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Disclaimer: Weiss and Schwarz do not belong to me. I'm borrowing them for my and (I hope) my readers' amusement only and have no intention of trying to make money off of them in any way, shape or form.

Author: The RCK
Website: http://www.therck.org

Pairing: Intended as Crawford/Ken but didn't get there
Warnings: Violence. Adult situations. Language. Unbeta'd.
Note: I'm not entirely happy with this. It ends with everything still up in the air, but I couldn't persuade the story or the characters to resolve anything. I may write a sequel someday, but I make no promises
Posted: 22 March 2010

Thanks to Olna Jenn for cheerleading.

Threshold

"I told you not to drug him."

Ken had just enough awareness of his surroundings to look up at the sound of a familiar voice. Who is it? Oh. Him. That's bad. He pulled at the cuffs holding his wrists behind his back. I need to get loose.

Brad Crawford, formerly of Estet, met Ken's eyes and smirked. "I expect better of my associates, Sasaki-san."

One of the thugs who'd escorted Ken into the room smacked the back of Ken's head and muttered, "Show some respect."

Ken blinked and tried to protest only to find himself frustrated, again, by the unyielding rubber gag. I keep forgetting about that. Why do I keep forgetting?

Crawford accepted something from another person who Ken couldn't quite see.

Who? Turning to look seemed like too much trouble, but he wondered. A briefcase? Yes. That's nice.

"He kept struggling, Crawford-san. My men were afraid he'd damage himself. You expressed such concern about his...physical condition that they thought you'd prefer drugs to broken bones."

Ken shifted from one foot to the other, wishing he could lie down. Or just move my feet a little more. The thing they'd shoved into his ass hurt when he moved. Why did they do that? He was sure that he knew and even more certain that he really didn't want to know.

When someone behind him pushed him after Crawford's retreating back, Ken thought it might be a bad idea. He drew his eyebrows together as he tried to reason it out, but another shove distracted him, making keeping his balance more important than anything as difficult as thinking.

//You really are stoned.//

Why am I talking to myself like that?

//Walk. Go after Crawford. He's saving your life.// The voice in Ken's head gave him an almost physical push. //Play along.//

Oh. Okay. He shuffled forward. They went up some stairs. Those were hard enough that the guards simply picked him up and carried him to the top. Eventually, they came to a large, dimly lit place that reeked of gasoline. Ken found himself shoved into the backseat of a car and onto the floor.

Crawford climbed into the car on the opposite side and settled into the seat. He opened a briefcase. "Discretion is necessary, but after that, I favor speed. I dislike trying anything new in a car almost as much as I dislike being forced to wait." He closed the suitcase and looked down at Ken. "I think I'll wait until we get home to do anything about the drugs." He ran a hand over Ken's hair. "I do want you to understand everything that happens."

Ken shuddered. A sudden desire to be far away from this man made him flinch. He wasn't sure where he could go, but he knew that he should.

Then the car hit a bump, and the thing in Ken's ass moved. Ken whimpered. Hurts.

"Hush." Crawford massaged Ken's shoulder. "It won't be long, maybe twenty minutes."

Ken leaned his head against Crawford's knee. He could almost remember why that was a bad idea, but the offer of comfort drew him.

Crawford ran a hand over Ken's head, ruffling his hair. "I'm going to remove the gag. If you make too much noise, I'll put it back."

Ken blinked. That almost made sense. Shit. I'm wasted. He nuzzled the fabric of Crawford's pants. White. That's funny...isn't it?

Crawford's fingers found the strap holding the gag in place and unbuckled it. One hand raised Ken's head a little as the fingers of the other hand eased the gag past Ken's teeth and lips. He inspected it. "How...novel."

Stretching his jaw to get the gag out hurt, but being able to close his mouth again felt good. Ken sighed. There's something-- Oh. No, that's not it, but... "Thank you," he said politely. He leaned against Crawford's leg again.

Crawford gave a small snort of laughter then stroked Ken's hair again. "I didn't expect thanks."

Ken closed his eyes, letting himself forget that his shoulders ached, that the carpet wore on his bare knees, that the car kept bouncing beneath him, unbalancing him and reminding him of a dozen other discomforts. Remembering was too close to thinking, too much work.

