Ken did not want to move. Whatever else he might know or not know in this world, he was absolutely certain that he did not want to move. The only possible thing that could be better than lying in post-coital bliss with his arm wrapped around Aya's waist and his face buried in Aya's hair was to have Chloe on the other side of him. The blanket was slipping and his back was cold.
Unfortunately, Chloe and his body heat were on Aya's other side and Ken was not child enough to crawl over the one to worm his way between the two. Besides, he just did not want to move.
He felt so lazy and languid, in fact, that he assumed the same of his partners and was rather surprised to feel Aya shift beneath his arm and try to sit up.
'Wheragong?" Ken murmured and then huffed in annoyance. Giving his body a chance to wake up and catch up with his thoughts, he tried again.
"Where're you goin'?"
Not perfect, but better. Good enough for Aya to understand him at any rate.
"To bed," Aya said, nudging Chloe, who was already sliding from between the sheets.
"What's wrong with my bed?"
"Nothing," Aya said, "but there are too many people in it. I don't like feeling crowded. Or too warm," he added after a moment's thought.
Ken snorted. His bed was a good size, so no excuses there. He did like it warm and used too many blankets, not to mention a duvet, but those could be left off.
"S'not that bad," he grumbled. He looked to Chloe for confirmation.
"Sorry, but I agree with Aya," Chloe said. "It's impossible to sleep in a crowded bed and I have the early shift tomorrow, much to my unending sorrow. Besides, you kick."
"I don't," Ken argued. "How would you even know?"
It was their first time together, officially, as a threesome. Heavy petting and making out in the stockroom did not count. Aya could not have told him because with Aya…
Well, with Aya there was always something to get back to and no time for sleep.
"You remember when Sir Richard sent us to Southampton?"
"You mean when they fucked up our reservations and the only room we could get had one bed. So? You slept on the floor."
"Because you fell asleep first and watching you made me fear for my life," Chloe said in a tone that was both charming and made Ken feel like something to be scraped off his shoe. "I prefer to share your bed when you're conscious."
Aya shot Chloe sidelong glance that said, as accurate as the assessment might be, it was too harsh.
"I just prefer space," he said, turning back to Ken. "You know that."
Ken sighed, but could not argue. Aya really did prefer more personal space than anyone else Ken had ever met. Whether it was an after-effect of the tragedy that first brought him to Weiss or whether Aya had always been standoffish, Ken might never know, but he was not the touchy-feely sort. The intimacy he had shown since coming to England was new and different enough that Ken could understand if he preferred to take it in small doses.
"Fine," Ken said, rolling onto his back. He supposed there would be another time. "Run off and leave me. But you guys owe me."
"There's no need to be melodramatic, Lovely," Chloe said, playfully tugging a lock of Ken's hair.
"Go fuck yourself."
"But I'd rather fuck you."
"Fuck yourself anyway."
"That's enough, both of you," Aya said in the mild tones of someone who has said the same thing a million times before. "We're all working tomorrow and should all get a decent night's sleep. We can argue about the details in the morning."
"Yeah, yeah…whatever. Go. Good night," Ken said, waving them off and flinging an arm over his eyes as if to block out their chatter. Aya murmured an apology and Chloe said something teasing, but Ken ignored them both, not looking up again until he heard them leave the room. When they were safely gone, he sat up and sighed.
The room felt empty and he suddenly felt the need for a shower. Sex was a messy business, which was not something he cared about in a group, but sitting alone he was acutely aware of the film of sweat on his skin, the slickness of spilled lubricant, and God only knew what else.
"Might as well wash up," he muttered and crawled out of bed.
Once he was clean, he felt better and better still after the sheets were changed. Fresh sheets, soft pillows, and a mountain of warm blankets were one of life's most underrated pleasures.
Let Aya and Chloe spend the night in their cold beds. They had no idea what they were missing.
Ken stopped admiring his display and glanced at Aya, who stood beside him, spritzing potted plants to keep them fresh and make them look more appealing.
Ken took mental stock of his limbs and realized that his right hand was resting in the small of Aya's back. He had not put it there consciously; it was an automatic gesture. And why should it not be? He cared deeply for Aya. Touch was part and parcel of that.
Never the less, he pulled his hand away. Taking Aya's feelings into account was also part of caring.
"Sorry," he said.
"Don't do things like that in the shop," Aya told him. "It's bad for business."
