Umami

by nekojita

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written by a prompt from LJ summerbutterfly for weiss-kreuzmas '“You’re my favorite flavor.”| Kapitel/Tokyo Sling| Mindgames with Aya, Schuldig style| any genre.'

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Aya was careful to remain in the shadows as he snuck into the empty school yard, stalking close to the fence until he caught sight of the long row of faucets where he could wash off the blood that was turning sticky on his gloves and face. He needed to make himself presenta- he needed to rid himself of evidence from the latest kill and join up with the others as quickly as possible, before anything else could go wrong tonight.

Crossing the open field as quickly as he dared, he reached the cement wash basins and turned on the nearest faucet, the sound of running water loud in the otherwise quiet night. He shifted forward to cup the cold water in his gloved hands, only to frown and lean in closer when he noticed a glint of light in the shallow basin. As he stared, the long trough filled with thick, red liquid instead of water, the copper scent of blood heavy in the air, and a thin bar of gold swirled on top. He gasped as he recognized Aya-chan’s earring, his left hand reaching up to check his own ear for the precious metal that dangled there even as his right hand scrambled for the earring swirling around in the rising pool of blood. Just as he touched the piece of jewelry, the blood rushed up from the basin in a tidal wave and crashed into him, knocking into him with such force that he was sent tumbling to the ground.

When he came to his senses, he found himself in a world saturated with red, his work gear gone to be replaced by a pure white yukata that was slowly being stained a glistening crimson as he watched. The color saturated the pristine white, soaked into it while leaving his skin dry as if the cotton was a sponge, the weight of the color a molten lead that weighed down his limbs as if a physical manifestation of his many sins. Soon he was left kneeling in the blood-hued room, immobilized by the weight of the many crimes he had committed in the short life he had lived, the many failures he had-

A loud clapping sound broke him from his thoughts. “Oh *yes*, this is why I just *had* to come back. You only get better with time, you know.” As Aya stared, a spot of darkness formed against the red and grew larger, more distinct, and morphed into a familiar shape – the German who haunted his dreams and had even shown up in reality lately to fight Weiss on missions.

Aya struggled against the burden holding him trapped in such a submissive position and wished for his katana, yet he remained kneeling while the foreigner approached.
“Foreigner? Really? I keep telling you my name is ‘Schuldig’, there’s no need for such distance when we’re so close,” the man taunted, his hands tucked into the faded and torn blue jeans that he wore. His bare feet made no sound on the wet red floor as he sauntered closer. “And here I thought we were making such wonderful progress.”

“Get *out* of my head,” Aya spat, his entire body tense with the hatred and rage he felt for the other man; now that he knew that this was all a nightmare, he wanted to wrest what control of it that he could and force out the unwelcome visitor. Perhaps he couldn’t do anything about his overwhelming guilt, but there was no reason for this man to be here.

The foreigner, Schuldig – dammit, why did he have to name him? began to laugh. “Ah, you are just so much fun!” He came to a stop in front of Aya and crouched down until they were almost at eye level. “Thinking you can bark out orders on my playground, ja?” He reached out, his right hand moving in a blur, and smacked Aya’s left cheek with enough force to bring tears to his eyes. “Oh no, Ran, here we do things my way.”

Enraged both at the use of his true name and the blow, Aya went to lash out in return and found the sleeves of his yukata stuck to the floor, effectively trapping his arms. “You-“

A dismissive wave of Schuldig’s hand silenced him before he could properly curse the bastard, and judging from the smug look on the foreigner’s face, he took great amusement over that fact. “Ah ah, we can’t have you saying such nasty things, can we?” Schuldig grinned and waving his hand toward Aya’s face again, this time to caress the cheek that he had just abused. He smirked at the way that Aya flinched at the touch, his fingers lingering along the cheekbone before moving to tangle in an eartail. “Hmm, such potent emotions – I could feel them halfway across the city.” He leaned in as if to sniff around Aya’s face but merely hummed for a few seconds. “You’ve enough existential angst for a thousand Frenchmen, but without that wretched sense of ennui that makes me want to shred your mind into mush.”

