Sparrows and nightingales

1.

“Good morning, Chief!” a cheerful voice called out behind him and Namba turned around, nodded and waved lazily.

“Good morning, little bird.”

Hayumi came running, pouted a bit and glared up at him. “Why do you always call me that? Can it be that you can’t remember my name?”

The way she looked at him, the almost awestruck expression, the sparkle in her eyes – he knew he had to nip her interest in him in the bud. She was probably only looking up to him like a junior should to the chief of the academy. He couldn’t deny that he was flattered, but he was old enough to be her father. Almost.

“You don’t like me calling you that?” he asked back, reaching into his pocket and offering her some candy. “It fits you so well.”

With a bright smile she took a candy and put it in her pocket. Strange, he never saw her actually eating it, but she always took a candy from him.

“Thank you, Chief!”

“You know you shouldn’t accept candies from strange old men, don’t you?” he teased her, earning a blush and an exasperated look.

“B-but you are not old!”

Namba was an easygoing man and usually he hid his insecurities well. It was better to get underestimated, that way the enemy would become careless. But he couldn’t help feeling flattered now when this young thing was looking at him like that.

The laugh he practically barked was a sad attempt on covering up the way he felt. Flustered, flattered, slightly intrigued. He was only lucky that she didn’t pick up on it.

“I am old, but keep that a secret between you and me, little bird.” The kind smile he flashed her made her blush slightly, but she frowned.

“Again with that nickname. If you forgot my name I have to really think that you are old, Chief.”

He leaned closer, just for a bit, and grinned like a boy that was planning a prank. “Don’t worry, Miss Hayumi. My memory isn’t that bad yet.”

The smile returned to her face the moment he said her name and he couldn’t forget about it for the rest of the day.

 

Namba just came back from a stay in a pachinko parlor, another meeting with a secret informant. He had smoked on his way to the academy, took his time and let the things he just learned run through his head again. It had been a successful afternoon and he considered getting some ramen later and maybe a beer or two. He could ask Goto to join him.

“Good evening, Chief!”

“Still out, little bird? I hope you’re taking care of yourself. A girl like you should be in bed already.”

With her usual pout she came running again.

“I’m not a kid, Chief!”

“Haha, of course you are. Hey, come with me!” He grabbed her wrist and dragged her along, around the corner and down the street until he reached his favorite ramen restaurant.

“Order what you want. Consider it a thank you for always sticking that pain patch on my back,” he almost conspiratorially whispered. She smiled widely at him.

“Thank you, but it’s not even a bother.”

He wanted to reach out and touch her but settled on ruffling her hair a bit. “Still, thanks.”

 

Namba sighed and ran his hands through his hair. A strand somehow got stuck at his ring and he hissed at the sudden, sharp pain. Once he had untangled himself he held his hand up a bit and stared at the ring. Such a small thing and yet it had meant so much at some point.

He needed to focus. There was an investigation he had to go through with and for that he needed a partner.  Was it too soon to call the little bird? Was she ready? Well, only one way to find out.

Namba dialed her number, waited for her to pick up.

“Little bird? I need you. I’m sending you an address, meet me there at 6. Dress up a bit.”

He exhaled, wished he had a cigarette just now. When would Goto come back? He had promised to get Namba a new pack of cigarettes hours ago as it seemed. Namba wasn’t sure if he could make it through the night without a smoke. At least he wouldn’t have to go alone.

 

A quick check of her appearance made him glad that he had asked her to meet up early, there was still time to get her a new dress. She was looking cute, there was no denying that, but cute wasn’t the look she should be sporting tonight.

“Little bird, you are a bit underdressed. Don’t worry, we will fix that.” He smiled at her while she was still staring at his fancy suit.

“Wh-where are we going, Chief?” she timidly asked but he already dragged her towards the street to hail a cab.

“Getting you a new dress.” Namba gave the driver an address and settled in the backseat.

“No, I mean, where are we going afterwards.” She seemed slightly annoyed, the way he decided things without consulting clearly not to her liking.

