Part 4

      By the time they'd left the mountains behind and made it to the airport, snow was a distant memory. There was nothing here but rain, and it was coming down thick enough in Vienna that Schuldig could barely see out his front windshield. Schuldig knew what that meant before he'd even parked alongside Crawford's car: the flights were going to be delayed. Idly he wondered why Crawford hadn't just informed the cabinet of such a thing and let them stay at Rosenkreuz until the plane they needed landed. He didn't ask, since he was taking as much time as he could to shore up his defenses against the other man. Acknowledging him now would probably undo all of that hard work.

      He followed Crawford through the parking garage towards the airport, doing his best not to kick water up on himself. His attempts were only moderately successful. He could feel it soaking through the backs of his pants, chilling him in scattered spots across his calves. At least the uniforms Rosenkreuz had assigned its teams were black, so no one could see the dirty water staining his clothes.

      They stopped in the arrivals hall just long enough to look at the boards and confirm that several of the evening flights were marked as Delayed. Theirs was included in that list, and Crawford started moving again as soon as he'd given Schuldig enough time to spot the flight number. Schuldig followed behind him through the crowd, tucking his shields in a little tighter against the airport crush. Languages crashed against his ears and heavy smells from the scattered restaurants tangled in his nose. He'd already eaten, but just the scent of real food was enough to make his stomach grumble again.

      Crawford brought him to an elevator and Schuldig moved up alongside him, offering the man a sideways look. "Shouldn't you have seen this coming?" he finally asked.

      "I already told you," Crawford said, tilting his head towards Schuldig's just enough that the light caught on the lens of his glasses. They flickered white for a moment, and Schuldig wasn't sure what was creepier: that flash or the power in the brown eyes that turned on him. "We are here to talk."

      When the elevator arrived, there were too many people waiting for a ride up. Schuldig had no intention of being so crowded. A couple tweaks of his gift kept half of the waiting passengers out, until there were just six of them in the car. He could do without the other four, but he didn't really trust himself alone with Crawford in such an enclosed space.

      They got off on the top floor and cut through the halls towards the lounges. "Clear the room," Crawford told Schuldig before opening the door, and Schuldig preceded him inside. There were only a handful of men in there, but it was easy to get them moving. Crawford stood out of the way to let the dazed passengers out and Schuldig took an extra minute to weave telepathic shielding around the lounge. He was dimly aware of the door shutting, very acutely aware that Crawford had just locked them in, and knew he needed to be completely focused on his work and not the other man. He tore the web down in frustration and started over again, and anger at himself was more than enough to hold his concentration this time.

      "Cameras?" he asked when he was through.

      "Rosenkreuz chose this lounge for its drivers," Crawford said. That meant they'd taken care of security for this room days ago. The precog- or whatever he was- started across the room towards one of the desks. Schuldig tore his gaze away from the other's broad back and inspected the room instead. It was a pretty high class lounge for an airport, he thought, but of course Rosenkreuz would have chosen the best one for its teams. An entertainment center was in one corner, recliners in the middle, and office desks off to another side where harried businessmen could get work done during their layovers.

      "Here," Crawford said.

      It sounded like an order. Schuldig bristled instinctively and turned a narrow-eyed look on the other man. Crawford was drawing an envelope out of the inside pocket of his jacket, but Schuldig looked right past it to stare the man full in the face. "You are not my leader yet," he reminded Crawford. "I am still your equal for a few more days."

      Crawford's lips twitched into just a ghost of a smirk, there and gone again. "Here, please."

      How Crawford put so much mockery into two calm words, Schuldig would never know. He was torn between fury and envy. It took fierce effort to keep a scowl off his face and he crossed the room to take the envelope. Crawford watched as he tore it open and the weight of his stare on the top of Schuldig's head made his skin crawl. He did his level best to ignore it, feigning to be completely caught up in the papers he was unfolding. Idly he wondered if he was fooling either one of them.

      Focus, damn you, he ordered himself. How had he ever become Dolch's leader if he was this easily distracted?

      "What do I need this for?" he asked, eyeing the statistics critically. "Everyone's seen these."

      "There is a lot Schwarz is doing that cannot be put down on paper," Crawford said, tapping the top sheet with one finger. "That is largely due to the fact that Schwarz works directly for Estet's Three, and Rosenkreuz therefore has no right to track its movements. This is all the cabinet has in its files on my team, this and personal files from our years at the school."

