MJS Wedding: Ishigami x Liana (with some past Jazz x Katsuragi smut)

Jazz checked the last details to make sure that everything was taken care of. The flowers, the caterer, the band. Check, check, check. The guests were already waiting and the priest had just arrived. Showtime.

She quickly made her way over to the groom’s room and knocked. Goto opened the door.

“It’s time,” she said with a smile and nodded towards the door. “Get into position already.” He smiled slightly and left.

“Ishigami-san? Are you ready?”

She approached the groom, waited for his unspoken approval to fix his tie and the boutonniere.

“Congratulation, Ishigami-san. Your bride is a wonderful woman and I’m sure you will be very happy together.”

“Thank you,” he earnestly replied.

“But you better get going now, I’m going to get Liana next. Only five more minutes and you will be wed.”

She waited until he took a deep breath and nodded firmly.

“I am ready.”

It was good that there was no awkwardness between them, they both knew that whatever had happened between them had been part of a business, although it had been fun after all. Well, the act itself had been fun, the way leading there not that much. Ishigami-san had been the most difficult client in Jazz’s career but now he was happy and would marry the woman Jazz had found for him. All’s well that ends well, right?

After making sure that the groom was on his way Jazz hurried over to the bride’s room. She knocked again and when the door was opened she slipped inside, handed the bridesmaid a bouquet, and shooed Kurosawa out who was busy taking pictures of the bride in the last moments before the wedding.

“Liana? Your groom is waiting,” Jazz finally announced and the bride beamed at her.

“It’s really happening, isn’t it?” Jazz was slightly touched by how nervous the bride seemed. She had gotten to know her as a reasonable, not overly emotional woman so seeing her like this gave Jazz the good feeling that she really had matched up the right people.

“It is. He is looking very handsome and you are stunningly beautiful. I really hope that you will always be looking forward to seeing each other like you are in this moment. Congratulations and all the luck in the world to the both of you.”

Liana swallowed once and suddenly chuckled, a bit teary-eyed.

“Don’t ruin my makeup now, I can’t cry before he has seen me at least.”

Jazz smiled and handed the bride a tissue. Liana took a deep breath, grabbed her bouquet and nodded.

“I am ready.”

Yes, they were really a good match.

The ceremony went on without a hitch. The guests ‘ahh’ed and ‘ohh’ed at the bride’s entrance, the groom was visibly moved by her appearance and the bride was glowing, smiling all the time. It was perfect.

Their vows were simple but heartfelt, assuring each other of eternal support and trust. Ishigami was a bit nervous when it came to sliding the wedding band on Liana’s finger but he managed and for a moment it looked as if he would kiss her finger, but he held back. Probably because of their audience. But he was looking very relieved when the priest announced them husband and wife and this time, there was a kiss. Chaste but sweet and both blushed lightly. Very cute.

This was definitely the most emotional Jazz had seen Ishigami and considering what she heard from Goto and Subaru, she wasn’t the only one surprised at how visible touched the usually stony-faced detective was. Liana did have a softening effect on him.

When the first glasses of champagne were passed around Jazz slowly relaxed. The most important part was over, they were actually married. Whatever could go wrong now would be unpleasant but couldn’t change the fact anymore that Liana and Ishigami-san were newlyweds.

Jazz quickly checked on the serving staff and the caterer but they told her everything was fine. Of course Jazz wouldn’t drink at a day like this, she was on a job after all. But she got a glass of ginger ale that at least looked a bit like champagne and watched the guests and the bridal couple. She also watched Miho and Goto who were standing together, chatting and drinking with as much of physical contact they could get away with in this setting. Jazz knew that Miho was practically shameless but also that Ishigami was Goto’s boss and she was proud that Miho seemed to hold back. At least for now. What would happen when she had some more drinks was unpredictable.

“They are next, huh?”

Jazz slightly flinched, she hadn’t expected for anyone to talk to her.

“They are. What about you?” She turned to face Subaru who simply shrugged.

“MJS couldn’t match me up with someone suitable after all,” he casually said and took a sip of champagne.

“You mean you didn’t really give anyone else a chance,” Jazz shot back and he shrugged.

“Maybe I’m not the kind of guy that can be set up with someone easily.”

“Maybe we wouldn’t want our clients to have to deal with you all their life,” she said with a sweet smile.

“You are one to talk,” he grumbled but Jazz laughed happily.

“I am. After all I already am married.” He raised both eyebrows, surprised at her announcement.

“I mean I was. I already was married,” she quickly corrected herself. Dammit! Being Kunihiko’s wife felt so natural and right that she sometimes forgot to keep it a secret for now.

“You were. Well, well, the fact that you aren’t anymore doesn’t surprise me. I bet he got fed up with your talking back to him all the time.” His smug grin made her roll her eyes.

“No. He simply got fed up with lying to me about not being gay.” She shot him a challenging glare but he seemed to understand that this wasn’t something to joke about.

“Oh. Well… by the way, the flowers are great.” Subaru motioned towards a flower arrangement, a wordless olive branch of peace.

“Thank you. Haruka Utsunomiya made them.” She could tell by his expression that he actually was impressed, at least for second.

“What? Did you sleep with him, too? Isn’t he a bit young for you?” A very short second indeed.

“With whom I sleep or not shouldn’t concern you, but no. He’s an old friend of Kunihiko.” Jazz looked back at Miho and Goto who looked happy and relaxed, something that had been rare lately, while they chatted with Ishigami and Liana.

“Thank you. For taking care of her,” Jazz quietly said. It wasn’t easy for her to say something nice to Subaru but she was really grateful that he had made sure that Miho was safe. He tilted his head slightly and accepted her thanks graciously.

“Couldn’t let him lose another one,” he muttered and downed his champagne.

“Hello, everyone! Welcome here today! Who would have thought that we would ever celebrate the wedding of Ishigami one day?” a cheerful voice suddenly boomed through the speakers.

“Oh god, who gave that fool a mic?” Subaru muttered and Jazz jumped into action, ready to give the sound guy a sign to cut Kurosawa off if necessary.

“But I hardly know anyone who deserves this as much as Ishigami-san. He is a very dedicated boss and seeing him happy like this since he met Liana gave me hope that I, too, will one day find the love of my life.”

That earned some giggles and “awww”s alike. For now Jazz simply let Kurosawa talk, it was rather cute after all.

“But I guess I’m talking for everyone here today when I wish the bridal couple all the luck and love in the world. And demand a repeat performance of the wedding kiss!”

The crowd cheered, the call for a kiss quickly wandering from mouth to mouth. “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”

Jazz rolled her eyes and gave the soundman a sign to take the mic back.

Ishigami frowned slightly but when he looked at his bride – no, his wife – a small smile played on his lips. He leaned in a bit and placed a soft kiss on her forehead just for Liana to pull him down again when he pulled back, pressing her lips against his. The guests cheered loudly and Jazz laughed with them. It was cute to see Ishigami blush lightly and Liana grin happily.

She excused herself to Subaru and made another round through the venue, making sure that everything was alright. The cake should be next and after that, the first dance. Later dinner and the party. Her job would be done when bride and groom left for the honeymoon.

She was deep in thought when she thought she saw a familiar face. For a second she froze but then relaxed. No, that couldn’t be. One of the caterer’s staff demanded her attention and Jazz forgot what she had been thinking about.

The cake was a huge success. Of course there was no childish smearing of cake into each other’s faces with Ishigami but Jazz noticed the way his eyes lit up when he got a first taste of it. Obviously Liana had picked the right flavor.

It was strange, although there wasn’t the usual exuberant display of love at a wedding there was a very touching, deep, almost serene connection between bride and groom that made not only Jazz a bit jealous, but only for a moment. After all she was happy in love, too.

When it was time for the speeches Jazz looked for Goto. Hadn’t he been here a minute or five ago? With Miho? A strange sense of foreboding washed over her. Miho wouldn’t actually do that, would she? Drag him off at the wedding of his superior to make out somewhere? Maybe even more? Hell yeah, she would.

She needed help to track them down and she knew it. Jazz looked for Subaru, hoping he had seen them sneak out or at least would help her, maybe check the men’s restroom.

She found him chatting with a group of men and politely cleared her throat to get his attention. Subaru turned to face her and she just wanted to ask him to help her search for Miho and Goto when she noticed one of the men standing there with Subaru.



Suddenly Jazz had the attention of all of those men, the short blonde one, the one that looked slightly familiar, a dark haired one. And of course of Subaru and Daichi.

“’Daichi’?” the smaller one asked but Jazz didn’t even react.

“Uhm, sorry, I am… I can’t find Goto, his speech is next,” she stammered, slightly taken aback by this sudden reunion with an old flame. This was awkward.

“We can help you look for them,” Subaru offered but Jazz quickly shook her head.

“Knowing Miho it would be better if not ALL of us went, if you catch my drift.” She made a face and Subaru snorted a laugh.

“Yeah, I get it. Okay. I check the groom’s room and the men’s restroom.” Subaru nodded and Jazz smiled slightly at him. At least he was getting what she wanted from him without her having to actually ask. She would check the women’s restroom and the whole staff area. With a quick smile she apologized to the other men and shot Katsuragi an apologetic look before she rushed off, hoping she wouldn’t find Miho and Goto in a situation that would scar her for life. Again.

After Goto finally had held his speech – still a bit flushed and slightly disheveled – Jazz wanted to yell at Miho and laugh at the same time. She had to admit, it had been funny. At least a bit. And she liked seeing Miho happy and as long as no one else had noticed she didn’t care that her best friend had a quickie with her fiancé at the wedding of his superior.

Jazz sighed. She could use a drink but she was still on the clock. And somewhere in the crowd was a man that had broken her heart once.

Jazz was relieved when the band started playing the song for the first dance of the bridal couple. After a long discussion they had agreed on “The look of love” by Diana Krall. It was a very good song, slow and with wonderful lyrics.

Liana beamed at Ishigami when he led her to the dance floor; they just couldn’t take their eyes off each other. They swayed in each other’s arms, completely enthralled and in their own world.

“Jazz?” She knew who it was before she even raised her gaze.

“Daichi.” She simply acknowledged him with a small nod.

“Can we – talk?”

She took a deep breath.

“I am working, Daichi. I’m sure you know what that means.” She knew she was being childish but she couldn’t help it. He had hurt her back then, had cancelled their dates too often, had left whenever a call came. She had spent too many nights alone although he had promised her he would be there. All for his work.

“Then maybe when you’re finished?” There was hope in his voice but she wanted to shoot him down on the spot.

“No. When I’m finished here I will go home – to my husband.” She directly looked at him. “I wanted to talk after your trip to Moscow. I waited for you for almost eight hours. And when you finally came? What did you say?”

The guilt in his face wrenched her heart but she couldn’t back down now. “What did you say, Daichi?”

“Not now, I’m too tired to talk,” he repeated his words from back then.

“I have waited eight hours in a fucking coffee shop!” she hissed at him. “And instead of calling me and sending me home you kept sending me texts that you would be there soon. Eight fucking hours, Daichi.” With a last glare she turned back around to watch the last few seconds of the dance.

The guests clapped politely and so did Jazz, a strained smile on her face. The band started the next song and Jazz weaved through the forming couples that crowded the dance floor now that the bridal couple had their moment in the spotlight. She knew he was following her but she didn’t care, she was too angry. Still. She was still too angry and that angered her even more. She had thought she was over him, hell, she had thought she was over him when she met Ai some time later. Funny, but without Daichi treating her like a backup plan of sorts she would never have fallen for Ai. Now she could see that, of course, but back then she thought that Ai was really the perfect match for her. Just because he actually called when he promised. She had pretty low standards back then. Pathetic.

Jazz quickly gave some orders to the barkeepers and the waiting staff, rushed off towards the kitchen to check everything there and when she came back to the party 15 minutes later Daichi was nowhere to be seen. Good. She had no time for that now.

Dinner went well and afterwards there was more music, more drinking. The bride and groom left for their honeymoon but the guests stayed and celebrated on without them. Who needed a bridal couple at a wedding anyway?

But Jazz didn’t care, she was happy that the wedding has been a success. That Ishigami and Liana enjoyed this day and would remember it fondly their whole life.

And now was the time she actually considered getting a drink. But of course Subaru had to come between her and her hard earned champagne; he actually asked her for a dance. Reluctantly Jazz agreed, mostly because she loved to dance and Subaru actually looked as if he knew what he was doing.

“So, you and Katsuragi, huh?” he asked after the first few steps.

“Just. Stop. Okay? I really don’t want to talk about it.” It had been a long day, lots of little catastrophes she had to take care of without anyone noticing, plus meeting her former lover – that was just too much.

“Hey, I’m just curious. I mean, he’s my boss and I didn’t even know he was dating someone.” Subaru twirled her once and pulled her back close. He was really a good dancer.