It was a gentle rebuke, but being chastised for something so natural made Ken bristle.
"I don't see how," he grumbled, although he supposed he did. Not all of their clients were as open about same-sex relationships as their teammates, and that only accounted for his relationship with Aya. Now that Chloe was in the picture, customers drawing the right conclusion could bring them far more attention than they wanted, very little of it good.
"I know you do," Aya said.
"I barely touched you," Ken whispered under his breath, trying one last time to protect his personal interests, customers be damned. He knew it would not work.
"Not in the shop," Aya repeated, and moved away to water the flowers out of arm's reach.
Chloe was no better.
"You're getting my coat dirty," he said when Ken slunk up behind him and caught him around the waist.
"You work in a flower shop, you're supposed to get dirty," Ken reasoned.
"Not from the back. That's why my apron is around the front," Chloe replied, his voice like acid.
Ken sighed and dropped his arms.
"What's the fucking problem? You didn't complain about it last night."
"That was last night," Chloe reminded him. "This is today and we're in the shop."
"In the cutting room," Ken said. "No one can see us here."
There was the slightest echo of contempt in Chloe's voice, the unspoken opinion that Ken was crude and unrefined, best turned loose in the country to forage with the rest of the animals.
Ken sighed. Normally he liked arguing with Chloe -– the antagonism between them was part of what drew them together. Today, however, Chloe's frosty response turned him off.
"Fine," he said. "Not in the shop."
Ken was nothing if not true to his word and he kept his hands to himself for the rest of the day. He felt a little put out, but did not want to make either Aya or Chloe uncomfortable. It did nothing to help his mood when he caught them making eyes at each other across the store -– a touch of romance in a form that no one who did not know they were in a relationship would recognize. Neither of them offered the same to him, nor would he know how to return such a look; smouldering glances was never offered to him as part of the curriculum.
He consoled himself by thinking that there would be something more physical later, but Chloe and Aya were sent out on an errand and Ken slept alone.
The next day brought a delivery to the shop and Aya spent part of the morning sorting the soil from the fertilizer and checking their order against the packing slip. Ken waited until the shop was quiet and slipped into the back to join him.
"I thought I'd never get you alone," he huffed.
Aya was finished tallying the order, so Ken did not wait for an invitation. He stepped forward, slid his fingers into Aya's hair and drew his teammate closer for a kiss. He was thoroughly shocked when, instead of meeting his lips, Aya pulled away.
"What the hell?" Ken snapped.
"Keep it down," Aya said. "Everyone will know what you're up to."
"Everyone already knows what we're up to," Ken said. "You've never had a problem with it before."
"We've never had a third before."
"Well, fuck," Ken said, stepping away and running his fingers through his hair. He scratched at his scalp a few times in frustration. When Aya had casually mentioned that the inclusion of Chloe would be good for them, he had not expected this. He enjoyed Chloe's company, of course, if only in the way one loves to poke at a chancre sore, but he saw no reason why it should change his interaction with Aya.
"Look," Ken said. "If it's fairness you're worried about, call him in here."
"That will be taking too many people away from the shop," Aya told him.
"It's dead out there," Ken said. "We won't be taking away from shit. But if you want, we can make out for five minutes, then I'll send Chloe in here and the two of you can make out for five minutes, and then you can send me back in and I'll make out with Chloe for five minutes, and then everyone will have had a turn."
"That will be too much time…"
"It's fifteen fucking minutes, Aya," Ken said. "You can take it out of my break."
"I think we should wait," Aya replied. "We'll certainly have our chance and we can all do it together. Having a third means we need to be more considerate and think of what effect our actions might have."
"You think I don't?"
It was an insult to have Aya scold him like a child even though Ken knew very well that Aya could be pretentious at times. Of course he was thinking of Chloe. If Chloe wanted time alone with either of them to make up for the time he and Aya had spent in the storeroom, then Ken was fine with that. Thinking that Chloe's involvement should not limit his demonstrations of affection toward Aya did not make him inconsiderate.
"I never said that," Aya told him after too long a silence.
"Okay, fine," Ken said, throwing his hands up in disgust. "No fucking around in the stockroom either. You guys really know how not to have a good time."
And, with that, Ken returned to the shop and began sweeping the floor in a way that made Yuki raise his eyebrows and then frown slightly at the broom bristles as though Ken's sweeping might damage them all beyond repair.
Well, let him frown. Ken was past caring.
