It wasn’t her kind of bar. Or at least. It wasn’t the kind of bar Mine Fujiko could have done business in. Old fashioned furnishings. Tatami and low tables. Dozens of speciality sake, exactly one type of beer… not exactly upscale. But not exactly low-scale either. A little classy. Inherently Japanese.
Just like the man she was looking for.
Zenigata was sitting alone in a small private room, but even without it he could have managed to look alone. The only good sign was that he’d ordered sake, not hard liquor. Otherwise…? A man that big shouldn’t be able to look that small.
“Sleeping in your suit again, Inspector? Or are you too busy to remember how an ironing board works?”
Zenigata had been in the middle of pouring himself a drink when the familiar, birdsong comment cut through his thoughts. He hissed slightly as some of the sake spilled on his hand, glaring across the table at his company. Fujiko was settling comfortably her knees, somehow exactly at ease in the little izakaya bar as she was at the damn ritz. She must have taken her bike; she was wearing a bright red jumpsuit, striped with white and orange. Familiar.
He petulantly licked the sake off his hand, glaring at her.
“You’re late.” he growled, taking his hat off and setting it to the side.
“Which means you had plenty of time to find a tie that doesn’t look like it was in a car accident. What are you having?” the flicked her hair back over her shoulder, leaning over to peer at the specials up on the wall nearer the proper bar seating.
“Junmai-shu. Unfiltered.” Zenigata has to move his hand carefully to take a sip; he’d overfilled his cup a little when he spilled it, and the cloudy sake was only just not spilling over. The sharp taste helped cut through his own gloomy thoughts, and he sighed as he set his cup down. With the alcohol still on his palette he grabbed a bite from the order of pickled cucumber and eggplants he’d ordered, adding acid to acid.
“Didn’t think you could afford to be a purist~” Fujiko settled back down in her seat, grabbing the edge of the bowl to examine what he was eating.
“A weaker flavor won’t stand out against food. And if I’m going to be back in Japan, I’m going to god damned drink something I can’t GET outside Japan.” he retorted- picking up an empty second cup and tilting it towards her.
Fujiko’s hand crossed the table to take it from him, holding it in place as he poured her a drink from the bottle.
“Good, because I’m ordering more food.” she closed her eyes as she took a sip, shifting to sit with one leg curled under her and the other propped up under her elbow. It was enough to make Zenigata snort faintly. It was an almost aggressive level of ‘and I don’t give a damn what YOU think’. Unladylike, at the very least. But he didn’t dislike that.
“I always do. But you’re eating it.”
“I wanna try the food. But I have my figure to worry about.” she said, matter of fact. And it was true. The food looked good, and it was pretty handy to fob off what was left over on someone else. But…
“Besides. When was the last time you ate a warm meal, Pops?” she watched as he grimaced and looked away. Too honest. So honest it could spook you how good he was at lying when he wanted to be.
“Well, yesterday I-“
“That wasn’t ramen.” she cut him off immediately, and took another sip of sake as he tried to dredge up any answers besides a hissed
She let him stew on it while she leaned out the door, flagged down a waiter and ordered. He was still silent by the time she was idly examining the lipstick print she’d left on her own cup, admiring the color.
“You know,” she said suddenly. “I want to talk about. Literally anything else then what we’re here for. Gun models. Driving. Your stupid job. Action movies. The WEATHER…” she drained her cup in one smooth swig, all but slamming it down on the table. She hiccuped slightly, blinking with an angry determination.
“…Still mad at him, huh.” Zenigata said, not really asking.
“When am I ever not mad at him?” he picked his own cup up, draining it in a long, slow sip- setting it down with care. He traced a fingertip over the edge of the cup, turning it with a wobble on the wood absently. When she picked up the sake bottle he stopped, letting her fill his cup.
The waiter came, bringing out the first few dishes. Easy, light things to make. Tofu dressed with soy sauce and nearly vanishing under green onions and bonito flakes. A mix of blanched greens with sesame dressing. The chikuwa fish cake stuffed with cheese caught him off guard, mostly because she immediately snatched up a piece and popped it into her mouth.
