A/N: I've actually been sitting on this one for a while (I'd say at least two to three months), but I desperately need something to amuse myself with so I don't go nutso, and this is going to be a lot lighter than Dead, so it should be just the ticket. I can't promise timely updates (as those of you familiar with my posting schedule can attest to), but I can promise to eventually finish. Advance Warning: There will be moments of insanity, since I'm sort of feeling a little insane these days. Of course, I've never been in great mental health to start with….
Disclaimer: Like I really need to be reminded of that lamentable fact….
Words To Watch Out For:
(And I'm pretty sure that's about it. If not, feel free to send me a scathing denunciation. I'll reply…eventually….)
Captain Miserable Finds the Greener Grass
Chapter One: Sweet…In A Demented Sort of Way
It didn't happen very often, but sometimes, Saitou Hajime wondered what had possessed him to become a cop.
He could have done so many other things. He could have been a teacher, for example. Contrary to popular belief, he actually liked to instruct. He liked passing on his knowledge.
…Of course…he did rather detest other people's children….
Okay, so maybe that wasn't the ideal line of work for him. He supposed he could have become a writer; he was reasonably articulate, and he told pretty good stories.
…Then again…the idea of living in abject poverty for the rest of his life should he never write a best-seller rather dampened that prospect.
He didn't have the patience to put katana together, though he did love working with them. Perhaps, assistant instructor at a dojo? But then he'd be dealing with other people's children again….
Saitou sighed and rubbed his temple, irritated.
Actually, in all honesty, he liked his job. He made decent money, didn't really have to deal with other people's children, and could smoke as much as he wanted…
"Really officer, I wasn't doing anything! I was asking for directions, honest!" the man standing before him in full hooker drag protested.
…he just wished he didn't always get the weirdoes.
"You do realize that soliciting customers in broad daylight is not only very illegal, it's also the height of stupidity, right?" Saitou asked, voice brooking no argument.
"I swear, officer, I wasn't soliciting anything! Well, directions maybe, but nothing else!"
Off to the side, his fellow officer and longtime friend Okita Souji was laughing. The bastard didn't even have the decency to pretend he wasn't enjoying this, and Saitou made a mental note to make Okita miserable later by driving with the windows up while he was smoking. He wouldn't do it for long—his friend's lungs were bad, and Saitou wasn't totally heartless—but he'd get the s.o.b. back for this later, gods help him.
Saitou decided he didn't want to deal with the man, so he glanced over at Okita, and smirked; Okita's smile fell off his face.
"Lieutenant Okita," Saitou said dryly. "Seeing as how you dragged this…man…in, don't you suppose you should be the one dealing with him?"
"Oh, but Assistant Inspector," Okita replied, smiling slyly, "you being my superior and all, I figured you'd want to handle this personally."
Saitou's smirk widened.
"And deprive you of the pleasure? I wouldn't dream of it. In fact, I order you to take the privilege away from me."
Okita glared at him, but because Saitou had now delivered an order, there was nothing he could do—aside from doing what Saitou had ordered, that is. So, rolling his eyes, he grabbed the guy in drag by the arm and shoved him forward.
"I'll get you," Okita muttered as he walked by Saitou.
Saitou pulled out a new cigarette and stuck it in his mouth, still smirking.
"I doubt it, but you're welcome to try."
Okita grumbled something under his breath and the guy in drag loudly protested that he honestly hadn't done anything wrong, honest. Saitou lit his cigarette with one of the wooden matches he insisted on carrying around instead of a more practical lighter, and watched his friend shove the guy along.
And then there was that warm, fuzzy feeling he got in the cockles of his heart when he had managed to irritate Okita….
Feh—he doubted teaching other people's children could be as fulfilling as that feeling of accomplishment.
Saitou strolled back to his desk and sat down to finish up the last hundred or so reports he had left. He despised red tape on principle, but he was getting paid a lot more money now as an assistant inspector for the criminal investigations department, so what little bitching he voiced about the paperwork was low enough that his superiors never heard it—he was disgruntled, not stupid.
His desk, usually so immaculate—an obsessive-compulsive neat-freak would have been the politest way of describing him—was this day littered with papers everywhere, and his ashtray was overflowing; he tended to up his cigarette intake in response to chaos, and it was everywhere today.
"The world's gone insane," he muttered around his cigarette as he shuffled the papers on his desk into some semblance of order.
Or at least, this particular corner of the world had gone insane.
The criminal investigations department had never been so swamped with work. Then again, they'd never been able to nail a particular gang of yakuza punks until now. Saitou was only mildly pleased by that development, though—the rounding up of the yakuza meant a mountain of paperwork for him, since he'd been the officer in charge of the sting that had led to their capture.
