The label on their door was changed by the time they made it back to the west wing. Schuldich wasn’t sure who had done it or when, but “Nacht” had been replaced by “Schwarz.” Whitey’s arrival and Aeris’s death were the two events that seemed to make the dissolution of the other unit official, and Schuldich paused outside the door to consider the new name and what it meant. He hadn’t loved Nacht but he had no complaints about it; he had been rather fond of it because it had been good. The two years of entertaining work and traveling the world after years of being at Rosenkreuz had been the best two of his life, and now his life had taken a sharp turn down the toilet. He wouldn’t have minded being part of Schwarz…He minded what it had suddenly become.
Whitey had not let go of his hair the entire trip, and he had drawn stares from the handful of students they had passed. It was impossible to ignore him, with that shock of white hair and pale skin, and an eye that seemed to glow yellow with danger. The younger teenager was behind him still, his fingers tangled in Schuldich’s orange locks. The telepath was trying valiantly to ignore him as he reflected on what life had been and what misery it was about to become. Crawford did not hesitate at the door but moved inside- of course this change didn’t bother him. Schuldich sent a sneer at his back, hating the man for letting this happen. One couldn’t refuse the Cabinet’s order but seeing as how Schuldich couldn’t make their lives miserable he would settle for being a thorn in Crawford’s side. It his life was going to go to shit he’d take anyone he could down with him.
He reached up, tugging at his hair to try and get it free from Whitey’s grasp, refusing to look back at the younger teenager. His new teammate- God, the thought sent a chill down his spine- refused to let go. Schuldich had no choice but to move inside, and the Nightmare trailed after contentedly. Before Schuldich could turn into his room, Crawford stepped into the doorway, holding Schuldich’s suitcase. The German frowned, watching as he rolled it from the single room to the one with two beds.
“What are you doing?” he wanted to know. But he knew, and the sharp edge to his voice told Crawford that. That didn’t stop the precognitive from answering, though his tone was a bit too light for Schuldich’s liking, because it meant he wasn’t bothered at all by his teammate’s new situation.
“You’re going to have a roommate now.”
Crawford ignored the flat response, setting the suitcase at the end of the bed. Schuldich took a step forward, intending on rolling it back to the other room, but two arms laced around his waist. The Irishman relaxed against his back; Schuldich could hear the cold smile in his voice. “You aren’t allowed to leave me this time… They promised me you would be mine.”
There’s so much I could show you…
Schuldich pried at the arms, shaking his head. “No. Get off me, get the FUCK away from me.”
There’s so much I want you to see…
He could hear a crackling at the edge of his mind and panic flared; he didn’t want to touch that mind. It was going to swallow him whole and he was never going to get put back together. One of these days that mind was going to break him- he could feel himself shattering already. His breath was lodged in his throat as he felt that mind pressing forward. The ground was swaying underneath him and fingers tightened on him in a cruel, possessive grip. Hot breath washed over the back of his neck and he could almost taste the other man’s need to show him what he could see…
Flesh hit flesh, and Schuldich was abruptly released. He had been straining against the Irishman’s hold so the sudden loss of arms around his waist sent him stumbling forward. Whitey, on the other hand, went staggering back, and as soon as Schuldich had caught his balance he sent a wide-eyed look towards the Oracle. Crawford was calmly fixing the cuff on his sleeve, his face as serene as always, as if he hadn’t just decked a Nightmare full in the face.
Whitey didn’t seem to know what to make of it, either. Schuldich sent a quick look from one man to the other, and the Irish youth was just staring at Crawford. He looked a little bit stunned, yellow eye locked with Crawford’s golden brown. Schuldich wondered if anyone had dared hit the teenager before, and wondered why the younger Talent wasn’t using his gift to shred Crawford’s cool composure. But seconds ticked by and nothing happened. The two stared each other down and Schuldich was forgotten in the background. A small frown pulled at Whitey’s mouth as he eyed the American, and Crawford returned the look evenly.
