The only reason Schuldig had a face once Aya woke up was because Schuldig had had the presence of mind to tie Aya to the bed.
“Don’t pull,” Schuldig said. Aya glared at him, wishing he could reach his katana and slice him in two. “And um, no. You really don’t want to do that either, no matter how much you think you do.”
Aya glared harder.
“How do I know that? I’m a Telepath.” Schuldig bent over a small copper tub. “I can see and hear everything your thinking. Including the art project you have in mind for my intestines.” Straightening, he twisted a washcloth between his hands. “And as much as I can understand your distaste for me, you need to relax. Stop being Angry Boy and let me take care of you, mkay?”
Schuldig brought the rag with him as sat down on the edge of the bed. Aya growled as Schuldig lifted his shirt, but the noise died in his throat when he saw why. There was a huge gash across his torso, from his left shoulder to his right hip. By the look of it, it wasn’t very old.
“It’s not.” Schuldig pressed the cloth against Aya’s skin. “Three days? Maybe four? When the floor gave way, you caught yourself on a piece of metal.”
“The floor gave way?”
“In the tower, yes.” Schuldig folded the cloth and blotted where the scab had pulled away, leaving fresh, bright streaks of red. “I’m not surprised you don’t remember. You were unconscious when I found you.”
“Found me?” Aya stared hard at his captor. “Are you saying you saved me?”
Schuldig’s shrugged. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”
Aya’s eyes narrowed. “Because I hate you.”
Schuldig dabbed at a crusty spot of congealed blood. “Hate is a strong word, Abyssinian. Using it indiscriminately will get you into trouble.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you might want to calm the fuck down and look around you before you declare yourself the hapless victim.”
Rather than walk it back, Schuldig threw the now-bloodied cloth at the washtub. It missed, smacked against the wall and slid down, leaving a faint, pinkish stain.
Aya felt a cold prickle of unease.
“What’s here that I need to see?” he asked. “I’m looking around, I don’t see much.”
Schuldig stood up. For the first time, Aya noticed how pale he looked. How thin and tired. “That’s right. And you won’t.”
Schuldig fixed with a piercing stare.
And suddenly, Aya knew.
His horror must have registered on his face because Schuldig chuckled. “Very good,” he said. “You got my message. Two points for you.”
Aya’s fingers dug into the mattress. “When? How?”
“The building collapsed. They were either crushed or they drown.”
“Except for us?”
“Except for us.”
“Then I guess the rumors are true. You can’t kill the devil.”
“Ha. Humor. Aren’t you cute.” Schuldig stalked over to a tiny refrigerator in the corner. Opening it, he pulled out two bottles of water and brought them back, handing one to Aya. “Here. Drink.”
Aya, having realized his bonds were loose enough to move, pushed himself to a half-sitting position and took the offering, imbibing a long swig. It was cold and wet, and it soothed his parched throat, clearing a bit of the buzzing out of his head.
“Maybe I am the devil, but I’m not an idiot.” Schuldig said. “Unlike you, I have no illusions that I can survive out there all by myself. Unchecked, I am a recipe for disaster. Without familiar minds around me, I will most likely go insane. And while I do enjoy causing pain and suffering, I don’t like to experience it. Plus, I’m not in the mood to die yet. Especially not as a half-crazed, slobbering mess.”
There was a flash of the old Schuldig in the way he tossed his hair. But the red strands were a little bit too bright against his sallow skin and it wasn’t enough to make the situation any less surreal.
“So is that it? You saved me because I’m familiar?”
“Actually, no. I had no intention of doing anything with you until I checked your pulse. When I put my hands on you, I realized. Your mind is a lot like Brad’s.”
“Crawford.” Schuldig looked away. “You feel a lot like Crawford.”
There were dark circles under his eyes. And tension in the line of his jaw and for a moment, Schuldig looked less like a killer and more like a human. A human who had lost someone very important and wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.
It was something Aya could relate to, but he wasn’t about to give Schuldig the satisfaction.
“Well, I’m not Crawford.” Aya recapped his water. “You should have let me die because I don’t intend to be your stabilizer or whatever the hell it is you want me to be. As soon as you untie me, I’m going to leave.”
“Really? And go where?”
“Away from you.”
Schuldig laughed. “Aya, admit you suck on your own. You get so lost in your own head you become a walking corpse. You need me. Just as much as I need you.”
“That’s a lie.”
“Is it?” Schuldig smirked. “You sure? You know you can’t hide your wants from a telepath. And you don’t want to be on your own any more than I do. And no, I’m not making that up. I’m reading it straight from your subconscious.”
It was Aya’s turn to grit his teeth. Fucking Schuldig. Of all the people he could possibly end up with, it had to be a fucking sociopathic telepath.
“Now, now, I’m not that bad.” Schuldig came over and sat down again, this time pulling his legs up underneath him and settling in. “I’ve kept you clean and hydrated, I’ve given you your own bed.” He gestured to Aya’s current apparel. “I even got you new clothes. And it’s not like being my companion is going to ruin your life. You can still kill people. Hell, I’ll even help you.”
Aya wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. “You’re really serious about this,” he said. “You’re really going to make me the new Crawford.”
“Well, no.” Schuldig leaned over and brushed Aya’s hair from his cheek, fingertips lingering just a second too long. “You can’t be what Brad was to me. You don’t have it in you. But you can help me. And I can help you. And we can truly survive.”
Something odd tickled the edges of Aya’s brain. A memory or a thought - something he couldn’t quite see. But suddenly, Schuldig’s closeness didn’t feel so strange. Or unwanted.
And Schuldig’s smile made him want to smile, too.
“See? Not so bad.” Schuldig’s thumb brushed across his lips. “I’m a good devil, not a bad one.”
Aya blinked at him. He wanted to say something, but he couldn’t remember what or why. All he knew is that he was tired and his body ached and he needed to go back to sleep.
Schuldig caught him as he slumped, gently guiding him down to the bed.
“That’s right, you rest. You rest and we’ll talk more later.” Schuldig pressed a gentle kiss to Aya’s forehead. “ And while you rest, think about how we’re going to make a great team. And how I’m going to take good care of you. You won’t have to worry about a thing ever again, Aya. I promise.”
The last thing Aya saw was Schuldig’s manic smile before his consciousness faded away.