“To a party. You are my date tonight, so stop calling me ‘Chief’. Call me Jin.”

“J-Jin?!”

He chuckled at her shocked expression and the way she squeaked his name.

“We are going undercover, so you better watch what you’re saying. But you managed just fine with Goto, didn’t you? Or is that because it’s easier with him? He’s younger and good looking, a real catch if I might say so. Pretending to be his girlfriend must be easier than having to pretend to date an old guy like me.” He patted her head lightly and smiled at her.

“What? No! You are not old, just – older…” Her cheeks were burning and for a second Namba doubted his own decision to ask her to join him in this mission. But it was too late now.

“Much older,” he agreed. “Ah, we’re here. Come on, let’s get you dressed appropriately.” Leading her into a shop and nodding to a sale’s assistant Namba knew exactly what he was looking for. Something to make her look older, sophisticated. But when she wore the dress he had picked out for her he had to admit that it was a stupid idea. Simply putting her into something mature like this dress, red and with a daring neckline, just didn’t work. She looked like some kid playing dress up with her mother’s clothes. And she looked uncomfortable.

“Hm… no, that won’t do the trick.” He turned to the sale’s assistant and smiled. “I want something that is sophisticated without looking like a costume,” he said and she nodded.

“I think I just have the right dress, sir.” She came back with a long dress, a simple cut but with a deep cut back. Midnight blue, shimmering fabric. When Hayumi tried it on and stepped out of the changing room he nodded.

“Much better. We take it and she wears it out,” he told the sale’s assistant who nodded and gave them a bag for Hayumi’s own clothes.

“Chief, this is – it’s much too expensive,” Hayumi whispered but he brushed her off.

“Don’t worry, the academy will pay for it. This is work after all. Now, what did I tell you to call me?”

“Jin…” she mumbled and looked away from him, making him grin.

“Exactly. And don’t forget to smile, we are on a date after all.”

 

The charity dinner was a huge and fancy event, women dressed in expensive dresses and men in tuxedos and fancy suits. Namba even spotted some celebrities, politicians, actors, singers.

“Smile, little bird,” he muttered towards her and she tried to stop fidgeting, showed him a bright smile that earned her a nod and followed him when he led her around, her hand resting on his arm, looking for their suspect. The target tonight was an influential CEO, someone who was rumored to have connections to some very shady foreign groups.

“Tomoyo Hidai. 38, tall, dark hair, dark eyes,” he had told her in the cab on the way to the party and showed her a picture. “We have to find out when the next meeting with his ‘partners’ will be.”

“How should we do that?” Hayumi had asked, frowning slightly.

“That’s where you come in. Get him drunk, flirt a bit. Make him talk.” Jin saw the panic in her face. “Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to seduce him. And I will be nearby the whole time. Just – don’t mess this up, okay?”

And now they were looking for him in the crowd, Namba calm and experienced, Hayumi nervous but determined.

“I think I found him. Over there at the bar. Next to the woman in the red dress,” she just whispered and Namba followed her line of sight.

“Yes, that’s him,” he mumbled, for the first time in the whole evening truly surprised. “And I even know his date.”

 

Jazz was politely smiling at Tomoyo who just handed her a glass of champagne. She wondered for the umpteenth time why she had agreed to accompany him here after their first mediocre date, but now it was too late. There was no way to get home early without being rude. And she couldn’t afford to be rude, not to him at least. She would turn down every invitation after this, that was for sure, but now she had to smile to the boring stories he told her. And all of his stories were boring. Jazz took a sip from her glass and casually looked around. She knew a few people here but no one dared to interrupt the conversation with Tomoyo she was trapped in.

“… and then I told him to I’d take both of them. The look on his face – priceless. Just like those cars,” he just boasted, obviously convinced he could impress her with stories about his wealth. As if she was looking for money in a man. Jazz was a successful architect, she didn’t need a man with money. She needed a man with a heart, not some walking, talking wallet.

