Pet Shop Of Horrors Fan Fiction ❯ Sadie, Sadie ❯ Chapter Nine ( Chapter 9 )
For warnings, disclaimers, etc., see Chapter One.
Chris had had breakfast with Leon and the Count lots of times, but it had never been like this.
For one thing, Leon had never spent the night before. He usually came in before work, without being asked, which made the Count mad, and helped himself to whatever was on the table. Somehow there was always plenty of food for everybody, though. And then he and the Count would argue with each other, sometimes loud and sometimes just sort of snappy, and Leon would leave a mess on the table behind him when he went to work, and the Count would complain about him for a long time afterwards.
Today, though, everybody was being nice. Leon was wearing a bathrobe; Chris wondered where the Count had found something big enough to fit him, before deciding it had to have come from the same place his suit had yesterday. The Count was wrapped up in a silky robe that looked different from his normal clothes. Chris was wearing his pajamas too. He'd never been allowed to wear his pajamas to breakfast before. The Count always said it was uncivilized. But maybe the rules were different, just for today, because of the party the night before.
T-chan took one look at the Count and mumbled something under his breath. Chris couldn't hear it, but the Count shot T-chan a sharp glance and frowned at him. T-chan crossed his arms, sat down by Chris's chair, and sulked.
"What'd the goat say?" Leon asked, looking up from his cup of coffee.
"Nothing he learned from me," the Count said, and glared at Leon, but he didn't look really mad. In fact, after a second, he smiled a little bit, and Leon grinned back. Then he winked and Count D blushed and T-chan hid his face in his hands.
Super-weird. Chris hoped things got back to normal soon. In the meantime, he decided to ignore his brother and the Count, and talk to T-chan. When am I gonna get to see you as an animal? Chris asked, poking him.
"Who knows?" T-chan shrugged, and yawned hugely, scratching his belly. He'd said he'd been up all night, cleaning up after the party. "Whenever you figure out how, I guess."
But how is that? Chris asked impatiently. My brother always calls you a sheeptiger or a goat-tiger. Are you really two animals at once?
T-chan grinned at him, and Chris realized that his teeth were kinda sharp-looking, for a person's. Creepy. But if Chris could see him as an animal, maybe it wouldn't seem so weird when he bit Leon on the butt. "You won't find me in your science book," he said. "That's good enough." Then he grinned even meaner. "In some parts of China I'm sacred, you know. How come you're not worshiping me?"
You're not sacred, Chris laughed.
T-chan scowled. "I am too."
You are not!
"I am too! You calling me a liar, you -- ?"
"Christopher," the Count said, his mild voice warning them to shut up right away, "how is your breakfast?"
Fine, thank you, Chris replied as the Count had taught him, and turned back to his plate, abashed. T-chan kept grumbling under his breath, but he let Chris pat his shaggy head, so Chris knew he wasn't really mad.
"Eat up," the Count urged. "We have much to do today."
"We do?" Leon asked, crumbs from his toast dribbling out of his mouth.
The Count sighed, but still didn't look upset. "The tour of the shop you took last…ah, the night before last was very short. There is still so much to see."
Leon looked super-alert, then, like he did when he'd just figured out a clue. "Right," he said. "Yeah. Hey, can we hit that beach again? I'd kinda like to see it in the daylight."
The Count smiled a little smile into his teacup, and took a sip. "We may indeed; and we may stay as long as you wish. The water there is clear and pure, and the air is fresh and clean."
"Not like L.A., huh," Leon grunted, and took a long drink from his mug. "Sounds great to me."
"How many days are you planning to take off from work?" the Count asked, sounding almost shy as he glanced at Leon again.
"Dunno," Leon said, and belched. "Oh, 'scuse me. Well, I used up most of my vacation days on a beach trip I don't even remember, but I got a couple left. Tons of sick leave, too, and I never get sick."
