Title: What the File Says
Fandom: WK (or twopoint's private brand of Schwarz fic)
Notes: Schuldig has a past. Name speculation, experiments and sharp ankles.
What the File Says
He dreams of his parent’s house, the rough, twiggy winter garden. He has stolen a cigarette from the box his father keeps in the office where the leather bound books are oiled every spring. He is barefooted and his angle rubs against the decorative boulder where he sits; his leg swings back and forth. He is twelve and something peculiar just happened; he’s gone to the garden to figure it out. His father smokes, so he says, to clear his mind. The young him is interested in seeing if this is true.
He’s tried to smoke before, breathed a mouthful or two before crushing the half-smoked cigarette out beneath the heel of his shoe, tobacco spilling like the guts of a caterpillar.
This is what happened: his mother lay on the couch. She slept. He touched her arm in order to wake her; he wanted to take a walk to see the old man down the street. The old man had an assortment of hand-cranked presses by which he published obscure books. Schuldig liked to watch the old man work. But he didn’t want his mother waking, if she woke, to an empty house. So he touched her arm. And he saw, plain as the old man down the street, what she dreamt of while she slept.
She fucked her husband’s brother, Schuldig’s uncle, an attorney living in Stuttgart. His mother, he thought, must be dreaming, and the dream transferred to him because Schuldig cannot imagine the vivid detail of the vision if he tried. And the image matches the sleeping expression on his mother’s face.
What was he supposed to do with other people’s dreams?
The cigarette doesn't clear his mind, nor does he cough. He holds the smoke in his lungs and closes his eyes to keep from coughing. He imagines his lungs filling with the scent of burnt hair, like the room does when the dog’s tail shifts too close to the fire. He imagines the smell in his lungs creeping up his throat. And he thinks if he could hold the smoke in, just a little while longer, he might be able to control anything his mind wants to do. Like looking at other people’s dreams. He might be able to control what gets in and what creeps out.
He wakes to the scent of burning hair and the feeling of something rough against his ankle. The room he is sleeping in is warmer than the winter garden behind his parent’s house, but he has the sense that it is cold behind the closed windows.
And then he remembers his name.
His name has been missing for at least four years, so he's happy to find it, for all the good it does him.
He must have made a sound when the name occurred to him.
“What’s wrong?” Crawford asks.
“I just remembered my name. And my mother was fucking my uncle. There was also a man down the street. He used a hand press to generate obscure fliers predicting the end of the world.”
“Did he give a date?”
“I don’t remember,” Schuldig pauses. “Why?”
Schuldig glances at him in the dark. Crawford’s face is more memory than fact in the half-light creeping through the closed windows. Schuldig can count on the detail of Crawford’s face. He shifts his leg to remove the hard press of Crawford’s ankle against his.
“Then what?” Crawford asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Your name, your mother’s affair, then what?”
“I went out to the garden to smoke.”
“Let’s smoke now.”
The request catches Schuldig off guard. He watches Crawford’s shadow rise and locate an unopened pack of Russian cigarettes, a book of matches and an ashtray. All the items came with the suite. Both of them smoke, usually when everyone around them are doing it. Schuldig feels Crawford move back onto the bed and he places an ashtray between them, pushes a cigarette toward Schuldig’s lips. The match flares too brightly, revealing Crawford’s eyes, cat bright, and is gone.
“What’s this about?” Schuldig asks around the cigarette.
“I can’t sleep.”
Schuldig watches the tip of Crawford’s cigarette and uses it to track the location of his hand.
“Well, usually when you can’t sleep you go somewhere and work. What do you want?”
“Right now, I want to smoke.”
“I want to sleep.”
Schuldig’s cigarette tastes like burned hair, as much from the cheap tobacco as his dream. The waiting-silence is too acute, he hears the hiss of the embers.
“You’re scary when you’re quiet,” Schuldig gathers his thoughts again. “You’re scary when you talk too, but it’s worse when you’re quiet.”
“What’s your name?” the darkness makes Crawford talk very quietly, or else he does it for effect.
“I’m not telling you.”
They smoke in silence until the cigarettes are finished, until the silence feels accusatory.
“You’ll use it against me,” Schuldig elaborates as he pressed the butt against the flat bottom of the glass.
“There’s nothing I can do with your name.”
“It’s mine and I’m keeping it.”
Crawford places the ashtray on the nightstand and they both settle again on the bed. Schuldig stares at the ceiling. He opens his mouth to speak, and fails. After a moment he tries again.
“Have you read my record?” he asks.
Schuldig shifts over and hooks their legs together again so that Crawford could continue bruising him with his ankle. “The name isn’t in there?”
“It is. I just wanted to see if you remembered the right name.”
