This story ended up taking a month longer than I would have liked to complete. It was supposed to be a Valentine's Day release, obviously, but better late than never. It was also supposed to be a one-shot, but has been divided into three parts due to length.
Petshop of Horrors and all respective characters are copyright Matsuri Akio. All other manga / bands / characters / etc cross-referenced in the story are copyright their respective owners.
WARNING: This features shoujo-ai / yuri (female X female) content. If you dislike that, do not read.
Chianne: ("shan", rhymes with "Anne")
Mae: ("may", like the month, one syllable)
"The precinct is at a loss with this one. Two students, boyfriend and girlfriend of the local high school, found dead on the same night within running distance of one another. Both were… well, you can see that they're both stabbed through the chest, but we don't know with what. Seems like a blunt instrument…"
"So, that is what has been on your mind, Officer."
"You know, for a guy who claims to be so damn innocent all the time, you have a pretty calm reaction to gore like this. These pictures almost made my superior vomit."
"I have seen a lot in my line of work."
Damn right you have, D. Leon Orcot snorted. He was sitting back in his chair and trying to calm his nerves, which had been strained all day. Count D set his teacup on a Chinese saucer and leaned on his manicured hands, tapping his long nails thoughtfully. He looked sad. "It's a shame. I didn't think Miss Fairbanks would die this tragically. I don't know this boy, though."
"…you've got to be shitting me." Orcot sat up. "You know Mae Fairbanks."
"Officer, please watch your language. My charges don't appreciate it. Yes, I had the pleasure of meeting her a few days ago, but—"
"She bought one of your goddamned pets?"
"D, come on." Orcot shoved his hands in his pockets and scowled. Calm down, Leon. D's an asshole, but don't take your day out on him. He took a deep drink of tea and sighed, rotating the cup in his fingertips. "…every damn case that we can't solve in this city lately is traced back to your shop, and lo and behold, you know this girl that looks like she had a baseball bat driven through her chest. This isn't shocking at all."
"If you came down here just to bait me, Officer, I will have to ask you to leave." D was glowering. "I don't appreciate being treated like a common murderer, and frankly, it seems like that is all you do when you come down here."
"No, I come down here just because I love seeing your fairy-ass for afternoon tea. No, D." Orcot sighed heavily and held the cup still, staring at the intricate Chinese design on its face. "…all right. This ought to be good. What did you sell her? A man-eating mole? It burrowed through her chest?"
"Officer, honestly, what is wrong with you this afternoon?" D reached across the laden tea-table for a biscuit. "You're all nerves and tension. Would it have something to do with the holiday, perhaps? Nothing can make a man so jumpy as love."
"…you're full of shit. Ever been at a crime scene?" Orcot took a slice of cake and shoved it whole into his mouth. D winced in distaste. " 's a hell of a lot more stuff than love to turn your stomach. Poets are so full of it."
"Well, it was worth a guess, Officer."
"What, you got a date for Valentine's or something? Am I finally going to be able to nail your ass when somebody catches you fucking a sheep or something?"
"If you hadn't brought me this amazing cake, I would kick you out of my shop. What a terrible thing to say!"
"Enough out of you." Orcot tapped the two pictures fanned beneath his saucer. One picture was of a blonde girl in a tailored jacket, face-down on a sidewalk and bordered by white spray-paint, with a mangled hole through her chest. White bone showed through bloodied muscle and innards. The brunette boy of the second picture was also face-down and in the same state, though he was on muddy, churned grass, and clad in a navy-blue windbreaker.
"They turned up this afternoon. Poor kids. Hell of a Valentine's Day for them. You say that you know this girl, Mae Fairbanks. The boy is Michael O'Dell. Do you know him?"
"I am afraid that I don't, Officer."
"Well, you have an uncanny knack for turning up clues. Sell any pets to anyone they know? Enemies, jealous exes?"
