Chapter Three: The Elders


"Sometimes my mind don't shake and shift
But most of the time, it does
And I get to the place where I'm begging for a lift
Or I'll drown in the wonders and the was
And I'll be your 'girl' if you say it's a gift
And you give me some more of your drugs
Yeah I'll be your pet, if you tell me it's a gift
Cuz I'm tired of whys, choking on whys,
Just need a little because, because
I let the beast in and then;
I even tried forgiving him, but it's too soon..."

It hurt to even think. He had dragged himself into the bathroom and had pulled his already naked body into the shower, cold water washing, pounding, over his bloodied body. A pinkish, sticky liquid was washed clean from between his thighs and circled around and around before it finally spiraled down the drain. He had a black eye, one of hundreds he had received by fists, or bedposts, or lamps, or... Quickly, he shook his head, for his mind had begun to ramble. And, for someone in his position, it was really best not to think at all.

His red hair, no less lustrous, no less beautiful than it had been five years ago, clung to his cheeks and neck and shoulders.

For five years, he had been their personal entertainer. The Elders' dog.

For three years of those five, his powers had been completely neglected.

Schuldig was seventeen years old, living in a large bedroom of the Elders' Switzerland apartment, cleaning up in the aftermath of rough, sadistic sex. It was an early morning like any other.

For the first year, he had allowed himself to entertain the ridiculous thought that somehow, a childhood love could save him. He tried not to remember one Bradley Crawford, who had no doubt forgotten him already. Whenever he did think of him, he would feel ill. The way the American had touched him, soft skin against soft skin, was so very different from the rough, calloused hands that grabbed his body now that it seemed as if those three months were a fantasy he had created. Something impossible. Something completely unreal. The ramblings of a needy mind, desperate to create something wonderful to cling to.

He pulled a cigarette out of a pack he kept on the side of the bathtub, turning off the shower and running warm water into the tub, instead. Now, all he needed was his lighter.

"Fuck."

Coming off whatever-the-Hell-it-was he had injected into his system before last night's round of supposed pleasure was going to be hard. He needed nicotine, and he needed it now. His fingers fumbled with his lighter, and he lit the cigarette as hurriedly as he could -- after four tries and almost burning himself.

At last, he took a deep drag.

Schuldig was seventeen years old, his ass fucking hurt like all Hell, and he was addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, and every known drug on the planet.

One of the guests he had been sent to entertain had introduced him at age thirteen to what made his life possible. The needle, and the magical drug. Heroin. To let it run through his veins was to achieve silence, was to never experience, was to never remember. He could be taken, he could take, and he would never truly undergo the feeling of it. The dirty feeling of it. Because he was Crawford's, and the American had told him as much, but he had betrayed that. It was not the sex, the endless sex, that made him so very dirty, although he came to hate that as time passed on. It was the betrayal.

Somewhere inside him, he was still waiting for Crawford to take him away. That interminably stupid part of him that still expected -- well, he didn't know what he expected. Something. Anything.

He took another drag.

From day one, he had never been used for his telepathic abilities. Estë did not need that, yet. Instead, he entertained. They called it that because it was a neat word, not a vulgar word. It did not disguise what they did to him, although they took care to hide the bruises.

He had discovered alcohol after the first month; cigarette's after the third. And on his thirteenth birthday, he had been introduced to drugs. On his two days off he travelled through the slum areas of the city around him, buying whatever he could with his body. They had not broken him. But by the time he was seventeen, that moment was close. In the day, the two men spoiled him with clothes, or with jewelry, or with anything else that caught the German's fancy. They beat him bloody in the night. Half the time he was drunk, or high; half the time he was bitching about his room, sulking.

In five years, he had changed. His love -- and yes, it was love, although he had no way to recognize it -- for the American had turned sour inside him. He was too thin; he rarely ate, living of his vodka and his cigarettes. Despite everything he tried to do about it, in that small, and quite stupid, part of him lurked loneliness.

"Fuck," he hissed again. The cigarette wisped smoke from between his fingers.

He was tired.

He felt ill.

He needed a drink.

Dripping water, he pulled himself from the almost-soothing warmth of the bath. No warmth could possibly compare to-- nothing could possibly soothe like--

He shook his head and threw the cigarette to the tiles. He hadn't bothered to clean up after himself in years. It wasn't needed; one of Estë's "dogs" would lick up his mess a few minutes after he left it. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he paused to glance at his reflection.

Through everything, he had kept his beauty. He was vain; proud of the way his hair still shone like fire, proud of his thin-yet-muscled form, completely proud of his looks.

His eyes were dead, hidden by a caustic sheath of ice in the form of a cold smirk.

Quickly, he turned away from the mirror. That was something he didn't want to see, the way the light echoed in his darkened, deadened eyes. He slunk into his main room, a bed, a walk-in closet, and a little coffee table. Nothing else; that was all he needed. He pried up the mattress of the bed, pulling out a half empty bottle of vodka, and then flopped down on the bed. Of all forms of alcohol, the German preferred the Russian liquor. It was warm enough to replace arms that could hold him, good enough to make him forget hot, sweet breath on the back of his neck.

