Homecoming – Day 12-1

“Please, please, please, pick up…” I jump from one foot to the other, pray to every entity for the dialing tone to change into a click. When it comes my heart stops, soars high and hits the ground again when the recorded message tells me to talk after the peep.

“Hey, uhm, hi Sam. It’s me. Jazz.” I clench my eyes shut, why do I have to sound so stupid? “I wanted to apologize for not calling last night. My whole week has been crazy but yesterday, gosh, yesterday takes the crown. I had some kind of family emergency and I know it’s not an excuse for cancelling our conversation. Anyway, I really hope you give me a chance to apologize in person and not to your voicemail. So, uhm, let me know when it’s a good time for you and we can chat.”

My throat is so dry, I have troubles swallowing. Especially my pride.

“I – I miss talking to you.” It’s good that there’s no video to my audio, I don’t want appear weak but that’s what crying usually is. Showing weakness. A last deep breath and I keep talking, I’m almost done anyway.

“Yeah, so, gimme a sign when we can talk. Have a nice day. Bye.” I slam the button to end the call, just in time to burst out in tears. I fucked up. Again.

 

“Shouldn’t you be polishing something?” Miho asks when I trudge into the café. At least my eyes look more or less normal again, nothing I couldn’t blame a shitty night for.

“Shouldn’t you be making me a coffee? A big one? Like, really huge?” I ask back.

“Still hungover?” Her hands fly over the levers and buttons of the chrome monster but all I can see is the stream of black liquid filling an extra tall cup.

“Nope. Even worse.”

There’s no one else in the café at this time so I rest my head on the counter.

“Wanna talk about it?” She slides the cup over to me and I sit up properly. “And take some sugar for it, you are extra sour today.”

“My Dad showed up last night.” I stir my coffee, without putting in sugar though.

“And that’s bad?”

“You have no idea.” My spoon makes a soft noise when I place it down on the counter. “Not only did I find him elbow deep in my Mom’s blouse, no, he had the audacity to actually act as if I should be happy to see him!”

It only dawns on me that Miho has no clue about the very – let’s call it unique – relationship Dad and I have. I love him as a person, but he was and is a shitty Dad. Most kids are upset when their parents break up, I only ever prayed that it would be the last time every time it happened. I love Dad, I love Mom, but not together.

He was never violent or abusive, just completely focused on himself and his needs, his wishes. He still is.

“Yeah, finding your parents making out is always strange. I mean, they are people and they probably have sex and all, but I don’t want to know about that.” Miho shudders, probably just thinking about her own parents.

“It’s not only that, although that’s already bad enough. It’s just – you know, my Dad has always these visions of grandeur. Thinks he’s a master businessman. Comes up with a new great business idea every few months – after the last one failed. He comes back, crashes at Mom’s place, clears her bank account and runs off again to his next crazy idea.” I shouldn’t talk about him like that, but ever since I was a kid he never cared much for us, never helped Mom. Instead he comes to leech off her and otherwise stays god knows where.

“I couldn’t afford a prom dress because Dad needed money for his realtor license. Mom hasn’t been on vacation for as long as I can remember and we always, always lived on a very tight budget. But he keeps travelling all over the country, burning through his own money and once that’s gone through whatever Mom was able to save up to that point.”

The whole frustration of the last few years makes my throat tight, I take a sip of my coffee to buy some time and push the tears back.

“Wow. Sorry, I didn’t know it’s such a touchy topic for you.” Miho squeezes my arm lighty, I nod my head without looking at her.

“Sorry for venting that early in the morning. It’s just – the worst is that Mom still loves him, no matter how often he fucks up. He keeps leaving her alone and all she does is patiently waiting for him to come back.” That’s her idea of love. Wasting her life waiting for someone who would never stay.

“And when he’s back they are all lovey-dovey for a week before they start fighting all the time.”

Great role models.

“So it’s the ultimate on-off-relationship?” Miho sums up my explanation.

“More or less, yes. Dad’s latest stupid idea is a food truck and he took all of Mom’s savings to buy one. And since we’re having a festival here…”

“Food truck, festival – yes, I get it. How convenient for him that he can crash on your Mom’s couch, huh?”

“Anyway, this whole ordeal took me off guard and so – I forgot to call Sam last night. I apologized this morning, but so far…” I shrug, hang my head. This day is only a couple of hours old and it already sucks.

“Is Sam the unforgiving kind?” Miho busies herself with some cleaning. I glance at the clock, it’s almost time to leave.

“I certainly hope not. So far we got along just great, no major fights and all. Except for me storming off when it got too serious of course.”

“Which wasn’t the most clever thing but not really despicable. So no need to beat yourself up because of that.”

“Thanks. But the point is, I have no idea of Sam is the type to hold a grudge. We haven’t been in such a situation before and now I’m hopelessly lost. Should I call again? Send texts? Just wait for Sam to contact me again?”

She has no answer, of course not. She doesn’t know Sam at all.

“I know that sounds like some stupid bla bla, but I’m sure whatever you do, it will work out in the end. I mean, I never believed in rules saying you shouldn’t call within a certain time to keep the upper hand or stuff like that. If you guys are actually in love, some misunderstanding won’t be the end of it.” With an encouraging smile and nod she shoos me out of the café, but one questions still lingers, clings to my every breath and step. What if I am the only one truly in love?

 

Tomorrow is the party and I won’t have to come and clean the house, so I really have to make sure to get it spotless today. Jake greets me with a grunt, his morning must have been coffee-less so far. At least I had my first dose already or even the sight of his smug grin at my tired face had me in tears. But not today.

“So, you’re going to the festival later?”

This seemingly innocent questions ring all the alarms in my head.

“Not sure yet,” I deflect, focus on scrubbing the kitchen sink.

“It’s been ages since I last was at a fairground,” he muses. The coffee machine splutters, less intimidating than Miho’s machine from hell, but the coffee is hot and strong. Just how I like it.

“Must have been in college.”

I hum as a sign I heard him, not wanting to encourage him to continue this conversation, but not exactly planning to be rude. Not yet.

“You like the fireworks, don’t you?”

I shrub harder. How does he know that?

“They are okay, I guess.”

“I know a good spot to watch them.”

I straighten up, keep my eyes on the sink. “And?”

“Nothing ‘and’. Just saying, if you want to watch them from a good spot, I know one.”

When I look at him he’s already watching me, doesn’t even pretend not to. Very suspicious.

“Why? You wanna light up some firecracker next to me?”

“Why do you always think the worst of me? No, that’s not my plan. But you worked hard the last week and I thought – you know what, forget it. I never even said anything.” He grabs a mug and pours himself a coffee, stalks off as if I insulted him. Honestly, after all that time he still acts as if he’s the victim. But I am the one with the scars and the deeply rooted distrust!

I rush through Mom’s list of chores and the whole house, dusting, vacuuming, picking up things on the way. After battling the huge vacuum cleaner up the stairs I go through all the rooms. Elias’ bedroom is the first, after that down the hall until I reach the rooms of the boys. Whatever has gotten into Jake, I can’t just ignore his room so I knock, wait for an answer. There is none so I knock again, call out to him that it’s me and that I need to get inside. A few more seconds tick by so I carefully open the door, ready to slam it shut in case I see something I don’t want to see or get yelled at. But nothing.

He’s not there.

I quickly take care of his carpet and make his bed, pick up a dirty shirt and socks. Once out of the door I breathe easier again, take the clothes to the hamper before I continue cleaning the floors. Ben’s door opens easily, I push against it with my hip while vacuuming the doorstep and the area in front of the door on the hallway.

Someone taps me on the shoulder and I jump, scream, my heart leaps and beats furiously. With a clatter the vacuum cleaner drops on the floor, misses my foot only by a few millimeters.

“What the-!” It takes a few seconds for me to recognize Ben, in a T-shirt and shorts, hair disheveled and eyelids heavy with sleep.

“Goodness, what are you doing here?”

He motions towards the vacuum cleaner and I turn it off, the silence between us awkward now.

“I was sleeping until you came and woke me up.” He was never an early bird and his morning grumpiness reminds me of an adorable bear after hibernation. Like a teddy.

“Sorry, I thought you went back home last night.”

He scratches the back of his neck, hides his yawn behind his other hand.

“Nah, I figured Mads might need some more time to cool off. She’s got quite a temper.”

Oh, yeah. They are living together. Or better, they were. At least if Maddie was serious about breaking up.

“You know she really hates that nickname, do you? I mean, I remember her screaming at this one guy in her class to wouldn’t stop calling her that.”

“Actually she never told me that before.” He shrugs, a movement that threatens to ruin his shirt. God, those biceps are straining against the fabric and I wonder why he even wears a shirt. Not that I want to see him without it, but the one he’s wearing is just a tad too tight. The good way.

“Well, she must really like you to let you call her that until now.” I bent down to pick the vacuum cleaner up again. “Sorry for waking you up, I try to be more considerate now.”

“Don’t sweat it. Wasn’t on purpose anyway. Besides, it was time for me to get up, I have to work later.” He stretches a bit, still sleepy. I can’t drool over him now, not when he can still see me.

“Okay, I’m off. Cleaning somewhere else now.” If he notices that I’m practically fleeing he doesn’t comment on it.

I try once more to reach Sam but talking to the voicemail isn’t lifting my mood. After finishing the floors I follow Mom’s cleaning schedule which tells me laundry has to get done – including ironing shirts. So it’s back upstairs to get the laundry from the hampers, on my tiptoes to not disturb Ben again.

I know Jake’s not in his room, but I have picked his laundry up already so I make a beeline to the bathroom to get the towels. Bad idea.

I notice the moment I open the door – the air is humid and warm. Someone’s in the shower. In the huge shower with the glass enclosure, and although the panels are fogged I can clearly see who it is.

“You just wanna stand there gawking or do you need something?”

Jake turns to look at me and I fight the urge to drop my gaze, instead I tip my head backwards, stare at the ceiling.

“Uh, sorry, this – holy, this is embarrassing. I didn’t hear the shower and the door wasn’t locked and I just wanted to get the towels and-”

“Well, I hope you will leave at least one here for me. Otherwise go ahead, take what you need.”

Since the shower is turned off no new steam comes and the old steam starts to settle. Tiny droplets run down the glass panel, taking the cover of fog with them. Oh boy.

“What? Changed your mind? You can also join me if you want.”

No witty response comes to mind, not even an indignant refusal. My mouth opens and closes, like a fish, and no sound comes out.

“Or would you want to sneak a peek first? To make sure it’s worth your time?” He opens the glass door and that sets me into motion.

I squeak a high-pitched ‘no, thanks’, grab the towels off the rack and rush out, followed by his laughter.

In the hallway I pause, lean against the wall to catch my breath. My heart is racing, my complexion betrays me by broadcasting my feelings in scarlet all over my face. I am officially an idiot.

“Jayjay, you okay?”

For the second time in less than one hour Ben makes me jump. I’m afraid he can read from my expression what happened so I keep my eyes on my shoes, towels tightly pressed against my chest.

“I’m fine, just – tired. Don’t worry, I just need a quick break.”

“Okay, but if you need something else, just tell me, okay? No matter what.” He steps a bit closer, tries to peer into my face but I shake my head.

“No, I’m good. Really.” My shaky smile does nothing to reassure him, the crease between his eyebrows proof of his doubt.

“You want a glass of water?” One step closer and I’m trapped between him and the wall, the towels the only barricade. I just want to decline when the door to the bathroom opens.

“Oh, hey, Jake.” Ben looks up, his eyes going wide.

“Dude! You can’t run around butt naked here! We have a girl in the house. Cover up your junk.”

I want to die. Right now, and please quickly.

“I guess the girl you’re referring to wouldn’t mind a peek given that she took all the towels with her,” Jake points out. I can hear his footsteps coming closer but I’m mortified, can’t move my head to look at him – or better, to look away. The heat from his shower still surrounds his body, I can tell he’s close without looking.

“Did I interrupt you guys somehow?” Confusion sneaks into Ben’s voice, he takes a step back from me again.

“Yep,” Jake says the exact moment I shout: “No!”

I push all the towels into Ben’s arms, bolt from them before I see more than I want of Jake.

Still jittery I hide in the laundry room, fight tears and screams and the urge to kick something, someone. I really want to hear Sam’s voice now but can’t leave a message of me sobbing on the voicemail. Not very attractive after all. A few deep breaths, some nervous pacing and I can pull myself together enough to cram the part of the laundry I already have into the machine. Just when I open the bottle of detergent the door opens.

“Hey, you ok-”

With a shriek I spin around, spill half of the bottle over Ben’s shirt. That’s it, I have to leave the town now. Better leave the country altogether.

“Oh shit, I’m so sorry!” Frantically I wipe at his shirt with what turns out to be another shirt, dirty of course.

“It’s okay, calm down. Geez, I just wanted to check on you. Are okay? You look as if you’re that shy from melting down.”

My hand stops moving, I throw the shirt back into the laundry machine.

“Do I? Because I feel as if I’m already just some puddle.” A choked out laugh hides my first sob.

“What’s wrong?” The shirt still clings to him, the smell of the detergent pungent, tickling my nose.

“Life sucks right now, but I feel like I shouldn’t complain. I mean, you don’t exactly have it easy either, huh?” I sniffle, blame it on the detergent though.

“Huh? Oh, you’re talking about Mads. She’ll come around.” He shrugs, strangely unburdened while I’m still blaming myself for that scene last night. “And you know, never hold up travelers.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if she wants to go I won’t stop her. I mean, if she just stays for my sake, that won’t be the same, will it?”

I mull his words over in my mind, wonder how he can be so nonchalant about this. I can’t just let go of Sam and we haven’t planned to get married. So how can he?

“Okay, that stuff starts to itch. You don’t mind, do you?” he asks and takes off his shirt. “You can put this in the machine, I don’t think you need any more detergent, though.”

What’s up with the guys today for them to casually walk around half or fully naked in front of me?

My 17 years old, thirsty teenage self would probably die of blood loss now, although I occasionally caught glances of Ben at the pool with only swim trunks on back then. But I never saw him up close. His abs, right in front of me, those biceps – I’m sure he wasn’t in that good shape in school anyway.

“Jazz?”

I realize I’m staring, but who would blame me? Well, besides Maddie maybe, but she’s not here.

“Yeah?” I blink, shake off that daze.

“Are you okay now?” How can he be that sweet and that hot at the same time? I shouldn’t even enjoy this view, not when I’m still trying to win Sam back. I’m a horrible, horrible person.

“Yeah, thanks. I just – I’m really, really tired. You know, my finals, the graduation, coming back here only to start working for your Dad…” I shrug, pray that he would cover up a bit and dread it at the same time.

“And your situation with your boyfriend,” Ben points out, ready to help.

“Yes, that’s part of it, too. But I don’t have to tell you about heartbreak, huh?”

He shrugs again, now better visible for me without his shirt. Dammit. I’m going to burn in hell.

“I try not to dwell in the past too much. Life changes all the time, I’m going with the flow if I can.”

Nice philosophy, just not for me. I’m fighting tooth and nail for what I consider mine. And I hate losing something I have worked for so hard.

“Must be nice,” I muse loudly. “Being able to let go of anger and pain. I hold grudges forever.”

“Like with Jake?”

That works better than a cold shower. I straighten up, slam the door of the washing machine shut with my foot.

“Okay, anything else you need from me?”

He realizes that whatever mood it was, it’s gone now.

“No, not really. I guess I should wash off that detergent. Gonna hop into the shower real quick. Can I get a towel or do I have to air-dry, too?”

My mind stutters to a halt at the image, I force it aside so I can stalk out of the laundry room towards the linen closet. Once he has a towel he winks at me and leaves. I need a coffee and a break, but since I can’t have neither I pick what comes closest: I call Miho.

 

“If you’re not dying right now keep it short, the place is packed,” is her greeting.

“I’m kind of dying, alright. Or I’m already dead and gone to hell. Feels like it at least.” I sniffle, a sound that gets Miho’s attention.

“What’s wrong?” I can hear her walking around, she tells someone she’ll be back soon – probably her part-timer.

“Everything! I messed up with Sam, can’t even apologize because I only ever get the mailbox. Jake keeps driving me nuts and Ben – ugh, everything is such a mess and I can’t stop crying.”

The sounds of the café in the background fill the line while Miho is silent. She clears her throat, hums briefly.

“Okay, how far are you with your work? Do you still have a lot to do?”

“Almost done. Just the laundry.” A hiccup cuts off my words. I have planned to dust some more, pick up some stuff here and there.

“Tell them to take care of the laundry on their own and get your ass over here. As soon as the fairground opens it will be dead in here anyway.”

“I can’t,” I meekly object. “It’s Mom’s job on the line, not mine.”

Mom. God, how I hope that she won’t fall for Dad’s tricks again. I’m still miffed that he had the guts to show his face here, food truck or not. He promised not to come back, not to pester Mom for money again. That liar. And now she will need even some more money, he will take whatever she has without a care what she will do afterwards. Just like last time. Just like every time so far.

“Sorry, it’s – I’m fine. Just needed to talk to someone. Vent a bit. I don’t want to keep you from your work. Will call you later again, okay?”

I take a few deep breaths, force the tremble in my voice down.

“You sure?” She sounds suspicious. I shouldn’t have called her, now she will worry and although it comforts me that she cares about me that much, I also feel guilty.

“Yeah, of course. Thanks for listening. Go back to your coffee machine.” I laugh to lighten the mood again, not sure if she buys it, hard to say without seeing her after all.

“Fine. How about you swing by when your work is done?”

“Only if you pour a good swig of booze into my coffee.”

“Deal. Send me a text when you leave there and I can make sure there’s a drink waiting here for you. How does Espresso Martini sound?”

Fancy for sure.

“Perfect. And again, sorry for disturbing you at work. See you later.”

After her goodbye I end the call. My eyes still sting but the tears have stopped. I only have to make it through one more day and I can go back to my old life – minus Sam.

My fingers type a short “I miss you” but I don’t send it. Won’t change anything after all.

Her Love In The Zombie Apocalypse

Happiness doesn’t last, does it?

In the perfect world, we grow to be strong, learn to believe in ourselves and to have the courage of our convictions, and finally meet someone with whom we can be that person – in both strength and weakness.

When you find that person, don’t let the small, the insignificant things come between you.

Embrace.

Embrace your differences and each other and don’t let go. Fight hard and with everything you’ve got.

Because you never truly know when the dream will end.

 

Panting and laboured beneath the weight of my backpack, I struggle to keep pace. Kaga and Soma are already pulling aside our barricade at the east end of the academy, while Shinonome and Ishigami stand alert for approaching threats.

At my side – always at my side – Seiji remains in step.

His face is smeared with the horror of his narrow escape, much like the rest of us.

But one of us fell, one of us didn’t really escape at all, the others just don’t know it yet.

Seiji doesn’t know it yet.

“Get the hell in here!” Kaga barks, but his curt urgency is no exaggeration now.

The threat is real, however disbelieving we were at the beginning, the truth has well and truly sunk in.

“Christ,” he huffs as Seiji and I pass him, and he and Soma begin to reassemble the barricade protecting our fortress home. “Could you possibly find a smaller pack?”

“Screw you,” I gasp, stumbling into the foyer and sliding the bag from my aching shoulders.

It hits the floor with a heavy clunk, the cans within part of the bounty we’d retrieved from several convenience stores much further from the academy than we have ever venture since the incident. Those closest to the academy have already been stripped bear, and it was the necessity to eat, and to provide for those who also shelter with us, that prompted a much more dangerous run to distant sources.

