[personal profile] clearandstrong
Title: Pandemonium
Author: [livejournal.com profile] clearandstrong
Fandom: Bleach
Rating: Pg-13
Warning: None
Word Count: 15,025
Summary: When something starts tormenting the city of Paris, some of Gotei’s best operatives move into town to solve the case. However, nothing is as simple as it seems and they will have to work together to discover what is hiding among the rubble of the once prominent city. That is if they can stop arguing with each other long enough to solve the case.
Disclaimer/Notes: Recognizable characters are not mine, but Kubo Tite's.

Written for the [livejournal.com profile] au_bigbang

Beautiful banners created by [livejournal.com profile] ravens_rising.
#1 #2 and #3.




Nanao Ise was waiting for her contact. She adjusted her grip on her umbrella with a grim sort of determination and stared through the rain. He was late and the chances of her getting out of this without getting wet were getting slim. She glanced at the clock hanging on the peeling wall and managed some sort of a smile for the ticket attendant who had been watching her for the last ten minutes. She had been traveling for fifteen hours. The least he could have done was show up on time.

She glanced at the road again. All right, he had a penchant for running late; she just hadn’t realized that it would be this late or she would have left more things out of her suitcase. Pepper spray at the very least would have been more beneficial to her than any of the other odd things she carried on her. Which was why she had taken the train; anything that Shunsui Kyouraku deemed important enough for her to hop a train in the middle of the night required a lot of equipment. The airports that were left tended to get a little anxious about pepper spray.

“Nanao.”

Nanao started slightly at the voice behind her and adjusted her grip on her umbrella for good measure. “You’re late,” she said as she turned to face him. Trust him to keep her waiting in the rain.

Shunsui Kyouraku tipped his straw hat in her direction. “Forgot my umbrella.”

She glanced at the downpour and sighed. Right. He forgot his umbrella. “Bad weather for that.”

She hooked her hand on the handle of her suitcase and lead him out of station.

“Been raining for the last week.” He tipped his hat so he could glance in her direction. “Perhaps you should let me pull your bag.”

She shot him an exasperated look. “I would rather not lose it.”

He flashed her a smile. “That only happened once.”

She shook her head. “I’ve got it."

“Hungry?”

“Yes,” she agreed. She had never been fond of train food.

This way then,” he motioned her after him.

Nanao sighed and trudged after him. After the travel she had just endured, this had better be a decent restaurant and not one of the side bars that he tended to hang out in.

It took them a good ten minutes of trudging through the rain and the weather to reach the restaurant that he had picked out for them and she was half frozen by the time they got there. She glanced over her shoulder before blowing on her hands and rubbing them together briskly. She had never really learned to like the rain.

Nanao glanced out the window that they were settled against and sighed. It had been beautiful here once. She wasn’t old enough to remember what Paris had looked like before the Great War had destroyed most of it, but enough of its architecture remained that she could see what it had been once. She wrapped her hands around the cup of tea the server had brought them for a little more warmth. There was a fire in the grate next to them, but the wind had left her feeling brittle. The train she had ridden into town was still the most reliable form of transportation in and out of the city, but it had been a cold fifteen hour journey. Before that, it had been a harrowing, turbulent flight across the ocean on one of the few planes that were still flying. All together, she had been traveling for a week or so to get here and now that she was here, she wanted a hot shower and at least a few hours of sleep.

As she was a few hours away from either, she would settle for a hot meal. Real food would go a long way into making her feel human again.

"The rain should end in a few hours or so. I believe that we might even be in for some sunshine."

Nanao glanced over at Shunsui and quirked a brow in his direction. "You would know."

"So would you," he flashed a smile at her and Nanao sighed, glancing back at her cup. The bowl of soup that was settled in front allowed her to think about how she wanted to answer that

"Sunshine would be nice," she said instead. She wasn't prepared for anything more in depth than a simple conversation about the weather. Not after a fifteen hour train ride.

"How is your soup?"

"It's good," surprisingly so, considering the nature of the little hole in the wall cafe's he preferred to frequent. She was fairly certain that the tomatoes floating in her bowl were actual tomatoes and not the synthetic sort that you found laundering around in the few markets and chain stores that had managed to survive. She glanced at the kitchen, re-evaluating the little café. Maybe she would try something a little more daring than soup next time. She glanced at his sandwich and accompanying fries. He clearly had eaten here before.

