The first day on the road did not go well at all. The morning was fine, as Whitey had not said anything since he left his room the day before. Schuldich had driven through the night, wide awake because of who he had as a passenger. Whitey had not slept, either, sprawled backwards against his chair and fixing a lazy stare out the windshield. Once he had settled himself in the chair, he hadn’t moved a muscle. Schuldich thought he should have been tired the next day, but the adrenaline rush from being utterly freaked out by the man beside him still had him on an energy high. Even if Whitey said nothing, there were occasional spikes of power around him, laces of darkness and power around an otherwise relatively calm aura. It didn’t let the German telempath forget that he had no clue what his companion was, and it didn’t let him calm his guard. By lunchtime the next day he was feeling frazzled and choked by being so close to the teenager, and he pulled over at the next town they passed with the excuse of getting some food and refilling the tank.
He hesitated as he shrugged out of his seat buckle, flicking a sideways look at the Irishman before looking out his window towards the gas station. Would it be safe to leave the Talent here? After being tied down for six years, would he now take advantage of the freedom and bounce away? Schuldich couldn’t say he would be unhappy to see the other teenager go, he still had the edges of masochistic curiosity regarding what power exactly the boy wielded. He didn’t dare ask, for he didn’t want another demonstration of the boy’s gift. He would let Rosenkreuz deal with the child.
Rosenkreuz was another question. Whitey had said he knew Schuldich was coming; he even knew the German’s name. Did he know where exactly Schuldich was taking him? He rather hoped so, for he would hate for the destination of this trip to be an unhappy surprise for the boy. Instinct told him he would not like it at all if the boy got pissed off. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to bring up the topic yet. He would wait until Dublin, when there were three other telepaths and a precognitive to help him if Whitey didn’t take to the news well.
“Let’s get something to eat,” Schuldich said at last, finally deciding. He chanced a glance towards the other boy and found those chilling yellow eyes on his. Whitey let his head tilt to one side, staring at Schuldich and through him. An icy smile curved his lips, and Schuldich could feel the crackling of the other boy’s gift.
Let me show you what I see…
Schuldich tore his gaze away, shoving open his car door and practically spilling onto the asphalt. He was disoriented from breaking the other teenager’s stare and he had to grab at the door handle for balance. Two hands slid across his shoulders and he froze. Whitey had ignored his own door, climbing across the seats to step out behind him. He could feel the Irishman’s breath on his ear, could almost hear that smile. The unknown Talent’s hands were shaking and his breathing was ragged in anticipation.
Let me show you what I see, and it will swallow you whole. It’ll take you apart piece by piece until there is nothing left but an echo to show you ever existed at all. Will you scream for me then, as you fall to bits and shadows? Will you cry for me?
“Let’s,” came the soft voice, and cold hands slid free. Schuldich started forward at a quick stride, folding his arms over his chest and refusing to look back at his charge. There were no footsteps to tell him he was being followed, but he could feel Whitey close behind him. He didn’t care that he left the car door open. If the vehicle was stolen there were plenty here to choose from and closing it would mean turning around and going back, turning around and facing the other man. He didn’t want to see in Whitey’s eyes what the other boy was so eager to show him. He didn’t think he would survive it.
Whitey stopped just inside the sliding glass doors of the gas station, positioning himself under the sensor so the doors would stay open. Schuldich left him there, wandering the aisles as he looked for something to eat. He wasn’t hungry; his stomach was churning unhappily. He didn’t think he could stomach anything now, but if he stocked up they wouldn’t have to make a lot of stops. He picked random food off the shelf, not bothering to check with his companion to see if they were all right, and carried the armload of things towards the door. The cashier started to rise from his spot to call him back, then seated himself and went back to his newspaper.
Whitey was gone.
Schuldich realized that as soon as he reached the doors. He shot a quick look around the parking lot before turning back around. “Oi-” he started to say.
