By Brit Columbia
Timeline: Set after Justice in July of the FAKE First Year Together series. Also set after Volume 7 of FAKE
Summary: JJ is unhappy about a woman Drake has recently started seeing, and feels that Drake needs to be rescued.
Rating: This whole story is worksafe.
Disclaimer: FAKE, featuring Dee, Ryo, Bikky, Carol, Ted, Drake, and JJ, was created by Sanami Matoh. I make no claim on FAKE or Ms. Matoh or any of her characters. I write fanfiction with no expectation of monetary reward.
Author's Notes: Detectives James Chang and Eliza Austen are my characters. So are Lily and her brother, and Bridget, James's girlfriend.
Bridget first appeared in FAKE First Year Together: A New Day, in Chapter 6. She was interested in Ryo, but later when she showed up at the station looking for Ryo, Dee managed to deflect her onto James instead.
Lily has appeared twice before in my FAKE stories. She was first introduced in Chapter 15 of A New Day when Ryo had lunch with Drake at a Chinese restaurant. Later she appeared about halfway through Slave to a Gladiator.
Dragon Lady, Chapter One
JJ sat down at the staff room lunch table across from James, who was poking despondently at a Styrofoam bowl that looked like it contained instant noodles. JJ nodded brusquely at his younger co-worker, but was not about to commit the folly of asking him how he was. Everybody at work knew that James was going through a rough patch with his new girlfriend, and JJ was sick of hearing about it. As far as he was concerned, any passing feelings of inadequacy or victimhood that James might be experiencing could not possibly hold a candle to his own personal sense of injury, which was dominating his thoughts just at the moment. His cup of tea completely forgotten, JJ focused on the ongoing struggle to keep a lid on his seething indignation. How dare Drake blow him off for the sake of a second date with that little Chinese fire ant from that crappy restaurant he insisted on having lunch at every damn day? JJ was simply not used to anyone blowing him off. Especially when that someone was Drake.
Doing his best to shut out James's distracting vibes of personal melodrama, JJ busied himself on his phone composing negative reviews for the Lucky Peking restaurant. He made sure to mention the particularly terrible service to be had from a waitress by the name of 'Lily.' He knew that doing this wouldn't necessarily solve the Drake problem, but it made him feel immeasurably better.
A few minutes later, Eliza joined them, and JJ was forced to repress a shudder at the usual state of her hair. Why that woman couldn't just place herself in the hands of a professional stylist, he did not know. She insisted on wearing her mousy brown locks pinned up in a bun-like thing that resembled nothing so much as a squirrel's nest with a pencil jammed into it. By some miracle, Eliza had managed to attract a fairly decent boyfriend somewhere along the way, which was good! Except also bad, because that surprising achievement seemed to have divested her of all motivation to ever look in the mirror and drag a comb through her hair. But oh well. Her hair, her life. Some people just couldn't be saved, and JJ didn't believe in wasting his time helping those who didn't want to be helped.
Turning his attention back to his phone, JJ added an extra exclamation mark to the second sentence of his review for Urbanspoon, and wondered if Eliza would perhaps be sympathetic about JJ's Drake-predicament. Someone had to rescue that poor man from the foolhardiness of his ways, and JJ knew he couldn't do it alone. He opened his mouth to start talking, but only got a couple of syllables out before he realized, to his extreme annoyance, that Eliza's attention was not on him at all.
Instead she was patting James' hand sympathetically and asking him how he was feeling. JJ shut his mouth with a snap. Who the hell cared how James was feeling? If that new girlfriend of his was making his life hell, it was his own damn fault for (a) asking her out in the first place and (b) not breaking up with her once she began to reveal her inner manipulative bitch.
"Oh, man, Eliza," James said sadly. "I absolutely cannot understand women."
"Aw, come on honey, we're not that hard to figure out. Women are just people like everyone else."
"Well, I wish they came with a manual." James heaved a big sigh.
"What's Bridget done this time?" Eliza's eyes above the straw of her Starbucks drink were an odd combination of avidly curious and meltingly sympathetic.
"She criticized my mom's egg drop soup! Can you believe it?"
