SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig

Part Nine
"Desperate hobo seeks insane person to make life ultimately more degrading."

    I wake up on my bed, sheets pulled over my head, with my stomach twisting itself into pointed little knots and my brain doing its best to wring itself out. It's a struggle to get my hand off the mattress and I push the blankets off my face, but the ceiling doesn't do much to offer an explanation. I blink up at it anyway, trying to figure out what the hell's just happened. A few minutes ago, we were leaving to meet the head honchos, and now…?

    I look over for a clock and find Farfarello instead. The Irishman is sitting on the ground with his back against the counters, one hand against his head and the other cradling a cup to his chest. He looks how I feel and I just blink at the blood that covers his front. I try to sit up but can't make it more than the slightest bit off the mattress. The small creak it makes as I fall again is enough to draw Farfarello's attention to me, though, and we stare each other down.

    "You're bleeding," I point out.

    "I was," he answers. "This is all dry."

    I try to feel alarmed but can't dredge up anything other than a nauseous confusion. "Where are we?"

    "Back," Farfarello answers.

    I think about that. "What about the job?"

    My teammate just eyes me for a minute. "We ran the job," he says. Then he grimaces a little and swallows from his cup. "I think."

    It's painful to push myself up and a hand against my mouth is all that keeps me from throwing up on my precious bed. Farfarello sees the look on my face and pulls himself carefully to his feet. There's a bottle of water in our fridge and he pours a glass from it. I choke a bit before I can drink it and Farfarello leans against the counter for balance.

    "I don't remember," I tell him. "Where's Crawford?"

    Farfarello just looks at me. I stare back, sipping at the water. Farfarello stares. I stare. We do the staring bit for a while until my eyes cross and the rapid blinking just makes me queasy again. "Well?" I demand. I'm not in the mood for his uppity attitude.

    Farfarello just points, but he's pointing at me.

    No, he's pointing behind me.

    I twist around to see Crawford sleeping behind me, stretched out closer to the wall. His glasses are missing and his hair's a mess from sleep, but that's not really the big thing. The big thing is that he's in my bed, my precious bed, and that the way I'm sitting has dragged the covers down to his hip.

    He's not wearing anything.

    A hand in my hair, tightening into a fist, as I leave fingernail gashes down a pale back. "Oh say can you see?" – the barest murmur against my ear, and then-

    I'm out of the bed so fast I fall. My knee goes numb when it hits the floor and the glass shatters under my hand. I leave blood and water behind as I bolt to the bathroom and I leave much more than that in the toilet as I heave. Glass clinks as Farfarello sets a second cup down on the back of the toilet and I take a swipe at him with my good hand, struggling to speak through shuddering breaths.

    "Get out, get the fuck out out out-"

    He closes the door behind him and I slam the lock into place. The sharp movement almost upsets my stomach again and I stare down at my shredded hand, moaning a little at the sight of the glass shards sticking out of my fingers and palm. I ease myself down to the ground in front of the toilet and just stare at my hand, trying to get up the courage to start digging the pieces loose. My hand is shaking and I end up just getting sick again.

    I slam my good hand against the ground, gasping for breath and struggling to put last night together in my mind. My head feels like it's been ripped in two and I slam the heel of my palm into my temple. The floor is cold against my bare skin, but it's the only thing cold in here. My stomach and head are on fire and my hand is hot from blood. I shake my hand and watch the red dots splatter.

    "This is going to really mess you up." Crawford's words last night, too pleasant a voice for the warning. Farfarello's venomous look when he realized what the bosses wanted from us. A gesture of goodwill, everyone sitting around and taking a hit off the stuff we helped get into the country. Accusation and hate from Farfarello when he realized there wasn't a way out, not doing anything to help my own panic about taking drugs in front of strangers.

    Crawford's voice at my ear as he pressed the drugs into my hand: "Smile at them, Schuldig."

    No way out, no way out but down, and I hadn't really had a choice.

    I remember almost nothing after taking it, and I have no clue how three drugged bodyguard-wannabes made it home from a place like that. I have no clue how it went from that to that to… Hands on cloth, on skin, and shit shit shit shit.

    "Schuldig?" Farfarello asks through the door.

    "That's not my name!" I snarl back at him, driving a bare foot into the wood. My knee screams a warning at me, still unhappy that I threw it into the floor in my so-called bedroom. Pain gurgles in my throat and I squeeze my knee with my good hand, willing it to calm down its frantic shrieking. It doesn't listen and I force myself to look at my hand again. Unsteady fingers finally start prying the largest shards free and I drop them in a pile by the toilet. "Fuck fuck fuck fuck."