“Huh. Cheap food for an expensive girl.” he commented, picking the bottle up to refill her cup, pouring with care. He had to; his hands were no damn good lately. If he didn’t pay attention, his motions turned leaden. He tripped over his own feet. Like driving a car on manual after getting used to automatic.
“Shut up, I don’t get to have it a lot.” she retorted, already grabbing a second piece.
“You could make it at home.”
“I don’t cook.”
“It is literally a two step process.”
“I don’t care. I don’t cook. People cook for me.”
Zenigata regarded her a moment as he picked up his chopsticks and carefully used them to tear off a piece of the tofu.
“Lupin even makes your drinking snacks, huh.” he said, looking away innocently when she glared sourly at him.
“…how long has it been.” Fujiko asked.
“Eighteen days.” Zenigata replied, immediately. She appreciated that he didn’t ask a stupid question like ‘since what’. She didn’t appreciate that he didn’t need to even think about it. It annoyed her. She silently drummed her fingers on the wood of the table, glancing up to him.
He shook his head, before she could ask.
“No.” he said, his voice hollow.
“Nothing. Dried blood on stones, and a cold trail. Again.” he rubbed his face slightly, stubbornly grinding the heel of his palm over his eyes and ignoring the shine his hand pulled away with.
“Again.” he repeated, more to himself then anything. Immediately tears started to overflow in his eyes again, but he ignored it that time- picking up half the block of tofu in his chopsticks to shove it obstinately into his mouth.
“…I mean…” Fujiko sipped her sake, trailing off a little and picking at the mixed greens.
“At least you know he’s not dead?”
Zenigata swallowed thickly, emptying his own sake cup. He stared into it a moment, before he wordlessly scooted it towards Fujiko.
“You’re terrible at being comforting.” he informed her, cracking a tired half a smile when she stuck her tongue out at him childishly, refilling his cup.
“I’m GREAT at being comforting! But we’re in public.” she winked at him, timing it to make sure he was in the middle of taking a sip of his sake, and savored her last chunk of chikuwa to the sound of him choking.
“Merciful buddha, don’t even.” he said, picking up his napkin to wipe his mouth. Sometimes Fujiko actually reminded him of Lupin… something in that one kind of mean grin.
“Whaaat, why not?” she asked, pouting at him.
“I’m not your type.” he said bluntly, glaring at her and pushing what was left of the tofu towards her.
“Who says?” she retorted, neatly slicing off just the top of the tofu with all the condiments on it.
“You.” he reluctantly picked up the rest of the tofu, turning it over so it’d at least soak up the rest of the soy sauce.
“…Did I?” she asked, genuinely. She tapped her chin with her fingertip as she chewed,
“Plenty. Remember, the time with all the diamonds transported in the rocket?” he reminded her. She tapped her fist to her chin a second, brow furrowing.
“…Oh, yeahh. I remember! That time you tore my shirt open.” she exclaimed.
“Excuse me, Miss? Is there anything else you’ll be having?” their waitress asked, smiling politely through the sliding door. She blinked slightly, glancing around the table at the sudden absence of the rather large man who’d been there earlier.
“Oh, yeah, a few things… Oh, the whiskey highball looks good~ You want another drink, Pops?” Fujiko asked, leaning on her elbow as she addressed empty air.
“….umeshu and soda.” floated weakly up from under the wood surface of the table eventually, and Fujiko grinned back at the waitress. By the time she’d ordered a few more food dishes and the waitress had left, Zenigata managed to sit back up again.
“….Fujiko, I’m sorry. About that time…” he said, his face beet red. His eyes were fixed firmly on the floor, with the overall posture of a guilty dog caught in a room mysteriously coated with the contents of a trash can.
“Oh, relax. It’s not like you don’t strip Lupin and Jigen down whenever you can-“
“Please don’t put it that way.” he mumbled, the sound muffled by his hands clapped tightly over his face.
