I crept across the empty expanse of space to the figure kneeling in the corner. The enormous, white room had dwarfed him, so small and wan he appeared. The snowy linoleum floor around him was splattered with congealing blood, knives scattered throughout the mess. His straightjacket was stained with the crimson liquid; it screamed like a siren in the colorless, bright room.
"Farfie?" I whispered, my voice sounding abnormally loud and out of place. "Are you awake?"
Silence. Shrill, squalid silence shrieking. It pounded into my ears, thudding with my heartbeat as I moved closer to my unresponsive teammate.
My shoes squished audibly in the viscous red goo that coated the floor. A mere thought and the knives were flung to the other side of the room, falling to the glaringly-white floor with a clatter.
I knelt down, my knees instantly sponging his lifefluid into the grey pants of my uniform. His head was bowed, resting lightly upon his chest. Cropped, bleached locks obscured his face. I whispered his name again, just a tiny bit louder.
His head jerked up, a black patch and one tawny eye burning me. Wan cheeks were streaked with blood, his mouth smeared.
It infuriated me to see those pallid features dyed. Why did they always abandon him like this? He was as much a member of Schwartz as any of us. They had no right to leave him like an animal wallowing in its own filth.
I pulled out of my pocket the facecloth I’d stolen from the linen closet and carefully wiped the scarlet gunk from his face.
He watched me calmly from behind one shuttered eye. I could see that he was sound today, he usually was after great bouts of self-maiming. And judging from the copious amounts of blood that soaked the floor and his straightjacket, I’d say that he’d done a good deal of slashing.
Sometimes I hated him for doing what he did to himself. Why couldn’t he accept that God didn’t exist? What was the point in trying to make God suffer? A few deaths and some arm-slashings weren’t going to faze a God who’d seen the deaths of billions since the beginning of time. It was all such nonsense and yet I couldn’t bring myself to convince Farfarello otherwise. What right did I have to take away his one pleasure, the only thing that he believed? Even if it was hacking his pale skin to bits. I couldn’t argue with him.
"Why do you bother?"
I dropped the bloody cloth in my surprise. I came to see Farfarello everyday after school and usually he was either unconscious or gagged or busy ranting about how he was going to hurt God. It was strange to hear him speaking rationally. Most of the time I had no idea whether he even recognized my presence.
He tilted his head in the direction of the facecloth. "Everyday you clean me up with that. Why?"
I resisted the childish urge to fidget. A sane Farfarello staring out of one brandy eye was unnerving. "Why not?"
His gaze didn’t waver. "I only get bloody again. Crawford and Schulderich don’t bother. Why do you?"
The mention of our other two teammates angered me. "You’re as much part of Schwartz as they are!" I snapped, chagrined. "They have no right to leave you like this every day. You may be unbalanced but that doesn’t make you anything less than we are. They way they treat you is degrading. It isn’t fair to you and I don’t like it."
He studied me intently. "Since when do you care what’s fair to me?"
Strangely enough, his question made me pause. Didn’t he know that I cared for him? He was my best friend, the only friend I really had. I came to him everyday, talked to him for hours whether he could hear me or not. His presence was comforting because he never made fun of me, never used me. As odd as it may seem, I felt as though he understood me.
I hated seeing Crawford patronize him, acting as though the Irish man had no intellect. And I equally hated seeing Schulderich taut him into angry rages by playing with his mind. Both of them treated Farfarello unfairly and I despised them because I knew the sort of person Farfarello was behind his insanity. He didn’t deserve any of this.
Farfarello smirked, watching me sift through my thoughts. "Nothing is fair Nagi. You should know that by now."
Yes I should know that, shouldn’t I? After everything I’d been though, I should certainly know. But maybe I was still hoping, still waiting for the day when I wouldn’t hurt so much. When I wouldn’t feel so lost.
"You’re the only friend I have," I told him quietly.
One amber eye widened slightly and blinked.
I stared down at the face towel I’d dropped, watching the blood slowly steep into the thick, white terrycloth. Tainted by its surroundings. How metaphorical of my own life.