    Dear Mom. I know you don't give a shit and I know you're dead anyway, but here's a quick catch-up on what the fuck's been happening lately. I followed this complete idiot and his sidekick to Japan without thinking of asking them what exactly they wanted me to do past pretend to be their telepath. My bad. I know. So, turns out we're bodyguards or some shit and I helped bring drugs into the country. There's this psychotic fluff who's dragging me all over the place and a jingly puff to boot. Oh, and it gets better, because I just slept with the world's most insane person. Sound good? Right.

    The police officers weren't lying when they said drugs were a bad thing.


    Lips on hot skin, ragged breath and hard kisses, and I can't remember much of it. I just slept with a batshit insane spider-eating retard psych ward reject with a jingly turtle-peach asshole and I can't remember most of it.

    Those drugs must have been really, really fucking good if I thought it was a good idea at the time. Our bosses are going to make a fortune off of them.

    I feel dizzy.

    "Schuldig, open the door," Farfarello says. "I have some tweezers."

    I stare down at my shredded hand for a minute before leaning over and undoing the lock. Farfarello lets himself in, saying nothing about my nakedness or the mess still floating in the toilet. I expect him to hand the tweezers over and leave again but he sits in front of me instead and holds out his hand for mine. I reach out and press mine into his, palm-up, and flick his face a quick look.

    Accusation and hate, and words sent in English to Crawford last night. Crawford's lazy smile sent back his way, that angry smile I saw right outside the boarding house our first day. He couldn't hold onto it for long last night, either, but it was the same smile. The same meaning? 'I one-upped you, ha ha'. I turn the foreign words Farfarello spoke over and over in my mind, twisting them this way and that, but they mean nothing to me.

    Idly I wonder if Tot speaks English.

    "Nice," Farfarello comments as he considers my hand. After a moment he reaches up, using the side of his hand to push his eye patch out of the way. He has to blink a couple times as his hidden eye adjusts to the light again and then he starts working on my hand. "It's almost enough to redeem you in my eyes, to think you didn't like it."

    "I was high at the time," I send back defensively, "and it couldn't have been my idea."

    "Still," he says. That's all he says, but it speaks volumes.

    "You should have stopped it," I say, willing to shift all the blame to him.

    He gives me a hooded look for that. "I don't think I was conscious by the time it started, or I would have."

    "Urghhh." I wince as he pries glass out of my hand and scratch the fingers of my good hand against the ground. "Do you think he's diseased? No, that's a no-brainer. Do you think they're contagious diseases?" Farfarello just shakes his head at that, but I don't know if it's an answer or a dismissal. "Rosenkreuz," I say, and Farfarello falters in his work. "I should call Rosenkreuz and ask them. They'd know, right?"

    "I'm sure they'd be happy to find out where he is," Farfarello points out. "They'll be across the world in a heartbeat to snatch him back up."

    "Think so?" I consider that, weighing the pros and cons of that. I think of my bed and grimace. Crawford leaving means I lose everything I have now. "Damn. Shit. Well…" I wrack my brain for another option and Tot's the first thing to come to mind. "Tot," I decide. "Tot can act as translator and get me tested. If I contracted anything, his ass is going straight back to Rosenkreuz."

    "Tot," Farfarello says, prying another piece loose. I try and jerk my hand away reflexively but his iron grip doesn't let me escape. "You spend a lot of time with her."

    "She's teaching me about Tokyo," I tell him, "and Japanese. She's kind of useful that way."

    "You're picking up Japanese quickly," Farfarello points out.

    I shrug. "I have a good memory. It's the only thing I've got going for me."

    "That and your telepathy," is his dry answer.

    "Oh yes," I agree. "Can't forget that."

    It takes him almost ten minutes before he thinks he's gotten everything and I press my thumb into my palm, moving in little circles to see if I can feel the sharp sting of leftover glass. I find nothing and offer Farfarello a grin. "You're useful," I decide. "So if I'm the telepath, what are you supposed to be?"

    "The Berserker," he answers, snagging toilet paper to wipe the glass into a pile. Blood makes it stick to the tissue and he pushes himself to his feet. I frown up at him, not really understanding, but he just shrugs. I decide not to push it. It's not like he chose it, after all, and who knows how Crawford's mind works.

    The nausea seems to have given way to hunger, though I don't know how it made that little skip. I won't complain because I'd rather be hungry than sick. "Let's abandon the freak and find something to eat," I tell him. "I'm supposed to see Tot in the city later anyway."

