SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig
"Are you going to make me leave in the morning?"
"Crawford?" Tot echoes, pointing me to a seat beside the bed. It seems she's finally done staring from the doorway and has moved on to fixing the room up a bit. I keep my eyes on her because I'm not that interested in staring at the dead body in the bed. It doesn't matter if the machinery shows a heartbeat; it's still really fucking creepy. Tot doesn't seem to notice, because she straightens the room with a careful hand a presses a kiss to a pale forehead. Some friend. I'm sure they have wonderful conversations.
"Yes, Crawford," I answer, holding my hand out above my head. "Wacko American about this tall." Tot fixes the sheets again and I have the feeling she's stalling. I scowl at her. "Just answer me," I say. "I don't feel like prying the truth out of him and I don't think Farf would let me, anyway. The longer we stay here in Japan the twitchier he gets."
"Mmm." Tot takes Nagi from me and sets him down on the sheets, considering the way he looks there. At last she perches on the foot of the bed across from me and leans forward, propping her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. She looks serious, for once, and that's almost as creepy as the dead body. It makes me rethink how badly I want these answers.
"Crawford lived here," she says at last. "Six years." She taps her fingertips against her face, counting and making sure she got the right number. "Four years ago."
I grimace. "How old is he?"
"Twenty and eight," she answers, and I do the math to figure out how old he was last time. Tot gives me a moment and I wave at her, impatient for her to go back to her explanation. She doesn't notice; she's staring through me at something else. Probably the memory of someone kicking her puppy, judging by the look on her face. "It was fun."
"It's not fun now?" I ask.
She scrubs at her face. "Different. Different."
I eye her warily, wondering if she's about to cry. Maybe Crawford was the better choice for this interrogation after all. If she cries, I'm out of here. She straightens a bit and grabs her ever-present backpack, pulling it into her lap. It takes a bit of rummaging before she finds some tissue, but instead of using it for her eyes or nose, she starts shredding it with vicious tugs.
"So four years ago he went to Rosenkreuz."
Tot's fingers go still and she looks at me. "Rosenkreuz."
"Farfarello said it first, says now and then Crawford mutters about it. He thinks Crawford was locked up there for a while. Psych ward or something. I'm a little surprised they didn't just put him to sleep, but hey. Did he leave Japan for that?"
"No," Tot says firmly.
"Crawford's team go- went- to Europe. Found Farfarello. Worked in Europe four years."
I feel my expression leave my face but I don't hear it splat as it hits the floor. "Farfarello."
"I know who the fuck he is. You're the one that said you couldn't remember his name when you saw him the other day. He and Crawford met four years ago?"
Tot looks confused that I'm confused and I consider kicking her to make her answer faster. "Yes," she says, and she digs through her backpack again. It takes a moment before she pulls out a photo album and I watch her rifle through pages. She hesitates over a couple before pulling one out and showing it to me. A string of numbers across the bottom means nothing to me. What means everything is the people in the picture- two of them in particular. Crawford's in front talking to unfamiliar faces and Farfarello is behind him, cut in half by the edge of the photo.
"This is bad?" Tot guesses.
"It means someone is a liar," I say, staring down at Farfarello's face.
"Oh," she says, very quietly. She watches me as I stare at the picture, then leans forward and touches her fingertip to Farfarello's face. "This man? Do not trust. He is scary. Insane."
"So Crawford and I are the sane ones?" I ask sarcastically, but she just bobs her head in a nod. "I want this picture." She nods again and I undo a pocket on my shirt and poke it in. Farfarello's going to have a lot of explaining to do, but if Tot says I can't trust him, then I wonder if I'm stuck with prying answers out of Crawford. Fantastic.
"Is there anything else I should know before I go home and start kicking people?"
Tot thinks on that, searching my face. "No," she finally says, but it sounds like a yes. I decide not to push it because I've got enough to worry about. I've only been out with Tot for half an hour but Farfarello's lies are enough to bring me back home again. I wait as Tot gathers Nagi up and she follows me down the hall to the elevators.