They had met when she was planning a roof garden on his office building and although he had asked her out countless of times she had only given in after the job was done. And she had regretted it even before the first date had been over. But by then she had already agreed on the second date, the confidence he had shown by asking her out again before their food had even arrived had impressed her. Not very clever, she had to admit.

“You’re looking stunning tonight, by the way.” Tomoyo’s smarmy compliment only prompted another polite smile from her. She was wearing a burgundy dress with a rather tight fit, accentuating her curves. Curves he would never get to see without the clothes.

“I could introduce to you many important people here,” he just went on. “Some of the connections you could make tonight could be very beneficial for your job.”

Jazz had to prevent her smile from slipping at his words. Connections, of course. She could imagine what kind of connections he was talking about.

“That is a very generous offer,” she said with all the faked gratitude she could muster. Her eyes still roamed the hall only to find someone she hadn’t expected here. “Uhm, but for now I have to excuse myself for a moment.”

She put her glass down and grabbed her purse. With an understanding nod he watched her leave towards the restrooms, where Jazz simply stayed in the hallway, out of sight for Tomoya but not for Jin who came after her not even 30 seconds later.

“Hey,” he greeted her casually.

“Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Jin Namba,” she grumbled but wasn’t actually mad. “You made that sign. You need to talk?”

“Glad you remember that sign,” he said with a smile, but they kept their distance from each other.

“We were married for years, I remember your ‘we need to talk’ sign,” she dryly answered. “What about the girl you’re here with?”

“You saw her?” He sheepishly scratched the back of his neck.

“I did. Shouldn’t she be in bed already?” Jazz raised an eyebrow at him, making him chuckle.

“Probably, but she is allowed to stay up today. Work.”

Work. Of course it was work.

“You’re undercover?” she whispered and he nodded.

“And it would be great if you don’t blow our cover. Besides…” He was looking her up and down once. “You won’t like what I have to say next, but your date – he’s the reason we’re here.”

Jazz groaned and rolled her eyes slightly. “So he’s not only a conceited ass, but also a criminal? Great, just great.” The first guy she went out with in months and of course he was a mistake. She took a deep breath.

“Okay, what do you need?” she asked him and he chuckled.

“You really know me pretty well, huh? Some time for the little bird alone with him.”

“’Little bird’? Oh Jin, you are not doing anything stupid, are you?”

His eyes went wide and he quickly shook his head. “What? No! She’s just a kid! But dammit, I can’t remember all of their names. So I give them nicknames and – it works. Everyone is happy, okay? So, what about the other thing?”

Jazz looked at him, the corners of her mouth twitching already. It was still so easy for her to push his buttons and she enjoyed that she still knew him so well.

“Come over later and ask for a dance. I make sure that your little bird gets at least five minutes with him.” With that she gave him a firm nod and put that faked smile back on her face before she returned to Tomoyo.

When the music started and Tomoyo asked her for a dance Jazz accepted although she couldn’t imagine anything less pleasant just now. Even getting her armpits waxed sounded more appealing than spending more time with that self-centered jerk. Money and status were all what he was talking about.

With his hand in the small of her back and the other wrapped around her hand he pulled her close. Jazz peeked over his shoulder, looking for Jin.

“I could introduce you to the mayor,” Tomoyo just said.

“Really?” Jazz knew the mayor, her company was working for the townhall every now and then.

From the corner of her eye she could see Jin and his ‘date’ starting to dance. She seemed very flustered and Jazz only hoped that she would let Jin lead. He was a good dancer, although they hadn’t danced that much during their marriage. It didn’t take him long to dance towards Jazz and Tomoyo, whose hand started slipping a bit lower down her back.

So she wasn’t surprised when suddenly someone lightly bumped into her.

“Oh, sorry… wait. Jazz? Is that you?”

Jazz feigned surprise. “Oh, Jin, hi. What are you doing here?” She let go of Tomoyo’s hand and stepped a bit away from him.

“Obviously I’m proving again that I’m having two left feet,” he dryly said. Jazz laughed briefly.

“Oh, sorry, where are my manners. Tomoyo, this is Jin Namba, my ex husband.”

