P.O.D --- Payment on Delivery

Three: Roommates
"My training tells me you're playing the hard to get routine. "

    Schuldich waited until Ken was in the bathroom before pushing the window up and dialing Crawford's cell phone number. He leaned out the window to let the wind help block his voice, trying to keep his new "roommate" from overhearing. Crawford answered on the first ring and Schuldich didn't give him time to say anything. He heard the click that meant it had been answered and started talking right off. "Crawford, I'm never going to let you forget that I'm doing this for you," he said. "Jesus, when you said this guy looked like he couldn't afford to fix your car, you really meant it. I thought you were just being an elitist snob again. You could fit two of these apartments in that monster you call an office. I haven't had to live in a junk place like this since the States and I'm not interested in having to live in one again."

    "It's just for a week and you agreed to do it," Crawford reminded him.

    "Yeah, well, make a note in your planner to have your ass kicked in a week."

    "Duly noted."

    Schuldich heaved an exaggerated sigh and looked over his shoulder, watching for Ken to return. The younger man was trying to freshen up before they went out; he didn't have enough blankets for Schuldich to have a place to sleep and despite his reservations about housing the German, he didn't seem to have it in him to make him sleep on the bare floor. "How did court go?" he wanted to know.

    "Hanae's still pulling strings with the judge," Crawford answered.

    "Ah, the whole 'It's us versus them and we must stick together' thing. I knew your ethnicity was going to come back and bite you in the ass. You shouldn't have married a Jappo in the first place, you know, or at least had the common sense to take her back to the States before getting a divorce."

    "I didn't marry her thinking down the road towards a probable divorce," Crawford pointed out.

    "Your mistake," Schuldich said. "Women are like that, you know. Men marry women so they can put a pretty accessory on their arm to show off wealth. They just want a steady lay. Women marry men so they can get somewhere in life. It's all about the power. Don't they teach you these things in high school?"

    "I must have been sick that day," was the cool response.

    "Well, now you know. That's why you're supposed to stick to your own sex. Listen to Professor Schuldich and plan a little better next time." Schuldich heard the lock on the bathroom door pop then. "Hey, gotta run, your street rat is ready to go shopping. Later." He hung up and popped the phone back into his pocket, turning to face Ken. "Ready?" he asked.

    Ken nodded, blue-green eyes uneasy as he regarded his companion across the room. "Yeah. There's a Jusco just down the street. Do you mind walking?"

    "Oh, no." Schuldich let his lips curve into a lazy smirk. "I'm good at all forms of exercise. Part of the job requirements, you know."

    "Um… Right." Ken seemed uncertain what to do next so Schuldich started towards him. The other seemed to take that as a cue that it was time to go, and Schuldich lengthened his stride as soon as Ken had turned his back. Two hands reached out to snag Ken by the hem of his pants and he pulled the Japanese youth back. Ken yelped as he collided with Schuldich and the German buried his hands in the other's front pockets. Ken made a strangled sound, grabbing at his wrists, and Schuldich clenched his hands in the material to keep from being pulled free. "Wh-what are you doing?"

    "My training tells me you're playing the hard to get routine," Schuldich purred at his ear, "so I'm going to make it easy for you."

    "What? No! No. Get off of me. Let me go!"

    "They always say no when they really mean yes," Schuldich mused. "One wonders why people use such a tactic. It's so much simpler to just say 'Yes, fuck me!' and get it over with." He pulled one hand free and moved it to the crotch of Ken's pants instead, cupping at the denim material. Ken pushed his hand away quickly, scrambling free. His face was flushed a dark red when he turned to look back at Schuldich and Schuldich just offered him a slow smirk in response.

    "No," Ken choked out. "When I say no, I mean no. I didn't ask for you and I don't want you here. This is a mistake. I just want you to sit quietly for a week and then go back to wherever you came from."

    "I didn't come with a quiet setting," Schuldich answered, examining his fingernails. "Most of the other clients prefer us loud. Don't worry; give it a try and you'll see it's all for the better."

