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.”


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: 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.


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…


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.


No matter how long she stared at them, she could not erase the blood.

They were empty.


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 Out of Office Drama: Lots of People ‘Past Meets Present’

Miho drove north east out of Tokyo along the number 6, before finally being instructed to turn east onto the 354 through the farmland of Kasumigaura. While she did so, Jazz flew into action.

Her first call was to Nomura, who fed the information immediately down to Second Unit, where Kyobashi set about working his magic to get a GPS trace on Miho’s phone – if she had her location settings on, he could hack her position. Of course Jazz wanted to let Goto know, but he was undercover and out of contact, so that only left Subaru.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Jazz said the moment he picked up.

“Miss Mann?” he responded. “I’m wor…”

“Miho’s gone AWOL,” Jazz declared flatly.

For a second there was silence.

“Where?” he managed finally.

“If I knew that I’d be there right now dragging her stupid ass out of trouble,” Jazz snapped, even though her anger was really aimed at whoever had manipulated Miho so effectively.

“Okay okay,” he rushed, and Jazz could hear he was moving.

“She left a note saying the bad guys have Goto’s brother Issei,” Jazz added, trying to temper her tone. “And since Goto is out of touch, of course she had to get all cavalier and charge off to save him.”

“It might not be that simple,” Subaru said slowly. “I assume you’ve called Detective Kyobashi.”

“Deputy Chief Nomura has all of Second Unit mobilising,” Jazz replied. “He said as soon as they get a fix on her phone, they’ll move out.”

“I’m going with them,” Subaru declared. “I’ll call Nomura from my car.”

“Subaru,” Jazz dropped, sitting there in her office with the phone crushed in her grip – helpless.

“Don’t worry, I’ll bring them both back safely,” he answered before she asked – he knew Miho and Jazz were partners in crime, may as well have been sisters. “If I don’t, Goto will kill me.”

“Not if I kill you first,” Jazz murmured, but she didn’t really mean it, she was just so incredibly frustrated all she could do was wait.


The car tyres crunched in the gravel as Miho pulled in through rusted gates and began along a driveway. She’d been so full of urgency, of heroic bravado when she left, but the closer she drew to the small weathered farmhouse, the more dread crept over her.

In her mind she’d turned over events in her life she had left behind in another country. The policeman husband, the undercover operation he went missing on, and the call she’d received telling her he’d been killed in the line of duty. She had struggled to fill the hollowed out shell of her life with the quest for justice, to pester and dig and put herself places she had no right being just to expose the ones who had betrayed him.

Then this voice on the other end of a phone line – it was his, she was sure of it, or some electronically produced replication designed to make her think it was. But the more she pondered that angle, the more she had to wonder who would go to such a length? What did they want from her that so much effort had been put into trying to distance her from the man she loved?

This no longer seemed like the work of a besotted client.

When she pressed against the brake and the car came to a stop, she just sat there.

“What am I supposed to do no…” she whispered to herself, but swallowed her words when a figure emerged onto the veranda.

It was not Daisetsu.

He was tall, solid, a mean looking thug fitting every cliché, and he was not Japanese.

“Get out of the car,” he ordered in English as he approached, and Miho fumbled with one hand for her seatbelt, and the other to tuck her phone between the seat and console out of sight.

Shakily she exited the car, just as the man reached her, but he made no physical contact.

“Inside,” he ordered, eyeing her up and down with contempt.

Withholding all the obvious questions for the moment, Miho nodded and followed, her fists balled tightly.

Inside was lit by old fittings, natural light inhibited by board nailed over the windows. There was nothing around the farm within screaming distance, so all Miho could do was hope someone had found her sticky-note and was on their way with backup.

Then there was Issei, tied to a chair in the middle of a sparsely furnished lounge room: exhaustion in his eyes punctuated by the shining bruise on his cheek.

“Why the hell did you come?” he growled as she rushed to him, crouching to examine him for other injuries.

“You’re welcome,” she huffed under her breath. “You hurt anywhere else? Have you eaten? Had water?”

“Did you always care so much for strangers?” came a question behind her, and though Miho didn’t look back, Issei’s jaw tightened and his chin lifted.

Not an electronic reproduction.

And now the lump in her throat was far too large to swallow – she couldn’t find words.

“Don’t touch her,” Issei growled, and in his voice, Miho heard Seiji’s.

“You, I don’t need anymore,” Daisetsu pointed out casually, his voice approaching Miho’s still turned back. “So I’d avoid any unnecessary antagonising.”

Laboriously, Miho pushed herself to her feet.

There was no way to prepare her for this, so she decided to just go for it and turn, speaking as she did.

“You’ve hurt him enou…” she started, but the moment she laid eyes on him, words failed and her sentence ended in a breathy gasp.

“That’s a pretty face,” Daisetsu smiled.

It was not a smile she remembered him ever wearing.

“No kiss for your husband?” he prompted.

“You’re not my husband,” she told him plainly, though bile threatened to follow her statement. “I… I buried my husband years ago.”

“Of course you were meant to believe that,” he nodded slowly, extending a hand toward her.

Instantly she shuffled back, narrowly avoiding standing on Issei’s foot in the process.

“What is this… Daisetsu?” she exhaled, this time failing at stepping back around Issei and tripping like an idiot.

Daisetsu caught her wrist, and though she was not small, he held her suspended just shy of the floor.

“Exposition?” he queried, peering down at her, satisfied and sneering at her obvious confusion. “Shall I tell you everything like a cheesy Bond villain?”

“Let me go,” she hissed, scrambling to her feet, but he did not release her.

“Get off her!” Issei barked, and for his trouble, one of the other two men in the room connected a solid punch with the side of his head.

“Stop it!” Miho shrieked, pulling against Daisetsu’s hold.

“Do you have any idea, how long I’ve been watching you?” Daisetsu growled, pushing her further away from Issei. “How many times I watched you enter another man’s, another woman’s bed? How galling that was?”

“But you’re dead!” she shouted, tears finally in her eyes. “I dug a hole for you, mourned you, crusaded for you, and it destroyed my life!”

“And so why do you think I’ve come for you now?” he smirked, shoving her against the edge of a couch so hard she flopped back down.

“Sure as hell isn’t love,” she spat, glaring hotly through the other side of her mounting fear, but pressed herself back against the cushions when he leaned down and placed one hand either side of her head on the backrest.

“That’s hurtful,” he exhaled into her face, and Miho bit her lips for just a second, struggling with the impulse and the potential consequences of her desire to…

“No, this, is going to be painful,” she grated, and kicked up into his groin as hard as she could.

At the very least, coming back from the dead deserved that much.

Whatever Daisetsu’s motives, however tough he was, there was simply no shrugging off a blow like that. Groaning, he fell forward on her, and she wriggled furiously to slide onto the floor, but that was as far as she got before she was wrenched to her feet by one of the other men.

“I want, the locket,” Daisetsu growled through his severe discomfort.

“You want what?” she balked, at least in some small part satisfied at how difficult it seemed for him to roll over and sit.

“The locket,” he repeated, eyes watering beyond his control. “The one I gave you on our second anniversary – heart shaped.”

“You’re after me because of a heart shaped locket?” Miho chortled. “Who the fuck do I look like – Sailormoon?”

“I let you be, all this time,” he responded, rasping, “out of deference to your efforts to avenge me, pointless as that was…”

“You’re going to break my arm,” Miho grimaced, but the man holding both her arms behind her did not relax his grip.

“… where is the locket?” Daisetsu persisted.

“Why? Sentimental?” she retorted, despite how ill-advised goading him seemed.

“Think a man like me does anything without an insurance policy?” Daisetsu cringed, drawing himself slowly forward and hazarding to shift his weight to his feet.

“Insurance, love, same thing right?” she sniffed, and she was sure she heard her shoulder pop a little when her captor gave her a solid shake.

“You might not believe me now, Miho, but I have always loved you,” he told her, slow to reapproach, perhaps a little more cautious.

“Sending photos to my in-laws and taking my brother hostage? Oh yeah that’s lo…”

“He isn’t your brother,” Daisetsu countered coldly, glowering as he drew within arm’s reach again. “And the man you think you’re engaged to, not your husband.”

Yet,” she snapped defiantly. “You’re dead, and even if you’re not, all this? You’re dead to me.”

“Well that’s a problem,” he pointed out, some of the pain in his expression replaced by smugness. “Because whether you like it or not, you’re my wife. You’re mine.”

“No,” Miho disagreed stubbornly. “You’re the asshole who gave up the right to call me wife. That right belongs to Seiji now.”

“And I suppose you know him as well as you thought you knew me?” he posed, and at this Miho flinched. “Right now, are you so sure he’s on an investigation, not lining his pockets with dirty money and fucking skeezy whores?”

“My brother would never treat someone he loved like a possession,” Issei proclaimed, finally, slowly lifting his head. “And he would never betray them.”

“Is that right?” Daisetsu sniffed, and though the following affirmation didn’t come from Goto himself, it was the next best man.

“Of course he wouldn’t,” Subaru scoffed, appearing under one of the internal doorframes. “Back door’s open by the way.”

This flippant last comment was what threw the whole situation into chaos.

Bad guys reached for concealed firearms as Subaru ducked back out of sight, while Daisetsu took Miho from his compatriot and hissed into her ear.

“Whatever you did, it was a mistake,” he told her darkly, a gun in his free hand, a gun he turned and aimed at Issei.

“Don’t you fucking dare!” Miho shrieked, grabbing his wrist with both hands and pulling back, wood splintering around them as boards were wrenched away from windows.

Together they fell to the floor, Miho using her whole body to lock Daisetsu down, ironically, in part using methods he had taught her so many years ago.

While Tennoji crashed in through a grimy skylight, nearly crushing his foe beneath, and Kyobashi and Hanai bursting in from either end, Miho wrapped her legs around Daisetsu as they rolled on the floor and continued to wrestle for control of the gun.

“Let go, Miho!” he roared, and she narrowed avoided being head-butted.

“You don’t get to ruin my life again!” she gasped, though this was not really a battle she could win.

Hurry up Subaru!

As the other bad guys got their well-deserved beat-down, Daisetsu gained greater control over the gun. In sheer desperation, Miho wrenched her hands down and sandwiched the weapon between their bodies.

Subaru re-emerged from what looked like the kitchen, but on his path to the fray was tackled and sent crashing through a dry plaster wall.

Issei watched the struggle, completely helpless. Maybe ten, fifteen seconds worth.

This woman who knew his secret, who he had felt so much venom for when he’d seen her in those photos with Subaru – she’d come because of him – maybe not to rescue him per se, but knowing it was a trap, knowing it would be dangerous, she walked right into this man’s arms because of him.


The gun discharged.



“Miho!” Issei yelled, pulling against the ropes that held him. “Subaru!”

But Subaru was already frantically scampering along the floor, fingers finding little purchase in threadbare carpet until he took Miho’s shoulders and wrenched her up into his lap, eyes on her enemy as he did.

And there was blood on her blouse, a patch of it over her right breast.

“Subaru?!” Issei questioned urgently, trying to move his chair closer.

“I’m all right,” Miho whispered tearily, squirming further onto Subaru’s lap until he could properly wrap one arm around her, and he carefully nudged the gun from Daisetsu’s slack fingers with the other – best not to add his prints.

Issei’s body slumped with relief – this was not the first time he’d seen Miho in Subaru’s lap, but those lewd images were now the furthest thing from his mind.

“Ichiyanagi!” came Kirisawa’s voice, and he appeared, followed by Eiki.

“Clear!” Subaru called. “How far away is the ambulance?”

“She hurt?” Kirisawa scowled, while Eiki moved to untie Issei.

“I’m fine,” she murmured, though she obviously wasn’t fine.

Still, she lifted her face from Subaru’s now moist shoulder, and shuffled over to Issei, who once untied, she hugged whether he liked it or not.

“Seiji would have killed me if you got hurt because of me,” he told her sternly, but his voice was thick with emotion.

“He was my dead husband,” she sob-snorted – such a ridiculous sentence.

This time, she’d been the one to kill him.

“How’d that happen?” Kirisawa enquired at Subaru’s shoulder, looking down at Daisetsu.

“He was going to shoot me,” Issei answered instead, still holding Miho tightly – and she just let him. “Miho grabbed him, they fought and the gun went off… it could have been her.”

And he squeezed her a little tighter.

“Okay, let’s get you two outside,” Kirisawa ordered, and with Subaru hovering, Miho and Issei headed outside.

The rest of Daisetsu’s compatriots were in cuffs under Tennoji and Kyobashi’s careful eye, but the latter looked visibly relieved when Miho emerged of her own volition.

“Talk about giving us a heart attack,” he grumbled as she moved past him toward one of their cars. “Now you’re going to have to deal with Jazz.”

This made Miho’s tears run a little faster – not because she was afraid of Jazz’s wrath – though she could be scary – but because Jazz must have been worried sick.

“Subaru?” she croaked. “Can I borrow your phone? Mine’s still in the blue car.”

“Sure,” he smiled, digging it out and handing it over.

With Issei sitting just on the other side of the open passenger door of Subaru’s car, Miho half out the back seat, she called Jazz’s number.

“Subaru?!” Jazz’s voice blared after maybe just half a ring cycle. “Is she okay?”

“My hearing might not be after that,” Miho muttered, but the sound of Jazz’s voice made her cry harder, so all she could manage next came out as a squeak. “I’m okay. Issei’s okay.”

“Is she okay?” Miho faintly heard in the background – Kuni’s voice, and Jazz answered through her own relieved tears.

“She’s okay.”

Okay was a bit of an overstatement really, but it was that term people used when things weren’t dire, but weren’t peachy either, a nowhere term that didn’t mean you were fine, just… existing. Which was one better than Daisetsu.

“I killed him, Jazz,” Miho sobbed, her hands trembling, her body shuddering as adrenaline wore off and shock came creeping.

“Killed? Killed who?”

“Daisetsu,” Miho answered, but couldn’t say much more, her voice shaking too much.

“Gimme that,” Subaru huffed, taking the phone from Miho as an ambulance rolled up the driveway. “We’ll be back after these two have been checked out at the hospital,” he told Jazz, and Miho didn’t hear the rest of the conversation.

“Miho?” Issei probed, standing and moving around the door.

In truth, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him not to join her in crying, but he could hardly do that in front of her, in front of Subaru. He felt guilty for getting so easily jumped and used as bait, ashamed it had forced Miho to put herself at risk, and incredibly embarrassed he’d needed rescuing, that Subaru had seen him like that.

Grimacing he lowered himself to his knees on the grass in front of Miho and took her hands, looking up into her flushed, mascara-ribboned cheeks and overspilling hazel eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he apologised soberly. “For this, for how I reacted, for the things I said – it was terrible of me, when you were being stalked by that piece of shit, selfish and childish to act like you’d done me wrong when you hadn’t – and I’m sorry.”

Miho paused mid sob, but she didn’t hold it long before dissolving again and sliding back into his arms.

“You’re supposed to cry less when a man comforts you, you know?” he murmured, enveloping her though his arms hurt from being tied behind him for days. “I guess, I’m no substitute for my brother.”


Though Miho wasn’t really physically injured, she rode with Issei to the nearest metropolitan hospital in the ambulance, and Subaru followed in his car, leaving Kirisawa and the rest of Second Unit to clean up. Statements would need taking, sooner rather than later, but Kyobashi said he’d come by MJS in the late afternoon to get that sorted.

While she waited for Issei’s examination to finish, Miho sat with her head resting against Subaru’s shoulder. The tears had stopped, and now her body felt exhausted and heavy. Her mind, however, played over those few frenzied seconds.

There was still so much she didn’t understand, didn’t know. Where had Daisetsu been all this time? He’d faked his death, obviously, but why? She had to wonder if the man she’d married had always been the criminal he’d presented himself as in this second iteration, and if so…

How did I not see it?

Her heart ached for all she had lost pursuing justice for him. He had had kidnapped, assaulted, threatened and attempted murder, all before her very eyes.

“I’m such a fool,” she sighed, fighting tears again, when Subaru gave her a bit of a nudge.

“You scared the shit out of me, you know?” he grumbled, but took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Though, I get why. Was pretty brave.”

It was on the tip of his tongue, Seiji would be impressed, but he didn’t say it for a number of reasons. One, Goto was going to be beside himself when he learned all this went down and he wasn’t there to protect or rescue his soon to be wife. And two, it was going to make Miho think about how Goto wasn’t there to hold her – assuming she wasn’t already.

Of course she was.

“I’m sorry for worrying everyone,” she admitted. “But it was just… an impossible choice.”

“Yeah I get it,” he nodded. “Jazz is still going to chew you out though.”

“I guess that makes you good cop?” she managed, a weak smile, just a ghost, but it was there – briefly. “You are, good cop, saving Issei and I like that.”

“Well I’d like to take the credit, but your BFF is the one who called Nomura, and everyone else – I’m surprised she didn’t call the army,” he smirked.

“She knows I was an assassin in a past… life…” Miho began, then slowed down as what she was saying sank in. “This life too… I guess.”

“Nah, assassins take life intentionally. You? The way Issei tells it, you jumped in to protect him. Totally different.”

“Maybe,” she sighed, wanting to close her eyes, but at the same time knowing she’d see things she didn’t want to. “You should go see if he’s okay.”

“As if I’m letting you out of my sight,” he snorted.

“Don’t be like that,” she grumbled. “Issei went through much worse than me, and he’s taken a blow to his pride. His hero, the man he wants to be, just had to rescue him.”

“Well… even so, I’m not leaving you,” he huffed.

“Daisetsu is dead,” she stated crisply, staring at him with swollen eyes. “He can’t hurt me anymore, the danger is passed, so go and check on Issei.”

“Jeez, no need to look so scary,” he complained, but didn’t look upset. “But don’t you dare move. If I come back and you’re gone I will keel over.”

It made her happy he cared so much, and she tried to smile this feeling as best she could.

Reluctantly he left her in the waiting room, staff, visitors and other patients wandering around her. It was an oddly calming symphony of footfalls against linoleum, murmuring voices, pens clicking and distant beeping equipment that kept more tears at bay.

There was no fear now, but in its place…

Guilt, no matter how unjustified.


She’d had no shortage of arms around her, but the ones she wanted were she knew not where, and would return she knew not when. But she had to be the wife of a man whose job it was to protect all the people of Japan, not just her.

No more crying.


Aaaaand that worked out really well, because the moment she set foot in the MJS office Jazz flung her arms around Miho and very nearly squished the life from her. Rose and H followed: a group hug of epic proportions.

“Go ahead kid,” Subaru smirked, motioning to Izumi. “Join in.”

“Nah,” he sniffled quietly. “I think I’ll just leave them to it.”

“You?” he asked Kuni, who stood on his other side.

“Do I look like I have a death-wish?” he responded wryly.

“What are you going to do?” Subaru then asked Issei, who’d come with them.

“I’ve got a bunch of lectures to catch up on,” Issei replied, feeling a bit awkward.

“You should take a least few days, rest up,” Subaru suggested. “You got put through the wringer.”

“Would you?” Issei queried, forcing himself to look into Subaru’s eyes. “Would you take time off?”

“Ha, you got me, I probably wouldn’t,” Subaru laughed. “But still, you should.”

“I can handle it,” Issei frowned.

He knew Subaru wasn’t suggesting he was weak, but it still ruffled his already well ruffled feathers.

“Hey,” Subaru frowned, placing a hand lightly on Issei’s shoulder. “I know you feel bad, maybe even guilty, but both you and Miho are alive, and right now she could do with some extra support, what with your brother off doing who knows what.”

“Heh, she’s got you for that,” Issei exhaled, unable to hold back a blush entirely – Subaru’s hand was broad and warm.

“Yeah maybe, but she’s pretty much your sister now. Protecting someone is more than just making sure their body is okay. You, her, there are going to be some pretty difficult mental and emotional scars to work through. She’s a tough cookie, but she likes to hide the negative stuff. You have to take care of that too.”

Issei nodded along, absorbing the impromptu lesson.

“And you know,” Subaru shrugged. “If you need to talk, you can always hit me up.”

Issei looked at the floor, then over at the still hugging mass of female bodies, then back at the floor.

“Don’t ever let pride get in the way of protecting someone,” Subaru said more seriously, though his voice seemed to drift slowly to Issei’s ears. “Especially not yourself.”

“Then… I’ll call… sometime,” Issei said finally, fashioning a reserved smile.

“Guys?” Miho interrupted, casting a sideways glance at Issei, then Kuni, then she looked to Subaru. “Do you think we could get Kyobashi to meet us at home to take our statements? I need to find something.”

“I don’t think he’ll have an issue with that,” Subaru shrugged. “The both of you could use a shower and a change of clothes anyway.”

“Ahh, I’m coming too,” Jazz declared most adamantly, shooting Kuni a very brief but genuinely apologetic look.

He responded with a smile and the raising of his hands in an I wouldn’t dare object kind of gesture.

Linking arms with Miho, Jazz then pulled Miho back toward the doors, and with a bit of a sheepish look, Subaru shrugged and he and Issei followed.


The first thing Subaru did when they arrived at Goto’s, was demand he be let in first just in case, and though it was clear, this time, that Daisetsu was dead, no one argued. The second thing he did, was make tea. Miho, however, with her shorter, blonder shadow, headed for the bedroom.

“What are you looking for?” Jazz asked when Miho didn’t go for the wardrobe or bathroom, but rather pulled a small pewter box from the bedside table and sat.