Whitey was crouched on the countertop, his fingers curled around the cashier’s throat. The man’s throat was slit, an ugly ragged cut that went almost all the way around his throat. He was struggling for breath, hands frantically trying to cover the slit. Whitey slowly rose from his crouch, bringing the man with him. The cashier dangled from his hands for a moment, then there was a sickening rip and his head tore free from his body. Blood splattered across the Irishman’s face and the body hit the ground with a heavy thud.
Whitey considered the head in his hands for a moment, staring at the wide, lifeless eyes and ignoring the way Schuldich was gaping at him from the doorway. At length a smile curved his mouth and he pulled the face closer to his, pressing a small kiss to the cashier’s forehead before touching another to the base of his throat, right along the torn skin. Blood spurted, something else fell free, and Whitey tilted the head back to investigate.
Schuldich lost it. His food fell to the ground, forgotten, and he clenched his hands in his hair as he screamed across the shop at the other boy. “GET THE FUCK OFF THAT COUNTER!! JESUS CHRIST, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?”
Whitey threw his head back and started laughing, tossing the head carelessly aside. He hopped off the counter, rotating his head to pop his neck, and grinned at Schuldich as he approached. One bloody hand reached up to his face, wiping at the drops that had splattered there. He only managed to smear the mess but he didn’t seem to care. He reached for Schuldich next and the telempath smacked his hand away, retreating several steps. There was a crunch as Whitey crushed a bag of chips under his feet, and the Irishman stopped to gaze down at the food. He finally reached down and lifted a few packs of crackers, tossing them from one hand to the other as he started towards Schuldich once more.
Schuldich couldn’t move if he wanted to, frozen to the spot by the yellow eyes that were fixed on him. They swirled with cold amusement and Whitey stopped barely a breath from where Schuldich stood, tilting his head back to keep the stare. His eyelids lowered to half-mast, making his yellow eyes seem to glow. “You sound unhappy,” he murmured, sounding entertained. “I make you unhappy, but you are mine. I’ll have none other.”
“What are you talking about?” Schuldich demanded. His breaths sounded ragged and thin to his ears, but he couldn’t control them.
Whitey curled his lip back in a sneer, baring teeth and gums stained red by blood. An angel was soaring upwards, long blonde curls matted against her face from the rainstorm she was trying to fly through. Ravens were chasing her, a thick cloud of them. They were almost invisible in the dark sky; Schuldich could only see them because their eyes were glowing red. The angel was giving it her best but the birds were upon her. It was a short fight; she was swallowed under the black swarm. Her screams were almost inaudible over the cawing of the triumphant birds. Now and then the ravens would readjust themselves, and Schuldich was given a clear image of ripped skin where they were eating her flesh away.
When she died, she was too heavy for the flock to hold up. They scattered as her deadweight started towards the ground. Her eyes were gone, and her skin barely had an inch intact. Little flaps of skin trailed upwards from her as she fell, and blood covered her beautiful white wings. The wings were intact until she hit the ground with a thick thud. The feathers exploded everywhere as the ravens resettled themselves, torn far away by the storm’s harsh winds.
Let me show you what I see…
Schuldich gave a shuddering gasp as he found himself back in the here-and-now, and he realized Whitey was moving past him on the way to the car. He turned to watch the younger teenager go, getting his breathing back under control. As he was reaching up to tug at his hair, a nervous gesture he had not used in years, he felt warmth on his neck. Startled fingers touched it and came away with blood; another probe found a wound. Whitey looked back just before climbing into the chair, and fresh blood trickled down from the corner of his mouth.
The man had fucking bit him.
Schuldich was pissed and scared at the same time, pissed because he was scared, scared because he had no clue what the child was but everything in him screamed that he was a breath away from a gruesome death. The sheer power around that small frame overwhelmed him, choked the air from his lungs until it was replaced by fire and ice. He gave his hair another tug and started towards the car, reminding himself that Dublin was just a couple days away and that once the boy was off to Rosenkreuz they would never cross paths again.
Whitey had resumed his earlier position by the time Schuldich reached the car. The crackers were dropped in the drink holder between the two front seats. A bit of blood stained the wrappers, and Schuldich knew he wouldn’t touch them until he was so hungry it hurt. It surprised him, that he had spent five years with the nightmares at Rosenkreuz but less than twenty-four hours with this child were making him skittish all over again. He was used to blood; he was used to death. But there was something utterly and horribly wrong about this child, and the things that had been normal before were twisted and broken now.
