Set after Unmitigated and Renascence; Schuldig/Nagi tones and definite Crawford/Schuldig action. R&R.

Some Things Are Dark

Some things are dark - or think they are.
But, in comparison to me,
All things are light enough to see
In any place, at any hour.

For I am Nightmare: where I fly,
Terror and rain stand in the sky
So thick, you could not tell them from
That blackness out of which you come.

So much for "where I fly": but when
I strike, and clutch in claw the brain-
Erebus, to such brain, will seem
The thin blue dusk of pleasant dream.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, Some Things Are Dark

It's like crashing into emeralds, looking at those eyes. Like crashing into emeralds and emeralds hurt, but it's okay, you think, okay because you've got that green all around you.

He's really beautiful.

He wouldn't accept 'pretty' because pretty is so plain, and he's not exactly a pretty guy. Pretty means smiling all the time, pretty means simple features that seem comfortable and kind. Schuldig is none of those things, Schuldig is insane but absolutely beautiful. Sure, he can be comfortable late at night, with a hot washcloth on his forehead to numb the headache, when he's tired and he lets you curl up at his side, but never really kind. He doesn't do that well. He's just beautiful, high cheekbones and a long face and shards of something precious but deadly for his eyes. His hair isn't like fire and it isn't like blood, an obvious dye-job but it works well with his skin, anyway. Nagi remembers when it used to be green, a deep, seaweed sort of green.

Nagi likes orange better. It's just as fake as the green had been, but it makes Schuldig's face seem more alive, and Nagi likes that.

Nagi crosses his legs in front of him, taps at the floor with his heel, and then falls completely still. He can tell Schuldig is bored with the meeting already, can tell by the way his body just won't stay in one place. Schuldig toys with the hem of one jacket sleeve or he runs his fingers through that hair, a little frayed at the ends, he needs a haircut, he's dyed his hair so much he's got terrible split ends and he needs a trim. Nagi can tell Schuldig's bored by his eyes, by the way his eyes flicker all around the room, the way he purses his lips and his eyes get wrinkled in the corners. Nagi can tell Schuldig's getting bored and he can tell Crawford isn't anywhere near finished. It might be one of those days where Schuldig does something stupid and loud after they're done because he's been so bored, pent up, caged. That's what it reminds him of, Nagi thinks, watching Schuldig; like seeing some animal not meant for domestication sitting within the confines of a cage, and hating every second of it.

You're looking at me. Nagi doesn't start at the voice echoing between his ears, but his hands tighten in his lap.

You're bored, Nagi returns. It's an easy tactic, to get Schuldig off about hating the meeting or wanting to go out and do this or that. Schuldig likes to complain, Nagi's noticed, and there's no better way to distract a person by reminding them they have something to complain about.

We've been here for hours, Schuldig shoots back, annoyed. Crawford doesn't talk this fucking much to us.

That's because he's not about to shoot us, Nagi returns calmly, and Schuldig rolls those impossibly green eyes.

Shit. He's a boring fuck, is what he is. Jesus. You think he actually gets what the fuck he's going on about? Prioritize blah, blah, blah. Schuldig's brilliant. Not the same way Nagi is brilliant, not through books or study but through pure instinct and impulse. Schuldig's not an intellectual. Schuldig might not be able to define the word intellectual beyond 'smart motherfuck.' But he's clever and his mind works so fast sometimes even Crawford can't follow its incredibly clever logic. Just impulse, just instinct; now that's intelligence, that's Schuldig's form of intelligence, at least. Schuldig doesn't read at all and Schuldig hasn't ever even gone to school and he probably knows little to no geography and not a single fact from any country's history, but he picks up other languages like that and he can hotwire a car in less than fifteen seconds and he can build a bomb out of duct tape and phone wires and a match and he can pretend he knows exactly what he's talking about, and that's the most important ability of all. Schuldig, Nagi always thinks, might have been a really great actor. Hell knows he has a face made for posters, made for the movies, made to be seen all around the world.

