Playing the Part:
Ken awoke at six-thirty on the dot, as he did every morning. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked around at the sharp maroon and black room. The events of last night came flooding back in a rush, causing him to hurriedly rush out of bed. Despite Schuldich’s assurances that his boyfriend Bradley wasn’t due back until next week, Ken was taking no chances.
He folded the blankets and coverlet over the bed neatly and smoothed down all the wrinkles. Then he quickly shoved on his clothes and rushed out of the room in search of the bathroom.
Schuldich’s apartment, as he soon discovered, was large, roomy and expensive. In his walk down the elegant hallway, he discovered another bedroom, an office, a library, a very messy art studio room and finally, the bathroom. The last door at the end of the hallway must have been the German’s room.
Ken winced when he saw his reflection in the large mirror. He leaned over the marble sink and gently touched his cheek. The bruise marking his face had turned to an ugly dark purple color. There was also a nasty looking scratch on his forehead, hidden under his bangs. He gingerly probed through his hair and found the big lump on the side of his head. He’d been thrown against the brick wall in the alleyway and had passed out.
The three men had been drunk and Ken was lucky that Schuldich had happened by. Otherwise they would have succeeded in gang raping him.
He shuddered as he washed his face. It had been the perfect conclusion to seeing Yohji kissing that kid.
"Fucking bastard," he said out loud, the words sounding foreign coming from his mouth. He usually never swore.
He finished up in the bathroom and headed for the last room. Perhaps Schuldich was awake now and then they could discuss this stupid situation.
"Schuldich?" he called softly, sliding the door open. "You awake?"
He peered inside. Schuldich was sleeping on his stomach, his face buried into his pillow. His blanket rested low on slender hips, showing clearly that he slept in the buff.
Cheeks burning, Ken quickly shoved the door shut and fled down the hall.
"Now what?" he wondered, walking into the living room. He absently made his way to the immense window that dominated the back wall and pulled open the heavy, dark blue curtains. "Oh jeeze," he gasped, eyes widening.
Before him lay the most majestic view of Tokyo he’d ever seen. In his own apartment, he lived on the third floor and his window afforded him with a splendid view of the bus stop, the grocery shop, a sushi bar and a hair salon. But this...this was mind-boggling. He had no idea what floor he was on but it was very high up. He could see the sun peeking up between buildings and sky scrapers that rose like skinny fingers. The sky was streaked with vivid hues of pink and orange and blue. Far below him, he could see cars and trees and people looking like grains in potting soil.
The balcony was locked so Ken made a mental note of asking Schuldich to unlock it when he awoke. He would love to stand outside and gaze at the city before he left. He stood admiring the view for a while longer before his stomach let him know that it was time for breakfast.
The kitchen, like the rest of the house was spotless and spacious. The various appliances literally gleamed in the morning light. A quick look into the fridge and the many cupboards revealed that the kitchen was filled with food, though most of it was foreign.
"Well," Ken muttered at last, feeling overwhelmed. He decided on a banana and a glass of milk. While he was quite a good cook, he only knew mostly how to cook Japanese food with Japanese ingredients. What one did with things like lemon grass and blueberry filling and starfruit paste was beyond him.
After breakfast left him at exactly seven o’clock. A half an hour had past. He sighed and wished that Schuldich would wake up soon. But something told him that the German probably wasn’t an early riser.
He wandered around aimlessly for a while before finally deciding to watch TV. When bored, TV was a great friend. He settled down on the plushy carpet and was pleased to discover that Schuldich had over a hundred channels. It wasn’t long before he found a soccer game.
"England vs. Brazil!" he declared happily, crossing his legs and leaning back against the sofa.
Ken was half way into a second soccer game when Schuldich finally sauntered into the living room at eleven o’clock. Ken was so engrossed in the game that he did even hear the redhead enter the room.
"You stupid ref!" he yelled at the TV. "What kinda dumb call is that?"
"You’ve made yourself comfortable I see," Schuldich observed, his tone amused.
Ken started and flushed slightly at having been caught shouting at the TV. "About time you got up."
Schuldich looked offended. "Oy! I got up especially early because you’re here!"
Ken stared up at him. "But it’s nearly noon. I’ve been waiting for you since six-thirty."
Green eyes stared back down at him. "For God sake’s why?"
"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," Ken quoted.
"Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead," Schuldich quipped back.
