eyes are wild I wrapped his smile calling me CLOSE. Only BLADES of grass seem greener than my INSTINCTS are wise up and don't act so COY, you only find the ANSWER in the WELL of my HEART'S design. you CAUGHT ME unaware, can you be so UNFAIR as to leash me with that DISGUISE?

-from Halogen's Caught Me

His Art is Eccentricity. Part Two.

Seven fifteen at night and Crawford has Schuldig next to him at his desk. They read; Crawford makes notes. Every so often Crawford speaks. "Empath," he says. "Shows signs of it," Schuldig answers. They read; Crawford makes notes.

Gier is eating in Schuldig's room. She's pregnant. It's her baby that Crawford wants, not her. She is too old to be trusted. She is an anomaly, the man she fucked and got pregnant by was an anomaly before they blasted his head open, and her child will be an anomaly, one which Crawford can control completely. Crawford knows this. Crawford's going to raise the kid, or kill him, or lock him in a basement somewhere. Crawford needs this baby for something. He's keeping Gier alive and under his jurisdiction like a pet, a useful pet. it doesn't matter to Schuldig what the Hell Crawford wants, a kid or a blonde cunt to fuck or to drive Schuldig crazy. Schuldig hates her even though he's only seen her once. He doesn't have to see her more than once to form a full opinion. He hates her. He hates what she did to him, though inadvertently. He hates that she's in his room. He hates that Crawford spends so much time with her, researching her, protecting her. He hates her.

"It wasn't so much Empathy but this fucking tornado of unconscious thought," Schuldig says. It is one of his more lucid moments. "She fucking sucked me in. Like she was memorizing me, I don't know – incorporating me. Making me a part of her and then fucking erasing me."

Crawford makes notes.

"Like a psychological skin graft," he says. "Was she becoming you, or were you becoming her? Be clear."

"Both." The book they're reading is so boring Schuldig wants to scream. You can't define the Empath, the Telepath, the Telekinetic, the Prophetic. You just can't. No matter who the hell you think you are and how much you think you know. "Shit, Crawford, this book isn't going to help. Whoever the fuck wrote it doesn't know shit about—"

"There are, however, characteristics indicative of," Crawford smiles thinly, "particular peculiarities. Which is what we're researching."

"You are some kind of crazy. She tries to suck my brain out of my head and you're reading about it in a fucking book."

"It isn't an unexpected reaction. You're going to have to set up a barrier – a magnetic field not opposite to hers, but the same as hers, which will keep the tornado effect from happening."

"Well." Schuldig's grin is far from cheerful. "That's as easy as apple pie, Mr. Crawford." He's been in Crawford's room for four days now, caged and cranky. Even a solution to his imprisonment pisses him off, coming from Crawford. "All right," Schuldig says to Crawford's unimpressed expression. "Let's get this over with so I can be properly introduced to this bitch."

Schuldig remembers the way it was with Nagi once. Those powers, untrained and easily lost control of, were purely physical. Sometimes Nagi would be frightened and Schuldig wouldn't pull his mind out in time and Nagi would literally twist his brain around. Each time Nagi had fixed the mess he'd made and Schuldig would comfort the poor, freaked kid by refusing to curse at him, by having cookies with him to settle both their nerves. After a while the accidents trained them both. Schuldig knows how to keep hands out of his head. He knows how to disappear. He's prepared, now; he knows what that bitch's head can do to him. Though it makes him so angry he could scream, he does as Crawford tells him. Think of it like a magnetic force that repels rather than attracts. Schuldig trains it to be an instinct, Crawford's hands on either side of his head.

As always, Schuldig learns quickly. They're done and it's nine-thirty.

"I'm taking a bath," Schuldig announces. He presses his thumb in the ridge between his eyebrows, warding off a headache.

"All right." Crawford locks his notes away in a drawer and locks the key to that drawer in another. Even Schuldig doesn't know where the key to that drawer goes. It always appears only when needed.

