By Brit Columbia
Timeline: Set after Justice in July of the FAKE First Year Together series. Also set after Volume 7 of FAKE
Summary: Drake has recently started seeing a new woman, of whom JJ disapproves.
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 showed up about halfway through Slave to a Gladiator.
Dragon Lady, Chapter Five
"Oh my goodness, that poor girl!" Damn that Eliza. Before Lily could start tossing lunch orders, Eliza was up out of her chair and scurrying over to help.
Carol giggled at the disappointed expression on Bikky's face. JJ hoped that his face didn't look the same as Bikky's.
Eliza took the larger plate from Lily and put it down on the customer's table. He started to complain about the service and Lily tensed up again, the bowl of rice jerking slightly in her hand. But then something Eliza said made the man laugh, and Lily settled for just giving him his rice. To JJ's great amazement, Lily's face also wore a smile. It only lasted for about five seconds before the habitual scowl seeped back, but for that brief time it had completely transformed her.
"Disaster averted, eh Bik?" Dee smirked at the kid.
"Guess so." Bikky sounded glum.
"What is wrong with that waitress?" Bridget demanded peevishly.
"Maybe she's not having a good day," James said noncommittally.
"Oh no, she's like that every day," JJ assured him.
"Hey, come on, now!" Drake protested. "Lily's really a great girl. You guys just don't know her, that's all." His face took on the dreamy expression that JJ knew well. "She has the cutest laugh."
"Lily laughs?" asked Bikky dubiously.
JJ had to shake off an uncomfortable mental picture of Lily laughing maniacally while wielding an ice pick.
"Of course she laughs!" blustered Drake. "Everyone laughs."
"How many times have you actually seen her laugh?" persisted the brat. "Like, once?"
Drake's face showed that he was struggling to remember. "Jeez, I don't know," he finally said. "Who keeps count of how many times a person laughs?"
"Bikky, that's enough," said Ryo sternly. "Why don't you and Carol unwrap your chopsticks? I'm sure our lunch will be here soon."
Unfortunately, this meant that the little hooligan and his girlfriend spent the next five minutes poking each other with chopsticks and giggling madly. Ryo attempted to get them to settle down, but he wasn't having any effect. JJ directed several disapproving glances at them and heaved more than one sharp sigh, but that had no effect either.
"Aren't they darling?" Bridget asked the table in general before launching into a long, dull story about the utterly transcendent cuteness of her best girlfriend's twin toddlers.
"Hear that, kids? Bridget thinks you're darling!" exclaimed JJ, reaching out to pinch Carol's cheek. "Little kids do the goofiest things."
Carol's face went pink and her grin faded as she realized that JJ was right. She was acting like a little kid.
Bikky took the bait, however. "Who are you calling a little kid, JJ, you jerk?" He pointed one of his chopsticks threateningly at JJ.
JJ glared back, and folded his arms. "Well, are you not a kid? Are you not little?"
"Are you not a jerk?"
"JJ, a word of advice," said Dee in a low voice. "Bikky is a terrible enemy."
Bikky was rendered speechless with pleasure at this unlooked-for compliment, and stared at Dee with his mouth open. Carol started giggling again.
JJ rolled his eyes. He was way more scared of Lily's enmity than he ever could be of a pint-sized brat's. There was no comparison. 'Terrible enemy' indeed.
Lily came stomping back from the kitchen and said, "We out Tù ròu. Choose something else!"
At that point, her brother actually emerged from his kitchen fastness and bellowed at Lily. The fact that he was waving a cleaver while he did so made JJ wonder if violent mental instability perhaps ran in the family. If the brother hadn't been so angry and so fearsomely armed, however, his round, homely face would have made him seem much more harmless. Lily clutched her apron against herself and yelled back. Since she was standing right next to Bridget's chair, Bridget got the full blast of Lily's prodigious vocal cords. She winced and turned imploring eyes on James.
But James did not notice. He was too busy staring from Lily to her brother with great fascination. It belatedly occurred to JJ that, of everyone at the table, James alone was capable of understanding Lily and her brother's Cantonese exchanges. Clearly James was finding it interesting. JJ, however, didn't care what they were talking about as long as it led to flying food. Preferably as soon as possible.
"Well, okay, I guess if you're out of Tù ròu, I need to order something else," Eliza said to Lily. "Can I see a menu again?"
"Eliza, just have the special," said Drake. "It's gonna be great!"
Lily raised pad and pencil. "One special." The lower part of her apron suddenly bulged slightly and began moving by itself. JJ did a double-take at the sight, and quickly nudged Dee. God forbid he should be the only person to see this!
"You want extra spicy?"
"Um, no, I don't actually want the special," said Eliza apologetically. "I was hoping…"
"Okay, House Chop Suey good too," snapped Lily. "Hurry up. I'm busy."