“Daisetsu,” Miho answered idly, lifting the hinged lid and fishing around within. “He wanted a locket he gave me years ago, for an anniversary.”

Between her fingers she lifted a fine, yellow gold chain, from which hung a heart shaped locket about as big as a man’s thumb-pad, with a diamond set in the middle. And she nearly dropped it when Jazz flopped down beside her.

“All this, for that?” she scowled, watching as Miho opened it to reveal a picture of her and Daisetsu smiling, cheeks pressed together.

“Doubt it,” Miho frowned, digging the picture out carelessly to find a piece of plastic behind it.

And behind that, something small, rectangular, and sealed in a film of cling wrap.

“No way,” Jazz blinked as Miho plucked it free, setting the micro SD on her palm.

“He said it was insurance,” Miho recalled quietly, leaving it wrapped.

“Kyobashi is going to have a field day with that,” Jazz noted, then looked into Miho’s face. “You are going to give it to him right?”

“Yeah,” Miho nodded – no hesitation. “Whatever is on here is Daisetsu’s dirty business, and I’m done with him.”

After giving Subaru the micro SD, Miho took her shower.

Alone, though Jazz did ask if she’d be all right alone.

Being in Goto’s apartment did make Miho feel safe, but he was both all around her and glaringly absent.

There was no timeline for his return, and she told herself she would not call Ishigami, she wouldn’t ask.

I know I said I wouldn’t cry…

But in the shower it’s not like one could tell water from tears anyway.


That night, statements were taken, and when Kyobashi left he took Daisetsu’s micro SD and the locket with him, but left Domo-kun in lieu. Eventually Subaru curled up on the couch, while Issei stretched out on an air mattress on the floor not too far away. Miho and Jazz, Domo-kun between them, finally went to bed.

That ceiling was so familiar to Miho, but now it seemed Daisetsu stared down at her from it. Not accusing. Not glaring. Just staring and leaving his thoughts entirely up to Miho’s imagination.

“Goto’ll be back soon,” Jazz told, her snuggling closer.

“You want him to join in huh?” Miho sniffed, dragging her mind back to the bed.

And the gutter.

“I know what you’re like,” Jazz snickered, giving Miho’s side a pinch. “But there’s no way you’d share him.”

“Mhm, guess you’re right,” Miho smiled, and closed her eyes.


Days seemed to stretch out, remained in form but dragged – each second’s tick of the clock a lifespan though Miho tried to fill her time with as much activity as possible.

The danger had passed and so she didn’t need a constant chaperone, not that that stopped Jazz, Rose and H from checking she was still in the office every other minute and scuttling to follow when she dared venture out for coffee. Even Issei came by, every lunch time with food for them to share, and insisted he stay with her at his brother’s apartment in place of Subaru who needed to swap to night shifts.

It took some serious convincing to get Jazz to go home to Kuni, but after three days and no lesbian action, Miho kicked her out of bed. And you know, she felt bad the newlyweds were separated – she wasn’t married to Goto yet, but she was experiencing how hard being away from the she loved was… for a second time.

The cover of her mobile phone was fading from how she held it nearly all the time, her thumb swiping over the back over and over again in nervous, aching anticipation. It took all her willpower not to call Ishigami… not to call Ishigami… not to call Ishigami… just to get reassurance he knew Goto was still alive at least, to ask when he was coming home.

“You’re going to wear a hole in that thing,” Issei told her from over the lip of his bento, sitting in Miho’s MJS office as was now his habit.

“Sorry?” she frowned, focusing back in on him, noticing her chopsticks poised in the air above her own meal.

“Would it be so bad if you called his boss?” Issei asked.

“If I did that, it would undermine Seiji’s work, the risks he takes, his purpose,” Miho sighed, conveying how much she would like to, but couldn’t. “You’re going to be in the same position one day you know, responsibility for far more than just one person, or your family. I understand the job, and as his partner I just have to accept it, and support him by not making life more difficult than it needs to be.”

“I guess you really are the right woman for him,” Issei smiled warmly, perhaps even affectionately.

Suddenly, there was this silver lining to what they’d endured – Miho now had an actual brother.

“You’d want to hope s…” Miho chuckled.

“Where is she?” came a voice faint through the wall, and suddenly Miho’s spine straightened.

“She’s just…” Izumi began in reply, but Miho’s office door had already opened dramatically under the imperative force of Seiji’s palm.

Gravity pulled Miho’s lunch back to the coffee table in front of her, chopsticks, phone, set down with excruciating slowness as she stared unblinking at her unceremonious visitor. Then, when time broke the moment, Seiji swept forward, pulled her from her seat and crushed her against him so hard Miho let out an involuntarily grunt.

And she inhaled a deep breath of him, emptied her lungs then filled herself with him again.

“I missed you,” she managed, a small voice threatened by emotion she didn’t want to make her seem weak or pathetic.

“Missed?” Seiji huffed out into her hair, arms coiled and locked and entirely where he’d wanted them to be the whole time he’d been gone. “After… I’m sor…”

“No,” she sniffled, turning her head to press her forehead to his.
“No apologies. I’m okay, and I’ll be okay, we’ll be okay.”

“I’ll be okay too you know,” Issei snorted from where he still sat, just watching, on the sofa. “You do know I was kidnapped and beaten right?”

Miho laughed a short chuckle, but most of it was swallowed by the fierceness of Seiji’s kiss. Desperate and hungry as it was, it wasn’t about sex, but rather reassurance. She was real. He was real. They were together.

This is who deserves my love, Daisetsu.

This is my husband.

MJS Out of Office Drama: Lots of People ‘Sticky Note’

That night was spent in a desperate tangle of passion, as if when dawn’s light finally hit, they would never again be able to touch one another. In reality, however, Goto had an investigation that required him to be undercover for an undetermined period of time, and would not be able to chance even sending her text messages.

Of course Miho understood, but even if the timing hadn’t been terrible, this was the first time she had to relive saying goodbye to the one she loved, sending him on his way into the unknown when the past had rewarded her with loss, death, sorrow.

As they showered together, hands against moist skin, bodies pressed not with urgency now, but just a mutual desire to be as close to each other as they could for as long as they could, Goto watched his fiancée carefully. She hid her fear as best she could, but it was in those eyes he adored and the tense of her jaw. He knew he couldn’t erase it, couldn’t mitigate it – it was what it was, and would be until he came back to her. All he could actually do is tell her how much he loved her, that and he was already imagining the night he returned.

“Don’t come in,” she said in a small voice, not daring to raise it much beyond that or else risk it breaking.

“I want to,” he replied, unfastening his seatbelt and moving around the car to the passenger side.

She was still sitting there with her hands in her lap when he opened it.

“You’re such a pain,” she hissed through her teeth, taking the hand that helped her rise, the hand that remained clutching hers as she retrieved her bag – larger than usual – and hefted it over her shoulder. “Damnit, this ruined mascara is your fault.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” he apologised, pulling him against him.

“Jazz is going to make fun of me,” she sighed, taking the first, reluctant step toward the building where the MJS offices were situated.

“I doubt that,” he chuckled, and Miho looked sideways at him. “She might have chewed my ear off about coming back safely.”

“Hmph, that ear is mine to chew,” Miho muttered, but she did feel warmed that Jazz had gone out of her way to read Goto the relationship separation riot act.

“And you’ll have every opportunity to do so when I get back,” he pointed out, trying to sound cheerful.

Then they stopped at the double doors.

“If you come in much further I won’t be able to let you go,” she asserted, about as meek as Miho got.

Oh, the proud one hated feeling that way, but told herself she had every reason to.

“Okay,” he conceded, wrapping his arms around her, one large hand against the back of her head pressing her cheek against his shoulder. “When I get back we’ll do something special,” he promised.

“You coming back will be special enough,” she replied, muffled into the fabric of his suit jacket, praying her eyes didn’t spill over – at least not until he was away.

She didn’t want him to have to see her like that, knowing he had to leave anyway.

Hearing this, Goto leaned her back a little, just enough so he could kiss her – a long, convincing kiss that conveyed more than even his next works.

“I love you,” he declared, and Miho’s head bobbed.

“I love you too. Go get some bad guys.”

Stepping back was like fighting gravity, but somehow Goto managed.

“Go,” she prompted, half turning. “We’ll both go, and not look back.”

With a determined nod, Goto complied, and Miho followed suit.

Savagely she bit her lip as she walked stiffly into the building, across the foyer, and made her way to the office where Izumi looked up from his desk and smiled at her brightly.

“Good morning Mrs. Goto!” he exclaimed, continuing the joke he’d started last week, and Miho clenched her eyes closed so tightly it hurt, ground her teeth behind closed lips.

“Good morning, Izumi,” she managed weakly, finally, then continued in a hurry to her office.

Moping wasn’t really her style, but the moment she dropped her bag on the couch, the urge to flop down beside it was overwhelming. Chewing on the inside of her cheek, she opened the bag and pulled out her Domo-kun plushie and hugged it fiercely.

“So pathetic,” she sighed, setting her chin on top of Domo-kun’s head and staring at the wall beyond her desk on the other side of the room.

She knew it was pointless to catastrophise, to think about all that could go wrong, to reminisce about how alone and broken she’d felt when her husband had not come home from his last assignment, but those fear crept up on her just the same.

“Morning,” Jazz chirped, entering without even knocking, but one look at Miho’s expression bordering on tears, and she pressed her lips together.

Too much pity and it Miho would lose it, too much cheer and Miho would lose it… eh, maybe she just needed to lose it.

In the end, Jazz sat down next to her BFF and knocked shoulders.

“Alien versus Predator, couch snuggles and Subaru in the kitchen wearing a frilly apron?” she offered, and Miho let out a sob-thickened chortle.

“I know I can’t afford to lose it every time he has to do his job like this,” she murmured, squishing Domo-kun more tightly. “But…”

“These are special circumstances,” Jazz excused. “You’re allowed to be freaked out, but you know I’ll look after you, and that know-it-all Subaru will look after you, everyone here will… and frankly, Goto loves you way too much to not come back.”

Problem was, she’d thought the same of Daisetsu.

“Thanks,” Miho managed, but sogged Domo-kun with her tears just the same.


The work day turned slowly, though catching up on administrative duties was somewhat of a blessing in disguise. As she worked at her desk, Domo-kun remained in her lap like a safety blanket, and each time she felt doom descending she squeezed him to her chest, looked at her engagement ring and told herself there was no way fate could repeat itself so cruelly.

“Miss Fujiwara?” Izumi interrupted at one point.

Somehow, that name jarred in her ears now.

“Mr Yuasa is on the phone and would like to speak with you,” he elaborated.

Miho managed, just, to hide her cringe behind a tired mask.

“Okay, thank you. You can put him through,” she exhaled, but Izumi’s following question didn’t sound so sure.

“Are you sure?” he offered. “I mean, I could get Miss Mann to handle it.”

“Jazz has a lot to do already,” Miho reasoned. “Thanks, but I’ve got this.”

After discussing matters with Takao, it had been decided that he would contact both of the other clients with whom Miho had been pictured, aside from Subaru. His appointment had been with Yuasa Chiaki that morning, and though Takao had indicated he would convey MJS’ preference for the office to be contacted directly, there was no way it could legally be prohibited.

Miho did not wish to talk to him, but, she couldn’t deny him either, and with a sigh and deep inhale, she picked up the telephone receiver and answered.

There was not as much outrage as Miho might have expected, though she was sure that was largely thanks to Takao’s cool and professional approach to outlining what had occurred. When he suggested they catch up to discuss the matter further, however, Miho scowled.

“It’s my understanding Mr. Maruyama’s explanation of the situation was quite comprehensive,” she said in a measured tone, but her fingernails were dug fiercely into Domo-kun’s belly. “At this time I have no further news about the culprit responsible for the photographs.”

“I’d like to see them,” he stated, and Miho’s stomach churned.

His date scenario had been kinky – despite, or maybe even because of, his small stature, he was a dominant sexual personality that bordered upon the cruel. There had been moments when she’d nearly called it to a close, and she’d been relieved when he ultimately decided not to pursue a match.

Requesting to see the photos that had violated the privacy of them both was, at best, in poor taste.

“Absolutely not,” she dropped.



Bordering on icy.

“You know what we did that night, you were there, and you are also well aware that the terms of our contractual agreement prohibits clients from recording date scenarios in any form,” she added. “Right now the pictures are evidence in a police investigation, and when they are no longer required, as Mr. Maruyama would also have told you, they will be destroyed.”

“I’m prohibited,” Chiaki sniffed, and Miho felt her hackles rising even further, “but how can I be certain you won’t keep them for your own enjoyment?”

Because, you creepy little cretin, I didn’t enjoy you then, or now.

But she kept that response locked inside her. Just.

“This is my job, Mr. Yuasa,” she said instead, her tone tight, so close to snapping. “Our engagement was a part of a business process nothing more. If you would like assurance the images will be destroyed beyond my word, then please pursue dialogue with Mr. Maruyama so legal documentation can be formally drafted.”

“Hmm, I guess I’ll do that then,” he mused, but it sounded like he wasn’t serious, teasing, provoking.

That’s pretty much where the conversation ended. Miho bid him a good day, hung up, and headed for the break room – but ran into Rose who had two mugs.

“Thought you might like some tea,” she said with a cautious smile, and Miho exhaled a looooong breath.

“And an opportunity to bitch about these disgusting little git if you’ve got fifteen minutes to spare.”

Rose grinned.

“Paperwork is all that’s calling me for the rest of the day,” she declared. “So bitch as long as you’d like.”

And so Miho wasted Rose’s time for the rest of the day, regaling stories of interest from the beginning of MJS. The nostalgia session was interrupted only by Jazz and H checking in, and a text message from Subaru asking her what she wanted for dinner.

“I suppose beer, isn’t really an acceptable response?” Miho smirked, but Rose grinned.

“Sounds right to me,” she chuckled.

“Hmhm, Jazz is coming over for a movie or two, you want to join? Assuming you’re not busy with your puppy?”

“My…?” Rose began, but realised Jazz must have told her about her evening at the gallery. “Oh right. Nah, not tonight. What we watching?”

And so Rose joined the party, and Miho let Subaru know he’d be cooking for five… assuming that H would join the party.


That evening, the four women rolled into Goto’s apartment, and all dressed in their pajamas piled onto the couch. With Miho and Domo-kun in the middle, they huddled under the one king sized doona, while Subaru, compete with his pink apron, delivered snacks and drinks.

“I could totally get used to this,” Rose grinned, snagging another beer from the tray Subaru brought over.

“I’ve been looking at wait staff for the wedding,” Jazz put in. “Maybe you should just do it.”

“Hey,” Subaru glared, but Miho intervened.

“Thanks, Subaru,” she smiled genuinely. “This is exactly what I needed.”

“Just don’t make a mess on the couch, okay? I have to sleep out here,” he huffed, but she could see he was relieved to see her a little happier.

A little later when he caught her on the way back from the toilet, he told her Shinonome and his students had pulled all sorts of devices from his apartment, not just cameras.

“You know I don’t want to make you feel worse but, pictures might not be all this asshole has of us,” he admitted, his entire face one giant cringe.

Asshole may not have been the best word to use.

“Christ,” she hissed, leaning against the wall, rubbing the back of her neck. “I’m sorry Subaru.”

“Hey, I don’t blame you,” he frowned, this time at the idea she actually thought he was holding her responsible. “As if I didn’t know my house was wired like that. I should be the one apologising.”

“Let’s just both be sorry,” she smiled weakly, before Jazz calling out for more beer drew them back to the lounge.

At the end of several movies, early in the morning, Subaru called the event to a close.

All four women piled into the one bed, sandwiching Miho in the middle again.

In the dark, even with a warm body snuggled up with her, Miho couldn’t sleep. That body wasn’t Goto’s. She wondered what he was doing – if he was asleep, where he was asleep, what he was dreaming about.

But something told her, wherever he was, he was wondering the same about her – and it was eventually this that led her to sleep.


When morning came, Subaru rolled off the couch bright and early and took stock of the living room. Despite his efforts to keep up with the mess, the four women had done a real number – still, he smiled wryly, because Miho had, for a short time at least, been able to forget her anxiety.

Shame she had to go marrying Goto and all.

With a snort he tidied. Folded his blanket, collected bottles, wiped down surfaces, and contemplated what he was going to feed the hungry horde.

Eggs, lots of eggs – protein.

When they still hadn’t stirred by 8am, he hazarded closer to the bedroom door. Maybe he hoped, just a little, to hear giggling and the thwap of pillows being tossed about, but all he did hear was snoring.

“That’s definitely Jazz,” he snickered quietly to himself, then pushed the door in a little. “You lot want breakfast?”

He’d raised his voice to a conversational level, but only snoring replied.

“Recording this would totally be in poor taste,” he sighed, by peeked into the dim interior.

What he found, sprawled on the king sized bed, was a ridiculous tangle of arms, legs, pillows blankets and bed-head.

Then he saw pajama bottoms on the floor, amid another articles of clothing, and arched a brow.

“No way,” he exhaled… inhaled… then sighed as he began to collect the girls’ clothes and fold everything into neat piles.

He scuttled out, however, when Miho rolled over, flopping her arm across Jazz’ chest and snuggling against her.

“Christ,” Subaru muttered, and left them be in favour of brewing some strong coffee.

Eventually they all stumbled out, not looking too hungover but certainly like they didn’t have the best night’s sleep. Subaru’s coffee and breakfast spread was very welcome, and Jazz couldn’t help but comment how Miho and Goto should keep Subaru on as a manservant after they get married.

“Unless you’d prefer to come and work for Kuni and I,” she quipped cheekily.

“Hey, he’s my butler!” Miho exclaimed, pouting in an exaggerated fashion.

“Oh god don’t mention butlers,” H groaned under her breath, before inhaling deeply over her mug.

“The apron’s kind of cute,” Rose put in and Subaru tipped his chin up a little. “Haruka made it for me.”

“So it’s true Goto’s mother is in love with you?” Jazz snickered. “I thought Miho was exaggerating.”

“Hey, she’s a great woman, and we happen to share many…” he began in defence of himself, only to realise he was making things worse.

Miho just smiled, but it wavered a little when she thought of how heartbroken Issei had looked when he’d seen the photos of her and Subaru.

She nearly jumped out of her chair when her phone rang, and it turned out to be none other than the woman they’d just been talking about.

“Mrs. Goto, good morning,” Miho greeted as cheerfully as she could while she rose from her chair and moved into the lounge to take the call

“Come on, that makes me feel so ooold,” Haruka grumbled. “You managed to call Shinichi father…”

“I’m sorry, Mum,” Miho corrected, and that made her want to smile. “What can I do for you?”

“Well,” Haruka murmured, and Miho could tell she was frowning. “I let a couple of message for Seiji but he hasn’t responded, and he’s usually so good with that if he’s not…”

“Yeah, he left on assignment yesterday morning,” Miho confirmed, flopping down on the couch and searching about for Domo-kun. “Is it something I can help with?”

“Such a polite girl, even given what you’re going through,” Haruka sighed. “It’s just, I haven’t been able to contact Issei since he stormed out. I’ve tried calling and texting and even emailing. He’s never not responded before and I’m worried.”

“He’s at the Hakusan Campus of Toyo University right? My schedule’s pretty open, I could give him a call and if he doesn’t answer, check out his dorm?”

He would love that… maybe if I took Subaru with me?

Um… yeah maybe not.

“Would you?” Haruka replied, and Miho got the impression of her clutching her hands together in prayer.

“No problem,” Miho smiled. “I really do need to talk to him again anyway; I don’t want to leave things as they are.”

Haruka was very grateful, overly so perhaps, that Miho was willing to help, and it just made Miho feel all the more like she needed to make things right with Issei – before his brother returned from his case preferably.

Before the other girls left, Jazz agreed to go with Miho to the university at lunch time if Issei didn’t answer his phone messages before then.

“He still not responding?” Subaru asked, finally getting himself ready to leave.

“Nope,” Miho frowned. “I’ve texted him a couple of times, left him voicemail. I can understand him being upset at me for what he saw, but not his mother.”

“Well, if Jazz can’t go with you, the kid can wait until I’m done with my shift,” Subaru told her sternly, and Miho nodded obediently.

“Hmm, I need to grab a couple of things from my place on the way to work, if you have time?”

She phrased it as a question, but she knew Subaru would make time.

“All right, hurry the hell up or Katsuragi is going to have my ass.”


After thanking him for last night, and for going out of his way, they arrived at Miho’s apartment bantering in high spirits, until Subaru suddenly seized her arm, shoved her behind him, and drew his gun with his free hand.

“Wha?” Miho exclaimed, peeking around him just enough to see her door ajar. “No fucking way,” she hissed.

“Stay close behind me,” he told her in a low voice. “I can’t leave you out here in case they’re just waiting for a chance to grab you.”

“Jesus,” she muttered, swallowing, trying not to panic, while at the same time trying not to be overwhelmed by anger.

Inch by inch they moved through the door, and room by room they cleared the apartment, stepping over items strewn about callously, everything turned over, nothing left in its place.

“Clear,” Subaru said finally, and though Miho’s shoulder relaxed a little, she couldn’t help the clenching of her jaw as she continued to take in the carnage.

“You said Detective Kyobashi was put on your case, right?” Subaru grunted, holstering his gun and taking out his phone. “Don’t touch anything.”

“I know,” she snapped, standing there just staring. “Ugh, I don’t… my jewellery is still here, this… if you’re going to break in why leave the good stuff.”

