The bitch called him Circe.
He doesn't know what the fuck she'd been talking about but the way she'd said it, the way she'd fucking pulled her lip back when she'd said it, let him know it was an insult. And he's not the sort of guy who sits back and lets someone insult him, fuck no. It pisses him off when he has to shut up and swallow some shit like that because he doesn't know what the insult is, just that it's an insult. He's not stupid. He's far from stupid. He just never learned things from books, he learned things by instinct and impulse. So damned if he knows who fucking Circe is.
Damned if he likes her, though.
Like he's been through what he's been through to take shit like that from some stupid bitch.
She looks like the sort of stupid bitch who takes cruises over the summer and thinks she looks like hot shit in a bathing suit. She probably spends a lot of time swimming, on beaches, feeling like a real rich, important bitch, tanning herself and sleeping and not eating the foreign food.
He can't stand the idea of swimming.
To begin with, he really doesn't like water. He's actually never been good at swimming because nobody ever took him to the damn beach or whatever when he was a kid. Swimming is something you learn when you're young or not at all, he guesses, and he just never got a chance to learn it. So the idea of filling up with so much heavy wetness, choking on it, being devoured by it, has never been an appealing one. He's more of a fire guy, really. Fire is more straightforward.
He doesn't like water more passionately now, because he remembers what it was like, that place before drowning.
Up until he'd been there, he'd gotten rid of dreams altogether, but now he dreams about water in his nose and in his lungs. He wakes up wanting to vomit it out. He wakes up with his hair smelling of salt and dead fish and limp seaweed, like the sucking sea.
As if he needs another reason to owe Crawford everything. In the beginning - ha, ha - Crawford saved him first. In the water, Crawford again chose to save him, when there could only be one Crawford saved. Christ, he doesn't bear the weight of the dead on his shoulders. He doesn't have a Goddamn set of Goddamn morals like people, other people, have. Like people, other people, are supposed to have. He's not wired that way, for Christ's sake.
So he got over it. It's different now, sure, just Crawford and him, but he doesn't bear the weight of the dead on his shoulders. He couldn't even if he wanted to be a bruised-kneed martyr. Besides: that's just not his Goddamn style, because despite his name, he doesn't feel that guilt. He probably can't feel that guilt. Oh, hell, he hasn't tried for years to feel that guilt. Who the hell knows. Anyway, it's funny, really, fucking funny. Dry humor, of course, but funny all the same.
He thinks it must be a sign of getting old or something, getting sidetracked.
He really wants to shoot that bitch in the face but first, he wants to know who the fuck Circe is, anyway.
"She turned men to swine, Schuldig," Crawford says, blowing on his coffee to cool it. Coffee in the morning. Some things never change. The world can fall down around Schuldig's ears and so long as Crawford keeps drinking his coffee, it's pretty certain everything's gonna be OK.
The Japanese have a term for this: atama ga ii desu.
The Germans have a term for this, too: schweinhund.
"What the fuck?" Schuldig asks, poking french toast around on his plate, unexcited by how limp it's gotten.
"Circe," Crawford says. He takes a sip of his coffee. It smells familiar and pleasantly so. "She turned men to swine."
"Well what the fuck does that mean?" Schuldig asks, snorting. Crawford doesn't exactly smile, but Crawford never comes right out and smiles. At first, he doesn't answer. "Well? Stop giving me that fucking look. You know I hate it. What the fuck's wrong with you today?"
"I find it amusing she called you that." Schuldig gives him a blank look. "I think she's right," Crawford elaborates. Schuldig snorts.
"Turns men to fucking swine. Jesus Christ, what the fuck is that?"'
"It's the context. I don't think she likes you very much."
