It all started as a joke.
Agent Anderson had used a rather old-fashioned term during a case and Jodie caught Shuichi looking it up online. She wouldn’t have even noticed had he not muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Damn! What an idiotic excuse for an English variety” under his breath.
Feeling a little piqued by his disdain for her mother tongue, Jodie couldn’t ignore the comment. “Come on, Shu, how can you not have heard that word before? It’s not that uncommon,” she teased. It wasn’t often she got to hold something like this over him. She relished every opportunity she got. Especially since Shuichi tended to be a bad loser. He just couldn’t stand not being ahead of everyone else.
“Not everybody was born here, Jodie...” He grumbled. His eyes were narrowed and he quickly turned away.
She laid her hand on his shoulder and pressed a soft kiss against his head before she left the room.
She couldn’t quite let the matter rest, however.
Over the next few days, Jodie collected a list of words that had different meanings on each side of the Atlantic. The Internet was incredibly helpful and it helped that her Japanese students had sometimes asked her about the differences between the two varieties of English. She also asked James to verify her findings whenever she got the impression that this could not possibly be the way people in Britain worded a specific concept.
All in all, she was quite happy with her list. She hadn’t bothered with obvious choices such as fries since everybody knew they were called chips in Britain, and Shu would just find a way to turn the tables based on that.
Satisfied, she pinned the list to the bulletin board in his cubicle.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Shuichi couldn’t help but upstage her.
The next day, she found her own cubicle decorated with little notes on all the items that had a different name in British English. On her desk, there was the newly updated list which now included not only the office-related terms but also a whole range of eccentric words to make the list twice as long as before.
“SHUICHI AKAI, you are such an asshole!”
He didn’t even bat an eye. “It’s arsehole, actually.”
After that, it descended into a fully-fledged war.
They hadn’t managed to draw their colleagues into it. André and James were careful to avoid getting tangled up in what James called “an unnecessary dispute over minor differences in vocabulary”. The rest of their department stayed out of it as well. Everyone knew Jodie’s temper was volatile at best when a certain black-haired agent was concerned and Shuichi had enough of a reputation to keep even the most foolhardy agents from meddling in his affairs.
It didn’t stop them from fanning the flames. Both Shuichi and Jodie received anonymous hints on British-American differences whenever an agent stumbled about a term that hadn’t been used in their office war yet. No one acknowledged it even though it was an open secret. As long as nobody intervened once the actual verbal sparring started, it did not count as taking sides.
It also didn’t stop their colleagues from betting on the outcome of the next exchange. In the beginning of the “language feud” there were a few bets on the final winner but when days turned into weeks and weeks into months it became clear that neither of them would ever stop and so these bets were dropped unanimously.
It wasn’t always an angry exchange of words, although there were a few instances where one of them was tired and it ended in a shouting match of who was able to come up with more dialectal words.
Most often it was just a smug “gotcha” when the opportunity presented itself.
On Saturday morning, Jodie woke up on her office chair, her head on the paperwork in front of her. Once she realized she’d fallen asleep over this week’s case files, she hurriedly checked that she hadn’t drooled on any of them in her sleep.
Jodie mouthed a silent thank you to whatever power there might be for having saved her from making a fool of herself in the office, when a snore to her left startled her.
Shuichi was sleeping in his chair in an equally uncomfortable position. His head was resting on the desk in front of him, just like hers had been only moments ago.
“Too bad he isn’t drooling, either,” she thought, picturing the blackmail material she could have got from this. Not that she’d ever shown it to anybody except Shuichi, but it would have been nice to see his face.
She yawned and went into the small kitchen of the break room to get them both a cup of coffee. They would need it if they wanted to finish the paperwork anytime soon. Not that there was a lot she was planning to do that weekend; after all, the snow outside had turned an ugly brown colour and the only thing she wanted to do was stay in bed all day.
When she came back, Shu was just about waking up. He sat up straight, and blinked at her. She knew better than to say it out loud, but Shuichi was cute when he was not yet truly awake. His hair fell into his eyes and she fought the urge to reach for it.
