Chou isn’t sure why his account of Saitou’s recently improved mood is such good news to Sano.
Chou’s temper hovered on the fiery brink when Sano showed up at the police station, so, although he didn’t know why Sano was here again, he was glad to abandon his task for the moment and come sit on the edge of Saitou’s desk for another meaningless conversation with the roosterhead.
“So how’s it going?” Sano asked.
Chou gestured toward his corner and rolled his eyes. “Fuckin’ paperwork.”
“As usual, huh?”
“Not as much lately,” Chou acknowledged. “But I still hate it.”
Shaking his head slowly, as he’d found himself doing quite a bit recently when the senior officer came to mind, Chou replied just as slowly, “Dunno…”
Sano caught at the gesture and the tone. “What?”
“Well, the boss is…” He couldn’t quite figure out how to put it.
“Something wrong with him?”
“No… more like just the opposite, actually.”
“So something’s right with him?”
“I guess. It’s weird.” Observing Sano’s curious look, Chou scratched his head and wondered where to start. “It’s not like he’s really different or something,” he finally began. “It’s just, for maybe a month or so, he’s been…”
“Been what?” The prodding rooster seemed inordinately curious now.
“Well, nicer,” admitted Chou, then quickly amended, “just a little.”
“Really?” Sano suddenly had a strange grin on his face. “Nicer how?”
It took a moment for Chou to come up with a concrete example. “This one time before when he caught me sleeping on the job… uh, at his desk, actually… he thought the best way to wake me up was to hit me really fuckin’ hard on the head. Woulda been almost funny if he’d knocked me out trying to wake me up. But then it happened again the other day, and he just slammed his sword down on the desk really hard and startled me half to death.”
“I guess that’s nicer…” Sano’s grin had turned slightly skeptical.
“It ain’t just that,” Chou protested. “He’s just… in a better mood… all the time. Before, he’d come into work already pissed off and ready to bite my head off at practically anything I said. Now it takes a while for him to get to that point, sometimes all the way ’til lunch time. Oh, and he lets me have a lunch break, too. He never did that before.”
Sano was watching Chou with that same inexplicable little grin, pleased and amused and maybe somewhat surprised. “Really…?” he said thoughtfully. “And how long you say this’s been going on?”
“I dunno how long it’s been, really,” the blonde shrugged. “I just started to notice, so I’ve been looking back and trying to guess when it started. Maybe a month, but that could be way off.”
For a long moment Sano kept silent, apparently wrapped up in whatever thoughts were bringing that odd expression to his face… or perhaps just having a hard time imagining what Chou was describing. Finally he said, “So Saitou’s been happier lately, has he? For about a month, you think?”
“I know it’s hard to believe,” Chou agreed.
“What else does he do?” asked Sano, an almost eager curiosity still marking his tone.
Wondering more than ever why his companion was so interested, Chou enumerated the further examples he’d managed to call to mind. “Well, he doesn’t hit me nearly as much in general — not just when I’m doing something I know I’m not supposed to like sleeping at his desk, but just when I annoy him or whatever. And he stopped doing that thing where he completely ignores me when he feels like it. Course that just means he tells me my ideas are dumb that much sooner, but at least I don’t have to repeat myself. Oh, and he doesn’t intentionally scare the shit out of the rookies half as much as he did before.”
Sano, who’d been chuckling through this entire speech, picked up quickly on the last point and asked, “So it’s not just you he’s being nicer to?”
“No, it’s everyone! I’d think he was maybe just getting used to me or something, but he even had a whole conversation with the chief the other day without completely antagonizing him!”
“I should send Kenshin up here sometime and see how Saitou treats him,” Sano suggested with a crafty smile.
Now it was Chou’s turn to chuckle. “Somehow I don’t think the magic works that well.”
“So you think it’s magic, huh?” Sano grinned.
“What the fuck else could make Saitou be that nice?”
Sano shrugged. “Well, I hear getting laid can put a guy in a pretty good mood. Maybe he’s found some decent ass.”
At this Chou laughed outright. “Are you crazy? Not even magic could make that happen.”
“Well, next time you see him–” Sano hoisted a brow suggestively– “look for hickeys and stuff.”
“No fuckin’ way,” Chou reiterated, still laughing.
Grin widening, Sano jumped up. “Well, this is good news. If it means your job’s not sucking as much anymore, I mean.” Clapping Chou on the back, he added, “You’re a good guy, houki. Let’s go drink sometime; my treat.”
The sword-collector was slightly confused at this, not having thought their often-dubious friendship had progressed to going drinking together, nor that he’d said anything today to push it to that point… However, it wasn’t an offer he was about to refuse, so he just grinned back and said, “You mean your tab’s treat?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Sano agreed, stuffing his hands in his pockets and ambling toward the door. That mysterious smile had returned to his face, and he already seemed a mile away, at least in thought.
Chou couldn’t help it. “What’s with you?” he demanded.
Glancing back, “Good-mood-magic spreads,” Sano said with another shrug, and was gone.
Chou gave a baffled laugh, and found his own smile still remaining when that was finished. “I guess it does,” he muttered, and returned to his work in a much better temper.
I was in the middle of playing video games on a sick day when I thought I wouldn’t get anything done when this story suddenly decided it wanted to be finished. And who was I to argue? Technically this is the nice story I promised Chou after How Chou Got Fired, which is part of why it starts out very much like that one did.