      Schuldig hadn't expected that and he frowned down at the sheets. To think that any of Rosenkreuz's teams could be above the cabinet's authority was ridiculous.

      "I came alone to Rosenkreuz," Crawford said. "Estet does not want Schwarz in Austria. Neither do I."


      "What we are working on is none of the cabinet's business," Crawford answered. It sounded so much like insubordination that Schuldig almost flinched. If any of the cabinet's dogs were anywhere near here, they could both be toasted for talk like this. He put space between them instinctively, but Crawford was expecting that. A hard hand seized his elbow and kept him in place. Schuldig tilted his head back to glower at Crawford, mouth open on a fierce threat, but Crawford beat him to speaking. "Of every psychic in Rosenkreuz's care, Estet trusts only my shields to stand up before the cabinet's scrutiny."

      "We live for Rosenkreuz," Schuldig reminded him flatly.

      "Rosenkreuz is a school and nothing more," Crawford answered, and Schuldig couldn't stop a small flicker of panic. They were going to tear his mind apart for this- they would completely rip his shields to shreds just for daring to listen to Crawford say such things. How the fuck had he come this far and wound up here? "What Estet dreams of is the real future, even if they don't deserve it."

      "Let go of me," Schuldig snarled, yanking at his arm again. Crawford's grip was like steel holding him in place. Schuldig stopped trying to get away and went in the opposite direction instead, throwing everything behind his fist and aiming for Crawford's face. Crawford moved faster than Schuldig could see, snagging his wrist midair and wrenching them both backwards. The force behind Schuldig's hit turned into momentum that sent him stumbling up against Crawford. Crawford was waiting for it and turned, neatly kicking Schuldig's legs out from under him. In the next heartbeat, Schuldig's back was slammed down against one of the desks and Crawford was pinning him in place with his body, too close for Schuldig to kick at him.

      "Be still."

      "Let me the fuck go," Schuldig warned him.

      "You act as if you think any differently than I do."

      "We are Rosenkreuz!" Schuldig spat at him.

      "You have been lying to yourself for too many years," Crawford noted.

      Schuldig tried to breathe around the ice that choked him. This was the second time today Crawford had stared straight through him to that dark, desperate spot in the back of his mind. It was so far buried beneath layers of telepathy and years of bloody victories that he could barely even recognize it as his own anymore, but every time he looked at Crawford he could feel it stirring just a bit. No one got far in Rosenkreuz without selling his soul to the cause, but there were always other methods. Crawford had had his shields to protect him; Schuldig had his telepathy. Somehow Rosenkreuz and Estet had never seen that utter loathing that made up the cores of their very beings.

      With Crawford right here, Schuldig couldn't ignore it anymore. He thought about what Crawford had promised him in that meeting room earlier today, how he'd offered Schuldig the chance he'd wanted for years. The first-ranked teams had a week of vacation wherein Rosenkreuz wouldn't track them. Schuldig had ached for that ever since he'd first heard of it. He needed that chance, just that one day, to stand there and decide for himself whether or not he was going to let Rosenkreuz have his life. If only there had ever been some sort of say in it, instead of having his life dictated to him from birth, this would be nothing at all. If he could choose to stay, maybe he would stay, and he would be theirs entirely.

      "I will give you the world," Crawford promised him. "I will give you a future that is of our own making and no one else's."

      The thought, the possibilities, the weight of Crawford's body stretched out against his, made Schuldig shudder. "This is madness," he said, hating how hoarse his voice sounded. "The cabinet isn't blind."

      "The cabinet is whatever I want them to be," Crawford answered.

      Schuldig sucked a sharp breath in through clenched teeth, staring blankly up at Crawford. There weren't words for that blatant disregard. People simply did not talk about Rosenkreuz that way. Survivalists wouldn't even dare think it.

      "I will have your obedience," Crawford told him. "You must look at me and understand this, Schuldig: I will do whatever it takes to break free of this. I will sacrifice anyone and anything, save for the four of us that are absolutely crucial to success. For us to succeed, however, I must have your immediate and unquestioning loyalty."

      "Out of one dictatorship and into another."

      "This is the way it has to be." Crawford shifted his grip on Schuldig's hands and slid his thumbs across bare wrists, tracing veins up his arm as far as he could reach. It helped bring Schuldig's attention back a little from the horrifying truth of Crawford's ambition and a bit towards the body fitted up against his. "If we falter, they will know. I already warned you we are Estet's closest-watched team. For us to out-step them, you will have to trust me with absolutely everything."

