P.O.D --- Payment on Delivery

Two: Unwanted Guests
"Tell me how he can afford to buy a seven day lover but not pay his rent on time."

    Ken was feeling a little better by the time he made it back to his apartment. After his shift had ended at the flower shop he'd headed on over to his second job as a waiter in an uptown restaurant, and when he'd told one of his managers there about his horrendous day, she'd let him go home a few hours early. He knew he shouldn't have accepted it when he needed all the money he could get these days, but he hadn't let himself argue and instead had gratefully taken off out of there. He'd called Yohji on the way home and the other man had met him somewhere for dinner, going on about this and that to try and take Ken's mind off his troubles. Then the other man had followed him back to his apartment so he could speak to Farfarello about the rent. Ken was rather glad it was Yohji doing the talking, because Ken was more than a little freaked out by his landlord.

    The white-haired man was anything but Japanese and the kind of person that could give a grown man nightmares. He was missing an eye and had quite a few scars lining his deathly pale skin, and he seemed to look at everyone around him as if wondering how to take them out. The sleeveless shirts he wore showed the muscles in his arms and Ken was positive Farfarello could crush a man's skull like a grape. Rumor had it that he used to be part of a yakuza gang, but whether or not that was true and whether or not he was still a part of said gang, Ken didn't know. Yohji had been the one to introduce them to each other; apparently Asuka and Farfarello had known each other before the dark haired girl had gotten caught and taken to prison. Yohji and Asuka had been lovers once upon a time, and while Yohji kept saying that he was over her and only considered her to be a friend, he still went and visited her on a regular basis. He was the go between for Asuka and Farfarello, keeping the two caught up on what was going on in each other's lives. Ken thought it was rather dangerous of Yohji to hang out so much with a reputed gangster and a sentenced sociopath, but he kept this opinion to himself.

    Either way, Yohji's close relationship with Asuka meant that he was on somewhat easy terms with Farfarello, and while the older man said he was a little spooked by the foreigner, he still was bold enough to come asking the man for favors at times. He'd been the one to get Ken an apartment in Farfarello's building and had been the one that reported a water leak when Ken was too frightened to complain. Every time Ken had a problem, Yohji handled it with flawless ease and Ken wanted to kick himself more and more for backing down.

    In a case like this, however, when Ken needed an extension on the rent, he was definitely not going to be the one to knock on Farfarello's door. He'd been late on rent three times and it was a wonder the man hadn't thrown him out yet. He figured Farfarello was just waiting until Yohji and Ken had a falling out before he could rid himself of his unwanted tenant.

    Ken knew it was going to be a bad conversation from the start, and it was made worse by the person that opened the door. He had to hide a wince as it brought back his conversation with Yohji from earlier and he knew his friend was going to be laughing at him later. While the two had often seen the teenage girl hanging around the apartments, this was the first time either of them had actually seen her in Farfarello's room. For now Yohji acted as if there was nothing out of the ordinary about a girl being in Farfarello's apartment and he smiled down at her, but Ken knew the other man would act smug over his earlier guess when they were alone.

    "Good evening," he said. "I hate to bother you, but is Farfarello around?"

    She considered this for a long moment, giving them both an intent look. "Why?" she wanted to know.

    "Ken here is a resident of this building," Yohji said, jerking a thumb at him. "I'm just an old friend of sorts. A friend of a friend and all that. Can you just tell him that Yohji's here with a question?"

    "Ah," she said, unwrapping a piece of gum and poking it into her mouth. "So you're Yohji."

    "Then you've heard of me," he said, giving her a wink. "Hopefully they've been good things."

    She just shrugged and pushed the door open, turning and heading into the room. "Farf?" she called, letting herself fall back to the couch cushions. "Yohji's here for you. He brought a mousey friend along."

    There wasn't an answer but she didn't seem bothered by the silence, and she stretched out an arm towards a small table to scoop up a back of cigarettes. Painted fingernails turned it over so she could examine the package before she pulled a stick out and propped it between her lips. A lighter was dug out from between the couch cushions and Ken glanced around, taking in the state of the apartment. It was a rather dark, plain place. Like the rest of the building it looked worn out with time and the walls that used to be white years and years ago were gray with dust and age now. Nothing hung on the walls to add any color and the furniture looked old and drab.

    At last a dark clad figure appeared in the hallway and Farfarello propped himself against the wall at the entrance to the living room. Yohji had closed the door behind them and now he leaned back against it, offering a smile in greeting. "Farfarello, hey."

    "What's wrong with his apartment now?" Farfarello wanted to know, skipping any semblance of a greeting. The girl lifted her arm over her head, holding up the lit cigarette in offering, and Farfarello moved forward to take it from her. A bit of lipstick was smudged on the end but he didn't seem to notice, and he leaned over to prop his elbows on the back of the couch. A single cold yellow eye moved past Yohji to Ken, and it was all Ken could do to not squirm under that stare.

