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Lupin III Fic: Compromise (Part I)

Title: Compromise (Part I)
Paring: Lupin/Jigen
Rating: (Hard) R
Word Count: 9,228
Summary: At the beginning of his partnership with Lupin, Jigen has to learn how to adapt - to compromise.

When he first starts to work with Lupin, Jigen expects they will go their separate ways and circle back to one another - take different planes, or Lupin will go by train, and they will meet up in Riyadh or Ankara or Madrid. It would be the sensible thing to do.

Instead they both buy tickets on the same international flight to Mexico City. They go through the same ticketing counter. At the gate Jigen sits with the Times unfolded across his knee. He waggles his outstretched foot back and forth and Lupin, though not sitting next to him, is very near: he stands by the glass watching the planes coming in and going out, passengers making their way across the windy tarmac. Jigen follows directly after him when they board the plane. They sit in the same row: "Oh, oh, can I have the window?" Lupin asks, already squirming his way over Jigen's lap to get there. He flips the shade open and peers down the runway. "Flying is more interesting when you can see out," he explains offhand. It is all strangely familiar, as if they've done this before. Jigen tries not to be too amused by the thief's eccentricies. Lupin is good at what he does and so is Jigen. That's what matters - not how Lupin chatters at him for the first six hours of the flight, or even how when the sun coming in starts to bother Jigen, he pulls the shade half over the window before he is asked, or how Lupin tries to tell him a filthy joke he heard and looks chagrined and embarrassed when Jigen doesn't laugh: "It's better in French," he explains, and then tells him another one that is in pidgin Italian which Jigen both understands and finds hilarious. He laughs loudly, startling the stewardess who is trying to serve them drinks.

"Jigen-chan, you're so scary to women," Lupin teases him. In heavily accented English, he apologizes cutely to the stewardess.

When she goes to the front of the plane he tells Jigen behind his hand, "Look at the seams on her panty hose when she bends over. Kawaii."

Jigen snorts and unfolds his paper. "You're terrible."

"That's what they say," Lupin chirps before knocking back his drink. The alcohol must burn; he takes a sharp breath in.

It is a strange flight, oddly surreal if only by merit of the fact that he has spent the past three weeks with Lupin and may very well spend the next three weeks with him also. Already, Lupin knows him better than Jigen would expect to be comfortable with, and yet he is - comfortable.

From Mexico City to Salvador, from Salvador to a tiny private island where they steal a number of diamonds. From there to Saint Petersburg, to Johannesburg, to Zurich. Jigen, who has never been one for jumping from one climate to another, finds himself complaining only half heartedly. Lupin waves him off, spreading the blue prints of the bank across the table in a dreary basement. "Fujiko-chan, come mark down what you know."

Fujiko Mine unfolds herself from the collapsing couch and leans over the blue print without a glance at Jigen. Lupin pays a considerable amount of attention to the curve of her hip and the line of her skirt over the backs of her thighs rather than where she's marking the ventilation shafts and the security checkpoints in red pen.

"Lupin," she hums, tapping the pen.

He swings up, cat like grin. "Eh?"

"I'm cold; will you get my sweater?" She wags the pen at the door and he gives her a swift salute before he leaps to the basement stairs, taking them two at a time. There is a bang of the door. Jigen can hear Lupin traipsing about overhead, the tinny sound of his voice: "Ah? Sweater, where are you?"

Jigen looks at the woman. She looks at him. "Why are you here?" She must be cold, for that kind of tone.

Jigen frowns. "What do you mean?"

"I mean why are you here. Now. You're just a gun." She taps his wrist with the pen.

Jigen doesn't doubt that the only reason Fujiko Mine asks is because she's concerned over her percentage of the cut. Still, he finds himself growing defensive. "I'm invested," he says, meaning to shut her down.

She smirks at him in a way he doesn't like, but it isn't until after the job is done and Fujiko has robbed them blind - for what may be one of the first times but won't be the last - that it gets him thinking: about how he used to have a line between what was work and what wasn't (albeit a fuzzy one, as any divide between home and work gets hard when shooting people for a living; when leisure time is spent cleaning a favorite gun). He doesn't know when it changed, just that it has. There is Lupin. Sometimes they do jobs, sometimes they don't.

Not long after that, Jigen thinks their number might be up. They surge up the fourth floor staircase, bits of railing exploding from the gunfire coming on their heels. It takes Jigen a second to realize Lupin has fallen behind. He feels his stomach drop out. He turns sharp. Swears when he finds Lupin dallying at the banister, his sleeve caught on the beak of the ornamental eagle topping the railing column at the landing. Jigen grabs Lupin by the tie and pulls, wrenching him straight out of the jacket. He shoves him down behind the massive statue at the top of the stairs, one hand on Lupin’s back and the other clapped tight over his hat. Soon Chesnokov’s men will swarm them from the private museum’s upper balconies, fire down on them. Jigen doesn’t know what’s keeping them. Lupin struggles up just as gunfire explodes from the other side of the statue, flakes of marble raining down on them. If Jigen’s math is right, Lupin has two bullets left. Jigen has none. They’re going to die.

-- Which is a given. Everyone dies. An in all fairness, for as long as Jigen’s held a gun in his hand, he’s expected that he will probably die less than pleasantly. No growing old and no retirement for him, no last ditch efforts for youth, no insane revenge plots to benefit a man in the winter of his life. He’s always thought that was probably for the best, that he’d say so if anyone asked. But no one’s asking now and he finds himself thinking that maybe he was wrong, or that when he’d come to that conclusion he just hadn’t had enough to miss yet.

"Lupin--" Jigen can barely hear the sound of his voice. A great piece of the statue’s face blows out from the front. They both cover their heads to avoid the spray.

