Author's Notes: Sorry this took so long. My work obligations were pretty heavy last few weeks.
Beta Reader: My wonderful hubby, WingedPanther73. Thanks for putting up with this slashy-fic!
Word Count = 3,088
September 19, 2010 9:55pm/ picked up again: March 27, 2011
Author's Note: I want to apology for walking away from writing in the middle of a story. (Actually, three of them) There were a lot of personal things going on, including a paid writing gig. Kids' workbook, but it's a start! I hope you forgive me and will pick this up again. I've got time to be more faithful now. Thanks for all my loyal readers.
Ken's lips clenched tighter when Crawford pulled up beside his motorcycle. Crawford rolled down his window; all he said was, “Follow me.”
The Japanese assassin bit down his frustration, but drove after the Austin-Healy. After several long moments, Ken parked across the lot in a Denny's restaurant. He really had no use for the American restaurant so popular with other Japanese his age. Crawford must be homesick, Ken thought dryly.
He gave Crawford a grim expression when he walked up to the car. Crawford jerked his head to the door, but Ken crossed his arms and said, “I'm not hungry.”
“Well, I am.”
Ken didn't have the energy to argue with Crawford; he just wanted to get this over with and end things with Crawford. He marched after the American. They were seated quickly. Ken noticed it was a little after one in the morning, so there were only a few high-schoolers scattered around, paying them no attention.
Crawford quickly ordered a large, American-styled breakfast and black coffee; the idea of eating anything that heavy turned Ken's stomach. He ordered orange juice, and the waitress left.
While they waited, and even after the waitress brought Crawford his large meal, they were both absolutely silent. She eyed Ken after placing a second glass of orange juice in front of him. Irritation crossed her face before she left, probably because he hadn't ordered food. Crawford attacked his pancakes, keeping his eyes on Ken.
“You're going to ask me why I shot at you tonight,” Crawford said. Ken appreciated Crawford's bluntness, but he wasn't sure what followed was going to be the truth.
“I tried to warn you to stay away. I tried to protect you, but you wouldn't listen to me.”
Crawford's face turned sour. “Didn't it occur to you that I had already foreseen everything? Including you getting stabbed by Hell?”
Ken flinched back, recalling what had played out earlier. “What do you mean?”
Crawford looked over the top of his glasses and said, “Hell was going to stab me, but you would have jumped down and let her hit you, protecting me. All very needless because I had everything planned, but your interference is not tolerable.”
Ken was taken aback. He felt his face flush, his clenched fists rested on the table, but he didn't break eye contact.
“I recall you interfering with one of my missions at the start of this whole mess. You almost got Abyssinian's attention.”
“There's a difference. I knew in advance what was going to happen. You didn't. When you charge in, like you were about to tonight, I have to split my concentration and work around you.”
He glared before asking, “And all you could come up with is to shoot at me?”
“I wanted to get your attention,” Crawford said so placidly it left Ken feeling thunderstruck. Crawford glared back and said, “This isn't a game. Stay out of my way outside the bedroom. This is the only warning I'm going to give you.”
Ken shivered as Crawford's eyes unfocused. He knew Crawford just well enough to know he was seeing something that was going to happen. Suddenly, the man looked annoyed, almost vexed. The man started sipping his coffee.
“What was...” Ken started off, but Crawford held up his hand.
“Hell isn't finished causing me problems, but I'll worry about that later.” Crawford continued, after setting his mug on the table, “We're destined to meet on missions. That's why there has to be clarity about where the boundary is.”
Ken's heart thudded so loudly he was sure Crawford could hear it. He wondered how Crawford could split this so cleanly; then Ken flinched back. Hadn't compartmentalizing been how he justified this relationship in the first place? Now, it seemed Ken had crossed that clear boundary tonight by mixing a Weiss mission with concern for Crawford.
He started at his name and looked down to where he had his own left wrist in a firm grip. He yanked his hands off the table and hid them underneath. He looked up to see Crawford's face, very grave.