"Feel free to join me," Schuldig says tiredly. It isn't any kind of forgiveness or gratitude that prompts Schuldig to make the offer. He needs something to do with his body to tire it out like his head is tired, so he can sleep through the night. "We'll use your bathroom," he adds, pulling his t-shirt off and kicking out of his jeans. He takes his hair out of its ponytail and he stretches, naked, for a moment, in front of the open window. Crawford watches him.

"I'll be in in a minute," he says.

The bathroom is mostly new to Schuldig. Everything is white and neat and clean. There's a razor and shaving el set neatly on one side of the sink; a toothbrush and toothpaste on the other side. There's a bottle of aspirin, a roll of bandages and a first aid box in the cabinet over the sink. That's it. The tub is big, long and deep, with Jacuzzi jets. Schuldig snorts.

"Son of a bitch," he says, running the water hot – enough for steam to rise. It clouds the air, clouds the cabinet mirror. It warms his chilled flesh, sweat beading the back of his neck.

Behind him the door opens. Closes. Click. Crawford comes in, loosening his tie. Schuldig stands, pressing a hand idly to a scar on his own thigh. He feels the ridge of skin against the smooth skin surrounding it. He harbors that sudden oddness of not being able to feel a part of his own body. He presses his forefinger against the deadened flesh. It is a long scar, thin and without much depth. His finger runs its length idly Around it, the puckered skin is extra sensitive, making up for the severed nerves beneath the scar.

"The other bathroom doesn't have Jacuzzi jets," Schuldig points out. He turns around and begins to unbutton Crawford's shirt himself. His scarred thigh brushes up against Crawford's left leg. He has this weird new barrier up even now because he doesn't trust the latest stray Crawford's decided to bring home.

"I'm letting you use it," Crawford says. The Jacuzzi jets. "Don't complain."

Schuldig shrugs.

"Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Boy," Crawford answers. He watches Schuldig's long fingers undo the buttons down the center of his chest and stomach. He watches Schuldig's long fingers un-tuck his shirt from the waistband of his pants. He watches Schuldig unzip his fly and feels Schuldig's hands take his pants and his underwear off, easy as always. He hears Schuldig's voice, easy as apple pie, Mr. Crawford. He watches and feels Schuldig's long fingers press against the sides of his thighs.

Crawford told Schuldig the whole story earlier. He stated all the facts, most of the details, and gave none of the context. Gier is not important to Schuldig, not directly. They will keep her to assure that the child shall be delivered immediately into their hands. Then, Crawford will let Schuldig shoot her between the eyes if Schuldig wants to.

Always, Crawford has had to admit to himself, the next generation is more powerful than the preceding one. If they are to continue to not only survive but to prevail then they must not become obsolete. Old methods, practice and prior experience can only take a man so far. It is the future Crawford looks to for his answers. It is the future which Crawford must employ to triumph. It has always been so – one way, or another.

"Do I get to kill her after?" Schuldig, naked, presses against Crawford, naked. Crawford sighs.

"If you wish."

Schuldig grins like two daggers, one out in the open, one concealed. He pulls away and settles himself into the hot bath, hissing. Crawford moves in after him, stretches out opposite him. He waits with one eye open, watching Schuldig as Schuldig watches him. Schuldig must come to him. There has never been a time where Crawford allowed himself to come to Schuldig.

With a slip and slide of water, Schuldig bridges the distance between them. There are seconds of cold skin mated with the hot embrace of the hot bath. Schuldig, Crawford tells himself, has poor circulation. He does not eat enough, and though he gets exercise often that is only one half the puzzle. He smokes always, which doesn't help. Crawford traces the curve of his spine, each vertebra somewhere beneath the splay and stretch of sprawling muscle.

They press together. The water is a whisper, shh, shh, sssh, against the side of the tub.

"Crawford?" Schuldig, warm and cool and fire and shadow. Crawford, fucking him.

