After watching Notorious - which I didn't much like but that's beyond the point - I was hit with the sudden desire to write something Schwarz-esque and so here it is, four character studies that are now sort of the prequel to a much longer Schwarz-fic that is in the work as I type this in order to get over writer's block for it. Enjoy, R&R, and be patient, for a long one-shot is coming your way soon.

Four By Hitchcock

1. Notorious

Before he became Mastermind he was just a scrawny kid who spoke English with a thick and intrinsically German lisp: not of the S sound, but of the R. His hair was a pale blonde color, his eyes more gold than jade, his wrists deceptively fragile. He was not afraid of water but he did not like the sea, or flying over it.

Before he became Mastermind, Oracle - who was by then already Oracle - slid into the airplane seat next to him, looked at him with cooling indifference. Calculating, though. As if the boy were part of some equation: a = om(?). Where a was Anarchy and o and m were the variables of themselves, respectively, while the question mark remained to be filled in to complete the equation.

Before he became Mastermind, Oracle asked him this simple question during lift-off.

"What will you be?"

The boy turned from the window and met Oracle's gaze behind the glint of light-over-glass. Grinned. A wide grin.

"Notorious," he answered, his voice thick and deep, the R rolled like Ingrid Bergman's and the intent as black-and-white as determination, or an old movie.

2. North by Northwest

The angles of the boxing ring were very easy to calculate. It was a perfect square. It was an even, reliable shape and Bradley had once been very good at Geometry. Algebra, too. His mind was made for excelling at the mathematical and the precise. He should have gone into economics or stocks but instead he'd gone into the ring. He felt more powerful there. And there were still familiar things. The square shape was just an example.

There was an intoxicating pleasure in beating a man with his bare hands. A grown man. A man bigger than he. A man stronger than he at the beginning, but it wasn't just the strength that counted. It was speed and it was omniscience. After a while, Bradley got stronger, practiced until the sweat beaded above his browse and his chest constricted around his heart. He practiced his hands into a mess of bruises until they stopped bruising. He practiced his arms into a mess of screaming muscle until the muscle stopped screaming.

He got very strong, and all without any external aid.

People placed a lot of money on him. He always won.

In the end, Rosenkreuz agents had found him. That was because he kept killing people, cracking their jaws and then their skulls with movements so fast it was hard to tell what had happened. There was an intoxicating pleasure in beating a man with his bare hands; the pleasure was heightened if he beat the man to death. That perfect sound as bone cracked and muscles went pop, went slack. That look of true agony and eyes glazing over and identity being forgotten in the crush of blood and flesh.

3. Young And Innocent

Prodigy, Oracle dubbed him, and Mastermind snorted and threw up his hands and said, "Prodigy, my ass. Fuck this, we're not an orphanage." By this point, Prodigy, whose real name was Naoe Nagi, was watching with wide eyes and pursed lips and some amount of disbelief. The man with green hair was loud and the man with black hair, Crawford, who had found him, was looking impatient.

"And you don't think," Mastermind snapped out, "that you should tell me before you do shit like this?"

"Clean him up," Oracle replied evenly, "I'm going to bed." He did. It left Prodigy and Mastermind staring at each other warily, Mastermind scratching with infuriated patience at the side of his cheek.

"So," Mastermind said finally, "you're ... small. How old are you?"

"Ten," Prodigy said.

"Oh great," Mastermind hissed between clenched teeth. "Young and innocent."

Later on Mastermind learned that the second half was entirely untrue and Prodigy had dreaded that day. Hands clenched, face pinched and pale, he was one day older when he'd first met Mastermind, green hair in the telepath's eyes instead of pulled back into a ponytail. As it was now, as they faced one another, and Mastermind worked some clenched muscle in his clenched jaw.

"Innocence is bullshit anyway," Mastermind muttered. "Stop fucking looking at me." Prodigy did, but not without some flicker of a young - not innocent - smile.

4. Psycho

Berserker liked it when Mastermind lost it at him. Mastermind was, according to Oracle, the only one who could control Beserker, though Beserker on any given day liked it when Mastermind lost it completely. When Mastermind lost it he sounded like a guttersnipe, some foul-mouthed, hysterical creature of the streets.

"You shut up," Mastermind was screaming, "you and all the fucking voices in your head!"

Berserker quoted the Purgatorio at him, but Mastermind didn't catch the reference.

"What the fuck are you talking about you fucking Edward fucking Scissorhands, the evil that man loves must be his neighbors, where the fuck have you been reading this shit?"

Mastermind had been having a bad day. It showed. He always cursed when he'd been having a bad day.

"Would you shut up?" Mastermind threw at him. "Do you ever shut up? You psycho. You fucking psycho." Berserker didn't quite understand. He tried to give Mastermind more of the Purgatorio but Mastermind was having none of it. "You shut up. You shut the fuck up." Berserker kept trying to give him cantos but Mastermind didn't want any of them. None of those words. Berserker kept trying and finally Mastermind was hitting him across the face. And that was nice. That was really nice. Maybe one day Mastermind would throw him down the stairs. What pleasure there was in the feel of Mastermind's strong, tanned hands. Even if he wouldn't take the Purgatorio from Berserker in those hands, he would administer the Purgatorio and the blood, because he was a true dramatist, through and through.