“Good morning, Chief!” a cheerful voice called out behind him and Namba turned around, nodded and waved lazily.
“Good morning, little bird.”
Hayumi came running, pouted a bit and glared up at him. “Why do you always call me that? Can it be that you can’t remember my name?”
The way she looked at him, the almost awestruck expression, the sparkle in her eyes – he knew he had to nip her interest in him in the bud. She was probably only looking up to him like a junior should to the chief of the academy. He couldn’t deny that he was flattered, but he was old enough to be her father. Almost.
“You don’t like me calling you that?” he asked back, reaching into his pocket and offering her some candy. “It fits you so well.”
With a bright smile she took a candy and put it in her pocket. Strange, he never saw her actually eating it, but she always took a candy from him.
“Thank you, Chief!”
“You know you shouldn’t accept candies from strange old men, don’t you?” he teased her, earning a blush and an exasperated look.
“B-but you are not old!”
Namba was an easygoing man and usually he hid his insecurities well. It was better to get underestimated, that way the enemy would become careless. But he couldn’t help feeling flattered now when this young thing was looking at him like that.
The laugh he practically barked was a sad attempt on covering up the way he felt. Flustered, flattered, slightly intrigued. He was only lucky that she didn’t pick up on it.
“I am old, but keep that a secret between you and me, little bird.” The kind smile he flashed her made her blush slightly, but she frowned.
“Again with that nickname. If you forgot my name I have to really think that you are old, Chief.”
He leaned closer, just for a bit, and grinned like a boy that was planning a prank. “Don’t worry, Miss Hayumi. My memory isn’t that bad yet.”
The smile returned to her face the moment he said her name and he couldn’t forget about it for the rest of the day.
Namba just came back from a stay in a pachinko parlor, another meeting with a secret informant. He had smoked on his way to the academy, took his time and let the things he just learned run through his head again. It had been a successful afternoon and he considered getting some ramen later and maybe a beer or two. He could ask Goto to join him.
“Good evening, Chief!”
“Still out, little bird? I hope you’re taking care of yourself. A girl like you should be in bed already.”
With her usual pout she came running again.
“I’m not a kid, Chief!”
“Haha, of course you are. Hey, come with me!” He grabbed her wrist and dragged her along, around the corner and down the street until he reached his favorite ramen restaurant.
“Order what you want. Consider it a thank you for always sticking that pain patch on my back,” he almost conspiratorially whispered. She smiled widely at him.
“Thank you, but it’s not even a bother.”
He wanted to reach out and touch her but settled on ruffling her hair a bit. “Still, thanks.”
Namba sighed and ran his hands through his hair. A strand somehow got stuck at his ring and he hissed at the sudden, sharp pain. Once he had untangled himself he held his hand up a bit and stared at the ring. Such a small thing and yet it had meant so much at some point.
He needed to focus. There was an investigation he had to go through with and for that he needed a partner. Was it too soon to call the little bird? Was she ready? Well, only one way to find out.
Namba dialed her number, waited for her to pick up.
“Little bird? I need you. I’m sending you an address, meet me there at 6. Dress up a bit.”
He exhaled, wished he had a cigarette just now. When would Goto come back? He had promised to get Namba a new pack of cigarettes hours ago as it seemed. Namba wasn’t sure if he could make it through the night without a smoke. At least he wouldn’t have to go alone.
A quick check of her appearance made him glad that he had asked her to meet up early, there was still time to get her a new dress. She was looking cute, there was no denying that, but cute wasn’t the look she should be sporting tonight.
“Little bird, you are a bit underdressed. Don’t worry, we will fix that.” He smiled at her while she was still staring at his fancy suit.
“Wh-where are we going, Chief?” she timidly asked but he already dragged her towards the street to hail a cab.
“Getting you a new dress.” Namba gave the driver an address and settled in the backseat.
“No, I mean, where are we going afterwards.” She seemed slightly annoyed, the way he decided things without consulting clearly not to her liking.
“To a party. You are my date tonight, so stop calling me ‘Chief’. Call me Jin.”
He chuckled at her shocked expression and the way she squeaked his name.
“We are going undercover, so you better watch what you’re saying. But you managed just fine with Goto, didn’t you? Or is that because it’s easier with him? He’s younger and good looking, a real catch if I might say so. Pretending to be his girlfriend must be easier than having to pretend to date an old guy like me.” He patted her head lightly and smiled at her.
“What? No! You are not old, just – older…” Her cheeks were burning and for a second Namba doubted his own decision to ask her to join him in this mission. But it was too late now.
“Much older,” he agreed. “Ah, we’re here. Come on, let’s get you dressed appropriately.” Leading her into a shop and nodding to a sale’s assistant Namba knew exactly what he was looking for. Something to make her look older, sophisticated. But when she wore the dress he had picked out for her he had to admit that it was a stupid idea. Simply putting her into something mature like this dress, red and with a daring neckline, just didn’t work. She looked like some kid playing dress up with her mother’s clothes. And she looked uncomfortable.
“Hm… no, that won’t do the trick.” He turned to the sale’s assistant and smiled. “I want something that is sophisticated without looking like a costume,” he said and she nodded.
“I think I just have the right dress, sir.” She came back with a long dress, a simple cut but with a deep cut back. Midnight blue, shimmering fabric. When Hayumi tried it on and stepped out of the changing room he nodded.
“Much better. We take it and she wears it out,” he told the sale’s assistant who nodded and gave them a bag for Hayumi’s own clothes.
“Chief, this is – it’s much too expensive,” Hayumi whispered but he brushed her off.
“Don’t worry, the academy will pay for it. This is work after all. Now, what did I tell you to call me?”
“Jin…” she mumbled and looked away from him, making him grin.
“Exactly. And don’t forget to smile, we are on a date after all.”
The charity dinner was a huge and fancy event, women dressed in expensive dresses and men in tuxedos and fancy suits. Namba even spotted some celebrities, politicians, actors, singers.
“Smile, little bird,” he muttered towards her and she tried to stop fidgeting, showed him a bright smile that earned her a nod and followed him when he led her around, her hand resting on his arm, looking for their suspect. The target tonight was an influential CEO, someone who was rumored to have connections to some very shady foreign groups.
“Tomoyo Hidai. 38, tall, dark hair, dark eyes,” he had told her in the cab on the way to the party and showed her a picture. “We have to find out when the next meeting with his ‘partners’ will be.”
“How should we do that?” Hayumi had asked, frowning slightly.
“That’s where you come in. Get him drunk, flirt a bit. Make him talk.” Jin saw the panic in her face. “Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to seduce him. And I will be nearby the whole time. Just – don’t mess this up, okay?”
And now they were looking for him in the crowd, Namba calm and experienced, Hayumi nervous but determined.
“I think I found him. Over there at the bar. Next to the woman in the red dress,” she just whispered and Namba followed her line of sight.
“Yes, that’s him,” he mumbled, for the first time in the whole evening truly surprised. “And I even know his date.”
Jazz was politely smiling at Tomoyo who just handed her a glass of champagne. She wondered for the umpteenth time why she had agreed to accompany him here after their first mediocre date, but now it was too late. There was no way to get home early without being rude. And she couldn’t afford to be rude, not to him at least. She would turn down every invitation after this, that was for sure, but now she had to smile to the boring stories he told her. And all of his stories were boring. Jazz took a sip from her glass and casually looked around. She knew a few people here but no one dared to interrupt the conversation with Tomoyo she was trapped in.
“… and then I told him to I’d take both of them. The look on his face – priceless. Just like those cars,” he just boasted, obviously convinced he could impress her with stories about his wealth. As if she was looking for money in a man. Jazz was a successful architect, she didn’t need a man with money. She needed a man with a heart, not some walking, talking wallet.
They had met when she was planning a roof garden on his office building and although he had asked her out countless of times she had only given in after the job was done. And she had regretted it even before the first date had been over. But by then she had already agreed on the second date, the confidence he had shown by asking her out again before their food had even arrived had impressed her. Not very clever, she had to admit.
“You’re looking stunning tonight, by the way.” Tomoyo’s smarmy compliment only prompted another polite smile from her. She was wearing a burgundy dress with a rather tight fit, accentuating her curves. Curves he would never get to see without the clothes.
“I could introduce to you many important people here,” he just went on. “Some of the connections you could make tonight could be very beneficial for your job.”
Jazz had to prevent her smile from slipping at his words. Connections, of course. She could imagine what kind of connections he was talking about.
“That is a very generous offer,” she said with all the faked gratitude she could muster. Her eyes still roamed the hall only to find someone she hadn’t expected here. “Uhm, but for now I have to excuse myself for a moment.”
She put her glass down and grabbed her purse. With an understanding nod he watched her leave towards the restrooms, where Jazz simply stayed in the hallway, out of sight for Tomoya but not for Jin who came after her not even 30 seconds later.
“Hey,” he greeted her casually.
“Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Jin Namba,” she grumbled but wasn’t actually mad. “You made that sign. You need to talk?”
“Glad you remember that sign,” he said with a smile, but they kept their distance from each other.
“We were married for years, I remember your ‘we need to talk’ sign,” she dryly answered. “What about the girl you’re here with?”
“You saw her?” He sheepishly scratched the back of his neck.
“I did. Shouldn’t she be in bed already?” Jazz raised an eyebrow at him, making him chuckle.
“Probably, but she is allowed to stay up today. Work.”
Work. Of course it was work.
“You’re undercover?” she whispered and he nodded.
“And it would be great if you don’t blow our cover. Besides…” He was looking her up and down once. “You won’t like what I have to say next, but your date – he’s the reason we’re here.”
Jazz groaned and rolled her eyes slightly. “So he’s not only a conceited ass, but also a criminal? Great, just great.” The first guy she went out with in months and of course he was a mistake. She took a deep breath.
“Okay, what do you need?” she asked him and he chuckled.
“You really know me pretty well, huh? Some time for the little bird alone with him.”
“’Little bird’? Oh Jin, you are not doing anything stupid, are you?”
His eyes went wide and he quickly shook his head. “What? No! She’s just a kid! But dammit, I can’t remember all of their names. So I give them nicknames and – it works. Everyone is happy, okay? So, what about the other thing?”
Jazz looked at him, the corners of her mouth twitching already. It was still so easy for her to push his buttons and she enjoyed that she still knew him so well.
“Come over later and ask for a dance. I make sure that your little bird gets at least five minutes with him.” With that she gave him a firm nod and put that faked smile back on her face before she returned to Tomoyo.
When the music started and Tomoyo asked her for a dance Jazz accepted although she couldn’t imagine anything less pleasant just now. Even getting her armpits waxed sounded more appealing than spending more time with that self-centered jerk. Money and status were all what he was talking about.
With his hand in the small of her back and the other wrapped around her hand he pulled her close. Jazz peeked over his shoulder, looking for Jin.
“I could introduce you to the mayor,” Tomoyo just said.
“Really?” Jazz knew the mayor, her company was working for the townhall every now and then.
From the corner of her eye she could see Jin and his ‘date’ starting to dance. She seemed very flustered and Jazz only hoped that she would let Jin lead. He was a good dancer, although they hadn’t danced that much during their marriage. It didn’t take him long to dance towards Jazz and Tomoyo, whose hand started slipping a bit lower down her back.
So she wasn’t surprised when suddenly someone lightly bumped into her.
“Oh, sorry… wait. Jazz? Is that you?”
Jazz feigned surprise. “Oh, Jin, hi. What are you doing here?” She let go of Tomoyo’s hand and stepped a bit away from him.
“Obviously I’m proving again that I’m having two left feet,” he dryly said. Jazz laughed briefly.
“Oh, sorry, where are my manners. Tomoyo, this is Jin Namba, my ex husband.”
Jazz noticed how the eyes of the girl in Jin’s arms widened. Obviously she had no idea.
“Jin, this is Tomoyo Hidai.”
Both men eyed each other and nodded.
“This is Hayumi, my – date for tonight. Hayumi, this is Jazz Namba, my ex wife,” Jin said, turned towards the girl.
“It’s Mann again,” Jazz corrected him. “Jazz Mann. Nice to meet you.” Now Namba’s eyes widened a bit, he hadn’t known that Jazz had taken her maiden name back.
“Sorry, I know it’s rude, but would you mind if I cut in?” Now he was looking at Jazz. “For old times’ sake?”
Jazz hesitantly looked at Tomoyo who smiled wryly but nodded.
“Sure, but what about Hayumi? Don’t you mind?” Jazz looked back and forth between them, shooting the girl a pointed look.
“Oh, uhm… I would like to dance some more?” Well, she was a cute girl, there was no denying that.
“In that case, would you allow me?” Tomoyo bowed slightly and Hayumi looked at him with wide eyes.
“Oh, yes, sure…” her gaze flitted to Namba who nodded slightly before she smiled and took the hand that Tomoyo offered. Jazz and Namba turned to face each other, it was easy dancing with him, her body seemed to remember the perfect posture.
“You’re looking good,” he muttered and she grinned.
“So are you,” she gave the compliment back. It was true. A bit older than last time they had met, but still very handsome. “So, what’s next? Is she putting a bug on him or what?”
He stared at her, the slight indignation making her chuckle. “We are police officers, not spies. No, she will try to make him talk.”
Now she was the one to look indignant. “That is your plan?” Jazz hissed. “Whatever you suspect him of, he’s not stupid. He won’t just tell her stuff. I mean, look at her! She’s completely tongue-tied.”
“She just has to gain his trust somehow. We can make them run into each other some more times and eventually…” he defended the plan.
“God dammit, Jin!” She sighed. “Okay. Tell me what you need.”
“Jazz, we have everything-“
“Tell me. What you. Need,” she replied, the words pressed out between gritted teeth.
“His schedule for the next few weeks.” He sounded tired and defeated.
“Do you still have the same number?”
“Good. God, I hope your investigation is worth it.” Jazz was upset now. Everything was always about work, work, work. She slipped from his grasp and nodded once. There was a reason why they were divorced after all and his work was a big part of it.
She pressed her lips together briefly, needed a moment to compose herself before she weaved through the dancing couples until she reached Tomoyo and that girl again.
“He’s looking for you,” she politely told Hayumi and waited for Tomoyo to take her hand again. Two dances later Jazz asked for a break. She told him that seeing her ex had somehow dampened her mood but that she would love to go on another date. Whenever his schedule would allow it. They went back to their table to get Jazz’s purse and he walked her to the exit. Tomoyo whipped out his organizer and they agreed on their next date. With a smile and a quick kiss on his cheek she said goodbye, glad when she was finally in the cab and on the way home.
Her doorbell rang two hours later and she opened the door for Jin.
“Hey.” He was looking tired and he had smoked. His tie was gone, the topmost buttons open and his hair slightly disheveled. She didn’t ask why. Or who.
“You want a drink?” Without waiting for his answer she poured him a glass and handed it over.
Jazz motioned towards the couch and got herself a drink before she sat down next to him.
“I made you a draft of his schedule. It’s over there.”
He smiled at her, still tired but at least genuinely.
“You always had a great memory.”
They were sitting together on the couch, not talking, just sipping their drinks. He was right, she had a great memory. And Jazz had some great memories. Of both of them together. Memories she usually didn’t conjure. She placed a hand on his thigh and squeezed once. He turned his head and looked at her. Eyes flicking towards her lips. Jazz shifted a bit, tilted her head. Her heart raced, her mind went blank. She could already smell the cigarette smoke, the whiskey. It brought her back to their early days, their first dates, their first nights. Their first fights. She blinked and slowly pulled her head back. Cleared her throat and got up without looking at him.
“You – you better leave now.”
Jin raised his hand, reaching out for her before he pulled it back.
“Yes, it is late. Sorry. And thanks. For your help.”
They awkwardly hugged briefly before he grabbed the draft and left without another glance back.
“I’m sorry I messed up again.” Hayumi bowed low, her forehead almost touching the surface of the desk in front of her.
“We got what we need, so don’t worry,” Namba reassured her, his eyes still fixed on the sheet of paper in his hand. It wasn’t a very detailed schedule but he couldn’t ask for too much after all. This was more than he had hoped for. And meeting Jazz. That was unexpected but at least it was a pleasant surprise. And the way she had handled the whole thing – god, that woman had class. And he had messed it up with her completely.
“I promise next time I will make it. Please give me another chance.” She hadn’t changed her position at all and Namba sighed.
“Chin up, little bird. It’s not that bad. You did good, but the plan wasn’t the best. Anyway, we managed to get his schedule and I guess we can find out when he meets those foreign ‘business partners’.”
She raised her gaze and looked at him.
“So, uhm… Chief, can I ask you something?” The way she avoided his eyes made him want to sigh but he didn’t.
“Of course, ask away.” He leaned back in his chair and waited for her to spit it out.
“That woman – was she really your ex wife? Or was she some kind of spy? Or officer? Was she one of us?” Hayumi was nervously fidgeting with her hands, wringing her fingers. She could barely sit still.
“She’s really my ex wife,” Namba said with a small smile.
“So… she’s not dead?” Hayumi’s face was burning, especially when his surprised gaze met her nervous one.
“What makes you think she could be dead?”
“Y-your ring… you said you couldn’t… you couldn’t take it off. Yet. I just thought it was out of respect…” she stammered but Namba just stared at her.
“You spent quite some time thinking about my ring and my ex wife, huh?”
His voice was soft and Hayumi simply nodded.
“Maybe too much time,” he added.
Her eyes widened but then she nodded. She wasn’t stupid, she understood what he was just telling her. That she should give up on him. That her crush was silly and childish, that she stood no chance against his ex wife.
“Say little bird, shouldn’t you be in class right now? With Instructor Kaga?”
“Oh god!” She jumped up and bowed quickly. “Sorry, I have to go!”
Namba watched her as she rushed out of his office and chuckled lightly. She was an energetic girl, had the heart at the right place. A bit too trusting and definitely not a good eye for men, though. Maybe in five or ten years. But now she was only a child and he started feeling guilty for playing along for so long already.
His ring caught his eye. The ring that Jazz had put on his finger, almost 15 years ago. The ring he should have taken off eight years ago, after their divorce.
Jazz couldn’t stop thinking about the almost kiss. So many years had passed and she had thought she was over him, over their marriage. Over the fact that he hadn’t fought for her. For them.
She tried to push those thoughts away, the memory of him so close again after all that time. It hadn’t worked last time, it wouldn’t work now. She had work to do, that would distract her. And she had to find a way to cancel that date with Tomoyo. She really didn’t want to go to that date, but she would wait at least a few days before she canceled. That way it would appear more authentic.
Jazz opened the door to her office and smiled at the receptionist.
“Morning, H. How are you?”
“Great, thanks. There is someone waiting in your office. He says he’s a cop.” The young woman handed Jazz some letters and returned to her work.
