Aya had never had the luxury of being frivolous with money, and at heart was a fairly simple girl. She got most of her clothes at strip malls, and had an eye for good sales.
She stayed up for hours the night she agreed to Crawford's job proposal, sitting in bed and staring at the money he'd given her, the bills stacked in neat little piles across her comforter. Over 300,000 yen. Three hundred thousand, all for her to spend on clothes and accessories. It made her brain hurt. She woke up half-expecting it all to be a dream, but there was the envelope, stuffed with cash, waiting for her under her pillow where she'd hidden it.
She dressed slowly that morning, staring across the room at the innocent-looking envelope. She had spent half the night questioning her own sanity, but in the end, she had decided to stick with her decision. Now she was faced with another dilemma: where would she possibly spend so much money? And she wasn't exactly keen on the latest fashion. She would be hopelessly lost, and would end up buying things that would make her look tawdry compared to the wives on the ship. She needed a wingman.
Aya hadn't even seen Umemura Asako for almost a year, but the two had been close during third year, and she seemed just as bubbly as ever when Aya called her later that morning.
Asako had always been flipping through fashion magazines in high school, and Aya could think of no one better suited to helping her spend all that money. She came up with a glib excuse for having so much, and Asako was naturally only too happy to help.
When Aya admitted that her main focus was clothes of the more expensive variety, Asako knew exactly where to go.
"Ginza first," she declared cheerily as the two young women hurried to catch their train. "And Ikebukuro, perhaps. Then, where else but Roppongi Hills? Uwa~ I've always wanted to shop there. How much do you have?"
"Er..." Aya clutched her purse tighter to her body, feeling even more paranoid about purse-snatchers and pickpockets than she ever had before. "A fair amount."
"It was nice of your uncle to leave you so much in his will," Asako remarked, eyeing her a bit curiously. "But why spend it all on clothes?" She held up her hands. "Not that I would do any differently," she laughed. "But you never seemed to care much about fashion, Aya-chan."
"I'll have a bit left over. I'm... spending the rest on a vacation. I want to look nice."
"Oh~ are you going with someone?" Asako teased.
"...Sort of," Aya said with a weak smile.
Asako clapped her hands. "A boyfriend? Oh, is he rich?"
"His family is," Aya lied with only a twinge of guilt. "I have to impress them."
Asako spent the rest of the train ride gossiping about her own boyfriend, a determined if unsuccessful musician, but swung into full shopping mode the instant they stepped on the Ginza platform.
Which was a good thing, because Aya spent the first hour of their shopping spree feeling like a fish out of water. But it was hard to be nervous and thrifty when Asako was such an excited companion, and trying on so many expensive clothes turned out to be more fun than she'd anticipated-- especially since it wasn't her own money.
They went to stores she had never been able to afford, and some she'd never even heard of. Mitsukoshi, Wako, Prada, Louis Vuitton... Aya was very careful with the bags. She would never be able to afford such extravagent spending again, and she knew what simply carrying a bag from such prestigious department stores could do for her status in the eyes of those who passed her on the streets. She ignored the niggling little voice in the back of her head that suggested her brother might not approve.
She bought cocktail dresses, evening gowns, bathing suits, shoes, and accessories galore. Asako even dragged her into a lingerie store, and put up quite a fuss when Aya insisted on getting the most conservative things available.
After shopping, both girls, happy and exhausted, treated themselves to lunch at a pricey cafe, giggling like school girls when one or two men smiled at them hopefully.
It was the first time since Ran had left that Aya had felt so carefree. She insisted on buying her friend a coveted outfit in thanks for her help, and Asako put up only minimal resistance before caving.
They spent the last of their yen on crepes and train tickets, and it was a thoroughly worn out but pleased Aya, practically staggering under the weight of so many bags, that finally arrived home close to four that afternoon. She spread her clothes out to admire them, pulling off price tags and arranging the accessories. "Frivolous," she murmured, gazing at a purse she had bought on sheer impulse. It didn't match anything she'd bought, but she'd wanted something nice but not over-the-top for herself, for everyday. She shrugged, putting it on the top shelf of her closet. Crawford had given her the money to spend on herself, and he hadn't exactly asked for a receipt. No one would ever have to know about her little guilty pleasure. If at the end of all of this she ended up having to return the rest of the clothes, at least she would have that one thing as a reminder of her day of heady splurging.