Choler pushed wariness out of Ken's consciousness; confusion over why he had started with Crawford in the first place stoked self anger. “What do you want from me?”
Crawford was silent for several long minutes before he said, “Stay out of my way.”
Ken flinched back and gave him a determined scowl, “Not if what you're doing is going to hurt innocent people. I can't stay out of your way then.”
A subtle smile came to Crawford's lips. Ken felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. “Fine, if you want it that way.”
“Hun?” Bafflement smacked Ken as a smug expression crept across Crawford's face. He expected Crawford to storm out or make threats, but the man seemed perfectly at ease with the tenuous situation. The whole situation cause Ken to feel on unequal footing; once again, choler leaped to the surface. He detested feeling as if he were some pawn in a game.
Crawford reached over and picked up Ken's hand. Ken looked down at the fingertips Crawford was examining. “Your fingers are dirty. Very frequently. I wonder why there's always soil under the nails.”
Ken yanked his hand away from Crawford when he noticed a group of high-school girl staring and whispering at them from across the restaurant. Crawford looked over and smiled at them. “They probably think we make a cute couple.”
“Brad!” Ken hissed, hunkering down and wishing his face would stopping being so red.
The American stood up, threw some money on the table, and nodded towards the door. “If you have a few hours, I'd like to do some things to you that aren't so cute.”
Ken looked up slyly. There was that smugness, but it had grown endearing to Ken. He sighed and stood up. “I still really don't like you.”
“I still know,” Crawford said, right before they left.
Schuldig opened the trunk of his car and stepped aside for Hirofumi Takatori to peer into the darkness. It was a moonless midnight in the middle of a Japanese woods. The man lofted a flashlight; the bound woman inside the trunk struggled and tried to scream against her gag. Hirofumi let out a low whistle and nodded.
“For free?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” Schuldig said, flashing a sly smile as he picked up the dread from the woman's mental screams. “Crawford wants her gone. By the morning. No trace, no questions, no special request.”
Hirofumi's eyes narrowed. “Masafumi warned me about Crawford. He seems to think any gifts like this come with strings.”
“Not a one. She's just an inconvenience that could harm your father's interest. Now, be a dutiful son and get rid of the bitch,” Schuldig said.
Hirofumi took out a cigar in contemplation, lit it, and puffed away. Schulidg read the man's mind. He was weighing his loyalty between his father and his brother. Schuldig could see loyalty to Masafumi was winning out, so Schuldig decided to tip odds in Reiji's favor. He reached in the darkness of the trunk and yanked the waif of a woman out by her upper arms.
He shoved her against the car and ripped open her blouse; she struggled and tried to run, but he kept her pinned. Schuldig kept his mind open towards Hirofumi. There it was: lust. Schuldig caressed her bare, creamy shoulder with the back of his knuckles. Her revulsion and fear was overwhelming, very powerful, absolutely intoxicating to Schuldig. Mixed with Hirofumi's lustful, masochistic impulse, it was almost more than Schuldig could take.
“Don't question our generosity. Just enjoy,” Schuldig said. Hirofumi tossed the cigar to the ground, stomped it out, and grabbed the American spy towards him. Schuldig gave a half nod and got back into the diver's seat. He looked over to were Farfarello was staring off into space.
“Now that's done,” Schuldig said. Farfarello's eye shifted to the rear-view mirror. “Let's get out of here before I ignore Crawford's orders.”
“Too bad we couldn't have a little sport tonight,” Farfarello murmured, still watching the struggling woman in Hirofumi's arms. Schuldig paused before turning on the ignition. He looked up to the mirror to watch the action. Hirofumi now had her free of her bonds. He fired a gun in the air as she fled from him. He stretched out his mind towards the hedonistic fantasy playing out in Hirofumi's mind.
“And I bet Crawford found some sport tonight,” Schuldig grumbled. He started the ignition as Farfarello gave him a baffled expression. “Oh... you don't know... over the past few months Crawford has been keeping a little secret.”
