Fujiko spreads the newspaper across the table, absently knocking a cup of coffee and a pop-gun from their resting places. Jigen deftly catches his mug, before its contents spill to the floor, and grumbles at the woman's utter lack of awareness.
"They're priceless," Fujiko announces, tapping a perfectly manicured finger against an article featuring an unremarkable set of hina-ningyō. "The Fox and Hound have been on display in royal palaces for centuries. Everyone who's anyone has displayed them for hinamatsuri. They're worth a fortune."
Jigen fixes her with a look. "They're dolls."
"They sure are," Lupin agrees, his attention completely focused on the v-neck cut of Fujiko's bright yellow sun-dress. He pulls his feet into his lap and cups his chin in his palms to bask in view of her cleavage.
"They're lovers," Fujiko elaborates with impatient eyes. "They were exquisitely hand-crafted to resemble the emperor and his favorite concubine. Down to the last freckle."
"Huh." Lupin's nose twitches. "Who knew the emperor was a furry?"
"Spirit animals, but that's aside the point," Fujiko adds, attempting to gloss over the holes in her sales pitch. "They've been passed down, generation to generation, through royal families and wealthy collectors. And they're inseparable: any time they are displayed apart, a wave of tragedy crashes against the owners until they're reunited. It's even said they look for each other when left alone."
Jigen sips his coffee with one pinky up and arches an eyebrow so high that his hat tilts. "They're cursed dolls."
Fujiko exhales sharply, expressing her displeasure for Jigen's negativity. She rolls her eyes at him, then leans in toward Lupin for a patented doe-eyed kill. "I think it's romantic," she coos.
The gesture drives both men up the wall, for entirely different reasons.
Lupin slaps the table. "Why don't I own kinky action figures?"
"Dolls," Fujiko corrects, twirling a finger through his hair.
"Damnit, boss." Jigen's points at the paper with both hands, attempting to emphasize the absurdity of the plan. "They're dolls."
"Lovers, Jigen," Lupin corrects with a wink. "Keep up."
They sneak in to the museum after hours, through a service entrance left unguarded. Fujiko guides them through the dark halls and past the antiquated security from the safety of their getaway car. Lupin prefers not to question where or who Fujiko lifted access passes and building blueprints from, and Jigen is professional enough to ignore the continual commentary Lupin coos to the woman on the other end of his mic. It takes a real trusting woman to invest her livelihood to the two of them.
"Shit," Jigen hisses, checking the corner for guards and taking a peek at the dolls in person. "These things are seriously creepy."
"I think they're kind of cute." Lupin presses his face against the glass case, searching for pressure sensors and hidden locks. The dolls sit against each other, delicately nestled among silks and miniature renditions of appropriate court-given gifts, staring back at him. "Kind of familiar, even."
Jigen sneaks over for a closer look at the cuddling Fox and Hound, dressed in red and blue, respectively. "Well, the red one is pretty foxy," he admits, thankful his hat prevents the emergency lighting from betraying an uncharacteristic blush.
Lupin keels back, emitting a burst of laughter. He wipes a tear from his eye and cups the mic to relay the message. "Fuji says the dog's only familiar because I'm too busy checking out my reflection in the glass."
"Or because she's a bitch," Jigen retorts, feeling increasingly at risk the more his partner chatters with their getaway driver. It takes a minute before he tastes the resentment in the statement and moves to correct it. "You know, the doll."
Lupin giggles, dismisses the commentary with a wave, and nonchalantly pops the lock on the case. "No, no. He says you must be the foxy one."
As Lupin's hands enter the box, the building lights turn on. The two of them freeze in place. "Foxy one," Lupin asks, tentatively. "Tell me you flipped the lights."
"Negative, boss," Jigen answers instinctively, reaching for his gun and backing toward the other man, alert and prepared.
"Daddy's gotta work now, Fuji-cakes." An alarm sounds and Lupin's eyebrows knit in rare concern. He swipes the dolls and the two of them make for a hasty retreat.
Jigen stops at each split in the path, throwing hand signals SWAT style, as Lupin stalks him like a shadow. Being stealthy is pointless once the lights are on and the men make no attempt to avoid cameras. They round the last corner and narrowly spot two guards investigating the maintenance doors before peeling around the corner.
"Plan B," Jigen whispers as his hand flies up, connecting with Lupin's chest, and flattens the two of them against the wall. He gestures toward an elevator.