“And that’s part of the problem,” she admitted, so tired of all this that she actually considered resting her forehead against his shoulder. But this was Subaru and she wouldn’t show any weakness in front of him.

“What do you mean?” She could hear the frown more than she could actually see it from her angle.

“Well, we were dating back then, but we – he wasn’t really committed. Only called when it crossed his mind. Always put work first. I know that his job – your job – is important and dangerous, that you have to be dedicated and ready to do whatever is necessary to protect your client. It’s a hard job and not everyone could do it. I understand that.” She exhaled and bit her lip briefly.

“But I am not the kind of woman who is happy on the backseat,” she muttered.

“No? I would have bet you enjoy a backseat every now and then,” Subaru quipped just for Jazz to slap his arm once.

“You know what I mean. I’m not a stopgap, I’m not only second best. And that’s exactly what he made me feel.”

“Huh. Wouldn’t have guessed he’s like that,” Subaru muttered and Jazz shrugged.

“Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. If he meets the right one I’m sure he would make it work somehow.” But she could still be sad that she hadn’t been the one after all.

“Mind if I cut in?” Katsuragi suddenly ask, standing next to them.

“No,” Subaru answered the same moment Jazz said: “Yes.” There was a brief moment of confusion but in the end Katsuragi gave Subaru a stern look that weighed more than Jazz’s glare. He was Subaru’s boss after all.

“You are looking stunning,” he awkwardly said and took Jazz hand. She only tensed for a split second before she gave in and let him pull her closer, one hand in the small of her back.

“I know.” She couldn’t help being miffed, there was nothing he could say to make things right again.

“You never took my calls.”

“There was nothing left to say after all. I thought I’d save us both the time and the embarrassment.”  She couldn’t look at him. She still remembered how she had rushed out of that stupid coffee shop, how she had gone home and packed the few things he had left at her place and sent them back to him, adding a note with a list of her stuff and the instructions how to send them back to her. She didn’t even want to talk to him again.

“I tried to explain,” he defended his actions but Jazz only snorted once.

“You did, but that didn’t change anything. You stood me up too many times, you ditched me too many times. Just saying there was a problem at work doesn’t change that.”

They had never really fit together, it was mostly a physical attraction. Jazz had to admit, the spark was still there. He really was a hunk after all, tall and with broad shoulders. That had attracted Jazz back then. She had felt safe in his arms.

And now? Her body betrayed her, molded perfectly against his, remembered every touch.

“We have danced to this song before,” he suddenly muttered and Jazz felt like crying.

“I remember.” She really did.

Daichi had taken her out to dinner. It was some kind of celebration, Jazz had successfully finished a very important event and he wanted to spoil her a bit for it. And apologize because he had to cancel the last two or three dates they had planned. But this night they had dressed up a bit and he took her to a wonderful, very intimate restaurant. Champagne, dinner, dancing.

It was a perfect date, a perfect night. Jazz had just the right level of tipsiness to feel both bold and relaxed with him. They were dating for a couple of weeks already and the sex was – unf, it was just incredible. Although he was so strong, with these big hands, and Jazz was rather small he always treated her gently, carefully, until she ordered him to be rougher. Sometimes she was afraid they would break the bed.

But he held her as if she was made of glass when they danced.

They were already kissing and touching on the way back to her place, building the passion and desire, and Jazz just knew this was one of those nights when they wouldn’t even make it back to the bedroom. When the door was closed behind them Daichi pushed her against it, dress hiked up so he could grab her thigh and wrap it around his waist, pinning her against the wooden surface with his body.

“I missed you so much while I was in Singapore,” he muttered and Jazz was already fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. She loved his chest, loved to run her fingers over the firm planes of it, the bit of chest hair and old scars. So manly. So sexy.

“Missed you, too,” she breathed against his skin, moaning when he pushed his hips against hers, letting her feel his state of arousal.

“Dammit, Daichi! Stop talking, get naked already!”

They both knew they wouldn’t even manage to undress completely, just tugging and pushing at clothes until they were bare enough. Lips and fingertips greedily explored every bit of naked skin in reach, Jazz’s hands quickly opened his belt and pants. She pushed one hand under the waistband of his boxer briefs, curled her fingers around his cock, reveling in its hardness and girth. Good thing everything was proportional to his huge build.

When he impatiently pushed two fingers into her core she yelped and tightened her grip only for him to groan and buck his hips. With her free hand she managed to reach into the inside pocket of his jacket and grabbed the condom she knew he had there. He always had one when they met.

She ripped the foil open with her teeth and he only stopped circling her clit with his thumb for long enough so she could get the condom in place before he hoisted her up a bit – showing off his strength, knowing it turned her on like hell – and held her place with one hand under her ass, the other guiding his cock into her.

With a low hiss Jazz welcomed the slight burn, the stretch, urged him on to move with an impatient roll of her hips. Daichi needed a moment to shift, to find foothold before he could grab both her hips and slowly pull back just to slam back into her, making her cry out. Jazz clung to him, arms wrapped around his shoulders, face buried in the crook of his neck, biting down to muffle her moans.

It was rough, it was quick, it was loud and oh so satisfying. Her back hurt, her head spun, she had lost her shoes and was fairly certain that her dress was ripped, but she didn’t care. Jazz loved it when he was like this, demanding, taking, using his height and strength to keep her in place while he fucked her mercilessly. Later there would be cuddles and kisses, he would examine every mark, every little bruise he had caused on her body and kiss them all better, but now all she wanted was this. Raw desire.

He growled against her neck and sucked a mark into her skin and Jazz gasped, grabbed the hair at the back of his head and yanked him back, just enough so she could kiss him. She lightly bit down on his bottom lip and giggled when he hissed but her laughter turned into moans when he slammed into her harder, punishing her for her teasing.

“You’re… a little… minx…” he grunted between thrusts and Jazz only laughed, spurred him on to be even rougher. Her legs around his waist were already trembling, the tension in her body almost too much to take but she just wasn’t quite there yet. So she carefully slid one hand from his back between their bodies, making him groan when he realized what she was doing. It took only a bit of pressure, one, two circles of her fingertips around her clit to send her over the edge, to make her cry out and cling to him, shuddering in his arms. When she came down from her high he kissed her gently, still panting, and with a short start he hoisted her up, holding her whole weight now to carry her over to her bed. This time they undressed properly and he took his time, lots of kisses and touches and whispered words of affection while he made love to her now.

And in the end Jazz fell asleep in his arm, really hoping this could work out.

It didn’t. The next morning Jazz woke up to a note on the pillow next to her, simply saying: “Work emergency.”

Lust and physical attraction simply weren’t enough to build a relationship on it and Jazz had to accept that Daichi would always pick his work over her. She had to put an end to whatever they were having before she fell even further for him. And after that coffee shop disaster it was surprisingly easy.

“You are divorced.” Daichi’s words pulled her from her thoughts. “I asked Subaru about it.”

“I am.” There was no use in denying or hiding the truth.

“You said you were married,” he pointed out.

“Again, I am. I got divorced and now I’m married to someone else. Subaru doesn’t know everything about me.” Jazz started feeling uncomfortable in his arms, a place she used to love. She looked around, feeling a bit guilty that her mind had flashed back to this particular memory.

“I thought you had left the country by now.”

Was that it? The reason he had held back? Had he been hesitating because he knew she would leave eventually? They had never talked about it, but they had never talked much at all.

“As you can see I’m still here.”

“Working as a wedding planner?” He readjusted his grip on her hand a bit, his big hand enveloping hers.

“It’s not that far from event planning and actually I enjoy it very much.” Just not this moment.

“And you’re doing a great job. Ishigami was full of praise.”

It was so much harder not to cry when he was sweet like this. Jazz shouldn’t feel like this, she shouldn’t be sorry for this lost chance when she was happy with Kunihiko. She shouldn’t wonder how things could have been when her life now was so wonderful.

“Mind if I cut in?”

Daichi was a bit puzzled when Miho suddenly stood next to them.

“You want to dance with me?” The crease between his brows showed his confusion and Jazz had to laugh.

“No, I want to dance with her. If you excuse us,” Miho boldly said and grabbed Jazz’s hand, pulled her closer and started to dance.

“Lemme guess, you want to lead?” Jazz asked, somewhere between laughing and crying.

“Shut up, I have to focus here,” Miho snapped back, but Jazz knew that Miho came to rescue her.

“But don’t even think you can drag me off somewhere like Goto. You have to get me a drink first.” Jazz was really grateful for having friends, especially in situations like these. She rested her forehead against Miho’s shoulder and giggled.

“You sound as if you’re already drunk,” Miho grumbled. “So, you’re going to tell me the story about you and that hunk?”

“Later maybe. Now I just want to enjoy this dance.” She earned herself a slap on the ass from Miho but kept giggling.

“Huh. Now that’s quite a sight,” Subaru muttered and grabbed his phone, trying to take a picture of Miho and Jazz on the dance floor. Goto’s simply reached out and took the phone, shook his head and sighed.

“I think we’ve had quiet enough photos, don’t you?”

“Come on, don’t tell me this isn’t hot. Hey, you think they ever…?” Subaru raised an eyebrow and motioned towards the dancing women.

“No.” Goto’s face gave nothing away until the corners of his mouth twitched lightly. He didn’t have to think. He knew.

It was way after midnight when Jazz silently sneaked into the bedroom, tired but over all pretty satisfied with her work that day. She carefully slid under the covers only to feel an arm wrapping around her.

“Hey,” Kunihiko greeted her sleepily.

“Hey. Go back to sleep.” She snuggled closer and sighed in contentment. These were the arms she belonged in.

“How was the wedding?” He nuzzled her neck and a wave of love for him washed over her.

“Chaotic. Hectic. Beautiful. The bridal couple was very happy in the end and that’s all that matters.”

“Good… I knew you would make it a success…” He was already drifting off but Jazz wouldn’t want it any other way. He needed his sleep, after all he had a busy and tiring job, too. And she was more than ready to close her eyes, too.

“Good night. I love you.”

“Love you, too…” he mumbled and was asleep again.

Yes, this was where she belonged. This was home.

MJS In office drama and client report rewind: Jazz x Kanata Tachibana

Absent mindedly Jazz stirred in her drink, staring off into space. It was strange how close happiness and heartbreak could be, how small the distance, how easy to fall from one in the other. A few days ago she had been convinced that she would never do this again, never again sit in Long Island and sip one of Kunihiko’s cocktails.


On the other hand she had thought that Miho’s and Goto’s only problem was Subaru and how he tried to take over control of the wedding planning. But then this thing with the photos happened and all the scary stuff with this creepy stalker.


Sometimes she wondered if MJS was a bad idea after all. So much drama, for what? They only provided a service to their clients, although she had to admit that they had their fun while doing so. Was that so bad?

“Mrs. Aikawa!”

Jazz’s head shot up, she stared around the bar, checking if anyone had heard.

“Kunihiko,” she chided in mock anger after seeing they were alone. “Do you really want to give us away?” With a slight pout she stared at him but he only chuckled.

“Well, you didn’t react when I called you by your first name so I thought maybe you listen to your last name.” He leaned in and kissed her gently. “And would it be that bad if anyone found out?”

Jazz exhaled and cupped his face. “You know that’s not it. I just don’t want to steal Miho’s and Goto’s spotlight. Once they tied the knot we can tell everyone.”

They hadn’t talked about their own wedding yet, but Jazz didn’t want a huge ceremony. She felt a bit guilty, this was Kunihiko’s first – and hopefully last – wedding, but not hers. The first one had burst all limits, 500 guests and she had known only a handful. This time she wanted something smaller, more intimate. Something that was actually about her and Kunihiko, not only a huge display of wealth for business partners like the last one.

“It’s okay, I understand. But as soon as they are married…” He gave her a pointed look and Jazz nodded.

“Go and shout it from the rooftops afterwards,” she said with a laughter, smiling brightly at him. “I love you. I‘m proud to be your wife and I don’t want to hide it. But for now… I want it to be something between you and me.”

“And Miho,” he reminded her and she laughed again.

“And Miho, yes.”

Of course Miho knew. When Jazz and Kunihiko decided to elope – basically just fill out a marriage registration and make it official – they needed two witnesses after all. They wanted to ask Takao because as a lawyer he was more than qualified, being able to keep it a secret, and Jazz knew that Miho would rip her a new one if she really got married behind Miho’s back. There wasn’t even much thought about the choice of a witness after all. Jazz called Miho, asked if she had a moment later that day and said she would drop by the office after lunch.

Fortunately Jazz had already some experience with filling out a marriage registration, because she had been married before and even more since she saw a lot of them lately in her function as a wedding planner.

So after breakfast – and another round of sweet lovemaking – Jazz and Kunihiko got dressed nicely and headed out to ask Miho for her signature.