“You're trembling. Are you alright?” Crawford whispered in the darkened hotel room. Ken felt tiny bumps come to his skin as Crawford's fingers drifted down his bare arm. He moaned and laid his forehead on Crawford's shoulder.
“I...” There was so much he wanted to say. He caught what he was going to say out of fear of what Crawford would do. He felt Crawford tilt his chin upwards. His heart raced with the light, gentle kiss. His stomach fluttered as the kiss deepened; Ken could feel Crawford's hunger behind it. Want filled Ken, too, but there was also something underneath it that Ken had managed to push down in the past. Now, it was boiling in his chest.
“Don't say anything... I know what you're going to say,” Crawford said softly in his ear.
Everything became a blaze of emotions. Ken fell back on the bed, taking Crawford with him. This felt different than every time before. He felt vulnerable, but there wasn't the nagging fear of betrayal. Crawford wouldn't share his motives with Ken, but he understood what had designed those motives. It was isolation, prejudices, and even anger. These were all things that united him with Crawford, and this is what quelled his doubts about bad intentions Crawford may have towards him.
Crawford's breathe was hot on his neck. Ken wrapped his arms around Crawford's shoulders, knowing his heart was totally open. Now, there was no going back for Ken; there was no getting his heart back from the clairvoyant, even if he wanted to change his mind.
“Hum?” Crawford didn't stop traveling downwards, trailing small, nibbling kisses across his chest. Ken's fingers moved to Crawford's dark hair.
“Do you know what's going to happen to us?”
Crawford froze and then rose slightly, meeting Ken's eyes in the dim light. “I thought you preferred the surprise and the challenge of confronting the unknown.”
“I do, but... This is too good to be true. I just don't want things to change.”
Crawford frowned, and shifted on top of Ken's body. “Do you really want to know, or do you trust me to do what's best?”
Something was so dour in Crawford's voice; he felt a slight trepidation. Ken took a deep breath and shook his head. “I can deal with what comes. I don't need to know. No, don't tell me.”
Crawford nodded solemnly, and there was something in his eyes Ken had only glimpsed before. He had no idea what Crawford was feeling right now, but he sincerely hoped it was something close to what he felt. No more words passed as Crawford slowly continued giving Ken pleasure and then took his own.
It all seemed too brief when Ken came crashing downwards from the heady sensations. He was in for a surprise when Crawford didn't move. He pulled Ken into his arms and whispered, “Stay the rest of the night with me.”
Ken knew there could be trouble in the morning if Yohji were coming into the flower shop from a late night, or if Aya was in a cranky mood. Still, this was something he wanted. It'd be worth the risk and worth having to tell a lie just for this one, dark stolen moment with Crawford.
Waking up beside someone was disorienting. When Ken realized it was Crawford, a thrill ran through him. He quashed it, knowing he had to leave soon. Crawford stirred and opened his eyes. His hand immediately went for his glasses on the nightstand. He put them on and sat up beside Ken.
“You have got to leave now,” Crawford said.
“I know.” Ken didn't confess he wanted to stay. He slid out of the bed, got a quick shower, and pulled on his clothing. He jammed his hands in his coat pocket, looking for his motorcycle key. The thought of running into Crawford during a mission started to nag at him, there was guilt playing at the edges. He was wondering if he could manage playing it cool in front of his teammates' scrutiny.
“Yes?” Crawford prompted.
“I, uh, don't want you to get into trouble with your employer. What was so important last night.”
“Kritiker didn't tell you?”
Ken's face flushed at the implication. He was a tool to them and Crawford knew it. “Our job was to... eliminate Schwarz and gather information about what Masafumi Takatori is doing out there.”
Crawford adjusted his glasses and leaned against the headboard. “It's information that could stop Masafumi Takatori's experiments. His father wants to cut his funding off, so I was trying to find out what he had invented, and who he sold it to. That way, Old Man Takatori can deal with his son and stop him.”
“So in a way... you'd be saving Kritiker and Weiss a whole lot of trouble by letting Takatori deal with his son, and then we wouldn't have to.”