“Do you have any possessions?” Crawford asked, neither explaining the hit nor acknowledging it. Schuldich had to sit down on the end of his bed, one hand straying to the handle of his suitcase. His eyes were on Nacht’s- rather, Schwarz’s- leader. Did the man have a bloody death wish? He had to know something about Nightmares- he had had a vague idea of what they were two years ago, and he had spoken to the Council about Whitey today. So how could he just hit the teenager and go on like normal?
Whitey wasn’t going to let the hit drop so easily, however, and before Schuldich could blink he had closed the distance between himself and Crawford. His fist never landed, though; Crawford saw it coming and caught him by the wrist, kicking his legs out from under him and letting him go. It was a quick reaction, almost too fast for Schuldich to follow. Whitey ended up on the floor and just lay there a moment as if trying to figure out how he’d gotten there. He knew how to kill because of the visions that had haunted him his entire life. He knew about death and pain and torture. But he had never been in a hand-to-hand fight with another person, and with Crawford able to see him coming, it was obvious he didn’t have a chance. They would have to teach him, Schuldich realized…Rosenkreuz would want to train him to fight. Judging from everything the teenager had seen with his Talent, he doubted it would take long. Fighting was just a method to kill, and anything that had to do with death and pain, the boy would excel at.
Crawford pulled his gun out of its shoulder harness and crouched beside the white haired youth, pressing the barrel against the Nightmare’s throat. Schuldich desperately wished he would just pull the trigger and save them all a lot of trouble, but Crawford didn’t seem interested in offing the teenager. “Now,” the precognitive said, “you’re going to sit there, and we’re going to have a talk.”
Whitey just blinked at him, and Crawford continued. Schuldich watched it all with wide blue eyes. “You were assigned to Schwarz because you are a Nightmare and Schuldich is your Dream.” At that, the yellow gaze flicked to the German in question, who kept his eyes firmly on his leader. “But I control this unit, and I will decide how things will work. That means that you’re going to stop breaking his shields.”
Whitey scowled at him. “I won’t,” he snarled back.
Crawford primed his gun. “You will. Say you will or I’ll do everyone a favor and shoot you now.” Whitey gave him a baleful glare that didn’t bother the American in the least. “If you don’t stop, then both of you will go mad. I won’t let that happen, so either you say you’ll stop or I’ll shoot you now and salvage what I can of my team.” Whitey opened his mouth to deny the order once more, but Crawford didn’t let him speak. “Do you know why he can help you? Do you know what about him makes it possible for him to save you?”
That gold eye was back on Schuldich, studying him in silence. “He is a telempath,” Crawford informed the young man. “His gifts allow him to see what other people are thinking and to hear what they are feeling, and he can manipulate both thoughts and emotions at will. His ability to do such a thing is what will keep your mind from collapsing further in upon itself and it is the only thing that’s going to help you keep your sanity. But if you want to be saved, you have to keep him sane as well. Those shields are the only thing protecting him from the tens of thousands of minds around us. It allows only the nearer thoughts to filter freely through and gives him the power to reach out for what’s past his shields to play with. A telepath’s shields are his lifeline, and if you keep shattering them, you’ll destroy him.”
“I won’t,” came the stubborn, sullen answer.
“You will,” Crawford answered simply.
“You will,” Schuldich echoed, swinging his legs where they dangled off the side of the bed in glee.
“So make up your mind now,” Crawford told the youth. “Do you want to live, or do you want to die?”
The Nightmare didn’t look pleased at all by Crawford’s words. Schuldich, on the other hand, couldn’t keep a wide grin off his face. He thought perhaps a solemn expression would have been better, to help convince the younger Talent that this matter was really as serious as they were telling him it was, but he was too delighted that Crawford had taken his side in the mess. Even if Schuldich had tried to tell him this, the Nightmare wouldn’t have listened to him. It took a third party to help beat in the knowledge that the Nightmare was going to have to control his gift a bit better before anyone could do anything for him.
“He will still work with you,” Crawford said, and some of Schuldich’s elation deflated under the reminder, “but he will initiate all mental contact between you. If you break his shields one more time when he has not given you express permission to do so,” like Schuldich would ever do such a thing, “I will shoot you where you stand.”
