for staubundsterne

     "You know what we need? We need a dog."
     Crawford had prided himself as an expert at tuning his younger teammate out, but the unexpected pronouncement gave him pause. But perhaps because this was the only intelligable thing Schuldich had said-- now that his seemingly endless litany of oaths and curses was evidently finished --in the past hour, he found himself in a conversation he had no wish to continue.
     "A dog."
     "Yes." Schuldich fumbled for his pack of cigarettes and dug his finger inside the crumpled cardboard box for the one cancer stick he had left. Smoke hung in the air like a fog from where he'd been steadily sucking down one cigarette after the other. "A dog. A big fucking dog with five thousand, razor-sharp teeth. And mean eyes. But he has to come when I call him. I fucking hate it when dogs don't come when they're ca-- OW, DAMN IT."
     Crawford frowned impatiently, returning his attention to his task. "You're the one who refused to see a physician," he pointed out unsympathetically.
     Schuldich sneered around his cigarette, hand a bit unsteady as he struggled to get one last flame out of his dying lighter. "You know they'll be waiting for us there."
     "Yes." Crawford arched a brow without lifting his eyes from what he was doing. "But since when do you use common sense? Hold still."
     The telepath gave a snort of humorless laughter, tossing his lighter onto the table's surface with a plastic clatter. He drew in a lungful of smoke and blew it down directly into Crawford's face. "Go fuck yourse-- FUCKDAMNSHIT!"
     Crawford glanced up coolly. "Perhaps you shouldn't annoy the person giving you first aid," he said pointedly.
     Schuldich tried to hide his pained wince with a smirk. "You make a very uncute nurse."
     Crawford rolled his eyes. "A dog," he repeated, determined to keep his partner's mind off the pain, if only to stop the paint-peeling curses. "Why a dog?"
     Schuldich lifted his chin and made a failed attempt at blowing smoke rings. "It's what normal people do, right? Get a place, buy a dog... Does Naoe qualify as having kids?"
     Crawford's eyes flickered towards the nearly empty bottle of vodka waiting patiently beside the overflowing ashtray.
     Schuldich caught the stray thought and laughed harshly. "I'm not drunk, dickweed. It takes a hell of a lot more than that to put me under the table." He leered suggestively. "Or over it."
     "You're thinking about sex at a time like this?" Crawford frowned at him in vague annoyance. "Do you think you'll explode if you don't have sex at least once a day? Sometimes I think your body can only pump blood to one head at a time."
     "So what?" Schuldich started to shrug carelessly, but aborted the movement with a flinch. He snatched up the vodka and took a long swig. "I'm gonna die young, right? I wanna have as much sex, drugs, and alcohol as I can physically cram into my body."
     "You don't do drugs."
     Schuldich scowled at his cigarette. "Yeah, well... I would if it didn't just make everything worse." He pressed his thumb to his forehead and rubbed roughly as if he could shut up the noise going on inside. "Drinking makes everything background noise. Drugs make everything louder. And sex..." he trailed off, staring contemplatively at his cigarette. Abruptly he reached for the vodka again. "Hurry it up, will ya? My show is about to come on."
     Crawford's mouth tightened in anger as he dug through the first aid kit at his side from where he was kneeling beside his partner. "You wouldn't be in this position if you hadn't decided to be a complete idiot and see if you were bulletproof. You can't afford to be so careless when Naoe isn't here."
     "I didn't think the prick would actually fire," Schuldich scoffed. "The fucker looked ready to piss his pants. I was just trying to scare him." He cocked his head. "Do I detect a note of concern, Mr. Crawford?"
     Crawford ignored that last bit. "Well, you succeeded. You're lucky he didn't hit something important."
     "Like my dick." Schuldich took a long drag and let the smoke seep out from behind clenched teeth. "Now THAT would be grounds for ritual suicide. Can't live without my dick. And that would really suck for you. You'd have to join the dark side and go get yourself some pussy."
     "I think you've had more than enough vodka."
     "You know that shit they say about seeing your life flash before your eyes?" Schuldich flicked ash carelessly onto the tabletop. "What a load of complete bullshit. All I saw was brain matter all over the wall."
     "You shot him."
     "He shot ME," Schuldich countered. He paused, gazing thoughtfully down at the top of his companion's head. "But I didn't shoot him. You did."
     Crawford didn't answer.
     "I know you did, because I distinctly remember reaching for my gun-- and then realizing I'd used up all my bullets. I was going to just beat the life out of him, but then there was brain matter on the wall." He cocked his head to the side. "You were the one who said we needed him alive, if you recall."
     Crawford refused to look up at him. "Sit up straight and get your elbows out of my way."
     "Your bedside manner sucks ass crack, Crawfish." Schuldich sat forward in the chair and lifted his arms slightly, biting back a wince. He watched as the older man reached around his waist, wrapping the gauze quickly and efficiently. "I thought we were supposed to stop this shit."
     Crawford's hands never paused in their steady work, though he took a moment to answer. "This was our last job for Rosenkreuz."
