Hi! I’m sick as bloody fuck, so feel free to attribute all of this weekend’s fic postings as the result of a feverish mind. The first sign of I must actually be sick was someone delivering a tray of food to me in bed this evening and after my initial shock wore off (I was raised by sensible people who believed if you were too sick to get up, you were probably too sick to eat, so they just left me alone until I surfaced) and I pushed the suspicious tray aside (Munchausen by proxy can pop up anytime in the least likely people – it never hurts to be too cautious), I decided to use this time to finish things I need to post and post things that I will never finish.
PLEASE NOTE: All the stories I post in the next few days have been hardly edited and quickly typed. I’m trying to learn to let things go and move on. voksen ’s also trying to teach me how to write porn, but that’s not going too well.
Tonight we have . . . my first ever Crawford/Schuldig piece that I ever, ever wrote, ever. It is not finished, nor will it ever be finished. A one shot that has a beginning, middle and no ending. Pre-Schwarz, fresh out of Rosenkreuz, overall, I hate it, but I do like three lines. It is obvious that I was in Istanbul, staring out a window thinking about completely unrelated things when I wrote this.
Fandom: WK . . .oh, hell – there’s no WK in this. It’s just Schwarz-ish.
Characters: Crawford / Schuldig
Rating: PG for suggestive pen strokes
Notes: Crawford has a plan! (Really? No way!)
Schuldig watches the faces of passing strangers and tries to guess what they are thinking before dipping in. The game is his waiting room magazine; his mindful diversion. He drinks strong tea in a small glass while sitting at a sidewalk café. Schuldig dislikes waiting, but the message to be at this particular location was precisely vague, like the sender. Schuldig dips a sugar cube into the tepid tea and watches the liquid rise until the sugar crumbles between his fingers.
He’s just licking the sugar off when he looks up to find Crawford crossing the street, and fuck if that isn’t the way it always is between them – Schuldig finally finding something that interests him and Crawford coming along to change the subject. Schuldig fears this partnership will become a permanent assignment.
Crawford does not seem to have rushed to get there. He gestures to the empty seat as if to ask if it’s taken.
Schuldig shrugs, and who else would be sitting with him on a gorgeous spring day, the first truly warm day of the year, the heat creeping up from the paving stones, warming the soles of his shoes. Who else would sit there when it was Crawford who did the summoning?
A tiny, purposeful leak tells Schuldig that Crawford wants to ask where he has been the past week. Instead he asks, “Did I keep you waiting?”
“No, I just arrived.”
Crawford glances at the heap of torn sugar papers on the table.
They’ve lived out of suitcases in Istanbul for two months, each occupied with their own tasks, so Schuldig is surprised to hear Crawford say, “I have a job for us tonight.”
“A real job – or more watching?” Schuldig’s question answers Crawford’s earlier, silent one.
“We’ll accompany Altan Bey on an excursion to Macka Park . There’s a narghile there with a clear floored foyer, an aquarium you can walk on top of. It’s quiet there on a weekday. Afterward we’ll take a walk in the very poorly lighted park.”
“So, you found the seal?” They’d been working on the same job after all. Schuldig puzzles over the floor aquarium, he can’t picture it, but his practical and cinematic experience tells him that firearms and water filled glass are never a good combination, and he hates getting wet.
“It will be purchased tonight.” An elderly server arrives and Crawford makes another gesture to order two coffees.
The Byzantine seal was fished from the depths of the city’s cistern and immediately lost. Esset has a habit of sending them out to recover lost things, but Schuldig doesn’t fancy himself an archeologist. Now Crawford on the other hand, Schuldig glances across the table – he would blend just fine reciting the Argonautika in Ionic Greek beside a campfire in the desert.
Schuldig pushes his sunglasses up his nose and settles back in the chair, “Do you have any idea how much longer we’ll be here?”
“Things seem to be finishing up, I doubt we’ll be here at the end of the month, but no one has said for certain.” Crawford wears a beige shirt, tie and worsted wool coat, as casual as Crawford gets. When the breeze shifts, Schuldig smells his cologne. Schuldig turns his face in the opposite direction, preferring the street exhaust.
“I saw Garrison the other day,” Schuldig says.
Crawford reaches across the table and slips a cigarette from an opened pack near Schuldig’s elbow. The server brings their coffee. He lights the cigarette and says, “Did he have anything for you?”
“He gave me three files in Japanese.”
“I’ll have someone to translate if you’d like.”
Schuldig glances at him, surprised by the offer. Crawford usually makes him do his own work, so he must want to know the contents of the files. He’d like to ask but instead he says, “Thank you. I’ll give them to you tonight after the job.”
They have spoken like this since they met, four years of saying nothing. “I’ve never been in a city this large,” Schuldig says, turning the small coffee cup counter clockwise on the saucer.
“If you’d like to somewhere less noisy, I found an unusually quiet place in Beyoglu.”