“Check your underwear, photographs, stuff like that,” Subaru prompted, and Miho exhaled a sickened breath. “Just don’t…”

“Touch anything, yeah I got it,” she muttered, shuffling into the bedroom.

She was relieved to find it seemed her underwear remained, while spread all over the place, all pieces she could recall were present and accounted for.

“So what? Scare tactics now, or are you really looking for something?” she sighed, again joining Subaru – who was still on the phone – in the lounge.

Not once did he look in a rush to leave her, and though while they waited for Kyobashi to arrive he had to call his boss and a colleague to fill in, at all times it was clear he would remain with her for as long as she needed him to.

Honestly, Miho didn’t know how she felt.

It seemed clear whoever was responsible had waited for Goto to be out of the way before rummaging through her belongings, but there had been plenty of nights she’d been at his place. This suggested it was just as much about unsettling here while she didn’t have her usually support, as it was about breaking into her apartment, and that was more settling than just burglary.

When her statement had been taken, Kyobashi gave her the all clear to return to work while forensics checked for prints – but he didn’t like the chances; the photographs had come back clean of any unknown fingerprints. He told Miho he’d had visible uniforms outside Goto’s place to deter anyone from going through there as well, and made certain she understood she wasn’t to go anywhere without someone else.

“You sure you don’t want me to stay?” Subaru questioned, hand against her back as they walked into the MJS building.

“You’d be bored out of your mind,” Miho pointed out. “Unless you want to actually sit and talk about the marriage candidates you keep rejecting?”

“Eh, not especially?” he replied cagily, rubbing the back of his neck. “But, if you’d feel better just having me around, I can stay.”

“Izumi’s here, and I think either Rose or Jazz are wandering around somewhere too,” Miho pointed out. “I’ll be safe enough here.”

“Well, I won’t finish until at least 9 now, but if no one is able to be here with you that late…” he began, but Miho cut him off by pulling him into a hug.

“Thanks, but I’ll manage. Someone will be here until you’re able to pick me up,” she told him firmly, then stepped back with a smile. “Go, or Katsuragi will be mad.”

“Okay, but no outings,” he grunted, backing away.

“Sure thing,” she conceded, raising her hands in surrender. “And thank you.”

Jazz was in fact waiting for Miho in her office, waiting to get the lowdown on the morning’s drama. When all was recounted, Miho finally caught a quiet moment with a cup of tea in her hands, until her phone vibrated where she’d left it in her pocket.

A text message.


Goto Junior is a little busy to answer you right now.

– Daisetsu


And Miho just stared at it, this message that had come from Issei’s number stored in her phone, with the name of her dead husband attached.

Had she told Issei his name? She could remember. Was this is petty way at striking back at her for having slept with the man he had crushed on for so many years? That seemed a bit extreme – but what else could it have been?

Miho felt frozen, unblinking and peering until the light on her phone’s screen dimmed and then went black.

“What is…”

Then it rang.

Issei’s number.

And she stared at it as it rang and rang and rang, until it stopped.

Then began again.

Swallowing, she pressed receive, and lifted the phone to her ear.


“One would think you’d answer your husband after the first ring,” a somewhat familiar voice declared.

Familiar for two reasons.

It sounded like the voice of the man from the alley, though echoing like he was standing in a large enclosed space. It also sounded like…

“Can’t be,” she exhaled and hung up.

Trembling, her hand and the phone fell into her lap, and with wide eyes she stared in shock at nothing in particular, brain buzzing, heart thumping, mouth suddenly dry.

Angrily her phone cried out again, and she both wanted to answer it and not.

“Where is Issei?” she growled the moment she answered for the second time.

“Issei is it?” Daisetsu’s voice responded. “That close already?”

Where is he?” she repeated through her teeth.

The voice on the other end sounded more disant as he spoke.

“Tell her you’re fine, for now,” Daisetsu instructed, and the voice that followed was Issei’s.

“Miho?” he managed – tired, weak. “No matter what he says don’t…”

“That’s quite enough,” Daisetsu sniffed, clearly reclaiming the phone. “It seems heroics run in his family.”

“I don’t know who you are, or what you want, but don’t you dare hurt Issei,” Miho snarled, pushing back her chair violently and getting to her feet.

“Just stay right there in your office, Miho,” Daisetsu told her calmly. “Involving anyone else in our affairs could lead to someone getting hurt.”

Miho shook where she stood.

She could not fathom what she heard, could not reconcile it with what she knew – a husband dead many years, long rotten in the ground, spoke to her now as if it was perfectly normal.

“What do you…” she started, but he predicted her question and answered it.

“To see you of course,” he responded, and it sounded so genuine, so… so… like she remembered him.

It plunged a knife into her chest, sank it deeply and then tore her right down the middle.

“It can’t be,” she whispered, her eyes burning. “Daisetsu is dead.”

“Actually I’m in perfect health,” he disagreed. “But you’ll be able to see that for yourself soon enough. There’s a car parked outside, blue with a beige interior – the keys are in the…”

“I’m not,” she began, but then bit her tongue.

There was a moment of silence as he let her think about her refusal.

“Don’t hurt him,” she sighed, ever so quietly.

“Take the car Miho, and follow the GPS already programmed,” Daisetsu commanded, but his voice was light, not the voice of a man who’d taken someone Miho cared about hostage. “Tell no one, or I may have to start mailing much fleshier presents to dear old Mum and Dad.”

“Don’t you dare,” Miho snapped, digging around in her bag for her keys – if she took her bag, Izumi was sure to notice her take it to the break room.

“I will know,” he assured her. “Imagine how horrified his big brother would be to learn you were responsible for missing fingers, toes and other things.”

“All right, I’m leaving now just…”

She didn’t know what else to add, how to add.

Even if this was some sicko pretending to be Daisetsu, and that had to be it, Issei was real, there with him. She knew Goto would be just as horrified to learn she would purposefully put herself in danger, but what else could she do?

Wait for Issei’s pinky to show up?

“Go now,” he prompted, and then hung up.

But Miho remained motionless, inertia forged by disbelief, rooting her feet to the floor until her phone vibrated again.


Hurry up.


She had, along with her narrator, spoken ill of the stupidity of Voltage MCs, but now Miho found herself in the kind of situation requiring her to rush headlong into a threat she was not trained to deal with.

But for the sake of family, it wasn’t as if she could stand idle.

With keys in hand she paused just a second at her desk to scrawl something on a note before trying to ‘look casual’ exiting her office and heading to the break room, when she was freaking out.

“You want tea Izumi?” she asked as she passed his desk, and he looked up.

“I can make it if you’d like some,” he was quick to say, but Miho shook her head.

“Nah, I need to keep busy,” she replied, and continued on her way – and kept going, just touching her palm to the door frame before continuing quickly down the corridor and out of the sight to the alley exit.

On the street and suddenly frantic, she looked back and forth until she spied the blue car, the only blue car on the street in fact.

Her pulse thundered so loudly she didn’t hear a single of her footfalls, nor the roar of the engine when she pressed the ignition button and the GPS blinked to life.

Then she drove.


After a while, it occurred to Izumi he hadn’t seen Miho go back to her office, and so he went in search of her… only to find a sticky-note attached to the door frame.

“Miss Mann! Miss Mann!” Izumi shouted, busting into Jazz’s office despite the fact she was with a client.

“Mr. Takasaki?” Jazz blinked, though less shocked than the man seated on the sofa to her left.

Izumi, however, was far too gone in panic to care, and shoved the sticky-note in Jazz’s face.

“Miss Fujiwara is gone!” he exclaimed, and Jazz focused in on Miho’s brief missive.


Bad guys have Goto Issei. Track my phone.

MJS Out of Office Drama: Miho and Goto ‘A Picture Tells a Thousand Tales’

With a stuttering lurch, Miho threw herself to her knees and began to gather the pictures.

“You don’t need to see this,” she hissed, scrambling to make a pile, but Issei took both her wrists, and leaning forward with his weight, pinned her hands to the floor amidst the carnage.

“I guess this is how you knew he wasn’t wired that way,” he grated in a low voice overflowing with loathing. “And you’re going to marry my brother, while fucking Subaru like a whore?!”

“That’s…” she inhaled painfully, trying to recoil though he held her tightly.

“Issei!” Seiji barked, striding through the door and in behind his beleaguered fiancée. “Let her go.”

“You’re okay with this?” Issei snapped, balefire glared now up at Seiji as he threw Miho’s hands away from him. “Or maybe you didn’t even know.”

Toward Seiji, Issei thrust a particularly graphic image, Miho and Subaru’s expressions both the epitome of powerful orgasm.

“What I do and don’t know is a matter between she and I, no one else,” Seiji states, still hovering at Miho’s quivering back. “I’ll be taking these photos now.”

For a second Issei’s lips seemed poised to argue, but when Seiji crouched beside Miho and began to collect the lewd portfolio of images, he rocked back to his feet. He flicked the photo in his hand like a ninja star and it landed in Miho’s lap, face up, but her focus was on his face.

Such an intense expression of betrayal, but given what little she knew of him, she thought it had less to do with his brother and more their conversation from last night.

“I… have a few things I’d like to say to your family about this,” Miho said as she also rose, and immediately Issei began toward his door, halted only when Seiji caught his arm.

“Give her the chance to speak,” he instructed sternly. “This isn’t her doing.”

“That’s not her then?” Issei spat, shaking himself free.

“It’s me,” Miho frowned, desperately trying to pull herself together. “But what I did before committing to Seiji is no sin, and I don’t deserve your scorn.”

Issei huffed out an incredulous grunt before leaving the room, and for a moment Miho and Seiji just stood there in silence, he with the stack of photographs in his left hand.

“Are you all right?” he asked finally, wincing because he didn’t know what else to say.

“I am so far from all right,” she muttered, swallowed, clenched her fists.

Couldn’t decide whether to lose herself to rage that someone would do this, or lament.

“Let’s just…”

She didn’t finish her sentence, but nodded her head and began her way back out to the lounge, where the rest of the family sat at the table in silence.

Before joining them, Seiji took the Subaru pictures and stowed them out of sight with the others. Miho was already speaking before he positioned himself at her side.

“I won’t apologise for my past,” she said slowly, forcing herself to make eye contact though it was painful to all concerned.

Issei simply refused.

“Who I have and haven’t been with prior to my relationship with Seiji, all of which these were, should be of no concern to anyone other than myself, and those people,” Miho continued carefully.

But she was proud, and she had no reason not to be – all depicted encounters had been consensual after all.

“I will, however,” she exhaled, “apologise that you had to see these images. They were taken without my consent, without my…”

Her voice faltered, and though Seiji meant the placement of his hand over hers as a gesture of a support, Miho struggled to keep herself together even more.

“… without my knowledge, and the person who has sent them here, addressed them specifically to you, has done so as an act of malice and spite and…”

“You know who did this?” Shinichi questioned, his voice quiet and cautious – Miho could not yet tell if his first instinct was to condemn also.

“Miho received flowers from an anonymous individual early this week,” Seiji responded in her stead, “and was then confronted by a masked man outside her work building. It seems highly likely this is connected. I’ll see if any fingerprints can be lifted from the photos, but I’ll need yours to eliminate them.”

“I’m not giving you my fingerprints,” Issei dropped flatly – no sympathy, no mercy.

“That’s fine,” Miho assented, directing her gaze into his face. “I just… this is my private life in its barest form, captured in places I thought were safe and now…”

Her eyes shifted to Haruka.

“… it will be impossible for you to see me the same way.”

She stood, dragging her hand out from under Seiji’s. Not bowing, she didn’t owe anyone humility for this, she was the victim.

“I think I need some air,” she declared, calling the ‘conversation’ to a close without leaving room for opinions.

When she moved in the direction of the front door, however, Seiji stopped her.

“You can’t go out,” he told her under his breath. “Whoever did this knows enough about my family and our plans, to send those pictures while you’re here. It doesn’t take much to figure they want you to distance yourself from us, from me.”

“It doesn’t bother you? At all?” she questioned, louder than him, loud enough for the others to hear though that hadn’t been her intention.

Seiji looked completely conflicted.

“I’m sorry,” Miho sighed. “That was out of line.”

“It’s fine,” he smiled thinly, but his eyes were soft and full of sympathy. “Let’s go for another walk.”

The day had been so cheerful, but now when they stepped out of the house into the twilight, the dim seemed so fitting. Miho was glad for it, as she didn’t know how much longer she could hold herself together.

And it wasn’t just that her fiancé’s family had seen her naked, with various partners, in the most intimate of circumstances; it wasn’t just that any ground she had made with Issei was well and truly lost; there were consequences reaching far beyond the immediate. She needed to contact Takao for legal advice – what would the ramifications be for MJS? The three individuals she had been pictured with would need to be notified – would they sue? The woman pictured, had already left Japan to be married to her partner, and returned to live happily, but to not tell was simply not an option.

Even if it wasn’t her fault, or MJS’, Miho also felt guilty that whatever personal mission her enemy was on, it could negatively impact her colleagues, her friends. Would they also be targeted?

“Hey,” Seiji prompted at her side, taking her hand, sliding his fingers in between hers. “Stop the wheels turning for just a minute.”

“No time,” she mumbled, shaking her head. “Those clients could be in danger and…”

You are the focus of threat,” he interrupted. “You’re the only one I care about right now.”

God, if you’re too kind…

“Knowing doing that was a part of my job, and seeing…” she began again, her words grinding out through clenched teeth – because if she allowed her lips to part too much, the giant sob gathering in her chest might escape. “… I didn’t want… for you to see…”

“You said it yourself, that was before we were us,” he pointed out.

He could feel she wanted to pull away, to isolate, insulate, even if only to try in some way to protect him – though the damage was already done. Seeing her with, of all people Subaru, seeing the pleasure in her face, the intimacy and the passion, had been at best jarring. He had told himself, over and over, she was no different from any other woman, or man, with previous partners that had nothing to do with her love for him now.

But she was right; knowing and seeing was different.

It made him feel sick that someone else had made her feel like that, someone else had touched her in places he felt belonged to him, but more than anything it made him so incredibly angry someone would attack the woman he loved like that.

“You know,” he said slowly, “I’ve thought at length about your job, all parts of it…”

Her fingers slackened even more.

“Mhm,” he murmured, frowning, fishing around for the right words. “Subaru said he proposed to you too, before me…”

“He wasn’t being serious,” Miho chuckled mirthlessly.

“He’d have been the better option,” Seiji pointed out. “His family has prestige; his education was Ivy League…”

“I don’t care about societal gain,” she choked out, losing the battle, and Seiji stopped walking, turned her to face him, and slid his hands to either side of her face.

“Right,” he smiled affectionately. “You care about me, the person, the man. The man who chose you not based on education or family background or your history. Just the you, you have been with me.”

Tears ribboned down her cheeks and settled beneath his thumbs.

“You’re right, I never wanted to see that, but don’t you dare entertain the thought I will think any less of you for trying your utmost to find love for your clients, even back then.”

That was Miho’s limit. She buried her face against his chest and cried with his arms wrapped around her.

“My family will not hold this against you,” he reassured her. “And we’ll find out who is doing this, stop them, and bring them to justice. I promise.”

For some time they remained that way, and Miho allowed the cracked mask of her composure to leak out her angst. She didn’t feel guilty for MJS. She didn’t feel guilty for any of the sexual encounters she had had in her past. She didn’t feel responsible for what was happening now.

But it was impossible for her not to feel angry and embarrassed and frightened, even with Seiji so close and his reassurances in her ear.

Seiji, meanwhile, seethed quietly, sharp eyes tracking a car with tinted windows rolling slowly past, scrutinising a couple walking in the deepening dark on the other side of the road, and standing ready to act should something lash out from shadows.

“I’m okay,” Miho sighed finally, aware her face must have been an ugly mess of smeared makeup and bleary eyes. “I… we should head back to Tokyo right away. I don’t want your family to feel awkward with me in the house.”

“We’d have to hire a car,” he pointed out, gently wiping beneath her eyes. “And like I said, it’ll be fine.”

Just as he said that, a familiar motorcycle flew past, familiar to Seiji’s practiced eye anyway.

“We can leave early tomorrow,” he told her when the bike had disappeared. “I want to get those photographs to the lab, and we need to report this to the officers who responded to MJS Monday.”

“This is a pretty sensitive affair,” she exhaled. “I don’t want just anyone leafing through the ‘evidence’ when I promised clients their confidentiality.”

“I’ll make sure it’ll be handled with discretion,” he assured.

“Mm, I don’t know that you should be too involved with this,” she murmured, looking into his face properly. “This isn’t a Public Safety matter.”

“Be that as it may, I’m hardly going to stand by while…”

“It’s fine,” she interrupted. “I know some people in MPD – I’ll call markers in.”

He could have said something sordid about how exactly she was owed so many favours, and maybe, probably, it bothered him to think it was because her clients, despite having paid for her services, enjoyed their time with her – but he didn’t want to make things worse. Nor did he think he had any right to do so, no matter how jealous he felt.

“It’s going to be difficult to keep out of this,” he pointed out, stroking her hair.

“I know,” she smiled, and actually felt it. “You want to don your armour, mount your warhorse and charge into battle to defend my honour, but this will need to be handled much more quietly than that.”

“I know, I get it,” he grumbled. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it. You should stay at my place full time for now,” he went on – didn’t tell her she would be, but pointed out she should. “And I don’t think we should discount the possibility this could be about me, and that you’re just collateral damage.”

“I guess I didn’t think about that,” she nodded, emptying her lungs again and sliding her arm in under his jacket. “But most of your work is done undercover isn’t it? For someone to target me to get to you, your cover would have to have been blown.”

There was a new kind of fear, and Seiji saw it blossom in her eyes – not for herself, but for him.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” he told her, sliding his arm around her shoulder and turning her back in the direction of his parents’ house. “But I’ll look into it anyway, just to be sure.”

He wasn’t going to leave anything to chance.


When they reached the house, Haruka was not her normal, chirpy self, but not just because seeing Miho brought up some very interesting images in her mind.

“He’s gone isn’t he,” Seiji sighed, even before his mother could explain.

“Hmm?” Miho frowned.

“Issei,” Haruka clarified, avoiding Miho’s eyes, not that Miho could blame her. “He was very upset. I couldn’t stop him from leaving so, he’s gone back to his dorm.”

“At this time?” Seiji huffed, then his shoulders slumped a little. “I’ll follow up with him when we get back to Tokyo. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

“Unless,” Miho began, resisting the urge to bite her lip, “you would prefer I leave tonight.”

Haruka’s head tilted a little, and she looked over at where her husband was watching television before back at her son and his fiancée – and finally met Miho’s gaze.

“Of course not,” she smiled sadly, then held her hands out to Miho… who immediately teared up again. “Poor thing,” Haruka soothed, hugging Miho though she was considerably shorter. “Whoever did this, Seiji will catch them. Don’t let anything get in the way of your happiness.”


Monday morning arrived. Goto (of the Seiji variety – I’m just way too embarrassed to call him by his first name any more –blush-) had helped Miho collect additional necessities from her apartment and arranged for Shinonome himself to take a look at her apartment for hidden cameras and other devices. Promising she would go nowhere without a ‘buddy’, Miho returned to work, and convened a staff meeting to convey updates.

She stood at the head of the table, at which also sat all three other girls and Izumi, Takao had managed to make it, and even Baba showed up. Kyobashi arrived late, and blamed his boss. After drawing in a really deep breath she explained the situation, what had happened, and the potential ramifications as she saw it.

Typically, Takao blushed – the idea of such graphic images of Miho in the hands of her soon to be in-laws (let’s face it, the idea of Miho nude at all) was a bit too much for him to cope with, until his brain clicked into lawyer mode. Kyobashi, who Miho had already spoken to briefly, indicated he wouldn’t be able to look into it in an official capacity as it wasn’t something that would normally fall under Second Unit’s purview, but Miho headed that off with news she’d already called one of his superiors and arranged, somehow, for Kyobashi to receive a special assignment.

“Seriously?” Kyobashi commented. “Dare I ask how you managed to swing that?”

Though she didn’t feel much like smiling or laughing, Miho shot a glance at Jazz and fashioned a small smirk.

“Something about a singles’ event, tequila and…” Miho began, but Jazz headed her off.

“They don’t need to know the gorey details,” she muttered.

“Yeah we do,” Baba piped up, but Miho shook her head, and even managed a short chuckle.

“The point is, your superior should be giving you the case at some point today,” Miho declared. “Seiji will have lab results from the photos forwarded directly to you.”

“How’d you get Lieutenant Goto to stay out of this?” Rose questioned.

Though she didn’t know him very well, what she did know was largely base off her observation of his interactions with Miho in the office.

“He knows he can’t mix his personal and work life,” Miho replied. “And this really is way out of Public Safety’s jurisdiction. Luckily that isn’t the case for our in-house detective.”

“Those pictures were taken somehow from inside a private residence and two different hotel locations,” Miho then frowned. “So there is some serious premeditation going on that I don’t want to chance is restricted to just myself. Despite what I just said, one of Seiji has suggested he might be able to get one of his colleagues and his students to sweep our homes and the office for things like listening devices and hidden cameras as a part of a learning exercise; that’ll keep this actual incident away from unnecessary eyes, but help give us a bit more piece of mind.”

“What about Mr. Ichiyanagi’s home?” Takao queried, and Miho’s shoulders slumped a little.

“Seiji and I are going to visit him together – after all, he’s going to be best man… maybe.”