My best friend was a one-eyed, blood-thirsty, God-hating lunatic. And he didn’t even know it. He couldn’t understand why I cared enough to wipe the blood from his face. He didn’t know that in a world where everyone had only ever scorned or used me because of my powers, I welcomed his company. He never teased me about my telekinetic abilities like Schulderich did. He never exploited my powers like Crawford did. He didn’t looked down upon me because I was the youngest. He was someone I respected. Funny that I never told him that he was my friend.
Abruptly I stood, unable to bear that piercing amber gaze any longer. "I’ll get another cloth."
The first time I saw Farfarello was in the kitchen. He was sitting cross-legged on top of the counter, a pyramid of plum tomatoes stacked neatly beside him, playing with the blender. I stood there, watching him toss in a tomato and then randomly select a button. He would watch the blender mush the red fruit with an avid, childlike fascination. Then he’d repeat the procedure again and again until the blender was overflowing with syrupy, scarlet pulp.
Instantly I was intrigued.
It had been my first morning as a member of Schwartz and I’d been nervous. Crawford had found me on the streets the night before, using my powers to fend off a bunch of gangsters who’d been trying to kill me. Apparently he’d had been keeping tabs on me for weeks, studying my powers. When presented with an alternative to living on the streets and defending myself from gangsters who only saw me as a freak, I grabbed it. Schwartz had been the answer to all my problems.
Crawford had been the first person to ever protect me. Before my eyes, he had taken out a gun and shot those gangsters as I held them suspended in the air. Then he’d taken me into the safety of his limo where I had sobbed onto the crisp material of his white suit as he held me. He had comforted me and fed me and told me that my powers were a gift not a curse. I knew that Schwartz only wanted me for my powers but at least I *was* wanted. Until then, I’d only lived as a burden, cursed and feared and ridiculed because I was different.
No one liked me. No one ever cared enough to wipe the tears from my eyes.
Crawford took me home with him that night where I’d met Schulderich. The languid German had scared me with his flirtatiousness. His voice echoed in my mind as he read my thoughts and teased me. He fawned over me like I was a pet, reminiscent of so many men on the streets. I knew what his laugh meant, why his eyes lingered on me. He called me ‘bishonen’ and I didn’t like it. Crawford must have spoken to him because he never tried anything with me. But even now, if he looked at me a certain way or made some teasing innuendo, I could still feel that old fear creeping up into me as he smirked into my mind.
And on that initial night, after I’d taken my first bath in months, they’d both told me about the last member of Schwartz. An Irish man who felt no pain and killed people only to hurt God. A one-eyed lunatic with a knife fetish who cut his own skin just to savor the taste of blood. They’d warned me about how dangerous he was, how he loved especially to kill children. I’d had terrible nightmares that night, all filled with a one-eyed man trying to kill me while he hacked his own arm.
I’d expected Farfarello to be foaming at the mouth with bloodshot eyes and long, lice-ridden hair. He was supposed to be filthy and ugly, his ravings muffled by a thick beard. He would be just like all the crazy drunkards who I’d fled from on the streets, rough and coarse. I knew his type well and the thought of meeting him and working with him had terrified me beyond belief.
After waking up from one of the worst sleeps in my life, I headed down to the kitchen, never expecting to see the man who’d plagued my dreams first thing in the morning. Sitting on the counter, staring at the blender as though it was a TV, he was nothing like I thought he’d be. Certainly I hadn’t expected him to look so...elegant.
His face was scarred but somehow that added to his beauty. The bones in his cheeks were delicate, reminding me of a scratched porcelain doll. He was slender, with full red lips and jagged, bleached locks. Even the finger that pressed the buttons on the blender was long and graceful.
I gawked at him, slack jawed. This was the man I’d had nightmares about? This was the man who’d frightened me so badly? This was the man who Crawford and Schulderich warned me to stay away from? I remember having the inane urge to laugh at that moment. Farfarello the self-mutilating Irish man was gorgeous!
