Chloe and Ken

*******

Chloe glanced out of the corner of his eye at his companion. While he wasn’t totally adverse to spending an evening at home, enjoying a few drinks and watching a football match, he would normally pick a better companion, match and beverage. The game on the television was so clearly unbalanced that one team lead by over twelve points, he’d never been very enamored with beer and Ken wasn’t Aya. But he had to put up with the first two to be able to talk to the man about the person he was really interested in. He just hoped that Ken had drunk enough of the beer (from a *can*, of all things, which almost mortally offended his wine-loving soul) that he could get a few answers now.

Just then, Ken almost spilled the can of beer in his hand as he fumbled about for one of the pillows scattered on the couch. "Ah, a three year old could have blocked that shot, you moron!" he yelled at the television, and moments later added insult to injury when he threw a pillow at the screen. "No wonder your team is getting its ass kicked!"

"I’m sure the goalie is judging the worth of your words and taking them to heart," Chloe said, sarcasm *mostly* reined in as he wasn’t truly trying to goad Ken. Not when he needed something from the man. But he hadn’t been able to completely restrain himself and not make the comment – that he blamed on the lousy beer.

Ken chugged the rest of his beer before he reached for another one and fell onto the far end of the couch. "Ha, ha. Don’t you have some frilly shirts to buy or underwear to iron, Chloe?"

Chloe grinned at the insult and settled himself on the couch to face Ken. "Better ‘frilly’ shirts than ones that don’t even rate to be torn up and used as rags," he said with a sniff as he eyed Ken’s shabby, faded jumper that had a hole on the left shoulder. "And I would never waste my time doing something so menial as ironing."

"Right, you probably have the dry cleaners take care of that for you." Ken grinned and had another gulp of beer. "You blond, pretty boys are all alike."

Seeing a perfect opportunity to finally steer the conversation to where he wanted it to go, Chloe forced himself to yawn as if he were bored and turn to face the television a little better – but he could still see Ken out of the corner of his eye. "We certainly are a breed apart from you athletic, scrappy brunets." He knew that he scored a point when Ken almost choked on his beer. "You act as if you’ve known a few blond, pretty boys."

Ken coughed and sputtered for a moment, then wiped his damp mouth with sleeve of his jumper, much to Chloe’s distaste. "What can I say, I seem fated to be teamed with guys like you." A look of pain crossed his face, followed by sadness, and then he was distracted by yet another goal being scored by the winning team. "God, you guys are a pathetic bunch of losers," he muttered.

Chloe allowed a few minutes to pass so he didn’t seem too eager for answers. "I take it from your comment about teammates that you were referring to… Yohji." Just mention of the man’s name made him frown, made him feel frustrated as hell but he tamped the emotion down. He could curse Aya’s old lover later, after he’d learned a few more things about the man.

Ken seemed to forget about the game at the mention of his former teammate. "Yohji… yeah, he was a pretty boy all right." His sadness faded beneath a sudden fit of sniggering. "Though he was no where in your league, Chloe. He didn’t go for frills or lace."

"No, from what I can gather from his file, he went for the least amount of clothes he could get away with," Chloe replied rather snidely. The fact that Aya had fallen for someone like Yohji in the first place had given him pause, but he figured there was more to the man besides a sluttish exterior.

"Yohji…," Ken chuckled and shook his head as he reached for yet another horrible-tasting beer. "Okay, he had some odd attachment to midriff tops and pants at least a size too small, but you knew he was a pretty boy as soon as you had to share a bathroom with him." His words started to slow and he seemed to have a slight problem popping open the can. "Damnit, there we were crammed in this awful trailer, and almost all of the bathroom was filled with his fucking hair gel and shaving cream and cologne…." Since he grimaced before having a drink, Chloe assumed it was the memory that was terrible and not the beer’s taste.

He decided to move into for the kill since Ken seemed so open to the topic. "Aya’s told me horror stories about the trailer, so I can sympathize. But surely there was more to Yohji than just being ‘a blond, pretty boy’." After all, something had made Aya love him so deeply – to Chloe’s growing frustration and regret.

