“Jazz! Hurry up now or I’m leaving without you!” Subaru closed his cuffs, checked his tie in the mirror.
“Not my fault that you hogged the bathroom for that long,” she grumbled and rushed past him, grabbed a pair of earrings to put them on.
“You know how my father can be. We mustn’t be late.”
“We won’t be late and even if, it’s not my fault that you need an eternity for your hair. It only took me ten minutes to get ready.” His nervousness was contagious but not unfounded. Ichiyanagi-san was a strict man, especially when it came to his son. High expectations, fueled by Subaru’s success so far, burdened the relationship between father and son. It also affected Jazz as Subaru’s wife. In the beginning his father was less than pleased, his plans for his son didn’t include some foreigner, especially not without any political influence or money.
Ichiyanagi-san seemed to warm up to her lately, though. Jazz liked to think it was because of her positive influence on Subaru and his life in general, but it was probably something else. Saving his energy for important battles.
“How do I look?” She focused on her husband again, the pondering wouldn’t do her any good anyway.
“Why don’t you wear the green dress?” Subaru took his jacket, grabbed his keys.
“Because we don’t have the time for me to change and I like the red one.” She accepted the coat he offered her, checked her purse one last time.
“I like the green one better but you look great in this, too.” A quick peck on her cheek and they were good to go. One of these days she would conquer the heart of her father in law just like she had conquered the heart of Subaru – with a smile, lots of charm and the patience of a saint. Which she didn’t have.
But this was their last night together before Subaru had to go on a week long business trip, Jazz wanted to get over with the official part and jump to the goodbye session she had in mind.
It was almost midnight when they came back. Jazz kicked her shoes off the moment the door closed behind them, sighed when her aching feet made contact with the fluffy carpet.
“That was a really nice restaurant.”
Subaru took her coat, hummed lowly.
“It would have been nicer if the waiter hadn’t ogled my wife all night.”
Jazz snorted, turned around to face him. “Is that why your mood was so sour in the end?”
“See? That’s why I wanted you to wear the green dress. The neckline is more modest.”
“Oh.” She nodded slowly. “So you don’t like the red one because it’s showing off my body too much?” Her hands followed the lines of her curves and she swayed her hips enticingly.
“You look fabulous in it and you know it. But I’d rather be the only one enjoying this view.” He couldn’t stay grumpy, not with the way Jazz moved her body. So he stepped closer, put his hands on her hips and pulled her against him.
“Let them gawk. In the end you are the one I’m going home with.” Her arms wrapped around his neck she smiled up at him, her body pressed flush against his.
“I just think it’s shameless to drool over another man’s wife while he’s sitting right there.” His hands slid towards her backside, squeezed her butt.
“And I think you are exaggerating but if it’s bothering you so much, how about I take your mind off of things for a while?” Her voice dropped to a low, sultry whisper, she stretched up, on her tiptoes, and brushed her lips over his.
“Are you feeling bad for flirting with him in front of me?” The accusation was mellowed by the smile tugging at his lips.
“I didn’t flirt. You should remember how it looks like when I’m flirting, and if I’m not mistaken you enjoyed it very much last time I did that with you.” Her lips traveled up his neck, nipped here and there.
“Usually I enjoy everything you do with me,” he admitted, tilted his head to capture her lips again.
“Mhm, same.” His tie didn’t put up much resistance when she loosened it and pulled it off him. It ended on the floor, followed by his jacket.
“When do you have to leave tomorrow?” One by one the buttons of his shirt gave way to Jazz’s nimble fingers.
“10 am. Kaiji is picking me up here.” His hands searched for the zipper of her dress, a triumphant grunt marked his success.
“Oh good. That gives me enough time to tire you out properly and for you to sleep afterwards.” Jazz stepped out of her dress, took his hand and tugged him towards their bedroom. They had to make up for a week’s worth of physical affection in advance and that was a challenge she gladly accepted.
The police department was always busy. Special departments were smaller than the general police department, but there was never a break, never a lull.
Miho actually liked it that way, no matter what day or nighttime she came into the office, there was always someone working. There was a picture of her, Goto and Subaru as rookies on her desk, another one of her and Jazz at a party, pulling faces for the photographer.
Her nameplate read “Sergeant Fujiwara”, despite being married for more than five years she never took Goto’s last name.
“Hey, Fujiwara! New case, briefing’s in five!”
She waved at her coworker, grabbed her notepad and the pen Goto gave her for the start of her service in the SAT two years ago and made her way over to huge table in the middle of the office.