“You are doing what?!” Jazz wasn’t surprised that Miho reacted a bit – hotheaded.

“Mr. Aikawa, would you please leave the office for a moment,” she said with barely masked impatience and turned back towards Jazz who calmly waited for Kunihiko to leave them alone.

Once the door was closed behind him Miho sighed. “You just made up, isn’t this a bit rushed?”

Jazz shrugged. “We talked all night – well, not exactly TALKED all night, but there was also a lot of talking, even of the G-rated kind – and we figured that this was a good idea.”

“Yeah, but you also thought it was a good idea to marry someone you never even slept with,” Miho coolly reminded her.

Jazz made a face. “Yes, I did. At least I know he isn’t gay this time.”

Both looked at each other.

“Okay, I don’t expect you to be all giddy and excited, but I’m asking you for being part of this. Now that Selina’s god knows where you are all I have here. I don’t want your blessing, I just want my best friend in this with me, okay? I don’t want to have to sneak around behind your back.”

Ever since the whole thing with Kunihiko had started Jazz felt bad for having to keep secrets. At first only her growing crush on him, but having to keep quiet about being married? That was just too much.

“Are you really sure? If you only do this because he wants it-“ Miho began but Jazz cut her off.

“I am sure. It’s not only his wish, it’s ours. I have to admit, the fact that it’s really important to him made me change my point of view, but not my opinion. I want to marry him, but this time for the right reasons. And it’s not just about business, not like with Ai. He talked me into marrying him, using my crush on him for this. But Kuni? He’s okay with keeping it a secret for now, he just wants to marry me. And I want that, too.” Yes, it was happening faster than she had planned but after having fought for their love so much already she was sure that she and Kunihiko could make it. Hell, they even had so much support from others! Miho for example.

“Gimme that,” Miho grumbled and pulled the marriage registration closer, quickly filled out the witness column and signed.

“Congrats, you are Mrs. Stupid now.”

Jazz laughed happily and hugged Miho. “Thanks. And now get your stuff, we take this to the registry office and after that we get some champagne and lobster.”

When they came out if the office, arms linked and smiles on their faces, Kunihiko already knew that Miho had given in. He smiled at them, opened his arms for Jazz who skipped over to him.

“Doesn’t mean we are good again, Aikawa,” Miho grumbled and narrowed her eyes at him.

“Only fair. But thank you nonetheless.”

“If you ever hurt her again-“ Miho menacingly said and Jazz giggled.

“She was an assassin in a past life, just so you know.”

Kunihiko blinked once, twice. “Okay… well, I better treat you right then, huh?” He kissed the top of Jazz’s head softly and she hummed in agreement.

“Get a room, this is disgusting.” Although Miho frowned Jazz knew that she was actually happy for them. Kinda.

“You think Goto can join us for some champagne later? Maybe for dinner?” Kunihiko asked, making Jazz chuckle.

“What? You afraid to be alone with us?” she teasingly asked. Kunihiko shook his head and laughed briefly.

“No. Just of Miho.”

“Do you regret it?” Kunihiko whispered close to her ear, dragging Jazz from her daydream/memories.

“No. Not for a single second so far. Do you?” The only thing she regretted was the timing; she would have preferred to get married without the whole Miho/stalker thing lurking in the back of their minds.

“I just regret that we didn’t do it sooner.” He shrugged and kissed her softly, making her sigh in contentment. This was it, this was happiness. Marital bliss.

When the door opened and the usual gang came in they quickly separated and smiled at their guests. Only Takao gave them a tiny nod, acknowledging the secret they shared, the rest filed in and greeted Jazz as if she was the old friend and Kunihiko just the barkeeper.

After some chatter Jazz noticed a book on the counter.

“Kunihiko? What’s that?”

He looked towards the book and shrugged. “Some guest left it here. Can’t be that good if she doesn’t want it back after all.”

Saeki grabbed it and studied the cover. “Oh, it’s Kana’s new book. You are mistaken, Kuni, as far as I know it’s actually a bestseller.”

“Really? What is it about?” Jazz asked. Being an avid reader she was always looking for good books.

“It’s a forbidden love story, very naughty, at least as far as I heard. I haven’t read it myself yet.” Saeki handed her the book and she flipped it open on a random page, her eyes browsing the passage. She froze for a split second, blinked and read again.

“What? Is it that raunchy?” Saeki teased her, drawing the attention of the others.

“N-no… that’s not it…” She let the book sink, a helpless look on her face. What she really wanted to say was: “I think this is about me,” but since Ren, Yuta and Yamato had no idea about the services that MJS actually offered she couldn’t just say that. But it was true. The book was about a woman who worked as a marriage matchmaker and had a secret affair with a client. Her name was Jess Bann.

“This – this is… I think this is a job for Takao.”

Jess Bann, attractive, successful, confident, was the number one of marriage matchmakers for high-class clients. She was discreet, efficient and had an eye for the right match. People she brought together usually stayed together – in her career she had only one couple that broke up eventually, and there was no way to blame Jess for that.

But her own love life lay dormant, no relationship she ever had was happy or lasting. Maybe she wasn’t easy to love, too demanding, too fickle for any man to stay longer than some weeks, a couple of months at the most. For now she was fine with it, her job and her friends keeping her occupied and when the nights got too lonely Jess found someone to share her bed with, someone to take her mind off her loneliness.

Kaneda Aki was a successful advertising agent. After having spent several years with meaningless flirts and flings he wanted something real and followed the recommendation of a friend who sent him to Miss Bann, saying she would certainly find the perfect wife for him. For a considerable sum of money of course. But love didn’t come with a price tag and he had enough money, but not enough time to search for the right woman on his own.

It was only logical for them to work together. And it was completely stupid of him to actually fall for her.

Jazz put the book down, her hands trembling. How much of it was fiction and how much the way he had actually seen her? Did she really seem like that woman in the book? Her appearance, her job, parts of her personality, hell, even her name – the similarities were too many to be coincidental. After a quick research Takao had to admit that he couldn’t find out who that ‘Kana’ was, not even if it was a man or a woman. But Jazz already knew. After reading the book it was more than clear and she could actually remember the author that once was her client. He had married the woman she had introduced to him after two months and even sent a picture of their wedding. Why did he do this now? Why did he write this – this hurtful, embarrassing version of their liason? The woman in the book was cold, calculating, didn’t care much for her clients, only for their money. In the end she tosses the client away, mocks him even. He finds the love of his life on his own later, working in a café as a pastry chef. What irony that the woman Jazz had set the author up with had the same job.

She sighed.

“Stop torturing yourself with this crap,” Kuni gently said and took the book out of her hands, rady to go to bed.

“I can’t,” she admitted weakly. “It’s like scratching an itch, knowing you will only make it worse, but being unable to stop.” She closed her eyes, the words still fresh in her mind.

Pursuing whatever she wanted she breezed through life, guided by her whims and instincts. Her beauty opened her many doors, and for now she ignored the fact that one day her looks would have wilted, and all that would be left was her selfish heart that held no beauty.    

“He’s an author, it’s his job to form characters that can easily be put into a category,” Kunihiko reminded her.

“I know, it’s just – ugh, this is not how I want to be pictured. And please, promise me never to read this book. Please.” It wasn’t only that the description of the character that obviously based on her wasn’t flattering, although Jazz hadn’t read that passage yet she knew that there would be a sex scene in it, a probably rather detailed one considering the style so far. Now that they had made up she didn’t want Kunihiko to get all jealous and insecure again.

Kanata Tachibana. Jazz remembered him. He had been flirty and witty, friendly and over all a really pleasant client. Good looking. And he had told her that he was an author. Heck, she even had joked that he better not make their arrangement into a story!

She took the book back from Kunihiko and sighed.

“I just want to sleep now.”

He nodded, kissed her softly and turned off the lights.

“So, strawberry shortcake?” Jazz motioned towards the cake on front of him and Kanata laughed.

“It’s my favorite. I’m looking all over town for the perfect strawberry shortcake and this is the best so far.”

“So you are really persistent, huh? That’s a good quality – for a husband,” she teased and he chuckled again. “What else can you tell me about you?”

“I think I’m actually pretty boring. No drama, no fancy hobbies. I write a lot, that’s not only my job but my passion. I can get lost in my work and tend to forget about everything else – including eating, sleeping and cleaning. Especially when a deadline is coming up.”

She nodded. “I will note that in your report. Not every woman is willing to deal with that.”

Kanata sighed and nodded back. “Yes, I know. But I really love my work so it’s important for me that she has patience and understands what writing means to me.”

“What else should a woman have? Should she be sexy or shy? Caring or daring? Bubbly or calm?” Jazz took a bite of the shortcake. This was definitely good.

“I don’t know. She should have a passion. A dream. I don’t think I could love a cold woman.”

This answer surprised her a bit but she could understand what he was trying to say. Who wanted someone who hadn’t any fire, any passion after all?

After eating the cake and having some coffee Jazz accompanied him to his place. It was packed with books and she curiously browsed through his book shelves.

“You like to read?” he asked and offered her a smile that she returned immediately.

“I love it. Ever since I was a kid. I even tried to write myself, but I had to accept that I have no talent for that.” She chuckled and pulled a book out after waiting for his approving nod. It was in Japanese of course but she read the summary on the cover and put it back.

“Do I see a spark of passion there?” His voice was closer now, hands rested on her hips and pulled her against him. Jazz smiled smugly and let her hand rest on the front of his pants.

“Do I feel a spark of passion here?” she purred back.

With a small chuckle Kanata leaned in, brushed his lips against hers before kissing her again, deeper this time. Jazz wrapped her arms around him and let him walk her towards his couch where they sat down, exchanging kiss after kiss.

“Are you okay with a little challenge?” he asked, pressing kisses down her neck.

“You know my profile… everything within my boundaries is okay… even a little challenge.” She was curious what he was thinking off and a bit confused when he got up and fetched a book.

“Here. Read this to me.”

Jazz blinked. Read? What did he plan? But she shrugged, cleared her throat and opened the book at a random page.

The tension between them was almost unbearable, longing and reason battling a long drawn war, ever since they first met.” Jazz frowned a bit, there were some vocabularies she didn’t use often. And she jumped when she suddenly felt his hands creeping up her legs.

’I can’t do this any longer,’ Rui finally admitted. ‘I can’t keep pretending that she is the one I love when it really is you. It has always been you.’ He wanted to hold her, kiss her, to make her finally his after all these years.” Her breath hitched in her throat when his fingertips pressed against the fabric of her panties, when he curled his fingers under the waistband and pulled them off her without even bothering to take off her skirt first.

“Keep reading,” he prompted and Jazz took a deep breath and continued.

Tentatively, hesitantly he raised a slightly trembling hand, reached for her face, his fingertips grazing her soft skin until he cupped her cheek. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t pull back, instead she leaned into the touch with a soft sigh, breaking his remaining control, crumbled it between his palm and her cheek.”

Kanata was still crouching in front of her, kissing up her legs until his head was hidden under her skirt, his nose gently running over her mound.

Jazz closed her eyes briefly and took a slightly shuddering breath. “You – you said this was a challenge. What do I… what do I get if I win?”

He hummed lowly before his tongue darted out, gently nudging at her folds. “I keep on doing this for as long as you are reading.”

“And if I lose?”

He chuckled, his face still hidden from her view. “Then you won’t get to come at all – unless I think you earned it.”

This was too close on dob/sub-dynamics for her liking but then again, his tongue wasn’t close enough to her pussy so she simply shifted a bit, opened her legs some more so he could pull one over his shoulder and continued to read.

Their first kiss tasted like honey and wine, like coming home after a long journey, like finding the other half of your soul.” She gasped briefly when his tongue flicked her clit but kept reading.

She parted her lips to invite him in, met his tongue with her own – holy… – let him devour her…” It got harder to stay focused when he licked, kissed and sucked at her folds and her clit like a man starving, groaning while doing so. She was in an awkward position, slumped down somewhere between sitting and lying on the couch, hips close to the edge. She couldn’t rock or tilt her hips much, there was nothing to do but to take what he offered and that was slightly frustrating.

“Are you stopping?” he asked, slightly panting.

There was no trace of doubt in her mind anymore, she loved him and she wanted him, he was the only one who could – oh my god – who could make her feel like that…” Jazz’s legs were trembling now and Kanata pressed a hand on her lower belly to keep her in place. Her mouth was dry and her voice cracked every now and then.

So when his hand started roaming her body she didn’t resist, didn’t object, instead she let her own hands… let her own – oohhhh – own hands – fuck!”

He chuckled again and Jazz wanted to yell at him, wanted to laugh and scream at the same time. The pressure in her lower belly was almost too much to take already, but she still needed more.

“… let her own hands wander ooover his body…” She started to draw the vowels, almost moaned them, but kept reading. She was stubborn after all. Kanata chuckled bit kept up his ministrations.