Just a few more days to Dublin…Just a few more days to go…
The gas station incident was the only one on the trip, to Schuldich’s immense relief. The Irishman did not stir the rest of the drive, nor did he talk. Schuldich didn’t even think the teenager slept- but then, neither did he. He knew he should have been tired by the third day, but he felt as wide awake as ever. He had not touched the crackers, either. They had only stopped for gas on the trip, and by the time they reached their temporary headquarters in Dublin, Schuldich was ecstatic to see it. He parked in back of the hotel and led the way up the stairs to the second floor, his companion following passively behind him. The telempath dug his key out of his wallet and slid it through the lock on the door, letting himself in.
The precognitive was seated in an easy chair by the window. The curtains were pulled back to let sunlight in, and he was reading a book to it. After the last several stressful days with this strange teenager, Schuldich was pissed to see his teammate so relaxed and unconcerned. He shut the door with his foot, kicking it into place so hard that the wall shook. That got the other man’s attention; he had not looked up when Schuldich arrived but he looked up now, offering an annoyed look. The glare died when he saw that Schuldich wasn’t alone, and he considered the young teenager across the room with a slight frown on his face.
“Who’s that?” he wanted to know.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” came the snarled response, and Schuldich stormed into the second room. They had chosen the best hotel Dublin had to offer. It was a three room thing, with two bedrooms and a bathroom. The rooms were large and the beds were big, and they had managed to get a fifth bed into one of the bedrooms. It had taken a mental order from one of the telepaths, but they had made the hotel staff bring them a fifth bed. No one wanted to sleep on the floor and no one was going to share a bed. But now there was Whitey to think of, unless they could get him shipped off today. Schuldich let himself into the bathroom and locked the door behind him.
He took note of his wild-eyed appearance. The stress and strain were clear in his face and the gleam in his gaze. He turned the faucet on with a sharp twist and cupped his hands under the stream of cold water, letting them fill and washing his face with it. He felt a bit safer with Whitey now that he was back here in Dublin, now that he had someone else to watch Whitey- and someone else for the younger child to torment with his gruesome images.
He felt the desperate need to shower. The racks in the bathroom were stocked with clean towels, so he peeled off the clothes he had been wearing for the last four days and stepped under a hot spray. He let the water beat at him, washing away the grime and the stress of several days. He let the water run long after he was clean, taking all the hot water. As soon as he felt the spray start to cool off, he gave the handle a wrench. He took a deep breath, steeling his nerves and telling himself that things would be fine, that Whitey was temporarily back in his passive state.
These thoughts in mind, he pulled the curtain back to step out of the tub. He snapped them back into place with a startled yelp when he found himself almost eye to eye with a yellow stare. Anger temporarily overrode common sense and he jerked the curtain open again, fixing a furious look on the younger teenager. He was careful to point his glare at the other man’s forehead, and he wondered how he could have possibly not heard the Irishman’s horribly noisy mind.
“What are you doing in here?” Schuldich demanded.
“I had to pee,” came the easy response.
“I locked the door.”
“Oh.” A faint smile. With that, Whitey washed his hands in the sink and left. Schuldich stared after him for a long moment before grabbing at the nearest towel. The other teenager had left the door open; Schuldich pushed it shut now and locked it again, leaning against it and seething. He glared at the foggy mirror for a long time before finally lifting the towel to scrub himself dry. When he left the bathroom several minutes later, Whitey was nowhere in sight but the precognitive had relocated himself to his bed. He was leaning against the headboard, legs stretched out in front of him. He looked up from his book at Schuldich’s entrance, and the telempath could see a frown on his lips.
“How far out are the others?” the older man wanted to know.
Schuldich reached out, brushing against the others to try and get a good measure of their location. “The furthest away has about two weeks left, the closest, one.” He had left his bag of clothes in the car, so he abandoned his towel for the thick robe the hotel provided him. He tied the rope around his waist to hold it into place and raked a hand through thick, wet hair. “Where’d Whitey go?”