      "That's not likely."

      "Look at me," Crawford ordered him, and Schuldig realized belatedly that he was staring at Crawford's forehead. He pressed his mouth into a hard line, ignoring Crawford's beckon, but he couldn't refuse it a second time: "Look at me."

      Crawford's body on top of his; Crawford's staring boring into him; Crawford's power burning against the edges of his mind. Most insidious of all: Crawford's promise in his thoughts, and that fucking what-if he'd never dared to let himself imagine before. It was everything he'd wanted since he'd been dropped off at the Rosenkreuz dormitories at eight years old. Here, where he couldn't hide from it anymore, it ached like it was melting all the skin off his bones, with a need so violent he could barely breathe around it. Crawford was promising him a way up and out. The question was whether or not he dared chance it.

      "Are you with me?" Crawford asked him. "Make your choice now. You will have to live with it forever."

      Hail Rosenkreuz.

      I bleed and die for Rosenkreuz.

      My soul is Estet's to command.

      "Are we going to make it?" he asked, so quietly he wondered if Crawford could hear him, no matter the scant distance between their faces.

      "I would never let us fail."

      He sounded so calm, so sure, despite the fact that he was talking about one-upping Rosenkreuz and doing it while Estet watched over their every move. He said it like it was easy, like he had never doubted himself even once in his life. Schuldig stared up at him, wondering how he could even fit in his own skin with an ego like that, and thought maybe that serious overflow was what caused his power to crackle up against Schuldig's mind so loudly. It was suicide and madness to say yes to this, but listening to him speak and staring up into eyes that saw more than he could even imagine, Schuldig couldn't help but believe him.

      And, damn him all to hell, he couldn't say no.

      My life is… in Crawford's hands.

      "All right," he said.

      He shouldn't still be turned on when they were talking about such things and when he knew very well what Rosenkreuz and Estet would do to them if they even suspected what the pair had been talking about. He shouldn't be, but he definitely didn't lean away when the precog finally leaned down.

      Crawford's kiss tasted like mint, except mint could never burn so hot. Schuldig let it drain every ounce of strength he had out of him and shifted, trying to push up against Crawford. The angle wasn't what he wanted it to be, not with him pinned down against the desk, but it was all he could get. The slide of their bodies against each other lit him on fire all over and he shoved against Crawford's grip. Crawford relinquished his hold on Schuldig's hands and the telepath reached up, burying one hand in Crawford's hair to pull him in for a kiss so hard it hurt. It still wasn't enough.

      He heard the desk chair clatter as Crawford pushed it out of his way with a foot and tried to breathe somewhere between their kisses and this need. "Fuck me," he demanded, staring up into brown eyes that threatened to tear him completely apart. He'd flinched away from that power before, but now he needed to die in it. Dead, maybe he wouldn't be so afraid. "Now."

      Hands were on him in an instant, helping pull him upright on the desk, and Schuldig wound a leg around Crawford's waist to help hold him close. He needn't have worried about Crawford stepping away; the man's hands were already working at his jacket. Schuldig fought with Crawford's clothes in turn, fingernails skimming over the badge that meant nothing to them anymore on their way to black buttons. Crawford was faster at it and his hands seared Schuldig through the thin material of his undershirt.

      "Off," Crawford ordered him against his mouth, and Schuldig snarled a little in response as he was forced to relinquish his grip on Crawford's shirt. He wriggled out of the sleeves of his jacket and shirt and then forgot the annoyance over such an interruption when Crawford's hands were finally on his bare skin. He could feel Crawford's power in his fingertips, sizzling against his skin and his nerves, and the first brush of it had him gasping for air.

      "You're not a precog," he tried again.

      "I know," Crawford admitted, and he swallowed the rest of Schuldig's protest in a hard kiss. He helped pull Schuldig off the desk so he could work at the fastens on Schuldig's pants, and the telepath finally got Crawford's jacket undone. He pushed it down Crawford's arms and Crawford let go of him long enough to let it fall off his wrists to the ground behind them. Schuldig reached for his belt next, but Crawford caught his hands to stop him.

      "Not yet," Crawford told him.

      "Now," Schuldig said again.

