PSOH PET SHOP PERPETUAL Chapter 1

Orcot shifted from one foot to the other, his legs stiff from the wait. His pocket chittered inquiringly. Leon patted it for reassurance and slipped in some more sunflower seeds. It was still a little chilly, even standing out of the wind in the thin early morning sunshine, and he and the little guy were getting cold. The white cardboard box in his other hand tilted precariously within its cage of string and he shifted again to keep it steady, leaning back against the wooden shop wall behind him. There'd be hell to pay if the cakes were damaged. The Count – if it was indeed him behind those wrought iron security gates– wouldn't be happy with a slightly smushed offering. Plus, Leon had waited patiently for nearly an hour very early this morning to get them; he wasn't going to dare ruin them now. They were the best to be had and if he was lucky, he'd need them.

Leon sighed, tucking his chin lower into his jacket to ward off the chill. Early spring in Japan was not a particularly warm place for a stakeout. He sure as hell hoped this was the Pet Shop he was looking for. The minute he'd hit Japan he'd started scouring the streets of Tokyo, searching determinedly for what eluded him every time: the latest incarnation of the Count's Pet Shop. It would damned well kill him if he missed D yet again. In Sydney he'd been only a couple days too late. In Paris, though, there'd been only old, cold rumors to keep him going. New York's Chinatown had been his best lead by far, but the Count had already been long gone by the time Leon had gotten his act together to go look.

When he started thinking back to all places he'd been, all in vain, it seemed like one hell of a long time since he'd left the US. Years. Ages. If he'd been with D this whole thing might of been kinda fun, but no, it wasn't; he was still separated by some unknowable distance from the one he wanted. Still, here he was, once again patiently waiting in front of yet another possible pet shop in yet another Chinatown.

It wasn't like he had a choice.

Leon had come out of the hospital drained and empty, a 'mere shadow of his former self.' He'd gone back to work still in zombie mode, steadfastly trying to put his Pet Shop days behind him and bury himself in work, but…the thrill of the chase was gone. He'd lost the spark, the conviction that he was on the side of justice. All that had been bright and clear had gone grey, dingy and careworn, like his apartment, like his heart. Work was dreary, food was tasteless and he couldn't sleep. Nothing truly roused him from his deepening depression, not even Chris's weekly phone calls. Even copious amounts of alcohol couldn't dull the pain of D's final rejection, the one he'd never even had a chance to argue. D's mask had remained in place till the very end – Leon must have only imagined the tears. He'd been dumped, anyway - literally, figuratively, in every way that mattered.

The D-shaped hole in his heart gaped wider as the days dragged on, till Leon thought he could feel the wind in the alleys whistling through him. He felt transparent, as though his spirit really had departed with D. He grew thinner and gaunter and sharp-edged, till Jill took to bringing him food as well as coffee in the morning. Leon vaguely appreciated the gesture but the sight of Danish and doughnuts killed his weak appetite entirely. It was not the same, it would never be. He wanted strawberry tartes and cheesecake and Earl Grey tea in thin painted porcelain cups, all meant to be consumed while sitting opposite a beautiful Chinese man in a dress -- if only he could taste them again. But he couldn't even dream of the possibility of seeing D once more. What if the Count turned away yet again, disgusted? Leon couldn't help being human. He ate meat, and killed people for a living and worst of all, he'd been the one to kill D's father. How could the Count ever forgive that?

Nearly six months passed before Leon bottomed out and began the slow crawl back up. Six months wasted before he'd figured out finally what he needed to do. Pining away wasn't cutting it. He wasn't the kind of guy who could sit still and die of a broken heart. He was still Detective Leon Orcot, his mother's son, and he could not give up, not just yet.