She had a quick early dinner, then the delivery man arrived; unable to lug new suitcases all the way across Tokyo, she had paid an additional fee to have them delivered. Packing was an enjoyable hassle, and she paused every now and then to hold up an outfit to herself or finger some of the softer fabric. Her fingers hesitated over one of the three bathing suits she'd purchased; this particular one had been practically forced on her by Asako.
"You've got to give your boyfriend something to look at," she'd giggled. "You've got a nice body-- flaunt it!"
Aya stepped in front of the mirror and held the bikini up against her dubiously. She'd never worn anything but a one-piece before. Growing up with a slightly over-protective brother probably had something to do with that. She felt a smile creep across her face as she imagined what she might look like in such a daring outfit, then lowered the suit in resignation.
If she'd been telling the truth to Asako, a bikini would have been understandable. If she had a boyfriend, she might be so bold. But there was no point in wearing it on a trip like this. Technically, it was a business trip. She sure as hell wouldn't dream of wearing it in front of Crawford and his mildly creepy friend. And it wasn't like she could wear it for the benefit of anyone else on board, even if there were cute waiters. She was supposed to be playing the part of a happily married woman, not one asking for adultery.
But she couldn't quite make herself throw the pretty little thing in the back of her closet, so in the end she stuffed it in the bottom of her suitcase, underneath her underwear.
She packed every last bit of makeup and jewelry she had, ate a light snack and watched television in an attempt to calm her nerves, and went to bed early.
"I can't screw this up," she told herself firmly, clutching the covers under her chin and gazing up at her ceiling. "I have to earn that money. I'll make everyone there think I'm the perfect wife. I won't get in Crawford's way, I'll do whatever he says, and when this is all over with, I'll be debt-free."
Nodding encouragingly to herself, she rolled over and closed her eyes.
Ten restless minutes later, she got up, dug around in her old purse, and stuffed her can of mace into her suitcase beside the bikini. She crawled back into bed feeling a little better.
"Well... maybe not whatever he says."
"I still think this is a mistake," Schuldich said for the fourth time that day, pushing his dinner around on his plate listlessly. It was his passive aggressive way of declaring his distaste for such 'cheap' food. He'd felt more like himself at the restaurant, never mind the fact that the bill and the money they'd given Aya for clothes had nearly emptied the American's savings account. Crawford had assumed they would both be paying for the expense of making her look the part of a wealthy housewife, but Schuldich had put his foot down.
"So you've said," Crawford noted from where he was ironing a suit. "Multiple times."
"She's a shop girl, Crawdad," Schuldich jeered, pushing his half-eaten meal away in disgust. "How do you expect her to act like those prissy peacocks? And if you were going to throw money at her, you should have at least had someone reputable go with her. She probably has no goddamn eye for fashion and wasted it on rags. She'll stick out like a sore thumb." He snorted. "Assuming she didn't just take the money and run."
"And where would she go with that much?" Crawford demanded. "Three hundred thousand yen doesn't last forever, and you of all people should know that. You can spend that amount in a matter of hours, as sickening as that is. I doubt she'll be able to even spend it all."
Schuldich wagged his chopsticks at Crawford's back mockingly. "You have obviously never seen a woman on a shopping spree, my poor misguided man. How much you wanna bet she made a beeline for Roppongi?"
Crawford ignored that.
Schuldich cocked his head, frowning. "I still don't understand why you wanted her so badly," he grumbled. "You said you didn't have any stupid visions about her, didn't you?"
"I saw that she would agree to this."
"Big stinking deal." Schuldich leaned back to toss the cheap chopsticks in the trash, followed quickly by the contents of his plate. "For all you know, she could ruin everything. You're practically doing her a favor, for crissakes, as if we owe the brat anything. And it's too dangerous if you ask me, taking Fujimiya's fucking sister on a job."
"I didn't ask you," Crawford said coolly.
"Then let me in on your big plan, genius," Schuldich snapped. "Tell me why the hell it has to be her, of all the cunts in this city, or I'm gonna drop her off at the nearest cliffside tomorrow morning and tie off a loose end we should've taken care of years ago."
Crawford put his iron down and turned to regard his partner impassively. Abruptly he crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm going to hear your constant nagging otherwise, aren't I?" he demanded.
"See, you can tell the future when you try."
Crawford's eyes narrowed in annoyance, but he gave in with bad grace. "She is supposedly an honest person, and she is just attractive enough to pass as the wife of someone with as much money as we're pretending to have. She is also young enough to be intimidated and easily controlled. And she will be useful after the job." His eyes slanted towards the four flowers in their vase, sitting on the the windowsill soaking up sunlight. "She will be a message."