      Crawford's power hissed against his mind in response to such insolence. Schuldig faltered and Crawford took advantage of that to tug at Schuldig's pants. Schuldig gave up arguing and kicked his way out of them and his shoes. Crawford hooked one of his shoes in the hem of Schuldig's pants to toss them out of their way, and then his hands were on Schuldig's naked flesh like they'd never been anywhere else. Schuldig arched up into the touch and tried to satisfy himself with what he could feel through Crawford's shirt. He snagged Crawford's glasses from the bridge of his nose and set them off to one side, removing at least that one barrier between them.

      If having glasses hadn't made Crawford look geeky, Schuldig wasn't sure what not having them did. Whatever it was, it did equally unnamable things to his gut and composure. He slid his fingers through Crawford's hair, trying to muss the dark locks from where they'd been slicked back so perfectly, and couldn't resist dragging the man in for another kiss.

      He was so hard it hurt, nerves so raw he almost couldn't breathe. Every touch Crawford laid out on his skin felt like it would be the one to completely undo him. Crawford's power was up against his skin and his shields, quietly but steadily working away at everything he was, and Schuldig had taken one step too far, to a ledge he couldn't jump back from. He felt himself giving in completely and knew he should be breaking free and breaking out of here, but Crawford had his hooks in all the right places and all Schuldig could do was try and crush himself up against him.

      "Turn around," Crawford said, or Schuldig thought he said it. He couldn't really hear past his pounding heart or their tangled, heavy breaths. Crawford's hands followed his words, though, and helped turn Schuldig around. Schuldig was more than happy to let the desk take his weight on his hands, since his legs weren't really on his side anymore. Crawford leaned up against his back and Schuldig thought it rather inconsiderate of him that he was still dressed.

      Fingers worked their way up his abdomen onto his chest, tracing out the lines of his hard chest and flicking lightly at his nipples before continuing on to his throat. Schuldig reached back, wanting something else to touch, but Crawford simply moved his hand back to the wood and leaned forward. Schuldig let himself get pushed flat against the desk, breathing labored at the feel of heat and hardness against his ass. He grit his teeth against another demand, knowing Crawford would ignore it, and clenched his fist as if that would help keep it in any easier.

      "Good things come to those who wait," Crawford murmured at his ear, and he kissed a line down Schuldig's spine. Schuldig thought about pointing out that patience was only a virtue when there wasn't a better one to barter with, but those words evaporated the second Crawford's kiss went too far.

      Schuldig jolted and slammed his knee into the desk drawers. Crawford's mouth was going places it really shouldn't go, but all Schuldig could do was scrabble ineffectually at polished wood. Shitshitshit there was something so, so wrong about this, but he couldn't find the breath or willpower to protest. It took everything he could just to stay on his feet and he was probably lucky that the desk was taking most of his weight.

      "God—dammit," he choked out. Sex was supposed to be hard and fast and impersonal, not—shit—not this slow corrosion that was taking him completely apart. "Stop," he tried. This was too much. He was going to embarrass himself in just a second. He was so hot that he could barely breathe and the moan stuck in his throat wasn't helping. "Stopstopstopshit—" Fists slid against wood slick from sweat as he tried to find the strength to throw Crawford off. "God—!!"

      By some miracle, Crawford stopped, but only for a second. His mouth traced a line up Schuldig's back and his fingers pressed in without warning, digging so deep and hard that Schuldig was blinded by it. He jerked up off the desk, only to run into Crawford as the precognitive leaned over him, and the older man used his body to push Schuldig down. He was a solid weight against Schuldig's back, firm and unyielding, and Schuldig couldn't help but push back against him.

      Fingers were moving inside him relentlessly with a deadly accuracy that was tearing him open. He clenched his teeth hard against a whine, but lost the fight when Crawford's teeth found the side of his throat. He groaned helplessly against the desk and leaned back harder against Crawford, needing more. Crawford bit down harder and Schuldig lifted a hand, blindly looking for something to hold onto. He found Crawford's hair and knotted his hand in it as tightly as he could. "Shit shit shit oh God—"

      A mouth traced the shell of his ear and Schuldig shuddered as Crawford murmured, "My name is not God."

      "Don't fucking—pretend to be modest. I'm n- nah- ahnn—" Fooled, he meant to say, but he forgot what they were talking about. "Just—fuck me—"

      "Not yet."