And the way he was enthusiastically studying the blender captivated me. There was such an innocence in his expression, something that even I didn’t have and I was so much younger than he was. The fact that this supposedly crazy man looked so childish and naïve astounded me. I’d never seen this sort of innocence before. Children didn’t keep their naivety on the streets but apparently this psychotic Schwartz killer had managed it.
The blender overflowed, gunky tomato purée spilling all over the pristine counter and onto Farfarllo’s pants. He had looked up then, catching me watching him. I blushed deep red, like the tomatoes, half expecting him to reprimand me and call me names. Instead, in a rather squeaky voice, he’d informed me that smushed tomatoes looked like blood. Then, to my surprise, he’d asked me if I wanted to try.
So when Crawford had strode into the kitchen, a good forty minutes later, he found me sitting on the counter with Farfarello, happily shoving in radishes and apples and ketchup (we’d run out of tomatoes) into the blender. I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Well putting aside the obvious fact that I’d never touched a blender before, Farfarello had wanted me. He’d asked me to play with the blender with him. He didn’t try to hurt me; he only licked a knife that he’d taken out of the cutlery drawer and watched me. He even voiced his approval when I’d found substitutes for the tomatoes after we’d run out. I had wanted to please him so much, to have a friend. A friend was something I’d longed for but never had.
Both Crawford and Schulderich had been surprised that Farfarello hadn’t tried to cut me up or suck my blood. He loved to hack up children, saying that their lost innocence hurt God the most. Maybe he saw that I wasn’t innocent. And besides, I was his teammate now. He couldn’t just cut me up.
I’ll never know for certain but for some strange reason Farfarello liked to talk me. He mostly raved insanely or mouthed off when Crawford and Schulderich were around. But when I was with him, he’d explain thing to me, like how sweet blood tasted or where he’d gotten a particular knife from. Admittedly his choice in conversational topics left much to be said but I didn’t care. He chose to talk to me, to tell me these things and that was all that mattered. Even when he went into his crazy spells and had to be tied up and stuffed into a straightjacket, he always seemed to recognize my presence and never tried to hurt me.
He may be psychotic and evil and everything else that people said of him but none of it mattered to me. Above all he was my friend and I respected him. To hell with what everyone else said. In my opinion, Farfarello was the best.
I set the bucket of bleach down in the bathtub and stuffed the bloody towels into the clear liquid. My eyes began to water as the stench of chlorine shrouded me in the tiny bathroom. I wrinkled my nose and used my powers to swirl the towels around, watching as the bleach began to take on a red tinge.
I sneezed. Cleaning blood from white cloths was a bitch.
Soft footsteps against the tiled floor alerted me to Crawford’s presence.
"Don’t bother Farfarello," he ordered. "He’s sleeping now. I don’t want him causing trouble tonight."
I turned to look at the American. "What’s tonight?"
"Schulderich and I will be protecting Takatori at a ball." His expression softened slightly. "I don’t want him hurting you."
"He’s never hurt me before," I pointed out, irked. Crawford always saw the worst in Farfarello. Why couldn’t he see that the Irish man wasn’t just a whack job? There was so much more to him. For one, Farfarello was smart. He was a genius at math. On his saner days, he’d even help me with my homework.
"And I want to keep it that way," Crawford replied firmly. "I understand that you liking spending time with him but don’t overestimate him. Above all, he’s mentally unstable."
"I know, I know," I muttered curtly, turning back to the bucket of bleach. I took out my frustrations on the poor towels, roughly dunking them in and out of the odorous chlorine with annoyed thoughts. "You’ve told me that a million times. "
He sighed in a 'troubled teenagers just never understand the wisdom of us older folk' sort of manner. "Just heed my warning, okay Nagi?"
I grunted noncommittally. I could care less what Crawford thought. Maybe he didn’t notice it but I wasn’t a child anymore. I wasn’t starved for love, I wasn’t afraid of him kicking me back onto the streets. He couldn’t boss me around because I didn’t care anymore.
I heard him close the door softly behind me, his footsteps trailing down the hall. "Teme."
The back-to-white towels sailed past me and began to rinse themselves under the faucet.