He drowsed a little before they reached their destination, soothed by Crawford's petting. He woke when the car door opened to let Crawford out. Then the warm presence beside him was gone. Ken swayed, his muscles not quite ready to keep him upright. He shivered as cold air hit him, and he huddled, bending toward the floor.

"Give me a hand," Crawford said. Another door opened then another, letting cold in from behind Ken. Two sets of hands seized Ken's arms and pulled. Ken's feet hit chilled, damp gravel, and he shuddered. His knees gave way so that only the hands on his arms held him upright.

"Get my briefcase. I'll take him inside."

One of Ken's supports disappeared. He leaned harder on the one remaining then followed as those hands tugged him away from the car. Inside. He said inside. There were three steps up, and Ken wobbled more than a little as he struggled against the restraints on his ankles. As they stepped into the tiled foyer, Ken tried to toe off non-existent shoes and looked for slippers.

"Over there." Crawford steered Ken to a line of slippers. "The red ones should fit." He waited while Ken inserted his feet then said, "Lean against the wall while I tip the driver."

Doing anything else would have required effort, and the wall was warm, so Ken leaned.

The hand touched his arm again. "This way, Hidaka. We'll get that drug out of your system first."

Crawford led Ken to a bathroom and seated him on a stool. "Deal with it," he said when Ken made a small noise of protest. "Hold still."

Ken remained still more because movement would take effort than because it seemed wise. He watched as Crawford prepared a syringe. He flinched as the needle went in.

Crawford's breath hissed through his teeth. "That's going to bruise. Remember that wasn't my fault." He finished the injection and stepped back. "There's a bathrobe hanging on the door. It's yours. The toilet's through the other door." He leaned in again and released Ken's arms. "Undo your own ankles later. When you're clean and clear headed, come out, and we'll talk."

For a long time, Ken simply sat. After a while, it occurred to him that he could remove the butt plug. Ankles first. His fingers fumbled a little. At least it's a simple clip. He took a deep breath and forced himself to move slowly. Yes! Leave the cuffs for later. He stood and put one foot on the stool. He reached, gripped and pulled. Once the plug came out, he couldn't keep himself from looking at it. It's...big, but it felt bigger. Why did he leave it in? He shuddered. I don't want his fingers there. Bad enough-- He shook his head and looked around for a place to throw the thing away.

He found a wastebasket in the room with the toilet. He was starting to feel his bruises, so he rummaged in the medicine cabinet, looking for pain killers. He found ibuprofen and hesitated. No. If he wanted to drug me, he didn't need to go this far. He downed the pills.

He took a long shower and tried not to think at all. I fucked up. It was an easy mission. He shampooed his hair for the second time. And where was my backup? Didn't Kritiker have an inside man? He tried to remember the details of his briefing. Just a simple mission. Get in, pick up the files, get out again.

He put on the robe and went looking for Crawford. He found the other man in a spacious room with soft edged furniture, a hard wood floor and a bar. Crawford sat at one end of a sofa, near an electric fire. A glass with two fingers of amber fluid sat on a polished stone coaster on a blond wood table by his elbow.

"I was set up, wasn't I?" Again. Ken studied Crawford's face. What did you do?

"There's bottled water, juice and tea at the bar."

Ken refused to be distracted. He clenched his hands inside the overly long sleeves of the bathrobe. "What did you do?" How deep is the shit I'm standing in?

Crawford lifted his glass. A slight twist of his wrist set the fluid swirling. He stared at it. "I almost didn't get there in time." He looked up. "Weiss has scared people. You're the easiest to manipulate and the hardest to control."

You mean I'm dumb. Ken went behind the bar and rummaged until he found a can of coffee. He opened it. "Why do you  care? The last time we saw you, we were all trying to kill each other."

"Circumstances change."

Ken tilted the can back, drinking rapidly. Caffeine has got to help. "Oh?" The less I say, the less chance of putting my foot in it or losing my temper.

"Sit down." Crawford waved in the general direction of the other seats in the room. "I'd rather not keep looking up."

Ken grabbed another three random cans out of the refrigerator and walked over to a chair that gave him a good view of Crawford and didn't look like it would swallow him. He put the cans on the floor.

They floated.

"He is not allowed to destroy the finish on the floor."

"It's waterproof." Crawford lifted his glass to salute Naoe who was standing in the doorway.