"Ah, of course." D sat up as Q-Chan hovered over, waiting for D to straighten his shoulder so that she could perch comfortably. The creature folded her wings and settled comfortably on her master, accepting the piece of cookie D offered. "I sold a snake to her friend the day after she and Miss Fairbanks came in to visit. It seems plausible that the incidents are related, but if the customer broke her contract, the store is released from all liability."
"A snake?" Orcot groaned. "I knew it…"
"You guessed a snake? Your senses are indeed keen, Officer!"
"Shut up! You know what I mean!"
"I'm afraid I don't."
"All right." Orcot snapped his fingers and stood up, gathering his pictures. "I want the girl's name. Who'd you sell a homicidal snake?"
"It's not a homicidal snake. It was an incredibly rare breed—" Orcot rolled his eyes and started mimicking D, mouthing. D pursed his lips and huffed through his nose. "We uphold a policy of customer confidentiality, Officer."
"I'll bring you rum tiramisu tomorrow."
D stared at Orcot, thinking. Q-Chan flapped her wings and cooed worriedly. What a moral fortress this guy is, yeah. How the hell did he survive this long in this city? He's a complete pushover.
"…Chianne Miller," said D. "Miss Chianne Miller. I have the papers with her address in my office."
"Thanks." Orcot stood and gathered his pictures. "You're a real good guy, D."
"Don't patronize me." D leaned back in the couch and tapped his chin with his fore-nail. "And you never did tell me what's bothering you so very much, aside from your case, Officer."
"Saw my ex today with a guy from the district." Orcot sighed heavily and shrugged. "Oh well. I'll nail your ass this time, D. You're dealing with assisting murder. Get me those papers."
"That's not how you speak to the man who is helping you."
"Man? I don't see a man."
"Next time I'll poison your biscuits." D pursed his lips thoughtfully and sighed, stroking Q-Chan under the chin. "Q-chan, please get Miss Miller's papers for the nice cop. And be sure to chew the edges up."
Chianne Miller seemed like a relatively stock softcore goth kid to Orcot. She wore an elaborate, lace-and-spike frilled gothic Lolita dress, and she was crossing her arms and edging her shoulder-blades back into the couch. She wore far too much mascara and eyeliner, which was currently streaked and running from profuse crying and rubbing at her eyes, and refused to make eye contact, shifting uncomfortably and backing into the pillows. Perhaps she naturally had black hair, but Orcot guessed that she had used dye. She was alone in her apartment and had been watching the local newscast, which she had quickly changed to a sitcom while Orcot was visiting. The apartment smelled strongly of too-familiar incense that had made Orcot snort when he stepped inside.
D, what the hell did you sell this time?
"You're a sophomore at Riverside, aren't you?"
"You know Mae Fairbanks and Michael O'Dell?"
Chianne hesitated and nodded, glancing sidelong at the floor. A laughtrack played on the TV in the next room; somebody must have said something that was fabulously witty and entertaining. Chianne's blank gaze shifted to the doorframe behind Orcot.
A-ha. Nailed. D, I've got your ass now. Orcot watched Chianne, waiting for further body language. The girl looked pale and shocked, subdued, predictable behavior if she had just seen her friends murdered and was still suppressing the memories for a later breakdown. Though her eyes were raw and her makeup was a mess, Orcot guessed that it had been a couple of hours since she had been crying.
"Do you know what happened to them?"
Chianne once again hesitated. She shook her head slowly.
"Then, why so down?"
"…what was your relationship with Mae and Michael?"
Chianne stared at the floor. "…they were friends," she said quietly.
"Ex-boyfriend?" Well, with these goth girls, just as likely ex-girlfriend. "Enemies? How well did you know them?"
"…I didn't kill them."
"So, you do know what happened."
Chianne looked up, gaped, and covered her mouth. The TV laughed again.
"…I didn't…" she said. She started to break down. "Look, it's… I didn't… It's… Ayame…"
"Ayame?" Orcot watched the girl nod furiously and start sobbing, hugging her knees and showing off the underside of her thighs—almost her rear—in the process. Orcot forced himself to focus on the girl's face. "Is that a pet?"
"She's not… well… she's…"
"From Count D?"
