Standalone: All In One

Ebook cover for the arc

A handful of stories about D and the shop, and how he deals with the human world.


Pet Shop of Horrors crossover. While visiting the US, some of the tennis boys come across an unusual pet shop. This evolves, as such things do, into some strange situations for a few of them. Drama, I-2, Future PoT anime continuity, middling PSoH manga continuity

Ryouma strolled down the narrow street, trying not very hard to more or less keep an eye on most of his teammates. It helped that he’d expected for, weeks, to be doing this. He’d been roped into playing tour guide the last time it was the US’s turn to host the Kantou vs. West Coast competition, too, so he’d been ready for it this time and only put up a token protest.

“Hey, Echizen!” Momo’s hand emerged from the crowd and snagged Ryouma’s arm, dragging him in front of a window display. “What are all these?”

“How should I know?”

…though he did spare a few moments to wish that the regular teams of the chosen players hadn’t all managed to come watch. He might have gotten out of this altogether, if they hadn’t. The only player from his temporary team who was along today, and not one of Seigaku, was Yukimura-san. Everyone else had split up like a handful of same-pole magnets as soon as the closing ceremonies were done. Tachibana-san was with his own team today; Sanada seemed to be hiding out in his hotel room; and Ryouma hadn’t asked where Atobe was going. He did wonder why they all seemed so eager to get some distance again. After all, it wasn’t like the coaches had done anything really cruel with the lineup this year.

Well, not to them, anyway. Pairing Tachibana-san and Yukimura-san for Doubles One had turned out to be pretty cruel to the other team. Ryouma didn’t think he’d ever seen a match played so… fiercely.

“This is a busy part of the city, isn’t it?” Fuji-senpai asked, appearing beside him. “And such a varied crowd! Did you ever come here to watch the people?”


Then again, he’d probably have been stuck anyway, Ryouma decided, watching Fuji-senpai slip through the clumps of people. If nothing else, Fuji-senpai would have latched onto him for a good audience to act all nonchalant in front of. Ryouma had been fairly impressed that Sanada managed to keep Fuji-senpai serious all through their match, but he’d known it wouldn’t be permanent. Fuji-senpai liked to play around too much. On the bright side, at least Inui-senpai had carried Kaidou off to the Natural History Museum to look at bones, and Kikumaru-senpai had been dragged away by Mukahi and Oshitari-san.

He hadn’t asked where they were headed, either.

Ryouma leaned against a shady bit of wall, hands tucked in his pockets, and relaxed while his teammates darted back and forth across the street, dragging this person or that to be shown the newest interesting shop. Having repelled the latest attempt at this, Tezuka-san leaned beside him.

“Good choice of location,” he commented.

Ryouma grinned at his captain. “I thought so.”

If anyplace could hold the interest of his senpai when they were determined to play tourist, he’d figured Chinatown would be it. Something was always happening.

“Risi, not that door!” a faint voice exclaimed. A few doors down, a bright bird with a long tail flitted into open air and nearly crashed into Yukimura-san. A quick snatch captured it, and he held it gently while it cheeped in protest.

“Hush, now,” Yukimura-san told it, petting the small head with a fingertip. “I don’t think the owner would like it if I aid and abet your escape.” The bird eyed him for a long moment before it settled down in his hands with a coo and a ruffle of feathers.

“Well, at least she didn’t go far.” A young man in formal clothes emerged from the shop doors. “Although,” he added, in Japanese, tipping his head, “I can’t say I’m surprised she likes you.”

“Really?” Yukimura-san’s eyes narrowed a little, and his smile sharpened.

Ryouma wondered for a second whether they knew each other or something. Yukimura-san was usually impenetrably charming with strangers. He drifted toward them. Actually, everyone was gathering back around them.

“What a beautiful bird,” Oishi-senpai said, softly.

The man smiled. “She’s a very rare breed; the shop specializes in exotic pets. Would you care to come in and look?” He ushered them all inside, and accepted the bird back from Yukimura-san. “Now, are you going to behave?” he asked it. The bird cheeped and bobbed a few times, and he nodded. “Good.” He set it on an open perch, where it settled down and started to preen its trailing tail feathers.

“Is it a songbird?” Fuji-senpai asked, coming to stand beside him.

“Oh, yes,” the man answered, low voiced. “She sings at dawn.” His smile looked very strange for a moment, and Fuji-senpai gave him a sidelong glance.

Ryouma observed that, while most everyone else was fanning out to make impressed noises over the animals, Fuji-senpai seemed more entertained by the proprietor.

“Dottybacks!” Oishi-senpai exclaimed from the cluster of aquariums one corner. “And is that one… a Cypho?” he looked over his shoulder at their host, wide-eyed. “How do you keep this many of them alive when they can see each other?”

The owner perked up. “Ah, you’re familiar with the breed, then?”

“I would love to put together a coral tank, and maybe even keep a breeding pair of these.” Oishi-senpai touched a finger to the corner of the tank, looking longingly at the tiny fish.

“Wow,” Momo whispered, peering into the tanks, “look at those colors.”

“But they’re so aggressive,” Oishi continued. “They’d take a lot of attention to make sure the young didn’t all kill each other off. Not to mention they’re worse escape artists than that bird.” He made a deprecating face, and turned away from the tanks with a last, lingering look.

“Most fish owners simply take a certain percentage of loss for granted,” the owner said in a very neutral voice.

“That’s irresponsible,” Oishi-senpai frowned. “Of course they can’t be controlled completely, they’re living animals after all. But when we take them out of the wild, we have a duty to do our best for them.”