Jazz, who had already had several run ins with Subaru over wedding planning, pursed her lips.

“I’m sure he’s not going to be happy about any of this, but I swear, if he wants to take it out on the two of you personally after the megalomaniacal tantrums he’s thrown over cakes and wedding favours, I’m…”

This allowed Miho to draw herself up again. She’d been the fierce friend, and now Jazz reciprocated. In truth, all the people in the room were supportive, not just of her, but also of one another, and it made her feel warm.

“I don’t think it’ll come to that,” Miho said. “Especially not with Seiji there – it’ll just be… really awkward. It’ll be fine.”

She kept saying that.

“Anyway, I’m calling for the suspension of date scenarios until we can do a proper review and upgrade of security, including our personal spaces, meeting places, legals, and even medicals – across the board.”

“If you don’t mind delegating, I can work on that?” H offered, and Miho smiled again. “Unless Jazz wants to do it – and I know she doesn’t – sure. Review current procedure and policy, and draw up a proposal. Takao?”

“I’ll definitely help,” he agreed without the need for further prompting.

“And I just want everyone to be safe,” Miho sighed, sitting though she continued. “We’ve had overly grateful clients before, but this is next level and so far we’ve no idea who is behind it.”

“Client does top the list,” Kyobashi put in. “Not that I’m going to make assumptions.”

“You know, I got this really weird vibe at Seasonelle when I was there the other day,” Rose frowned, casting her mind back.

“Well Kyobashi can access our client list, we’re talking at least a couple of months back for the first photographs,” Miho added. “And I don’t want to discount clients that weren’t mine either.”

“I’ll be thorough,” Kyobashi sniffed, and Miho sent him an apologetic look.

“Okay well… that’s it for me, so unless there is any other business presently, just be safe and report anything unusual immediately.”

Some lingered in the conference room, H and Takao and Rose and Kyobashi, while Baba made a quick getaway.

Jazz, however, followed Miho to her office, and watched from the door as the other woman collected her handbag.

“Where you going?” Jazz asked in a sing-song tone – the tone that conveyed iho knew she shouldn’t be going out alone.

“Relax,” Miho responded, poking out her tongue as she straightened. “Seiji’s picking me up. We’re going to tell Subaru – I want this done.”

“And Goto’s really okay with being there?” Jazz asked, a little more carefully.

“I think he’d be less okay with not being there to be honest,” Miho chortled, but it didn’t touch her tired eyes. “Understandable seeing as he now can very clearly envisage what Subaru and I got up to.”

Jazz tried not to cringe, but if Kuni was to see pictures like that of her with one of her former clients? Yeah that’d suck.

“I’ll survive,” she assured, giving Jazz a quick hug. “At the very least, MJS won’t leave me.”


The closer it got to the time for Subaru to arrive at Goto’s apartment, the more nervous Miho became. It’s not like they were planning to blindside him exactly, though it’s not like he could possibly see their news coming.

When the intercom buzzed, her stomach was a twist of dread, but she knew Goto had to be feeling something similar. After all, he and Subaru had been friends and colleagues for long before Miho was even in Japan, and though they bickered, they were clearly best friends.

“Okay, I’ve got this,” she exhaled at the front door.

We’ve got this,” Goto said at her side, his hand giving hers a squeeze.

When she opened the door, Subaru looked at them with an unimpressed expression.

“If you’re just going to act all lovey-dovey, I’m leaving,” he huffed, but his face sobered up when he saw they didn’t react as usual. “Okaaaay.”

“Come in,” Miho smiled thinly, and they moved out of his way.

He off his shoes and took great care to ensure they were lined up, before following them into the lounge.

Miho swallowed, but at least they hadn’t gone to Subaru’s place.

There, she would have had to see his kitchen and that bench, face the wall where she’d been pressed, and know his bedroom was just a small way down one corridor.

Never before had she felt guilty about undertaking a date scenario with a client, until now.

Never before had she felt so uncomfortable in his or her presence, until now.

“You’re not going to like this,” Miho began slowly, seated beside Goto with Subaru opposite.

She explained it all again, including why they obviously weren’t meeting at his place in case it was still compromised.

He remained calm, looking between her and Goto – he did not blush, and he did not make jokes.

“Are you okay?” was the first thing he asked, and Miho bit her lip and nodded, because if she opened her mouth, she was absolutely going to cry.

She had been prepared for him to lose his shit, but he proved his worth as a friend instead.

“She’s coping,” Goto filled in. “But your place… how the hell was someone able to get images like that from inside?”

Subaru scowled fiercely, his eyes focused elsewhere as he thought back.

“There hasn’t been anyone in there at all except me in ages, well before we… um… then, not even member of the team,” he said finally.

“No signs of break-in?” Goto prompted.

“If there had been, it’d have been the first thing I’d say,” Subaru grunted. “Jesus, I’m going to have to pull everything apart.”

“I’ll send Shinonome you’re way when he’s done at Miho’s,” Goto nodded. “And so you know, the prints are in a closed loop. One tech I trust at the lab, then directly into the hands of the detective on the case – a friend.”

Subaru inclined his head, but his grimace persisted as he looked back at Miho who had fallen silent.

“You’re going to be all right,” he affirmed, smoothing his face over with a confident grin. “Think this idiot would let anyone near you?”

“This idiot has a job to do,” Miho pointed out, and Goto inclined his head.

“A new investigation begins tomorrow, so I have a favour to ask,” he said seriously, and Subaru was paying attention. “Could you, stay here, with her for the next few nights?”

He’d been fretting about it, Miho knew. On top of everything else, the idea that he would be away from home and unable to keep an eye on her was distressing – still, she hadn’t guessed he’d ask Subaru to be her babysitter, especially given what he’d seen in those photographs.

“That depends,” Subaru answered easily, “on whether she’s a better cook than you.”

“There is nothing wrong with my cooking,” Goto defended, and for the first time since he arrived, things felt somewhat normal.

“Has he even cooked for you yet? You may want to reconsider your engagement,” Subaru smirked, and Goto glared.

“Don’t go putting stupid ideas in her head,” he growled.

“I’ll show you what good cooking is,” Subaru grinned boldly, totally ignoring Goto now.

“If you mention dessert I’m going to hurt you,” Goto added.

“I make a mean…” Subaru challenged, and Goto got to his feet.

“Time for you to go,” Goto prompted.

Finally, Miho laughed, and both men looked to her and smiled.

“Thanks Subaru,” she exhaled, also getting up when Subaru joined Goto standing.

“I’ll get my schedule from Katsuragi and get back to you, Pajamas,” Subaru snickered, heading for the door. “Let me know if there is anything else I can do.”

When Subaru was gone, a quiet settled, and Miho and Goto returned to the couch.

“Nothing will happen with Subaru around,” Goto declared, but it sounded to Miho more like he was trying to convince himself, not her. “He’s a bodyguard after all.”

She very nearly told him there was only one person she wanted to guard her body, but she didn’t want him to feel guilty about doing his job.

“I know,” she said instead, leaning her head against his shoulder. “Do you have to go back to work?”

“Nope,” Goto replied, turning his head and kissing her hair. “What should we do?”

“Hmm, I wonder,” Miho mused, sounding thoughtful, before she looked into his face. “I’ve got it, why don’t you cook me lunch… you know… so I don’t reconsider my engagement?”

“Damnit Subaru,” Goto muttered under his breath, but he pulled himself to his feet and headed for the kitchen.

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko Heartbreak

Jazz felt strange, this had been the first fight between her and Kunihiko but it had actually been looming for a while now, casting its shadow over their happiness. He had a problem with the fact that she had slept with quite a few men, before and after meeting him, but he had also said he could live with it. Obviously he couldn’t.

Jazz sighed. She stubbornly refused to feel guilty, she had warned him, had given him the chance to change his mind but he had assured her he was fine with her past. Only he wasn’t. The comments about the men she had been with, the jealousy he had shown, the insecurity wasn’t only a burden for him, but also for her.

Although it was way before her usual time to get up Jazz left the bed and tiptoed into the bathroom, got ready quickly and dressed for the day, having already decided to skip breakfast to get out of the apartment as fast and silently as possible so she wouldn’t wake Kunihiko up. She didn’t want to face him now.

Her caution was unnecessary, he had already left, maybe he hadn’t even slept on the couch at all, it was hard to tell. Now that she thought about it, they hadn’t shared breakfast or dinner for a while now, one of them always out or at work. They did meet up for lunch every other day, and they spent the nights in the same bed. Except for last night.

Burying herself in the bed sounded tempting but she had appointments that day and wouldn’t miss them just because she was having trouble in her personal life. She was a professional after all.

After a first stop in the office Jazz hurried towards Larme to meet Liana Starling, future Mrs. Ishigami, and pick a cake for her wedding. She spotted her through the huge window already, quickly checked the time and sighed in relief when she saw that she was still in time.

“Liana, good to see you. Being engaged suits you, you’re looking great,” Jazz complimented the bride to be.

“Thank you, we are very happy,” Liana said with a smile. “We met Miss Fujiwara the other day. Did you know that her fiancé works with mine?”

Jazz nodded.

“I’m aware of that, and so is Miss Fujiwara. It might have been a surprise for Goto, though.” After all he hadn’t read the reports.

“So, uhm, she said she… she wasn’t in charge of creating the profile of…” Liana began but Jazz interrupted her, still smiling.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t talk about that. Confidentiality, you understand. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like me talking with Ishigami-san about your date with Baba, would you? If you feel uncomfortable working with me now I can recommend you another good wedding planner, but I hope we can simply move on from that topic and create the perfect wedding for you and the man that loves you.”

Liana nodded slowly and then smiled. Her deep blue eyes sparkled and she leaned towards Jazz as if to tell her a secret.

“I can’t wait to try the custard pudding cake. If it’s any good I already know which one I’ll pick.”
Jazz smiled back and nodded.

“Well, then let’s start trying cakes.”

It was a bit weird to have Aki serve them cake, but Jazz got used to act as if she didn’t know her clients when she met them outside of work.

“Thank you,” she just said and smiled warmly when he sat down a plate with chocolate cake in front of them.

“You are very welcome,” Aki replied with his usual smile, making Jazz blink a few times.

“Oh, this is good. I love chocolate,” Liana exclaimed and took another bite of the layered chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and frosting.

Jazz took a forkful of cake and carefully ate it. It melted in her mouth and made her sigh in contentment.

“If I had to choose that would be my pick,” she admitted but knew that her opinion wasn’t important here. Still, it was a fantastic cake.

“It’s the first one, shouldn’t you at least try the others?” Aki asked, smile unwavering.

“Sometimes you know what you want the moment you see it, no other options needed,” Jazz replied airily, earning herself a chuckle.

But of course she still tried the other cakes.

“So, which one should it be?” she asked Liana after trying five different cakes.

“The lemon one was good, but not good enough. I liked the chocolate cake and actually the custard pudding one was really good. The rest was okay, but not what I want.”

Jazz jotted that down in her notebook, furrowed her brow briefly and motioned for Aki to come over.

“Say, would it be possible to combine two cakes? To have both the chocolate one and the pudding cake?”

Aki tilted his head for a moment.

“I have to ask our pastry chef, but I think it’s possible. We can send you an offer and then you can decide.”

Jazz nodded and thanked him, waited for Liana to finish her cake and got ready to leave. On a whim she ordered some cake to go and once she and her client parted ways she quickly called a number she knew by heart now.


“Osanai? It’s Jazz Mann, I’m wondering if Mr. Aikawa already had lunch today.”

“Oh, Miss Mann. No, he hasn’t. He is very busy at the moment, too busy to even leave the office.”

Jazz made a decision.

“Do you think it’s possible for me to bring him lunch? So he won’t have to leave but still gets something to eat.”

“He is in a meeting right now but afterwards it should be possible. In half an hour maybe.”

She smiled. Jazz hated arguments, she preferred to actually have a harmonious relationship. So even if she thought herself to be in the right she still wanted to make up and act like an adult instead of sulking all day long.

“That would be perfect, but please don’t tell him about my visit. I want it to be a surprise.”

“Understood. I will announce you to the security, though, so you can come right up.”

“Thank you, Osanai. Till later then.”

With her smile even growing Jazz looked for the closest convenience store to get some kind of bento for Kunihiko. And something for Osanai.

Half an hour later she was standing in front of Kunihiko’s office, her heart pounding in a mixture of excitement and anxiety. She hoped that he had cooled off enough for them to talk about this like adults – and maybe even make up like adults. There was something about office sex that made her knees weak.

She waved towards Osanai and put a bento on his desk, raising her index finger to her lips to tell him not to give the surprise away by talking to her. After a quick knock against his office door she simply entered, figuring Osanai would have stopped her if Kunihiko was still in a meeting or on the phone.
He was neither, instead he stared at the computer screen, the crease between his brows deep and his whole expression dark. Maybe he was still upset about their fight but Jazz figured that there was more behind his bad mood lately. He must have been really busy.

“Lunch delivery,” she cheerfully announced just for him to stare at her as if she was a mirage.

“Jazz? Sorry, did we have an appointment?”

“I didn’t know that I need an appointment to see you now. Although that might explain why we haven’t had dinner once in the last two weeks,” she said, realizing that she still was rather miffed.

Okay, that start wasn’t the best but she could still make it.

“I brought you lunch. And cake,” she smiled and set both bags down on his desk. “I guess you haven’t eaten yet.”

Kunihiko sighed but turned away from his desk, ran his hands over his face and got up.

“You’re right. Lunch sounds good and I wanted to take a break anyway.”

His small smile relaxed Jazz, the tension didn’t vanish completely but at least decreased. Even more when he came closer and kissed her briefly.

“Thank you,” he muttered and for a moment everything was fine between them. They ate, sitting on a small couch, and talked a bit, not about their fight, though.

“What’s going on? You are working a lot lately,” Jazz wanted to know but he only flashed her a troubled smile.

“We are having some problems right now, some business partners are a bit – unreliable. But don’t worry, it will be fine.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” she offered but he shook his head.

“You can’t help me with that, but thanks.”

His tone indicated that the discussion was over but Jazz still was uneasy. Did he keep secrets from her? Well, she had to trust him, after all she always said that trust and honesty were the most important things in a relationship. So she changed the topic. Jazz put her bento down and turned a bit so she was pressed against his side.

“I might not be able to help with your work, but I certainly could do something else for you. Maybe take your mind off things?”

Her hand rested on his thigh and she could feel him tense under her touch.

“Is that really the only thing you can think of?” he curtly huffed and Jazz blinked but pulled her hand back.

“What? Now I‘m not even allowed to touch you anymore?”

“That’s not it. It’s just…” he sighed and scooted away from her a bit.

“Just what?” she asked. “Kunihiko, just what?”

“Not everything in life can be solved with sex, okay?” He scowled at her and for a moment she didn’t know what to say.

“Okay… first of all, I have NO IDEA what got your panties in a twist like that, but I’d say as long as it has nothing to do with me you better calm down before snapping at me like that. And secondly,” she had risen on her feet, the anger she had felt last night back in full force, “I’m not trying to solve anything. I thought you might enjoy a bit of attention, but obviously I was mistaken.”

“It’s not about ‘attention’ and you know that,” he growled.

“Then what is it about?” she challenged him to answer, but he kept silent.

“Is it still about jealousy? About the men I have been with before you?”

She forced herself to stay calm, to not yell at him. Osanai storming in wasn’t what she needed right now.

“No. But I have to admit that doesn’t help. I start wondering if there’s even one man-”

He stopped, obviously biting his tongue.

Jazz narrowed her eyes on him.

“One man what? One man I haven’t slept with?”

Her hands were trembling, she was so angry that she could barely keep her voice down. She knew it. She had  known that one day he would hold this against her. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did she ever think he would be really okay with this? With her?

“There is one. My ex-husband. But you already knew that. Aside from him? You better assume I slept with every man I ever met, that will save you some brooding,” she hissed and grabbed her purse and stormed out of the office, ignoring when he called her name.

She directly rushed into the lady’s room, hid in a stall and forced the tears down. Did they just break up? Was it over now? What the hell did just happen? Jazz was close to hyperventilating, she covered her mouth with her hands to prevent her sobs from escaping when she heard the restroom door and the chatter of two, maybe three female employees.

“Did you hear? Another project was cancelled.”

“Really? That’s the third one this week.”

“If that goes on like this they might fire some people.”

Definitely three different voices.

“I heard that Mr. Aikawa angered some influential bigshot somewhere.”

The first voice again.

“You mean that woman that came here the other day?”

Third voice.

“You don’t know her?”

Second voice again.

“No, do you?” the first one asked.

“Yes. She’s the mother of that CEO from that real estate company.”

Jazz’s heart stopped for a moment. That couldn’t be… Ai’s mother? Was it really Akane Kujuro? Wasn’t it enough for her to ruin Jazz’s life and take her apartment away? What did she want with Kunhiko? And why didn’t he tell her about that? Didn’t he trust her at all? Well, she would show him what she was able to do.

Not even 30 minutes later Jazz stormed into Ai’s apartment, knowing he was home.

“Jazz, what brings you here?” he asked innocently but Jazz was so angry that she didn’t even greet him, instead she rushed past him into the living room, opened a cabinet and grabbed a bottle of booze.

“You are a spineless coward, Ai Kujuro! Since when is your mother on this revenge trip?” She could hear Kou coming from the kitchen but she simply ignored him.

“What are you talking about?” Ai asked back.

“What I am talking about? I’m talking about your mother! I’m talking about the fact that you are suing me out of my apartment! That your company is responsible for several business deals falling through for Aikawa.com! I’m talking about your mother going all out because she’s still miffed about our divorce, something YOU were meant to tell her! Instead I had to, and in the worst possible way!”

She took a sip from the bottle and sputtered, the alcohol too strong for her to just gulp it down in her anger.

“Whoa, whoa, easy there. I am suing you?” Ai was standing in front of her now, brows furrowed.

“Not you, that damn company of yours! You didn’t know?”

He shook his head and briefly glanced over at Kou.

“No. I mean, I gave it to you in the first place.”

“Well,” Jazz said and put the bottle down, not attempting to take another sip, “maybe you should grow a pair and go to your mother to tell her that there is no need to punish me and everyone around me since divorcing me doesn’t hurt you at all. I mean, I know she doesn’t like me, but this is going too far.”

“Don’t you think you’re exaggerating?” Ai carefully asked just to get a very dirty look from Jazz.

“Oh please! She’s still angry that I didn’t want to quit my job to be a housewife and pop out two or three grandchildren!” she chuckled wryly. “Maybe I should tell her why I never got pregnant in the first place.”

Kou and Ai shared a look.

“Jazz… I’m sorry that this is happening to you but maybe you’re overreacting,” Ai slowly said.

“You think? Because I think I should be ripping your balls off, you won’t need them to make babies after all. And even that would be a pretty light punishment for the fact that you haven’t told your mother about our divorce like we said. If you would have just done that she wouldn’t have been so shocked when she ran into me and Kunihiko the other day and she wouldn’t have thought I was cheating on you. Pretty ironic, by the way.” Jazz was in full flow now. “I was fine with being your pretend wife as long as it was just about you and me, but now… shit, Ai, there are jobs at stake. I mean, forget the apartment, I can find something else, but this is really shitty. She’s punishing people who have nothing to do with the whole mess between you and me!”

“Ai,” Kou said urgently when he saw Jazz’s expression. “I think you owe her that much.”

It was strange, although  Kou wasn’t exactly a calm and shy person he rarely spoke up when Jazz was around, maybe he just didn’t like her, maybe he actually felt bad for putting her through the whole faked marriage while having an affair with her husband the whole time. Jazz didn’t know and didn’t care, she wasn’t that keen on spending time with them anyway. But now he took her side and she was grateful for it.

“I’m just not ready to tell her yet,” Ai sighed but Jazz glared at him.

“I’m sorry, Ai, I know it’s a very private thing, but I won’t allow her to destroy the company of Kunihiko just because she’s petty. If you don’t tell her I will. I have more than enough proof, she will believe me in the end. She has to.”

There was no way for Jazz to back down now. She would show Kunihiko that she was capable of cleaning up the mess that she created, although involuntarily and unintentional. But this was still on her somehow. Maybe if she had tried harder to get along with Ai’s mother. Maybe if she had be more careful after the divorce. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

And afterwards? Jazz sighed, it was already late and she was tired, emotionally drained now that the anger slowly subsided, only leaving the hurt behind. Did Kunihiko really call her a slut? Maybe not verbatim, but it was the gist of it, right?

“If you don’t tell her by tomorrow noon, I will. Sorry, I can’t let this slide any longer.”

Without giving Ai the chance to reply Jazz turned around and left.

Sleep. She just wanted to go to sleep now, maybe curl up in bed and cry a bit. But she didn’t have a bed. Back to Kunihiko’s apartment wasn’t an option, her own place was already cleared and she didn’t feel like explaining this whole mess to anyone. With a sigh Jazz headed towards a hotel she knew, glad that she had visited enough to know which one would be a good choice now.

After an unpleasant night, full of doubt and without much sleep Jazz trudged into her office, glad that she didn’t have early appointments. She was still waiting for a message from Ai and she really hoped that he would have the guts to face his mother and not cowardly let her deadline pass so Jazz would have to do this herself. Kunihiko hadn’t tried to contact her either and although it was some kind of relief, not having to deal with this on top of everything else, there was a sting she couldn’t deny. Was it really over now?