    "Ken here got in a car accident this morning," Yohji said. "It's the other guy's fault but no one will ever be able to make something like that stick- happened to be some CEO's pretty import. Ken's stuck paying the bills for damage and he's going to need a little more time on the rent."

    "More time?" Farfarello asked, arching a thin brow at them. "I've given him more time several times. Three times he's been behind and you come smiling at me as if that makes things better." He pressed the cigarette against the couch, letting it burn through the coarse material. The girl lit him another and he took it from her almost absently. "He's useless and worthless, Kudou. Your last companion did you much better than hanging around him will."

    "Oh, give us a break, Farf," Yohji said, frowning at him. "Times are hard and there's not enough money for everyone. You liked Asuka better because she made you money, but look at where she is now: seven years without parole."

    Farfarello gave a wave of his hand to dismiss those words. "She paid the rent on time every month, didn't she?"

    "You paid it for her," Yohji pointed out, and Farfarello shrugged. "Just a day or two's time is all we need. Ken's going to take out a loan to cover everything but you know it's going to take him a while to get clearance when he has no credit and has the salary he does."

    "You need a new crowd to wander with," Farfarello said.

    "I like the one I have, thanks," Yohji sent back, and further conversation was put on pause when there was a knock at the door. Ken scooted down so Yohji could answer it, and Yohji tilted his head at Farfarello in a silent question. The landlord shrugged and Yohji turned to tug the door open. "Evening," he said. "Can I help you?"

    "You the landlord?" was the return question.

    "That would be him," Yohji said, moving out of the way so the visitor could step into the doorway. Ken had learned long ago that staring was rude, but he couldn't make himself look away.

    It had to be foreigner's day in Japan or something, because this man couldn't pretend to be Japanese if he tried. Bright flame-colored hair spilled down his shoulders and into his face, and blue eyes were bright and cold. A wide smirk curved his mouth and he was dressed from head to toe in black. Dangling from one hand was a wrapped basket.

    "What do you want?" Farfarello asked.

    "I need a spare key," was the easy response. "I'm going to be staying here for a few days or so."

    Idly Ken wondered if the man was blind, to be able to speak so boldly to someone like Farfarello. He obviously hadn't heard any of the rumors about the other man but that didn't change a thing about the man's appearance. Ken thought that perhaps he should learn something from all of these confident people around him, and then he decided that if he ever showed up on Farfarello's doorstep and showed him such little respect, the white haired man would eat him for breakfast with eggs. Damn.

    "Oh?" Farfarello asked, pushing himself up. The girl on the couch was giving the new arrival a cool look, completely unimpressed with his carefree behavior. Farfarello ignored her, stepping around the couch and moving towards the door. "You're not a new tenant here."

    "No." If anything, the man's smirk just grew wider. "I'm more like a guest of a tenant's, really." He dug a small card out of the ribbons along the basket's handle and held it out, lifting the hand to rake his bangs out of his face when Farfarello took the note from him. Farfarello eyed it with one raised brow, and the second joined the first as he continued to read it. "Is this going to be a problem?"

    "Not at all," was the dry response, and Farfarello offered the card back. "This is your client," he added, flicking his fingers at Ken.

    Ken sent him a blank look before looking back at the visitor. The man turned smoothly to face him, taking him in with a calculating gaze and nothing but mockery in his smile. "Ah, then you are Hidaka Ken?" Ken didn't know what else to do but nod, and the man held the basket out towards him. "Choice Enterprises sends you its congratulations on being the recipient of a gift package. You have been entitled to one week of live-in company complete with the deluxe set of books, tapes, and accessories. My name is Schuldich. Am I calling you Ken or would you prefer something else? Hidaka-sama, perhaps? It has a very nice ring to it."


    "What?" Yohji echoed from Schuldich's other side. "You?!"

    "Tell me how he can afford to buy a seven day lover but not pay his rent on time," Farfarello said, looking back at Yohji.

    "A seven day *what*?" Ken asked, choking on the words.

    "The file says that it was a gift paid for by one Kudou Yohji." Schuldich sent an amused look over his shoulder. "Would that be you? Hmm. Maybe you'd like to buy some company next? I have a few friends who could make you very happy." He offered Yohji a saucy wink before turning back to Ken, giving the basket a little wave because Ken's hand had frozen halfway to it.

    "Yohji," Ken ground out. "You had better have a very good explanation for this."

    "I can explain," Yohji said, looking a little uneasy.

    "Get explaining," Ken snapped back.

    "For starters, I asked for a *girl*…"

    "No worries," Schuldich assured them all airily. He set the basket down and crouched beside it, giving the ribbons a few expert tugs to free the cellophane wrapping. He set about digging through it, holding a few things up for Ken to see. "We're well aware that not all of our clients are familiar with the elements involved in sex, so we send along a few brochures and tips. If you had received the standard edition, we would have given you just a brochure, but you are a lucky man indeed! See, yours even comes with tapes and a translated version of the Karma Sutra."