    Ken didn't bother to stick around long enough to think of an answer for that; he turned sharply on his heel and practically dove for the door. Schuldich grinned and followed after, standing off to the side so Ken could lock the door. He tilted his head towards it, arching an eyebrow at his so-called client. "You sure you want to bother locking this? It doesn't seem like there's much to steal."

    Ken frowned at him. "It's not about possessions," he said. "It's about being able to feel safe somewhere. The only thing worth stealing in there is my peace of mind."

    The words hit a little close to home and Schuldich looked away, shrugging to hide his initial reaction to the words. "If you say so. Hey, the file said you're a bleeding heart. Is that true?"

    "I'm not a bleeding heart," was the hot answer. "Just because I like having a safe place to live doesn't make me a bleeding heart."

    "Safe," Schuldich agreed, reaching up to poke the knife hilt.

    Ken scowled at him and started off down the hall for the stairs. "Let's go."

    Schuldich followed behind him, not bothering to catch up until they were stepping out into the cool evening air. He dug through his pocket for the flash cards as they started down the sidewalk and flipped through them, tilting them towards the street lamps that they passed. Ken glanced his way before looking down at the cards, but he was quick to look away as Schuldich came across a few of the more explicit ones. At last Schuldich waved the stack at him. "This is when I ask you to tell me about yourself," he said. "I'm supposed to figure out what sort of client I'm to be working with."

    "I'm not your client," Ken bit out.

    "Hey, I'm just doing my job. Humor me."

    "What would you have me say?" Ken wanted to know.

    Schuldich shrugged. "Name, age, occupation, favorite position, whether the toilet paper roll hangs over or under, that sort of thing. Be creative. I'm the one with the set script to follow, not you." When Ken didn't answer, Schuldich nudged him with his elbow. "Face the facts. You're stuck with me for a week. You might as well accept that now and attempt to be civil."

    Ken gave a tired sigh. "My name is Hidaka Ken and I'm nineteen years old. From seven to four I work at the Koneko no Sumu Ie flower shop in Shibuya, and from four thirty to eleven I work at Arabian Sea in Shinjuku as a waiter. That's what I do six days a week. I get Sundays off."

    "Sounds exciting," Schuldich drawled.

    Ken sighed again and gave a little shrug. "It makes ends meet most of the time. Do you have places you can go while I'm at work?"

    Schuldich flipped randomly through the flash cards and offered one up in a response. "No," he read off of it. "My only place is at your side."

    "There has to be a way around that," Ken protested. "What if a businessman asked for a companion? It's not like he or she could follow him to work."

    "You're not a businessman," Schuldich pointed out. "Besides, with a work schedule like that, how would you be getting your money's worth if I just sat at the apartment all day?"

    "You could always wander on your own," Ken said, and Schuldich shook his head.

    "And risk someone else seeing me and reporting me to the boss?" Schuldich asked, arching an eyebrow at him. "I'd hate to be reported for shirking my job. Stop being so embarrassed for yourself and remember this is my salary that you're messing with. If you kick me out, how am I supposed to pay rent and feed myself?"

    Silence followed that for a long minute as Ken thought that over, and at last there was a quiet, "Oh." Ken glanced his way, studying his face. "I didn't think of it that way. I'm sorry. You can stay, then, and you can follow me if you like. But that doesn't mean I'm 'playing a hard to get' routine. I'm straight. Actually, I'm anti-sexual, and I'm very happily so. I'll let you stay because I don't want you to get fired, but I don't want anything from you."

    "Of course, of course," Schuldich agreed airily, giving a wave of his hand. Ken said nothing else and Schuldich rolled his eyes before turning his gaze towards the hazy night sky. It was looking to be a very boring week, and he idly wondered why he had agreed to do this for Crawford. It had seemed amusing at the time. He didn't have anything better to be doing at the moment, so why not? Crawford had said he'd pay him for it and there was the chance he'd get some ass along the way, but a week of living in that itty bitty apartment and following him around to two long jobs? Urg. He was going to have to take his entertainment wherever and whenever he could find it.