"What." It isn't a question. It's an acknowledgement of Schuldig's question.

"Turn the jets on."

Crawford acquiesces, without good reason.

In Schuldig's room Gier is sitting in Schuldig's bed, eating ice cream, watching Schuldig's soap on Schuldig's TV. Schuldig leans in the doorway, watching her. He smokes a cigarette, wears one of Crawford's shirts and a pair of old jeans. His hair is still damp, pulled back from his face and tied carelessly. For the first time in two weeks he has color in his face.

"What the fuck are you?" he asks.

"Don't know." Gier has a vulgar smile. She's probably a good fuck, Schuldig thinks, squishy in all the right places. She looks at him like she might fuck him. She looks at him like she wants that cigarette. She looks at him slyly from the corners of her eyes, surrounded by dark makeup. Who does she think she's meeting, with mascara and eyeliner and lipstick and the works? Some of the lipstick has come off on the plastic spoon she uses to eat her ice cream. Schuldig watches her fat tongue curve around the head of the spoon. He lifts a brow. "No one knows," she continues. "Didn't the American man tell you that?"

Schuldig shrugs.

"How long have you been pregnant?" He doesn't blow smoke in her direction. No damage to her, no damage to the baby. Crawford's orders.

"Four months." Her eyebrows draw together, pulled by an invisible string. For a moment annoyance clouds her pedestrian features. Then, she eases back into a comfortable position, eats another spoonful of ice cream, and satisfies herself with this momentary distraction. On the TV someone screams. There is a gunshot. A thud. Another scream. Commercials flicker on. Some catchy jingle plays behind some woman's cheerful voice. Schuldig takes a long drag. Five more months of this bitch in his life. In his room.

"How did he find you?"

"The American?" She lifts a brow. "I would have thought he'd tell you."

Schuldig's lips twitch.

"Thought I'd hear both sides of it."

"Come sit next to me." Gier beckons with the spoon. "And I'll tell you." Schuldig thinks about it. Schuldig thinks about it obviously. He takes another drag on his cigarette and then he steps into the room. He opens the window. He throws the cigarette out. He lets fresh air into the room to get rid of the smoke and then he closes the window again.

"Can't have you catching cold, can we," he says. Gier waits. "Anyway, the American told me I'm not allowed to fuck you."


"And that's what you want." Schuldig clacks his teeth. "You want me to lick ice cream off your breasts or something equally fucking stupid." Her fat tongue around the spoon again, pink, wet. He wonders if he should tell her doesn't find that attractive at all. She shifts, leaning forward. He thinks maybe he won't tell her. One sleeve slips down the side of her arm, which is pale and soft and without much muscle. She's plump. Schuldig wants to bite her.

"He told me I can have whatever I want," she says. "Have some ice cream. You're too thin."

Schuldig crosses the room and sits down on the edge of the bed. The commercials are over and now the soap music has started to play. Something big is happening, some woman lying dead on the floor and a man with thick eyebrows standing over her, holding a gun. Another woman – anorexic, Schuldig thinks idly – clings to a banister, sobbing histrionically. If he were having a better week, Schuldig would laugh. He's not. He doesn't. He lets Gier feed him a spoonful of ice cream.

"Anything you want?" he asks.


Schuldig clacks his teeth together again. Now his mouth tastes like cigarette smoke and ice cream and tobacco and Crawford somewhere deeper. He's tired. He's too tired to fuck. He's too tired to work for Crawford anymore. He's too tired to play these games. He's too tired to do anything more than watch the soap and fall asleep. Acknowledging this depresses him. Anger surges in his stomach. He just wanted to sleep and now he's livid. He moves his gaze to Gier, who watches him.

"We give Germans a bad name," Schuldig points out.

"Germans give Germans a bad name," Gier replies. "Might as well have fun with it."

"Shit," Schuldig says, "I guess so. Hey, if I fuck you, is that shit going to happen again?"