“Schuldich,” the German informed the teenager, leaning off the side of the bed to stare down at the youth. He was feeling bold right now with Crawford so adamantly on his side. Damn, that American was turning out to be the best thing that had ever happened to him. He had gotten him away from the Inquisition and Rosenkreuz and had kept him when he moved to Schwarz. There was nothing Crawford could do about the damn Nightmare being on their team but at least he could save Schuldich’s sanity. The German decided that the older man was definitely getting a Christmas present that year, though he had no clue if the other man even believed in the holiday. Schuldich hadn’t celebrated it since he’d left his home, but at the moment he was willing to make an exception. Pity it was only August. Maybe he’d find the man another lover instead to replace Aeris.
“Schuldich,” he said again at Whitey’s blank expression. “I’ve been Schuldich for over seven years and I have no interest in backtracking to something else.”
“But you were Christened Niklas.” Whitey was frowning, as if this confused him very much.
“You weren’t Christened Whitey,” Schuldich informed the youth, “but everyone still calls you that.”
Apparently, no one had ever said the name to the boy’s face, for he gave Schuldich a look of utter disbelief that made Schuldich wonder if the nickname offended him or if he remembered his own name. He was curious for a moment what the brat’s mother had named him, but Crawford chose to speak up at that moment and he subsequently forgot the question. “The Cabinet has renamed him Farfarello,” he informed Schuldich, and Whitey looked back at the precognitive with a frown on his face. At Schuldich’s blank look over such a strange name, he explained. “Over a hundred years ago, Rosenkreuz acquired two Nightmares both at the same time, and they chose to name them Rubicante and Calcabrina. They were two of ten demons of a Dante’s Inferno. When the next two Nightmares were found in the later years, the new Cabinets made it a tradition and continued naming them as such. Of the remaining names, they found Farfarello to be the most appropriate. It has been translated to both ‘elf’ and ‘leprechaun’.”
Schuldich cast the Irish youth a long glance, considering this. “Appropriate,” he agreed at last, “more that he’s being named after a demon than whatever translation the name holds.”
Crawford looked back down at Whitey-Farfarello. “From now on, that is the name you will answer to,” he informed. “Obedience to Schwarz and Rosenkreuz is the price for being given Schuldich. Do you understand?”
It wasn’t like the Nightmare could choose anything else, but Crawford waited for an answer. There was a long bit of silence between them, and Schuldich looked from the silent Talent to the precognitive so calmly crouching beside him tossing out orders and threats. His gaze lingered on Crawford and he knew the American could feel his stare, but Crawford did not break the gaze he held with their newest teammate.
“Farfarello…” the Nightmare said at last, letting it roll slowly off his tongue. It sounded awkward, lilted by his Irish accent. He frowned, considering this, considering everything he had been told. Finally he sighed, letting his eye fall closed. “Schullldich.”
Crawford took that to be agreement and rose, brushing at his pants legs before tucking his gun back away. He started towards the doorway and didn’t look back, instead offering up over his shoulder: “I will speak to the requisitions office about getting him clothes and personal possessions.”
“Mm,” Schuldich answered distractedly, turning blue eyes on the thing stretched out on the ground still. He still felt a stab of uneasiness about being abandoned to the Nightmare, but he forced it away. Crawford had told him that he had to stay away from his shields, so perhaps things would be manageable. Maybe he’d be able to cling for his sanity a bit longer. The thought pleased him and he felt his mouth pulling into another grin. The Nightmare chose that moment to open his eye again and he studied the German that was staring down at him. In Crawford’s absence Schuldich could hear the crackling from the other’s mind lacing against the back of his thoughts, but the Irishman made no attempts to push his gift any further.
“Schuldich,” the youth said again.
You have to see… It was a breathless, wistful plea. But the crackling remained as it was. Schuldich felt his grin slide more into a smirk and he brushed his hair over his shoulders, flopping backwards onto his bed.
Maybe things would work out after all.