    "Well, if you do come to the restaurant, I can get you a meal off of my tab," Ken said at length. "The food's pretty good."

    Schuldich said nothing in response and Ken lapsed back into an uncomfortable silence. It was another five minutes before they reached the Jusco department store and they took the escalators up to the top floor where the bedding was. Ken dug through the sheets on the shelf, trying to find a balance between comfort and price. He obviously didn't want to buy the cheapest and seem like he was being stingy, but he couldn't afford anything costly. Schuldich waited for him to figure it out, looking around at the other shoppers in the area. There was one businessman standing at the far end of the aisle that was staring at him, completely taken back by his appearance, and Schuldich saw the perfect opportunity.

    "Hey," he said, keeping his voice down so only Ken could hear him. The younger man looked over at him, curious, and Schuldich gave him an expectant look. "Kiss me."

    Ken stared at him. "What?" he asked blankly. "No way."

    Schuldich gave his head a slight tilt. "See him? That's Shirokawa, one of the staff managers. It's his job to make sure client and agent are getting along well together. I had to call in to him while you were in the bathroom to let him know I had made it and to give him an observation point." Ken sent an uncertain look past Schuldich down towards the man, and Schuldich hissed quietly to get his attention. "Don't stare at him," he chided Ken. "You're not supposed to know you're being watched."

    "I can't kiss you," Ken sent back.

    "Just a peck," Schuldich told him, "so he knows it's going to be okay. I don't want him dragging me aside to demand why I'm not doing my job."

    "How would he know?" Ken asked him, a heated whisper. "How many men do you see going around kissing each other in public?"

    "Think of my paycheck and my cat," Schuldich told him, "and get over yourself."

    "Your cat?" Ken asked blankly.

    "My cat," Schuldich sent back. "A half-starved thing I found at the pound. I'd like to be able to feed it at least once a day. You think I'm making a lot of money going around tailoring to people like you? Most of the money goes straight back to the corporation, thank you very much. Ch'. Thinks that just because I have pretty clothes I have a fat wallet. Some bleeding heart you are if you go around judging people by appearances."

    "Oh, shut up," Ken said, flicking another nervous look past Schuldich to the curious businessman. The man had inched a little closer, trying to be discrete, when the two started whispering. Schuldich wondered if he was just wondering why the conversation had dropped to whispers after Schuldich had caught sight of him or if he was trying to hear what language they were talking in. The thought brought the faintest bit of a sneer to his face; he'd been in Japan for five years now but Japanese people were still assuming he knew nothing all about their language. Rather than speak to him in Japanese, a good deal of them would attempt broken English.

    "I'm going to get fired," Schuldich told Ken.

    "What's its name?" Ken asked.

    "What?" Schuldich asked blankly.

    "Your cat."

    Schuldich blinked at him. "Dummy," he said, because it was the first thing to come to mind in the face of Ken's gullibility. Ken arched an eyebrow at him and Schuldich shrugged. "Don't look at me like that. It's more than earned its-" He didn't get to finish. Apparently Ken had just been stalling for courage, for now the younger man leaned towards him, tilting his head up to give Schuldich's mouth a quick kiss. Schuldich grinned as he started to pull back, reaching out to snag him by his hair and pull him back. Ken gave a muffled protest that Schuldich swallowed and the German pulled the shorter man flush up against him. Something fell to the floor behind them as the businessman dropped whatever he'd been carrying, and there were quick footsteps as the man beat a hasty retreat from the two.