"I thought that you might like it." She glanced up, startled and furrowed her brow in his direction. "I have to keep my little Nanao-chan, happy after all."

Nanao sighed. "What was important enough that I had to leave Momo in India?" They had been tracking a serial killer who had a predilection for knives and blood and she had not been comfortable leaving her.

Momo was good at her job, but she had the knack for dropping herself right into the middle of whatever it was they were looking for. She was equally good at keeping her hide intact however, she didn't always manage to come out of it whole and with her partner. With a Pre-Cog and a - Geographic Profiling Specialists, otherwise known as GPS’s - working the case they had at least both had a chance at keeping their necks above water. Even so, there was a reason Momo worked on her own more often than not. She liked people and over all she did better in group situations where she could draw support from multiple sources, she just hadn't quite found someone she was comfortable patterning with for the sort of missions that they gave to stronger GPS's. One that she didn’t have to worry about keeping intact anyway.

"I made sure she got good back up, Nanao." He quirked a brow up at her. "I was under the impression you were close to closing the case as it was."

"We were, which was why I hesitated to leave her." She took a bite of the salad that had accompanied her soup to give her a moment to collect her thoughts. Shunsui had the ability to direct the conversation where he wanted it when she was awake, she needed to focus. "But that didn't answer my question."

"I would have thought that you would be more interested in who I sent out to assist Momo." He popped a fry in his mouth. “She is turning into your protégé, after all.”

Nanao narrowed her eyes at him. "Someone who knows how to duck, I would presume."

"You were the one responsible for his field training." Another smile, this one had her averting her eyes to the ridiculous hat that he seemed to enjoy wearing for no other reason than she hated it. Still, she had only worked with a handful of Gotei operatives when they were being trained. She didn’t have the patience for babysitting and most trainees needed their hands held while they learned how to do their jobs. "You sent Toushirou to India?"

“He has mastered the art of ducking.” Shunsui settled back in his chair and tipped his hat at her.

“As Rangiku hasn’t managed to scare him out of the buisness yet, they should manage not to get each other killed.”

Nanao stared at him, frowning. It could… theoretically work. “If she doesn’t get him killed.” He was looking at Momo as a partner for Toushirou? The last time those two had worked together;
Momo had managed to give him food poisoning and gutted herself. The time before that that they had been kidnapped by what resembled trolls and she still hadn’t gotten the details from Momo about how they had gotten away from the trolls. She stabbed her fork into her lettuce.

“That still doesn’t tell me why you asked me to come.” What had been important enough that he had dragged her hallway across the country? “If this is one of your matchmaking schemes,” she let the threat hang. Sometimes with Shunsui it was better to let him come up with the consequences.

He reached for his tea. “There is something in Paris.”

“Kyouraku,” She pointed her fork in his direction. “There is always something in Paris.”

It was the reason Gotei kept trying to get some sort of base of operations in this city. The local government was suspicious of anyone who claimed to be able to remove the creatures that continually plagued them. Paris - as well as a few parts of Japan, Germany, and the United States - was considered a hot spot. Most had been abandoned decades ago, but some of them, like Paris, still remained.

“Ah,” he agreed. “But this is something that hasn’t shown up in any of the other hot spots.” He leaned forward, resting his cheek on the back of his hand. “And it has successfully eluded detection for months.”

Nanao pursed her lips, glancing back the window to mull that over. Hot spots had been created by the mixture of biological and nuclear warfare that had ravaged the world during the Great War. Specifically, hot spots had sprung up when scientiests had originally begun finding more people with mutated genes than the average in specific areas. Now, they were three generations past the war and those families had had children and their children were having children. Instead of fading away, as the scientists and other experts had declared they would, families who had been changed had grown stronger, began developing their skills further, and slowly infiltrated society. It had worked at first, but then one or two had not quite fit into the box that society and their parents had set them in and things had exploded, violently.