Well, she figured it had been only a matter of time until things went pear shaped, lucky in love wasn’t meant for her after all. She wouldn’t go back to do the reports, it just didn’t feel right anymore.

“Didn’t you wear that outfit yesterday?” Miho’s voice dragged her back to the present.

“Yeah, minus the wrinkles,” Jazz wryly answered.

Miho walked into the office and sat down in the chair in front of Jazz’s desk.

“What’s wrong?”

And Jazz told her.

And the more Jazz revealed, the darker Miho’s eyes seemed to get. There may or may not have been the crack of knuckles as she balled her fists so tightly all blood fled from beneath the skin.

“I wasn’t wrong about Aikawa,” she declared, her tone tight, taut – that calm before the storm type of restraint that warned destruction was imminent. “That stupid fucker loves you or he wouldn’t be so manic about our work – but that cow Kujuro? You know I was a ninja assassin in a past life right? I’ll take that bitch out, just say the word.”

Jazz laughed, the first genuine laughter since she had – well, since the dance off two days ago.

“It’s fine, Miho, I think I can get that sorted out. Somehow. Unfortunately not without outing Ai in the process and I really want to avoid that. It’s not on me to tell his mother but you bet I will without batting an eye if necessary.” She sighed and rested her head on the desk.

“Just waiting for high noon to draw my gun, though.”

“It’s fine?”

Miho shook her head and glared unmerciful death at victims not actually present.

“It’s not fine,” she snorted, and seemed to be looking for some other words that maybe shouldn’t be articulated, or published, anywhere, ever. “So, you’re bunking with me until this shit is sorted right?”

“Depends. What did you do on the couch? No, don’t tell me. I better not bring my blacklight, but yeah, if it’s okay with you I’d rather stay with you than going back to a hotel. It’s rather – it reminds me too much of all the occasions on which I frequented hotels.”

Jazz made a face and sighed again. She didn’t feel guilty, there was no shame, no handprints on her body and soul. Whatever she did so far happened with her consent and in most cases she enjoyed it, very much so. There was nothing she truly regretted and she wouldn’t start pretending it was otherwise. And still she felt responsible for the whole mess she was in now. If she hadn’t been so stupid to belief Kunihiko would be really fine with her experiences and number of lovers she wouldn’t be where she was right now.

“Remind me to start acting like a fuckin’ adult already, will you?”

“You’d have to keep track of those panties if you did that,” Miho chortled, but there was still murder in her gaze. “Heh, forget the couch, you can snuggle with me, I’mma kick Goto out for a while.”

Jazz knew her well enough to not expect her to sit on her hands – Miho was a meddler, through and through. Miho told herself that by virtue of Jazz telling her all this, it was permission, if not clear instruction, for her to butt in and say her piece – also Miho’s own honour had been challenged.

“I’m a bad influence am I?” she sniffed, hazel eyes glinting. “Ooooh Aikawa, you are so dead.”

“Can’t wait to get me into your bed again, can you? Poor Goto, you’re not even married yet and you are already making him sleep on the couch.” Jazz laughed lightly. “No, it’s okay. Couch is fine, but please, don’t make me listen to you going at it like bunnies.” She quickly checked her phone again. Still no sign from Ai. He only had two hours left before Jazz would take matters in her own hand. And she really wasn’t keen on that.

“Let me treat you to lunch as token of my gratitude, how about it?”

“Goto will live,” she smirked. “He doesn’t like glitter much so I’m informed. And you know he has his own apartment to sleep in right? It’ll be just you, me, and my wine cellar until this is done.”

She then shook her head.

“You know you don’t need to pay off your best friend to take care of your right?” she said, rolling her eyes. “But you know, boozy lunch works for me.”

Lunch was boozy.

But not so boozy that Miho wasn’t in full possession of her faculties… and her rage. She knew she couldn’t KILL Kuni, should she kind of wanted to – eh but that meant admitting she had been wrong about he and Jazz being perfect for one another.

Sure, her own pride was a liiiiiitle bit hurt, but on the other hand, being a bad influence could have been taken as a compliment – she should totally take that as a compliment. With this on her mind, and a vicious grin on her face, she slammed her palm against the door of Long Island, drawing all eyes to her instantly.

And she didn’t care, not one, little, bit.

In fact, it made her next utterance easier, because she didn’t have to call the patrons to attention, she already held it.

If it was possible to see rage radiated from someone – it was visible, wafting from her in shuddering waves of I will fucking shank you.

“I need to have a quiet word with Mr. Aikawa,” she said, loud enough to be heard by all, but with that palpable warning of imminent death for anyone who failed to follow. “So I would appreciate (see leave or die), if you could give us the room (see gtfo if you value your existence).”

Takao groaned lowly when he saw and heard Miho. He didn’t know her that well but he knew she had kind of a temper and Jazz had told him some stories that made him wonder if Miho would ever need his help as a lawyer in other issues than those concerning MJS.

Saeki raised his eyebrow in interest, he could never resist some drama and even less a woman who was so wonderfully capable of showing emotion. Angry sex was some of the best sex after all.

Yamato only grinned. “Hey Kuni, you’re in trouble, huh? What did you do to make her that mad?”

Kunihiko only shrugged and poured Miho a whiskey.

“Guys, you heard the lady. Maybe you should step out for a minute.” He knew there was no use in stalling, but he was a bit irritated that it was Miho and not Jazz who came to talk. Or to yell at him, at least that what it looked like right now.

Takao furrowed his brow. “Are you sure?”

Kunihiko hadn’t told anyone about his recent troubles yet, not those at work and nor those with Jazz. He simply nodded. Let them think whatever they wanted to think.

“But I wanted to watch this? Might give me some inspiration after all. Beautiful enraged woman storms into a bar and threatens the owner. I need to know how this will end.”

“You will know, but you don’t have to witness it. Get out for now,” Kunihiko said firmly, the stress of the past few days making him impatient.

Grumbling Saeki slid from his chair, followed by Yamato and a still concerned Takao.

Miho allowed the men to file past her before approaching the bar and sitting herself up on a stool.

She then dropped her credit card onto the bar top.

“Whiskey please,” she requested, trying to restrain herself, but lunch had been pretty boozy already.

Really, she was just asking out of a strange sense of courtesy.

“And, when you’re done pouring, you can skip the ‘this is none of my business’ part of the defence, because my bestfriend is breaking into a thousand pieces because you can’t let go of a past that has nothing to do with you, and bad influence on her or not, you can bet what manhood you pride yourself for having, I will protect, and defend her no matter what.”

That was as good an introduction as she could manage.

Kunihiko sighed and slid the glass over the counter.

“So she sends you here to do what? Threaten me?” He should have known that Jazz tells Miho. Hell, he had actually expected Miho to storm in much earlier.

“No,” she disagreed. “She didn’t send me, and I am not here to threaten you. This is an informative mission – I’m, R2D2 and this may be your only hope, because you are clearly missing some serious subtext that maybe you’ve not spent enough time with her to pick up on.”

Her eyes narrowed, looking beyond him and fixing upon a bottle of whiskey before her gaze slid back to him.

“Do you know, that I’ve never seen her happier, in all the time I’ve known the woman, than when you two finally hooked up?” she offered, her tone suddenly light, conversational. “All that crap with the moron husband just sort of lifted from her, and underneath it all was someone shiny and light. You did that, you know?”

Shiny and light. Happy. Yes, he knew what Miho was talking about, and he had fallen so hard for that bright smile, the way Jazz laughed, a bit dorky but with this sound that made his heart soar. And he really wanted her to be like that, always.

“That moron husband is one of the things bothering me actually,” he finally admitted. “That and every other man who ever – anyway. Some things are hard to explain and I don’t even expect her to understand me – or you.”

“You’ve got me all wrong, Aikawa,” Miho laughed, pointing at the bottle now seeing as he didn’t seem to be able to multi-task and hadn’t gotten her point. “I absolutely understand, because I wasn’t wrong about you two. I know you love her so much, the idea anyone ever touching her other than you, whether she loved them or not, boils your blood. You simply can’t stand the concept she was anyone else’s but yours.”

Okay, now her smile was a little creepy, until it seeped slowly toward cold again.

“Ai broke her so badly, made her so miserable, trapped her in a place where she thought not only would she never love again, but that love wasn’t for her, that she didn’t even deserve it,” she continued. “Do you have any idea the courage it took for her to admit to herself she loves you? Jesus Christ! You don’t marry someone you don’t love excluding all others and she did only to be betrayed so summarily she resigned herself to loneliness… forever… until you. And you’re worried about what? That she’ll cheat on you because our job entailed – past tense – sexually profiling people so we could find them happiness in their lives we hardly dared dream for ourselves?”

Kunihiko raised an eyebrow. Miho seemed ever agitated but not only because of Jazz. Well, there had to be story there but he now was too busy with his own problems. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey and refilled her glass.

“That woman came visiting me in my office the other day,” he suddenly said. “Showed me a list of names and dates. A long list. Some of the names I even knew. Told me that she had someone tailing Jazz because she had been sure that Jazz only wanted to marry for money. I nearly kicked her out when she said that.” A dry chuckle escaped his lips. Of course he knew that woman. She was from a very influential family after all.

“So the PI she had hired followed Jazz for over a year. Do you know how many names -?” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Aikawa.com has business relations to some of those names. And suddenly they dropped those relations. Projects we had been working on for months. A lot of money and a lot of time.”

He poured himself a glass. “I know it’s not her fault. But I can’t say it didn’t sting when I saw that. And suddenly more of my business partners called off projects. That’s just… I thought I could try to handle one thing first, and maybe afterwards have a long talk with her. About how many men she had really been with.” He knew he was pathetic, swearing his love to her and now? But he needed some time to think, not to feel for once.

“Of course I know how many names,” Miho nodded, a little more soberly now she had her whiskey. “You think mine would be any shorter?”

She let that sit for a second, the tilted her glass in Kuni’s direction.

“You know, you came to us too, right?” she pointed out. “Your name is on that list of however many men – men, I might add, who are now mostly happily married to women because of MJS and have nothing to do with us anymore?”

Rhetorical question of course.

“Still, she might tell you how many, but don’t you dare ask her that,” she said, and her eyes narrowed.

Eyes like Godzilla considering how much indigestion eating that cab might cause.

“You already called her a slut once, you know that right? Looked right at her and called her a filthy, dirty, whore who you couldn’t trust not to hump the leg of the next passing man despite any declarations she’s made to you. A… whore.”

His eyes widened. He did not do any of that sort! He would never!

“That is not what happened,” he stated firmly. Did Jazz say that? Think that? He knew that there were some things better left unsaid because once out in the open the words could never be taken back. So he usually stopped talking BEFORE he actually said something like that. “And I don’t like you talking like that about her.”

He could be cold, too. He could be angry to the brink of being destructive, but he didn’t want to. He chose not to be like that. And still…

“She was the one saying things like that and before I could even object she was already rushing out. Didn’t come home at all. She didn’t even tell me where she was.”

“That is how she thinks you see her,” Miho clarified firmly, utterly impervious to anything he might say about herself. “Whether you said it explicitly or not, my best friend, who loves you more than she values her own self esteem, believes that is how you view her – and because she loves you, that much, she will try to protect you by walking away if you let her.”

Miho scowled now, but this time it wasn’t angry. It had to be clear, if Kuni had any sense about him at all, that Miho’s love for her friend was what drove her, and in turn, she hurt also.

“Don’t let her do that,” she said, an imperative statement grammatically speaking, but her tone of voice actually made it sound more like a plea. “Because she might never pick herself up again… mhmm, and maybe, after you… she shouldn’t.”

Kunihiko thought of Jazz, of her smile, her warmth. How she made cookies when she was happy and how she wanted him to teach her Japanese cooking so she could do that for him. And then he thought about that list again. He knew that the woman who slept with all those men was the same he wanted in his life so badly, but he had troubles matching those images.

Did she really think he considered her a whore? Would actually asking her with how many men she had slept make it easier for him? Probably not. But wasn’t Jazz the one who always said honesty was the most important in a relationship?

What do to? What to feel, to say? Was there even a way to apologize?

“I won’t let her go,” he slowly said. “But I can’t just ignore what happened, can I?”

In a single gulp, Miho emptied her glass, snatched up her credit card and dumped a bunch of bills onto the bar instead, before hopping off the stool.

It seemed she was done with the roasting.

She waved over her shoulder as she headed for the door, but paused to look back at him – sober, completely sober.

“We may have enjoyed the sex, but never loved the men we had it with… until we stopped doing it for the ones we actually do. You, are the one among this many you’re so concerned about, the one she never knew until she did, and it stopped her in her tracks completely. If you can’t be happy with that?”

She inhaled, and then exhaled.

“Then shit, I guess I was really wrong about you after all.”

Then she turned out the door muttering, to herself, bitterly.

“I fuckin’ hate being wrong.”

After lunch Jazz anxiously stared at her phone. Shit, she would really have to go and talk to Akane. Great, another one convinced she was only a money grubbing whore. She took a deep breath and browsed through her contacts until she reached the entry ‘monster in law’. Her finger hovered over the call button and she nearly let her phone drop when it suddenly rang.

“Fuck it, Ai! You wanna give me a heart attack?” she yelled and took the call.. “You better say you’ve talked to your mother, you spineless jerk.”

“I love you, too, but now I’m too wiped out for pleasantries. And yes, I talked to her. Told her everything. She still wants to talk to you, though, so you better get your little ass over here.”

Jazz groaned inwardly. And outwardly.

“You know I’m not exactly keen on seeing her,” she sniffed and Ai laughed.

“So am I, but cling together, swing together,” he chuckled.

“Oh please, swinging with you is out of question,” she shot back.

“I know, I know. But don’t worry, I think she’s feeling bad for what she did,” Ai said nonchalantly.

“You think?” Jazz asked, clearly not convinced.

“Okay, let me rephrase this: She won’t take no for an answer and if you want to get over with this, you better come here. I’m here, too, and so is Kou. Although mother isn’t amused about it.” He chuckled wryly and Jazz sighed. Better get this done now before it took even longer to resolve this mess. God, she should have stayed in Europe after all.

Gathering the last shreds of strength Jazz agreed and left the office.

There was no solace in the fact that Akane seemed beyond pissed whenever she looked at Kou and Ai because she looked at Jazz with the same disgust. But Jazz wouldn’t back down now.

“Hello, Kujuro-san.”

“So you lied to me. All the time you lied to me.” Akane didn’t even take a second to greet Jazz but she hadn’t expected anything else.

“No, I didn’t. When Ai introduced me I didn’t know either. And believe me, it might be a shock that your son loves another man, but it’s even more shocking to find out that your husband does.” Jazz had enough. She was a victim of this lie after all, not the one who came up with it.

“Ladies, please calm down. We are all hurt here,” Ai started only to earn a glare from both his mother and ex wife.

“I think you are the only one here who shouldn’t talk right now. Kou, your mother and I, we are the ones who had to endure this after all.”

Ai raised his hands in mock surrender but Jazz ignored it.

“I know you don’t like me, Kujuro-san, and I actually don’t care. But when I said ‘I do’ I really meant it, although I was the only one back then. I told Ai over and over again to be honest with you. You are his mother, you deserve that much.”

Akane acknowledged Jazz words with a  brief nod, but her stern expression didn’t waver.

“And I don’t care if you want the apartment back, although I hope we can get that resolved without our lawyers.” Jazz wouldn’t need it any longer when she went back to Europe. And that she couldn’t stay in Tokyo any longer was crystal clear.

“What I can’t accept though is the fact that you use your connections to ruin a company for the mere reason of its owner being an associate of mine.” Her voice didn’t show any trace of compliance, she wouldn’t budge on this.

“He’s hardly only an ‘associate’,” Akane said with a scowl.

“He is what I say that he is, nothing else. I don’t care how much you despise me, but even you should know that ruining the lives of all those working there won’t change the fact that your SON lied to you, not me. So you better undo whatever you did or I swear I’m going to make it public. I wonder how YOUR company will take such a blow.” Jazz was bluffing, of course she was, but her pokerface was flawless.

“So you came here to threaten me?!” Akane was already half out of her seat when Jazz got up.

“I came here because you SUMMONED me here, if I wanted or not. And only because you don’t like what I have to say doesn’t make it a threat. I know some people at Shiki Publishing and I’m sure it will be easy to spread some pictures and maybe even emails showing that the CEO of Kujuro enterprises cheated on his lovely wife with his best friend. His best MALE friend.” She didn’t dare looking at Ai and Kou, feeling sorry for having to actually say this. “And THAT isn’t an empty threat either.” With her head held high Jazz stalked out of the room only to slump against a wall in the hallway. She needed a few deep breaths to calm down again but heard footsteps rushing towards her. It was Kou.

“Don’t worry, it’s okay.” He flashed her a sad smile. Poor Kou. At first he had to watch the man he loved marrying a woman and now said woman threatened to drag their relationship out into public.

“No, it’s not okay,” Jazz whispered. “I’m sorry, Kou, I really am. But I can’t let her do that. I just can’t.”

“I know. Don’t worry, we work that out. Ai said he would step down as CEO if she doesn’t relent.I don’t think she can risk that.”

Jazz nodded slowly. “I hope you can get over this crap,” she said and smiled back at him. “At least one of us should be happy in the end, right?”

That night Jazz slept poorly, in Miho’s bed that smelled like fresh sheets and someone else. All she could think about was that this wasn’t the place where she should be, where she wanted to be. And although she was grateful for Miho and her somewhat fierce friendship she couldn’t help but poke at the still fresh wound in her heart, wondering if Kunihiko even cared what Jazz did, where she was now. Or if he was glad that she was finally gone.

MJS Out of Office Drama: Miho and Goto ‘Flowers’

It was strange.

Even though Jazz had only been at Miho’s a couple of nights, not having Goto in her bed, or not being in his bed, felt wrong.

And this made Miho happy. Not that she enjoyed the wrong feeling, but that Goto was there, in her thoughts and emotions, even when he wasn’t.

After sending Rose off on her mission to Shiki Publishing – about which Miho smirked – she headed out of the building to meet with her next client during his lunch break. He was the kind of man she didn’t think needed any help attracting women, but at the same time she knew full well that often it was those types exactly, who had difficulty finding the one.

So many women looking to marry into an easy life, easy money.

He was charming, good looking and courteous, and even after just one meeting, Miho already had a list of women he thought would match.

Returning to the office, she smiled at MJS’s relative new receptionist Izumi Takasaki, and he looked up and smiled.

“Flowers arrived for you, Miss Fujiwara,” he grinned. “I put them in your office, I hope that’s okay.”

“You know, somehow I feel like your mother when you call me Miss Fujiwara,” she huffed sitting herself on the edge of his desk, and he looked a little bit stricken.

“No no! I don’t mean… you’re not old enough to be my mother by a long shot,” he rushed.

“Right, so call me Miho, ugh Miho-san if you absolutely must,” Miho grumbled, but it was clear she wasn’t even close to being mad.

When Selina decided to take some vacation leave it had been someone Jazz knew they brought in to fill the administrative gap. Though hardly his dream job, his mind set on being a vet, Izumi was able to pull enough hours with MJS to keep himself alive, and still leave time enough to study.

And, of course, he was such a little puppy, he was simply fun to tease.

“Who’re the flowers from?” Miho questioned, though her thoughts had gone straight to Goto… of course.

The fact was, however, they did on occasion receive gifts from clients, even though it was procedure to tell them they wouldn’t be accepted.

“Card was sealed so, it could be any of your… um…” Izumi began, then thought better of finishing his sentence the way it had played out in his head. “Eh, but given you’re not doing dating simulations anymore, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume a certain, um, hunky fiancé is responsible?”

“He is hunky, isn’t he?” Miho giggled – yeah she giggled, like a friggin’ school girl. “Well I’m not going to complain,” she added, and wandered into her office to investigate.

The flowers were nothing short of spectacular, perhaps a couple of hundred dollars worth of beautiful blooms, and humming happily to herself like a lovesick moron, Miho plucked the envelope free and tore it open.

See you tonight.

That’s all it said, but it was enough to put butterflies in her stomach. Flopping into her chair, Miho dug her phone from her bag and tapped out a message to Goto.

The flowers are gorgeous, thanks. Looking forward to some us time as well.

Jazz hadn’t stayed long, and thankfully she and Kuni had gotten their shit together quickly, but it not being a given she would have Goto beside her at some point every night, had been surprisingly taxing.

Allowing her good mood to carry her quickly through typing up her new client notes, Miho lost herself in the work zone until the shrill call of her ringing phone broke her free.

Seeing it was Goto made her feel stupidly giddy all over again.

“You’re clearly not working hard enough, Lieutenant, if you have time to make social calls,” she teased, but Goto’s reply was brisk.

“Miho, I didn’t send you flowers,” he stated flatly, and Miho’s stomach clenched.

“Oh,” she dropped. “The card wasn’t signed so, naturally I figured it was you.”

“Client?” he offered and though the word wasn’t cold, Miho felt guilty.

“Won’t lie, it happens from time to time, even though we tell clients not to,” she revealed.

“Card?” he prompted.

“Yeah,” she murmured – wanted to lie about what it said, but didn’t want to lie.

“Um… it said, see you tonight.”


“I’ll pick you up from the office,” he declared. “I will be seeing you tonight.”

“Please try not to catastrophise,” she chided lightly.

“collecting my fiancée from work isn’t catastrophizing,” he argued. “It’s prudent when she’s receiving flowers and promises from someone other than me.”