    Ken lurched back away from the items Schuldich held up for him to see. His face was burning and he wished desperately that the floor would open and swallow him whole.

    "You're gay?" the girl asked.

    "No!" Ken sent back, burying his face in his hands. "No, I'm not. Yohji, how could you do this to me? My day's been shitty enough as it is! Make him go back wherever he came from."

    "Are you implying you're not pleased with this purchase?" Schuldich wanted to know, tilting his head to one side to look up at Ken. Ken wondered how he could look so god-damned amused by what was going on. "I am the best model available, you know, and your friend did say that it was president's choice for whichever one was sent to you. The contract's been signed and sealed and I'm already paid for. I'm not exactly cheap. Sending me back means you just sent your friend's money down the drain."

    "Er…" Yohji said, looking from Schuldich to Farfarello to Ken. "Well, could you excuse us for just a few minutes while we try to get this figured out?" he asked.

    "Of course," was the easy reassurance, and Schuldich repacked the basket and pushed himself to his feet. The basket handle was shoved into Ken's hand and Farfarello motioned over his shoulder before Schuldich could step out into the hall.

    "There are beers in the fridge."

    "Why, thank you." Schuldich offered him a winning smile and trotted off in that direction.

    Ken started beating Yohji with the basket as soon as Schuldich was out of sight. "Yohji!!" he hissed at him. "How could you do this to me?"

    "Hey, hey," Yohji said, trying desperately to defend himself. "I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. You were just having such a rotten day that I wanted to do something nice for you. That catalogue, you know? That's why I was looking at it, was for you. But I didn't know which one to get you, so I asked them to pick for me."

    "Find a way to get your money back," Ken told him, throwing the basket down to the ground. "I can't believe this is happening to me, today of all days."

    "You don't want him?" Farfarello asked, and Ken forgot his fear of the other man long enough to send him a dirty look.

    "No, I don't want him," he said, and Farfarello just shrugged and wandered over to the couch. The girl shifted to make room for him, propping herself against his shoulder when he was seated. She twirled her fingers through bright blue hair, considering Yohji and Ken where they were arguing. Ken turned back on Yohji, stabbing a finger down at the basket. "Get rid of him, Yohji. Do something and get rid of him."

    Yohji was scratching his head, looking a little awkward. "I can't," he said. "It's a contract; they don't let people back out of these things because of the cost involved. Maybe you could, uh, maybe you could just keep him for a while."

    "What?!" Ken exploded, and Yohji waved at him to be quiet.

    "Not like that," he assured Ken quickly. "Just as a roommate or something. Temporary companionship, nothing else involved. He's yours for a week; they're not allowed to go back early unless their client is being abusive. So if you don't take him, he has nowhere to go."

    "Take him home with you," Ken sent back. "You're the reason he's here."

    "There are already three people in my apartment," Yohji pointed out, "and you're just living here by yourself…"

    Ken turned on Farfarello. "Farfarello? Please?" Farfarello just arched an eyebrow at him. "Then maybe you can just hit him so he can tell his boss that he's been abused and needs to cut the stay short."

    "You want him to hit the guy?" Yohji asked, incredulous. "Ken, snap out of it. Look, it was a mistake, okay, but that's no reason to go around beating up on people."

    "Maybe there's something worth salvaging in him after all," Farfarello mused.

    "Don't egg him on, Farf," Yohji sent him, reaching out to grip Ken's shoulders. "Hey, Ken, come on. I know it's been a bad day, but there's not much we can do about this. We have to make the best of it."

    "Easy for *you* to say," Ken said, shrugging off his grip. "He's contracted to *me*. Where did he come from? Where's that card? I bet it has a phone number on it. You just wait, I'm going to call those people up and fix this." He rummaged around for the card, finding it where Schuldich had tucked it back into the ribbons, and lifted it up where he could see it. The other hand was already in his pocket to dig out the cell phone when he froze, staring at the name embossed on the card. Schuldich had said it once already but it hadn't clicked, lost among everything else the man had said. But seeing it scribbled out in katakana and kanji made his stomach give a horrified wrench.

    "Oh God," he moaned. "Not them."

    "What's wrong?" Yohji wanted to know, taking the card away from him.

    "Choice Enterprises?" Ken asked, grabbing Yohji's shirt and shaking him. "Choice Enterprises? The man I crashed with this morning works for these people! He's their CEO! I can't call them up and say no thank you. The guy would eat me alive for denting his car!"

