Shine a Brilliant Light
written for LJ andmydog for weiss-kreuzmas for the prompt '[American Gods universe] Being 1/8 god has its advantages.'
The vision came upon Crawford just after he had started his post-workout
shower. The white tiles around him gave way to flashes of images, some of them
new and several of them familiar after the last few years. There was the
pseudo-temple at sea, the redheaded swordsman and the blond teenager, the young
woman in a coma, Schuldig, Farfarello and the young boy… and now two new
young, damaged men to manipulate. For some reason those two last had changed
over the years, but it looked as if Fate had finally settled on the final pawns
in the upcoming game. Crawford pushed with his talent and felt a connection
between the two newcomers that tied them somehow to the future that he was
striving towards, but it – and he – was still too far away to see those ties
clearly just yet.
There were advantages to being 1/8th a god, such as avoiding most of the ‘family’ drama and being able to use his prescient abilities in ways that his… ‘employers’ could never expect to benefit from what they thought of as a mere ‘mortal’, but there were times when he wished that his divine blood was a little thicker. He opened his eyes and found that enough time had passed that the bathroom air was heavy with steam and the water beginning to turn cold, his head aching from such blatant use of his talent, he had to admit that this was one of those times; it would also be nice to have inherited a little healing ability as well from his great-grandfather. Still, it could be worse – his great-grandmother could have been ‘seduced’ by a krampus, of all things, or be Nemain instead of a half-forgotten god who had slept with his great-grandmother during an archaeology dig in France.
Shutting off the water before it turned frigid, he stepped out of the shower and dried off, then went through the motions of preparing for the day. He took his time, aware that he couldn’t leave his quarters for another half an hour or risk running into Meier while on his way to see Schuldig. His vision had warned him of the dangers spinning off from that conversation, of the suspicions raised once it was found out that the telekinetic had let slip that Richter’s team was also up for the Japan assignment. So Crawford took care in getting dressed, read two chapters of his current book and waited until his headache faded to a faint throbbing that could be easily ignored.
His talent revealing no more signs of danger, he set the book aside and left his room, pleased to find the hallways relatively clear of fellow agents. The ones he did pass on his way to Schuldig’s quarters gave him a curt nod in greeting, if at all, and left him in peace.
Once at his teammate’s door, he reached into his pocket for the spare key he refused to turn over and used it to enter, well acquainted with the telepath’s sleep schedule. “If you’re not out of bed in thirty seconds, I’m dousing you with cold water,” he called out loud enough to wake the light sleeper.
There was silence for several seconds, and then furious, muttered curses in both German and English that could be heard through the thin bedroom door. Crawford made sure to keep his mental thoughts focused while he counted down on his threat, and had reached ‘25’ before Schuldig burst out into the tiny ‘living’ room that each quarter was allotted with inhuman speed. His red hair was a tangled mess and his face a ferocious mask, his pale green eyes narrowed with the emotion while he continued to spit out curses at Crawford. At the moment his supernatural heritage was so evident that it amazed Crawford that no one else had figured it out.
“Why shouldn’t I kill you?” he demanded to know in German.
Prepared for how testy the man could be when forced out of bed, all Crawford did was smile and fold his arms over his chest. “Because I’m about to let you have so much fun,” he answered back in English, his demeanor calm in the face of the threat.
That didn’t seem to be what Schuldig had been expecting, which made him come to a sudden stop just short of Crawford, a puzzled frown on his face as he gave up on physical violence in favor of his talent. He pushed against Crawford’s mental shields, still a bit blood-thirsty but seeming more curious than anything. <Fun? Fun how? You’re always telling me not to play.> He’d switched to English, a sign that he was willing to listen – at least for a short while.
“I always tell you not to play until the time is right. Now it is.” Crawford pushed his glasses up his nose and tried not to sigh; the man was so talented, but also so damn difficult to deal with, perhaps because of his krampus blood. It was so much easier to deal with Farfarello.