"Oh no, not the egg drop soup," muttered JJ with a roll of his eyes. This earned him twin glares from Eliza and James.
"I'll have you know that my mom makes the best egg drop soup in the state," James informed JJ with dignity.
"Hell, in the whole damn world," added Eliza supportively. "I've tasted it."
"Lucky you, whoop-di-doo." JJ went back to his phone. No soup was that good. Who the hell did they think they were kidding? Perhaps he should also review Lily's restaurant on yellow pages online. He could make some specific negative remarks about the quality of the egg drop soup. Then he considered that maybe he should check the menu first just in case Lucky Peking didn't actually offer egg drop soup. Ahh, who gave a shit? It didn't matter. He was going to say they did, anyway.
"She claimed my mom's soup made her feel ill, and then she acted surprised when my mom got mad."
"Maybe she didn't know your mom can understand English," Eliza said.
James turned to her in surprise. "That's exactly what she said! After that, she apologized of course, but the damage was done. Mom has stopped speaking to me, which means the whole family isn't speaking to me." James sighed again. "Furthermore, I've been disinvited from the family Duanwu celebration dinner." He poked morosely at his soggy instant noodles. "I'm gonna miss Mom's dumplings."
"And I suppose Bridget thinks your mom owes her an apology?" Eliza sucked solemnly on her frappucino.
James gaped at her. "Eliza, are you psychic or something?"
"No, she's just one of them," JJ reminded him without looking up, his thumbs busy tapping away on his phone. Whatever you do, don't order Lily's 'famous' egg drop soup unless you want to spend the night puking! Then he clicked 'post' and smirked to himself in satisfaction. That oughtta do it. Fifty percent drop in business, pretty much guaranteed. Hopefully Lily would soon be sent packing for the sake of the restaurant's survival.
"Oh yeah, right. I keep forgetting." James looked at Eliza as if seeing her for the first time.
"Gee, thanks, dork." She snapped the lid off her cup and threw an ice cube at him. "Just 'cause I'm not all girly and stuff doesn't mean I'm not all woman."
"Of course you're, er, 'all woman'," James said hastily. "But unlike most of the ones I've known, you're nice. And reasonable."
"They all are in the beginning," murmured JJ, logging in again under his other Facebook persona so he could 'like' the negative review he had left on the restaurant's Facebook page.
"What the hell do you know about us?" demanded Eliza. "You're gay!"
"Yeah!" James added his two bits.
JJ looked down his nose at the pair of them. "More than the two of you put together."
"Come to think of it, Bridget was much nicer in the beginning…" James looked thoughtful. "I wonder why she changed?"
"Because you've been busy transforming yourself into her own personal doormat," JJ said. "Stop doing that and she'll go back to being nice. End of story." He set his phone down on the table with a click. "Now if we're all quite done with feeling sorry for James, could we possibly talk about me now?"
"Aw, do you have man troubles, hon?" Eliza seemed willing enough to transfer her attention to him.
JJ considered that for a moment. "Not really," he said, "although there's this confused married guy who won't stop calling me… but never mind, I can handle him. No, no. This is about Drake."
"You're having man troubles with Drake?" Eliza sat up a little straighter, her eyes sharpening with interest. James, on the other hand, was just looking confused.
"No!" JJ tried to be patient with them. "I'm only… worried about Drake."
"Why?" asked James. "Is he sick?"
"No, but he's dating a psychopath!"
James emitted a particularly irritating groan of self-pity. "Sounds like me and Drake are in the same club."
"No you are not in the same club." JJ knew his tone of voice was distinctly testy, but he didn't care. "You are merely dating a neurotic b—er woman, but your life is not in danger or anything. Drake, on the other hand, is dating a True Psychopath."
"Has she been professionally diagnosed as a psychopath?" Eliza, damn her, had that skeptical look on her face that she sometimes got when JJ was telling a story. Why couldn't she just trust him, for heaven's sake? It made him want to punish her by telling her how many nasty chemicals and fat grams were in that beverage she was drinking with such evident relish, but he drew in a deep breath to shore up his self-control, and refrained. Eliza had always been nice to him after all.
