Irony had been with them for just over a month before Crawford finally noticed the collar.
He rarely bothered to look directly at her, even when she was snoozing contentedly in his lap, so there was no way of telling how long she had been sporting the slim red band. There was, however, a little tin tag on it with Nagi's cell phone number on it in case she should ever get lost.
So at least he knew who to blame for the purchase.
Unfortunately for the little black furball of doom, she was currently one of the last things on the Oracle's mind. Farfarello had entered Crawford's study, observed the comfortable image of cat on lap, and promptly tossed her out of the office, shutting the door in her stupefied face.
Crawford had abruptly found a Berserker in his lap, which was unnerving, astonishing, and quite annoying, but also piqued a dark corner of his interest that he rather wished would leave him the hell alone.
It had happened too quickly for him to do anything about it.
No, that was a lie. His unhelpful gift had provided him the image of a lapful of Farfarello several minutes before the other man's appearance, but the thought had been so ludicrous, he was finding it hard to deal with the reality.
Farfarello had acted as if the whole thing was completely normal. He'd dragged Crawford, chair and all, away from the desk and promptly straddled the older man's lap. Crawford found his hands hovering over a nonexistant keyboard either side of the Irishman's hips, staring at a strong chest blankly.
This had to be the weirdest nightmare he'd ever had.
Then fingers were wrapping around his throat, not hard enough to strangle, just tight enough to get his attention, and the reality of the whole thing came crashing down on his head like a sack of bricks.
"You spend too much time with that cat," Farfarello informed him rather calmly.
Crawford quickly brought his unimpressed mask up to the front, lifting his gaze to meet the younger man's stare. "That would be your fault, if you remember."
"No." He shifted slightly, getting more comfortable, but not releasing his steady grip on Crawford's throat. "You started paying attention to her to spite me. Now it is habit. You have gotten used to her. She's yours, now. But your dog was here first. You've now turned this into a territorial game between the cat and I."
"Does that mean you're going to start peeing on the furniture?"
Farfarello's grip tightened slightly to show how unamused he was by such dry sarcasm. "I am changing the rules."
"The nonexistant ones, you mean." Crawford reached up to adjust his glasses. "The ones only you were aware of."
Farfarello snatched his glasses from his face and tossed them carelessly over his shoulder, ignoring the glare that earned him. "If you didn't want to play the game, you would have let it be known by now."
"I've told you a dozen times," Crawford retorted.
Farfarello's eye flickered towards the gun on the desk, just out of reach. "Then make me stop."
Crawford found his own gaze drifting towards the gun. It took him a moment to realize he wasn't actually reaching for the weapon.
Farfarello's lips curved in a slow, eerily satisfied smirk, and Crawford, despite his claims of misunderstanding the "game", felt instinctively that the madman had somehow one-upped him.
He turned his full attention on the Irishman, mouth pulling in a disapproving frown. "What do you want, Farfarello?" he demanded bluntly.
If he was hoping to catch the man off guard, he was disappointed. "A dog can deal with being taken for granted. He knows he does his job well enough. But to have another favored above him..." He released Crawford's throat and gripped the back of the chair, leaning in close. This pulled his hips against Crawford's in a slow but deliberate manner that became suddenly a bit too distracting. "This is unforgiveable. Obviously you do not deserve the loyalty of such a dog."
Crawford arched a brow mockingly. "The fact that you are jealous over a stupid cat says a lot about your state of mind. This is quickly becoming pathetic."
"Pay attention to your dog," Farfarello suggested with maddening calm.
Crawford probably couldn't have reasonably explained his next action if he had been tortured for the answer. Maybe he did it just to shut the other man up about the whole cat game thing. Maybe he did it in response to a deeper, mostly ignored part of his subconscious. Whatever the reasons, Crawford contemplated the one-eyed man for perhaps five seconds before sliding his hands down the back of white pants, gripping an admittedly firm ass in both palms with just enough pressure to make it interesting. With his newfound handhold, he gave a sharp tug that nearly brought their bodies flush together and left all of two inches between their faces.
Farfarello did not react as expected.
His body went rigid, his head snapping back to put some distance between them. His eye had flared wide, betraying his internal shock for a few moments before hastily constructed shields were thrown up, putting a flimsy mask of disinterest in place. His voice betrayed him anyway, as did his arms, straining slightly in an effort to keep them apart. "What are you doing?" he demanded sharply.
Crawford's eyebrows rose. He was honestly and secretly baffled for a few moments, an emotion he carefully kept from showing. Then he was suddenly, darkly amused. Farfarello no longer had the upper hand. He had pushed the game too hard; had steered it in a direction that, surprisingly, he had not expected it to go. The madman had honestly been acting in some animalistic territorial manner that Crawford had misinterpreted but now found could be used to his advantage.
Never let it be said that Brad Crawford could not be a vindictive motherfucker.
"I'm paying attention to my dog," he said calmly, "if only to stop his incessant yapping." And he tugged harder so that their groins were crushed together quite firmly. Farfarello's deathgrip on the back of the chair was the only thing that kept their chests and faces from meeting. His golden eye was beginning to look a little wild. He no longer had the upper hand, and he was suddenly quite lost. Crawford took full advantage of the situation with a ruthless cruelty that had long ago become second nature.
It was hard to kiss an unresponsive, tightly-closed mouth, but not impossible. And the way the Irishman jumped in his grip like a startled cat made the effort quite worth it. Crawford gave up on the mouth after a moment, moving to the throat, feeling the pulse there pound against his tongue.
Farfarello's body shuddered violently, then suddenly he was fighting back like a cornered animal. Crawford was forced to release him or risk a black eye, and the Berserker was on his feet and retreating so quickly he actually ran into the desk.
Crawford had never seen the other man so out of sorts, and he allowed a slow smirk to grace his features to show his amusement at the spectacle.
Farfarello's blank stare quickly shifted to a glare that usually promised bloody immediate death. "These are not the rules of the game," he snapped.
"These are the rules of my game," Crawford decided calmly. "And you brought this upon yourself. Still want me to pay more attention to you, Berserker?"
Farfarello stared at him for a long moment.
Then he fled.
And that, Crawford thought smugly, was the end of the madman's bizarre games.
Or so he thought.