voice didn't come this time. The fight was out of him. He just didn't want to put up with it.

.. go away, Schwarz ..

He anticipated the hateful laughter, the trademark conniving snicker that usually came equipped with a superior, all-knowing grin. He hated that grin, and that laugh, more than anything else he could ever even think of. The laughter never came, though.

Instead, he heard a surprisingly solemn, - It would have happened whether or not you left the room. -

.. I don't want to hear it .. he thought. .. not now. Wherever you are. Leave ..

He felt his presence. He didn't see him, yet, but he knew he was close by. He'd been around him too many times not to notice.

He would have stood up, demanded that he come out where he could be seen and either leave quietly or deal with an angry, grieving man in a great, dire need for justice of any kind.

But he wasn't in the mood to fight. Not while his heart was still in battered, bloodied pieces on the slaughterhouse floor.

The presence got a bit stronger. - You're hurting. -

Stating the obvious would have normally pissed him off to the point of physically attacking his tormentor. Now wasn't the time for attacking, though. His defensive walls had all crumbled to piles of useless rubble.

.. yes, I am. I don't need you to make it worse ..

- Relax, katzchen. I'm not here to threaten you. -

Aya scowled at the tombstone that he was no longer paying any attention to. .. then .. he thought back. .. why are you here? ..

- I'm here to offer my own breed of solace, Abyssinian. -

.. solace. You don't even know the meaning of the word ..

- There's a lot you don't know about me. -

.. I don't care ..

- You underestimate me. -

Aya rose from his kneel and calmly wiped the dirt from the knees of his prim black dress pants. He obeyed instinct and turned his head slightly to the right, letting eyes of violet slam into a slim figure with impossibly long leg and orange-red hair, wearing a full black suit, leaning back against one of the few trees in the area with his arms crossed over his chest. A pair of sunglasses sat on the bridge of his nose, shielding those wicked eyes. The stem of a beautiful red rose was pushed through one of the unused buttonholes of his suit coat.

He had to have been mocking him. The ultimate kick in the teeth. Of all the dirty, disgusting things...

Aya thought, .. this isn't your funeral, Mastermind. You have no right to be here .. His mental voice sounded rough and hard, but his expression never failed him.

- No need to get defensive. - The tone in that mental murmuring was so neutral that Aya couldn't place exactly what the telepath was trying to get at. - There are no more bones to pick with you. You forget that I spent a good amount of time with the girl, as well. -

Aya grit his teeth, and every muscle in his body tensed. .. you kidnapped her .. he lashed back. His hand went instinctively to his hip, where his sword no longer rested. .. you took her away from me ..

- Did you ever pause to think that maybe I was under mind control? The elders were incredibly strong, stronger than Schwarz. -

.. bullshit .. Aya took a blind step in the direction of his enemy.

The German grinned, a slow, unfamiliar grin that stopped the other man instantaneously. The mind had nothing to do with it. Aya had stopped on his own accord.

It wasn't Schuldig's typical grin. It wasn't the grin that made his blood boil. It wasn't the grin that never failed to force a powerful wave of hatred through his body.

It was a grin that Aya had seen himself make in the bathroom mirror just before the funeral. It was the empty, meaningless grin of a grieving man. It meant nothing.

Slowly, still cautious, Schuldig pushed from his leaning place and those long legs began to carry him toward the man whose life he'd almost devastated more than once, whether by physical attack or emotional damage. He certainly had the power to do it.

- Come on, katz. I dare you to move. -

But Aya couldn't. The spark that seemed to have been ignited in his heart was abruptly snuffed out. He stood, useless and defenseless as he watched his enemy draw closer, but there was no hostility. When they came face to face, Schuldig reached up to slide the sunglasses from his face, and the once-scrutinizing pair of wicked, jade eyes were dull, and regarded Aya with a calm kind of respect. A truce.

Aya's anger was suddenly replaced with an unbearably overwhelming wave of sadness and exhaustion, and he was the first to drop his gaze. His chest tightened, his legs weakened, and he felt a powerful, choking sob bubble its way up from the pit of his knotted stomach. It hurt like unfamiliar fire.

"The pain will ebb," the taller man murmured in a tone that might have slapped Aya in the face with shock had he been paying close enough attention. "and you'll move on. I know it doesn't seem that way now, but you have to trust me."

Queer, how fluidly those last two words slid between his lips.

"If you give up, the others will be devastated, and you know it."

Aya slowly lifted his head, eyes squinting in both discomfort and shame. His face, which had been slowly working its way back to stony and apathetic, started to crumble apart again when the German lifted a hand and wiped a tear strolling down his cheek away with an elegantly long finger.

There was a moment of silence between the two, and then, "Why are you doing this?" Aya was unaware that he had even been thinking about saying anything until he'd already spoken. He sounded weak and lost.

"Because I have the power to," Schuldig replied. The same hand moved to carefully pull the rose from where it was being held on his suit coat. He turned his head to glance down at the grave, and let a small smile curl the corners of his lips. "and because I know I'm human enough to." His full body turned and he crouched, setting the flower down among the many others over the grave.

"You never cared before." Flatly. Numbly.

The telepath rose. "You're right. I didn't. A loss like this can change a lot of things, katz."

"Did you love her?"

That earned Aya an incredulous sidelong glance, and for a second, he could see the dark assassin still lurking beneath the unexpected calm, quiet demeanor. "Nein."

"Then what is it? Are you feeling sorry for me?" 'Sorry' had been forced out sourly and quickly, as if it had tasted bad and burned his tongue.

"Don't flatter yourself." As biting as the words could have been, the tone held no trace of hostility or threat or challenge. In fact, it almost sounded... tired. "I don't feel sorry, katz. I only empathize. I had a brother like her, once. Older." A bitter smile graced his lips. "Don't let yourself fall to Hell. You don't want that."

It was obvious that he knew from experience.

Schuldig started walking away, leaving Aya at his sister's grave with a myriad of confused, startled thoughts running through his mind. He stared after the telepath until he was through the cemetery gates, strolling slowly and casually to the parking lot, getting into a flashy red car, and leaving, out of sight.

Had that been why the German joined Schwarz? Had that been why he always seemed to have such fascination with Aya and his sister, even outside of the dirty work he'd been doing for Estet?

Aya, still glued to the spot he'd stopped in, turned his head to trace his eyes over Aya-chan's grave for what seemed like the hundredth time.

The one thing that affected his life the most now was the one thing he had in common with the enemy that he'd underestimated. Yes, Schuldig was right. He had underestimated him.

He felt an odd sense of clarity.

He wasn't alone.

.. I dare you to move ..

Aya murmured to his sister, "I love you," before he smoothed out his sleek black tie with one hand and took a step away from the grave. Then another. And another.

And it wasn't as hard as he thought it would be.