Hesitantly Jazz walked to her office. She doubted that Jin would just come over like that. She wasn’t even sure f he knew where she worked. Although it wouldn’t be hard to find out, not for him. He was a cop after all. And Jazz wasn’t exactly hiding. She was partner in one of the top three architect’s offices after all, they had won several prized for their designs. There had even been an article about them in Seasonelle that year. Jazz wasn’t famous, by no means, but she was recognized in her field of work and she was proud of that. She had worked hard to get where she was now and she continued to give it her all. That was just the way she was.
She straightened up and opened her door just to meet the gaze of some familiar eyes.
“Goto!” She almost laughed in relief. “What brings you here?”
He smiled softly and bowed his head lightly.
“Miss Mann, I’m sorry to come here without a warning, but we need some help. Again.”
Jazz nodded. She knew Goto for ages already and eventually he had asked her for help in a work related matter.
“What do you need?” She threw the letters on her desk and returned her attention to the man in her office.
“There’s a café… I need the blueprints.” He handed her a card with the address. Jazz frowned slightly.
“Sure. But this will need some time. At least until tomorrow. I will have to call some people.”
“Of course. Thank you.” He smiled again, his grey eyes sparkling a bit. “I heard I’m not the only one you’re helping out lately.”
Jazz huffed a laugh. “Already? I though the rumors wouldn’t start until next week.” It was strange, she had managed to love in this city for the last 8 years without crossing paths with Jin, but once she did everyone seemed to know about it in an instant.
“The chief didn’t say anything, but someone else came and asked me for advice.” The amused smile was something Jazz didn’t see often at Goto. It suited him.
“His ‘little bird’?” Jazz wryly asked.
“What is wrong? You don’t like her?”
Jazz shook her head. “That’s not it. She seems lovely. A bit too inexperienced as an officer, but that’s something that will change eventually. It’s the nickname.” With a sigh she put the card on her desk and rubbed her temple. ‘Little bird’. Namba used to call her ‘my little songbird’ because Jazz used to sing and hum a lot. ‘Sweet nightingale’.
“I’m sure that the chief doesn’t – he’s not interested in her.” Goto sounded actually convinced but Jazz shrugged.
“They are both adults, as long as the rules of the academy don’t say otherwise he can do whatever he wants. It’s none of my business.”
It’s been eight years, she was over it. Already five years ago. Even seven years. The first year had been tough, she could admit that. But after some time it got easier, she didn’t felt as if a part of her was missing anymore. She found new friends, new hobbies. A new job. Dated a bit. She didn’t even think of him most of the time.
Jazz was leading a fulfilled life and she wished him only happiness. And if his happiness was only half his age, who was she to judge?
“Well, I have to leave now. Should I call you tomorrow?”
“No, it’s fine. I will call you as soon as I got something for you. But – you know, don’t tell Jin about this, okay?”
She could see the smirk on his face before he fixed his expression into a neutral one.
“Same deal like always.” He nodded once and left. Jazz shook her head softly. Deal. As if it really was a deal. She helped him from time to time, got him blueprints and expert opinions for his missions. She got nothing in return, but she never asked for anything. This wasn’t why she helped him. Somehow she felt as if it was her duty, as if something of Namba’s sense for honor and responsibility had rubbed off on her. Even after all this time.
Jazz ran her hands over her face and sighed before she grabbed the phone and started making some calls.
“And he took you on a mission? Just like that?” Naruko was still unable to believe it, demanded to hear the story again and again. Although Hayumi might have sugarcoated it a bit.
“I was just as surprised. One second he texts me a location and the next one I’m in a dress at a fancy party. We were observing a suspect and the chief danced with me as some kind of distraction. Long story short, I danced with the suspect but failed to get the information we needed. Luckily we still got them in the end and now I feel a bit – weird. I feel guilty that I haven’t managed to get the information but at the same time I’m happy that he has asked me on this mission.”
She sighed and pushed her hair out of her face, just to let her forehead drop onto the table again.
“Wow, still… If the chief asked me in a mission I would be elated, too. I mean, that’s a sign that you are actually making an impression. I bet you could even mess up some smaller assignments just now when the chief has your back.” Suzuki grabbed her can of coffee and took a sip. “Imagine having someone like the chief protecting you from Instructor Kaga. That would be such a relief.”
Hayumi showed her a crooked smile. “Don’t remind me of that. Instructor Kaga is still mad at me for that blunder the other day.” The chief definitely didn’t protect her in any way. Just added to her confusion.
“Hm…” Naruko seemed to think about something else. “And how was it? Dancing with the chief?”
Hayumi blushed. How could she get out of this kind of interrogation?
The phone rang on his desk but Namba didn’t pick it up. He was still trying to match the schedule draft with other information they had gathered. Three possible dates. He could narrow it down to three possible dates. He needed to make sure that Hidai got tailed for the next few days. Or…
No. He couldn’t ask that from her. Jazz had made clear that she wasn’t interested in having another date with that guy and honestly, Namba didn’t want her close to someone like that anyway. It had been a shock to see her with him. He didn’t know what exactly he had expected, but for the first time meeting her after all those years another situation would have been nice. Maybe one where she wasn’t on a date with someone else and he wasn’t with – a trainee.
He stared at the schedule again. Three dates. He barely had enough men to tail that guy, let alone to operate other missions and keep the academy running. He couldn’t put the students on this case either. It was too dangerous for some inexperienced rookies. But it was also too dangerous for someone who wasn’t even part of the force, who never had worked as a Public Safety officer. Especially for Jazz. She was stubborn and reckless most of the time and wouldn’t listen if he told her to get away if things got risky.
He would have to call Kaga or Goto and check how many officers were free on those dates, although he already knew the answer.
Jazz called Goto the next day to let him know that she had the blueprints he wanted.
“Thank you very much. I feel bad for asking you this, but can you bring them here? I’m having classes all day and training, I can’t leave here. We are short on instructors lately.”
With a sigh Jazz quickly mentally checked her schedule.
“Around lunch. I’m having an appointment not too far away and can drop by later.”
“Thank you, again. Let me at least treat you to lunch. The cafeteria here is pretty good.” She could hear his faint smile but that didn’t cheer her up.
“I hope it’s better than good. I’m spending my lunch break there after all…” She wasn’t really mad, but needed to keep the façade up.
“Don’t worry, the chief usually eats somewhere else.”
For a second she was speechless but then she remembered that Goto was actually very perceptive. There was no use in putting up a front.
“Okay. I call you when I get there. Bye.” She hung up and took a deep breath. She had to change before she could go to the academy. Just to make sure she was presentable.
She hadn’t even managed to take a bite from her lunch when she heard the familiar voice behind her, warm and soothing and at the same time making her heartrate spike.
“Didn’t you say he wouldn’t eat in the cafeteria?” Jazz asked with a wry look.
Goto shrugged, obviously unfazed. “I never said he wouldn’t set a foot in here. He’s not eating, so I didn’t lie.” His small smile gave him away and Jazz shook her head slightly in defeat.
“Really? Eight years without a single encounter and this week I can’t seem to avoid him,” she muttered, much to Goto’s enjoyment.
Namba hadn’t spotted her yet and Jazz didn’t know if she wanted that or not. After that almost kiss in her apartment it was strange, a lot of old feelings had re-emerged, some of them sweet, some not. Unconsciously she smoothed down her hair and sat up straighter until she caught the small smirk on Goto’s face, shot him a dirty look and slumped down a bit again.
“Chief? Are you eating your bento here today?”
The voice made Jazz turn her head. The little bird. She was just walking up to Jin who was still talking to someone else. The moment Jin saw her, a soft smile appeared on his face and Jazz’s heart skipped a beat – not the pleasant way. She inwardly scolded herself, she had no right to judge. He was a free man, an adult, he could do whatever he wanted – as long as it was legal. But that girl was at least over 18 so it was a thing between the both of them, not about Jazz.
Jin let his gaze wander for a second and his eyes went wide when he noticed Jazz, still absentmindedly looking into his direction. He quickly said goodbye to Hayumi and walked over to the table where Jazz and Goto were having lunch.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” He motioned towards a chair and Jazz nodded, shot Goto another warning glance and looked back at Jin.
“I was just having lunch,” she casually said. The look that Goto and Jin shared was – strange.
“With Goto? How do you even know each other?”
“Work,” they both said in unison, chuckling briefly and leaving Jin a bit suspicious and confused.
“I sometimes get some blueprints for him,” she finally admitted. Jin nodded slowly.
“You always said you didn’t like police work,” he slowly said.
“No. I said I don’t like to compete with police work because I couldn’t win.” Her voice had a certain edge that made Goto slowly straighten up.
“Oh, is that Ishigami. Excuse me, I have to talk to him.” And just like that he was gone and Jazz was alone with Jin.
For a moment the silence between them seemed to also envelope everything else around them, but the chatter and sounds of clinking cutlery and chairs being pushed back came back into focus.
“How are the investigations going?” It was a rare olive branch that Jazz was offering.
“Slow, to be honest. That Hidai is not easy to figure out.”
“Hmm… have you considered that the meeting you’re waiting for might not be in his schedule?” His expression told her that yes, that thought had crossed his mind. And that he didn’t like it.
“Hey, since we’re both here already, how about having lunch together?” Jin put his bento on the table and Jazz arched an eyebrow.
“Since when do you cook?”
He chuckled lightly. “I don’t.”
With a single nod Jazz accepted the answer. It wasn’t her place to pry.
“And here I was wondering if I should go over to Kaga and ask for the weather in his place. Hell might have been frozen after all.”
His booming laugh made her chuckle, too. Teasing each other felt so familiar, even after all these years.
“Maybe I should learn how to cook. Someone’s cooking has spoiled me and now it’s hard to find something that pleases my palate.”
Jazz eyed the bento. “Yeah, I can see that.”
His expression softened, the crinkles in the corner of his eyes something that reminded her of how long it had already been since she had last seen him laughing. Too long.
“I was talking about you.”
It wasn’t easy to make Jazz blush, she was a grown woman after all, had done quite a few things in her life so far. But now she felt her cheeks grow hot because of a simple compliment.
“It’s not that hard to please your palate,” she quipped to cover up her flustered reaction. “Ramen and coffee.”
“Might be true, but at least that’s something I can cook.” He was smirking and leaned back in his chair.
“Not enough to impress the ladies, I’m afraid. A girl can’t live off love and ramen alone.” She smiled wryly and started picking at some curry with her fork.
“You seemed to be happy with that diet back then. At least your appetite had been – remarkable.”
“Jin!” she hissed, only prompting another round of laughter from him.
“I was referring to the ramen,” he teased her. She put her fork down.
“Tell Goto I had to leave.” Grabbing her purse she got up and pushed her chair back.
“Wait, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.” He got up, too, and grabbed her wrist. “Please… at least finish your lunch.”
It was the way he held her hand that made her stay. She knew it was foolish, letting nostalgia win over reason, but she couldn’t help it. Slowly Jazz sat down again, but didn’t picked her fork up again. Instead she propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands.
“You don’t just want to have lunch with me.”
“What makes you think that?” he asked, slightly surprised.
Jazz shrugged. “I know you. You are thinking about a cigarette, I can tell by the way you’re fidgeting with your hands. And you haven’t even touched your food yet. When you’re hungry you don’t wait.”
“You would be a great detective, did I ever tell you that?” With a chuckle he reached into his jacket to take the box with cigarettes out and place it on the table.
“I can’t smoke here anyway. Would you come with me? I’d like to talk with you in private.”
With a sigh and a bad feeling Jazz took her purse and followed Jin to his office. And Hayumi’s eyes followed them both.
“I hope you like French haute cuisine,” Tomoyo said after sitting down while Jazz got her chair pulled out by a waiter in a fancy livree. She thanked him with a smile before she turned to Tomoyo. He had pronounced cuisine like kwee-si-en, destroying every shred of sophistication and class he might have displayed so far.
“Indeed, I like French food. I have lived in France for a couple of months,” she said with a strained smile. Dammit! Why had she let Jin talk her into this? A third date? Really? Well, due to the fact that Tomoyo was here with her Jin could already eliminate one possible date for whatever dubious meeting he was suspecting Tomoyo to attend.
For the other two possible dates, though, it was Jazz’s duty to sound Tomoyo out.
“You want me to do what?!”
Jin looked at her with obvious guilty conscience, an apologetic, crooked half smile on his lips.
“I didn’t want to ask you at all, but we just can’t make any progress with this case. Consider yourself an outside adviser for Public Safety.”
Jazz was at a loss for words. He had never wanted for her to get involved in his work before and honestly, neither did she. Helping Goto with some blueprints was one thing, but playing spy with some bigwig CEO? Would it be dangerous? Would it be as boring as the other two dates she had with him?
“I really wouldn’t ask you if I had another option. But it’s not enough time to place someone to do this. You already have a foot in the door.”
“A foot in the door? I had to fend off his advances for quite some time now. I’m not sure it’s wise to encourage him further.” Jazz was pretty sure she could defend herself if things got hairy, but she’d rather just stayed away from situations like this.
“I know, but you don’t even have to actually go on a date. Just casually ask him whether he’s free on the dates in question and we’ll see. I’m really sorry for springing this on you, but it’s urgent. And serious.” He bowed his head, actually bowed for her until she let out an annoyed sigh.
“Get your head up already. I do it. I will call him and see what I can find out, okay? But I’m not going full Mata Hari on him, just so you know!”
And somehow she still ended on this date. A phone call became not the cancellation of the date, but rather a relocating. Tomoyo was really pushy, a man who knew what he wanted. Unfortunately he wanted Jazz, who had no inclination to be with at all.
She tried to focus on the food and the atmosphere to make it through the date instead of listening to the narcissist and boring chatter of Tomoyo. The wine helped, but being intoxicated wouldn’t be wise so she took her time with her first glass although he always offered her a refill. Probably trying to get her drunk so he had it easier to get into her pants later. Halfway through the dinner Jazz excused herself and went to the restrooms, let some cold water flow over her wrists. That helped her to stay sober, cleared her mind. She still had to find out about those other two dates. Preferably before he offered to take her home.
When she came back she was smiling and Tomoyo actually got up before she sat down again.
“I thought about ordering the chocolate soufflé for dessert,” he casually informed her, almost making her choke on her piece of chicken. Soufflé took ages! At least better than rushing through this date so he could get her home already.
“Chocolate soufflé? Sounds good.” She took another sip of wine. “I heard they are showing this fantastic new play in the theater downtown.”
“So you are into plays?” He smiled in a way that made her skin crawl.
“A friend of mine is actually having a part in the play. She says that everybody who is anybody will come to the premiere. Even Eisuke Ichinomiya.” It was a shot in the dark but she figured that someone who was that obsessed with status and fame would jump at a chance like that. “My friend gave me two tickets and I was wondering if you want to accompany me there.”
If he took the bait she could wrap this up sooner than she had hoped for.
“Usually I’m the one who asks someone out,” he said with an amused smile. “But that sounds really intriguing.”
Jazz batted her lashes and tried a coy smile. Not her forte but he seemed to buy it.
“When is it?”
“Thursday in two weeks. It’s sold out of course and the after party is supposed to be THE event of the year.” All she could hope was that he wasn’t that well versed in the local theater scene, because there was no play like that.
“Oh, Thursday… hmm…” He screwed up his face slightly and Jazz almost waited with bated breath for his answer.
“That is – unfortunate, but on that day I already have something else planned. Work, you understand?”
She feigned disappointment but nodded. “Of course. You are an important man after all, of course you are busy.”
“Exactly. I’m glad you understand. But – maybe I could make it to the after party? Do you think Ichinomiya will go there?” He tried too hard to come across as casual and she was a bit disgusted by his attempt on keeping the cake and eating it at the same time.
“I’m sure he will,” she replied sweetly before she flagged the waiter down. “Can I get some water, please?”
“So we could just meet for that party…” he suggested again but Jazz made a noncommittal sound and took another bite of her meal.
“Let’s not discuss this now. I want to enjoy the nice restaurant you chose.”
Tomoyo nodded once and smiled. “Of course. How about some more wine?”
More wine. And then some. With the almost giddy relief over her successful operation Jazz got a bit carried away and maybe had a glass too much. She wasn’t stupid, of course she didn’t get wasted. And she had casually asked him about the other date that was still open, just to double check. If he had told her he was busy that day, too, she would have been in trouble. But he had almost jumped at the chance of another date and Jazz had to drown the slightly guilty conscience of leading him on like that with the fantastic wine that restaurant was serving. The chocolate soufflé had been great and came with – surprise, surprise – even more wine.
And now Jazz was sitting in a cab, humming a song, happy that she had made it without having to kiss Tomoyo – or do something even worse. Maybe he was a decent guy, deep down, under all that shallow vanity and greed. But if she could believe Jin he wasn’t so there was no need to feel bad after all. It was great how her tipsiness took care of her worries, just like that. It had always been like this, she got careless and larking whenever she drank. A happy drunk. Better than getting angry or whiny.
She had called Jin from the cab and now was on her way to give him her report, and after that off home. She could hear the tempting call of her bed all the way into that cab, but her own giddiness had her bouncing her leg. She might have been tired but she would be unable to sleep now anyway.
Still with a spring in her step Jazz made her way over the empty campus towards Jin’s office.
“Are you drunk?” He was amused and surprised, it had been a long time since he last saw her like this.
“Not drunk, just – drunk-ish,” she happily replied. “Your office doesn’t suit you.”
Slightly taken aback by the sudden change of topic Jin looked around the room, back at her only to shrug once.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Jazz plopped down on his swivel chair and sighed. “It’s dull. And repressive. I couldn’t work here. There’s no sign of the spontaneous Jinji who once woke me up in the middle of the night because it was raining.” Or more precisely, to drag her to the roof of their building so they could make out in the rain.
The use of her old nickname for him and the pleasant memory she was conjuring made him smile.
“How much exactly did you drink?”
She shrugged and started to spin in the chair.
“Enough to make it through the date, not that much to forget about the mission. Or do anything stupid.” She stopped, let out a low “ohhhh” at the sudden dizziness from the spinning. Searching for support she grabbed the edge of his desk.
“I think you need a glass of water. Come on, let’s go somewhere else before my dull office makes you cry. “
“Thursday,” she said when he took her arm to steady her.
“I’d bet he’s got that fancy secret meeting on that Thursday.” Her head was still spinning, maybe it had been more wine than she had realized. Jazz slightly slumped against Jin’s shoulder.
“Thank you. That really helps us a lot.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, kept her close so he could guide her through the hallways to his small room at the academy.
“Where are we?” she curiously asked once he had closed the door behind them.
“Instructors’ dorm. This is where I sleep most of the time.” He led her to the couch and sat her down. “Coffee or water?”
“Water. I don’t like coffee,” she almost pouted.
“Still not a fan of coffee?” He chuckled and poured her a glass of water. “Some things never change, huh?”
Jazz downed the glass and leaned back in the couch once she was done. “I swear, this was the worst date ever. Not only because I had to sound him out, but I’m really glad that I won’t have to do that again.” She closed her eyes for a moment, focused on breathing and on stopping the spinning in her head. When the couch dipped next to her she opened her eyes again and looked at Jin.