Lupin’s hand is suddenly there at the small of his back: square, broad, a light weight. Jigen glares out from under the brim of his hat and finds Lupin grinning at him. "Hold on," he shouts with a manic grin. His hand is still at Jigen’s back. He cocks the Walther with his mouth. Turns. Fires.

The thick stain glass window behind them cracks around the bullet, but it doesn’t break. "What?" Lupin shrieks. "How troublesome!" He grabs Jigen by the shoulder and hauls him to his feet. Jigen has enough time to shout inarticulately before Lupin throws him backwards through the window.

The glass shatters. Jigen falls. Kicks desperately with his feet out of instinct. The line hooked on the back of his pants catches. He pinwheels, braces himself - the wire gives before the loop on his slacks does. He dangles for a moment eight or ten feet up from the hedges on the lawn, then wire snaps and he plummets into the shrubbery below. When he scrapes to his feet, Jigen doesn’t have the breath to spare. A second later he hears a shout and-- his chin cracks on the ground when Lupin lands hard on top of him. He checks to make sure Lupin isn’t a corpse. He’s not. Jigen punches him twice in the mouth.

Lupin wails at him until they find a quiet ledge halfway down the cliff face to hide under until the heat lets up. Jigen claps his hand over Lupin’s mouth - feels more than hears him swear and spit - and keeps it there until he knows Lupin is going to be quiet. He is, grudgingly. They sit and listen to Chesnokov’s men calling and the dogs braying, searchlights swinging up across the night sky in arcs; they ruin their shirt collars and their ties by mopping at their bloody faces with them.

All Jigen can taste is blood and his own sweat, fear choked down by relief and adrenaline. Lupin holds his tie to his busted lip with one hand and rummages through his pocket with the other. "Smoke?" he asks. He comes up with his lighter between his first and second finger, the giant ruby between his second and third.

Jigen stuffs his shirt into his mouth to keep from laughing or to keep from punching Lupin a third time. Later, Fujiko doesn’t steal the ruby; Lupin just gives it to her.

There is the time in Bangkok and the time in Jeddah. It almost happens again in Fortaleza and again, Jigen thinks - though later sees he was getting away with himself -, in Jakarta. He doesn't know when or why he started keeping track of how many times he and Lupin have almost died (seriously, not near misses, as those are too many to count), just that he has and that it unsettles him. Not the dying part, mind, but the keeping track. It worries him.

Not that it really matters, he doesn't think. He isn't frightened; it doesn't make him slow; in Dhaka they drive a rickshaw off a rooftop and crash six stories into a rooftop swimming pool that neither of them expected to be there and Jigen doesn't flinch. He does however get six blisters from running in wet shoes. But the counting - of blisters and almost dying, how many minutes it takes for Lupin to cycle them back to the hotel on the bicycle he stole - Jigen perched on the handlebars like they are children -, how many times Lupin tries to kiss Fujiko when she meets them in the at the Gold Leopard club on the eighteenth floor - is what concerns him.

Jigen nurses his feet and his scotch. The music feels tired at this hour and so do his bones. Lupin leans across the table with his chin balanced on his knuckles and kisses Fujiko's hand. She laughs and pinches his cheek, Lupin's face red from the alcohol.

In the morning Jigen has to clumsily pick the lock on the door to Lupin's hotel room because Lupin won't answer and it's too late for him to be asleep. He isn't surprised to find the thief gagged and tied to the bed posts, mostly naked and looking distinctly put out. Jigen unties the gag and discovers it's a pair of panty hose.

"--Kyah, thank God you're here Jigen-chan! My wrists are starting to chafe! Ow, ow, I thought I might asphyxiate!"

"Did Fujiko take the statue?" Jigen asks, though he doesn't have to.

Lupin wiggles around on the mattress. He hums and haws. "Yes, but--" he finally says and Jigen stuffs the pantyhose back into his open mouth.

He comes back a few hours later after a nice breakfast and some bitterly strong coffee. Jigen puts the bag of his leftovers on Lupin's chest. "I didn't finish this. You can have it," Jigen says and cuts Lupin free.

Lupin pulls the gag, spitting and hissing like a cat. He kicks his feet, the blanket floating to the floor. "I don't want you left overs, jerk!"

He throws the bag at Jigen with such ferocity that his body follows it off the edge of the mattress. Lupin's limbs must be half asleep - he crashes to the tile and spends some time crawling on the floor and wiggling into his clothes.

Two months later they are drinking in a basement bar in Germany, squashed into the closet that constitutes for the backroom. Lupin is laughing so loudly Jigen is convinced they can hear him in the street, and for every fifth bark of manic laughter from his partner Jigen slaps the tabletop and chuckles. The glasses rattle. The serving girl shoots them a concerned look.

Lupin is drunk and he talks too loudly; he wants to go over the fine points of how brilliant they were and Jigen is too drunk to distract him, so by the time they stumble out everyone in the bar will likely remember them once the news of the robbery hits the airwaves in the morning. For now though, they go from the bar unmolested, save for Jigen who Lupin kisses repeatedly on the cheek in the stairwell to the hotel room. His breath his hot and sour from alcohol. They bump noses and Lupin laughs uproariously as Jigen puts him in a headlock and tries to steer him up the last flight of stairs.

"Alright, alright," Lupin says pitifully and wrestles away. Jigen drunkenly catches his wrist before Lupin can sway headlong into the door jam. Lupin steadies himself off Jigen's lapels and then a moment later throws both his arms around Jigen and hugs his neck clumsily. He slurs against Jigen's shoulder and later Jigen doesn't remember what he says, but it makes him laugh and makes his bones go soft so that when he tries to help Lupin into bed, Jigen just falls down with him and sleeps face down.

