Title: Debts Are Like Children
Spoilers & Desirable Foreknowledge: Tensai Okamura & co's Darker than Black: the Black Contractor anime.
Characters & Relationships: Hei & Kiko
Summary: 'The smaller they are, the more noise they make.' When Hei learned that saying from a Peruvian mercenary back in the war, he hadn't expected the noisy party to ever be the person who owed him money, though. / 1686 words
Author's Note: Like several of my other DTB fics (see "Work Ethic" under the Series, Sequels and Shared Continuities section of my profile), this is loosely inspired by the Office AU first thought up and written about by DarkerThanEvanescence ( fanfiction net/u/3817605/ ), starrycontractor/loremipsxm ( starrycontractor tumblr com/tagged/office-au / fanfiction net/s/11418004/ ), maj-victory ( major-victory tumblr com/tagged/office%20au / fanfiction net/s/11496029/ ), lolgirl607 ( lolgirl607 tumblr com/tagged/dtbofficeau / fanfiction net/u/1756725/ ), and tsuki-llama ( archiveofourown org/series/483635 / fanfiction net/s/11714691/9/ ), who are all awesome and let me play in their sandbox. Set in an AU where Hei joined Section Four as their first Contractor police officer three years after the finale, and none of Origins/Gaiden or Gemini of the Meteor happened.
Debts Are Like Children
Someone showing up at the reception desk asking for Officer Li from Foreign Affairs Section Four was always an adventure.
Was it an assassin with a disdain for subtlety? Was it an anti-Contractor protester wanting to complain about his existence – uh, presence on the force – to his face? A member of one of the many Gate-based spiritual movements, hoping to recruit or otherwise fold him into their home-grown coping mechanism – sorry, religion? A reporter? Someone grieving a deceased, missing a chunk of clumsily removed memories, or looking for a missing person, with no idea who else to turn to with their pain, confusion and desperation? A person of whatever gender (since Contractors were known to stop caring much about their sexual orientation upon their turning) who was just that desperate to know what sex with a Contractor was like? A person – these were usually women – who had convinced themselves, for whatever unfathomable reason anyone projected on public figures that way, that Hei was their soulmate and they were destined to marry?
For some reason, dealing with Contractors seemed to bring out the worst in people, qualities and behaviors they would never flaunt so openly to a normal person – like their inner shameless liar – so as often as not, they didn't find out what those people really wanted until Hei arrived downstairs.
'I still owe you money' was one he'd heard before, but today was the first time it was actually true.
"Oh, hey, I remember you!" was Hei's flabbergasted greeting when he laid eyes on the girl with the bright pink hair drumming her fingers on the reception desk. "Kiko, right?"
She looked just like he remembered her, from the pigtails to her vaguely costume-like outfit and fanny pack. It was almost surreal.
"Yes sir, Officer Li, sir!" she said, with a bright grin and perky salute that didn't quite hide her nerves. "Kayanuma Kiko of Kurasawa Detective Agency, at your service!"
"Long time no see. What are you doing here?" Hei asked, stepping up beside the receptionist. He tried to make his voice and body language as non-threatening as he could without drawing attention to the fact that he was doing it, but there was only so much he could do in that regard nowadays, with his police-guided change of wardrobe and his Contractor status in every paper and news bulletin.
Kiko gave him an odd look and pointed at the receptionist. "She told you, didn't she? The boss and I owe you money for bailing us out at that restaurant the last time you were in town. I came to give it to you." And she held out an envelope to him. "Here you go. The full 16,800 yen."
Hei wasn't even going to pretend not to be surprised. "Did... business pick up for you guys, while I was gone?"
Kiko burst out laughing, curling in on herself and flapping the envelope at him with the force of it. "No, are you kidding! With that loser in charge? I had to overdraw the company account for this."
Hei felt the receptionist's eyes on him and exchanged a resigned look for her horrified one. Clearly it wasn't just the girl's looks that hadn't changed a bit.
"In that case," Hei said, gently guiding Kiko's outstretched hand back to her side of the counter. "Thank you for remembering, but I won't accept this."
Kiko's amusement disappeared in an instant. "What? Why?"
"You need it more than I do."
The starry-eyed look that replaced it was much, much worse.
"I knew it! You're not like other Contractors at all, are you?" she whispered with barely concealed glee. "You're the Exception, a Hitman With A Heart, a Noble Monster. You're perfect."
Oh boy, Hei thought, embarrassment squirming in his gut and already seeing a hundred repeat visits of the 'we're soulmates, please fuck and/or marry me' variety looming on the horizon. There went being glad that someone finally took him at his word when he made an altruistic statement like that.
Then her expression soured. "Ugh, but the boss would never understand that." Sighing and hanging her head, she slapped the envelope down on the counter and slid it over at Hei. "Please take the money."