"Is that the one that's mostly octopus?" asked Bikky. JJ noted that he too was now staring at the gentle undulations of Lily's abdomen. What the hell was that? Unless Lily had a conjoined twin attached to her stomach, there was something live moving about under her giant, wrinkly apron. JJ held his breath and silently willed Bridget to notice, especially since it was happening mere inches from her right shoulder.
Unfortunately, Bridget was too busy elbowing James and tipping her head in Lily's direction with significant eyebrow up-and-down action. She hadn't given up on forcing James to somehow procure a diet plate for her. James didn't seem too thrilled about it, but as it appeared to be the only way to get back into his girlfriend's good graces, he knew he was going to have to give it a try.
Eliza gave up on trying to get another menu. "Okay, I'll have the House Chop Suey," she said. "But hold the octopus."
"Octopus," said Lily and wrote something on her pad. Ryo shot Eliza a quick glance of sympathy before taking a sip of his tea. Ryo evidently didn't think much of the House Chop Suey. In this instance, JJ found himself in a rare feeling of accord with his stiff and unadventurous co-worker.
Lily turned away, but before she could whisk herself back to the kitchen, James spoke briefly in Cantonese to get her attention. She made an impatient sound of query and turned back to him. The far end of the table now had a side view of Lily's apron. The bulge was distinct. Whatever it was gave a sharp heave just as Bridget turned her head. It bopped her in the nose and disarranged her hair.
Bridget uttered a most gratifying cry of alarm and tried to jerk back from Lily's unwelcome physical proximity to her. This caused her chair to tip and she would have gone over backwards if not for James's quick reflexes.
"Bridge, what is it?" He was both alarmed and solicitous.
"James! Oh my God! There's—there's an animal under her clothes!"
Everyone naturally stared at Lily, whose hand was now held protectively across her stomach. She glared back challengingly, not the slightest bit apologetic. "I come back with—" she started to say, but just then the movements under her clothing became much more pronounced and a furry black head poked out from the largest pocket in the centre of her apron.
Bridget, bless her, screamed as ear-splittingly as though it had been a snake. Bikky and Carol crowed in delight, Ryo choked on his tea, and Dee remarked, "I hope that's not my lunch," to no one in particular.
"It not your lunch!" snarled Lily venomously, and then turned and unaccountably stared daggers at Eliza, the person who had been nicest to her. "Not your lunch either!"
"Wha—what is it?" asked Drake.
"It's a bunny!" Carol said and clapped her hands with pleasure.
Bridget was having noisy hysterics all over James and effectively preventing him from intervening and smoothing the situation over. JJ wished someone would throw a glass of water all over her, even if it only bought one second of silence, but since Lily had not given anybody any water, there was no chance of that happening.
Eliza stared in horror at the rabbit and then at Lily. "Is… is that, um, Tù ròu?" she asked.
"What is a live animal doing in a restaurant?" asked JJ, because, hey, someone had to say it. He only hoped that calling attention to himself so blatantly wouldn't get him carted off to Emergency with Lily's waitress pencil embedded in his eye. Fortunately for JJ's sharpshooter vision, Lily wasn't paying any attention to him.
"Yes," muttered Lily to Eliza. "But no one allowed eat him!" One of her hands stroked the rabbit soothingly.
"Well, of course not…Oh my goodness." Eliza's face was a study in guilt.
Carol forgot her fear of Lily so far as to approach her. "Can I pet your darling bunny? What's his name?"
Lily's brother directed a final angry staccato holler toward Lily and disappeared back into the kitchen. A look of alarm crossed Lily's face and she quickly hauled the rabbit out of her pocket and thrust it into Carol's arms before dashing away.
"What's going on?" JJ asked James.
"Her brother is mad at her," James replied. He had to raise his voice slightly to be heard, as Bridget's hysterics showed no signs of abating.
"Well, duh. What did he just threaten to do?"
"Um, he said she should say good-bye to Ling-Ling." He shrugged. "Whoever Ling-Ling is…"
At that point, Eliza took charge of Bridget, who tried to keep clinging leech-like to James but found herself no match for the combined efforts of James and Eliza to disengage her. JJ simply could not understand why she was so upset. It was only a rabbit for God's sake. He wondered if Bridget would have anything left when Lily finally got around to splattering her with hot-from-the-grill octopus parts.
"James," Eliza said, "I'm a bit worried about those two." She indicated the kitchen with a tilt of her head. "I didn't like the way he was waving that cleaver around. Would you go and make sure Lily is okay?"
"I'd be more worried for Lily's brother than Lily!" JJ announced, mainly for Drake's benefit.
"I'll go with you, buddy." Drake tossed his napkin on the table and stood up, nodding to James.