Farfarello’s clothes were ready by lunchtime and were delivered to their door by the tailor. Crawford, who had been in his room drinking coffee and reading papers, was the one to answer the knock. Schuldich looked up from where he was reading a book in bed at Crawford’s entrance and he watched as the precognitive placed the small pile on Farfarello’s bed. The Irishman hadn’t budged from his spot on the floor, but he did turn his head to watch Crawford’s progress. Schuldich flicked the teenager another glance; from his spot propped against the headboard he could only see the youth’s head. He may be reassured that the other Talent’s gift wouldn’t destroy him before he turned nineteen, but the thought of having to share a room and work with the Nightmare still left a sour taste in his mouth. He may be protected from insanity but he was still required to touch that mind and try to untangle the knots in it. He wasn’t even sure what he was supposed to fiddle with in there that would give Farfarello control of his gift, and unless he knew that meant he had to look around. The image of the barren wasteland and Farfarello’s two rotting companions flickered through his mind and he turned his gaze back to his book. The thought of returning to that place made his stomach twist.
Crawford left the room without a word. Farfarello made no move to approach the possessions he had just been given, and Schuldich peered over the edge of his book after several more minutes of silence. The youth was still wearing the same outfit he’d been wearing two years ago. The Cabinet had said the boy had slept the entire time Schuldich was gone, and he hoped they had at least kept the Talent clean. The man didn’t smell of unwashed flesh, but still. Those clothes were many years old. They had dull stains on them still, blood from the mental ward and then the gas station clerk.
“Go take a shower,” he said, looking back at his book as Farfarello’s head turned towards his. “I’m not helping anyone who doesn’t bathe themselves. And throw away those godforsaken clothes.”
Farfarello started laughing, a soft, unpleasant sound. “Yes,” he agreed, and Schuldich could hear him moving. A careful peek showed the youth to be pushing himself up. “Forsaken,” he agreed. “We are all forsaken, and we have been since birth. There is no God here to hear our cries.”
“Congratulations on finally figuring that out,” Schuldich said dryly, turning the page of his book. Farfarello was on his feet now and his head and shoulders showed over the top of the pages. The child was eyeing the pile of things Crawford had brought him, almost as if trying to figure out whether or not they were dangerous. He reached out and poked the stack, and Schuldich gave up pretending to read. He set his book aside and folded his arms over his chest, watching as the other Talent warily eyed the clothes. Finally he reached out with both hands, pushing it aside and off the bed. He bared his teeth at the crumpled bits of clothing and turned his back on it. “Yet another triumphant victory,” Schuldich assured him drolly, and he pointed in the direction of the bathroom.
Farfarello flicked him a final look. Something flashed in his eyes, there and gone too fast for Schuldich to identify, but the final echoes of it rippled across the German’s empathy. Need, despair, desolate longing…And then the youth turned away and obediently moved towards the bathroom. He left the door open behind him but Schuldich didn’t care because he couldn’t see inside anyway. There was silence from the other room for a long time; minutes stretched by without the sound of water. Schuldich sighed, rubbing at his temples, and figured perhaps the insane kid was checking the place out for danger.
Crawford stepped into the doorway then and Schuldich turned blue eyes on him. The precognitive spotted the fallen, crumpled clothes first, and Schuldich offered him a grin. “Your new boy’s cracked deeper than I thought he was,” he informed the older man with great amusement. “They put up a valiant fight but alas, they lost in the end.” He tilted his head towards the clothes. “We’ll weep for them.” He shrugged, stretching his arms over his head. “Maybe he’s not a fan of the color scheme.”
Crawford just offered a light shrug in return, not really caring.
Something shattered in the bathroom and there was a crash. Crawford started in that direction and Schuldich climbed off the bed to follow. The small vase of fake flowers Aeris had used to decorate the bathroom was shattered on the ground, glass shards and plastic petals everywhere. They found their new teammate crumpled at one end of the bathtub, his yellow eye flicking around quickly. He was breathing harshly and blood trickled down his chin. He didn’t seem to notice them for a few moments longer; gingerly, he pushed himself up from where he had fallen, hands curling on the edge of the tub. He leaned over the side, peering down at the ground as if it wasn’t just a foot down from him, and ran his gaze down the length of the tub. He didn’t seem to find what he was looking for; his white-knuckled grip on the tub relaxed and he let himself lean backwards, settling onto his knees inside the bathtub. A yellow eye looked back up at his older teammates then and his tongue darted out to taste the blood coming from his torn lip.