“He’s in the other room,” came the response, and he gave a tilt of his head to indicate the doorway. Schuldich moved to the door to peer into the first bedroom and found Whitey stretched out on the ground, staring up at the ceiling. The German retreated back to his bed, sprawling out on it on his stomach and enjoying the soft mattress. “What is he?”
Schuldich cracked an eye open to peer at the other man. There was a strained edge to James’ thoughts- the precognitive hadn’t had any visions about the younger boy but his instincts were screaming an alarm. “Haven’t got a clue,” Schuldich answered, folding his arms in front of him and burying his face in them. /Forget about the other paths,/ he sent mentally. /I want your visions on that kid only./
He could hear the frown in James’ thoughts at being given an order by someone two years his junior, but the man didn’t argue. Schuldich yawned, exhausted now from the trip and ready for a long nap. He felt like he could sleep forever. Trusting his gifts and the precognitive to warn him if Whitey started acting up again, the teenage telempath let himself fall asleep. It was a rocky sort of rest, torn with dreams that he wouldn’t remember when he woke up again.
When he did wake, it was dark in the room. The curtains were drawn over the windows and the lights were off. He could hear James’ soft breathing two beds down where he slept, and Schuldich scrubbed at his eyes as he checked the clock to his left. Glowing green numbers declared it to be three in the morning. He wondered if he would be able to fall asleep again, and at length decided it wasn’t likely. He sat up with a disgusted sigh, brushing tangled hair over his shoulders. His brush was in his bag in the car- he might as well get it. He would need his clothes for the day, anyway. As he started to slide off of his bed, however, he realized that there was a body on the floor beside his bed.
Two yellow eyes glowed in the dark, staring up at Schuldich.
“Go to sleep,” came the soft voice.
“I’ve been sleeping,” Schuldich answered, letting irritation color his voice to hide the fact that the younger boy had startled him. How could it be that the child’s mind wavered in and out like this? Sometimes it was there, a steady, deadly presence, and other times it was completely gone. It had the strength to vanish or to overwhelm Schuldich, and the German didn’t like such mental control. It meant that the Irishman could sneak up on him, and Schuldich didn’t like that idea at all. He moved as if to climb off a different side of the bed.
“Go to sleep,” came that voice again. Schuldich ignored him, pushing his covers aside. His hand got tangled in the comforter and he stopped to tug it free. When he looked up again, Whitey had moved to the foot of the bed and was kneeling there. He was slouched forward so that only his head showed, his chin resting on the mattress as he stared up at the older teenager.
Except his eyes weren’t yellow- they were glowing red.
Schuldich froze, breath catching in his throat. He could hear the snarled twists of Whitey’s mind eating at the edge of his thoughts, and a sibilant warning murmured in his ear. He decided then that staying in bed wasn’t such a bad thing, and he did an about face and went back to his spot. As he tugged the covers back up over him, he chanced a glance towards the foot of the bed again. Whitey was still there, but his yellow eyes were half-lidded. Yellow again…
He could not sleep again; he was too rested to fall back asleep. Instead, he lay there until James’ alarm clock went off at five-thirty. He could feel Whitey’s stare on him the whole time. As soon as the alarm went off, Schuldich decided to try getting out of bed again. James stirred, reaching out to shut off the noise. Schuldich slid off the side of his bed, looking towards Whitey to see the boy still following him with his eyes. The child said nothing, however, and Schuldich moved past him towards the front door. He brought his key with him and went downstairs to where they’d left the car. He dug his bag out of the backseat and, on second thought, took the crackers as well. He leaned against the car to eat them, suddenly starving, and tossed the empty wrappers to one side when he was done. Feeling clean, rested, and fed, he thought that perhaps today would be easier than the days before.
He closed the car door and went back upstairs to the room. James was in the shower already, and Schuldich found Whitey sprawled out in his bed. He stood in the doorway to the bedroom, staring in at the younger teenager and wondering whether or not to kick the white-haired child-beast off of his bed. At length he decided it would be unsafe. Whitey was lying like he had been at the mental ward save for the absence of chains, lying on his back with his arms folded over his chest and his head lolled to one side.