Roaring in my ears, my pulse refuses to slow, and Seiji looks me over with worry.

“Are you all right?” he asks quietly, leaning against the wall beside me, peering at me with those gunmetal eyes haunted by deep concern.

“Mm,” I nod, giving him a weary smile.

Anything to ease his troubles.

Anything to lighten this heart I love.

Anything to protect it from breaking.

But I can’t.

“That was intense,” I add, as Ishigami joins us.

“Everyone okay?” he asks, the blandness of his expression a stark contrast to the dangle of gore hanging from the left side of his glasses.

“Yeah,” Seiji confirms, and I nod also.

Liar.

But they take my word for it, this trust is what has kept us alive this long.

There are untold numbers of dead in Tokyo, some permanently, some now roaming, shambling, looking for prey – because it all happened so quickly, and people didn’t know how fast the infection spread, how virulent it was.

We still don’t know how it started. Even law enforcement was woefully unprepared, and communication came too slow, too late.

“Let’s get this stuff to storage,” Seiji prompted, shouldering his pack, before collecting mine.

“I’m not completely useless,” I argue, but I’m playful in my scorn.

Oh how many small things has Seiji done for me? When was the exact moment his selflessness won over my heart? I have no doubt, he would gladly give his life in exchange for mine – but this time, he can’t.

 

When twilight drifts, everyone goes to their posts. We check our defences, reinforce each barricade, look for weaknesses and plug them, and check night-watch rosters.

Glancing down the list I note who is meant to be at each guard position. It looks as if I’m just doing my job, but in reality I need to know who is where for a very different reason.

Shivering, I pull my jacket more closely around me, and eventually meet up with Seiji in our room.

Our room.

It was going to be a little house, with a yard big enough for a dog and a small vegetable patch. That was our shared dream.

Now, he is all that I have left of that dream, and…

“You look tired,” he tells me, gently taking my face between broad palms. “You’re cold.”

“It’s a clear night,” I point out, leaning into his touch, trying to memorise the sensation. “It’s freezing out.”

“Well, it was a long day,” he smiles, carefully sliding his fingers into my hair and running them all the way to the tips. “Early night?”

“Gladly,” I exhale, hoping he can’t tell I’m gritting my teeth behind this smile.

He doesn’t know I organised a pack of bare essentials while he was showering, and hid it from sight. He’s treating me like he always has – the centre of his world.

Mouth dry, maybe from the gathering nervousness of what I must do, or maybe… I can’t tell if the jackhammer pounding against the inside of my skull is part of my transition, or the spread of guilt and grief and emotional pain so potent it’s a wonder I can stand, let alone smile like nothing is wrong.

And everything is wrong, because the throb in my forearm, hidden by the long sleeves of my flannel pajamas is a harbinger of my imminent death, and horrifying resurrection.

And I can’t be here when that happens.

Just the same, I snuggle under the blankets, and as Seiji is reaching over to turn off the lamp, I wrap my uninjured arm around him, and press myself mercilessly against his back.

I want to feel the imprint of his body against mine, my fingers, my hands, I want to remember every taut undulation of his chest, and the steady rhythm of his breath.

“Your hands are still freezing,” he grumbles, but hugs my forearm tightly.

And I pray he doesn’t hear my breath catch and stick in my throat, or feel the desperation to withhold a sob in the tension of my muscles.

“You always warm me up,” I whisper, hardly a breath at all, and he gives my hand a squeeze.

Nothing in the world would give me greater peace, than to remain here – but if I stay, even until morning… I might truly destroy him. Instead, I listen to the sounds of him, inhale the scent of him, until he falls asleep.

And then I have to exercise the absolute, utmost of my willpower to separate – softly so as not to wake him, when all I really want is for him to wake suddenly, grab me, pull me down and wrap himself around me.

I am my own person, but I would gladly let him consume me.

Cautiously I cover him back up, but the slight motion of Seiji’s head causes his bangs to flop over his closed eyelids.

So innocent.

And yet so fierce in my defence – and this is why I have to go.

He would make excuses, drag it out, maybe even beg me to stay even while knowing my fate is a foregone conclusion.

Go. GO! You have to go. For his sake.

As quietly as I can, I retrieve my backpack. There is hardly anything in it, because let’s face it, I’m not going to be needing human supplies for much longer.

Then there is the letter.

Saying goodbye, face to face, seeing him break… I can’t. And it’s not arrogance to think he will, because his heart and mine are one and mine…

… is being torn apart.

On the pillow, still fresh with the impression of my head, I leave my final missive to him, and bite down so hard on my lower lip, it bleeds. These feet won’t move but they have to.

Go.

My insides are hollowed out, a gaping, weeping wound very nearly prompting a sob when in my retreat from out room I spy Domo-kun.

It’s so stupid that Domo-kun should symbolise our love somehow, but for some reason that gift to me left a lasting impression. And even in the chaos, he stayed with us as a constant.

“Goodbye Domo-kun,” I whispered, slipping out into the hall and closing the door on all I ever wanted.

 

BONUS

“Cold,” Goto murmured, rolling over and groping across the bed for his favourite source of warmth.

It was not so jarring an awakening, for he didn’t yet know the truth. His wife could be any number of places by far more obvious than having snuck out in the night to meet her grizzly fate.

So he clutched at the blankets and tucked them under his chin, and in doing so disturbed the piece of paper beside him.

Rubbing his eyes with the back of one hand, he plucked the missive from the pillow and unfolded it.

And dread began to form, dread that turn swiftly into a panic without description.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF THE BELOW LETTER

My dearest Seiji,

We said, till death do us part – but, I’m not sure where undeath fits into that.

I am sorry.

I made a mistake and now… the cost of it must be paid. And this is the one time you can’t save me, no matter how many times I call you name, the enemy now inside me cannot be defeated.

You will be angry that I didn’t tell you, that I didn’t… give you a chance to say goodbye, but leaving like this is the lesser of two terrible evils.

I will turn, it’s inevitable, and I don’t want your last memory of me to be as a monster.

Please remember the brush of my fingertips against your forehead.

Please remember the warmth of my body curled against yours.

Please, remember the passionate heat, and the bliss of our every union.

And let me save you this time – let me stand, even at this distance, between you and having to see me as anything other than the woman you took to be your wife.

That woman will soon be consumed, but until the very end I will fix you in my mind and heart, grip you relentlessly, because you have taught me what it means to be loved so unconditionally, so completely; I will not be afraid.

Loving you, and being loved by you, has been a privilege I’m not sure I ever really deserved, but you have been the absolute, the most precious gift I ever received.

I love you.

Your dearest wife.

 

The bed beside him was cold.

When in the night had she left him?

He knew she was gone but could not control his panic. It exploded inside him, could not be contained, and drove him from their room in his pinstriped pajamas. With abandon he threw himself down the corridor, blind almost but for a target in the distance he had no way of seeing.

Morning greeted him with a slap of winter, but Goto struggled through the haze of his desperate breaths lingering in the air, and staggered like a drunkard to the outer most manned position.

“Did you see her?!” he shouted.

“Lieutenant?” the young man queried, looking very confused.

“My wife!” Goto gasped. “Did you see her? Did she leave this way?”

But the pair stationed there could tell him nothing, nor could any of the other outer guards, and finally, her last words to him clutched in his bloodless fist, he sat, in the dirt, trembling.

Why couldn’t he see her face? Why could he only see the back of her, her retreating figure moving with labour steps through the undead who paid her no mind?

Losing her was… there were simply no words, but to know she had gone alone with such pain in her heart was a wound to him like no other.

And all he could do was sit, and stare off into the distance.

If Miho was MC Part 2

In Your Arms Tonight 2

Miho: Careful, that one’s a bit heavy.
Watches Shu struggle with a bulging garbage bag.
Shu: What is in this?
Miho shrugs.
Miho: My marriage?
Shu trips, drops bag which breaks, and Kazuya’s severed head rolls out and into the gutter.
Miho: You’re a lawyer, right?

My Forged Wedding

Miho arrives at Long Island.
Saeki: I need some practical experience, Honey.
Kunihiko: I’m not really your uncle.
Yamato: I could lose my job if you don’t help me.
Takao: I just want to make my grandmother happy.
Ren: I could save so many lives.
Yuta: Reality television; it’ll be a real laugh.
Tamaki: My half-brother is a total dick.
Akito: I don’t even like sake.
Haruka: Tradition is so suffocating.
Kyoichi: I would never manipulate you.
Miho blinks, and holds up her hands.
Miho: I’ve got this – I’ll help ALL of you.
Changes title.
‘My Forged Harem’

Her Love In The Force

Checks with local superior when she hears she has been accepted to an elite academy on recommendation, requests a copy of the application. Calls academy to apologise and withdraw.
Namba: Well, that’s honest of you.
Miho: Of course, I hope you’ll take that into consideration when I file a genuine application.
Duh, is accepted on own merits and kicks Kaga’s ass at every opportunity… slaps Goto’s ass at every opportunity. 

Serendipity Next Door

 Miho turns Masaomi’s penchant for getting lost into a fan mobile app entitled Omi Go!
Jinpachi: You didn’t really sell his fans Omi-balls to throw at him did you?
Miho hands Jinpachi a second beer, then settles in his lap to comfortably enjoy watching Masaomi’s GPS tracker blip around on her iPad.
Miho: He’ll evade them. I left energy bars at Omi-stops around

Homecoming – Day 11-2

Back in the townhall I’m still fuming, inwardly cursing myself for enjoying that time with Jake and Kimmy before he decided to be an ass towards Miho.

Kimmy shuffles along next to me, I pay only half a mind to her. Jake’s presence is too much for me right now, every sound he makes, every move annoys me to no end.

Unfortunately I would be totally lost in these hallways so I can’t even just storm off without him. So I grit my teeth and follow him, answer to Kimmy’s question curtly, but I tell her it’s not her fault that I am so upset now. I can’t wait to get out of there and away from Jake.

Only that I can’t actually get away. He drove me there and he will be at the mayor’s home later. Just great.

Once we step through the door into the same small room we picked Kimmy up in she yelps and rushes forward, into the arms of a man I never saw before. He looks good, tall, broad shoulders, his hair just a tiny bit too long. Brown eyes look warmly at the child. She talks to him in a flurry of gestures and I can make out just enough to understand it’s her dad.

“Hello, sir, I’m Jacob Rosenfeldt.”

Caught up in the moment I keep translating although it’s not necessary, Kimmy’s father isn’t deaf after all.

“Ah, yes, the mayor told me about you. I’m Robert Pavel. Thank you for taking Kimmy out, I couldn’t make it sooner.” He has a nice voice and when his gaze sweeps over me I’m blushing lightly.

“I’m Jazz, I had the pleasure of talking to your daughter a bit today,” I introduce myself, hands still putting my words into signs.

Kimmy tells her father about our short outing, he repeatedly has to tell her to slow down to the point she turns to me with pleading eyes and I interpret for her. That’s why I’m here for anyway, I can keep doing it until the mayor relieves me of my duty. I should have asked if this is a paid favor, although I’m sure Mom will kick me out if I take any more money from Elias. After everything he has done for us, yada yada.

“Okay, Kimmy, say goodbye to your new friends, Mom is waiting for us already.”

She waves at us and I show Jake how to say ‘bye’ before I turn around and leave without another word. I can take a bus back.

Not going back is not an option. Too much is still not done and my list is longer than the walk to the bus stop. Halfway there Jake catches up with me. He has the audacity to ask why I’m running off like that and I would love to explain it to him in detail if it wasn’t for the fact that his father is my employer right now.

“Hey, I asked you a question! Why did you just run off?” His hand lands heavily on my shoulder, warm and far too real to ignore.

“I figured my service isn’t needed any longer so I want to get back to my actual work asap. Can’t let Maddie polish all those things, can I?”

His eyebrows shoot up, he blinks once, twice, just long enough for me to slip out of his grip.

“What the heck has gotten into you?”

“You!” No, wait, that sounds dirty. “I mean, that stupid stunt you pulled at the café.” He has no right to be angry now, I am the one pissed at him, not the other way around.

“What? That I paid for you? Are you one of those militant feminists? A walkure?”

My mouth opens and closes again, I bet I look like a fish out of water.

“There is – there is so much wrong with you and what you just said, I can’t even-” A frustrated squeal cuts off my short tirade and signals me it’s better to just leave now before I say something I actually regret. A deep breath and I manage to press out a ‘Nevermind, I make it back on my own’ and this time he doesn’t follow me.

 

Jake’s car is already in the driveway when I arrive, I march past it, ignore the sudden urge to kick it, knowing it would only hurt my foot.

The back door leads directly into the kitchen where I find Maddie and Ben busy with a list and the whole table covered with dishes, glasses and boxes filled with napkins and table clothes.

“There you are! You took so long, I thought you ditched me here!” Maddie is in my face the second I set a foot into the house.

“Well, looks like you found a good way to kill some time. What’s all this?”

“The caterer brought this over earlier. So they don’t have to carry it all in on the day of the party.” Ben grins and easily hoists up a huge box, sets it down next to a wall.

“Oh, good. Is this all clean or do we have to polish that, too?” I point to the plates and cutlery on the table, pray to every entity out there that the answer is in my favor.

“We? Who is we? If anyone cleans all this it’s you,” Maddie points out, much to my dismay. Like always Ben comes to my rescue.

“Don’t worry, it’s all clean and Sunday morning they will send some people here to get the preparations done.”

That’s a relief, but it’s short lived since Maddie pushes a rag into my hands and points towards the hallway.

“You still have to clean the windows and mirrors. I can’t take care of everything here on my own after all.”

Five minutes later and I’m convinced that she didn’t clean anything at all. I pick up where I left earlier, cleaning windows and mirrors all over the floor. One of my least favorite chores, I’m just saying.

“Bennie? Can you bring me the ladder, please?” I call into the general direction I believe him to be, stretch up as far as my arm can reach to get the upper edge of the mirror over the chimney sill. “Bennie?”

“Can you stop calling him that?”

It’s not Ben but Maddie, without the ladder of course.

“What? I call him Bennie ever since I was twelve. You want me to stop that now because…?”

I catch her expression in the reflection of the mirror, lips curled up in a snarl.

“Because he is MY fiance and I don’t like that familiarity.”

“Well, tough luck. As long as he doesn’t tell me to stop that, I won’t. He might be your fiance, but he’s also my friend.”

“Exactly, and that is all he will ever be to you.”

She looks as of she wants to spit on the floor to drive her point home, but luckily she doesn’t. I have just polished the wooden floors after all.

“I know. And I just asked my friend to bring me a ladder so I can finish my work here. If you are not going to get me one, you better tell him to do it. Because I’m so close to dropping this rag and leave you with all the cleaning. For real this time.” My patience is on its last leg, today already took more strength than I actually have.

“Your ladder, ma’am.”

Again it’s not Ben, but Jake. He acts as if nothing ever happened and sets the ladder down, winks at me.

“Ready to take orders, ma’am. What is my next task?”

“Just stay out of my way, that’s all,” I coolly dismiss him and roll my shoulder, my right arm is so heavy from all the cleaning and polishing already.

“Awww, are you still miffed? Next time you can pay, I promise.” He grins, completely at ease.

Maddie grunts, crosses her arms in front of her chest.

“Hey, where are you all?” Ben finds us in a tensed atmosphere, but oblivious to it – or deliberately ignoring – he stops next to Maddie, wraps an arm around her.

God, how I wish I could just disappear now so I don’t have to see her smug grin.

Well, it’s not exactly a hole in the floor but there is another exit opening up for me. My phone rings. I take it out of my pocket but my fingers are so cramped, I drop it. Cursing loudly I bend down to pick it up but Jake is faster, snatches it from me.

“Sam? Who is Sam?”

“Give me that!” My blood rushes once to my face and right back to my toes, the urgency in my voice not lost on Jake or the others.

“Ohhh, someone important? Hm, what do I get if I give you that?” Jake dangles my phone over my head, makes me jump for it.

“Jacob! Give it back!”

He keeps me away with one arm, the other still above us, holding my phone.

“Nope. First you have to say ‘pretty please’.”

“Dammit, Jake!” I struggle, the burning in my throat and behind my eyes not a good sign. Keep it together until you have the phone!

“Wrong. You can do that better.”

I hear Maddie’s snicker and Ben’s annoyed sigh, and in a desperate attempt I step on jake’s foot, hard. He cries out, his posture drops so I can grab my phone from his hand, just in time to see the display telling me that I missed a call.

“No…” My bottom lip trembles, I slump down on the floor, so tired of this day that isn’t even over yet.

“Geez, stop acting so dramatic. It’s only a call, you can call him back.” Maddie rolls her eyes, snuggles closer to Ben.

“Besides, can’t be that serious. I never heard you talking about that Sam before.”

“Because it’s none of your business,” I growl and wipe my nose with the back of my hand. Don’t cry now, don’t cry.

“Oh, come on. Aren’t we all friends here?” The way she says ‘friends’ could cut metal.

“Sam is kinda serious and so am I and that is all you need to know,” I snap back, trying not to actually yell. I can’t afford to rise to her bait, not after pissing Jake off already.

“And who is Sam? Does he have a last name? A job? Anything?”

“Why would you want to know? So you can stalk all the social media or what?”

Again that stupid smirk. “Maybe. I mean, we have to make sure that you don’t end up with some weirdo, don’t we? Or more that some nice guy doesn’t end up with you.”

“Mads, I think that’s enough,” Ben interrupts her interrogation/insults and comes over, offers me a hand to help me up on my feet again.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Ben is the younger brother. While he takes care of me Jake stands at the side, sulking.

“How about you try to call him back now? Don’t worry, we take care of the rest here.”

I stumble out of the room, stare at my phone. Should I really do it? What should I say? Is it even possible to fix what is broken between us? That’s exactly why I keep stalling and running away – too many questions, not enough answers. And the almost certain possibility that I won’t like the answers I could get.

“For someone who even got violent to get the phone back you don’t seem eager to make that call.”

Jake stands with his hands in his pockets, flashes me that grin that used to make Maddie’s knees weak before she rammed a pole far enough up her ass to also serve as hat rack.

“You,” I press out, my voice wavering while I still try to stay calm.

“Me?” he asks, pointedly looking around to make sure that yes, I’m talking to him.

“You braggadocious, banana-washing, weedcutting bighead! You think you are funny, snatching my phone like some third grader? That was a very important call for me and YOU kept me from it and NOW you have the audacity to judge my for not calling back?!”

“What’s wrong with you today? I tried to cheer you up since your mood is so damned sour and all you can do now is yell at me?” He snorts, eyes narrowing at me.

“I never asked you to ‘cheer me up’. I want you to stay away from me as far as possible!” My voice reaches a pitch that hurts my own ears but I’m not backing down now. “There’s a friggin’ heart emoji next to Sam’s name in my contact list! Even a blockhead like you should be able to figure out that it’s probably not my dentist calling!”

“You don’t need a dentist anyway, your teeth are perfect now!” he yells back , catching me off guard.

“What the heck is that supposed to mean? It doesn’t change the fact that you made me miss a call I was waiting almost a week for!” I’m not going to let him distract me with his random remarks, this is not a joke for me.

“Then go already and call him back! Dammit, this was the last time I tried to be nice to you.” He turns on his heel, storms back to his brother and future sister-in-law.

