Pairing(s)/Characters: Mamoru Takatori and Ken Hidaka
Summary: Ken has misgivings about the company that Mamoru keeps.
Warnings: Post-Gluhen. May contain end of season spoilers.
Author’s Notes: Prompt: Unsavoury
Disclaimer: Weiss Kreuz is the creation of Koyasu Takehito and the production of Project Weiss. The characters, settings, and events herein are used without permission for fan entertainment purposes only.
"I don't like it."
Mamoru Takatori shuffled the papers on his desk, sorting them quickly and putting them aside to show that this current matter was the most important at hand and that the man with whom he was speaking was the most important in the world. This would have been true in any event, but Mamoru disliked the idea of his company thinking that he was stealing glances at items of business during their conversation. Once, it would not have mattered how he kept his desk, but that was then and this was now.
He looked up at the man before him. "You don't have to like it Ken-kun. It's the way that things are."
Ken Hidaka paced in front of the desk, having refused to meet in a restaurant, no matter how private it might be. Mamoru did not offer him a seat. He was obviously restless and had something to say. Letting him tower over the desk, allowing him to look down on the person to whom he was speaking, would give him the illusion of power and keep him from skirting the issue.
"The way things are? You're one of the most powerful men in Japan! Can't you make other arrangements?"
"I could," Mamoru allowed, "but I've made the arrangements that suit me."
"I thought he was leaving."
"He always leaves. He always comes back. The connections each of us has are too valuable to dismiss."
Mamoru tired of their positions and stood. Ken was a dear friend and he would not allow the conversation to continue as if they were nothing more than an employer and a disgruntled employee. The situation might apply, but they had gone through too much together to allow such formality.
He pressed a button on the phone, activating his secretary's headset.
"Rex, please bring us tea and something light to eat," Mamoru commanded, and then paused. Likely as not, Rex would automatically bring in the fancy lunch she arranged for his clients and that would never do. "Something simple," he added. "Soba will do."
"I said I wanted this kept private," Ken said, looking slightly offended that control of the conversation had been taken from him. Mamoru could not help but smile.
"She'll only be a minute," he said. "And you know Rex well enough to know that she won't intrude and will keep to herself anything she does happen to overhear."
He gestured toward the part of his office set aside for conversations such as these. Furnished with a sofa and two comfortable chairs, it allowed for a more intimate setting in a gathering of equals. Anyone who did not know them might think that Mamoru was entertaining below his station, and certainly Ken looked out of place in his old jeans and a worn black shirt, but Mamoru valued him more than any of his social peers. It saddened him a little to think that Ken distrusted the very chair he sat in and tried hard not to touch it any more than was necessary.
Mamoru pushed the concern aside and smiled. "Now that we're comfortable, tell me what the trouble is."
"I've been telling you what the trouble is!" Ken said and Mamoru relaxed a little. Once Ken would have been snappish and angered by the repetition. To see him merely irritated was almost a blessing.
"You've told me that you have a problem with Naoe," Mamoru said, "but you won't tell me why."
"Isn't it obvious? He's Schwarz!"
"Schwarz is dead, just as Weiss is dead," Mamoru replied. "Nagi Naoe, as an individual, has no black marks on his name. He has proven to be very efficient and reliable and he has many connections that I can make use of, just as my connections can be of use to him. Being valuable grants a lot of security."
"Tch." Ken snorted in disgust and slumped back in his chair in spite of his dislike of it. "It was bad enough when he showed up at Koua and you expected us to trust him. Then we find out he has your ear."
"He always did, Ken-kun."
Ken scowled. "That's even worse."
"He brought back the information about Esset," Mamoru told him. "Without him, I wouldn't have been as aware of their activities overseas. Without him, we wouldn't have known where to begin with Koua."
"And that's all he does? Feeds you information?"
Ken's tone challenged him and Mamoru rose to meet it, but he did it on his own terms. He would not have this discussion turned into a pointless argument.
"The arrangement is strictly business; we trade information for our mutual benefit," Mamoru said. "Sometimes I lend personnel to him and his associates and sometimes he does me the favour of investigation or a bit of bodyguarding."
Ken's nose wrinkled at the word 'associates' and Mamoru could guess that he was thinking of Crawford and Schuldig, but Ken said nothing. "I could be your bodyguard," he offered instead.
"You said you wanted to go to England."
"That's before I heard that Naoe was back."
Mamoru sighed lightly, exasperated by Ken's mulishness, but overwhelmed with feelings of fondness as well. Ken was stubborn, but he was stubborn because he cared. Mamoru found he could not fault that fierce protective streak.
"I won't make you leave if you don't want to," Mamoru said gently, "and it would be a lie to say that your presence wouldn't make me happy, but I can't hire you on as my bodyguard and you know it. You're a dear friend, Ken-kun, and I care about you greatly, and maybe you care for me, but you hate Persia and everything that Kritiker is.
"Don't deny it," he said when Ken opened his mouth to protest. "You know that it's true. Kritiker tore your heart to pieces and I didn't stop it. I didn't know how. And I don't think I could stop it if it happened again."
"I'm not asking to be a part of Kritiker again," Ken persisted. "I can work for you personally. I can—"
"If you work for Mamoru Takatori, you work for Persia," Mamoru said. "That's the way things are. I hope it won't always be that way, but for now there's no helping it. If you think you will be happy as a civilian…"
He measured Ken up in one long glance. Gone was the twitching and fidgeting of someone too filled with nervous energy and anticipation to keep still, but the light in his eyes still burned with wild and vengeful fire. Time could heal many wounds, but not all. Never all.