Jazz noticed how the eyes of the girl in Jin’s arms widened. Obviously she had no idea.

“Jin, this is Tomoyo Hidai.”

Both men eyed each other and nodded.

“This is Hayumi, my – date for tonight. Hayumi, this is Jazz Namba, my ex wife,” Jin said, turned towards the girl.

“It’s Mann again,” Jazz corrected him. “Jazz Mann. Nice to meet you.” Now Namba’s eyes widened a bit, he hadn’t known that Jazz had taken her maiden name back.

“Sorry, I know it’s rude, but would you mind if I cut in?” Now he was looking at Jazz. “For old times’ sake?”

Jazz hesitantly looked at Tomoyo who smiled wryly but nodded.

“Sure, but what about Hayumi? Don’t you mind?” Jazz looked back and forth between them, shooting the girl a pointed look.

“Oh, uhm… I would like to dance some more?” Well, she was a cute girl, there was no denying that.

“In that case, would you allow me?” Tomoyo bowed slightly and Hayumi looked at him with wide eyes.

“Oh, yes, sure…” her gaze flitted to Namba who nodded slightly before she smiled and took the hand that Tomoyo offered. Jazz and Namba turned to face each other, it was easy dancing with him, her body seemed to remember the perfect posture.

“You’re looking good,” he muttered and she grinned.

“So are you,” she gave the compliment back. It was true. A bit older than last time they had met, but still very handsome.  “So, what’s next? Is she putting a bug on him or what?”

He stared at her, the slight indignation making her chuckle. “We are police officers, not spies. No, she will try to make him talk.”

Now she was the one to look indignant. “That is your plan?” Jazz hissed. “Whatever you suspect him of, he’s not stupid. He won’t just tell her stuff. I mean, look at her! She’s completely tongue-tied.”

“She just has to gain his trust somehow. We can make them run into each other some more times and eventually…” he defended the plan.

“God dammit, Jin!” She sighed. “Okay. Tell me what you need.”

“Jazz, we have everything-“

“Tell me. What you. Need,” she replied, the words pressed out between gritted teeth.

“His schedule for the next few weeks.” He sounded tired and defeated.

“Do you still have the same number?”

He nodded.

“Good. God, I hope your investigation is worth it.” Jazz was upset now. Everything was always about work, work, work. She slipped from his grasp and nodded once. There was a reason why they were divorced after all and his work was a big part of it.

She pressed her lips together briefly, needed a moment to compose herself before she weaved through the dancing couples until she reached Tomoyo and that girl again.

“He’s looking for you,” she politely told Hayumi and waited for Tomoyo to take her hand again. Two dances later Jazz asked for a break. She told him that seeing her ex had somehow dampened her mood but that she would love to go on another date. Whenever his schedule would allow it. They went back to their table to get Jazz’s purse and he walked her to the exit. Tomoyo whipped out his organizer and they agreed on their next date. With a smile and a quick kiss on his cheek she said goodbye, glad when she was finally in the cab and on the way home.

 

Her doorbell rang two hours later and she opened the door for Jin.

“Hey.” He was looking tired and he had smoked. His tie was gone, the topmost buttons open and his hair slightly disheveled. She didn’t ask why. Or who.

“You want a drink?” Without waiting for his answer she poured him a glass and handed it over.

“Thanks.”

Jazz motioned towards the couch and got herself a drink before she sat down next to him.

“I made you a draft of his schedule. It’s over there.”

He smiled at her, still tired but at least genuinely.

“You always had a great memory.”

They were sitting together on the couch, not talking, just sipping their drinks. He was right, she had a great memory. And Jazz had some great memories. Of both of them together. Memories she usually didn’t conjure. She placed a hand on his thigh and squeezed once. He turned his head and looked at her. Eyes flicking towards her lips. Jazz shifted a bit, tilted her head. Her heart raced, her mind went blank. She could already smell the cigarette smoke, the whiskey. It brought her back to their early days, their first dates, their first nights. Their first fights. She blinked and slowly pulled her head back. Cleared her throat and got up without looking at him.