For a second something dark flashed through Ken’s eyes, but was immediately covered by a rather goofy grin as he seemed to be amused by some thought or memory. "You know, he’d take offense at being referred to like that. He’d bitch about how he’s drop dead sexy, not pretty. Or at least he would have." Once again the sadness returned, but Ken shook his head as if in an attempt to dispel the emotion. "I just hope he’s happy now."

The only answer Chloe could give was a nod of his head. He absentmindedly sipped his own beer as he tried to figure out how to steer the conversation back to where he wanted it and almost gagged at the taste. If Aya wasn’t worth this….

"You know, you and him have several traits in common, now that I think about it."

Surprised to hear Ken compare him to Yohji, Chloe set his drink down and once more turned to face his friend. "You mean other than being blond and pretty? How in the world is that possible?"

"Has anyone ever told you that you’re one hell of a sarcastic bastard?" Ken asked, and when he feigned a look of innocence and shook his head, Ken snorted in response. "Yeah, I’m sure it’s a complete shock to you to hear that. Yohji could be just like that when he wanted to, and he liked to tease just as much as you do."

What Chloe really didn’t want to hear was how much he resembled Yohji. He hid his discomfort, however, behind a smart retort. "Really? I’ll have to double-check the blond, pretty man’s handbook but I think we’re expected to be sarcastic and teasing or we lose our membership."

"Ha! Now that was a little more intelligent of a comeback then Yohji would manage. I mean, he was smart but he didn’t rub someone’s nose in it, like you do." Ken squinted into his beer can. "Not unless it had something to do with a mission. He liked to remind us about how he’d been a great detective and all that." He must have decided the can’s contents were fine since he took another drink. "Nah, he liked to play up to the dumb blond stereotype whenever he thought it would get him off the hook, the lazy bastard." Now Ken squinted in his direction. "That drove Aya nuts, you know. They were polar opposites in that regard – Aya won’t play dumb unless his life depends on it, and he likes to spend his off-time reading or learning something new. Yohji would have to literally drag him out for a night of fun."

He instantly filed that bit of information away. While he knew about Aya’s deep reverence for books and quiet, he hadn’t realized it was that strong, or that Aya would have a negative association to be asked out for a drink or a night on the town.

"Aya accompanies us to the pub, occasionally," he pointed out.

Ken waved that observation aside. "Because we’re a group, and I make sure it’s not someplace too crowded or loud. He doesn’t hate going out, he just doesn’t like to do that when it’s for a date. I don’t blame him, after some of the places Yohji dragged him off to. He’s definitely not into clubbing or getting drunk just for the hell of it."

Now he understood why his attempts to get the man out somewhere so they could be alone had failed so spectacularly. He’d have to curtail any future offers to places along the lines of bookstores, museums and the like. Maybe then he’d have better luck.

"So why did Yohji force him to go if Aya hated it so much?" Chloe really couldn’t imagine Aya being forced to do something he really didn’t want.

Ken was quiet for a minute or two, his brow furrowed as he chewed on his lips. "Because he got off on the fact that he could get Aya to go with him, I think. That and I don’t think he could have sat still in some quiet place while Aya read a book or watched a play. Yohji was the type that he always seemed to have to do something to keep him busy. He’d fidget or smoke or start flirting with a complete stranger if he got bored." The silly grin returned as Ken dropped his empty beer can to the floor. "Oh, Aya would get so *pissed off* when Yohji flirted with someone right in front of him."

That fact made Chloe wince as he thought about all the free flowers he gave away to the lovely women who crossed his path. "Surely Aya wasn’t that-" he stopped once he realized he was about to say ‘jealous’. According to the files Kryptobrand had compiled on both Aya and Yohji, their relationship had ended over an infidelity on Yohji’s part.