“And you were doing your job. Not like you tried to get a feel.” she finished, shrugging.
“…No, that’s no excuse. Not being a literal monster doesn’t deserve a prize.” he said firmly, and shook his head. She rolled her eyes slightly, extending her leg under the table to shove him with her foot a few times.
“So I learned not to hide a bug in my bra because Pops isn’t ~so~ honorable he’ll let me get away with spying.”
“Still.” he grumbled.
“…was Lupin wearing a tiger outfit that time?” she asked, still kicking him.
“Huh. Anyways, I never said you weren’t my type.” She said firmly.
“Are we still talking about- Not in so many words, I guess.” he relented, leaning back and silently putting up with the slow kicking, jostling slightly with each impact.
“But you did say I should look in the mirror to see if I had a face girls would like-“ he continued. She paused her gentle assault at that, memory sparking a little more thoroughly.
“-And I know it’s not really a face just about anyone would like.” he said firmly, turning sideways to the table and resting his elbow on the surface, not looking at her.
“Awwww… Pooops…” she leaned over the table towards him- and immediately got cut off by Zenigata calmly raising his chopsticks and shoving a bite of greens in her mouth.
“Don’t. I’m not fishing for pity. Especially not from anyone in the Lupin gang.” he said firmly, peering into his sake cup to see if there was any left, and taking a sip. Fujiko was stuck angrily chewing and unable to respond. By the time she was able to swallow, the waitress had brought them their new drinks, and she knocked back a slug of her whiskey highball to clear the rest.
“…Wait, the Lupin gang? Don’t tell me you think JIGEN looks better then you.” she fixed him with a firm look, leaning up over the table again to stare him down as he wilted and glanced away.
“W. Well… He has a certain… his profile is really… I don’t have to explain myself to you!!!” He got redder the longer he was speaking, and had to take refuge in his umeshu and soda, drinking the sweet cocktail with his shoulders defensively up. Fujiko didn’t say anything, but the narrow-eyed stare she was giving him spoke volumes. Judgemental volumes.
“And HIS face doesn’t look like it’s been beat in with a chair.” he added defensively, shrugging one shoulder up as his gaze dragged it’s self down to the table. Fujiko snorted, and reached out to flick his nose with the tip of her nail.
“Lupin likes it.” she said, with a bully’s sweetness. She sipped her highball as he went pink. Even as he huffed in annoyance, there was no real hiding the warm, puppyish smile sneaking onto his face. When he was happy, it either wobbled crookedly like something he was trying to hide, or beamed like a searchlight.
“I thought we weren’t talking about him?” he asked, shifting so he was properly facing the table again.
“Only when it annoys me~” she said, matter of fact. Zenigata blinked slightly.
“…That’s… honest?” he said, tilting his head a little. She puffed up pridefully.
“I’m an honest girl!” She declared, setting her hands on her hips. He had to cover his mouth with his hand to restrain a snicker as the server stopped by, shoulders still shaking as the plates of steaming food were sat down. It was hard not to relax a little with the warm smell of food filling the air, especially when it was dishes he thought of as homey. Grilled hokke fish, miso eggplant, simmered taro with squid, and gyoza.
Immediately Fujiko pushed the grilled fish towards him, meaningfully. He tilted his head slightly in confusion at her, but she was already cheerfully biting into a piece of the gyoza. She couldn’t be that worried about him eating…? He looked at the fish, thought a second, and snorted.
“So this is the kinda food you order on your own, huh…? Sheesh. You eat more like an old man then I do.” he teased, picking up his chopsticks to carefully peel the bones off the top of the grilled fish, twisting his hand to make sure it came up in one piece.
“I don’t have to take that from a man ordering plum wine.”
“E-eh?! I told you, I like to get drinks I can’t get outside of Japan!” he pulled his drink back towards him with one hand as he finished peeling the bones off, and set it to the side of the fish. Immediately she reached out to snatch the bones, setting it on her own plate, and started to pick the meat that clung between the ribs out bit by bit.