Lupin starts backing down the hall and immediately stops at the sound of heavily armed footsteps hot on their tail. "Scratch that," Lupin sighs, then breaks away from the wall to stretch his arms and legs. Satisfied with his elasticity, Lupin starts rifling through his pockets.
"What are you doing?" Jigen questions as the man leans in close enough that he ruffles his beard. He expects the other man to plant a kiss and leap off into a display of cockeyed heroics: he's done it before.
Instead, Lupin smiles wide and tosses him the security badge. "Putting these guys to work!"
Lupin dashes off round the corner and meeps like the Roadrunner before the door guards chase him down the hall like clueless Coyotes. Guards closing in behind him, Jigen reluctantly takes the opportunity to escape out the maintenance doors.
The wind outside threatens to steal his hat as he makes his way across the access alley to the small park where they've stashed the car. Steam curls from its tailpipe and Fujiko rolls down the window at his approach. "What happened? I lost you guys."
"Some broad conned a man into stealing some dolls," Jigen grouches, mocking Fujiko's blatant act of ignorance. She reaches across the tiny car and opens the passenger door for him. "He's playing Yakety Sax with the guards. Plan B."
Fujiko's already accelerating by the time Jigen closes the door, treading that fine line between concerned rush and casual observer. She circles around the park toward an angle more suitable for spying on the museum's side exits. "Did you get the--"
A siren's wail pierces Fujiko's question as a stream of police cars whip past the park and grind to a halt at the visible exits of the building. The familiar figure of Koichi Zenigata emerges from the lead cruiser and stalks toward the main doors, megaphone in hand. Jigen and Fujiko curse in unison.
Fujiko consciously drives the car toward the park's exit and Jigen jumps in his seat to protest. "No fucking way I'm leaving him--"
"He'll recognize the car." Fujiko's voice is calm and even, if a little sad. "We have to go."
Jigen punches the glovebox.
Lupin sits, bow-legged, in a nondescript police interrogation room, making faces at the one-way glass. His hands are cuffed behind him, but it's all for show: both Lupin and Zenigata know handcuffs are child's play to the thief. They simply respect each other enough to play the game.
When he eventually runs out of DeNiro quotes to sling at his reflection, he wilts, slumping face-first onto the table at the center of the room. He starts to drift off into a nap when the door opens and he can feel himself springing back into life.
The trusty inspector launches into a well practiced and incredibly boring speech about rights -- and regulations and liberties and charges -- and Lupin yawns. Finally, the inspector sits down across from Lupin and sets his hat on the table and rakes his fingers through his short cropped hair. He shakes his head in dismay. "The Fox and Hound, Lupin?"
Lupin rolls his eyes and his upper body seems to follow the motion like a clockwork cat. "Well, you know. It started with Strawberry Shortcake, then Holiday Barbie, then Tickle Me Elmo and Beanie Babies, and they're like Pokemon: you've gotta catch ‘em all..."
Zenigata leans in, sliding a voice recorder across the table for clearer audio. "Are you confessing to the ‘99 Beanie Baby heist?"
"No." Lupin reflects the posture and intensity, leaning in to share a secret with the officer. "I'm expressing my belief that all individuals deserve freedom from tiny plastic display cases. That a Snorlax should love a Cupcake Lady in any manner they consent to. That--"
Zenigata sighs and reaches into his jacket to retrieve a folder, then starts setting photos on the table. "I think you're getting sloppy. I know you stole those dolls and I think you wanted to get caught. I just don't understand why you'd go through all the trouble and ditch the prize."
Lupin blinks, mocking offense. "Ditch is such a harsh word. I like to think I helped them elope."
Ignoring him, Zenigata jabs a photo with a thick finger. "We spotted Fujiko's vehicle in the vicinity. When we find her, she's going away for aiding and abetting a felon. For a long time. Tell me where you hid the dolls and I'll call off my men."
Lupin giggles. "That is a fantastic shot of her. Isn't she cute?"
Zenigata pulls out another photo. "We also have Jigen at the scene, armed and dangerous. Do you know what the penalty for waving a gun is around here? I'm sure the locals would love to send him back home to the States for due prosecution."
"All I need is a confession, Lupin."
Lupin nods dutifully and takes a deep breath before speaking. "I confess: your eyes look magnificent in this lighting. Have you been moisturizing?"
"Hey, Jigen." Lupin purrs in that low sexy-voice he generally reserves for solid gold idols or aged bottles of scotch. "Does this make me look fat?"
It's warm and sunny, and Jigen's wrapped in silk sheets. He doesn't really want to stir from the environment, but the scenario doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Things that don't make sense generally lead to bad situations.