“…took his shirt off without hesitation. His chest was –“ Jazz gasped and took a few shuddering breaths, “was firm… and warm… his heart – oh – his heartbeat racing under… under her palm… OH!”

Maybe Kanata took pity on her or his need for teasing her was sated – or he was simply so horny that he couldn’t wait much longer neither. He plunged two fingers into her core, making her cry out and curse lowly before she tried to read on, muttering another ‘holy’ before she found the line where she had left off.

She let her hand wander downwards, over his –“ Jazz gasped again, followed by a moan. “… over his stomach towards his happy trail… what – what kind of book is this?”

His only answer was another chuckle but he stopped licking and sucking until Jazz took another deep breath and continued.

“… towards his happy trail. Biting her bottom lip she watched him from under her lashes, placed her hand on the – oh my god, yes, don’t – don’t stop now… – her hand on the impressive – really? Oh! – impressive bulge in his pants…” Her words were a mixed with moans and gasps, barely understandable at all, rushed and slightly slurred and cut off completely when she finally came, that tension inside of her culminating into a breathtaking orgasm – literally. With eyes closed and her mouth open she let the pleasure wash over her, let Kanata prolong the sensation, wave after wave, with his skillful tongue and fingers. Only when she whimpered and tried to pull back he stopped, reappeared from under her skirt with a wide grin.

“A few pages further and it would have been like a live commentary,” he chuckled, making Jazz huff a short laugh.

“I need… a glass of water…” she almost croaked and sat up again, the wetness between her thighs slightly uncomfortable. She only noticed now that he had taken his glasses off, his hair was disheveled but he grinned as if he was the one who just had gotten off. After a sip of water she felt better but before she could finish the glass Kanata took it from her and set it on the coffee table.

“You think you can keep on reading while I fuck you?”

Jazz couldn’t stop staring at the report. It had been an interesting date scenario, and she had found a playful and teasing side to him that she hadn’t expected at the first glance. Finding a match for him had been pretty easy and Kanata had married not even half a year later. Tiff. Jazz remembered Tiff. With a sigh she got up from her desk and walked to their front desk.

“Izumi, if Kanata Tachibana calls – and he will call – tell him I’m not available. But he can have an appointment with me later this afternoon. Tell him groveling is a visual experience after all.”

Izumi frowned briefly but seeing Jazz’s very serious face he simply nodded. “Will do.”

Jazz knew he would call. After all Takao had sent Kanata a very stern letter, announcing that MJS was considering suing him for breach of contract and that Jazz personally considered filing a suit for libel.

After informing Takao about the similarities between the book and the actual events he had been shocked, flustered and very certain that they would win in court. Although there were slight differences, for example did Jess and Kaneda have sex in her office while she read him adult literature to turn him on, it was still too similar to be coincidental.

Throughout the book the Jess character got a bit more likeable but in the end she still broke Kaneda’s heart and they ended their business relationship just for Jess to take another lover.

Jazz had lunch at her desk and worked furiously, used her anger to fuel her zeal. When Izumi called and told her Kanata was there to see her she needed a moment to gather her thoughts, but her anger was still burning hot.

“Hello, Jazz.” He opened the door and peeked into the office just for Jazz to wave him in.

“It’s ‘Miss Mann’ to you, Tachibana-san.” She set the mood from the get go, making this a purely business related conversation, no room for feelings or nostalgia. He had betrayed her trust and that was something that Jazz simply couldn’t let slide. Plus he did ruin her reputation – there was no way this could stay under wraps. Not with the sales that book already had.

“Oh, well, Miss Mann, thank you for having me on such short notice.” He took a seat and Jazz simply stared at him until he squirmed.

She sighed. “You asked for this appointment, didn’t you? What can I do for you? Deliver some new ideas for your next book?”

He was visibly uncomfortable but that was the least he could be under these circumstances.

“I’m really sorry, but I didn’t plan for this to happen.” Bowing his head slightly Kanata waited for her say anything. She didn’t.

“It was an accident! My lector found the draft and basically forced me to write this story!”

“Don’t,” she hissed and clenched her fists. “Don’t you dare to put the blame on anyone else but yourself! And if a hundred editors and publishers and whatever were breathing down your neck, you had NO right to write this book! You have signed a damned NDA! Do you really think that changing the names a bit will be enough?”

Kanata sighed and hung his head. “I know. I know, I fucked up. I had the worst case of writers’ block and I just started drabbling a bit – and suddenly I had a whole book. It seemed a waste to just – delete it.”

“Are you kidding me?! This is much more than just ‘a book’,” Jazz imitated his tone. “This is my life, my business! You could have at least put some effort in changing the names!”

“Yeah, that was – unfortunate,” he admitted sheepishly.

“Un- UNFORTUNATE?! This is the lowest of low! You are an author, and as far as I know a pretty decent one! You should know better! People will connect the dots and figure out that ‘Jess Bann’ and Jazz Mann are the same person! Or they will think that at least.”

She sighed and rubbed her temples. Maybe she should change her name. Take Aikawa as her own last name.

“Imagine how my husband feels about this. Imagine how YOU would feel if I published the adventures of your wife with a slightly different name. I got her report here, that’s a very interesting read after all.” Of course this was a bluff. She would never do that to another woman, client or not. But Tiff had been on her date scenario with Kyobashi – and he was a proved recipe for some very dirty stuff. Jazz knew from personal experience.

Kanata paled a bit but Jazz immediately waved off. “Don’t worry, Tiff hasn’t done anything to deserve this. And neither did I.”

He nodded. “I know that I can’t undo this. The book is out and even if we stopped it now, too many copies have already been sold.”

“Oh, but I don’t want to stop the sale,” Jazz interjected.


She shook her head, a small, vicious smile on her lips. “Of course not. Like you said, the damage is done. I want this book to be a bestseller because you will give me 50 percent of the profits.”

“50 percent?! That – that is a lot!” He seemed shocked but Jazz only shrugged.

“I could also go for a hundred if you prefer that. The words might be yours, but the story isn’t. It’s mine and you twisted it into something cheap and detestable.” She was back to hissing now and he exhaled deeply. “You gave me your trust, and I have honored that flawlessly – but you? You have committed an atrocious violation, a reprehensible, base and filthy crime against my true character that actually makes me feel dirty. And now I will have to live with this knowledge all my life and nothing I do can change that. Nothing ANYONE does can change that. So I could sue your sorry ass for everything you have, drag your face and name into every dirty little muckraking newspaper so you will never be able to go out again without being recognized –“ she paused for the dramatic effect, “or we settle that between us.”

Leaning back in her chair Jazz stared at him. “The only reason I’m even willing to negotiate is that you married a good woman and I wouldn’t want to destroy her life along with yours. I like her. She’s got spunk.”

“So 50 percent, okay. What else?” Kanata slumped down a bit, obviously giving up.

“I get all the rights that your publisher doesn’t hold already. I want to prevent that anyone can use this story, whether for movies or series or an audio book. Nothing like that.”

He nodded again.

“And you will never write anything that remotely resembles MJS or me or any of my partners in this business again.”

Another nod, this time firmer. Jazz exhaled.

“Good. At least that limits the damage a bit.” But it wouldn’t help her feeling better about the way her character had been portrayed in the book.

“One last question: Jess… I know she’s basically me, but do you really see me like that? Cold? Calculating? Heartless?”

Kanata shook his head softly.

“No. But I had to make her the antagonist in this. I couldn’t have him fall for her, could I? I –“ He hesitated but continued nonetheless. “I didn’t want my wife to think that I actually fell for you.”

“But you didn’t,” she stated, not asked.

“No. Don’t worry. But I can imagine it’s easy for your clients to fall for you.”

She let out a dry chuckle. “Not anymore. I’m a wedding planner now. My clients shouldn’t have eyes for anyone else than their future spouse.”

“It – it really hurt you how I wrote her character, didn’t it?” He frowned slightly, as if this thought hadn’t even crossed his mind so far.

“It did.” She clenched her teeth, the last thing she needed was his sympathy. She would gladly take his money, but not his pity.

“Hm… maybe I could – I don’t know, write a last book with Jess Bann. To show the softer side of her.” And when Jazz glared at him he added: “Purely fictional this time. Just to – redeem her. So the lasting impression wouldn’t be a negative one – and a wrong one.”

Jazz’s thoughts raced for a moment. Was that a good idea? She wanted less attention for this book, not more. But then again…

“You will let me read it before you publish it,” she demanded and he nodded. “Okay. I think that could appease me a bit. Well, that and 50 percent of the profits of that book, too.”

He let out a defeated sigh and weakly nodded again. “Where do I sign?”

“Head to Miho’s office,” Jazz told him coldly. “She’s going to want you to sign this one in blood.”

After everything was made official Jazz gathered her things and headed home.

“How did it go?” Kunihiko asked the moment she set a foot into their place.

“We’re going to get a nice sum of money,” she sighed and kicked off her shoes. “And a sequel to make Jess a better person.”

He wrapped his arms around her and Jazz inhaled his familiar and comforting scent. And frowned.

“Did you smoke again?”

He chuckled, she could feel the rumbling in his chest. “I did. Sorry.”

She simply waved it off and snuggled closer against his chest.

“I want to have your name.” She had pondered this for a while now and while there hadn’t been the time to get all the necessary paperwork before the wedding she now figured it would be a good idea. So far she had been clinging to her maiden name mostly because she felt it was an important part of her. But now?

“I want us to have the same name,” she quietly explained. He tightened his embrace.

“I have hoped you would say that eventually. I got everything ready for this. We can go and have your name changed tomorrow if you like.”

“And then we can be a real family?” she asked back, knowing how stupid that sounded. “A real married couple?”

“You and me. Mr. and Mrs. Aikawa.” He kissed her softly and Jazz nodded slowly, still wrapped up in his arms and his love.

“Sounds good. Sound really, really good.”

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 Romance: Jazz x Kunihiko Fixing things

There was no denying the fact that Jazz needed her own clothes. No matter how long she stared into Miho’s closet, there wasn’t much that could fit her smaller frame. And no matter what Miho said, Jazz actually liked wearing panties, preferably her own. So she already knew she would have to go to Kunihiko’s place and get some clothes. Sooner or later she would have to get all her stuff anyway, but she didn’t want to sneak in like a thief in the night nor did she want to run into Kunihiko. And that was the problem.

He hadn’t called. He hadn’t texted or send a pigeon or anything. She had left and he had done nothing at all to contact her and that was hurt her the most. So she was afraid to face him because as long as she didn’t it wasn’t really true. Their relationship was in a strange limbo between intact and broken up and she was afraid to tip the scale into the wrong direction. It was Schroedinger’s relationship. Scratch the cat, every girl in the world would understand this parable.

But she knew she couldn’t avoid it much longer and so she called Osanai to ask him for Kunihiko’s schedule. It was an innocent question but when she knew that he was in a meeting she also knew that he wasn’t at home. Simple, clever, perfect. And obviously Kunihiko’s day was packed so Jazz had all the time in the world to gather some clothes and leave her key on the table. Not the classiest move but it would work.

But first she had some appointments and was really grateful that her emergency dress was still in the office. She couldn’t wear the same outfit three days in a row. It was late in the afternoon before Jazz had the time and the gathered courage to head towards Kunihiko’s apartment. Her heart pounded furiously and her hands were sweaty and trembling, but she managed to unlock the door like the countless times she did before. Only this time would be the last.

With a feeling as if she had swallowed a rock that now settled in her stomach Jazz walked into the familiar rooms, quickly grabbed the most important stuff. Documents, some memorabilia, and of course some clothes. She was glad that there were still boxes around from when she moved in with Kunihiko. She felt as if that was in another lifetime and it wasn’t even a month. Usually even Jazz managed to get a relationship going longer than that. With a glance at the boxes she realized that she would have to call a cab. Or someone with a car. But it was a workday and the only one coming to mind was Takao. She wouldn’t call Takao. He was a friend of Kuni and might tell him, it was too risky. No, she would quietly keep packing stuff and call a cab. Tokyo taxi drivers had seen worse than a crying woman with moving boxes.

She quickly sorted through her clothes, only took what she really needed now. Panties and bras, a few dresses and blouses, skirts and pants. Pajamas. Shoes. Everything stuffed into a box and a bag. She looked around the bedroom, considering bringing some of her jewelry but that didn’t seem that important now. Her gaze stopped at a picture that sat on Kunihiko’s nightstand. It was the black and white photo Jinpachi had taken, the lines and curves of her body from her hips down to her legs. Hesitantly she took the picture and following her whim she pushed it into her bag. Her picture, her body, her memories.

Jazz would have preferred to wipe out every trace of her in this place but she didn’t have the time for that. Still, she could take all the private things, everything that meant something to her. All the other stuff would follow as soon as she had figured out where she would stay.