“Suuuure. Tell you what, if you want I’ll order a girly dessert for you so you aren’t embarrassed.” she winked at him as she nibbled on her fish, visibly enjoying watching him squirm… before just kind of staring, thoughtfully. Despite his embarrassment and annoyance, he was looking over the table of food like a kid surprised with a cake.
“….Pops? You really miss Japan, don’t you.”
“Well… of course I do. It’s my home.” he said, giving her a quizzical eyebrow raise as he tore off a piece of the fish proper. He followed up the bite with some of the sake, letting the flavors settle.
“So… wouldn’t you rather be here?” she asked. He thought about that a second, picking up a gyoza.
“Mm. Not exactly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’d rather miss being here, and be out there, when it comes down to it.” he said, flashing her a grin before popping the gyoza into his mouth whole. He chewed thoughtfully, humming to himself
“Little light on the garlic. If I was making it I’d probably double it.” he noted, switching back to the fish.
“Oh yeahhh~ You cook! Even though you eat like a depressed uncle. You should come cook for me.” she said, refilling his cup of sake sneakily while he struggled to not choke on his food.
“Why would you- no, wrong question. Why would I do that?!” he asked, smacking himself on the chest with a fist to try and recover.
“Well what ELSE are you doing anyhow? Sitting around your office staring sadly at a picture of Lupin?”
“I DO NOT- stop imagining that this minute.”
“I’m. I am doing! Things! I have things I could be doing. I mean there’s other criminals out there, you know.” he might have meant it to be a snarl, but it came out a whine. Fujiko thought about that a second, pulling out a tube of lipstick to carefully re-apply.
“Is there?” she asked, as she capped her lipstick, reached out, and picked up his glass of umeshu and soda. He didn’t even notice for a moment, too busy frowning and chewing on a piece of squid.
“…Yes. But not like him.” he said finally, reaching out for his glass. His hand closed on empty air, leaving him blinking quietly before he startled and looked up at her.
“Oh, god don’t tell him I said that.” he pleaded. Fujiko smiled sweetly and slid his glass back across the table towards him, landing it squarely in his hand. Minus about two inches of drink, and plus a pink lip print.
“Aw, Pops. I’m definitely going to.” she said, blowing him a kiss.
“…gee, thanks.” he muttered, lifting his glass to take a sip. He then stopped, slowly set it down, and picked up a napkin to wipe his mouth while refusing to look at her.
“It’s a nice color on you.” she remarked innocently, grinning as Zenigata slowly lowered his head to the table.
“Be honest, Mine. Do you just get bored without Lupin around to torture.” he asked, slightly muffled by the table. He reached out without looking to pick up a piece of the gyoza, unaware that Fujiko was carefully holding a piece of eggplant in front of his chopsticks instead.
“Do you?” she asked, grinning as she watched the eggplant vanish.
“….I- ?!?!?” he lifted his head up to stare at what he’d just bitten into, then back at her, wildly unconvinced by her look of complete innocence. He sighed, finishing the bite.
“I guess I do.” he admitted, smiling ruefully. “He’s…” he gestured a little vaguely with his free hand.
“Fun~?” she supplied.
“Mmm. Something like that. He’s a pain in the ass.”
“Yeah, but that’s why he’s fun.”
For a bit, it was comfortably silent. Between the two of them most of the food was gone pretty soon, and Zenigata amiably finished off anything she was done with. Which was mostly signaled by her pushing a plate over the table towards him. Eventually there was only a few pieces of this and that left, and he was refilling her cup with the last of the sake.
“You know…I could probably… I mean. If you just knew around where he was hiding out…?” she trailed off meaningfully. Zenigata blinked, and stared at her. Then the ceiling. Then the table. Then down at the floor, facial expression slowly going from confused, to thoughtful, to demonically, gleefully manic, to the deep struggle of a dog with a treat on the end of his nose.