Sometimes, it was good to be the king.
And sometimes, being a peon didn't sound half bad.
He dutifully got through eight reports before he decided it was time for lunch. And he knew it was time for lunch when he glanced over at his ashtray and counted eight new cigarette butts, one for each report.
"Hm." He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Time for soba. And Chiisai."
Takagi Tokio decided never to not sleep ever again—it simply wasn't worth the constant zoning out the next day.
She yawned hugely and rubbed at her weary eyes as she ducked into the luncheonette where she usually ate her noon meal, and bumped into someone who was walking out.
"Oh gods I'm sorry," she immediately apologized.
"Don't worry about it," the older woman said with a faint smile. "Long night?"
"You have no idea."
The woman chuckled and continued on her way, and Tokio walked to the counter. She was not surprised to see a certain police inspector leaning against the counter and watching her, amber eyes twinkling in a manner which bore her no good will.
"Good afternoon Saitou-san," she said politely, head bobbing.
"Tokio-san," he replied. Pause (Here it comes, Tokio thought with a sigh). "We're quite graceful today, I see."
"Ha ha ha," she replied, setting her purse down on the counter and turning to look at the woman behind it. She forced herself to smile. "Hi Shiori-san."
"Tokio-san! You're late today." Shiori replied.
"Yeah, well," Tokio replied gloomily. "The meeting ran over."
"You look awful," Shiori said, concerned. "Doesn't she look awful Saitou-san?"
"Absolutely," he agreed absently, impatiently tapping his fingers on the countertop. "Is Kuno done with my order yet?"
"Let me check," Shiori offered.
"There's an idea," Saitou muttered, but Shiori didn't hear him.
"What'll it be today Tokio-san?" Shiori asked, pausing on her way to the back to check on Saitou's food.
"Something cheap and quick," Tokio replied, yawning. "Soba."
Shiori looked horrified; Saitou grinned wolfishly.
"Heh—took me eight years, but I finally got you to order soba for lunch," he said with a smirk.
"Oh be quiet," Tokio muttered, wishing she hadn't forgotten he was there.
"Shiori-san, you owe me twenty-five hundred yen," Saitou said. "Told you I could do it before we hit the ten year mark."
Shiori glanced at Tokio, whose face was scrunched up in thought, then decided to get away before the woman figured out what they were talking about.
"What's wrong with you?" Saitou asked idly once Shiori had disappeared.
"Huh?" Tokio looked up at him, blinking.
"Why're you so tired?"
"Oh." She made a face. "Stupid exhibit at the museum. I had to stay late last night because one of the display cases fell over and shattered and the boss and the head curator almost had coronaries."
Saitou's lips twitched.
"The case just fell over?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
Tokio rolled her eyes. "The assistants insist that they were nowhere near the display when it fell over." Her tone of voice plainly told him that she wasn't buying that line for a second, and he smirked.
"Sounds like you might have ghosts then, Chiisai."
Tokio twitched visibly.
"I hate it when you call me that," she said from between gritted teeth.
"I know." The smirk got wider.
"That's my line."
"Not while you're calling me Chiisai." she shot back, and he decided to concede defeat.
"So now what?" he asked, his fingers tapping on the countertop again.
"So now we have to wait for a new display case." Tokio replied, digging through her purse for her wallet. She took hold of her glasses case, didn't hear anything shift inside it, paused, and then looked up at him. "Are my glasses on top of my head?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Good—I thought I'd lost them for a second." She reached up and took them off her head and set them on the countertop by his elbow. "Anyway, it's going to take a few days for a new case to get here. And we have to do some touch up work on the artifact—there was some minor damage." She pulled out her glasses case, set the glasses in the case carefully and snapped it shut. "Stupid assistants. I should fire them."
"You should shoot them," he corrected.
"I don't have a gun," she pointed out.
"All right, I'll shoot them," he said agreeably, and she smiled.
"Hm. As tempting as the offer is, I couldn't possibly ask that of you. At least not before I've found replacement assistants."
He shrugged. "I can wait."
This was the usual routine at the luncheonette. Saitou would come in for his soba, and roughly five minutes later, Tokio would breeze in and they'd settle into companionable bickering while they waited for their food. Saitou usually waited for her order to come out before leaving with his own; she usually ate in the luncheonette. They had about ten to fifteen minutes to play with on average, and as the years had passed, they'd learned to use it to its fullest potential.
