“I know just what it feels like

to have a voice in the back of my head.

It’s like a face that I hold inside

A face that awakes when I close my eyes.”

-Papercut by Linkin Park

-Chapter One-

Omi? Why does he sound so upset? I can hear him calling me, his voice cracking with fear and pain. He’s screaming my name over and over. I wish he’d stop. My head aches so much. I try to move, but my body won’t respond. I should be afraid, but I’m not. Just numb. So very numb.

//It’s a relief from the pain, isn’t it kitten?//

What? Yes… yes it is. The voice sounds strange, but it must have been my own thoughts. How else could it be in my head. I sigh and try to force my eyes open. They don’t seem to want to respond, but after some time they finally squint part way open so I can at least see the dark grey roof over me.

It looks so cold. I -feel- cold. Where am I? What happened? I can’t seem to focus on anything.


I flinch. He sounds so afraid. I hate it when he sounds that upset. People like Omi shouldn’t be upset. They should be happy. Why isn’t he happy? Did Ken upset him? Or did I? It’s my name he’s screaming. Maybe he’s angry at me… but what did I do? I can’t seem to remember.

//Just relax. Your memories will return shortly.//

Hmm?? Oh.. yeah. I guess they will. I frown a little. My mental voice sounds so strange. I don’t remember it ever being so… seductive.

I hear something, someone?, laugh. The laugh echoes in my brain and makes me flinch in pain. What’s going on? I don’t understand.

“Seductive, eh, kitten?” A voice whispers, so close that as the person speaks their breath touches my ear.

I turn my head.


He’s kneeling beside me. He looks odd. His hair mussed, with pieces of dust and dirt in it. His face is muddy, and there is blood under his eye. He looks like he’s just fallen through a building, or maybe off one? He smirks at me, and I don’t feel afraid. Funny. Normally when I see him I either feel fear, or anger. This time, I feel nothing. Just a comforting numbness.

The voice inside my head. It was him, not me. That would explain why it sounded so odd. Schuldich moves, I’m not sure what he’s doing until an arm slides under my back and another beneath my knees. What is he doing? Picking me up? Why?

He seems to be unsteady as he stands with me in his arms. He wavers, a pained expression crossing his features. I try to move, to reach up and brush my fingers over his brow, but my body won’t obey my commands. Why can’t I move? “Don’t worry kitten, you’ll be able to move later.” I stare at him with surprise, then remember that he can hear my thoughts.

“Why.. can’t I..?” My voice doesn’t seem to want to work.

He looks down at me, with a fond smile? Strange, I never imagined him as being gentle. But the way he’s holding me, and his eyes as he looks at me… so soft. So kind. “A result of Nagi’s power. I’m afraid he used a bit too much force on you. But he had no choice.” //You’ve got a strong mind, kitten.//

Not strong enough if he managed to somehow make me this immobile.

//Stronger than most norms.//

Norms? I frown a little. /Obviously I’m not very strong at all, you’re in my head aren’t you?/ I know he’ll hear me, so I think it, rather than try to say it.

He smiles, “I’m a special case.”

How? I want to ask, but either he doesn’t hear the thought, or he chooses to ignore it. He starts to move, carrying me, but where? I try to look around, but everything is dark and grey. There seems to be no real reason to the structure around us. It almost looks like we’re in the middle of a fallen building. Or at least a partly fallen building.

“AYA! AYA!!!”

Omi! I forgot about Omi. “Where are they?”

“They’re safely outside already.” Schuldich responds quietly, “I imagine they think you’ve been crushed… and we might have been. Nagi used the last of his power to hold this area up so that we could get out.”

How could such a small boy do so much? His power is holding me immobile, his power is holding this building up long enough for Schuldich and myself to escape. I can’t fathom it. I try to imagine so much power being in the small body of Schwarz’s prodigy, but the mental image just doesn’t work.

I hear Schuldich chuckling again, I glance at his face, wondering what’s so funny. “Nagi’s power is something no one can understand. Not even me.” He didn’t look down as he spoke. Just kept walking. He looks strained, as if he’s using all his concentration to keep moving.

I’ve seen that expression before. On Ken when he’s using the last of his strength to walk up to his room. Or Yohji when he’s thinking about Asuka. They both get that expression. That bone-wearied, wish-I-was-dead expression.

//I’ve come to think of it as the accumulation of all his grief, and anger at this world. He’s suffered so much, and bottled it up. Until it became this living thing he could control and manipulate.//

The words are unsettling. Especially when I realize he’s talking about Nagi’s power. I can’t begin to imagine… how could someone suffer so much that their very emotions became a living thing? Sometimes I feel as if my anger and pain could control me, but I’ve never felt that it could become…

//A power to control and manipulate others with?// Schuldich shifts, holding me closer to his chest. I should be upset, but his warmth is strangely comforting.

Why do I need to be comforted? I’m not sure. I’m not afraid, in pain, or angry. I’m just numb. Beautifully, blissfully numb.

“Stop thinking so loud.” Schuldich murmurs, sounding almost amused, “You’re distracting me.”