Even so, his anger might have passed and the clouds above his head dissipated like fog if not for the fact that Aya and Chloe, not even having the decency to slip into the back room, began exchanging vaguely sexual, complimentary, or rude remarks, couched in the normal conversation of the shop's staff.
This time Ken tried to join in, but his attempts either drew puzzled glances or looks of annoyance. Chloe even mocked him for his 'Freudian slips'.
Had his words been accidental, Ken might have enjoyed fighting it out, but he was making a serious effort and Chloe's teasing stung more than usual. For the sake of his own sanity, he gave up and found things to do out of earshot for the rest of the day.
That evening, Chloe and Aya were sent out again. This time Ken asked where they were being sent, but the only words of value that Nana offered were "stake-out" and "possible target".
Ken accepted this explanation -– what else could he do? -– and went to bed.
On the third day, Ken became antsy. It was not the lack of sex -– he could not reasonably expect either Aya or Chloe to be available all the time, let alone both of them at once. However, seeing Aya and Chloe interact in subtle ways that he could not duplicate or be a part of was beginning to get on his nerves. The frustration was doubled by the rebuff of his advances. He expressed himself physically and being denied the chance to do so felt like rejection.
It was slow torture to get through the day without touching Aya, hugging Chloe, or stealing a few private moments with either of them. If they exchanged a glance or a word with him, Ken could sense nothing more than the ordinary in their eyes or in their voice. Worse was the thought of them being away together all night. He knew it was on Sir Richard's orders, but he remembered some of the things he got up to with Aya after missions and he could not help but picture him and Chloe in the same situation.
It was not jealousy. At least it would not have been jealousy if Ken had felt a part of things. It was only natural that a set of three should pair off now and then; taking turns would be easy. However, without the ability to join in the flirtations, he felt shut out.
Ken stayed in the shop for as long as he could stand it, and then claimed illness and left early. He chased Kurumi out of the kitchen, blocked Michel when he came looking for something to drink, and took over the space intent on having the freedom to chop things violently without danger to anyone but himself.
It was not as satisfying as he hoped it would be.
For this reason, he did not join the others when it came time to eat, but served the food and disappeared back into the kitchen to clean up. He spoke to no one until Aya sought him out after the meal, carrying a stack of dirty dishes.
"Ken, we have to talk," he said.
Ken was preparing the dishwater and was not really in a mood for Aya's 'talk'. Part of him -– albeit a small, mean part -– half-suspected that Aya wanted to tell him that he was no longer welcome in their little group. It was a hasty conclusion, he knew that – three days was hardly enough time to grow bored with someone, but he could not stop the thought from surfacing.
"You've been growling at everyone all afternoon," Aya persisted. "Kurumi is flustered and Michel is walking a fine line between hurt and annoyed and doesn't know what to do with himself."
"That's because I'm in a shitty mood and they got in the way," Ken said. What was the point in denying it? "I'll apologize later."
"You shouldn't need to. You shouldn't have snapped at them in the first place," Aya said.
"Fuck you. It was that or stab them."
Aya did not reply immediately. He had known Ken for too long to be buffeted by mere irritability.
"Is it because I turned you away? I thought you understood…"
"No," Ken said, anger welling up all at once. "No, it's not because you turned me away. It's because you turned me away and Chloe turned me away, and then you run off on mysterious missions together."
"It was just a stake-out to observe a possible target. We need to make sure we have the right man."
"I remember what we used to do on stake-outs," Ken replied.
"Chloe and I have done nothing," Aya said. His voice remained calm, but there was a hint of strain in it that indicated the conversation was not going as he expected. "We agreed that it would be inconsiderate for two to go off and leave the third behind."
"We? You mean you and Chloe?" Ken said. "I sure as hell didn't agree to that. What the hell is wrong with two going off together if the third one isn't available? Or taking turns? We can't do everything in threes."
"Well," Aya began, but Ken cut him off.
"And what the hell is so considerate about you and Chloe telling me to shove off and then making eyes at each other across the shop? Or talking in little flowery poems about each other? Or making smart and dirty comments that only the two of you will get?
"And don't tell me I can just join in," Ken added before Aya could speak. "I can't do that shit. I can't do the eyes thing or the double…double…"
"Double-entendres," Aya said.
Ken ran his hands through his hair and stalked around the kitchen.
"Look, Aya," Ken said, coming to a halt. "I can't do all those clever things, okay? That's not how I work. You want me to tone it down? Okay, fine. Fine. Just don't shut me out, okay? And don't tease me all the fucking time."