She checked the clock and was surprised about how long she had taken so far. She better left soon, there was no use in pushing her luck. Jazz had just stacked two boxes on top of each other when she heard the key in the lock. She froze.

Now she really felt like an intruder, a thief, although she only came to get her own things. She wouldn’t take anything from him; she didn’t want anything from him. Only what belonged to her.

“Jazz? Jazz, are you still here?” He sounded breathless, hurried. Oh god. OH GOD! What should she do? Hide? Run? No, she wasn’t that childish and although she dreaded the encounter that was inevitable now, she was enough of an adult to simply get over with it and walk out with her head held high. No need for panic. Okay, maybe a little panic.

“I am here.” She stood up and smoothed down her dress, waiting for him to arrive in the bedroom.

“Thank god, you’re still here…” He was panting, his hair a bit disheveled. He must have been running. She snorted a dry laugh. Yeah, figure. He couldn’t wait to give her the finishing blow, could he?

His gaze fell on the boxes and the bag next to her and he straightened up, took a few steps towards her.

“What are you doing?”

Jazz couldn’t look at him. She knew his face, knew every expression and loved them all, but now she couldn’t watch him. Maybe she better just got over with it, like ripping off a bandage.

“I’m packing.” She was proud that her voice didn’t waver, that she sounded calm and matter-of-factly. Because inside she was a whirlwind of emotions, fear and pain and defiance swirling around in her head and her heart, making it hard for her to focus.

“You want to leave?” Kunihiko sounded as if he couldn’t belief it, as if that thought hadn’t even crossed his mind once. Maybe because he couldn’t imagine that she would take charge instead of waiting for him to send her stuff to her.

“I already left, did you forget? Or didn’t you even notice?” She couldn’t hold back the slightly bitter, sharp tone, that poison that was eating at her from the inside.

His shoulders slumped a bit and Jazz had to bite her lip to stop it from trembling.

“I – the office was like crazy today. All the projects that got cancelled – they all wanted to apologize and resume business relations. We were swamped with work.”

That was his answer? That was all?! Jazz took a deep breath, let it escape again through her nose. Tried to stay calm.

Kunihiko looked directly at her.

“Was that you?”

She chuckled dryly. “Sure. I went to all those companies and slept with everyone there so they would give you another chance.” The frown on his face was quickly replaced with a sad look.

“I deserve that, huh?”

Carefully he took a step closer and Jazz backed off, trying to keep the distance between them. She couldn’t be near him, here in this room where they had been so much closer, so many times. And now? Now she was here, watching their love wither before her own eyes. It was just too much to take. If he touched her now she feared that her heart would just shrivel, a tiny lump of tissue and muscle, no room for any kind of feelings left.

“What you deserve,” Jazz began, voice thick with her suppressed tears, “is someone who is good for you. But right now? I can’t find it in me to wish you that.” She knew she was petty, that this wouldn’t help her at all. But she was a stickler for honesty and she wouldn’t start lying now.

“I think I already have someone like that.”

Again he stepped closer and Jazz had nowhere left to run. Another step back and she would fall backwards on the bed. With every step he came closer her panic grew. If he touched her now she would just break. There wouldn’t even be enough left of her to ever put her together again. She would shrivel and wrinkle and when he turned his back on her she would simply cease to exist. Poof, just like that.

“Jazz… why did you even do that?” His violet eyes were trained on her, he was so close that she could feel his breath on her face. “After our argument… why did you even try to help me?”

She was trembling now, afraid of saying something stupid, really stupid when she opened her mouth.   She wanted to snap at him, tell him that she didn’t ‘try’ anything but actually managed to resolve the mess with his company, managed to put Akane Kujuro in her place, all in a day’s work, but she couldn’t.

“Because I love you…” she breathed, followed by a sob. It was so pathetic, she was so pathetic, how could she ever think she deserved love? If she had learned one thing in her life it was that she only picked the wrong men and now that she had thought she had found the right one, the wrong men interfered again, albeit only their shadows. She tried to calm her breathing and wiped her eyes. She could do this. She could be a freakin’ adult and get over with this.

“Because the thought of you losing everything because of me drove me crazy. Consider it my farewell gift.” Jazz almost choked on these words but now that they were out she felt better. Closure. Yes, maybe that had been the thing she needed. By avoiding this conversation she had robbed herself of the chance to make her peace with this.

Of course that was complete bullshit. Even if they managed to talk this through, to find some mature and calm way of doing this, a break up was a break up. It would hurt either way.

“I don’t want that.” Kunihiko’s voice sounded hoarse and the crease between his brows deepened further. “I am grateful that you did whatever you did, but I don’t want it to be a farewell gift. I don’t want you to go.”

His hands cupped her face and as predicted Jazz broke. The tiny cracks in her façade widened and deepened, giving way for her tears.

“The last few days… without you here – it just didn’t feel right. I know that there’s no apology that can fix this, and believe me, I never wanted to hurt you or make you feel bad about yourself. That is actually something I admire about you. That you don’t seem to have regrets.” He offered her a small smile and Jazz snorted a laugh.

“Ha! I have so many regrets. The guy that pilfered my savings? Marrying head over heels and finding out my husband’s gay? Only yesterday I-“ She choked, sobbed and needed to take a deep breath. “I – I did something horrible,” she finally admitted in a small voice, unable to look at him.

His hands tensed slightly before he exhaled audibly, but he didn’t pull back.

“It’s okay, whatever it is, you can tell me. We can get through this,” he assured her only to meet her accusing gaze.

“You think I slept with someone else,” she finally said, a bitter statement, not a question. He only winced for a split second but it was enough for Jazz to drop her head again.

“Okay, I get it. Will it always be like this? Will you always doubt me? Make me feel guilty?” She stepped back and plopped down on the bed into a sitting position. “I can’t change my past, you know? And honestly, I wouldn’t even if I could. I made mistakes but that is life. Everyone makes mistakes.” And she didn’t even consider most of them actual mistakes.

The bed dipped next to her when he sat down, too, not touching her yet but close enough that she could feel the usual pull, the need for physical contact in his presence. But she didn’t give in, not when she wasn’t sure where this would end.

“I’m sorry… you are right. Everyone makes mistakes and I just made another stupid one. I do trust you, really, it’s just – my biggest fear is losing you. Ever since I finally found you I’m afraid that something, maybe someone, will you take you away from me.”

Jazz sighed. “Jealousy is often a sight of insecurity,” she mused loudly. “The thing is, whenever you get jealous I feel guilty, although I know I didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t blame me for having a past.” She shrugged. “I don’t blame you for yours, either.”

He nodded slowly. “I know. I really do.” For a moment neither of them spoke, they just didn’t know what to say, afraid to break this fragile peace.

“Do you want to talk about it? The horrible thing you did?” he suddenly offered.

She sighed, wrung her hands in her lap. “I blackmailed Ai and Akane to take care of their mess by threatening to make some details of my marriage public. I betrayed his trust and – shit, I just sank down on her level.”

“I don’t think he’s mad at you,” Kunihiko slowly said.

“Yeah? How come?”

“He paid me a visit today. Apologized for his mother’s actions. Honestly, between him and Miho – it’s a miracle that I’m still alive,” he jokingly said, but Jazz didn’t laugh. “Anyway, I had a long talk with him and if it wasn’t for the call from the concierge, telling me you came here I would probably still sit with him and talk.”

She still stayed silent and he filled the silence with words.

“I don’t like him, not after everything he did to you, but I have to admit – I’m not better. I hurt you, too, and I’m not sure if you can forgive me. If I can forgive me.” He hesitated but continued talking. “You are right, I have been jealous. But not of the men who – who slept with you. After talking to your ex husband I realized that I’m most jealous that he got something from you that you now won’t give anyone else. You married him. Even without ever having slept with him… because you loved him so much. I think that’s what’s really bothering me. Not that you had sex with other, in this day and age that’s pretty normal, but that you have loved so much before.”

Again silence stretched between them, wrapped them in a blanket that was hard to shake off. But she managed.

“You are an idiot.” But there was no rage in her words, she was too tired for anger by now. “I never said I wouldn’t marry ever again, I just said I don’t want to get married right now. That I want to be sure this time. I always thought I would only get married once and if I was Catholic I think I would have gone for an annulment rather than a divorce, basically erasing this marriage from my record.” She laughed briefly. “Sounds strange, I know. But in the end it wouldn’t change the fact that I said ‘I do’ and believed in it. So can you understand that I’m scared of making the same mistake twice? Of being too eager, too blinded?”

He nodded slowly, weakly. In his mind he could understand, even approve of her caution, her strength of will. But his heart – well, his heart had a mind of its own.

Jazz took another deep breath. The hardest part was yet to come.

“So the question is simple. Do you think you can live with that? Knowing about my past, but not about the future? At least not the next months, maybe years? I don’t know when I will be ready to marry again, but I do know that I can’t imagine it to be anyone else than you.”

She bit her bottom lip, dragged it through her teeth, unable to look at him. If he said ‘no’… well, if he really said no she would pack her things and leave. So far she had no idea what to do afterwards, but she wouldn’t beg him to stay, to love her. She would quietly leave his life and move on with her own. Somehow.

She prayed he wouldn’t say no.

“I – I think there’s something wrong here,” he finally said and she closed her eyes, bracing herself for whatever he would say.

“I’m not the one making a decision. You have always been honest with me-“

Jazz flinched imperceptibly. She was honest whenever he asked her something, but she only answered his questions. She still held some things back sometimes.

“- and still I have made you feel bad about yourself, about your honesty. I know you said some things just so I wouldn’t say them and I understand. It would have hurt more and there would be no way to take them back.”

Jazz nodded. Some words couldn’t be taken back, they would always stay, lingering between them, piling up until they suffocated any feelings. That was why she chose her words carefully in a fight. Things said in anger or frustration were often crueler than intended, but once said they couldn’t be unheard.

Kunihiko kept on talking. “But I want you to know that I was wrong, that I feel deeply sorry for hurting you, for saying what I said and most of all, for making you think I would actually believe those words. I don’t. I never did. And even if, it shouldn’t matter. You are a strong and independent woman, brave and smart. I was a fool not to tell you about Kujuro-san and her actions against me and my company, I was a fool to think you wouldn’t do everything you can to help me. But I was also too proud to ask for your help.” He smiled wryly and Jazz inhaled sharply. Where was he heading?

“Pride shouldn’t be an issue between us. Jealousy shouldn’t be. I love you. I want to spend my life with you, with or without wedding, I don’t care. If you can forgive me I will never let you go again. And if you can’t – the please let me do whatever it takes so you can eventually. Let me earn your trust again, let me-“

She cut him off with a kiss, slid into his lap and wrapped her arms around him.

“Sometimes the only one that can make you feel better is the one who hurt you in first place,” she whispered against his lips. “And I really, really want you to make me feel better now. I’m fed up with feeling miserable.”

She didn’t need tell him twice. His arms wrapped around her, pulling her even closer against him he kissed her, the fear, the insecurity, the guilt – everything that had kept them apart melted away under their kisses, the urgency and longing that spurred them on. They didn’t even separate long enough to undress properly, their clothes ripped from them, discarded carelessly on the floor.

Without giving him much of a choice Jazz pushed Kunihiko down on the bed, pulled his pants and boxers just so far down that she could reveal his hard cock, her own panties just pushed to the side so she could sink down on him, her dress hiked up, his shirt half unbuttoned. There would be time for tender lovemaking later, now she needed to feel him, to reconnect in the most primal way she could think of. Her nails dragged down his half exposed chest, left red marks until she reached a button, ripped it off while yanking his shirt further off him. Her hands on his chest Jazz started moving, spurred on by his gaze, eyes dark and full of desire.

He had been right, not everything could be fixed with sex. But this? This worked. She hissed and groaned, head thrown back, eyes closed, focused on the physical sensations rather the emotions. There was still a lingering pain at the edges of her conscience and she knew it would take some time for it to fade, leaving only a slightly more sensitive spot behind. But she was willing to take the risk, praying that this time she wasn’t mistaken. He was worth it. Their love was worth it.

Kunihiko startled her by suddenly sitting up, hands cupping her face again, his thumbs wiping away tears she hadn’t realized shedding.

“I will never hurt you again,” he promised hoarsely, making her sob. An empty promise; he couldn’t possibly keep it, but his intention was true. So she wrapped her arms around him while he did the same, slowly rocked in his lap, bodies pressed tightly against each other, countless kisses filling the little space between them. He came first, encouraged by both sweet and dirty words from her lips. Only when Kunihiko stilled the movements of her hips she stopped, still embracing him. They panted and were sweaty, but she grinned widely at him.

“You are … incredible…” he chuckled, dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose. “I really don’t deserve you.”