“Too bad it’s so cold outside, it’s not even 35° today,” Jodie sighed wistfully.
Shuichi groaned. “For fuck's sake, Jodie, 35 degrees, that’s not cold…”
Despite the sleepiness, his voice betrayed an amount of indignation that made her laugh.
Then she stopped. Something about that sentence was off.
Then Jodie started laughing again.
Shuichi blinked again.
“Oh, sod off, Jodie!”
The vocabulary was not the only thing they bickered about.
Solving the Black Organisation case had been a success for all secret services involved even though they had just barely avoided a political fallout between Japan and the US. It may have helped their cause that the Russians, the British, the French, the Germans, and even the Canadians had been involved, too, revealing the sheer magnitude of the operation. Still, amends were being made to reassure their ally the US weren’t trampling on them and the FBI agents had been ordered to be as forthcoming as possible about the investigation without giving away crucial intelligence data. Personally, Jodie hadn’t cared how many US allies they had to screw over as long as it meant catching Vermouth in the end. Now that the case was closed however, she was very much in favor of being a decent ally. That’s how she and Shuichi had ended up back in Japan to clear up some details on their investigation.
Their stay in Tokyo wasn’t supposed to be longer than a week and so they were renting a car from a local rental company despite Shuichi’s protests about finding a proper car. Given that the red and striped abomination was still parked in his garage in New York, Jodie doubted he would stop harping on about the car he was currently driving.
“I’m glad you’re here with me, Shu.”
He turned his head to the side, not quite looking at her but indicating he was listening. A self-satisfied grin betrayed his otherwise calm demeanor.
“It’s just - I really don’t like driving on the left. I thought I’d better leave that to you Brits.” She grinned, for which she received a quick stab of his elbow to her side.
“You could have asked James to accompany you.”
“As much as I love my godfather, I still prefer your company.” She tried to keep her tone light, but she knew he understood the depth to her words when his smirk turned into a softer, happier smile.
Sometimes, they simply enjoyed the competition.
She looked up from the file she was currently studying.
“How many inches are 80 centimetres?”
“About 31.5 inches.”
If Shu was allowed to distract her at work, there was no reason for her to desist.
“Shu, what about 70 miles converted into kilometers?”
“Is this because of the speed limit? About 113. Alright, temperature next - let’s say, 69° Fahrenheit in degrees Celsius?”
By now, their colleagues had stopped pretending to work and were watching the exchange unashamedly.
And sometimes, they didn’t know when to stop.
The previous day’s conversion of units battle had ended only after their boss reminded them they were being paid for solving crimes and not for playing human calculators. Jodie was proud to say she had had the last word as James had interrupted them right after she had insulted the metric system.
Her good mood vanished when she saw the big poster a certain somebody had hung up in the office. In big letters it detailed the base units of the International System of Units and their advantages.
She sent an angry glance at the two co-workers who dared to snicker behind her back as they made their way to their respective cubicles. At least they had the decency to hide behind their screens for the rest of the morning.
Shuichi walked in, whistling the Doctor Who theme.
It was already grating on her nerves.
He grinned at her. “How d’you like the information sheet?”
She wanted to slap the grin off his face.
“I especially liked the use of Kelvin as the measure of temperature. It means I don’t have to deal with your stupid degrees Celsius,” she gritted out. “Are you you sure making everybody calculate all the time is a good idea?”
“Jodie, just because your maths skills are subpar, doesn't mean ours are too.”
Jodie could feel the heat in her cheeks.
“For the last time, Shuichi, can't you speak proper English? It's MATH, not maths!”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, you mean English… As in, English, the language of that faraway country called England?”
By now he was outright laughing at her.
The man was simply infuriating.
Most of the time though, it was just a way of showing they cared.
“Don’t forget your coat - the temperature dropped below zero degrees Celsius and it’s snowing,” Jodie shouted after him as he went outside.
“I love you, too, Jodie,” Shuichi replied and went back to steal a kiss from his wife.