Thankfully, Ken appeared too drunk to notice his slip. "I think Yohji did it because he loved to make Aya jealous. It was…," he shrugged and grabbed a pillow to stick behind his head, "a way to prove to himself that Aya really cared for him. His flirting definitely got worse after they started screwing each other, and always when Aya was there to watch him."

Hmmm, maybe his flirting wasn’t that bad after all, Chloe mused. He’d have to control it somewhat but the possibility of making Aya jealous was intriguing….

"All of this makes me wonder why those two were ever involved in the first place," he said, a subtle prod for a reason why Aya had been attracted to Yohji. "I mean, I’ve heard that opposites attract but I see little common ground between them." Other than what they did for a living.

"Yeah, Omi and I were shocked as hell when they got together. I mean, Aya never seemed to give anyone a second chance, and Yohji was determined to sleep with every attractive person between the age of eighteen and thirty-five in both Tokyo and Kyoto." Ken snorted in derision and punched the couch’s cushion. "Do you have any idea how many times that bastard skipped out of work because of his stupid dates? How many times he woke me up by dragging people back to his apartment at all hours of the night? He *really* seemed to like these bimbos with shrill voices, let me tell you. It was bad enough to have an apartment on the same floor as his, I’ve no clue how the poor people who lived next to him managed to get any rest!"

Okay, the tirade wasn’t helping Chloe any, and he suspected that it was time to cut Ken off from any more beer. "That definitely doesn’t sound like the type of personality that would attract Aya," he commented as he wondered if he could continue this conversation another time. Maybe he could talk Ken into a trip to the pub in a few days, where they had beer he was actually willing to drink.

"No, Aya doesn’t go for sluts." Ken sat up and combed his hands through his hair. "But Yohji was more than that. He was smart, handsome and you could count on him to watch your back – well, except for when some bitch was messing with his head, and even then he’d pull through for you. And then there’s the fact that Aya seems to have a weakness for blonds." He grinned at Chloe and winked – at least, that’s what Chloe assumed he was attempting to do when he kept batting just his right eye for several seconds.

"So Aya is attracted to intelligent, handsome, trustworthy blonds, is that it?" Maybe there was some hope for him after all.

"He likes a sense of humor, too. Maybe because he so rarely lets anyone see his own, the stuck-up bastard," Ken said fondly. "I think he needs someone opposite enough to drag him out of his shell yet somebody who is his match as well. But the main thing is, he has to trust you." That put a sudden end to Ken’s good mood. "He thought he could trust Yohji to be faithful. The fucking bastard, to do that to him." Ken shook his head as his hands clenched into fists on top of his thighs. "Man, I pity the next sap who falls for him, because he’s going to have to go through hoops to prove that he won’t even *think* to cheat on Aya, and then face Aya’s sword if he even thinks of cheating." He winced as his hands protectively covered his genitals. "I caught him watching this documentary on male castration the other day. I think he was even taking notes. His next boyfriend *definitely* has his job cut out for him – no pun intended." He laughed at his own joke.

Chloe managed a chuckle or two in response, a little disturbed by the thought of Aya putting his sword to such a use but not discouraged. In fact, this little conversation had put a good many of his fears to rest that he was imagining Aya’s interest in him. An interest that always faded when he pushed the matter, thanks to his manner being a little too similar to the prick who had broken Aya’s heart. Now to consider a new line of strategy and things should so much better."

Lost in his thoughts, he started when Ken clamped him on the shoulder. "You know, if you weren’t such a prissy, frilly shirt wearing bastard, I’d tell you to take a chance on him. He likes you, you know," he hiccupped in Chloe’s ear. "I catch him staring at your ass all the time, and he definitely gets ticked off when you start handing out flowers." There was another snigger, and Chloe grimaced in distaste as he wiped spittle from his cheek. If it weren’t for Ken telling him how much Aya liked him, he’d shove the drunken idiot away.