It had been the public outrage at the continual existence of the gene in the general population that forced the survivors to find a way to survive behind the scenes. Gotei had been put together somewhere in the middle of all the chaos and with all the odds against it, it was slowly building something that was doing more good than harm. At first they had only been concerned with finding those who were slipping through the government’s nets and either helping them settle into society or hiding them away from sight. That mission had been changing for the last fifty years or so and their over all scope of operations had expanded. Now they worked to help find people who needed their help and hunting the people with the gene who had gone insane. There were other things slowly creeping out of the shadows as well. Humans were not the only things that had been changed. Shunsui, she knew, hunted those things. So did she and several other members of Gotei. Those whose talents were more… suited to such things.

“How are you tracking it then?” She tilted her head in his direction. “Wouldn’t you rather have a GPS here?”

“Toushirou and Momo will join us once they have removed the serial killer out of India.” He motioned towards the table. "Hopefully they will finish their work in the next week or so and be here by the end of the month."

Nanao grimanced a little. Momo hated flying, taking that little plane across the ocean was going to make her green and irritable by the time they got here. That would not help her focus on finding whatever it was they were hunting.

“Do you have any leads?”

Shunsui shook his head, leaning back. “A few things here and there.”

Nanao sipped on her tea and managed not to grimace at the aftertaste. It was bitter. “What consists of here and there?”

“Anomalies, for the most part, things that don’t quite add up.”

Nanao nodded. Shunsui never picked the easy cases; mostly he relied on his gut and other mysterious methods that she hadn’t quite put her finger on yet, to sniff out the things that most everyone else missed. He was good at it and she was inclined to believe him. “So it hides well.”

“Very well,” he agreed. “Well enough that it has avoided detection for years, if not longer than that.”

“Any disappearances? Unexplained natural disasters?”

Shunsui flashed a smile. “Nothing that couldn’t be explained, but I haven’t dug through all the potential paperwork yet.”

“Left that for me did you?” She was good at paperwork and the paper trails that they contained. It didn’t mean however, that she was going to volunteer to do all of it.

Shunsui smiled at her. “You do enjoy the paperwork,” he tapped his fingers against the table. “Although, I have been putting notes together. I wouldn’t make you do all the work.”

“Just most of it,” she eyed her tea. She was not drinking that. Perhaps she could convince Shunsui to stop somewhere that sold something resembling actual tea so she could pick something up for the hotel. If she was going to be going through his notes, she was going to need all the caffeine she could get her hands on.

As it was, she was not drinking any more tea in the city if this was the general conclusion on what tea tasted like in Paris.

“There are other things we could do,” he tipped his hat back and waggled his eyebrows at her.

She sighed, swallowing the blush that wanted to creep up her chest. “No,” she stabbed a tomato on her plate and he sighed dramatically.

“You wound me.”

“I’m sure,” she agreed, staring at him. She pushed to her feet. “Although, if you have time to think about that, you have to have finished eating, let’s go.” She wanted a shower.

“Of course, of course.”

Get some rest while she could.

* * *


"Have you considered the fact that the reason it has avoided detection is because it does not exist?" Shunsui glanced up from his book, fingers reaching up to tilt his hat back while he blinked at her. She gritted her teeth.

Shunsui smiled in her direction, “Preposterous."

Nanao slammed the book she was reading closed and leaned back in her seat, arms crossing defensively. "There is no evidence. Nothing. Notta. Zip." There was so much nothing in fact, she was inclined to believe that there had to be something. Towns were not this clean, not normal every day towns and certainly not hot spots.

"There was that mysterious death down the lane." He reminded her, lips twitching. It had almost looked like a lead. She had been grumpy about that dead end too.

"The body spontaneously combusted from what was most likely some sort of fire sprite. Or perhaps as the police think he doused himself in kerosene and then smoked a cigarette. A suicidal wish if I have ever heard one."

"The man downstairs disappeared from his room." Shunsui pointed out. “That was suspicious.”

"And then he suspiciously returned a few hours later smelling of gin and cheap perfume." She quirked an eyebrow at him; fingers tapping against the spine of the book in front of her. They had been working on this case for a month and there had been nothing. No sign of anyone being possessed, no sign of someone losing their mind. There was just nothing.

Shunsui sighed and reached across the table catching her hand. She tugged and his eyes crinkled at her in amusement. Patient amusement. She hated that too.

"Now, now Nanao-chan. The creature is stealthy, crafty, and perhaps a little insane, to avoid being caught for so long. It is not a reflection upon your detective skills that it has avoided you for the last month."

