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: My wonderful hubby, WingedPanther73. Thanks for you indulgence.
Word Count = 2,393
August 7, 2010 8:15pm
Crawford walked into his personal study at Schwarz's high-rise apartment and was irritated to see Schuldig's feet up on his desk; he wasn't surprised, though. Crawford shrugged off his jacket and glared.
“So where did you disappear too?”
“Don't make me lie; I'm not in the mood,” Brad snapped, snatching the scotch glass from Schuldig's hand and then holding his index finger towards the door. “Out!”
“Testy... and here I thought you were getting laid... finally,” Schuldig taunted with a toothy smile.
“What gave you that impression?” Crawford asked, setting aside the drink and pushing his glasses up on his nose. His mind was too distracted by this morning encounter with Ken to effectively deal with Schuldig's usual nonsense, so his mind tacked around for some errand he could send the obnoxious German on.
“Drug store receipts are pretty revealing when you don't bother to shred them.”
“If I catch you digging through my trashcan again...”
“I'm only doing it because you've been so secretive lately. Sneaking around. Come on, who's the lucky person, Brad?”
“No one special at all. Now, leave.”
“I'm here to make sure you're still in the game to win.”
“Don't doubt me! My goals are the same. Mundanes will rue the day they ever became aware of us.”
“Oh... a bit of a bitter taste in that tone. So some Mundane pissed on you?”
“Out! And don't talk about Mundanes! Each one of them are nothing more than an irritant.”
“Run over to Takatori and tell him I'll have those contracts finished and signed by noon tomorrow.”
“Sure thing,” Schuldig said, flashing a cunning smile, “Bradly...”
After the redhead left, Crawford took his rightful place behind his desk and turned on his computer. He quickly brought up a blank document. He managed half the contract before his run in with Ken started distracting him again.
He stopped when he saw he had typed the same sentence three times. He leaned back in his cordovan leather chair. He needed to sort through the morning and decide how to repair what he had done.
Crawford finished his shower and got dressed again. He left the small bathroom and looked over to Ken, who was still lounging in the bed, buried under several covers. Crawford gave him a disproving scowl even though Ken was in a daze and staring at the ceiling.
“Are you going to lay there all day?”
“Maybe,” Ken said, giving him that charming, easy grin. “I don't have anything to do today.”
“What is it that keeps you busy most days?”
Ken propped up on his elbows and shook his head. “I thought we had an agreement. Nothing personal.”
“That's personal? You know what I do for a living. It doesn't seem fair.”
“Well, I knew that before all this started. It's not like I dragged it out of you.”
Crawford felt it was time, after three whirlwind weeks, to give some gentle nudges, to see how much trust he had built up. “Still, I'd like to know. You don't have to be specific.”
He watched Ken grab his clothes and pull them on quickly. “I don't do anything you'd find interesting. Besides,” Now Ken had an uncongenial expression. “...you were the one who came up with the terms... how did you say... 'in which to conduct ourselves in order to make this arrangement agreeable to my sensibilities' ...I should have known you'd push. You want me to work inside of some rules, but you want to break them.”
“Fine. You're right,” Crawford admitted, suppressing his smirk.
Crawford had deduced Kritiker had been stupid enough to give cover, the same cover, to all four Weiss assassins, and, what ever it was, it was something Ken didn't really care for. Ken was afraid Crawford could track them if he could narrow the field, which was true.
Crawford hadn't taken to following Ken yet, because he wanted the satisfaction of Ken telling, and then knowing where the control lay in this arrangement. Crawford needed to let Ken hand over his control, or rather, give up the illusion he had any in the first place.
Crawford shrugged and said, “Besides, you'd just lie.”
Ken's face turned stormy. One of the surest ways Crawford had of disarming Ken was to question Ken's integrity. He hadn't dug around deep enough to find out why dishonesty was such a hard thing for Ken to deal with, but he knew it was going to be an effective weapon later.
Ken attempted to march towards the door, but Crawford caught him around the waist and halted him. “Let me go.”
“Wait... don't go... I meant that you would weigh your teammates' safety above everything else. That all.”
Ken relaxed in his arms a little. Crawford drew him closer and nuzzled Ken's neck. He felt Ken shiver.
Crawford whispered in his ear, “Meet me Saturday morning for breakfast.”
Crawford was more than a little surprised to feel Ken's body go from pliant to rigid in half a second. He moved his face back to see Ken was now paled and wide-eyed.
“No, I'm doing something then. I can't meet you,” he mumbled, now shaking.
“Some mission with Weiss I figured by the way you suddenly tensed up?” Crawford asked, expecting Ken to give some sign away, like break eye contact or bluster. Instead, to Crawford's bafflement, Ken's eyes turned lethal.
“Leave me alone,” Ken said, low and full of venom. “No more of this. I'm not meeting you again.”
Ken wrenched himself away and bolted from the room as if it were on fire. Crawford started pacing, annoyed Ken was as presumptuous to think he could call off their arrangement at will. Somehow, Crawford had stepped on something really touchy in Ken's life. But, why didn't he have a vision to direct him away from suggesting Saturday?
Crawford continued to stare at the half done contract, wondering why his visions had failed him this morning. That is, unless, he'd already had one. He thought back to his first dinner with Ken. Yes, he'd had a vision about a child with a broken leg.
The child was too old to be Ken's, so what was the connection? The child wore a grungy soccer uniform of some sort: green and orange. His recall of his visions was always perfect. This was no exception. The child's name was Akira Yamaguci.
Crawford smiled to himself; it would seem he'd have to get some towels for his car. His leather interior wasn't going to be stained for any reason.
Crawford was able to finish the contract for Takatori in record time, now that he knew things where going to go his way. After, he printed the document and sealed it in an manila envelop. Now that that was finished, he clicked on his Internet browser and started threading through the hundreds of children's soccer leagues in Tokyo, not an easy task.