“Nice? NICE? You wouldn’t be able to be nice if – if – dammit!” The lack of a witty response has me yell in frustration and annoyance, in this state of mind I definitely can’t call Sam back. Constantly cursing under my breath I write a short text that I’m currently unable to talk but that I really, really want to have this conversation. Maybe later today?

Anxiety bubbles up in me while I stare at the screen, waiting for the little icon to tell me that Sam has at least read my message, albeit not answered.

A simple ‘OK’ has never given me so much joy before. I would love to call now, hear the familiar voice, but that would be the last straw today to simply break down. I can’t afford that, neither getting sloppy with work now nor not giving that conversation my whole, undivided attention. I better take some notes later so I won’t go unprepared into this battle for my relationship.

My resolve is strengthened and my emotions have calmed down enough so I can face the unholy trinity of temptation, annoyance and ignorance in the dining room again I pocket my phone and brace myself for whatever torture awaits me there. I’m sure that both Jake and Maddie won’t pass up the chance of making me run the gauntlet, but once I step back inside they are actually engaged in a lively – almost heated – discussion.

“That’s not your decision!” Maddie just shouts, chin jutted forwards, hands on her hips.

“Well, it’s not only your wedding after all.” Jake shrugs, looks at Ben for affirmation while he absentmindedly throws my rag from one hand into the other.

“You won’t get much cleaning done like that,” I point out, only to find myself under the glare of the squabblers and the much friendlier gaze of Ben. “What?”

“Nothing, we were just talking about you.” Maddie’s voice is icy, with a hint of accusation.

“Wow, that makes me feel better.” I roll my eyes, plop down on a chair. “Care to fill me in?”

“I was just thinking that maybe you want to come to our wedding if you are free that day,” Ben says and my jaw drops. I want that about as much as a root canal treatment without anesthesia.

One glance at Maddie tells me she feels the same about that.

“Benjamin!” I expect her to stomp her foot but she doesn’t, instead she throws her hands up. “Now that you said it we can’t just take it back.”

Don’t I have a say in this?

“Why should we? Jazz is a friend, why can’t we invite her?”

“You know why!” Maddie screeches, a very unpleasant sound even for my ears.

“Because it ruins your zen-like number of guests? How many are it so far? 120?” Jake mocks her, a loopsided grin on his face.

“If you keep talking to me in that tone you’re not invited either.”

The brothers share a short glance, a nod from Jake and a quick shake of his head from Ben replaces a whole conversation.

“Mads, this is also my wedding, you know? And I want my brother to be there, so could you please calm down a bit? Both of you?”

Poor Ben, trapped between them as voice of reason.

“You always take his side! I’m your fiancée, you should just agree with me.”

Watching this is better than some telenovela, at least as long as I’m not involved. I would love some popcorn now, but I dare not to breathe to draw no attention on my presence.

“Maddie, you got your way with everything else so. We booked the venue you wanted. There’s no limit for your dress. You will get your band and your menu, your cake and all the other things. So could you please let me at least invite the people I consider friends?”

And I’m back in the focus.

“But not her.” Maddie’s accusing finger trembles just a few inches away from my face.

“Attention: Bridezilla sighting in the dining room.” Even when he whispers, Jake can be heard clearly. Maddie’s head spins around, she glares at him, takes a step closer.

“What did you just call me?”

His hands raised in an appeasing manner Jake backs off, but Maddie doesn’t relent.

“I asked you a question! What did you call me?!”

“Nothing you actually want me to say again,” he points out, looks past her at Ben who hangs his head, shakes it lightly. A broken man.

Maddie is in full fury, spins back again to face her fiance. “Why do you let him talk to me like that? Why do you never defend me?!”

“Mads, I-” he tries to get a word in edgewise, to no avail.

“And stop calling me that! I hate that stupid nickname! And since you keep choosing other people above me, I guess you don’t even want to marry me!” The engagement ring hits the floor and bounces off with a dull sound, the carpet muffles the impact and I lose sight of the shiny metal and diamond while watching Maddie storm off.

 

“So she broke up with him? Over a fight whether or not you should get invited to the wedding?” The coffee Miho sets down in front of me holds a good swig of cream liquor.

“Yep. I officially ruined a marriage.” With my head on the counter I whimper into my sleeve. “This was not my plan for the day. Or, you know, at all.”

“But now the guy you crushed on during your school days is free again. Isn’t that a good thing?” On the other side of the counter Miho mimics my posture, rests her head on the polished surface.

“No, it’s not! Just because he’s free doesn’t mean that I have a chance and even if I had one, doesn’t mean I want it.”

How long might it take in a small town like ours before people start gossiping and point at me when I walk past? Not long enough.

“And how did Ben take it?”

“No idea. I guess he’s in shock.” He pretended that everything was fine, even told me that Maddie often overreacted and that she surely would reconsider. One or two days, a week at the longest. And then he went and made himself a sandwich, even asked me and Jake if we wanted one, too. That’s not what I tell Miho, though. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things after all.

“Didn’t you say they weren’t even engaged for long yet?” She straightens up again, stretches a bit.

“Does that matter? He wants to marry her, whether he put a ring on her finger a week or a year ago doesn’t change anything.”

I also perk up a bit when she slides a plate with cake over, pick at the creamy, chocolate-y ganache covering it with my fork.

“And Jake?” With her own fork she snatches a bite of my cake, grins when I scowl at her.

“Couldn’t stop smirking. No idea what his problem with Maddie is, but they don’t get along at all.” The bitterness of the chocolate and the sweet cream distract me for a second, I let the cake melt on my tongue, add some spiked coffee flavor. This is how my days should be, filled with cake and coffee instead of cleaning and drama.

“At least Maddie won’t bother you anymore,” Miho points out the bright side.

“Perfect timing, too. Tomorrow I have to scrub the toilets and bathrooms. And I don’t really want her commenting on that.”

Tomorrow is also the festival and a good chance to just enjoy some fun and games.

“By the way, do you know what job Jared has?”

I pick some more at the cake.

“No, just that he is working for some company. You haven’t really told me what happened today anyway.”

She perks up a bit, but still feigns some indifference.

“Well, obviously he’s working with or for the town hall on a regular basis.  Water supply or something like that, according to Kimmy. Her mother is his co-worker AND it seems she’s the one who was in the club with him last night.”

“Huh…” A smile tugs at her lips, she covers it with another forkful of cake. She really has to learn to talk to people and not jump to conclusions, but to honest, I consider it funny how easily she’s thrown out of the loop by Jared when she’s still pretending to be not really interested.

“Are you going to the fair tomorrow?” I ask Miho between two bites of chocolate heaven.

“Nah, probably not. Too many people and I’m not that into greasy food and cheap games.”

“Too bad, I just wanted to ask you to come with me and watch me lose at can knockdown and whack-a-mole.”

 

Slightly tipsy but in a much better mood I make my way home. It’s time to tell Mom how much I love her and how grateful I am for everything she did for me. And of course I can’t wait to call Sam. When I told Miho about it, only the basics and not the full story with me kicking Jake to get my phone back and chickening out afterwards, she talked some confidence into me. I got my notes, I got my goal clear in sight and I got a light buzz – the perfect combination to win my lover back.

With a spring in my step I dance up the stairs, unlock the door and make a beeline into the living room where the lights are still on and voices indicate that Mom is watching TV. As a peace offering I brought a slice of Miho’s incredible cake, I swing the paper bag and waltz into the room just to stare at one of the most disturbing scenes I ever saw.

Mom, with her wrist bandaged up, sitting in a chair, eyes closed, head hanging low, moans and sighs at the very enthusiastic massage she is getting. From my father.

One of his hands is unfortunately not on her shoulders, but busy in the front of her blouse.

“Dad?” My head spins. “Mom?”

They jump apart, Mom sheepishly fixes her clothes, Dad simply beams at me.

“Jazzy-bee! How’s my big girl doing?”

My father is here. My father, the man who only remembers that I exist when he needs something. My father, who somehow manages to string Mom along for decades now. The same man who called me a few months ago to tell me about his latest business idea. And now he’s asking me how I am. So I tell him exactly how I feel.

“I think I’m getting sick.”

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko Black and white pictures

Miho’s and Goto’s wedding was finally over and Jazz could breathe easier again. It had been a very touching ceremony, a wonderful party. It had made Jazz want to have a ceremony, too, but she hadn’t told Kuni about that yet. There was so much else that they had to take care of first.

Jazz had had the operation the day after the bachelorette party and so far there were no complications. She had a scar on her belly but it was tiny, only slightly rosy now and smooth. The first few days it had been dark red, ragged and uneven. The first time she had changed the bandage she had cried, not because of the scar itself but because of what this meant for her, for Kunihiko and her. For them.

Jazz shoved those thoughts aside and smoothed down her shirt to cover the scar. Today she had another follow up appointment at the clinic and afterwards some more work. With Miho and Goto in their honeymoon Jazz was the only senior partner at the agency left and she was dead set on keeping the business running smoothly. Kunihiko had told her to take it easy for now but she needed something to take her mind off the whole ‘I just lost an ovary’ disaster.

“Should I take you to the clinic?” His arms enveloped her from behind and Jazz snuggled against his chest with a tiny sigh.

“No, I’m fine. I can take a cab or the train. No need for you to be late for work.” She turned in his arms and hugged him tightly. Despite the brave face she was making she couldn’t hide how on edge she was every time she had to get another check up.

Kunihiko’s hand wandered over to her belly, gently rested there, his warmth seeping into her skin.

“I’d rather be there for you in a time like this. Being late isn’t a problem at all today.”

“I know. But believe me, it’s fine. It’s only a routine checkup. Last time they already told me that everything was looking really good. Don’t worry about me, I call you if anything is off.” She cupped his face and smiled. “You’re giving me so much strength, Kuni. Even if you’re not with me. That’s why I can be so at ease.”

Their kiss was soft and only lasted for a second, but it conveyed so much love, so much warmth.

“Okay, if you’re insisting. I’m off to work now. I love you.” Reluctantly he parted from her, his hand rested on her hip although he had already taken a step back.

“I love you, too. And now off with you, before Osanai calls and gives you a lecture again.” With a last kiss she practically pushed him out of the door, laughed when he peeked in again to sneak another kiss.

Once back in the office Jazz was diligently working, creating proposals and profiles, answering calls and emails. In her lunch break she sent Kunihiko a quick text, telling him the checkup had been well. Her doctor had told her they could start trying for a baby if they wanted to, but also reminded her not be impatient and not to get frustrated if it didn’t work right away. With only one ovary it was still possible to get pregnant, but not that likely. Still, the doctor advised they should simply try for now and take measures if it didn’t work after a year.

“It is important that you don’t stress yourself. That wouldn’t help at all. Relax and just let nature take its course. You are still young and healthy enough for it to just happen.”

Jazz had nodded and thanked her doctor, but couldn’t help the nagging unease. Work was meant to distract her and so far it was serving this purpose well.

They needed a solution to their latest loss of test drivers. Ever since Rose got serious with her puppy boyfriend and H was – somehow distracted, MJS was at the same point where it had been almost a year ago, when Miho and Jazz decided to get an intern. Maybe they had to change their approach and cancel the test driving all together.

The ringing of her phone dragged her from her thoughts, the florists had questions about an arrangement for a wedding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Kuni?” Jazz handed him the veggies to cut for their dinner and he pecked her cheek as a thank you, humming to prompt her to go on with her question.

“I was thinking… how about we find someone for the bar? You know, lately you don’t have much time to actually stand behind the counter anyway, but I like the atmosphere of the bar. I like that your friends, and now also my friends, can gather there.”

His hands stopped cutting the carrots briefly before he went back to preparing their dinner.

“Actually it’s a good idea. I have thought about that already. I’d rather spend my time with you than cleaning the bar anyway.”

Jazz grinned. “Well, we have combined that already. Although we didn’t really ended up getting much cleaning done…”

Ever since Jazz had gotten the diagnosis she had shied away from intimacy, not comfortable in her own body anymore. Sure, she had offered him relief in different ways and he hadn’t pushed her into anything she didn’t want to do, but by conjuring these memories now she signaled that she was ready to at least think into that direction again. A smile appeared on his face.

“I remember… that was a very pleasant night in the bar. But I guess you were driving at something else.”

Jazz giggled but nodded. “I was thinking, how about we ask H if she wants to manage the bar? She might need a new job soon, as things are at the agency right now.”

“You don’t want to close the agency, do you?” The concern in his face was surprising her, Jazz had assumed that he wasn’t a big fan of MJS.

“No, just changing some things. I’m not sure if we should continue with the date scenarios, after all it caused so many problems in the past and it’s difficult to find suitable girls to take care of it.” She shrugged. “I still have to talk with Miho about it, but I guess we’re going to get respectable and all.”

With a mocked shudder she turned to him. “I guess Miho just got the shivers, too, and has no clue why.”

Kunihiko laughed, pleased that Jazz was joking again. For some days she had been withdrawn and gloomy, although she had tried to hide it behind a smile that never reached her eyes. She knew that she had been worrying him but she really felt so much better now and was grateful for his support.

“But the wedding planning will stay unchanged?” he asked further, grabbing some bell peppers, and Jazz nodded.

“No need to change anything if it’s working just fine, right?”

He hummed in agreement but Jazz frowned lightly.

“Say, is something the matter? You seem a bit distracted.”

“What makes you think that?” he asked back, looking like being caught.

“You’re washing those bell peppers for the third time now.”

He immediately turned the water off and grinned sheepishly. “You are a sharp one, I should have know that I can’t fool you for long.”

“Right-o. And now, Mister, spill it.” She took the peppers and started slicing them.

“Not sure if I really want to tell you when you’re handling a sharp knife,” he joked but Jazz only glared at him. “Okay, okay. I’m telling you already. So, I got a call today. My grandmother wants to meet me tomorrow for lunch.”

Her hands stopped. His grandmother – well, that was unexpected.

“But it’s a good sign, isn’t it? Does that mean she starts to accept our marriage?” There it was again, the faked smile.

“I really hope so. At least it didn’t sound as if she wanted to disinherit and cast me out of the family anymore.” He carefully took the knife out of her hand. “You okay?”

“Sure, yeah. I mean, it’s not my grandma. Actually my family is pretty happy for us. They were surprised and confused at first, but now they are happy.”

She chuckled briefly, remembering the awkward Skype-date she had set up with her parents and grandparents to introduce Kunihiko to them. Being caught as the interpreter in the middle she had done her best to convey the reaction of her family properly but she couldn’t deny that they had all been bewildered that the Japanese man she was married to was another Japanese man than the original one all of sudden. They had just learned about Jazz being divorced after all.

“We will have to visit them soon,” Kunihiko pointed out.

“I would love that. Whenever you have a few days off.” She kissed him, snatched the knife back and returned to cutting vegetables. “But for now, get back to cooking, I’m starving.”

Jazz had decided not to worry so much about people accepting their love anymore. There were more severe things to worry about in the world, they couldn’t get the blessing of everyone after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After her second cup of coffee in the lobby of a fancy hotel Jazz grew impatient. Her client she was supposed to meet here was late without a notice and if she wouldn’t arrive in the next ten minutes, Jazz would leave her a note and go back to the office.

No call or text, no apology or explanation. Jazz had checked the mail with the time and place several times already and she was definitely in the right hotel, it was the correct day and she had already waited for half an hour. Not exactly a tolerating person when it came to tardiness in the first place her mood was close to hitting rock bottom when she looked up and saw something that made her blink several times, just to make sure it wasn’t an hallucination.

There was her husband, a pretty young woman hanging on his arm. Definitely not his grandmother. She was smiling at him but he seemed tense, glancing around uncomfortably. Jazz stomach sank and her heart started to race. This was bad. Why was Kunihiko with another woman in a hotel?

She quickly scribbled something down on a piece of paper and hurried to the front desk when other two were out of sight, asking the receptionist to hand the note to her client if she would ever show up. Jazz had to get out of there, needed fresh air and some answers.

It took all her willpower not to simply storm after them, or wait for Kunihiko in his office. There had to be a good explanation and she refused to jump to conclusions without giving him a chance to tell her about it.

That night Kuni came back home late. Very late. It was almost midnight, the dinner Jazz had thrown together absentmindedly earlier was long cold but she didn’t feel like eating anyway. She felt like drinking but she had stopped ever since she had learned about her medical condition, besides drinking alone had never been very appealing to her.

So she was sitting on the couch, trying to read but after she had stared at the same sentence for more than ten minutes now she admitted defeat and put the book away. Her heart leapt a bit when she heard the door. Kunihiko was back. He tried to sneak in as silently as possible, stared at her in bewilderment when he came into the living room to find her sitting there, no TV or music running, just staring at him.

“If that isn’t my lovely wife,” he cheerfully greeted her, but it couldn’t hide his tired expression. “You are still up.”

“I was waiting for you.” With pride she noticed how calm she sounded, not the nagging wife men seemed to hate.

“You shouldn’t have. I wanted to call and tell you I will be late today, but things were really crazy in the office.” He came over and leaned down to kiss her, frowning lightly when she turned her face away, only accepting a kiss on the cheek.

“Only in the office?” It was hard to keep the unease at bay, to not start screaming or crying just to get rid of this pressure inside of her.

“Actually, no. I told you about the lunch with my grandmother, right?” He sat down next to her and sighed, loosened his tie a bit and pulled the hairtie from his hair.

“Uh-huh…” Now was the time of truth and honestly, Jazz wasn’t sure if she really wanted to listen to what he would tell her next.

“I guess it’s safe to assume that she hasn’t accepted out marriage yet. She has set me up on a lunch date with the granddaughter of one of her friends. I know her since she was a child and it was so awkward. I’m a married man, I felt stupid sitting there with a girl that had barely finished college.” He dropped his head on the backrest and closed his eyes, missed the relieved smile on Jazz’s face.

“A childhood friend?”

“Not really. I mean, we met on some occasions, but I’m ten, maybe twelve years older than her. I don’t really remember. Anyway, she used to be a quiet child, but now she’s rather forceful. I have no idea what Grandmother has told her, but she seemed to assume that we will get married soon.” He sounded so tired and Jazz’s heart clenched when he turned to face her.

“Sorry, but I guess my family isn’t as happy about us as yours.”

She ran a hand through his hair, smoothed down the waves a bit and smiled. “No, I am sorry. It must be hard to go against your family like that. And sorry that you had to go on a date with some pretty 20something year old.”

“She isn’t even that pretty,” he waved her off but Jazz shook her head.

“No, she’s plenty pretty. It’s okay, I know that there are beautiful women out there. Doesn’t mean that I get insecure.”

A crease appeared over the bridge of his nose when he furrowed his brow.

“How do you know what she looks like?”

A dry chuckle accompanied her answer. “Well, I think you’re not the only one who got set up today. I was there, in the lobby. I saw you, arm in arm with a pretty girl.”

Kunihiko groaned. “Oh god… Jazz, I swear, there was nothing going on! She said she had sprained her ankle and begged me to steady her while walking. I figured it would get me out if there quicker if I just – you know, just let her lean on me a bit.”

“It’s okay, really. I trust you.” Relief made her giddy a bit, but there was enough of sass and sarcasm left in her to add: “Besides, you know I would probably kill you of you ever cheated on me. Or even better, I would sic Miho on you.”

His eyes widened. “I would never cheat on you. I love you, Jazz, you and no one else. And I will remind my grandmother that you and I are married after all, not just dating casually. There is no one who could take your place, not here in my home, nor in my bed and especially not in my heart.”

“I feel bad that you are having trouble with your family because of me,” she admitted, still smiling softly.