With a placating smile, Hei slid the envelope back to Kiko. "No."
"I'm asking nicely, okay? Please take the money we owe you."
She slid the envelope over to him.
He slid the envelope back over to her.
She slid the envelope at him more forcefully. He slid it back just the same.
"Because I checked up on Kurasawa when we met three years ago, just to be safe. If his company's financial situation really hasn't changed since then, I'm not convinced this money wouldn't be the straw that broke the camel's back and pushed you guys into bankruptcy. And I don't want to be the guy responsible for bankrupting a former member of the police force over a dinner bill."
Kiko laughed derisively and pushed the envelope at him. "Trust me, the only person responsible for Kurasawa's financial mismanagement is that no-good lowlife himself."
Next to Hei, the receptionist gasped and clapped her hands over her mouth.
Hei pushed the envelope back. "That's not what the newspapers would say."
"Pfft, why would the newspapers care?"
She slid the envelope over. There was no trace left of her earlier nervousness. At least that was one victory today, he guessed.
"I took this job to set an example on behalf of all Contractors, Miss Kikunaga. They care."
He slid the envelope over.
"That's no way to live, dude."
She slid the envelope.
"Tell me something I don't know."
He slid the envelope, fake smile never wavering.
"Okay, here's something: stress goes straight to the boss's bowels, and he's been stressing out about you remembering him and coming to claim this money the hard way non-stop since the moment we first saw your press conference. Meaning, he's been terror-farting up the entire office for two weeks straight. It's torture! I can't live like this anymore! Please take the money before I die of stench poisoning!"
She slid the –
"Okay, now I really don't want your money. I'll send him a written statement declaring the debt cancelled."
He slid the –
"I'm not sure he can read words that big."
She slid –
"Won't be a problem, Japanese is my fifth language and I never even finished formal education in my first."
He slid –
"Look, I know all the little intricacies may be lost on your kind, but the noble thing to do when a girl is begging you like this is to do what she asks."
"I never said I was noble. And just for the record, as a police representative I have to inform you that 'monster' is considered an insulting and derogatory term for Contractors no matter what qualifiers you add to it, and ask you to please refrain from using it in the future."
"Fine, fine, but you can't just cancel a debt, that's not how it works."
"A debt works however the owed party wants it to work."
"Nope, wrong, not unless you want to deliver a grievous insult to the owing party. The boss conned you into letting him borrow money he never intended to return and we all know it, so he's honor-bound to repay you or he'll always carry that blemish on his name."
"He shouldn't flatter himself. I knew he wouldn't be good for a loan the moment I laid eyes on him, but I gave it to him anyway. That makes the money given, not lent, no matter what I said to the contrary at the time."
"Nu-uh, I don't care what kind of mind-readers you hang out with, but that's not how it works amongst us human folk."
"Then chalk it up to cultural differences."
"Just take the money!"
"Because you're pissing me off."
"Pull the other one, Contractors don't get pissed off."
"Do I look not pissed off?"
Kiko leaned in close and squinted at him. "No. Wait, yes. I think? I mean no, you don't look pissed off. Double negatives are the worst."
Hei blinked, taken aback. He looked over at the receptionist.
She shrugged. "Not really."
"Oh. Well, I am," he insisted. Pissed off, slightly irritated, same difference.
The receptionist promptly paled. Hei suppressed a sigh. Someday, he promised himself for the umpteenth time, people would stop doing that. Someday. Turning back to Kiko, he –
"Oh, for the love of..."
She was gone. And she'd left the envelope behind.
Planting his hands on the counter, he snatched up the money and vaulted out of the receptionist's space in one movement. He sprinted out the door, into the street, and looked around. No trace of that bright pink hair anywhere. Damn. Which way was the detective agency? Would she be savvy enough to avoid taking a direct route?
Think, he told himself, and shifted his feet so his stance wasn't that of a predator ready to pounce. There are better ways to solve a problem like this.
He went back inside.
"Can you look up the address of the Kurasawa Detective Agency for me?" he asked the receptionist. It had been three years; Hei hadn't bothered remembering.
"Why don't you just take the money?" she whispered, quietly but obviously disturbed. "They did owe it to you."
"Would you want to take money from people like that?" Hei deadpanned.
The receptionist hesitated, staring at the much-abused envelope Hei was holding.
"I guess not," she agreed. "But 16,800 yen is an awful lot of money."
Sighing, Hei leaned his elbows on the counter. "Yeah, and that's exactly why I can't take it. I just feel too sorry for them. Can I have that address?"
"What are you going to do?" the receptionist asked when she'd looked it up and written it down for him.
"Offer them a job. Ten minutes of work for a payment of 16,800 yen. Problem solved, everybody goes home happy."
But whichever way you twisted it, he would be the one who'd won this stupid argument.