“He’s a bit more skittish than Aeris,” Schuldich said, wondering whether to be amused by the other Talent’s erratic behavior. It wasn’t just a gift that the team would have to get used to, but the changes in personality between Aeris and Farfarello were extreme.
“A bit?” came Crawford’s dry answer.
Schuldich raked a hand through his bangs. “All right, way, way more,” he decided, before leaning past Crawford to speak to the Irishman. “Now, if you’re quite done spazzing out, do remember that you came in here to take a shower and just get it over with. It’s lunch time and I’m hungry, but I know Crawford’s not going to let us go eat unless you tag along to. I wouldn’t mind if we left you behind, but he didn’t ask me.”
Farfarello held out his hand demandingly. “Stay with me.”
“I don’t think so,” Schuldich answered, folding his arms over his chest.
Farfarello glared at him, his narrowed yellow eye glowing. “You’re mine. You belong to me. You aren’t allowed to leave me.”
Schuldich turned to Crawford, arching a brow at him. Crawford just shrugged. “Consider it an opportune moment to bond,” was his simple response, and he started away.
Schuldich stared after him. “You’ve got to be shitting me. Why does he need a babysitter to take a shower? Crawford!”
~There’s only so far you can push him before he has to push back,~ the American answered without looking back, his smooth voice slipping against Schuldich’s shields. ~His survival depends on you more than you will ever realize. He can’t explain it but he knows how much he needs you. You may hate him but you cannot cut yourself off from him, or he will force you to listen to him and I’ll have to shoot one or both of you to stop the ensuing mess.~
Schuldich considered his words for several moments. Crawford wasn’t waiting for a response; he vanished back to his room. The German looked back in at Farfarello, who was still glaring at him, his long fingers still outstretched. Feeling disgruntled and wanting to kick the man he’d been a breath away from worshipping just early, Schuldich offered up a disgusted sigh. “I’m going to go grab my book,” he muttered, abandoning the bathroom doorway to retrieve it from his bed. Farfarello hadn’t budged in his absence and looked up expectantly at his entrance. Schuldich ignored him, perching on the sink counter and trying to find his spot.
The youth seemed satisfied and turned to study the faucets at the other end of the tub. He closed the distance between them and himself by crawling on his hands and knees, and he ran his fingers over the various knobs protruding from the wall curiously. Finally he grabbed hold of one and twisted, staring in fascination as cold water suddenly rushed down from the faucet. He ran his fingers through the heavy stream, flicking them to send droplets everywhere. He settled himself down on his knees, cupping both hands in the rushing water and watching as it poured over the sides of his hands.
Schuldich looked over the edge of the book when the water had continued on for several minutes to see that the youth hadn’t budged and was still playing with the water. The drain cover wasn’t even in place, so only an inch of water remained in the bottom of the tub. The idiot was still dressed, too. Swearing under his breath about incompetent, insane Talents, he pushed himself off the sink and stalked over to the tub. Keeping his book above his head away from the spray, he reached out with his other hand and shoved the plug onto place. Farfarello caught his wrist, both hands curling around him. His skin was icy from the water and he turned a lazy smile on Schuldich when the German looked back at him.
“Say you’re mine,” the Irishman purred, giving Schuldich a rough tug. His knees banged painfully into the porcelain side of the tub and he offered the Nightmare a death glare, shaking his arm to get it free. His other hand was still protecting his book, so he could not use it to shove the teenager away.
“Say you’re mine.”
Schuldich had a feeling this could continue for hours. He tossed his book over his shoulder, praying that it landed safely, and lowered his hand to grab at one of Farfarello’s wrists. The boy ducked his head down, sinking his teeth into Schuldich’s forearm. Schuldich yelped as he felt skin break beneath the bite, shaking his arm to try and dislodge the other Talent. Farfarello wasn’t budging. “God damn it, you freak, let me go!”
Farfarello tilted his head back, showing Schuldich bloody lips. His single eye was half lidded and the lazy smile was back on his mouth. “You taste good,” he murmured, giving Schuldich another violent yank forwards. The German dug in his feet desperately but he was bent over too far from the earlier tug and he found himself falling. He crashed into the other Talent, knocking him back against the wall, and tumbled off to the side. His head cracked into one side of the tub and his legs dangled over the other. The water was cold enough to suck the air from his lungs but as soon as he got it back he clapped his hands to the back of his head and started swearing every dirty word he’d ever learned.