Jigen drinks to get rid of the hangover and Lupin sleeps most of it off, but still complains of a headache as they take off in the little puddle jumper jet. He cradles his head in his hands and pulls the window visor down; not long after they're in the sky he begs the stewardess for a blanket. Lupin pulls up his knees and uses the blanket to cover his head and lap like he's playing at camping. Jigen hears, muffled: "I'm going to die."

Jigen flips down the ashtray on the back of the seat in front of him. He lights a cigarette and kindly asks, "Do you want me to get you a gin and tonic?"

"I'll murder you!" Lupin swears from under the blanket first in Japanese, then Italian, then German and finally in English - just to be clear to Jigen and the entire plane. A few minutes later he pulls the blanket down to his chin and bums a cigarette off Jigen, having forgotten to buy a new pack at the airport.

"They're too expensive in flight," he murmurs, eyes closed and cheek tucked against his shoulder - as if they don't have ten thousand dollars stowed in six different bank accounts.

By the time they hit the tarmac at de Gaulle, Lupin has a number of hours, two glasses of water and a solid nap under his belt. The landing, which is rough, rouses him, and he peels himself off Jigen's shoulder. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and flips the visor up from the window. He is still groggy and absent as they cross the airstrip, though has recovered somewhat by the time Jigen finds them a little apartment lodging a few blocks from the Seine. There they stay for a few days of what Jigen considers idleness and Lupin considers lab work: Jigen sees him only sometimes at night or with his nose in a book; otherwise, he assumes Lupin to be at the library or wandering the parks or with some curly haired French girls.

Jigen counts ten false starts, two trysts and four successful dates, all of which Lupin lands in the first week. He doesn't know how many books Lupin reads; he forgets the titles and the covers, though he would recognize the women Lupin takes out from across the street (and does once - Lupin should be grateful for it, because they largely avoid an awkward encounter, only have to tolerate having a shoe thrown at their heads rather than the entire contents of the woman's purse and pockets).

"City life is exhausting!" Lupin swears, sitting near the window and blowing out smoke rings.

"If you didn't spend all your time chasing women, you might get some rest." Jigen hooks one ankle over the other, legs stretched the length of the couch. He tucks his arms back, propping his head up against his turned forearm. The cigarette bobs in his mouth and ash falls on his tie. He brushes it off absently.

Lupin gives him a look like he thinks something's wrong with him, fingers palsied near his face. "J-Jigen, don't be silly. Someone has to do it! If not me, who? Not you."

Jigen snorts and takes a long drag. He counts the seconds, holds his breath. One, two - and lets it out.

The first thing Jigen does when Lupin tells him they have a new job is check his watch to remind himself of the date. It has been almost a month since they left Germany and Jigen doesn't honestly know what he did with himself for all that time, except that suddenly he is glad it's over.

Lupin spreads the blueprints and copied documents out over the apartment floor, pushing together stacks of paper with his bare feet while he puts together a fake press badge with his hands.

"We'll go to the Gala tomorrow and see what we can get out of pretty Claire Prideux--" He trails off. After a few seconds of silence, Lupin giggles, and Jigen looks over.

He slaps Lupin's forehead with the back of his knuckles. "Stop daydreaming."

"--about her Lord father's private collection! Stop thinking the worst of me." Lupin rubs his forehead and wrinkles his nose as if he's offended, though Jigen has learned how the corners of Lupin's mouth twitch when he's trying not to smile.

They are not the only reporters at the Gala, though Jigen bets they are the only fake ones. It's easy to spot their would-be fellows, attempting to be dapper and good looking in cheap suits, leaning ears in doorways after gossip like vultures craning their necks toward carrion. Jigen touts a camera on his shoulder and Lupin a handheld recorder, which he shoves in the faces of a few guests, asks largely inane questions, and makes his way slowly toward the lovely Miss Prideux.

Unsurprisingly, she brushes them off. Lupin is tenacious even while Jigen wanders off to get a drink; he goes after her like a particularly stubborn terrier until finally she does something that makes him yelp and sends him scuttling back to the outskirts of the party from where Jigen was watching the chase.

"What was that?"

"She stomped on my foot! What a bitch!"

Lupin punches him in the arm when he unsuccessfully chokes down a laugh. "Jerk."

Jigen, hangdog and grinning, rubs his shoulder and skims the crowd from under the brim of his hat. His arm is getting tired from balancing the camera, shoulder aching from the weight of it. "Who’s that?" he asks with a jerk of his chin.

"Ara?" Lupin looks up. He stops futzing with the tape recorder long enough to look.

Across the ballroom, Claire Prideux is arm and arm with a young man. Jigen thinks boyfriend or fiancé at first, but then thinks perhaps they look too much alike. From even this distance, he can distinguish the similarly aquiline set of the man’s nose, how alike their hair color is. When Jigen looks back, he sees Lupin has stashed the handheld tape recorder and is flipping through his pocket notebook. He blocks it from anyone near them with the curve of his shoulder, makes a disgruntled noise and lightly taps his forehead with his palm.

"Idiot," he mutters to himself. Lupin flips the notebook closed. "I’d forgotten about her brother. Claude."

"Twins?" Jigen asks. He shifts the camera painfully on his shoulder. It feels like it’s digging through the skin, scraping against the bone.

Lupin shrugs and sniffs. "I didn’t look." Which is, Jigen has learned by now, is code for ‘I wasn’t interested enough,’ and more than likely ‘I was distracted by the pretty girl.’ Jigen scoffs.

"Don’t give me that look!" Lupin tucks the notebook away as he complains, straightens his tie and adjusts his glasses. They have left a soft red mark on the bridge of his small nose. "I’ll go see if Claaauddo is more friendly than his sister. You should take that camera and poke around."