Count D gave him a sunny smile. It was probably because Leon had never said "excuse me" before. "You may count on that, Mr. Detective," he said. "Have you not noticed how Chris is never ill? Good health is one of the many benefits of life here at my shop." Then he blinked and looked back down into his teacup. "That is, if you wish to stay here," he added, trying to sound as if it didn't matter all that much one way or the other. Leon looked at him and raised his eyebrows.
Yeah! Chris said. Will you move in? Then you can stay here all the time!
"I guess so," Leon said, looking like he was thinking hard about something. "Married people live together. Sure, why not? But I'm keeping my apartment rented," he added firmly.
The Count pouted. "Why?"
"'Cause some nights you'll be glad to get rid of me," Leon said with a big teasing grin. Count D pouted some more, but Chris noticed he didn't deny it. "Besides, I ain't a…you know, a…" He stopped grinning and glanced at Chris, and Chris knew this was another thing he wasn't meant to understand.
The Count didn't seem to understand either, though. "A what?" he asked, frowning.
Leon's ears were turning red. "A…you know, you got money, and I don't, so…listen, I'm not…"
"Ahh!" Count D smiled suddenly, and looked delighted. "Are you telling me you don't wish to be a kept man, Detective?"
"Shut up," Leon muttered into his coffee. But Count D just laughed -- he actually laughed! -- and told Chris to wake Pon-chan and get ready for their trip through the shop.
I get to go too? Chris asked hopefully. But who'll watch the shop?
"Of course you may come," Count D said. "And as for the shop…" he glanced at Leon again, "the shop will be undergoing some changes. I must think about how I wish to run things from now on. It will do us all good to leave it closed for a few days."
Leon mopped the coffee and crumbs from his mouth with one of the soft linen napkins. "Sounds good."
You're going to run it different? Chris asked, puzzled.
"Differently," the Count corrected him, and then smiled. "And yes. Many things will be very different from now on. But I hope that will be an improvement."
It was pretty good already, Chris felt obliged to point out.
"Yeah," Leon said, and then -- Chris had to rub his eyes to make sure he wasn't imagining it -- reached out and held the Count's hand. "Nothing says it can't get better, though."
Count D's cheeks turned pink, but he didn't tell Leon to move, and Leon even rubbed his thumb over the back of the Count's hand. Oh, yuck. "Chris, why don't you go pack?" the Count suggested, his voice a little hoarse. He cleared his throat. "The pets will help you select what you need."
"Yeah," Leon said, but he was still looking at the Count, not Chris.
Chris remembered something Pon-chan had said earlier, and frowned. There was something he needed to know, and it wasn't going to wait. Are you two gonna have a kid? he demanded.
Leon choked on his coffee and yanked his hand off the Count's. The Count stared at Chris, his eyes going very wide.
Because Pon-chan said you might, but you said that women had babies, and you're both men, so I don't see how that would work, Chris continued relentlessly.
"Well -- " Leon was going really pale, staring at Count D. "Uh -- well -- we, uh…"
The Count's smile looked as if it had frozen in place. "Christopher, would you mind if we discussed this later?" he asked politely. "I must speak with your brother, and you really do need to pack."
He hated that. But are you gonna… he trailed off. The Count never told him anything when he didn't want to. Chris sighed. Maybe Pon-chan would help him pick out a swimsuit.
As Chris ran off, the sheeptiger hot on his heels, Leon tried to make his heart crawl back down from his throat into his chest, where it belonged. Shit. A baby? And D had…extra parts, and Shuko had said, and hell, he and D had as good as agreed that someday…but someday was supposed to be a long way off, and last night --
"Um." He cleared his throat. "D -- last night, I didn't -- I mean, we didn't use any -- or did you -- ?"
"Hush." D held up one hand in the air for silence and placed the other on his abdomen. He looked as if he was concentrating hard on something. Then he relaxed and opened his eyes with a smile of supreme relief. "Ah. We have no cause for alarm."