Tokio didn't remember exactly how the routine had become, well, the routine. She had a suspicion it had started with him calling her "Chiisai" the first time he saw her, and her reaction to the name. What she did know was that for the last eight years, she had been coming to this luncheonette on her lunch hour and meeting Saitou and exchanging quips. It was surprisingly pleasant. Well, when he wasn't calling her "Chiisai," anyway.
"What's the new exhibit?" he asked.
"I told you already," she replied, vague annoyance coloring her tone. "A week ago."
"I have more important things to remember than what exhibit is opening at the museum you work at…Chiisai."
"So obnoxious," she growled, resisting the urge to kick him; technically, if she kicked him, she'd be assaulting an officer, and knowing Saitou as she did, he'd take real delight in reading her her rights. He was special that way, Saitou was.
"I love you too, Chiisai."
"Stop calling me that!" Tokio snapped, then looked around at the other patrons apologetically, her embarrassment at raising her voice written on her face; Saitou coughed in a miserable attempt at covering up his laughter at her expense.
"Well?" he asked after he'd stopped laughing at her, though he was still smirking. "You didn't answer my question. Or were you planning on being rude?"
"You're one to talk about being rude, Saitou-san," Tokio irritably said, pulling her wallet out of her purse.
"Do as I say, not as I do," he quipped.
Her nostrils flared and she glared at him. He raised an eyebrow and met her glare head on, and they indulged in the ever-mature glaring match for several long minutes.
"It's early Meiji Era," she said finally, unable to hold the glare any longer. "How do you do that?" she added, her voice equal parts annoyance and wonderment.
"I'm talented," he said.
"I bet." she muttered.
He sent her another wolfish grin.
"Was that supposed to sound dirty, Chiisai?" he asked innocently, knowing that the absolute fastest way to get her sputtering was to embarrass her horrifically.
Predictably, her cheeks went the nicest shade of pink, and she refused to look up at him, instead suddenly finding the contents of her wallet—which he knew was mostly old receipts and business cards and the odd yen here and there because she'd told him so once—absolutely fascinating.
"You're awful," she said, almost choking on her words.
"Hm—really?" he prodded, purposely dropping his voice a few octaves.
"Shiori-san!" Tokio yelped. "Is my order ready yet?!?"
"Just a second!" Shiori called back from the back, and Tokio groaned loud enough for Saitou to hear.
"So eager to leave my company, Tokio?" he asked, voice still suggestive.
"Saitou-san, please stop," she begged, blushing in earnest now. "You know I hate it when you do that."
"But it's so entertaining," he replied, not only not changing his tone, but leaning over her.
"This is so inappropriate," she moaned, eyes glued to the countertop and cheeks a rather interesting shade of red.
Saitou didn't get the chance to reply: Shiori appeared from the back with a bag in one hand and a steaming bowl in the other. She took one look at Saitou and Tokio—the former leaning over the latter and looking extremely amused and pleased with himself, and the latter, cheeks flaming, staring at her as if she were nothing less than ultimate salvation—and knew exactly what had happened.
"Knock it off, Saitou-san," she chided, striding over to them, "leave poor Tokio-san alone." She set the bag down in front of him and the bowl in front of her. "Here're your orders."
Saitou finally moved away and Tokio sighed in relief.
"Thank you Shiori-san," she murmured fervently.
"You're welcome, but you should learn how to handle him."
Saitou raised an eyebrow.
"'Handle' me?" He smirked at Tokio, who immediately clapped her hands over her ears and shut her eyes and loudly said,
"I'm not listening! I can't hear you!"
Shiori rolled her eyes and looked over at Saitou. "Saitou-san?"
He gave a little half-nod of acknowledgment, then pulled out his wallet and paid for his meal. Tokio, in the mean time, had uncovered her ears and opened both eyes after peeking to make sure his attention was occupied with something else. She counted out her yen and also paid Shiori, then shut her wallet with a snap and plopped it back into her purse.
"Shut that," Saitou said idly, putting his policeman's hat on. "You're inviting pickpockets."
"Are there any pickpockets here now?" she asked patiently, plucking a pair of chopsticks from the container closest to her and breaking them apart deftly, then handing them to him; he never could get as clean a break as she could.
"You're going to forget," he said. "Shut it."
She sighed and rolled her eyes, then zipped her purse shut and turned back to him.
"Happy, Assistant Inspector Saitou?" she asked, voice slightly sarcastic.
"Deliriously, Associate Director Takagi," he dryly replied. He picked up his bag, opened it and dropped the chopsticks in, then folded it shut and picked it up. "Let me know when you want your idiot assistants taken care of."
"Right," she said, smiling ruefully.
Saitou leaned down and Tokio stiffened, surprised.
"Before I go, I'm curious," he said, voice dropping again. "Interested in learning how to handle me?"
