Last Call

Schuldich got three feet inside the door and stopped, putting on his best "Keep it up and see what happens" smile. Quite a few eyes quickly jerked away, and bits of conversation nervously started up again.

Schuldich switched his accusing stare to the silent man at his side. As if being stared at because of simple genetics and fashion sense wasn't bad enough. Some of the patrons were actually moving to the far side of the bar, and trying to be casual about it.

Well, it was better than a full-out stampede for the door, at least.

"I can't take you anywhere."

Farfarello barely heard him, more interested in the crowd they'd walked in on. A hooded amber gaze flicked from face to face. It was a little difficult identifying people now that Schuldich had scared them into soul-searching their cocktails. He could still see enough to know one was missing. "He isn't here yet."

Schuldich sneered at his companion and made a beeline for the bar, ignoring those who thoughtfully scrambled out of the way to leave several barstools open for the two of them. "Thank you, Captain Obvious. I seem to recall saying that it would be a good idea to arrive early. Several times. With emphasis, even, and with really small words. In fact, I'm pretty sure I reminded you in the taxi ten minutes ago."

"Did you, now." It wasn't quite a question. Farfarello eased onto the stool beside Schuldich and sat sideways, pressing his knees into Schuldich's thigh. There was still condensation on the counter from someone else's glass. He dabbled his fingers in it and pressed a wet fingertip to Schuldich's cheekbone. "Ssss, sounded like nothing but white noise to me. That's all it ever is."

Schuldich twitched his head away from the cold touch automatically, raising his hand to get the bartender's attention. "Boy, I love it when you're all lucid and shit. Just pretend to be a piece of furniture for a little while, okay? You're practically poisoning the atmosphere just by being here." He glanced around, lip curling slightly in distaste. "Not that this place needs much help."

The bartender took his sweet time, visibly unwilling to get within grabbing distance of Farfarello. He wandered their way slowly, taking care to keep a healthy distance between them, as if he was afraid one or both of them might scramble over the counter at any moment and go for his throat. "We don't want any trouble," he said shortly.

Schuldich smiled patronizingly at him. "Then get me a fucking beer, twitchy, and be quick about it."

The bartender's mouth pulled down in a sour frown, but he snagged a bottle from under the bar and wordlessly slid it Schuldich's way.

He glanced at Farfarello next. The Irishman gazed back unnervingly. At length the bartender cleared his throat and asked, "What can I get you?"

Farfarello tapped damp fingers against his lower lip. "I am a patio table," he said, lowering his hand to swirl it through the wet ring. He displayed his hand for the bartender's approval and offered him a slow smile. "I need nothing but rain and sun."

The man said nothing immediately, then decided he didn't care enough to ask. He disappeared to take care of the rest of his customers. Farfarello watched him go with a bored look on his face and then turned on Schuldich.

"He isn't here yet," he said again. "If he is not here, there is no reason for us to be here."

"I wonder if I got you drunk, you would be a little less goddamn literal," Schuldich muttered into the mouth of his bottle. "Patio table..." He snickered a bit despite himself, then downed half the drink in one go. He slammed it against the bar forcefully, pulling a face. "Christ, when are these people going to learn how to make a decent beer?" He cocked a brow at the scarred young man beside him. "He'll be here, O Impatient One. We wouldn't be here, otherwise. Now shut up, be still, and try not to traumatize anybody."

Farfarello's mouth twitched into a smile, there and gone again. He curled his fingers around the neck of Schuldich's bottle, careful not to touch the German's fingers, and leaned in. "Are you?" he asked, ignoring the order to stay silent. "Traumatized? The Mastermind has..." He thought for a moment, testing the words, tasting them on his tongue with the heavy scent of Schuldich's cologne. "Delicate sensibilities. I was not aware."

"Your existence offends anyone with any morals or sense," Schuldich sniffed, carefully unimpressed. "But use the word 'delicate' in reference to me again, and I'll rearrange your already hideous goddamn face." He tugged on the bottle. "Now let go, unless you actually plan on drinking it."

Farfarello refused to let go. "You are not offended, then, for you have neither," he decided.