"I wouldn't know," he said, "as I deemed it best to keep my distance from her after what I witnessed her do with my own eyes."
"What did she do?" James asked, gazing sadly out of the window. "Did she by chance drag him to the opera and make him pay a hundred eighty bucks a ticket in addition to renting an incredibly expensive tux?"
"James," JJ informed him sternly, "we are no longer guests at your own personal pity party, so quit trying to steer the conversation back to you. This is about Drake. And his personal safety."
"So you really feel that Drake is in danger?" Eliza was gratifyingly serious now. "What exactly did you see this woman do?"
"Her name is Lily," JJ said, "and she is, without a doubt, the world's worst waitress."
"While that's certainly a terrible thing to be, could we just get to the psychopathic part?" asked James plaintively. "My break is almost over."
"Oh, all right. I was just trying to give you a little background because I thought it might be helpful. Anyway, she works for her brother at a crappy little Chinese restaurant called Lucky Peking just around the corner from here. So she has all kinds of access to…" JJ paused dramatically.
"Sharp implements?" asked James.
"Well, yes, I suppose so," said JJ, trying to quell his irritation at having his sentence finished for him, and incorrectly at that. "What I was going to say was 'hot soups and noodle dishes', which she has no compunctions about throwing at people who piss her off."
Eliza and James were silent for two full seconds while they processed the shocking implications of what JJ had just said, and then they pushed his patience past all limits by bursting into snorts of laughter.
"Oh, good one, JJ!" James eventually managed to say, while wiping his eyes. "Thanks a lot, buddy. I thought I was too depressed to be able to laugh, but you proved me wrong."
"You guys, I'm serious!" JJ protested. What the hell was the matter with them? "I was having lunch with Drake at that restaurant only yesterday, and she flung a plate of sweet and sour pork all over the guy at the next table! While screeching like a banshee, I might add."
Eliza shrugged, still snickering. "Maybe he deserved it."
"It doesn't sound fatal," James mused. "Though his suit was probably ruined!" He and Eliza burst into gales of laughter again and JJ finally lost his temper.
"I don't know why I bother talking to you two!" he fumed, snatching up his phone and stalking away. He stopped at the door and threw a final observation over his shoulder at them. "If Drake ends up with third degree burns from a bowl of boiling wonton soup, you guys are going to be sorry you didn't listen!" Then he stomped off down the hall, ignoring their calls for him to come back.
There was obviously going to be no help from that quarter. He would have to seek reinforcements elsewhere. Maybe there was someone upstairs in the CI department? But he would have to hurry, as Drake would be back from the Coroner's soon.
Ted was a big, fat zero in the help department.
JJ had cornered him at the copier station adjoining the CI room, where he lost no time in expressing his concerns about Drake's chances of surviving the week.
Ted was unable to give JJ more than a very small percentage of his attention, since it apparently took just about every brain cell he possessed to choose paper size and press buttons on a photocopying machine. This didn't make sense to JJ, as Ted was always being praised for his IT skills. Surely a person who could make a computer do everything short of shining his shoes could figure out how to work a photocopier? Under normal circumstances he might have made a few choice observations in this regard, but considering that he needed Ted's support if Drake was to be yanked back from the brink of an ignoble and pointless death, he decided that he would do his best to refrain from pointing out any of Ted's shortcomings for at least the next forty-eight hours or so.
"What was that, JJ?" Ted asked. "Did you say a sociopath?" He had the front of the copier open and was groping around inside it.
"No, I said Drake is dating a psychopath."
JJ frowned. "Well, I'll agree Meghan was no prize, but I wouldn't classify her as a psychopath."
"Well, maybe not. She broke up with him just in time. But another six months with Drake would have done it for sure." Ted pulled a wrinkled sheet of paper out from the innards of the copier and shut the hatch with a click.
JJ kept trying. "Meghan's ancient history anyway, Ted. I'm more concerned about the present and how it may impact on Drake's future. If Lily kills or cripples him, he may not have a future!"
He waited impatiently for Ted to offer a suitable response to this, but Ted was too busy comparing the copy quality of one of his pages with another page. Honestly, did the man have no feeling at all?