“It’s not your fault. Besides, you are my family. That’s all I need.”

That night they went to bed and only kissed good night again, but Jazz felt closer to him than in weeks.

“She did what?” H blinked in disbelief and Jazz shrugged.

“Set him up on a date. And it wasn’t only that, obviously they had planned it so that I had to catch him red-handed with that other girl.” She straightened some papers and handed them over to H.

“Wow, that’s really low.”

“You know what bothers me the most? Obviously his grandmother expected that I would – I don’t know, either quietly leave, broken hearted, or make a scene, cause a fight. She has probably thought I wouldn’t believe him if he tells me it was only a misunderstanding and that I would demand a divorce, convinced that he’s cheating on me.” She shook he head slightly. “But did she not expect us to actually talk? I mean, didn’t she think we would sit down and he would tell me about his strange day and I about mine? That weak plot she made up is so easily rumbled, all it takes is five minutes of honest conversation. She must think I’m stupid.”

And was what made Jazz angry. If his grandmother would have taken five minutes of her time to actually talk to Jazz she would have realized that Jazz was a smart woman. Yes, she had been easily fooled when it came to mattes of the heart before, but she had also learned a lesson each and every time.

“But is everything okay between you and Kuni again?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, of course. I know he loves me and he knows that I’m crazy about him. We are fine.” Jazz smiled at a visibly relieved H. “By the way, Kuni and I have been talking and – well, the bar is getting a bit too much work on top of our jobs and maintaining a happy marriage and all. And if we really end up having a child some day… long story short, could you imagine working in the bar? Part time at first, but if you like it and it works fine…” She let her sentence taper off, gauging H’s reaction.

“Me? Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I mean, when you’re not on date simulations you still have plenty of time, don’t you? And you could earn some more money.”

H beamed. “Sure! I mean, I’ve never worked in a bar but I have experience in the service industry. So yeah, I’d love to give it a try!”

With a satisfied nod Jazz leaned back in her chair. Another thing taken care of.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was strange. Never before in her life she had troubles initiating intimacy or sex, but as long as she didn’t have sex she couldn’t get pregnant on purpose. Not getting pregnant because her body wasn’t able to, was a completely different thing. So although the doctor had said it was fine, she was full of doubts. It was somehow easier to defend their marriage against dangers from the outside than to deal with her own fears and insecurities.

“I will be back in three days and then we take some time for us. Maybe spend the weekend somewhere else. How about an onsen?” Kunihiko just packed his last things into the suitcase, took the tie she handed him and put it to the rest of his clothes.

“I will miss you,” she said, a slight pout on her lips.

She had missed him for a while now, even when he was right there with her. The distance she had created between them was there on her own free will and he had accepted it, considered it a part of her recovery. And somehow she had already forgotten how it was to be close to him, physically close. Their love was strong like always, but the physical connection they shared in the beginning had been lost and that she regretted deeply.

“I will miss you more,” he replied and kissed her, softly at first but when he tried to deepen the kiss she pulled away. She had forgotten how to accept what she was craving for, too scared for the consequences if she stepped out of the safe zone she had created around herself.

“Don’t forget to pack your scarf. It’s going to be cold up there,” she reminded him and stepped back, right back into her safe zone. His smile wavered a bit but he nodded.

“Sure. Sapporo can be cold after all.”

Jazz felt bad for turning him down like that, but she couldn’t help it, torn between longing for him and hiding herself away. Grateful for the way he simply accepted her moods she embraced him again, this time without kissing.

When he closed the door behind him, leaving for a business trip, Jazz wondered why she just couldn’t let herself fall into the embrace of her husband anymore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She woke up in the middle of the night, the darkness in the bedroom so absolute that it made no difference if she opened her eyes or not. Lazily she turned around once, smiled when she realized she wasn’t alone in bed anymore. After two nights without him Jazz was glad that Kunihiko was back in their shared bed.

Still, it almost made her jump when she suddenly felt his hand on her cheek but she relaxed and inched closer, an awkward kiss in the dark, without being able to see each other, but they still managed to meet each other’s lips.

And just like that the distance she had so elaborately crafted vanished, took all her doubts with it, left her only with her love and desire for her husband. Kunihiko sleepily grunted when she pressed her body closer to his, wrapped his arms around her and rolled them around until he was on top of her.

Jazz got lost in their kiss, in his touch, eagerly wrapped her legs around him, felt his length hardening against her. When his hands slid under her comfortable and definitely not sexy pajama top she encouraged him by arching her back, pressing her body even closer. As soon as the top was out of the way she reveled in the feeling of his naked skin on hers, grateful for the fact that he was sleeping only in pajama pants. Which had to get off next. Still kissing him Jazz shoved her hands into his pajama pants, pushed them down over his ass, giving him a light squeeze. He chuckled briefly before his lips descended her neck, towards her chest, further down her stomach. She flinched when he kissed her scar but relaxed again when he started tugging off her pajama bottom and panties, waited for him to fully take off his pajama.

But she didn’t want him to linger down there, impatiently tugged at his hair until he came back up, kissed her again. It was strange, the darkness around them seemed to make this even more intimate, more meaningful.

A gasp escaped her lips when he pushed into her, made him still hesitantly until she grabbed his hip and pulled him closer. It had been some time since they had actual sex but suddenly she couldn’t remember why she had been so shy, so insecure. This was what she wanted after all, being close to him, as close as possible, until their hearts beat in the same rhythm again.

It wasn’t the ecstatic fireworks, but it didn’t lack passion and especially not love. Under the comfortable blanket of the darkness they found each other again, closed any distance that was between them, moved together to new highs.

Afterwards Jazz fell asleep again in his arms, snuggled close to him, and only opened her eyes again after the light of the morning drove the darkness away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They never talked about that night and Jazz half expected it to have been just a dream, but she could tell something had changed. They were back on track, the touches and kisses less careful, more casual again. And after a while they had sex just like they used to, whenever and wherever they felt like it. She didn’t even think about her condition, her body or the scar that much anymore. The lightness came back and made it easier to breathe, to laugh, to love.

The next few weeks were uneventful in a good way. Both Jazz and Kuni had a lot of work but at home they were closer than ever. While Jazz was planning their wedding ceremony Kunihiko did his best to come home before midnight every day and they spend each evening some time together, talking about their day and the plans for the near future. It was perfect.

It was perfect until Jazz got an unexpected visitor one day. She was sitting in her office, working on some proposals, when her door opened and a woman sauntered in, followed by Izumi who seemed out of breath – probably from chasing after the visitor.

Jazz needed a moment to remember when and where she had seen that face before. Oh yes, snuggled close to her husband in that hotel lobby.

“Sorry Mrs. Aikawa, she just ignored me,” Izumi apologized but Jazz waved him off, noticing the way the eyes of the other woman narrowed at how Izumi addressed her.

“It’s okay, Izumi. Please hold my calls for now.”

The other woman smiled sweetly at the receptionist before she took a seat in front of Jazz’s desk without asking.

“Coffee, please. Black.” With that she waved Izumi off who glanced at Jazz who shook her head. No coffee for that behavior. Jazz waited until Izumi closed the door behind him before she went back to work, ignoring the woman in front of her.

“Hey! I came here to talk to you!”

“One moment, please.” Without glancing up Jazz raised a finger and continued scribbling notes on a piece of paper, circled a word and put the pen down.

“What can I do for you?” She smiled politely but her heart raced. Putting up this act was also meant to give her control over this situation, but it only partly worked.

“You can listen to me!” The other woman pouted, very impressively so. She was really pretty, in her early 20s.

“Well, you are the one barging in here without an appointment, at least let me finish what I was working on first before you demand my attention.” Jazz took her glass of water and sipped, seemingly calm.

“So you really are a money grubbing bitch,” the woman said, obviously pleased with her observation.

“No, I’m someone who has to run a business and my time is precious. So get to the point or get out.” She wouldn’t back down, not in her own office.

“You know who I am?” That was straight to the point and Jazz shrugged.

“Barely. I don’t know your name or what you’re doing, just that you are loosely acquainted with my husband.” She relished in the way the other woman reacted to that word. Husband.

“My name is Yui. Aikawa.” A triumphant smile appeared on her rivals face – was she even a rival? Jazz wasn’t sure yet but she didn’t like the way Yui said her last name.

“I would say ‘pleased to meet you’ but we both know that would be a lie. So, Yui, why are you here today.” Not raising to the bait Jazz made a mental note to ask about that last name later. Someone else preferably.

“I thought I’d do both of us a favor and end this charade already. Kunihiko is mine and you should know it.” She raised her chin lightly, silently challenging Jazz.

“Funny, last time I checked I was married to him. So, care to tell me how exactly he’s yours?”

The smile on Yui’s face only widened. “I’m the reason he’s ‘working late’. He will leave you for me soon and then I will be his wife.”

Jazz’s first instinct was to yell. To tell Yui to shut the fuck up and get her ass out of Jazz’s office, but that wouldn’t answer any question. So she sucked a harsh breath and let it out in a chuckle again.

“Dream on, kiddo. As long as your name’s not Aikawa-Mihachi fusion you’re definitely not the reason he’s at work for that long each day. Just because you got the support of his grandmother doesn’t mean you have the man himself, you know?” She leaned back in her chair and kept smiling, but it was strained, the corners of her mouth twitching lightly.

“That’s what he wants you to think. We thought it would be better to have everything hashed out before presenting you with a fait accompli. We are planning our wedding, a real ceremony with our families, not some secret stunt like you pulled it. It should have occurred to you already back then when he didn’t want anyone to know that he might not be serious about you.” There was pity in Yui’s voice and that was something Jazz just couldn’t take.

She clenched her fists, trying to suppress her anger. Her patience was already thin on good days but this now was really putting it to a test.

“Listen, Missie, I have no idea what you’re thinking, but I don’t believe you, okay? And honestly, I get a bit tired of this farce, so would you-“

“I’m pregnant. With Kunihiko’s baby.” Yui reached into her purse and handed Jazz an envelope. “Open it.”

With trembling fingers Jazz pulled an ultrasound image out of the envelope. It was mostly black and white but there was a small human being recognizable. A wave of nausea washed over her.

“For how long?”

“Six weeks already. We are seeing each other for longer of course.”

Six weeks. Jazz quickly counted back in her head. The day she had seen both of them in the hotel? Or at least around that time.

“Get out.” She didn’t look at Yui, simply spat the words out, forced them through the anger that welled up again.

“I just thought I’d give you a fair warning. Maybe you are honorable enough to simply let him go instead of making it hard for him and his new family.” Yui got up and smirked. “Keep the picture. As souvenir. It will be all that you will be having left of him.”

“You say you’re sleeping with MY husband but I am the one lacking honor here?” Jazz grumbled after Yui was gone, struggling to keep her breathing even, willing her emotions aside. This wasn’t the time for a tantrum. It was the time to act.

Quickly she grabbed her phone and called the only one who could help her now.

“Takao? Sorry to disturb you, but I need some advice. Legal advice. Say, what can you tell me about divorces?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There had been a note with Yui’s phone number in the envelope, probably for when Jazz decided to cave in. Now she nervously called that number, still thinking about how to deal with all this. Takao had enlightened her in some points of divorce law and a quick internet research had answered some of her other questions so she was steeled for this encounter, not taken by surprise like the last time.

She knew exactly what she had to do and even if Jazz dreaded confrontations like that – with inevitable tears and screaming – she wouldn’t back down now. A clear cut, that’s what they needed now.

She pumped herself up mentally before she dialed the number.

“Yes?” Yui sounded very pleased so that Jazz gritted her teeth briefly, praying for countenance.

“I think we should talk.”

“Hm, yes, I think so, too. Are you still in your office?” There was a barely hidden triumph in Yui’s voice that riled Jazz up even further.

“No. And I don’t want you to come here again. I’d prefer somewhere else. Maybe a café or something.”

“A public place? For your safety or mine?” It was easy to see through Jazz’s suggestion but she didn’t care.

“How about that lobby? You know, the hotel where everything started?” Yui suggested, not without malice.

“Sure. In about an hour?” Jazz had to take back the reins or she wouldn’t survive that talk.

“I will be there.” With that Yui hung up, leaving Jazz with an unsettling feeling in her guts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course Jazz was fashionably five minutes late when she walked into that lobby without hurry. Spotting Yui was easy, the younger woman was beaming with smug self-satisfaction, it was like a neon sign.

After a last deep breath Jazz walked right over, waved the waiter away who appeared immediately.

“No thanks, I won’t stay long.” She dropped her purse on the table and took her coat off.

“So, did you decide what to do?” Yui took a sip from her coffee cup and leaned back in her seat.

“I did. I had to make some calls but now I know what I have to do. The only thing. The right thing.”

Jazz reached into her purse and took out a stack of papers.

“I called Osanai – he said you have visited Kuni in the office a few times…”

“I did. Sorry, I don’t like the whole sneaking around behind the back of the wife thing, but Kunihiko was – not ready yet. To tell you.”

Nodding her head slowly Jazz forced herself to look at Yui. “And now he is?”

The younger woman had the decency to hesitate, avoiding eye contact. “Well, given the circumstances I figured I couldn’t wait any longer.”

“True. Given the circumstances… but you know what really bugs me? That he didn’t have the balls to tell me himself. That he had to send you, you of all people…” Even Jazz thought that her sigh was a bit exaggerated, but she couldn’t stop now.

“You know how he is, far too gentle and kind to do it on his own.” Yui’s eyes flitted over to the papers. “What’s that?”

“Divorce papers. I thought I better come prepared.” Takao had delivered quickly and Jazz was grateful for that.

“So you decided to actually let him go?”

This was it, the moment of truth.

“No. Actually those are my divorce papers from my first marriage. I just brought them so you could see a tiny detail. See those signatures down there? Where both spouses have to sign to legally end the marriage? That’s the point – we both would have to agree on that. And honestly? Neither I nor Kuni will do that.”

She exhaled deeply, now that she had said her piece she felt much better.

“But Kunihiko wants it! He’s going to have a family with me soon! With me, not with you!” Yui was already half out of her chair when Jazz raised a hand and motioned for her to sit down again.

“I won’t accept this until I hear it from Kuni directly. But of course we can ask him – and tell him that he’s going to be a father soon. Or have you told him that already?” With a smile Jazz waved towards the entrance where Kunihiko just arrived.

“I took the liberty to call him. After all this is about him, too.”

Yui paled when Kunihiko reached their table, frowning in confusion at the unexpected sight of those two women together.

“Jazz? What is going on here?”

She greeted him with a kiss before she quickly explained. “Yui here told me she was having an affair with you and that she’s pregnant now so you want to break up with me to be with her.” Jazz shot a sweet smile into Yui’s direction. “Did I sum that up okay?”

Kuni’s frown deepened. “Wait, what? That’s – Jazz, that’s not true! I never – I mean, you know I wouldn’t cheat on you!” He stared at Yui who tried to make herself smaller. “Why are you saying something like that?”

“Yes, Yui, why? I mean, slandering his name, calling him a cheater – that’s really low. Do you have an idea how much that could affect his business? Spreading lies and rumors like that?”

With a satisfied grin Jazz watched Yui squirm. She had always been a fan of honesty and right now she knew she had been right. Why should she rush off and do something stupid without at least listening to what Kunihiko had to say to these allegations? In what world did that work?

“Is that why you kept coming to my office?” By now Kunihiko seemed less confused, more angry. Between Jazz and Kuni Yui could barely get a word in edgewise.

“And what about that bullshit about you being pregnant from me? We never even kissed, let alone had sex! And then you run to my wife, trying to manipulate her? What kind of snake are you?” Now Kuni was in full swing and Jazz had to place a hand on his arm to remind him to stay calm. Other guests were already staring, not that Jazz minded. A public place also meant public humiliation, something Yui apparently hadn’t considered. At least not for herself.

“I just – I tried to – I thought…”

“No! You didn’t think at all, that’s the problem! That faked, set up date was one thing, but this? A full-fledged scheme to make us break up? That’s – god, that’s so incredibly stupid and low!”

“Kuni,” Jazz whispered, “take a deep breath. I know you’re angry-“

“Damn right, I am!” Jazz had never seen him that furious, not even during their worst fights, but she kept talking.

“– but I guess she gets it now.” With her gaze on Yui again Jazz’s tone got sharper. “And I guess she understands that meddling like a toddler in kindergarten won’t bring her closer to her goal. I don’t know how much of this little scheme actually comes from you or if that was someone else’s idea, but you better remember now: We won’t fall for that shit. Because we actually talk to each other. We know each other. And I trust him – unconditionally.”

As if to prove her point Kunihiko grabbed Jazz’s hand and squeezed it lightly. They had their fair share of jumping to conclusions and making mistakes, but in the end they were both willing to make it work, to fight for what they had. Jazz wouldn’t throw that away just because some girl came along with that kind of story.

“Oh, and I don’t know where you got that ultrasound image but you can have it back.”

Kunihiko blinked. “You even got an ultrasound image? Where the hell-?!”

“Internet.” Yui’s voice was only a whisper but Jazz had no sympathy with her. Not after Yui had pulled that stunt. Going along with that date Kunihiko’s grandmother had set up was one thing, but this? Yui had crossed a line that Jazz would never dare to even get close to. A girl needed at least a bit of class and pride after all.

“Next time – pay attention while researching. And now excuse me, my husband and I are leaving. I suggest you never show your face around us anymore. Never.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jazz felt sick. Physically sick. Kunihiko ranted on and on, only interrupted by apologies and affirmations of his love for her.

“It’s okay, love, I’m just – can you take me home? All this was a bit much…”

“Yes, of course. I still can’t believe it… do you think my grandmother is behind all that? Or did Yui come up with that nonsense on her own?” Kunihiko flagged down a cab and helped her into it.

“I have no idea. Maybe you should talk to your grandmother again. God knows I’m not keen on that conversation.” She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder.

“I will. Sorry, I never thought something like this could happen. And Yui just showed up out of the blue in your office?”

She nodded with a sigh. “Not even three hours ago. I had to find out some things on my own before I could tell you. Sorry, I should have called you first thing after she left. I just –“ Another sigh and Jazz squirmed in her seat. “I had to ask Takao if there’s a way for anyone to MAKE us get a divorce. He said that was only possible if one of us was declared incompetent so the marriage could get declared invalid after all.”

She grabbed his hand and kissed the palm. “Nothing could make me give you up. Not after all we had to go through to get here.”

“But she even came with an ultrasound image… I mean, every other woman would have gotten suspicious at that point. But you still trusted me?”

She swallowed. Obviously it was another moment of truth. Jazz had planned it differently but now as good as any other time.

“I trust you. You said you would be honest with me and I believe you. Besides… that picture she showed me. She said she was six weeks pregnant but that embryo in the picture was at least 12 weeks, maybe even later. And I figured if she lied to me about that, the rest might be a lie, too.”

She could feel him tensing up, his attention now focused on her.

“How do you know that? About the picture?”

She pressed his hand that she was still holding against her belly, tears pricking in her eyes.

“I know how a fetus with six weeks should look like – because I have an ultrasound image of one…”

He stared at her, speechless, mouth agape.

“Holy – are you – really? You are pregnant?” His eyes were shining and he laughed happily when she nodded, biting her bottom lip to keep her own grin in check.

“You are pregnant! We’re having a baby? I can’t – that’s the best news I ever got!” He cheered so loudly that the driver turned around, congratulated them when he realized what the fuss was about.

“Since when do you know? Why haven’t you told me already?” Kunihiko wasn’t angry, just eager to know everything there was to know.