“You – you better leave now.”

Jin raised his hand, reaching out for her before he pulled it back.

“Yes, it is late. Sorry. And thanks. For your help.”

They awkwardly hugged briefly before he grabbed the draft and left without another glance back.

 

2.

“I’m sorry I messed up again.” Hayumi bowed low, her forehead almost touching the surface of the desk in front of her.

“We got what we need, so don’t worry,” Namba reassured her, his eyes still fixed on the sheet of paper in his hand. It wasn’t a very detailed schedule but he couldn’t ask for too much after all. This was more than he had hoped for. And meeting Jazz. That was unexpected but at least it was a pleasant surprise. And the way she had handled the whole thing – god, that woman had class. And he had messed it up with her completely.

“I promise next time I will make it. Please give me another chance.” She hadn’t changed her position at all and Namba sighed.

“Chin up, little bird. It’s not that bad. You did good, but the plan wasn’t the best. Anyway, we managed to get his schedule and I guess we can find out when he meets those foreign ‘business partners’.”

She raised her gaze and looked at him.

“So, uhm… Chief, can I ask you something?” The way she avoided his eyes made him want to sigh but he didn’t.

“Of course, ask away.” He leaned back in his chair and waited for her to spit it out.

“That woman – was she really your ex wife? Or was she some kind of spy? Or officer? Was she one of us?” Hayumi was nervously fidgeting with her hands, wringing her fingers. She could barely sit still.

“She’s really my ex wife,” Namba said with a small smile.

“So… she’s not dead?” Hayumi’s face was burning, especially when his surprised gaze met her nervous one.

“What makes you think she could be dead?”

“Y-your ring… you said you couldn’t… you couldn’t take it off. Yet. I just thought it was out of respect…” she stammered but Namba just stared at her.

“You spent quite some time thinking about my ring and my ex wife, huh?”

His voice was soft and Hayumi simply nodded.

“Maybe too much time,” he added.

Her eyes widened but then she nodded. She wasn’t stupid, she understood what he was just telling her. That she should give up on him. That her crush was silly and childish, that she stood no chance against his ex wife.

“Say little bird, shouldn’t you be in class right now? With Instructor Kaga?”

“Oh god!” She jumped up and bowed quickly. “Sorry, I have to go!”

Namba watched her as she rushed out of his office and chuckled lightly. She was an energetic girl, had the heart at the right place. A bit too trusting and definitely not a good eye for men, though. Maybe in five or ten years. But now she was only a child and he started feeling guilty for playing along for so long already.

His ring caught his eye. The ring that Jazz had put on his finger, almost 15 years ago. The ring he should have taken off eight years ago, after their divorce.

 

Jazz couldn’t stop thinking about the almost kiss. So many years had passed and she had thought she was over him, over their marriage. Over the fact that he hadn’t fought for her. For them.

She tried to push those thoughts away, the memory of him so close again after all that time. It hadn’t worked last time, it wouldn’t work now. She had work to do, that would distract her. And she had to find a way to cancel that date with Tomoyo. She really didn’t want to go to that date, but she would wait at least a few days before she canceled. That way it would appear more authentic.

Jazz opened the door to her office and smiled at the receptionist.

“Morning, H. How are you?”

“Great, thanks. There is someone waiting in your office. He says he’s a cop.” The young woman handed Jazz some letters and returned to her work.

Hesitantly Jazz walked to her office.  She doubted that Jin would just come over like that. She wasn’t even sure f he knew where she worked. Although it wouldn’t be hard to find out, not for him. He was a cop after all. And Jazz wasn’t exactly hiding. She was partner in one of the top three architect’s offices after all, they had won several prized for their designs. There had even been an article about them in Seasonelle that year. Jazz wasn’t famous, by no means, but she was recognized in her field of work and she was proud of that. She had worked hard to get where she was now and she continued to give it her all. That was just the way she was.

She straightened up and opened her door just to meet the gaze of some familiar eyes.