      "Shit—" Not yet?! There was no way he could last much longer, not with Crawford working his body like he'd been born to fuck Schuldig. The man knew his body better than he himself did and he was flaunting that knowledge, taking the telepath apart one layer at a time to show him just how much Schuldig seemingly belonged to him. Schuldig hated that possessiveness, hated that arrogance, but if Crawford stopped touching him, he was going to murder him. He struggled against the pressure building in his groin, but Crawford's fingers weren't even slowing. "I'm—"

      "Don't fight it," Crawford told him, sliding against him to kiss a line down Schuldig's jaw. His breath ghosted over Schuldig's throat, making him shiver so badly he banged his forehead against the table. He cursed at both the pain and the reaction and Crawford laughed, low and deep, right against his skin.

      That chuckle was Schuldig's undoing. He froze at the sound of it and lost his concentration, and Crawford was waiting for that. He had a third finger shoved inside before Schuldig knew it was coming, and that sharp jab against his prostrate was the last he could take. The tension snapped and Schuldig muffled his yell against the table as best he could as heat flooded his veins. His body jerked out of control as he came harder than he had in years and he arched up against Crawford as he drowned in raw pleasure.

      He was left feeling spent and exhausted and he collapsed against the desk, gasping for breath. Crawford slipped his hand free and slid it around his hip. Schuldig's nerves were all on alert and they jangled in anxious twitches as Crawford's hand settled right below his navel. Crawford straightened slowly, pulling Schuldig up with him, and steadied him when Schuldig's legs were a little too weak to take his weight. Schuldig let Crawford turn him around without fighting and tilted his head back. Crawford's kiss just left him feeling even more boneless.

      The precognitive was still hard. Schuldig started to reach down as soon as he'd gotten his footing back, but Crawford caught his hand and moved it aside. Schuldig wasn't deterred. The chair was still back against the wall where they'd pushed it and he shoved Crawford in that direction. They worked together at his pants and managed to lose them along the way without either man tripping over them. Another push forced Crawford down onto the cushions. Schuldig peeled Crawford's hands off of him and started to kneel, but Crawford caught his hips and pulled him too close.

      "Sit," Crawford told him. Schuldig glanced from brown eyes to the man's lap and back again, and climbed up onto the chair. There was barely enough room for his knees to either side of Crawford's thighs, but Crawford's hands on his elbows kept him steady until he was ready. The precognitive pulled him down by his hair to kiss him again and slid his other hand down the side of the chair, looking for the knob he knew was there. Schuldig heard it pop and then the chair was sliding forward a little as Crawford reclined the back enough to make the angle more comfortable. Schuldig reached around behind himself, sliding his hands between his legs in search of Crawford's erection. It twitched under his fingers and Schuldig watched, mesmerized, as fine lips parted on a quiet breath. That, that split-second of real reaction, was enough to get his pulse racing again.

      He guided himself down slowly, swallowing a grimace at the first press against his entrance. The skin back there was overly sensitive from Crawford's fingers and the initial spark of pleasure felt too much like pain. He clenched his free hand on the back of the chair by Crawford's head and refused to stop, forcing himself down until he was sitting on Crawford's lap. His eyes never left Crawford's face. The building could be blowing up around them and he wouldn't even blink. Crawford's eyes had fallen closed and his head was tilted back hard against the cushion. Schuldig gave in and leaned forward to kiss him, coaxing Crawford's eyes back open.

      Leather creaked as Crawford released his death grip on the arm of the chair and Schuldig smirked against Crawford's mouth. Crawford was solid perfection and ice on the outside, but it was as much of a façade as Schuldig was. There was fire underneath, buried deep where no one else could find it, but Schuldig could see it in the gleam in Crawford's eyes. He could feel it in the tension beneath his fingers, where Crawford was keeping himself in as much control as he could. Schuldig wanted so badly to break that control that it hurt. He shifted a little on his new perch just to see the way Crawford's expression tightened and smiled so viciously wide that his mouth hurt.

      Crawford's hands settled on his hips in a silent command to move, but Schuldig ignored that. Instead he took his time unbuttoning Crawford's shirt. He needed to see if Crawford's body was as perfect as his face was, and the first sliver of bare skin he saw confirmed it. The psychics' work was mostly mental, but they still needed to keep their bodies trained. Crawford obviously took that as seriously as he did everything else, judging by the hard planes of his chest and the six pack.