The doors slide open just a minute later and we come face to face with that same red-haired jerk I bumped into yesterday. He goes absolutely rigid at the sight of me and flicks a quick look past me, down the hall where we came from. I'm about as happy to see him as he is to see us, and this time I elbow him as he shoves past me. His steps are quick as he hurries down the hall and I back into the elevator, keeping my eyes on his obnoxious back.
"Tot, give me something threatening to say," I tell her. She tugs me down by my shirt sleeve to whisper in my ear and I straighten and call it after him. He stops mid-stride and whirls around to level a hateful, furious look at me. The doors slide closed between us and I look down at Tot. "What did I say?"
"I'm going to kill your whole family," Tot translates.
"Oh, nice. I like that." I take Nagi back from her and jingle him all the way down to the first floor. The three of us walk down to the train station and I look over at Tot as we go our separate ways from there. "Is Farfarello really insane?" I want to know.
She nods, wincing a little.
"Damn," I mutter, and I look down at Nagi. "Guess it's up to us."
Tot pulls me down to kiss my cheek. "Luck!" she says, and she leaves me there to go back out into the city. I watch her leave before going through the wickets, and Nagi and I watch the lines grow around us.
"Hey, Nagi. How come Farfarello didn't know Crawford could speak Japanese?"
He doesn't answer that, not even with a jingle.
Crawford and Farfarello are both gone when I get back to the boarding house, so I go back downstairs and wait in the kitchen. Moriyama is cleaning the place up a bit but she turns the music off when I come in so she can chatter at me. I keep up with what I can and just listen to the sounds of what I can't. At last she finishes wiping things down and sits down across from me to serve us both tea.
I dig my wallet out of my pocket and put money on the table. She blinks down at it. "Teach me English," I say.
She carefully separates the stack of bills, keeping one and pushing the rest back towards me. She tucks the money inside one pocket and finishes filling our mugs. She waits until that's done before she speaks again. "My name is Moriyama," she says in Japanese, and then she says it in English. 'Name' sounds enough alike between the sentences that I think I can remember it.
"My name is Schuldig," I say in English.
We spend the next hour throwing phrases back and forth. Sometimes I don't understand the Japanese she throws at me, but I memorize it and the English anyway because it must be important. I even get her to teach me how to say 'shut up' and 'fuck off' and I'm starting to feel multilingual. The little old lady doesn't even bat an eye at the phrases I want her to translate for me. I guess she has to know by now that Tot is teaching me such things in Japanese.
We've moved on from tea to fruit by the time Crawford and Farfarello come back. I hear their voices in the hallway for a moment before they start upstairs. I look over at Moriyama but I don't have to say anything. She's already clearing away our dishes. I head up the stairs to our rooms and let myself in with my key. Farfarello and Crawford are in the kitchenette area but they quiet down as I stand in the doorway.
Crawford comes over to meet me and I give him Nagi. "You're early," he says.
"You said you were going to take me driving."
Crawford nods. "I did," he agrees. "Are you ready?"
"Yes." I look past him at Farfarello. "You coming?"
"I'd rather not," he answers.
I back into the hall again so Crawford can get into his shoes. He leads me out of there and down the street to the parking lot where he left the car. "We will go further to the edge of town," he decides, getting into the driver's seat. "We won't have as much traffic."
I say nothing to that and he hands me Nagi again so he can drive. I sit in silence as Crawford takes us fifteen minutes away. Even the houses are scarce out here, so the roads look less intimidating, but I'm not ready to drive yet. I get out of the car and stand there against the door as Crawford comes around. His hands are out for Nagi but I left the plush in the seat. Instead I hold out the picture Tot gave me.
"I want you to explain this," I tell him.
He takes it from me and studies it obediently. "It is from a security camera."
"Not that, dimwit. Why is Farfarello there?"
"Farfarello is Schwarz."
"He said that he met you this year," I tell him flatly. "He said he came with you because he was a freshman in college and bored of school. He said that's why he's here. Then Tot said today that you met him some four years ago and that he's been working with you all that time and she gave me this." I point at the picture. "Why did he lie to me, Crawford? Why didn't he just say that you infected him years ago? Why didn't he say that that's why he knows how to use a gun?"