    It's a good plan, so we go with it. Crawford's still asleep after both of us have been through the shower and I keep a careful eye on him as I get dressed. Farfarello wrapped my hand up when I got out of the shower and I think it'll hold. It still hurts like hell and I think my knee is a little swollen, but I'll do my best to ignore it. I stop just long enough to dig money out of my stack under the bed and cram it deep into the wallet Tot bought me. It takes a bit more of a search to find the cell phone she bought me a couple days ago and I turn it on, watching as it lights up and comes to life. I keep it off unless I'm supposed to be out with her because she's the only one who uses it. Crawford doesn't understand why I have such a thing when I have telepathy, but that's his problem. If I get lost in Tokyo, I want Tot on speed dial.

    Farfarello meets me at the door and we take the stairs down. The landlady is working out front and she greets us and asks her usual nosey question about where we're going. I tell her the same thing I tell her every time, that we're going shopping and eating, and she gives us her blessing and goes back to work.

    I don't feel like Yoshinoya, but it's the closest place that isn't a convenience store, so I take us to the train station instead. I feel self-important when I know what we're doing and where we're going. Farfarello has to just trust me that I'm not picking a random station off the board. He puts money in the machine and it spits out his ticket and change, and I get through the wickets with my pass. This is the station I'm most comfortable with, since every trip to and from the city starts here, and I don't even falter as I lead Farfarello to our platform.

    We take the train four stops and get off, and there's a noodle shop down the street from the exit. I order for the both of us and Farfarello considers me across the table while we wait on our food. I stare back.

    "Why did he pick you?" Farfarello wants to know.

    "You tell me," I send back. "It's not like I put in the ad in the paper: desperate hobo seeks insane person to make life ultimately more degrading. Why'd he pick you?"


    "Chance, then." I swing my legs under the table and look around the room. "He picked me because I'm a brilliant telepath," I declare, and I point at a random customer. "He's skipping work." I single out another, then another, reading off excuses as I go. "She doesn't have the guts to dump him. She's sleeping with her teacher. She's going to be a doctor. He thinks we look like freaks." I look back at Farfarello and tap my forehead. "See? Sheer talent."

    Farfarello doesn't look amused. His loss.

    My phone buzzes in my pocket and I pop it open to find a message from Tot. I text her back with our spot and stuff my phone away again. Farfarello quirks an eyebrow at me and I shrug. "She'll probably come see us," I say. "She's a bit annoying, but she's got nice tits. Nagi thinks so, too."

    There's a pause. "Nagi," Farfarello says at last.

    I mime shooting myself in the head, wondering why I even said that. "Crawford thinks we should be friends."

    "And you agree?"

    "Eh." I'm saved from answering when our food shows up. Japanese noodles rock, because I fit right in at noodle places. Any food that you're encouraged to slurp noisily in public ranks high in my book, though Farfarello just stares at me for the first solid minute that I'm wolfing it down. I lift my bandaged hand and point and he looks around to see all of the other men in here doing the same. Distaste pulls at his mouth and he sets about eating his noodles quietly. Spoilsport.

    We're done and walking out when Tot catches up with us, and I don't miss the way her smile falters on her face when she sees Farfarello. "You!" she says. "I forget your name!"

    "Farfarello," he answers.

    "Oh! Yes. Very hard." She turns her smile on me and latches onto my arm, leaving me in the middle. "What do we do today?"

    "You said we had to meet someone today."

    "No!" she says, giving a toss of her head. "My friend is busy. Tomorrow!"

    "Then take me to the hospital."

    Tot squeezes the blood out of my arm. "Hospital?" she asks, and I show her my bandaged hand. She looks dismayed and grabs at my wrist. "Oh!" she cries. "Oh! Oh! What happened?"

    "I need to get tested," I tell her. "You understand tested, right? I might be diseased."

    She turns teary eyes on me. "Yes," she agrees, and she hauls me back towards the station exit. Farfarello follows after us, keeping close and turning cool looks on anyone who stares at us a little too long. Farfarello shells out more money for a ticket and we head down to the platform to wait.

    It's a twenty-five minute ride out to the hospital and I peer up at it from the sidewalk. Tot gives a grand wave of her arm. "Magic Bus!" she says.

    "Hospital," I correct her.

    "Magic Bus Hospital," she sends back, wagging her finger at me. "Is its name. Yes?"

    "Don't 'yes' me," I retort. "You know I can't read that squiggly shit."

    She shrugs and bounces up the stairs towards the door. She gets through easily, but I almost run down a redhead on his way out. Our shoulders knock painfully and I send him a dirty look in response to his icy glare. Purple eyes and red hair- what the hell is that supposed to be?