He hesitated, half-expecting Aya to say something, and then realized he did not want to hear it. Not now.
"I'm going to watch a movie," Ken said abruptly. He grabbed a beer out of the fridge and headed for the living room. "Do the dishes or something. It's your damned turn."
Ken slunk into the front room and flopped down onto the sofa. He turned on the television and raised the volume just enough to show he was not interested in talking, but not so loud that he could not hear what was going on outside the room. He flipped through the channels, but could find nothing good on, so he chose a station at random and pretended to be absorbed by the programming. No sound came from the kitchen for some time, and then he heard someone doing the dishes.
Good, Ken thought. It was about time Aya did something around the place.
It was an unfair assessment; Aya did plenty, even if the dishes were not one of those usual things. Nevertheless, Ken took grim satisfaction in the thought.
After a while, the noises stopped. He could hear the faint sound of voices speaking at low volume. One was Aya and he was quite certain the other was Chloe. He decided to ignore them, but the television program was not engrossing enough to hold his attention. He was acutely aware of the sound of footsteps approaching him from behind and was not surprised when Aya stepped into his field of view.
"May I sit?"
"Do whatever the hell you want," Ken said. "I don't give a fuck."
He expected a rebuke, either for his language or his attitude, but Aya said nothing. Instead, he sat down on the sofa beside Ken. He sat back, stiff and uncertain, so that Ken's head, in his slump, only reached to Aya's shoulder.
They sat in silence for a while, and then Aya tentatively spoke.
"Ken," he said. "Chloe and I…"
"Go away," Ken said.
"Stop interrupting me," he said and draped an arm over the back of the sofa so that his fingers could tangle in Ken's hair. Ken tried to duck out of the way, but his slouched position left him nowhere to run. "You're right, all right? You're right. We like to play games with words and looks. We're intellectual and you…"
"Only at the moment," Aya said. "You're very physical. Are Chloe and I out of shape just because we don't want to touch all the time?"
"No," Ken said reluctantly.
"Then you're not dumb; you just play the game differently," Aya said. "And we didn't take that into account. I'm sorry."
Ken wanted to keep being angry, but it was not every day that Aya told him he was right. Not to mention having Aya's fingers sliding through his hair and gently massaging his scalp felt nice. Really nice.
"Fine," Ken said, leaning into the touch. "I forgive you."
He tilted his head back and Aya treated him to a kiss.
As though he were waiting for that precise moment, Chloe popped into his field of view, leaning against the back of the sofa.
"Is it safe to come out?" he said. "The lion has been tamed?"
"Fuck you, Chloe," Ken said when Aya pulled away, but before he could turn back to the television, Chloe caught him under the chin and bent over to kiss him as well.
"Sounds like things are back to normal," he said as he straightened. "One refined red-head and one foul-mouthed brunet."
"And a sarcastic blond makes the complete set," Ken said. "What do you want, Chloe?"
"To invite you to bed once you're done watching television, of course," Chloe told him. "Aya might have the misfortune of working the early shift, but I don't need to be on the floor until tomorrow afternoon. I can suffer a few kicks tonight."
"I have to work early too," Ken said.
"All the better," Chloe said. "I'll have a bruise-free morning. And it's much quieter in the mornings," he continued when Ken glared up at him, "so Yuki can mind the shop well enough in the event that the stockroom is in need of a vigourous cleaning."
Ken raised his eyebrows. "Vigourous?"
"Very vigourous. Bring rubber…gloves."
"Fuck you, Chloe," Ken said, but he was smiling.
"And buy a dictionary. Your vocabulary is sorely limited."
"Goodbye, Chloe," Aya said. "You can have him later. I'm taking my turn with him tonight. Tomorrow we can do something as a group."
"Enjoy yourselves, if such a thing is possible without me," Chloe said. "I'll be reading in my room. Send him up to me when you're done, Aya. Clothing is optional."
With that, Chloe waved a brief goodbye and left the room.
"Thanks," Ken said. "I guess I should apologize for getting mad, but I’m not sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Aya said. "Now sit up. I'm tired of looking at the top of your head."
"You come down here."
They met in the middle, Ken sitting up even as Aya slid down a little.
"If I'd known a threesome was going to be such a pain, I might not have signed up," Ken said.
"We'll make it work," Aya told him and kissed him again.