"I don't know." Gier licks the spoon clean, sets the ice cream and the spoon down on Schuldig's bedside table.

"Good," Schuldig says. "I hope it does." She shimmies out of her shirt and Schuldig realizes it's been a long time since he's gotten familiar with a woman's nipples.

"You're crazy," Gier says. She's overweight. She carries it well. She's got a slight roll of fat on her abdomen, accentuated when she leans forward. Her breasts are big, well-shaped. Nothing more unexciting than ugly breasts. She moves like someone used to the streets. Schuldig laughs, watching her. He's turned on. A little. He's turned on thinking that she could make his head blow up like it almost did the last time. He's turned on thinking that Crawford didn't intend this, never intended this, and now he's going to fuck the bitch and Crawford's not. Crawford, spending all this time on her, never getting his dick up inside her. Schuldig, hating her for taking up so much of his space, invited into her. She spreads her legs like a pro.

"Yeah," Schuldig says, "I guess I'm fucking crazy." He grips her thighs, her ass, doesn't bother to pull his pants all the way down. She rolls her head back. Her lips are warm, her breasts moist with sweat. She rolls against him. "Shit," Schuldig says. Shit, she's good. She kneels over him. "Shit," Schuldig says. "Oh, fuck, shit." She makes these sounds above him. He pushes his face against her left breast. He wants to bite it – he bites it. She shudders above him. He listens carefully to her thoughts, trying to keep his distance. About half an hour ago and he was fucking Crawford in the bathroom and she heard them. She ate ice cream listening to them. How did she hear them?

Two weeks ago, morning, she's throwing up in a garbage can. Running away from everyone. Everything hurts and she's got a black eye. She presses a hand to her stomach, retches.

Two months ago and he's still alive. They're being hunted through the sewers. He tells her to go on without him and she does because they're not in love. She hears the sound of his brain being shot out his ear and she tries not to throw up not because she has any self-restraint but because they'll hear her if she does. Them. A notorious, inexplicable them.

Four months ago and they haven't met and she's just a number, confusing and caught and standing her place on line to be dissected.

Schuldig flips them. He's over her, now, her arms move above her head. They grasp the headboard of Schuldig's bed, her fingernails tear at the wood. He wants to hurt her. He wants to kill her. She's enjoying it – crazy German bitch – her mouth clamped down on his shoulder. There's no delicacy about her. She's more Schuldig's type than Crawford's. Crawford was right. She's vulgar. Her fat thighs press against Schuldig's lean ones, rub against the fabric of his jeans.

On the TV a coma patient wakes after a year with amnesia.

On the TV they cart the body of the latest victim away to the sobs of her sister.

On the TV a man throws a glass of some expensive alcohol against a wall; it shatters; another, different, still anorexic woman screams.

Schuldig doesn't like his women thin. He likes to hold on to them. He likes to muffle the stupid sounds he makes into their breasts, he likes to bite them and taste them and feel them.

Schuldig orgasms and he bites Gier's breast again and then he pulls away savagely. She moans, lets out a fluttering, open-mouthed sigh. Her body, which was for a moment stiff, relaxes. She melts back against the bed. She is disheveled. Her wild hair falls over her flushed face. Sweat glistens in the valley between her breasts. Schuldig looks at her. The TV is trying to sell him tampons.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Schuldig says. He has to get out of this room. His room. He chokes, and zips up his pants, and slams the door behind him.

He can hear her laughter anyway, following him out. It is thick and slow and cheap.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Schuldig says again. He runs his fingers through his hair. He listens. Crawford is asleep; Farfarello is insane; Nagi is –


Schuldig runs down the hallway, pushes the door to Nagi's room open.

"I fucked her," Schuldig says. Nagi, who is bent over his desk and presumably working, looks up at him. Blinks.

"You're unfair to me," Nagi says blankly. "I'm a teenager. I'm not your psychiatrist."

