A/N: Even within little-fanficced fandoms, I write fanfics of those works which are little-fanficced. I must have something with being unpopular or something. Under these conditions, I present to you (drumroll): A multi-chapter Royaume de Tôle fanfiction. Do me a favor and review this one for the writing and plot even if you don't know the show? Please? I will love you forever.
Note 1: Unless otherwise stated, all dialogue is in French. I'm not sure why that's important really, but it is. Valet is fluently bilingual. L'Empereur... who knows. The city is something like Quebec, but bigger.
Note 2: No, I am under no impression that chapeau means 'chapter' in French. Yes, I know the difference between chapeau and chapitre, thank you very much. Yes, I am labeling my chapters according to hats. Yes, I am starting at 0. Yes, this is all intentional. Read the fic, watch the show, or look at any photo of the Prime Minister, and you will understand. Hopefully.
The junkyard; red; diving in; the Emperor
No one ever went into the junkyard.
No one ever looked at the junkyard. It was just there, a stain of rust in an otherwise gleaming and polished and well-to-do city. It was an embarrassment, something which should have been cleaned up years ago but which somehow people never got around to demolishing, and the best you could do was to look the other way as you walked by the chain link fence surrounding it and pretend that it didn't exist.
But Louis Valet, full-time clerk for Trepanier & Sons' private law firm and one of those whose job it was to notice, if not act on, everything, caught the flash of red in the corner of his eye as he walked by the place which didn't exist on the way home from work.
Too colorful to be a rusted-out car, and anyway, it had moved. Probably some kid playing around in the shipping containers, unwary of the dangers the junkyard posed - falling and tetanus being the least of any mother's worries.
He looked again at the junkyard, directly this time, scanning it for a child in a red shirt, and saw nothing. Blinked, and saw the red again, clambering over a piece of sheet metal, away from him. "Stupid kids," he muttered under his breath.
It was none of his business, really. He'd always thought that it was more of a flaw than a virtue to be a public-minded citizen. Kids didn't even like him. But nevertheless, he left the safe and familiar sidewalk, skirted the fence until he found the gap hidden behind a clump of tall, seedy weeds, and stepped through into the junkyard, brushing burrs off of his jacket as he straightened up.
"Hey, kids," he called, looking around. "This isn't a safe place to play. Go home."
No response. Valet shrugged and headed toward the pile of shipping containers in the center of the junkyard, which were tossed here and there like a giant's building blocks. He wondered how on earth they had gotten there - maybe there had been a train wreck and nobody had bothered to move them to a different junkyard when they could just as well stay where they were. There were some convenient train tracks passing right overhead to help the hypothesis. Stranger things had happened. Still, it seemed like an awful lot of stuff just to leave where it had fallen, besides the fact that the containers provided convenient shelter for every hobo who happened to pass by. Though, from what he'd heard, that hadn't been as much of a problem as it should be. Maybe the druggies chased all the hoboes away.
That thought wasn't really a lot of comfort.
He was about to turn around when he spotted the red again, sitting up on top of one of the shipping crates, and realized it definitely wasn't a kid, unless they happened to be an abnormally large one.
Against his better judgement, he was intrigued. And so he made the life-changing decision of clambering up the piles of rusted-out boxes and car parts and broken furniture until he reached the crate, which he then discovered he was not nearly acrobatic enough to climb up onto. He stood on tiptoe on a three-legged chair and peered up onto the top of the container. He could just see part of the person in red, who was facing away from him, legs dangling over the other edge of the container, and gave no sign that they noticed him. Valet cleared his throat, and cautiously said "Hello?"
No response. "Hello? Err, what are you doing?" When the person in red still gave no sign, Valet switched to English. "Hello? Um, are you deaf? Can you hear me?"
The red person jumped about three feet in the air, and spun around, which was interesting to watch someone to do from a sitting position on the edge of a ten-foot drop.
"Oh, hello," he said, hauling himself back up onto the top of the container. "Don't ever do that again. Please."