“I only found out two days ago myself. Actually I haven’t expected it to happen at all so I didn’t realize that all my symptoms lately were – well, symptoms.” Jazz laughed with him, unable to keep her emotions from bubbling over. “The doctor confirmed my suspicion yesterday. I haven’t told anyone yet because – actually I can’t really believe it myself.”

She reached into her purse to show him the blurry black and white ultrasound picture. “That’s our baby.”

Almost reverently he took the picture, eyes shining wet with unshed tears. “Wow…” he whispered. “It’s perfect.”

There was a lot to do now, preparations had to be made and decisions. But in that cab on their way home, nothing else mattered than their little, growing family.

If MIHO was MC Part 1

Star-Crossed Myth

Zodiac Gods: Choose whose sin you’re going to remove!
Leon lays hand on Miho’s shoulder and causes a spontaneous orgasm.
Miho: HIM! HOLY…. HOLY FUCK HIM!
Miho gyrates wildly.
Hue: I’m not sure humping his leg is the way to remove his sin, Miho.
Miho: Don’t -hump- fuckin’ -hump- care -hump-
Leon: Eh, let the goldfish do what she wants. Look at the stupid expression on her face.

Our Two Bedroom Story

Miho arrives at the house her stepfather said she could stay in, only to find her hot step-brother there.
Miho: Actually… not even mad.

Finally, In Love Again

Miho at the mixer party having sparked the interest of multiple men.
Miho: I have an announcement to make!
Room falls quiet.
Miho: Listen up! It’s my birthday and I’m sex starved!
Points at said interested men.
Miho: You, you you, you aaaaaand, you… love hotel, right now.

My First Last Kiss

Hiroki attempts to tease/flirt… Miho holds up hand.
Miho: Had your chance son, now it’s just sexual harassment. Like your job do you? Then cut it the fuck out. Also I had sex with everyone at Conte last night – even Ichiya – which is why you weren’t invited.
Miho smiles sweetly and continues mundane work.

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko One line, two lines

Jazz stared at the small test in her hand. She had been doing that for quite some time already, unable to bring herself to actually pee on that test stripe, afraid of the truth it would show her. What is she really was pregnant? There were a lot of symptoms hinting at it. She was constantly tired, gained weight, her period hadn’t shown for quite some time. But she was also taking the pill. Maybe she needed another one? She would have to see a doctor, that was for sure, but she’d rather know in advance than having the doctor tell her that she was pregnant.

With a sigh she read the instructions again. Did she have to pee in a cup and take the test like that? Or did she have to pee directly on it? And how should she do that without peeing on her hand? Who invented tests like that?! She knew she was just stalling and she also knew that she was a damned coward, so she took a deep breath, hovered over the toilet and just – let it flow. There. Done.

What followed were the longest 60 seconds of her life. One line meant she wasn’t pregnant, two that she was. And she had no idea what she was actually hoping for. A baby would change her life forever, there was no way back if she was pregnant. But she was sure that she had found the right man to start a family, Kunihiko would be a great father. They were married and she had always wanted children. Eventually. But right now? Well, she was over 30 already, there wasn’t much more time. She didn’t want to be an old mom, she wanted to crawl all over the playground with her kids, wanted to be active and running around with them.

She stared at the test in her hand again. How long could 60 seconds be? Her heart was pounding furiously, the nervous energy making her almost jump up. Instead she took another deep breath and put the test down at the edge of the sink and fixed her clothes. With all those conflicted emotions she didn’t know what to do, what to think. Anxiously she waited for her phone to chime and tell her that 60 seconds had passed.

She grabbed the test. The result was not what she had hoped for – or was it? She couldn’t even tell, she felt lightheaded and unsteady, like crying and laughing at the same time. She definitely needed a doctor’s appointment.

When Kunihiko came home Jazz was already calm again, smiled for her husband and kissed him deeply.

“I missed you,” she sighed at his surprise.

“I missed you, too. And I really like being greeted like this.” He smiled warmly at her, the love in his eyes bringing her to the brink of tears. Again.

Jazz pulled back and turned towards the kitchen. “Are you hungry? I cooked. I wanted to eat some of the food I know from back home, so I hope you feel adventurous.”

He chuckled and followed her into the kitchen were a pot was still simmering on the stove.

“Since I know you I’m much more adventurous anyway,” he said and curiously peeked into the pot. “What is it?”

“Soljanka. A soup, sweet and sour. Mostly a leftover food, you just throw in what’s in the fridge, some pickles, some tomatoes, et voilà – Soljanka. I hope you like it.” She handed him a bowl and a piece of bread before she took some for herself. They were eating in the kitchen, casually and in comfortable silence.

“It’s good,” he said after the first spoonful and Jazz smiled. It was a comfort food for her and she really needed this today. But it was something special that she could share her own comfort with the man she loved, especially since she couldn’t share her worries with him right now. Not before she had seen the doctor.

Jazz was stubborn. Stubborn and persistent. That was why she got an appointment three days later instead of having to wait for weeks. But it was so hard to hide it from Kunihiko. She had promised not to keep secrets from him, had demanded complete honesty and offered the same in return, and now she didn’t even mention this to him.

And Kunihiko acted strange. Maybe he knew that she was hiding something or he simply noticed that she was a bit off lately. He was pretty perceptive when it came to her, she had noticed this already. He seemed to be more at home the last couple of days. Sometimes they only met for breakfast or dinner, every now and then in the bar, but he was at home around 8 every night for some days in the row.

Jazz shifted in her chair in the waiting room and smiled at the thought of her husband. He would be a good father… patient and kind and full of love for his kid. Kids. Who knows? She put the magazine down that she had barely glanced at, too nervous and anxious to read at all. How could one single line on a test make such a difference? How could that test make such a difference? She still wondered what she would have done, thought, felt if it had been another result. Would she have been happy? Shocked? Disappointed? Would she have felt as numb as she did now? Confused and afraid of the future? So many thoughts, so many emotions were swirling around in her head and heart and for now she was glad that she didn’t have to decide anything right away, didn’t have to plan before she got certainty.

“Miss Mann?”

Jazz looked up and gave the doctor’s assistant a tight smile. “Yes.”

“Would please come with me?”


She closed the door. Leaned against it and exhaled. She felt as if she was suffocating, as if her collar was too tight, her chest constricted. Women must have felt like that when corsets where still high fashion. What should she do now?

She let her bag drop to the floor and kicked off her shoes, padded barefoot into the kitchen. A glass of wine… no. No wine for her anymore. For a while.

“Hey love, you’re here already?”

Jazz flinched at the sound of his voice but greeted him with a smile.

“Yeah, one of my clients cancelled for today. I just thought about making us dinner.”

Kunihiko hugged her and looked at her face, frowning slightly.

“What’s wrong? You seem – tired.”

She laughed briefly, not actually amused at all.

“I feel as if I’m constantly tired lately.” She sighed and leaned against him, trying to draw some energy from the contact. It helped at least to calm her down.

“Maybe we need a break. A weekend trip somewhere. No work, no stress. How does that sound?” He gently stroked her back and she inhaled his scent, the familiar, comforting scent she’d grown to love.

“Sounds like heaven,” she admitted. “But I just don’t have the time.”

He brought some space between them, looked at her, searching for something.

“You need a break. Some rest. There has been so much going on lately and all you ever do is working more. And more. That can’t be good for – you. Us. I love you, I just want you to take care of yourself.”

She could tell how serious he was so she didn’t argue any further.

“Okay. A trip, one weekend. But not the next weekend or the one after that. I’m booked solid for the next two weeks.” She smiled apologetically and placed a hand on his cheek. “Thank you. For taking care of me.”

There was so much she wanted to tell him and at the same time she felt so extremely guilty, she just couldn’t.

“Miho’s bachelorette party, huh?” He chuckled slightly and Jazz nodded.

“That, too. But also work. I’m not always partying,” she said with an exaggerated pout.

“I know, I know. Although I love to see you cheerful and relaxed, so I’m fine when you are celebrating whatever you like.” He peered into her face, searching her eyes. “Is there something you’d like to celebrate?”

“Mhm, as soon as Miho and Goto had their wedding I really want to celebrate ours. And our engagement, no matter how short that was.” She smiled genuinely now, for the first time since – well, since taking that test. Maybe even before that.

“Nothing else?” His hand caressed her cheek and she leaned into the touch. This moment felt so fragil, so precious, she didn’t want it to end. Funny how they went from mind blowing sex to being each other’s home. Not that the sex was any less spectacular now, but there was just so much more than that. And still she wasn’t completely honest with him.

“Nothing else. For now.”

He nodded and smiled slightly before he kissed her softly.

“How about we order some food and just cuddle a bit on the couch for now? I miss just being with you.”

Jazz looked at him, amazed how wonderful this man was.

“That’s a great idea, love. I miss you, too. Hey, how about sushi?” She twisted a bit in his embrace to open the drawer with the delivery leaflets.

“Sushi? Uhm… no, I don’t feel like sushi. How about… Italian?”

Jazz stared at him. “You don’t feel like sushi? Sushi handrolls are your absolute favorite food, why don’t you feel like it?”

“I had sushi yesterday.”

“Oh, okay. Italian sounds good, too. Carpaccio, proscutto… yeah, I could go with that.” It’s been some time since she had Italian food.

“Carpaccio – that’s the raw beef slices, right? Uh, how about French? Or Indian?” He almost looked a bit panicked and Jazz got suspicious now.

“Kuni, what is going on? Why can’t we just order already?”

“How about I order us something and surprise you with it?” he tried to distract her. “Any cravings?” He made a face as if he had said something incredibly stupid and now Jazz really was confused.

“No. Well, maybe something spicy. Lately my food is tasting bland, at least I have that impression.” She shrugged and stepped out of his arms.

“Do you want some coffee? Or wine?”

“No, don’t bother. I can take care of that. You go and sit down on the couch.” He grabbed a leaflet of an Indian place and browsed the menu.

“Okay, but I would like some coffee.” It wasn’t that late yet and she could really need something to perk her up.

“Wouldn’t you prefer some tea?”

Jazz shot him a glare. What was wrong with him that he was so picky about what she ate and drank?

“I bring you some coffee, okay,” he relented with a sigh.

Five minutes later Jazz sat on the couch, a cup of coffee in her hand, her feet resting in Kuni’s lap while he absentmindedly rubbed them.

“That feels like heaven,” she sighed and took a sip of her coffee. Kuni really made the best coffee. He was so sweet and thoughtful. But…

“Did you forget the sugar?” She peered into her cup, the bitterness of the coffee a bit too much.

“Oh, I just thought – well, sugar’s not really good for you, is it?”

Jazz pulled her feet back and sat up. “I swear, if you start telling me to watch my weight I WILL demand a divorce.”

“What? No! I love you, I love your body, I don’t care if you gain weight. I can’t wait for you to gain even more! The more the better!” he frantically explained.

Jazz put her cup down. “Kunihiko, you are acting strange. Care to tell my why?”

He frowned, gnawed at his bottom lip. Sighed.

“Okay. Okay, here’s the thing. I – I think I found something very – personal from you…” he began, obviously choosing his words carefully.

“Personal? And now you don’t know how to act naturally around me anymore?” She was amused by the thought he might have rummaged through her underwear drawer or something. Until the thought crossed her mind that he could have found a client report or two.

“I, ugh, it’s just that I don’t understand why you hide something like that,” he admitted, wiping the thought of client reports from her mind. If he seemed – what? Happy? – it couldn’t be that.

“A woman has to keep some secrets,” she said with a shrug.

“Sure, and you should have some small secrets, I don’t mind. But that?”

What did he find? Oh. OH!

“So it’s the – uhm the size of the ‘secret’ that bothers you?” She was blushing, actually blushing, but felt like laughing at least. Typical male.

“Yes. I mean, that’s not only about you after all. It affects me, too. Shouldn’t we – shouldn’t you at least tell me?” Oh. He looked hurt and Jazz immediately felt guilty. Again.

“Kuni, I love you, you know I do. I married you. I want to spend my whole life with you. But I’m also a grown woman, I have the right of some privacy. And privacy involves having sex toys. That doesn’t mean that you can’t satisfy me or that I don’t love our sex. It just means that I’m having some toys in case I need them.”

For a moment it was silent between them.

“What?” He shook his head slightly, as if to shake off his confusion.

“What do you mean, ‘what’? Isn’t this what it’s all about? You found my vibrator?” She had a bad feeling all of sudden.

“No. No, I’m not talking about a – a sex toy. I’m talking about the pregnancy test.” His frown deepened. “And I really think you should talk with me about that.”

Jazz drew a sharp breath. Exhaled again. “Okay. Okay, you are right, that is – well, personal enough. I didn’t mean for you to find it. But it doesn’t matter anyway, does it?” The sadness in her face was getting to him and he hugged her.

“Hey, it’s nothing bad. I mean, sure, we haven’t planned it and I thought you were taking the pill, but I’m happy. Genuinely, incredibly happy. I just thought – I don’t know, I thought you would tell me with a sweet gesture and I was really on edge the last few days. I didn’t know that you were worried about it.” He wiped the first tears away that welled up in her eyes. “Did you think I wouldn’t be happy? That I wouldn’t want a baby with you?”

She shook her head, so tired, so sad. So empty.

“I don’t know what you think you found, but I’m not pregnant. The test was negative.” Her voice was blank.

Kunihiko tensed for a second. “No… two lines, right? Two lines mean positive.”

“Kuni, there was only one line. I’m definitely NOT pregnant.”

“Oh…”

Neither of them said anything for a short while.

“You know, it’s possible that after some time, an hour or so, the second line appears but it’s still a negative test. It’s just – I don’t know, eventually every test has two lines. Important is the result after the time written on the box. And after 60 seconds there was just one line. I’m sorry…” She gave him a brave smile. “I didn’t know that you found it. I didn’t want you to get your hopes up just in case…” She shrugged.

“So, you never were pregnant? Or did you…?” He couldn’t even finish the thought. One second he was convinced they would become a family and the next one everything was just – gone.

“I never was pregnant. I would have told you the second the test was positive…” Jazz sighed, the disappointment in his face breaking her heart. “I’m so sorry.”

“No, no it’s – it’s fine. I jumped to conclusions… well, it was nice thinking you and I would, would become a real family, but – that doesn’t mean we can keep trying, right?” He cupped her face, confused when she started crying again. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Kuni – I… I was…” She sobbed, cried, clung to him. Reality was finally catching up with her and ripped down every little lie she had built up as defense so far, it made her dizzy.

“Jazz? Baby, talk to me. What is it?” He had never seen her like this, not even when Mino had disappeared. Not even when they had the worst of fights. Never.

“I’ve been – I have seen the doctor today. I – I… something isn’t right… they will… they will have to – to remove one of my – my ovaries…” She could hardly breathe, speak, think. All she could was feeling a loss of something she had never had and still taken for granted. She had always thought she would have a family one day. A baby. Maybe two. A husband, a house, but first and foremost children. And now she wasn’t even sure if that was possible. If she could have children.

“I’m so… I’m so sorry…” she muttered over and over. Now that she knew that he was thrilled by the thought of being a father the pain was even sharper, deeper. It wasn’t only about her, it was about them. About him. What if he left her? What if he would want someone who could give him that? What if?

“Shhh… it’s okay, love, it’s okay… as long as you are here I don’t care…” He rocked her in his arms like a crying child, waited until the tension subsided, the tremors running through her had calmed down.

When she could finally breathe again, still sobbing a bit, she wiped her face, not caring for the running makeup, and sat back a bit.

“I will have surgery the day after Miho’s party. I don’t want anyone to know, we had enough drama lately.”

He nodded, understanding what she meant. Especially Miho had been through a lot but the others had suffered, too. That was why everyone was looking forward to the bachelor/bachelorette party, just to let off some steam, take their minds off things.

“You’re not going to tell Miho, then?”

She shrugged. “No, not now at least. Maybe afterwards. You know that she’s not keen on babies anyway, I’m not sure if this is something I want to share with her until it’s done.”

Kunihiko pondered her words silently before he changed the topic slightly.

“Okay, I think I need more information about all that. If that’s okay with you,” he added and looked at her. Crying had helped clearing her mind and although the pain was still there, sitting prominently in the forefront of her mind and heart, she nodded.

“What exactly do you have and what will they do? What does that mean for you in the future?”

Jazz sighed. “I’m not a medic, I can only explain it in my own words. Obviously one of my ovaries, the left one, is twisted in a way that makes it necessary to remove it. That would explain some of the very heavy cramps I had in the last years. It’s called ovarian torsion and they will make a laparoscopy to remove it. It’s good that we found out about it now. There’s the risk of something called an ovarian infarct and that would be really painful and dangerous.” Her shoulders slumped a bit but she went on. “Once it’s removed the other ovary should be enough to keep the hormonal balance, but getting pregnant might be a problem.”

“A problem or impossible?” he asked, holding her hands, his thumbs rubbing over the back of her hands reassuringly.

“It’s not impossible, just – not that likely anymore. We might have to see a specialist.”

The doorbell rang, signaling the arrival of their food. Suddenly Jazz realized why Kuni had been so picky about their food earlier and a fresh round of tears welled up in her eyes. She loved him so much, wanted him to have everything that would make him happy. Children included.

Kuni came back with bags and boxes of foods but simply put them down on the table, ignoring them for now. Their conversation was more important after all.

“Okay, one last question, maybe the most important one. Do you want to have a baby?”

She nodded, her lips trembling. The 60 seconds before the test showed a negative result she has actually hoped for a second line. Yes, it would have change their lives forever, but she was sure it would have been in a good way.

“Good.” He smiled warmly. “In that case we are at least on the same page. I actually was a bit excited, maybe a bit too much. I – I ordered something, online.” His smile wavered a bit.

“What did you order?” Jazz snuggled close to him, needed the contact, the reassurance it gave her.

“It’s a bit embarrassing… but I ordered a onesie. ‘Daddy’s sweetheart’.”

She choked up a bit but smiled. “I bet it’s cute.”

“Yeah. I will return it, though.”

Jazz sat up a bit and looked at him. “No. Keep it. When it arrives, give it to me. I will give it back to you when we will actually need it.”

“So you want to keep trying? Or better, start trying?” The love in his gaze was too much for her now but she nodded despite her tears. “Good. Of course only after you have recovered and all. Until then – what was that about a vibrator earlier?”

Jazz chuckled, wiped her cheeks and grinned. “Hey, what about a girl being allowed some secrets?”

“Too late, you already told me. And now I really want to see it in action…” He winked at her, actually winked, and she laughed even more.

“First dinner. After that we can see what you can do with the information of me owning sex toys. But I bet there’s something you’d enjoy in my collection.” She felt much lighter now, after having told him everything. After sorting out her feelings.

And for now they could just enjoy being a newlywed couple. Everything else would be okay. She looked at him and was truly convinced of that. Everything would be just fine.

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko Meet the family

When Jazz came back home after a long day of visiting venues, trying cake and picking out the right napkins to the right tablecloths she was surprised to see the lights on in the living room and kitchen.

“Kuni? Are you home already?” She took off her shoes and padded towards the kitchen where she could hear him rummaging through the cabinets.

“Oh, hi.” He looked up from his search for the right pan and smiled sheepishly. “I wanted to be done before you come home.”

Jazz walked over to him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

“And with what did you want to be done before I came home?”

“Dinner. Something simple, but I thought I haven’t cooked for you for a while now. It’s only pasta, though.” He motioned towards the pot on the stove.