“Don’t you ever forget that,” Jazz reminded him before she got off his lap with a sigh, heading for the bathroom to clean up. When she came back Kunihiko was lying on the bed, completely naked now and with a small smile on his lips.

“Hey you,” he greeted her and Jazz smiled back.

“Hey.” She crawled onto the bed, right into his open arms. There was still a lot for them to talk about, but when he started undressing her, without the rush from earlier, they both wordlessly decided to do the talking later. And after he had coaxed the second orgasm from her, growing hard in the process again, they had the tender lovemaking that soothed both their hearts until they could fall asleep, entangled in each other.

Breakfast the next day was spent in a relaxed, happy atmosphere.

“Have you called Miho and said you won’t come to work today?” he asked and handed her a bowl with fresh sliced fruit.

“I sent her a text last night so she doesn’t worry. It was a bit short but I guess she got what I tried to say, she sent me a ‘Show him who’s the boss’ back, followed by a couple of emojis and some lewd comments.” Jazz giggled and Kunihiko rolled his eyes, but smiled.

“She’s really-“

He started but Jazz raised an eyebrow.

“A bad influence?” she asked teasingly.

“A great friend,” he finished his sentence. Jazz hummed in agreement and took a sip of tea.

“You know you will have to beg to get back into her good graces, right?”

He sighed. “Yeah, figured so much. Maybe whiskey on the house for – hm, forever?”

Jazz chuckled. “That’s at least a good start. Just to ease your mind, she’s at least not the type who slaps you the ‘I told you so’ into your face. She gloats, and very much so, but only because she’s happy that everything worked out in the end.” She smiled fondly, thinking about Miho. “But I’m glad that I don’t have to stay at her place anymore. She’s got wandering hands when she’s half asleep, thinking I’m Goto…”

Kunihiko blinked a few times but didn’t say anything. They continued eating, thoughts wandering but only to happy places.

“So, are you sure?” he asked, for the umpteenth time that morning after putting his dish into the sink.

“I am,” she confirmed and smiled reassuringly. “I know I will get into real trouble, especially with Miho, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

He grinned happily, violet eyes shining. “We are really going to do it?”

Jazz nodded and beamed back at him. “We are. Let’s elope.”

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 battle: Dance off!

After another long day Jazz was glad that Miho had agreed to go out for drinks, saying Goto wouldn’t be home after all since he was working and sitting alone on the couch wasn’t really what she wanted to do.

“How’s your intern? Is she what you have been looking for?” Jazz asked while waiting until Miho had gathered her things.

“She’s doing a good job, very good reports. She even adds sketches of some – uhm, special features.”

Jazz stared at Miho blankly for a second before she burst out into laughter. “Show me! I want to see!”

Miho grinned and grabbed a file, browsed through it until she found a quickly sketched drawing of a definitely male body part.

“Wow…” Jazz was impressed. “Now imagine what she could do with a brush and paint…” She waggled her eyebrows, prompting a chuckle from Miho.

“I know, but honestly, it’s a good idea. Helps me envision things.”

“Yeah, I can imagine.” Jazz handed the sketch back. “Hey, have you thought about maybe throwing a welcome party for Rose and H? I mean, shouldn’t we at least show them that we are grateful for having them?”

“We pay them, shouldn’t that be enough?” Miho brushed her off.

“Okay, let me rephrase that: Remember when we started the business? The one thing we all had in common?” Jazz smirked and waited for the coin to drop. “How we decided whether we were actually suitable for judging the client’s sexual skills?”

“Oh god… you are not saying we should all have a roll in the hay, do you? Because I’m not sure if I can sell Goto that as ‘girl’s night out’.” Miho seemed actually reluctant and Jazz laughed.

“No, no. Oh god, I mean, I’m sure Kunihiko would be less than pleased. He’s already jealous of every man that talks to me, I don’t want him to get suspicious of every girl, too. No, I’m talking about something else. We should have some rite of passage, if you catch my drift. Like that one time, in that bar that never again set a foot in afterwards?”

That had been a wild night but Jazz was sure that Miho remembered.

“I’m not so sure that we should do that,” Miho said and tilted her lightly.

“Not ‘we’,” Jazz pointed out. “’They’.”

After some quick calls Jazz and Miho made their way to Long Island, hoping Kunihiko wouldn’t kick them out after all. Well, even if he got mad Jazz was positive she could calm the waves somehow. When they arrived H was already there, talking to Saeki, but Rose was nowhere to be seen. Jazz kissed Kunihiko briefly but tried not to be too lovey-dovey to not annoy the others. She enjoyed rubbing their love into the faces of Yamato and Saeki, but tried to keep it fair for the rest.

“So, when will our judge appear? Does he plan a huge entrance?” Miho asked once they had settled around a table. By now Kunihiko knew pretty well what drinks they wanted so there was no need to actually order.

“I told him to drop by in around half an hour, so knowing him he will show up in an hour.” Jazz smiled at Kunihiko when he placed a cocktail in front of her.

“Did I tell you that I love you already today?” she asked, making him chuckle.

“Me or the cocktail!”

“Both,” she declared and took the straw between her lips, sucking once and letting it go again just to hum in pleasure. “Hmmm, soooo good.”

Miho snorted and took a sip of her whiskey and H thanked Kuni for the rum.

“What are we celebrating?” she asked and sniffed at the glass once before breaking out onto a contend smile.

“Basically just life. And you and Rose joining the agency,” Miho replied casually, looking up when he door opened and Rose came in. She motioned towards Kunihiko for a second glass of whiskey and once they were all sitting and holding a glass they raised them and cheered: “To MJS!”

A few rounds later the door opened again, a grin appeared on both Jazz’s and Miho’s face.

“Baba! Over here!” Jazz called and waved. Despite their ups and downs she usually didn’t hate him – much. With a smile Baba approached their table, only glancing briefly around the bar.

“So many pretty ladies at one table – lucky me.” He bowed slightly and tapped the rim of his hat briefly.

“Lucky indeed – now sit down, have a drink. I still have plans for you tonight,” Jazz said and motioned towards a free chair, unfortunately just in the moment when Kunihiko came with another round of drinks. He raised his eyebrow at her but she simply smiled at him, there was nothing wrong with what she had said after all.

Baba ordered a drink and Kunihiko reluctantly went back behind the bar. Saeki and Yamato were still sitting there, throwing him a curious glance.

“So, what are we having here?” Baba asked, looking around the table.

“Just a little agency party,” Jazz said with a shrug. “Since you are working for us – kind of at least – we thought you should meet our new interns. This is Rose and this is H.”

The girls nodded at the mention of their names, already a bit tipsy but still unaware of what Jazz and Miho had planned.

They chatted some more, drank some more until Miho vanished towards the bar and had a brief conversation with Kunihiko, giving Jazz a small nod when she came back. Good, Kuni was on board. Jazz didn’t want to ask him because she knew he wouldn’t say no to her, even if he didn’t like the idea. But since there were almost no other people there – Saeki and Yamato didn’t count – Kunihiko didn’t seem opposed to Miho asking for music.

“Say, Baba,” Jazz began and turned towards the only male at the table. “Think you could help us with something?”

After a quick explanation of their plan Miho and Jazz waited for the reaction of Baba, Rose and H. Well, the reaction of Rose and H, Baba was on board when he heard he would get a lapdance. Or better, two.

“Okay, but I need more rum,” H simply stated and motioned towards Kuni.

“Tell me again, why are we supposed to do this?” Rose asked and sipped from her glass.

“It’s some kind of initiation rite. In MJS all female associates have sat on Baba’s lap at least once,” Jazz chuckled. Miho rolled her eyes when Baba winked at her, obviously she didn’t really want to get reminded of that, but she was still smiling. Sort of.

“You have all given him a lapdance?” H asked and laughed loudly. “Well, that’s an interesting kind of bonus, huh?” She leaned back and let her eyes wander from Jazz to Miho to Baba.

“I can’t complain,” Baba stated almost humbly, earning a light slap on the arm from Miho.

“We were young and drunk,” Jazz said airily and shrugged. “There was music and I wanted to dance and I managed to get Miho to join me only by making it a competition.” Other than Jazz Miho wasn’t that fond of dancing, although she knew very well how to move her body. But when Jazz had practically challenged her, taunted her, she couldn’t say no. And she was fierce competition after all.

“Who won?” H wanted to know just for Miho and Jazz to exchange a gaze.

“Baba,” Miho dryly answered, just for Jazz to almost choke on her drink from laughter.

“Yep, definitely,” she agreed and laughed again, thinking back to the events AFTER that lapdance.

“We want to see how seductive you can be,” Miho steered the conversation back to the topic at hand. “I mean, we know that we ARE damned seductive and sexy, we know what we can do after all. And we have – experienced some things first hand.”

Completely unlike her usual self Jazz bush lightly at Miho’s comment. Well, that had been wild times after all.

“Yes, but now we won’t do that anymore, for obvious reasons.” Jazz flashed Kunihiko behind the bar a sweet smile. “All we have at this point are the things others have told us and although we are pretty sure you’re doing a good job, we just want to –“ She laughed suddenly. “Nah, to be honest we just want to make you do something embarrassing for our amusement. Bonding over shared embarrassment.”

Although Rose’s expression stayed serious she nodded. “I see. Well, in that case… who’s first?”

Jazz looked back and forth between H and Rose. “How about flipping a coin? Head, H goes first, tail, Rose begins.” When no one objected Jazz grabbed a coin and tossed it.

“Head. H, any song of choice?”

H got up, smoothed down her blouse and the short skirt and furrowed her brow briefly. “Talk dirty to me.”

“I gladly would,” Baba smoothly offered but Jazz shoot him a dirty look.


“What? Isn’t that a bit drastic?” Baba asked, looking shocked.

“No, the song. Talk dirty to me by Poison. Good choice. I prefer some slower songs for that kind of dancing, but I’m sure you can make it work,” Jazz cheerfully said and nodded towards H. “Rose, think of a song, I’m just getting the music ready for H.” She got up and skipped over to Kunihiko who actually looked not very pleased.

“What’s wrong?” Jazz asked, mirroring the frown he wore in an exaggerated way.

“Nothing. Are you having fun?” His tone made clear that it wasn’t nothing, but also that he didn’t want to discuss it. Not there and then at least.

“Actually, I have. Are you sure you are okay with this? I swear, they won’t get naked so it should be no problem.”

He scoffed briefly but then sighed. “That’s not a problem, even if they did. I just close the door and it’s basically a private party in here.” He shrugged and Jazz nodded before she smiled teasingly.

“Are you afraid I will get mad when you watch them? Because I won’t, you watch as much as you like. But only looking, not touching, you got that?” She leaned in and kissed him softly but he didn’t respond to the kiss like he usually would. Okay, someone was a bit miffed.

“You sure you’re okay?”

Kunihiko sighed again but smiled wearily. “Yeah, it’s nothing, really. It has just been a hard week.”

“Why haven’t you told me? Instead of opening the bar we could have snuggled on the couch?” She touched his arm gently and smiled at him.

“And miss out on all this fun? No, it’s okay, really.”

Jazz kept looking at him intently but then nodded. “Okay. So, about the music…”

Two minutes later the song played through the bar, Baba was sitting on a chair in a hastily cleared area, Jazz had confiscated Saeki’s phone – “Hey, nothing I haven’t seen yet, at least with H. The other lovely lady though…” – and the rest of the audience was sitting at the bar, watching H start moving to the music. It was a rather upbeat song, but full of energy, and H was like a completely different person. Not that she usually was shy or insecure, but there was a confidence in her stride, grace in her movement that usually wasn’t that obvious. She swayed her hips, bent and twisted her slender body, showing off for the first few moments before she started moving towards Baba who was already eagerly waiting for the real show to begin. H dropped down on her knees and started crawling towards him, prompting Baba and Saeki to let their breath escape in a hiss. Jazz chuckled and Miho nodded appreciatively. Rose studied the moves of her contestant and Yamato as well as Kunihiko didn’t really know where to look.

Meanwhile H had reached Baba’s chair, ran her hands up his legs and rested them on his thighs, pushed her body up, face close to his body, and winked once when she was close to his own face. She whispered something that the others couldn’t hear over the music and Jazz figured that H had just allowed Baba to touch her since H got up and straddled his lap, both her knees balancing on the edges of the chair so she could keep her weight off him and her movements free. But his hands came to rest just above her knees, slowly skimmed over the bare skin up, just stopping shy before vanishing under the hem of her skirt, so whenever H  moved the fabric touched Baba’s hands. She didn’t seem bothered by that, on the contrary seemed to make a sport of it to get his hands even further up her legs, deeper under her skirt with a daring grin on her face.

