Crawford is lead to take the subway and ends up encountering Ken right before a botched robbery.
Author's Notes: Well... this one is a really cool, fun ride. Slight twist in timeline, but nothing disruptive. I wanted to add Hirofumi just as another screwball Crawford resents.
Beta Reader: My wonderful hubby, WingedPanther73. Thanks for you indulgence. I will say, he's been a wonderful help with Crawford.
Word Count = 2,211
August 20, 2010 2:57pm
If Crawford really gave any serious thought to Hirofumi Takatori, he supposed he'd be repulsed by the Mundane, but he viewed him as a pebble in his shoe. Something to be worked around. He found himself at Hirofumi's mountain cabin, unexpectedly. Takatori wanted Crawford's opinion on how well Hirofumi was able to provided recreation for important political connections.
To Crawford, it reinforced his opinions of Mundanes, they were no more than animals. Takatori's second son had kidnapped a young girl so that one old, paunchy judge could chase her around the woods and kill her. This was the kind of decadences and chaos he wanted to create, still his conscious twinged a little seeing the girl hunkered and cringing besides the side of the wooded area.
It brought memories of Nagi to his mind. The boy was starved, dirty, and terrified when he knocked on Crawford's door. The memories only stoked his enmity towards Mundanes all the more. People like Hirofumi, in Crawford's estimation, were no better than an animal and the judge as well. Crawford tried to relegate the girl as prey, but something about her kept him from thinking of her like that.
Crawford leaned against the deck railing and watched Hirofumi shoot in the air. The sobbing girl scattered to the woods. The paunchy judge waddled after the girl, and Hirofumi joined Crawford on the deck.
“So why did my father send you anyway? I've been careful.”
“But you kidnapped the son of a police officer last week. You need to be more careful who you choose. Your father realizes the value of this operation. It provides blackmail opportunities and networking. He just ask...” A vision took over his eye site. Crawford was going to try to rescue the girl for some reason. He pushed his glasses higher on his nose. “...that you be more discriminating in your efforts acquiring people. Now, I think I'll take a walk and examine the terrain.”
“Be careful. You could get shot,” Hirofumi said with a gloat the man meant to intimidate Crawford.
The American kept his face impassive and promised to make Hirofumi the prey in one of his depraved hunts. Crawford silenced his mind, shut his eyes, and walked through the woods. He gave himself over to his clairvoyance and made his way around trees. He was drawn towards his left; his pace quickened. He could feel a distant, weak tingle. Minor telepathy.
Crawford jolted back to real time and plunged towards the distress call. He found the young, teenage girl cowering at the base of a tree, weeping. He realized, with slight surprise, this girl was a Talent, albeit, a weak one. She was one of his kind.
“Get up,” Crawford ordered the girl. She stood, trembling. Crawford felt a wave of sympathy because the girl was fourteen, at most, and still had pigtails and scraped knees.
Crawford could feel the mental ripple of fear coming from her. She was undisciplined, but that could change. He grabbed her hand and gave himself over to his clairvoyance, yet again. Shots rang out, but he ignored them, focused only on the girl.
Nothing of her future appeared before his eyes. He was startled when she pulled away from him in panic; she picked up on Crawford's uncanniness. She ran five steps when a loud crack rang out. Crawford watched as the girl crumpled to the ground. He could feel her telepathy snuff out just as the plump judge showed himself.
Crawford stopped himself from shooting the man in retaliation. Instead he turned without a word and walked back to the cabin where his car was parked. He made no parting remarks to Hirofumi. He sped off down the dirt road, trying to quell his rage.
He didn't see anything in the girl's future because he was too late to upset the chessboard. Again, the life of a Talent was nothing but a plaything, broken and tossed aside by a Mundane. He was going to spend his life stopping the vermin who would do this.
“Hey there,” Ken greeted Crawford with a warm smile. He wrapped his arms around Crawford's neck and pressed a kiss, but Crawford didn't oblige. He pulled away from Ken, flung his jacket on the hotel bed, and started loosening his tie.
Ken gave him a baffled expression, but sat beside him. Ken finally asked, “What's wrong?”
“Something happened today. I don't want to talk about it.” Crawford grabbed one of Ken's wrist and pushed him down on the bed. He forced a sudden, deep kiss on Ken, and Ken returned it. Crawford felt Ken start to squirm underneath him.
Crawford clenched both of Ken's wrists and dug his nails in the soft flesh. Ken struggled more.
“Stop! You're hurting me,” Ken insisted, fire was in his eyes. Crawford glared, itching to punish a Mundane, any Mundane. He forced another deep kiss on Ken while trying to subdue him.
A flash hit Crawford's inner eye. This was the first vision of Ken he'd had several months ago on the subway. He was pushing Ken down, kissing him, just like he had foreseen.
Crawford jerked back and slid off of Ken. He leaned over, elbows on knees.
“What the hell has gotten into you?”
“There was a girl. I watched her get shot by a man for entertainment. I didn't stop him in time.”
“Why didn't you?”
“Because sometimes, when time passes to a certain point, there is no stopping the momentum... the chain reaction of events.”
“You let it go on past the point of no return?”
“She was just fourteen... at most,” Crawford said, not looking at Ken. He could feel the younger man's hand move to his shoulder.
“Please, reconsider what you're doing. The path you're on leads to things like this. Just leave it all behind.”
“It's beyond my control,” Crawford said numbly. He wouldn't dishonor that girl's memory by giving up his ultimate goal. He still needed to sow chaos.
“Why are you so driven?” Ken asked. Crawford sensed no recrimination, just earnest concern. Ken's eyes were so pure; he remembered the first day on the subway and how innocent they were. They had that same innocence now.