Farfarello found it quite hysterical and started laughing.
When Crawford showed up in the doorway a moment later to see what had happened, Schuldich offered him a venomous look, trying to ignore the blood that ran down his arm and dripped down to dissolve in the water. Farfarello managed to get his amusement under control and reached out, taking hold of Schuldich’s injured arm and pulling it towards him. The German was sick of fighting with him, so he let the younger teenager examine the bite marks. He busied himself with checking his other hand for blood because it felt like he’d cracked his damn skull open on the wall.
“He bit me,” he told Crawford, scowling at the American.
“It isn’t the first time,” Farfarello reminded him helpfully before carefully licking at the blood on his arm. It stung and Schuldich tried to pull away, only to have Farfarello’s fingers tighten. The Irishman sent him a warning look and continued with what he was doing.
Not the first time? That was right…The gas station. Farfarello had bit his throat. The German sent him a dark look. “You’re not a vampire. You can’t go around biting people.”
“Yes I can,” was the easy response.
Schuldich settled for glowering at the precognitive, who offered him a light shrug and leaned against the doorframe to watch. Schuldich made a mental note to kick his unhelpful ass later, pushing himself up from his sprawled position with his free hand. It was awkward with his legs dangling out of the tub so he pulled them in, wincing as the icy water enveloped them. The water was getting high, and he looked towards the Irishman. Farfarello didn’t seem to notice or care. Muttering dark threats in German under his breath, Schuldich leaned past him and gave the handle a wrench. Farfarello lifted his head as Schuldich moved, lightly biting at the telempath’s ear. It was a gentle enough bite that Schuldich was brave enough to twist his head away, and he resettled himself in the tub to wait until Farfarello let go of his arm.
“Say you’re mine,” Farfarello said, lifting his head when he was done cleaning the blood that had trickled free from the small bites. The marks were still red but no more blood was leaking forth. The Irishman subjected Schuldich to a steady stare. Schuldich looked to Crawford, who gazed back calmly. “Say you’re mine.”
“If I say it,” Schuldich said, turning blue eyes back on the other Talent, “are you going to let me out of this freezing tub and shower so we can eat?” A smile curved the boy’s lips, but he did not give a verbal answer. With an aggravated sigh, Schuldich finally said, “Fine. I’m yours. Let go.”
“Say you’re mine forever.”
“Jesus Christ.” Schuldich gave his bangs a sharp tug in irritation, glaring at the youth. Farfarello was frowning at him suddenly, torn between looking offended and insulted. Schuldich wondered if it was due to his swearing or his obvious disgust over the Nightmare’s demand. “I don’t believe in forever,” he said, giving his arm a tug. Farfarello let him slide free this time. “You won’t get that from me.” With that, he pushed himself to his feet and stepped out of the tub onto the mat. Water ran down him in a steady stream, soaking the mat and moving onto the floor. His towel was in his suitcase, so he turned his gaze on Crawford in silent question. The American left the doorway; Schuldich could hear the zippers of his suitcase and the precognitive returned with the missing towel. Schuldich accepted it from him, mopping his face dry before scrubbing at his clothes.
Farfarello hadn’t moved, and Schuldich turned an impatient look on him. “Hurry up and shower.”
The other teenager frowned at him. “I don’t,” he said simply. “I take baths. They give me baths.”
“They?” Schuldich asked.
Farfarello’s lip curled back in a mix between a sneer and grimace. “They…” he said. “The ones I lived with.”
“They’re called parents,” Schuldich muttered, rolling his eyes as he started scrubbing at his hair.
“No,” was Farfarello’s firm answer, and Schuldich looked back at him. Dimly he remembered the man at the mental ward announcing that the youth had gone through a string of foster homes. Considering what a freak he was, that was no surprise…No one had wanted to keep him once he let them see the images that haunted him. He had been at the mental ward for six years and had spent all six sleeping unless someone had approached him, and then he had slept again for the two years Schuldich had been out with Nacht.