    Farfarello perked up. "Crawford? " he asked, and Ken sent him a startled look. "You dented Crawford's car?" He nodded and Farfarello sent a measuring look over his shoulder in the direction Schuldich had gone. At length he pushed himself up from his spot and started towards Ken, taking the card from him to read it a second time. Ken waited, wondering how one scary looking foreigner knew the name of Choice Enterprise's CEO. "Keep him," Farfarello said, handing the card back.

    "What?" Ken said, surprised.

    "Keep him for his week and you can have the rent extension," the landlord explained, hooking his thumbs in the belt loops of his pants. "If you kick him out, you're going to follow him out onto the street. Understand me?"

    "Hey," Yohji started, but he quieted at the look Farfarello sent him.

    The Irishman looked back towards Ken, reaching out to push the basket over with his boot. "I don't care what you do and don't do with him, but he's going to be your roommate for a week. Understood?" Ken looked to Yohji for help and Farfarello reached out to snag the collar of his shirt, turning him back. Wide teal eyes were met with a hooded yellow, and at last Ken nodded. Farfarello let go when he saw that Ken understood and turned away. "I am going to get the extra key. Kudou, you are done here. Get off of my property."

    Yohji sent Ken a hesitant look that Ken didn't bother to return, and at last the man left silently. Farfarello was digging around in a drawer and the girl stood and left to retrieve Ken's new roommate. The man came back with an open can of beer in one hand and sent Ken a lazy smile across the room. Ken gritted his teeth and looked towards Farfarello, who finally lifted a key out of the mess. "Here," he said, and Schuldich moved forward to take it from him.

    "Much obliged," he drawled. "So terribly sorry to bother you at such an hour." Farfarello just shrugged, and Schuldich turned expectantly towards Ken. "And your decision, Hidaka-sama?"

    Ken sent one last pleading look at Farfarello, but the other man had turned away to close the drawer. "You're going to be staying with me for a week," he said. Schuldich took a step towards him and Ken retreated, lifting a finger in warning. "But you're not going to be staying here as- as- whatever. You're just going to be staying there because Yohji says we're not allowed to send you back. So you just stay on your side of the room and I'll stay on mine and you can go home as soon as possible."

    He desperately hoped that it was his imagination that Schuldich leered at him. "Of course, Hidaka-sama."

    "Ken," Ken said. "It's Ken."

    "Now we're making progress," Schuldich decided, moving forward once more. Ken retreated again until he realized Schuldich was just heading for the basket.

    "Um, you can throw that away," Ken told him.

    Schuldich just shrugged, slinging it over his shoulder. "It has my change of clothes in it," he said. "I'll bring it with me unless you have any further arguments against it."

    "O-oh. Um…"

    "Get out," Farfarello said helpfully when Ken faltered, and Ken beat a quick retreat into the hall. Schuldich followed, tugging the door closed behind them. Ken led the way to the stairs, wondering miserably why he'd ever gotten out of bed this morning. His apartment was on the third floor and he had to stop outside of his door to unlock it. Schuldich stepped up alongside him, poking at the knife that was still embedded in the wood. Ken had torn down the notice so Farfarello would know he'd read it, but he knew better than to touch Farfarello's weapons.

    "Very nice," Schuldich drawled. "You into the pain thing, or are you just marking your territory?"

    "There are a few twitchy neighbors around," Ken said vaguely, pushing the door open, and Schuldich shrugged and followed him inside. Ken toed off his shoes at the entrance and Schuldich followed his lead before shutting and locking the door behind him. Ken looked around, feeling awkward to have a guest in his apartment. It was a rundown place that was only barely worth the money he paid for it, and even though he kept the rooms spotless, neatness didn't do much to improve its appearance. "It's not much," he told Schuldich, who didn't answer.

    He didn't know what else to do but give the man a short tour, pointing out the tiny kitchen and cramped bathroom before showing him the bedroom. His bed was still rolled out on the floor, as he had been in too much of a hurry this morning to put things away. The short table that usually sat in the middle of the bedroom was pushed up against one wall, and Ken wondered how they were supposed to fit two people in such a small place. If he stood so that he could touch fingertips to one wall, stretching out his other arm to the other side left him just a foot or so of space there.

    "It's not much," he said again, before elaborating. "It's a shit hole, but it's got a roof and a decent view. It's better than the street, anyway."

    A glance back at Schuldich showed the foreigner was eyeing the place, studying the cracks in the walls and the mismatched scraps of furniture. "Um, I don't want you to feel obligated to have to stay in such a place," Ken started, trying not to sound hopeful.

    Schuldich just offered him a lazy smirk. "The surroundings don't matter as long as Hidaka-sama is there," he sent back. "I believe that's the appropriate line, anyway." He dug a small pack of flash cards out of his wallet and flipped through them before displaying one to Ken. "See? Says so right there. Damn, I'm good. I'm new to this, you know, and I have a tendency to mix up my lines sometimes."

    Ken buried his face in his hands. "This is going to be a long week…"

Part 3
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