    "Quick, Tot, give me something nasty to say," I send at the girl where she's stopped just inside.

    She offers me something and I don't bother to ask for a translation before snapping it at Red's back. He goes still a few feet away and turns around to level a death glare at me, and I just sneer and step into the hospital. Farfarello's looks seem to be enough encouragement that he doesn't come after us and a glance back shows him marching stiffly away.

    Farfarello takes a seat in the waiting room while I follow Tot up to the counter to check in, and Tot latches onto my arm again.

    "Why he is here?" she wants to know, pointing a finger in Farfarello's general direction.

    "We were hungry."

    Tot gets a clipboard of information from the lady at the front desk and steps off to one side with me, translating questions. It takes us a while to get it all sorted out and then we have to sit for half an hour with Farfarello before the doctor can see us. My teammate decides to stay in the waiting room as we go back and I perch on the hard hospital bed and let the doctor examine my hand. Tot acts as translator between us and he gets my hand cleaned up and nicely rewrapped in just a minute.

    He comes to the next thing on the list and says something to Tot. Tot looks back at me. "Disease from cup?" she asks, pointing at her hand. "He says is unlikely. Clean cup. Clean water. Yes?"

    I scowl a little. "Not from cup," I say. "Something else."

    She waits, looking all expectant, and I war between worry for my health and worry for my shredded, almost nonexistent dignity. Tot pokes me in the stomach as encouragement and I contemplate breaking her finger off. "From sex," I say at last. "With a very questionable person."

    Tot's jaw drops. I think I hear it pop a little on its way down. It takes her a minute to recover and she points at me, giving a triumphant crow. "Crawford!" she declares.

    "What? No!"

    "Crawford!" she insists, looking far too pleased with herself. "You sleep with Crawford."

    I shove her away from me with my shoe, irritated. "Slept, you dumbass! Past tense! Slept!"

    "Fucked," she corrects herself sweetly.

    I shove off the bed. "Fuck this."

    "Schuldig! Don't be mad!" She dives for me and latches onto my arm. I attempt to shake her off, ignoring the doctor that is steadily looking more and more nervous. "Lucky guess! Lucky guess! It's okay!"

    "It's not okay," I snarl back at her. "Do you have any idea what sort of a crackhead he is?"

    "No diseases!" she insists. "No diseases. It's okay."

    "How would you know, anyway?" I demand.

    "Crawford is Crawford!" she tells me. "No diseases."

    "He's a walking disease."

    "He checked," she says, and I just stare at her. "Last time he was here. He checked." I think that over, and after a minute, she loosens her grip on my arm. "Why are you mad?" she wants to know. "Was it bad?"

    "I don't remember," I tell her sourly. "I was drugged at the time." She stares at me, then reaches up and smacks my forehead. "Ouch! Bitch!"

    She yanks me down by my hair to speak into my ear, not like the doctor has a clue what we're saying. "You were on drugs?" she asks incredulously, and my mouth is already open to tell her it wasn't my choice when she continues. "You came to get blood checked. You were on drugs? Hospital would know! Tests would show!"

    I stare down at her before looking over at the doctor, and Tot offers the man a beatific smile. Nope, no scheming going on over here.

    "Right," I say. "Let's cancel the blood test."

    Tot explains to the doctor that I've changed my mind and we're out of there with just a short stop at the counter to pay. I think about my narrow miss as I lead the three of us to the door, but those thoughts derail themselves when I see who's waiting outside for us. Crawford is propped against a cab at the curb, Nagi in his arms, and he waves when he sees us. I wonder if I can sneak away and flick a discrete look around, hoping no one notices that he's part of our group.

    Tot kills that when she squeals and goes running down the stairs to pounce on him, and Crawford holds Nagi safely overhead. They babble at each other a mile a minute in Japanese and Tot squeals again before beckoning for us to hurry over. Farfarello sighs and starts that way so I guess I have no choice but to follow.

    Crawford holds out slips of paper as we stop in front of him, looking quite pleased with himself. I ignore the paper in favor of eyeing him, trying to figure out how the hell last night happened. It's really irritating that it did, and more so that I can't remember it. Crawford doesn't seem to notice the scrutiny; his eyes are already back on the papers.

    "And this is…?" Farfarello asks, taking his.

    "Tickets," Crawford explains. "We're going to Tsukuba."

    "Why?" I demand.

    Crawford smiles at me and I can't stop myself from looking away. "I've found them," Crawford explains. "My parents."

Part 10
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