INTERMISSION: Sleeping with(in walking distance of) the Enemy
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Bastian Schaus checked one last time that the restaurant had existed before last year, and walked inside.

Good god, the last few months. The doctors said he was lucky not to have sustained a concussion, which pushed the definition of luck quite far. Between the hospital food, the hospitable bed, and whatever else might have been done to him by, say, Acolyte Dunst, Bastian's muscles had shrank far faster than comfortable. No worries. He could use some of the Federal Republic's pity money to get back into shape.

Accordingly, Bastian's luck dictated that the restaurant would be crowded, guaranteeing he'd sit within pitying distance of whatever degenerate looked his way. Why bother feeling sorry for himself, when there were plenty of people to do that for him?

There were three seats he could immediately see, each of which required him to look at someone. One was at a table occupied by an expectant mother and her child; another would put him in front of a reedy teenage boy; and one put him next to an artist-looking… person. Knowing teenagers were heartless monsters incapable of expressing complex emotions (such as pity), he chose the second one.

Bastian walked up and grimaced his mouth open. "Is this seat vacant?"

"You're good, go ahead." The boy didn't look up, and Bastian almost thanked him for that. He seemed—

—that was the fucking Mason.

The notorious "Fats Burg" choked up the salt slush that had been his mineral water a second ago, eyes cycling between disgust, recognition, fear, and bewilderment. Or Bastian had just forgotten how to read emotion! That was always possible, wasn't it?

Bastian was still scowling silently at the Mason when he caught his breath enough to speak. "You! The fascist! Na…" Fats looked around the room, presumably at the people who had to be watching this farce unfold, before looking back and whispering. "…the fuck are you doing here, Salt Man?"

"I could ask you the same, Mason."

"I…" the Mason, once more, looked around the room. "…look man, it's, it's fucking impossible to get meat in OL, okay? Maybe I want pork! Gimme a fucking break, okay?"

"You know," Bastian tried not to crush the edge of the table in his fist. "It is quite unsporting to attack a man during his meal."

"Yeah, man, you're also twice my fucking height. I mean shit, how the fuck do I fight someone like you?"

"I don't know, Mason, maybe…" Bastian growled. "Actually, I don't think I'm going to answer that. You have no intention of fighting fair, and you never have. It's all cowardice and subterfuge with you communists, and if—"

Bastian caught the waitress in the corner of his eye, and cleared his throat. "I would like some peppermint tea." She nodded, and took it as her excuse to hurry away. Bastian turned back to look at Fats, who now sported a look of… disappointment? "You could have ordered something too, you realize."

Fats blinked. "Do you always order the same thing?"

"Is that a crime?"

Fats's face crinkled in disgust. "Dude, Berlin's the fucking food capital of Germany. Your seriously telling me you're going to order the same lunch forever?" He kept that look of disgust for all of a few seconds… and then it dissolved into mirth, and Bastian knew that he had always hated the man named "Fats Burg".

"You think" — his voice strained between righteous fury and careful whispering — "that you, of all people, have the right to disrespect me? Stupid boy-thing." Bastian imaged himself slamming his hands on the table. "People like me are the backbone of German society. We keep our history, we manage our institutions, we keep Germany clean, shining, a model for the world."

And still, Fats did not waver. "Last I remember," and he smiled, perhaps with as much derision as he'd ever muster. "Germany fucking hates you."

"You stupid insect. Tell that to the English, tell that to the Dutch, see if they agree with you the slightest bit. People flock to our institutions like cattle to see what we've done, to see our art and eat our food and live like they believe we live, and…"

…and Bastian stopped, because the mirth in Fats was now subsumed in something altogether different. Something more complicated, less identifiable; something so complex that he never imagined it might cross Burg's face. The weight of the restaurant seemed to lighten, and yet, now fell another pressure upon Bastian's heart. He found himself thinking back to when he was in school, and the few times he'd performed poorly. That feeling of a simple question with abstract consequences.

Fats picked up what was left of his drink, turning it gently in his hands. "… being a, um, museum curator, you mean."

Bastian was, inexplicably, reminded of minor roles he'd performed in amateur theatrical productions. Son of a failed businessman. The devil. An amusement park operator.

The peppermint tea arrived. Does Bastian need some time to decide, or would he prefer the usual? He wasn't sure, and the waitress promised she'd come back later. The tea, Bastian supposed, was quite good.

Finally, Fats found his words. "You've been to the… the camps."

A sip of tea. "… everyone's been to the camps, Mr. Burg."