They check their watches. "Forty minutes?" Jigen asks. Lupin nods, throws him a grin and an exaggerated thumbs up, then dives back into the crowd. Jigen watches him shoulder and elbow his way around the better dressed guests, though he doesn’t stay long enough to see if Lupin’s attempt to chat up Claude is more successful than his shot with the girl.

Instead, he makes his way out of the ballroom. The man at the door asks him where he’s off to - Jigen asks for directions to the bathroom and follows them until he’s out of the doorman’s sight. It doesn’t take more than a few erratic turns for the Gala’s orchestra music to be muffled, then die away completely. Jigen goes a little farther before he begins to try a few doors. When he finds one that’s unlocked, he pauses with the door just slightly cracked - waits to see if anyone who might be inside is going to notice. When nothing happens, he and the camera slither into the room.

It is dark, empty, and from the feel of the air Jigen thinks the room must be quite small. He feels around for a light switch but doesn’t find one, but he does bash his knees on the wooden arm of a very low couch. Swears and almost drops the camera.

"Damn it." He squints at his watch in the dark. Screw it, he thinks, and takes the camera off his shoulder. Jigen shoves it back between the couch and the wall and then feels his way back to door.

When he gets back out into the hallway everything seems ridiculously bright. Jigen checks for landmarks, notes a particularly hideous painting of a man in a powdered wig two doors to the left, and then takes off feeling light and irreverent. He glances at his watch. Twenty minutes out, ten minutes to get back here, pick up the camera, and meet Lupin back in the Gala ballroom - if he even needs that much time; Jigen doesn’t really know what he’s looking for, just that he’ll probably know when he sees it. Twenty minutes should be plenty.

At first Jigen pauses at every corner to listen for footsteps or talking, but after a few turns and a long flight of stairs up, he finds his hands migrating to his pockets and stops being so cautious as he ferrets his way into the older parts of the building. The hallways become narrower, the silence pressing in. His footsteps are muffled by the piled carpets and the creaking floorboards. There is a little window there at the end of the narrow hall and Jigen pauses there, hooks his elbow on the sill and smears some of the dust from the lower most panes with his sleeve. There’s a little overgrown garden there that he doesn’t recognize from the blueprints, though he thinks he knows the high perimeter wall from the long lens photos Lupin took that are still pinned to the wall in the apartment. If he’s right, that puts him on the south side of the estate, three floors up by the look of it. It wouldn’t be hard to come in this way, he thinks: shimmy up the wall and drop into the tangle of rosemary bushes at the base. It’s clear no one pays much attention to this end of things, and it’s probably safer to work their way through the park and the wood that stretches to the back of the land than to try moving in from the north end’s drive. Satisfied, Jigen checks his watch. He has five minutes before he really needs to go. He reaches up and unlocks the window, but doesn’t crack it.

"Who are you?" says a voice very near his ear.

Jigen jumps back, heart pounding, hand snaps out. The girl makes a sharp noise, half of a wail that cuts off when Jigen’s hand catches her sleeve, half pushing. Half pulling. He forces his other hand to stop fumbling at the waist of his pants, to stop reaching for the gun concealed there. "Sorry," he says and lets her go.

The girl is very young and very pale in the moonlight coming in through the window. She shrinks back from him, knees shaking, and it takes him a few seconds to realize that it isn’t because she’s scared but probably because of the braces on her legs. The girl rubs her nose and straightens her sleeve, supporting herself with a hand on the wall. "What are you doing here? Lock that window." Jigen does so automatically. "Now," she says, her little voice especially shrill in the silence of the far removed corner of the house, "help me back."

"Help you--?" Jigen struggles, his pounding heart and the buzz of adrenaline makes it hard to translate the French, harder still to speak it.

She regards him impatiently. "To my room, you idiot. You‘re not drunk, are you? I‘ll tell someone if you people are coming here drunk."

"I’m not drunk." Jigen irritably takes her arm, tolerates the way her weight goes from the wall to his side. For all her barking, she reminds him of a clinging wet kitten as they hobble down the hall to where one of the small narrow doors that Jigen passed earlier is still cracked. He pushes it open, pausing on the little landing just inside the door.

"Carry me down the stairs. I’m too tired," she complains.

"How did you before?"

"I walked." He can feel her bristle against him.

Jigen sniffs, "Not on those legs."

She bats at him weakly, no claws at all, and doesn’t stop talking even when he gives in and hauls her up off the ground. She’s heavier than she looks, and he isn’t used to carrying children. "You are rude and incompetent. How dare you. I’ll tell on you and then you’ll be fired. I don’t tolerate this kind of treatment. No, I don’t. I don’t." Her little spindle legs poke out into the air and Jigen can feel an edge of her leg brace catching on his sleeve as he staggers down the narrow staircase to bedroom proper, kicking a large stuffed elephant out of the way. "No, back to the bed!" she shouts at him when he goes to set her back down. Jigen growls and wobbles the rest of the way, dumping her onto the mattress. The girl yelps and glares at him.

"What was that?" she demands. "Where are you going?"

Jigen swings back. His head hurts. He should be walking back. "What?" he asks, tries to keep it short - as much to save time as to hide his terrible accent. If she thinks he’s supposed to be here, all the better.

"Pull the blankets back up," she says, pawing at the coverlet. "And hand me that dog."

He does so - pulls the blanket up to her chin, tucks it around her body only when she demands it, and then bends down to fetch the stuffed dog from the carpet. He pauses, fumbles with it.

"Give it here," she snaps, wiggling ineffectually in her cocoon.