“What name did you read?”
“I’m not telling you.”
“I’d hate to influence you.”
Schuldig rolls his eyes toward the headboard. “The file didn’t say, did it?”
“No. It didn’t.”
Schuldig’s hand brushs Crawford’s bare hip. Crawford shifts closer.
“Have you seen me saying it? The name?”
“Then don’t push.”
“I only asked once.”
Somehow, inevitably, their legs are all tangled up and they lay facing each other. It is as if Crawford learned early on how to force confessions through pleasure, that he uses this never remarked upon way between them as a gauge to chart his progress. And Schuldig falls, like a stone , for the familiar.
Schuldig wakes to the scent of burned hair and the feeling of something rough against his ankle. The room is warmer than the winter garden, but Schuldig has the feeling that the air beyond the door is cold, that the door might lead outside. A draft blows in from the crack below the door. He feels the chill against his cheek, the one that isn't pressed against the hot floor. He considers the two extremes, hot and cold, and amends his assessment. The floor is not hot, his face is hot. His feet are bound, as are his hands behind his back.
And then he remembers his name. It has been missing for at least four years, so it pleased him to find it, for all the good the name does him. A name is not a knife. It can't be used to slice the ties around his wrists and ankles.
He rocks himself into a sitting position, looks around the dark room and realizes his right eye isn't fully cooperating with the attempt to make sense of his surroundings.
There will be time to figure that out later, he hopes. Or to worry about the scent of burned hair. He closes his good eye in order to escape distraction and moves out in search of the familiar.
“Who is there?” he wonders, quietly, aloud.
Unable to move his limbs, or see in the room’s darkness, Schuldig discovers he could hear better than ever. Better than when someone forces him into understanding, better than the loudest voice. He hears brightly, like the way sound carries in cold air. The sounds, the noises, are thoughts.
He realizes that the brightness coincides with his name, but his head feels too thick to sharpen the connection.
A thought in the middle of the noise catches his attention.
Do you think you’ll be able to focus this clearly without being beaten and tied up?
I don’t know, he thinks, but I’d like to be offered the choice. He fidgets against the ties against his wrist.
The door opens, “What did you hear?”
Schuldig can't make out the shadow in the doorway but he recognizes the teacher's voice. Unger’s voice. The middle voice.
“Simple things, mundane things. Except for that new kid. He’s planning to run away in the spring and his plan is wonderfully elaborate. Couldn’t you have just shown me how to fit through the cracks in their heads?” Schuldig hops forward on his knees for emphasis.
“I don’t know how,” Unger says.
Schuldig heard a familiar slide of a knife from a sheath and blindly panics until he realizes Unger’s intent. He does not hear the intent, not as brightly as before, but he feels it like a compulsion echoed in his own hands.
Unger moves forward and cuts Schuldig loose.
“You don’t know how?” Schuldig, belatedly, repeats.
“Not a clue,” Unger offersa hand to help him up but Schuldig scrambles upright without him.
“Don’t be stubborn.”
“Of course not,” Schuldig says as he reached up and gingerly touches his swollen eye. The eye feels smaller than the pain.
Unger peers clinically at Schuldig’s face and offered him a handkerchief, “What else did see?”
“I didn’t see shit.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I panicked and passed out. The flow felt thinner than usual, and I used it to slip into spaces I haven't been able to fit before.”
“Like through advanced student’s shields?”
“Yes. And professors’,” he stares pointedly at Unger. “You’re teaching a subject you haven’t mastered.”
Unger’s jaw twitches, “We know nothing about the subject. Individual talents are as diverse as the emotions that drive them.”
“Have you completed this exercise?”
“Deprivation? I did, with little success. An idea occurred to me while reading accounts of torture sessions, our own files. Deprivation isn’t enough. The subject must reach a point of desperation, absolute confusion. Did you have any idea of where you were when you woke?”
“The subject must be beaten senseless? No, I did not.”
“You’re the first successful trial. We’ll see if it has any lasting effect.”
“For some reason that doesn’t make me happy.”
Unger’s gaze flickers across Schuldig’s swollen face once more before he places the handkerchief back into his jacket pocket and moves back toward the doorway. He gestures for Schuldig to get up and leave first. “Go back to your room and sleep it off. We’ll discuss this further in the morning.”
“I look forward to it,” Schuldig says, and his legs feel like bruised pincushions as he limps down the hallway. He's halfway to his room when he realizes what he did see, and knows there is a connection to his name, but the details are slipping fast.
By the time he's slept off the worse of Unger's experiment, he's forgotten the details completely but the room smells like smoke, and the smoke makes him think that something might happen, and he's learned the hard way that eventually something will happen -- he just wishes he could see it.