A tall man with glasses and a very strict expression waited for the team members to assemble, his gaze zeroed in on Miho when she arrived.
“Captain Ishigami.” She greeted him formally, despite knowing him for years already. He was a stickler for rules and she would know, since he was also Goto’s captain.
“Sergeant. Take a seat, we are starting in three minutes.”
If Goto was there, too, he would have told her in advance so Miho just did as told, opened her notepad and waited for the briefing to start.
“So both of your teams are working together for a case? Wow, how are the odds,” Jazz wondered and took another gyoza from the plate.
“Actually not that low if you think about it. She’s in a special assault team, I’m in Public Safety, there are a lot of common operations.” Goto still waited for his ramen to cool off.
“You spend too much time with your captain.” Miho snatched a gyoza from Jazz, grinned when her friend shot her a glare. “She didn’t mean it literal. No need to actually calculate the odds for this.”
“I just mean, you never worked together since Miho started this new assignment. Is it strange now?” Only vaguely aware of what exactly they did at their jobs Jazz kept her questions superficial, there was a lot of confidentiality when it came to police work after all.
“Not strange so far. We haven’t really worked together yet, just our departments. I guess Captain Ishigami doesn’t approve of distractions at work coming from working with your spouse anyway, so we won’t exactly go on shared missions.” Finally the food had the right temperature for Goto so he grabbed his chopsticks and dug in.
“So no hanky-panky at work?”
Goto choked on his noodles, living with Miho should have prepared him for direct questions but hearing them from Jazz still made him uncomfortable.
“Never say never,” Miho piped up, angled for another gyoza but wasn’t fast enough.
“Order some for yourself next time,” Jazz advised while chewing on the last dumpling.
“How long is Ichiyanagi away this time?” Goto ignored the food related quarrel, looked at Jazz for an answer.
“Just until Friday. Three more days, no big deal.”
“And what are you doing those three days?”
“Work, mostly. Deep cleaning the apartment. Sorting through some old stuff. You know, keeping myself busy.”
Goto’s brow furrowed but Jazz just shrugged.
“Deep cleaning in a house that Ichiyanagi lives in? Does that even make sense?”
Jazz laughed at his question, but he wasn’t wrong. Subaru really was a cleaning maniac of sorts.
“Well, there might not be dust or dirt, but someone has no clue how to keep their paperwork organised. I thought about getting everything ready for the taxes. Maybe even organise his closet. Some of his clothes are not fit to be worn out of the house anymore.”
“The mighty Ichiyanagi, so he does have a weakness after all.” With Jazz distracted Miho launched an attack on her ramen toppings, swiped a fried shrimp, much to Jazz’s indignation.
“Hey! Your husband is sitting right there, why don’t you steal his food?”
“Because he has the permission to wear and use a gun. You really think I’m messing with him?”
In retaliation Jazz grabbed Miho’s sake cup and downed it.
“If they kick us out of another ramen place I won’t ever take the both of you out for dinner again,” Goto warned, didn’t even flinch when Miho stole a mushroom from his bowl.
“Then we are just gonna take each other out, what do you say?”
“You know I’d take you out whenever you feel like it,” Jazz confirmed, clinked her sake cup against Miho’s and with that they continued eating and chatting until it was time to go home.
“Good job today.” Jazz bowed to her team, clapped a few times. “You better go home now before you get locked in over night.” There was a big birthday party planned for the next day, but for now all the preparations were done.
“Liana! Do you have a second?”
While the rest of the staff left Liana waited for Jazz who locked up and smiled at her assistant. “Later tonight I’m meeting with a friend for a drink or two. You wanna come, too?”
They had worked together for several months already, chatted during breaks and after events, but not usually spent time with each other outside of work.
“What about work tomorrow?” Liana asked, looked back at the just finished location.
“We won’t get wasted, just have a drink or two. We will be back home and in bed way before midnight. It’s not even fancy. I’m going to take a dip in the public bath on my way back home, just change into something comfortable and hop over to this nice little bar we know. Snacks, drinks, girls’ talk.”
“Are you sure your friend will be okay with it? I don’t want to impose.”
Jazz reached into her purse, took out a small business card. “You wouldn’t. I just invited you. And I asked Miho in advance, she said she wants to meet you anyway. Probably will try to make you spill some juicy work stories.” Quickly she scribbled some instructions on the card, handed it to Liana. “Just think about it. You don’t have to, but I guess it would be fun.”