The owner gave him a long, measuring look and smiled slowly. He reached for pen and paper, and wrote something out quickly and neatly. “This is our address. If you think you might be interested in some of our animals, there are a few trans-Pacific shippers that I trust. Just let me know.”

Oishi-senpai glanced around at the shop full of cheeping, growling, gurgling animals, at the sheet of paper and back at the owner, looking a bit dazed. “Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“You do seem to have a talent for keeping the peace between your tenants,” Yukimura-san noted, looking down at a racoon sprawled asleep on top of a small bear, “Mr…”

“D,” the owner supplied.

“Of course.” Yukimura-san smiled. “This place has a very relaxing atmosphere.” He turned. “Don’t you think so, Tezuka?”

Tezuka-san was not, naturally, oo-ing and ah-ing. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and his eyes closed. “Very,” he agreed, without looking up.

Ryouma blinked. Tezuka-san did actually sound relaxed. Fuji-senpai stopped beside their captain and asked something, softly. Tezuka-san leaned his head back against the wall and shrugged one shoulder. Fuji-senpai abruptly left off his curious examination of D and focused on Tezuka-san. Yukimura-san was looking very amused for some reason.

“The incense helps with that,” D answered, drawing Yukimura-san’s eyes back to him. “I blend it myself. That way I can always send a packet with the more sensitive animals, to give them something familiar while they settle into a new place.”

Ryouma was really starting to wonder if he was missing something, because Yukimura-san was looking at D with wide eyes. “Send it with them?” he repeated, still staring.

“Oh, yes. It’s very helpful.” D smiled, and for one second it was sharp as a knife. And then he was looking cheerful again.

Yukimura-san gave him a tilted return smile, and his eyes glinted. “Indeed.”

“So, who’s up for dinner?” Ryouma put in. He figured hunger was probably making him lightheaded. The conversation would surely make more sense after he’d eaten.

A chorus of agreement answered him, Momo loudest of course. D recommended a restaurant down the street and waved them goodbye at his doors.

“Do feel free to stop in again, if you’d like,” he called. “Any time.”

D closed the doors after his visitors. “Well! That was something you don’t see every day.” He turned toward the back. “T-chan, you can come out now.”

Tetsu shouldered through one of the curtains, grumbling. “Why couldn’t I be out here?! What if one of them had gone nuts? Worse, what if one of them decided he liked you?”

D smiled indulgently at Tetsu’s ferocious glare. “They were both wild, T-chan. Neither of them was likely to stay here.”

“Yeah?” Tetsu bristled. “That tiger sure looked like he was thinking about it.”

“Actually,” D sighed, “I hope he comes again before he goes home. For his own sake.”

Tetsu snorted, cynically. “And because you want to grill him about how he’s managing to pass.”

D chuckled. “All right, that too.”

Kunimitsu walked down streets without really looking where he was going. He knew quite well that it was dangerous to wander a strange city alone, at night, but right now he was too agitated to care. In fact, for the first time in a very long time, he was almost hoping for the appearance of some lowlife who would give him an excuse to set aside his self control.

He scolded himself for the thought, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Today had been more stressful than usual, and Yukimura’s sense of humor hadn’t helped. Who would have thought that they’d find someone who recognized them while out playing tourist? He’d spent the remainder of the day torn between the relief of knowing there was someone he might talk to, if he chose, who would understand, and the reflex terror that someone knew what he was.

A familiar sign caught his eye, and he stopped short on the sidewalk. Count D’s Pet Shop. Kunimitsu snorted, silently. It seemed his instincts had had a destination in mind after all. Now, if he could just decide whether that was a good thing or not.

About to lock the doors, a faint sound caught D’s ear. A chopped off rustle, very much like someone standing outside the doors and wondering whether he should approach or not. D smiled, and if there was as much darkness as sympathy in the expression, well, his visitor couldn’t see him yet.

“Welcome to Count D’s Pet Shop,” he said, more softly than he would have for a human. “Please, come in.” He opened the doors to meet the very level gaze of the young man outside, and his smile turned more cheery. “Would you care for some tea?”

Tezuka-kun’s mouth tightened. “Thank you.” He didn’t sound grateful at all, but he did stalk inside. D stifled a grin, and closed the doors behind him before making a comforting and domestic fuss with the tea set.

“So,” he said, as they sipped, “if I gathered correctly, you and the other young men here this afternoon play tennis?”

Tezuka-kun nodded, gazing into his tea.

“A useful outlet for competitiveness,” D mused.

Tezuka-kun gave him a mildly exasperated look. D decided that one of his friends must have a habit of speaking obliquely, too. Very well, then, he would be a bit more direct.

“It must be very stressful, living in a city, among such crowds, when your instincts call for space,” he suggested.

“There are adjustments that have to be made,” his guest agreed, sitting back. D nodded. The scent of the shop was starting to relax Tezuka-kun again.

“Adjustment, adaptation,” D nibbled a cookie. “They’re the true wonders of the natural world. That which adapts lives. And animals are capable of the most amazing feats, really. Changing from rural to urban habitats; from being carnivores to being omnivores.” He looked back up into the opaque brown eyes across the table. “From a range that consists of land to one that consists of people.”

Tezuka-kun’s eyes narrowed, and topaz flashed in them for a breath. Another observer might have thought it was only the lamplight.

“Yes, I thought that might be it.” D sipped his tea. “Those others who were with you, they are your team?”

“Yes,” Tezuka-kun said, and an edge of vibrato had entered the deep voice. He was tense again, coiled to move.

“I make no claim on them,” D assured him, softly.

Tezuka-kun took a deep breath and sat back again, passing a hand over his forehead. “My apologies,” he said, at last. D waved this off.