The dog’s little collar is set with diamonds. Looking sideways to the pile of stuffed animals at the end of the bed, Jigen can feel the little hairs at the back of his neck prickle. There is a pony with a glinting bridle and a bear with big sapphire eyes. He shakes himself and tucks the dog into the blankets with her. She is very blonde and her nose is long and thin with a high bridge like her brother and sister’s.

"Shut the door neatly. And put that elephant back where you kicked it or I’ll get you in trouble," she threatens. Jigen wants to laugh at her little spitfire mouth and flashing eyes just visible over the heavy knit of the down comforter, but he doesn’t. Instead he asks, "Anything else?"

"I gave you a chance, but you’re not supposed to be here. No one’s allowed here except for Martha, so I know you’re in the wrong place. So don’t you come poking around. I won’t tell if you won’t."

Jigen thinks he isn’t quite understanding her, that he’s missing something by way of the gaping holes in his French vocabulary, but he agrees nonetheless and on the way out rights the elephant. "Light off?" he calls from the top of the stairs. The room has no windows and is oddly claustrophobic and looking down at the little lump of girl lost in the too-big bed gives him a strange sense of vertigo.

"No, you idiot!"

He lets himself out. The sound of the door as it closes is very soft, and he turns to go back - he is overdue to go fetch the camera. "Idiot," he says to himself, catching himself mid-stride and turning. He hastens back to the little window at the end of the hall and unlocks it again. He doesn’t have time to think about consequences or to balk at the idea that to steal Prideux’s private collection is to essentially steal from a little crippled girl; she’s spoiled and mouthy, so that helps, but mostly Jigen doesn’t think about semantics at all and instead lets himself gloat over how tonight he’s bettered Lupin on all counts. Turns counted and stairwells measured - he hardly registers the sound of the Gala until he turns down the hall he means to find, hunching along under the glow of success. The hideous painting is there, and two doors further he finds the room where he left the camera still unlocked.

Without thinking to be cautious Jigen opens the door and is startled first that the light is on, and second by the couple on the low couch. He isn’t long in the doorway, but it’s enough time to recognize Claude Prideux by his pale features and watery blue eyes, and its enough time to register Lupin who is on his knees between the young inbred’s legs and pointedly not scrambling to hide in the same way that Prideux is: grasping for a cushion to cover his spit slicked erection.

Jigen apologizes blindly and slams the door shut. For a few seconds he loiters just in the hallway and worries about the camera. It cost a fair amount of money and if it was found hidden there, there might be some trouble. Someone might ask around, connect that camera to the reporter and his one-man team at the Gala, connect that to the mysterious stranger the Baron’s little cripple daughter found - to the window - to everything. And then he stops counting, stops doing the math, finds himself still standing in the hallway without knowing how long it’s actually been since he slammed the door, and suddenly all he can think about is how Prideux and Lupin haven’t tried to leave yet, to wonder if Lupin is still on his knees.

He hides around the corner and crouches in the shadow of a bulky table and chair until Prideux passes back on the way to the Gala two minutes later, looking flustered and foolish, trying to straighten his sash and the pins on his military uniform’s shoulder. Jigen thinks that he could get up then, but he doesn’t until five minutes later when Lupin passes his hiding place and disappears toward the sound of the orchestra dying down. Jigen counts his breathing - one, two, three - and then hauls himself up and hurries back to the room. He fetches the camera from behind the couch without incident.

They don’t talk about it, though Lupin has a hickey high on his neck that has no possibility of being hidden under his shirt collars and his tie knot is sloppy. They don’t talk about it so diligently that Jigen begins to wonder if Lupin saw him at all - the thief was definitely occupied elsewhere. For the rest of the night, Lupin spends his time pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose and pointing out various guests to Jigen, who goes through the motions of filming B-roll for the television segment that doesn’t exist.

"There’s the man himself," Lupin declares and dives after Prideux and his very lovely, very young wife under the ruse of getting a sound clip or a quote, though to what actual end Jigen doesn’t have a goddamn clue. He juggles the camera awkwardly on his shoulder and films Lupin and the Baron, though the lens isn’t right and they are slightly out of focus. That mark on Lupin’s neck is very dark. Jigen lets himself look until Lupin turns and starts to come back. Jigen lowers the camera.


"More malleable than his children, anyway."

Jigen asks, in English because he is tired of speaking French and other foreign languages: "Lupin, can we go?"

Lupin looks at him askance and adjust his tie, his collar. Jigen doesn’t know if it’s an accident or on purpose, but he thinks Lupin presses his thumb against the mark on his neck. "I wanted to--"

"I know where it is. We can go," Jigen insists.

Lupin blinks at him, bristles and then settles. He makes a high pleased sound - Jigen can’t tell if it’s genuine - and says, "You’ve been busy!"

"So have you," Jigen wants to say, but he doesn’t want Lupin to misunderstand him so they just go. Standing on the step near the driveway, waiting for the valet to bring the Benz around, Jigen draws a little map in Lupins pocket notebook. He marks where he estimates the garden and the wall to be while Lupin smokes a strong smelling cigarette.

"How old was the girl?" Lupin asks him in the car.

"I don’t really know." Jigen futzes with the camera equipment in his lap, shifts. After trying and failing to find some more leg room, he hitches one foot up onto the dash of the car. Lupin says, "Whoa!" and Jigen gives him a look, dares him to protest further. He doesn’t.

"Just make a guess. An estimate."

"Eight or nine."

Lupin slaps his hands on the steering wheel and grins from ear to ear. "Ah ha! The Baroness Prideux died nine years ago. The collection was hers, you know. That dog must be feeling some remorse for his wife. You saw who he re-married. Hnn - not that I blame him." Lupin whistles - or tries, the night air snatches the sound away. After a moment he says, "Tuesday sounds just fine. That should give any guests leftover from tonight time to clear out and for this moonlight to go."