Nanao reached over with her other hand and firmly tapped him on the wrist. "Or perhaps, it simply does not exist." She was fairly certain he wasn't losing his mind. It wasn't his style to bring people in to hunt a phantom anything so he had to have something. They didn’t hunt rumors. They worked with facts which meant that she could be fairly certain that he hadn’t had any sort of psychotic break in the last six months. So he wasn't insane. He had just set them on a case where they were hunting nothing. There had to be something out there, somewhere. As it was, they were long overdue for their discussion about what exactly had happened to make him think something, that didn’t seem to exist, actually existed.

Then again, she might have entirely to much faith in him.

"It is out there Nanao."

She frowned back at him. "What evidence are you basing that one?" She tapped the papers in front of her. “Because I can’t find it, not in the papers, not among the people, and certainly not in that cheap bar you dragged me to for ‘observational’ purposes.”

His fingers squeezed hers before he let go and leaned back in his chair, tipping his hat forward to cover his eyes. “It’s not going to be easy to find.”

“I have discerned that,” she waved her hand back over the table full of materials that they had gathered over the last couple of weeks. “Since we have been combing through every recorded piece of information this city has ever created. There hasn’t so much as been a blip.” She closed her eyes and started working through their options. Patterns were not normally this difficult to unearth. Murderers, psychopaths, they all left something of themselves behind. Sometimes, she could take that something and see the future patters. Now and again she saw more than that.

On the other hand, if Momo was here she could have taken something with a strong tie to whatever they were hunting and use it to track the thing. At the very least, she could have told them if the man with the gin and perfume had actually been in any sort of danger.

"I have seen it."

Nanao opened her eyes. "You saw it?"

"Yes."

She reached up and took her glasses off so that she could pinch the bridge of her nose.

"Shunsui." The man was being intentionally infuriating. “Why didn’t you say something before this?”

"It moved differently than a normal human," he leaned back in his chair, fingers tapping against the pages of his book and completely ignored her question. "Which fits if it has any sort of developed gene mutation,” he glanced past her and at the window behind her shoulder. It had crept through the rain, almost inhuman in how it had been untouched by the downpour. “The rain was sliding off of it, like it wasn’t there." His glanced back at her. "I don't know what it was doing, but it walked right past me, took a turn down the alley and disappeared." It hadn’t paid attention to him, because like the other people walking down the street next to it, he wasn’t supposed to see it. “The next day a little lady had screamed that her son was missing, the police had chalked it up to a runaway.”

A runaway that had not made the paper, but the woman’s son’s room had had backed up to that alleyway. Shunsui glanced at the window again, eyes narrowed. Whatever it was, it had taken the boy.

"Disappeared?"

"Like a pissed off wind sprite, who got salt in the face." He smiled. "Expect it wasn't a wind sprite."

Nanao’s fingers paused in their tapping motion. “How many wind sprites have you pissed off exactly?”

Shunsui smiled at her. “It is amazing how many misunderstandings a good pint of sake can produce.” He paused, “or fix.”

Nanao narrowed her eyes at him and was in the process of curling her fingers around the book in front of her when the door to the little hotel room they were staying in opened. She glanced behind her and blinked at a rumpled Toushirou and a backpack carrying Momo behind him.

“We are here.” Momo said, dropping her pack. “I hope you have food.” She paused. “And hot water.”

Toushirou moved to the small couch and sat his bag down before collapsing into it. “Or just water.”

“There is running hot water here.” Shunsui closed his book and pushed to his feet. “Although, it works best when there are two -“

“Not happening.” Momo glanced at Nanao who nodded and motioned to the bathroom. They were in her room and Momo was welcome to the shower. Momo scooped her bag back up and moved towards the bathroom. “Toushirou can tell you what happened.” She shut the door behind her and Toushirou sighed, closing his eyes.

“Bad flight?” Shunsui guessed, glancing at the door one eyebrow quirked upwards.

Toushirou glanced up. “The train broke down twice. Then they ran out of food.” He waved his hand. “Took us three days to get here.”

“Ah. We will feed her after she showers then.” He glanced at the door. “She is always a happier after you feed her.”

Toushirou quirked an eyebrow in his direction. “If you say so.”