He knows exactly what he's talking about. If you'd been listening, you would, too. If Schuldig ever sees fit to listen he'll figure out exactly what's happening, but if something bores him, he doesn't waste any time on it, that's the way he works. Nagi feels vaguely comforted by knowing that simple fact. If Schuldig ever gets bored with Nagi, Nagi will know because Schuldig won't give him the time of day. Schuldig doesn't have the complexity of morals like most people have that complexity of morals. His system is simple, he has no sense of duty to anyone other than Crawford. He takes people or he leaves them and there is no in between, no sense of I Should Stay Because Whatever, because he doesn't have that bond with anyone other than Crawford.

Of course he knows what he's fucking talking about. Asshole. Nagi smiles a little. Schuldig wouldn't be Schuldig if he didn't talk shit about Crawford all the time, all the time without fail. Schuldig thinks that if he calls Crawford a fuck or an asshole or a whatever-in-German then no one's going to notice that duty, that way he's bound to Crawford with no way of getting free. Schuldig can fool a lot of people with that but he doesn't fool Nagi or even Farfarello, and Nagi doesn't think Schuldig is fooling Crawford, either.

Just be patient, Nagi soothes.

You sound too Goddamn much like him, sometimes, Schuldig snaps, and the mental link between them is cut. It's an issue yet unresolved, but those bruised, wide eyes fix on Schuldig's face again, watch the boredom play across the features, so much like home, but so cruelly cut, cruel to the bone.

It's like crashing into emeralds, Nagi thinks, but it's as good a way to lose yourself as any. And after the job they'll have oreos for dinner and watch TV and barely talk, and for a little while they'll be able to forget who they are.

Crawford's gun is far more expensive than Schuldig's. It's smaller. Crawford's better with it than Schuldig is with his own because it is his most effective weapon, in terms of death, not planning. Crawford takes damn good care of that gun, too; polishes it and cleans it and keeps it on his bedside table after he uses it. Schuldig just doesn't have the patience to take such good care of things. But Crawford is anal and precise like that, just like Schuldig isn't. So Schuldig's gun is careless, is there for show and sound, while Crawford's is an instrument, refined and perfected, of death.

The fact that Crawford gave Schuldig his first gun, his only gun, is something Schuldig can't live up to. Sure, he uses it like a kid sticks fore- and index-fingers together and turns his thumb into a trigger and goes bang-bang, you're dead. There's a lot more deadly shit about Schuldig's Ruger than there is about a kid's hand, but the same understanding of a gun is there. No understanding of true consequence, like a little kid. No understanding of a true art. So whenever Schuldig uses his gun, it's with callous motions, and it'sresentful of the mortification of being so, so childish with the weapon, in comparison to Crawford himself.

But when Schuldig watches Crawford calmly pull the gun from its resting place inside his suit jacket, Schuldig can't help that awe he feels. Another tactic Crawford has for keeping him in his place. Because once Crawford takes out that gun Schuldig's a little helpless kid again, sitting and watching and completely inefficient. God knows Crawford tells him he's inefficient enough for him to know it. But it's different hearing it than feeling it, like blood in your veins. So Schuldig hates Crawford's gun and he loves Crawford's gun, resents it as he looks up to it.

"I'm not your damn father, Schuldig," Crawford told him once, but Schuldig knew better.

"Who the fuck asked you?" Schuldig snapped back.

"No one had to ask me," Crawford explained patiently, "because I own this house and as far as you're concerned I own you, too." That was when Schuldig got up and stormed out of the kitchen and down the hall and slammed the door to his room shut. That was when Crawford flicked the newspaper he was in the middle of reading expertly, and went back to his toast and coffee.

They have the most amazing fights, Crawford and Schuldig. They're explosive, they don't end to anyone's satisfaction. They're long, drawn out, immature things on Schuldig's end; they're a simple lack of amusement, the fraying of patience, on Crawford's. They include screaming and occasionally the destruction of various breakable items around the apartment. Schuldig threw a lamp once, and it shattered next to Crawford's head on the wall, and it looked like Crawford was about to hit him. Crawford didn't hit him, but it sure as hell looked like he was going to.