Jigen turns to look at him from under the brim of his hat. "You want to go through with it still? She’s just a little girl."

That garners a grin, wide and sharp, but not a look. Lupin steers the Benz one handed around a soft curve in the road. There are no streetlights here and no following cars by whose headlights there might be light to see by, but even with just the moonlight it’s still easy to make out the dark shapes of Lupin tugging at his collar with his spare hand; how he ostensibly rubs his cheek but mostly feels at his jaw. Jigen wonders if it’s sore and then doesn’t let himself think about it because Lupin is saying, "Diamonds don’t matter to children like that." Jigen wouldn’t know anything about that, but Lupin sounds like he might so he doesn’t press with questions.

Over the weekend, Lupin spends some time making a rudimentary plan which, he says, is loose so they can adapt. Jigen doesn’t see what needs adapting - potentially open window, a small bedroom far removed from the main part of the house with no one to guard it but a tiny cripple - but he leaves Lupin to it because it is simpler, easier, and because if he’s not contributing except for a word here or there it’s easier to smoke on the couch with his eyes closed instead of watching Lupin rove around the room, the dark mark of Prideux’s mouth on Lupins neck appearing and disappearing, appearing and disappearing under Lupin’s collar.

"Prideux doesn’t want the press to know about his little princess," Lupin is saying, more to himself than to Jigen. "Maybe he won’t risk calling in the police if it means exposing her."

"Maybe he will," Jigen offers pessimistically.

Lupin shrugs. "It doesn’t really matter."

They don’t go in through the window. They don’t even go through the back. Instead on Tuesday morning Lupin tosses him a cap. "Put that on."

Jigen turns it around and stares at the logo for a few seconds. "You’re ridiculous."

"Yes, yes!" Lupin claps his hands.

Jigen spends the morning waving three trucks through the goddamn front gate of the place and he doesn’t know whether to laugh or not because this is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous and he’s sweating under this ball cap and the jumpsuit is just as warm. When the last truck goes through, he catches the latch on the back door jumps up onto the bumper, rides it around to the back where Lupin is already waving the landscaping team through the little blue door to the garden. His arm swings in huge comical arcs as young men with wheelbarrows of sod pass him.

"Go go go, work hard!" he shouts, pumping his fists. "We’ll be right back!" He says something further in French, though Jigen doesn’t catch what; he thinks it might be a threat to the guy with the wheelbarrow, something about putting a sapling too close to the wall? But he doesn’t have time to figure out before Lupin grabs him by the arm, puts a hand against his lower back and chases him around the corner to the servant’s entrance where he charms his way in, gets them both a glass of iced peach tea and makes small talk with the kitchen staff, laughing and laughing at some joke the old cook tells.

"Five minutes," he tells Jigen in Japanese. In French he asks where the bathroom is and goes off in search of it. Jigen goes back out and brings one of the trucks around. He has just parked it when Lupin repels out of the third floor window and onto the garden wall, a large sack over one shoulder. Jigen doesn’t see him sprint along it, but he does hear the hard bang of Lupin jumping onto the roof. At the same time, Jigen sees the gamekeeper come around the corner of the house, looking put out and certain that something is wrong.

Jigen leans out the window to shout "Lupin--!" at the same time Lupin swings in through the open passenger side window. He swears when the sack catches in the window. "Drive, drive!" he shouts, struggling to pull it through the window and Jigen slams on the gas.

The truck squeals forward, tires ripping up the turf. The bag comes free with a tearing noise and Lupin launches across the cab into Jigen’s lap as the truck tears around the corner, blows through the low chain fence bordering the driveway and makes a mad dash for the gate. Jigen can see the gamekeeper in the side mirror running after them, shaking his fists over his head. Lupin crawls across his lap and leans out the window, waving and laughing and blocking Jigen’s view of the electric gate that is slowly crawling closed in front of them. Lupin blows a kiss just before Jigen shoves him down out of the way, drags him back into the cab as he floors the gas, gravel spitting.

It just squeezes through the gate, knocks off both side mirrors. Sparks fly. The truck nearly rolls as Jigen turns the steering wheel hand over hand, wrenching it onto the road. He overcorrects. They jump a ditch. Jigen can feel his teeth rattling in his head as the truck clatters along the rocky undergrowth. There is a moment of weightlessness - Lupin yells incoherently - as they take off from a low bank. When they land, the undercarriage groans and Jigen bangs his head on the ceiling and catches the steering wheel with his chest, but doesn’t feel the hurt until they are six miles away and the adrenaline has begun to fade.

"She’s a little spit fire!" Lupin laughs, opening the sack and pulling out a number of stuffed animals. He presses a dog and a cat to each side of his face and makes animal noises. Laughs again, delighted.

"Was she too upset?" Jigen asks. He’s grinning despite himself, still panting - and maybe that’s because his broken ribs, but he can’t tell yet so it’s still a little funny. He reaches out and scratches the underside of Lupin’s chin. The thief meows and kicks his leg like a dog.

"No - bark, bark -. It was a good trade."

"Trade?" There are still two landscaping trucks back at the estate, a legitimate crew who may, if not for the interruption of the grounds keeper, actually be putting that little garden under the window into order. Jigen doesn’t know who’s footing the bill for it, though he suspects it isn’t them.

"Like I said," -- Lupin is grinning like a cat, eyes half hooded and mouth stretched wide. Jigen can see a glint of his teeth, though Lupin’s tone is serious and flat. "Kids like that don’t want this kind of thing." He changes gears then, voice pitching as he asks the stuffed dog, "Isn’t that right, bark, bark?"