“Walking distance?” Schuldig discovered the first week in this beehive that he could generally out walk the taxies. He glances at Crawford above his sunglasses, but Crawford stares into his coffee.
“About fifteen mintues.”
Schuldig smiles, the first genuine grin in months. “Drink up,” he says and swallows the coffee in one taste.
Crawford walks one block ahead, Schuldig follows casually, hands in his pockets, looking up at the buildings. His surface thoughts are a well trained foyer, washed clean like the scrubbed entryways he passes, barred by a heavy door. His doorman walks ahead of him, stopping to purchase a paper. It is all Schuldig can do to not hurry.
A heavy iron door is blocked by a small rectangle of card stock. Schuldig bends to retrieve it as he enters and the door slams hugely behind him. His footsteps echo in the empty stairwell. The building smells of cooking grease and bleach. The upper floor apartments are in the midst of renovation, tile floors grimy with grout. Schuldig’s shoes, sand caught on the bottom, scratch against the steps as he climbs higher. Another door cracked for him to enter. He pushes against it silently and kicks his shoes off at the entrance.
The afternoon light spills in diffused shadows through the opaque curtains. The furniture is covered in white sheets. Schuldig has been in enough Istanbul apartments by now to know the blueprint: coat room to formal living room to dining room to hallway. There is the kitchen. At the end of the hall he sees the windows are open to a barred balcony on the far wall of a bedroom. He unbuttons his cuffs and follows the warm Bosphorous breeze coming through the windows; the air smells like diesel and ash.
When Schuldig is almost to the end of the hall, he hears the briefest edge of a thought and heat washes through him like a sudden sickness, and maybe that’s all that this has ever been.
Crawford sits, leafing through the newspaper, on the edge of the bed. Schuldig drops his guard just enough to feel if Crawford’s guess is correct. Surrounded by buildings and crowded streets at the height of daytime noise, the voices are distant, as if in a tunnel. He drops his guard another notch. He wonders, as he always does, how Crawford finds these places.
Crawford has a way of finding places where the others can’t keep of them but he problem is that the quietness can be too complete. Schuldig couldn’t tap into the next door neighbor if he tries, so that means he cannot tap into Crawford either, and though he’s frightened of what he would find at the bottom of Crawford’s thoughts, a part of him wishes he could see beneath the surface, just once. But looking would be a big red beacon flaring up to anyone that watched. Speaking aloud, that too is off limits. There are too many satellites trained to the timber of their voices.
With the city this quiet, Crawford is also blind to the next moment, though Schuldig’s certain he traced the various pathways of their stolen afternoon before even suggesting the meeting. They can only communicate through gestures, through expressions, through touch – or by writing, but their hands are typically too busy for notes and they’d have to burn the evidence before they left.
Why these places exist is a mystery to them both; they found the first quite by accident the first year they were free from school. A teacher once mentioned that there were uncommon places of reprieve where the very damaged could begin to piece themselves back together without worrying about intrusion. Crawford must have a theory or he would not be able to find so many of them.
Schuldig kneels down at Crawford’s feet and rests his head on Crawford’s leg. He drops the last of his shields slowly, like inching his way into scalding hot water, slowly just to be safe. Schuldig feels lighter and Crawford puts his paper down, slides off the bed so that they are sitting, facing, on the floor. The placement, bed between them and the open window, seems sensible, something to guard their backs. The quietness heightens touch, like being blindfolded, so the smallest brush of Crawford’s thumb against Schuldig’s lip is concentrated, or maybe, Schuldig thinks, it’s just the one who is touching him that makes the contact absolute, like he can feel each ridge of Crawford’s thumbprint.
Which doesn’t even come close to describing Crawford’s mouth. Schuldig thinks it funny that for all the things that set them apart in their lives, the talents that define them, they have only ever come together like this broken, useless, limited to five senses, can’t even use their voices. There’s nothing delicate about it after the first touch, their mouths trying to say two things at once until someone gives, Schuldig gives, and their tongues decide on a mutual topic.
Crawford’s back to the bed, Schuldig leans into him, shoves the coat off his shoulder. When Schuldig cracks an eye to see where he can toss the tie, he sees the coat dangling neatly from the edge of the mattress and cannot for the life of him figure out how it got there. He wonders if there’s any trick Crawford can’t do, any hidden throughway he cannot see. The thought makes him pull back. He does not know anything about Crawford, not really, only what his senses tell him, and not the ones that count.
Then again, the rest of the world seems to get along just fine with that mode of operation, but it unnerves Schuldig, traveling blind. He’d like to say as much, so he does as much as he is able, slides a few feet backward to rest against the wall of the narrow room and stares, cool as ice, at Crawford.