Bastian knew what the next words out of his mouth would be. 'Then why?' Bastian had thrown his lot in with the Fascists, intimately aware of what the original Fascists had done to Europe. It was a plainly obvious question, even if he didn't yet have an answer.

It was so plainly obvious, in fact, that Bastian was dumbfounded when Fats deviated from the script: "You have… you had a nice museum, you know. When I had the money, it was nice to visit."

Bastian shook his head. "Please just make your point."

"Maybe I… fuck, maybe I don't have a point." His fingers tapped against his glass. "I thought you were a fascist meathead, still do actually, and…" Fats briefly looked into Bastian's eyes, and the unpleasant memory of a past lover surged through his mind. But Fats soon broke eye contact, and went back to playing with his drink. "Sometimes I forget you could have chosen to be something else."

And you did choose this, didn't you?

Bastian swallowed, and sat straighter in his seat. "I am… nothing like them. If you think I want to relive those monstrosities, you don't know anything about me." He ignored the hollow pit in his stomach. "The only thing I want, Mr. Burg, is to keep Germany beautiful."

Fats let go of his glass, looking back up at Bastian. "Amherst tried to have me gang-raped, Mr. Schaus." His words were measured, uncharacteristically deliberate. "Your friends have been killing and torturing my comrades, my fucking family, and all you can think to talk about is beauty?" His lips curled into a hateful smile. "You're a fucking joke, Mr. Schaus."

Bastian opened his mouth and found himself parched, and so he took another sip of tea. "Dunst is a special sort of monster. You're not the only one she's tried to poison, Mr. Burg."

"A 'special sort of monster' my fucking ass, Salz, you work for the same boss!" Fats laughed. "Gods, you're a fucking coward. You're all about," he cleared his throat, and spoke in a scathing imitation of Bastian: "'Beauty and art and oh, so much fucking culture,' but when it comes time to be violent about it that shit's not your problem. What the fuck happened to you, man?"

"Mr. Burg—"

"I spent weeks in and out of the hospital because of you, and now you want to play art snob?" He spat in Bastian's face. "You don't fucking believe in art, you don't even fucking believe in yourself. Genuinely, what the fuck are getting out of this? Does it pay well? Are you happy? Get to pretend you're a little more of a man when you put on your fucking trenchcoat and—"

"What the fuck do you know about me, Burg?!" Bastian slammed his cup onto its coaster. "You think you're funny? Poignant? Halfway original? What does a crossdressing boy-thing like you know about being a man?!"

All eyes were on Bastian, but oh, he couldn't stop the words coming out of him. "I don't have to believe anything for the likes of you! Not about you, or your friends, or Dunst, not anyone in the Republic! If you all got hit by a bus, it wouldn't change one little thing! I'm accountable to me, my boss, and the good of the German public, and that! Is! Final!"

The restaurant was deadly quiet as Bastian settled back into his seat, judgemental glares everywhere he looked… or at least, everywhere but Fats. Not him.

Not him, because for the first time, Fats Burg seemed to look right through Acolyte Salz, through Bastian Schaus, at the quivering faggot underneath.

"…you don't have to do this, Bastian." Fats leaned forward, and if Bastian had thought his assault cruel, it was nothing compared to the pity in his eyes. "You don't have to kill for them. You don't have to die for them."

All of the nerves in his chest bundled into a knot. "You don't know anything about me, Fats Burg."

"I know you could have killed me." All of his fire, once a careless blaze, had retreated within, leaving Fats an uncomfortable totem of fake(?) sympathy. "I know you fucking didn't. You could have killed me and fuck me, you didn't, Bastian, because you're not the monster you pretend to be.

"So please." His hand reached for Bastian's. "Don't do this to yourself."

Bastian thought of Initiate Högg, and what Dunst had done to him; he thought of Fels in one of his moods; of the terror in Zink's eyes as he gushed about his aunt; the children Mr. Rass expected Salz to sire for the cause; what he looked like in a slick uniform and, in turn, the way clothes had hung off of his old friends.

Something hot and wet fell down his face. "…I'm sorry, Fats." He smiled. "It's too late for me."

Fats remained silent, for a while, and in his eyes was everything Bastian had never expected to see. Righteous anger. Fear. A terrible sorrow. That cruel, cruel pity.

But then it was gone, and Fats Burg stood up from the table, leaving his bills under the glass. "… fine. We're enemies."

Bastian said nothing, and continued to smile.

"See you in Outer Lichtenberg, Salz." Fats Burg crossed his arms. "I don't expect you to spare me, next time. Don't expect that from me."

And so Fats turned from Bastian, and walked away.

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