"How do you KNOW that? Look… just…" Chianne shook her head furiously. "I… I don't know, just…"
"Can I see her?"
"No need," said a low, alto voice.
Orcot started and looked up. He had been so focused on Chianne that he had not seen the incredibly tall—There is no way that's a chick; she has to be way over six feet tall!—woman, who was standing behind the couch with her arms crossed, approach. She was lithe and graceful; given what D had told him, Orcot didn't think it would be too far of a call to say she was 'snakelike'. She was straight-shouldered and appeared rather flat-chested and androgynous beneath an immaculate, tailored, black-and-white business suit, and she had loosely-cropped, jet-black hair and violently green, slitted eyes.
She was staring at Orcot, unblinking and expressionless. A trace of scorn crossed her mouth.
"Ayame!" Chianne stood on the couch and grasped the woman's shoulders desperately. Her body was wracking with sobs; she swayed and almost lost her balance on the yielding pillows. Ayame looked at Chianne without blinking.
Orcot arched his eyebrows and resisted the urge to reach for his gun. Yeah, that's a snake, all right.
"What businesssss do you have with Csssshianne?"
"I didn't know all my business had to pass through the welcoming committee, lady."
"Ayame, leave him alone…" said Chianne. "He's just a cop… he's just going to talk to me, and he'll be gone—"
"Cssshianne is mine." Ayame collected Chianne in the crook of her arm possessively and pulled her over the back of the couch, setting her down smoothly next to her and holding the girl back-to-chest with both arms. Though she looked scared, Chianne went quiet and looked away from Orcot submissively, twisting her toe on its axis and turning a bit red. Orcot blinked. Oh… so, that's how it is. It's a dyke pet. Figures, D. Why do all of these little goth chicks have to be swishy, anyway?
"At the moment, Chianne is answering some questions, lady."
"Nobody touchessss Cssshianne without my permisssssssion."
"Ayame, stop it!" said Chianne. "I've had enough! This isn't a game anymore!"
"Cop," said Ayame. "You sssaw what happened to the bitchhh and her boyfriend. If you don't want to sssshare their fate, you will walk out of thisss houssse and keep quiet about everything you have learned here. If one more of your officerssss comesss here, he will die immediately."
"…oh, that's it. I've had enough of this shit." Orcot pulled his gun out of its holster and aimed at Ayame's head, steeling himself in case she tried anything stupid. Hopefully she won't go ghost on me or something. "You're under arrest, lady. Get back against the wall. So's your master, the Count. We're all going for a ride."
"Officer Orcot! Please, put that down!"
"Sorry, Chianne." Orcot pulled his handcuffs off their strap on his belt. "Your pet is a murderer. You're going to have to come downtown as well. You dealt with a really shady guy in Chinatown."
"It's my fault! I broke the contract! You don't understand!"
"So did they all. Come on." He motioned toward the door with his gun. "Let's go."
Ayame was gone. Orcot stiffened instinctively, widening his stance and looking around the room, tracing with his gun. The TV droned from the next room. God damn it! Not this supernatural shit again! Where are you, you bitch?
"Ayame, get out here! I don't have time for this!"
"Ayame!" Chianne crumpled against the wall and curled, sobbing. "Stop! Stop it! No more! I don't want this anymore! Stop it! Stop it—"
Something slammed Orcot in the back, knocking the wind out of him. Orcot yelled and fell to his knees, forcing himself to keep his grasp on his gun. Ayame dug the heel of her dress shoe into the back of Orcot's head and drove him nose-first into the ground, grinding, as she dug her opposite knee into the small of his back and shifted her hand in place of her heel on the back of his head. She stomped on his hand until he released his pistol, then kicked it across the room. Orcot's nose shattered against the wooden floor; he screamed breathlessly and scrabbled fruitlessly, gasping for breath. For being so slender, this chick was cripplingly strong.
"AYAME!" screamed Chianne. "NO MORE! STOP! STOP!"