"But, somehow, I don't think you will be," Mamoru finished.
Ken leaned forward, on the verge of protesting, but sat back to think. Although he could be impulsive, Ken was no fool. He knew that Mamoru was right.
"I just don't want you hanging around with unsavoury elements," Ken said. "You're all about image, right? What's everyone going to say about someone like Naoe?"
Mamoru smiled. "Unsavoury elements? I think you've been watching too much television, Ken-kun."
"What? I can't use big words? I'm not stupid, you know," Ken said, feathers ruffled.
"I know, Ken-kun. I know. And that's why you deserve the truth," Mamoru said.
He paused then and turned toward the door, putting on his most welcoming face. From the corner of his eye, he saw Ken look at him oddly and then turn in time to see Rex enter, tray in hand, and a sheaf of paper under her arm. She placed servings of tea and cold soba on the small tables beside the chairs and then stood at the ready, documents in hand, awaiting her employer's orders.
"Thank you, Rex," Mamoru said. "Do you have the files I requested?"
From the stack she carried, Rex extracted two files and delivered them to Mamoru's hand. When he thanked her a second time, she bowed to each of them in turn and left the room. Ken's face clouded as he watched her leave and Mamoru wondered what memories were tearing at his heart. Best not to dwell on it, Mamoru decided. Best to tell the truth as quickly as possible.
He quickly thumbed the files—not to make sure they were correct for Rex seldom made mistakes, but to arouse Ken's interest. It worked as it should and Mamoru held the documents out to him.
"You are very privileged," he said. "Few people get to see these. They are my personal files. They are divided into two sections: my own accounts, which no one but those involved will ever know about, and public accounts, which include copies of all relevant public documents, including such things as birth and death certificates."
Ken took the files gingerly and began to sift through them. Mamoru could tell by the look on his face which parts he was reading. There was pleasure, fear, and sadness in the personal notes chronicling his time in Weiss, written in the hand of Omi Tsukiyono, and a certain smugness in the personal notes written about Nagi Naoe and his time spent with Schwarz.
All of that changed when he reached the public section of each folder.
Mamoru turned his attention to his noodles, allowing Ken a private moment. He knew what would be found. Ken's public records began with his birth, his schooling, and glowing reports about his goaltending abilities, but quickly degenerated into scandal, reprisal, expulsion, and death. Beyond this certificate were the prison's official records regarding a mysterious inmate, badly behaved, often reprimanded, and flagged as a troublemaker. The reports overflowed with photos.
Nagi Naoe's offical documentation was clean, clear, and to the point. His place of birth was unknown. He was recruited by one Brad Crawford and enrolled in the rather exclusive Rosenkreuz academy where he excelled and was reward with specialized tutoring. Under the direction of the same Brad Crawford, he returned to Japan as a bodyguard for Reiji Takatori. He was dismissed, for no fault of his own, and eventually returned to Rosenkreuz where he received extra training and was sent out to guard a number of other important people, including one Mamoru Takatori.
As stated, Nagi Naoe, the individual, had no black marks to his name.
"What are these?" Ken said, holding up a handful of letters. They were written in English, German, French—all languages he did not easily understand.
"Letters of recommendation," Mamoru told him. "Naoe has helped to guard politicians and businessmen from around the world and received glowing praise from each of them. That is what they say about someone like Nagi Naoe."
Ken looked sick. He gathered up the documents and tucked them back into their folders. As he held them out, Mamoru could see that his hands were trembling.
Mamoru gathered up the folders, put them aside, and stood up. It was a position intended to underline his authority, but as he took a step toward Ken, he decided that it simply would not do and crouched before his friend who had earned so much and been given so little.
"Business is business," he said gently, grasping his friend's hand, "and image is everything. I'm sorry, Ken-kun."
A frightening emotion flickered across Ken's face, one that Mamoru remembered from the bad days: an aching despair that no balm could ease.
"I guess I should have expected that," he said bitterly. "There really is nothing for me here."
"It isn't so bad," Mamoru told him. "Go to England. Be someone new. Only Sir Richard knows about these documents and he has no interest in sharing the information. Where I go now, none of you should follow, but you will have Aya to share your road. In fact, I think you should bring him a gift. I know just the thing"
By the time Ken left, Mamoru felt so exhausted that when the phone rang, he briefly considered letting the answering service get it and then snatched it up at the very last moment.
"You call me and then let your secretary give me the run-around when I call you back," Nagi Naoe said, his voice only slightly accusing.
"I'm sorry, I was in a meeting."
"Yes, that meeting," Mamoru said. He couldn't help smiling, just a little. "I have a job for you and your… associates."
Schuldig must have been listening in on the conversation because Mamoru heard him burst into laughter in the background.
"Schwarz as the new Weiss," Nagi said. This time his voice was without inflection. "How is that for dark irony?"
Mamoru agreed that the irony was indeed dark, and made arrangements to have Rex drop off the details. Unlike Weiss, who was fully under his command, Schwarz liked to move around. He then began to prepare his office for his next appointment, hiding the photographs and putting out the financial magazines and executive toys that the client considered signs of sound management.
It was good, Mamoru decided, that Ken was well out of it. His negative image would have done neither of them any good, especially when it hid such a pure heart. Mamoru Takatori's world was better weathered with a clean record and a ruthless soul.