Leon's chest instantly felt ten times lighter. Still -- "You sure?"
D nodded, and looked sheepish. "I…I believe our species reproduces solely via an act of will. That is the normal way of things. But I do not know what will happen when a human is involved, or indeed any other party. I was very careless."
"Me too," Leon said. "I mean, it's not like I don't want, you know, someday -- "
"Yes," D agreed quickly. "Someday. But not…"
"Not now," Leon said, heaving another sigh of relief.
"Yes," D said. "There is still so much to learn." He looked at Leon through his eyelashes. "For both of us."
Leon swallowed hard, but for different reasons, now. He swore he could smell D, even sitting a foot away, could smell the scents of sex and readiness, and he didn't know how the fuck this was possible, but he thought he just might be ready to go again. Damn. He'd never thought D would be good for his ego.
"You should call the station before we leave," D said, his voice low and soft with promise. "Your phone will not get very good reception in the extreme climates." Leon couldn't tell if he was teasing or not. Didn't really care, either.
"We are gonna get some time alone, right?" he asked. "I mean, it's not like I don't love my brother and all -- "
"We have time alone right now," D observed, his voice as innocent as if he'd just pointed out that the sky was blue.
Leon's mouth went dry. "We, uh…Chris…packing. Trip."
He sounded like a moron, but D seemed to know what he meant. He stood up. "You're right," he said, looking confused. "I do have responsibilities. So do you. We should…" His voice trailed off, and he stared at Leon, managing to look both annoyed and pleading at the same time.
Leon didn't understand it, either. But, hell, they hadn't told Chris to be ready by a certain time, or anything. And he already had today off. And, jeez, they were newlyweds, so it wasn't like this kind of behavior was unexpected…
He reached out and took D's hand again. D read the look in his eyes, and sighed with relief. Leon stood up, too, and was kissing D before he'd really thought about it. It felt as good as a long drink of cool water in summertime. Better.
He pulled back. Glanced down the hallway to where he thought the bedroom was.
Some say Never
Some say Unless
It's stupid and lovely
To rush into Yes.
-Muriel Rukeyser, "Yes"
Monica Lubowicz was bored. Today was a day like any other day: making a cup of coffee after she got home from school, and watching the news in the kitchen with her family. And, today, trying to think of a nice way to turn Randy Smythe down for the dance. It wasn't that he was a bad guy, or even that he wasn't cute. He was. It was just that she wasn't interested. Like she was waiting for somebody else. But Randy was one of the most popular guys in school, she didn't have a boyfriend already, and she couldn't figure out who she could be waiting for.
"…and now, the zoo story that has everyone talking," the female anchor said with a bright, perky smile. A small graphic appeared in the corner of the TV by her head, reading "Good Citizen Alert." Monica rolled her eyes and then closed them, inhaling the wonderful scent of the fresh coffee. These human interest stories were always so dumb.
"Disaster nearly struck yesterday at the Los Angeles zoo when a five-year-old leopard named Hyo escaped from her cage. A mother and her young daughter found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, only to be miraculously saved by a fellow guest who bravely lured the hungry leopard away from them. You're currently watching amateur footage shot on home video by a tourist at the zoo…"
Huh. That wasn't what she'd been expecting. Intrigued, Monica looked up from her coffee. And dropped the cup. And the spoon.
"Now the name of our hero is unknown, but witnesses described him as young and of Asian descent…"
Monica stared at the TV, oblivious to her mother's attempts to get her attention. She couldn't believe it. She had to be dreaming again. Because she'd certainly never seen him while she was awake.
Count D. The beautiful, mysterious man from China who'd obsessed her dreams ever since she'd been a tiny girl -- who had the amazing smile, and smelled like flowers, and spoke to her so gently and stole her heart away…
He was why she'd never go out with Randy Smythe. He was who she'd been waiting for.