“Thanks, that’s great. I didn’t have time to eat much today.” She skipped towards the fridge and opened it. “Do you want a drink? Maybe some wine for dinner?”

“If I drink I will fall asleep right away. It was a hard day, week, month,” he said, slightly sour.

“Yeah, I get what you mean. We could use a break. Maybe a lazy weekend.” Jazz put the bottle of wine she held in hand back into the fridge.

“You don’t want any?” he asked and motioned towards the closed fridge.

“Nah, I’m also a bit tired lately. Might be good to take a break from drinking for a while.”

Kunihiko faked a shocked gasp and Jazz chuckled and swatted his arm lightly.

“Don’t act as if I’m always drinking!”

“You’re definitely drinking more than I do,” he teased her just for Jazz to grab his face, still laughing, and kissed him.

“That’s just because you’re rather a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.”

One kiss followed the other and they would have forgotten about their exhaustion and taken things further if it wasn’t for the pot and the water in it boiling over. She chuckled when she pulled back.

“I leave you to your cooking then. I go and change into something more – comfortable.” She winked at him and left for the bedroom, glad to get out of her dress and the rather constricting bra. Maybe she needed some new clothes. Maybe – and she shuddered at this thought – a bigger size. Kunihiko and his good cooking… she had definitely gained some weight. Well, he seemed not to notice or maybe he just didn’t care and Jazz felt better than she ever did in a relationship. As long as it were only a few pounds she was fine with it. She should work out a bit anyway.

Dressed in a tank top and shorts she came back into the kitchen and helped him getting their dinner ready.

“Oh, by the way, you got mail. Seems important. Manila envelopes and all. I put them on your desk.”

“Them? More than one?” He seemed surprised and Jazz shrugged.

“Three or four, and some other stuff. Sorry, I have just grabbed the mail and rushed up here.” She grinned sheepishly. “I really needed to pee.”

He chuckled and kissed her. “You are so sexy, you know that?”

It was strange, even this, domestic evenings, nights without the passionate and hot sex from the beginning, just lazing around on the couch, sharing meals, getting to know each other better with every passing day – this was so much more than Jazz had ever hoped for. Sometimes she was a bit scared of the extend of her own feelings, her own happiness, but then she remembered how hard she had fought for this, how hard THEY had fought for this. It wasn’t a gift, it was the result of persistence, communication and a lot of trust.

They talked some more, ate in a relaxed atmosphere and afterwards Jazz took care of the dishes as thanks for him preparing dinner. When she came out of the now clean kitchen she found him staring at some files in his hands.

Drying her hands with a towel she walked over to him.

“Why the serious face?” she asked, taking a seat next to him. “Business?”

“No,” he blankly said and handed her a file.

“This is… a marriage candidate? What-?!” She stared at the profile. Japanese woman, 28, good at housework. Loved to cook. Good education. The picture showed her in a kimono, very traditional.

“What is this crap?” She threw the file on the coffee table and grabbed another one. Almost the same, just the age and the name were different.

“You know, back then when I came to MJS… my family wanted me to find a bride. My parents are – rather conservative. Traditional. I guess they think they gave me enough time to find a wife on my own.” He sounded a bit shocked, but also sad. Of course. He hadn’t told his family about her, about their marriage because she asked him to keep it a secret for now.

“But this? I mean, look at those profiles… how many are there?” She quickly counted the files. “Five? And all of them are – so completely dull. Nondescript. Here, this doesn’t even say if she gives good blowjobs. Or blowjobs at all. All the important info is missing! Who should be able to make a decision based on this crap?”

It was one thing that his family meddled with his love life, Jazz had already understood that it wasn’t an uncommon thing in Japan. But her professional pride was another thing. This was exactly why they had founded MJS – because the dating world in Japan was really tricky. Like everywhere else.

Kunihiko only chuckled and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer until she straddled his lap and rested her head against his shoulder.

“You know, I often wonder how your profile would have looked like,” he mused, gently stroking her back.

“Well, there would have definitely been a whole paragraph about my fellatio skills,” she answered, slightly muffled against his shoulder.

“And that alone would have gotten my attention,” he played along before he got serious again. “No, really, what would you write in your own profile.”

“Hmm…” She thought about this, it had never occurred to her to create a profile for herself. “I would have asked Miho to make it, so it would have been full of praise of course.”

She chuckled, imagining Miho writing things like: ‘Great body, but damaged heart. Handle with care or I will hunt you down and rip your balls off.’

“Of course,” he agreed with a grin. The friendship between Miho and Jazz was definitely something special, and he was aware that he had crossed a line when he doubted it. It would take some time to fix things with Miho, but he really wanted to prove her that he was the right one for Jazz, that he would make her happy.

“So, what are we going to do about this?” Jazz wearily motioned towards the stack of matchmaking profiles.

“I’m going to meet all of them and ask them about their opinions about blowjobs. Just so their profile is complete. And then I tell them that I already found the perfect woman for me.”

She swatted his chest playfully. “Stop joking, I’m serious!”

He sighed and kissed her once more.

“I know you wanted a relaxed, lazy weekend, but I think we’d better go and visit my family. I will call them tomorrow. We can take the bullet train and be back in the evening.”

Jazz sighed. It was her fault that they were in this situation; only because she asked him to keep their marriage a secret for now. Now she had to fix things. Sooner or later she would have to meet his family anyway, although she had hoped for some better circumstances.

“Okay. I think I have time this weekend, no weddings so far.” She raised her head and cupped his face, kissed him softly. “I’m sorry for bringing you into this position.”

Kunihiko chuckled lightly and kissed her back, not that softly. “I actually like the position I’m currently in,” he almost purred into her ear, making her giggle.

“Yeah?”

His hand dropped to her ass, squeezing lightly. “Yeah…”


Three days later they boarded the train, Jazz with conflicted emotions. Kunihiko had already warned her that his family was rather traditional, conservative and strict. Not so much his parents but his grandparents and aunts and uncles. She was nervous. Last time she met her parents-in-law she found herself under scrutiny of Akane Kujoro and we all know how THAT ended. And back then she hadn’t even been working for a marriage matchmaking agency where the clients had to literally bare everything of them in order to create a profile.

She was nervous. She was beyond nervous to be honest. Although she had brought her laptop to work during the trip she couldn’t focus at all. Instead she fidgeted with her clothes, her hair, her hand until Kunihiko sighed and grabbed her hand, squeezed it lightly and smiled reassuringly.

“Relax, love. It’s okay, it’s not as if they could do anything. We ARE already married. You are just going to meet my family and I’m just informing them that they can stop looking for my future wife because I already have a wonderful wife.”

She smiled back, still nervous. If it only was that simple.

“Tell me again that you love me,” she demanded, almost pouting.

“I love you. Only you. You are the only woman I want to spend my life with, the only I can see myself with in the future.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips gently, one after the other. “And that is exactly what I am going to tell my family.”

Jazz took a shaky breath and nodded, slightly choked up. “Thank you…” She knew she would need some strength to face his family but she wanted to be a wife he could be proud of; a wife who would support him, fight for their love.

The trip seemed to take forever but they arrived before noon.

“We can have lunch somewhere but I assume that my family has prepared something,” he said, giving her the choice and effectively a short reprieve.

“We don’t want to keep them waiting,” she firmly answered, putting this off wouldn’t help after all. Better to get over with it before her anxiety spiked.

“Okay. Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” Kunihiko hailed a cab and Jazz wished it would drive anywhere but to the address he gave the driver. She was such a coward.

They were heading towards the house of his grandparents, a huge and traditional estate that took her breath away. Jazz knew that Kunihiko was quite wealthy but she had assumed that he had earned the money with his company, not that money ran in his family.

“Wow…” She couldn’t help but stare in awe and growing terror. Her own family was rather – well, average. Her parents had a small house, nothing fancy, and both worked hard for their money. She and her siblings – a brother and a younger sister – had been brought up in the knowledge that working was necessary and that there was nothing to be ashamed of in earning their own money. So Jazz had started working part-time jobs as soon as she had been old enough. It helped her pay for clothes and her hobbies and later to get her through college. She had been a babysitter, worked in retail and service, fully aware that her future career better offered a bit more glamour. She would have never guessed to end as an event planner in Japan but she loved that job. She loved working at MJS even more, being an associate, a founding member of the agency was something that filled her with pride.

She might not have the same background but definitely the same dedication to her job like Kunihiko. Jazz straightened up and took a deep breath. She was ready to face whatever would come, with Kunihiko at her side.

At least that was what she thought before stepping into the house, with the tatami mats and the paper doors it felt like stepping into another century. Or one of the historic dramas they showed on TV. Hadn’t Saeki just written some script about a forbidden love in the Edo era?

She quickly focused again, the surroundings making her nervous again.

Someone dressed in a kimono took Kunihiko’s jacket and threw Jazz a questioning glance but Kuni simply helped Jazz out of her jacket and handed it over. Was that a relative or some kind of staff? She didn’t dare to ask, simply followed her husband without a word. She didn’t want to embarrass him after all.

In front of some paper doors they stopped and Kunihiko turned towards her. Jazz could hear voices and her heart started to race again.

“It’s okay, just breathe. We will be fine, I promise.” His voice was only a whisper but it helped her to calm down. When she nodded Kunihiko opened the door and they stepped into a huge room, filled with several people, all clad in traditional Japanese clothes, sitting on the floor.

“Ah, Kunihiko, you finally arrived.” A stern looking, older woman beckoned them closer, or better, him. She frowned when she noticed Jazz.

“Who is that? You didn’t say you were bringing someone.”

Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and straightened up again.

“Sobo, thank you for having us. This is Jazz Mann. My wife.”

With a nervous smile Jazz bowed her head, just enough to show respect but not so much that she would make herself small. She was a smart and proud woman after all. And she was married to Kunihiko.

“Obaasan, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

Kunihiko’s grandmother didn’t even spare her a glance, instead she glared at Kunihiko.

“Your wife? What is that nonsense? We send you a choice of profiles for suitable young women. Why did you bring someone like her?”

Now that escalated quickly. Jazz bit her tongue, didn’t want to make a bad impression right from the start.

“Sobo, you wanted me to get married and I did. Even before you sent those profiles to be honest. But I preferred to choose my wife on my own. I wanted someone I actually love and here she is. She is smart, successful, independent and at the same time she supports me, helps me to see where I’m wrong without being presumptuous.”

Jazz blinked a few times. She knew he loved her, he told her often enough, but hearing him saying all these things about her in front of his family was something else. She felt the love well up inside of her, her smile grew and was genuine now. But only for a second.

“You already married this woman? Without introducing her first? Without asking for our permission?” His grandmother seemed disappointed, clearly disapproving of their marriage.

“I didn’t know I needed ‘permission’,” he replied, still respectful but standing his ground. His grandmother made a sound between a snort and a click of her tongue.

“It would have been only proper to introduce us first. Why did you hide her from us?” She shot Jazz a taxing gaze, finally acknowledging her presence. And all the others followed her gaze so that Jazz found herself the center of attention.

“Besides the obvious issues.”

That hurt, but Jazz kept her head up high and her eyes trained on his grandmother, still slightly smiling.

“And what would be the obvious issues, obaasan?” She sounded calmer than she felt, proud that her emotions didn’t show in her voice.

“You are not Japanese. We know nothing about you and your heritage. Your family. We can’t know if you are honorable.” There was no accusation or malice, she was just stating the truth.

“You could just ask me. I can tell you what you need to know.” Jazz’s offer caused a stir in the group but Kunihiko stayed calm so she figured she hadn’t just accidently offended everyone in the room.

“You could lie,” a woman, probably Kunihiko’s aunt, said.

“I could, but what would that do for me? I’m actually a stickler for honesty.” Jazz shrugged, but she knew that if they didn’t want to listen to her they wouldn’t.

“I think we should have a more private conversation. Miss Mann, would you excuse us, please?” Kunihiko’s grandmother pointed towards the door and Jazz shared a short glance with her husband who gave her a smile and a nod. She was guided away by the same person who greeted them first, still unsure of their status in this house. But since it didn’t matter much to her she was simply polite and thanked the woman who bowed her head briefly and left Jazz in a smaller room without much furniture. This wasn’t going well.

She hadn’t expected them to welcome her with open arms, but at least to be allowed to stay for the explanation. Not getting send out of the room like a child when the grown-ups talked. Jazz made up her mind and slipped out of the room, tried to find her way back to room with Kunihiko and his family. She followed the faint sounds of voices until she could hear them more or less clearly. These walls were really thin.

“… the matchmaker? No one marries the matchmaker! That’s just not –“

“Sobo, I am not discussing this! Marriage matchmaking is a respectable business; after all you hired a matchmaker for me, too. So what if I fall not for the potential bride they show me, but the one who is trying to set me up? She knows me, she knows me better than anyone else. And she still fell for me. I think that is the most important part of this whole story: we LOVE each other. She has proven that over and over and I am willing to prove it for the rest of my life.”

Her heart felt like bursting at those words. He really stood up to his grandmother, only for Jazz. Only for them.

“But she is a foreigner!” someone else said, a male voice.

“That doesn’t matter. She is a wonderful person, honest and kind. Respectable. She comes from a respectable family, has studied and worked hard to get where she is now. She and her friends have their own business and lately they have even expanded their service, now offering wedding planning as well. They are making people happy and Jazz is making ME happy. I don’t care about where she was born.”

Jazz held her breath, trying not to make a sound and give the fact away that she was eavesdropping.

“What if one day she decides she wants to back?” another voice asked.

“Then I will go with her.”

They had never talked about this and honestly, Jazz hadn’t even thought about going back home ever since they had cleared everything, ever since she had decided to really do this, to accept her feelings for him and not to hold anything back anymore.

“If you had introduced her before rushing into a marriage like a fool we could have at least find someone to do a background check on her,” his grandmother stated.

“And I would have asked you not to do that,” Kunihiko shot back. “I trust her. She has told me everything I need to know, even if it wasn’t flattering.”

“Son, you have to admit that it looks rather strange when you go to matchmaking agency only to marry the matchmaker in the end. Head over heels. We are simply worried she might have – ulterior motives.”

Was that his father? Jazz blood started to boil. She wasn’t some money grubbing gold digger, she had her own business! (And the divorce settlement from Ai, but that wasn’t the point here.)

Jazz cleared her throat loudly, announcing her presence.

“May I enter?” Her heart was pounding like crazy but she wouldn’t back down now. Not when all this was about her.

“It is rude to eavesdrop,” his grandmother said, rather miffed.

“It also rude to talk about people behind their backs,” Jazz firmly answered. Not backing down.

“I understand that you are concerned,” Jazz continued, “and I take it as a sign of your affection towards Kunihiko. But I don’t like what you are implying. Fact is that we have a prenup, and fact is also that it was ME who wanted that. I understand that he is a successful business man and that his name and property have to be protected.”

She looked at Kunihiko who seemed relieved to see her. Good, at least one person here.

“Actually Jazz didn’t want to marry me at first,” he suddenly said, earning some surprised and some disapproving glances. “I had to woo her and convince her to give me a chance. And when she said ‘yes’ I just jumped at the chance.”

That was a very sugarcoated version, but it wasn’t a lie after all. What if they learned of her divorce?

“Is there a reason for your hasty wedding?” his grandmother asked, glaring at Jazz.

“What do you mean, sobo?” Kunihiko tensed a bit and Jazz could feel her stomach churn.

“There are two likely explanations,” the older woman went on. “Green card or… Kunihiko, did you – get her with child?”

Jazz gasped. She paled before the blood rushed into her face. “Are you implying I tricked him into marrying me?”

Kunihiko grabbed her hand, surprised to feel it trembling in his.

“I think we are done here. If you are rude towards my wife I feel not obliged to stay any longer.”

“If you go now – Kunihiko, you know what might happen,” his grandmother almost threateningly said.

“If that is what you have to do, then do it.” Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and tugged at Jazz’s hand. She had trouble to hold her tears back. This wasn’t what she wanted for him, being threatened to get kicked out of the family because he married her.

She managed to pull herself together until they were outside, standing at the street trying to find another cab.

“I’m sorry,” they said at the same time, just for Jazz to lose it and burst out into tears.

“I’m so sorry, really! I didn’t – when I asked you to keep it a secret for now I didn’t think this would happen…”

“Hey…” Kunihiko hugged her tightly. “It’s okay, it’s not your fault. They would have been unhappy with my choice even if I had introduced you before. It’s not about me being married, they want me to marry who they see fit. But I want you, so tough luck for them.”

“Shit,” she muttered. “Kuni, I feel as if I should offer to set you free so your family can be happy – but I can’t. I know I’m selfish, but I don’t want to give up on you. Give up on US. On what we have.”

“Shhhh…” He cupped her face and kissed her softly. “I wouldn’t accept that anyway. You have said ‘yes’, now you’re stuck with me. You are my wife and you are the only one I want. It will be fine, don’t worry.”

“But they are your family!” Jazz sobbed, thinking about her own family back home. They might fight every now and then but they still loved each other. They wouldn’t turn their backs on her just because she married someone they didn’t approve of.

“You are my family now,” he corrected her and wiped some tears off her cheek. “Although it might be difficult now to get you into my family register so you can have my name.”

She shrugged. “It’s only a name, right? As long as I can be your wife I don’t care. It was just – it’s nice to have the same name. Not necessary, but nice.”

He chuckled. “I could still take your name, you know?”

That made her laugh. She had never even thought about it. “Wouldn’t they be furious if you did?”

“Do you really think that’s important right now?”

She shook her head before she rested it against his chest. “Let’s go home, okay?”

But before they could call for a cab the gate to his family’s estate opened.

“Kunihiko?” It was a middle aged man and Jazz practically jumped back a bit only to get pulled back by her husband. He didn’t want to let her go, not even to preserve appearance.

“Otousama,” he replied and Jazz’s eyes widened. His father.

“I am sorry for the way things escalated. You know your grandmother can be – rather stubborn. I am sorry if she has offended you and your wife.”

Jazz could see the similarities between the two men; if Kunihiko looked like that in 20 or 30 years Jazz wouldn’t complain.

“I know this is a bit sudden, but this is my choice,” Kunihiko firmly said, squeezing Jazz slightly.

“It is. And I am sure Miss Ma- Jazz is a wonderful woman. After all she is the one who captured your heart. It might need some time but I will do whatever I can to calm the waves. I only hope next time we meet will be under better circumstances.”

Jazz pushed against Kunihiko’s chest until he finally gave her free and she could face his father.

“I am grateful for your words and I also hope that we can meet again soon. At a more joyous occasion.” She looked at Kuni briefly and he nodded.

“We are going to have a ceremony in some time and want to invite you. And mom of course. And whoever is happy for us.” Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and his father exhaled loudly, apparently relieved.

“We will gladly come and celebrate with you. Jazz, take good care of my son. He can be a bit foolish sometimes, but he is a fine man.” Mr. Aikawa bowed back and Jazz nodded.

“Don’t worry, I will.”


On their trip back home they both were unusually silent. Jazz couldn’t focus, her mind was racing like the train they were sitting in. She stared out of the window, unable to actually see something. All she could think about was the expression on Kunihiko’s face when his grandmother insinuated that he had knocked Jazz up. And the small box in the bathroom, hidden behind the towels. The pregnancy test she had put off for much too long already.

MJS Out of Office Drama: Miho and Goto ‘I was an assassin in a past life’

Miho dipped her toe into the softly steaming water of the private outdoor bath at Kawaguchiko Onsenji Yumedono. Compared to the cooling afternoon air it was comforting, but she hesitated to go much further, peering down at the rippling surface.