Ken bit his tongue not wanting his words to get him killed.

"Still." Naoe put a world of disapproval into the world.

"It would be better, Hidaka-san, if you used a coaster for each can. You'll find them on the bar." Crawford addressed Naoe again. "Did you get everything?"

"Of course. It wasn't even hard. I left his clothes in the guest room. Oh, and Schuldig said to tell you that he's intercepted Tsukiyono but that it's too soon to be sure that they won't try to kill each other." Naoe sounded bored.

Crawford nodded.

Ken stood to go get coasters.

A dozen coasters floated into the air and proceeded to dance in an elaborate pattern for several seconds before flying at Ken.

Ken had enough instinct for self-preservation to hurl himself behind his chair. He was bracing himself to lift the chair as a shield when he heard the coasters settle gently on the floor. Then he heard metal against stone as the cans came to rest. Just as well. It probably weighs at least twice what I do. I'd have ripped the hell out of my back.

"I don't trust you." Naoe glared at Ken. "I do not welcome you here." He looked very young and very dangerous.

Like a baby cobra. Ken stood straight and glared back.

"Nagi." Crawford's tone held warning and hinted at many previous discussions.

Naoe stuck his hands in his pockets. "I'm going out." He sounded like he was daring Crawford to stop him.

"Probably just as well to." Crawford's expression became distant. "Your presence makes conversation more difficult."

"Conversation?" Naoe's face mirrored the incredulity in his voice.

"Conversation is the only thing that's certain."

"You paid a hundred thousand dollars to talk to him?"

Ken gripped the back of the chair hard and forced himself to remain silent. He bought me? Yes. He must have.

Crawford studied Naoe for a moment. "Does it matter? Or is it just that you'd like a chance to get laid? Be selective and don't forget condoms."

Naoe snarled, blushed and retreated.

Ken felt his own face heating. Naoe's opinion doesn't matter. Crawford's-- fuck if I know.

"He's sixteen." Crawford shrugged. "Do sit down again. I don't expect any further interruptions."

Ken sat cautiously. "Why did you buy me?" He tried to convert dollars to yen but only ended up confused.

"Weiss isn't ready for war with Kritiker."

Ken blinked. War with Kritiker? What?

"You know my power?"

Ken nodded.

"My intervention tonight delayed certain things but hasn't averted them entirely. You would have died. If you were lucky, it would have been quick, a bullet through you before anyone thought of you as anything but an intruder. If you weren't..." Crawford shook his head. "It would have taken a few hours. They'd have moved you, so Tsukiyono wouldn't have found you in time. He'd have been about five minutes too late, killing the bastards to get to your cooling corpse, and he'd know that someone in Kritiker set you up. What do you think he'd do then?"

Ken licked his lips. "War." The word came out as the barest whisper. And Yohji would welcome it. Aya--

"Fujimiya wouldn't last long. He needs another three months for his leg to heal properly, and he wouldn't get it. He'd get his sister clear, but he'd go down in the process."

Ken nodded. He could see that. He'd prefer it that way. He couldn't protect her if he was still hurt, and they wouldn't chase her after he was dead. Probably.

"Fujimiya's death would make Tsukiyono angrier." Crawford spread his hands. "Do you need more? The details aren't set, but it would be ugly, and it would grow. I like Tokyo. I'd prefer that any wars conducted here be well planned."

I still don't see what he gets out of it. Ken frowned. "You went to a lot of trouble."

"You'll repay me, I'm sure. I'm not pretending to be an altruist."

For some reason, Ken found that reassuring. "What sort of repayment?" I haven't got much. Some money, but judging by this house, he doesn't need my savings. I can kill, but so can he. Naoe seemed to think it was...sexual.

"We'll work something out." Crawford smiled with a predatory edge. "You'll have to stay here at least until my business with Sasaki is done. I can't risk him losing confidence in me. That will give us time to discuss it and give Tsukiyono time to plan. Kritiker needs to think you're dead, or all of this will happen again."

"Sasaki thought you were going to fuck me." Ken decided he was better off getting it out in the open.

"He wouldn't have sold you to me for anything else." Crawford looked at Ken's feet then moved his eyes higher until he reached Ken's face again. "It's a good thing you're attractive."

Ken shifted in his seat. "I'm not really."