He was fifteen years old and had only lived for seven. Schuldich let that bit of knowledge sink in, studying the pale-haired youth that was still frowning up at him. Not only did the boy have a horrendous power, but he had slept more than half of his life away, tucked in a catatonic state until Schuldich had shown up. His mind may know more than anyone else ever would about death and suffering, but there was still a part of him that was only seven years old.
The list of complications that followed the Nightmare grew by the hour, Schuldich decided, finally peeling his shirt free. “Take a bath, then,” he said at last, dropping his shirt into the sink to dry. He turned away from the Nightmare, turning thoughtful blue eyes on Crawford. He had forgotten the precognitive was there, and their eyes met briefly before Schuldich began prying his shoes from his feet.
/He’s still a kid…/ he told Crawford, sharing his realization with the other man as Farfarello finally started splashing around in the tub behind them. Crawford listened to his explanation in silence before sending a final look towards the Nightmare who was bathing with his clothes on. The precognitive considered this for a long moment before nodding once and stepping away from the bathroom. Schuldich managed to get his pants off with a bit of a fight and wrapped his towel around his waist. It didn’t do him much good, not when it was soaked already. He shoved his pants on top of the pile in the sink, pushing down on the crumpled clothes to try and drain the water free of them.
“I’m done,” Farfarello announced.
Schuldich looked back towards him. He was sitting Indian-style in the middle of the tub, little suds floating around him from whatever he’d used to wash himself. His hair was spikier than it had been before and a drop of water dripped from the tip of his nose back to the rest of the water. Schuldich found himself eyeing the boy for a long moment, studying the expectant gaze fixed upon his face.
Schuldich beckoned for him to stand up, offering a small sigh from the room. “Drain the tub and wait there a moment.” With that, he left the room. There were bath towels among the clothes that had been knocked to the ground and he grabbed one, carrying it back to the waiting Nightmare. Farfarello was squeezing at the hem of his shirt, trying to wring the water free. “Don’t bother; you’re not wearing that out of this room.” Farfarello continued his work, not looking up to take the towel. Schuldich reached over and draped it over the Nightmare’s head instead before wandering back out of the bathroom. He pulled an outfit from his suitcase and dressed, settling for wearing some sandals since his shoes were soaked.
Farfarello wandered into the room and the German gestured at the other’s outfits. “Hurry up and get dressed. I’m hungry.” Leaving the Irishman there to consider his clothes with disgust, Schuldich hung his towel up and wandered out of the room, pulling his hair up into a knot to keep the wet strands off his neck as he went to find Crawford.
Lunch turned out to be a small adventure in and of itself, and Schuldich was pretty sick of adventures for the day. It was half past one in the afternoon and it had already been a very busy and horrendous day, so he was very ready for it to be nighttime. As it was, however, they managed to enter the dining room while the other three teams were there, and conversations stopped when the other Talents realized that Crawford and Schuldich had someone new with them. Farfarello had finally pulled on some of the tan cargoes that had been brought for him, with a black sweater as the top. He was barefoot because he hadn’t been interested in putting on shoes and Schuldich was hungry enough that he didn’t bother arguing with him. He wasn’t overly interested in those around them but since he was being stared at he stared right back. Crawford had warned the Nightmare not to use his gift on anyone in the dining room before they left Schwarz’s quarters, which Farfarello hadn’t liked at all.
He was walking to Schuldich’s side, close enough that their shoulders touched, and he sent baleful looks in the other Talents’ directions. There were quiet murmurs amongst the teams. Finally one blonde Spanish chic wiggled her fingers at Crawford in greeting. “Get bored of Aeris?” she wanted to know, sitting backwards in her chair so she could prop her elbows on the table behind her. Schuldich brushed up against her mind, identifying her to be telekinetic. She didn’t have strong shields, but then, the chances of a Rosenkreuz Talent needing shields once they left the rivalry of the school’s halls was slim unless they had a gift like telepathy.
“She was no longer needed,” was Crawford’s calm answer. “The Cabinet wished us to take on Farfarello instead.”