“You know I was an assassin in a past life, right?” she offered, but he remained serious.

“This is the only life I care about,” he growled. “Will you be ready by 7:30?”

“Sure, that’s fine,” she conceded, trying not to sigh. “But don’t complain later when I demonstrate my kungfu on you.”

“Kungfu all you like when we’re home,” he told her, his tone only now tempering toward affection. “And in the meantime…”

“I have no more appointments today,” she interrupted. “So I’ll be here at the office, so don’t stress.”

He didn’t deny he was stressing, but didn’t admit to it either.

“Send me a picture,” he said instead – an odd request.

Miho fell straight into the gutter.

“Mr. Goto!” she exclaimed, her voice dripping with honey. “What kind of picture are you asking for exactly?”

Coughing noises answered, and Miho laughed, the image of his flushed face filling her mind’s eye.

“The flowers,” he said eventually, and she imagined him looking at the ground bashfully.

“God you’re cute,” she chuckled. “You want to run forensics on the flowers do you?”

“Just do it, Miho,” he grumbled. “I’ll see you at 7:30.”

It wasn’t often he flat out told her to do something, but she was too amused to notice, and with an I love you she hung up and sent him the picture he was after.

He replied with a simple thanks, leaving Miho to get on with her work – but now she knew the flowers weren’t from Goto, and that he was bothered by her having them, there was no help for it but to throw them out.

Izumi looked surprised when Miho appeared with the huge arrangement in her arms.

“Um… Miho? Do you need me to help you with that?”

“Nope, I got this. Just taking it out to the dumpster,” Miho clarified, awkwardly making her way toward the back of their ground floor rooms, unlocking the door, and stepping out into the alley where their dumpster was located. “What a waste,” she sighed, wondering if maybe she could get away with salvaging the lovely vase the flowers came in, or whether that would still irritate Goto.

“A waste,” came a voice suddenly behind her, and startled, Miho reflexively dropped the flowers.

The ceramic vase smashed against the wet asphalt, red roses scattering around Miho’s feet, and her guards came up.

He was as tall as her, a he by his build and voice –  but his face and his hair was obscured by a balaclava, and his dark clothing covered most of his skin.

“You didn’t like them?” he asked, taking one step closer to her, a testing step, and Miho’s reaction was to move diagonally around the edge of the dumpster toward MJS’s back door.

“They’re from you?” she questioned, her voice not shaking, but breathy.

In response, the masked man inclined his head. She could see his eyes, dark eyes, Japanese eyes, and they were studying her closely, coolly.

“Well… thank you but, I have a fiancé,” she forced out, shuffling again and reaching with one hand for the door handle.

“Wait,” he snapped, and though Miho wanted nothing more than inside she froze.

“Don’t,” Miho hissed, gritting her teeth, lips peeled back and her fingers flexing in and out of fists. “Leave, and don’t come back,” she blurted, and then made her move.








By the time her back pressed against the inside of the door, she was panting.

The ambiguous message with the flowers hadn’t thrown her, not even finding out Goto hadn’t sent them had caused her much concern – but a man in a disguise creeping up on her in an alley outside her place of work?

Yeah that got her.

“Holy shit,” she shuddered out, not quite sure what to do with herself.

“Hey Miho,” Rose greeted, coming down the hallway. “I’m going to make tea, do you want some?”

But Miho just kind of stared like she hadn’t heard her, hadn’t seen her, and this caused Rose to pause and make a more serious study of the other woman’s face.

“Miho?” she prompted, drawing closer, and only then did Miho’s eyes narrow and seem to focus.

“Ahh, Rose,” she exhaled, shaking her head. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“Your hands are shaking,” Rose observed, scowling. “What’s wrong?”

Miho bit her lip, fiercely, and it remained that way for some time until she managed to answer in a low and quiet voice.

“There was a man, in the alley,” she explained. “Balaclava, I was…”

“Did he hurt you?” Rose hissed, snatching Miho’s right hand and giving it a squeeze.

“No,” Miho assured, dragging in a deep breath and straightening. “Just surprised me.”

“Izumi!” Rose barked, and Miho cringed.

Like he’d fallen out of his chair in fright, Izumi appeared with a startled look on his face.

“Call the cops,” Rose instructed. “Miho was just approached by creeper.”

“What? Here?” Izumi blinked. “Miss Fujiwara, did he…”

“No, no I’m okay,” Miho muttered, shaking her head again. “Go ahead and call the police,” she then continued, but as she clawed out of the moments of threat outside, she knew what calling the police would also mean. “Rose…”

But she didn’t get to finish.

“I’ll make some tea,” the other woman asserted with a definitive nod.

Regaining her faculties, Miho went back to her office and picked up her mobile phone.

“Oh this is going to hurt,” she murmured, then dialled Goto.

He didn’t answer, which was perhaps a small blessing, and so Miho left a voice message.

“You know, this is a real pain in the ass,” she began with another sigh, “but… there was a guy, the one who sent the flowers, in the alley out the back of our building. He didn’t touch me, and I’ve already called MPD, so there’s no need to rush over here – I’m fine, just… you know…”

There she floundered a little.

Truthfully, logically, this guy hadn’t harmed her in any physical way, though the balaclava said loud and clear he didn’t want his identity known and that was the biggest red flag of them all. Still, the what ifs and the could haves played on her mind, made her shift uneasily in her chair and really wish Goto was there.

“Unless MPD need me to go somewhere,” she continued finally. “I’ll be staying here, indoors, until 7:30 so don’t feel like you need to come early…”

It was difficult for her to admit weakness – she was just an in-charge kind of person.

“… but, I am looking forward to seeing you.”

Hanging up was surprisingly difficult considering he wasn’t actually listening to her talk in real time.

“Miss Fujiwara,” Izumi said quietly from the doorway, and Miho’s head snapped up.

“Miho,” she corrected, forcing a smile to her lips.

“MPD is sending someone over now,” he informed her, his young face so stiff and serious. “I’m going to take a look outside, make sure he’s not still hanging around.”

“No,” Miho countered, leaning back in her chair just as Rose brushed passed Izumi, a steaming cup in her hand. “Who knows what ideas this person has. You don’t need to be provoking him.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t kick his ass into next week,” Rose snorted, putting the tea on Miho’s desk.

“Yeah well, he caught me off guard,” Miho grumbled, blushing a little. “And he didn’t try to grab me or anything so an ass kicking might have been premature.”

At this, Rose sniffed.

“And I’m fine, thank you both,” Miho added. “Izumi just let me know when the police arrive. I’m going to text Jazz and H so they know to be careful.”

They left Miho alone until the police arrived, though Miho knew both Izumi and Rose weren’t far away – not hovering, but on edge and ready to run in should she call. It was sweet, especially since she hadn’t known them that long – but that was how MJS was.


The police came and went, taking her statement, checking the premises and making a few security suggestions here and there, before moving to the Tax Accountant and Dentist offices that also shared the building.

Miho returned to Mr. Tachibana’s profile, tapping away on her keyboard intermittently, but her mind kept returning to something that now seemed to bother her more than anything else.


There was no placing it, but something about her mysterious fan was not so foreign to her. The most obvious answer was he had been a client, which is what she had suggested to the police, but she had frustrated even them when she refused to give them a list of said clients.

Even the ones they had decided against taking on were protected by the same confidentiality clause as existing and past clients, so it made for a difficult situation.

“I should call Takao,” she told herself, reaching for her phone until…

“Is she in her office?” Goto questioned, but his voice got louder as the short sentence progressed, telling her he was moving at speed and not waiting for an answer.

“It’s not even seven yet,” she huffed, getting to her feet.

Covering up how much of a relief it was.

“I didn’t run any red lights,” he scowled, taking her face between his hands and looking her up and down. “And I happened to finish my paperwork early.”

Those eyes of his were a ferocious squall of protectiveness and tightly wound rage; normally so calm, often seen as impassive, anger for him was a battle, one he fought for her in that moment.

“I’d say don’t fuss, but you’re going to no matter what I do,” she chuckled, leaning in to kiss him lightly before laying her head on his shoulder.

“I’m just going to have to convince Ishigami to assign me as your bodyguard,” he sighed into her hair, arms folded around her, muscles tensed against her back.

“All he did was talk,” Miho said, muffled against his jacket.

“Gifts, suggestive messages and a personal visit isn’t nothing, Miho,” he responded sternly.

“I didn’t say it wasn’t nothing,” she grumbled. “I’ll be careful.”

“I know you’re not not careful,” he stated, pulling her away a little so he could look into her face. “And I know how hard it must be for people to not fall in love with you.”

“For the ones that don’t know me very well anyway,” she snickered, and finally she got a smile.

“You ready to head home?” he asked, and Miho separated from him to grab her bag and laptop.


“My place,” he determined, his hand in the small of her back as she passed through the door.

“Jazz and Mr. Aikawa made up you know, so my apartment is good to go again,” she informed him.

“Hm, you downgraded him to Mr. Aikawa?” Goto noted, nodding a serious thankyou nod to Izumi

“He’s going to have to earn back friendly privileges by treating Jazz with a whole lot more respect, consistently,” she sniffed, obviously still irritated by some or all of Jazz and Kuni’s whole situation.

“Hope you never get that mad at me,” Goto frowned, and Miho nudged his shoulder with her head.

“No promises,” she grinned, then latched onto his arm, while looking at Izumi. “Make sure Rose doesn’t take a train home,” she instructed. “Cabs on the expense account, you too.”

“No worries, Miss Fujiw…” he began, but stopped when Miho sent him a warning look.

Being as new as he was, he put up with a lot from the girls and did so without much backlash – this time, however, a somewhat impish smile tweaked his lips.

“Mrs Goto?”

And Goto stumbled just a little bit, Miho with him – but he was definitely the one to blush.

“I like the sound of that,” she smirked, then childishly poked her tongue out at Izumi before she urged Goto to head outside.

Typically, Goto’s place was a mess, though it seemed he had been trying to be more tidy since she began visiting on a regular basis.

“Sorry,” he apologised sheepishly when she was forced to step around several stacks of folders and papers on the floor next to the coffee table.

“So you finished your paperwork at work early, because most of it’s here,” she snickered, grabbing a hoodie and a stray sock from the back of the couch and beginning a collection of laundry.

“Hardly,” he groused, but he didn’t sound all that burdened, in fact, he hadn’t really gone that far into the apartment.

He stood, just watching Miho wandering around, getting busy with ‘wife stuff’.

“Seriously Goto Seiji,” Miho said out of nowhere, stopping and looking at him sharply, “if you make some comment about wife stuff, you’re sleeping on the couch, if you can find any space.”

“The narrator would never depict me as being so misogynistic,” he replied, running a hand through his hair. “And I don’t think I am – I just… like having you here.”

“Now you’re trying to seduce me?” she questioned pointedly, dropping the bundle of clothes and planting her hands on her hips.

“Umm, I wasn’t,” he said slowly, his brows twitching as he gauged her mood, “but it might be a nice side product… if it’s working.”

“Like you even need to try,” she smirked, blowing him a kiss, but his step toward her faltered when her next move was not toward him, but to gather up the clothes again. “But I guess you should have done your laundry first,” she called out in a teasing voice from the bathroom.

After cleaning and tidying was complete, Goto and Miho ate a simple dinner and then turned in for the night.

Despite their earlier talk, beneath the blankets their bodies lay mostly still – entwined, but simply enjoying being close to one another.

“Tomorrow I’ll see what I can do about a couple of days off,” Goto said, breaking the comfortable silence, idly curling a strand of Miho’s hair around his finger. “I’d like you to meet my parents… and my brother I guess.”

“He’s pretty young hmm? Considering you’re an old man and all,” she goaded, but he returned fire with ease.

“I suppose that makes you ancient then?”

“Oh ho, I’ll have you know I look relatively young for my age,” she sniffed, poking against his chest until he took her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Think that’ll fix everything huh? Smooth bastard.”

“Is it working?” he grinned, before kissing the flat of her palm.

“I’m going to work you,” she growled, rolling on top of him and sitting up, straddling him and triumphantly staring down.

“And I am not going to argue,” he smiled.

MPD were unable to catch Miho’s disguised visitor on any nearby cctv, despite there being a number of cameras in the area. The flowers had been delivered by the florist, and the courier was confirmed as being elsewhere at the time of Miho’s encounter in the alley.

Ultimately, the office was a bit tense, and Jazz and Miho had to go over the expenses to increase security in the building, and a proposal to get the other two businesses to pay their share.

Though the other girls met their clients out of the office, Izumi called Miho’s appointments and arranged times they could come to her, much to her irritation, and Goto’s satisfaction. Jazz ‘escorted her’ to the café and the store when required during the day, rotating with H and Rose where schedules clashed.

She didn’t put up a fight, though it was clear in her sullen expression she was not enjoying ‘being taken care of’. It was sweet Goto wanted to protect her and wasn’t super overbearing about it, and, not that she needed it, there was proof of her friendships in the way they too went above and beyond to make sure there were no nasties lurking around corners or under her desk.

Yes, Jazz even checked under Miho’s desk.

Sadly, Goto was not there.

It seemed all quiet – no more gifts, no more surprise appearances, and after a few days MPD told Miho there wasn’t anything more they could do without a potential suspect or clues that might lead them to one. She knew Goto was itching to get involved, or at least lean on someone else who could, but Miho warned him against caving in to that impulse. After all, it wasn’t like MJS didn’t have police connections and friends, clients, employees even – but MPD was right. It wasn’t their job to act like a bodyguard, no crime had been committed, and there was no hard evidence suggesting one might be.

So removing Miho from Tokyo for a while was Goto’s best option, and of course it served to kill two birds with one stone.

On the bullet train to his hometown, where his parents and brother still lived, he stuck to her like glue. When Miho pointed out how people were looking at them, how sick in love they must have looked because of the way he always had at least one hand on her, his reaction was as one might predict.

“I don’t care,” he asserted flatly, his tone contrasting the shade of his cheeks. “If someone snatched you out from under my nose, I’d never forgive myself.”

“As if you wouldn’t notice,” she grinned, their arms looped as they sat next to each other, Miho on the window side. “I’d be screaming so loud they’d hear me back in Tokyo.”

“You do have quite the set of lungs,” he noted with a cheeky nod.

“Like that is it?” she sniffed, slithering her hand into his lap and stroking downward slowly.

“Wah… what are you doing!” he exclaimed in an urgent hiss, snatching her wrist.

“Now who’s being loud?” she grinned broadly, reaching for him with her other hand, which he also caught and held firmly.

“Really? Right here, on the train?” he muttered, hoping no one could see the blaring red beacon that was his flustered face.

“It’s not my fault I can’t keep my hands to myself,” she pouted, but didn’t struggle. “I need to make up for lost time.”

“I think we did plenty of that last night,” he pointed out, relaxing his hold.

“So you don’t want to join me in the lavatory?” she offered suggestively.

“Damnit Miho,” he muttered, and she laughed.

“Fiiiiine,” she sighed. “But if your parents hear us going at it, you’ll regret letting me get all pent up.”

For a second it looked like he was going to comment on that, and Miho could almost hear him ask, ‘when are you ever not pent up?’ He did, however, keep it to himself, because he had a fair idea how she’d have responded, and he wasn’t sure if he could survive her grinding in his lap on the train.

Even if he actually really wanted her to.

Poor Goto.

Miho tried to keep her teasing to a minimum for the rest of the trip, but it was a way to curb some of the nerves tying knots inside her. Forget creepy stalker dude, meeting the in-laws… and it wasn’t just meeting the in-laws, because that in and of itself should have been a breeze – it was explaining, without lying, the circumstances of their meeting, the development of their relationship and well, Miho’s occupation, even though she felt absolutely no shame.

We already knew that, huh?

Outside the station they caught a taxi.

“You’re fidgeting,” Miho noticed, putting a hand on Goto’s thigh, this time not because she wanted into his pants – well, not specifically anyway. “You know, if you’re nervous, I’m going to be nervous.”

“I know I shouldn’t be,” he told her, clearly embarrassed. “But I just… want them to love you like I do.”

“I might want to screw you sideways every chance I get, Seiji, but I can be loveable and totally daughter-in-law material.”

Goto glanced to see if the cab driver heard what Miho had said before responding.

“You don’t have to be anything other than yourself,” he told her gently, putting his hand over hers.

“Daaw,” she grinned, dropping her head onto her shoulder. “Still, I do want them to like me.”

“They will,” he assured her, and his leg stopped twitching.

There was no time to hesitate outside of the Goto residence. The moment the taxi came to a stop outside the house a beaming woman exited and all but bounced to greet them.

“Seiji it’s been too long!” she grinned, leaping up to throw her arms around Goto’s shoulders. “But under the circumstances…”

“You’re making a scene,” Goto grumbled bashfully, prying his mother free, only to find Miho smiling.

“Cute,” she commented, shouldering her handbag and watching the pair.

“What do I have to do to get you to stop calling me that?” he groaned, his shoulders slumping a little, but Miho looked unrepentant.

“Oh you two are both so cute,” Goto’s mother chirped, clutching her hands to her chest, peering between them.

“But rude, Mrs. Goto,” Miho put in, bowing to the woman. “I’m Fujiwara Miho, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Oh no don’t be silly!” Goto’s mother was quick to dispel any formality. “Call me Haruka, or…”

“Haruka will be fine for now,” Goto interjected, knowing perhaps it would take a little more for Miho to be ready to call her mother.

“Oh Seiji, she’s stunning,” Haruka gushed, taking Miho’s hand as Goto paid the taxi driver. “Where on Earth did you find someone so lovely?”

“I’ll have to ask the same thing of your husband, Haruka,” Miho chuckled. “I’d say you look far too young to have adult children, but I don’t want to just repeat Voltage verbatim.”

Haruka opened her mouth to comment, no doubt, upon the plot limitations of the Voltage franchise, when the growl of a motorbike drew close.

All eyes turned to the figure that approached, then came to a stop as the taxi pulled away. He was dressed in full motorcycle protective gear, his identity concealed, and for a moment, Miho tensed – but when he removed his helmet the resemblance to Goto was far too similar for the young man to be anything other than a relative.

“Issei!” Haruka exclaimed, latching onto his arm and just about dragging him from his bike. “Perfect timing. This is Fujiwara Miho, Seiji’s fiancée.”

Issei seemed to take his mother’s exuberance in his stride, but looked a little surprised at the news. Apparently Goto hadn’t gotten around to personally telling his brother.

“That’s why you wanted me to come home this weekend?” he frowned a little.

“I see good looks run strong in this family,” Miho mused, and that actually drew Issei’s attention to her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He blinked as she bowed, but managed to smooth away some of the irritation in his face when she rose and smiled at him.

“I didn’t realise my brother had such good taste,” he noted – meant both as a compliment to her and a swipe at Goto. “You’re here for the weekend?”

“If you’ll have me,” Miho nodded.

“So polite,” Haruka sighed. “Come on, your father is inside waiting. Issei, help Seiji with their bags.”

With Haruka clinging to her arm, Miho was guided to the Goto family home, and introduced to Goto’s father – grief they’re all Goto’s so I’m going to have to use their first names now sheesh.

Over tea, Miho and Seiji laid out the story of their eventual engagement.

“You didn’t tell me you were enlisting help to find a wife,” Haruka chided. “Oh my, I have a list as long as my arm – but then again, of course you’d not have met Miho if I’d done that so I suppose it’s well enough.”

“I’m glad I didn’t,” Seiji declared.

He had been struggling throughout not to blush. Miho was plain and forward in her explanations, and while she didn’t mention the sexual nature of the date simulation – indicating there were simply some things she couldn’t say for legal and privacy reasons – she was clear about her resistance to him until he’d pushed and pushed for her to let go of her baggage and accept her true feelings.

“Why him?” Issei asked.

He’d sat, a little sullen, though it didn’t seem to fitting for a young man to do so, and had said nothing until that point. Miho knew he and Seiji weren’t close, and so she was not entirely caught off guard by the question.

“Dedication, kindness, skill, persistence, intelligence, professionalism, drive… I could go on,” she replied, casting a sideways glance at Seiji beside her, and this time he could not hold the heat back from his face. “I wasn’t looking for love, still carrying around the burden of the love I’d lost, but there he was, knowing it well before I did, that he and I just… work.”

“There are much better men around than him,” Issei shrugged, and Seiji scowled.

“Don’t even,” he warned. “Especially since I’ve asked Subaru to be best man.”

It hadn’t occurred to Miho that Seiji hadn’t asked his brother to fill that role, but thought considering they didn’t really get along that well, it wasn’t especially surprising. What she did note, was how Issei’s expression changed when Subaru was mentioned.

“Actually we’re going to need at least one more groomsman, since there are two bridesmaids,” Miho put in, studying Issei the way she did her clients. “Selina will need a partner.”

“Subaru will be there?” Issei queried, but that had already been answered – when he sought in the asking was reassurance it was true.

“Am I missing something here?” Miho questioned, looking between Issei and Seiji, then to Haruka.

“Oh Subaru is simply wonderful,” the latter clarified cheerily. “He and I can talk for hours.”

Seiji’s father, Shinichi, just sighed a small sigh. He hadn’t said much, but his expression was very much like Seiji’s resting face – it looked severe, but beneath it Miho thought the same gentleness was present.

“I see,” Miho chuckled, looking to Seiji again, this time with a teasing, knowing smirk. “Subaru is a family favourite? Perhaps I have made a terrible mistake.”