Crawford seems less threatening minus the coat and tie, Schuldig tilts his head, or more threatening, depends on the angle. He’s never before taken time to admire the in between state of undress. The first time was all elbows and sharp angles in a Viennese bathroom the size of broom closet. He hardly remembers how they got there, only that it was quiet and his head was numb like it was shot full of lidocaine, and the effort that usually went to keeping his shields in place found the most convenient occupation, namely sinking to his knees and seeing how long Crawford really could keep his mouth shut.
They continued the unspoken contest of touch and strategy at several convenient safe spots in Europe, never visiting the same place twice. Schuldig likes to think of it as research, hideouts are important in their line of work. He raises an eyebrow and waits for Crawford’s next move.
The gulls on the rooftops call out in a sonorous alto. A muezzin begins the three o’clock prayer, a sound that makes Schuldig think about gods and wars, at least for the duration. Crawford leans his head back against the bed and closes his eyes. An echo of a thought, or expression, like the last drawn out note of the prayer, slips over to Schuldig. Crawford likes the sound because he finds it beautiful, and what the fuck did that mean, liking something for no reason at all, no importance. Schuldig draws his knee up and rests his chin on top of it. Utterly confused, he continues to stare at Crawford.
Schuldig tries to reason it out: Crawford likes the sound of the prayer because he likes the way it sounds. And that’s it. No other reason. No plan, no purpose, nothing to be gained by liking the sound. Schuldig feels as if he’s attending a lecture in Crawford aesthetics and that he could argue the point with a dozen experts and still not know why the realization pleases him.
Crawford opens his eyes as the voice dies out across the buildings, and Schuldig motions for him to take his glasses off. Crawford shakes his head and reaches back instead to take a notepad and pen from the pocket of his jacket.
Schuldig slides over to him, forms his mouth around a silent, “What?”
Schuldig has never seen Crawford’s handwriting before, the distinctive character of it too much of a liability, like fingerprints. They have developed altered signatures to go along with their aliases. So Schuldig feels intimately intrusive watching Crawford’s script flow across the paper, I have an idea, he writes and Schuldig is so preoccupied by the manner of delivery that it takes him a moment to see that Crawford offers him the pen.
He shakes his head, refuses the offer like it’s poison and gestures for Crawford to continue. Crawford looks at him as if he’s discovered some weakness and continues, We should learn to read lips.
Schuldig has a reply to that, but it’s probably not what Crawford is going for. He takes the pen and writes: Idea?? What is it??
Crawford’s thumb glances across Schuldig’s wrist as he takes the pen back. Schuldig wonders why he didn’t think to bring two pens, considers Crawford’s thumb, and decides that sharing, in this instance, is really no hardship.
Assignment = Japan. Even Crawford’s notes are cryptic.
Schuldig grabs the pen: Can you not simplify things?
Crawford presses the notepad into Schuldig’s knee as he writes. First one word : Esset. Then he crosses the word out. He looks Schuldig straight in the eye. Then he smiles. And it’s not that Schuldig has never seen Crawford smile, he’s just never seen him happy. The pen scratch across the paper, the line – in emphasis, Crawford crosses out the word again– four millimeters, an elongated symbol for subtraction, a simple line that negates everything.
They stare at each other.
Schuldig tallies every quiet place they’ve visited, the secret, empty hovels. He can live with the voices in his head, and wishes that his aptitude worked in these forgotten places, what he cannot bear is the infrastructure that monitors his own mind like a feed traveling across the bottom of a television screen, flickering symbols of the thoughts that trickle out of the fissures in his guard. It’s always the not so important thoughts that he lets slip: his annoyance with the weather, his favorite line in a book, the desire to take a nap, watching a facial tick that makes his trigger finger twitch. The organization does not steal the grand schemes, the thoughts that would get him locked up, or worse. They steal the simple things, and for some reason, the theft is worse, as if (and Schuldig knows this from experience) they’ve broken into a house and taken the photographs rather than the valuables.
Fleetingly, he worries that defection, destruction, all the delicious D words, are not what Crawford implies at all with the slash. Hesitatingly, he draws the warm pen, tip still poised above the line, from Crawford’s hand. He flips to a clean page so any thoughts that follow will trail the scratched name.
Schuldig hesitates, can’t decide if he should write more, but Crawford impatiently takes the pen and his words are hurried, the only hint of his frustration, I don’t know. No exact time frame.
Their legs are pressed together on the floor and the pad goes back and forth between them.
What are we supposed to do?
So, we wait?
You know what this . . .
They will kill us. Schuldig writes this in large, block letters.
We’ll die if they don’t.
Well, that narrows his choices. Schuldig takes the pen and places it gently on top of the notepad. He hears traffic and the booming voice of a street seller calling out oranges. The cart wheels squeak. From where he sits he sees the skirt and bare legs of a woman walking a ledge to clean a window. The woman sings as she works, and her accent is colored with the Black Sea. A working knowledge of Turkish is essential to anyone wandering the dark corners of Germany, but the recent weeks spent wandering Istanbul minds has given Schuldig a sense of the subtleties.