She kept moving her hips, swayed them, rolled them, leaned back with her hands on his knees to present him with a great view of her body until Baba had to swallow visibly, much to the delight of Miho who snickered and Jazz who cheered loudly and whistled. When H straightened up again, her hands resting against his chest and her whole body sinking further down on him, ass finally pressed against his thighs, she cheekily snatched his hat and put it on, earning herself a gasp from him, followed by a groan when she rolled her hips again. His hands were gripping her upper thighs now, already halfway under her skirt when the music faded and the song stopped.

There is a tension in the air, a wordless plea for more until Saeki started clapping and Yamato hissed a low ‘Jeez’. H slid from Baba’s lap and smoothed down her clothes, the skirt had ridden up to reveal more of her slender legs. She took Rose’s seat who now was preparing for her own performance. In a plaid shirt and jeans. Maybe it wasn’t fair that Miho and Jazz hadn’t warned them, prepared them so they could choose a fitting outfit, but hey, this was about fun and it was also about showing what they were capable of under circumstances less than stellar.

Jazz chuckled at the choice of song but “Naughty girl” was very fitting for this challenge and when the lyrics started Rose slowly made her way over to Baba who was now shifting in his chair, obviously already rather agitated by the first performance. But his eyes widened when he saw how Rose started to undo the buttons of her shirt, not taking it off but revealing the black lacy bra she wore underneath, connected with some intricate straps that ran all over her upper body, creating a suggestive pattern on her skin.

Jazz could hear all male attendants suck in a harsh breath and H mutter ‘Holy shit’ under her breath. She looked over to Miho who grinned, her imagination probably running wild by now. Jazz doubted that Rose wore this kind of underwear on a daily basis, maybe she had been on a date or was on her way to one. From Miho she knew that Rose was one of Kyobashi’s – let’s call it ‘girlfriends’ and Jazz remembered her own brief encounter with Kyobashi. He would definitely approve of this choice of underwear.

The song was softer than the one H had picked but Rose let the music carry her, her movements less powerful, but smooth and catlike. Jazz had to admit, both girls were really good.

Rose reached Baba but unlike H she didn’t straddle his lap, instead she turned around and sank onto him, placed his hands on her ribcage, right under her breasts, and pressed her ass against his crotch. And then she moved. Yamato cleared his throat awkwardly and Kunihiko got up and cleared away some glasses, Jazz spotted a tinge of pink on his cheeks. She quickly watched Rose and Baba again, this was what was important right now after all. And amusing.

Rose had changed her position, had turned and now one knee between Baba’s legs on the chair, her upper body leaned towards him. There were fleeting and lingering touches, less hips and more body movements, completely different to the first performance but no less seductive. Hell, even Jazz started squirming in her seat a bit. Baba would have a hard time picking a winner. Or simply a hard time. With emphasize on ‘hard’.

The song ended and somehow everyone was longing for a drink, only Rose seemed rather unfazed when she buttoned up again. Baba needed a moment to catch his breath but he had definitely enjoyed this and Jazz’s mind flashed back to the time she and Miho had taken on this challenge. He hadn’t been able to actually determine a winner back then, not that anyone had complained. They had all won in the end…

“So, Baba, what will it be? Leg or breast?” Miho smirked and handed Rose her glass who took with a small nod.

“You both were really good,” Jazz added and grinned at Baba. “Weren’t they?”

“You never did that for me,” Saeki sulked a bit into H’s direction but she only poked her tongue out at him.

“Can’t decide again, huh?” Jazz teased Baba who finally managed to get up and join the others.

“Could you? I mean, two pretty ladies and they were giving their all, how should I decide?” He seemed crestfallen at the task before him and Jazz gently nudged his shoulder.

“I never said it was an easy job,” she said and Miho raised an eyebrow.

“You still owe us a decision for our little competition back then,” she said sweetly, but there was an edge in her voice that made Jazz laugh. Miho was competitive. Very competitive.

“How about a dance off?” Saeki suddenly suggested. “You all get up on a stage and dance for the title. ‘The boy is mine’ would be a good song. And if that doesn’t help I would offer myself as a judge.” All eyes suddenly were on Saeki, but they all frowned rather than welcoming his idea.

“My girlfriend won’t shake her hips for you, Saeki,” Kunihiko almost growled, making Jazz blink against the buzz in her head created by the alcohol and the hormones. She was only human after all, seeing pretty girls dance like that didn’t leave her unimpressed.

“Well, Baba, how do you decide?” Miho pressed on, demanding an answer. Baba sighed, this would be a long night – and probably not of the good kind.

Back at home Jazz plopped down on the couch, still pleasantly buzzed and giggling when she thought about the way Baba had been unable to decide. Well, no matter which of the girls had won in the end, they all had fun that night and now a memory that bound them together. From her point of view it had been a successful night, but Kunihiko didn’t seem very happy.

“Hey, loverboy, is there anything I can do to turn that frown into a smile?” She smiled up at him, waiting for him to answer.

“Not really, but thanks. I’m just a bit tired.” He made a face to show her it wasn’t serious. Jazz got up from the couch.

“Maybe you are a bit sad because you weren’t part of the fun tonight?” she half inquired, half prompted an explanation.

“Well, at least you seemed to have fun,” he said wryly.

“Ohhh,” Jazz cooed happily, “I know a way for you to have some fun, too.”

She gently pushed him down so he sat on the couch and grabbed the remote to turn on the music. Three clicks later the sounds of “Lady Marmalade” started filling the room and Jazz shot Kunihiko a smoldering glance before she turned around and swayed her hips slowly, seductively. Looking over her shoulder she gauged his reaction but he didn’t meet her gaze, instead he seemed rather uncomfortable. Well, in that case she just had to try harder. Jazz turned around and straddled his lap. Slowly rolling her hips against him she leaned closer and brushed her lip against his, breathing the softest kiss on his mouth.

His hands found her hips and she smiled, finally he seemed to play along. But instead of enjoying what she offered him Kunihiko stilled the movements of her hips and pushed her off him.

“Don’t you like that?” she asked, a bit confused at his obvious annoyance.

“I think you like that too much,” he stated and ran hand through his hair, obviously agitated.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You said you were ‘sitting in his lap once, too’,” Kunihiko pointed out and Jazz frowned.

“Whose? Baba’s?” She needed a moment to follow his train of thought.

“Yes, Baba’s.” Kunihiko almost spat his name out.

“I did and it’s true. But it was exactly what I said: I sat in his lap. I never slept with him!” She got up, not wanting to sit next to him anymore, and paced the floor. “Is this another jealousy thing? Because I have to admit, it’s getting old.”

“Sorry it’s annoying for you, but I’m not very happy when my girlfriend is getting all cozy with other men!”

Wow. She stared at him. This was the first time he really raised his voice. But she was right here and he was not. She had barely touched Baba all night, not even hugged him as a greeting.

“I wasn’t getting ‘cozy’ with him, especially not in your presence,” she hissed and glared at him. “I know him forever, okay? And he has seen some of my worst times AND he was really kind to me back then.”

It was true. When Jazz was broken after finding out about Ai she had done something stupid and it could have ended with a really huge mistake but it didn’t because Baba has actually been a gentleman back then. When she was looking for some ego boost, for someone to tell her that she was indeed a beautiful woman, sexy and desirable, unfortunately completely drunk, he had stopped her and made sure that she could cry on his shoulder and get back home afterwards. It had been a bit awkward the day after, especially since she did have tried to seduce him, but they quickly got over this weird tension and Jazz had accepted that night as a proof of his friendship. Not sleeping with a woman who practically threw herself at him was almost heroic for a guy after all. There had been some kissing and making out, but in the end he had not taken this opportunity. And Jazz was grateful, after all there had been something between Baba and Selina, whatever it was, and Jazz didn’t want to hurt either of them just because she was hurt.

“Then what about this whole lapdance battle?” Kunihiko dragged her thoughts back to the present.

“It was some kind of joke, okay? It’s harmless, just some teasing. And yes, if you really want to know, it’s exactly what it looked like: Miho and I have done the same, ages ago, and yes, with Baba.” But it wasn’t as if Jazz wanted anything from Baba, or as if she had been the one grinding down on him earlier.

“I start to think that Miho isn’t exactly a good influence,” he said and Jazz sucked in a harsh breath.

“You better watch your words before you say something you are going to regret and I’m not going to forgive,” she warned him and turned on her heel to storm into the bathroom, hissing a last sentence over her shoulder.

“And just so you know, you can cool off your fiery temper on the couch tonight.”

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: Jazz x Kunihiko – New challenges

Jazz was typing furiously, trying to get this proposal done before her client would arrive. This was the first wedding she was planning and she wanted it to be perfect for the happy couple. She still was amazed that it was Ishigami of all people who would use the new service MJS offered. It was a logical step from marriage matchmaking to wedding planning after all.

She sighed. This was a lot of work, especially since she hadn’t recourse to former plans. Of course she could use some of her old connections and experience from her event planner days, but a wedding was really something different. Especially since she had to convince Ishigami first to actually contract her.

She quickly hit the ‘print’ button and walked over to the tea kitchen to get another tea when she ran into Miho.

“Hey, how’s your new intern doing?” she greeted Miho with a huge grin. H had proven to be blessing and Jazz had made the transition from matchmaker to wedding planner smoothly.

“She’s doing one of my clients just now,” Miho smirked and Jazz laughed. Ever since their little conflict had been resolved they were back to being friends again.

“Kunihiko is opening Long Island tonight, how about a drink after work? You can bring your fiancé,” Jazz suggested, stressing the word ‘fiancé’ by saying it with French pronunciation.

“Let me call him and I tell you later, okay?”

Jazz knew that Goto was working odd hours, the problem when being a cop obviously. Well, Kunihiko was working a lot, too, and he and Jazz couldn’t meet up that often either. But still she was on cloud number nine with him.

She nodded and waved briefly, already on the way back to her office. Ishigami would arrive soon.

“Ishigami-san, let me congratulate you to your engagement.” She smiled warmly and bowed her head.

“Thank you, Miss Mann. As you know my time is short. Please let us get on with the topic. Why should I let you plan my wedding?”

Right to the point, like always. Jazz was still smiling and motioned for him to take a seat.

“As I already told you this will save you time and money after all. I already know all your preferences, your favorite food, music, colors. Yours and of course those of your bride. Any other wedding planner would need time to get to know you; I already do. I know things about you and your bride that no other wedding planner could know so I can make sure your wedding will be simply perfect for you. I know how important perfection is for you after all.”

She slid him the folder with her concept over the desk.

“Please have a look at this, Ishigami-san. And tell me if that is at least close to your idea of a perfect wedding.”

The venue, the menu, the band – everything was chosen basing on the profiles of both Ishigami and Liana. Jazz hoped she would work more with the bride after convincing Ishigami; the woman was definitely easier to get along with. Blue as dominating color theme since both liked blue best. Some classical music for the ceremony and a jazz band, live music for the venue of course. Bouquets of freesia since the bride loved those – and Jazz, too. The scent would be heavenly.

Jazz still knew some caterers that would provide great food, both sweet and hearty dishes. She had called the famous photographer Jinpachi Yushima and asked him about good wedding photographers. They could order the cakes from Larme. A lot of possibilities and choices, yet she was sure that her first proposal was already close to perfect.

“What is a pudding pyramid?” he asked curiously.

“You know champagne towers? All the glasses stacked up and someone pours a bottle of champagne into the topmost one so that it flows in all glasses in the end? Imagine a tower made of glasses full of pudding. We can play with the colors and flavors so it will be really impressing, both visually and in taste, of course.”

He nodded once.

“A pudding cake?”

“Just an idea. You can also have a traditional cake, I just wanted to show you the possibilities.”

Another nod.

“Can I keep this?” He raised the folder questioningly and Jazz nodded.

“Of course. Take it home, sleep over it, show it your future wife. When you have decided you can call me.” He was hard to read but Jazz had a good feeling.

“Was that all?” he sternly asked and again Jazz nodded.

“If you don’t have any questions left we are done,” she confirmed.

“Good. My fiancée will call you about this. I think she will be the one to make the most decisions concerning this wedding. And… please focus more on her preferences than mine while making your proposals. I want it to be the perfect wedding for her after all.” There was a faint smile playing on his lips and Jazz mentally patted her own shoulder for obviously finding the perfect match.

“My goal is it to plan the perfect wedding for both of you, Ishigami-san. But I will keep your words in mind.” She bowed slightly and so did he before he left.

Jazz grinned. Okay, her first wedding planning assignment. This day was going to be great!

This day turned to be complete trash. After a really successful and satisfying day at work Jazz walked into Long Island in the evening, happy to be able to see Kunihiko again after a few days with only calls and texts. Although she really wanted to take things slow she noticed how much she enjoyed being around him and that she actually wanted more time with him. Greedy little Jazz.

