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Courtship Rituals

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D was thoroughly sick of spring already. While some of the pet shop’s denizens had a more unusual mating cycle, the vast majority of them were full of the season’s generative energy. Pheromones tainted the air with scents more suggestive than anything his incense ever hinted at. The pets were restless; those who were mated joined in shameless passion, while those without indulged in vigorous displays of courtship – and conquest.

D was also restless, and his body responded to the pull of the season just as strongly. More so, surrounded as he was by such amorous activities. Usually, D took a lover for himself during this period. While procreation was not on the agenda – a partner was quite unnecessary for that, after all – it helped relieve certain tensions that built up inside.

But he didn’t have a lover, and when the door opened to admit the reason why, it took all his effort to smile rather than snarl.

“Hey, D!”

Leon Orcot. Detective Leon Orcot, macho cop and lover of all things with big breasts and scant clothing. Far too caught up in his society’s traditional definition of what was acceptable behaviour for a male to even notice

Leon’s grin faltered, and D realised that possibly his smile showed a few too many teeth to be truly welcoming. The blond held out a hand with a box. “I bought those éclairs you liked so much from the bakery near the station.”

“Why, thank you, Detective. How thoughtful of you!” D accepted the box, and felt his smile become more genuine. The éclairs were sinfully delicious, with a sweet cream filling, the barest hint of caramel, and sticky chocolate icing topping them off. It was just as well he never gained weight, or with the amount of comfort food the detective drove him to consuming, he’d be the size of a house by now.

He paused as he realised the detective held something else.

Detective Orcot regularly bought him sweet things. Sometimes it was a gift, sometimes a bribe to prevent D from ordering him out of the shop in a fit of temper. Sometimes it was as an apology for provoking said temper. D anticipated the next offering almost as much as he did the detective’s company. But today, Leon held a bunch of tiger lilies in his other hand.

D’s smile froze. “If you have somewhere else to go, Detective, you needn’t linger on my account. I wouldn’t want you to keep a lady waiting.” Not, he thought frostily, that anybody the detective was pursuing was likely to fit the definition of 'lady'.

“Uh, actually, these are for you, too.” He held them out, uncertainly. “You usually have plants and flowers in here, but I noticed the other day that they’re all gone. So I thought…” He shrugged, not finishing the sentence.

It was true, but D had placed all of the plants in another room. If spring affected the animals of the shop, it certainly did the flowering plants. Their strong scents taunted him, designed as they were to entice passing creatures into ensuring pollination. Much as the lilies now did, vibrant orange petals unfurled to reveal the dark stamens within, heavy with pollen. The perfume the flowers gave off was enough to overwhelm the incense he’d been burning earlier.

“I shall get these a vase,” D said, accepting them with a slight flush. “Please, have a seat. It was a most kind thought,” he added as he headed from the room. Once the detective was gone, he’d put them out the back with all the other flowers. Although if Detective Orcot came back, as he always did, then he’d wonder where they were. D sighed. He’d just have to put up with them.

He returned with the lilies safely installed in a heavy vase, and placed them on the small pedestal table beside his chair. “You will join me for a cup of tea, I hope?” he asked, gesturing towards the tea service with a flick of his long, elegant fingers as he took his seat.

“Yeah, sure.” The detective looked out of place as always on the antique loveseat, sitting forward on the brocaded cushion, knees apart in an unrefined sprawl. D leaned forward to pour for them both.

Leon gulped down half of his tea in the first swallow. D sipped at his cup while contemplating the open box of éclairs with genteel greed, trying to decide which of them he’d eat first. He’d just settled his sights on the one in the corner – it had slightly more chocolate on it than the rest – when Leon spoke.

“Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but is there some kind of trouble going on or something? You seem kind of… frazzled, lately.”

The hand which had been reaching for the éclairs stopped, and returned to pat almost self-consciously at the straight black hair tucked behind his ear. “Frazzled?” D repeated, mildly horrified. Was his agitation showing? And if so, could Leon guess the reason for it? The thought was positively mortifying.

“Not that you don’t look as, as…” Leon fumbled for a word, “uh, well-groomed as ever. You just seem kind of tense. I thought maybe there was something I could do to help.”

D blinked. “Thank you, Detective. It is simply that things are rather… busy here, at the moment.” He saw Leon’s eyes glance briefly around the room, which was empty except for the two of them. While Leon was sometimes present while he dealt with customers, it was true that the pet shop was never quite overrun with eager buyers. That was how D liked it.

“It is spring,” he added in explanation. “Many of the pets are in season. It makes things rather… lively.” The last word was almost petulant.

“Oh.” Leon’s eyes widened, and he let out an awkward laugh. “Guess I can’t really help there, then. Uh.” Some new thought occurred to him, and he glanced around a little more frantically.

“Don’t worry, Detective. It is much more comfortable all around if the pets that are in heat keep to their own quarters, rather than venture out here.” Except for himself, D thought waspishly. He was always aware of what was going on in the various areas of his shop, and that so many of his animals were enjoying the company of their mates while Leon’s obliviousness meant that he was stuck here, drinking tea and making small talk yet again –

D’s thoughts slid to a halt. Leon was here practically every day. It had been weeks since he’d asked D anything related to a case, and Chris had returned to his aunt’s house, so there was no longer that excuse to bring him here on a daily basis. So why was the detective constantly returning to the store?

His gaze travelled to the flowers beside him. His first thought had been that Leon had bought them for a woman he was seeing. But perhaps the Detective was not as oblivious as he’d thought? Flowers were a part of human courtship rituals, as were gifts of sweets and chocolate. Had things changed, and he’d simply not noticed?

D stroked a finger along one waxy petal, a smattering of dark markings against brilliant orange giving the flower an appearance almost as fierce as its namesake. One finger dipped inside, found the base of the rigid stamen, and slid slowly upward until it reached the head, heavy with a coating of yellow pollen. His touch disturbed it, so that a light dusting of the powder fell onto his fingertip.

D glanced sideways to find Leon was watching him with an arrested look on his face, lips parted, cup frozen halfway between mouth and plate.

With a languid movement, D bought the finger to his lips and slid it inside, licking away the pollen.

Leon swallowed.

D smiled, and turned back to the table with its sweet offerings. Gifts from a potential mate. Still, it was to be expected that the detective wasn’t quite sure where to go from here. No, the next step would have to be his, if he wished this courtship to progress in a timely manner.

He selected an éclair from the box, raised it to his lips, and bit into the confectionary with an expression of bliss. Licking a stray bit of cream from his lips, D began to plan his own courtship display.

One impressive enough that even his clueless detective would understand.