“It’s only in your nature. Actually,” his mouth quirked, remembering, “I was surprised that you and Yukimura-kun dealt so peacefully with each other, seeing that he was in the middle of your territory.”

A shrug answered him. “He has his territory, and I have mine; we don’t interfere with each other that way.” Tezuka-kun’s mouth twisted. “This week of being on the same team hasn’t been especially easy,” he admitted.

D was fascinated. “And it’s all subsumed into this game. Territory and challenge, and all. Truly an amazing adaptation.”

Tezuka-kun looked away, abruptly. “Maybe.”

“Is there a problem?” D asked quietly, not pressing.

Tezuka-kun was silent for a long moment. “In school, there are times I can’t properly mark or defend my territory. And after this year I will have to find another. As you said—stressful.”

D considered this. No wonder Tezuka-kun was tense. His kind were not terribly social animals, and while he could ameliorate that a little by considering some humans his territory, humans didn’t hold still the way landscape did. Stressful, indeed. Still, he thought Tezuka-kun might be overestimating his trouble; not uncommon in the young of any species.

“Surely your territory won’t be entirely broken, even if you part ways somewhat,” D pointed out. “That nice young man, Oishi-kun will never abandon you, I’m certain. And the quiet young man who smiled so much. Not to mention,” D’s mouth quirked, “the one who was rolling his eyes at everyone else.”

That made Tezuka-kun look thoughtful. “Oishi and Fuji I might be able to keep, I suppose,” he said at last. “Echizen, though, is almost ready to go looking for his own territory. I wouldn’t do either of us any favors by trying to stop him.”

D raised his brows. Interesting. It sounded as though Tezuka-kun regarded Echizen less as part of his territory and more as one of his own kind. Well, that had no bearing on the situation right now. “You should relax for a while, Tezuka-kun.”

The look he got this time was completely exasperated. “In the middle of a city? Where?”

“I’ll show you.” D rose, and beckoned his guest through the door to the back.

A corner of Tezuka-kun’s mouth twitched as they walked down the long halls, but he didn’t bother asking how it was possible. His eyes did widen a bit when D finally opened a door and they stepped through into a cool, rustling forest. D set down the censer he had picked up, and settled on a patch of grass next to it. D saw Tezuka-kun take a deep, deep breath of the breeze, and laughed gently as longing crossed his face. “Run and hunt here as long as you like,” he said. “I’ll stay with you; follow my scent to come back to the door, here, when you’re ready.” He had to take his own breath in at the burning, wild desire in Tezuka-kun’s eyes when they met his. Brown lightened to topaz, and Tezuka-kun turned toward the trees, and in a few steps he was bounding on four velvet paws.

D smiled as the jagged stripes in Tezuka-kun’s fur blended into the forest. He had rarely been thanked so… thoroughly. He leaned back and inhaled deeply again, waiting for the scent of blood on the breeze.

Ryouma stalked down the streets that he hadn’t necessarily shown his senpai during the day. He’d been restless after they all got back to the hotel. Not the only one, either. Tezuka-san and Fuji-senpai had both gone out, too. A day like this one should have left them all tired enough to sleep, but it looked like not. Ryouma felt a little wound up, actually. Not dissatisfied with the recent games, but as if he was ready for another right now. He’d considered prodding one of the others into a match in the hotel ballroom, but when he’d mentioned the idea he’d gotten a vehement veto from Oishi-senpai. So, walking it was. He didn’t pay too much attention to where he was going, besides making sure to follow lit and crowded streets.

He didn’t notice Fuji-senpai until they nearly ran into each other.

“Echizen,” Fuji-senpai smiled. “Revisiting today’s sights?”

Ryouma blinked at him, and then at their surroundings. A familiar sign caught his eye. Count D’s Pet Shop. Of all the places to wind up.

“Not really,” he answered. “You?”

Fuji-senpai eyed the doors. “I did wonder whether Tezuka had come back here. When I asked him if he felt all right, earlier… Well.”

Ryouma gauged Fuji-senpai’s worry by what he had almost said directly, and decided it was greater than he’d seen it since their captain injured himself. “The shop did have a nice, relaxing atmosphere,” he offered.

Although, now he thought about it, he’d been feeling whatever he was feeling ever since they’d come out of this place. Well, there was one way to find out. He tapped on the doors, and pushed them open, hearing Fuji-senpai come in behind him.

The shop was empty of any humans, though the animals all eyed them with interest. The doors in the back wall were open. Ryouma glanced up at Fuji-senpai, who was frowning faintly. Part of Ryouma’s head was pointing out that they should announce themselves, or find a bell to ring, or something, and just ask whether Tezuka-san had been in. The rest of his mind didn’t seem to be listening, and when Fuji-senpai moved toward the back doors, Ryouma followed him.

He was positive that Tezuka-san was back there.

They made their way down a long hall, which, the logical part of Ryouma’s mind pointed out, was a little peculiar, even for this part of town. Logic seemed to be fighting a losing battle, though. The hall dead-ended at yet another pair of tall doors. This was the place. Ryouma pushed them open.

The two of them stepped into a forest.

Ryouma felt only vaguely surprised, though it would occur to him later that he should have been completely freaked out. Fuji-senpai certainly seemed shocked, standing still as a stone, wide eyes darting around. Then he stiffened. Ryouma followed his gaze and saw Tezuka-san lying stretched out, uncharacteristically lax, with his head resting in D’s lap. D’s fingers carded through his hair, and Tezuka-san seemed to be asleep.

“Tezuka?” Fuji-senpai choked.