They meet Fujiko again in a little villa in the countryside far North of there, quite near the border. Jigen thinks she has a nose for Lupin, or maybe that she’s implanted a tracker under his skin - regardless, she has a knack for finding them. When Jigen wakes up late in the morning and goes out onto the veranda, he finds her and Lupin having a late breakfast. Lupin is showing her Prideux’s collection, not yet having unfastened them from the various plush faces and ornate pet collars. Lupin pauses briefly in his play, the large stuffed elephant with the sapphire studded headdress in his lap. He waves to Jigen and calls, "Good morning, dear!"

Fujiko, the white stuffed cat with the diamond collar in her lap, sips her mimosa and regards Jigen with a crooked brow and a coyly tucked chin. "You‘re looking worse for the wear."

It’s true that his chest aches from where he impacted with the steering wheel, that when he breathes his ribs all groan a little, but Jigen doesn’t feel like answering so he just perches on the veranda rail nearby and hook one ankle casually over the other. "It’s nothing," he says shortly, fetching his cigarettes and lighter.

"Lupin," Fujiko chides him, meanwhile stroking the stuffed cat fondly. "Are you running your gunman into the ground? When he wears out, let me know. Three’s a crowd for some things."

Jigen bristles, irritated by her tone and how his ribs are too stiff to really enjoy smoking. He growls a little, though the sound is smothered by Lupin’s loud scoff. "Jigen isn’t the sort to be run anywhere," he says loudly, stuffing a piece of fruit into his mouth. "Right, partner?" He throws Jigen a broad grin and under the table, hooks his toe on the edge of the third chair. He shoves it out. "Sit down, sit down. Having you lurk like that really ruins this nice day, huh?"

Usually he’d say no -- doesn’t want to sit anywhere near Fujiko Mine if he can help it. He doesn’t want her claws all over him, digging deep into his jacket like she does with Lupin, but-- But Jigen can’t say no to an invitation and besides, there’s something satisfying about Lupin rebuking her, mostly that it puts the woman out. He lowers himself into the chair and helps himself to a drink.

Whatever Lupin and Fujiko were talking about before he came out is quashed then as Lupin busies himself with sacrificing a side of his plate for Jigen, inviting him to a few remaining strips of bacon which Jigen helps himself to between drags from his cigarette. He asks, "To Antwerp?"

Lupin doesn’t have time to answer completely before Fujiko, waving away the smoke from Jigen’s cigarette, coughs a little and rises. "Lupin, do you want to go on a drive?" She has the cat tucked under her arm, though she’s holding it mostly by the diamond collar.

The table jumps as Lupin hits it with his knees in his haste to clamber out of his chair. It upsets Jigen’s drink and spills it over the plate. Jigen swears. "Ah, Jigen! We’ll talk about Antwerp when I’m back!" Lupin says, catching Fujiko by the waist. She elbows him, but deigns to take his arm instead.

"Lupin--" Jigen starts, grimaces. He begins to mop up the spill with a napkin.

"Eh?" Lupin uses the distraction to try and touch Fujiko’s hair. She deftly slaps his hand away.

Jigen has a feeling he won’t see the diamonds on that cat’s collar again, though he doesn’t say that. If Lupin wants to sacrifice part of his share to whatever Fujiko is, then that isn’t his problem. "Don’t be all damn day," he says.

"Lupin!" Fujiko tugs his sleeve. Lupin visibly struggles to divide his attention between them and fails spectacularly. He waves Jigen off, throws off a vague noise of acknowledgement his way, and then chases Fujiko from the veranda to where she has her little red sports car parked.

Sipping what’s left of Lupin’s mimosa - it’s too sweet, not enough alcohol -, Jigen watches the little convertible zip off down the lane. Lupin has his arm hanging over the passenger side door; Jigen doesn’t know why he lets her drive. She isn’t particularly good at it.

The car flickers between a stand of poplars and then disappears completely into the trough of a hill. It’s quite warm and Jigen can’t help but be irritable - he’s sweating through his shirt and the cigarette isn’t helping to distract him from how sore and tired he feels. With a grunt, he shoves his chair back and stands. He flicks the half smoked cigarette into Fujiko’s glass, lipstick smeared on the rim, and then snatches the overlarge elephant stuffed animal from the chair. He thinks about a nap, and stubbornly gets to it.

He’s woken some time later when Lupin returns on foot, only slightly peevish and mostly because of having to walk nearly five miles back from where Fujiko dumped him on the side of the road.

"We could take a train," Lupin suggests instead of listening to Jigen’s complaints.

Lupin shows some fondness for the over-sized elephant, but he is bored with the animals by the time they reach Antwerp and it is not long after that all of them have been thrown out and all the stones have been sold. Lupin buys a Cessna plane with the money before Jigen can think about splitting it properly. Jigen is irritated and snappish because of it and also because he feels like he should be even more irate - but he isn’t, and that’s frustrating. He grinds his teeth in the back seat, holding onto his hat and ignoring how his goggles fog as Lupin navigates the plane through Belgium airspace. Flying in a plane this size makes Jigen’s stomach lurch and drop uncomfortably. It’s freezing goddamn cold. His nose is running. By the time they land, the small plane bumping and hopping on the little private airstrip, Jigen thinks he might be appropriate levels of angry. He starts to clamber out of the plane, clumsy and noodle legged. He wants a stiff drink, something warm.

Lupin pulls off his hat and pushes his goggles up. He hasn’t gotten out of the plane, just hooks his elbow over. Jigen looks up and catches him looking, which motivates him to rewind his scarf more tightly around his neck, stuffing the loose ends down the front of his coat. "What?" Jigen demands. His hands and knuckles feel raw from the altitude, though down here on the ground he is rapidly becoming uncomfortably warm.