Liana turned the card in her hand, read the name of the bar and nodded slowly. “Le Renard Noir? Sounds good. See you later, then, I guess.”
They parted ways and true to her words, Jazz stopped a small public bath on her way home. Whenever Subaru was away she went to a public bath at least once. Not that he was against it, he just didn’t care much about bathing in company. Jazz enjoyed the space, their own bathroom lacked a big tub and she just loved to sink into hot water every now and then until only her nose was still showing. Especially after a long day at work it was a blessing and one of the few things she looked forward to.
Japanese bathing culture was different from what Jazz knew from home, but since there were separated baths for men and women she didn’t mind going in naked. After a long soak she stepped back out on the street, her skin still flushed, the damp hair piled up on her head, secured with a scrunchie. Her high heels were stashed in her bag, the ballerina flats on her feet so much more comfortable.
She checked her purse for her keys, rummaged through the depths of her bag.
“Hey, you dropped this.”
“Oh, thanks.” With a polite smile she looked up, from the pack of tissues someone held towards her to the face of the helpful person.
“Oh, it’s you again.” Grey eyes widened in surprise, matched Jazz’s. Mr. Ponytail grinned, motioned towards the public bath.
“Don’t tell me there’s a party going on in there, too.”
“I let you know, there’s a party wherever I am.”
His laughter was loud, bounced off the buildings around them.
“Yeah, I can see that.” He reached into his jacket, came back with a box of cigarettes. “You want one?”
“No thanks, never got the appeal of it.”
“Oh. Well…” He shrugged, put the box back again.
Jazz shifted from one foot to the other.
“Okay, it was nice meeting you again but-”
“Have you always been this short?”
She blinked up at him, her brain needed a moment to catch up. “Um, no. At work I’m usually taller, but you know, in my free time I like to shrink a bit. The water must have been too hot.” She motioned towards the bath behind her.
“Huh. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.” He scratched his goatee, looked down at her feet.
“Like smoking?” Her question drew his attention back to her face, the teasing smile on her lips.
“Nah, that’s not a hobby. Just a bad habit I can’t kick.”
“Too bad. There’s so much better things to do with hands and lips.” She winked at him, adjusted her bag. “I’m sorry, I must really go now. Got a date later. See you soon, I hope.”
“Oh, yeah. Have fun at your – date.” He reached for his cigarettes again, this time actually took one out and put it between his lips.
Jazz lazily waved at him over her shoulder, grinned on the whole way home.
The bar wasn’t too crowded, but Jazz was still glad she had called and gotten them a table. Miho was already waiting, a glass in front of her.
“Hey, have you been here long already?”
“No, just long enough to order and take a sip. I got you a Gin and Tonic.”
“Great!” Jazz plopped down, relaxed in her seat. “Liana will probably come, too. You’ll like her, she has a very practical mindset.”
“From what you told me about her so far I’m pretty sure we’ll get along just fine.” They clinked glasses, Jazz strained her eyes to read the menu written on a blackboard next to the bar counter.
“Yummy, it’s gonna be katsudon today.”
“You are so chipper, did something good happen?” Miho narrowed her eyes at her friend who batted her lashes innocently.
“Dunno what you mean.” She motioned for the owner who nodded, grabbed a notepad and trudged towards them.
“Oh god, you didn’t just have phone sex with Ichiyanagi, did you?”
“Shhhh!” Frantically Jazz shook her head, smiled at the bar owner.
“Hey, Kashibawara-san, how are you doing?”
“Great!” The man tapped his pen against the notepad. “How about you?”
“I’m fine. Would be much better with a bowl of katsudon, though.” She tilted her head, put on her trademark innocent smile, watched him laugh.
“Sure thing, buttercup. And what else should it be for your grumpy friend?”
“I’m not grumpy, just not as stupidly cheerful as the Lil’ Miss Sunshine here.” Miho downed her drink, handed him the glass. “Another one of those and some chicken. Oh, and a bowl of soba.”
“Coming right up.”
Jazz waited until he was gone before she turned to Miho again. “Hubby’s coming back tomorrow night, so that should be reason enough for me to be happy.”
“It’s still creepy when you casually refer to him as ‘hubby’. I bet he just got the shivers and has no clue why.”
Jazz snorted, took a sip of her drink. “You always act as if he’s the devil but I know that you actually consider him a friend, so save your breath. Oh, there’s Liana!” Wildly waving Jazz jumped up, spilled a bit of her drink.
“Hi. Sorry for being late.”