Tezuka-san stirred, and a tiger lifted his head from D’s lap to blink at them.

D raised his brows at the two intruders. Well. He certainly hadn’t expected them to follow Tezuka-kun—hadn’t expected them to be able to. Fuji was shaking his head and staring very much like someone who distrusted the evidence of his senses. Echizen…

Echizen walked forward, grass swishing against his shoes. “Buchou,” he said, with surety.

Tezuka-kun narrowed his eyes and growled, tail flicking twice. Echizen ignored this sign of displeasure as if he’d had practice, and kept coming. His eyes, now that D could see them, were very calm and a little distant, and, as he came closer, their bright brown flickered with gold. Two more steps, and another tiger paced toward Tezuka-kun.

Tezuka-kun tucked his chin down and his growl scaled up into a startled, inquiring sound. He glanced at D.

“I think you saw more truly than you were aware, Tezuka-kun,” D murmured, thoughtfully. He was ready to swear that Echizen was entirely human, but the speed of this change said that the boy had a powerful affinity for the wildness in himself.

Tezuka-kun snorted, and stalked toward Echizen, glaring. Echizen twitched his ears and stood his ground, head tipped to one side. D put a hand over his mouth to hide his smile. Echizen either didn’t really understand the language of his current shape or else liked living dangerously. The young tiger ducked Tezuka-kun’s swipe, and made to nip the raised paw. A brief tussle of fur and growling resolved with Tezuka-kun lying on Echizen’s shoulders and washing his ears vigorously. Echizen-kun sighed, and laid his chin down on his paws.

Footsteps sounded beside D, and he looked up to see Fuji staring down at him with hard eyes.

“Have we been drugged?” the young man asked, very calmly.

D sighed at this echo of his detective’s favorite accusation. Humans. “You are under the influence of something,” he answered, gesturing to the smoking censer, “but it isn’t a drug.”

“What is it?”

A corner of D’s mouth curled up. “You might think of it as reality,” he suggested.

Fuji looked from D to his two friends, and D could see reluctant understanding in his tight expression. He was actually a bit impressed with this boy’s iron refusal to give way to panic or hysteria. His mind was evidently still working, in face of what must be very strange to him, and that was rare. Possibly troublesome, too.

“Tezuka,” Fuji said, quietly, “why…” He gestured to D. Probably, D decided, asking why someone so strong willed had let another person meddle with his integrity. An honest answer, which he had little doubt Tezuka-kun would give, would reveal far too much. He really might have to do something about Fuji’s interference.

Tezuka-kun leaned his forehead against Echizen-kun’s fur for a moment and sighed before he looked up. “Because this is what I am, Fuji,” he answered, his voice equally low. “You should forget.”

Fuji gazed at him for one frozen moment before his calm broke into a glare and he stepped toward Tezuka-kun. “Forget?! Forget that you turned into a tiger? Excuse me?!” His sharp gesture of denial turned into an upsweep of wings, and he fluttered up to a branch where he assaulted everyone’s ears with some very strident commentary.

Echizen-kun rolled onto his back, under Tezuka-kun’s arm, and propped himself up on his elbows. “I’d have thought you’d be bigger, Fuji-senpai,” he commented, with an insolent grin.

“Lovely markings, though,” D cut in over a particularly piercing rejoinder. “The Eurasian variety of Lapwing is a lovely bird.” He smiled up at Fuji, who had paused to cock his head in a remarkably skeptical manner. “Their common name refers to the irregular rhythm of their flight, a great fascination to bird watchers. They’re also one of the breeds that will feign injury to lead predators away from their nests.” Fuji flipped his wings at D, clearly not mollified much.

Echizen-kun, on the other hand, was bright-eyed and looking deeply amused. “Suits you perfectly,” he prodded.

Fuji-kun spread his wings, looking ready to dive at his young friend, and Echizen-kun crouched, ears back, tail lashing. Tigers weren’t technically able to grin, but he was definitely grinning. Fuji-kun flung himself off the branch, only to pull up at the last minute, and peck Echizen-kun soundly between the ears. Echizen-kun’s claws parted Fuji-kun’s tail feathers, for his trouble, and they were off through the trees, leaping and diving at each other. D was now very impressed with Fuji-kun’s amenability to the wild when he finally acted.

Tezuka-kun put a hand over his face and laughed, silently. D laid his hands on Tezuka-kun’s shoulders, urging him to lean back against D. Tezuka-kun gave in with a sigh. “He really should forget,” he said.

“Perhaps,” D murmured. “Your Fuji has more in him than is immediately obvious.”

Tezuka-kun snorted, settling his head against D’s chest, and purred as D combed his nails through Tezuka-kun’s fur. D contemplated the evening’s events, Echizen-kun’s part in particular. The speed of his change was unusual. Normally, a little of the incense D blended merely enabled humans to see what they normally did not. It took a higher concentration for human consciousness to enter into that part of the world they regularly ignored, and higher yet for a full transformation to follow. Fuji-kun had followed that pattern, though the break in his temper seemed to release a transformation hard on the heels of the second stage. Echizen-kun, though… to move so quickly, and into the shape of Tezuka-kun’s spirit…

D smiled down at the tiger snoozing on his lap. Tezuka-kun had had a good hunt, earlier, as D had hoped. He had brought Tezuka-kun here only to relax and refresh him from the strain of living among humans, but it might turn out that there was more for him to do tonight.

Tezuka-kun woke when the other two returned. Echizen-kun flung himself down in a pleased sprawl, panting. Fuji-kun landed on his head, ignoring the resulting ear twitching. Tezuka-kun sat up, adjusting his glasses.

“We should go soon.”