Ken was in such a foul mood that even Aya stayed clear of him. He was glad of that, but it only gave him more time to fret over his folly over the last three weeks. To function with Crawford, Ken had compartmentalized each thing in his life: florist, Weiss assassin, paramour, and soccer coach. It was how he had handled things before Crawford came along; he just added another space.
Now, just like he feared, lines could get blurry. Crawford's suggestion of a Saturday morning rendezvous would have been welcome a month before, but now his kids were practicing, gearing up for soccer season. Crawford's suggestion had struck a dread in his heart.
The game he was playing with Crawford was stupid at best, deadly at worst. Crawford was no idiot; Ken kept picturing a scenario where Crawford would show up while he was coaching. His kids didn't do anything for Ken to possibly introduce that kind of hazard into their lives. And it struck him, neither did Omi, Yohji, or Aya. For that matter, he could extend to ask if he had a right to coach children with the label assassin hanging around his neck.
His impulse to flee Crawford hit him in an instant, and he acted on it. He had to keep telling himself he had to do the right thing. Still, Crawford was lingering in his mind. He figured it was an apt punishment for acting so hedonistic and careless.
Anyway, he found himself checking his phone more often than he should, and feeling disappointment each time Crawford's number didn't appear. Then, he'd get angry at himself all over again for opening himself up in the first place.
Saturday morning came and Ken was able to compartmentalize again. Soccer and his kids were all he had to worry about this morning, and he was determined to enjoy himself. No rain, just the start of a beautiful April morning.
Crawford, with much juggling, was able to slip away and find where Ken would be. He had called several parks and found one reserved under the name 'Hidaka.' It turned out, as Crawford began to suspect, Ken was a soccer coach for a group of children.
That was troublesome on two counts. It just proved to Crawford that Ken wasn't a logical, disciplined thinker. Also, Mundane children seemed to pick up on Crawford's uniqueness and tended to avoid him. No matter, Crawford wanted to stay clear of children anyway, but his vision had told him to go with this one encounter.
That's why he was in the parking lot next to a soccer field, looking and spotting Ken easily enough among the tangle of children. Crawford noted two women, probably mothers, sitting on the bleachers. No cars in the lot, just Ken's motorcycle. He took a deep breath and left his car; the timing was just right.
It happened so quick, as the kids were running their drills up and down the soccer field. Akira picked up his foot a little too high, stepped on the ball, and slid into a bad skid on the grass. Ken ran over before the kid could shout. All the others came to a halt and gathered around where Ken sank to his knees.
Ken felt his heart sink, seeing the leg was certainly broken. Akira began to wail, which made Ken fell horrible. “Sedji, go get your mother to call Mrs. Yamaguci. Tell her to meet me at the emergency room.”
Ken caught someone tall walking up. He looked up and was shocked to see it was Crawford. His eyes narrowed as the American looked down at Akira.
“I'll drive him. It'll be quicker,” was all Crawford said, jerking his head towards the parking lot.
Ken's first instinct was to tell Crawford to go jump in a lake, but Akira's wailing and the other children's worried expressions took over. He had no real choice except to trust Crawford. The incident in the alleyway spurred Ken to gingerly pick up Akira and carry him over to Crawford's car. He didn't miss the odd looks Crawford was getting from his kids.
“Be careful with him,” Ken warned, after setting the child inside.
“I'll meet you soon.”
The child's tears bothered Crawford. It made him speed so he could be rid of the child as soon as possible, but a memory struck him.
He was the same age as the kid when he had a premonition to not climb an apple tree. He ignored it and climbed anyway, to only end up with a broken leg and the lesson to pay attention to his visions.
“I know it's rather painful, so try to think on something else,” Crawford said.
“Division,” Crawford said. “One-hundred and forty-four divided by twelve?”
“Too... easy... twelve.”
“Two hundred and fifty-six devised by five?”
The child paused for a second, grimaced, but answered, “Fifty-one with one left over.”
It wasn't long before Ken came in with the child's mother. The woman went immediately to see her child. Crawford waited in the lobby, and Ken eventually walked out, looking absolutely chagrined with a hint of aggravation.
“I know how you found out, and I am grateful, but I don't want you around them.”
Crawford smiled and asked, “So what about the other children?”
“I sent them home with two of the mothers and reschedule practice for tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, it would seem you have the rest of your morning free.”
Ken looked dumbfounded for a minute. Then he shook his head. “I want to make sure Akira...”
Crawford shook his head and stood aside as the door to the inner emergency room swung open. The child looked happy now on crutches with his mother trailing behind.
“I'm so sorry...” Ken started off, but the woman patted Ken's shoulder and smiled.
“It's okay. I'm going to take him home. It wasn't your fault. These things happen.”
“Are you sure?” Ken asked.
“Yes, go home and try to relax. Find something to take your mind off of this,” Mrs. Yamaguci insisted before ruffling her son's hair.
“Bye, Mr. Ken. Sorry I wasn't paying attention.”
Ken smiled and shook his head. “Well, get better soon. I need my star goalie.”
“Okay, bye,” the child said. They were about to leave, but the child turned back around and said, “Thank you, Mr. Crawford.”
“No problem,” Crawford answered and crossed his arms. The mother glanced at the man and nodded her thanks as well.
After they left Crawford turned to Ken and said, “You need to follow the lady's advice and find some way to take your mind off this morning.”
“But you...” Ken flung his hands in the air. “I give up! You're so annoying!”
“I know. Come on. My car's around the corner. We'll get something to eat and then find a nice quiet room.”
“I swear, somehow you planned this to get your way,” Ken accused, but followed Crawford out of the lobby.
“No, just decided to be at the right place.”
To be continued.