“I’m really sorry I had to ask that of you.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “It’s fine. As long as you have everything you need now. I’m not sure if I still can get rid of him if I go on another date with him. I don’t want to end up marrying that guy just for your investigation.” Her giggle was the only sound in the room and even in her tipsy state she realized how serious Jin was.
“I feel really bad for dragging you into this whole thing.” He furrowed his brow slightly and Jazz reached out and gently stroked with her fingertip across the crease above the base of his nose.
“Stop that or you get wrinkles,” she softly said, her thumb now gliding along his jaw. “I like your hair. It’s longer now.”
Jin tilted his head, both to lean into her touch and to be able to look her in the eyes. Last time he tried – something, she had stopped him. And now she was touching him like this. Was it just the alcohol?
“You are drunk. Try to sleep it off.” This must have been the hardest thing he ever said.
“Hm, no… not really drunk. Just – a bit more relaxed now.” Jazz shifted slightly, turned her body to face him better. “Are you worried about your little bird?”
If it wasn’t for her teasing tone he would have been taken aback but so he only smiled.
“The only little bird that matters is my songbird.”
It took only a tiny tilt of her face, her eyes wide with wonder when she heard that word. Songbird. He had teasingly called her that, years and years ago, because she was always humming and singing while she cooked. She still did.
His gaze flitted between her eyes and lips back and forth. Almost in anticipation her lips parted slightly, he could feel her breath, she could feel his hesitation.
Maybe he started it, maybe she did. It didn’t matter. Their lips met and after that reason was gone, replaced by a hunger that almost scared her. They hadn’t seen each other for eight years and even before they had broken up there wasn’t this spark anymore. And now it was back, in full force, engulfing her, consuming her fully. She carded her fingers though his hair, gasped into the kiss, spurred him on further. The soft give of his lips, the way he tentatively let his tongue glide over her bottom lip until she parted her lips more, invited him in, tasted him again – it just felt so right.
When they separated briefly, both panting for air, everything had changed. And everything was just the same. Like back then, in their early days, when they couldn’t kept their hands off each other. When they spent entire weekends in bed, only got dressed to get something to eat and sometimes they didn’t even made it through the whole meal without getting distracted.
It was funny how she could think about those things now, but she couldn’t deny that she had missed this, the intimacy, the feeling of coming home. When his hands slipped under the hem of her dress, caressing her thighs, it was like the first time and yet so familiar. And when he pulled her into his lap, hands roaming her body, his lips trailing kisses up and down her neck and shoulders, she was already in some sweet kind of haze that wasn’t because of the wine.
“Jinji… please…” Cupping his face she stared into his eyes, so many words in her mind but her mouth couldn’t say them.
“I know. Believe me, I know.” He kissed her softly, almost reverently. With a half sobbed, half sighed ‘please’ she broke him, stripped him of the last shreds of restraint.
Her fingers flew over the buttons of his shirt, she pushed both his jacket and the shirt off his shoulders while he unzipped her dress. Everything landed in a heap on the floor, off, just off. They had seen each other naked countless of times already, but that had been years ago. If it wasn’t for the wine Jazz would feel slightly concerned; her body had changed during that time, but so did his. He wasn’t that young man she knew anymore. But he was still so incredible fit and firm, strong arms, broad chest. A little bit pudgy at the belly, though. She liked it.
“Jazz… are you… are you sure?”
He was trying to catch her gaze, to get a straight answer from her. What he got was something else. She slid from his lap, knelt between his legs and started undoing his belt. With an almost shy smile she popped the button open and undid the zipper. Jin lifted his hips a bit so she could tug his pants and boxers down and her smile widened at the sight of his already hard cock. She remembered him, thick and hard and somehow the perfect fit for her. That had been something that always had been good between them. Even when they started drifting apart, the sex had been great.
Almost tentatively she leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the tip, making him hiss, his hands buried in the cheap fabric of the upholstery.
“You still like it when I do this?” she asked sweetly and sucked the tip into her mouth, her tongue lazily swirling around it. He still tasted the same, a weird thought that made her smile. Eight years and it was as if they had never broken up.
With a groan she parted her lips even more, started pushing down on him until he brushed against the back of her throat. She just kept him there for a moment until he started to squirm lightly. And with a cocky wink she just took him in even further, showing off what she had learned ever since they had separated.
“Hahhh… Jazz… oh god…”
She could feel his thighs tense under her hands, the slight tremble that made her shiver in return.
When she ran out of air she pulled back a bit, breathed and started to bob her head, eliciting moans and grunts from him. He even sounded the same. She didn’t mind that his hands cupped her face, that he pulled her off him and looked at her, panting and flushed. Almost tenderly he helped her up, kissed her, his hands buried in her hair.
“I want you so much right now,” he muttered, fingers finding the clasp of her bra, stripping her off her remaining underwear.
“Want you, too.” Her hands found his cock again, keeping him nice and hard for what was still to come.
Still locked in a kiss he walked her backwards, towards the narrow bed that was part of the dorm’s furniture. So far it had been sufficient for him and right now he didn’t care much anyway. Neither did she.
Once on her back Jazz closed her eyes, focused on the sensation of his lips and hands all over her body, getting reacquainted with every part of her. She gasped when his tongue flicked her clit, when he pushed two fingers into her. That felt so good and yet not enough. She rolled her hips slightly, grabbed his hair, made him groan at her impatience, her neediness. But that was it; she didn’t just want him. She needed him.
The mixture of the adrenaline, the wine and fact that the man she had loved most in her life was back between her thighs had her teetering at the edge too soon and with another flick of his tongue she came hard, squeezing his head between her thighs and arching her back. She needed a moment to catch her breath, regain the ability to think. He took that moment to stare at her in awe, to imprint her in this state of bliss and exhaustion to his memory. Until she reached out for him, wanting him closer again.
“You’re still tasting like milk and honey.”
She blushed at his compliment, the taste of her sex not something she usually discussed with people, but he gave her no time to be embarrassed. He crawled up her body, leaving kisses and nips every here and there until he could kiss her lips again. Jazz wrapped her arms around him, legs spread to give him room to settle on top of her, but he didn’t. Instead he hovered there, grunted when she wrapped a hand around his cock, fingers curled loosely, just enjoying the weight and feeling of him. Her tongue drew a wiggly line over his neck until she reached his ear.
“Jin…” It was a moan, a prompt, a plea, just one word that bypassed his brain and directly traveled up and down his spine.
“Condom.” He was barely able to hold back, he wanted to just take her already so when she bucked her hips, shamelessly rubbed her sex against him, he couldn’t help but grind back, almost rut against her.
“Birthcontrol,” she whispered back and gasped when his cock slid through her folds, hitting her still swollen clit.
“You sure?” Those words, pressed out between gritted teeth, made her moan in affirmation, she nodded and grabbed his waist, pulled him closer.
“Wouldn’t risk anything, you know that.”
The low “oh god” he groaned was almost drowned out by the loud, surprised cry she let out when he pushed into her. He grabbed one of her thighs, his other arm supported his weight on top of her when he started moving, urged on by her praises and encouragements. “God, yes!”, “Just like that!” and over and over “Jin” and “Jinji”. More kisses, frantic now, sloppy and greedy. Her nails dragged over his lower back, left red welts and small, crescent marks.
With every thrust he brought her closer to that feeling of being whole again after years of only having a vague idea what exactly was missing.
He came with her name on his lips, biting down on it hard so it wouldn’t escape. Not that she cared much, too lost in the pleasure, the wonderfully frustrating feeling of ‘almost there’. Without caring about the mess he’d made he rolled off her, held her tightly with one arm while his fingers finished what their joined bodies had begun.
She fell asleep almost instantly afterwards, just when her breathing evened out again.
“Chief?” Hayumi knocked at the door, waiting for an answer. “Chief, are you awake?”
The door was opened for a couple of inches, not enough for her to look into the room but enough so she could see Namba, hair dishevelled, shirt wrinkly. Obviously he just got out of bed.
“Little bird, are you my alarm this morning?” He smiled sleepily, making her blush lightly. Morning hair, morning voice. It was actually sexy and cute at the same time.
“I am sorry, Chief, but Instructor Kaga is looking for you.” She averted her eyes, the fact that his shirt wasn’t buttoned up completely was flustering her.
“Kaga, huh? Well, in that case I better hurry up. Thanks, I’ll be there in a minute.”
Hayumi nodded but made no move to leave, prompting Namba to ask her if there was anything else.
“Chief, I just thought… you’re looking as if you had a rough night. Do you need someone to stick another pain patch on your back?” She still wasn’t able to look at him so she missed the smirk on his face.
“Thank you, but I’m fine. Don’t worry. Shouldn’t you be in class anyway?”
Her gaze shot up to him, her mouth falling open into an ‘o’, eyes wide. “Y-you are right! Instructor Ishigami will get mad if I’m too late!” She bowed quickly, something on the floor catching her attention, but she was already running off before her brain could register what it was. Or what it meant.
Jazz wasn’t sure if the banging sound was real or just the throbbing in her head, but she really wanted it to stop. No, it was real, and it was the reason she was awake now. And the voices were real, too. One was cheerful and loud, almost carefree. The other was Jin, lower but still too loud for Jazz’s hangover. Everything was too loud, she was hot and sticky. Slowly she crawled out of bed, a much shorter distance than she was used to. Jin’s bed was really small.
The memories came rushing back to her and with them the panic. She shot up, her head protesting violently while she dragged herself towards the door nearby, trying to escape into the bathroom to avoid an encounter with her ex husband first thing in the morning. Her ex husband she just had sex with. She didn’t have a blackout, she knew exactly what she had done the night before. Proof of it was still between her thighs, the sticky and unpleasantly cool remains of his and her mixed essence.
She stumbled forwards through the door only to find herself in a closet. Disorientated she looked around. Suits and jackets. A robe. A robe! She quickly dragged it from the hanger and threw it over her naked body.
“You okay in there?” Jazz could hear the amused grin in his voice, she had seen that face far too often to not hear it. He chuckled and she could feel the blush creeping into her face, not only because she was acting like a fool again. No, she was naked, probably looked like a scarecrow, was hiding in a closet AND acted like a fool. That was just too much that early in the morning. Sheepishly she opened the closet door and shuffled out again.
“Bathroom?” she croaked, her voice hoarse and her throat dry.
“Over there.” He pointed towards another door and Jazz just nodded before she rushed over. “You are lucky, the students all have shared bathrooms. At least I have one for myself.”
She could hear the end of the sentence only muffled, the door was in the way. A quick peek into the mirror confirmed that, yes, she was looking like a scarecrow. Her hair was a mess and the dark smudges of her mascara made her look like some raccoon after a really bad night. And the taste in her mouth… just gross.
She had no toothbrush so she simply rinsed her mouth with water and tooth paste before she hopped into the shower, trying to wash away the sweat and makeup, the other body fluids and the shame. The guilt. There was no time for her usual beauty routine, and she didn’t even have her own products, so she simply took his shampoo and the least manly scented soap she could find.
The water made her at least clean, so when she stepped out of the shower three minutes later she already felt better. Still, she had to leave as soon as possible. And they probably had to talk about last night, but not now. Her head was still spinning and she was terrified to think about what having sex with Jin meant for her emotional state. So she didn’t. Pushed all the thoughts aside, tried to act like a damned grown up for once.
Wrapped in a towel she came out of the bathroom, avoiding his gaze. So much for being an adult.
“Here.” Jin handed her a glass of water and some painkillers with a small smile. With a muttered ‘thank you’ Jazz took both and swallowed the pills, hoping for them to work fast.
“So, what are your plans for today?” He casually offered her a cup of miso soup. “The best against hangovers,” he promised.
After a sip – and the grimace she made every time she tried miso; she would never get used to that taste, no matter how long she’d live in Japan – Jazz started looking around for her clothes.
“Actually I have a really important meeting in less than one hour, so I better get back home, change and do something about my face and hair. My bosses will throw a fit if I mess this up.” She had spotted her dress and underwear, her shoes were near the door. Her purse on the table. Everything was there, good.
“If you ask me, your face and hair are just fine. Better that fine. I always wonder how you can look that beautiful in the early morning, especially after last night.” She knew he meant it as a compliment but the mention of last night made her uncomfortable.
“I’m looking completely wrecked and that’s exactly how I feel.” She turned away from him and slipped the straps of her bra over her shoulders, expertly juggling towel and bra so she could close the clasp without exposing herself. She could go back to the bathroom to get dressed, but time was really an issue right now.
“Could you call me a cab?” Without waiting for his answer Jazz slipped into her dress, letting the towel drop once she was decent and slipped her panties on. Her hair was still wet so she simply twisted it once and secured it into some messy bun with a hairtie.
“I could give you a lift.”
She turned to face him, bend down a bit to pick up the towel from the floor. “Thanks, but that’s rather unpractical. I will need the cab to get to the meeting anyway and so I could just let them bring me home, wait there and then bring me to my meeting.”
“Or I could take you home, wait there and take you to your meeting afterwards.”
There he was again, the stubborn Jin, the man who always had to get his way. Jazz rolled her eyes – and regretted it instantly because of the headache.
“Jin, please. I’m already late, I really don’t need this now. Call a cab, please.” She was embarrassed, frustrated, irritated. This argument led nowhere and she just didn’t have the time for that now. “You know what? Forget it, I’ll simply flag one down on the street.” After another disgusting sip of miso soup she grabbed her purse and her shoes and simply left without looking back. His signature move.
Hayumi was pushing her food around on the plate, too occupied with her thoughts to pay attention to trivial things like eating.
“Okay, what is wrong with you today?” Naruko’s irritation got the better of her when she forcefully put her chopsticks down, staring at Hayumi expectantly. “You’ve been sighing for a million times already.”
Unable to put her thoughts in words Hayumi stubbornly shook her head.
“You don’t want to tell me? Fine.” Naruko’s voice got softer now, sadder. “And here I thought we were friends.”
With wide eyes Hayumi sat up straight. “We are friends! It’s just – ugh, it’s just so complicated!” She slumped down in her chair again, the short boost of activity leaving her almost spineless again.
“Complicated is exactly my thing. Now spill it and we can figure it out together.” Her bright smile was a stark contrast to the sad face she had displayed just a second ago, making Hayumi think that it had all been an act. But she was too troubled to be angry at her friend.
“It’s – I’m a bit worried about the chief.”
Naruko furrowed her brow in confusion. “The chief? Shouldn’t you rather be worried about your grades? Instructor Ishigami wasn’t very amused about you being late again this morning.”
“I was only late because I was running an errand for Instructor Kaga. His aide was busy so he sent me – nevermind. Back to the topic, okay? Does – uhm, does the chief strike you as, as some sort of player?”
“Player?” Naruko seemed to try the word on her tongue, as if she didn’t get the meaning. Suddenly her expression brightened. “Oh, you mean because of that rumor that he hangs around Pachinko palors?”
“Huh? No, not that. He has explained the whole Pachinko thing. It’s just a cover to meet informants.” Hayumi waved with her hand before she rested her chin in her palm, elbow propped up on the table.
“Say, what would you think when you saw something in someone’s room that doesn’t belong there?”
“Like what?” Naruko mirrored Hayumi’s posture.
“Like – women’s shoes?”
“The chief wears women’s shoes? He must have a huge size, where does he get those?” Naruko faked a shocked expression.
“No, of course not! Can you please be serious! There were high heels lying on the floor! Does that mean he had someone stay the night?” Hayumi already knew the answer, it was the only rational one. The chief had spent the night with a woman.
“So what? He’s married, isn’t he?” Naruko went back to eat her meal. “I mean, the ring, the bentos – you knew that already, didn’t you?”
“That’s the point. He isn’t really married. They are divorced. And I met his ex wife, she’s actually – ugh, I have no idea what she is.” The kind of woman Hayumi wanted to be one day. Confident, successful, sophisticated.
“They are divorced? Then why is he wearing that ring? And who is making his bentos. Oh, do you think he can cook? That would be a very attractive trait.” Naruko was already eying some things on Hayumi’s plate.
“That’s not the important thing here! I want to know if you think he’s the type to play with girls. Women. Whatever. Maybe the ring is some kind of – I don’t know, some kind of trick. So that his hook-ups won’t demand anything more afterwards.” The annoyed way she bit her bottom lip gave her away. Naruko grinned.
“So, since when are you so interested in Chief Namba’s love life? I mean, he’s so much older, I bet he has a girl or two every now and then. Experienced. And still sexy for his age.” She smugly leaned back in her chair, watching Hayumi’s cheek growing redder with the second. “Are you jealous that you are not one of those girls?”
Hayumi gasped in indignation. “What?! No! That’s – that’s not it. Not at all!”
Sitting up straight again Naruko narrowed her eyes at her friend. “Oh god, Hayumi! Don’t tell me-“ She lowered her voice to a whispered hiss. “Don’t tell me you already have something with him and now he cheats with another girl!”
Instantly Hayumi hid her face behind her hands. “No! I’m just – what if – I kinda like him, okay? I just don’t want a rude awakening, okay? What if I tell him eventually and he just – just has someone else?” Her voice was miserable now and Naruko felt bad for teasing her so much.
“Hey, he’d be an idiot if he didn’t fall for you. But to keep guessing and losing yourself in some weird assumptions won’t help. Calm down, there’s a logical explanation for everything. Come, I’m treating you to some dessert.”
Still miserable and sad Hayumi settled for ice cream.
Dressed in fresh clothes, hair and makeup done properly Jazz already felt much better, at least physically. But her heart was still in uproar, beating violently each time her thoughts strayed back to the night before. Good sex, but a bad decision.
Work was a great distraction, the meeting provided her with lots of other things to think about than her love life – or the lack of it. After lunch with a potential client Jazz trudged back into the office, glad that at least the hangover could have been tamed with spicy food and lots of water.
“Oh Jazz, there is a cop waiting in your office. Again,” H informed her cheerfully. Too cheerful for Jazz’s liking that day, but there was no use in taking her bad mood out on others.
“Okay, thanks.” She smiled weakly at the receptionist before she made her way over to her office. What did Goto want this time? More blueprints? God, she hoped it was because of the blueprints. At least that would be a doable and simple task. Plus Goto was a friend, maybe he had some advice for her how to break the news to Jin. Because she had to tell him eventually.
“So, what do you want from me today?” she asked airily when she opened the door to her office.
“I was hoping for dinner to be honest.” It wasn’t Goto but Jin, sitting in her swivel chair, very much like she had been sitting in his last night.
“Oh.” Frozen in her tracks, not even having crossed the threshold Jazz stared at Jin who got up from her chair with a smile. He was really looking good, but then again, he wasn’t the one with the hangover. But he was the one who had great sex last night.
“I thought I’d owe you dinner. You know, as thank you for helping with the case.”
He was close enough to touch her now but frowned slightly when he noticed how reserved she was.