He lit another cigarette from a pack kept on the coffee table. His ass was still sore; it would be so for a couple of days.

Damn.

He shifted. Shifted again. Tugged a pillow beneath him.

No good.

With a groan, he rolled over onto his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows. He let the cigarette dangle between his lips and drank occasionally from the bottle in his hands.

//"It is our Schuldig. And he is not Sieben..."

"Come here, mein Schuldig."

He trotted over obediently, jade eyes unsure of what was to happen. Hands prodded him, poked him, as mental fingers pored over his brain, tangled as if in some sort of exotic dance with his thought-waves. He shifted uncomfortably, reduced to the age of seven in the Elders' presence.

"Smart boy."

"Good boy."

"Silly boy." The old woman was the one to make that jarring comment. He could hear her thoughts frown, and it made him shiver. She bent down close to him. "You will never see him again." The German boy watched her warily from that moment on.//

It was the truth.

He took another swallow of the vodka, and allowed himself to remember again.

//"This is your new home."

The room before him was neat and sparse. A bed -- a rather large one -- a coffee table, and a walk in closet. The lighting was bright; there were two rather large windows.

He had never had windows in his room at Rosen Kreuz.

He hurried over, looking out over the view of the city, bright sunlight dancing in his hair.//

Now, he kept the curtains drawn at all times. His room was darker that way; he didn't have to see the places where his nails had bit into the bedpost and gouged out chunks of wood, or the way his sheets were never clean.

He rested his chin on his palm, staring forward at the wall. Fascinating. He had memorized it, every chipping of the paint, every slight bulge where there was piping running through.

In five years, he had not gone farther than the city's border.

//"He is in America, now."

Schuldig looked up wearily from the bed. She stood in the doorway, grinning mercilessly at him. "He is in America, now, without you."//

She enjoyed keeping him posted on Crawford's whereabouts, for the first few years, until he learned how to hide his anger, his pain from her. In the first few years, she would drink those emotions from him hungrily and laugh as she left his room.

//"I don't know what you mean."

"Of course you do."

"But I don't."

"He is in America, now, on business. He's been a very good little boy; Estë is proud of their best little dog. You should be proud, as well."

Silence.

"He is in America, now. Without you."//

They mocked his love until he mocked it, too. They destroyed and defiled his body until all he could do was accept it, and do the same. He had nothing left that was his own, nothing to return to when he was left alone.

//"...Mein geliebte."

"I don't know what that means, Schul."

"Beloved."//

"Fuck."

//"You may call me Brad."//

"Bastard. Get the fuck out of there..."

//"I'll miss you."

"And I you."//

Sunday mornings. When the memories came fast and hard and Schuldig couldn't even stop them. Perhaps, the old woman had found another way to torment him. Either way, he couldn't make that fucking voice shut up--

He had begun to hate it, with every bit of hate he had left over from hating himself, from hating the Elders, from hating the room, from hating the smell of alcohol and the stench of his cigarettes and his blood clinging to his body.

It made him sick.

It made him furious.

Bradley Crawford was in America. Without him.

"-Fuck-."

He rolled over onto his back, ignoring the slight discomfort that caused. He only had two cigarettes left in that pack, and he couldn't get out Sundays.

Yes. 'Fuck' certainly did describe his emotions perfectly, at the moment. In fact, it seemed to describe his emotions perfectly at all times, lately. He buried his face in his hands with a low groan, wincing at the bruise on his cheekbone. Where had he fallen, last night? He couldn't remember. He didn't want to.

A knock on the door woke him a few hours later, which meant he must have fallen asleep. He rarely ever slept any more; occasionally, his exhausted body dragged him down into rest. Immediately, something jarred the usual. Something was-- wrong.

No one ever knocked.

Schuldig's room was always entered with unceremonious haste; after all, the drunken men who came for him were rarely ever seeking out the teenager for polite conversation. Only, this was Sunday, his God-damned day off. Hurriedly, he shoved the now-empty bottle underneath the mattress, and cleaned up the cigarette ash. His voice held slight, sleep-dazed confusion as he responded.

"Come in?"

The door swung open.

There are very few people who look exactly the same from day one until they die. A person could recognize them, seeing them at age twenty, if they had seen them for a week when they were six. It is from sheer determination that their looks never change; they are used to one thing, they are used to routine and sameness, and therefore they do not allow their reflection in the mirror to change. It takes someone of great will-power to achieve this status.

Bradley Crawford, who was standing very, very straight in the doorway, was one of those people.

//"Will we ever see each other again?"

"I don't know."

"What does that mean?"

"No, or not for a long time."//

"I hate you," Schuldig said bluntly, shocked from sleep and any possible hangover.