The vision dropped him as suddenly as it had snatched him up, leaving the taste of blood and cigarettes in his mouth, a hint of cheap cologne in his nose. He could almost feel the marks nails had left all along his back, that teeth had left over his throat. Laughter, lust, and a dark wild bitterness stole the coherency from his thoughts, fading only as he stumbled back and slammed the edge of the counter into his side. Limbs awkward with growth spurts fumbled with his sense of balance as he struggled to pull himself together.
He could feel hands touching him, caressing him…
Visions of violent death and inevitable danger had never hit him as bad as this forced intimacy. Crawford leaned forward and vomited on his new shoes.
Crawford eyed his new partner with as much disdain as he could manufacture. He tried to ignore the fact he knew how rough those sneering lips were, how sharp the teeth peeking out behind them could be. He did his best to suppress a shivered recollection of how soft that red hair was. He tried to shake every insidious memory of those long fingered hands and what they were capable of doing. Five years gone, and that one vision still had the gall to linger in the back of his mind.
“I’m Schuldig.” The youth shifted his indolent lounge just enough to offer a hand.
Crawford pulled his lips into a disgusted expression, ignoring the offered hand. “Crawford.”
“Well, aren’t you just a bundle of friendliness.” Schuldig spat a burst of laughter before seeming to become bored with the emotion. “Go balance a checkbook or something. You’re deflating my high.”
Crawford felt tendrils of telepathy slithering around the edge of his mind as he turned his back on the redhead and grimaced. Out. The telepath had to stay out. There were too many secrets sneaking about in Crawford’s head, and one in particular had to stay buried lest it decide to come to be.
“Fuck, Crawford. Think you can shut up for a minute? I want to bleed in peace over here.”
Crawford gritted his teeth, a familiar litany of reasons not to kill the telepath parading through his mind. Every day was a challenge. The past few years had been filled with endless temptations towards justified murder. “We need to debrief…”
“Sure. Debrief. How about I save you the effort? ‘Bodyguards meet unfortunately placed bullets. Their precognitive never saw it coming.’ Now, pass me the damn rubbing alcohol. I would hate for infection to set in while you were running your mouth.”
Crawford proved himself the better man by resisting the urge to throw the plastic bottle at his irritated and irritating partner.
“Get out of my head.”
“Why? Got some numbers you don’t want me to see? Been skimming a bit of pay off the top for yourself?”
Crawford thought pointedly about using bandages as a gag.
Schuldig sneered. “Oh, come now. I can think of so many more interesting things to do with these things…”
Crawford stood and left the bathroom, trying desperately to convince himself he wasn’t running…
…trying desperately to ignore the fact his pulse had staggered in reaction to Schuldig’s teasing, the way his gaze had lingered a second too long on laughing blue eyes.
Crawford closed his eyes and counted to ten. He worked figures. He pondered new schemes. He considered dinner plans. And still he was aware of the fact that Schuldig was curled up beside him, a sprawled source of warmth and abhorrent temptation. Crawford tried to convince himself it was a purely utilitarian concern for a valuable teammate’s wellbeing that brought him into Schuldig’s room at night. He tried to deny the source of his barely smothered fury lay in the bruises along Schuldig’s aristocratic cheekbones, the one black eye. The telepath had done it to himself, after all. It was his fault, his folly. Crawford had no reason to be a seething ball of concern and possessive fury.
There was something in the air, old cologne and sweat, which sent a shiver down Crawford’s spine, raising gooseflesh in its wake. Crawford caught himself in the process of reaching out towards the sleeping telepath and froze.
Déjà vu took on a whole new ferocity when it came to the Oracle of Schwartz. He had been here once already, a hormonal and horrified early teen trying to deal with the knowledge that he was going to touch this volatile, valuable redhead. It had been too much for him then, and it was more than he wanted to deal with now.
Schuldig huffed a sigh and shifted a bit before cracking one eye open. “Go wallow in indecision somewhere else. ‘m trying to sleep in here.”
Crawford wanted nothing more than to flee, to pretend he had never been concerned, but he was not one to take orders from his subordinate. He finished his reach forward and pressed the back of his hand against Schuldig’s forehead, checking for fever.
“I have a split skull, not a cold. Get in bed or get out.”
Crawford flinched slightly. An invitation brought it out into the open. Schuldig’s sleepy petulance revealed the contrary affection usually cunningly hidden beneath insults and barbed teasing.
When had his determined derision frayed so much?
“You’re such a damn kid sometimes.” Schuldig growled sitting up and hauling a startled Crawford close with one arm. “Flighty as your damn precognition. You don’t anticipate the golf club that fucked me up, but I bet you saw this coming.”
“I saw no such…” Crawford snapped, trying to jerk out of Schuldig’s grasp.
“You’re a shitty liar.” Schuldig smiled. “You’ve had your balls in a knot about this since I met you.” Schuldig tapped the side of his head with a smile; his irritating way of reminding the world just what was going on inside that thick skull of his.
Crawford’s mind was roiling with remembered emotion and sensation, so it came as a surprise when Schuldig merely rolled over with a grunt, pulling Crawford with him.
“What do you think you are…”
“Shut up and go to sleep. My fucking head hurts, ok?”
Crawford tried to sort out whether he was relieved or disappointed while Schuldig slipped back to sleep without indulging in any of the things Crawford had been anticipating and dreading. The telepath must have picked up a hint of that ancient, traitorous vision at some point, must have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it to his advantage. Schuldig always managed to get Crawford’s brain so twisted around it didn’t know what it had been up to in the first place.
And it had started before he had even met the bastard.