“That is a nice idea.” Her response was slow, careful. She was choosing her words, trying to gather her thoughts. Fought against the pesky emotions that welled up again. “But I’m not in the mood for ramen.” Brushing past him she walked to her desk, set her purse down and plopped down into her chair.
“Sorry, that meeting was hell.” She tried to take the edge of her rejection, knowing that she actually had to push him even further away to make sure she didn’t do anything stupid. Again.
Seemingly unfazed Jin took a seat and watched her rummaging in her drawers for some painkillers.
“Anything I can do for you?” The way he said that was so casual but she knew he meant it. Whatever she said, he’d do it if it was possible. Jazz closed her eyes briefly, gathered her courage.
“No, it’s fine. So, you won’t need my help from here on anymore, right?” She forced herself to look at him, tried to appear determined, business like.
“For the case? No, I think we can manage. It’s my job, you know?” He smiled, the wrinkles in the corner of his eyes showing. But his expression changed, the smile faded.
“Jazz? What’s wrong?”
She took a deep breath, straightened up. “We need to talk. About last night.”
He sighed, visibly slumped a bit. “Talking. That’s never something good.”
“Well, if we had talked a bit more back – ah, nevermind.” Jazz leaned back in her chair, already exhausted before the conversation had really started.
“Last night was-” The words ‘a mistake’ sat on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t make herself say them. “- not a wise decision. It was great, but it should stay a one time thing.”
His face fell but Jin quickly put on a smile again. “Way to make me feel cheap.”
With a tired chuckle Jazz tipped her head back, staring at the ceiling.
“I’m sorry.” She looked back at him, offering a helpless shrug of her shoulders. As if anything she said could change anything.
He got up, fingertips resting on the surface of her desk for a moment.
“I’m not.” In regard to her puzzled expression he explained: “Sorry. I’m not sorry. Not about last night at least. There are other things… but not last night.” With a sad smile and a single nod he turned to leave, almost missed her muttered: “Me neither…”
During the next few days Jazz was glad that work offered her a good distraction, meetings and planning for new projects took up most of her time. But during the nights her heart and mind betrayed her, tormented her with memories of happier times in her dreams. Once or twice she even dreamed of that night with Jin, reliving the desire, the passion, the underlying sweetness that permeated it all.
She woke up after another memory/dream, this time about that time when she was cooking in the kitchen, singing along with the radio that was just playing.
Fontella Bass. Jin came rushing in, grabbed her and spun her around, set her down a bit from her chopping board away.
“What are you doing?” she asked, but under laughter.
“You sang ‘Rescue me’. And here I am, I’m rescuing you. From the evil leek as it seems.” He was grinning happily at his own joke, making Jazz burst out into a new round of laughter.
“You are impossible,” she chuckled but cupped his cheek and pulled him in for a kiss.
“That I am. But I will always come and rescue you if necessary.”
She buried her face in the pillow, wondering why she was torturing herself like that. It had taken one year after the divorce before she was some kind of happy again. It had never been like with him, though, not when she was alone and not when she was with another man. It would never be like with Jin again. But then again, she didn’t want that anymore, back then when she asked him for the divorce. When she couldn’t take it anymore, the distance between them although they had been in the same room. The silence between them. The indifference. No, that wasn’t right. There had always been emotions, but that was just not enough.
She groaned and pushed herself up, out of the bed and under the shower, washing off the remnants of sleep and that stupid, silly, wonderful dream.
Namba twirled the pen in his hand, absentmindedly staring out of the window.
“… and the suspect escaped through the alley. But we found him ten minutes later.” Goto just finished his report and looked at Namba expectantly. “Chief?”
“Huh? Oh, yes. Good job.” Namba sat up straighter and put the pen down. “Anything else to report?”
“The preparations for the raid of that meeting between Hidai and the foreign buyers are finished.”
Both men nodded briefly.
“So… did he contact her again?” It was meant to come across as casual, case related. It didn’t.
“Actually he has. Called her at work. She lets the receptionist take his calls, though.” Goto had to suppress a knowing grin. It was funny how similar they were. Hadn’t Jazz tried not to ask about Namba when he last dropped by to ask for another set of blueprints the other day, too?
“Oh, okay.” The chief was looking out of the window again.
“If that’s all… I have classes later.” Goto waited for Namba to face him again.
“Yeah, sure. Thanks. Go and teach them – well, a lesson, I guess.” He chuckled briefly about his joke before he took a deep breath and got up from his chair. “I’m heading out. Meeting an informant. I’ll be back in two or three hours.”
Goto got up, too, and together they left Namba’s office.
“You’re not looking well, Chief. Maybe you should try to sleep more.”
Namba brushed the remark off with a wave of his hand. “Once that case is solved. It’s too important to get careless now.”
Hayumi was listlessly browsing the store. She needed new shoes, but that didn’t mean she was in the mood to shop for them. Couldn’t they just magically materialize in her closet already? Shopping was such a pain sometimes, especially now that she was constantly thinking about the chief and that mysterious woman who had spent the night in his room. Hayumi wasn’t stupid, she knew what a man and a woman alone at night usually did, but she didn’t want to believe that the chief was that kind of man. Maybe the woman had just spent the night there because she had nowhere else to go? Or because she was sick?
Who was she fooling? No one. The chief had sex with someone and it hadn’t been Hayumi. And here she had thought that there was something special between them. The way he always patted her head. Gave her candies. Smiled at her – it had to mean something, right? Right?
Why couldn’t she stop thinking about him? He was so mature and yet so laid back, kind but determined when it came to the job. She could really look up to him – and at him. He was really attractive after all. So she could either give up on him and focus on the training, or she could fight. Show him that she was more than just a student. She wasn’t a girl after all, she was a woman! And she would buy pretty new shoes and some clothes to prove it! She still remembered the dress he had picked out for her when they went on that mission. If that was the kind of dress he liked she would get something like it, and she would be forward and ask him out. For ramen. That was innocuous enough and still something he liked. And she would show him how mature she was, asking him out instead of waiting patiently.
Giving herself a mental peptalk she turned her back on the rather cute and girly shoes and made her way over to the more sophisticated, elegant heels. Where she promptly ran into a familiar face.
Jazz turned around, the young girl in front of her now vaguely familiar.
“It’s Mann,” she corrected her.
“Oh, yes, sorry. But you are – uhm, the ex wife of Chief Namba?”
Suddenly something clicked in Jazz’s head. “I am. And you are this student, his ‘little bird’, right?”
Hayumi nodded eagerly. “Yes, that’s me. Although I’d prefer if you would call me Hayumi.”
Jazz smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name last time. I was a bit overwhelmed by suddenly getting dragged into some undercover mission. Nice to meet you again. Under better circumstances this time.” She bowed her head slightly, a gesture that Hayumi returned, but with a much deeper bow.
“I am sorry that you had to get involved in that mess. It was my fault, if I had been able to get that information on my own-“ Hayumi started to apologize just for Jazz to interrupt her.
“Stop this, it’s not your fault. Jin should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy. Hell, if I hadn’t already known Tomoyo I wouldn’t have gotten it either. So stop blaming yourself for it. It’s Jin’s fault and he knows it.”
“Oh no, the chief is – well, he is really capable. It was me who wasn’t-“
Jazz rolled her eyes. “Honestly, stop it. The whole plan had been bad. Jin knows it, I know it, and I’m sure deep down inside you know it, too. So don’t blame yourself.”
“You are really kind,” Hayumi shyly answered but let the topic drop. For an awkward moment they stood there, between rows and rows of shoes, not knowing what to say.
“Do you – do you have a moment? I have some questions. Regarding the chief.” Hayumi bit her bottom lip nervously and looked down at her feet, missing the way Jazz’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“Okay. How about a tea?”
Ten minutes later they were sitting in a café, both stirring in their cups.
“So, what can I help you with?” Jazz finally broke the silence.
“Oh, uhm… it’s just – I figure you know him pretty well and all… and sometimes I just don’t understand what he’s thinking.” Hayumi shrugged helplessly, a bit startled when Jazz chuckled.
“Honey, if I could tell what this man is thinking I didn’t have to divorce him. It’s fine, you don’t have to understand him. He’s very serious when it comes to his job so you can trust him to do everything he can to guide you through your training.”
“Oh, okay. It’s just – my question wasn’t really about him as the chief. I mean, he is the chief, no matter what, but I wanted to know more about him – as a person?” The way Hayumi fidgeted with her spoon made Jazz sigh. Oh dear, this girl was in far over her head.
“As a person? Well, that’s tricky. I haven’t seen him in years, I guess you know him better by now than I do.”
“You think he has changed that much since your – your…”
“Divorce is the word, hun. Don’t worry, I’m not bitter about it. And yes, I assume he has changed, because I definitely have. Although he still has some of the traits I know.” A small smile played on her lips but she chased those thoughts away. “But I can tell you a bit about the Jin I know, if that is helpful.”
“Yes, please,” Hayumi eagerly replied, blushing slightly when she noticed how loud she just had been.
“Okay, so what do you want to know?”
With a huge smile Hayumi leaned closer towards the table. “How did you meet back then?”
That was a question Jazz hadn’t expected, it made her hesitate.
“Actually… I messed up an operation for him when he was in training. Ran right into an observation and kinda chased the suspect off.”
‘Chased him off’ wasn’t the right expression, though. He had been hitting on Jazz who wasn’t in the mood to let him down gently. She raised hell when he tried to touch her and the suspect ran off, a whole bunch of cops and cops in training hot on his heels. Jin had almost knocked her over and had to steady her so she wouldn’t fall, angry that he had missed his chance to catch the suspect.
“Oh!” Hayumi’s eyes went wide, remembering her own first blunder and how harsh the chief had been on her. “I guess he wasn’t really happy.”
Jazz chuckled briefly, eyes looking back to that moment rather than seeing what was right in front of her. “You could say that. He yelled at me. And I yelled back. Some officer came and interrogated me and I was really angry for some time, telling them over and over that it was my right to defend myself instead of just standing there and letting that jerk grope me. I mean, I had no idea what was going on around us so I acted like I usually would. The next day I got a call and Jin apologized, explained the situation to me and refused to hang up before I accepted his dinner invitation. He took me to a small bar and we had ramen. I was 17 back then and he had just started working for the police.”
Her smile was almost ethereal, but then she blinked, fixed her expression into a neutral one and sat up straighter.
“You have been really young,” Hayumi remarked shyly.
“Yes, and so was he. 23. And cute, handsome, very driven.” Jazz sighed. “We got married not even three years later. That was definitely too soon. I know that today.”
It was hard for Hayumi to imagine the chief as a young man, energetic and idealistic. The way he had chewed her out when she had messed up her first assignment just to protect some random girl in the train – idealistic wasn’t really the word that came to mind when she thought about him. But he was serious when it came to the job and that was definitely something Hayumi could respect. And she was willing to learn as much from as she could. Jobwise.
“So you were not really the shy and quiet kind of girl?” she finally asked.
“No, definitely not. I’m loud, I’m stubborn. I’m not Japanese so I don’t really fit into the ideal of a Japanese woman anyway. He didn’t seem to mind. Never expected me to stay at home and just support him. He encouraged me to go my own way and find happiness in my work, too. But the more time we spent at work the less time we had together and eventually we led two separate lives under the same roof.”
Playing with the hem of her shirt Hayumi shyly smiled. “So that’s kind of woman he likes?” Confident, independent? Was that the kind of woman Hayumi could be?
Jazz shrugged. “That is the kind of woman he married. But that has been years ago, maybe he wants something else in a woman now.”
The way Hayumi bit her lip and kept glancing around was just too suspicious.
“Okay, spill it. I’ve already told you half of the story of my life, no need to get shy now.”
“Why did you break up?”
Yes, why? Jazz had thought about this very often already, and she wished there was an easy answer.
“I loved him, very much. And I think he loved me, too. But there was one thing he loved even more and after some time I got tired of playing the second fiddle all the time.” She rubbed her temples briefly and sighed.
“Did he – did he cheat?” So the chief really was a player? Hayumi wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t for his ex wife to tell her. But Jazz shook her head immediately, denying this suspicion before it could take roots.
“No! God, no. I was talking about his job. It always came first and I got tired of getting stood up, of our friends already making jokes that it was useless to invite him because he would cancel anyway and I would come alone to parties and such. And eventually I was so used to doing things on my own, it felt as if we weren’t married at all.”
For some time she had tried to revive their relationship, had suggested to try out new activities, to make one day a week a couple’s day. In the third week he had to cancel the movie night because of a work emergency and Jazz had given up, already too tired to fight any longer. And when that one undercover mission came up…
“Let me tell you this – and I’m saying this as a friend, although we don’t know each other that long – but if you can, you better tone done that crush you have on him. I can understand it, he is warm and smart and can be really sweet, but you won’t get happy with him. Not as long as you would have to compete with his job.” She leaned a bit over the table, forearms on the surface.
“Maybe you are stronger than I was, but do you think you can do that? Compete with the whole country for his love? Because that’s what you would have to do. The safety of the whole country… what’s that in comparison to some missed dinners? To evenings you spent alone? To the constant fear that one day he won’t come back from an undercover mission? Maybe it would be easier for you, since you are a cop yourself. But from my experience let me assure you: It’s killing you. It’s chipping little pieces off your heart and soul, and you start hating the job he does. You start hating the people and the whole damn country because every single person seems to be more important to him than you.”
By now tears were shimmering in her eyes, her voice was thick with anger and hurt. Maybe she was still a bit bitter about the whole divorce after all. Maybe she was just emotional because of that little lapse the other night. Whatever it was, she knew she was making a scene and although she didn’t care about the looks people gave her she could tell that Hayumi was more than uncomfortable.
With a dry chuckle Jazz wiped her eyes quickly.
“So long story short: don’t do it. Don’t tell him about your feelings, don’t hope for anything in return. Try to find someone who can put you on his number one spot in life. Not someone who is bound to break your heart without even realizing. You deserve more than that.”
Hayumi nodded weakly. “I’m sorry for bringing up bad memories,” she sincerely said with a bow. “And I’m sorry for interrupting your shopping trip.”
This time Jazz laughed out loudly. “Don’t worry about that. I was just finished anyway.” She stretched a leg out from beneath the table, showed off her shoe.
“Oh, those are pretty!”
“Thank you. My favorites shoes just broke today, I lost a heel when I stepped into a crack in the street.” Jazz opened her shopping bag for Hayumi to see. The smile on the face of the younger woman faded. She had seen these shoes before.
“Chief? We have a problem.” Goto didn’t even wait after knocking to open the door; he rushed into the office to find Namba absorbed in some paperwork.
“What’s wrong?” Namba let the papers sink down and frowned.
“Apparently they changed the meeting location for Thursday and none of our sources can tell us where they are going to meet now. The city is too big to just hope and wait we will somehow find them in time.” Still standing in front of the desk Goto seemed both determined and resigned.
“What if we tail Hidai and simply follow him around?” Namba mused loudly only to shake his head dismissively. “But we wouldn’t be able to prepare properly. No, we have to know in advance.”
There was a brief moment of heavy silence until Goto pointedly cleared his throat.
“You know, maybe we could use some help…”
“No! I know what you’re thinking, but I have promised her that she wouldn’t have to do that again.” The vehemence in his voice left no room for an argument, but they both knew it was their best bet. Namba ran a hand through his hair and exhaled deeply.
“Okay, we can at least ask her. But we won’t pressure her, you got that?”
With a nod Goto accepted the condition.
“Should I ask her?”
Maybe it was better that way, after all Jazz and Namba hadn’t talked since that day in her office. They needed some distance before they met again – at least he did.
“Yes, good idea. But make sure she understands that she has a choice.”
“Don’t worry, chief, I will.”
Still, Namba couldn’t shake off the bad feeling when he watched Goto leave his office again.
In a nice dress and heels, hair and makeup actually done with more care than usually and a basket with some snacks and drinks in hand Jazz tottered into the building, flashing the receptionist a bright smile.
“Hi, I would like to visit Tomoyo – uhm, I mean Mr. Hidai.”
The young guy behind the counter barely raised his head.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, this is a surprise visit.” This earned her at least a disapproving glance.
“I can’t let you pass without an appointment.”
She inwardly rolled her eyes – of course this couldn’t be just easy – but kept her smile in place.
“In that case I would like to make an appointment. In, let’s say, five minutes?”
The boy – she couldn’t think of him as a man – looked up again, this time clearly annoyed.
“That is not that easy, Miss.”
“Mann. Jazz Mann.”
Realization flashed across the boy’s face. “Oh. Miss Mann? I think we have talked a few times.”
Suddenly a smile replaced the scowl he had showed her before. Jazz rejoiced silently, glad that this was obviously the same receptionist that had called her to make the appointments so far. And maybe the same one that had sent her flowers on behalf of Tomoyo.
“I’m glad you remember me.” She gave him a pointed look and his smile wavered for a second.
“I’m not supposed to let anyone through.”
Jazz raised the basket. “I just wanted to surprise him with an indoor picnic. He doesn’t have another woman in there, does he?” Her tone was light and joking, she couldn’t care less about this, actually she would appreciate it if Tomoyo set his eyes on someone else.
“No, no, don’t worry. He is in a meeting right now, at least for another ten minutes… well, I guess he will be happy to see you there. Okay, but this is a huge exception.”
She nodded eagerly. “Of course. And I will let him know how nice you have been to make this surprise possible.”
She winked at him and quickly hurried past him at his sign. Finding Tomoyo’s office wasn’t hard, but now she had to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Some hint on where the meeting would take place. She couldn’t be too obvious, couldn’t rummage through drawers or his notes. She quickly browsed through his schedule, but of course there was nothing. Neither scribbled on the post-its on his desk. This was an expensive office building, surely the waste bins would get emptied every day. Still, Jazz quickly searched the trash, again without finding anything. She got impatient, always listening for footsteps or other signs Tomoyo might come back. Not a born spy, or a detective. Jazz was just a normal woman, and her nerves were getting the better of her. Close to tears, half of frustration and half of despair, she opened his drawers and tried to browse the papers in there, but it just was too much stuff in there to actually know where to begin.
And then she heard him.
When Tomoyo opened the door to his office Jazz was smiling at him, sitting in his chair.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
He hesitated for a second before he smiled back, closed his door behind him and stopped in front of the desk. “I’m sorry, did I forget that you were coming?”
She got up, motioned towards the chair for him and grabbed her basket, held it between herself and him.
“No, and actually I am the one to be sorry. I haven’t called you back all week and I feel bad about it. There was an unexpected tax inspection in my company and everyone was panicking.” She offered him an apologetic smile and shrug and he laughed.
“You are forgiven. This is a really lovely surprise.” His glance towards the basket was accompanied by the question what she had in there.
“I figured you are a busy man and maybe would enjoy a nice lunch with me. And since I’m practically ambushing you here I decided to suggest an indoor picnic. Right here. What do you think?”
“I think that sounds delicious.” The way he said that send shivers down her spine, but not the good kind. Not like Jin had done a few days ago.