Schuldig figures that if they were anyone but themselves, they'd be arrested for those fights they have; but if they were anyone but themselves, they wouldn't fight that way to begin with. As it is, they're the worst fucking upstairs neighbors anyone can have. Schuldig likes to make scenes - he thrives on the drama, and the attention it brings. Crawford is volatile when pushed to the limits of his icy calm. Put them together on a bad day and it's like a fucking Armaggedon. Schuldig's a catalyst for conflict; Crawford's too tense and too susceptible. Shit happens between them. It's like one of those laws of nature Schuldig could never be bothered to learn about.

Every fight ends with Crawford winning because Crawford always fucking wins. Not that Schuldig's bitter or anything. Schuldig's fucking sweet as the daisies in spring about it all. The way it always turns out. Crawford looking at him from behind a shield of mocha, Schuldig ducking his head down, no apologies but the ones that matter most: the submissiveness of his body language, the dominance of Crawford's. Schuldig wants to lift his head up at those times like a spurned dog and howl.

He doesn't. He scuffs his heel against the carpeting and says nothing because Crawford doesn't expect him to say anything at all.

OK. So it pisses him off.

And if Schuldig got the drive for it, if Schuldig got less used to the pattern that he lives in like this, he would learn how to use his fucking gun right. He would watch the way Crawford does things and employ that grudging admiration for an eventual reversal of their roles. Schuldig would pick up the easy way to move while holding a gun, the easy way to aim like it's just an extension of the body. There wouldn't be any thought between aiming or firing. There would just be his fingers and the gun becoming a part of his palm. And then, there would be something Crawford could be proud of him for. But it just fucking isn't worth Schuldig's time to try.

Besides, Schuldig likes to watch Crawford when Crawford's about to kill someone. If Schuldig had more understanding behind that place of observance, it wouldn't mean so much to him. There wouldn't be any of that awe, only the resentment, and the balance would be thrown off.

Crawford is talking with ease to the man in the business suit whom Schuldig dislikes intensely. It doesn't look like Crawford is about to kill the guy. It never does. Crawford's cool and collected because Crawford's always cool and collected. Schuldig looks bored and distant because Schuldig always looks bored and distant. They're good actors, Schuldig thinks, they're really good actors. Whatever normal is for them, in public at least, they can wear like masks when things are about to get bloody. Schuldig can feel that slight tension in the air, which makes him remember that Crawford likes the power he has when he's firing the gun. It has a silencer on it; Schuldig watched him put that on this morning. Schuldig sees no point in having a silencer on his own gun, and that's probably 'cause it would be infringing upon Crawford's territory. Schuldig does anything remotely physical with an explosion of sound. Crawford does that stuff silently, like you wouldn't even know he was there except that he lets you see him - it's an admitted hubris - the second before he kills you.

Schuldig jiggles his leg a little, because he's waiting and he hates waiting more than anything else. Crawford's going on about the statistics of blah blah and the necessity for another blah blah in the blah and why is it that there aren't more blahs in the blah? Schuldig couldn't possibly care less about the topic. Schuldig couldn't possibly enjoy his time here. Schuldig's brain is processing things in a dull sort of monotone and he's thinking, come on take out the Goddamn gun for Christ's sake. But Crawford's still going on, now about the logistics of the blah and blah and the capacity they have for the blah blah if they'd only just think about blahing. So now all Schuldig can think about is take out the Goddamn gun for Christ's sake as well as blah blah blah.

Is this fucking boring or what? Schuldig sends to Nagi, mental connection suddenly up again, as Schuldig inspects a fingernail, bites at the cuticle of his thumb.

Grow up, Nagi tells him.

Fuck you, too, Schuldig says. Wham, down goes the connection, but that's okay, because Schuldig knows suddenly from the way Crawford leans forward that the gun's gonna come out. Men and their guns, Schuldig thinks. He licks his lips, and waits, hungry.

