The shop door slammed open and a few of the more excitable animals dove under furniture.
“Okay, D, stop right there, no selling anything to anyone!”
D felt that he should have expected this. Orcot had gotten to more than one city ahead of him, and he’d been here in Shinjuku for months. Besides, life had probably been going too smoothly.
He also knew that he should turn a bright smile on the good officer, welcome him cheerfully, offer him tea. Divert him into anger. It had never kept Leon away, contrary human that he was, but it did usually stop his questions. He knew he should do this. He just couldn’t quite seem to get a grip on the smile he needed. It was… too smooth.
He was drawing in a long breath to try again, if only because Orcot’s questions would cause twice as much trouble as before, given his current guest, when Leon’s eyes flicked to Lau.
“Sir, you should probably leave now. You don’t know what this store really sells.”
D winced. The tone was classic–even and calm, exuding a sense that the officer in question was in control of the situation and bystanders should not panic, just do as they were told and everything would be all right. This bystander, though, was unlikely to take that well. “Now, Officer Orcot, I’m sure there’s no need–” he began, stepping forward a bit hastily, attempting to avert unsightly explosions in his front room.
Too late. Lau rose to his full height, managing to look taller than Orcot which D was fairly sure he wasn’t, and Leon was going to hate that wasn’t he? Oh dear…
“Officer, is it? Who are you with? CIA?” Lau’s eyes narrowed. “It doesn’t matter. I am Lau Wu Fei, the manager of this building, and nothing goes on here that I don’t know about and approve.” He took a long, deliberate step toward Orcot, never breaking eye contact. D resisted the urge to rub his forehead. Males. Lau stopped close behind him, hands on his hips, feet apart.
Leon’s eyes narrowed in turn. “If you know what’s really going on here and approve of it, that makes you an accomplice. I’ll be happy to get you taken in, too.”
“No one is taking anyone anywhere,” Lau growled. “This is my building and I will be the only one to say who operates in it.” He edged closer to D.
D sighed, mouth quirking. Wu Fei was one of the most territorial humans he’d ever met. However he might scheme to find reason to throw D out, let anyone else interfere in his building, his business, his tenant, and he went up in flames.
Orcot was looking more territorial than usual himself, fingers flexing as though he wanted nothing more than to reach out and pull D away from Lau. D saw the two of them for one moment as though they belonged here. A deep-chested, thick-furred dog stood in the door, bouncing on stiff legs with the force of his barking, teeth bared to warn away a threat. A great cat stood across from it, burning green eyes glaring down its nose at the interloper, tail lashing.
He shook his head, blinking the odd moment away. Perhaps he’d been working too hard lately; these two certainly did not belong here.
He stepped between the two men, hands out to keep them apart. “Now, now, please. Not in the store.” As their glares transferred to the more familiar target he found his smile again. “Taizu, surely you don’t object to someone doing your work for you? Not that Officer Orcot could, alas, since he only works for the police department of one American city.”
They both pulled up short at that, staring at D before bursting out,
“You mean he can’t–”
They stopped and eyed each other. D saw his opening, which was a good thing since he also saw a customer coming toward the open doors. “Yes, exactly, the two of you have so many things in common, really. Why don’t you discuss them? Somewhere else.” He herded them toward the door with cheerful little shooing motions, edging them out just in time.
“Welcome to Count D’s Pet Shop!” he smiled at the customer, turning his back on Orcot and Lau as he closed the door behind them.
Wu Fei stomped down the stairs, muttering, with Orcot right beside him.
“…never tells me what’s going on in my own place…”
“…thinks he always knows what’s going on…”
“…bringing in outsiders…”
“…getting involved with who knows what…”
“…smirking at you.”
Wu Fei stopped on the landing with a sharp look at the American. “You too?”
“Does he ever do anything else?” The officer scrubbed a hand through blond hair and answered himself. “Well, okay, yeah he does. He glares and he gets sad and he fucking sparkles when he wants to get rid of you.” The man glowered at nothing.
Wu Fei snorted; oh, yes, he recognized all of that. For some reason it made him feel a little better that D clearly had practice at driving people insane with a smile. And perhaps, with a little judicious information trading, he could find out more about his most infuriating tenant. “I think we should talk, Orcot.”