"He said that?" Crawford asks.
"In Germany," I tell him. "When you went to go make it rain."
"Oh." Crawford thinks about that. "Maybe he did it for you." He brightens a little as he considers that idea. "He didn't think you would come if you knew."
"Newsflash, he didn't want me to come."
"Farfarello doesn't believe you're a telepath," Crawford confides in me.
"I can't imagine why."
"You can't," Crawford agrees.
"Okay, then tell me so I can imagine."
"No," Crawford says simply. "Not yet."
"Then tell me what Rosenkreuz is." Crawford just stares back at me and I fold my arms over my chest, flinching a little away from the cool look that has settled in his eyes. "Farfarello warned me about it in Germany. Said it was your psych ward or something. Tot can't give me a date when you were actually there, though."
"Rosenkreuz is a school in Austria," Crawford says. "They train people with psychic powers."
"I knew you weren't ready to hear that," Crawford muses.
"Tot tried to tell me that you're sane," I tell him.
Crawford tsks a little at that. "I'm not," he admits.
"Like I hadn't noticed already?"
"Then what does that make me?" I want to know.
"Oh, you're insane, too," Crawford assures me.
"Hm." For some reason, I feel comforted by the thought. It makes a lot about this easier to handle if I can write it off as a mental deficit. It also sort of excuses anything else I decide to do, because hey, I'm obviously not in my right mind. I can keep working with Schwarz and being a telepath and I already have an excuse for all of it. Well, not all of it. "Even insanity wouldn't have made me sleep with you."
"It was probably the drugs."
"Yeah." I eye him. "Just so you know, it's not going to happen again."
"No," I answer, and then I think about it. "Why, did you see something?"
I scowl at him, but he ignores it in favor of tucking the picture back in my pocket. "Maybe you need to get your sight fixed."
"Yes," he agrees.
"Glad you agree. So that means it's not going to happen again."
"Then why did you even say yes the first time? I lost my appetite for nothing."
"No, it is," Crawford corrects me.
"No, it won't," I say stubbornly. We stare each other down for a minute and I drum my fingers on my biceps in an agitated rhythm. "You're pretty arrogant for a man who gets through life by a lot of lucky coincidences," I tell him. "Give me one good reason why it could ever happen."
Crawford smiles. "Curiosity."
"Curiosity," he says patiently. "You don't remember it but you want to know why it happened."
I just stare at him, trying to think of a good retort. Words fail me; aside from falling back on a childish 'Says you!', I can't figure out what to say. It makes me uneasy that I don't have any defense against that, because it means that he could be right.
"Give me the keys," I say at last.
Crawford leans forward and kisses me instead, and I let him so I can prove to both of us that Crawford's wrong and the sex thing won't happen again. I don't remember most of what happened night before last but I do remember that quick kiss he gave me in the airplane bathroom to startle Nagi out of my hands, and that wasn't anything to be happy about.
But this isn't like that kiss at all.
It starts soft and ends hard, ends with me pressed up against the car, one hand sliding against the glass window and the other twisted in his shirt as I try to find my balance. I can't fall down, not when I'm stuck between cold metal and Crawford, but my legs don't know if they want to risk it. Crawford's hands are under my shirt, against my skin, as his mouth moves over mine, crushing the air out of my lungs a little bit more with each kiss. He fucks my mouth like I wanted to be fucked when I ran out of luck on the streets and my fingers were too numb to pick pockets without snagging on cloth. Giving blowjobs was better than going to jail even if it was just because it put a little something in my mouth when my stomach was eating itself with hunger. It was more worth it because there was always the chance that one of them might take me back to his place for the night. It happened only once and even if it hurt when he fucked me, at least it was on a bed when I was never good enough for one before. The hardest part was leaving again in the morning when the lights were on and I could see the same thing in his eyes that had always been in my mother's- my own worthlessness reflected back at me. I could never go home with anyone else after that. Jail was a nicer place than standing in front of those eyes.
But Crawford thinks I'm worth something. Mastermind, he called me. Schwarz's telepath and stronger than he'd thought I'd be.