There's a certain perverse pleasure Schuldig gets from watching Crawford kill someone, and Nagi's jealous in a sense, put off by it in another. There's nothing more wonderful about Schuldig's eyes when he's watching Crawford work, that awe, that respect. There's nothing more devastating, too, because you know that he's never going to look at anyone else that way. It's only Crawford, in Schuldig's eyes. Crawford has that power over him, that control. Schuldig is most beautiful when no one's watching him watch Crawford.

"Where did you find Schuldig?" Nagi had asked Crawford once.

"Rosenkreuz," Crawford had answered.

"What was he like?" Nagi had asked, a few moments later, blowing on a cup of tea to cool it. Schuldig had been off somewhere, probably doing something that would get him in trouble later. Schuldig thrived on that attention.

"He was small," Crawford had answered, with pensive concentration, though he still seemed to be reading the newspaper. He took vague pride in knowing that things he had seen the night before were preserved on the newsprint. "He was smaller than you were, when I found you, and he was a complete mess."

"A mess?" Crawford flipped to the next page with a practiced thumb and forefinger.

"He was half blind, and almost completely deaf. Estet had to operate on him five times before he could hear most ambient noise." Nagi took a sip of his tea, watched Crawford, and waited. Again, there was that jealousy, not knowing where Schuldig came from, who he had been once. That Crawford had saved him, and Nagi hadn't. But Nagi, so human in parts of his body, needed to know what it was he didn't 'have,' as Crawford knew it, and had it. "He was much less profane," Crawford went on, his tone wry, "but that was only because he didn't speak much. He'd been taken from an asylum in Munich. They'd cut open his stomach to see what was inside him; that was when Estet found him, and took him."

"That's what that scar is from." Crawford nodded.

"He was sick all the time, but he hated hospitals. He was a damn pain to take care of. They'd pumped him so full of drugs at the asylum to keep him quiet that it was Hell getting him off of them."

"You had to put him on Methadone."

"And then get him off the Methadone, yes. It took a while." Nagi shook his head and took another sip of his tea. "Why are you asking this?"

"I was just curious."

"Ah." Crawford flipped to the next page again, and then folded the newspaper down, looking at Nagi across the table. "What else would you like to know?" Crawford was perceptive. Crawford asked that question and it was like he was saying, 'I know why you want to know, and it's incredibly foolish to want to know Schuldig that way.' Nagi had a feeling that if he knew everything there was to know about Schuldig, everything he thought he wanted to know about Schuldig, then he might never be the same again. Nagi shrugged.

"I don't know," Nagi had said, "what else is there?"

"Let's see," Crawford said. "His father had been a young boy at Auschwitz. He died right before Schuldig was born. His mother was a gypsy and he killed her."

"Why?" The question was out before Nagi could stop it.

"Because he got sick, and frightened," Crawford explained. "It was an accident. She was, I suppose, swallowed up by everything in his brain. That's what his file said, at least." Nagi nodded, processed the information. He didn't remember his parents. He always wondered if Schuldig remembered his mother. It might explain why Schuldig complained so much all the time.

"Thanks," Nagi had said. Crawford had just nodded, had just bobbed his head, like it meant nothing at all in the world.

Crawford tugs the gun out of his jacket with such a smooth, practiced motion. The man is dead before he can even contemplate the reality of dying. Nagi ducks his head down and he can hear, feel, the breath in Schuldig's throat hitch. Crawford'll be excited after a kill: he won't admit it, but he'll feel the power, and he'll walk differently.

"Out," Crawford says.

"Finally," Schuldig murmurs, standing, stretching.

"Out now," Crawford elaborates. Nagi stands, as well. It smells like blood in the room. Schuldig's nostrils flare.

Inside the car Schuldig slips in to ride shotgun and Nagi folds his hands over his lap, sitting in the back. Crawford is behind the wheel. Schuldig feels like Farfarello would have liked all the blood, because it wasn't a neat job, but Farfarello is for the bigger jobs, the jobs where they can risk the mess because they need the extra muscle. Schuldig lights a cigarette.

"No smoking in the car." Schuldig rolls down the window, takes a deep drag. He blows the smoke out the window, smoking out the window.