She quickly pushed those thoughts aside. Very dangerous terrain she was toeing there, she hadn’t changed her mind on that after all. There was no use in reheating whatever was left of their affection for each other, it would only lead to heartbreak. Again. She blinked and moved a step backwards when Tomoyo came closer, almost dancing away. Teasing him. She had to keep her distance and him interested. A dangerous dance.
“I have some onigiri, some sandwiches and fruit. Nothing fancy but I hope you’ll like it.”
“If we want to make it a picnic we can’t eat at the desk.” With his eyebrow raised he motioned towards the couch but Jazz shook her head.
“If we want to make it a picnic we have to sit on the ground.”
With an amused chuckle, as if she was a very entertaining act, he took off his jacket and placed it on the floor. “Let’s make it authentic, shall we?”
Somehow she managed to get through this lunch without ending up as the dessert, although the gazes and some lingering touched he sneaked in between bites made it painfully obvious what he was hoping for as next course.
As a single woman she knew the magic of an ‘emergency call’, that saving grace that often ended a disastrous date. Unfortunately there was no one who could call her, she hadn’t told anyone about her plan after all. It was actually his phone that rang and marked the end of the lunch.
“Sorry, I’m having a meeting now. I would love to – continue, though. Maybe for dinner?”
Jazz started to pack the leftovers into the basket. “I would love to, but that tax inspection isn’t over yet. I could just sneak away for an extended lunch break, I will probably have to work through the whole evening. But I will call you, okay?”
He was already getting up and Jazz bowed slightly. “Thank you for sharing this lunch with me.”
Tomoyo grabbed his jacket and shook it once, stepped closer and leaned in. “Thank you for this nice surprise.”
She couldn’t avoid the dreaded kiss this time, simply closed her eyes and hoped it would be over soon. It wasn’t even a bad kiss, just – definitely the wrong man. Even if he wasn’t a suspected criminal, he was dull and conceited and just not Jin.
With a tight smile she pulled back. “I’m better going now.”
“Sure. Let me walk you out, okay? I just need to grab some papers.” While he hurried to his desk, still a pleased smirk on his face, Jazz noticed something that must have fallen out of his jacket pocket. A small piece of paper. A business card? Pretending to take up her basket she quickly grabbed it, almost crying in joy when she saw what it was: just what she had been looking for.
Once Goto’s phone rang he hurried to answer, hoping it was the call he was waiting for.
“I swear, you won’t get away with a stupid ‘thank you’ this time. This was so much more unpleasant than you could even imagine.”
He smiled weakly at Jazz’s annoyed voice, he already knew what she would say next after this very informal greeting.
“I think I have what you need. And I need a shower and a drink now.”
He felt slightly guilty, she sounded really fed up and tired. And he really hoped she hadn’t to do too much to get this information.
“I’m dropping by later, try to relax for now. And although you might not want to hear it: Thank you.”
Jazz grumbled something and hang up.
She wasn’t mad at Goto, but she sure was disappointed that Jin had sent him instead of coming on his own, like some decent person would do. No, he had sent the only other person she couldn’t stay mad with, one of the kindest cops she ever knew. But still a cop and of course he had an agenda. She couldn’t blame him for that. So she blamed Jin.
Not even one hour later Goto was standing in front of her door, patiently waiting until she opened, wrapped in a robe, hair still wet.
“I thought you were joking when you said you needed a shower.”
Jazz shrugged and handed him the card. “I wasn’t. Neither about the drink.”
“Was it really that bad?”
“I had to pretend that I like him, I had to make him believe that I like him! I know that you might do this for the safety of the country all the time, but I am just some architect, not a spy! And I hate lying to people and I hate that you make me do this! And I hate that I’m so good at this, too!”
Goto was visibly taken aback by the intensity of her emotions, by her anger and tears, but he also understood that it wasn’t directed at him.
“Tell him – tell him that I’m out. Whatever happens now, he better finds someone else to play along. Maybe his little bird is suited better for this.”
She slumped down a bit, let Goto lead her to her couch.
“Do you want to talk?” He sat her down and waited for her answer, carefully examining her face but Jazz only waved him off.
“No, it’s fine. Nothing another drink and a senseless shopping spree can’t cure. Go, go and earn the laurels for this.” She motioned towards the card he had put into his breast pocket.
“You know that’s not what’s going to happen.”
“The shopping spree? Oh yes, that will happen.” She started playing with a strand of her wet hair, twirled it around her finger.
“You know what I’m talking about.” The calmness he exuded was infuriating for her right now but after all those years it didn’t surprise her. That was just the way he was, cool and calm, collected.
“Yeah, yeah. Go and tell Jin everything. And don’t forget the part with my involvement in this being over.”
With a soft nod Goto got up again. “Don’t worry, I will let him know. Although he’s already beating himself up because of this.” After a second of hesitation he added: “Should I come back later? So you can yell a bit at me? Get rid of some of that anger?”
Her tired smile was answer enough, she didn’t even have to shake her head. “No, I’m going to bed early, today really took its toll on me.”
“Okay. But call me if you need anything. Even if it’s just someone to vent to.”
Jazz watched him leave and wondered – for umpteenth time – why Goto wasn’t married yet. He was such a great guy, handsome, smart, kind. Is it wasn’t for her stupid infatuation for Jin she would have made a move already. With a sigh Jazz poured herself another glass of wine and decided to order some food.
“Oh, Chief! Sorry, do you have a second?” Hayumi skipped over to Namba when she spotted him in the hallway, determined to set her plan in motion. That talk with his ex wife had only fueled her resolve to ask him out. Of course she would tell Hayumi not to pursue the idea of dating the chief, obviously his ex wife was still in love with him. It had been her shoes that Hayumi had seen in his room after all. And then she sat there and talked to Hayumi as if she really was a friend. She wasn’t! Jazz Mann was a liar, a manipulative, calculating bitch! That was what she was!
In her righteous fury Hayumi had seen right through that caring older friend act. Oh, Hayumi might be young, but she wasn’t stupid, no ma’am. And she knew that she would have to act quickly or his ex would sink her fangs into him again. But if Hayumi asked him now and convinced him to go on a date with her, he would quickly forget about his ex, right? There was something special between them, wasn’t it?
“Oh, little bird, now is not a good time. This whole Hidai business is keeping me on my toes.”
Namba hurried past her and Hayumi needed a moment to gather her wits and follow him, making three steps for every two he took.
“Okay, then how about later? I mean, you have to get dinner eventually. We could eat something together…”
“I will probably just eat at my desk,” he interrupted her.
“I could get you something. Ramen? Would you like me to bring you dinner later? I could do that,” she eagerly suggested only for him to falter for a split second.
“I’m not sure… I might have to leave later and maybe I just get something somewhere.”
“No, that won’t do. I’m coming to your office later and bring you something. Don’t worry, I can cook, you will like it.” She had to stop walking to avoid bumping into Namba who now stood rooted to the floor.
“You want to cook for me?”
A wide smile appeared on Namba’s face. “I think that’s the best thing I heard in the last few days. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hayumi’s expression mirrored his, her joy was pure and bright. She nodded and ran off to start cooking while Namba chuckled and went to see Goto.
“I’m not sure, chief, but whatever had happened there today, Miss Mann seemed rather agitated because of it. You know her better than me but I guess she’s really upset.”
Until now Namba had been in very high spirits, the small business card with a note of the exact time just the right thing to brighten his mood.
“What do you mean, she’s upset?”
Goto’s usually almost stoic expression changed, he frowned, obviously thinking hard about how to say this without saying too much.
“She was – yelling.”
Namba shrugged. “You have never been married, but a woman who yells? Not unusual.”
“Chief, I think she has been crying. Is it normal for her to cry?” If it was wrong to tell Namba Goto would deal with the consequences later, for now he wanted to make sure that the little mission they had sent Jazz on wasn’t actually causing her distress. It was one thing to demand things like that from recruits or officers, but not from civilians.
“Oh.” Namba fiddled with his pen for a moment, twirled it between his fingers. “Goto, you take care of the preparations. I think I better go and make sure she’s alright. It’s my responsibility after all.”
Half an hour later he was knocking at her door.
Jazz was hurried to the door, some money in her hand.
“Was about time,” she grumbled when she opened, only to stare slightly flustered at Namba.
“Sorry, if I had known you’re already waiting for me I would have come sooner.”
“What are you doing here? I thought you were my dinner.” She widened the gap and let him enter, checked the hallway once he was inside. “That delivery guy should have been here ten minutes ago.”
“Should I cook you something?” He gave her a once over and Jazz suddenly remembered that she was already in her pjs. Not the sexy kind, though. The baggy shirt and shorts kind.
“No, it’s fine. I’m sure my food will come every minute now.” She covered her front with her arms, tried to hide the shirt from him.
“Wait, is that – is that my shirt?”
“What? No! That’s just some old shirt I found in my closet…” She chuckled nervously and hurried past him into her kitchen. “You want a drink?
“That’s my old academy shirt. Don’t try to deny it.” With a huge grin he followed her. “Tea would be good.”
Jazz quickly prepared some tea, glad that she didn’t have to explain why she was wearing his old shirt. Well, mostly she did because it was comfy. Big. She had gained a bit of weight in the last few years, not much but definitely enough so she didn’t want to squeeze herself into second skin clothes anymore.
“Did you only come to check my state of dress?” She squeezed her eyes shut, that had been a stupid question.
“No, I was just wondering how you are. After that undercover stunt today.” Jin took the cup she was offering him and looked her once up and down.
“I’m fine, don’t worry.”
He put the cup down and stepped closer, so close that Jazz had to tip her head back to keep looking at him.
“You are a terrible liar, you know that? Now tell, what ails my little songbird?”
The sad smile that tugged at her lips made him regret this nickname, but he couldn’t help it; she would always be his songbird, his nightingale.
“I’m not such a terrible liar anymore. I made Tomoyo believe that I was actually there for him today, not for your stupid mission! I was that convincing that he kissed me.” Or he was just the kind of man who had no clue when a woman was really interested in him and when not. Jazz pressed her lips tightly together, challenged Jin to say something, anything.
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” His thumb gently brushed over her lips until she relaxed a bit. “I know that I’ve been asking a lot of you and you didn’t have to actually play along. Especially not since both of us knew where this would end.” He cupped her cheek now, saw how her eyes welled up. “So sorry…”
She grabbed the lapels of his jacket and pulled him close in the same moment he leaned in, their lips meeting in a far from gentle kiss but she didn’t mind. Anything to erase the memory of Tomoyo’s kiss. He gasped when he hoisted her up onto the kitchen counter, the cool surface a shock for a moment – even more than this stupid decision she was about to make. Jin’s hands slid up her naked legs until he reached the hem of her shorts, pulled her hips closer to the edge, closer to his body. And Jazz just let him. She let him kiss her, touch her, let his hands wander beneath this stupid shirt she should have thrown out years ago.
She even urged him on, wrapped her arms around his neck and returned the kisses with a passion that shouldn’t surprise her after that other night, but she couldn’t believe that she was doing this AGAIN.
Jazz hooked her legs around his waist and pulled him closer, until she could feel the hard bulge in his pants against her clothed core. Why did he make her so weak, even after all those years? Was it just because he had been her first love? Her first man? Her first husband? She had dated since they had broken up, had even been in a relationship that had lasted for over a year. But had she felt with any of those men like she did now? As if it was simply right?
What was it that Jin had and that every other man lacked? She pushed these thoughts aside and focused on the feeling of Jin between her legs, his lips on her skin, his wandering hands. When he pulled the shirt over her head her hair got somehow entangled and she yelped when he pulled too hard.
“Oh, sorry,” he mumbled, close to her ear when his fingers soothingly ran through her hair.
“Don’t sweat it…” Jazz titled her head slightly so he could kiss neck. When he nipped at her throat Jazz shrieked and jumped a bit, hitting her head at the cupboard above her.
“Ouch! Dammit, Jin! That hurt!”
“Me biting you or you bumping your head?”
“Both.” She pouted slightly, this was not going as she had planned.
“Here, let me kiss it better.” He placed a soft kiss on the top of her head, one on her forehead, her cheeks, the tip of her nose and back to her lips. She sighed into the last one, wrapped her arms tighty around him.
“Hold on, I think it’s getting a bit too dangerous here.” With his hands under her ass he hoisted her up again and wanted to carry her towards the bedroom when he suddenly grunted and hissed – and not the sexy kind.
Jazz slid from his arms, Jin went down on his knees, his face contorted in pain.
“Oh my god, what’s wrong? Jin?” She crouched down next to him, tried to find out where it hurt.
“My – my back… I think I did my back in…”
She just wanted to say that it was stupid to try to carry her after all, but a “I told you so” was not the right thing to say now.
“Oh, okay. Lie down. Come on, lie down.” She urged him onto the floor, straddled his legs and started pressing her hands onto his back, next to his spine.
“Tell me where.” With steady pressure she followed the curve of his spine until he yelped. “Okay, take a deep breath. Trust me.” With that she put both hands on his back and pushed hard. There was a clunk and a grunt from Jin, but when Jazz took her hands back he carefully wriggled.
“I – I think it’s better now…”
“Good. I have some soothing ointment, let me get that. Can you get up? To the couch?”
She quickly grabbed the shirt from the kitchen floor and pulled it back on, the urge to cover herself suddenly flaring up now that the heat between them cooled off. It was probably better this way; she had almost done something stupid again. Why did she always react like this when he touched her?
Jazz inwardly chided herself while she grabbed the ointment from her bathroom cabinet.
“Where did you learn that?” Jin asked when she came back and settled next to the couch on her knees.
“You really want to know? I dated a bonesetter for some time. He was really good and showed me some easy tricks. Like that one.” With careful movements she started rubbing the ointment into his skin and he sighed in pleasure.
“Maybe I’m getting too old for stunts like that,” he joked self-deprecatingly.
“Maybe I’m getting too heavy for this,” she hot back only for him to protest.
“No, that has nothing to do with you. You are still light as a feather.”
“A feather with a stone tied to it. Don’t worry, I don’t feel offended.” Her thumbs rubbed circles in his back, she was wondering how she should phrase the thought she just had.
“Anyway, thank you for doing this. And I’m sorry for spoiling the mood and all.” He turned his head to watch her, smiled at her focused expression.
“Actually… I think it’s better this way. I mean, the other night has been great but let’s be honest, it doesn’t change a thing about our problems. We didn’t break up just because we weren’t into each other anymore. We had real issues and sex just can’t smooth it all over.” There was a hint of sadness in her voice but she tried hard to deliver this without emotion. Getting all nostalgic now wasn’t the answer.
“Since we are already honest… I never forgave myself for letting you go.”
Jazz turned her head so he couldn’t see her face anymore. “I never forgave myself for leaving…”
She got up abruptly and wiped her hands on her shorts. “Okay, I think you’re good to go now. No heavy lifting in the next few days, though.”
While he buttoned up his shirt Jazz tried to regain her composure. She waited for him at the door, wanted to make sure that he really left.
“So, are you okay? Because of Hidai and all…”
Jazz nodded. “I’m fine. But you better arrest him soon or I will have to chase him off the next time. And we both remember what happened the last time I did this.” She smiled wryly, but Jin’s smile was warm and honest.
“Yeah, I remember. And don’t worry, once he has this meeting it will be all over.”
She nodded slowly. She wanted this all to be over so she could go back to her usual life. And she needed him to be far away from her. When he was close her common sense seemed simply inexistent.
Jin slowly walked back to his office, he still had to sign some papers before he could turn in for the night. Besides, he wasn’t really tired yet. The scene in Jazz’s kitchen kept replaying in his mind. Not only the saucy parts, but the way she had looked at him. God, he had really messed that one up. The only really good and long relationship in his life and he just let her walk out of his life.
But she still had his shirt. A small smile played on his lips. To be fair, he still wore their wedding band but that had other reasons. No, she had kept his shirt and even if it had nothing to do with him anymore after all that time, it was still something she wanted around that reminded her of him. Of them.
Maybe there was still a chance…
When he walked around the corner, his office already in sight, his steps slowed down briefly. There, in front of his office, on the ground, sat Hayumi, a bag in her lap, head resting against the door.
“Hello little bird. Isn’t it time to go to sleep already?”
There was no denying that she had been crying and he felt a pang of guilt in his chest.
“Chief? Here is your dinner…”
There was another bouquet of flowers waiting for Jazz the next day she came to the office. They were beautiful but she couldn’t bear to look at them so she left them on H’s desk. Last night, after her food had finally been delivered – cold of course, but she wasn’t in the mood to eat anymore anyway – she had spent an hour or so trying to detangle those pesky lingering emotions. Jazz wasn’t a very controlled person, she knew she would get weak the next time she met him again. So she would have to keep her distance from Jin, just to make sure. Maybe in another seven years she would be able to pull herself together and not jump him at every chance. She was so pathetic.
At least that whole disaster with Tomoyo would stop in a few days. She still couldn’t believe that he was criminal, but in the end you could never tell just by the look of someone. Keeping her distance from him would be so much easier than from Jin, especially once Tomoyo was caught and arrested.
Jazz sighed and tried to focus on work and for some time it worked just fine. And then something happened, a sound, a word, a scent, something that reminded her of Jin or of their marriage and Jazz had to cling to her focus, had to suppress the memories and look forwards.
When she came out of her office once to get some files H called her over to the reception desk.
“Miss Mann, is it your birthday?”
Jazz blinked and shook her head. “No, why are you asking?”
“Because there’s another flower delivery for you. Although… this is rather strange.” H put a small pot on the counter. “It arrived three minutes ago.”
Jazz stared at the small white flowers and green leaves. Clover. Someone sent her clover. No, not someone. She knew exactly who had sent her that.
“Throw it out.”
H’s eyes grew wide. “What? Why?”
“Doesn’t matter. I don’t want that.”
“There is also a card…”
Jazz raised her hand and shook her head again. “I think I know who sent that. Take it home or throw it away, I don’t care. I just don’t want to see that again.”
Her hands were still trembling when she came back into her office. Clover. Clover of all possible flowers! Of course he would send her clover.
He had picked her some clover after their first date. After their first fight he had apologized with a little bouquet of clover. And of course his proposal, completely out of the blue, a spur of the moment thing when they were just sitting outside and he suddenly plucked a clover, twined it into a circle and proposed with it, promising her his love and a real ring later.
She got both and for some very happy years she thought she had it all. But then his career got more and more important and eventually the ring was just a piece of metal with a diamond, his love had grown cold and she had to accept that nothing could last forever. Sending her clover now was almost cruel, although she was sure that his intentions had been far from that.
A few deep breaths later Jazz dialed his number, her heart racing.
“Hello, this is Namba. I can’t take your call right now, please try later again or speak after the *beep*.”
For a moment she hesitated, should she really leave this as a message? It would be easier for her, but not very classy. Well, she didn’t feel classy today anyway.