Echizen-kun heaved a vast sigh, and hauled himself upright, too, crossing his legs. D held out a hand for Fuji-kun to flutter down to, and stroked one finger over his head. Fuji-kun stretched, lacing his fingers together over his head, and smiled cheerfully at Echizen-kun.

“Maybe next time,” he suggested. Echizen-kun sniffed.

“That could be a bit difficult,” Tezuka-kun pointed out, dryly.

Echizen-kun looked at him, biting his lip. “Not for you, though,” he said, slowly. “That’s what you meant, isn’t it?”

Tezuka-kun nodded, silently. Echizen-kun pursed his lips, and looked from him to D with a question in his eyes.

“There are ways for a human to take on another nature,” D told him, evenly. “They are not reversible.”

“D-san!” Tezuka-kun exclaimed, sharply, and frowned at his protege. “Echizen…”

Echizen-kun looked up at him, solemnly. “If it’s reality, like he said, why shouldn’t I want it?”

“Echizen,” Fuji remonstrated, softly, leaning to take the other boy’s shoulder, “it can’t be easy; and it must be dangerous.”

Echizen-kun made a derisive noise, ignoring Tezuka-kun’s definite nod. “Like pro tennis is easy and safe?”

“Tennis isn’t something you have to hide from everyone you know,” Tezuka-kun pointed out, approaching a glare.

“Not everyone,” Echizen-kun answered, simply.

Tezuka-kun had to swallow and take a long breath. D folded his hands in his lap, hiding his sympathy for both sides of the argument. When Tezuka-kun seemed unable to speak, though, he felt compelled to add a practical warning.

“It is unlikely you and Tezuka-kun would be able to have much contact, outside of your competitions.”

“No,” Tezuka-kun put in, at last. “We could share to an extent.” He shrugged, as D’s eyes widened. “You spoke of adaptation. My family learned to take the females’ way, when we started to take humans as mates, and share territory. Inside the family, at least.”

“Remarkable.” D felt the little bubble of joy that rose in his chest whenever he encountered some animal managing to win in spite of everything.

“I want this,” Echizen-kun said, very firmly, looking both Fuji and Tezuka-kun in the eye.

Fuji sighed, and smiled wryly. “If you’re that determined, I suppose that’s all there is to it.” He turned a sharper eye on Tezuka-kun. “And if you suggest, now, that I forget…”

Tezuka-kun ran a hand through his hair. “No, I won’t suggest it again.” His eyes softened a shade as he glanced at Echizen-kun. “The choice is yours.”

Echizen-kun gave him a bright, wicked smile. “I know.”

Tezuka-kun looked down his nose, and D chuckled. They would do well.

“Come here, then, Echizen-kun,” he directed. When Echizen stood in front of him, D drew his finger along one sharp corner of the censer, cutting it. He marked Echizen with his blood between the eyes, on his palms and over his heart, and called. A sharp twist of wind and scent swirled around the boy, and he folded up, gasping. When it left, Echizen-kun looked back at D with gold eyes and arched his whiskers in question. D held out his hand, and Echizen-kun swiped the blood off his fingers with a long, rough tongue. A second later he looked mildly revolted, and folded his arms.

“Done?” he asked.

“Done,” D smiled.

“Doesn’t feel all that different,” Echizen-kun observed.

“No, it wouldn’t I imagine,” D agreed. “You were half way there already. The result of accepting Tezuka-kun’s influence, I believe.”

Tezuka-kun blinked.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” D admitted, “but I have to wonder whether this would have happened, eventually, in any case.” Tezuka-kun and Fuji both moved closer to Echizen-kun, who relaxed a little, probably calmed by their scents. D ruffled Echizen-kun’s hair, getting a glower in return, and looked around at his three guests.

“It will be well.”

Ryouma yawned his way through the breakfast buffet, weaving among hotel guests back to the tables his teammates had secured. Tezuka-san, of course, had already efficiently filled his plate and chosen a seat. Ryouma contemplated the high proportion of meat on Tezuka-san’s plate, and then on his own, and sighed. At least his mother would probably be happy when his eating habits turned more to the Western food she prefered. Ryouma deposited his plate at the next place, glancing around to see who else was up and about, and ground to a halt.

“Echizen?” Fuji-senpai asked from behind him, setting down his own plate and laying a hand on Ryouma’s shoulder. He’d been doing that a lot, since last night; Ryouma didn’t mind, especially right now. Having Fuji-senpai’s scent so close steadied him.

“You didn’t mention that,” he muttered through his teeth to Tezuka-san.

Tezuka-san raised his brows, and followed Ryouma’s glance. “Ah. Yes. You get used to it.”

“What do you see?” Fuji-senpai asked, softly.

“Yukimura-san is a dragon,” Ryouma said, very flatly, not taking his eyes off the members of Rikkai who had just come through the door.

Fuji-senpai was silent for a long moment. “That could explain a few things,” he said, at last, in a contemplative tone. Ryouma glared at him, but couldn’t keep it up for long before his eyes were drawn back to Yukimura-san.

Who was now staring back at Ryouma.

Waving his team to an open table, Yukimura-san strolled toward theirs. Tension wound through Ryouma’s whole body, as Yukimura-san’s scent fanned over him, sharp and blue like lightning. “I see the reputation of that family for meddling is the truth,” Yukimura-san said, looking Ryouma up and down with a slight smile.

Ryouma jerked his chin up. “It was my own choice,” he snapped. He had a strong urge to claw that look off Yukimura’s face. His tension eased again as Tezuka-san’s scent folded around him. His captain had risen and stepped forward, nudging Ryouma just a bit behind him.