"I told you." Through his trapped panic, Orcot could feel Ayame's deep voice through her limbs. He heard Chianne run toward them. "You're mine. Nobody messsssess with you but me. Isssn't thisss what you wanted?"
"Not like this! Stop, Ayame! You're hurting him! Please!" Orcot felt Chianne fall to her knees next to Ayame. Ayame swayed; Orcot guessed Chianne was hanging on her arm. "Please! Please! I beg you, please! If you love me, please! Please! STOP THIS! I don't want you to be like this! I'm sorry I ever doubted you! Please! Just let him go!"
"You foolish girl." Orcot felt Ayame's weight lift slightly; he tried to jackknife up in a re-found burst of energy, but only hurt his lower back against her knee and hissed. He heard Ayame kiss Chianne. "I'm sssshowing you how far I'd go for you. Isn't thisss what you wanted? Jussst like one of your sssstories?"
"But this is… it's too far…"
"No, it'sss jussst like your sssstory. The one with Yuki and Ssshuichi, the one you read me. 'One Ssstep Closssser'. The one with the lyricsss. I loved it sssso much, Cssshianne. It wasss beautiful. You thought it wasss ssso romantic. You told me you wanted to feel like Ssshuichi in that ssstory when Yuki murdered for him. You wanted to be posssssesssssed like Sssshuichi. Dominated…"
"The hell are you talking about?" muttered Orcot.
"But… it's… come on, Ayame. This is real… it's…"
"For something that isn't real," said Count D, "you definitely built your worldview around that point of reference."
Orcot cursed into the ground, unable to see anything but the wooden floor and his blood seeping into his field of vision. "D, call your pet off!"
Chianne had walked into D's petshop the day after she had been to Chinatown with Mae, hurting because Mae was currently spending the day with Michael. Yesterday, they had stopped in D's petshop on a lark and had fawned over a beautiful black falcon that would have worked perfectly as Mae's familiar for her Seishirou costume last year, then left after small-talk with the owner. Both of them had loved D; he was a transvestite and therefore, in their books, awesome, and he was quite a character of one at that.
Chianne mulled as she descended the steps from the petshop's front entrance, moving from glaring sunlight to cool darkness. She loved the incense D burned; she meant to ask him what kind it was. She felt like blowing money on comfort things like incense and chocolate today. She also just wanted to talk to D. She got the feeling that he would understand. He was gay, after all, wasn't he? His mind must be open, and he just had to see things her way. Nobody else did.
Everybody had said that Chianne and Mae had made beautiful partners at last night's cosplay contest at the comic store. Chianne jumped at any opportunity to be Mae's cosplay counterpart. Mae was a perfect for cosplaying beautiful, seme-type males; she was tall and athletic, though she had to bind her chest flat, and Chianne made a good compliment as whatever respective uke was needed. As they were currently cosplaying Yuki and Shuichi from Gravitation, Chianne was on a Yuki-and-Shuichi writing binge. Last year, when they had done X, she was obsessed with anything related to Subaru and Seishirou, and avoided anything Seishirou-and-Fuuma related. Chianne really hated Fuuma. Michael had cosplayed Fuuma; the association was just too sickening to read.
Last night, as usual, people had assumed that she and Mae were actually a couple, and a cute one, at that. Many fangirls had wanted fanservice-pose pictures, something Chianne would be all-too-willing to do properly, but Mae always faked the shots, either hovering with her lips just above Chianne's, or holding Chianne stiffly when various hugging-shots were requested. Mae had replied to inquiries that she was dating the easygoing Vash cosplayer, Michael, who was probably off playing Dance Dance Revolution or telling bad jokes, or something. Chianne had then left Mae's side in a sulk and had curled up on the sidewalk outside the comic store's door, trying to lure Mae outside to fawn over her and apologize. Mae had spent a good half hour staying inside with everybody having a good time, and, of all people, it had been Michael who had broken away from his admirers long enough to check on Chianne. She seethed; he had some nerve, daring to check on her. He was always so damn nice and concerned.