"Yeah, he really likes you." Now he had to endure the indignity of being hugged by a drunken idiot and ended up with beer spilled onto his *non* frilly shirt. As he hissed in annoyance, Ken seemed to get the hint and let him go. "Sorry about that, what a waste of a good beer." Ken stared mournfully at the spilled drink. "Ah well, at least I didn’t get it on the couch or Aya would kill me," he said with a sniff. "Never mind the fact that I’ve put up with him all these years, I’m not someone he’s trying to get into bed so I can be killed over a stupid stain. That really makes me feel loved, you know." Then something on the television snagged his attention. "I’ll be damned, he actually managed to block the goal for once…."

Chloe saw a perfect opportunity to flee and took it. "Well, I better go soak these pants before they stain. You know us blond pretty men, we care much too much about our wardrobe." When Ken waved goodbye, his attention focused on the game, Chloe smiled and headed for his room.

If Ken thought that Aya wanted him, then he *definitely* had a chance. Ken knew Aya best, after all. As vile as the beer had been and the fact that one of his favorite leather pants might be permanently stained, Chloe felt very happy. Aya and Yuki shouldn’t be back from grocery shopping for a little while yet, so that gave him plenty of time to change and think up his plan of attack for tonight. So Aya liked documentaries, did he? Well, it wasn’t one about male castration – thankfully – but he did remember seeing a special on Greek philosophers he thought that Aya might find interesting. And the show should be boring enough to discourage the rest of his teammates from watching, which meant he should have a couple of hours alone with Aya. A predatory smile spread across his face as he thought about the ground he could cover in those couple of hours. Now that he had some insight into the man, Aya didn’t stand a chance.

*******

Ken hid his smile until Chloe was out of sight. He had to chuckle as he sprawled out on the couch and changed the channel to something more interesting. All the beer created a pleasant buzz in his blood, but he wasn’t as drunk as he’d pretended to be just now. After all those years of drinking with Yohji, he had one heck of a tolerance.

His smile faded a little as he thought about his friend and Chloe’s questions. Part of him felt a little guilty at helping Chloe figure Aya out and strengthen their relationship – but the rest of him was pissed off with Yohji. He cared for both Yohji and Aya like brothers, but the last few months spent watching Chloe try to get underneath Aya’s guard had brought home just how much Yohji had hurt Aya. To be fair, Aya had played his own part in the wreck that had become their relationship, but he was also the only suffering from it now. Well, that wasn’t exactly true since Chloe was the one paying for much of Yohji’s mistakes. Not to mention the fact that Ken had to sit through that stupid game and pretend to be drunk until Chloe finally got his answers and left him alone. He’d really wanted to spend the night down at the pub watching Spain take on Argentina, after all….

Yep, it was all Yohji’s fault. Since the man wasn’t here to defend himself, he could take the blame. Ken sighed in pain as he thought about how much he missed his friend, but it wasn’t any good to wish that Yohji were here and back together with Aya. Not when his friend had gotten what he seemed to want the most those last few days they’d been together…. But if Yohji – or Ryo – had found his happiness, then Aya deserved some as well. There was a lot that Ken didn’t know about Chloe, but he trusted him. And considering the lengths that Chloe was going to try and do right by Aya, he had every reason to do whatever he could to see both teammates happy and together.

After a quick glance at his watch, he decided that he could still catch the last half of the game. The bartender Paul would make sure he found a good spot at the bar, one where he could see the television and not have to wait forever for a refill on his beer, and that was all the temptation he needed to get him off the couch and out the door. Besides, Aya and Yuki should be back soon, and he had a feeling that Chloe would appreciate as few people around just then as possible. Maybe he should swing by Free’s room and see if the man wanted to join him, and Michel as well since he most likely would be in Free’s company. He could leave a note for Yuki to join the gang once he was back, and then Chloe would have Aya’s undivided attention. While Ken thought it might be very amusing to watch the two of them, he decided to be magnanimous and leave them in peace. Besides, if Chloe did get anywhere with Aya, he would have a *ton* of ammunition to use against the both of them at a later date.

******* 

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