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At first, Leon had been methodical. He'd even mapped it out; every city in the world with a Chinatown. He would've just slid over to Seattle, but he doubted D had that level of ballsy duplicity. Balls enough, yeah, but his reverse psychology had always had a different kind of subtlety.

He hit Europe first; how long could that ship of D's really fly, anyway? But Europe was a wash; Chinatown after Chinatown with shopkeepers who spoke the wrong language, who didn't look right, who lacked D's alien grace.

Maybe D wouldn't choose somewhere with a Chinatown at all.

Leon sent Chris postcards every time he landed somewhere new. In India, he sent one with an elephant; in Pakistan, it was a tiger. Chris would still love animals, after all. Probably his whole life.

See, D? We're trying to do better.

Once in a while, if he knew where he was headed next, Chris would send him a letter ahead. It was nice to hear from the kid, and something else to see how he grew, his child's printing tightening up, then changing to a terrible version of script.

By the time the script started improving, he didn't really hear much from Chris any more.

The kid was growing up; he didn't need to get drawn into his big brother's crazy quest. The airlines were starting to get suspicious of his one-way tickets, and he did more travel by car or bus. He found a guide in Nepal who took him up a mountain to see a man who, they said, kept the most unusual animals he'd ever seen; strange cats, cannibalistic pigs, and-- this was the kicker-- a strange goat-like creature who could talk.

When he got up there, the strange man was just an old Chinese hermit. The pigs were jerks, the cats were feral, and the goat was just a goat. The old guy gave him a toothless grin and tried to sell him one of the pigs.

"What the hell?" he asked Da Phuti, his guide.

She shrugged her shoulders. "He is very strange," she said. "You told me the man must be foreign, and strange, so--"

That was fair enough, and he'd tipped her once they got off the mountain. She'd been honest and cheerful and carried most of his stuff once the oxygen started running thin, after all. She told him stories about the other people she'd worked for on the way down-- mostly entitled creeps from Europe and the States who'd treated her like a personal servant. Leon found himself wondering, not for the first time, if humans were really that awful to animals, or just awful to everybody.

At night, he dreamt about the ship. Half the time he'd wake up just as D pushed him off. The other times...some of them were better, and some were worse, and sometimes he could even figure out which was which.

One day he looked up and realized it'd been months since he wrote to Chris, and years since he'd been in the States. He'd been out of money since Thailand, picking up odd jobs as he went, mostly carrying around heavy stuff for little old ladies and washing dishes. He picked up a little Chinese and Vietnamese, which came in handy-- and he couldn't wait to see D's face-- but still, the slow pace of his travel was frustrating.

In Thailand, he met a man who told him about a seller in Tokyo's Chinatown who sold his sister...well, something. The story seemed familiar enough; a mysterious snake, a catastrophic disaster, the owner taking no responsibility at all. Leon could've filled in half the blanks himself.

Tokyo. Of course. Go over half the known planet, and he's been in Tokyo the whole time. Unless it was his grandfather, or the son-- how long did those things take to grow up, anyway?

Those things. Was he still thinking like that? No wonder D had pushed him off.

He learned to camp out in the forest and survive on almost nothing. He hooked up with some animal rights activists and decided they were full of shit, but they were headed to Japan to protest the whale hunt, so he tagged along until they hit Okinawa and he couldn't take their whining any more.

He stayed in Okinawa for a long time. Maybe he was putting off meeting with D. Maybe he was communing with nature. Who the hell knew? He worked at a greenhouse. After a while, Higa put him in charge of the orchids, because he was pretty good with them.

Maybe he would bring one to D.

One day he found a new bug on the orchids and spent half an hour on the Internet looking up the best method of organic pest control.

After that, he thought maybe it was time.

 

Leon knew it halfway down the street; the shop smelled the same. He stopped in his tracks for a second, caught by the memories the incense brought forth; sitting on that soft couch as D slowly bent down and rested his teacup on the low table, listening to Chris playing with...well, they hadn't really been animals, had they?

Someone shoved past him and apologized. "No, it's my fault," he said. "Gomen." Still, it was enough to make him walk to the front door.

D was standing at the door. Maybe not waiting for him, but there, anyway. He looked mildly shocked.

"Nay hoh," he said. "You forgot something when you left."

"I'm not Cantonese, and I know," D said, without missing a beat. "Thank you for remembering it." He reached out his hand to take the case.

"Wait," Leon said, and held out the box. "This is for you too."

Higa's wife ran a sweetshop that catered to American soldiers; he'd commissioned her to make something special, and she'd spent hours perfecting the spun sugar blossom.

D carefully took the box from Leon and opened it. "An orchid?" he said.

"Yeah." Leon swallowed hard. "I've been making things grow. So. I figured. It's sugar, though, you can--"

D's face softened into a smile. "I know."

"I've been lookin' for you--"

"I called the police department," D said. "Some years ago. They told me they'd lost track of you." He took the case from Leon's hand and turned to the door. "I suppose I should invite you in."

"You don't have to," he said.

D looked back at him, his mismatched eyes wide. "You have changed, Detective-san."

"I'm not a detective any more," he said. "It's Leon."

D shook his head. "You humans and your titles." The shop looked and smelled just as it had. "Him?" came a voice from the corner, and Leon looked over to see T-chan lounging in the corner.

"Me," Leon said. "And you know what I figured out? You guys are animals, yeah, but we are too. I mean, you can get rid of us, but how's that different from what we've done? That's what your father didn't get."

"It's a bit more complicated than that," D said quietly.

"It's always more complicated," Leon said. "But...hey," he said. "I can still see you guys."

T-chan crossed his arms over his chest.

"I'm not sure you can stay." D set the case and box down on the table. "But...perhaps we can have some tea."

"I'd like that," Leon said, and sat down.