“How did the case end?” Nanao grabbed a bottle of water out of the mini fridge and set it on the table next to him.

“Well enough,” Toushirou tilted his head back to rest on the edge of the couch. “Mean sucker, had two kids with him when we caught up with him. They’re fine or as fine as they will be given the circumstances.” Children were resilient and had as good a chance of anyone at recovering, if they got the right sort of help. He sighed. Although, with Momo’s report they should get what they needed, the woman had a way of chewing right through police arguments when they unconvinced her.

Probably something she learned from Shunsui. They both had a knack for talking people into things, although he didn’t think that Shunsui used quite the same tactics. He didn’t have the eyes for it.

Nanao nodded. “Is Momo all right?”

“Yes.” She was as fine as she was going to be to anyway. She hadn’t thrown up or had nightmares on the train ride in, so he was taking it as a good sign.

Nanao nodded. Toushirou would tell her - she hoped he would anyway - if Momo had gotten herself in over her head. Maybe.

“My room is next door,” Shunsui said, “if you want to grab a shower.”

Toushirou shook his head. “Would rather eat something first.”

“Where are we eating?”Momo opened the door and dropped her towel on the chair next to the bathroom. She was starving. The train food had sucked before they ran out yesterday and even with all the food she had packed for snacks her supply had run out fast. She blamed Toushirou for his lack of snack foresight.

“There is a little cafe just down the street,” Nanao pushed to her feet and grabbed her purse. “We can catch up there.” It had enough variety that they could all find something to eat and enough privacy that they could talk without having to worry about being overheard by half the city.

The fact that it was Shunsui’s preferred food establishment would make sure he behaved.

Momo nodded and grabbed a hair tie from her bag. “Sounds good, I am starving.” She shot Nanao a glance. “I am taking the boat wherever we go next. That train is a death trap waiting to happen.”

“Nanao liked it well enough,” Shunsui pointed out, buttoning his coat.

Momo blinked at him and then glanced at Nanao. “Right.”

Toushirou pulled a file from his bag before standing. “Ichigo said you wanted this,” he dropped it on the table. “You might look at it later.”

“Ah, Ukitake had said he had him working on a few things.”

Toushirou shrugged. "Rukia dropped it on off on her way through. She didn't offer any specifics."

Shunsui glanced at Momo and shut the door behind him. "She offer up any specifics to you?"

Momo shook her head. "Nothing relating to invisible men." She shrugged. She and Rukia had worked a few cases together, but Rukia hadn't been working with Ichigo long enough to tell her anything of interest and she had never met the man.

"Invisible men?"

Momo glanced at Shunsui. "Ichigo's report," she reminded him. "You should read it."

“And I will,” he agreed. “After we eat, although you could paraphrase it for us.”

“Food first.” Momo pushed forward to stairway, ignoring the elevator. Nanao shot Toushirou a questioning look and he shrugged, following Momo down the stairs. Shunsui held open the door and motioned Nanao through.

“Something wrong the elevator Momo?” Nanao questioned. She hadn’t had a problem with the elevator before she had left her in Paris. Although, if they had walked up seven flights of stairs to get to their room, that would explain why Toushirou had looked happy to just sit down.

“They fall down.”

Then again, they might need to get rooms a little closer to the ground floor.

* * *


Momo and Toushirou were determined to not look at each other and Nanao couldn’t decide if they were mad or embarrassed. Things were tense and a quick glance at Shunsui promised that he was enjoying the show. The food had been delivered and mostly eaten over the last half hour and while hearing about the train ride down had been somewhat interesting, they hadn’t really come here to talk about their travel.

Still, it was a nice restaurant that Shunsui had dropped them in this time. They had real tea, which was probably more for Toushirou’s benefit than anyone else’s since he had already gone through two pots of the stuff. Nanao poured herself another cup and ignored Shunsui’s amused glance. She was just beating the kid to it, otherwise she wasn’t getting any. Momo had water to accompany her tea and Shunsui had ordered some fruity thing from the bar. The fact that he had a large fuzzy pink drink in front of him should have been more amusing that it was. Momo at least, didn’t look quite as grumpy as she had before they settled in.

“So what happened?” She might as well start things off, since Shunsui seemed determined to sit back and let them fidget. She was not that patient.