Well, a sleeping Whitey couldn’t be dangerous. Schuldich changed from the robe to the gray outfit and headed to the first room to work on his hair. He stole the seat by the window that James had been occupying the day before and set about getting his brush through his hair. It took a while but at length the orange locks were smooth. He set his brush on the table and turned sideways in the chair, letting his legs dangle over one arm and resting his back against the other. A scan of the other telepaths showed that their search was fruitless; he was the only one this time to have found something. Mikel was still six days away and Harriet, the assigned leader of this expedition, would be the last to return. Schuldich wondered if that meant he would be stuck here with the white-haired teenager for that long.
As it turned out, the time passed peacefully. Whitey did not stir from his spot for the next two weeks, and while it meant Schuldich had to find a new place to sleep, he was quite content to let the boy rest. James did not argue.
When Harriet finally made it back, she found herself the sudden center of attention by her team. Schuldich acknowledged her arrival with a lazy glance. Ferdinand, the only other telepath of this group now, was perched on his bed, and he fixed an expectant stare upon her the moment she crossed through the door. James was sitting on Ferdinand’s dresser, as Schuldich had stolen his chair again, and he set aside his book when the telepath entered.
“Now what?” she demanded, looking around at them. She shut the door behind her with a hard push and Schuldich felt a smirk curl his lips. She’d had the longest route and was exhausted now, ready to rest. Instead she would find herself in the middle of a week long argument, a fight that had begun the moment Timon returned. “Where’s Timon?” she wanted to know. During her circuit she had been too busy to pay attention to what the other four were doing. Now that she was back, she noticed his absence both physically and mentally.
It was Schuldich that answered, tilting his head to one side and offering her a wide smirk. “Dead,” he answered simply.
“Say again?” came the sharp response.
Schuldich lifted his hand to his face, studying his fingernails. “He didn’t listen to me,” he said simply, lifting a shoulder in a careless shrug, “so he died.”
James was knocked off the dresser under the force of Harriet’s sudden mental rummaging. By Schuldich’s attitude, she knew the quickest way to get an answer was through her telepathy. The other telepaths had shields against her, however, which left the precognitive as the only open route. She dug around until she found what she was looking for, not bothering to be careful. She left James gasping for breath on the ground when she was done and she fixed a cold look on Schuldich.
Schuldich offered her an unconcerned look in response. “I told him not to bother Whitey. It isn’t my fault, so don’t look at me like that.”
Timon had been interested in the catatonic form that had taken over Schuldich’s bed, and had wanted to know what sort of gift Schuldich had brought back. The German had responded that he didn’t know and had warned the older telepath not to touch the Irishman’s mind. He had been ignored, not that he expected Timon to listen to him. A few moments later Timon crumpled without warning, dead. There had been just the barest of blips of his gift to warn that he had passed on. James and Schuldich had taken his body to the river and dumped it, and James had written the report to send back to Rosenkreuz. James had been quite fascinated, if a bit startled because he did not see the other telepath’s death coming. He wondered what gift the Irishman had that could kill the telepath where he stood and still remain in his deep sleep. The sleep also intrigued the precognitive, but James wasn’t dumb enough to try and get the answers for himself, unlike Timon. He, like Schuldich, would wait until Rosenkreuz identified the younger teenager and then would make inquiries.
Ferdinand, at least, had heeded the warnings of his teammates and stayed away from the boy. Schuldich knew the telepath was curious but he had investigated James’ mind to confirm what had happened to their teammate. It was enough to make him lose interest, though he had insisted that Whitey get sent back to Rosenkreuz immediately. Schuldich had answered that they would wait until the boy woke up on his own or until Harriet got back, saying that he wasn’t going to be the one that disturbed the Irishman. Seeing as how Ferdinand wasn’t overly interested in poking the child either, they had let Whitey sleep and continued to argue over whether or not it was safe to keep him here.