“No, it’s fine, it’s fine. It’s not work after all. Come, have a seat.” Casually she grabbed a napkin, wiped at her shirt and the table, showed Liana a seat before she got back into her own.
“So, what’s your poison? The cocktails are good here and so is the beer. Not sure about the wine, though.”
“Can I get a margarita?”
Kishibawara came over with a tray, just in time to hear Liana’s order.
“No problem. You want something to eat, too?”
She squinted in the direction of the menu while Kishibawara served food and drinks.
“The soba looks good. Could I get a bowl of that?”
“Yep, coming right up.” He slinked away again, followed by three pairs of eyes.
“Nice little bar,” Liana said, still looking around.
“Yeah, we come here every now and then. Mostly just us girls, without the husbands.”
Liana’s listened to Jazz’s chatter, kept checking out the bar. “Because of the hot guys here?”
“What hot guys?” Miho raised her eyebrow, looked over her right shoulder, then her left. “The owner is nice, but a bit dorky.”
“The other time he had a karaoke battle with a regular. It was actually hilarious, but neither of them could sing.”
The man in question came back with Liana’s order, asked if there was anything else he could do for the ladies and left when there wasn’t.
“Here’s to us and girls’ nights out,” Jazz announced, raised her glass.
“And to booze!” Miho’s glass met Jazz’s with a light clink.
“And to food?” Liana asked, brought her glass up, too.
“Oh, you won’t believe who I ran into earlier today.” Jazz took her chopsticks, sorted through her bowl. The onions to one side, the pork cutlet to the other.
“Who?” Miho asked, fulfilling her duties as best friend/cue supplier.
“The ponytail guy. Met him in front of the public bath.”
“The guest who helped you with that drunk a while back?” Liana let her chopsticks sink, narrowed her eyes at Jazz. “Wasn’t he on that other party, too? He’s not stalking you, is he?”
Miho’s head shot up, the same suspicious expression Liana was wearing on her face.
“No one is stalking anyone, we only met like – three times now. Can’t forge a criminal case out of that yet, can ya? Nah, we just happen to live in the same city.”
The pork cutlet was delicious, Jazz munched on it and smiled.
“You say you met him in front of the bath. Was he wearing a yukata?” Miho waggled her eyebrows, snatched a piece of pork cutlet.
“Your obsession with male chests is duly noted, but no, he wore a shirt and pants. Not that I paid much attention to his outfit, I was busy checking if mine was okay.”
“You’re married to Ichiyanagi, no wonder you don’t have a thing for male chests,” Miho dryly remarked, laughed when Jazz threatened to poke her with the chopsticks.
“Don’t pay any attention to Miho, she’s just being her usual mean self.”
“Have you met her husband, Liana?” Choosing to ignore Jazz Miho turned to the new arrival in their group.
“I did. He picked her up from work a few times. A very pleasant man.”
Miho snorted. “I see, so you don’t really know him yet.”
“Hey, I married that man! Stop badmouthing him when he’s not around to defend himself.” This time Jazz reached over and took a piece of Miho’s chicken.
“Why don’t you defend him? Could be entertaining.”
Jazz shrugged. “Nah, he’s all grown up, he can fight his own battles.”
They ate and drank, chatted about everything and anything and after two hours Liana asked for her bill and called it a night.
“Thanks, I had lots of fun tonight. Not even sure when I went out the last time.”
“Not that much of a party animal?” Miho asked, looking for her wallet in her purse.
“No, it’s more like my ex got our friends after the divorce and I got the collection of vintage tea cups. Unfortunately it’s a bit like in the 60s here. People think a divorce is contagious, married couples avoid me in case my bad single vibes could ruin their happiness.”
“Wow, that’s some very old-fashioned love superstition.” Jazz handed Kashiwabara some money and smiled at him.
“Yeah, that’s lame. Well, if you don’t get annoyed by us being all married and domestic-” At this point Jazz interrupted Miho’s speech with a loud ‘Ha!’
“You’re not domestic at all.” Unfazed by Miho’s glare Jazz grabbed her jacket and put it on.
“Hey, I can make some great pancakes!”
“Doesn’t mean you’re what we would call a perfect housewife.”
“Anyway, I’m not afraid you’ll jinx us so how about we do this more often? Go out, have some drinks and good food?”
Liana nodded, waited for the others to get ready. “Sounds good.”
“Great, but for now we better go home. We got work tomorrow,” Jazz reminded them, waved at the bar owner and followed Miho outside. They parted ways, all three of them going into different directions.
The whole evening Jazz hadn’t stopped smiling.