Momo blinked at her a little and sighed when Toushirou just… stared at Shunsui. “We tagged and bagged him.” She wilted a little at Nanao’s continued stare. “He… protested a bit,” she admitted, glancing down at her tea cup. He had protested a lot, but going into too much detail would get her lectured by Shunsui and she wasn’t certain that she wanted to deal with that lecture right now. Not when Toushirou had given her the same lecture on the way down here. Twice.

“If by protested,” Toushirou clipped, fingers tapping against the smooth wood of their table for a moment before stilling, “You mean, he tried he gut you so he could partake of your intestines, then yes. He protested.”

Momo winced and stared at her tea little harder while Nanao glanced over at Toushirou and blinked. “He what”? Ew.

“He missed.”Momo’s shoulders hunched over and she fumbled with her cup for a moment, before her fingers managed to successfully curl around the porcelain.

Toushirou quirked an eyebrow in her direction, lips turning down at the edges. “He had bad aim.”

“I ducked.” Momo sat back in her chair and crossed her arms, pressing her lips together for a moment. “With great skill even.” She wasn’t going to fidget. Fidgeting meant that you were guilty of something and she was guilty of nothing. Except, perhaps, of not ducking quite as fast as she should have.

The eyebrow shifted upwards another notch. “If by ducked with great skill you mean screaming and flailing, sure.”

Momo narrowed her eyes. “Why you…”

“Children,” Shunsui stepped in, tapping a finger against the table. “Perhaps you could evaluate each other’s ducking skills at a later time.”

Momo stared at him before hunching over again and taking a sip of her tea. “He was some sort of… transmuter,” she shrugged, glancing up at the delicately wrought lamp hanging just above their table. “Somewhere along the way the lines grayed and the idea of changing things consumed him. He thought that children were gifts of the gods to be eaten and changed into their future forms, he was… all hard edges and…” she paused, eyes un-focusing for a moment.

“Slimy.” She curled her fingers around her cup. “But once we knew what he was doing, it was easy enough to track him down.”

Nanao glanced at Toushirou who was watching Momo and her eyes narrowed briefly. She looked worn. She needed more of a rest than she had given herself after that case, she glanced at Shunsui. He wasn’t blind. She glanced back at Toushirou. He looked annoyed, but not angry so maybe he knew Momo well enough now to catch the signs as well.

“Slimy?”

“Yes,” Toushirou interjected. “Although to be fair, Momo didn’t have to look for him often, once we had his trail. He wasn’t trying to hide.” He snorted. “The police could have located him themselves if they had spent a few moments looking for him instead of arguing whose jurisdiction he was under.”

Momo nodded. “The screams should have given it away,” she admitted. “They were a half assed police force.” Anyone could have heard those screams. She still heard them when she slept.

Shunsui leaned forward. “Screams?”

Momo made a face. “He wasn’t being secretive at all; the children were kept in an old hotel with no windows. That is how we found them actually, the screams.” She glanced down into her tea again. The children had screamed themselves hoarse, begging for someone anyone to come save them. The bastard had let them to, gave them a false sense of hope and then… butchered anyone who came in to investigate.

If Toushirou hadn’t been quite so fast with those little knives of his, well they might have ended up in the same situation. At least they were not stuck in cages being poked and prodded to find the juiciest bits.

“It wasn’t pretty,” she murmured. “And the children that we rescued will need intense therapy in order to recover, but the psychiatrists were hopeful.”If they stopped waking up screaming in the middle of the night in a few years, it would be a miracle. She turned her attention back to Shunsui.

“What did you need us to do here?” If they kept talking about this she would go mad. Momo clasped her hands on her lap underneath the table.

Nanao sat her tea cup on her saucer and glanced over at Toushirou. She would need to talk to Momo later, make sure the girl was all right. NPC’s couldn’t train for the sort of emotional stress they would undergo in those situations.Toushirou might not have been the best choice to send along with her. He cared he was just… gruff.

“Were hunting invisible men.” She told her dryly, “that might not exist.”

“Nanao!” Shunsui chided, tipping his hat in her direction. “They exist.”

