Crawford is lead to take the subway and ends up encountering Ken right before a botched robbery.
Author's Notes: This started as a fictictactoe community on Livejournal. I figured I'd continue it because Crawford is fun to work with.
Beta Reader/ Opponent: My wonderful hubby, WingedPanther73.
Word Count = 2,293
July 2, 2010 7:25pm
"Damn it, why the hell didn't you order more boxes? You know Valentines wiped us out!" Aya said, slamming down the clipboard.
"I ordered them! They must have screwed up at the shipping company," Ken protested and picked up the clipboard. He rifled through the yellow sheets and found the March orders. He pointed to the order check box and said, "See?"
"Would you both just chill out for once! You both are just plain irritating!" Yohji snapped.
"Ken, why don't you straighten out the stock room, while Aya," Omi said, turning and giving Aya a miffed expression, "calls the shipping company."
Aya, rather than apologize, marched to the phone. Ken shook his head and stomped off to the stock room. Aya and he had been arguing on and off over the last week. It had all stemmed from a bad mission where Aya was almost hit by a car from a target that had gotten away from Ken.
The target fortunately crashed the car and Ken was able to finish the mission, but something about it had shaken Aya up. Since then, Aya had been giving him a hard time. Ken apologized profusely, but Aya rarely forgave a screw up during a mission.
Ken had finally had enough four days earlier and started bickering back. Omi was worn out trying to keep the peace between them, and Yohji was just irked at both Ken and Aya. It was getting to the point where the school girls avoided the afternoons when Ken was working with Aya.
Ken looked around and could tell within five seconds Yohji was the last one to use the stock room; it was in a shambles. He glared and flopped down on a chair in the corner. He could also tell his teammates were all busy out on the floor, which suited him just fine.
He felt his cell phone vibrate. The number was from one of parents of the kids he coached. He answered it and confirmed practice was still on for Saturday. He hit the disconnect button. After staring at his phone for a few moments, he brought up the history to see if yesterday was some bizarre figment of his imagination. No, Brad Crawford's phone number appeared on the small display. Ken's thumb almost hit the delete, but loud squeals from high school girls broke his attention.
He shook his head and then started to wonder what would happened if he hit send. He wondered if he could get away with talking to Crawford with his teammates in the next room. He smiled thinking how that would really send Aya over the edge. Ken's thumb hit send and he held it up to his ear; he really expected his call to be declined.
"Keeping out of trouble today?"
"How did you know it was me?" Ken asked, feeling a little awe, but mostly a creepy sensation.
"Your number showed up on my phone," Crawford answered very dryly. Ken felt a moment of embarrassment that dispelled the creepy sensation. He shrugged it off in favor of nervousness when he saw Yohji saunter past the door followed by Ouka and Sakura.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm flying back from Hokkaido."
"Why did you go all the way out there?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?"
"I would, but you'll keep it a secret."
"You're right," Crawford answered.
"Hey, Ken!" Yohji snapped from the doorway. Ken jerked the phone down and held his hand over the speaker. His pulse was racing. "Get a move on already! I'm not going to be here all night."
"Fine," Ken snapped. "Give me a minute."
Yohji gave him a dismissive wave and disappeared.
Ken held up the phone again. "Sorry about that."
"Not a problem," Crawford said. "So what are you doing tonight?"
"Meet me at the Nippon Budokan at eight o'clock."
"There's an American boxing match tonight."
"I don't like American boxing," Ken said, trying to bow out a little more awkwardly than he wished.
"Eight o'clock," Crawford said and then hung up on him. Ken scowled at his cell phone. He bolted out of the chair and started cleaning up the stock room in a huff, now more galled at Crawford than Aya.
"Thought you knew better than to give any woman your phone number," Reiji Takatori mumbled, not even glancing up from his newspaper sudoku after Crawford clicked the disconnect. "You know, once you give them a little leeway, they think they own you. Damn these puzzles... they make the damn things so hard... anyway... no one serious?"
Crawford kept his face from puckering. He despised this bloated, arrogant Mundane only a little less than Essett. The time wasn't right to express himself yet, so he said, "No, no one I take seriously."
"Games..." Takatori snorted, briefly glancing up from his puzzle. "Well, just make sure the game you're playing doesn't interfere with business. Three days, I want you to deliver the guns to Masafumi. And... watch him this time. Those women... your call wasn't from one of them, was it?"
"No," Crawford answered, suppressing his anger that Takatori would imply he wouldn't do his job in anything less than perfection.
"Good," the older man grunted. "Well, see about keeping those women at bay."
"Good, and... for heaven's sakes why are you taking a woman to a boxing match?"
