“Oda!” Kanou hung up their shared phone with shaking hands. “We’ve got a job.”
Oda didn’t look up right away, polishing his badge with his sleeve. “Oh?” he asked, a slow smile on his lips as he let his gaze slide to Kanou’s flushed and eager face. His partner was just so excitable and easy to rile. And judging from the wild look in his eyes and the wide grin on his face, it could only mean one thing…
“I just got an anonymous tip—the Bijou headquarters! I know where it is! Come on, Oda, we’ve got to get moving. We’ve got to make the capture of the century, before--”
“Before yer friend Mihashi does?”
“Friend, yes, and rival!” Kanou bustled around their shared cubicle as he gathered their notes on Bijou. Making sure Oda was looking, he dramatically took up a bright red tack and shoved it into a spot on the city map hanging on their wall. “Roka’s here.”
Oda squinted a little. “The red light district.”
“Exactly.” Kanou was starting to look decidedly foxlike. Predatory. “Starbutts, to be precise. The strip club. It’s a front for Bijou headquarters.”
Seemed too easy, too convenient, too good to be true. Oda scratched a sideburn, thinking. “And yer sure yer anonymous tipper was telling the truth?”
Kanou huffed and rolled his eyes. “Well, yes.”
“How do you know that?” Not that Oda didn’t want to believe Kanou, but sometimes Kanou tended to rush into things, so eager to get the bad guy he’d follow any lead and burn himself out chasing dead ends.
“Because,” Kanou said, sounding extremely put-upon, “he’s not really anonymous. Not to me, anyway. Just to everyone else.”
Oda raised one impressive eyebrow.
“It’s not like I think you’d put him in danger or anything. I just can’t tell you.”
Oda nodded and turned back to their Bijou notes.
He wasn’t even going to push things! He was just going to be infuriatingly calm and move on like it was nothing and just wait for Kanou to get so worked up he spilled it anyway. Kanou growled. Well, he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He’d say it before he exploded. “It’s Roka’s brother Riou!”
The whole office turned to stare at Kanou. He glared until they all went back to what they were doing before his outburst.
Oda smiled and kept looking over their notes. “And you trust him?” The Bijou mob controlled nearly the whole city. Roka was the boss, and Riou… Riou wasn’t a part of the mob, despite that. At least, that’s what Oda and Kanou had been able to gather. Oda wasn’t sure how Riou could manage to stay out of Roka’s clutches, though, and so wasn’t sure to believe he was truly not influenced by him at all.
“Of course I do!” Kanou slammed his fist into the desk, scattering papers everywhere. “Mihashi does, too. And you can bet he already knows all this too, so we have to hurry!”
“All right, settle down, Kanou,” Oda said, holding his hands up. “We’ll take Roka down. First, we need ta make a plan, though.”
Of course Oda was right. Kanou tended to get carried away, especially when the crimes happened to fall on the border of his jurisdiction and Mihashi’s. It was a friendly competition; they’d each do their best to outdo the other.
“Whatever, Kanou doesn’t even need a plan.” Officer Hatake approached, holding two hot coffees. “He’s a way better detective than that stupid Mihashi ever was.”
Kanou grit his teeth. He’d thought Hatake would lay off now that Mihashi had transferred, but no—Kanou himself was still the only one in the whole of Mihoshi station who recognized Mihashi’s skill for what it was while he’d been there. “Shut the hell up, Hatake. Mihashi’s a better detective than I am, and he always has been.”
“No way!” Hatake said, getting in Kanou’s face a bit. “He never put one guy behind bars the whole time he was lead detective here! And now you’re in his spot, we’ve got a way better track record. I’d like to smash his--”
“Shut. UP.” Kanou’s fist met one of the coffees Hatake was holding, the scalding contents of the cup soaking the front of Hatake’s uniform.
Kanou just watched, still fuming. “You didn’t ever help him make one arrest. You want someone to blame, blame yourself!”
Tears were welling in Hatake’s eyes, his heart hurting as much as his burnt skin.
Oda sighed and got up from his seat, setting a large hand on both their shoulders. “That’s enough. Kanou, you went too far. You should probably say yer sorry.”
Kanou glared at Hatake for a moment, then looked away. He felt like an asshole, making a grown man cry. No matter how much he deserved it. “Sorry, Hatake.”
Hatake whimpered a little and shook his head. “‘S okay. It’s just coffee. Here, you can have this one.” He offered the unharmed cup to Kanou, looking at the floor.
“Thanks.” Kanou took it and set it on the desk, then grabbed a handful of napkins. “Uh, here, let me help.”
When Hatake had left, Kanou fell back into his chair, sighing. He still felt like a total asshole, but was also still really pissed off at Hatake for underestimating Mihashi, which made him want to throw this other coffee in his face, which in turn made Kanou feel even more like an asshole. It was a vicious circle.