"Morals, no," Schuldich conceded, trying to wrest the bottle free and make it look casual at the same time. "But if I didn't have any sense, I'd have been killed a long time ago." He paused. "Though hanging around with a freak like you doesn't really say much for my survival instincts. Let go, asshole."

"Who is poisonous now?" Farfarello mused. "You do not have to be here. I will stay." When Schuldich tugged on his beer again, Farfarello tightened his grip and pulled back. He reached up with his free hand and poked a fingertip inside the mouth of the bottle, certain that would kill Schuldich's interest in getting it near his lips again. "You said I could have it."

"Jesus Christ, I don't even want to think of what infections you have under your grubby nails." Schuldich released the bottle abruptly and propped his chin in his hand, smiling like a wolf and avoiding the pointed dismissal. "All right, you want it, drink it. In one go. And maybe I'll buy you something better. You're a Mick, that means you're, what, born with an unholy tolerance, right?"

Farfarello drew his prize back and considered his finger- inspecting it, perhaps, for any possible infections. He licked his finger idly and looked again. Finding nothing, he turned on his prize. He picked the bottle up and let it dangle between his fingertips, rocking it idly from side to side.

"Irish," he said slowly. He slid his gaze from the bottle to Schuldich's face and offered the German a stony look. "I am not a Mick."

"If you expect me to suddenly be Mister PR and go all politically correct for you, you're in for a big disappointment. Now you gonna drink it or play with it, Farf?"

"I am not," Farfarello said, a little louder now, "a Mick."

Schuldich put on his most insulting smile. One day, a little voice in the back of his head mourned, maybe he would find other ways to amuse himself. Ones that didn't involve the threat of a messy and immediate death. But teasing the Berserker had grown to be one of his most masochistic time-killers in the past year or two.

"Drink it, Mick."

Farfarello stared back at him in silence. He ran his tongue along the backs of his teeth, tasting blood and filmy skin. He imagined peeling layers of flesh off Schuldich's face and held on to the mental images just long enough that he knew the telepath would pick up on it. A few seconds was all he gave himself before he quietly tucked it all aside, burying it under cooler apathy. He lifted the beer to his lips and drained it. The last mouthful he kept, and he leaned forward to spit it in Schuldich's face.

Schuldich was opening his mouth to protest the decidedly unpleasant images drifting around in his demented partner's head, when the beer hit him in the face. Half of it got in his mouth, some of it got in his eyes and stung like a bitch. He drew in a breath to yell and promptly inhaled some of it up his nose. Coughing and sputtering oaths, he seized the nearest thing to hand-- a heavy glass ashtray --and swung it hard. He was aiming for Farfarello's head, but his eyes were still squeezed shut and he only managed a solid blow against the man's shoulder. Ashes and cigarette butts flew everywhere. Those at the bar got up and fled for the relative safety of the booths.

Farfarello caught Schuldich's wrist and pulled, yanking Schuldich half-off his stool and half-into Farfarello's space. He pushed the bottle hard against Schuldich's throat in a warning. "You're making a scene."

Schuldich scrubbed madly at his eyes with his free hand, still cursing venomously in German. Blinking painfully, he bared his teeth at the other man in defiance. "I haven't even begun to 'make a scene', you raggedy little vampire. Maybe if I slam your thick head against the bar a few times--" he cut off abruptly, eyes lifting over Farfarello's shoulder. He tugged at his trapped hand, mouth stretching in a grin. "Oh, look who decided to show up."

"What part of 'meet me at the bar and try not to draw attention to yourselves' didn't you imbeciles understand?" came Crawford's cold voice from just behind the Berserker.

Farfarello dug his fingers into Schuldich's wrist in a warning and sent Crawford a calm look. "You said 'try'," he said.

Crawford gave him a hard stare.

"The Farfenator's being very literal tonight," Schuldich put in, still trying to discreetly pull his hand away.

Crawford closed his eyes very briefly, then took a seat, flicking his fingers to summon the reluctant bartender. "This childish behavior had better not be leading to what I think it is. I have to get up early in the morning."

"Then lend me your credit card," Schuldich said quickly.

"Or I could lock you two in separate rooms," came the ominous response.

Schuldich scowled at him before turning his glare on Farfarello. "Tell the damned brat to let go, will you? Why the hell are we here, anyway?"