He sits up, eyes wide, and takes in the scene.
He and Lupin are in a Heian court. Lupin looks ridiculous in the ceremonial outfit: the layers of red silks sliding off his shoulders and draping around him like a child trying on his mother's dresses.
Jigen finds his outfit equally concerning: all layers of floppy blue fabric and floral patterns. It occurs to him that they're both dressed as the Fox and Hound dolls. He pats his side and suddenly feels incredibly naked without his pistol. "What the hell is this?"
Lupin sprawls out on the floor like an octopus, fabric pooling around him, and casually slinks his way to Jigen's side. "Your dreams come true. Or maybe mine. I do like concubines."
Jigen raises an eyebrow and Lupin playfully pokes his nose with a finger. Jigen swats away the other man's hand and it dawns on him that his hat is also missing. "This is just fucking weird."
"Oh, relax." Lupin crosses his arms behind his head, stretching out to a lounge in the gunman's lap. "Hey. Your clothes are like giant pillows."
Jigen scowls. "Watch it: giant pillows got us into this mess."
Lupin rolls his eyes. "Don't start pouting. Your makeup's going to run."
"Makeup?" Jigen touches his face and examines his hands: his fingers are coated in white powder. He can only imagine he's done up full geisha style. "Well, crap. Can this dream get any weirder?"
Lupin wiggles his eyebrows and a predatory smile creeps to his lips. "I like where this is heading."
"What? Wait. I just..."
Crafty fingers make short work of the knots and folds of the ceremonial outfit and Jigen is shocked at how crisp the air is without the robes. His flesh prickles beneath Lupin's hand as he draws it up his sternum and pushes him to the floor. Skinny legs straddle his sides and Lupin sneaks in for a kiss before making his way back down his neck.
"Fuckin' dolls." Jigen curses as his eyes roll to the back of his head.
"Lovers, Jigen," Lupin whispers. "Keep up."
Jigen wakes up, startled by the stark contrast of cold darkness from his dream. He'd fallen asleep at the small table of their hideout, cigarette burnt out between his fingers, a puddle of drool collecting in the crook of his arm.
He scrubs the sleep from his eyes and draws a hand down his face, to clear his mind and assure himself he's actually awake.
A crick in his back draws his attention to a bulge in his coat. Further investigation reveals the strange lump in his jacket to actually be a tiny red-dressed doll.
He sets the Fox down on the table at arm's length and refuses to break eye contact with it while he fishes another cigarette out of his breast pocket. He lights it and takes a drag, pressing pieces of the puzzle together while the fire smolders.
His mind stops at the memory of Lupin stretching in the hall and leaning in close enough to smell him, but brushes it off as a remnant of the dream. He reaches for the doll and turns it about in his fingers, studying it like an active explosive.
Sweat beads under his hat and he grumbles. Frustrated, he slams the thing back down on the table and, curiously, it rings metallic. He quickly picks it back up and fumbles with the base, which he quickly discovers is removable and hiding something very strange: a compass.
He frowns, staring at the new-found puzzle, as his excitement promptly evaporates. He sets the doll back down and stares at the base, the tiny silver needle pointing up and beyond. Flicking the ashes from his cigarette, he idly searches the room in the direction of the needle.
It occurs to him that the small window at the end of the room is not, in fact, north. He curses and exhales noisily, giving up and pulling the brim of his hat down across his eyes to break his attention from the monstrosity on the table.
Doll, he corrects himself. Cursed doll.
A thought hits him and he springs from his chair, launching across the small room to a phonebook. He flips through the pages and finds a map of the city, then slaps the book on the table and scours it for clues.
The only obvious facility in the direction the doll points is a private airport. The kind used for transporting politicians and prisoners quietly and efficiently.
Obviously, Lupin took more time to read the descriptive plaque than he let on.
Meanwhile, Lupin sits in his very own dark cell, pretending to sleep while the guards make the rounds, snoring loudly to sell the illusion.
The shift changes, a new guard rattles his cage, then disappears around the corner for what experts in his field refer to as "a nap."
Satisfied the guards are occupied, Lupin shakes his pant leg and the doll slides out to the floor. He chuckles to himself: guards are always so squicked about frisking a guy's junk that they always miss the good stuff.
Finally having a moment to observe his prize, he flips the doll about and wonders what makes the Hound so special. He peels back the folds of clothing for a peek at hand-carved breasts and turns the doll upside-down for a quick leg study.
