by K.H. Ivywater

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this story and no profit is being made. Count D, Leon, and all of the other lovely characters in this work of fiction are property of Matsuri Akino.

Notes: Having read the manga (possibly carefully) is rather important if you are to understand what's going on in this story. The "Jessie" referred to in chapter five did not appear in the series, but most everything else did. Questions and comments and feedback are most welcome, and please let me know if you rec. Many thanks to Azalee for her consistently sweet reviews. :-)

Summary: D/Leon. Takes place after volume ten of the original series (ignoring the future scene). Leon has left a lot of things unsaid in the past. But he isn't a little boy anymore; he's chasing airships instead of cars. So this time he'll say what he needs to say, but the question is: will D listen? Rated M for strong language and adults situations.

Dates: This story was begun on January 21, 2009, and completed on February 19, 2009.


Chapter One: The Chase


In the end, it isn't hard to find him.

Two weeks of paid vacation and two thousand dollars worth of savings prove to be more than he needs. One week and three round-trip tickets is all that it takes.

First, he'd chased phantoms all the way to Berlin—after all, the shop had been there once before, so why not again? Berlin, 1938—that's what the photo said. It had been long enough—enough time for most people to forget.

But that was a dead end. It was too early, really—too little time for word to get around, too little time for all of the paperwork that normally went into running a business to be filled out. He scoured the streets, peeking into windows, and even hung around the Business Location Center headquarters for awhile before finally giving up.

And then he went to Japan, because he knew he couldn't stop moving. He was afraid to find out what would happen if he did.

Now, he'd be the first to admit that going to Japan had been really fucking stupid. He didn't have any leads—he had to work with what little he knew. And he knew, because of Granddaddy D's helpful insight into immortal vendettas, that D was from China. He also knew that D liked Tibetan dogs and Peruvian fish, but figured that could wait another day. He wanted to try D's homeland first.

So why he got a ticket for Japan rather than China, he didn't know. Maybe it was because he knew Japan was a hell of a lot smaller and relatively easier to search. Maybe it was because D had called him Orcot-san all of twice, but yeah, he'd looked it up, and it was a Japanese thing, not a Chinese thing, same as Pon-chan and T-chan. Or maybe it was because he was a stupid American who couldn't tell a goddamn thing apart and preferred to lump the rest of the world into the category of "oh, you know, those places over there." Or, more specifically in this case: "Asia."

Anyway, halfway through the plane ride, he'd smacked his head against the window.

Due to some funny business with his passport, that mistake had cost him three days. Finally, though, he arrived in Beijing, a city he picked because it had people—lots of people—and because he knew it was tourist-friendly. Or he thought it was. When he checked into his hotel, he asked the woman at the front desk where he could find the Kunlun Mountains. All she told him was, "Nowhere near here."

So he bought a map, and tried to figure it out for himself. And what he found was that maybe he should have gone to Tibet after all.

But Beijing had numbers in its favor—numbers that could form not only ample clientele for a small pet shop, but also anonymity when customers turned into victims. So Leon stayed, and asked around, and was finally rewarded when an old woman looked at him sagely and said yes, she knew right where Count D was.

And that's where he's going now.

The main streets of Beijing are deceptive: brightly lit though it's nearly two a.m. The time means that jet-lag doesn't apply, doesn't matter—he's wide awake, his clock still ticking the beat of Los Angeles.

He turns down the street the woman at the food stand indicated, and stops dead in his tracks. He can see the sign: Chinese, with English in slightly less elegant script below.

He feels cold, even though he shouldn't.

He feels calm, even though he shouldn't.

He walks quietly to the door and picks the lock.

The room is dark, but not silent, and he is thankful for that, because silence means crossing oceans and wondering why D left. He takes cautious steps, scuffing his shoe gently across the floor before stepping down, trying to keep from treading on someone's tail.

He finds a lamp, and suddenly the room is bright. He hates it immediately, because it is not the same, except for the incense, and oh, he never thought he could miss that stuff so much.

It takes him a moment to realize that the animals have gone silent. They study him from every corner, and he wonders why he isn't dead yet.

He decides he doesn't really care. He sets a white box full of German doughnuts on the table and sits down on a couch that is not his couch. He looks around the room, decides he really doesn't like it, and then just stares at the box. He wishes desperately that it felt like home.

There's a scratching sound on the hardwood floor, and then a head peeks around the side of the sofa. Pon-chan's black-ringed eyes widen as she realizes that it's him. He remembers talking to her once, in the midst of panic. He remembers hearing her response, pitched lightly in a girlish voice.

He would try it again now, but he doesn't know what to say.

Eventually he has to admit that yeah, he may be crying. The wetness on his face is convincing enough—doesn't take a detective to put the pieces together. Pon-chan crawls into his lap and rubs her face against his, and he tries very hard not to picture the little girl he knows he saw: the small, smiling thing with the long, curly hair.

He puts his arms around her body and pets her fur. He keeps crying, even though he knows it isn't manly.

Soon, he hears movement down the hallway. Then a familiar voice, calling out in what he can only assume is Mandarin. It causes the hair on his arms to stand on end, and the tears to stop. He doesn't try to respond. He just grips Pon-chan tighter and stares fixedly at the table.

Then he can hear a body behind him, and the Mandarin cuts off abruptly. It takes D only seconds to recover.

"My dear detective… What brings you to Beijing?"