“Goto!” She almost laughed in relief. “What brings you here?”

He smiled softly and bowed his head lightly.

“Miss Mann, I’m sorry to come here without a warning, but we need some help. Again.”

Jazz nodded. She knew Goto for ages already and eventually he had asked her for help in a work related matter.

“What do you need?” She threw the letters on her desk and returned her attention to the man in her office.

“There’s a café… I need the blueprints.” He handed her a card with the address. Jazz frowned slightly.

“Sure. But this will need some time. At least until tomorrow. I will have to call some people.”

“Of course. Thank you.” He smiled again, his grey eyes sparkling a bit. “I heard I’m not the only one you’re helping out lately.”

Jazz huffed a laugh. “Already? I though the rumors wouldn’t start until next week.” It was strange, she had managed to love in this city for the last 8 years without crossing paths with Jin, but once she did everyone seemed to know about it in an instant.

“The chief didn’t say anything, but someone else came and asked me for advice.” The amused smile was something Jazz didn’t see often at Goto. It suited him.

“His ‘little bird’?” Jazz wryly asked.

“What is wrong? You don’t like her?”

Jazz shook her head. “That’s not it. She seems lovely. A bit too inexperienced as an officer, but that’s something that will change eventually. It’s the nickname.” With a sigh she put the card on her desk and rubbed her temple. ‘Little bird’. Namba used to call her ‘my little songbird’ because Jazz used to sing and hum a lot. ‘Sweet nightingale’.

“I’m sure that the chief doesn’t – he’s not interested in her.” Goto sounded actually convinced but Jazz shrugged.

“They are both adults, as long as the rules of the academy don’t say otherwise he can do whatever he wants. It’s none of my business.”

It’s been eight years, she was over it. Already five years ago. Even seven years. The first year had been tough, she could admit that. But after some time it got easier, she didn’t felt as if a part of her was missing anymore. She found new friends, new hobbies. A new job. Dated a bit. She didn’t even think of him most of the time.

Jazz was leading a fulfilled life and she wished him only happiness. And if his happiness was only half his age, who was she to judge?

“Well, I have to leave now. Should I call you tomorrow?”

“No, it’s fine. I will call you as soon as I got something for you. But – you know, don’t tell Jin about this, okay?”

She could see the smirk on his face before he fixed his expression into a neutral one.

“Same deal like always.” He nodded once and left. Jazz shook her head softly. Deal. As if it really was a deal. She helped him from time to time, got him blueprints and expert opinions for his missions. She got nothing in return, but she never asked for anything. This wasn’t why she helped him. Somehow she felt as if it was her duty, as if something of Namba’s sense for honor and responsibility had rubbed off on her. Even after all this time.

Jazz ran her hands over her face and sighed before she grabbed the phone and started making some calls.

 

“And he took you on a mission? Just like that?” Naruko was still unable to believe it, demanded to hear the story again and again. Although Hayumi might have sugarcoated it a bit.

“I was just as surprised. One second he texts me a location and the next one I’m in a dress at a fancy party. We were observing a suspect and the chief danced with me as some kind of distraction. Long story short, I danced with the suspect but failed to get the information we needed. Luckily we still got them in the end and now I feel a bit – weird. I feel guilty that I haven’t managed to get the information but at the same time I’m happy that he has asked me on this mission.”

She sighed and pushed her hair out of her face, just to let her forehead drop onto the table again.

“Wow, still… If the chief asked me in a mission I would be elated, too. I mean, that’s a sign that you are actually making an impression. I bet you could even mess up some smaller assignments just now when the chief has your back.” Suzuki grabbed her can of coffee and took a sip. “Imagine having someone like the chief protecting you from Instructor Kaga. That would be such a relief.”

Hayumi showed her a crooked smile. “Don’t remind me of that. Instructor Kaga is still mad at me for that blunder the other day.” The chief definitely didn’t protect her in any way. Just added to her confusion.

“Hm…” Naruko seemed to think about something else. “And how was it? Dancing with the chief?”