“Just help me forget the world out there for a little while.”
Ken now looked skeptical. Crawford reached over and brushed his thumb across Ken's cheek.
“Please,” Crawford whispered.
Ken finally nodded, gave Crawford a gentle smile, and then his body relaxed. Crawford gave Ken another kiss, but this time it was gentle, more worthy of those eyes.
“You've seemed to be in such a good mood lately,” Omi observed, trimming some ribbon around the vase he was working on. Ken looked around the empty store, realizing he was the one Omi was addressing. He leaned on the broom and gave a bright smile.
“Well, you've been great about the schedule. I don't have to deal with Aya. Plus, my kids are doing really well.”
“No... I mean...” Omi's eyes darted back and forth; Ken felt a slight flutter of panic as Omi leaned towards him. “Most times, you seem so tense. All this month you've seemed... at peace or something. What's changed?”
Ken was a bad liar, he knew this. He also knew his face had dropped into a serious expression. He shook his head and forced a smile again. “Nothing. Just spring is here. I can get out more.”
“It is a really warm May.”
“I know and April was pretty hot,” Ken said, feeling heat turn his face red. His guilt was now being drug out just by an honest weather assessment. He turned and started pushing dirt around the tiled floor.
“But, Ken, I just...”
Yohji, thankfully, made an appearance with a paper sack. He gave Ken and Omi an exasperated look and shook his head. “Hey, didn't you finish the Hachi order?”
“No,” Omi answered peevishly. “You should have done it in the first place!”
“Hey, you're better at making things look fluffy than me!”
Ken let the ensuing bickering fade as he pushed the broom harder and slipped out to the sidewalk. He took a deep breath and was relieved to feel his skin get back to normal. His mind slipped to Omi's question; naturally, Crawford had sprung to his mind, in spite of the fight to keep thoughts of the American assassin locked away in a compartment.
All throughout April, he and Crawford had seen each other when possible. At most, it was two times a week, each visit lasting three hours at most. It wasn't enough to keep Ken satisfied, but he knew he had to accept the restraints or get caught.
“Hey, sleepy-head!” Ken whirled around to see Yohji on the sidewalk beside him. “I got the mail when I was out, and you had a letter.”
He snatched the envelope; his stomach sank to see the Australian address. He jammed it in his apron pocket at Yohji's scornful shake of the head. Ken mumbled his thanks and started to sweep again.
“Oh Ken, don't tell me you have a girl you're seeing here and a long distance thing going.”
“No! I wouldn't do that! Yokiro is just a friend now.”
“So you're still seeing the same person since March? I thought you said you dumped her.”
“I tried... yeah... I tried a couple of times, but this person is pretty persistent. Besides,” Ken's eyes darted around, “This one adds some excitement.”
“Hey, fine by me. I ain't judging. Noticed you haven't brought this girl around either. Hum?”
“Stop being a detective!”
“Fine... so... sorry...” Yohji said, voice dripping in sarcasm. Yohji sighed and waved his hand in annoyance. “Anyway... this girl must be something pretty different.”
Yohji turned and walked back into the flower shop. Ken mumbled, “More than you know.”
Ken continued to sweep until he saw Manx appear. He shook his head and followed her inside, surprised they had another mission so soon after the last one. Ken concluded it must be an emergency. They quickly shut the flower shop and joined Manx downstairs.
She made no announcements; she put in the video tape and turned the lights low. Ken let Persia's voice drone for a moment, but a photo flashed on the screen, sending a ripple of shock through him. It was the same passport photo Ken has seen a few months earlier.
“...and we have a rare opportunity tonight. Takatori is sending him to this laboratory.” The picture changed to a small brick building out in the woods. Ken tilted his head downwards rather than risk meeting anyone's eyes in the dim light.
His heart pounded hard at the idea of being at cross purposes with Crawford during a mission. “The Oracle, according to our source, will be sent to gather information. I want you to recover the information before he does, and then eliminate the Oracle and any other Schwarz members with him.”
Ken felt the rest of the breath knocked out of him when he glanced at the other three photos of Schwarz members pop on the screen. One thing he had figured out about Crawford during their tryst, Crawford was devoted to Schwarz. If he had to attack one of the other Schwarz members, he wondered what Crawford would do. “Hunters of the night...”
Ken bolted from the sofa and started pacing. He flinched before he ran into Aya. The lights flared on, and he was dismayed to see all eyes on him, all faces baffled.
“You're shaking. What's got you so wound up?” Yohji finally asked.
“Nothing,” Ken snapped. He turned to Manx and nodded. “I'm in.”
She nodded slowly, giving him a scrutinizing look. She asked, “Who else?”
“Me too,” Aya said.
“All of us should go,” Omi said, “if Schwarz could be involved.”
“Thanks for volunteering me, Omi,” Yohji said, then let out an exaggerated sigh. Ken was unnerved by how those curious, emerald eyes kept following him, not to mention Aya's icy, violet eyes wouldn't leave him either. Yohji smacked his hands on his thighs and rose. “Guess we better get something to eat and get rolling so we can beat the freak show.”
Ken bit his bottom lip against his boiling temper. Crawford had notions and morals that didn't suit Ken, and he couldn't ignore those. But he no longer let Crawford's odd ability into his awareness.
Before Ken could follow the others upstairs, he felt Manx's hand on his elbow. “You seem agitated. Are you sure...”
“I'm fine, Manx! I've got to go run an errand before we go on the mission,” Ken mumbled the last sentence and bolted away from the redheaded woman.
To be continued.