“Hey Jin, so… uhm, I got your flowers.” Pause. “I wish you wouldn’t do this to me. You know I can’t – this isn’t a good idea.” Another pause, a deep sigh. “So please don’t come and see me anymore. And don’t call me. I’m sorry, it’s just – I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. Goodbye.”
She ended the call, a heavy weight in her guts. It was better this way. It was better. If she kept telling herself this, she might believe it in the end.
All she wanted was going home early today, curl up with some wine and maybe a good book. Anything to take her mind off things and make her believe that her life was still normal. If it ever was.
Of course life wasn’t that simple. Or normal. When she left her office that evening someone was waiting at the reception desk for her.
Hayumi was staring off into space, her mind replaying the conversation she had wit h the chief last night over and over. He didn’t even apologize. He had forgotten about their date, had brushed her off and sent her to bed without even batting an eye. Was it that Jazz had been talking about? That he missed dinners and dates because of something more important? Well, Hayumi might understand if it really was something more important, like a mission to save Japan or maybe a VIP. But that hadn’t been the reason he had been late. No, SHE was the reason. His ex wife again.
Hayumi had seen that his shirt wasn’t buttoned correctly, how disheveled he was. That dopey grin was another hint. But she wouldn’t give up now. The war wasn’t over yet, far from it. No, Hayumi had just begun and she would fight for him, for his heart. For their future. Jazz Mann had her chance – and she blew it. Now it was Hayumi’s turn and she would use it wisely.
“Good morning, little bird. Still sleepy? It was a bit late last night, huh?”
She jumped at the voice next to her, straightened up and looked around to see if anyone overheard them. No one seemed to pay attention.
“Good morning, Chief. Did you enjoy your late night snack?” She gnawed at her bottom lip, waiting for his answer.
“I did, thank you very much. Katsudon is actually one of my favorites.” He patted her head gently and Hayumi felt as if her heart would explode.
“Say, if I talked to your instructors and got you out of classes today, would you help me with the preparation of the raid on Thursday?”
With a bright smile she nodded eagerly. “Of course, sir! It would be an honor!”
He chuckled lightly, shaking his head in amusement. “Sometimes I really regret not having an aide. Maybe you would have done a terrific job. At least you would keep me entertained. And fed.”
Back in his office he grabbed his phone to call Ishigami, but frowned. “A voicemail. Just a second, okay?”
Hayumi nodded and took a seat. She was happy. Obviously her plan to conquer his heart through his stomach was working well. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice his frown, the way his face fell. How he paled a bit. She only looked up when he set his phone down, a bit more forceful than usual.
“Chief? Is something wrong?”
He rested his hands on the desk, head hanging low.
“Chief Namba?” she hesitantly repeated.
“Yes, sorry, just – bad news. Okay, okay, back to work.”
The rest of the day he was rather tight lipped, seemed very stressed. Short tempered, but professional. Hayumi didn’t know if she liked him like that, but she was glad that she could help him after all.
“Surprise! I thought I could return the favor.”
Jazz faltered, her smile strained. “Tomoyo… that certainly is a surprise.”
He leaned in and kissed her briefly and she had to suppress her urge to flinch.
“I thought I’d whisk you away to a nice dinner.”
She wasn’t prepared for this. What should she do? How should she act? If she turned him down now… could she turn him down? Would that endanger the whole operation she had helped setting up? Quick thinking. She had to make a decision now.
“That sounds – great actually. Sorry, let me take care of a last thing, okay? I’m with you in a minute.” She smiled brightly to distract him while she started scribbling something on a piece of paper.
“H, could you make sure that the sender of that clover gets this? A nice thank you note for his present. And make sure he gets it fast, okay?” She tried to convey the urgency of the situation with her expression and cursed herself for not confiding a bit more in her receptionist.
“Sure thing, I’ll take care of it.” H smiled and took the note, a bit startled when Jazz grabbed her wrist.
“As soon as possible.” Jazz emphasized this point and H nodded slowly.
“Okay. I got it.”
With that Jazz took a deep breath and turned towards Tomoyo. “So, where are you taking me?”
“That, my dear, is a surprise.”
The whole ride in the car Jazz was nervous. She tried to guess where they were heading, but couldn’t tell just by the streets they were going down.
Tomoyo kept blabbering about some stuff she had no interest in and she was still trying to figure out what to do now.
“So, this is our fifth date now, isn’t it?” There was something in his tone that caught her attention.
“Really? You might be right…” Only now she noticed how close they were sitting; he must have scooted closer while she was distracted. Bad mistake.
“The first moment I saw you I knew you are not a one of those ‘three dates women’. I just knew you had too much class for that.”
His hand ghosted over her thigh and Jazz sat up and turned away a bit.
“I also have too much class to get laid before the dinner.” She smiled sweetly, let the possibility of a ‘but maybe after that’ float between them.
“Ah yes, never keep a lady hungry – in no regard.” He winked and chuckled, leaned back in the seat and told his driver to hurry up.
There were a lot of innuendos and unwelcome touches that made Jazz more than uncomfortable and she excused herself several times, pretending to go to the restroom but actually she tried to call Jin. The first call went right to the voicemail and after that she only got the recorded message that the number she had dialed was currently not available.
Her anger was flaring up but she had to smile for Tomoyo and think of a reason to cut the evening short after all. She declined most of the alcohol except for a glass of wine, claiming she had an important meeting the next day.
“You know, I like the whole ‘hard to get’ act, but not when it borders on being a prude,” Tomoyo dryly remarked when she politely shook her head when the waiter came back with another bottle of wine.
“Maybe I simply prefer to stay sober enough to actually enjoy the evening,” she managed to reply instead of choosing some stronger words.
He looked a bit sheepish for a second there before his usual rich guy’s confidence was back in place.
“Don’t worry, I will make sure you’ll enjoy it.”
She really needed a plan now, she wouldn’t sleep with him just to keep the act going. Where was Jin? He used to be inseparable from his phone and now she couldn’t reach him for hours? That must have been a joke, and not a good one. At least she couldn’t laugh.
Jazz was torn between playing for time and wanting this to be over as soon as possible. She dreaded the moment when the waiter would come with the bill and the dinner was officially over. After excusing herself for the last possible time she prayed that she would reach Jin on the phone but when she came back to the table – and an already impatient Tomoyo – she knew she would have to get out of this on her own. Maybe she should fake food poisoning? No one tried to get into the pants of someone who was constantly throwing up.
“Shall we?” Tomoyo got up and offered her his arm that she hesitantly took. Was it better to make a scene here and now? Or should she wait until they were outside? While she was still thinking he already led her outside.
But she mustn’t get into his car. Under no circumstances. Maybe she could call a cab or something – her mind was racing, it was hard not to simply freeze on the spot so he had to drag her away. Her feet kept on moving even without the help of her brain. If everything failed she could still simply burst out in tears; wouldn’t be too hard the way she felt just now.
Jazz was almost jittery by the time they left the restaurant, her throat tight, heart racing. Hopefully Tomoyo would think it was because she was excited, not anxious. With her phone in her coat pocket she felt at least a bit at ease but now she regretted that she hadn’t instructed H to give her the classic ‘emergency call’ so she could fake her way out of here.
“As a gentleman I offer my lady the choice of course – your place or mine?” Tomoyo let his arms slide around her waist and pulled her closer. “Although I have to tell you that I have a jacuzzi at home.”
Jazz squirmed slightly. “And I don’t have a bathing suit, so…”
“You won’t need one, that’s the advantage of a private hot tub.” He was whispering in her ear and now Jazz felt really grossed out. She stiffened in his half embrace but he didn’t seem to notice.
“So, my place then, huh?” He was leading her towards his waiting car when suddenly two men cut off the way, clad in black and acting all intimidating. With success.
“I think we are all going to our place.” One of them motioned behind Jazz and Tomoyo where three more men were standing.
“What are you-?” Tomoyo seemed just as surprised as Jazz was but when one of them brushed his jacket away a bit to reveal the gun he had beneath Tomoyo immediately shut up.
“What is happening?” Jazz hissed, annoyed and scared. She had wanted to get out of the situation, but not like that!
“Your sugar daddy has to talk shop with someone, sweetheart,” the man with the gun said with a grin. He had an accent that was strangely familiar to Jazz.
“I’m not your sweetheart and he’s not my sugar daddy,” she snapped only for Tomoyo to grab her arm.
“You better shut up now.” He nodded towards the man with the gun. “Who has sent you?”
“That is not for me to tell you. Keep your little bitch on a short leash or something might happen to her.”
They had cornered Jazz and Tomoyo and now led them to another car. Pretending to be scared – well, maybe not as much pretending but exaggerating – Jazz kept close to Tomoyo; he gave her at least enough cover to slip her hand into her pocket and grab her phone. She had done this a million times with closed eyes and now she prayed that it would work now. This might be the last time she would ever call someone.
“Chief? Is this here correct? Seems not right…” Hayumi showed Namba a form and pointed at one column.
“Trust me, I filled those out a million times already. This is correct.” He sighed and rubbed his temples briefly.
“You are looking tired. Maybe we should take a break. You could smoke or get a coffee…” She had hoped that spending time with him would be a bit more – romantic. It wasn’t. Only work, work, work. But this was important after all.
“You wouldn’t mind?” He motioned towards his box of cigarettes on the desk and Hayumi nodded.
“It’s fine, Chief. If it helps you, just do it.”
He chuckled lowly and sighed again. “I think I better get us another coffee. I’m right back.”
Hayumi went back to the forms, trying to get everything right. So many rules and figures, her head was spinning. And the chief was a bit strange, ever since they were in his office.
With a sigh she rested her head on the desk, now that the chief wasn’t there to see it. With her eyes closed she simply breathed, in and out, tried to relax until the ringing of a phone startled her. Namba’s phone. What if it was an emergency? She quickly grabbed it but hesitated when she saw the name on the display. His ex wife. Anger welled up in her, she wanted to throw it against the wall to make it stop. And it did, even without crashing it. She let out a relieved breath, there was no way she could have explained why she destroyed the chief’s phone. Just like she wouldn’t be able to explain why she deleted the notification and blocked the number of his ex wife. Her fingers were doing this on their own, she didn’t even think about it much.
Whatever Jazz wanted, it couldn’t be that important. It was probably just another attempt of her to get into his bed. Hayumi couldn’t allow this, the chief was more than just a man for casual sex. Someone like him, so kind and warm, so smart and determined, someone like this deserved more than some sneaky ex wife who only broke his heart.
With racing heart and sweaty palms she put the phone down again and went back to work, trying to act as if nothing at all had happened.
“Here, I got one for you, too.” Namba set the coffee down on the desk and plopped down in his chair. “So, where were we?”
“Where are we going?” Jazz stage whispered towards Tomoyo in the backseat of the car the men shoved them in.
“I have no idea,” he hissed back, obviously less than pleased and really clueless.
“Was that a train station over there?” She tried to stare out of the window.
“I don’t know.”
“That restaurant, what was its name again?” She had to gather as many information as possible right now.
“’Blooming lotus’? Why are you asking that?” He looked at her with confusion showing in his expression.
“I don’t know, maybe because it gives me a false sense of security to talk about mundane things when we are getting kidnapped,” she snapped, voice just above a whisper.
“Hey! Be quiet back there! Or I’m going to gag you,” one man from the front seat threatened.
“Sorry, I’m just a bit nervous,” Jazz sheepishly answered.
“Don’t worry, cherié, this isn’t about you. But you should choose your company more careful the next time.”
Jazz huffed a dry laugh, not even looking at Tomoyo. “Yeah, tell me about it…”
The ringing of his phone pulled Goto away from the examination of another file.
No one answered and he just wanted to hang up when he heard voices and indistinct background noises. He quickly looked at his display again, started recording the call and put it on speaker.
“Where are we going?” That was Jazz, it was definitely her voice. What was going on? With a strong sense of dread Goto hurried over to Namba’s office. This wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t that Jazz had accidentally called him.
“Chief! It’s Jazz! I think she’s in trouble!”
Hayumi’s eyes widened when Namba jumped up and hurried to Goto who still held his phone. She could faintly hear Jazz’s voice, saying that she had gotten kidnapped.
“Uhm, Chief…” Hayumi timidly began but Namba cut her off.
“This is not the time! Goto, tell me exactly what happened!”
So Goto simply did that, gave a short report of how his phone rang. A very short report. In the end they kept listening to the phone, hoping for more hints, but all they got were traffic noises and some more snippets of conversations until some man told Jazz to finally shut or – he left the threat hanging in the air and for once Jazz seemed to listen. Although she kept muttering things like ‘supermarket’ and ‘train station’. Unfortunately she couldn’t give them a street name or anything else that would help them to find her.
“Okay, Goto, go and gather some men. Hayumi, stay here and keep listening. As soon as she gives us another hint, tell me.”
“Sir? Sir, this here got just delivered for you.” Naruko popped up, right into the tensed atmosphere in Namba’s office, and held out a small note to him. “Did I – did I miss something?”
With a sigh Namba grabbed the note and looked at it. “Well, that’s a bit late now…”
Hidai took me out to dinner. Help! How should I act now around him? Fake an emergency call!
Nervously Jazz kept looking out of the car window, trying to find out where they were heading. The guys in the front didn’t talk much and Tomoyo had no idea either, so there was no use in talking to him. What should she do? What did they want?
“I will never again go out with you,” she simply said, not that he cared. Tomoyo only scoffed, he had other worries right now.
After almost 20 minutes the car finally stopped, much to Jazz’s surprise not at an abandoned warehouse but a nice, upscale neighborhood. The men led them inside to what turned out to be a typical Japanese inn with a restaurant and a small garden.
“This is much nicer than the place you took me to,” Jazz remarked and noticed with a deep satisfaction how annoyed Tomoyo was.
The men around them only snickered, one winked at Jazz who coolly looked ahead. No use in fraternizing with the kidnappers. Jazz had been to Stockholm once, she didn’t need that syndrome on top of the souvenirs she had gotten there.
“Mr. Hidai, thank you for following my invitation. And thank you for bringing such lovely company. Enchanté.”
A man greeted them once they were pushed into a nice traditional room with tatami mats and a narrow table.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
Rolling her eyes at these cliché lines Jazz looked around, trying to figure out where they were and how she could get out again.
“Mr. Hidai, why this hostility? Take a seat, get a drink. The sake is very good here.”
With one hand stretched out towards the table the man smiled at Jazz.
“Thank you, I think I’ll have sake,” she said and walked towards the chairs, a bit staggering on her feet.
“Very well. Mr. Hidai, will you join us?”
Once they all had a cup Jazz turned towards their host. “Would you be so kind to tell me with whom I’m actually drinking?”
The man tilted his head and smiled. “Of course, mademoiselle. My name is – Charles. Simply Charles.”
“Well, simply Charles, cheers.” She knocked the sake back without hesitation; figuring that if they wanted to kill her they would use other means that poison.
“Where are my manners. Can I take your coat, mademoiselle?”
Jazz stiffened. They had taken her purse when they shoved her into the car, but no one had thought of searching her coat. Hesitantly she handed it over just for some guy to shove a hand into her pocket.
“A phone?” Charles sounded disappointed, as if he had caught a child trying to steal a cookie.
“It’s off, sir.”
Relief flooded Jazz. “It ran out of battery during dinner.”
“Ah. Well, in that case you won’t miss it, right?” Charles smiles and motioned towards his henchman who dropped the phone on the floor and slammed his heel into it, shattering into a million tiny pieces.
“My games…” Jazz wailed in faked indignation.
Someone else started frisking Hidai and took his phone, too. Now she really was in trouble.
“Mr. Hidai, I am really interested in this – thing you want to sell.”
Charles now completely focused on Tomoyo, gave Jazz a chance to examine her surroundings. She wondered if anyone had gotten her call and if yes, how long her phone had actually kept going. If someone was coming for her. Not Jin, obviously. He hadn’t taken her calls and although this wasn’t the right time for it, this hurt much more than she had expected. Seven years and with only one night she was right back at square one.
“I actually already have a buyer,” Tomoyo just explained.
“Ah yes, but now you are here already, so why not talk about business?” Charles drank some more sake before he continued. “I would say I pay what the others wanted to pay plus 20 percent.”
“And if I decline?” The tremor in his voice gave Tomoyo away. He was scared and that told Jazz she should be scared, too.
“Well, in that case I would have to persuade you.” The men around them more or less subtly changed their stances, showed off guns and knives.
“But if I sell it to you, I will get trouble with the original buyer!” Tomoyo almost jumped up only for Charles to wave lazily.
“Non, I will make sure that won’t happen. I give you my word.”
By now Jazz was fed up with them talking as if she wasn’t even there, and about things she didn’t fully understand.
“And the word of a gentleman can be trusted, right?” She smiled at Charles who nodded once, looking at her with renewed interest.
“Mr. Hidai, I suppose you don’t have the merchandise with you, do you? Non? Well, how about you go home and get it, then? I will keep your lovely companion here – just to make sure you’re coming back.”
Jazz bit her tongue, there was no need in telling Charles that Tomoyo couldn’t care less about her. Before she could even protest two men led Hidai away, leaving Jazz and Charles in company of some more henchmen.
“Now, my dear, would you like to have dinner with me?” Charles motioned towards the table again and Jazz shrugged.
“I have already eaten, but I guess I could eat a bit. Maybe a dessert.”
“You are not scared of me, are you?”
A waitress clad in a traditional Yutaka entered with a tray and bowed before leaving again.
“I had worse dates. Hell, this isn’t even the worst one tonight.” Jazz took a plate with sakura mochi and quickly put her hands together. Charles laughed.
“You are a witty one. I like that in a woman.”
She huffed a short laugh. “Really? What else do you like in a woman?”
He gave her an amused grin. “Me.”
Without batting an eye Jazz took a mochi, raised it to her lips and bit off. “Oh sorry, did you expect me to be shocked?”
“Ah, mademoiselle, you are like a fresh breeze in a stuffy room.” He quickly said something to one of his men in French, smiled again at Jazz and raised his cup once more. “If Mr. Hidai isn’t back in one hour or tries to escape, you will have to pay the price.”
“Like I said, the worst date of the night. Probably even of my life.” She ate another mochi before she wiped her fingers with a serviette. “I think I’m done with dinner now. May I excuse myself to wash my hands?” There was defiance in her voice, a hint of sarcasm. She had understood what he had been saying. They would kill her either way. Time to get out.
“Chief! The connection was interrupted!” Hayumi called out when she suddenly heard a peep and then the busy signal.
Namba and Goto were standing next to Shinonome who was typing at his laptop in dizzying speed.
“So they started at this restaurant… then a train station… super market…”
“Can you find her?” Namba was impatiently staring at the screen, already five cigarettes in.
“I’m working on it, so back off,” the hacker grumbled. “Why can’t she just turn on her GPS like a normal person…”
“Find every single security cam that has recorded that car they left in! We have to find them!”
So Hidai had taken Jazz to dinner but someone else had kidnapped her and that really frustrated him. He clenched and unclenched his hands, again and again, the nervous energy needed a way to leave his body. As if this whole situation wasn’t already nerve wrecking enough, now they also lost the only connection to Jazz.