‘What… I ‘amuse’ you?” Aya continued to struggle against the cloth that had become his binding, desperate to do something, be it attack or escape. Fractured memories were returning to him the longer he spoke with the foreigner, various dreamscapes which featured him and Schuldig and none… none of them ended well.

A harsh tug to his hair had him biting back on a curse while he was forced to look at the foreigner again, who now appeared furious. “That’s the only reason you’re still alive.” Pale green eyes were narrow as they studied Aya, cold and flat as if belonging to a reptile instead of a human, and suddenly the man was laughing again. “Ah, but you are the most interesting of the pack, what with all of that anger, guilt and resolve roiling on inside. How about we ripen you up some more, hmm?”

About to wish the man an inventive death, Aya found himself once more drowned in red…..

… and then Ran was rushing to take table 14 their pot of green tea. Tomio was going to owe him two shifts to make up for calling off for this one and leaving them short-staffed, especially since he knew that Saturdays was when Aya-chan came to spend some time with him. Now it was so busy that all Ran could do was pass by her table now and then to make sure she had something to drink and was all right, but didn’t have a chance to talk to her at all. She smiled at him when he walked past and set the tea down on the nearby table, earning an absentminded nod from the redheaded woman who had ordered it.

The café was small and out of the way; Ran was used to his regular customers and the few classmates who stopped by while out shopping, so it was unusual to have so many new guests all at once. The elegant woman and the teenage boy with her appeared engrossed in some sort of discussion which they always stopped whenever Ran served them their tea and desserts, the blond man barely said anything beyond his order and kept playing with his phone the entire time Ran waited on him, drinking nothing but coffee and the young man sipping a large bubble tea while reading the sports section looked a bit familiar. Ran was kept busy waiting on them and the other customers, and only managed to check up on his sister’s homework once.

He’d just brewed Iwamoto-sensei’s pot of oolong tea when he glanced up to see Aya-chan leaving the café in the company of the redheaded woman and the teenage boy. Confused over why she was leaving with the strangers and that she hadn’t said anything to him, he started after her while calling out her name. She didn’t seem to hear him, even after he stepped out onto the street and could shout her name louder.

“Aya-chan!”

No one reacted to him, not even his sister, who stood next to a large black sedan parked across the street. The redheaded woman slid into the backseat while Aya-chan and the blond teenager stood outside, toward the rear of the car, and while Ran watched, the young man held up something that looked like an odd-shaped gun toward his sister. Moments later, she fell crumpled to the ground.

“AYA-CHAN!” Screaming his sister’s name in disbelief, Ran attempted to run to her, only to find himself immobilized as thin cords wrapped around his limbs, trapping him as if a fly in a web. The wires bit into his flesh, tearing at his waiter’s uniform the more he struggled against them, yet he couldn’t stop trying to go rescue his sister as she lay there unmoving on the ground. All around him, people continued to walk past, impervious to his struggles and cries.

As he continued to fight to free himself, the blond man obsessed with his phone from earlier sauntered into his peripheral vision and headed toward the car, where he motioned for the teenager to join the woman inside while he picked up Ran’s sister. Ran yelled at him to help Aya-chan, to do something, and stared in horror as he watched the man open the trunk of the car and place his beloved sister inside of it as if she was… as if she was some object. As Ran’s struggle to free himself intensified so he could go help her, the other stranger from earlier, the man interested in sports, stepped in front of him.

“Help me, you have to help me save my sister,” he told him, desperate to make him understand. He seemed like a nice person, his face kind and open, so Ran could only stare in shock at the gloved hand that shot toward his chest and the disturbed grin that spread across the young man’s face. He told himself it was the impact that hurt, the force of the punch, and then a sense of burning spread through his chest and he couldn’t breathe – it felt as if he was drowning. Something wet was sliding along the front of his body, and he looked down to see red spreading along his shirt as sharp blades were pulled out of his chest. The stranger continued to smile at him before turning to join the others at the black sedan, leaving Ran to hang in the wires while pedestrians continued to walk past him.

Feeling himself grow weaker with each fading heartbeat, Ran watched as they drove off with his sister, leaving him helpless, leaving him alone while he failed to protect what mattered to him most in the world…

…Aya found himself back in the red room, dressed once more in a white yukata, the biting wires now replaced by thick red strands that held him upright but still immobile. His chest ached as if in remembrance of the wound that Ken had inflicted upon it in the previous… ‘dream’, his body sore from the struggles against Yohji’s wires. What hurt the most was failing Aya-chan yet again, of seeing her whole and happy and awake for such a brief time and then losing that.