There was a short silence. "Alright, you got me," Ken conceded, grinning ruefully. "That was pretty good."
"Well naturally," the German replied, settling down gracefully into an armchair. "I thought of it, didn’t I?"
"Not to modest, are we?"
Schuldich chose to ignore that remark. "What are you doing sitting on floor, anyways?"
Ken shrugged. "It’s a habit. When I was a kid my mother never used to let me sit on the sofa ‘cause I’d always spill stuff on it or make holes. So I had to sit on the ground ‘cause we had hardwood floors. It was just easier that way."
Schuldich shook his head. "I knew you were weird. So tell me, how’s your head doing?"
"Oh fantastic!" Ken enthused. "I’m in great condition to go home!"
"Nice try Hidaka."
Brown eyes widened. "How did you know my last name?" Ken gasped.
~You tell me~
Ken reddened. "Oh yeah."
"You’ve gotta start remembering things about me," Schuldich told him, sighing. "Otherwise Bradley’s never gonna believe that you’re a my lover and then he won’t get jealous. He’s a shrewd guy, you know."
"I already told you that I’m not staying with you," Ken reminded him. "This isn’t the sort of thing I’d be good at. I’d screw up."
"You aren’t going to screw anything up," Schuldich contradicted. "You know, I really don’t see what the problem is. You need the money, you need a change to forget about Yohji, so why not?"
"But you can get anyone you want!" Ken protested. "He’ll never believe that you chose someone like me! You’re a mind reader, you can *screen* people! I don’t see why-"
"I don’t want to waste time looking for someone else," Schuldich explained patiently. "When I’ve already got you here. Besides, I like you. You’re cute. So why don’t you stay with me? There isn’t anything worth going home for and you know it."
Those words struck home. A cramped apartment filled with dirty dishes and memories of Yohji awaited him. Even his job would be difficult. Many times Yohji would watch him coach or wait for him to finish. All his kids knew and liked Yohji. On days when he wasn’t around, they’d badger Ken about where he was. How could he explain that Yohji wasn’t ever coming back?
"I...I’ll need some things from home," he said finally.
"Of course you will," Schuldich responded smugly. "We’ll visit your place when I get back."
"When you get back?" Ken parroted. "Why, are you going somewhere?"
"I have some work to do," Schuldich answered vaguely, standing up. "I’ll be back in a couple of hours or so."
"A couple of hours?" Ken burst out, jumping to his feet. "Why can’t I come with you? I don’t wanna stay here alone. I’ll be bored!"
"Bradley’s supposed to call soon and I want you to answer the phone," the German explained. "In the meantime, watch some more soccer."
"I don’t wanna watch more soccer and I don’t wanna talk to your boyfriend," Ken complained, aghast. "He’ll get mad at me!"
"Oh stop whining," Schuldich told him. He caught Ken’s chin and tilted it upwards to meet his eyes. "And in case you’ve forgotten Ken, the whole point of this charade is to make Bradley jealous. That’s why you’re here playing my lover, remember?"
Ken pulled away. "What am I supposed to say to him? I don’t even know you!"
"Which is why you’re staying here for the week," Schuldich reminded him. "So we can learn about each other. As for Bradley..." He shrugged, unconcerned. "Tell him we fucked like animals all night long. See if that gets a reaction from ol’ cardboard man."
Chocolate colored eyes widened to plate-size. "I’m not saying that, you perv!"
Schuldich laughed. "I think I’m gonna have fun with you, Ken. You’re cute when you’re embarrassed, you know that?"
"If you’re going then go," Ken grumbled, folding his arms across his chest and turning away.
"Kiss me and then I’ll leave."
"Why should I?"
"Think of it as practice," Schuldich said, smirking. He caught Ken’s wrist and jerked him into his arms.
Ken sighed deeply. Sometimes you just couldn’t win. He stood on his tiptoes and kissed the German.
Ken’s heart leapt into his throat when the phone rang. He quickly jumped to his feet, dropping the magazine he’d been reading in the process. He didn’t want to talk to Schuldich’s boyfriend. From what he’d gathered, Bradley Crawford was a rich, intelligent American businessman who was also stern, dictatorial and impassive. He was everything that Ken wasn’t and he had no doubt that the guy was also possessive. He’d probably kill him when he found out that he was now Schuldich’s lover, even if it was just a sham.