"Let him go, Farfarello," Crawford commanded. "Gin and tonic," he added in a raised tone when he realized the bartender would not be coming any closer.

Farfarello considered ignoring that, but ignoring Crawford tended to lead to straitjackets and tedious work. Slowly he relaxed his grip on Schuldich's wrist and let his hand fall away. He pushed his empty bottle against the German's chest and set it down in Schuldich's lap. "Next," he intoned, looking past Schuldich to the bartender. "You said you would give me something better."

Fully expecting to Schuldich to go through on that, he turned to face the counter. He folded his arms on top of the cool wood and propped his chin on one shoulder. He gazed up at Crawford. "He started it," he said idly.

Crawford glared at him, but decided after a moment to let it pass. Schuldich, smirking triumphantly at the thought of a drunk Berserker, was loudly demanding something that sounded like an obscene joke and not a drink.

"It's happening tomorrow."

That got him the attention he wanted.

Schuldich looked at him sharply, all humor gone. "Tomorrow? Fucking Christ, I thought you said--"

"Forget what I said," Crawford interrupted shortly, staring into his glass as if he wasn't quite sure what to do with the contents. "Something has sped things along. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it's the influence of those moral-bound idiots, Weiß."

"Fuck." Schuldich snatched the drink from the returning bartender's nervous hand and slid it in front of Farfarello, mouth grim. "Take that in one shot. Thank you for spoiling the mood, Crawdad. I feel the sudden urge to get completely and totally wasted. I want to be so goddamned drunk I can't make a coherent sentence."

"Shouldn't be too much of a stretch," Crawford noted dryly.

"We could kill Weiß," Farfarello said before Schuldich could react to that. He turned his glass this way and that, watching the overhead lights fracture off the surface. He lifted the glass to sniff at it, decided it didn't smell particularly appetizing, and swallowed it anyway. It was sour-sweet and he scraped his tongue against his teeth, trying to get rid of the lingering taste.

"You will not. Their participation is vital," Crawford reminded him.

Farfarello lifted one shoulder in a shrug. He offered the cup to Schuldich in case the telepath wanted the dregs. "Then tomorrow will be fun."

"Someone needs to be beaten upside the head a few times with a dictionary," Schuldich observed. "Tomorrow will not be 'fun', piss-for-brains. Or did you forget the part where Nostrodomeus here admitted that we might all be killed?" He glared at the American. "You seriously can't even see that much? If we're gonna even make it out of this shit alive?"

"Chances are slim to none, with a chance of showers," Crawford drawled, finally taking a long drink.

"Thank you for brightening my night. YO!" Schuldich caught the bartender's flinching gaze and jabbed his finger commandingly at the bar before him. "I want four whiskey sours. Line 'em up, right here. Then we are going to do Jager shots until one of us pukes. Crawford, get the hell out of here before I'm tempted to do something violent."

The Oracle ignored the empty threat, shifting his glass in his hands back and forth so that the alcohol could mix more evenly. "You knew coming into this that death was a very real possibility."

"You're the one who said we might win," Schuldich shot back acidly.

"I never said we would. I said we could." Crawford stared into his glass pensively, then set it aside abruptly with a faint air of resignation. "Make it six," he called to the bartender.

Farfarello pushed himself up. He pressed the back of his hand against Schuldich's shoulder, trying to feel the man's tension through his shirt. It wasn't hard. "Someone doesn't want to die," he observed. "One wonders what sort of unfinished business you could have that you could be so greedy for one more day, hm?"

"No one wants to die young, Farf," Schuldich muttered, scowling at the whiskey sours quickly lining up before him. "Except, apparently, Weiß. If I'm headed for an early grave, I'm sure as hell gonna drag one of 'em with me."

Farfarello thought that over, wondering a little at such attachment. Death was inevitable. Whether it came now or later, it would happen, and likely without their consent. He saw no reason to lose sleep over it. If he died tomorrow, it simply meant that he'd move on to hunting angels and demons instead of mortals.

He poked Schuldich's cheek. "Ask him for his credit card again."

Yeah, we really are that lacking in ideas >>; We just spat this at each other, a couple paragraphs at a time, back and forth, each writing bits and pieces because we didn't feel like working on any of our in-progs.
Attempt to forgive us kplzthx