"Here." Crawford shoved the pack of cigarettes across the table one evening. "It'll get you off the Methadone. Have a cigarette every time it gets bad." He shoved a lighter across, a moment later. Schuldig toyed with it, looked from Crawford to the lighter, and then flicked it on. He liked fire. He had always liked fire.

"Thanks," Schuldig said.

"I'll make you quit this one day, too," was all Crawford said. "Eat your dinner."

Schuldig flicked the butt of the cigarette out the window and rolled the window back up. It was a cold day. He still had this image of Crawford with that gun in his hand, bang bang, your dead, only serious, fucking totally serious, man. Schuldig snorts a little and flashes one of those grins at Nagi through the rearview mirror. Nagi closes his eyes for a moment.

"What a fucking dull fucking day," Schuldig says. He puts his hand on Crawford's thigh because he knows Crawford needs the touch. Crawford doesn't close his eyes, but he swallows. Nagi looks out the window. Nagi's never watched.

"If you'd listen," Crawford says. Schuldig undoes his fly. Schuldig puts his hand down Crawford's pants.

"Not now," Crawford warns.

"You need it," Schuldig says. Crawford tenses.

"Later," Crawford snaps. Schuldig makes an angry noise, pulls his hand out, and zips the fly back up. He lights another cigarette.

"You are fucking uptight," Schuldig says. "You know that? Too fucking uptight for a guy who just blew an assholes brains out." Schuldig looks through the rearview mirror, back at Nagi's face, and then he's glad he took his hands out of Crawford's pants. "Jesus Christ," he says, "what the fuck is up with you people today." He knows what's wrong. He rolls down the window and leans out of it, lets the cold air blow through his hair and smokes the smell of tobacco out into the wind, so he doesn't stink up Crawford's upholstery.

"Maybe it's a better idea to keep me on the Methadone," Schuldig said, looking lazily up at Crawford through long lashes. Crawford closed his eyes for a moment.

"We'll get a few ashtrays, tomorrow." A pause. "And no. It isn't a better idea."

"What do you mean by that?" Schuldig looked interested. The way Crawford's mind worked interested Schuldig, even if Crawford bored him sometimes, when he talked statistics. If there was anything Schuldig hated it was statistics. He'd heard enough of his own to hate them.

"You don't have to know what I mean, you just have to listen to me." Schuldig took a deep drag of the cigarette, readjusted himself on the couch.

"Come watch some TV with me."

"God, no, Schuldig." Crawford's brow furrowed and Schuldig laughed. He was all soft around the edges from childhood, his neck too long and his limbs too gangly, knees tucked up against his chest. He had assumed a childish position on the couch. Red hair framed his face. He was painfully young, physically; he was only thirteen, after all. Crawford loosened his tie and sat down on the other side of the couch.

"I like the cigarettes," Schuldig said. "I like them." It was sort of like a thank you, but it wasn't, because Schuldig didn't know how to say thank you straight out. Or at all, really. Crawford shook his head. Schuldig had been trouble from the beginning. It was only ever going to get worse.

"Yeah, fuck you too!" Schuldig calls out the window of the car. The guy who whistled at him blinks and then stumbles backwards as Schuldig gives him the finger. "Jesus Christ, Crawford," Schuldig says, grinning from ear to ear as he pulls his head back into the car, "you think you could shoot him, too?"

"If he'd touched you," Crawford says easily, "now that would be a different story."

Crawford stops the car in the parking lot and looks at Nagi.

"Get out," he says. "Go upstairs. You can order dinner if you're hungry." Nagi hesitates. "Go," Crawford says, in a tone of voice that isn't kind or cruel or anything, just flat, refusing to be argued with. He knows why Nagi wants to stay. He knows that Nagi's going to go to the apartment and sit in his room and think about what they're doing down in the car, but it isn't his fault. It isn't Schuldig's, either, which is a first. It's not even Nagi's. Crawford stays passive about it. And they haven't killed one another over it yet. Nagi nods once, and unlocks the left-hand door. He steps out, locks it again, and shuts it. Crawford shakes his head, watches him walk through the long rows of cars, off to the elevator. Crawford watches him wait in front of the elevator and they Crawford watches him get in.