Warmth pressed against his back and long, strong arms slid around his chest. “Oh yes, you are my favorite flavor. So distinct, so meaty, so… yummy,” Schuldig breathed against his left ear.

“Don’t you ever get tired of these games?” Aya saved his strength and this time didn’t try to struggle against the red bindings. After all, they never broke, not in a hundred dreams – his body would give out first.

There was a pause for a moment, followed by a teasing lick to his ear. “Hmm, no. You see, the trouble is some people, like Kudoh, are giving in to despair and that just makes his thoughts too bitter. Others, like Hidaka, are so full of suppressed rage that their minds are all tough and salty. Tsukiyono is unique in that he’s more resolved to his fate than anything, but that just makes him bland, like an overcooked stew.” The arms tightened even more around Aya, and Schuldig’s voice deepened with satisfaction. “But you? Oh, now you, it’s a bit more complex than that. You’re so many things, a dash of the rage, a jolt of guilt, a pinch of resignation, all mixed together into a subtle, intoxicating blend that makes you so tasty. No wonder I can’t get enough of you.”

“So you can’t resist creating these warped dreamscapes to turn me against my team?” Aya accused the bastard, phantom pain still burning lines along his body and stoking a remnant of his anger even as something worked to sap his will. A creeping malaise was spreading through him, numbing both his body and his will except for the reminders of the previous dream.

Schuldig’s right hand pressed against the exact spot where Ken’s weapon had pierced his chest. “You think that was me?” Mocking laughter echoed throughout the red room as well as Aya’s head. “Oh sweet Ran, don’t you get it by now? I merely set the stage, you, or rather your subconscious, are the director here. You don’t need to be a precog to see how your precious team will soon tear at each other.”

Aya closed his eyes and tugged at the ropes holding his hands bound, tried to do something to free himself even if his struggles felt more a token effort than anything. Schuldig took to laughing again, the sound pleased as if he knew that he had won this battle, as his right hand slid beneath the yukata to rest against Aya’s pounding heart.

“And this is my favorite part. Each time you resist, each time we do this dance, and each time we end up here. Yet I never get bored. Maybe it’s not just your mind that tastes so good,” he murmured against Aya’s neck before pressing his lips against sensitive skin in a kiss that seared nerves that had gone numb.

Desperate to lash out, to fight somehow, Aya once again remembered what it was about these nightmares that he hated so much – not the guilt, not the sense of loss or betrayal, but how sweet the surrender was each and every inevitable time.

*******

Yohji stared back at the corner of the flower shop while he lit a cigarette and sighed; he so did not need to put up with this shit this early in the day. Scratch that, he so did did not need this shit at any point in the day. Inhaling a deep lungful of nicotine bliss, he headed over to the cash register where Ken was doing his best to blend in with the display plants set out there while reading the paper. “So, what has Mr. Grumpy in a bad mood today?”

Ken set the sports section aside and hunched even further over the counter as if he thought that would shelter him from the negative vibes that Aya was sending out from his corner of the shop. “Damn if I know – he nearly bit my head off when I wished him a good morning. Looks like he didn’t get much sleep last night is what I can tell.”

Leaning away from the counter, Yohji risked glancing back at the antisocial bastard’s little sanctuary and noticed that yeah, Aya had dark circle under his eyes. If it was anyone other than ‘work must come first, you lazy bastards’ then he would have some faith in that the redhead had been out having some fun last night – well, Omi had probably been up late cracking some government database – so he had no clue what could ruin a workaholic’s sleep. Maybe thinking up new ways to kill a Takatori or something. “Eh, leave him to stew a few hours and maybe he’ll be human then.” Yohji really didn’t care as long as it meant that he’d be left alone for the shift.

Ken looked as if he wanted to argue with that, but then probably remembered the shit that Aya had given him this morning so all he did was shrug and go back to his newspaper. Convinced that he’d be left alone until the lunch crowd, Yohji decided that it was a fine time to make a coffee run.

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