Hayumi blushed. How could she get out of this kind of interrogation?

 

The phone rang on his desk but Namba didn’t pick it up. He was still trying to match the schedule draft with other information they had gathered. Three possible dates. He could narrow it down to three possible dates. He needed to make sure that Hidai got tailed for the next few days. Or…

No. He couldn’t ask that from her. Jazz had made clear that she wasn’t interested in having another date with that guy and honestly, Namba didn’t want her close to someone like that anyway. It had been a shock to see her with him. He didn’t know what exactly he had expected, but for the first time meeting her after all those years another situation would have been nice. Maybe one where she wasn’t on a date with someone else and he wasn’t with – a trainee.

He stared at the schedule again. Three dates. He barely had enough men to tail that guy, let alone to operate other missions and keep the academy running. He couldn’t put the students on this case either. It was too dangerous for some inexperienced rookies. But it was also too dangerous for someone who wasn’t even part of the force, who never had worked as a Public Safety officer. Especially for Jazz. She was stubborn and reckless most of the time and wouldn’t listen if he told her to get away if things got risky.

He would have to call Kaga or Goto and check how many officers were free on those dates, although he already knew the answer.

 

Jazz called Goto the next day to let him know that she had the blueprints he wanted.

“Thank you very much. I feel bad for asking you this, but can you bring them here? I’m having classes all day and training, I can’t leave here. We are short on instructors lately.”

With a sigh Jazz quickly mentally checked her schedule.

“Around lunch. I’m having an appointment not too far away and can drop by later.”

“Thank you, again. Let me at least treat you to lunch. The cafeteria here is pretty good.” She could hear his faint smile but that didn’t cheer her up.

“I hope it’s better than good. I’m spending my lunch break there after all…” She wasn’t really mad, but needed to keep the façade up.

“Don’t worry, the chief usually eats somewhere else.”

For a second she was speechless but then she remembered that Goto was actually very perceptive. There was no use in putting up a front.

“Okay. I call you when I get there. Bye.” She hung up and took a deep breath. She had to change before she could go to the academy. Just to make sure she was presentable.

 

She hadn’t even managed to take a bite from her lunch when she heard the familiar voice behind her, warm and soothing and at the same time making her heartrate spike.

“Didn’t you say he wouldn’t eat in the cafeteria?” Jazz asked with a wry look.

Goto shrugged, obviously unfazed. “I never said he wouldn’t set a foot in here. He’s not eating, so I didn’t lie.” His small smile gave him away and Jazz shook her head slightly in defeat.

“Really? Eight years without a single encounter and this week I can’t seem to avoid him,” she muttered, much to Goto’s enjoyment.

Namba hadn’t spotted her yet and Jazz didn’t know if she wanted that or not. After that almost kiss in her apartment it was strange, a lot of old feelings had re-emerged, some of them sweet, some not. Unconsciously she smoothed down her hair and sat up straighter until she caught the small smirk on Goto’s face, shot him a dirty look and slumped down a bit again.

“Chief? Are you eating your bento here today?”

The voice made Jazz turn her head. The little bird. She was just walking up to Jin who was still talking to someone else. The moment Jin saw her, a soft smile appeared on his face and Jazz’s heart skipped a beat – not the pleasant way. She inwardly scolded herself, she had no right to judge. He was a free man, an adult, he could do whatever he wanted – as long as it was legal. But that girl was at least over 18 so it was a thing between the both of them, not about Jazz.

Jin let his gaze wander for a second and his eyes went wide when he noticed Jazz, still absentmindedly looking into his direction. He quickly said goodbye to Hayumi and walked over to the table where Jazz and Goto were having lunch.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” He motioned towards a chair and Jazz nodded, shot Goto another warning glance and looked back at Jin.

“I was just having lunch,” she casually said. The look that Goto and Jin shared was – strange.

“With Goto? How do you even know each other?”

“Work,” they both said in unison, chuckling briefly and leaving Jin a bit suspicious and confused.