"What's wrong, dear?" her father asked. Up in her birdcage, Pocky chirped. Monica ignored them both, watching the shaky television footage as Count D took firm hold of a small boy's hand and began leading him away. She couldn't believe how hard her heart was beating. She had to find him. The lady on the news had said he was in Los Angeles. She had some money saved up. She could buy a ticket --
Then somebody else was in the shaky video. A tall blond man who kept his hair in a messy ponytail, glaring at whoever was holding the camera and waving them off. The video didn't have any sound, but Monica could tell he was saying something rude, before he slung his arm around Count D's shoulders and led both him and the small boy offscreen. Just before they vanished, Monica saw Count D look up at the man and give him an exasperated, but relieved-looking smile.
"We've just received some information," the lady anchor said, "that the young man in question is known as 'Count D,'" she giggled, "and he owns a pet store in Chinatown. Well, no wonder he's so good with animals! And the other young man in the picture with him is his…ah…" she coughed, "his husband, whom he married two weeks ago, when California legalized same-sex marriages. Quite a story! Well, that's all the news for the dinner hour…"
Monica watched the TV go to commercials without really seeing it. She felt as if she couldn't breathe, like her throat was clogging up with sudden sobs. She couldn't believe it. In the space of ten seconds, she'd seen the man she'd dreamed of her whole life, and then lost him. He was married? Not only married, but to another man? That meant she'd never had a chance at all!
Well…well, it was just stupid to be getting so upset. She'd never even met the guy, after all. Just dreamed about him. She had no right to feel so unhappy. Especially since he'd seemed plenty happy, in those few seconds of screen-time. She was just a silly girl with her head in the clouds, always dreaming, never taking the time to look around at what she already had, instead of just wishing for more.
God, and she'd been planning to buy a plane ticket to fly out and see him! How crazy could you get? What would he have thought of her? What would his husband have thought of her? It was definitely time to put all this nonsense right out of her head.
Maybe she'd let Randy Smythe take her to the dance, after all.
And inside her cage, Suioh felt herself beginning to swell with potential, feeling the heady rush of freedom upon her. The contract had finally been fulfilled: the young Monica had seen the truth of Count D's heart. And she, Suioh, was free at last. Tonight, when the family was all abed, she would burst out of her cage and soar through the stars once more.
A pity she hadn't had the chance to taunt Count D a bit beforehand. She always enjoyed that. But freedom was worth any price.
There would be all the time in the world for that later, anyway.
Across the continent, deep in the basement of a lab in Los Angeles, two other men watched the same newscast as Monica.
"Good heavens," one of them murmured as he sipped tea on a thronelike, overstuffed armchair, "what has my son gotten himself into this time?"
"That's your son?" growled the other from the couch where he lay sprawled, with one foot in a plaster cast propped on a stool.
"No, Vesca. Do not be silly. I am merely given to making random utterances about complete strangers who happen to look exactly like me."
The first man, who did look exactly like Count D but for the waist-length hair and two violet eyes, turned and gave an arch look to the second, who was a gruff-looking blond man of middle age.
"I almost arrested him by mistake," Vesca Howell snarled. "He's why I came down here. I thought he was you."
The elder D arched a delicate eyebrow. "You thought I had stooped to running my father's ridiculous shop?"
"I didn't know that much about you then, okay?"
"You don't know that much about me now." D examined his long, perfect fingernails. "Rather pitiful, for a man who sacrificed his reputation, his career, and nearly his life for exactly that end. How is your ankle today?"
"I hate you," Vesca snapped.
D's eyes gleamed. "I know," he murmured, sounding pleased. "And there's no other place in the world you'd rather be, is there?"
Vesca turned red and glared at him, misery and shame suffusing his features, contorting them into an unattractive, painful grimace.
"Not that I'm not enjoying your stimulating company, of course," D continued, taking another sip from his teacup, "but I've been separated from my beloved son for far too long. It's unthinkable that I should neglect him on this momentous occasion. Married, indeed." His eyes gleamed. "If ever he needed a father's advice, now is surely the time. Especially with my own dear father dead."