“Exactly,” Crawford answered blandly. Ken let out a deep breath and felt a sense of relief.
He gave Crawford a lop-sided smile. “Make sure Schreient gets a dose of their own medicine, too.”
Ken was about to leave, awkward because he didn't know how to say goodbye gracefully. After all, it was always Crawford who left first. Crawford grabbed his wrist and traced soft circles with his thumb on the underside. “Next Thursday. Meet me in the lobby of this hotel. Seven in the evening.”
Ken smiled and nodded, wishing Crawford wouldn't stop the tender gesture. He pulled away reluctantly. It wasn't long before he was on his motorcycle speeding thought the bright morning towards the flower shop.
Crawford walked into Schwarz's apartment. Nagi was sitting on the sofa; he looked up at Crawford and opened his mouth. Crawford held up his hand and shook his head.
“Your little girlfriend came by today, but she had an agenda. Looking for me?”
“You made her mad. Hell wants to have some words with you. About a mission last night,” Nagi answered.
“Don't worry about them. Everything will be smoothed out. Schuldig and Farfarello?”
“Good. Stay clear of Schreient. That includes Tot.” Crawford turned to walk down the hallway, but paused when Nagi made a small snort.
“Schuldig and Farfarello were gossiping last night. I heard them say something...”
“Nothing for you to worry about. I've got everything handled.” Crawford turned to face Nagi. The telekinetic bolted off the sofa and glared at Crawford.
“You're a hypocrite,” Nagi said, not exactly meeting Crawford's eyes, but he could see the angry trembling shoulders that told him everything. “You won't let me see Tot, but... but... you're seeing...”
“None of your business,” Crawford snapped. He hadn't expected this at all. Nagi looked up at him, those eyes were wise, and very calm. The teenager was willing to listen, and Crawford felt as though he did owe some respect to Nagi for all their team had been through together. “Listen, I have a purpose for doing what I am. I'm working on caving in Weiss from the inside. It's rather complicated. You have too many feelings for Tot that can be used against you.” He walked over and put a hand on Nagi's shoulder. “Trust me, it's for your own good, the good of Schwarz and our goals, that you leave Tot alone.”
Nagi nodded, he wore a bitter, yet accepting expression. “Schwarz is the most important thing,” Nagi agreed, but blushed horribly. He looked suddenly awkward. “It's just that Schuldig is convinced you're not playing the game with Weiss as you should. It's just that... Schwarz comes first, and... well... Schuldig is worried.”
“Isn't it time you get to school?” Crawford snapped before the boy could continue in his misdirection and thinly veiled concern for his safety. Nagi seemed unsatisfied, but obeyed Crawford's orders. He picked up his school bag and left the dim apartment.
He'd deal with Schuldig's mouth later, but now he had to deal with Hell. No doubt she was waiting at Takatori's office, waiting to take a piece out of him. “May as well get this over with,” he murmured before freshening up with a shower and a new suit.
Manx looked at the glossy photos with growing horror. She looked over to where Persia sat behind his desk. She put the folder back on the desk and shook her head.
“They found her early this afternoon,” Persia answered. “Somehow, she was made.”
“But she was American. Her file was clean,” Manx replied, stunned. She'd read the detail of the woman's death; it was brutal and unforgiving. She was tortured, raped, and finally strangled to death. Her body was left mutilated in a public dumpster.
“Miss Camron was found. Somehow. We need to reassess everyone. Start doing covert surveillance and clear everyone. Start with Weiss. Check on their lives outside of their cover. Then move to Kritiker field agents. I want to make sure we have no leaks on our side.”
“I'm sure everything on our side will check out. Takatori has some rather strong people working for him.”
“Still, for my own peace of mind.”
Manx nodded and turned on her heels. She left, pushing aside the horror and anger over Josie's untimely death. She hated feeling like she was chasing around in pointless circles, but she had to admit, it had been a while since Weiss and Kritiker field agents had been checked. It couldn't hurt.
To be continued.