“Don’t push him yet, Yukimura. He’s still new to this.”

“Of course,” Yukimura-san murmured, stepping back. “I can wait.” His eyes narrowed for one moment, wild and glinting, and then he smiled at them sunnily and turned back toward his team. Ryouma took a deep breath, throttling down his own fizzing aggression, and leaned against Fuji-senpai.

“So, eventually, I get to bite his throat out, right?” he asked.

Fuji-senpai laughed, and even Tezuka-san’s shoulders twitched with what looked like suppressed amusement.

“Figuratively,” his captain specified, sternly.

“Ok, I can work with that.” Ryouma pulled out his chair and started in on his breakfast. As the comforting chatter of his team surrounded him, punctuated with Momo and Kikumaru-senpai stealing each other’s bacon, he relaxed further. He could work with this.

It was reality, after all.


In order to make locations and participants match up, I have hypothesized that the coast v coast competitions take place on the high school level, as well as the junior high level.

Last Modified: Apr 04, 12
Posted: Dec 26, 04
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First Day

D opens the shop on his own for the first time. Drama, I-1

Character(s): D

D tugged his cuffs straight one more time and examined his hem to make sure no threads were coming loose. One of the cockatoos nibbled on his ear. “Your feathers will get ragged if you preen them any more,” she told him, winding her arms around his shoulders.

He sighed and smiled at her in the mirror. “You’re right, of course. Is everyone ready?”

Laughter rippled through the animals lounging in the front room. “We’re just fine,” the young persian observed. She looked critically at her nails and filed one to a more satisfying point. “It’s you who’s fluffed out about this.”

D admitted wryly that she had a point on more than her claw. The residents of the shop were well used to this. Even the shop itself felt calmer than he did. D was the only one present who was new at this. “Yes, well. I’ll go open, then.” On his own. For the first time.

The youngest cared for the refuge. He knew that. He understood why. The shop went to the one who was freshest and least wearied in their task. He knew all that. It didn’t make him any less nervous to have sole responsibility laid in his hands. Finding homes for the displaced, finding humans fearful enough or rapacious enough to feed them, finding humans calm enough to shelter them… it was a delicate business. Humans were so unreliable, so changeable. He could never tell whether their true nature was to devour like cancer and some of them managed to rise above it, or whether their true nature was to live fiercely in harmony with other beasts and most of them were corrupted somehow. They made no sense. All he could do, when twining their fates with other animals’, was to hope and trust that nature’s balance was stronger than selfish human will. He clasped his hands tightly before pulling them apart and straightening his shoulders.

He took a step toward the door and almost tripped over the sudden press of bodies around him. The animals made amused sounds as they nuzzled and licked him, stroking against him like one of their own until he was thoroughly rumpled and calmer than he’d been all morning. Finally he laughed, brushing his hair back out of his eyes. “All right, all right!”

Their eyes gleamed at him as he shrugged his clothes straight again and stepped forward to open the shop door.

“Welcome to Count D’s Pet Shop.” He stood aside to let his first customer in, serene and smiling, waiting to see what fate these humans would call to themselves.


Last Modified: Sep 26, 08
Posted: Nov 27, 06
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North of the Sun, Over the Moon

Leon manages to catch up with D—in Shinjuku. Contretemps ensue. Humor with Drama, I-2

Character(s): D, Lau Wu Fei, Leon Orcot

The shop door slammed open and a few of the more excitable animals dove under furniture.

“Okay, D, stop right there, no selling anything to anyone!”

D felt that he should have expected this. Orcot had gotten to more than one city ahead of him, and he’d been here in Shinjuku for months. Besides, life had probably been going too smoothly.

He also knew that he should turn a bright smile on the good officer, welcome him cheerfully, offer him tea. Divert him into anger. It had never kept Leon away, contrary human that he was, but it did usually stop his questions. He knew he should do this. He just couldn’t quite seem to get a grip on the smile he needed. It was… too smooth.

He was drawing in a long breath to try again, if only because Orcot’s questions would cause twice as much trouble as before, given his current guest, when Leon’s eyes flicked to Lau.

“Sir, you should probably leave now. You don’t know what this store really sells.”

D winced. The tone was classic—even and calm, exuding a sense that the officer in question was in control of the situation and bystanders should not panic, just do as they were told and everything would be all right. This bystander, though, was unlikely to take that well. “Now, Officer Orcot, I’m sure there’s no need—” he began, stepping forward a bit hastily, attempting to avert unsightly explosions in his front room.

Too late. Lau rose to his full height, managing to look taller than Orcot which D was fairly sure he wasn’t, and Leon was going to hate that wasn’t he? Oh dear…

“Officer, is it? Who are you with? CIA?” Lau’s eyes narrowed. “It doesn’t matter. I am Lau Wu Fei, the manager of this building, and nothing goes on here that I don’t know about and approve.” He took a long, deliberate step toward Orcot, never breaking eye contact. D resisted the urge to rub his forehead. Males. Lau stopped close behind him, hands on his hips, feet apart.

Leon’s eyes narrowed in turn. “If you know what’s really going on here and approve of it, that makes you an accomplice. I’ll be happy to get you taken in, too.”

“No one is taking anyone anywhere,” Lau growled. “This is my building and I will be the only one to say who operates in it.” He edged closer to D.

D sighed, mouth quirking. Wu Fei was one of the most territorial humans he’d ever met. However he might scheme to find reason to throw D out, let anyone else interfere in his building, his business, his tenant, and he went up in flames.