“Hey!” he exclaimed, and thought she’d meant her poking as a joke, Miho regretted that he actually looked a little hurt.

And he wasn’t the only one who looked alarmed.

“Relax,” she grinned, patting his leg. “It seems Subaru is already spoken for anyway.”

Her eyes flickered to Issei, who looked relieved.

And when he caught her gaze, he smothered that expression with a frown.

“Well Subaru has a Harvard education anyway,” he declared, proud it seemed of Subaru’s achievements as if they were his own. “It’s not like someone like him would be interested in…”

“Issei, don’t finish that sentence,” Seiji cautioned seriously, and the air in the room suddenly chilled as brothers faced off.

Miho might have been offended, she could plainly see where Issei’s statement had been going, but she was much more interested in why the young man was so defensive about Subaru.

“What is it exactly you and he talk about, Haruka?” Miho asked pleasantly.

“Oh he’s good at so many things,” she replied cheerfully. “Cooking mostly, though, he is wonderful in the kitchen.”

Must not… must not smirk… must not smirk.

“Oh?” Miho verbalised instead. “I must admit, while I can follow a recipe, I’m not especially creative with my food.”

“Oh, perhaps you can help me with lunch?” Haruka offered, getting to her feet, and Miho joined her.

“I would love to.”

While the men of the Goto household did whatever it was the men of the Goto household did when they weren’t glaring at each other… or maybe that’s what they were doing the whole time… Miho enjoyed Haruka’s merry personality. She was so welcoming, perhaps because she had two sons, no daughters, Miho felt completely welcomed and very much already like a member of the family.

At the same time, however, it reminded her of a time when she had been that close to her own mother: the family who eventually decided her crusade for justice following the death of her husband was more trouble than it was worth.

The family who thought she took it too far.

The family who…

“Miho?” Haruka queried, looking up into Miho’s face with concern.

“Oh, sorry,” she laughed, trying to shake off the sads. “It’s just, being here, received so warmly like this, reminds me how far from my own family I am. Will always be.”

“Is it really that hopeless?” Haruka asked. “Whatever you did, or, whatever they did, there’s no way to fix that damage?”

Sighing, Miho smiled, but she could see in Haruka’s eyes the other woman knew it was just a bandaid.

“Too much water,” Miho concluded with the shake of her head, and before she knew it, Haruka had thrown her arms around her and was squeezing her far more tightly than a woman of her small stature should have been able to.

“You don’t have to call me Mum,” Haruka sniffled into Miho’s shoulder. “But, I’ll be your mum anyway!”

With a shaky exhale, Miho closed her eyes against the sting.

And when she opened them again, Goto was leaning against the kitchen door jamb watching, smiling placidly.

“You’re safe with Seiji,” Haruka told Miho, unaware of her son’s gaze.

“I know,” Miho smiled, blinking away a few tears and hugging Haruka back.

It was Shinichi who cleared his throat and broke the moment.

“Issei is about to chew through the furniture,” he stated flatly. “Heh, the metabolism of young men.”

“Sorry,” Miho laughed, and lunch was served.

Miho had family – MJS – but being in the Goto family home, actually feeling a part of it, was so nostalgic that Miho continued to wander in and out of enjoyment and loss. Practiced, however, she maintained a mask now that perhaps only Seiji could see through, but in the presence of everyone else he made no enquires.

Later that evening, on the way to prepare for bed, Miho passed by the open door of Issei’s old room. The light was on, but Seiji’s brother wasn’t there. She nearly continued on her way, when something of interest caught her eye and caused her to pause.

There on the nightstand was a framed photograph signed Work Hard ~ Subaru, the man himself making a determined face, truly cutting a heroic image. Miho smiled.

Seiji was every bit what Subaru was, in Miho’s eyes more, and though she knew the brothers had never truly bonded as many brothers do, it did seem a little strange Issei had formed such a tight connection with someone so alike.

Or not strange at all.

“Hey,” came a voice behind her, and Miho actually started.

“Oh, sorry,” she apologised, stepping out of the way. “I just noticed that picture of Subaru as I was walking by; you really look up to him hmm?”

“What’s not to like?” Issei scowled oversensitively, and his following expression told Miho he knew his tone was telling.

“No, I completely agree,” she smiled, nodding. “Well educated, incredibly smart, exceptionally… handsome. You’ve got good taste.”

Issei’s eyes widened, and though the brothers did not get along, it seemed they shared blushing in common.

“Good night Issei, sweet dreams,” Miho offered with a wink, then shuffled down the corridor to Seiji’s room.

And as she entered the dim room where a futon of all things had been laid out in the centre of the room, arms closed around her from behind.

“Wah!” she exclaimed, her reflex to struggle, despite what was the unlikely event of someone other than Seiji being in there.

“Hey, hey,” he quickly soothed, swift words into her ear that stilled her body, but not the racing of her heart. “I’m sorry, I… I shouldn’t have… I didn’t even think.”

“No,” she breathed, but drooped her head back against him and took a few slow lungfuls of air before speaking again. “I’m way too jumpy.”

“Understandable,” he murmured, somehow closing the door over with his foot while maintaining his hold on her. “And I’m not helping.”

“You do, you are,” she reassured him. “Haruka is right; I’m safe with you… or maybe I’m not. You’re awfully bold grabbing hold of me like this in your parents’ house.”

“You think you’re the only one who pines?” he hissed against her neck before kissing it gently.

“Next time you think to chastise me for wanting to touch you, Seiji, I want you to remember this moment,” she smirked, turning slowly in his arms and wrapping herself around him.

There is no safer place.

In slumber, however, it seemed Seiji wasn’t all powerful. Inside her sleeping mind, Miho drifted blissfully through the warmth of her welcome into the Goto household, her brush with Issei’s briskness aside – but her dreams didn’t stay there. They roamed beyond the boundary of happiness and slipped into a quagmire of unpleasant memories that caused her heart to ache. They weighed her down in a swamp, a marshy bog that threatened to swallow her – and no matter how loudly she screamed for Seiji to come to her rescue, there was only one figure on the shore.

Dark clothing.

Face masked.

Bouquet of red roses in one hand.

And this persisted until she somehow forced herself awake.

Night was still thick, and Seiji remained asleep beside her with just his arm draped over her.

For a few minutes she just laid here, trying to relax, but each time she closed her eyes uneasiness returned: until finally she couldn’t be still.

Careful not to wake Seiji, Miho shimmied from under the covers, wrapped herself in her long robe, and exited the bedroom. On silent, bare feet – she was an assassin in a past life remember (yeah wait for me to write THAT fic… it WILL happen) – she padded down the hall, past the closed door of Seiji’s parents’ room, and the slightly ajar door of his brother. Quietly she let herself out onto the back veranda, even though the shadow mottle yard held some apprehension.

“Stop being such a god damned pussy,” she reproached herself bitterly, closing the door behind her and sitting herself down in the pale moonlight. “What are you even afraid of?” she asked herself. “Some weirdo that sends you flowers this one time? Like that hasn’t happened before.”

There was that one time her panties kept going missing, and she’d blamed Jazz – not that Miho’s undies would even fit Jazz. Then there was that time with the guy that delivered their water-cooler bottles and strangely erotic sticky-notes all over the office.

“So what makes this so fucking terrifying?” she hissed, then just about jumped out of her skin when a blanket dropped around her shoulders. “Holy fu…!”

Launching from the veranda onto the grass, Miho flew from beneath the fabric and spun, feet planet just far enough apart for a solid stance, her brain ready to fight off her attacker – but Issei just stare at her in shock, until he frowned and pressed his lips together and looked unimpressed.

“You guys have a fight or something?” he asked flatly, but for him to have been close enough to wrap the blanket around her, he must have heard her utterances, at least some of them.

“Jesu…” Miho gasped, ordering her muscles to unclench, but they defied her and remained tense. “Issei… you scared the life out of me. Were you an assassin in a pa…”

“What are you so terrified of?” he questioned, his tone unchanged, and Miho shook her head, perhaps to dispel the panic, maybe to shake off how odd it was to be looking up at what she imaged was Seiji’s younger self.

“Being snuck up on, obviously,” she hissed, swallowing the lump in her throat and carefully adjusting her robe, shivering at a gust of wind that murmured a harsh song through nearby branches. “What are you doing up at this hour?”

“Saw you sneak past,” he shrugged, picking up the fallen blanket and spreading it between his hands. “You’re going to get sick sitting out here in the cold.”

This was Miho’s lifeline, and she even managed to chortle.

“You’re more like your brother than you’d ever admit I think,” she said wryly, stepping back up onto the veranda and toward him, then stopped just shy of his reach. “And more different than you’d ever say aloud.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he grumbled, glowering, even as he fluttered the blanket around her shoulders and tucked snuggly to her front, careful not to be indecent.

“That you’ve an amazing, talented, highly skilled brother you could have worshiped,” she smiled. “But, it’s not like you could fall in love with him. Subaru is good man.”

Issei’s scowl deepened and he stepped back, but he didn’t storm away. He turned his back on her and glared at something invisible in the middle of the yard.

“I’m sorry,” Miho exhaled. “It’s not my place to make wild assumpti…”

“How did you even know?” he whispered, and unlike all the other times she’d heard him speak, in the very short time she’d known him, this time he sounded so very small.

“I may not have a Harvard degree,” Miho began quietly, gently – she was not the only fragile one in the world, “but it’s a large part of my job to read people, see the things they’re afraid to articulate because they fear being judged, because only in revealing those things to me can I properly find the person who is right for them.”

Again she sat herself down, clutching the blanket.

“I take it no one else knows?”

“Ha, like that’s so easy,” he snorted, pressing his balled fist to the nearest support post.

An admission, and as if suddenly realising as much, he spun around and stared daggers so sharp Miho was actually impressed.

“Don’t you dare say anything, especially not to Seiji,” he snarled, but Miho was now calm.

“It’s not my secret to tell,” she told him softly. “But I bet it’s hard, keeping it all to yourself – does no one know?”

“Just you,” he huffed. “Leave it to Seiji to ruin my life.”

“Really? Someone knowing a part of your true self is ruination?” she snorted. “Give it a rest kid, life gets much harder from here on out.”

“What the hell would you know about it?” he snapped, stepping closer again, but Miho simply couldn’t feel threatened.

Too much a Goto.

“Sure, I don’t know your specific struggle, but everyone has them,” she replied honestly. “And I happen to know from personal experience, that sharing those things with people you trust, can help alleviate some of the pressure.”

“And I’m supposed to trust you?” he volleyed, but even in the dun she could see much of the heat had fled from his eyes – eyes that told her of torture.

“I’m as good a person as any,” she shrugged.

Issei ground his teeth, and Miho simply sat and peered around the yard, until the young man flopped down beside her.

“You know Subaru,” he began, voice even smaller than before, fearful of his sentence’s continuation, but he pressed on. “I… I don’t have a chance in hell, do I?”

For a few seconds Miho thought about how best to tactfully respond.

“I do know Subaru,” she conceded. “And, unfortunately for you, all signs point to no, simply because he’s not wired that way.”

Hanging his head, Issei let out a long breath of painful resignation.

“I already knew it,” he murmured forlornly. “Have known it, forever, just… didn’t want to… I don’t want to…”

“Yeah, I know,” Miho responded gently.

“It’s not fair!” he growled, the exclamation cutting its way between his teeth. “How come…”

“… everyone else gets to be happy except me?” Miho finished for him, and the quick jerk of his face in her direction shook angry, hurt tears from his eyes. “Yeah, I’ve been there too,” Miho smiled sadly. “When you love something so much, and it’s taken from you, it’s like the whole world is mocking you with smiles, patronising you with false words of comfort, rubbing salt into the wound with everything will get better, when everything is in flames.”

“Ha, you’ve got all the answers, don’t you?” he sniffed, refusing to acknowledge the moist on his cheeks.

“Nah, I only like to think I do,” Miho smirked, giving his shoulder a nudge with her own. “But don’t tell Seiji I said that; as far as he’s concerned, I’m always right.”

“You really won’t say anything?” he ventured cautiously.

“Nope,” she responded, looking at him plainly. “I’ll just be around, on the other end of the phone, if you need a big sister to bitch to about how stupid men can be.”

Finally, Issei huffed a short laugh.

“I am happy for you and him, even if it doesn’t look like it,” he told her very quietly, embarrassed despite the rest of their conversation. “Jealous I guess.”

“Hey,” came another voice behind them, and both turned their heads to find Seiji standing in the doorway behind them. “What’s this?”

“Decided I couldn’t choose between the Goto brothers,” Miho announced in total calm. “And my conclusion is, we’re just going to have a threesome.”

The brothers both spluttered, but Miho grinned.

“That’s a yes right?” she added, really pushing the envelope, and Seiji swept forward and snatched her wrist, pulling her to her feet and against him.

“That’s a no,” he rumbled definitively.

“Jeez Seiji,” Issei muttered also getting to his feet. “Marrying a succubus?”

“What did you just say?” Seiji blinked, his body instantly taut with anger, but Miho just laughed and put a hand on his chest.

“He’s just jealous of his big brother’s success,” she explained.

“Issei,” Seiji barked, motioning to Miho’s face. “Her eyes are up here.”

“It is a bit chilly out here, huh Miho?” Issei added for good measure, and though Miho wanted to continue laughing, she could feel Seiji getting totally worked up – and not in a good way.

“Okay okay, that’s enough,” she snickered. “But it is cold and I can’t feel my toes, so we should go back to bed, Seiji.”

It took a considerable nudge to get him to move, but when Miho got Seiji moving he continued through the door with her close behind him.

Back in his room, Miho snuggled back against the curve of his body, happy to be little spoon – this time – and to warm her frozen tootsies on his warm legs.

“You going to tell me what that was all about?” he prompted, breath in her hair.

“Brother-sister bonding,” Miho told him, gently stroking his forearm. “You know, he acts all tough, and like he doesn’t think much of you, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

“You got all that from just one day?”

“It’s my job to profile people, remember?” she smirked, closing her eyes. “And this family… I really did luck out with you didn’t I?”

“Mhm,” he huffed. “No more midnight rendezvous with Issei, okay?”

“No problem,” she chuckled softly. “We’ll do brunch instead.”


Breakfast was another extravagant indication that Haruka did nothing by halves, but more than that, Issei actually smiled.

“You’re in a good mood,” Seiji noted suspiciously, and Miho elbowed him in the ribs.

“Can’t a guy smile without getting the third degree?” she poked, and Seiji grunted a little.

“So, what is your plan for today, Miho-san?” Shinichi asked reservedly, and Miho bit her lip at the absolute cuteness.

And she couldn’t help herself.

“I was hoping Seiji would show me around his old hometown, Father.”

And Shinichi actually started choking on his mouthful, Seiji, sitting to Miho’s left, very nearly mimicked him.

“Aww, look what you did,” Haruka chuckled, patting her husband’s back but beaming over him at Miho.

“I’m sorry,” Miho apologised, inclining her head. “It’s just, I feel so comfortable here with you all already, his formality…”

“She’s out daughter now, pretty much,” Haruka told Shinichi, who was still trying to recover his composure. “No need to be so stuff.”

“Could you pass the salad please, Miho?” Issei asked politely, and Miho could see he was doing it to illustrate Haruka’s point to his father.

“Sure thing, Issei,” she replied, leaning over Seiji to convey the bowl to her new brother’s awaiting hands. “You alright there, Seiji?” she grinned, and he nodded, clearing his throat.

“I’m fine,” he muttered, taking a sip from his glass of water, and it only made Miho’s smile widen.

After helping with the dishes, Seiji and Miho left the house. Together they meandered through streets where he grew up, and happily she listened to his childhood anecdotes, probing to pick apart his reluctances to give too many embarrassing details at times. The weather smiled on them, their lunch was simple, but Miho couldn’t help but reflect upon how luck she was to have such wonderful company.

“If you keep smiling like that, you’ll get wrinkles,” he teased, pulling Miho against him and wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

“I hope I age as gracefully as your mother has,” she laughed. “She has so much energy, hmm, just think…”

She looked into his face, sliding her hand beneath the back of his jacket and looping her thumbs over the top of his pants, right into the crease of his butt-cheeks.

“… what I could do with so much energy.”

Naturally, his eyes widened and his body tensed, but she loved that about him too.

“You’re going to kill me as it is,” he told her, but his voice was filled with the kind of affection that…

Swallowing, Miho fell silent and looked ahead.

“I feel like I need to pinch myself,” she exhaled after half half a minute of just their feet shuffling against the footpath. “You, your family, it’s all just too perfect.”

“It’s real,” he told her seriously, stopping her, turning her, and touching the underside of her chin with the flat of one index finger. “But,” he added, then kissed her ever so lightly, “if you want me to pinch you…”

Distracted, she hadn’t noticed his other hand until he’d already sharply pinched her bum, and she let out a yelp.

“You sneaky bastard!” she exclaimed, giving him a playful whack before linking arms with him.

“I guess you’re a bad influence on me,” he explained with a wry smile.

“Oh don’t you start that shit too,” she complained, but really, she took it as a compliment.

“Hmph,” he huffed contentedly. “You’re not the only one who feels fortunate,” he continued. “And I really can’t wait for this to be official.”

“Well, I guess we now know it’s not especially difficult,” she pointed out, shaking her head. “We can always just get everything registered as soon as we’re back in Tokyo.”

He seemed to be mulling this over.

“There is something to the anticipation though too, isn’t there?” she said, knowing it wasn’t hesitation that made him pause.

“There is,” he agreed. “And there are so many things we haven’t figured out, like where we’re going to live.”

“That’s a good point,” she nodded. “I like my apartment, and yours, but it would be nice if we could…”

“… get a place that’s ours?” he finished, and Miho narrowed her eyes at him.

“Mind reading now?”

As they walked back to his parents’ home in the late afternoon, they threw out all kinds of suggestions for their future, and arrived at the house in great spirits.

“We’re back,” Seiji announced, having scooped up three padded postage envelopes from the doorstep. “You didn’t hear the mailman?”

“Oh hmm?” Haruka murmured, taking the envelopes from her eldest son, passing them to her husband. “Could you give this to Issei, Miho? He’s in his room.”

“Sure,” Miho nodded, and off she went, to find him at his desk, a couple of textbooks open and headphones on.

She did clear her throat, but he didn’t hear her, and so she stepped inside, and put it down beside him just in his peripheral vision.

His head turned to her slowly, and she smiled.

“Don’t mind me, just making a special delivery,” she told him, then headed to the toilet.

She couldn’t have known.

But she heard Haruka’s startled exclamation from the other end of the house, followed by Shinichi’s deep voice.

“What the hell… is this?”

When Miho returned to the living area, it was like time had frozen.

Haruka sat at the dining table, glossy photographs scattered in front of her – Shinichi sat on the couch, glossy photographs scattered on the coffee table before him – and Seiji stood half way between them both, true horror in his eyes, chiselled into his face.

“What’s wrong?” Miho scowled, and her sudden intrusion in the silence caused time to catch up.

“Miho it’s…” Seiji began, but Miho had already zoned her vision on Haruka’s collection.

“That’s…” she shuddered out, a gasp of shock so powerful it scrambled her thoughts.

Slowly, Haruka’s hands moved to cover her mouth, but she was unable to look away from the images.

Miho and another man, lean and blond, naked and connected.

In some pictures Miho was restrained, her wrists bound by scarves, her legs held apart and tied to bedposts; in some, her skin was peppered with wax dripping from a candle held over her breasts; in some, her arms were wrenched behind her so far it looked like her shoulders might pop, and her body, the man’s body, shimmered with the product of their labours.

“Wha…” Miho managed, turning her head to Shinichi.

He too continued to peer at the prints he’d been gifted.

Miho and a stunning woman, slender and pale-skinned, naked, entwined.

In some pictures Miho was lying sprawled back on a bright pink shag-pile rug, the long copper waves of her partner’s hair brushing against her abdomen; in one they were clearly grinding together, their lips locked, their arms locked around one another; in another, Miho’s head was tilted back into the pillow, the other woman’s head just visible between her legs.

“How…” Miho blinked, and then she darted with ninja-assassin like speed for Issei’s room. “Issei!” she barked. “Don’t…!”

But it was too late, and Miho felt the floor fall away.

Issei was sitting on the carpet, the entire contents of his envelope placed side by side. His jaw moved as if he was trying to form words, but there was no sound, just the trembling of incomprehensible disbelief and the chaotic gatherings of a shattered heart.

Miho lounging back on Subaru’s counter.

Subaru pressing her back up against the wall, her legs wrapped around him.

Subaru poised behind her, about to press in…

She had no idea how such photos had been taken, such angles, such clarity and detail – it was like someone had been in each room with them, a twisted record keeper holding the private moments of what were in truth professional transaction hostage until that moment.

That moment when they were placed into the hands of her fiance’s family.


And Miho didn’t know what to do.


MJS Romance: Miho and Goto on Ice

Yawning against Goto’s bare chest, Miho was reflected on her good fortune… their activities prior to the bone deep tiredness that made her body feel so heavy was also a good reminder. Idly she scrawled little patterns against his skin with her fingertip, and after a few moments Goto turned his face into her hair and kissed her tenderly.

“What’re you thinking?” he asked.

“You want the clean or the dirty answer?” she replied cheekily, craning her neck to look at ar his face, and Goto chuckled quietly.

“I’m learning getting a clean answer out of you is a rare thing,” he noted teasingly, shifting her off his shoulder to the pillow, and turned onto his side so he could look down into her face properly. “But you fidget when you’re deep in thought,” he noted. “So you’re deliberating something.”