Harriet moved to the doorway to stare in at Schuldich’s bed, giving the Irishman an assessing look. Finally she looked back at Schuldich. “You don’t know what he is?” she wanted to know.
“Rosenkreuz doesn’t have any mental signatures that match his,” Schuldich answered, “at least none that were present during my five years.”
She frowned, not liking that answer. “Maybe you just can’t identify it,” she said.
She was calling him incompetent. Schuldich offered her a chilling smile. “Why don’t you touch him for yourself and prove me wrong?” he invited her.
She ignored that. “What gifts does he display?”
“Nothing save for disturbing visions,” Schuldich said, lifting his shoulder in a shrug once more. “But his mind, when it’s active, is very strong.” He didn’t bother to say that it had broken through his shields, because that would just start an argument over whether or not he was strong enough to guard his mind. He would rather keep the argument to Whitey rather than risk killing someone he was forbidden to because they doubted his skill. It was a pity Whitey hadn’t killed Harriet instead of Timon; it would have been better.
Harriet frowned, folding her arms over her chest. Ferdinand gave his head a small jerk, indicating the other bedroom. “We need to ship him out of here. Let Rosenkreuz deal with it.”
“He’s been sleeping for almost two weeks?” Harriet asked, glancing towards James for confirmation. The precognitive was pushing himself to a sitting position somewhat painfully, a hand to his temple. He glared at her for her rough invasion of his mind but nodded. “How are we supposed to get a catatonic Talent to Austria?”
“Maybe you can FedEx him,” Schuldich offered, grinning at the Look the older telepath sent him.
“He’s going to take me,” came the answer, and Harriet almost jumped out of her skin. Schuldich memorized the startled look on her face, the way she bounced away from the doorway and whirled around as she landed. He would treasure such an expression forever. The amusement died when he found Whitey in the doorway. He was awake again, and now his mind was crackling to life. His clothes looked to be splotched black from the blood that had dried there, and he stared up at Harriet as she stared back. Even from the other side of the room, Schuldich could see the blood drain from her face. The noise and power of Whitey’s mind was growing, rising until Schuldich could feel the jagged edges of it pressing in on his own consciousness. Ferdinand flinched, lifting startled fingers to his forehead.
“What are you?” Harriet wanted to know.
Whitey tilted his head to one side, yellow eyes sliding from her face and wandering across the room until he met Schuldich’s stare. The German couldn’t look away in time; the moment those yellow eyes met his, their gazes were locked together. Someone was laughing in the distance, a deep, throaty laugh of dark delight. Bloody fingers slid down a wall, leaving streaks behind. A child was wailing, and a swirl of white replaced the other images. Snow- it was snow. The snow was thick on the ground, reaching almost to the windowsills of a small house. Tree branches and trees were fallen all over the place, and power lines were on the ground. The door faded away and Schuldich was sucked inside, to a woman dressed in ratty clothes. Her breath was visible, a thick cloud in the air, and she was shaking so badly she was almost dropping the crying baby she held in her arms. She was looking around for something, anything, to keep them warm. Finally she stopped before the stove in her kitchen. One hand struggled with the knobs, trying to get the burners to turn on. At length one lit up and she held her shaking hand and her half-frozen baby close to the flames. Her arms were still shaking and she dropped her child. A quick scramble put her on the floor but had her child safe in her arms once more. It was an obvious fight for her to get back to her feet and she dug a pot out of her cabinets, setting the baby inside so it could rest on the counter near the heat from the stove. She was whispering soothing nothings to her child, trying to wrap her clothes tighter around her, trying to warm up from the little blue flames that flickered on her stovetop.
Gunshots rang out; blood splattered everywhere and the woman screamed as she collapsed. Two men were in her kitchen suddenly, covered in snow and holding handguns. They’d hit her in at least five places. She wasn’t dead, but she would be soon. She could barely move, stretched out on the floor in a growing puddle of her own blood. They moved past her, not noticing the pot beside the stove. Her hand had hit it on her way down, and now the edge of it was sitting directly over the flames. Before long the baby began to wail at the heat, and the two men returned to investigate the noise. The first reached out to move the pot away; the second knocked his hand away with a laugh.