Carol cuddled the rabbit, while Bikky harried her with hands and voice, trying to get her to let him hold it. Ryo frowned at this affecting scene, and caught JJ's eye. "You're right, JJ," he said. "There really should not be a live rabbit in this restaurant. It's in violation of the health code."
"Shh, shhh," said Eliza soothingly to Bridget, who was finally beginning to quieten down a little.
"It was in the kitchen, I betcha," said Dee. "Lily as good as admitted that ol' Bugs here was supposed to be Eliza's lunch." He glanced over to where James and Drake were making their way across the floor to the kitchen. "Drake, you poor bastard," he added with a chuckle.
JJ began to think that Dee was not taking this whole situation as seriously as he should.
When Drake and James were still about ten paces from the kitchen entrance, they were halted by a blood-curdling screech from within. Then the door swung open and Lily emerged looking even more flushed and dishevelled than before. She appeared to be panting slightly. "No come in!" she said loudly. "Go back to table."
"Lily, is everything okay in there?" Drake's voice sounded anxious.
"Everything fine. No customer in kitchen! Go back, please, Dick."
At that point Bikky stopped trying to tug the rabbit out of Carol's arms. "What'd she call him?"
"Never mind," said Ryo.
James said something to Lily in Cantonese, which made Lily turn her head and yell something equally incomprehensible to her brother through the kitchen door. It was very clear to JJ that she was telling her brother to get his ass out of there unless he wanted a couple of cops to invade his kitchen. A moment later the brother came through the door and stood shoulder to shoulder with Lily. One of his eyes was swollen half shut, and he was holding a bloodstained rag around his right hand. But he was grinning and nodding. "Hello customers! Everything okay! Please sit down. Lunch ready soon."
"Is Ling-Ling okay?" asked Drake, causing Lily and her brother to exchange a look.
"Ling-Ling go home!" announced Lily's brother. "We say good-bye." Then he ducked back into the kitchen. Lily's hostile eyes followed him.
"What happened to his hand?" asked James in English.
Lily made a dismissive motion. "He careless. Put hand in crab tank. Big fight with crab. Brother lose." She couldn't keep the gleeful tone out of her voice.
"Tell that guy not to bleed on my egg rolls!" yelled Bikky from the table, as Ryo tried ineffectually to shush him.
Drake and James returned to the table and endured the meowing sounds Dee made at them. "So you guys pussied out, huh?"
"I just want my goddamn lunch," growled Drake.
"Well, I'm going to call the health inspector," Eliza said, handing Bridget back over to James, and whipping out her cell phone. "I'm sure that man was planning to butcher this rabbit for my lunch."
"That's illegal, right?" sniffled Bridget.
"Well, it's not illegal for a restaurant to serve rabbit meat," said James, "but the meat has to come from a state-approved butcher. Restaurants are not allowed to keep live animals on the premises and they're not allowed to butcher them."
Ryo started looking all prim and disapproving. "Dee, I'm beginning to think we shouldn't eat here today."
"Aw!" cried Bikky. Damn if that little psychopath couldn't look all cute when he wanted to.
"Please Ryo!" said Carol. "We wanna stay!"
"I wouldn't worry about your lunches," JJ said. "You're having spicy ginger beef like Drake and me. I doubt Lily's brother has the space back there to kill a cow." He didn't want them to leave yet. Lily was close, so close….
"But what if it's not really beef?" asked Carol in a hushed voice. "I'm sure glad I ordered tofu!" Then she grinned mischievously at Bikky. "You'll have to give me a taste of your octopus dumplings, though." She held the rabbit on her lap away from him, and continued to stroke it.
JJ felt someone nudge him under the table. He glared at Bikky who, after a momentary look of surprise, devoted himself to glaring back.
"Quit kicking me, you little brat."
"I did not kick you."
The rabbit suddenly started struggling madly in Carol's lap, and before she could stop it, it leapt down onto the floor and shot across the room.
"Hey, little bunny, where are you go-Ow!" said Carol." Someone kicked me… I think." She reached down to rub her knee. "Was it you, JJ? 'Cause if you were going after Bikky, you got the wrong person."
JJ gave her a supercilious look. "Do you honestly think that I would stoop to playing juvenile kicking games with children?"
"Why not? I would," said Dee.
Bikky, Carol and JJ all turned accusing eyes on Dee. "I knew it!" declared Bikky. "It was you!"
"Not this time, Bik—hey!" Dee looked down, and then pushed his chair back. "Something is under the table."
"Oof," said Ryo. "Maybe you're right. Something just pushed past my legs… Is it a dog?" He rose from his chair.
An odd snuffling sound emitted from under the table and there was a moment's frozen silence. BIkky cautiously leaned down and raised a corner of the tablecloth. His head popped back up abruptly.
"What, Bikky? What is it?" cried Ryo.
"That ain't no dog," breathed Bikky, his eyes huge.
-End of chapter five-