Not bad, he decides: the emperor had taste.
Bored, he unscrews the discolored base and checks the compass. The cell's dark, but he can spot a glint of metal pointing out toward the general direction of freedom and he's suddenly very glad he took three minutes to skim the Wiki on the things before the heist.
He finds himself grinning like a mad-man: the doll kinda looks like Jigen.
It could really use a hat.
"What are you doing?" Fujiko demands, barely slipping into the passenger seat before Jigen presses the pedal to the floorboards.
"Reuniting lovers." Jigen reaches into his pocket and spears the doll upside-down into the first cup-holder he can find. Its clothing flops around the plastic edges like a silk flower, exposing the compass at the secret base.
She stifles a few protesting rants about the state of her treasure, disheveled and obviously man-handled, and points at the compass. "Is that my doll?"
He spares her a conspiratory glance. "It'll be both dolls if this shit actually works."
Lupin fakes a struggle with his jacket to emphasize he's still in cuffs, for Inspector Zenigata's sake, as he attempts to shield his eyes from the early morning light. Guards woke him up, without even offering breakfast, and dragged him out of the holding cell toward daylight.
Zenigata pokes him in the back with a gun, warning him not to try any funny business, and he pouts. He's beginning to regret not holding one of them hostage for a cup of coffee.
The Inspector, however, betrays signs of a legendary night's sleep. "Stay alert, men," he practically sings. "We don't want any surprises."
They trudge along along a few well-guarded alleys to an open air-field and it occurs to Lupin that it'd be a great to come up with a back-up plan, just in case Jigen didn't get the memo.
Lupin notices the glimmers of sunlight reflecting from guard towers slowly blinking out of existence. He quietly breathes a sigh of relief: Jigen's right on time.
Beside him, Zenigata's radio crackles: a very grumpy man reports a small yellow Fiat, Lupin's signature getaway car, being spotted in the area. The inspector turns to Lupin and eyes him, suspicious of a ruse, yet eager for a greater capture.
Their plane in sight, Zenigata slaps one of Lupin's escorts on the shoulder and grins. "I think you guys can handle it from here. I'll meet you at International right after I grab the other two culprits in this affront to your country!"
The three of them turn to watch the ICPO agent jovially hop across the air-field back to the security headquarters, hand clutching at his hat to keep it from escaping without him. Lupin can't help but raise an eyebrow and make a mental note to compliment the man's timing: it's a wonder the inspector has never been pinned as an accomplice.
The guards nudge him and venture forward but stop short. Standing just off in the distance, a figure in a dark suit and fedora is carefully aiming a pistol at them.
The guards sound the alarm and attempt to raise their guns, but Lupin is quicker. He's weaseled his way out of the handcuffs and managed to entrap the guards in a tangle of their own limbs. They trip themselves up and their weapons fly, skittering across the asphalt.
Lupin cringes as Jigen shoots them, but he's relieved when he sees the tell-tale fetching of tranquilizer darts protruding from the men where bullet holes should be. They collapse in a heap and he nudges them with a toe.
"My hero!" Lupin claps his hands together and bats his eyelashes as Jigen nears. "Is that an ancient imperial doll in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
Jigen holsters his gun and reaches into his pocket to retrieve the doll. "Rendezvous with Fujiko in 20."
He tosses the doll to Lupin, who catches it mid-air and tucks it into his jacket. The Lovers snap together with a silk-muffled click. Lupin grins, pun irresistible: "Don't you just love it when couples come together?"
Jigen sighs and tugs his hat down across his eyes. "I still think they're creepy."
Joke ignored, Lupin deflates. "I'm fresh out of life-debts, but as the rescue-ee, I'll gladly owe you firstborn children, infinite riches and/or sexual favors."
"No thanks." Jigen shakes his head and quickens his pace toward their exit. "I think I'm covered."
"No, no. I insist," Lupin pries, barely out of breath. "After the dreams I've been having..."
Jigen arches an eyebrow and attempts to smooth over the alarm in his tone by setting his jaw. "If you say geishas, I swear to God--"
"I dreamed we were lesbians at Anthrocon." Lupin wiggles his eyebrows at his partner as they slip through the chain-link fence. "But go on: tell me about these geishas."
As they reach a safe distance from the air-field, Jigen's posture begins to relax. He lights a cigarette and groans. "Let's just say I've had enough of fur and cosplay to last a lifetime."
"Then you're doing it wrong." Lupin grabs the man by the tie and pulls him in for a kiss. "But we can work on that."