“Hello, guys!” she loudly called into the bar as soon as she saw the usual guests. Saeki, Takao, Yamato and Yuta. Ren, from whom she just learned he was a prince of a neighboring kingdom of her homeland, wasn’t there. But Kunihiko was. Jazz ignored the stares of the others when she walked towards the bar and leaned over it to drop a light kiss on Kunihiko’s lips. She loved the way he blushed slightly when she did this in front of his friends. Usually he was fine with a bit PDA, but when his gang was around he was adorably shy. Thank god only then.

“Hello darling,” she purred and slid on a bar stool.

“Hello love,” he answered just for Yamato to groan and roll his eyes. Takao had averted his gaze and Jazz assumed it was because this display of affection wasn’t within his comfort zone. Saeki only grinned and Yuta pouted a bit.

“No one ever greets me like this and calls me ‘love’ or ‘darling’.”

Jazz chuckled but when Kuni suddenly leaned over the counter a bit and handed Yuta a glass of beer with a wink and a low: “Here you are, darling,” she burst out in a full laughter. She wasn’t the only one.

The usual banter soon was resumed and Jazz got a cocktail and some gossip, but Takao was unusually quiet, even for his means. He couldn’t look at Jazz and for a moment she was afraid he had seen or heard her having sex with Kuni in the storeroom the other day… but no, that wasn’t likely. They had met after that and Taka had acted just fine. No, there was something off but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

Half an hour later Miho came in, without Goto but with a huge smile when she saw the tumbler of whiskey already waiting for her. Like always she made herself right at home. Jazz was always impressed how easily Miho found a place in a group, no matter if she knew the people or not. Well, she already knew Takao and Kunihiko and ever since Jazz had suggested Saeki as a tester for their female clients Miho of course knew the scriptwriter. But Yamato and Yuta were new faces for her, still she treated them as if she knew them their whole lives.

They were just talking about some event Miho had to attend with Goto when she looked at Takao.

“What’s wrong with you today?” She sipped from her glass and Jazz chimes in.

“Yes, you are a bit quiet. Is everything okay?”

“If you have troubles in matters of the heart you can always ask us,” Miho said, but the devilish glint in her eyes made clear that she wouldn’t make it easy for Takao.

“Uhm… no, it’s something else…” he said, scratched the back of his neck and stared at his feet.

“Something serious?” Jazz asked. Takao nodded.

“Something you can’t tell us?” She was suddenly aware that everyone was now staring at them. This wouldn’t make it easier for him to tell.

“Actually…” Takao hesitated. “It’s something work related.”

“Oh.” Jazz nodded, she understood the importance of confidentiality after all.

“Boooooring,” Miho said in a singsang voice. “Hey, Kuni, can I get another one?” She raised her empty glass and the conversation around them continued, Takao breathed deeply and gave Jazz an apologizing smile.

“Actually… I really have to talk to you.”

“Am I in trouble?” Jazz jokingly asked. Takao didn’t answer, but his serious face made her smile drop.

“Shit. Am I really in trouble?”

“We should talk. Somewhere private.” Takao got up and waited for her to do the same.

With growing unease Jazz followed Takao upstairs, not even aware of Kunihiko’s worried gaze.

“As your lawyer and the one who was in charge of your divorce they sent this letter to me instead of you,” he explained while Jazz was still staring at the piece of paper in her hand. Her trembling hand.

This was impossible. Outrageous.

“When did you get it?” Her voice sounded strangely distant in her ears.

“Today. I tried to call you but couldn’t get you on the phone. Sorry, I didn’t want to ruin your evening with this.” He was sitting next to her, unsure if he should pat her shoulder comfortingly or not.

“No, it’s okay… I will need some time to take care of my living arrangements from now on.” She still stared at the words in front of her eyes, they suddenly lost their meaning.

“We can still go against this,” he said reassuringly.

“Takao, they want to take my apartment from me. And I know exactly that it’s not Ai who’s behind this.” She sighed. There was it, black on white. Obviously Ai hadn’t even been in the position to transfer the property rights for the apartment in the first place. Which meant that the contract in which he did exactly that wasn’t valid. And now Kujuro enterprises wanted the apartment back.

Or better, Ai’s mother wanted it back. This was her last friendly kick in the ass for her former daughter in law.

“But you have a divorce settlement. And he had been the owner of that apartment at that time,” Takao pointed out.

“Let’s be honest. The Kujuros have more money than I can imagine and I can’t afford to pay for a long legal war. I just can’t. So far most of my own money went directly into MJS and what I get out of the business is enough to feed me and make sure that I can afford clothes so I don’t have to go naked. But I’m not exactly wealthy, by no means. I had only some money because I didn’t have to pay rent.” She let the letter sink and sighed. “I need a drink. If I can even afford that now.“

“I’m sure Kuni won’t charge you,” Takao muttered, making her smile faintly.

When they came back down into the bar the chatter was a welcome distraction for Jazz. She walked behind the counter, grabbed a bottle of Tequila and a shot glass, poured herself a drink and downed it without batting an eyelash.

“Whoa, easy there. What’s wrong?” Yamato asked but Jazz only refilled her glass and downed it again.

“Jazz? If you’re in the mood for shots you can always ask me to join,” Miho said, but there was a slight crease between her eyebrows. She was a bit worried at the sudden change of mood of her friend.

Without a word Jazz grabbed a second glass, filled it and slid it over to Miho. And refilled her glass a third time.

“Last time we had Tequila was real fun,” Miho mused and Jazz only snorted a dry laugh.

“Yeah, I remember. Hey, Miho, you do like me, don’t you?”

“Depends. When you give me alcohol I like you. When you nag me about glitter in your panties, I don’t.” Miho shrugged and took the glass. “Cheers.”

“Say, if I suddenly was homeless, could I crash on your couch?” Jazz came back from behind the counter and took a seat. She didn’t dare to meet Kunihiko’s eyes.

“My couch?” Miho frowned.

Jazz was aware that she was petty and selfish and wallowing in self pity, but she couldn’t help it. The apartment was the only good thing she had left after her trainwreck of a marriage. Due to the prenup she didn’t get much else. Not that she wanted money. Maybe she should call Ai and ask him if he knew about this. If he could prevent his mother from going on with this bullshit.  But knowing Ai she immediately dismissed this thought. He wasn’t even bale to tell her that he and Jazz were divorced, or that Ai was gay. Or anything that would make his mother mad.

“That old bitch wants the apartment back. She’s suing me for it.” Another shot.

“Well, my couch is still free, but you know… you might not want to sleep on it after – anyway. Can I help you somehow?”

Jazz shook her head. She knew she couldn’t impose on Miho. Hell, she just got engaged! Of course Jazz couldn’t stay at Miho’s place. What was she thinking?

“Does anyone know a good realtor? And cheap. Scratch good. Only cheap.” Jazz felt like crying. Alcohol wasn’t helping any so she stopped refilling her glass. Now that part of the matchmaking fee would go to H Jazz had even less money than before. And the wedding planner service was still in the early stages, there was no money in sight yet. She knew how expensive living in Tokyo could be. Maybe she had to move into a cheaper part of town.

“Doesn’t Selina have a guest room?” Miho asked.

“She’s thinking about moving herself. Something closer to the office,” Jazz mumbled. And closer to the office meant also more expensive and that meant probably less space.

“I have a guest room,” Takao said but Jazz only smiled sadly.

“That’s sweet, but I can’t take you up on that offer.”

“Why not?” he asked and Jazz chuckled.

“I couldn’t guarantee for your virtue,” she answered with a wink before she sighed. “No, we are working together, that’s not a good idea. Plus, you are a man and I am a woman – I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about how living with a woman can be. No, keep you illusions until you move in with someone you really like so you won’t want to kick her out immediately.”

And Jazz needed some privacy after all.

“Can they just do that? Go against a valid divorce settlement?” Yamato asked.

“The problem is, the apartment hadn’t really been part of the divorce settlement. He transferred the property rights before the divorce, thinking it would be clever. But that was also before he was CEO of Kujuro enterprises and therefore before he actually held the property rights. The apartment obviously belongs to the company, not him.” Jazz sighed. Ai was working with real estate all the time, that was what his company did after all! Okay, mostly it was about commercial property, but that couldn’t be that different, could it? How could he fuck that up so badly?

“Wow. What are you doing now?” Yuta asked.

“Drinking, obviously,” Jazz answered.

“You can still sleep in the office,” Miho pointed out. Jazz laughed. The thought alone was hilarious, greeting clients in her pj in case she overslept.

“Or you could move into the room upstairs,” Saeki suggested. Now that was a good idea – no, wait, she would have to ask Kunihiko for permission.

Shyly she peeked over to her lover. He seemed a bit angry, definitely unhappy. Okay, so not the room upstairs.

“Sorry, I feel bad for ruining the mood. I better go home now – as long as I still have a home,” she lamely joked and grabbed her purse, shoved the letter in and slid from the chair. It was hard enough not to cry and the smile she wore was already crumbling.

She could hear them talk while she hurried outside.

“Do you think she’ll be okay?” That sounded like Takao.

“She needs a moment to herself, to let it sink in. I’ll talk to her tomorrow. We’ll find a way,” Miho assured him.

A few steps out of the door Jazz took a deep breath. The tears were already gathering. That was a punishment. She had been too happy lately and now the universe reminded her that everything had a price. Without a bit of suffering life just wasn’t the same.

Fuck it! Jazz had always prided herself in being independent and strong. She was used to not having much money and willing to work hard. She would make it. Blinking her tears away she straightened up and exhaled deeply. Okay, no new shoes for now, no fancy restaurants and shopping trips. That was okay, not even a serious cutback of her quality of living.


She turned around, only hoping that she didn’t look as if she had cried. “Kunihiko. What are you doing out here? You’re having guests.”

He stepped closer and cupped her face in his hands, intently looking at her.

“Why didn’t you ask me for help?” There was disappointment in his voice and only now she realized that he might have gotten the impression that she didn’t trust him enough, trust their relationship enough to share this burden with him.

“Sorry, I – it just didn’t come to mind. I’m so used to fixing things myself…” She shrugged lightly.

“If anything comes up, any problem at all, I want you to talk to me about it. I want you to know that you can rely on me.” His thumbs gently wiped the traces of some treacherous tears away that had managed to escape before she could hold them back.

“I know.” She sighed, but this time it seemed that together with a lungful of air also some of the anxiety and the anger left her.

With a small smile she looked at him. “So, do you happen to know a good realtor?”

He shook his head. “Jazz…” he softly chided her. “That’s not the first thing you should ask.”

With her brow slightly knitted she pondered his words. Did he really want her to say ‘Help me’?

“There’s an easy solution to your problem, isn’t it?”

“I need more money?” she asked back. That would be a solution, but she wouldn’t ask him for money. Never.

He let go of her face and sighed. “No, not that. I was thinking of something else.”

Oh. OH. Her eyes went wider when she realized what he was talking about.

“Jazz. Do you want to move in with me?”

Her heart stopped beating for a second. This was not what she wanted. It was sweet and she knew that he really meant it, and she would lie if she said she wasn’t happy to hear this. But not like this. Not just because she might lose her own place.

“Kunihiko…” she started but he cut her off.

“I’m not finished yet.” He reached into his pocket. “I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. I know we aren’t together for that long yet, but every time I come home and you are not with me it feels wrong.” When he pulled his hand back from his pocket he was holding a key.

“I want you to come and go as you please. Although I’d rather have you there every night and every day. And not just as my guest. I want you to live with me.”

She was speechless. In her effort to make sure they didn’t rush things she had completely forgotten that they still should be moving forwards.

“I love you,” she muttered, fighting with her tears again. It was the first time she actually said that to him. ‘I like you’, ‘I love the way you kiss me’, ‘I love it when you fuck me like that’ – she had said all that already, but never ‘I love you’.

It felt better than anything before. She had guarded those words so carefully, always afraid to break whatever spell was binding them if she said them out loud. Always afraid of jinxing everything.

“Is that a yes? Will you move in with me? Even if Takao manages to win your apartment back for you?” He was smiling, so happy, so gentle, so sweet.

“Yes, I’ll move in with you. But don’t complain about my hair everywhere and that my 60 pairs of shoes take up to much space or-“

He cut her off again, this time with a kiss. And another one. And another one. Until she finally pulled back, snatched the key from him and grinned.

“Now it’s too late to change your mind, you know that, right?”

“I wouldn’t even dream about that,” he replied, still smiling.

“Okay, we better get back inside or Miho drinks all your whiskey and everyone else under the table,” Jazz said with a chuckle.

“Say, one quick question… glitter in your panties?” He arched an eyebrow and Jazz giggled.

“Maybe I will tell you about that one day. Or you give me more Tequila and Miho and I reenact it for you.” She leaned in and quickly licked over his lips once before she turned around and walked back into the bar as if nothing at all had happened.

Maybe this day wasn’t complete trash after all.