“They’re her prints on the metal,” he said simply. “Think of the headline in the paper.” With that, he gave the pot an extra boost with the sleeve of his jacket, letting it settle directly on top of the burner. He motioned for the other to follow and the two men made their way out of the house with what little treasures they’d been able to find, leaving the mother to waste her last breaths screaming, fingers scratching at the floor in vain as she tried to sit up. Above her screams came the screams of her baby.
Schuldich came to with a harsh gasp and to the sounds of Ferdinand gagging as he tried not to throw up. Harriet took a step back from Whitey, her hand over her mouth as she tried to wash away the lingering echoes of the vision. Worse than the noise was the smell, the sharp smell of burning flesh that made Schuldich’s eyes water. He coughed, running a hand against his nose to try and erase the scent. Whitey stretched his arms above his hand in a languid movement before crossing them behind his head. His yellow eyes were expectant as he stared at Schuldich.
“Are we leaving now?” he asked. The question was directed at Schuldich, and all eyes turned to the telempath. “We’ve been here long enough. Let’s go.”
“I’m not going anywhere else with you,” Schuldich managed to get out, fixing his glare on Whitey’s forehead to avoid those yellow eyes. “I brought you here, I’m done. You’re Rosenkreuz’s problem.”
“But he has to get to Rosenkreuz still,” Harriet said, “and I think he should be accompanied.”
What she was implying turned Schuldich’s deadly glare from Whitey to her. “He doesn’t need company,” he snapped back, though images of the mental ward and the gas station told him otherwise. “He can travel on his own, and if you think differently, you take him back.”
“He does need a guard,” Ferdinand joined in, taking Harriet’s side because doing so meant that they would be rid of both their younger teammate and the little demon. “Take him back.”
Before Schuldich could respond, Harriet spoke up. “I’ll let Rosenkreuz know you’re on your way,” she said, easing carefully past Whitey to make the call from the other room. Rosenkreuz had a strong barricade around it that kept the others from contacting it mentally. As leader of this Inquisition team, she was the only one who had been given a tie to the inside that would allow her to report. The others had to report to her or use the phone.
Whitey started across the room towards Schuldich and perched on the arm of the chair, offering Schuldich a small smile. The precognitive relocated himself to Timon’s bed to watch, and Ferdinand excused himself to the other room to get away from the mind that was still crackling and twisting.
“I’ll have none other,” Whitey reminded him, ignoring the way Schuldich had leaned away from him.
Harriet returned just a short time later, carrying Schuldich’s bag of clothes in her hand. She tossed it at him. It fell a few feet short and Schuldich went to get it only because it gave him an excuse to move away from Whitey without looking like he was retreating. He scooped the bag up and slung it over his shoulder, offering Harriet a death glare that she ignored. The expression she gave him was cool, but the light in her eyes was amused and pleased at the situation the telempath now found himself in. “They’re expecting you,” she told him. “They say there’s a two o’ clock flight. Leave immediately and you’ll make it. I suggest you make it; there will be people to pick you up at the airport in Austria and they won’t want to have to reschedule because you miss your flight. The rest of us will be heading out to Iceland tomorrow morning.”
Schuldich looked back at Whitey, who slid off the chair and started towards the door. Schuldich hesitated for just a moment longer, turning to Harriet. /One day,/ he told her, voice low but menacing all the same, /you’ll seriously regret this./
She answered him with a sweet smile, and Schuldich stalked past her towards the door. Whitey followed him down the stairs to the car, sprawling out in the passenger seat and gazing out the windshield. Schuldich tagged a couple minds to get directions to the airport and left the victims dead on the ground when he released him. It made him feel a little better, but the relief was short-lived because drawing back from them just put him back here in the car with Whitey. Granted, the Irishman’s mind had softened again, but there was still a light buzz in the background of Schuldich’s thoughts.