Orcot was looking more territorial than usual himself, fingers flexing as though he wanted nothing more than to reach out and pull D away from Lau. D saw the two of them for one moment as though they belonged here. A deep-chested, thick-furred dog stood in the door, bouncing on stiff legs with the force of his barking, teeth bared to warn away a threat. A great cat stood across from it, burning green eyes glaring down its nose at the interloper, tail lashing.

He shook his head, blinking the odd moment away. Perhaps he’d been working too hard lately; these two certainly did not belong here.

He stepped between the two men, hands out to keep them apart. “Now, now, please. Not in the store.” As their glares transferred to the more familiar target he found his smile again. “Taizu, surely you don’t object to someone doing your work for you? Not that Officer Orcot could, alas, since he only works for the police department of one American city.”

They both pulled up short at that, staring at D before bursting out,

“He’s not—”

“You mean he can’t—”

They stopped and eyed each other. D saw his opening, which was a good thing since he also saw a customer coming toward the open doors. “Yes, exactly, the two of you have so many things in common, really. Why don’t you discuss them? Somewhere else.” He herded them toward the door with cheerful little shooing motions, edging them out just in time.

“Welcome to Count D’s Pet Shop!” he smiled at the customer, turning his back on Orcot and Lau as he closed the door behind them.

Wu Fei stomped down the stairs, muttering, with Orcot right beside him.

“…never tells me what’s going on in my own place…”

“…thinks he always knows what’s going on…”

“…bringing in outsiders…”

“…getting involved with who knows what…”

“And always…”

“…smirking at you.”

Wu Fei stopped on the landing with a sharp look at the American. “You too?”

“Does he ever do anything else?” The officer scrubbed a hand through blond hair and answered himself. “Well, okay, yeah he does. He glares and he gets sad and he fucking sparkles when he wants to get rid of you.” The man glowered at nothing.

Wu Fei snorted; oh, yes, he recognized all of that. For some reason it made him feel a little better that D clearly had practice at driving people insane with a smile. And perhaps, with a little judicious information trading, he could find out more about his most infuriating tenant. “I think we should talk, Orcot.”

Leon leaned back in his chair, looking around the huge office with an experienced eye. If this Lau wasn’t part of the local underworld he’d eat his shoes. Just what he always figured D would eventually get wound up in.

Only… it didn’t sound like D was exactly cooperating with this guy.

“So let me get this straight.” Leon tossed back another swallow of whiskey and held out the glass to Lau for a refill. They were talking about D, after all; he needed it. “You wouldn’t actually care if D was running a brothel as long as he got your approval? You’re just worried about the way it looks?”

Lau leaned against his desk and took a long drink himself. “Look Orcot, it happens. It’s human nature; every light side has a dark side. I just keep things running smoothly, keep them on the acceptable side.” He grimaced. “Slavery isn’t acceptable, and that’s what rumor makes D’s shop sound like. You can’t run that out in the open.”

He wasn’t saying anything about running it in the shadows, Leon noted, scowling.

Lau frowned down at his glass. “That’s just the surface, though. I could probably deal with that if it was all. What D really is… He’s too dangerous. Too much power.”

Leon sat upright, slowly. “What is he?” he asked, textbook casual for a skittish witness.

Lau’s eyes fixed on him, narrow and sardonic. “If you followed him, you know. You have no jurisdiction here, Orcot. You can’t have come because you think you’ll be able to prosecute him for anything.”

Leon examined his glass and didn’t answer. Lau snorted.

“Figured. You followed him because you couldn’t let the magic of him go, right?” He leaned back, ignoring Leon’s sputtering. “He’s a spirit of the land, after all. Of the land all over the world, from what I can tell. His kind either call to you or they kill you.” That hard mouth quirked. “Sometimes both.”

Leon studied Lau, puzzled. The guy didn’t sound angry or scared, he just sounded… weird, Leon decided at last. He sounded weird, and that made perfect sense for someone D was playing with.

Lau eyed him back. “I take it you’re staying, then.”

Leon had just taken a drink and choked.

“Thought so.”

Lau was smirking at him now, nearly fit to match D. The bastard.

“Just try to stay out of the way of business.”

D looked around his tea table and sighed. Lau was watching Orcot with a rather taunting smirk and Orcot was glowering at Lau as though he wanted nothing more in life than to throw the man in a cell. Tetsu was growling under his chair, having already bitten Leon hello, and the cats were watching Lau with approval. It was not turning out to be a quiet afternoon at all. “So, Officer,” he said lightly, refilling teacups, “what brings you to Japan?” He smiled, less brightly than usual; he didn’t want Orcot to explode from sheer spleen, after all. “Surely not just to attempt arresting me for old time’s sake?”

It took Orcot a moment to pull his attention off Lau. “Oh. Oh, yeah, right.” Suddenly he looked uncomfortable. Even… sheepish? “Actually, um. I wanted to return something.”

D’s brows rose as Orcot fished in his jacket. A pair of handcuffs to remember him by, perhaps?

What emerged, though, was a piece of notebook paper, carefully folded.

“Here.” Leon waved it at him, not meeting his eyes. “You left this behind. Thought I should give it back.”

D unfolded the paper slowly. It was a crayon drawing; one he recognized. Chris had made it. “Leon,” he said softly, smoothing the paper with gentle fingers. He tried to clear the huskiness from his throat. “Chris. Is he well?”

“Yeah. Yeah, he’s fine.” Leon fidgeted.

Lau, who had been watching this byplay with interest, leaned back in his chair. “Orcot. Do you mean you came slamming in here, acting like you were going to arrest everyone in sight, in order to bring D a gift?”

Leon cleared his throat. “Well. Kind of, I guess.”