"Do you know anything about flying?" Lupin asks. It is a straightforward sort of question, the kind that Jigen feels like he rarely gets asked. Somehow, it just irritates him further.

"What? Do I look like I know a damn about flying?" What a stupid question. What did they need a plane for anyway?

Lupin asks, "Do you want to learn?" which sets Jigen back. He hesitates, begins to unwind his scarf - it’s too warm - and to unbutton his jacket. The plane seems incredibly delicate then. He allows himself to touch it, palm flat on the banana yellow siding just under Lupin’s elbow. Lupin’s fingers creep down, walking across the side of the plane to tap suggestively near Jigen’s hand. "It’s easy," he says, voice sing song and light. Jigen shoots him a look and finds that Lupin isn’t returning it; rather, that he’s looking off down the runway, pointedly not looking even.

Jigen scoffs and withdraws his hand. "I’m too old for that kind of thing."

Lupin slams his hand on the side of the plane. "Don’t give me that, you idiot!" He shouts, flailing around in the compartment. "You’re so stubborn and weak-willed!"

"You can’t be both of those! Learn to speak English!" Jigen bellows back without hesitation, punching the plane with a light heart.

Lupin makes an indignant noise, sharp and grating. "Just for that, now I’m forcing you to learn! As punishment! This plane cost me a lot of money! Ungrateful mobster!"

"Idiot! This plane cost me a lot of money too!" Jigen says, but he climbs up anyway as Lupin scrambles into the back, and he listens carefully when Lupin tells him how to taxi the plane up and down the little abandoned airstrip. He doesn’t fly until much later, but after an afternoon of running the plane up and down the tarmac Jigen has forgotten to be angry.

Mostly - as far as Lupin is concerned anyway - he finds it easy to forget things. To dismiss small slights, to go back on his own word when he says things like ‘I’m not coming with you this time.’ Lupin must know it, because he operates the same regardless of what Jigen says which, increasingly, seems to be working under an assumption that Jigen will be there to pull him out of the fire if it comes to that. It should be stressful, and maybe it is. Maybe it’s a little exacerbating to remind him again and again that Fujiko will burn them, or to suggest that maybe they do something a little less flamboyantly because sending out notices and hang gliding off roofs isn’t exactly the best way to stay out of federal prison. But mostly there’s something exhilarating about it and he’s a little glad that he can shout at Lupin, cuff him across the ear, and know the blows between them won’t come too hard because of it. So it’s easy to temporarily misplace things - which isn’t something he usually lets himself do -, like how Lupin is a jackass or how hard Jigen wants to strangle the ever living shit out of him when he lets Fujiko run off with the proceeds from their jobs, or like how Lupin is loud and obnoxious and asks him too many questions about his love life. It’s even easy to forget Prideux; Jigen doesn’t think about it. Not even when, in Thailand, Lupin puts on a blonde wig and expertly covers his sideburns with prosthetic skin, blending the seams onto his own face with a light hand.

He applies lipstick and eye shadow with a certain level of confidence that Jigen somehow isn’t really surprised by, though he thinks that maybe Lupin’s sense of taste with makeup might be a little on the side of ‘expensive prostitute.’ There’s nothing particularly strange about Lupin cross dressing, and nothing particularly compelling about the stuffed brassiere or the padding around his hips, though once Lupin pours himself into the tacky red dress and worms his way into the stockings and blonde wig, Jigen can’t help but be a little impressed.

"Help me with this," Lupin complains, pawing at the back zipper. He runs himself around in a circle, knocking the wig askew as he tries to reach the zipper.

Jigen sets aside the wire brush and the barrel of the magnum, halfway through cleaning, and turns around in the chair. "Do you have this problem with Fujiko?" he asks while doing up the zipper.

Lupin hisses, slaps his hand away. "Pervert!" He puts on the white heels and straightens his wig. He grins. "No, I’m much better at that. How do I look?"

"Like an ugly girl."

Lupin kicks the chair so hard it falls backwards. Jigen scrabbles at the edge of the table and it does hardly any good. "This is why you’re so unlucky with women!" Lupin huffs and clips on his earrings.

Which is exactly the kind of thing that should make Jigen ask questions, or at least mock Lupin, or at least think about it - but it isn’t. It’s never then, but instead it happens weeks later as they slide down a zip line from the mansion’s roof to the carriage house and Lupin sways, steps lithely along the spine of the roof like a cat while Jigen scrabbles at the roof tiles and steadies himself with his knees and hands, crouched quite low. Lupin is dressed in dark leggings, black turtle neck. There is nothing to suggestive about it, hardly any skin, but there is something about the pleasure of success coupled with the distinct curve of Lupin’s frame that suddenly catches low in Jigen’s chest and roots behind his ribcage.


Jigen pushes his hat down, thinks about asking ‘what’ or maybe apologizing, but then realizes he’s being stupid. He turns and cuts the line, then scrambles after Lupin. They slide down the gutter. Jigen boosts Lupin up over the garden wall, and Lupin helps him up - fingers clasped tight on his forearm as Lupin wrenches him up.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2015 05:19 pm (UTC)
I don't know if this comment will reach you since you aren't on LJ anymore (well, neither am I, but I logged in to comment), but since I can't find this story elsewhere, I'm going to comment here. I was randomly googling for something silly like "Lupin Jigen yaoi" or whatever and not expecting to find much. And I certainly didn't expect to find such an amazingly written and fantastically put together story.

The characterization, the insight and depth, the prose, the dialogue - everything here is perfect. Lots of times, I had to stop reading to digest the fact that some detail or line you wrote was just so right. So I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed reading this. I assume this is going to stay incomplete, but to be honest, I think it works well even without any continuation.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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