"Saitou-san!" Shiori barked. "Behave!"
He smirked at Tokio, then straightened and left the luncheonette without a backwards glance. Tokio watched him go, cheeks still flushed, then turned back to the counter and grabbed another pair of chopsticks, hands shaking a little.
Saitou was only two years older than her, but he made her feel horribly young when he did stuff like that. What made it more embarrassing was that he knew it made her uncomfortable.
"You're hopeless," Shiori said with a sigh, coming to where Tokio was.
"Not you too," Tokio said, also with a sigh.
"If you'd learn how to not get all flustered when he said things like that," Shiori began.
"I wouldn't mind so much if he didn't look like he was enjoying it," Tokio interrupted grumpily, snapping her chopsticks apart, and for the first time in eight years, the break wasn't clean and she snapped one of them almost in half. She threw the chopsticks down on the counter in frustration while Shiori tried not to laugh and failed spectacularly.
"I wish he'd get married or something," she muttered. "Then maybe he'd stop doing that."
"No way," Shiori said with a laugh. "He enjoys it too much. Saitou-san's twisted like that."
"Yeah I know," Tokio returned gloomily, picking out another set of chopsticks and breaking them apart; the break was clean this time.
Shiori had stopped trying to convince Tokio to respond to Saitou's teasing in kind, and she'd only said something about her two favorite customers getting together once—Tokio hadn't taken the suggestion well, and Shiori had wisely refrained from bringing it up again. She thought, however, that it was fairly obvious to even the dimmest human being around that there was something there. Saitou had never received anything in the way of encouragement from Tokio, though, so all he could really do was tease her mercilessly. Shiori thought it was sweet…in a demented sort of way.
As for Tokio, Shiori was reasonably sure that the younger woman was smitten with the tall police inspector; it was more than a little telling that Tokio always snapped his chopsticks apart for him before he left. Just as it was more than a little telling that Saitou always waited for Tokio's food to come out before taking his leave. And if those were too subtle, the whole "Chiisai" thing made it blindingly obvious.
How to end the stalemate? Shiori mused, watching Tokio eat the soba.
"You know there won't be any living with him now, right?" Shiori asked. "He's been trying to get you to eat soba since he met you."
"Actually, I like soba," Tokio admitted. Then she looked up at Shiori and grinned mischievously, eyes twinkling. "I just kept refusing to order it because he kept trying to get me to order it."
"Gods, you're as bad as him!"
Tokio smiled and shrugged and went back to her soba, and Shiori shook her head. A light suddenly went off in said head, and Shiori paused, then looked over at Tokio, who hadn't noticed the rather Grinch-like grin spreading over Shiori's face.
"Say, Tokio-san," she began casually, "that new exhibit at the museum—"
"Early Meiji Era," Tokio automatically offered.
"Right, that one…any weapons on display?"
"We've got a huge room dedicated to it," Tokio affirmed, then sent Shiori an odd look. "Since when are you interested in weapons, Shiori-san?"
"Not for me," Shiori replied, vaguely annoyed. "I was thinking maybe you should tell Saitou-san about it. He's into weapons."
"He prefers katana," Tokio said authoritatively.
"Aren't there any?"
Tokio shrugged. "Not enough that I think he'd be interested in seeing them."
"Tell him anyway," Shiori urged. "You never know, he might be interested."
"Doubtful," Tokio said, frowning thoughtfully.
Shiori rolled her eyes; damn it, why did Tokio have to be so annoyingly stubborn? If Shiori kept insisting like this, the younger woman would get suspicious, and Tokio herself had just admitted to refusing to order soba after Saitou had tried to get her to for eight years, just to be contrary. Likely as not, any more insistence from Shiori would end in the same result.
Tokio finished her meal, said good-bye and left. Shiori leaned against the counter and watched her go.
"If it was up to her and that idiot, they'd spend another eight years pussy-footing around each other," she muttered. "Never knew Saitou-san was such a wimp, either—you'd have thought he would have asked her out by now."
From the back, Kuno, her cook, yelled for her to take out an order, and Shiori sighed, grabbed Tokio's bowl and went to the back.
"They are so hopeless," she said wearily, shaking her head.
Preview of Chapter 2: She's A Ball-Buster:
"Saitou-san?" she asked incredulously, abruptly stopping a few feet away when she recognized him.
"Sure can run in those heels, though," Shinomori Aoshi observed.
"Yup," the other three men said in unison.
"Jesus," Okita muttered, holding a hand over his heart. "I hate it when she does that."
"Christ, a second slower and she'd a killed me," Enishi muttered, breathing a sigh of relief.