At the thirty-five-second point, JJ's forbearance abruptly ran out. "Well? Are you going to help me or not?"
Ted gave him a tired smile that was a little too knowing for JJ's liking. "Help you jam up the man's love life when he clearly has a thing for psychopaths? I think not." With that, he commenced fiddling with the settings on the copier.
Drawing himself up, JJ planted a fist on each of his hips. "Don't be absurd, Ted! No one has a 'thing' for psychopaths. Let me tell you something- you are going to remember this conversation when we're all wearing our dress blues at Drake's memorial service! And when that day comes, you are going to owe me a huge apology!"
JJ then slammed the lid of the copier shut on Ted's hand (which produced a most satisfying and well-deserved scream), and swept out wondering what the hell he had to do around here to save a guy's life.
Honestly, some of his co-workers should wear buttons advertising that they were slow-witted and thoroughly without basic human compassion just to save other people from wasting any time on them.
And now he was facing a lonely evening with no fresh ideas and no one to brainstorm with. How could he stage an intervention if no one was willing to participate? Surely there was someone around here besides himself who cared about Drake. He walked down the hallway wondering if it was worth enlisting Sheldon or Janet. His footsteps carried him past Dee and Ryo's office, and just thinking about Dee cheered him up a little. That man had such a presence. He practically oozed sex and masculine self-assurance. Whenever JJ saw him, he always wanted to climb Dee Laytner like a tree and nestle among his branches. Dee would help him!
A quick peep into Dee's office revealed that Mr. Sexy and his dreary partner were gone for the day, but JJ reasoned that he could give Dee a call. Dee had known Drake for longer than JJ had, and the two of them were pretty good friends, even though they did tend to have a lot of moronic conversations about boobs. The female kind. But how would Dee be able to enjoy such chats with Drake in the future if Drake had been silenced forever by a murderous, man-hating female? JJ intended to suggest to Dee that they meet over appetizers and cocktails to discuss the matter! A little bit of man-to-man 'Dee-time' would be an added bonus, something to make JJ's selfless crusade to extricate Drake from his perilous new path a little more bearable.
His hopes, which had been dashed to the floor by James and Eliza, then further pummeled into a gritty paste by Ted, resurrected themselves and began to rise once more. JJ punched in his speed-dial code for Dee's number, hoping Dee wouldn't turn out to be anywhere in the vicinity of Ryo. JJ simply could not understand why anyone would want to hang out with Ryo for longer than the ten minutes or less that it usually took Ryo to bore a person to tears.
Dee answered the phone and said, "Hey JJ, 'sup?" He sounded busy and there were voices in the background. Kids' voices. JJ's hopes underwent a slight wilting.
"Um… Hi, Mr. Perfect! I know you're probably busy and all, but I was wondering if-"
"Here, talk to Ryo. Princess and I are choppin' tomatoes."
"Hello? JJ?" Damn it, that was Ryo's voice. JJ wondered why Ryo was forcing Dee to do menial chores like chopping tomatoes.
"Oh, hello Ryo. How are you?" JJ figured there was no harm in being polite.
"I'm fine, thank you, and you?" Ryo was being polite too. But unlike JJ, he sounded stiff and unnatural.
Since dealing with Ryo was unavoidable, JJ added him on the spot to his list of potential helpers. Dee would probably crack crude jokes about Drake's questionable track record with women, but Ryo might be sympathetic. After all, Ryo had had that rather terrifying run-in with a knife-wielding psychopath in England a couple of years ago. Ryo was about as socially scintillating as a four-hundred-page treatise on the Periodic Table of Elements, but at least he could be relied upon to take things like psychopaths seriously. And if JJ could get Ryo on board, Dee would probably join in, too.
JJ hadn't intended to start talking about how Drake had jettisoned their plans to attend the art opening together with practically no notice but somehow it slipped out. He was never quite sure afterwards how it had happened, but the next thing he knew, he found himself being invited to Ryo's place for dinner.
End of chapter one
Thanks for reading! I will be publishing chapters weekly through to the end of the year and beyond. I hope you'll come back to read them.