     "Bullshit." The instant Crawford was done wrapping him, Schuldich lowered his arms and leaned back in his chair again, glaring at his leader with displeasure. "You said that two jobs ago. We're supposed to be through with all of this, Crawford. We got rid of those Estet bastards, and you said we wouldn't be tied to Rosenkreuz anymore."
     "I also recall telling you that taking a few more jobs was a necessity," Crawford said shortly. He collected the bloodied cotton and the scrap of cloth they had been forced to use as a temporary bandage on the ride home, tucking the suturing needle and thread back into the kit. "Unless you expect to make it in the world with no money." He got smoothly to his feet. "Don't take painkillers until the alcohol is out of your system. It would be a waste of my efforts if you were to die after I spent all this time bandaging you."
     Schuldich's fingers drifted down to test the bandage gingerly. He looked up at his partner with a lecherous grin. "I think I liked you better on your knees."
     Crawford gave him a Look. "You are in no condition to be doing anything so strenuous. You need to let that heal." He turned away to put the kit back on top of the fridge.
     Schuldich's eyebrows shot up. "Are you... cutting me off?" he demanded with a note of incredulity.
     Crawford headed for the sink, unperturbed at the other man's obvious dismay. "No sex, Schuldich," he said firmly. "You'll only tear that open again."
     "You have got to be shitting me." Schuldich stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray fiercely. "For how long??"
     "At least a week or two."
     Schuldich gave a strained laugh. "Now I KNOW you're joking."
     "Keep telling yourself that." Crawford turned on the hot water and reached for the soap, watching the way the water turned pink as it swirled down the drain. "You're lucky that bullet didn't tear your stomach open. But if you rip those stitches out, you could bleed out. Again, a waste of my time. The only thing you'll be doing in bed for awhile is sleeping."
     Schuldich snarled a curse and snatched up the vodka, draining the rest of it in one go. He slammed the bottle onto the table and tried to get to his feet too quickly. Hissing, he sank back down into his chair almost immediately, hand pressed to his stomach. "Fuck you, Crawford."
     The American flicked a glance over his shoulder, eyes narrowing in annoyance. "You can live without sex for a week or two," he snapped.
     Schuldich gave a short laugh that had a suspicious edge of desperation to it. "Maybe YOU can."
     Crawford hesitated, frowning. He turned off the water and reached for the hand towel. He studied his partner's bowed back for a long moment. "Drugs make it worse," he said. "Drinking makes it foggy. And sex...?"
     Schuldich didn't answer at first. He picked up his cigarette box, remembered it was empty, and tossed it aside. "Sex makes it go away," he said finally, still not turning around to look at the other man. "Everyone out there shuts the hell up." He got to his feet, carefully this time. "The only thoughts I can hear are mine." He began a slow, painful shuffle towards the door. "...And yours." He disappeared into the next room without a backwards glance.
     Crawford realized he was still holding the hand towel and put it back on its hook over the sink. Scooping the bloodied bandages onto a plate, he dumped them in the trash. He stood staring at the trash bin for a long moment, face expressionless. Impulsively, he opened the cabinet over the sink, pushed aside the bread, and dragged out the bag he'd hidden in the very back.

     Schuldich didn't look up from where he was half laying on the couch, eyes fixed on the television as he flipped through the channels. "I can never remember what fucking station it's on," he grumbled.
     Crawford took a seat beside him. Schuldich looked up quickly at the sound of a paper bag rustling. "Where the hell did you get that?"
     Crawford drew out the square bottle and twisted off the cap. "It was a gift," he explained calmly. "From our last client."
     "You hid it from me." Schuldich's tone was accusing.
     "I got tired of pushing your drunken ass off the bed," Crawford pointed out sharply.
     "I only threw up that once," Schuldich protested.
     "Three times, Schuldich. You've gotten drunk and sick three times in the past two weeks. It's getting old."
     Schuldich leered openly. "I thought you liked me drunk and horny."
     Crawford pretended not to have heard. Schuldich's eyebrows rose appreciatively as the American knocked back a long shot. "Maybe we should try you drunk and horny," he decided, accepting the proferred bottle.
     Crawford shot him a tolerant look. "Not everyone gets horny when they drink, Teufel."
     Schuldich hesitated with the bottle halfway to his mouth. It had been a very long time since Crawford had referred to him that way. "You shot him," he insisted.
     Schuldich let it go. He let the whiskey burn his throat as he swallowed, passing the bottle back. "Sooo... No sex."
     "No sex."
     "What about blowjobs?"
     Crawford snorted quietly, lifting the bottle to his mouth. "Feel free."
     "Oh, har har." Schuldich made a face and returned his attention to the television screen. He mashed buttons on the remote until he came across something he recognized. He sent his partner a sideways look when the older man made no move to get up. "You hate this show."
     "It's idiotic and the acting is below sub-par," Crawford agreed, handing the bottle over.
     Schuldich opened his mouth, then closed it again. He took the bottle and threw back a quick swig, smacking his lips. He turned his attention back on the screen, a faint grin tugging at the corners of his lips. "So... I was thinking about a rottweiler. Those are pretty mean sons of bitches, aren't they?"
     "We are not getting a dog."