Crawford turns to Schuldig.

"All right," Crawford says. "Go on." Schuldig leans forward, and Crawford slides his own seat back to give Schuldig room enough. Their first car had a gear shift but this one doesn't because that only ever got in the way. There's even upholstery bridging the two front seats. Crawford is all about economizing. About making the best of what space there is. Unfortunately he can make mountains out of molehills. But it's always best to be prepared.

Schuldig undoes Crawford's fly again and puts his hand underneath Crawford's boxers, over his erection. Of course, Crawford still has a hard on from the kill. Of course. Crawford closes his eyes. Schuldig clicks his tongue against his teeth and slides his other hand over Crawford's thigh.

"Aren't you going to look at me?" Schuldig asks. Crawford opens his eyes again. His glasses slide down the bridge of his nose. Over the rim of them are his eyes, just the darkness of his eyes. They are so gold. The lashes are so dark.

When Schuldig first learned Crawford got turned on by shooting someone Schuldig hadn't known quite what to make of the information. It had been really obvious, though, Crawford standing there with the gun in his hands and the heaving of his chest. Schuldig had been young, fifteen, and he'd looked Crawford right in the eye, saying, "Can I touch it?"

Crawford's response had been a very adamant no, and that had been the end of that.

"Schuldig," Crawford says. Schuldig loves it when Crawford says his name. Crawford does it so rarely.

But Schuldig won out in the end because Crawford had let him. It was the fourth or fifth kill Schuldig had ever seen Crawford pull off and afterwards, in the car, Crawford had just nodded. Schuldig had taken care of the erection for Crawford then, and had learned in the times to come how best to do it. Schuldig, who learned quickly and well if he really wanted to, began to get damn good. Schuldig knew just how to put his hand down Crawford's pants.

Crawford wondered that first time if he was doing the right thing, because of the concentration on Schuldig's young face. Now, though, in the simple routine of it, he knows it was necessary. It is necessary. Crawford shoots someone in the head and Schuldig stays with him in the car afterwards and touches him and then everything is normal again. Well, not normal. Well, not normal, but the sort of not normal that doesn't involve Schuldig giving Crawford a handjob. Well, not normal; simple, then. Simpler.

Crawford lets Schuldig coax him to climax and makes a sharp sound and comes into his hand. Schuldigs cleans stuff up with a couple of tissues from his blazer pocket, gives Crawford a kiss on the jaw. Crawford runs his fingers through Schuldig's hair, a touch that makes them feel solid.

"You should go up," Crawford says. "Nagi doesn't like this."

"Fuck," Schuldig says. He kisses Crawford's jaw again. Every time Schuldig takes a little more. Crawford puts a hand on his shoulder, holds him back, keeps him at bay.

"It's going to be a problem," Crawford says, "a complication. Go up." Schuldig snorts, makes a face.

"Fuck," Schuldig says. "Okay. Fine. Fuck you, too." He slides himself out of the car and slams the car door shut behind him, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets, moving off through the rows of cars. Crawford shakes his head.

Schuldig doesn't understand a whole lot of things. Schuldig doesn't understand most of the things that slam into Crawford's brain twenty-four/seven. Sure, Schuldig would understand it if Crawford ever saw fit to explain it to him but that would fuck everything up.

Future, like the tangles in Schuldig's hair, runs through Crawford's fingers, even as he sits there, hands on the dashboard. Palms down. Head down. A bead of sweat on his temple. Future sits by his side. Future passes into the past. He sees things, a thousand things, and has to remember, for a moment, that he's just some killer, sitting in the driver's seat of his car. He has to remember to save the delusions of grandeur for when they aren't delusions. He has to remember that telling Schuldig will take them one way, keeping Schuldig in the dark will turn them down another. A thousand paths twist, labyrinthine, around him and through him and out of him again.

Crawford draws in a deep breath.

Crawford gets out of the car, puts the keys in his pocket, and decides he'll order Chinese takeout for dinner, because he needs, once in a while, the forcible solidity of cheap things.