Why am I boycotting fruit, again?
Crawford presses a last kiss to the corner of my mouth and I struggle for breath, tightening my fist in his shirt. "If some other idiot had been in that jail cell," I say when I can speak again, but that's as much as I can get out. I give myself a couple seconds to finish it, needing to hear the words out loud. They're more for me than him, a warning before I do something incredibly stupid. "You'd be fucking them just as quickly."
"No," Crawford says, sounding confused, and I make the mistake of looking up at him. "I wasn't looking for someone else. I needed a telepath. I was looking for you specifically."
I just stare at him and Crawford lifts the keys. "Your turn to drive," he says.
"Say that again," I order him.
"Your turn to drive."
"No, before that."
"I was looking for you," Crawford says again.
"Keys?" he asks.
"No. You drive."
"You need to learn to drive at some point, Schuldig. We will need you to drive for us."
"Then we'll come back this afternoon," I say. "You drive. Take us back to the boarding house or I'm going down on you right here in the street."
So much for foresight. Crawford just stares back at me for a few seconds as he tries to figure out what I've just said. I give him five seconds before I'm reaching for his belt and Crawford leans away from me. "I'll drive," he decides, and we get back in the car.
The twisting in my stomach as the boarding house comes back into view is the same I felt when I told Crawford I'd come here to Japan with him, a gnawing sort of 'What the hell are you doing?' anticipation. But I ignored it and came to Japan then and I'm going to ignore it now, because I have to know if Crawford is going to make me leave in the morning.
"Leave Nagi," I tell Crawford, but he ignores me and brings the plush up with us anyway.
Farfarello is studying some papers in Crawford's room when we show up and I feel his eyes on us as we head into the other room. "Did you crash the car already?" he wants to know.
"No," I call back. "Now get out."
Farfarello comes to the doorway to see what's going on and lurches back a bit when he finds Crawford pushed up against my bed and me on my knees in front of him. Nagi is just a lump under the blankets where Crawford buried him and I spare Farfarello half a glance as I wrestle with Crawford's belt. "I said get out."
"What are you doing?" he demands.
"What do you think?" I ask, tossing Crawford's belt off to one side.
"You're out of your mind."
"Yeah. Feels liberating. Get out."
Farfarello just stares at me and I stare back, fingers hooked around the hem of Crawford's pants. The Irishman looks up at Crawford and says something in English. I don't understand it, but I know enough English to answer: "Shut up and fuck off."
Something dangerous flickers on Farfarello's face at the sound of English from my lips, but just a moment later, he gives a jerk of his hand in dismissal. He says something else that I don't understand, but I don't think it's important. Right now nothing's important except that Crawford said he was looking specifically for me in that jail cell. I don't think Crawford's mind really understood what I meant when I tried to warn myself off this but it doesn't matter, because that's exactly the answer I wanted to hear.
"Goodbye," I say pointedly.
Farfarello slams the door behind him on his way out.
I have Crawford's pants around his knees in an instant and his hands knot in my hair as I pull him into my mouth. I suck him off right there by my bed, in an apartment a world away from the streets where I was nothing. He calls me Schuldig when he comes, the name he gave me, and I've gotten over my distaste for it. It's hard to hate a name when it's the first one you've ever been given.
Nagi ends up under the bed with my bags and Crawford and I end up tangled up in the sheets and each other, naked flesh and heat and wanting. I push him down against the mattress that's softer than the floor and kinder than a park bench, fingers and mouth tracing need across his skin. I hit my elbow on the wall and when I swear at the pain Crawford kisses it away, and I have to just tangle my fingers in his hair and kiss him for doing such a thing.
I want to be somebody. I want to be someone, to someone.
"Are you going to make me leave in the morning?" I ask against his lips.
"When Tot comes for you?" he wants to know, sounding a little confused.
I just laugh against his mouth and don't bother to ask again. From an idiot like him, that's answer enough. He doesn't know why I'm laughing but he doesn't ask, just wraps an arm around me to pull me closer. Maybe it was the drugs last time, but I go into this with my eyes wide open, and I don't regret a damn thing.
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