Now Crawford fantasized about shooting the man sitting across the airplane aisle from him. He couldn't stand how the man was so presumptuous about handing out dating advice.
"I want to push to see what I can get away with."
Reiji chuckled and shook his head. "You'll drive her away by next week."
Crawford's mind drifted back to the premonition last night. Ken was going to cause him nothing but problems in the future. Still, Crawford knew that vision was a while down the road. There was still time to create a new situation before the momentum towards that possible future was sealed. He'd have to spend time gathering information on Weiss.
Ken laid on the sofa and kept flipping the channels. Nothing caught his attention. His irritability increased as Aya stormed through the living room and out the front door. Ken saw the bouquet of flowers and knew it was for his comatose sister. Some of his irritation was quelled by pity.
He looked over to where Omi was headed towards his bedroom with a study snack and his calculus book. Seconds later, Yohji, freshly preened, headed out the front door, no doubt to pick up his new girlfriend. Ken shook his head and took another stab at finding a TV show.
"Darn that guy," Ken mumbled, jumped off the sofa, and grabbed the motorcycle key out of his pocket. "Omi! I'm going for a ride. Don't know when I'll be back."
"Fine!" Omi called back, and then Ken headed out towards the Nippon Budokan.
He pulled his motorcycle beside the red sports car. Crawford was leaning against the driver's side door. The hint of a smirk was on the American's face. Oh how he wanted to punch it right off. Ken knew it was too late to back out now, so he put down the kickstand and turned it off.
Ken refused to make the first move; after all, this was Crawford's idea. Slowly, Crawford stood straighter and jerked his head towards the the stadium. The American got tickets out after they made their way through the crowd. Ken kept his eyes wary for signs of any other Schwarz members.
"So why did you ask me here?"
Crawford had a subtle smile play at his lips. "Entertainment."
"Hun? You could have watched this on TV."
"Boxing isn't entertaining. I could care less about sports because I can see the outcome."
Ken felt slightly flustered at the implication. He didn't know if this was a sadistic way of telling him he was walking into some elaborate trap, or did Crawford want a peaceful, companionable night like last night. Ken wished he had Schuldig's powers right now.
"So, have you seen a fight?"
"Been in plenty of 'em," Ken mumbled and shoved his fists in his pocket. He watched Crawford hand over two tickets, grab the stubs, and push his glasses up while studying the writing. Crawford lead him to the entrance and to their seats through the crowd.
Ken kept quiet as he glanced at Crawford. The man seemed calm, eyes focused on the ring in spite of the noisy, excited spectators. There were just so many questions that tossed around in Ken's mind, but this didn't seem the right time or place to ask them. He glanced around, making sure anyone they knew wasn't lurking around.
The bell rang and Ken's attention was drawn to the fight. It appealed to Ken's competitive nature as he watched the two boxers try to gain advantage over one another as they danced around the ring. He found himself enthralled and even cheering from time to time. He looked over at Crawford and shook his head.
"What is it?" The American asked him, barely audible over the din.
Ken shook his head and refrained from telling Crawford how he pitied his inability to enjoy the struggle being played out before them. Ken had a feeling that would be an offense Crawford wouldn't forgive. Instead Ken shouted back, "The guy in red is going to win."
Crawford a cocky smirk and asked, "Are you sure?"
Ken smiled back and said, "Nope, and don't tell me. I think the guy's got a better reach and is faster."
"You're guess was wrong, but you seem amused at that."
"I had fun," Ken explained as they walked through the crowd towards the glass double doors.
"I'm glad you found an appreciation for something American."
"I like lots of American things," Ken protested. "Some great action movies. Pretty good music too. I could learn to appreciate more American things."
Ken felt his face warm at Crawford's quirked eyebrow. He mentally kicked himself for the slip up. His daydreaming while cleaning the flower shop was showing.
"I think you're going to be joining me for a drink."
"I don't drink, and I need to get back home. Besides, your... whatever you call it... can't make me do anything!" Ken insisted. His fury grew steadily as Crawford's smile grew.
"I didn't predict anything." Crawford pointed to the door.
"Oh no!" Ken shouted at the pouring rain. He ran outside, flipped up the kickstand, and quickly rolled his motorcycle under a parking canopy. He flinched, hearing a motor pull up behind him. It was Crawford's car. Ken felt a sinking feeling as Crawford reached over and unlatched his car door.
Ken got into the car and slammed the door. He crossed his arms and shivered at the cool interior. He huffed at Crawford's smug expression and said, "I really hate your guts."
Crawford chuckled and replied, "I know."
Crawford felt the moment was close. He had brought Ken to a dark, out of the way, Western-styled hotel bar. Ken hadn't been comfortable the whole time as Crawford sipped a scotch. Ken just played with a straw in his cola, chasing ice cubes around.