Schuldich put his elbows on the table and leaned forward slowly, eyebrows lifting. "To Weiß?"
Crawford removed his glasses, cleaning them on his shirt. "When Fujimiya Ran receives the dead body of his beloved sister with such an obvious bouquet, he will know exactly who is responsible. He will know Schwarz survived, and that we have not forgotten."
Schuldich flinched slightly at that last part, but an unpleasant smile was already pulling at the corners of his mouth. "He'll of course want revenge."
"He'll come looking for us, ready for murder. He might even bring his misguided little friends along."
Crawford replaced his glasses and allowed a small, cold smile to grace his features. "Why go looking for them when it's so much easier to bring them to us?"
Schuldich laughed shortly, leaning back and folding his hands behind his head with a satisfied air. "I gotta hand it to, ya, Crawdad. You are one cold bastard." He smirked. "I knew there was something I liked about you."
Aya woke up late.
She had been so nervous the night before that it had taken her longer than usual to get to sleep. Cursing her alarm clock, she raced about her room getting ready.
She was just finishing brushing her teeth when there were a few solid thuds against her door, as if someone was kicking it. She froze, toothbrush dangling from her mouth.
"Rise and shine, sleeping beauty," a muffled voice called mockingly through the door. "Unless you want me to leave your ass here."
"Shitshitshiiiit," Aya hissed. She spat out toothpaste, rinsed her mouth quickly, and ran to the door, nearly tripping over one of her suitcases in the process. She'd barely had enough time to shower and dress, which hadn't left any time for breakfast. She hesitated at the door, glancing down at herself quickly. She was wearing one of the more conservative outfits she'd purchased; a trendy but simple sundress and matching hat. Trying to keep her nervousness from her face, she unlocked the door and opened it hastily.
The red-headed gaijin from dinner breezed in as if he owned the place, forcing her to step aside or get run over. She wrinkled her nose in distaste as the smell of cigarette smoke trailed in after him.
"Good lord, think you've got enough shit here?" The man-- Schuldich, wasn't it? --snorted, giving one of the suitcases a light kick. He turned to face her, hands stuffed in his pockets. He was wearing a button-up shirt and slacks, eyes hidden by a pair of expensive sunglasses. He took one look at her and threw his head back with a groan. "I fucking knew it," he informed the ceiling.
"Wh-what?" Aya looked down at herself self-consciously. "Isn't this all right??"
"Not for today it's not," Schuldich sneered, reaching up to nudge his sunglasses up onto his forehead with a finger. "First impressions are everything, cupcake, especially around the wealthy. Please tell me you have something better."
"I bought a lot of things," Aya stammered, embarrassed. She hurried over to one of her suitcases. "I can try something else..."
"Well hurry it up," he insisted, snapping his fingers repeatedly. "We're gonna be late already."
She found a dress and held it up uncertainly for his approval.
"You are not wearing a goddamn cocktail dress for-- Shit, just move." He shouldered her aside impatiently and began digging. Aya was about to protest-- he was nearing the bottom, where her bikini and underwear were hidden --when he found something to his liking and pulled it out. "Jesus, you got a lot of clothes," he muttered almost absently before shoving the outfit at her. "Put this on and be fuckin' quick about it."
She nodded quickly, holding the outfit against her, and waited, staring at him.
Schuldich stared back impatiently.
Aya looked meaningfully in the direction of the door. "Do you mind? It's a one-room place."
He wrinkled his nose so that the sunglasses slipped back down over his eyes. "Christ, I won't look, princess purity. Now change."
"I am NOT changing with you in here," Aya said, aghast.
Schuldich gritted his teeth, but turned sharply on his heel and marched out. "You've got two minutes, then you'd better be decent, cuz I'm comin' in," he warned irritably before slamming the door behind himself.
Aya stood where she was for a moment, mouth open. "Why that rude-- uncivilized--" she sputtered.
"Clock's ticking, princess," he called through the door.
"Stop calling me princess," she snapped back, but wiggled hastily out of the sundress. She changed into the blouse and skirt, then had to dig through her suitcase again for the matching shoes. She was just tugging them on when Schuldich walked back in without any warning.
"Let's go, let's go," he commanded, clapping his hands in her face to get her attention.
She flushed indignantly. "You don't have to be so--"
He had already snagged two of her suitcases and was heading back outside. "I'll leave you," he promised.
Fuming, Aya snatched up the last suitcase and hurried after him, locking the door behind herself. The suitcase wasn't large, but it was awkward, and she had to go carefully down the stairs to keep from tripping. Schuldich had pulled his car-- a rather nice Ferrari, she had to admit --close by, and was stuffing the other two suitcases in the trunk. He took hers away and crammed it in, and she wobbled over to the passenger door.