    Fingers grabbed at Schuldich's shirt, twisting the material in a silent protest, but Ken didn't pull away when he was so certain that Schuldich's job lay on the line. Kudou Yohji had definitely been right that Ken was a sap, but that was all right. He felt good and tasted good, so Schuldich might be able to forgive him for being a doofus. His hands slid down Ken's back to cup his ass and the younger man gave a startled little jolt as Schuldich pressed them tighter together. He forced the kiss to deepen and felt Ken's fingers go slack on his shirt, and only then did he finally let go. He licked his lips, looking over his shoulder and ignoring the blank look on Ken's face.

    "Okay," he said breezily. "He's gone."

    "He's…" Ken started, but he didn't seem to be able to finish. He lifted one hand to cover his mouth, staring wide-eyed up at Schuldich, and the German offered him a smug grin. The kiss seemed to have short circuited something in Ken's brain, so Schuldich reached past him and plucked a few blankets off of the shelf.

    "To show my appreciation for helping me keep my job, I'll buy my own sheets," Schuldich said, making sure to get nicer blankets than the ones Ken had been going to settle on. He started off towards the cash register but it wasn't until he was at the end of the aisle that Ken could move to follow after him. Schuldich paid and let the bag hang from his fingers as Ken finally caught up to him, and he snagged the younger man by his belt loop to lead him towards the escalators once more. "Come on, let's go home and try the new bed out."

    "Schuldich!" Ken hissed at him, face going a perfect scarlet shade. "Keep your voice down!"

    "Right, right. You like the quiet routine best." Schuldich offered him a wide grin, turning to face him on the escalators, and Ken leaned back away from him. "You know, for an anti-sexual, you're not completely hopeless at kissing. You could use a lesson or two, but not bad."

    "I should just let your cat starve," Ken muttered, refusing to meet Schuldich's gaze.

    "Not a cat person, hm?"

    "Not a pet person," Ken answered honestly. "Too many of the kids had allergies to fur, so Sister Keiko didn't…" He trailed off, pressing his lips together into a thin line. Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him but Ken just shook his head, and Schuldich shrugged and decided not to worry about it. He didn't care enough to keep pressing.

    They were halfway home before Ken grew tired of the silence and decided to risk talking to him again. "So… Where are you from?" he asked. "You're obviously not Japanese, I mean…"

    Schuldich shrugged, letting his bag bang against his leg as he walked. He didn't bother to make up a past because he didn't see why it would matter. "Born in America and was there for about fifteen years before the family moved back to Germany. We weren't there long before my father got a job with the government and he was assigned to the embassy here in Tokyo seven years ago. I moved out here to join him after I graduated high school five years ago."

    Ken turned an interested look on him. "Wow," he said, sounding admiring. "You've been a bit of everywhere, then. I'm jealous; I've never left Japan."

    "Can't imagine why you wouldn't want to leave," Schuldich said dryly.

    "It's not really that I don't want to leave," Ken said. "It's just… I can't, really." He was quiet for a few moments before he sighed. "It's funny the places we end up, isn't it? I don't think you grew up planning on being a companion for hire in Japan. I certainly didn't grow up thinking I would end up where I am now." He grimaced. "So close," he murmured. "I was so close."

    Schuldich glanced over at him, a little curious over the bitterness in the other's voice. "I played soccer in high school," Ken said, looking at him. "I was one of the best in the area, and I had scholarship offers from three universities to take me on. It was perfect, you know? Take the scholarship, play for college, and move onto the J-leagues. See all of Japan and play against international teams, maybe get a chance to travel abroad." He stopped under the light of a street lamp and Schuldich came to an obedient halt beside him. "All of that went down the drain in one of the last games my senior year when there was an accident." He bent his left knee to bring his leg up and leaned over slightly to rap his knuckles against the side of his calf. It made a sound that definitely wasn't flesh and Schuldich sent it a startled look.

    "Broke the bone in about three places and they made a mistake in surgery," Ken said. "I have to keep a brace on it to walk on it, and there was no reason for the universities to give all of that money to someone who couldn't play anymore. Without the scholarships, there was no hope of going to college." He shrugged and started walking again, and Schuldich matched his pace silently. "Yohji, the guy who hired you, is the one who put me up in that apartment and gave me a job at the flower shop. The lady who runs it is the grandmother of a woman he used to be really serious with, so she let him bring me in to help out."