The flight they caught was a nonstop one, for which Schuldich was eternally grateful. It made the trip several hours shorter than it could have been, and seeing as how he was sitting beside Whitey, that was very important. He’d considered putting a few seats between them, but the hungry gleam in those yellow eyes as the airport crowd swarmed around them told him it was safest to put Whitey at a window seat and to take the middle one himself. He wasn’t entirely positive he could stop the younger teenager if the boy wanted to get up, but at least he was a physical barricade.
Whitey spent the trip with his eyes closed, his head tilted forward so his chin rested on his chest. He had not returned to his strange sleep; Schuldich could tell by the way his mind was still active. About half an hour into the trip the child began to murmur to himself, whispering silken words in a soft voice. “The end of a ship is drowning. The end for a kiln is burning. The end of a feast is frowning. The end of a man’s health is mourning.”
Schuldich offered him a sideways look before turning his attention to the seat in front of him. Whitey started laughing, a breathless, almost inaudible sound. Schuldich let his eyes fall closed, focusing on the normal minds around him to take an edge off of the crackling of Whitey’s mind. He was successful for most of the trip. Whitey eventually quieted down, his breathing evening out and his mind softening. It wasn’t until they had were just about to land that the younger teenager’s mind gave a violent snap to full alert once more, and it jarred Schuldich out of the light doze he’d managed to fall into.
Whitey’s hand closed on top of Schuldich’s, the fingernails digging into the German’s knuckles. He was gazing downwards, yellow eyes fixed on his lap, as he stared into nothingness. There was a violent roiling in his mind and Schuldich could feel his shields creaking under it as it rolled across him. Whitey took in a shuddering gasp, eyes flickering, and his lips pulled into a wide smile. He had torn one lip, and blood dotted the corner of his mouth. His free hand reached up, his finger touching the drop and smearing it down his chin.
Let me show you. Don’t you want to see what I can see?
His fingernails broke the skin on Schuldich’s hand and the German reached out to pry Whitey’s fingers free. As soon as fingers touched Whitey’s hand, however, there was a sizzling crack along their gifts and wide yellow eyes bounced to Schuldich’s face, seeing through him. There was a look of utter loss and confusion in his gaze but the smile on his face was wide and pleased. The wheels touched the runway and the plane gave a small jolt; the younger teenager’s fingers dug into Schuldich’s hand tighter and the sharp pain was accompanied by the warmth of blood.
Can’t you see it? Can’t you see it? Don’t you want to see what I can see?
“Let go of me,” Schuldich hissed out through clenched teeth.
Whitey wrenched away then, hands flying to his face. Before Schuldich knew what was happening, he saw blood and heard the sound of flesh giving way. Blood ran down one cheekbone and Schuldich yelped when he realized what had happened. Someone screamed, their attention drawn to the pair by Schuldich’s noise. The telempath ignored them, grabbing at Whitey’s wrists. The boy had torn up one side of his face, starting at his left eyebrow and raking downwards over his eye. His fingers were trying to gouge out his other eye, and Schuldich fought with him to make him stop. They struggled with each other, one trying to keep the other from hurting himself and the other scrabbling desperately at his own face.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Schuldich demanded, giving the third man of the row a mental order to get their seat belts undone. As soon as they were free he rose to his feet, hauling the smaller teenager up with him. There were startled shouts as the passengers and flight attendants saw Whitey’s face, and the telempath put a sharp mental block on all of them. One attendant got the door open for them. They weren’t up against the walkway yet but Schuldich used his speed to get a running start and jumped the remaining distance. Whitey gave up on his face and clung to Schuldich, burying his face against the German’s shoulder and wrapping his arms around his waist. Schuldich ran the entire way to baggage claim, following the mental hum of the Rosenkreuz welcome party.
He had to stop just once to rearrange his grip on the other man, as he was not used to racing along with someone else attached to him. He glared at the form that was draped against him. “What the hell did you do that for?” he wanted to know.
“You don’t want to see it…” Whitey murmured, voice slurred. Schuldich could hear his mind shutting down. “Neither do I…” The last was said on a sigh that sounded almost content as the rest of the child’s mind gave way. He went limp in Schuldich’s hold, falling into his strange sleep once more. Uttering every curse he knew, Schuldich tightened his arms around the slim body and picked up the speed again.
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