Dinner & A Show…

Reservations & Appetizers

Jill was just shy of twenty minutes late. Leon had left her all the paperwork from the last case when he'd sped out the precinct door a half hour early… and then, of course, he'd expected her to be at the Shop well before time, so she did it half to tease him and half 'cause it was hard to find a parking space in the crowded streets of Chinatown at 7 p.m.

Her fellow detective looked like he'd been pacing – flushed and little frazzled – and the Count seemed slightly out-of-kilter, as well.

"Shit, Jill! Where've you been?" was how Leon greeted her and then instantly turned his attention to the man standing over by the sofa and urged: "We gotta go, Count – come on, let's get a move on."

The Count slid gracefully in her direction, dressed to the hilt in yet another gorgeous outfit Jill had never seen before. He smiled a greeting and spoke much more softly than her so-called friend.

"Young Christopher is asleep, Miss Jill. He should be no trouble. I've left you a snack if you are hungry later—"

The pleasant even tones of the Count were interrupted by Leon's tugging his elbow ("She can figure that shit out! Damn it, we're gonna be late!") and physically attempting to drag him right out the door.

"Detective! I will not be rushed, please." That was said firmly, heels of his jeweled slippers dug firmly into the Turkish carpet.

"Not by you."

Leon's face fell. D wasn't budging.

"But...!"

"Now, Miss Jill, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, there is a high tea over there on the table for later this evening and I've written down my cell number, as well as this key."

A huge brass key on a red ribbon was presented with a nod. Jill's eyes widened. It wasn't likely she was going to mislay this baby: it was the size of small breadbox, and all fanciful curlicues and engraving.

"Please lock up carefully when we leave," the Count continued, ignoring Leon's irritated gyrations by the door.

"T-chan here is accustomed to guarding the Shop, so you'll be quite safe, and Chris attended a birthday party today and is very tired, so he shouldn't wake. If he does, there's warm milk and cookies – enough for three, since Pon-chan will wake too, no doubt. Pon-chan and T-chan will put Chris back to bed for you - no need to worry about that - and we'll be back early, I'm sure, but don't hesitate to call me if something seems amiss."

Jill grinned happily at the elegant Chinese man and hastened to assure him that all would be well. He was quite beautiful tonight, in a midnight blue cheongsam and cream surcoat embroidered with peacock tails and forest-green vines. And she'd actually been looking forward to this, 'cause then Leon would owe her one big favor later. Which meant a lot in terms of manning boring stake-outs or getting endless cups of coffee. Not to mention that tiny part of her which enjoyed watching Leon and the Count caper and pose in their mating dance. She found it amusing, and sweet, and rooted for them secretly, even though they'd now both joined the ranks of 'gay, married or taken.'

Shame, really, but nothing she wasn't used to. Not in L.A.

"Don't worry about it, Count. I've got little brothers and sisters, so I'm used to all this. We'll be fine while you're gone, you'll see."

"Can we get going, damnit?" That was Leon, who was back to pacing, in short irregular circles over by the door. "We have a reservation!"

"If you are sure this is no trouble, then thank you, Miss Jill." The Count turned to Leon, finally. "Will I need a wrap, do you think? Is it cold?"

"No, well, maybe... I don't know; bring it – you can leave it in the car."

Leon grabbed the Count again, this time by the forearm, and wasted no time ushering him firmly over to the door. Jill noticed his fingers were careful even if his body language spoke force.

"Thanks, Jill. Owe you one," he threw back at her over his shoulder, as they departed.

Jill waited. There it was, the careful snick of the lock in the door and one last faint protest from the Count, who still objected to being hurried. Leon answered inaudibly, and shut the car door on the Count's voice.

Jill wondered just what Leon had planned for the evening. She grinned – it wasn't hard to imagine - at least what Leon hoped was going to happen - although she herself couldn't quite wrap her head around a gay date. Probably a lot like a straight one, with maybe more circumspection. But hey, it was California, so at least they could enjoy their 'date' in peace. As for her, she had the new J.D. Robb to look forward to… and the pile of Cosmos she'd been meaning to read or toss.

Jill spared a thought for the Count as she took her stuff out of her bag and stacked it neatly on the cushions of the couch. She always enjoyed seeing him, in part because he was so good to look at – total eye candy and a really charming manner. And unusual, like a hot-house flower in among the marigolds. An odd way to describe a man, she decided, but it fit. She'd dated an Asian guy once, back in college. He'd been good-looking too, but he couldn't hold a candle to the Count. The Count had more sex appeal than the "It Girl' in his littlest beringed finger.

Maybe that was Leon's downfall. He'd always been girl-crazy before he started coming to the Shop.

PSOHPSOHPSOHPSOHPSOHPSOH

Leon parked the car around the corner from the restaurant. He'd driven all of five blocks through Chinatown, but it felt like a lot longer with the Count sitting silent and stuck-up in the passenger side, fiddling with his shawl and fan.

"We're here, D."

Leon got out of the car, hesitated indecisively, and then went round to the Count's door to open it for him and hand him out. The Count was a grown man, damn it, could open his door all by himself, but this was 'date,' damn it, and Leon had been too well trained. He stood there waiting, hand out, feeling like an ass as the Count took it and fluidly extracted himself from Leon's old clunker, and he then locked and closed the door with a slam after making sure D had removed all the folds of his expensive fabric from the door jamb .

"Wait, Detective! Where exactly are we going?"

The Count hadn't budged once he stood on the pavement, even when Leon warily reached out to grab his hand.

"Dinner."

Leon had progressed from his usual, run-of-the-mill 'impatient' to damn near 'frantic'. They only had an hour left before the movie started and that was at a complex several miles away. At least he'd thought to buy the tickets already, like the smart guy he was. But dinner was supposed to be leisurely; a chance to talk about stuff, 'get to know each other better' in date-speak, and now his great-though highly unoriginal-plan was rapidly going down the drain.

"Why are we going out to dinner, Mr. Detective? We could have eaten at home with Christopher."

"'Cause I'm hungry, that's why, and I wanted to go out."

The detective waited a beat but the Count said nothing. His expression was funny, though. Not 'bad' funny, just…funny.

"Come on, D, we'll be late if we don't hurry—"

"Late for what, Detective?"

D moved along, finally, one hand coming to rest lightly on Leon's jacketed arm.

"You'll see."

And the detective breathed an internal sigh of relief when the Count didn't immediately object to that, too.