“From walking?” Does it take that much thought to walk?


I fall silent. Trying to keep my thoughts quiet… it’s strangely not as hard as I thought it would be.


He grows silent. His thoughts don’t filter through anymore. Sometimes he amazes me. This strange little norm, who can turn his thoughts off. He’s probably completely blank now. The way he’s staring at me, his eyes slightly glazed, I know I’m right. He’s not thinking anything anymore at all. I wish I could be more like that. Tired of thinking? Well, then stop. Hah!

I sigh, shifting him in my arms yet again. He’s not that heavy, but I’m weak from the fall. When I realized the floor was about to give way, I threw myself at the redhead. I don’t know why. He’s my enemy after all. Regardless, I landed on the bottom, breaking his fall. As a result I’m the one with the injuries, but that’s all right. I can’t bear to think of him being hurt. And that scares me.

A little anyway.

No one has ever mattered to me. I never would have done for Nagi, Crawford or Farfarello what I just did for this kitten.


I keep thinking of him as a kitten. He’s cute and cuddly like one, and yet prickly and defensive too. He reminds me of a kitten I had once. I picked it up off the streets. At first it would only hiss at me, claws unsheathed, eyes glittering with anger. But after awhile he started to trust me. It even got to the point he would curl up in my lap and purr while I pet him.

I really liked that kitten.

Then Farfarello got his hands on it, and fried it in the microwave.

God! The smell. I’ll never forget the smell. Or Nagi’s horrified screams when he found it. Too bad the kid had to find it. Nagi seems cold, but that’s just a front he puts up to protect himself. Kind of like Aya, except deeper. Aya’s emotions glimmer along the surface, with Nagi you have to dig real deep to find what he’s feeling.

The truth…

I don’t know if I should tell him the truth. He might never move again. Nagi used too much power. Way too much. But Aya had been attacking him and the boy had done the only thing he could. Except Aya’s anger is almost as strong as Nagi’s. So it had taken an extra burst to pin the redhead to the wall.

I think Nagi might have damaged something. Norms aren’t capable of being hit by so much kinetic energy. Gifted’s like Nagi and myself can recover from kinetic energy attacks, but norms can’t. Aya’s brain may never heal.

The thought upsets me, more than I’d ever admit to anyone. I’m not angry at Nagi, but I am upset this happened to Aya.

How will this proud creature handle not being able to walk, or even move? How?

Will he remain numb, as he is now in shock? Will he grow angry and sullen? Will he become suicidal?

The thought hurts.

So I try to turn it off.

We’re almost out. I can see daylight filtering through the opening Nagi made for us to walk through. I wonder if Weiss will be outside too. Have they found out that Schwarz escaped unscathed? Maybe not. They don’t seem to be truly aware of the strength of Nagi’s power.

It’s true he is powerful, but even this will tire him out. Crawford will be pissed I took so long to get out. I try to walk faster, but my bones ache. My legs protest. It’s hard enough just to stay upright, let alone hurry.

Finally I reach the opening. I can see Crawford and Nagi waiting outside. Nagi is bent over, clutching his stomach. He looks pained. Shit…

I hurry out, the moment my back clears the opening Nagi gasps and falls the ground. I hear a great groan as the building collapses, Nagi’s power finally releasing it to fall as it had been doing before Nagi grabbed it.

The dust blinds me for a moment. I feel debris bump my legs, but I don’t care.

A few more injuries are no big deal.

When the dust clears I see Crawford kneeling beside Nagi. He’s talking softly to the boy. I watch as Nagi nods. Crawford touches the boy’s head ever so gently, then stands and fixes his cold gaze on me. Shit shit shit…

“I told you to hurry.” He says. I can tell from the tone of his voice that he’s angry.

I shrug, nearly dropping the kitten in my arms. I glance down at him quickly, but he seems to be in an entirely different world. His mind is still completely empty. He’s fallen into a sleep of sorts. “I got held up.”

“Saving Weiss is not one of our priorities.”

“I know that. I wasn’t saving Weiss though.” I smirk at him, “I was saving my kitten.”

“Your kitten?” He arches his brow and snorts. Then he fixes this penetrating stare on me. I hate that look. He may not be a telepath, but sometimes I swear he can look into my very soul and pick out anything he wants to know about the way I work.

That’s probably why he’s the leader.

He doesn’t need power to get inside people.

“Can you take him?” I would have never asked, except that I feel as if my arms are going to fall off. I don’t want to drop the kitten. I don’t want him anymore hurt than he already is.

Crawford hesitates, looking down at Nagi. Nagi notices that he’s being looked at and slowly gets to his feet. He braces his feet. He looks pale, and ill. He brushes his bangs out his eyes and looks over at me. Then he looks at Crawford and nods.

Crawford’s jaw visibly hardens. He says something softly to Nagi, something I can’t hear. Then he stalks over and takes the kitten from my arms.

“Thanks.” I whisper.

Then, suddenly, the ground is rushing up to greet me.