"Fuck her - Jesus Christ, you're one sonovabitch today, you know that, Crawford? One fucked up asshole today." Crawford takes a sip of his coffee. He doesn't seem to be distressed in the slightest by this news. Schuldig snorts and slams his fork down with a clatter on the plate. Some things never change. Crawford is watching him over the rim of his coffee mug, the coffee cooling, steam curving up into the air. Schuldig wonders sometimes why the fuck he was the one Crawford pulled up out of the water. He wonders why Crawford didn't let Schuldig's lungs fill with water and collapse while he struggled in the murky-wet confusion. He wonders about all this in a detached way, because he's not too personally wrapped up in why or anything, he just wants to know. Crawford never liked him as much as Crawford liked the kid and Farfarello was a complete nut but he was good for a pinch. He got you out of shit. He always got you out of shit. It was because he was crazy, but that was a good thing. A guy without any human fear at all is a pretty damn good weapon.
"I can't believe you've been thinking about it all night," Crawford says. Schuldig goes over to the kitchen window and lights a cigarette.
"I've been thinking about it," he says, cupping his hand around the small flame. Yeah. Okay. He likes fire a whole lot more than water. He puts the lighter back into his jeans pocket and doesn't bring the cigarette to his lips. "She was a real bitch."
"Don't worry. She's not going very far," Crawford assures him. "She's going to die tomorrow."
"Yeah?" Schuldig rolls the lit cigarette between his thumb and his forefinger. They've always had the most surreal conversations. Crawford is distant and only says what he has to. Schuldig says so little in so many words. And anyone listening in on the conversation wouldn't know what the hell they go on about. When Schuldig removes himself from whatever situation he finds himself in, he always has a good reason to laugh. It's therapeutic, or whatever it is they're calling it now. "Well, not to sound fucked up like you or anything, but good. Fucking Circe. What the fuck was she talking about." He takes a drag of the cigarette, smoking out the kitchen window because Crawford hates the smell. Even now, the motions he goes through are painfully familiar. He supposes that's what Crawford loves about routine: the strictness of motion set in order, the reliability. Schuldig hates reliability. Schuldig is bored by reliability. Schuldig is never bored by Crawford, though, which isn't something he's give much thought to. That's just fact. That's just something Schuldig knows for a fact.
He pauses to be silent, to smoke. Crawford drinks his coffee.
"So why did she?" Schuldig asks. He flicks the cigarette stub out the window, half-finished. Crawford calls him a waste a lot, a waste of time and effort and money, a waste of food and of resources and especially of cigarettes. "Call me that."
"Well," Crawford says, but he doesn't say anything else.
"Fuck, what?" Schuldig demands. "Is it my hair, or something?" His hair is dyed that cheap red, shocking red. Everyone looks at him on the street. The color looks good on him. It would look ridiculous on anyone else but it looks good on him. "I don't know," he continues, when Crawford looks only more amused. "I don't know. I mean, the bitch doesn't even know me. Sure, I turn men to swine. Most men are swine. What's her fucking point?"
"I don't know," Crawford says calmly, "I think she meant me."
"You? Schweinhund." Schuldig grins. Crawford used to get so damn pissed off when Schuldig cursed in German, when Schuldig insulted Crawford in German, but they've come to understand each other better, lately. Crawford doesn't get pissed off about things of no importance and sometimes Schuldig doesn't say all the shit that comes into his head. It was either understand each other better or kill each other right off. They have better survival instincts than that. It's only the two of them now, anyway, so they figure they should have a better go at it. And there are, of course, a whole lot more important things to worry about. "Well, anyway," Schuldig says, tugging out another cigarette, unfiltered, cheap - not, of course, that they can't afford expensive cigarettes, but the unfiltered shit is was Schuldig is used to. "Well, anyway," he says, not lighting the cigarette, but playing with it, "what the fuck is that supposed to mean, you think she meant you?"
Crawford puts his empty coffee cup into the sink and runs a little water into it. Crawford can make the most menial of tasks seem absolutely necessary for fate. Who knows. Perhaps it is. Perhaps Crawford knows that if he doesn't wash out the coffee cup in the morning than the coffee streaks on the inside of the cup will harden and destroy the world. It's not Schuldig's place to say that's fucking stupid, even if it is fucking stupid. Anyway, Crawford's the one who knows this sort of thing. If the world is going to end because of an unwashed coffee cup, Crawford will know.