"OhGodohGodohGodwhydoIhavetodothisthissucksohdamnthatstupidSchuldichohGodwhyme," he fretted anxiously.
The phone continued to ring.
Ken swallowed and with a sweaty hand, he picked up the phone. It was now or never. "Mo-moshi moshi," he croaked.
There was a silence.
"Is Schuldich there?" a firm, crisp voice spoke up in accented tones.
"Anou..." Ken poked at the thick carpet with a socked-toe. "He went to...ah...someplace."
"I see," he replied curtly. "And who might you be?"
"M-me?" Ken stammered, his heart racing. "Oh I’m just a nobody. You know, a friend or something."
There was another silence. A deadly silence, his mind embellished.
"Can I take a message?" Ken asked, just to fill the silence.
His words were a series of ice chips. "Tell Schuldich that Crawford called."
"Sure thing! As soon as he gets in I’ll be sure-"
Crawford hung up on him.
Ken set the receiver down ploughed a hand through his hair. Bradley Crawford sounded like a very scary man. He would probably kill Ken if he ever found out that he had slept in his bed.
"I hope Schuldich knows what he’s doing," he muttered. "And I really hope this Crawford guy doesn’t kill me."
Ken found that, despite the fact that the dreaded phone call was over, he was still restless. The chat with Crawford had left him edgy and nervous. He knew for certain that this stupid scheme was a bad idea.
A quick glance at his watch indicated that Schuldich had only been gone for about an hour so there was still a lot of time left. He wandered about for a while and found himself thinking about his own boyfriend. It was so easy to slip back into memories of Yohji and how much he missed the lanky blond.
"I won’t think of him," he swore to himself tightly. "I won’t give him the satisfaction."
An iron. He needed to iron. Smoothing out wrinkled fabric was metaphorical of how he needed to straighten out his own life. It had become a habit, ironing to help soothe him when he felt anxious of stressed. He’d ironed compulsively during his parents messy divorce, and his own break-ups with Kase and Ran.
He still remembered how much Kase, who’d been his roommate during his first year of college, had laughed at him when he’d iron frantically during exams. Or how his second boyfriend Ran had scorned him for wasting time doing something so stupid.
He sighed gently as he headed in search for of an iron. "You’re such a loser Ken."
There was a linen closet in the bathroom and it contained an iron as well as the ironing board. He hunted around some more and found a bunch of wrinkled sheets and pillowcases stuffed in the back of the closet.
"I’m sure Schuldich won’t mind," he muttered as he set up the ironing board in the living room where there was lots of room. "If anything, he’ll owe me."
Time passed quickly then, as it always did when he ironed. He sang softly to himself as he ran the heated metal over crumpled fabric.
The front door opened a good hour and a half later and by that time, Ken’s freshly ironed pile was rather large.
"You’re late," he declared, running the iron back and forth over a particularly stubborn wrinkle. "I hope you’re happy. Your boyfriend called and he scared the-"
"Who the fuck are you?"
Ken jumped at the raspy voice that definitely wasn’t Schuldich. He whirled around and had to forcibly quelsh the urge to run like hell.
The man stared at Ken, unmoving and unblinking. He looked scary. He looked psychotic. He looked...well dead, really. His face and cropped hair were completely wan. The only color on his scratched, doll-like face was a black eye patch covering his right eye and a gleaming, amber left eye. His sleeveless jacket-shirt was black, revealing bandaged upper arms and wrists. His pants were also black, contrasting sharply with his ashen skin.
"Hi-Hidaka Ken," he finally stammered after a long pause in which he merely gaped at the strange looking man. "I’m a...a friend of Schuldich’s."
The man studied him, that concentrated yellow gaze raking over him from top to bottom. Ken fidgeted nervously and examined the floor with great fascination.
Suddenly the man snorted. "So Schu really went through with it."
Ken blinked. "Anou..."
The man stalked into the living room. "You’re the one who’s gonna make Crawford jealous."
"Well Schuldich seems to think so but I’m not so sure," Ken admitted honestly.
Ken shrugged uncomfortably and hurriedly looked away, unable to meet the man’s piercing eye. "I guess you could say I’m not the type who inspires jealousy. So what’s your name?" he asked, quickly changing the subject.
"Um...well. It’s nice to meet you," Ken responded, somewhat awkwardly.
"I want to ask you a question," Farfarello announced, coming closer to him.