Vesca sat up from his sullen slouch, wincing at the pain the movement caused in his leg. "Your dad died? Since when?"
"Approximately two weeks ago," D said blandly. "As the first descendent, naturally I sensed it. Didn't I tell you?"
"What, that your father died? Nah, must have slipped your mind," Vesca snapped.
"How rude," D said. "I assure you, it's been in my thoughts constantly. Why, I'm nearly prostrate with grief." He sipped from his teacup. "I saw it in my dreams, you know. So traumatizing. And undignified. Death by dragon. My, my, my." His lips trembled and his eyes sparkled, as if he was having the greatest difficulty restraining himself from laughter.
"You're a heartless asshole," Vesca whispered. "A heartless, evil monster."
D shot him an amused look. "Am I?" he inquired. "Might I remind you, Vesca, that you did not know my father. Rest assured he would not have approved of our association. Nor of my son's with his human."
"Our association?" Vesca exploded. "I'm hiding out here in your basement like a dog from the law, and you still won't tell me half the things I want to know! We don't have a fucking association!"
"Nevertheless," D said, and he seemed even closer to laughter now. "You have improved my spirits immeasurably in the last month, Vesca. I'm quite the changed man -- really! And now, with my father out of the way, I can finally approach my son without fear of complications. Soon, I think, before he makes of his life a hormonal hell." His eyes gleamed as he looked at Vesca. Vesca turned redder, and looked away, back at the television, which was running commercials. "I know more about the biology of the D than any other, you know," D said conversationally. "It has been many generations since any of us has mated with another. But when we do, our bodies go into heat, exuding a pheromone that makes us irresistible to our mates -- and vice versa."
His voice had become low, soft, but intense. Vesca swallowed hard, his hand fisting on his thigh. "We become addicted to our mates, and they to us. And the more the heat prolongs without issue, the worse it becomes. Slowly, steadily worse until we can think of nothing but love; nothing but spending all day and all night in the arms of the beloved, forgetting food and sleep, forgetting everything but the need to rut, to claim and be claimed…"
Vesca gulped, audibly.
"Left unchecked, this naturally leads to a very pleasant, if exhausting death," D concluded, his lips curving in a pleased smile as he watched Vesca, who still studiously avoided looking at him. "I would rather my son avoid that fate. It does not seem to be that bad yet, if he can find time for outings to the zoo; nevertheless, the sooner I intervene, the better."
"What are you going to do?" Vesca croaked, looking at D at last.
"If he is a good boy and welcomes us as a proper son should," D said, "I will prepare a chemical compound for him that will cause the heat cycle to end. If he is not, I will merely tell him the truth and await grandchildren." His smile was cruel. "Our species does need fresh blood."
"You incredible jer -- wait, welcomes us?"
"Well, of course!" D rose from his chair and brushed out imaginary wrinkles in his cheongsam. "I would hardly abandon you after you went to all this trouble to find me. I am not such a terrible host, I hope. Let us hope my son is not, either."
"So, what, we're just gonna show up?!"
"An excellent plan," D proclaimed. "I've learned that calling him on the telephone only leads to misunderstandings. Why, yes. We'll simply show up. You do have marvelous ideas sometimes, Vesca." He rubbed his hands together. "I simply can't wait to see that lovely totetsu again. And it's only a matter of time before the police narrow their search for you to this laboratory…why don't we plan to make a nice, long visit of it?"
"A nice, long visit," Vesca repeated, sounding numb as he looked at D through the layers of meaning, rage, and desire that separated and bound them.
"Yes. I'll have your bag packed. Won't this be fun?" D's eyes were cool and unreadable as they rested on his human companion, trapped on the couch by an injury and something less visible. "A new adventure. A new stage in our lives."
"A laugh a minute," Vesca agreed, watching D right back.
A new adventure. It would be that. And much, much more.
Really, Truly The End