Everybody loved Mae and Michael. They had fangirls. It was disgusting. Mae was so smooth and refined, a beautiful tomboy and crossplayer with a black belt in Judo with an encyclopedic knowledge of J-Rock, and Michael was probably the sweetest male any of the self-gender-isolating girls had encountered in the flesh: outgoing and emotional, but incredibly intelligent. He was perfect in appearance and character to cosplay Vash the Stampede from Trigun—all he had to do was bleach his dark brown hair and spike it—and had finally gotten a rough draft of his coat finished in time for the cosplay last night.
Chianne had also developed a strong dislike for Vash. She used to love Trigun, but now the show turned her stomach, and Vash was an obnoxious, self-righteous Gary Stu. It was a shame; she had to take down her Trigun posters and discontinue her Vash X Wolfwood fic, all because of that bastard Michael. He had an incredible knack for taking everything that ever meant anything to her.
"Ah, you're back already." Count D bowed slightly as Chianne stepped off the last stair into the shop's lobby. "Where is Miss Fairbanks today?"
"…she's with Michael."
"Ah, I see. Might I ask why you refer to him in such a tone?"
"He's… he's deceptive. An attention-whore, a twat, and an airhead, and everybody loves him so damn much, but I'm the only one who sees him for what he really is. He's not that great."
"Oh, really?" D shifted the bead curtains with the back of his hand and stood back to allow Chianne into the shop. "You must be very perceptive to be the only person to see these things."
"I am, but nobody sees it that way. They don't understand me. Nobody understands me. He's just so damn flashy that Mae only sees him, but she doesn't even know that I exist. I'm the one who's been there with her since fourth grade, always by her side, and Michael only moved to New York two years ago, and she's always making up excuses for why she can't hang out with me. I know it's because she wants to hang out with him all the time. I hate him! I was there first! I've always been there for her, listening to her and willing to give everything to her, but the past two years since she met this asshole… she's even got other friends who don't care about her nearly as much as I do that she'd rather hang out with even over me. When she's done with Michael, I'm still second to everybody! She says she's so sorry, like she really cares, but I know she's not!"
D stared at Chianne, still holding aside the bead-ropes and waiting for her to walk through. Chianne was crossing her arms tightly and staring at the ground, scuffling her toe and fighting back tears, swaying. She swallowed, hard. She knew that she was going to start crying down here, but she had not fully acknowledged it until now.
"…it's not fair!" continued Chianne. "I would give up everything to be with Mae, and Michael doesn't even need her! Mae doesn't understand! She's my prince; we're destined to be together, and if we're not, I won't be able to live! I just won't be able to live! We're destined! I can't stand her being with that… that…"
"Yes! She… she… she seems like such a girl with him… it's not right… that's not my Mae… She's not supposed to be a girl!"
"But from what you have told me, Miss Miller, Mae is a woman."
"She IS, but… it's not right! This isn't right!"
"…do you honestly think it is degrading to a woman to be with a man?"
"Mae's not like most girls." Chianne spat the words scornfully. "Mae's… different. Mae's too cool."
"You don't understand. You just don't understand. You're so closed-minded. I thought you were different."
Chianne hugged her elbows and stared at the floor, hiccupping. She knew that D was still watching her.
"…hey, um… what do you mean by selling love and dreams? Do you really do that?"
"Yes. And by that, I mean exactly what I say."
"…can you get me anything that I want?"
"As long as you want love and dreams, I can."
Chianne sighed. She knew that D knew exactly what she wanted; now, she would just see if he would give it to her, or if she would have to ask for it. She heard the beaded curtain shift back further.
"Come back here. Let's see what we have for you."
Chianne looked around the dark, ornate lobby one last time, searching for some kind of reassurance, then looked at D. D was smiling and slightly stooped in a welcoming manner, motioning for her to enter. Incense was wreathing through the beads in fragrant plumes that also carried hints of ocean and rainfall. Chianne half-expected to find a rainforest beyond the door.
It's fine. He's a gay guy; he can't be bad, after all. God, he's pretty. This is going to be so cool.