    He fell silent again as they stopped at a crosswalk, watching as the traffic moved in front of them. "It's not that I don't want to leave," Ken said again. "It's that I have nowhere to go."

    Schuldich didn't answer that and instead pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He was suddenly quite a bit less amused over his assignment to Hidaka Ken. He'd been out of the USA for nine years but the memories of two parents and seven kids in a cramped trailer home were a bit too sharp. Moving to Germany seven years ago had changed everything for them; his father's pride had finally buckled enough to ask his family for help and his uncle had pulled a few strings to get them steady jobs and a place to live.

    "Well," Schuldich said at last, "college is a waste of time, anyway. Look at me. I turned out just fine without it."

    The words were enough to break Ken out of his reminiscing and he glanced towards Schuldich, arching an eyebrow at him. "Just fine?" he said doubtfully. "What do your parents think of your job?"

    "Pff. What makes you think I told them?"

    Ken just shook his head and Schuldich grinned. "How old are you, anyway?" Ken wanted to know.

    "Twenty-four as of last month. Too old for your tastes?"

    "If I say yes, do you get fired?" was Ken's impudent response.

    Schuldich deigned not to answer that. The crosswalk turned green and they stepped out into the street together. There was a convenience store at the corner and the apartment was right next door. Ken held the door for Schuldich and the German went on ahead to start up the stairs, letting Ken trail after him. The knife was missing from the door when they reached Ken's room but Schuldich decided not to ask about it, though he wondered just what Ken meant about twitchy neighbors. Crawford was going to seriously owe him for this week. He was going to start a list of things the man could do to start paying him back for it.

    Ken moved his sheets and pillow to one side to make room for Schuldich's, and Schuldich set up a bed on the floor right beside it. Ken stood uncertainly off to one side, watching as the German worked. When Schuldich was finished he settled himself down on the blankets, sitting cross legged to look up expectantly at Ken.

    "I feel like a horrible host," Ken started uncertainly, and Schuldich couldn't keep an amused smirk off his face, "but is it okay if I go to sleep? Tomorrow's going to be a long day and… Today just sort of took everything out of me."

    "Tsk." Schuldich tilted his head to one side, letting his hair fall into his face. "Should I be insulted, I wonder?"

    "It's not you," Ken said immediately. "Well, not entirely. I got in a car accident this morning." He sighed and slid down the wall, and Schuldich heard a faint creak at the movement. His gaze went to the other's left leg; it had sounded metallic so he guessed it was the brace. "I looked down from the road for just a moment and ended up denting someone's car, and I don't know how I'm supposed to pay for the repairs."

    Schuldich offered him a lazy smile. "If you want a third job, I could talk to a few people and see if they'll hire you."

    Ken winced. "No thanks."

    "I want to see it."

    Ken gave him a blank look. "What?"

    "The brace." Schuldich pointed at his leg. Ken hesitated before shifting to stretch his leg out in front of him. Tanned fingers caught the hem of his pants leg and he pulled it up. The brace was made out of metal and plastic, padded with a black material, and ran from his ankle to his knee. It was hard to see the other man's leg through the stiff support, and Schuldich considered it with a bit of idle interest for a minute or two before looking back up at Ken's face. Ken took that to mean he was through and pulled his pants back into place.

    Crawford had wanted him here to make life hell for the youth that had dented his pretty car, and while Schuldich knew that most of his friend's anger was just because the man was having a shitty few weeks as he struggled with his soon to be ex wife, he had agreed to go along with it because it had sounded like great fun. Now, as he stared across the room at Ken, he wondered how one was supposed to kick the ass of someone who had fallen upon it a long time ago.

    Well, he was creative. Schuldich was sure he would come up with something eventually. He did have a week to work with, after all.

Part 4
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