The Question

Leon flicked his waterlogged lighter in vain, trying to light a cigarette to take his mind off what he was about to do. “There is one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he said slowly, glancing at D from the corner of his eyes.

“Of course,” D smiled, that damned smile that always sent shivers down Leon’s spine. The wind off the sea played with his fine ebony locks and the afternoon sunshine glinted off the water that still clung to his skin, making him look rather like the mermaid they’d just encountered. “Of course, you do know that whatever I tell you, we’ll have forgotten it by the time we get back home.”

“Yeah, well,” Leon leaned back against the railing and looked away from the haunting beauty he was addressing, “I’m not entirely sure I want to know the answer.”

The count instantaneously joined Leon at the railing, leaning in so close that the detective could feel warm breath on the back of his neck. “Then whatever are you asking for?” he inquired coyly.

A quick glance showed Leon that D’s eyes were absolutely sparkling with hidden amusement. At least someone was getting a laugh out of the awkward situation. “I figure that if I don’t like the answer, then I’ll forget it. And if I like it, well,” Leon blushed and cursed his capillaries, “at least I’ll have known it for a little while, right?”

D smiled. “Excellent logic, my dear detective.”

“Why do you keep me around?” Leon blurted out, turning to face the count as he did so. Perhaps it was not the most articulate way to express his query, but he got his point across and that’s really all that matters.

Or, perhaps he hadn’t, for Count D looked very puzzled. “Keep you around? Why, my dear detective, I believe that more often than not it is YOU who shows up at the shop, it is not I who invites you.”

“Yeah, but do you ever kick me out?” Leon countered. “Tell me to get lost, go away? Put up any kind of fight? No! I’m trying to get you arrested—”

“Which you hardly ever mention any longer,” D pointed out.

“Yes, well, that doesn’t change the fact. And all you do is invite me in for tea! You look after my brother nearly every day, and you visit me at work when I’m having a bad time, and… and…” Leon took a drag on his cigarette and combed his fingers through his hair in frustration. “I just want to know why.”

Count D was silent for a few minutes. He turned away from Leon, staring out at the water, and Leon soon wondered whether or not the count was even going to answer him. Then, the slender Chinese man hung his head and answered quite simply, “I do not know.”

Leon sighed and rested his own arms on the railing beside D’s. “I thought you’d say that.”

“You confuse me, Leon.” The detective looked over at D. The other man’s face was more open and honest than Leon had even seen it, and when the count met his gaze his eyes looked clouded and troubled. “I do not understand humans or their ways, and I’ve never wished to before now. You’re different, my dear detective, and I keep you around because I want to find out more about this… feeling, I have for you.”

Leon nodded. “You’re not human, then?” It was really more of a statement than a question, and the detective’s tone implied that he’d drawn that conclusion some time before.

“No, I’m not.” D laughed a little. “I’m not entirely sure what you’d call me.”

There was silence again for a few minutes, save for the sound of waves lapping against the side of the boat. And then Leon leaned over and kissed D.

The kiss was not hard or fast, nor was it particularly sweet and soft and languid. It was just a kiss, and it was every bit as disturbing, every bit as embarrassing, and, Lord, every bit as wonderful as Leon could have imagined. Then they broke apart.

D leaned on the detective and chuckled, low and sensual. “You’ll forget this in a few hours, you know,” he whispered.

“I know.” Leon laughed as well, he was so relieved. “As though I’d ever have the courage to do that if I thought either of us would remember it.”

“You’ll never be able to do it again, will you?”

A pause. “No.”

“I think I might love you, my dear detective.”

“Yeah, same here. I’m still going to throw you in jail, though.”

They remained like that, leaning on the railing and each other while gazing at the ocean, until the sun set and the past week became an impenetrable haze of amnesia.

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