He wanted to slam the wall, kick and punch something, someone, preferably that stupid bastard Hidai. Why did he have to take Jazz out tonight? Why did he have to take her out at all? She had made clear that she had no interest in him and yet… and yet Namba had made her pretend otherwise just to get his investigation going. And once again he had proven that Jazz had been right all along – his work always came first.
“Chief? Anything I can do to help?” Hayumi almost reached out but let her hand sink before she could actually touch his arm.
“Hm? Oh, you’re still here? No, it’s fine… go to bed, it’s getting late…” he brushed her off, turned back towards Shinonome.
“B-but Chief, I really-“
“Hayumi, go to bed! I don’t have the time to babysit you now! This is serious!” With every word his voice got louder until Goto pulled him a bit to the side.
“Chief – yelling at her won’t change anything. Let her stay, tell her to get coffee – decaf for you. We have to stay focused here.”
For a second it seemed as if Namba would yell at Goto next, shoulders squared, expression cold. But then he exhaled, almost deflated.
“Yes, you – you are right. Hayumi, stay if you like. I’m going to – I don’t know. Just give me a minute.”
He left the room, leaned against the wall outside. Why had she called Goto? Why in the world had Jazz called Goto and not him? Was she really that stubborn, that resentful that she wouldn’t ask him for help?
Of course she was. He took his phone out, thumb swiping over the underside. He didn’t want to listen to her message once more, but maybe if he would, there was a hint… No. He had listened to it several times already and Jazz had sent it around noon, so there was no connection to her kidnapping. He knew this, knew it all, but he played the message nonetheless. Only that his phone showed him another voicemail. A cold shiver ran down his spine when he tapped the button and listened to it.
“Jin? Dammit, Jin, where are you? Listen, Hidai showed up and dragged me to dinner. When you hear this, call me. Or simple come here. ‘Blossoming lotus’. I can’t stall him all night and I don’t want to break his nose just yet.” A short pause. “You – you once said you’d always come to rescue me. Now come!”
With a pounding heart he checked the time. Dammit! He could have saved her if he had heard this before! He was so close to smashing his phone against the wall, only barely held back. This stupid, stupid phone!
But she had called him. Had called for him. And he would find her.
Jazz stormed through the hallway towards the bathroom. At least as much as storming was possible when she was flanked by two huge guys, making sure ‘she wouldn’t get lost on the way’. She was angry and annoyed, all she wanted was to get out of there somehow. She needed a plan.
Once inside of the restroom she looked around, but there wasn’t a conveniently placed weapon or even escape route. She couldn’t climb through the tiny window and she couldn’t break through the wall.
“Oh shit,” she groaned, pondering her options. If she couldn’t escape through the restroom, she had to get out of it first. But not with those thugs outside.
“Hey, uhm, can you get me my purse?” she loudly asked into the room, hoping the guys could hear her.
“Okay, so have any of you some tampons? I could use one.”
There was some shuffling and whispering before one of them asked: “For what?”
“For what? Really? I’m on my period, you moron! Now go and get me a tampon or I will make your life hell – even more so than it must already be!” Channeling her best PMS bitch Jazz yelled at them through the door, hoping they would buy the act.
More French was whispered, Jazz could understand that they were arguing which one of them would go and get the dreaded utensil, but eventually one of them left. Good. Now she had to get rid of the other one and that wouldn’t be that simple. And she didn’t have much time. Quickly she knelt in front of the toilet and unscrewed the seat, constantly reminding herself that she might get killed if she didn’t do whatever was necessary to escape.
Still crouching on the floor she groaned loudly. “Hey, is there still one of you out there? I – I think I need help…”
“I’m not helping you with that, lady!” The panic is the thug’s voice was almost hilarious but Jazz had to focus.
“Not that! Damn, I – ugh… I think it’s not my period… I think it’s my appendix…”
The door opened slowly and she heard footsteps, waited until she saw the shoes. The guy leaned down towards her.
“Are you -?”
With all her strength she hurled the toilet seat at him, hit his head and kicked his stomach on the rise while he was falling. Another hard smack with the seat and he stopped moving, head bleeding. She only hoped she hadn’t killed him.
Adrenaline was pumping through her body when she ran out of the restroom, through the hallway only to see another man coming towards her. She turned around, stumbling forwards, a dead end. With a deep breath she jumped against a wall – paper wall, thank goodness, but still with wooden braces.
Ungracefully she fell into another room, somehow getting back on her feet, her right side aching terribly. Another wall, this time with a door, another hallway. No one in sight, but she heard the commotion behind her, pushing forwards. She had to get out, she had to make it! Another room, a window! Her heart was racing, her lungs burning, her muscles screaming at her but she pressed ahead, jumped out of the window, leapt into freedom. Or so she thought. She ended up in the inlying garden of the inn, panting, hurting, sobbing.
“Chief! We found the place they brought them to!” Goto burst through the door into the hallway where Jin was sitting on the floor, head resting against the wall. Immediately he jumped up – groaned a bit at the exertion – and followed Goto back into the office.
“’Sakura Inn’, 20, maybe 25 minutes from here. There is a CCTV in that street.” Shinonome showed him the footage of the car, of Jazz getting out and being led inside of a traditional looking Japanese house.
“Okay, I want every available man-“ Namba just started when his phone rang. With a curse he took the call. “What? Oh… when? Uh-huh… where? Good… stay there, watch him. We’ll be there as soon as possible.”
He sighed deeply and straightened up again. “Okay, change of plans. One of our patrols spotted Hidai. We are going there and arrest him. Securing the data is priority number one.”
Hayumi stared at him, eyes wide. Did he just abandon his ex wife? For the sake of the operation?
Goto didn’t even question the decision, but the tension in his jaw, his clenched fists told a different story.
“What? Anyone something to say?” Namba challenged them and Hayumi stepped up.
“Chief! What if Miss Mann is in danger?”
“She is a grown up woman, she can take care of herself. We have to get that data, cadet. That is the whole point of this operation.”
She had never seen him this hard, unyielding. He hadn’t even used her name, let alone his nickname for her.
“No talking back now! I know what you want to say and yes, it sucks! This is personal, but personal doesn’t always mean important, you got that? First Hidai, then Jazz. Dismissed.” Namba’s breath was ragged, his chest heaving under the weight on his shoulders now – and on his heart.
Jazz cursed her own stupidity, why hadn’t she checked the directions before bursting through walls and jumping out of a window? She tried to calm down, panicking now wouldn’t help her. The garden didn’t offer much cover, of course everything was neatly trimmed and groomed. The small pagoda and the pond wouldn’t hide her. There was a small wooden fence, some trees and bushes. The trees where too small to climb on and the bushes to narrow to hide behind. So she crawled under them, made herself as small as possible.
And then she waited. Every sound, every creaking made her cower deeper into the greenery. The waiting strained her nerves, made her jittery and anxious.
She could hear voices from the inside, hurried steps. Something breaking, probably the debris she left behind after destroying that paper wall. It wouldn’t take long for them to find her, but at least she had put up an honest to god fight!
Seconds ticked by, turned into minutes. Parts of her body hurt and other parts were numb. But she didn’t dare to move.
Footsteps, a door sliding open. Jazz held her breath, shaking under the leaves.
And then – someone whistled. Imitated a bird. A nightingale?
“Jin…” she whispered, almost sobbed. “Jin!”
“Jazz? Where are you?”
She crawled out from under the bush as quickly as she could, leaves and small twigs sticking to her, in her clothes, in her hair.
“My god, Jazz!” With a few huge strides he was next to her, steadied her, pulled her close only to let her go a bit when she winced.
“How are you? Are you hurt?”
“What are you doing here?”
They were speaking at the same time, cautiously checking each other; Jazz to see if it was really him and Jin to see how badly she was hurt.
“God, I thought they – I thought I’d – what took you so long? Why didn’t you call me back?!” She lightly punched his arm, unable to endure this tension any longer.
“YOU have told me not to call you anymore!” He chuckled, her display of anger rather amusing right now.
“And since when do you listen to me? You know I can be irrational! I don’t need to make sense all the time, I can change my mind whenever I want!”
Jazz was already angry, already confused about her own her emotions, she didn’t need him to point out how ridiculous this all was. The fact that she still loved him.
“I listened to you because I didn’t want to upset you!” He was close to tear his own hair. She could be so infuriating, so frustrating, so wonderfully surprising and adorably inconsequent.
“Oh yeah? Great plan, Sherlock, am I looking happy to you?!” She was still panting, her chest heaving with every shuddery breath she took; maybe she had broken a rib. Maybe it was only his presence. But now that the adrenaline was running out she needed something to keep her going and if that something turned out to be completely unjustified anger at her ex husband, who was she to complain? As long as it kept her from breaking down, from crying her heart out, she wouldn’t complain.
“Happy? No, actually you are not looking happy. You are looking fierce, though, and right now I’m not keen on messing with you. But you better get moving now, I want a doctor to have a look at you. You can yell some more at me later.” He supported her, one arm around her waist, and Jazz leaned her head against his chest.
“Thank you. For coming to rescue me.” After everything her voice was just a whisper now.
“I told you I would. I told you.”
Police cars were parked outside, an ambulance or two to add some variety. Paramedics were taking care of some cuts and scrapes Jazz had, but the bruised rib was by far the most annoying injury she had suffered. To her relief the guy she had knocked out was still alive, some stitches and he was good as new. Charles had already been taken to the PD when Jin led her outside and Jazz wondered how she could have missed all this.
“How did you find me?” she eventually asked, too many things have been happening for her to keep up with.
“Meticulous police work. A bit of luck. Some very clever victim sending hints. It wasn’t easy, but we managed.” His eyes shone with pride and Jazz nodded slowly.
“Good. What about Hidai?”
“We have arrested him, not even 15 minutes ago.” It was another voice and Jazz turned around to see who was speaking when Goto came closer, with Hayumi in tow and another man. Tall, brown hair, and impressive scowl on his face.
“Ah, Captain Kaga, good to see you.” Namba didn’t move an inch away from her, still standing right next to her.
“Chief! They have the data!” Hayumi practically skipped over but came to an abrupt halt when she saw Jazz, completely wrecked and covered in cuts and bruises. “Oh my god, Miss Mann!” She was close to tears, a fact that almost startled Jazz. Except for their conversation that one time they weren’t exactly friends. They barely knew each other. That girl had to toughen up a bit before she was a real officer.
“We’re wrapping this up here, you go and take Miss Mann to the hospital, Chief.” Goto nodded towards Jazz who smiled gratefully. She really wanted to leave, although the hospital didn’t sound exactly inviting.
“Thanks, I will.”
“Can I come, too, Chief?” Hayumi piped up.
Jazz shook her head slightly, she’d rather be alone with Jin. Or just alone. She wouldn’t be able to watch that girl fawn over her ex husband, not on top of the physical pain she already felt.
“We are going to a hospital, not getting some ice cream. It’s not the place for little birds. You better go back and to bed, there’s class tomorrow morning.” Namba almost reached out to pat Hayumi’s head but changed his mind, only someone who looked closely was able to see how his hand twitched briefly.
“But Chief, I – I really have to tell you something… something… important.” The miserable look on her face made his conviction falter slightly, but Jazz just sighed and groaned when she moved a bit, drawing his attention back to her.
“Tell me another time, okay?”
His rejection hit a weak spot, whatever held Hayumi together so far melted away under his dismissal.
“NO! This is important, okay?” Goto, Namba and Jazz all turned to face Hayumi at her outburst. Only Captain Kaga shrugged and walked off, this wasn’t his fight after all. He had better things to do.
Namba squared his shoulders, stood up to his full height.
“Is it more important than bringing an injured person to a doctor?” His admonishing tone was so out of place that Jazz had to bite her tongue not to laugh.
“Y-yes, Chief…” Hayumi didn’t seem to notice the contradiction in his behavior, but she didn’t back down and Jazz couldn’t help but to respect that. Standing up for the own convictions was admirable after all.
“Well, what is so important that you don’t want me to take Jazz to the hospital, then?”
“Uhm… Chief… first I want to remind you that everything worked out in the end, right?” The way Hayumi fidgeted with her hands nervously made Jazz anxious, too. She wouldn’t tell him NOW what she felt for him, right? After that speech Jazz had given her? Dear Lord, that girl was really out of it.
“So, that call earlier… that one that went to your voicemail, when Miss Mann called to ask about help with that date… uhm, I – I somehow – ACCIDENTALLY – I might have… deleted the notification?” Her voice trailed off, leaving the group in silence. Jazz couldn’t think, and obviously Jin couldn’t speak. Goto subtly changed his stance to be able to hold Jin back in case he lost it.
“You… you did WHAT?!”
Jazz’s hand shot forwards, grabbed Jin’s sleeve and tugged him back. “Calm down, let her explain.”
With a nervous glance towards Namba Hayumi swallowed once and let her head hang. “I – it rang when you were getting coffee… and I – I wasn’t thinking, I just wanted – I wanted her to leave you alone.”
“You wanted her to leave me alone… what gives you the right to decide who may call me and who not? Who are you to think you can make this decision?!” Namba was yelling and Hayumi flinched visibly.
“Jin!” With a gasp Jazz jumped up and pushed herself between them. “I think this is enough.” The sharpness of her tone didn’t leave much room to argue.
“I didn’t want – I didn’t think…” Hayumi stammered, almost freezing when Namba glared at her.
“That is right. You didn’t think. Tampering with the phone of your superior – that is more than stupid!”
“Jin! It was only one call! I called you over and over later. There just wasn’t service, I think.” Jazz tried to calm him down, reason with him.
“No, there was just this one call. My phone didn’t show any more else…” He made a noise of disbelief and took out the phone. “Blocked… you are blocked. How-?” He turned his gaze to Hayumi again, full of anger and disappointment. The young woman cowered under his glare and now even Jazz lost her composure.
“God dammit, girl! Are you really that desperate?!”
“I – I didn’t think something like this would happen!” As long as Jin had been yelling at her Hayumi had just taken it all, but now that it was Jazz her fighting spirit came back.
“You didn’t think I might call him for something important? When I’m part of this stupid mission?” Trying hard to hold back Jazz didn’t even raise her voice yet, just stated the facts for now.
“But you could just as well call someone else! Instructor Goto for example! I mean, why would you call the chief if you don’t like him anymore? I thought – I just thought it would be better this way! Before you hurt him even more than you already did!” In her unshakeable conviction to be on the right track Hayumi hurled these words at Jazz who stared at her in utter disbelief.
“I hurt him? I hurt him? What about he hurt me?”
“You got over him just fine! Dating other men and all that! But he – he’s still hurting. He’s still wearing his stupid wedding band and he won’t even talk about it!”
Jazz’s eyes flitted over to Jin who sheepishly shrugged. She had noticed he was wearing it, at first had brushed it off as prop for the undercover part. Later she had assumed it was for him to keep the women on distance. Women like Hayumi, who developed a crush and might cause trouble.
“You had left him and now he tries to get by somehow. He doesn’t even see that there are – that there are people caring for him…”
Jazz inwardly groaned, now really wasn’t the time for Hayumi to confess. But the young woman only kept on ranting.
“And why did you leave him? Because of missed dinners? Nightshifts? Undercover missions? That is just selfish!” Hayumi was breathing heavily, still fighting with the adrenaline.
Jazz took a deep breath, tried to keep calm. She didn’t look at Jin who was watching her intently.
“I left him… because I understood that his work was more important for him. So I pushed my personal feelings aside and did what was best for the both of us.”
“Just leaving him instead of fighting?”
Jazz’s anger exploded, finding a suitable target in the equally angry woman in front of her. “No! I have fought but at some point I had to make a decision!”
“And you don’t think you should have asked me before you filed our divorce?” Jin asked suddenly, making Jazz turn her head and lose focus.
“What? I didn’t ask you because I already knew your answer. God, you couldn’t have make it clearer if you had written me a letter.”
“What are you talking about?” He furrowed his brow, couldn’t followed her train of thought anymore.
“Jin, I heard you! Back then when you were talking to Ozawa about that undercover mission!”
That tinge of sadness, of frustration and lingering pain wormed its way into her voice, replaced some of the anger and made Jin falter for a second before he answered.
“But I had told him that I didn’t want to participate!”
“Yes, but it was the way you had said it! You regretted it so much more than just because you couldn’t help a friend. You WANTED to go, the only thing holding you back was me! Do you think I wanted to be your ball and chain? That I was happy knowing you couldn’t do what you wanted because of me? Not because of us, just because of me!”
Sooner or later their love would have broken at it, at the unspoken accusations, the fact that he was unhappy, feeling trapped in their marriage. No, he wanted to get out there, to climb up the ranks. Going on undercover missions, saving people and the whole country – what did she have to offer that was better than that? Nothing. She had nothing. So when they started drifting apart because of all that she put a stop to it before their love was completely gone. To save what still remained. Preserve the love like she had preserved the clover ring he had given her, a lifetime ago.
“I – I think I really want to go to that hospital now,” she managed to say before the lump in her throat took her voice away.
“Yes, of course… I’m taking you there.” Jin reached out towards her arm, but Jazz shook her head.
“No. Goto,” Jazz croaked, tears held back only by her own stubbornness.
Slowly Jin let his hand sink again, nodded once and turned to Goto.
“Of course. Come, Jazz.”
She didn’t even look back at him, or at Hayumi.
“Chief, I – I’m really so-“ Hayumi began once Jazz and Goto were out of sight.
“Oh, you will be sorry, don’t worry. You haven’t only violated my privacy, you have also endangered an ongoing investigation! You have put my wife in danger-”
“Your ex wife,” she timidly interrupted.
“You are not the one to comment on my marital status! She could have got killed because YOU were selfish and stupid! Do you really think a public safety officer should act like that?!” He was furious, partly because of her, partly because of himself. He couldn’t change the mistakes he did in the past and he couldn’t change hers, but she had definitely overstepped a boundary and he couldn’t let her get away without consequences.
“Tomorrow you will leave the academy.” He reined in his anger for now, tried to think of all the things he still had to do. Paperwork and reports about the operation that night for example. Getting everything ready to expel a cadet.
“B-but Chief…” Hayumi’s bottom lip trembled, tears welled up in her eyes.
“No buts. Your actions were inexcusable.” He couldn’t let himself get swayed by her display of emotions. She had proven to be unreliable, not only by tampering with his phone. She had been made rash decisions before but at least they had been fueled by her sense for justice. Now she just had acted on her own selfish desires and Namba couldn’t let that slide.
“Go back to the academy and to bed. I still got work to do.” He fumbled for a cigarette, not even looking at her.
“Your ex wife had been right: you are cruel.” With a sob Hayumi ran off, leaving Namba with a sour expression.
“So that’s what she thinks, huh?” Lighting up his smoke he stared off into the distance, into the direction Jazz and Goto had left to.