“I have found no logical proof that anything exists outside of your explanation, which was lacking in detail. Other than ‘it moved through the rain’ you have absolutely nothing that points towards an invisible being stalking the inhabitants of Paris.” She glanced back at Momo. “It rains a lot to.”

Momo made a face. “Great.”

“There is nothing wrong with the rain,” Toushirou sat back and crossed his arms. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. He liked the rain.

Momo turned her head and blinked at him. “I knew it.”

Toushirou blinked at her slowly. “Knew what?”

She pointed at him. “You would like the rain.”

”A significant portion of the world does, Momo.” Shunsui smiled at her. “In fact, I do believe that most of them reside within Paris.”

Momo rolled her eyes. “Are they all unreasonably grumpy?”

“I am not unreasonably grumpy.” He was not unreasonably grumpy. She was unreasonably moody. It just brought out the grumpy.

Momo snorted. “Yes you are! Birds make you grumpy. Sunshine makes you grumpy, I bet babies and tiny puppies make you grumpy too.”

“Children,” Shunsui wondered if they had any idea how they sounded. Probably not. “Back to the case.” He flashed them a brilliant smile. “Unless of course, there is something you want to tell me.”

Momo made a face at him. “No.”

“There is nothing in any of the papers,” Nanao reached up and started ticking off fingers. If that kept up they wouldn’t ever talk about the case. “In the news, on the radio, or being talked about in the pubs.” She dropped her hand. “There have been a few disappearances, but nothing out of the ordinary or anything that would result in an investigation. If anything, Paris is to clean.” Hot spots were normally bothered by other things, dark things. Things that made more of a commotion when they came to town.

Toushirou pushed one of his fries into his ketchup. “Paris isn’t normally that quiet.”

“It is something of a mystery,” Shunsui agreed. Initially, it was one of the things that had caught his attention. Paris itself was always under attack by something. This quiet was unnatural and all the possibilities floating around the city itself gave him a migraine if he looked at them to closely.

He hoped that between them Nanao or Momo might catch a glimpse of something. Nanao hadn’t caught anything yet, but he hadn’t put her in the way of anything that might trigger her sight either. Toushirou would provide additional backup. Back up he was somewhat afraid they might need. The kid was good at killing a lot of things quickly or from great distances. So long as he had line of sight, he could hit it.

At the very least he could keep an eye on Momo, leaving him to watch over Nanao. He glanced over at Nanao and tipped his hat a bit. She looked lovely with the old fashioned restaurant as a backdrop. The light however was to harsh. Candlelight suited her, softened her edges.

“You saw it though?” Momo pitched in. She waved her hand. “Actually saw something anyway?”

Shunsui glanced back at Momo. “Yes, it disappeared.”

Momo nodded. She wouldn’t lose it in the rain, not if they could find it again. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the table. “So we don’t have any leads because you lost track of it and it’s invisible.”

“I did not lose it.”

“So you let the thing that we are looking for, that we don’t have any leads on, and sometimes turns invisible, get away?” Momo stared at him.

“No.”

Nanao waved her hand. “We need you to see if you can track him Momo. All we have is a location,” this would go on for hours if she let it. “So we will have to start there.”

Momo nodded. “If it has been a while I might not get anything,” she warned. “Especially if it is a high traffic area, the residue will have worn off by now.” It only took a few days for something to disappear completely, sometimes hours if there were enough people moving through the area, and Shunsui had been in Paris a long time. She would either find something at this point which would be alarming or she wouldn’t find anything at all.

“We should start there anyway,” Toushirou interjected, “there isn’t any reason to say he didn’t go there several times before he made a move in that area or that he hasn’t gone back. We might get lucky and find something.”

Nanao nodded, pushing her plate back away from her seat. “We need something to break, Shunsui and I haven’t found anything yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”

Momo pushed her chair back. “If I can get a few hours sleep in a non-moving vehicle, I will be ready to go.” She was tired; she always struggled to focus when she was tired. A little sleep would go a long way towards helping her pin it down. It would also go a long way towards her sanity.

“Back to the hotel then,” Shunsui agreed, pushing to his feet. “However, I am going insist you sleep in separate rooms.” He smiled in their direction. “No hanky panky before a busy day.”

Nanao managed to pull Momo after her before the woman followed up with her creative – if physically impossible – threat.

Part 2

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clearandstrong

December 2010

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