      "Push the chair down," he ordered, and Crawford let go of one hip to find the latch. The chair rolled forward a bit more as it reclined further and Schuldig caught at the wall reflexively. Crawford knew where to stop it before it fell backwards and spilled them onto the floor, though. Schuldig gave it a few more seconds just to be sure and then went back to divesting Crawford of his shirt.

      With him already impaled by Crawford, he couldn't bend far enough to use his mouth, but he was more than happy to explore Crawford's chest with his fingers. He traced out every inch of smooth skin he could and teased nipples into rock-hard nubs. Crawford's breaths were heavy and hot against his throat, sending tickling little shivers down Schuldig's spine. He'd just come, but having Crawford down like this was intoxicating and he could feel himself starting to react all over again. The precognitive's hands were working their way over his thighs and up onto his chest and Schuldig clenched his legs harder against Crawford's, refusing to move. It was getting harder to concentrate and the speed with which his thoughts derailed was almost frightening.

      "Move," Crawford said against his mouth.

      Schuldig just darted his fingers back down Crawford's sides, seeking out the spot that made him twitch the most, and moaned a little in startled pleasure as the man gave a small jerk. "Make me," he said, voice thick with lust, and he rocked just enough to be a cruel tease. Crawford's mouth fell open on a thick gasp Schuldig could barely hear and the telepath let go of him to cling to the back of the chair. He was hot and aching all over again and he was going to have to start touching himself in just a second, but he didn't want the fun to end just yet.

      He continued moving, just enough to cause friction. It wasn't much, but Crawford had been hard enough for long enough that it didn't matter how slight it was. Schuldig watched Crawford's face carefully, looking for signs that he was on the brink. As soon as he saw it he went perfectly still and clenched down as hard as he could. Crawford's head fell back as he choked on a hoarse curse and Schuldig leaned forward to kiss him. Crawford pulled at his hips in a demand to move and Schuldig ignored him.

      "Schuldig." It was supposed to be a warning, but it couldn't sound threatening when Crawford was so out of breath. Schuldig watched as he struggled to get something else out. Hunger was a gnawing heat in his veins that made it hard to think and he gave in to the temptation to kiss Crawford again. Teetering on the edge of denied release made the kisses almost violent until they were pure sex in and of themselves. Schuldig tasted copper where someone's lip had split and he moaned into Crawford's mouth.

      Crawford reached between them then and seized Schuldig's erection. Schuldig flinched and stuttered a curse against Crawford's mouth. "Cheater," he snarled, digging his fingers deeper into the seat back. Crawford smirked against his lips and continued working at him. Schuldig fought as hard as he could not to move, but Crawford's pace was maddeningly slow and nowhere near tight enough to get him off. He finally relaxed around Crawford enough to start moving again and the sudden return of friction had them both breathless. Crawford groaned low in his throat and Schuldig felt it like a physical thing, brushing over his skin in all the right places.

      "Fuck," he moaned. "Knew this was going to be—a bad idea—" Crawford laughed, quiet and dark against Schuldig's throat, and the telepath shuddered so hard he thought he'd fall off Crawford's lap. "Shit—"

      They were through with games; they needed and that was all that mattered. Words were tucked aside for inevitable future arguments and for now they just concentrated on moving. Skin on skin and mouth on mouth and shit, Schuldig needed to find out what kind of mints Crawford sucked on because he was already addicted to the taste. He'd buy a whole box of them and work them all day long, but the taste would just remind him of this and he'd be hard all day thinking about sex nonstop, and shit shit shit where did he learn how to fuck like this?

      They came just moments later, bodies pressed tightly together and mouths crushing open-mouthed kisses against flushed skin. Their senses lay somewhere on the floor between the desk and the chair and Schuldig collapsed hard against Crawford. It was a fight to get his breath back and each one he sucked in was shaking badly. Belatedly he realized that was him that was trembling so hard, and he tipped his head forward to rest it on Crawford's shoulder. He felt completely exhausted and it was a fight to lift his hand and scrub sweat-soaked bangs out of his face.

      For a long minute neither of them spoke. Schuldig felt buzzed all to hell and there was white noise in his head where his thoughts should be. He left his hand pressed into his temple, waiting for his gift to come back into itself from whatever muddled haze Crawford had stirred it into.

      "Remember that you trust me," Crawford said at his ear.

      And in the next second, Schuldig's gift completely exploded.

Part 5
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