Schuldig employed contradictions like knives, carving his way through common sense and any attempt to untangle the mess of inclinations and irritations that made up his personality
The child was small, spider-spindly and serpent-quick, evading all attempts at capture, laughing at each and every failure. Taunting and mocking up until a young man with hard eyes approached, feet tapping out a rhythmic assurance of victory against cracked concrete. The child spat like a territorial tom cat, locked eyes with his silent antagonist, and then went still in an unconscious mimicry of every nuance of the young man’s posture and carriage.
The attending men were too well trained to slide their hands through regional wards against the evil eye, but they did pause a long minute before finally closing in on and capturing their statue still prey. Hands clenched down on the limbs of the fey, feral creature that had been plaguing the peace of the city and slipped a needle through pale skin.
Only when blue eyes had clouded with drugs did the young man move to remove his glasses and carefully wipe a bit of sweat off his forehead.
‘And the rest is silence.’
There was never silence around Schuldig. Shakespeare was his own private joke, an inconsistent bit of literature amidst the lewd that had become his calling card.
Schuldig employed contradictions like knives, carving his way through common sense and any attempt to untangle the mess of inclinations and irritations that made up his personality. His best defense was his own mental trauma, the stew pot of stray bits of personality, poetry, and paranoia that was an untrained telepath, and he encouraged it in every way he could. It kept the monsters in and the demons in their white coats with pocket protectors and pens, out. His smile was slippery, his eyes contained nothing but the most sincere disdain, and their paperwork was always covered in the same discontented scrawling.
And then they would bring him in, their last resort when it came to Schuldig’s best fits of frustration and fancy.
Schuldig was the fairy, determined to live young forever, and that bastard with the cold brown eyes was his pirate nemesis determined to foil his every attempt.
“Give us a moment.”
There was nothing there, no emotion to twist or motivation to exploit. Schuldig bared his teeth in a sinner’s comfortable smile as the door shut behind his examiners and left him with something far more interesting and far worse.
It always made his head hurt, dealing with Bradley Crawford. Tendrils of telepathy slid and clawed through every inch of the other man’s psyche and always returned devoid of ammunition. It was being deaf and blind, forced to fall back on senses and sensations that were rusty with neglect.
It was a waiting game, blue eyes trying to pretend they weren’t staring through pale brown, weren’t waiting for the ball to drop, for a stumble to allow him the upper hand.
Brown eyes were cattle placid in a way that made Schuldig want to scream. There was nothing complacent about that vicious, deadly man. It was a ploy, a ruse that made his look like an amateurs attempt at manipulation. It was infuriating.
His telepathy would lash with the subtlety of an enraged boar when his temper finally broke. “I hate you.” Cooperative, but never complacent, Schuldig would let himself be poked, prodded and analyzed, if only to get Bradley Crawford out of his sight.
A duckling haven imprinted on a predator, Schuldig couldn’t avoid Bradley Crawford. From the day the insufferable youth brought him to a disgustingly comfortable room with nice thick carpet and a stupid, plush bed, Schuldig hadn’t been able to avoid him. Waiting just behind the gaggle of doctors, dictators, and diagnostics equipment, shadowing his quests for snacks at odd hours; Bradley Crawford was a speck of disinterest in the middle of a confusion of expectations.
He hadn’t cared when he led a team to a telepathic street runt. His knack and his duty had driven him. He had been a pillar of impassive humming in the background of Schuldig’s brain since before Schuldig had a name for him. Crawford was always there. Dangerous and silent. Watching, waiting, almost wanting in his incomprehensible way; a quiet inhalation just before a massive expulsion of breath…
The first time the anomaly that was Crawford fell off of Schuldig’s mental radar, it sent Schuldig into a fit of anxious fury that managed to rip the sanity clear out of two guards unlucky enough to be passing by his room. The needles had come out, had gone into thin arms, but Schuldig had been too busy screaming for Crawford to come back to notice when his telepathy dwindled to the unconscious ranting of the hysteric.
The second time Crawford left Schuldig was ready, and sent a nightmare of hatred at Crawford’s heels. Crawford wiped the crease from his forehead, pinched at his nose, and replaced his glasses.
The doctors made little notes in their books.
‘I hate you, what’d you bring me?’
The words slithered through Crawford’s brain, leaving a glistening snail’s trail of disgust. Crawford hated having anything interfere with his mind.
‘I know. The portly, pretentious doctor thought about it when I dredged for phobias yesterday.’
Crawford got out of the car, brushed imaginary wrinkles and specks of everyday life off his suit, and entered the rather plain building that had been Schuldig’s home and his own base of operations for the better part of a decade.
“If you insist on speaking, come speak with me. Now you will get out of my head.”
‘I would, but they have me all locked and tucked in for the afternoon. Something about being worried I would do terrible things to you with the tricks they taught me.’
In the midst of his displeasure, Crawford smiled slightly. They had trained his telepath well. The future that had been no more than an elusive waif hanging about in the back of his mind would come to be.
‘Slow down there.’ A mental caress full of nails and venom ran down all the wrong nerves. ‘I didn’t agree to play.’
“Does that matter?”
‘Did it ever?’