“Miho?” Goto prompted, looking up from his place already seated, submerged almost all the way up his chest. “Something wrong?”

“Um, no,” she responded, her gaze dancing across the water, finding his feet, then jumping sharply up to his face. “Nothing at all.”

Of this he seemed dubious – she wasn’t even in the water yet, but her cheeks were a rosy red. He watched as she carefully stepped down, one foot, then the other, but frowned a little deeper when the towel she’d had wrapped around her body remained.

“You’re staring,” she said quietly, and Goto’s brows twitched.

“You’re still wearing a towel,” he pointed out quizzically, even more so when she settled at the far end of the pool where even if they stretched, their toes probably wouldn’t touch.

“It’s still very bright out here,” she noted bashfully. “It’s embarrassing.”

“Did I… just step into the Twilight Zone or something?” Goto blinked. “Miho, I’ve seen you naked a thousand times in full light,” he went on, then made a slight correction, “probably more. How is now embarrassing?”

“You’re thinking about what we’ve done? Right now?” she spluttered out, and looked a lot like she might curl up into a mortified ball. “You should just forget everything.”

“I should what?” Goto coughed, genuinely, absolutely confused.

Going undercover had never been so difficult for him as it had knowing Miho was in danger, and though he had devoted himself to the job and gotten the desired result, returning to learn all she’d endured without him had left him feeling beyond guilty. She said she understood, he knew she did and that is part of why their relationship would last, but still… the moment he’d been cleared by Ishigami and filled in, all he wanted to do was hold her and never be separated from her again.

Honestly, they’d been joined at the hip the last three days, through Liana and Ishigami’s wedding included ­-cough- but now.

“Are you sure you’re feeling all right?” he pressed, moving forward with a sweeping motion.

“I’m… I mean, now that I’m in here it’s a little warm,” she admitted, avoiding his gaze as he – totally naked- came to kneel in front of her.

“But not all right enough to even look at me?” he queried, reaching out for the hands she had moved up to cover her face.

And when she recoiled, trying to slide sideways, there was nothing he could do other than wrap her up in his arms.

“There is something very strange going on here,” he growled, low against the bare skin of her shoulder as he held her from behind.

“We can’t, not out here,” Miho whimpered. “What if someone from staff comes?”

“Says the woman who dragged me into a utility closet at the wedding of Captain Ishigami,” he retorted, easily countering the meekness of her struggles. “The woman who moaned so loud, Jazz heard you at the other end of the venue.”

“That… that’s because you…” she stammered, increasingly aware of the pressure growing between their bodies, the only thing between them her soaked towel.

“Are you really going to make me say it?” he whispered behind her ear, and she shivered.

“Say? Say what?” she exhaled, trying to rock forward off his lap, only to be pulled back down more firmly.

“That I miss you, even when you’re in the next room,” he told her softly, kissing against her trembling throat. “That it tears me apart when you look unhappy, when you’re suffering,” he went on, drifting up to her jaw. “And that I need you… out of that towel.”

“Goto!” she exclaimed, and hearing her call him that was almost as good as a slap in the face, so much so that his arms slackened, just slightly. “What if someone… heard…”

Her voice got fainter and fainter.

“…you…”

Panic ripped a hole in Goto’s universe when Miho fell limp, her body flopping to the side in his arms. He hauled her from the water and laid her gently back on the cool stones, fingers to her pulse and ear to her mouth before he even registered how red her face had become.

Pulse a little above resting.

Breathing normal.

Heavily, Miho opened her eyes. There was an additional, cool weight against her forehead, a cloth, and a deep shadow looming over her with the light of the bright moon streaming through the open courtyard doors behind it.

With a gasp she attempted to sit up, but her head immediately began to swim – frantic at being so vulnerable scorched her skin anew, until a concerned, gentle voice calmed all her worries in an instant.

“Just rest,” Goto told her, one hand on her shoulder, the other lifting the cloth from her forehead and dipping it to a basin of cold water.

“What happened?” she murmured.

The last thing she remembered they were in the bath, and Goto was…

Oh!

As if he body could not possibly become any hotter, the recollection set her skin aflame and she turned her face to the side to avoid Goto’s eyes.

“You over heated after three minutes in the bath, and fainted,” he explained, wringing out the cloth and applying it to her forehead again. “I think I should take you to hospital; there is something seriously wrong with your body’s temperature regulation.”

“I’m sorry,” Miho sighed. “I’ve ruined this for you.”

“I’m just worried about you, Miho,” he scowled in the dimness, lying next to her on the futon.

Which highlighted just how close he was, that they were in the same bed – and this set her quivering again.

What if he tries to kiss me?

“I think it would be best for me to sleep over there tonight,” Goto exhaled, pushing himself back up and motioning with his head to the other futon.

Even in the dark she could see he was disappointed, sad even.

His name, his first name formed on her tongue, but it was just too embarrassing to say. All she could do was watch him move several metres away and settle beneath his own covers.

“if you need anything, just wake me,” he told her, smiling a sober smile.

Then he closed his eyes and went to sleep, leaving Miho to stare at him. But sleep eluded her now. How was she supposed to sleep when he was in the same room?

“WHA!” Miho shrieked, her body jolting awake with such force she nearly head-butted Goto who’d been asleep to her right with his arm draped over her.

“Miho?” he frowned, trying to blink away sleep as she sat up, panting.

“Holy shit,” she gasped, her hands gripping the bedding in clenched fists. “I just… I just had the most intense nightmare.”

“Understandable,” he told her, placing his hand in the small of her naked back and sliding it up a little way.

“No really,” she insisted, looking down at him with terror still flashing in her eyes. “We were in the private bath, and you were trying to get close to me but I wouldn’t even take off my fucking towel!”

At this, Goto let out a chuckle. His first thoughts were that she’d dreamt of Daisetsu and that whole ordeal, but it was so incredibly Miho for such potent fear to come from not being her usual, intimate self.

“Stop laughing!” she barked, throwing back the covers and slinging her leg over him, sitting there glaring down, even when his hands came to rest on her hips.

“You’re probably just overly tired,” he told her, unable to keep all the amusement from his tone. “We did…”

“Remind me,” she hissed, leaning down to kiss him, lifting her pelvis to allow enough room for her hand to wrap around his cock.

“Again?” he questioned, but flinched when her cool fingers closed in around him and immediately began to stroke. “You probably had your nightmare because we walked through the door, tore each other’s clothes off and didn’t stop until dark.”

“I have to get these images out of my mind somehow,” she told him, shaking her head in frustration, until Goto moved his hands to her face and captured it between.

“You are a very strange woman,” he declared, before drawing her down for a deep and lingering kiss. “My very strange woman,” he added when their lips parted.

His eyes closed involuntarily as she reawakened his desire, dispersing shocks of energy to muscles made tired by their earlier exploits. Surprisingly nimble fingers squeezed around her breasts and teased her nipples, while she rekindled the throbbing tension of his groin.

Their time apart, eventful though short, had highlighted just how invested he was in her, and vice versa – mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Her body was already patterned with little marks where he’d sucked on her skin; now she wasn’t involved in date scenarios she was free to do with her body what she wanted, and what she wanted his mouth suckling, nipping, biting her flesh, with just enough strength for it to sting, to leave his impression on her.

“You’re just a tease,” he growled, his fingers digging into her ass cheeks as she sandwiched his cock between the wet heat of her folds and his abdomen, “waking me up just… to…”

“Just to?” she grinned down at him, denying him full gratification but grinding a path back and forth.

“Now who’s the monster?” he grated out, but he didn’t pressure her into anything more than she wanted to give.

She was still fragile, and he knew she covered much of it with a veneer of control and sexual confidence – not that either of those things weren’t normal of course.

“Hey,” she barked, sitting back and slapping his chest as it seemed his mind had wandered.

“So now you want to play rough?” he chuckled, catching the wrist of her next attempted swipe.

“Do you know how to play rough, Lieutenant?” she goaded, digging her fingernails into his pecks, dragging them down until he cringed, took hold of her upper arms, and flipped her on her back.

“I know how to play rough,” he told her plainly, as he sat back on his heels and dragged her, legs spread, up into his lap. “Tired of the sweetness?”

“I just need a healthy balan….” she began, but nearly had the wind knocked out of her when he pulled her sharply the rest of way against him, driving his erection into her with enough force to elicit a loud, breathy grunt.

And he gave her what she asked for.

With her hips gripped tightly, he rocked himself solidly to the deepest reach of her core, withdrawing quickly only to bury himself again. Heavy breathing, moaning, and the swift escalation of Miho’s voice, laced the air with thick, passionate heat until there was nothing for either of them but to let go of nightmares, and just indulge in the carnality of their lust.

Cold air tingled against Miho’s inflamed skin, that still glowed with the most recent memories of Goto all over it: on the futon, in the doorway, in the shower.

On the porch outside their room she sat drowsily waiting for Goto to bring out tea, despite the late hour.

In the quiet – leaves rustling, wind breathing, clouds skittering across the sky, brushing the face of the moon – she felt herself slide into contemplation.

And closed her eyes.

Her hands were white.

But.

No matter how long she stared at them, she could not erase the blood.

They were empty.

Yet.

In them she held the significant weight of death, perhaps heavier than the bodies themselves she had hewn, strangled, poisoned.

Clean, guilty hands that didn’t even belong to her.

The Gotoshima Clan owned those hands, just as they owned every inch of her body – just not the metaphysical parts that dragged behind her the lives of others she’d taken in its name, on its order.

“It’s rare,” a male voice said, and he was already at her back and within arm’s reach when he spoke, “for me to be able to sneak up on you.”

Even then she continued, unblinking, to peer at her palms.

“And you have nothing to report to me?” he persisted, stepping down off the veranda where she sat, and studying her expression.

She was not one to show a lot of emotions, like her sensei before her, but now there was a mask of porcelain obscuring the truth of her turmoil.

“Milord Seiji,” she said finally, her voice a pale shade of her usual confidence. “May I ask a question of you?”

“Of course,” he frowned mildly, sitting beside her, their shoulders brushing lightly.

“You are a warrior, a noble samurai,” she began, curling her fingers to her palms and digging in short fingernails – the sensation of physical pain. “You take up arms against your foes,” she continued in a monotone. “You cut them down and they bleed, into dirt and dust, against cloth and tatami and the arms and hearts of their loved ones.”

The only son of Gotoshima Shinichi, leader of the Gotoshima Clan listened intently, though he was certainly under no obligation to do so – and though he was still a young man, there were also few who would dare say such brazen things to him. She too was young, a year younger in fact, but it was not through naivety she spoke so openly.

“Do you ever wonder what might have become of those lives had you not taken them?” she enquired finally, but didn’t quite seem finished. “Of those left behind had they not been scarred by the sorrow of their loss?”

Seiji did not reply immediately, for he could see her questions were not asked lightly.

“No life I have ever taken was extinguished without purpose,” he said finally. “The edge of my blade serves the future of this clan, and to protect the innocent people who depend upon it for safety, stability and prosperity.”

She remained motionless as he spoke, gaze still fixated upon the curl of her own fingers.

“Duty excuses blood?” she queried, her tone unchanged.

“Excuses?” he repeated. “Perhaps there is no true excuse, but I can feel no guilt for killing fifty enemy soldiers who would slaughter a hundred of our people, people for whom I have a responsibility. Still, it is never easy to take a life, nor should it be, but while those gods who watch amused over the affairs of mere mortals may not forgive you the souls you return to their care, to save the many can be justified.”

“And if those were fifty allied soldiers, and those one hundred were innocents of an enemy? If the many are our foe?” she probed further, and this time she looked to him, brown eyes mingled with green in search of more than just answers from him.

He and his father had sent her off to dispatch countless difficult enemies who had eluded them on the battlefield – nineteen years old and murderous seductress of significant talent, and only now that he saw death carved into her face did he realise the toll it took.

“I do not think I can answer that question to your satisfaction,” he admitted soberly, and alone in the garden, he placed his hand over hers. “Politics and ethics rarely agree.”

“I know I am a puppet,” she told him, lifting her chin a little, like she found no shame in the fact she’d just declared. “I am yours to wield as you see fit, and I will, the serpent, bed any man or woman who stands against you and I will end them… but…”

There, Seiji interrupted her with the squeeze of his hand.

“There is only one bed I truly wish you into,” he asserted with quiet vehemence, though it was a pointless and selfish admission.

Standing, the ninja-assassin pulled their hands apart; but he could read her well enough to know it was not because she was affronted – he knew her painful desire also.

“And there is only one bed I can never have,” she whispered, her back to him and her eyes closed.

That was the rule, of her sensei, of the Gotoshima lord – to keep a female ninja, to prevent her presence, fleeting as it might have been at any one time from disrupting the men, any she slept with were fated to die by her hand.

“Let the gods damn me for what I am, for what I do,” she continued, her voice gathering momentum and vehemence, “but tell me you do not, you will not, and my conscience will be appeased.”

His body commanded him to wrap her in his arms, but his duty had to transcend that.

“Any blood upon your hands is mine,” he told her clearly, stepping up behind her – but this time he ensured there was some space between them, even though he ached to close it. “Pass the dead to me and I will carry them for you.”

“I do not wish that for you either,” she actually sighed – sighed because no matter what she wished for, her fate and his, was completely beyond their control.

“You are my puppet,” he sniffed, adopting a tone haughty, and perhaps more befitting that of a lord. “If you will not give them to me willingly, then I shall simply order you to.”

“Dozing off?” Goto’s voice floated in through the haze, and Miho’s eyes fluttered open where she had come to rest back against the outside of their room. “You’ll catch a cold.”

He crouched to place down the tray upon which sat two cups of tea, but didn’t sit beside her. Instead, he gently nudged her forward so he could settle in behind her, before draping a blanket over their legs.

“Thinking,” she murmured, snuggling back against him as he enveloped her and nestled his cheek against hers.

“About?” he prompted, kissing her gently, tea totally forgotten.

“Can I ask you a question?” she enquired, a strange echo of the distant past.

“Anything,” he assented.

“Have you ever… killed anyone?”

Given their most recent activities, that wasn’t quite the topic of inquiry Goto had been expecting, however, he was not all that surprised. They had already spoken about Daisetsu’s death and her part in it, but he knew guilt all too well, understood the way self-blame got under the skin and spread so far, became so pervasive, it was difficult to dig out.

“As a police officer I mean,” Miho added after a few seconds of silence she might have taken as misinterpretation.

“I have,” he admitted somberly. “Gun crime itself is fairly rare in Japan, and we teach non-lethal techniques at the academy.”

Lightly he caressed her arms he continued.

“But sometimes we’re not given a choice. Sometimes the bad guy forces your hand, threatens things worth more than their life alone. Like Issei. Fighting Daisetsu like you did saved him.”

“In my mind I understand that,” she exhaled. “And even, if I could go back and in that moment… I would still do what I did… but…”

“It leaves a mark on you, doesn’t it?” Goto filled in, pulling the blanket up a little more. “You can’t see it, but it’s there, in your heart, behind your eyes.”

“I don’t want him in my heart,” she shuddered out, shrinking against him a little. “That place is yours, no room for monsters of the past – so why can’t I let it go? Why does she have to haunt me?”

“You loved him once,” Goto said softly, his embrace all around her. “And even if you hadn’t, monstrous behaviour aside, he was a person and you – you’re far too human to see another person as completely empty.”

“What do I do?” she whimpered, turning her face to his arm and pressing her forehead against it. “I feel like, like it’s suffocating me, like I’m dirty, covered in filth standing shoulder to shoulder with murderers.”

“Shhh,” he soothed, gliding his fingers through her hair. “I wish I could take this burden from you,” he breathed. “I wish I could put myself between you and him, but that isn’t within my power. What is, is to hold you when it gets too much, to pull you back when you feel like you might lose yourself…”

He paused to reposition himself just enough that he could look into her weeping face.

“And when you feel like you might suffocate,” he frowned intensely. “I will remind you how much I love you, how much I need you, how much my life is made better because it will be spent with you.”

“God damn you’re smooth,” she coughed out in a thick half-sob half-chuckle.

“I mean it,” he insisted, then kissed her, just the lightest of pecks, then against the tears on her cheeks. “I feel like maybe… there’s this sense of déjà vu, and I don’t think I got it right last time. I want to get it right, I don’t want you to feel alone.”

Miho emptied her lungs entirely and slumped, and she could do so because there were strong, dedicated arms there to catch her. The pressure against her conscience might return, a spectre, a ninja hiding just out of sight waiting to pounce in a vulnerable moment – but Goto’s reassurance took some of the fear out of having to face it.

He made no ludicrous demands, nor promised the unattainable – just what he could give as the man who loved her.

MJS Client report rewind: Jazz x Alberto

“And give H my regards, too,” Jan just said and Jazz smiled. She was again very happy that she had found H in the first place.

“I will. And again, congratulations on your engagement. I know you will be very happy with each other.”

They said their goodbyes and Jazz hung up. This was a very good day so far. She quickly took her phone up again and dialed H’s number. According to the schedule she wasn’t on a date that day so Jazz didn’t hesitate to call her Of course she wouldn’t do that if there was a date simulation that day, she knew from firsthand experience that those days usually were completely occupied by preparations.

“Yes?” H’s voice sounded through the phone.

“It’s me, Jazz. I just had a very nice chat with your first client ever and I wanted to let you know that he has proposed to one of the ladies we have introduced to him. With that your first case is officially closed.” She smiled, it felt as if her little sister had just graduated from school or something.

“Oh wow, that’s great,” H happily replied. “He was a really nice first client. Good for him.”

“Yes, and he wants us to plan his wedding, too. And he has recommended us to butler friend who will contact us soon. I’m just giving you a heads-up because this might be another job on short notice. Butler schedules seem a bit difficult. Of course I will handle the profile and all before we spring this on you,” Jazz explained further. H was unusually quiet.

“H?” Jazz carefully asked. Was something wrong?

“Another butler, huh? No, it’s cool, it’s cool. I’ll handle that, no problem.” Jazz could tell her laughter was forced but didn’t want to pry. If there was a problem she hoped that H would simply tell her. Honesty was an important thing in this business, at least among the girls of MJS.

“Okay… oh, how about we celebrate your first closed case tonight? Drinks on me? We could also try some other place than Long Island, Kunihiko is on a business trip anyway,” Jazz suggested.

“Okie doki, sounds good. Lemme know what you have in mind and when, I’ll be there.” H sounded a bit more like her usual self and Jazz sighed slightly in relief.

“I will. See you later, then. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Now that was – strange. But Jazz only shrugged and returned her attention to the paperwork in front of her.

 

Several days later Izumi called Jazz in her office.

“Miss Mann, there was just a call from some butler. He asks if you have time this afternoon to see him.”

Jazz groaned inwardly. Not that she was completely swamped with work, it was more the very vague description of the caller.

“What butler, Izumi?”

“I haven’t gotten the name, something foreign sounding,” he mumbled and Jazz took a deep breath.

“Did he say whose butler he is?” There were only a handful of royal houses and she could already cross out some names of possible butlers calling her. It could be Yu, but he should be happily married by now and after all they had canceled his contract. And even Izumi should know Jan by now, they had met before after all.

“No, sorry. I gave him an appointment for 4 pm.”

