Title: On the Level
Rating: PG (part 1) R (part 2)
Word count: 1450
Summary: a drabble in two parts written fornaiyad, the problem being that Schuldig is never oblivious and Crawford doesn’t do angst.
“I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about,” Schuldig says, and stares at Crawford with such a sense of genuine confusion that Crawford almost laughs.
Crawford’s so busy roping in his humor that he fails to notice Schuldig leaving until he’s left alone with the echo of the door slamming. One person shouldn’t be required to see everything, but Crawford does know what comes next. He reaches for the phone before it rings. “Where are you going?”
“Get back in here.”
“It’s easier to talk to you if I don’t have to look at you. I have a thing for voices.”
Crawford catches himself from saying, I know. He changes his tone. “When I asked if you had any plan to keep slithering off to wherever you’re going in the middle of the night, it was an indirect order to stop.”
“I got that much,” Schuldig says and Crawford hears him opening and closing the refrigerator. He has a brief image of Schuldig’s hands, memory, not premonition. He rests the phone on his shoulder and begins to arrange the papers on his desk.
“Do you have any plans to stop?”
“And I answered you. Yes, if you feel that it complicates things. Yes. If . . .” Schuldig pauses and Crawford can hear his breath. . . “If you’re just doing it to get off on your control thing, then the answer’s no. You’ve always let me do what I want; I don’t know why you’ve picked now to get all concerned.”
Crawford doesn’t answer him, but rushes forward to the question that had Schuldig storming from the room. “Who are you seeing?” Because Crawford can’t see it, and that omission has been steadily eating away at his mind for three weeks until it’s all he thinks about, a constant speculation. So, yes, Schuldig’s nocturnal wanderings are bad for business.
Schuldig is silent, but Crawford hears the bang of a coffee mug against the counter. He hears it at two levels: the sound through the phone and the quieter sound through the closed door. This is how they operate, and Crawford doesn’t care what Schuldig does, as long as he knows everything.
“Who are you seeing?” Crawford repeats for the third time in a tone of voice that promises the fourth will be accompanied by the release of a safety. He rises and crosses the room, but his hand is barely on the door handle when Schuldig speaks.
“No one. I walk, or go have a drink or go see what people are up to. The middle of the night’s good for that sort of stuff.”
Crawford doesn’t realize how much he was holding his breath until he rests his forehead against the door and breathes. He wants to say, Good, but he does not. His thumb presses against the door latch, but not enough to open it. “Stick close for a while,” he says instead, and then adds, “something might happen.”
“Like what?” Schuldig asks, and Crawford hears him again on two levels: the voice in his ear and the voice, close, on the other side of the door, too close. He imagines, not for the first time, what it would feel like to have both at once, Schuldig’s voice in his ear and the rush of his breath against his neck. It’s enough to make Crawford doubt his order; maybe it would be best for Schuldig stay away in the middle of the night. Even the most tempting inevitability can be changed.
“Like what?” Schuldig repeats, nothing between them but the door.
Crawford’s forehead is still pressed to the wood. He closes his eyes. “Something horrible."