Schuldig drums his fingers on the windowsill.
"I think you're right, Schuldig," Crawford says, "I don't think she knew what she was talking about. Which is a pity, really. It would be so nice if she had."
"Stop talking in riddles, you asshole, you know fucking well what she meant." Schuldig has always been a kind of loose canon. He doesn't mean most of it. Well, most of it. Some of it he means. Hell, if you give the guy a gun and you've got a problem on your hands. If you give the guy the means to make a bomb - and Schuldig can make a bomb out of anything, almost - and you've got a real big problem on your hands. Give the guy ten minutes and he can get into more trouble then than most people do in a lifetime. It never ceases to be charming because it never was charming to begin with. It's messy. It's very messy. Crawford hates a mess more than he hates anything in the world. "Crawford, you were a pig before I ever fucking met you."
"Which is why I don't think she knew what she was talking about. She meant me. But that's because she's stupid."
"Good," Schuldig says. "Good." He lights his second cigarette of the morning. He feels a little better about himself. Actually, the idea of being some chick who turns men to swine is surprisingly appropriate. Anyway, the bitch probably has her eye on Crawford and hates knowing that Schuldig's always there. Bitches like that are always trying to justify a guy's behavior. He does this because he's got issues to work out with his father. He does that because he didn't get blah when he was a kid. He acts that way because he's got this big bad wolf of an influence with him. It's not his fault. Yeah, he thinks, bitches like that can never see fit to blame a guy for being an asshole unless he's broken up with her. Yeah, he thinks, well fuck you, too, bitch.
He feels really better about himself when he remembers that Crawford said she's going to die soon. Tomorrow, was it? Well, it doesn't matter, anyway.
"I have work to do," Crawford says. "Make sure you eat lunch." He leaves, the dishwasher rumbling as the only reminder he's been there, and Schuldig moves to smoke his cigarette over the sink. It seems a little quiet in the room, but that's okay. Schuldig likes the quiet.
Despite popular opinion, the water isn't quiet. It's a great big swell of no-sound. For a really long time, Schuldig's known that silence is louder than anything else in the world, and that quiet and silence are two completely separate things. Quiet is a slight murmur of noise. Silence is nothing, a crushing, terrible nothing that swallows you whole. Schuldig has learned to differentiate. At first, he thought it was silence he was looking for. He was sick and tired of all that shit in his head, all those different voices saying nothing at all between his ears. It drove him nuts for years. Crawford didn't get it at all at first and Schuldig didn't have the vocabulary to explain it to him. It's like swimming. You get it or you don't. Just like that.
Telepathy is a Goddamn wonderful gift, Schuldig thinks. He just wouldn't be Circe without it.
It's not silence that he's been searching for, he learned after a while. There's a whole lot of wiring messed up in his brain and one day, the day he'd found the silence he'd thought he was looking for, it all nearly blew up. All that wiring, bang. Like that, boom. Done with and finished and goodbye.
You can't have either one of those opposite ends. You get silence, you have no self in there at all. Bang. You get that cacophony of sound, you lose your self in there. Bang. It's the middle ground you need, a nice, stable middle ground.
He thinks it must be a sign of getting old or something, wanting stability.
It was the silence of the water that showed him this, though. That said, "Wake up, you're drowning in what you always wanted." And right after Schuldig had this fucking epiphany, Crawford grabbed him by his neck and shoved him up into the air and he remembered he was alive by the sudden noise in his head. Oh yeah, he'd thought, this is who I am. The water hadn't gotten him and a damn bitch calling him Circe wasn't going to get him, and Crawford had said once that nothing will. Crawford knows that sort of freaky shit. Crawford can see it. Schuldig still doesn't know how but Schuldig supposes it's like swimming. You get it or you don't. Just like that.
And Schuldig has never been any fucking good at swimming.