Jazz made a quick note of that. “Okay. But before you send him up later, can you please ask for his name again and tell me? I like to know how to address my clients after all.” Izumi was a good kid and for someone who was only a part-timer he did a good job. But it was obvious that this wasn’t his dream job and he did make some mistakes every now and then.

But she was free around 4 so why shouldn’t she just wait and see what kind of butler would come? Much to Jazz’s enjoyment H dropped by and handed over another report. They chatted a bit when Izumi called again.

“Yes?”

“Miss Mann, your client is here.” He sounded nervous.

“You forgot to ask for his name again, am I right?” she asked, slightly annoyed.

“N-no, he did tell me, but it was so fast and I hardly understood him. He didn’t even speak Japanese…”

“Izumi, I thought you can speak English. What’s wrong?” She frowned. Until now he didn’t have much trouble with English speaking clients. Why now?

“I can, but his accent and… anyway, he’s on his way already.” With that Izumi apologized again and hung up. Jazz stared at H.

“Okay, we have a mysterious butler coming here right now. But that’s good, this way you can meet him and we can see if the chemistry is right.” Trying to see the bright side of things Jazz smiled at H who slumped down a bit.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just – remember I told you about that friend of Jan I keep running into? He’s a butler, too… what if it’s him? He hates me! And I can’t stand him either! I mean he’s a complete jerk, very pretentious and judging! I couldn’t – never – ugh…” She was talking faster and faster and Jazz stared at her with wide eyes.

“He’s such a conceited dick, really, I mean, it’s kinda cute that he’s so protective and looking out for a friend, but then again, how dare he making assumptions about me based on two times we met for only some seconds?!” Now H was really agitated and Jazz had to calm her down again.

“H, relax. Don’t worry, just breathe. If it’s really your butler arch enemy, we can pass this case over to Miho and Rose. That’s the good thing about having partners.” She gave the younger woman an encouraging nod and got up when she heard the knock on her door.

H sat up straight, wringing her hands in her lap. This could be bad. This could be really, really bad…

“Come in,” Jazz said but when the door opened it wasn’t H whose heart sank. It was Jazz’s.

“Alberto…” she muttered and stared into the equally surprised face of the Altarian butler.

“Perdinci… Jazz? Is that you?”

She quickly shook off her shock and smiled weakly. “Uhm, yeah, in the flesh. Sorry, our receptionist got something mixed up, I wasn’t expecting to see you here. Oh, come in, take a seat.” She ushered the bewildered man inside and motioned towards the seat next to H.

“Oh, this is H… whose service won’t be needed here. Sorry, H, this is… I’m going to explain that later, okay?”

“Okie dokie,” H simply said, eying Alberto and Jazz carefully. There was something up but Jazz didn’t seem in trouble, so H took the cue and left.

There was a moment of awkward silence before Jazz remembered her duties as a good hostess and offered Alberto refreshments.

“The coffee isn’t as good as Altarian but – well, it’s okay. Or would you like some water? Tea?”

“Coffee is fine, thank you. So, you are a marriage matchmaker now?” He shifted in his seat a bit, trying to get comfortable in this strange situation.

“Actually I’m just switched jobs to wedding planner, I only got a few marriage matchmaking clients left. Mostly I wrap up the cases I still have from before I changed jobs here. And special exceptions. I guess you are a very special exception.” She chuckled, a bit desperate sounding.

“Jan – he said you found him the love of his life and I think Yu told me about your agency before, but he was rather vague.” Alberto’s sharp mind was showing again.

“I worked with both of them although Mr. Kujo and I canceled the contract eventually. But I am glad that he still considers our service recommendable.” She smiled at him, not trying to say too much. Instead she grabbed the phone.

“Izumi? Could you bring us some coffee? Thank you.”

Usually she wouldn’t order him around like this but this time he deserved it. Definitely. After sitting down behind her desk again she took a deep breath.

“Okay, how about we push through the awkwardness and get to the point. I bet you haven’t much time.”

He tilted his head in agreement, his bangs falling into his eyes a bit. Jazz remembered those eyes. Jazz remembered a lot.

“I would be grateful if we could get the most pressing matters out of the way,” he agreed. It was strange, she had seen him in this formal role but she had also seen him in a lot more private, intimate setting and having him acting all businesslike again was a bit sobering.

“Of course. Let me explain to you how we are working and if you are still interested to sign a contract afterwards we could have most of the remaining exchange via emails and calls. I know your schedule is rather tight.”

The way his eyes widened at her remark showed her that her choice of words was a bit off but she simply ignored it for now.

“Besides the usual profiling we offer a date simulation although I think we can skip that in your case. You would still have to sign a confidentiality agreement, probably a slightly modified one. If you want me to tell you more you will have to sign a preliminary NDA.” She slid the document over to him and nodded when he signed after giving it a read.

“Okay, thank you.” Before she could explain more Izumi knocked and entered with the coffee. Jazz waited until he was out again and got back to the topic.

“So, the date simulation includes a sexual encounter to complete your profile in these regards, but we could also use our – private encounter back then as a base and I write up my report without another date simulation. Whatever you prefer.” She could tell the exact moment when her words sank in, when he remembered their ‘encounter’ as she had called it.


Jazz was sitting at the bar of a very classy, fancy hotel and ordered her third glass of red wine. She knew she better stopped soon, but dammit, this day had been torture. All she wanted now was a nice buzz and a cab back home, where no one was waiting for her anyway. Ai had moved out some weeks ago and now – well, now Jazz might be losing her job. She took a swig from her wine.

“Miss Kujoro? Sorry, have you seen His Highness?”

The man who just talked to her – that butler, wasn’t he? – looked around the bar and Jazz shook her head.

“Nope… not since he crashed this stupid event that my bosses wanted to go flawlessly so much…” That much that they even made it Jazz’s most important mission for weeks.

‘You are European, you might know better what he wants. He’s a prince after all. It’s of utmost importance that he is satisfied in the end.’

And what happened? The prince ditched after an hour or so, leaving the officials and his entourage behind. Although none of them seemed very surprised. The butler was annoyed, but in an almost resigned way. Jazz’s bosses would be furious when they heard about this – this disaster.

“This might not be a real comfort, but believe me, he already sneaked out from much better events.” The butler took a seat next to Jazz who glared at him.

“Really? SOOOO much better events? Now, that’s no comfort for me,” she sarcastically said.

“That wasn’t what I wanted to say,” he hurried to make clear but she only scoffed.

“But it is what you said nonetheless.” She shrugged, not that it mattered. Her marriage had been a scam and her bosses treated her like – like she was exchangeable. Everyone did. Another swig of her wine.

“Miss Kujoro-“ the butler began once more but she cut him off.

“It’s Jazz.” She had to get rid of this name, had to get her maiden name back. She would do that, first thing tomorrow.

“Alberto.” He bowed his head slightly.

“Piacere.” She raised her glass slightly and Alberto raised his eyebrow in return. He had nice eyebrows. Nice eyes.

“Parla Alteriano? Benissimo,” he praised her.

“Parlo solo poco,” she admitted and chuckled. “That was about all.”

“It was very good. I’m impressed.” He motioned for the barkeeper and ordered a glass of wine.

“You drink? Shouldn’t you run around and try to find that little prince of yours?” she smugly asked and batted her lashes. The whole day he had been keeping a keen eye on the prince, she had noticed how adamant he was about going everywhere the prince went.

He huffed a short laugh. “I think I’m done for today. If he doesn’t want to be found he won’t be found. That’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.” He raised his glass. “Salute.”

With a smile she clinked glasses with him.

“Or does it bother you to drink here with me?” Suddenly his confidence vanished and he frowned slightly, eyebrows drawn together. They hadn’t talked that much, mostly in a very professional, businesslike tone. They had been both working after all.

“Nah, it’s fine. But let me warn you, I’m not exactly good company right now. I’ve got – issues.” She emphasized the last word by opening her eyes wider.

“We all got issues, so don’t worry.” There was a hint of a smile on his lips when he tried the first sip of his wine only for him to practically scowl at the glass.

“This is awful,” he growled and for a moment she feared he would spit it out, but instead he turned towards her. “How can you even drink this?”

“It’s hard to get a good wine around here,” she confessed. “Usually I hardly even notice after the second glass anymore.”

“Miss, this is outrageous. This might sound bold, but may I invite you to a decent glass of wine? We brought some from Altaria and I would gladly share a bottle with you.” He got up from his seat and waited for her answer.

“Really? You are inviting me to a glass of wine? Into your room? I hope you’re not having ulterior motives.” She giggled lightly, not that she would mind that. She hadn’t had good sex in a while. Not ever since she had met Ai. Definitely too long already.

“I assure you, I only want to replace the foul taste of this – this so called wine with something more pleasant.”

“Ulterior motives, like I said.” She grinned cheekily at him, tongue darting out briefly to wet her lips. His eyes widened. His pupils, too.

And suddenly they couldn’t get out of that bar fast enough. He ushered her towards the elevators with his hand in the small of her back. They kissed when the elevators door slid close behind them, hiding them from prying eyes. There was no sweet, testing kiss at first, it was all hunger and lust, slight desperation from her side. If she was losing it all she could just as well get lost in this for now. Take her mind off things. Take her clothes off, too.

They barely made it into his room without tripping, both not wanting to part from each other for even a second. She pushed his uniform jacket from his shoulders the moment the door was closed behind them, frantically working on his vest with slightly clumsy fingers next.

“What about… that wine…?” he panted against her lips only to make her giggle again.

“I’m already tipsy… you don’t need… to make me drunk…”

“That was… not my intention… but…”

Once she managed to open his shirt he started on the buttons of her blouse.

“But?” she asked breathlessly.

“I’m glad… that you’re not… drunk yet… not completely…” He sucked in a harsh breath when her blouse fell to the floor, leaving her in a simple black bra.

“Not drunk, don’t worry… just tipsy enough to… get rid of those pesky inhibitions…”

He growled lowly in his throat when she snapped her bra open and let it join her blouse on the floor. His hands were on her hips before she could process it, his lips on hers again, kissing, sucking, tasting. He shoved her against the wall, trapping her there and she didn’t mind at all. She wanted it a bit rough, impatient. Fuck, she needed to feel his desire, after all the rejections lately she wanted to feel how much she affected him, this stranger. This man.

“Muaviti,” she breathed, trying to urge him on. It worked. Sucking a mark into the crook of her neck his hands found the zipper of her skirt and pulled it down. He hooked his fingers into the waistband of skirt and panties and pushed both down until gravity took care of the rest. She simply stepped out of the fabric and past him towards the bed, giving him a sultry look over her shoulder.

Impatiently he almost ripped his own pants off, toeing off shoes and socks.

“Stop right there,” he told her when she reached the bed, but before she could actually get on it. She just waited for him, with bated breath, her skin tingling in anticipation. She wasn’t good at obeying orders, not the submissive type, but hell, tonight she would do everything he told her to. She was in one of THAT moods obviously. He had treated her like a lady all day, the perfect butler.  Said: “Yes, Miss,” and “Of course, Miss,” but now she wanted him to fuck her like the dirty girl she was.

She could feel the heat of his skin when he stepped behind her, not touching her at all, just breathing down her neck – literally. It sent shivers down her spine and she wondered how in the world he could still hold back after the passionate and incredible arousing foreplay. When his fingertips slightly touched her neck, down her spine and actually to her buttcrack her breath hitched. Okay, maybe they should have talked about some things. But he didn’t linger, instead his hand now rested on her hip, the other one between her shoulder blades pushed her upper body towards the bed.

“Put your hands down,” he instructed and she did, braced herself on the bed and ignored the way her legs trembled. Anticipation and arousal mixed with her intoxication and when he suddenly stepped away, breaking every form of physical contact she almost whined. But when she looked over her shoulder and saw him ripping a condom package open she regained some of her patience. Obviously he was trying to prolong the waiting time; she wouldn’t have been able to wait much longer anyway.

“Get onto the bed with one knee,” he instructed and stepped behind her again, hands running up and down her legs. She knelt on the bed on her right knee, the other foot still on the floor. It was strange but he seemed to like it, groaned in appreciation of the display in front of him. She gasped when his fingertips suddenly danced over her folds, stroking and spreading her wetness.

“You like that? Getting ordered around?” he growled and she shook her head.

“Usually not… but you… you are pretty… commanding… for a butler…” She yelped when he suddenly slapped her ass once.

“And you are pretty submissive for such an independent woman,” he said in casual tone. Had he been watching her during the day? Giving orders to caterers and staff, taking care of the small catastrophes that inevitably occurred at important events like that day – she probably had looked as if she was in command. And used to it.

“Like I said… usually not…”

“So you’re making an exception for me?” There was some teasing, a promise in his voice that made her look over her shoulder again. Only to see him standing there, naked, with his rock hard cock covered in a condom, his dark eyes catching her gaze.

“Blame it on the bad wine, but yes, I’m making an exception for you. Now you better make sure it’s worth it…”

With a grin and a raised eyebrow he suddenly lined up and pushed into her, slowly, unhurried. Jazz groaned and clawed at the sheets under her hands, arched her back slightly.

“You won’t… regret it…” he promised hoarsely and Jazz was inclined to believe him. The position was strange but it was easier than actually standing, and the angle felt incredible. She dropped her head onto the mattress, eyes closed, focusing of the sensation of his cock inside of her, the push and pull, the rhythm he created, slow but deep strokes. His hands on her hips he controlled the whole situation and she didn’t mind at all.

They were both grunting and moaning, gasping and panting. The soundtrack of sex. She loved it, got completely lost in it. Giving up control was really nice every once in a while. Just feeling, not thinking. And then he changed the angle slightly, started to fuck her faster, harder, making her scream and sob at the intensity of the pleasure he caused her.

“That’s… how you… like it…?” he panted and she whimpered, trying to nod. It had been too long that she had been desired like this, that a man had simply taken her.

Suddenly he moved, shoved her further onto the bed, on her stomach. With her hips still raised he continued to fuck her, but now one of his hands snaked around her, between her thighs, searching for her clit and rubbing it. Jazz was glad that her face was already buried in the mattress, it muffled her screams and she could grip the sheets tightly. She needed something to anchor her to the ground while she was flying high. The pleasure coursed through her, stars exploded behind her eyes when she reached her climax, shuddered and trembled beneath him.

Alberto slowed down, waited for her to catch her breath before he pulled out and flopped down next to her, gently pushing away some strands of hair sticking to her forehead. She needed a moment before she leaned in and kissed him again.

“How – how do you want to go on?”

“Are you okay to go on?” he asked, still panting. She nodded. Not only okay, she wanted to continue.

“We could also do something else, less tiring for you…” he suggested but she only grinned and straddled him, kissed him deeply and grabbed his cock to sink down on him. He groaned, his hands gripping her thighs tightly.

“You want to be in charge now?” he almost moaned. She grinned cheekily.

“Baby, I’m always in charge, even when I let you think it’s otherwise.” She leaned back, her hands on his legs, her breasts on display for him while she rolled her hips. He pushed himself up, mirroring her position, his hands propped up behind his back. Jazz was almost grinding against him, kept his cock deep inside of her. He wrapped one arm around her, pulled her closer towards him. It was harder to move like this but it felt incredible. Her still swollen and sensitive clit dragged against his pubic bone so she started moving up and down on his cock, eventually slamming down on him so he could hit all her sweet spots.

Jazz was sweating, panting, her legs trembled from the strain, but she felt better than she had in ages, felt alive, soaring, like a goddess. Alberto had his head thrown back, eyes closed, his whole body taut and she knew he was close. So Jazz focused on her own pleasure. Usually it was difficult for her to come a second time, that short after the first climax, but this time it was surprisingly easy.

“Oh my… I… sooo close…” she whimpered and he started bucking his hips, thrusting upwards, pushing her over the edge again before he roared out his own release.

The plopped down on the bed, tired and spent, but incredibly relaxed. After a moment to detangle from each other and for him to get rid of the condom they simply laid there, breathing, enjoying the afterglow. When she cooled off a bit Jazz sat up and smiled tiredly.

“Thanks, that was – definitely necessary.”

“It was my pleasure – and yours, I hope.” He bowed his head slightly, making her chuckle.

“That it was.” With a sigh she got up and started picking up her clothes.

“You don’t want to stay?” He didn’t sound disappointed, just seeking confirmation.

“I have to work tomorrow morning. And so do you, I assume. But you really helped giving this rather annoying day a very satisfying ending.” While she got dressed her got up, kissed her again before he put on some clothes, too.

“It was the same for me.” He took some cigarettes out of the drawer of his bedside table and Jazz raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, sorry. Would you like one, too?” he offered her the box.

“No, thank you. I’m not smoking.” Instead she cupped his cheek and smiled at him. “Your job must be tough. You should try to find something else to help you relax after a hard day.”

He nodded slowly. “I’ll try. Thank you, Miss – Jazz.”

She chuckled lightly. “Thank you, Alberto. Ciao, alla prossima volta.” They both knew there wouldn’t be a next time but he smiled at her, took her hand and kissed her knuckles.

“Arrivederci, Jazz.”


He stared at her. “A pretended date? With sex?” he asked, just to make sure.

“Indeed. That is part of the profiling, although you can of course go without this part. It just helps up to find the perfect match for you.” She nodded and smiled slightly.

He cleared his throat, took hi coffee and a sip before he looked at her again with a serious expression.

“If you would write that report, what would you write?”

Her smile widened. “Don’t worry, it would be very good. Do you still smoke?”

He was startled by her sudden change of topic but nodded. Jazz made a note.

“And do you still like to use sex to get rid of the stress of your job?”

He kept his poise, a perfect butler after all. “It is a good way to decrease some pressure, yes.”

Another note, another smile. “In that case your report could be ready in a few days. You can read it and make comments, but ultimately I am the one to write it, so it will contain what I think about our one night stand back then. You still can schedule another date scenario afterwards if you’re not happy with the report, though.”

He looked at her intently before a small smile played on his lips. “I am sure you will write an honest and convincing report.”

“And I am sure that we can find a potential wife for you in no time. You are a wonderful man.” With that she handed him some forms and the contract.

“Once you fill that out and sign it we can start. We can take care of most things via phone and email. Don’t worry, our security is top notch. If you have questions you can call me any time.”

It should be awkward, they had met during a job, had a one night stand afterwards and now they met again on the job. But Jazz couldn’t feel it, the awkwardness that would be expected. It was nice seeing him again and thinking back to the night they had spent together left her with a nice tingling in the panties, but he wasn’t the one she wanted to take care of it.

It was funny, she had slept with a lot of men and now she only ever wanted one. Her husband. Her smile must have given her away because Alberto stared at her intently before his expression softened.

“You are doing better now, aren’t you?”

Jazz nodded. “I am fantastic. And we will find you someone who makes you feel that way, too.”

“You know, when Jan gave me your number I would never have guessed to see you here.”

“Yeah, I took my maiden name back some time after we met.” And soon she would change her name again. After Miho’s wedding, when they could make it official. She couldn’t wait.

“Well, it was a pleasant surprise after all. Send me the forms and the contracts and I will take care of everything else.”

They said their goodbyes and Jazz sat back down at her desk, but instead of dwelling on her memories she was looking forward to later that night. When she would have a simple dinner with her husband in their shared home. And just like that the tingling in her panties was joined by the butterflies in her tummy.


Perdinci – Oh my god

Piacere – It’s a pleasure.

Parla Alteriano? Benissimo.  – You speak Altarian? Very good!

Parlo solo poco. – I can speak only a little bit.

Ciao, alla prossima volta. – Bye. Until next time.

Arrivederci. – Goodbye.