“Jazz?” Goto carefully knocked at the door, waiting for her to answer.
She was lying in a hospital bed, at least cleaned up a bit, some pain medication taking the edge out of the pain in her ribcage.
“How are you?” Goto sat down in a chair next to the bed, grey eyes watching her intently.
“I’ve been better,” she admitted and sat up with a groan. “But I’ve also been worse. Why are you still here?”
He shrugged, his pokerface impeccable. “I didn’t want you to be alone here.”
“Don’t you have something better to do? Work?”
He leaned back, kept his gaze on her. “Ishigami is currently interrogating Hidai, Kaga does the same with that Charles. I’m not exactly needed right now.”
She smiled weakly. “Don’t tell me Public Safety can spare you for a minute. I know the whole thing would fell apart without you.”
Goto’s lips curled into a small smile. “Thanks, but you know that’s not true. The chief though… without him things would be definitely more difficult for the rest of us.”
“What, now you’re singing the praises on him?” She leaned back into her pillow, closed her eyes and exhaled. “You don’t have to do that.”
She couldn’t see his face but could imagine his feigned innocence.
“You won’t change my mind. I made my decision years ago.”
For a moment silence engulfed them. Goto shifted in his seat and Jazz opened her eyes again.
“I’m not supposed to tell you that but I’m afraid if I won’t do it, no one will. And that would be a shame. Since you are already talking about decisions… the chief had to make one earlier. About going after Hidai or coming to get you.”
“And he went after Hidai, I know. Good thing you could arrest him.” She was tired and there was this dull ache that she just couldn’t ignore. Did he really have to make her talk about this now?
“Not exactly. He called in some favors. Captain Kaga went after Hidai. The chief – he directly came to get you. There might be an investigation about that soon; the commissioner had made it clear that Hidai and the data had top priority. Plus we lost the chance to get the original buyers. That might be a problem after all.”
Jazz didn’t know what to say. She was touched. And angry.
“See? That is exactly what I never wanted. I didn’t want him to have to choose between his job and me. Because he would lose either way.”
“You know how he sometimes says that personal isn’t necessarily important, right?” Goto asked, now leaning forwards in the chair. Jazz nodded weakly.
“Well, this time personal was also important, at least for him. His personal decision was the most important one. And the right one.”
Jazz turned her face away from him, not wanting him to see her cry. Eventually she fell asleep.
When she woke up again Goto was gone. Someone else was sitting in the chair, eyes closed. Jin looked older than she remembered him, older now that his smile couldn’t be blamed for the crinkles around his eyes. The stubble on his chin and cheeks was something between a five o’clock shadow and a three-day-stubble. His clothes were disheveled and his looked as if he had ran his hands through it constantly.
This was the man she had wanted to grow old with and now they were both growing old on their own.
His eyes fluttered open, wearily he sat up and wiped his face with his hand.
“Hey, how are you feeling?”
Jazz smiled at his voice, still hoarse from sleep. She had heard that so often before but never expected to hear it again.
“Sore. And a bit muddle headed,” she finally admitted.
“Probably the pain meds. Do you want some water?”
He handed her a glass, waited until she took a sip before he set it back on the small bedside table.
“What are you doing here? And what time is it?” There was no clock and she didn’t feel like sitting up to search for her phone – oh, her phone. Well, maybe there was an insurance for accidently becoming part of a PSD operation and having the phone crushed by a criminal.
“It’s still early, go back to sleep.”
Pondering her options for a second she scooted to the side.
“Join me.” It wasn’t even a question, she just wanted him close now. After everything she had been through that day, after what Goto had told her she probably was crazy to do this now. But who wanted to be sane when it meant being reasonable, always not getting what she wanted?
Hesitantly Jin sat on the bed, let her tug at him until he finally laid down next to her. Jazz snuggled close, against his chest, while he put his arm under her head.
“I’m sorry.” He didn’t elaborate about what and why, but she didn’t care. Instead she lifted her head a bit so she could watch him in the dim light of the emergency lighting.
“I’m not. I’m not sorry for whatever happened, because in the end it all brought us here again.” Almost shyly she leaned in a bit, waiting for him to meet her in the middle.
It wasn’t the most romantic location but in this hospital bed they shared a few kisses that neither of them regretted. Eventually they just lay there, in each other’s arms, almost dozing off but not quite yet.
There were still a lot of questions, maybe even doubts, but Jazz knew for sure that things between them had changed. Or better, the important things were still the same but she and Jin had changed.
“You know, I think we were just too young back then,” she finally whispered. He hummed in agreement, waited for her to continue.
“You were so eager to get a high position in the force and I was so eager to prove that I’m not just some housewife. Maybe we should have paused every once in a while to wait for each other instead of constantly rushing ahead.”
He shifted a bit so that Jazz’s head ended up on his chest.
“Well, I had tried to secure a position early so I could slow down eventually and focus more on us. Looks as if I missed that point.” He chuckled wryly but Jazz raised her head and looked at him.
“And? Are you there now? In that position you wanted?”
“Well, I really do like the position I’m in now.” He teased her, placed a quick kiss on the tip of her nose.
“Not this!” With faked annoyance she rolled her eyes. “Are you happy with being the chief of that academy? Is it that what you wanted?”
He pondered this question for a moment. “Actually I think it is. I enjoy my work very much. There’s a lot of responsibility, but less risk now. Hardly undercover missions left, and nothing that would last for days.”
“Almost leaves you time for a private life, huh?”
This was a crucial point now and both of them knew it.
“I do have a bit of free time each day, that’s true.” With his eyes searching her face and finding something like encouragement, he continued. “And maybe I could spend this time with someone every now and then.”
“For dinner, maybe?” Taking it slow might be the best idea now. Jazz didn’t want to rush back into things with him, that hadn’t worked too well last time.
“Hm, how about for breakfast?” He carefully pulled her up a bit, kissed her again, taking her breath away.
“B-breakfast sounds good, too,” she stammered once he released her again. Taking it slow was overrated anyway. For now she didn’t want to think about this anyway. She was right where she wanted to be, in this hospital bed with the man she loved.
Once again Jin fluffed up the pillow on the couch, making Jazz chuckle at his attempts of making her comfortable.
“You’re going to ruin my pillows if you keep doing this.”
He looked up to see her bright smile and relaxed a bit.
“I just want to make sure you’re not hurting. Are you still hurting?” Cautiously he sat down next to her, pulling her legs over his lap so she could lie on her back, head resting on a pillow he had just fluffed up to perfection.
“I’m much better, thanks. They only kept me in hospital for observation anyway.” Her rib was still far from fine but the pain was bearable now, only flaring up now and then when she moved the wrong way.
“So, how was your day?” She looked at him expectantly, after all she was still cooped up at home until she had recovered.
“Better now that I knew I would see you in the evening.”
With a chuckle she swatted his arm playfully. “You are a sap, did I ever tell you that?”
He hummed, a smile on his lips. His hands started gently stroking her legs while he watched her reaction, how she sighed and closed her eyes.
“Kaga broke Hidai. Sang like a bird, that stupid-“
“Jin,” Jazz sharply chided him. “I don’t like him either, but watch your words.”
She sat up a bit, propped up on her elbows. “Because I’m sick of him and I don’t want to waste another minute on him, not even long enough to curse properly.”
“Okay, okay. Anyway, we found the original buyers and with that the case is officially closed.” He sounded very satisfied with his day and Jazz smiled. She liked him that way, all confident and in peace with the world and himself.
“That’s great news. Hey, what was that data about? You know, what kind of information did Hidai want to sell?”
Jin hesitated a second before he exhaled loudly. “Names. It was a list with every single law enforcement officer that ever was undercover or currently is undercover.”
Oh. Suddenly she knew why it had been so important to secure that data.
“So… on that list, there is – there’s also your name, right? And Goto’s…” Her head spun, this could have ended ugly. “Wow. That is – serious business.”
“I wouldn’t have allowed for you to get involved if it wasn’t serious.” There was still a hint of regret in his voice, especially since she was still hurt.
“Oh, stop blaming yourself. You know full well that it was my decision and nothing could have changed my mind. I’m a big girl, Jinji, I knew what I was getting myself into.”
He shook his head, but there was a proud smile on his lips. “No, you didn’t. But you are right, I wouldn’t have been able to stop you. You are so stubborn.” He chuckled and Jazz grinned back at him.
“So are you. We are quite a couple, huh?”
“That we are.” The fondness of his words made her blush lightly. Their relationship status was still up in the air, they danced around the topic without ever saying anything definite. Well, not that they had much time to discuss this yet, she had been discharged from hospital that morning and Jin had went to work after bringing her home.
“What happened to the girl?” Before he could even buy time by asking her what girl she was talking about. “The little bird?”
“Ah, yes… she – she left the academy. Her transgression has been too grave to keep her there.”
It wasn’t that Jazz had expected anything else but it still made her a bit sad. This girl had been blinded by her crush on Jin and for that Jazz couldn’t really blame her. The silence threatened to get uncomfortable so she changed the topic.
“Hey, what about your ring? Are you still sooooo in love with me that you can’t take it off?” She batted her lashes at him teasingly and he started to squirm.
“What? Did I actually get that right?” She was laughing now, although that hurt a bit.
“No.” Almost grumpily he scooted away from her, let her legs slide from his lap.
“What’s wrong? Jin? I was only joking.” She sat up with a wince, a bit confused at his suddenly changed mood.
“No, it’s just – I’m a bit sensitive about that topic.” He didn’t look at her, just fiddled with the ring.
“What topic? That we once were married? Or that we got divorced?” Now she felt bad about bringing that up.
“No, that’s not – okay, but promise me you won’t laugh.”
She nodded quickly, this seemed serious all of sudden.
“It’s stuck. I gained weight and now I can’t take the ring off anymore. Hey, you said you wouldn’t laugh!”
Jazz pressed her lips tightly together but couldn’t help that the corners of her mouth twitched. Her body trembled with the laughter she held in. God, he was so adorable, getting all flustered in his wounded vanity.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” She was still giggling while she carefully straddled his lap, trying not to put strain on her ribs.
“Hey…” Her hands cupped his face, made him look at her. “You’re still as handsome as back then when we first met. Actually I like how you’re looking now. So mature and… sexy…” She leaned in, close enough so they could kiss, so he could feel the warmth of her skin and her breath.
The first kiss, a brush of their lips, was sweet and short. When Jazz pulled back she grabbed his hand and raised it to her lips.
“Let me try something…” With a teasing wink Jazz kissed his fingertips, one after the other. She wrapped her lips around his ring finger, sucked it into her mouth, guiding it towards her cheek rather than taking it down her throat. He groaned, eyes fixed on her lips. For a moment she idly let her tongue slide against his finger, took her time before she started playing with the ring.
He shifted a bit under her but she held his hand at the wrist and continued to suck at his finger.
“I-I have already-“ he exhaled audibly, “-already tried… soap and oil… lotions…”
She hummed around his finger, keeping a serious expression as good as she could. That wasn’t easy, the sounds he made, his expression and most of all the growing hardness under her core.
“You – holy! – you really think that will help?”
She let his finger slide out of her mouth and grinned at him. “Depends. I think it helps really well – maybe not with the ring, though.” Still holding his wrist she leaned in and kissed him deeply, his free hand snaked around her waist and pulled her close. As long as he was distracted she changed her grip and with one rather harsh tug the ring finally was off.
Still panting she leaned back, held it like a trophy. “Metal expands when it gets warm. Basic physics.”
Jin was breathing equally heavy, chuckled in between. “Now that that’s off, how about we take the rest off, too?”
Jazz threw the ring on the table behind her, now that her hands were both free she grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head, sucked in a sharp breath at the movement that tugged at her bruises.
“Hey, hey, my little songbird… careful. Don’t worry, we have all the time of the world.” His fingertips lightly brushed over her skin, made her shiver in anticipation.
“I like it that you’re not wearing a bra.” He grazed her nipples, sent goose bumps over her body.
“I’m injured and at home. Why should I wear a bra?”
The almost breathless question made him smile, he loved how much his touch affected her. Last time there was an urgency that made him sloppy, he had missed most of her finer reactions. The way her breathing sped up, how her pupils dilated at his caresses and kisses. How her breath hitched in her throat when he grazed an especially sensitive spot, like the area just under her breast or at her hips, just above the waistband of her pajama pants. The needy little whines when he kissed her neck.
“Tell me if something’s hurting, okay?” He breathed the words into her ear, his hands slipped down to her ass, cupped her cheeks and slightly pulled her up. Jazz got the hint and carefully climbed off his lap so he could tug at her pants, gravity dragging them down as soon as Jin had pulled them over her hips.
“I think… I think it’s better if I’m on top this time…”
Her panties followed and she stepped out of the fabric pooling at her feet, reached out and took his hand so she could give him a tug. He stood up, stepped right into her space so she had to take a step back not to lose her balance. But she also wanted to be close to him so she leaned right back into him, her hands slowly unbuttoning his shirt.
He was right after all, they had time. No need to rush, and she wasn’t in the condition for hasty, fast and hard sex anyway. And not in the mood.
She wanted to savor this, not the almost desperate desire from last time. This was hopefully the beginning of something lasting so she wanted to make this last.
With every brush of her fingertips his heart leapt; when she finally opened the last button and pushed his shirt off his shoulders he sighed, as if the weight of the fabric had been unbearable by now.
Jazz placed soft kisses all over his chest, his shoulders, his neck, wherever she could reach. Her hands were now unbuckling his belt, almost shyly she tilted her face up, waited for him to kiss her. She needed the reassurance of his lips against hers, other than last time there was no alcohol to give her courage.
Jin’s hand gently cupped her cheek, though his kiss wasn’t as gentle. His fingers twitched against her face, as if he was holding back, wanted to pull her even closer, kiss her even deeper. Have all of her.
Once his pants were open she pushed her hands under his boxers, made him groan when she curled her fingers around his hard cock.
“I missed you so much…” He said what she was thinking, making her smile.
“I missed you, too. Missed your taste… missed how you make me feel…” With growing impatience she pushed his pants down, brought some distance between them so he could awkwardly step out of his pants.
“I missed your taste more…” He turned her around and laid her back on the couch, careful not to put any strain on her ribcage. He kissed her lips, playful and with a smile, happy to have her here again, this time under better circumstances. This time he wouldn’t let her go again.
His tongue drew a wiggly line down her body, he left kisses on his way. On her breasts, tongue circling her nipples until they hardened and darkened. On her stomach, kissing each bruise and cut, eliciting whimpers from Jazz, making her squirm in need. He places a soft kiss the inside of each of her thighs before he looked up, watched her face as he licked his lips, drew his bottom lip between his teeth.
Jazz buried a hand in his hair, her chest heaving. She nodded once, reassuring him that she really wanted this. And when his lips and tongue started to explore her folds she closed her eyes, tipped her head back into the pillow, sighed in contentment.
He answered her breathy plea with a groan, circled her clit with his tongue. His hands held her thighs open, she arched her back, rocked her hips slightly, tried to increase the friction, the pleasure he caused her. But before he could push her over the edge she pulled her hips back, made him look at her.
“Let me… I want… sit up…”
She crawled back a bit, gave him room to actually sit up, straddled him and kissed her own taste off his lips. She lowered her hips, let his hard cock slide through her drenched folds. His hands found her hips and she grabbed his cock, steadied him before she lowered herself, took his cock in, only a bit at first. She kissed him deeply while she sank down on him, gasped into the kiss when he filled her up completely.
“Welcome… home…” she panted, grinned and kissed him again, swallowed his moan when she started moving.
“Feels so good… you feel… so good…”
She rocked her hips, slowly at first, testing out how much her body could take. And it could take much more. His hands cupped her ass, helped her find a rhythm. She fell into a lazy grind against him, rolled her hips, let her clit brush against his pubic bone with every movement.
“Can’t believe… I went so long… without you… and your sweet… pussy…” He bucked his hips, made her yelp, made her see stars.
“God, I want… you so much… deeper…” she panted.
“We can… arrange that… how’s your… rib?” Sweat was starting to glisten on his forehead, making his hair stick to his skin.
“How’s your… back…?” she teased him, gasped when he bucked his hips again to drive himself deeper into her.
“Even if I’d… break my back… I wouldn’t stop… now…” he assured her, wrapped his arms around her. “Hold on tight.”
She hooked her legs around his waist and squealed when he turned them around, making her groan slightly.
“Don’t you… dare to stop…” she threatened him, making him chuckle. After some shuffling Jazz was halfway comfortably on her back, Jin kneeling between her legs, her ass resting on the top of his thighs. He gave her a couple of careful thrusts to test if she was okay and she moaned, reached for the armrest her head was lying on to grab it tightly.
“More,” she demanded, voice almost breaking. She was so close already, the discomfort from her bruised rib forgotten for now.
And Jin gave her more. With one arm he held her leg, the other hand found her clit, send sparks through her body, made her cry out.
“Missed your voice… too… my little… songbird…”
It didn’t take him long to have her back at the edge, but this time she didn’t stop him. She let the pleasure build up inside of her, until she couldn’t take it anymore, until she trembled and arched her back even more, her knuckles white from how hard she was gripping the armrest now.
She came with a loud cry, eyes tightly closed. The bliss that flooded her was better than any pain meds, but the fact that he followed her suit was even better. He slumped down a bit, careful not to put his weight on her, but she pulled him closer, wanted him near.
While they tried to catch their breath and cooled off a bit no words were spoken, only kisses and caresses travelled back and forth between them.
A few days later Jazz visited Jin at work. They had spent every night together ever since she got home from the hospital. There was a still unspoken agreement that they were together again, without putting a label on their relationship.
But she felt married again, and she loved this feeling.
“Hello my sweet songbird,” he cheerfully greeted her when she stepped into his office, a huge smile on her lips.
“Hey Jinji. Ready for dinner?” She leaned over his desk and kissed him briefly.
“Just one more minute. I have to finish this and then I’m all yours.”
Jazz sat down in a chair and looked around his office.
“This office doesn’t suit you at all. It’s-“
“Dull, yes, you mentioned that before.” He chuckled when she frowned, not sure what he was referring to. “You were quite tipsy back then.”
“Oh.” She looked down sheepishly before she took a deep breath. “Anyway, but I have something that suited you quite well until now.”
“Is it you?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
She laughed and shook her head slowly before she stood up and walked around his desk, leaned against the edge of the wooden table.
“Maybe,” she teasingly said and reached into her bag. “Okay, this might be… I don’t know, rushed maybe. Or simply stupid. Interrupt me when I cross a line but –“
Suddenly she was nervous. Had he felt like that when he made a ring out of that clover back then?
“You left your ring at my table… I – I took it to a jeweler. They made it wider. It should fit now.” With slightly trembling hands she slid the ring back on his finger. “You – you can take it off now whenever you want…”
“Never.” He cupped her face with his hands and pulled her close. “I never want to take it off.”
The kiss they shared sealed their bond, without vows or a celebrant. Just one ring, two hearts. One love.