Smushed Grapes
Part 5

Farfarello wasnít in the big, white room in the basement nor was he in his room. Instead I found him in the living room, sitting cross-legged on the sofa. He had a bowl of red grapes on the coffee table in front of him and was methodically peeling the skin from them, stacking the thin layers in a neat little pile beside the bowl. Then heíd crush the skinless grape between his index finger and his thumb and lick off the gushy squashed fruit.

Farfarello had a fetish for red grapes and even though Iíd seen him peel and smush them a million times, it still made me smile. He so many little quirks, so many things that just *made* him. He was so perfect.

"Are you just going to stand there or are you coming in?" he asked me, without looking up as he smushed another grape.

I swallowed, his sane voice making me nervous. I had spent all my time looking for him and now that I found him, I had no idea of what to say. I was used to blabbing on to a crazy Farfarello but a rational one was a whole different picture.

Shuffling in, I gingerly sat down on the far end of the sofa, unconsciously putting as much distance between us as possible. I already knew that this was not going to be good. Mentally I cursed Schulderich some more. This was all his fault! A manipulative Schulderich was bad enough but Schulderich trying to be nice was just plain *terrifying*.

Farfarello held out the bowl of grapes. "Grape?"

I shook my head, feeling dizzy. What did you possibly you say to someone who knew that you were in love with them? Especially when he was acting as though nothing was wrong.

He shrugged, unconcerned and went back to slowly peeling another grape.

My knees were shaking. I gripped them with icy hands and commanded my body to stop trembling. It didnít work. "Y-you hit Schulderich," was the first thing that heaved itself out of my mouth. My voice sounded dry and hoarse. I coughed and cleared my throat.

Farfarello didnít look at me. "He shouldnít have fucked with your dreams."

I didnít know what to say to that. Anxiously, I chewed on my lower lip. Why wasnít he saying anything? Didnít he care that I loved him? Obviously not. Why should he? He probably just saw me as a bratty little pest who had a childish crush on him.

I was pathetic, so weak. Already my lip was quivering, tears pooling on my lashes. I was such a fool! I had told myself that it was wrong to love him and now here I was upset because he was apathetic! Where was the logic in that? Why the hell was I crying? I had never been this much of a blubbering baby before. Schulderich had made me cry, both last night and a few minutes ago and now here I was, once again weeping away.

I turned my head so that Farfarello wouldnít see my tears and took a deep breath, hoping that my voice sounded relatively normal. "I better go now. I-I just remembered that I have some stuff to do." I quickly hurried to my feet, intending to beat a hasty retreat.

"Was it true?"

Farfarelloís slightly high-pitched voice stopped me. "Nani?" I whispered, my heart rate accelerating as I surreptitiously wiped at my wet eyes.

"What Schu said last night."

I shuffled my feet and anxiously twisted my fingers. My throat worked as I desperately tried to force words around the lump that was constricting in the back of my mouth. "A-a," I finally managed, the tiny word barely audible.

The silence that followed was oppressively loud, crashing into my ears and splitting apart my confidence. More than anything, I wanted to run back to my room and never come out.



Farfarello slurped loudly at grape-smeared fingers. "Come here Nagi," he instructed, his voice deepening slightly.

The sound of his voice sent shivers racing down my spine. Nervously, I turned around and sank back down onto the sofa. I tried to appear calm and poised and impassive. But in reality my knees were still shaking, my cheeks were probably tear-stained and my heart was thumping so loudly Schulderich could probably hear it all the way upstairs. I felt like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.

He said nothing until I hesitantly looked over at him. He was watching me quietly, his amber gaze startlingly clear. "Why? Why me?"

Maybe he did care enough to want to know. That was a start, right? I fidgeted as I thought for a moment, collecting my thoughts. Then I took a deep breath and opened my mouth. Promptly my mind went blank. Farfarello waited expectantly as I floundered. "You let me play with your blender," I blurted out inanely, uttering the first thing that came to my mouth.

He tilted his head and blinked.

Inwardly I cringed at such a stupid, artless reply but it was too late to back down now. I swallowed thickly and plunged ahead. "I mean, Iíve never really had a friend before. You were so nice me and never made fun of me or my powers. You talked to me like I was an adult and let me do things with you. I donít know, it just happened. I-I didnít even know until Schulderich appeared in my dream." I stared down blindly at my lap. "Pretty stupid of me, ne?"

"Iím crazy."

"No!" The vehemence in my voice surprised us both. "No," I repeated in a calmer tone of voice. "You arenít crazy Farfie and Iíll never treat you as anything less." I looked over at him and held his gaze.