“Farfarello, hmmm?” She eyed the youth. “A lot of changes, don’t you think? Word is that Nacht’s disbanded. Your door changed. You really know how to work the Cabinet, don’t you?” She sounded amused. “So what is he?”
“You want a demonstration?” Schuldich asked her, a smirk curving his mouth.
“She doesn’t,” was Crawford’s simple answer. Schuldich shrugged- a ‘so be it’ gesture- and then they were at the table of food.
Someone hit the ground, and the older two of Schwarz looked back to see someone sprawled on the floor. The man’s team gathered around him, looking startled, and his sudden death distracted everyone from the white-haired youth at Schuldich’s side momentarily. Schuldich remembered the way his Inquisition teammate Timon had just crumpled backwards and gave a quiet laugh. “Guess he was a telepath,” Schuldich commented to Crawford, baring his teeth at the older man in a satisfied smirk. It was nice when Farfarello’s gift fucked with other people. If he was permanently stuck to the Nightmare, everyone else should have a share in the misery. “We telepaths are quite nosey, and sometimes, curiosity is deadly.” With that, he began filling his plate.
“You aren’t supposed to kill these people,” Crawford reminded Farfarello, selecting a glass from a tray.
Farfarello looked bored. “He touched me,” he said simply, poking at the food on the table. He didn’t seem overly interested in the food and Schuldich spared a moment to wonder how he could sleep for years at a time without eating or drinking. Crawford handed the teenager a plate when Farfarello seemed as if he was going to take nothing, and Farfarello frowned at them both. They ignored him, going back to serving themselves, and the Irishman finally set a roll on his plate. Schuldich picked up a baked potato, waving it in the other’s face as the Talents struggled to figure out what had happened to their teammate in the background.
“Look. Potato. That’s what you Irish freaks like to eat, isn’t it? Big on potatoes, right?”
Farfarello took it away from him, chewing on it as he followed the two down the table. He neglected to pick anything else up and the other two decided not to press it for now. Schwarz moved to a four chair table, Schuldich and Crawford sitting across from each other. Farfarello eyed Schuldich a moment before tugging on his sleeve.
“Move down,” he said.
“Sit there,” Schuldich returned, gesturing to the free seat.
Farfarello gave him a steady look. “Move down,” he said again. “Judas sat on the left side of the Lord at the last supper and he was the betrayer.”
Schuldich eyed him. “I’m not sure I even want to know why you know such things.” When Farfarello didn’t respond, he gave a disgusted sigh and shifted to the left seat. Farfarello took the one he had just abandoned, setting his nibbled on potato on his plate with a nod of satisfaction. Schuldich sent him a sideways. “You do know that this means I’m the one who betrays you,” he informed the other man.
Farfarello offered him an eerie smile. “Except the roles are wrong,” he said simply, “and you cannot switch them.”
Schuldich didn’t bother asking for clarification, but turned to his own meal. Crawford was looking past them towards the arguing team on the other side of the room that had found themselves suddenly down a telepath. “Let it be known,” he said, lifting his voice just enough that the others realized he was talking, “that telepaths are not to touch Farfarello’s mind.” They stared at him in silence, their hard gazes demanding answers. “He will kill anyone who does so. Your companion was the third in a line that will grow as long as there are people foolish enough to touch what doesn’t belong to them.”
“He isn’t allowed to do such things,” one of the men snapped. “The Cabinet doesn’t appreciate careless killing between teams!”
“In Farfarello’s case,” and Crawford let the faintest of smirks curve his mouth to mock the other man, “they have and will continue to make an exception. Bring it up with them if it displeases you, and they’ll just tell you he should have minded his own business. It’s almost time for the Inquisition teams to cycle back, so you’ll have plenty of replacement telepaths to choose from.” With that, he returned to eating.
Farfarello twisted in his chair, looking back at the unhappy faces on the other side of the room, and offered them a cold smile. They argued amongst themselves in low, angry tones, and one of them kicked the nearest chair. It went flying and he sent a dark scowl in Schwarz’s direction. He could not hold Farfarello’s stare for long, however, and turned sullenly back to his teammate. Schuldich laughed into his drink.
Death always made the day better.
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