“Look at you being all observant,” she grinned. “Anyone would think you’re a detective or something.”

“You’re a tough case to crack,” he admitted, brushing her cheek and sliding his fingers into her hair. “If I don’t have my wits about me, you might disappear.”

Miho’s smile tempered a little.

“You’re not actually worried about that are you?” she enquired.

“Maybe just a little,” he admitted honestly, his brows twitching. “As determined as I was, a part of me can’t quite believe you’re here.”

“Do I need to remind you… again?” she asked softly, sliding her leg in between his, bending it all the way up until she could press no further.

“I won’t say no,” he smiled wryly, “but, you know you haven’t answered my question.”

“Mmm, can’t get anything past you, Lieutenant,” she snickered. “I was thinking how lucky I am. Lucky that you’re persistent, lucky that this persistent man is everything a woman could want in a partner.”

Even in the dimness of Goto’s bedroom, Miho could see him blushing – but she didn’t call him cute this time, though she was certainly thinking it.

“That all?” he prompted, watching her closely as she inhaled a deep breath then released it.

“Mmm, Jazz went back home to Europe for a ‘vacation’, but I don’t know,” she explained. “She’s been doing everything she can to thwart my efforts to get her to accept the affections of a client, so I have to wonder if maybe she’s planning a more permanent change of scenery.”

“You really think she’d move to the other side of the world for that reason?” he asked.

Of course he didn’t know the ins and outs of Jazz’s very broken marriage, but even to Miho who did, though it truly extreme if Jazz did plan to stay out of Japan.

“Well, I know she was hurt, a lot,” she thought aloud, eyes fluttering closed as Goto gently rolled her earlobe between his fingers, caressing it softly. “And despite protests she might make to the contrary, she is easily more stubborn than me.”

“That’s pretty stubborn,” Goto mused, and Miho opened her eyes and glared at him. “You can glare all you like, you know it’s true.”

With a huff she rolled her face into his hand and nipped at it.

For her troubles, she ended up trapped beneath him, not that she put up that might of a fight.

“So what are you going to do?” he breathed into her face.

“Right now?” she hissed, wrapping her legs around him. “I’m thinking about how I’m still hungry for you.”

“About Miss Mann,” he chuckled, though he did move slightly, purposefully, teasingly.

“Mmm, I’m going to… save her from herself,” she said after a little squirming failed to provoke Goto into moving any further. “I did promise her I’d find him a nice wife, after all, and I wouldn’t be doing my job for MJS if I didn’t set him up with the best possible candidate, nor as a friend if I let her believe all men can’t be trusted.”

“It sounds to me like you two have a fair amount in common,” he noted, rubbing against her ever so slightly, and how maddening Miho found this was blatantly apparent in her frustrated expression.

“She is pretty hot,” Miho agreed with smug nod. “This one time…”

She began that sentence, but cut it off suddenly when Goto raised an eyebrow.

“This one time?” he encouraged, giving her a calculated nudge.

“You sure you want to know what we got up to with edible glitter after a few drinks?” she smirked, wriggling beneath him again. “Damnit Seiji, you’re being mean.”

“That’s hurtful,” he frowned, and she was surprised at how serious his tone was, when his eyes were laughing – she didn’t think that was very like him.

“I’ll kiss it better then,” she declared, lifting her head from the pillow, but he inched his face away. “Oh, like that is it?”

“Edible glitter?” he prompted.

“And people think I’m evil,” she muttered, narrowing her eyes at him. “We were single, horny, getting ourselves suitably drunk, and had access to all sorts of interesting implements,” she revealed. “One thing led to another and another and another – she makes the most incredible noises and…”

She’d had every intention of getting into the nitty gritty details, but it seemed Goto had had enough, shutting her up finally with his lips. And finally he pressed forward, slowly, inching inside her, no barrier between them at all now.

“Wait, wait,” Miho gasped, holding him tightly against him, and he looked into her face concerned.

“Are you all right?” he scowled, completely falling still. “Or, should I not… oh I didn’t even…”

“No, no it’s fine,” she smiled, sliding her fingers up his back, neck, and into his hair. “I just want to take a moment to…”

Miho closed her eyes and contracted the internal muscles that held him deep within, and the result was Goto growling low groan against her throat.

“Don’t tell me to stop and then do that,” he growled, nipping at her neck and then smoothing his tongue over the marks he’d made. “This… Miho, I want this forever, this close to you.”

At this, Miho blinked, relaxed her body and made eye contact.

“How can you just, say things like that?” she wondered.

“You don’t feel the same?” he responded, his brow creasing a little, and it only intensified when Miho squeezed once more around his cock.

“I feel the same,” she smiled. “It’s just hearing you say something like that is… so romantic, and I love you.”

“No more holding back,” Goto announced, and no more was spoken but for lascivious moans and the desperate whisper of each other’s name.


Goto woke up in his apartment, certainly as he expected to do. This morning was different to most, however. Miho was not beside him where he had left when they’d finally drifted to sleep, and there was a delicious scent permeating the air.

After pulling on a pair of boxers and raking his hair into some semblance of presentable, he wandered from the bedroom to find Miho pottering about the kitchen.

“Morning,” she smiled as she turned, blowing on a mug of coffee until there was barely any steam rising from it, before holding it out to him.

“This has to be a dream,” he murmured, taking the mug, and a peck from Miho on the cheek.

For her to remember and act upon his inability to cope with hot food and drink was just one more sign she was right for him.

“Yeah well, don’t get too used to it,” she chuckled. “I’m not exactly the world’s best house wife, but, your days off are pretty rare, so I thought I’d let you sleep in a little at least.”

“I thought we could go out,” he said after sitting down, watching as Miho covered the table with various breakfast foods, Japanese and international.

“Are you asking me on a date Mr. Goto?” she smirked over her shoulder as she flipped an omelette onto a plate and added it to the collection.

“Only if you want to,” he replied – still a little unsure of how best to handle her perhaps.

“What shall it be then? Amusement park? Shrine? Oh, aquarium?”

“Am I really that unoriginal?” he frowned mildly, and Miho laughed.

“I’m sorry. You have ideas?” she grinned, sitting down with him at the table.

“Well I remember you said something about ice skating,” he began cautiously, watching carefully for her reaction. “It’s not really the season to do it outdoors, but there is an indoor rink not too far from here.”

“Ice skating?” Miho repeated, appearing to be turning this over in her mind. “Were we born to make history?”

At this Goto looked a little confused.

“Oh oh, I foresee a Yuri on Ice marathon in your near future,” she grinned maniacally, and Goto’s confusion turned toward concern. “Oh don’t look so worried, you’ll love it. It’s adorable, like you.”

“Damnit Miho,” he grumbled, blushing as he always did when she called him something cute – which is entirely while she did it.

“Okay, I’m a little bit sorry,” she giggled. “Ice skating sounds fun.”


It sounded fun.

And really, Goto did it because he thought it would make Miho happy, and it did – though her hysterical laughter at his complete inability to ice skate was not exactly what he had in mind.

Miho skated graceful circles around him for a little while, until even trying to help him ended up with them both sliding across the ice.

With wet bums, they decided to take a breather, and sat down in the rink’s café for a drink.

“Why did you suggest skating if you’re not so hot at it?” she asked him, her tone fond, and Goto went back to looking embarrassed over grumpy.

“Like I said, you mentioned it,” he grumbled over the top of his iced coffee. “And all the suggestions from my colleagues were…”

“Amusement park, shrine, aquarium?” Miho filled in, and Goto nodded.

“Wandering aimlessly around a mall, and the city, were also on the list,” he went on. “But that doesn’t sound any different to what people do every other day. I didn’t expect you to be so good at this though; you’ve been skating before?”

“Roller hockey back home, if you’d believe it,” she explained. “Almost the same as ice skating. Less wet though.”

“And less painful I imagine,” he muttered, shifting in his seat.

“Do you need me to kiss it better?” Miho grinned cheekily.

“Let’s save that until a little later,” he replied, then looked thoughtful. “Actually, I was thinking about last night.”

“What did you think I was just talking about?” she snickered, but toned it down when he took her hand. “Uhh, which part about last night?”

“Well, ahh,” he began, and only now seemed a bit uncomfortable about the subject he’d been the one to broach. “You know we, used protect the first, and second time, but then…”

It dawned on Miho.

That, huh. Yeah we got a bit caught up hmm?” she acknowledged.

She knew he wasn’t worried about some STD; MJS screenings were good for that – pregnancy on the other hand was an unknown for him at least. Her profile on him told her everything she needed to know about his desires for the future, and that he’d ‘like children sometime in the not too distant future’ rang clearly in her recollection.

“Kids are a deal-breaker in many pairings,” she declared slowly, quietly, meeting his attentive gaze, “which… is why I guess I’ve been avoiding it, even though I know it’s pointless.”

“You don’t want any,” he surmised, and Miho nodded slowly.

“Never have,” she admitted on a sigh. “Daisetsu was the same, so it was never a necessary discussion, but you… you do.”

Silence fell between them, and even the noise from the rink couldn’t penetrate the bubble. The longer it stretched, the louder Miho’s internal screaming became.


“You think I want out because you don’t want children?” he asked finally.

“I think I know men who’ve regretted not following their instincts, and women who’ve been left by husbands who decided it wasn’t too late to try somewhere else,” she answered, no bitterness in her tone at all, no judgement, just a bit of fear. “And I don’t want either, not for you or me. It’s not that I don’t love you enough, it’s just not something I’ll ever be changing my mind about. You’re a bit younger than me, could still happily have an atomic family, so, you should take some time to think about it, seriously.”

“I don’t want to think about not being with you,” he frowned, voice low.

“No, me either,” Miho nodded soberly. “But I also don’t want to make you unhappy by not being willing to give you all of what your heart truly wants.”

Goto sighed and gave her hand a squeeze before letting it go and getting to his feet.

“Let’s go get some lunch,” he suggested, though Miho didn’t feel all that hungry.

“You sure your body’s up for that?” she smirked, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m betting you have all sorts of bruises.”

“You’re the old one, remember?” he responded, taking her under the elbow like she needed help to walk.

“You are sooo lucky I’m not sensitive about my age,” she muttered, but allowed his touch to linger as they headed toward the exit.

But Goto suddenly paused, his expression becoming extremely focused and alert.

“What’s up?” Miho questioned, studying his face as Goto pulled her closer and encouraged them to move out onto the street more quickly.

“Just a feeling,” he told her seriously.

“Feeling like what?” she scowled. “That we’re about to be attacked by ninjas?”

“Something like th…” he began, but as they stepped out of the building, wind blew rain sideways against them and they were forced back up against the wall.

“Weather controlling ninjas?” Miho offered, her body shielded for the most part by Goto’s.

“Okay, I’ll grab us a taxi,” he decided, still not seeming all that happy, and Miho could see it wasn’t the rain’s fault. “Do not move from here,” he instructed firmly, turning to look at her so she could see he meant it.

“Yes Sir,” she nodded, stopping short of a salute given how grave he sounded.

While he moved to the curb and looked up and down for an unoccupied cab, Miho searched the street, and glanced back into the ice-skating rink for what might have spooked Goto – but there was no one in particular that stood out as being suspicious or threatening.

“Miho,” Goto prompted, the back door of a taxi already open and waiting for her, and she scuttled to it and all but dived in.

When both were seated, the taxi pulled out into traffic in the direction of its passengers’ destination – and whether Miho saw something or not, the vehicle was observed until it disappeared around its first corner.



MJS – 6 Feet: Part 1

FOREWORD: So we thought we were done with the MJS series, but I apparently haven’t gotten this out of my system.
‘Aftermath’ takes place several months after Miho and Goto are married and have moved into their own home. Those who don’t remember various revelations from their wedding fic, Jazz is visibly pregnant now, and her marriage to Kuni is public knowledge.


A knock at the door.

Knocks on the door are usually fairly innocuous.

And this one was punctuated by the excited barks of two puppy greyhounds named Kaga and Ishigami.

“Oh, come on you guys,” Miho complained, following the excited loping bounce of her dogs, “there is no need to bark at absolutely everything that approaches the house.”

Apparently, the puppies disagreed, and continued to bark as if a world full of murderers were congregated on the other side of the door.

“For fuck’s sake Kaga,” she huffed, dancing to dodge the poochies underfoot, “get out of the way!”

But the joviality in her voice, the laughter, drained away when she looked at the AV intercom Goto had insisted they install.

There stood an ominous entourage of Public Safety captains and lieutenants.

“Sit,” Miho barked, and in a scurry, both puppies scampered back and planted their bums on the floorboards.

The latch came free, then the deadbolt, before Miho pulled open the heavy, solid wood door to peer at the conspicuous gathering through the security door – and each of them wore a solemn expression no grate or barrier could protect her from.

“Captains,” she said, also focus on keeping her mind from jumping to catastrophic conclusions, “Lieutenants, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Mrs. Goto,” Ishigami nodded evenly, but she knew him well enough to interpret the way he fidgeted with his glasses as a bad sign. “Would it be too much trouble to come inside?”

Silently she gave a nod, but the puppies at her back began barking the moment she unlocked the security door, and growled at the sight of Kaga.

“Kaga that’s enough,” Miho snapped sharply, and Kaga – the man not the dog – blinked and straightened.

“Daaw, look how they’ve grown!” Kurosawa gushed, dropping to his knees the moment there was room, and both puppies tackled him happily.

“Kaga stop humping his knee,” Miho sighed, avoiding the human Kaga’s gaze, knowing it was growing increasingly irritated. “Ahh, this way gentlemen.”

No more was said between then and the lounge room; not even their footfalls against the floorboards made sound, and yet Miho could already hear every word they had come to say.

She had spent her career in matchmaking reading people, after all, and their strides, the way their eyes stared straight ahead and the tight set of their jaws spoke volumes in their silence. She had not known them to visit as a group before, Kaga and Shinonome hadn’t even set foot in the Goto residence alone, and the Master of the house’s conspicuous absence from the congregation was absolutely the reason they were there.

“I’ll put some coffee on,” Miho declared when the men all stood uncomfortably in the bright, airy space, the puppies frolicking between them.

“Don’t,” Kaga dropped, catching her wrist as she stepped toward the kitchen.

Foreseeing their purpose, Miho did not react as she might once have; there was no scathing warning, no brazen physical response, just the slight downward tilt of her head and the shift of her body toward the still unoccupied couch.

“Please, sit,” she offered, and all but Captain Ishigami found a place to sit.

He, crouched down in front of Miho and reached for her hands in an uncharacteristic physical gesture, cool, slender fingers wrapping lightly around hers.

“As you know, Lieutenant Goto has been undercover for several months,” he said slowly, clearly choosing his words carefully. “And while he has not been able to contact you, communication with Public Safety was consistent in line with mission operational parameters.”

“Was,” Miho repeated, plucking the crucial word from his sentence and lighting it up in the space between them.

Puppy-Kaga and Puppy-Ishigami’s sleek bodies leapt up onto the couch, and sensing the gathering storm about to lash their mother, they curled up either side of her.

“There was a critical incident last night,” Ishigami went on, his shoulder twitch suggesting he’d like to adjust his glasses again, but he maintained contact with her palms. “A gunfight erupted and…”

Puppy-Kaga interrupted with a whining yawn before turning his head to rest into Miho’s lap, and this was all Kurosawa could take, covering his mouth to stifle a sob.

“Is he dead?” Miho asked, so, so quiet though her voice did not tremble – that is the truth she’d known the moment she had opened to the door to find them all standing there.

Even Ishigami seemed to be struggling with the maintenance of his usually perfect, stoic façade, a frown driving a deep arrow between his brows.

“We recovered digital footage from the scene,” he expounded without directly answering her question, “and,” he added after taking a slow, deep breath, “found the burned remains of the gang he had infiltrated early this morning. We’ve confirmed Goto – Seiji – was among them.”

The closing flutter of Miho’s eyes saved her from the struggle in Ishigami’s expression, but threatened her with the horrific blanks her mind filled in, not that her imagination could possibly conjure up a nightmare greater than what had already been delivered.

“I see,” she whispered, a sound from somewhere deep within her throat. “Thank you,” she went on as she looked up and around at her husband’s closest colleagues, “thank you all for coming to tell me personally, I appreciate it, and I know Seiji would too.”

“What?” Kurosawa coughed, pausing in his own anguish to blink at her in surprise. “Thank you? That’s all?”

“Toru,” Soma hissed sharply.

“But!” he insisted, seeming both confused and a little outraged by Miho’s calm.

“It’s okay,” Miho smiled sadly. “I understand you were all very close to him.”

“You’re his wife,” Kurosawa wept, even as Shinonome took his arm and gave him a tug toward the door.

“Rest assured, Mrs. Goto, this won’t go unpunished,” Kaga assured her, his teeth clenched fiercely.

“I believe you, Captain,” Miho nodded, sliding Puppy-Kaga away and standing slowly, forcing Ishigami to his feet also. “Seiji has every trust in you both.”

There was no quibble over her misused verb tense, just the awkwardness of men of action trapped in a situation where heroism couldn’t be rushing in with guns blazing.

The only hero among them now, it seemed, was dead.

“Thank you again for coming,” Miho expressed gently, her glance past them to the corridor leading to the front door a clear signal they did not miss.

Reluctantly, however, Ishigami stepped back, disquieted by her lack of reaction in his own way.

“Is there someone we can call for you?” he offered, forced to follow her down the hall, Kaga and Soma in tow. “Miss Mann perhaps? Miss Genever?”

“No, thank you,” Miho replied politely, opening the door to reveal Kurosawa sitting on the porch with Shinonome hovering over him. “I know you’re all very busy, and your investigation is not over.”

Getting to his feet, it looked as if Kurosawa had something more to say, but he sucked it back into his chest and turned down the path.

“You’ll let me know when you’ve learned more?” she then enquired, and both Ishigami and Kaga nodded soberly.

“Straight away,” Kaga assured her, “and… if you should need anything, just call, any of us.”

At his atypical kindness, Miho smiled mildly.

“Of course, Captain. I will.”

Her nod was a clear dismissal, and yet the four remaining officers all felt reluctant now to leave, even though they’d dreaded the duty that had awaited them in their colleague’s home. But eventually they bid their solemn farewell, having been there no more than twenty minutes, and with a quiet click, Miho let the door close shut and placed her back against it.

The burn began in her eyes then flushed her cheeks with a fire no amount of tears could quell; but they were trapped in her chest, along with the last breath she’d taken as the door closed. Though she had known there was a possibility her husband might not come back from an operation, the reality of it being delivered to her by the men he trusted most, was somehow beyond her comprehension.

It didn’t make sense.

It couldn’t be real.

He would call and explain it was all some mix up.

When the dizziness became too much, her body forced her to inhale – lungs full of fire she released in a choking, guttural, sobbing gasp, that shattered the strength of her legs. Sliding down, a ragdoll curling against the floorboards, Miho was allowed only mere seconds before Ishigami and Kaga began poking her with their slender muzzles and licking at her cheeks.


Despite having declined Ishigami’s offer, Jazz simply let herself into the Goto residence with her keys, and hunted down where Miho was curled up in the shower recess.

The water was running cold over her best friend’s naked body, but she didn’t seem to notice her intense shaking, or the deep imprints her nails had made where she was clutching legs.

Wordlessly, Miho followed Jazz’s directions, allowing the other woman to dry her, before numbly stepping into her pyjamas.

“I don’t suppose you feel like eating,” Jazz sighed, folding the doona up to Miho’s chin.

“We were going to have duck,” Miho murmured, one hand on Ishigami’s head, the other on Kaga’s as they laid either side of her.

“We?” Jazz frowned, and Miho nodded slightly.

“Me and the kids,” she snorted, but it was a mirthless sound.

“The dogs get duck?” Jazz blinked, looking between the two most spoilt dogs ever.

Miho’s eyes closed and bit her lower lip, and in response the two sleek puppies nuzzled against her.

“Aww, Honey,” Jazz exhaled, her heart breaking and surely as if Kuni had died. “I know there is nothing I can say to make this okay,” she went on softly, stroking Miho’s hair gently, “so I’ll just be here, for whatever you need for as long as you need it.”

“You know, I told him I had a bad feeling about this mission,” Miho whispered, lifting her lids and rolling her eyes to the ceiling, “but I would never ask him not to go, because he’s never given me a reason to doubt his promises that he’ll always come home.”

Patiently, Jazz listened, while Ishigami began licking Miho’s fingertips.

“So,” Miho inhaled slowly, and then breathed out the rest of her sentence, “I don’t know why I’m being so pathetic… if he promised… he promised… so he will come back.”

And another piece of Jazz’s heart broke off.

If Ishigami and the others were sure enough about Goto’s fate they actually came to tell Miho about it in person, then Jazz had to think they were certain. Miho’s denial was not surprising, just one of many terrible steps on the road of grief she would have to travel – and not for the first time. Perhaps, Jazz wondered, Daisetsu’s faked death helped allow Miho to imagine this was all some elaborate ruse for some other purpose.

When Miho sat up, it was almost as if in clairvoyance, for the very next second both dogs’ ear pricked up and they leapt from the bed before galloping for the front door.

Then there was urgent knocking.

Jazz actually had to jump back a little as hope glimmered in Miho’s eyes and she threw back the blankets. Her bare feet slapped loudly against the floorboards as she ran, and she made no attempts to hold back her puppies before wrenching open the door.