icon by mayatawi

The tension in the car is a taut cat's cradle, strung between four points and stretched to breaking point. Nagi is a noiseless sinkhole of anxiety, Crawford jaw-clenchingly, loudly silent. Schuldig is outwardly quiet, but is mentally babbling off-colour jokes and snide comments. Farfarello contemplates whittling pieces off the telepath.

The antechamber has the shabby beige gentility of institutions everywhere. Across the room, Crawford is gripping Schuldig’s arm, muttering something intense and urgent. Schuldig shakes him off, glances over at the immobile figure of Nagi, shrugs, then hisses words back at Crawford with a malicious smile, lovely and venomous as a coral snake.

Crawford frowns; the argument switches to mental dispute – no less ferocious but now unheard, although desperation has a semaphore all to itself.

Farfarello watches them, disturbed. But the door opens to admit Laurent, Reissen’s pet telepath, before he can question. No matter, Schuldig will tell him later.

Reissen fulfils all the worst stereotypes of an Esset bureaucrat – power-hungry, egotistical and venal. Farfarello would be quite happy to meet him alone sometime. Ten minutes, even five, would be enough to create something splendid.

Reissen interrogates Crawford about the mission, pressing him especially hard on their new member’s actions. There is no mistaking the nervousness in the twist of pale hands on Nagi’s lap or the type of interest slowly building in Reissen’s eyes. Until his first question to Schuldig is met with insolent flippancy.

Reissen turns his attention, and Schuldig’s attitude worsens with each answer he gives the man. Farfarello has often thought talking is one of the stupider uses for Schuldig’s mouth.

The debriefing transmutes into a battle of wills between Reissen’s authority and Schuldig’s snide defiance. His team-mates are ordered from the room, leaving Schuldig by himself with Reissen, his bodyguards and Laurent.

Crawford is already holding Farfarello against the wall when Schuldig starts to scream.

“You can’t do anything,” he meets the fury of Farfarello’s gaze with surprisingly bitter eyes, “Reissen will just kill you for interfering.”

Farfarello weighs the pleasure of gutting Crawford and leaving him to writhe slowly into death on the floor, against the gratifying efficiency of putting him down like a dog, single shot between the eyes.

“The consequences of Reissen playing with Nagi would have destroyed us all.”

Farfarello hadn’t realised Schuldig trusted the precognitive that much. Another emotion, with sharp splinters of emerald green, shreds into the blur of rage.

“What guarantee do you have he won’t want to play with your precious little prodigy when he’s finished?”

“He won’t.”

His hands tighten around Crawford’s forearms. The precognitive tries to head off disaster,

“I’m not the one doing this to Schuldig. He knew what would happen. He agreed to it.”

True, Schuldig had. However that didn’t make what is happening to him right. But then 'right' is a fallacy cultivated by those with power, and believed in by those without.

“Let me go.”

Despite releasing Farfarello and stepping slowly out of immediate range, Crawford doesn’t lose his defensive stance or wariness. But then Crawford isn’t a fool, merely an autocrat. Farfarello retreats to the windowsill, and they lean and stand and sit around the room in an isosceles triangle of silence, pierced by the sounds of torture.

He sometimes makes Schuldig scream in pain. But not like this.

The worst damage is to Schuldig’s feet, Laurent tells them. The doctor says he won’t be able to walk for a couple of days without causing permanent damage. But Herr Reissen has said as long as the boy can crawl, he has other uses he can put him to.

It’s another three days before they see Schuldig again.

They have two more weeks here before they transfer to Bonn and their next mission. Schuldig is never a good patient when recuperating. When his silence wears off, he’s morose, vicious and effortlessly unpleasant to be around. Farfarello spends the time getting to know Laurent better.

The other telepath is ten years older and not particularly handsome, but makes up for lack of looks with expensive grooming. He’s surprised by Farfarello’s intelligence, reluctantly fascinated by his feral sensuality.

The night before they leave Farfarello finally persuades Laurent into bed. He enjoys fucking telepaths. Feeling them unravel, lose control, drag themselves and their partners through a psychic backwash of sexual bliss is pleasure enough to tumble angels.

It’s almost a year later when they hear about Reissen’s death. Telepathically induced mindrot; a terrifying descent into painful and nightmarish insanity, cut short by an Esset bullet. By the time the symptoms had surfaced, treatment was impossible and any trace of the origins of the sabotage lost. His bodyguards and personal telepath were executed for failing him.

Crawford relates the news at the breakfast table, in that dry tone he has which wavers between pride and disapproval. Nagi says nothing but thereafter the small guilty flinches whenever he looks at Schuldig begin to disappear. And Farfarello is pleased - that night Schuldig finally lets him use the handcuffs again.

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