“Americans have even stranger courting customs than I realized,” Lau muttered.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Orcot snapped. “Oh, wait, never mind. Too late.”

Lau growled back at Orcot and D sighed, massaging his forehead. What on earth was he going to do with them?

Tetsu leaned over the back of his chair, watching the show. “Now can I eat someone?”

“They’re the Count’s pets, T-chan,” Pon-chan told him stoutly. “You can’t eat other pets, that’s the rules.”

“I think I’m going to go lie down for a while,” D muttered, leaving the animals to comment on which human would win their fight and whether humans ever used their teeth.

“…call the CIA if I have to, damn it!”

“I’ll have you deported first…!”

Maybe his father had had a point about getting involved with humans.


Last Modified: May 15, 12
Posted: Nov 27, 06
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Best Friend

If humans can’t stay with the shop, then… Humor and Fluff, I-2

Character(s): D, Leon Orcot

No one gave him as much trouble as the dogs.

Dogs were far too willing to be pleased with humans. To love them as family, as pack, even when humans didn’t reciprocate nearly enough, in D’s opinion.

Dogs were devoted beyond reason, loyal beyond sanity. He feared for them the most, of all the animals he found places for, of all the animals whose wishes he sought to fulfill. Most of the other animals, at least, knew enough to look after themselves. The dogs always thought first of another—even if it meant grief or death or change out of all recognition

And somehow… they never quite managed to grow up, either.

“Leon! It is raining out! Keep your paws off the table until they’re clean!”

“Oh, yeah, sure thing.”

D glared, getting nothing for his trouble but a toothy grin and a desultory tail waved in his direction as Leon took his feet off the table and sprawled out to cross them on the satin arm of the couch instead. D muttered under his breath as he went to get towels. There were times he almost wished Leon hadn’t found a way to stay with him.

No one gave him as much trouble as the dogs.


Last Modified: Sep 26, 08
Posted: Dec 14, 06
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Without Fear

Crossover of Petshop of Horrors and Labyrinth. D seduces the fading Goblin King into the shop. Written for the Porn Battle prompt: D/Jareth, what dreams are made of. Not Exactly Romance, I-3

Character(s): D, Jareth
Pairing(s): D/Jareth

D looked around, fascinated. The doors of the shop went to many strange places, but they rarely took him into dream realms. The strange proportions of the granite walls, in this place, the odd plants and creatures, all spoke to him of dreams, though, and he wondered why he was here.

The shop doors never opened at random.

"Who are you?"

The man who stepped out of the air was… not exactly a man. D tilted his head. "I am called Count D. And you?"

After a moment’s hesitation the man said, slowly, "I am Jareth, the Goblin King." His thin lips twisted. "Without much of a kingdom anymore, I admit."

So. D looked around, curiously. "This world seems robust," he murmured, asking without asking as was only polite.

The goblin waved a dismissive hand. "The world, yes. Creatures live here. But my magic was broken." His eyes were distant and dispassionate as he added, "I suspect I will fade soon."

"Much that is magic can be mended," D suggested delicately.

Jareth laughed, bleak and sharp and wild. "I haven’t the strength any longer to find anyone who can sustain me."

"What is required?" D asked, quiet and even.

Pale, feral eyes focused on him. There was long hunger in them and D spread his hands, serenely, offering.

Given the setting, he was not entirely surprised when Jareth stepped closer, sliding one hand into his hair, tipped his head back and kissed him. He spread his hands against Jareth’s chest, acquiescent. The shop would not have shown him this place if he were not needed.

"Normally," Jareth murmured in his ear, tone ironic, "I would sweep you off to my castle at this point. I’m afraid that’s not possible, right now."

"Quite all right," D murmured, suppressing a smile. "I’m sure we can find something suitable." He took a small step back, hands stroking over Jareth’s shoulders, down his arms.

Jareth looked at him for a long moment, unreadable, before he snorted softly. This time the twist to his mouth was wry as he followed D, step by step back through the door. Across the hall another door fell open and D backed toward it, short, quick steps that turned Jareth’s gaze predatory.

When Jareth swept him up and laid him down on the huge, low bed, D had to stifle an outright chuckle. He didn’t know whether his newest acquisition understood what was really happening, yet, but he was starting to think that the Goblin King might not care. "You’ve caught me," he said, softly, fishing for what it was, exactly, that Jareth needed.

"Yes," Jareth kissed down the line of D’s throat. His hands stroked over D’s body, tracing the lines of him faultlessly through the fabric of his robes. "Give yourself to me," he whispered.

"Yes," D answered, opening his mouth under Jareth’s kisses, pressing against him, answering his hands. It was no more than he did for any animal in the shop, in the end.

Jareth kissed him fiercely, caught him close, lay over him as if to shelter, or perhaps separate, him from the rest of the world, and D was pliant and willing in his arms. And finally, Jareth unwound, over him, breathing out, and slumped against D’s shoulder.

D smiled, soft and sad, and stroked his wild hair back, kissing his brow gently. "We’ll find you proper sustenance, here," he murmured.

"You are of my kind." Jareth didn’t lift his head, voice low and undone.

It was D’s turn to smile a bit wryly. "Somewhat. My line is made of darker stuff than dreams, even yours."

Now Jareth lifted himself and looked down at D, eyes gleaming. "I am servant to your dreams, for now."

"My dream is your life." D met those sharp eyes steadily and they gentled. Jareth lay down again, beside him, acquiescent in his turn, slowly relaxing into sleep.

D lay awake and turned over in his mind plans for finding his newest guest a suitable human.



Last Modified: Feb 10, 12
Posted: Oct 05, 08
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