He paused to watch her with a grimace of dismay. "Christ, you can't even walk in heels."
"I can," she retorted, opening the door. "I'm just out of practice. I'll be fine."
Muttering something under his breath, Schuldich forced the trunk shut and strode over to the driver's side. Aya had just enough time to buckle up, then they were roaring out onto the main road at a speed that had her heart leaping in her chest.
She applied hasty makeup as they were driving, and jumped in surprise when Schuldich reached towards her lap suddenly. She narrowly missed smearing a streak of lipstick across her cheek as she gasped in horror.
He was reaching for the small compartment by her knees, however, one eye on the road as he fumbled about before producing a slender box. He dropped it in her lap carelessly. "Put that on."
"What...?" She opened the case and felt her eyes widen.
"Baubles are just as important as clothes to these peacocks," Schuldich snorted, changing lanes so quickly the car behind him blared angrily. "And don't get your hopes up, it's only a loan."
Aya hesitantly lifted the pearl necklance and clasped it about her neck.
"You remember everything, right?" Schuldich demanded. "Because if you screw this up and blow our cover, I'll throw you overboard in a heartbeat."
Aya was grimly certain that the man wasn't joking. "I remember," she said shortly.
They drove another hour in silence at neck-break speed, Aya's heart in her mouth the whole time. She let out a breath of relief when the docks came in sight. The cruise ship was easy to spot; it dwarfed the sail boats around it. She pressed up against the glass and gaped like a tourist.
Schuldich drove past it to a side parking lot, and that's where Crawford was waiting beside a limo, frowning at his watch.
Schuldich shut off the engine and climbed out, and after a moment's hesitation, Aya followed.
"You're late," Crawford said. He was dressed similarly to Schuldich.
"Blame the witless wonder here," Schuldich shot back, jerking his thumb at Aya. The driver of the limo was hurrying over to transfer the luggage from one car to the other. Crawford's brow lifted as he spotted the three bulging suitcases.
"I told you she'd spend it all," Schuldich said with a smirk.
Aya flushed and started to stammer an apology, but Crawford cut her off with a wave of his hand. "At least you'll look the part. Get in. Most of the passengers are already boarding."
"And we gotta arrive in style," Schuldich drawled, already scrambling into the back of the limo.
Crawford stopped Aya when she moved to follow, pulling a small jewelry box out of his pocket. "Put this on, and don't take it off for the duration of the trip."
It was a simple gold wedding band. Crawford was already wearing a broader version on his own hand. Aya hesitated before taking it, and forced herself to slide it on. It felt heavy and strange on her finger, and she felt a twinge of passing guilt for the lie the band represented.
If Ran could see me now, she thought whimsically, and slid into the limo to sit across Schuldich. Crawford climbed in after her, and Aya found herself clutching her purse like a lifeline as the motor started and the vehicle slowly turned down the road towards the ship's dock.
This is it, Fujimiya Aya, she told herself firmly. Don't fuck this up. It took her a moment to realize her mistake. She was Crawford Aya for the next week or two. She cast the man at her side a quick, tentative look, but he was gazing out of the window, ignoring her. Across from them, Schuldich was picking lazily at his teeth with a credit card, lounging in the seat.
Can we really pull this off? she wondered with a moment of panic.
Then the limo was stopping, and the driver was hustling around to open the door. Crawford climbed out, then Schuldich. Aya sat frozen, clutching her purse and staring out into the sunlight like a deer caught in the headlights.
I don't think I can do this.
"She's chickening out," she heard Schuldich hiss in exasperation. "I TOLD you this was a mistake."
Crawford leaned over and offered his hand, waiting patiently, his face expressionless. The sound of laughter and chatter came from behind him as the other passengers boarded.
Aya stared back at him for a long instant, lifting her hand halfway before hesitating again. He reached in and snagged her hand, giving her a firm tug, mouth twitching in the beginnings of a warning frown.
Too late to back out now, Aya told herself firmly.
Taking a deep breath, she grasped his hand more tightly and allowed him to help her from the limo.
Author's Notes: Remember, I use yen in this story, not dollars... and $10 is just over 100 yen, depending on the exchange rate. So Crawford gave her roughly $3,000 to spend on clothes. God, it was tough writing this chapter right X_X All I wear are jeans and t-shirts lol
And yes, this is one of those "..I wonder if I could pull that off" fics XD;;
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