Leon leaned back in his chair, looking around the huge office with an experienced eye. If this Lau wasn’t part of the local underworld he’d eat his shoes. Just what he always figured D would eventually get wound up in.
Only… it didn’t sound like D was exactly cooperating with this guy.
“So let me get this straight.” Leon tossed back another swallow of whiskey and held out the glass to Lau for a refill. They were talking about D, after all; he needed it. “You wouldn’t actually care if D was running a brothel as long as he got your approval? You’re just worried about the way it looks?”
Lau leaned against his desk and took a long drink himself. “Look Orcot, it happens. It’s human nature; every light side has a dark side. I just keep things running smoothly, keep them on the acceptable side.” He grimaced. “Slavery isn’t acceptable, and that’s what rumor makes D’s shop sound like. You can’t run that out in the open.”
He wasn’t saying anything about running it in the shadows, Leon noted, scowling.
Lau frowned down at his glass. “That’s just the surface, though. I could probably deal with that if it was all. What D really is… He’s too dangerous. Too much power.”
Leon sat upright, slowly. “What is he?” he asked, textbook casual for a skittish witness.
Lau’s eyes fixed on him, narrow and sardonic. “If you followed him, you know. You have no jurisdiction here, Orcot. You can’t have come because you think you’ll be able to prosecute him for anything.”
Leon examined his glass and didn’t answer. Lau snorted.
“Figured. You followed him because you couldn’t let the magic of him go, right?” He leaned back, ignoring Leon’s sputtering. “He’s a spirit of the land, after all. Of the land all over the world, from what I can tell. His kind either call to you or they kill you.” That hard mouth quirked. “Sometimes both.”
Leon studied Lau, puzzled. The guy didn’t sound angry or scared, he just sounded… weird, Leon decided at last. He sounded weird, and that made perfect sense for someone D was playing with.
Lau eyed him back. “I take it you’re staying, then.”
Leon had just taken a drink and choked.
Lau was smirking at him now, nearly fit to match D. The bastard.
“Just try to stay out of the way of business.”
D looked around his tea table and sighed. Lau was watching Orcot with a rather taunting smirk and Orcot was glowering at Lau as though he wanted nothing more in life than to throw the man in a cell. Tetsu was growling under his chair, having already bitten Leon hello, and the cats were watching Lau with approval. It was not turning out to be a quiet afternoon at all. “So, Officer,” he said lightly, refilling teacups, “what brings you to Japan?” He smiled, less brightly than usual; he didn’t want Orcot to explode from sheer spleen, after all. “Surely not just to attempt arresting me for old time’s sake?”
It took Orcot a moment to pull his attention off Lau. “Oh. Oh, yeah, right.” Suddenly he looked uncomfortable. Even… sheepish? “Actually, um. I wanted to return something.”
D’s brows rose as Orcot fished in his jacket. A pair of handcuffs to remember him by, perhaps?
What emerged, though, was a piece of notebook paper, carefully folded.
“Here.” Leon waved it at him, not meeting his eyes. “You left this behind. Thought I should give it back.”
D unfolded the paper slowly. It was a crayon drawing; one he recognized. Chris had made it. “Leon,” he said softly, smoothing the paper with gentle fingers. He tried to clear the huskiness from his throat. “Chris. Is he well?”
“Yeah. Yeah, he’s fine.” Leon fidgeted.
Lau, who had been watching this byplay with interest, leaned back in his chair. “Orcot. Do you mean you came slamming in here, acting like you were going to arrest everyone in sight, in order to bring D a gift?”
Leon cleared his throat. “Well. Kind of, I guess.”
“Americans have even stranger courting customs than I realized,” Lau muttered.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Orcot snapped. “Oh, wait, never mind. Too late.”
Lau growled back at Orcot and D sighed, massaging his forehead. What on earth was he going to do with them?
Tetsu leaned over the back of his chair, watching the show. “Now can I eat someone?”
“They’re the Count’s pets, T-chan,” Pon-chan told him stoutly. “You can’t eat other pets, that’s the rules.”
“I think I’m going to go lie down for a while,” D muttered, leaving the animals to comment on which human would win their fight and whether humans ever used their teeth.
“…call the CIA if I have to, damn it!”
“I’ll have you deported first…!”
Maybe his father had had a point about getting involved with humans.