“Gnnggmnnn nnhh… no. No… I can’t. I mean. I can’t… do that. To you.” he said finally, shoulders drooping. He looked like a man who’d just done four rounds to a knockout with his own conscience.
“D’aw~ That’s sweet. And stupid.”
“He trusts you, and-“
“Really, really, reaaaalllllly stupid~” she said sweetly. He grumbled something sarcastically at her.
“I’m the one who was offering, silly. And he’s forgiven me for worse. Besides… you wouldn’t hurt him.” she pointed out, finally shoving the plate with the last two pieces of gyoza at him. He reached out and picked up the plate outright, vanishing behind it a second as he outright tipped them into his mouth. For a second he was chewing with one sticking out of his mouth like a cigarette, before with a swallow they vanished.
“I can’t. If I know where he is… then… I have a job to do.” he said, putting the plate down.
“You know where I am.” she pointed out, smirking. “Wanna check me for bugs again, Pops~?” she asked, meaningfully tugging on her collar. He might have attempted to say something, but with his head buried in his arms on the table it just sounded like someone slapped their hand on typewriter keys and was trying to read the results.
“Can I even afford what’d cost for you to to forget that…?” he pleaded, peeking one eye up at her.
“Oh, absolutely not~ …Buuut maybe for a few home cooked meals I could get a little forgetful. Not everyone can have a memory like yours, after all.”
“Well thank hell for that.” he said, muffled against his arms again.
“Or like Lupin’s.” she took the opportunity while he was distracted to pull her wallet out of the front of her jumpsuit, pulling out a few bills to set on the table.
“Offer’s still on the table.” she added, downing the last of the sake and pushing up to her feet.
“Cmon, walk me to my bike.” Fujiko said, bending down to pick his hat up and drop it on his head. He stood up, glancing at the table, noting the bills, and grimacing. Pride, however, could not win against the harsh facts of life, so instead of arguing he adjusted his hat, and walked with her out of the bar.
It was a clear, cold sky overhead. He shivered and pulled his coat closed a little as the air hit him, walking in step with Fujiko. They were both quiet as they walked out to where she’d parked her motorcycle. He stopped and leaned against a telephone pole, watching as she picked her helmet up from where she’d left it on her seat.
“…The thing is.” he said, reaching into his jacket to find his cigarettes. “I could probably find them. I’m good at what I do. I’ve done it before. When it was like this.” he pulled a dark-papered cigarette out, biting down on it as he patted himself down for his lighter.
“Just enough to see there was a light in the window. But I’m…” Fire bloomed suddenly in front of him. Fujiko was sitting on her bike, resting her chin on one hand with the elbow on the handlebars, leaning up to hold a lighter towards him. He blinked slightly, holding his cigarette to it a second, before holding it up to his mouth to take a soft puff.
“This is the best I can do for them, if I know someone’s hurt.” he shrugged, and smiled like a heart breaking slowly.
Fujiko narrowed her eyes, stood up on the bike, and reached out to pluck the cigarette from his lips. She took a long drag from it, looking him dead in the eyes.
“Sounds boring to me. Why don’t you give it a rest and do what’s best for me instead?” she asked, smiling wickedly up at him. She was still idly puffing on his cigarette and turned her key in the ignition with a dull engine purr. She settled back and flicked the lighter again, holding it up to him like an open ended question.
Slowly, Zenigata reached into his coat again, pulling out another cigarette. He glanced at it, brought it to his lips, and leaned down with a slight, uncertain hesitation this time. She grinned at him as he took a slow drag, flicking the lighter closed to drop it back in her pocket.
He looked up at the sky, and back down at her with a silent question. In return she jerked her thumb at the seat behind her, raising her eyebrows at him in a little meaningful bounce.
“…Y’know what?” he said, almost more to himself then to her.
“Fuck it.” he grinned wide, for what felt like the first time in about 18 days, and swung his leg over the bike.
“Hold on tight~”
It was turning into Fujiko’s kind of night.