"Shut the fuck up, Nagi," Schuldig says. "Shut the fuck up and hold me." It is a minimally pleasant comfort that Nagi does as he's told. He comes and he sits next to Schuldig on the bed and puts a thin arm around Schuldig's thin shoulder. "She asked me to," Schuldig explains. "She was licking ice cream off a fucking spoon at me and then she took off her shirt. She asked me to."

"A lot of your excuses start that way," Nagi says.

"A lot of my excuses are fucking true," Schuldig replies.

"I never said they weren't."

"What the fuck is Crawford trying to do." Schuldig presses his thumb against that ridge of aching muscle on his forehead. "What the fuck time is it."

"I don't know, and twelve-sixteen." Nagi pats Schuldig's shoulder ineffectually. Schuldig is being unfair to him. What the hell was he thinking, shut the fuck up and hold me? Normal people don't say that and Schuldig certainly doesn't say that. It's unfair to Nagi, who thinks that if he pats Schuldig on the shoulder enough times when Crawford won't do it that Schuldig will suddenly give a fuck. Schuldig doesn't even give a fuck that he's being unfair. He's not going to give a fuck that Nagi has some notion that Schuldig will ever give a fuck about anything.

Nagi pushes Schuldig's shaking hand away.

"Here," Nagi says. "Let me do it." He does it. Schuldig leans his head against the wall behind him and slouches so Nagi can reach his forehead. Nagi presses a small thumb against the twitching muscle. He presses something else, some force of compacted air, against the muscle. It's twitches slow, then disappear. "Better?" Nagi asks.


"Hm." The door's lock clicks shut. Sometimes Schuldig hates it when Nagi does that, locking a door from across the room or getting the bag of Oreos without even getting up. Now, Schuldig just laughs.

"Who're you keeping out?" Schuldig asks.

"Who am I keeping in," Nagi corrects him. "I'm just making sure that if the Pope comes over you don't fuck him, too."

"Nagi." Schuldig sprawls out across Nagi's lap. "I'm shocked."

"Bad influences," Nagi says. He plays absently with Schuldig's hair. "I have these bad influences."

"Everyone says that at least once in their lives. It's a fucking stupid excuse."

"I like the red, Schuldig," Nagi says. "It's taken me a while to get used to it, but I like it."

"Glad to have your approval. I don't think Crawford likes it. I don't think Crawford fucking notices. Maybe I should be a blonde with big tits and a womb and then he'd fucking notice."


"Not really."


"Want to kill her, though."

"You'll get your chance."

"I know." Schuldig searches through his pockets for his lighter and his last cigarette. He lights the cigarette presses it against his lips and makes a face. "Unfiltered. Fuck. Do you think I should shoot her or kick her to death?"

"I didn't know you were much good at kicking."

"Kick like a fucking horse." Schuldig blows smoke out his nose. "Kick like a fucking kangaroo."

"It's certainly original. Why don't you get some sleep and then, in the morning, we can make a list of pros and cons? Shooting: involves guns. Kicking: reminiscent of kangaroos." Schuldig laughs. He turns, presses his face against Nagi's hip. His cigarette trails smoke into the air, drops ash over the edge of the bed. Nagi cradles his head, bows his body over. "You're an idiot," he says. "You're such an idiot."

"Ow," Schuldig says. "Bruise." Nagi's hold lightens. "Let's just go to bed. Let's just fucking go to bed."


Lights off.

Sometimes Schuldig it hates it when Nagi does that, turning the lights off without moving to the light switch or floating the first aid kit in from Crawford's bathroom without moving a finger. Now, Schuldig just closes his eyes and pulls Nagi's covers over his head. Nagi curls up, small, at his back, cheek at his shoulder-blade.

"I'm tired," Schuldig says. Nagi's hand rests at his waist. "And this is not cuddling."

It isn't cuddling. It's clinging.

They fall asleep in no more than five minutes.