Crawford sipped his drink. "The eye of the beholder, I suppose. I would certainly enjoy fucking you. I'd enjoy teasing you, tormenting you, playing with you. You'd enjoy it, too. If you'd rather not repay me that way, we'll find something else. You can walk out of here, leaving it as a vague favor owed. I'll call it in some day."

I don't want him touching me. I don't trust him. Ken's throat felt dry. He opened one of the cans and took a drink to buy himself a little time. Green tea with a harshly artificial red bean flavoring filled his mouth. He swallowed and made a face. "That's awful." He put the can down.

Crawford chuckled. "Farfarello likes it. He says the only way it could be better is if it were alcoholic."

I don't want to leave here owing him, either. It's too big a risk. Even if I-- Can I leave here without owing him? "No matter how I pay, it's going to be more than that."

"Only because you make it so." Crawford pulled a briefcase out from under the end table. "I take advantage of complications. I'd be a fool not to." He opened the briefcase. "Part of the price tonight was for this." He turned the briefcase toward Ken, displaying an array of vials and jars. "I already used one of these to counteract the sedative. The others... Well, this is Sasaki's long term profit. He sells slaves, and he sells the means to control them chemically. His goods aren't as effective or efficient as what Estet offered, but Estet's labs have burned." He smiled, looking immensely satisfied by the thought.

"Drugs? Your business with him is buying drugs?" The fuck?

"Not exactly. I want to find his lab. At that point, I'm going to stage a hostile takeover. The rest of his business can rot with his corpse, but I need the lab and the researchers."

"So, stealing drugs?" Ken wasn't going to waste energy worrying about the researchers. Killing them would be part of the mission if we found the lab.

"Eventually." Crawford shrugged and put the briefcase aside again. "I intend to pay the researchers." He lifted his glass and studied the contents. "There's a void in the market right now. Sasaki's lab can't entirely fill it, not even close, but it can cover most of Asia."

Ken shrugged. Omi might care about Crawford's schemes, but I don't get paid to think. Except.... Someone set me up. "I want to talk to Omi." He did his best to look and sound firm.

"I expect a phone call soon. He'll need to confirm that you're alive and not being tortured."

Ken managed something near a smile. "As long as you don't make me finish that drink."

Crawford laughed then sipped his drink. "You know where the sink is. Feel free to dump it."

Ken looked at the other two cans to be sure neither contained the red bean green tea. Then he took the open can back to the room with the toilet and poured the contents down the sink. He tossed the can into the trash.

When Ken came back, Crawford was leafing through a magazine. He barely looked up as Ken sat down again.

Ken picked up another can and tried to decide whether he wanted a grapefruit soda.

"That one's actually palatable." Crawford looked as if he were about to say more, but he paused and looked at the phone sitting on the table next to his drink. A few seconds later, it rang. He picked it up and said, "It's about time."

Ken opened the soda.

Crawford smiled. "Neither of us thought it would be easy. As it happens, Hidaka is here." He caught Ken's eye then tossed him the phone.

Ken caught it. "Hello?"

"Here." Schuldig's voice was instantly recognizable. "Talk to your boss so he'll listen. Hidaka's on the line," he added, his voice fading just enough to tell Ken that he'd turned away from the phone.

"Ken-kun?"

"I'm fine." Just embarrassed. "This is one hell of a house."

"As far as I can tell, Birman didn't know."

Ken blinked. I hadn't quite gotten to Birman. He cleared his throat. "I suppose that's something."

"Are they treating you well?"

Am I being coerced, you mean. Ken could read that much into Omi's words. "I've had a shower, and I'm a lot more together than I was." He could think of half a dozen code words he could slip in to signal that all wasn't well, but he drew a blank on ways of proving that he was fine. "I'm not entirely sure what Schwarz gets out of this."

"I'm sure we'll find out. Stay where you are. For now." Omi sighed. "Bringing you home is too big a risk."

Ken frowned and looked sideways at Crawford. "Nobody's kicking me out yet." Though Naoe wanted to. "Listen, I left my bike in an alley about a block from--"

"I'll have Nagi retrieve it," Crawford said, loudly enough that Omi had to be able to hear him, too.

Can he even drive? "Okay, Naoe will get it." I hate that idea.

"Are you sure?"

No, but you're busy. "It'll be fine." I hope. "Be careful, Omi. This is deep shit."