Valet climbed onto the back of the chair, which was an extremely stupid idea, to get a better look at the mysterious boy in red. Though, now that he looked, he wasn't quite sure whether to classify the guy as a boy or a man. He looked to be in his early twenties, trim and blond and taller than Valet, and wearing a red tweed suit which looked more like something out of a costume shop than an outfit a sane person would actually wear in public. And he was wearing a crown, made out of a strip of corrugated metal.
"Why aren't you coming up here?" this odd man asked, leaning back on his elbows. "It's too high," Valet explained.
"Wimp." The man grabbed Valet and pulled him onto the top of the crate, then returned to leaning on his elbows. There were a pair of leaking cushions which it appeared he'd been sitting on, though now he was using them as a backrest. "So. What are you doing in my kingdom? No one ever comes in here."
"Your…. kingdom?" Valet was beginning to question this man's sanity, and the only question was why it had taken him so long to get around to doing so.
The red-suited man gestured around the junkyard. "This place. Kingdom of sheet metal. I'm the Emperor. You can address me as Your Majesty."
It was an awkward drop from here to the ground, and in any case, the Emperor had a smile which managed to offset somewhat the fact that he was obviously certifiable. Valet considered, and extended his hand. "I'm Louis Valet."
The Emperor studied the proffered hand for a few moments, before his eyes moved upward to Valet's face, which he also studied. "Can I call you Fulbert?"
"Uh…." Valet retracted his hand.
"You look like a Fulbert. I'm going to call you Fulbert."
"So, Fulbert, what brings you here? You'd better have a reason for making me almost fall off of this thing." The Emperor raised his eyebrows.
"I noticed something moving around in the junkyard," Valet explained. "I thought maybe there were children playing. It's… not… safe around here…." He trailed off into an awkward cough, not sure exactly how the last statement was going to be received.
The Emperor grinned. "True. But hey, you looked in here. No one ever does that either. I don't know why, this place is amazing. Come on, let me show you around."
Valet let himself be led down the other side of the shipping container, which had a panel of sheet metal conveniently placed as a kind of slightly precarious ramp down to the ground. The Emperor grabbed his hand - he was wearing gloves, Valet noticed - and pulled him in a whirlwind tour around the junkyard, showing it off as if it was some kind of museum or palace.
"Furniture, it's like someone dumped their living room over here, most of it's still just fine… Look at all the toys over here, I'm collecting them but there are still so many… Car parts, or something, little sproingy things - sproing sproing - help me carry some of these back to my workshop, will you? Workshop's over here, inside, don't hit your hea…oh."
The Emperor knelt beside him on the bottom of the shipping container to help pick up the scattered springs, since Valet wasn't doing too good a job with one hand holding his head. "You should grow your hair out," the Emperor told him.
"My boss makes me keep it short." Valet rocked back on his heels and stood up. "So this is your-" He trailed off again, and just looked around in amazement.
This was no hobo's hideout. The floor was still covered in junk tossed randomly here and there, but everything looked as if it had been selected and brought in here for a purpose, not simply abandoned or dumped. There was a folding faux-wood-topped table pushed up near the back wall, and on it were tools, scrap metal, bits and pieces of things, parts of sculptures or perhaps things more functional than sculptures in the process of being built. This was the workshop of a dedicated artist. Or maybe a mad scientist. Or maybe both.
"Impressive," Valet said. It was the only word he could think of to describe it. "How long have you…"
"Ah, I don't know. About a month. What a find, huh?"
"Do you live here?" Valet asked quietly.
"Sometimes." The Emperor looked at Valet sideways, and smiled sideways. "I'm not crazy. I just see the things that other people don't. We're going to get along well, no?"
Valet smiled with only a slight amount of effort. Somewhere around the time he'd seen this workshop, the gears in his brain had started shifting around, and he wasn't exactly sure where they were going to end up. "Y…yep."
"Come back tomorrow. Bring me some groceries - I've been out for a while, it's nice to eat every once in a while, no?"
Valet nodded, inwardly worked out the difference between trim and skinny, looked around the impressive workshop again, and decided that yes, whatever he might be getting himself into, he was definitely going to come back tomorrow.