“He idolizes you, ya know,” Oda said, moving his chair so he was sitting beside Kanou. “Hatake does.”
“I know. The idiot.” Kanou scowled and took a long swallow of his coffee. Three sugars and a splash of cream, just like he liked. Damn Hatake.
Oda bumped his broad shoulder into Kanou’s, almost sending him off his chair. “You don’t think you deserve it?”
A blush spread across Kanou’s cheeks. He leaned in, trying to push against Oda’s larger frame to get him back. It was like moving a mountain. A really good-natured mountain. “I think Hatake’s stupid for not realizing how amazing Mihashi is. His aim is perfect. Just because Hatake couldn’t help him get the target in range, it’s not his fault.”
“Ah,” Oda said sagely, leaning back against Kanou comfortably. He’d never seen Mihashi in action, having transferred into Mihoshi station from way out in the country after he was already gone, but he was starting to understand his partner’s hangups pretty well. “You think yer not as good as Mihashi.”
“I know it.” Kanou said simply.
“Mmm, and if you beat him to Roka?”
Kanou silently took another sip of his coffee. “It doesn’t mean I’m better than he is.”
Oda smiled. “That sounds reasonable. But would you admit yer good too?”
“I guess. Yes.”
Oda’s hand fell onto Kanou’s head, ruffling his hair. “Then let’s get him.”
The plan was pretty simple. They had to catch Roka by surprise. They had enough dirt on him to arrest him on sight, but if they tried just going in and doing it, he’d slip through their fingers before they got their hands on him. They had to sneak up on him, catch him unawares, get him in sight and well surrounded, block all his escape routes, and then make the arrest.
That meant going undercover.
Oda wasn’t sure it meant Kanou had to go undercover as a woman, but Kanou had insisted. He wanted to be backstage in case Roka tried to escape that way when he figured out a bust was going down. Not that Oda was complaining. Kanou made a fine lady. He walked a little bit taller and as assuredly as ever in a pair of strappy black heels, which made Oda wonder if he had practiced for this. Oda wanted to bury his fingers in the chestnut waves cascading down Kanou’s back, never mind if it was a wig. And the slinky blue dress he was wearing gave him some unexpected curves… Oda was sure the ones up top were artificial, but the roundness of Kanou’s ass was all-natural; Oda knew, he’d examined Kanou’s figure often enough that—
Oda cleared his throat, feeling his cheeks heat. “Ya caught me.” First time he’d ever been called on it, too. Lucky.
“It’s all right. You can look.” Kanou was smirking up at Oda through too-long lashes—were they always that long and dark?
He looked playful as a kitten, but Oda wasn’t fooled. He knew better. “But don’t touch, is that it?”
“I never said that.” Kanou pouted. He’d rouged his lips too, heaven help Oda.
“Ah.” Oda swallowed and laid a hand gently at the small of Kanou’s back as they walked into Starbutts, barely touching him. He was a gentleman, after all, and his mama taught him how to treat a lady. Or a man dressed as a lady. …A date. His mama taught him how to treat a date. Except this wasn’t really a date, since they were working and about to make an arrest. And besides, Oda would never consider a strip club an appropriate date location. Oda swallowed again. Enough thinking about that. He had to get his mind back on track if they were going to catch Roka and help Kanou see how truly amazing he was.
Once they’d made it past the bouncer, Oda brought his hand up to scratch the back of his head. “We’re in,” he whispered into his cufflink.
“Good,” came Hatake’s voice over Oda’s discreet earpiece. “This Riou kid--”
Oda coughed pointedly.
“Ah, I mean, this kid here says the uh, big cheese is usually up in his private room above the bar. There’s a staircase backstage, then a hallway, and it’ll be at the end. He says there’s a view of the stage from that room.”
“Private room upstairs through the backstage. No other exits from that room? And everyone else is in position?”
“Yeah. All those things, yeah.”
Kanou was watching him expectantly, though playing it off quite well as simply being interested in him. A lady out with her man. Oda nodded to Kanou, who gave him a brilliant smile and leaned up to brush his lips to his cheek. Oda held his breath.
“I’m going up,” Kanou whispered so that both Oda and Hatake would hear. He was gone the next second, sashaying toward the bar without waiting for Oda’s response. Like he could have given one anyway, with his heart in his throat the way it was.
“There’s even other guys out here with us! It’s great! Did you guys call in backup or something?” Hatake asked, sounding enthused and geared up for a fight.
Oda’s heart sank. He rubbed his hand over his face as he started following Kanou. No way was he going to let his partner go up there to face Roka alone. In the background he heard Riou talking animatedly to someone, asking for a phone number. Tajima, he distinctly heard the name Tajima. Oda nearly groaned aloud—they were walking into a situation they just couldn’t predict.
Nishiura was here already.
Kanou walked backstage like he belonged there and casually began peering around for a staircase. He just had to make it up the stairs—there, on the left!