Omi didn't answer for a few seconds. "Don't worry about the rest of us, Ken. We're nastier than whoever's behind this." He sounded lethally calm. "We have time to be careful."

Ken swallowed hard. "I'll be fine." I'll be patient. Somehow.

"I'll check in when I can."

As Schwarz permits. Ken glanced at Crawford. "I'll see what I can do on this end."

"No." Omi didn't sound happy about it. "Don't initiate contact. You won't know when the line's secure on our end."

"All right." I hate this. I'm going to go crazy, waiting. "I'll be good."

Omi's answering chuckle sounded a little hollow.

He knows there's a time limit-- Eventually, I won't be able to keep cover.

"I need to get on with things now. We'll talk again later."

"Goodbye, Omi." Ken gave Crawford an inquiring look, wanting to know if the other man expected the phone back.

Crawford shook his head.

"Goodbye, Ken-kun."

Ken waited a few seconds before hanging up. After he did, he frowned. I don't know where to start. He settled for returning to his seat and taking a swig of soda.

"He'll have to go to his grandfather in the end," Crawford said, for all the world as if he were answering a question Ken had asked. "His opponents don't realize that's a possibility, don't know he's a Takatori. He'll use it."

Ken opened his mouth to deny that name. Then his mind processed the rest of what Crawford had said. "His grandfather? I thought Reiji was head of the family." Or it could mean his mother's father, whoever that might be. But then being Takatori wouldn't matter, right?

"The old man is alive. Your Omi is his only heir. Well, assuming the old man isn't inclined to marry again to breed more brats. He's been looking into the possibility but only in a half-hearted way. Losing his sons and grandsons so rapidly nearly killed him. He's been hoping for a bastard child to turn up, someone, anyone, to keep the family going."

"You know a lot about him." You want Omi to be Takatori. Why?

Crawford gave a short, sharp laugh. "Working for Takatori Reiji as we did, we had no choice but to know his family. The old man hasn't forgiven us for letting Reiji and his sons die. Though even he realized Masafumi was too crazy to be useful."

So Omi is the answer. No. There's got to be another way. "The family is poisonous." I won't believe you if you tell me the old man is harmless.

Crawford shrugged. "The family will come looking for him anyway. This way, he can set terms. You do trust him for that, yes?" He stood and stretched. "It's late. I should show you the guest room."

Ken rose slowly. "What time is it?" He looked around for a clock but failed to spot one.

Crawford looked at his watch. "It's nearing one. I simply thought you might be tired. The evening has been...eventful."

At least he's talking about a guest room. I could be stuck with a futon on someone's floor. Ken blinked as his imagination failed him. They all live here. They have rooms. They eat and sleep and-- That sounds normal, not like Schwarz.

Crawford led Ken upstairs. "The guest room is a bit small."

"I'm sure it will be fine." Nothing in this place is small.

"The toilet is across the hall." Crawford opened the door farthest from the stairs. "This is yours for the duration."

Ken's clothing and weapons lay on top of a blanket covered futon. A small pile of unopened toiletries lay on top of the pillow. A stack of boxes with a digital clock perched on top occupied one corner of the room. The walls were white and unadorned.

"I'm afraid we use the room for storage when we don't have company."

"Of course. I'm sorry to be putting you out." Ken stepped into the room and looked around. "I'll be very comfortable here." Apart from being in the same house as all of you. He cleared his throat. "I think I'll just get ready for bed now."

Crawford nodded. "I'll be heading for bed shortly myself. My room is at the top of the stairs, the first door on the right as you come off the stairs. Feel free to wake me if there's a problem."

When Hell freezes over. Ken nodded politely. "Thank you."

"We'll find you more clothing in the morning."

Ken nodded again. He picked up the toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss.

"Good night, then." Crawford turned away and headed back downstairs.

"Good night," Ken echoed. He watched until Crawford disappeared from view then went to brush his teeth. I'll figure out what's going on tomorrow. There's got to be some way of repaying the debt without-- Tomorrow. He paid one hundred thousand dollars for me. He made a face at himself in the mirror. Naoe said it like it's a lot of money. How much sex is worth a hundred thousand dollars? Could I even do that? Killing somebody would be easier.

He rinsed his mouth. I'll see what tomorrow brings. Maybe there'll be answers.

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