<Play how?> Definitely both curious and bloodthirsty, Schuldig’s talent pressed against his mind, eager for some new victim to destroy. Realizing that he’d be less temperamental once he got a bit of ‘fun’ out of his system, Crawford let the telepath inside his head just enough to share some important details.
“I want you to take out Richter, but you need to make it look like either an accident or a suicide.” Schuldig was more than intelligent and inventive enough to manage that, and the glimpses of the future had let Crawford know that his teammate wouldn’t let him down.
Smiling in delight at having something enjoyable to do, Schuldig chuckled and took a few steps back, moving with a predatory grace. “Oh, I think I can manage that.” It shouldn’t be too difficult for him to pull off, especially since something in his mythological ancestry meant that when he tampered with another person’s minds, there were no traces left for another telepath to uncover. Seeming unconcerned with the fact that he was wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts, he sat down on the room’s only furniture, an old love seat. “So does this mean we’re getting ready to do something if you’re finally letting me off the leash?” he asked, his tone hopefully even if his posture was more along the line of insolent.
“Do your job right, and we’ll be leaving Rosenkreuz for a while.” Crawford didn’t say anything more than that, instead letting his pleased smile answer the rest of Schuldig’s question. As added incentive, he crossed the small room to lean over his teammate with his right hand resting against the wall, well aware of how it was often in Schuldig’s nature to cause trouble and chaos. “Remove this obstacle for me, and there will be a reward waiting for you in Japan.”
Schuldig’s green eyes dilated at the mention of the lure dangled in front of him. <What type of ‘reward’?> He once again tested Crawford’s mental shields in hopes of pulling the answer from him.
Crawford let him struggle for several seconds before lowering them just enough for a few images to slip past. “Young men drenched in guilt and sin, and all yours to torment.” He allowed Schuldig to linger on the image of the redhead for a moment before snapping his shields back in place. “But not until we get to Japan.”
As he’d expected, the appeal of having such a banquet of victims to torment left the telepath in an almost blissful state; it must be a holdover from the krampus blood, the need to punish the bad. Crawford straightened up and tugged on the cuffs of his white dress shirt as he backed away from the love seat. “I expect you to finish playing with your first present within two days. We need to receive the Japan assignment within a week.” His cold tone made it clear that there would be no room for error or Schuldig’s love of pranks in the near future – not until they were clear of Rosenkreuz.
Schuldig shook his head as if coming out of a daze. “Ja, it’ll it be done.” His grin was wolfish in nature and too pleased for words. “Just don’t complain about the mess.”
The warning was waved aside. “If I was worried about messes, I wouldn’t be partnered with you or Farfarello. Now make an effort to report to either the gym or the target range today, so if asked we can say that my visit here was to berate you for your laziness.” He waved again, this time to brush off the angry scowl Schuldig sent his way. “Keep in mind that soon we’ll be in Japan.”
This time Schuldig made a rude noise while he rose up from the couch. “Don’t worry, one mind fuck coming right up.” He paused before he entered the bedroom to give Crawford a flat look. “You better not be lying about any of this.”
The sting from the accusation bothered Crawford, surprising him enough that he was silent for several heartbeats. “We promised that there wouldn’t be any lies among *us*,” he forced out between gritted teeth.
Caught in the doorway and cast half in shadows, Schuldig stood there, rumpled and appearing part-feral. <Sometimes I think you pretend to be all human too much.> With that cryptic remark uttered he stepped fully into the bedroom and closed the door behind him.
Left with the impression that he’d just been insulted, Crawford decided that his business here was finished and that it was time to go; he had other, equally important things to do and not much time left with which to finish them. He needed to talk to Farfarello and there were certain assets that had to be shifted as surreptitiously as possible before they were to leave for Japan.
As he headed toward the restricted section where Farfarello was housed, he passed by a bay of windows and glanced outside. The early spring sky was clear and the late morning sun shone bright and unencumbered, a bright yellow beacon against a banner of blue. Despite the fact that he rarely looked for omens outside of his own talent, Crawford paused for a moment to stare at the sky and smile while he stood in the warmth of the sun.
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