"O-okay," Ken stuttered, struggling not to move back.
Farfarello stopped about a foot away from him. "Why are you ironing?"
Relief flooded over Ken. He exhaled a breath he hadn’t even known he’d been holding. So Farfarello wasn’t going to hurt him or anything. That was good. Then, almost immediately, his face reddened. Explaining why he ironed was never easy. "Well...if you wanna know the truth..." he fiddled with the iron’s cord. "IironwhenIgetstressedandyeahit’saweirdhabitbutIcan’thelpitcuzIjustneedtocalm-"
"You iron when you get stressed," Farfarello repeated flatly.
Ken bobbed his head in a nod.
"Why are you stressed? Because you’re here?" he asked curiously, studying him.
"Partly. But mostly because last night I saw...I saw..." Ken swallowed audibly and forced himself to continue. "I saw my boyfriend kissing someone else."
"I see." Farfarello caught his eye. "Would you like some of my clothes to iron?"
Ken stared at him. Then he nodded and managed a small smile.
After bringing him a load of clothing, Farfarello sat down cross-legged atop the coffee table and watched him. As it turned out, he was originally from Ireland and he was Schuldich’s best friend. He was an artist and stopped by often because his art studio was the room next to Crawford’s.
"What would you have done if you couldn’t find an iron?" Farfarello suddenly asked, interrupting the silence that had descended over them after he’d talked about himself to Ken.
Ken was surprised by the question. He shrugged. "Maybe vacuumed. Or washed the dishes."
Farfarello mulled over that, gnawing gently on the tip of his index finger. "I blend," he finally said. "That’s what I do."
Ken remembered seeing a blender in the art studio. "When I was little, I used to make mud in my mom’s blender. She’d get so mad." He grinned at the memory.
"You should try blending paint with pastels," Farfarello advised solemnly with the barest of smiles. "It’s the way to go."
Before Ken could reply to that helpful suggestion, there was a loud knock on the front door, accompanied by an unfamiliar voice . "Hey Schu, are you in here? Farf? Open up! I forgot my keys this morning!"
"Who’s that?" Ken asked, trailing after the Irishman as he strode across the living room.
"My boyfriend Nagi."
"Your boyfriend? What’s he doing here?"
Farfarello spared him a quick glance as he dug through his pockets for his keys. "He lives here. Nagi is Crawford’s half-brother."
"Half brother?" Ken fell back and started to panic. Why hadn’t that stupid Schuldich warned him that Crawford’s half-brother lived with him? Now what was he going to do? If this Nagi guy was anything like Crawford then he’d be in deep crap.
Ken fretted and then decided to take a rational approach to the situation. He wasn’t a child any longer, he was a man dammit! He could handle himself and he wasn’t afraid of anything!
Farfarello unlocked the door and Ken hurriedly ducked into the closet. Okay, maybe he was afraid of certain things. He peeked out of the closet door crack and immediately felt like the biggest idiot on the planet.
Crawford’s half-brother was practically a child! His grey uniform indicated that he was probably only in high school and Ken guessed his age to be about fifteen or sixteen. Nagi was small and thin and pretty, with chestnut colored hair and wide, dark eyes. Ken gawked as the boy beamed and then hurled himself onto Farfarello.
"I missed you, koi!" he nearly shrieked and kissed the Irishman soundly.
"Hey, aren’t you gonna invite me in?" another voice spoke up from the hallway.
Nagi pulled away and flushed slightly. "Oh yeah, come in! See Farf, this is Omi from my bio class. We’re hafta to do a presentation on genetics together. Omi, this is my boyfriend Farfarello." He hugged Farfarello’s arm tightly.
A light-haired boy dressed in a similar grey uniform entered and Ken’s eyes widened as he got a good look at the boy’s face.
It was the kid from the club who Yohji had been kissing!
Ken gasped in utter horror and somehow managed to trip and spill gauchely out of the closet on his hands and knees. "Ow," he muttered, feeling his face heat up. Of all the times to trip up! Mentally he cursed.
"Who are you?" Nagi demanded, gawking in disbelief.
"This is Ken," Farfarello introduced, unfazed. "He likes to iron."
"Oh se~xy!" Schuldich drawled out, stepping into the crowded doorway. "I love having a cute guy greet me on his hands and knees."
Nagi and Omi snickered.
Farfarello looked bored.
Ken scowled at Omi.