Finally, Crawford said, "It won't let up until four in the morning, so you may as well relax. I could drive you home."
"Not a chance," Ken snapped.
"Then you'll be spending the night here."
Ken sighed in a way that indicated he was resolved. Crawford contemplated his choices. He could leave Ken here, easily, but that would be too Schuldig for Crawford's taste. Besides, it wouldn't get him closer to his goal of wrapping Ken around his finger. Crawford finished his drink and said, "Wait here."
Crawford went to the front desk and quickly charged a room under an assumed name. He walked back and motioned for Ken to follow him. The young man was perplexed, but followed him to the elevators.
"I wasn't about to sit in a bar all night long. Besides, you still look cold and damp."
"You aren't exactly what I thought you'd be. Thank you for the boxing match. I should help pay..."
"I've already taken care of it. Or rather, a Mr. John Barton has."
Ken's grateful expression turned slightly sour, but at least he didn't presume to lecture Crawford. If he had, Crawford would have been tempted to turn Ken out. Fortunately, Ken had been brought up with good manners.
After they got to the room, Crawford let him in and tossed the card key on the desk. Crawford loosened his tie, sat on the small sofa in the sitting area, and propped up his feet. Meanwhile, Ken fished a towel out of the bathroom and rubbed it over his head.
He sat on the other side of the sofa and looked at Crawford. The American took off his glasses and started polishing them with a handkerchief from his jacket pocket. Ken was nothing but a huge blur now. Details were totally lost on him, but it was these times, when his eyesight was hampered, that his inner eyes seemed to naturally take over.
He quieted his mind and foresaw any advance he made towards Ken would be reciprocated, up to a point, but he'd have to move slowly, leave Ken craving more.
He put on his glasses, which brought Ken into focus. He slid closer to Ken and said, "Being Weiss, you have to keep people at a distance."
"That's true. I had to pass up the last relationship I was in."
"That's because people who don't live like we do, would never understand."
"I'm afraid that I'll meet someone, and they'll be disgusted by the things I've done," Ken said, with an open, honest expression, so full of pain.
Crawford nodded and admitted, "People keep me at a distance when they know what I can do."
Ken shook his head and blurted out, "It's not your abilities that put me off. It's what you do with them... that's..."
Ken nodded. Crawford slid closer and put his arm on the back of the sofa.
"Why do you work for criminals? I don't understand."
"I have my motives."
"What are they?"
"Get to know me," Crawford coaxed. Ken's eyes were wide, he looked totally stunned. Crawford raised his hand and slightly brushed Ken's damp hair back. Crawford leaned even closer and almost whispered, "After all, I can understand the world your trapped in."
Ken shivered under his fingertips. Crawford felt his clairvoyance telling him it was time, prompting him to kiss Ken. He did so only to be surprised how quickly and how voraciously Ken returned it. Ken knocked Crawford's glasses askew in his enthusiasm.
Crawford slightly pushed Ken back, took his tie off, and unbuttoned his shirt collar. "This could be dangerous for you?"
Ken nodded with a solemn look, so Crawford removed his glasses and laid them on an end table. Ken leaned back on the sofa slightly, taking Crawford with him. Not too far in, Crawford tugged at Ken's shirt and almost had it removed when an unfamiliar cell phone tone rang out.
Ken started, fished the cell phone out of his pocket, and looked at the number. Crawford didn't miss Ken's face paling; he looked flustered as he hit the receive button. "I know I should have called... No, I'm fine... I'm at a restaurant until it lets up... Please, don't wake him up to get me. That's too much trouble... A cab... I'll see, but I'd hate leaving my bike... Don't worry about me... I'll be home as soon as the rain gets light enough... Okay, but really, don't wait up... Goodnight."
Ken clicked the cell phone off, glared at Crawford, and tugged his damp shirt back down. Crawford gave him a sly smile and said, "You're on a short leash."
"Thanks to you, I had to lie to my friend. I despise liars."
"And you told them who you were having dinner with last night? Or didn't you lie by omission then?" Ken was obviously perturbed now. "Listen, you've already made the excuse to stay here. You may as well enjoy yourself."
"We shouldn't do this at all."
"Like I said, I have no power to keep you here. You're free to leave. Or I could leave."
Ken's brow furrowed, but he finally shook his head. "Just tonight. Promise this is the last."
"I won't make that promise, because it'll just be broken. I do promise to go only as far as you're willing to go."
Ken took a slow, deep breath and got that determined look in his eyes. He removed his teeshirt and tossed it on the ground. Crawford was careful to not let a smug expression escape as he ran his fingertips down Ken's bare shoulder.
To be continued.