“Oh, there you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you; you must be the new girl.”
Before he could say a word, Kanou was taken by the arm and pulled in the opposite direction of the stairs, deeper backstage, by a cheerful-looking be-ponytailed man. Takii. Roka’s right-hand man. Kanou’s pulse began racing. This was not according to their plan; what was Roka’s right-hand man doing running the strip show? Shouldn’t this be beneath him? Kanou hadn’t expected to run into anyone important until he’d made it a lot further. He’d been so close!
“You’re on next! Break a leg!” Takii shoved Kanou behind a curtain and left him standing there as it slowly lifted.
“Wait—I—what?!” Kanou spluttered, eyes wide as the dim light gave way to the brightness of a spotlight on him. Shit.
Oda had managed to get as far as the backstage door before being stopped by a big burly man who actually looked rather sorry as he told Oda he wasn’t allowed back there. Didn’t matter that his girlfriend was backstage—lots of guys ‘girlfriends’ were. Oda could have strongarmed his way in, but causing a scene would be more trouble than it was worth at that point.
He’d given up and was making his way around the stage to the other side to see if there was a door over there too, when he heard Kanou’s voice. His head whipped around and he stopped dead in his tracks.
Kanou was onstage. Singing. Dancing… well, moving. Suggestively.
“You had plenty money nineteen-twenty-two.”
A kick and now Kanou’s leg was splayed and wrapped around the pole at center stage.
“You let other women make a fool of you.”
He bent over backwards, long chestnut hair flowing down almost to the floor with his arms outspread.
“Why don’t you do right…” his eyes locked with Oda’s and his face went crimson, “like some other men do.”
Kanou twirled around the pole, his leg hooked around it. The crowd cat-called and whistled, one whistle louder than all the others.
Oda’s eyes gravitated toward the source and his hand went immediately to his gun.
Roka. He clapped slowly as he made his way directly toward the stage, apparently unafraid. “That wasn’t bad… for your first time. You’re much bolder than I imagined you’d be. But let’s not make a scene here, hmm … Detective Kanou?”
Oda’s fingers twitched and he saw Kanou’s hand moving toward his thigh, where his gun was holstered under his dress. He was about to draw when a shout broke his concentration.
“Y-you l-leave Shuu-chan alone!”
A sure shot rang out, just brushing the hair on Roka’s head.
“Mihashi!” Kanou and another, gruffer voice called out at the same time.
All hell broke loose.
Oda dove straight for Kanou, who was still exposed there onstage although he’d drawn his weapon and was taking aim. The crowd was in chaos, with civilians screaming and tripping over each other to get out. Sprawled atop Kanou now, Oda rolled them to the edge of the stage, backs against the wall, and they surveyed the damage. Mihashi was across the room, yelling for his partner, who was on the floor with a wounded knee, the burly backstage bouncer looking stricken with a gun in his hand. The backstage door was wide open. Roka was nowhere to be seen.
“What the hell is going on in there?” Hatake’s voice came over his earpiece. “I heard shots! Is Kanou okay?! I’m comin’ in!”
When they’d secured the building, they found no trace of Roka. Hatake nearly had a heart attack because he’d been unable to find Kanou, though he hit on the hot chick Oda had rescued several times. It took Kanou kicking him in the balls for him to understand it was him.
Mihashi anxiously said goodbye to Kanou before following his partner to the hospital.
“I-it’s my fault we lost!” Mihashi burst into tears, and Kanou took him in a rough embrace.
“It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I rushed into this without calling you,” Kanou said, voice a little choked. “Next time we’ll get him. Together.”
It didn’t matter which of them was the better detective. What mattered was that they worked together to bring criminals to justice. If they’d just done that from the start, maybe Roka would have been behind bars.
“Yeah, we’ll beat you next time,” Hatake chimed in, scowling menacingly at Mihashi.
Oda bonked him on the head to prevent Kanou from killing him outright.
“I mean Roka. We’ll beat Roka,” Hatake corrected himself.
“I’m glad that’s over,” Kanou said as he slid into the passenger seat of the patrol car.
“Me too,” Oda said. He set the key in the ignition and left it there, then turned to look at Kanou. A soft smile warmed his eyes as he took in Kanou’s disheveled state, sleeves of his dress falling off his shoulders, wig tossed unceremoniously in his lap, lipstick smeared across his cheek. Just as beautiful as ever.
“You’re staring again.”
“Mmm,” Oda nodded. “Still okay?”
Kanou blushed, rubbing at his cheek and smearing the lipstick further. “…Yeah.”
Roka remained on the loose, strong as ever, with a new mafia hideout somewhere in the city.
Riou was placed in a witness protection program. He ended up the ‘son’ of Kawai Kazuki and Takase Junta, his name changed to Kawai Rin.
Kanou and Oda discovered they wanted to be partners in more than one sense of the word. They also discovered they both shared a certain fetish.