I loved him. Schulderich had shown me and I knew it now. The pain of seeing his dead body in my dream had been so intense. The dream had shown me that I couldnít live without him. It was all so clear now. The line between friendship and love was indistinguishable and it had become a part of me. I couldnít stop it and I couldnít deny it. Was I wrong to love a crazy teammate? Possibly. Did I regret it? Not anymore. After everything that he had done for me, after all that he was, how could I?

In that moment, as I looked upon that pale, scarred face, lips moist with grape juice, one eye gazing coolly at me, I came to accept it. For better or for worse, I loved him and I wouldnít stray from that decision, no matter how much it hurt.

"I donít care what doctors label you as," I continued, my resolve allowing me to meet his fixed look. "Crazy, psychotic, unbalanced, whatever. To me, none of that matters." I managed a tiny yet strained smile. "Because thereís so much more to you than all that, Farfie. Iíd like to think that I know the real you. The one whoís a mathematical genius and used to help me with my homework. The one who secretly used to listen to opera. The one who played with me-" My voice cracked and I had to clear it before I could continue. "on that first day, even when Crawford and Schulderich told me to stay away because you were dangerous. Youíre the only friend I really have Farfie and I...I canít stop myself from loving you. Is that so wrong?" I averted my eyes, not wanting to see the expression on Farfarelloís face. The rejection...

There was a long silence and in those endless moments I memorized every thread of the carpet, every scruff on my sock, every crease on my pants. My heart was frantically pounding an endless tattoo inside of me, my mind a swimming muck.

"Why do you..."

I looked over at Farfarello, the hesitancy in his voice surprising me.

"...see what no one else sees? How can you..." He was gnawing on his lower lip, something that Iíd never seen him do before. "Iíve never been loved before."

I thought of my parents then and how much I had wished they would love me. I smiled brokenly, wanted to touch him and assure him that he was loved. "Then I guess weíre in the same boat," I whispered quietly. "Because no oneís ever wanted me either."

He looked at me, studying me as though heíd ever seen me before. "I canít understand you," he said at last.

"I can live with that." I fidgeted for a moment. Obviously he wasnít able to accept what I was saying and I wasnít willing to risk my friendship with him just because he couldnít understand my love for him. "Farfie, I donít expect anything from you, really I donít. I want things to stay the same between us. I still want you to be my friend."

"What did you dream?" Farfarello wondered suddenly.

I gawked at him, knowing that I looked like a damn fool but *honestly*. What a time to ask me. More than anything, I wanted to run back to my room and have a good bout of self-pity. Inwardly I sighed. "I dreamed that I...killed you." I swallowed heavily, unprepared for the sharp thrust of pain that the memory of the dream brought.

"Good. God would hurt." The faintest trace of smug satisfaction tinged his voice.

That made my temper snap. I could handle him dismissing me and rejecting my love. I could even handle a meddling, do-good Schulderich but I could *not* handle Farfarello placing so little worth on his own life. Maybe he didnít understand all the dynamics of love but dammit! He couldnít be so thick as to not understand that he was important to me and I didnít want to see him die! "God isnít the only one who was hurt," I snapped, scowling. "It hurt me too! I donít want to see you die and I donít care how much it hurts God!"

His wan face was marked with surprise. "My death would...hurt you?" He looked incredulous, as though such an idea wasnít possible.

I rolled my eyes. "Didnít you hear me when I said I loved you? Of course it would hurt me if you died, you idiot!!!" I sighed and softened my voice. "I wouldnít have anyone to talk to and be with."

He blinked, frowning. "I think...I like that."

"Like what?"

"I think I like you caring about me. It feels nice."

His words were so artless, endearingly sweet. He was a killer and yet he was so innocent. "I love you."

Slender, scarred fingers scraped at one sloping cheek. "Does love feel good Nagi?"

I smiled, loving the way my name sounded coming from his lips. "Itís better than good."

"Do you think it would hurt God?"

A giggle escaped from my mouth. Talk about a one-track mind! "God has nothing to do with love. This is only about you and me."

"Maybe I could try it." He raised his chin and looked firmly at me. "I like you." And he held out his hand.

I melted. A huge puddle of Nagi-goo slipping down the sofa, shifting closer to a silver-haired Irish man. I cuddled up to him and it was the best feeling in the world, being held by him. We fit together.

He kissed me with moist, grape smeared lips and it was perfect.

Sometimes nothing else mattered