On that note, he'd called Chris, told him he was coming to New York, ready to start his search for D. Chris had been supportive but he hadn't really understood why Leon was suddenly so frantic. All Chris had been told was that the Count had gone on a long trip. Leon couldn't explain it all to an eight-year-old, even a really perceptive one. His own decision had been a lightning strike, a perfect wave on a flat ocean, the first positive thing he'd felt in longer than he could remember. Of course, it was purely a hunch, as Leon wasn't actually sure that the Count could be found. Maybe he'd retired, gone into hiding with only his animals. Maybe he'd found some other nosy policeman to watch over him. Maybe he'd moved on, returned to the dream world that Leon could never hope to enter by himself. Whatever, he had gone; it hurt constantly to be without him and in all his useless soul-searching, Leon had come up with only one cure.

In New York City, Orcott continued in the force. It was familiar, he knew what to do and he could get by. LAPD, NYPD – it no longer made a difference as long as he could use his police connections to locate D. He'd transferred there in early spring with a good word from his boss and started his search the moment he got off the plane. Within a few short weeks he knew he wasn't going to find D there. Oh, he'd located the Shop alright, but there was old Chinese guy running it, a squat tubby man with droopy mustaches who seemed vaguely familiar. And, yes, the NYPD did have a few records of odd incidents involving exotic and recalcitrant pets but there was very little else official to go on. The only odd thing was the lack of fatalities. Then again, D was not his father, so Leon figured it made sense.

Leon started using his hard-won detective skills then. He hunted down the Count's pet-owners and grilled them gently for information, but to no avail. He checked out the zoos and the museums and then went to every single bakery in the city and all the boroughs. He visited every Chinese dentist he could find and kept surveillance on the pretty ones, especially the two who favored leather in their off hours. He hung out in Chinatown for months, asking around, nosing out the locals who had known D. He ate there and shopped there and even got a room to rent right on the outskirts. Eventually it paid off - the Chinese shop owners ceased viewing him as a threat and a kook and he finally got hold of his first real information in what seemed a very long time.

A couple of the Shop's neighbors had known the Count a little, at least in passing. They remembered odd scraps of conversation, along with the Count's penchant for sweets. The Count had been disappointed – he'd been looking for some rare animal and New York had not panned out. So D had gone – where? Some other large city, they thought, some place that might be more fruitful. London, maybe? Paris? Beijing? The various shop keepers weren't sure, but they agreed those were all good possibilities. One thing was certain, though: the trail in NYC was stone cold – it had taken 8 months altogether to get even this far. The only course left was to search outside the U.S. – leave his job, his country, his brother, all that was familiar. Leon considered long and hard but there was never really a choice. Yes, being a cop was important, but finding D was more so. There was no question that he would follow -- it was only a question of how.

So he'd quit without a single regret. He sent Chris his stuff, except the drawing his little brother had done so long ago. It was Leon's family that Chris had captured in his child's sketch. It was the one thing he carried everywhere, the one thing that had given him any hope at all. D was smiling…not the fake one, either, but something loving and warm. Even captured in a child's scrawl it was the most precious thing Leon owned.

Leon debated back and forth – keep it or send it to Chris. After all, he really didn't need the actual image at this point; it was already burned in his heart. Chris, well, he might be the one who'd need it more. Especially if Leon didn't come back. He knew his search would not be easy; that it might even be dangerous, but it had been with a glad heart he made his decision. He could not stay in the good ol' USA if the Count was out there somewhere. He could not turn back to what he had been before.

Fortune smiled and Leon landed the job he was hoping for - a security gig with the largest import/export company in Chinatown -- and hopped a cargo ship as a guard as soon as he decently could. He ended up keeping the drawing, though. Maybe the Count might want it back someday - it might be his ticket in the door.

The job with Sing's took him all over the world. He'd been to Sydney twice, Taiwan at least five times and the port cities of Europe more often than he could count in the year and some he'd been doing this job. Every time he was ashore he'd search frantically. There was always a Chinatown, always a pet shop, but never the right one. He'd ended up concentrating on the major cities, travelling farther inland when he had to so he could check out places like Munich and Paris. He was positive D would never settle anywhere but a major metropolis, if only for the bakeries. The Count was creature who thrived in a big city. But there were so many possibilities, it was staggering. Orcot hadn't gotten to Cairo or Rio de Janiero yet. The Count could be in Istanbul or Moscow and he hadn't managed to get to those places either. It could take years.

Fucking years.