“I sometimes get some blueprints for him,” she finally admitted. Jin nodded slowly.

“You always said you didn’t like police work,” he slowly said.

“No. I said I don’t like to compete with police work because I couldn’t win.” Her voice had a certain edge that made Goto slowly straighten up.

“Oh, is that Ishigami. Excuse me, I have to talk to him.” And just like that he was gone and Jazz was alone with Jin.

For a moment the silence between them seemed to also envelope everything else around them, but the chatter and sounds of clinking cutlery and chairs being pushed back came back into focus.

“How are the investigations going?” It was a rare olive branch that Jazz was offering.

“Slow, to be honest. That Hidai is not easy to figure out.”

“Hmm… have you considered that the meeting you’re waiting for might not be in his schedule?” His expression told her that yes, that thought had crossed his mind. And that he didn’t like it.

“Hey, since we’re both here already, how about having lunch together?” Jin put his bento on the table and Jazz arched an eyebrow.

“Since when do you cook?”

He chuckled lightly. “I don’t.”

With a single nod Jazz accepted the answer. It wasn’t her place to pry.

“And here I was wondering if I should go over to Kaga and ask for the weather in his place. Hell might have been frozen after all.”

His booming laugh made her chuckle, too. Teasing each other felt so familiar, even after all these years.

“Maybe I should learn how to cook. Someone’s cooking has spoiled me and now it’s hard to find something that pleases my palate.”

Jazz eyed the bento. “Yeah, I can see that.”

His expression softened, the crinkles in the corner of his eyes something that reminded her of how long it had already been since she had last seen him laughing. Too long.

“I was talking about you.”

It wasn’t easy to make Jazz blush, she was a grown woman after all, had done quite a few things in her life so far. But now she felt her cheeks grow hot because of a simple compliment.

“It’s not that hard to please your palate,” she quipped to cover up her flustered reaction. “Ramen and coffee.”

“Might be true, but at least that’s something I can cook.” He was smirking and leaned back in his chair.

“Not enough to impress the ladies, I’m afraid. A girl can’t live off love and ramen alone.” She smiled wryly and started picking at some curry with her fork.

“You seemed to be happy with that diet back then. At least your appetite had been – remarkable.”

“Jin!” she hissed, only prompting another round of laughter from him.

“I was referring to the ramen,” he teased her. She put her fork down.

“Tell Goto I had to leave.” Grabbing her purse she got up and pushed her chair back.

“Wait, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.” He got up, too, and grabbed her wrist. “Please… at least finish your lunch.”

It was the way he held her hand that made her stay. She knew it was foolish, letting nostalgia win over reason, but she couldn’t help it. Slowly Jazz sat down again, but didn’t picked her fork up again. Instead she propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands.

“You don’t just want to have lunch with me.”

“What makes you think that?” he asked, slightly surprised.

Jazz shrugged. “I know you. You are thinking about a cigarette, I can tell by the way you’re fidgeting with your hands. And you haven’t even touched your food yet. When you’re hungry you don’t wait.”

“You would be a great detective, did I ever tell you that?” With a chuckle he reached into his jacket to take the box with cigarettes out and place it on the table.

“I can’t smoke here anyway. Would you come with me? I’d like to talk with you in private.”

With a sigh and a bad feeling Jazz took her purse and followed Jin to his office. And Hayumi’s eyes followed them both.

 

3.

“I hope you like French haute cuisine,” Tomoyo said after sitting down while Jazz got her chair pulled out by a waiter in a fancy livree. She thanked him with a smile before she turned to Tomoyo.  He had pronounced cuisine like kwee-si-en, destroying every shred of sophistication and class he might have displayed so far.

“Indeed, I like French food. I have lived in France for a couple of months,” she said with a strained smile. Dammit! Why had she let Jin talk her into this? A third date? Really? Well, due to the fact that Tomoyo was here with her Jin could already eliminate one possible date for whatever dubious meeting he was suspecting Tomoyo to attend.

For the other two possible dates, though, it was Jazz’s duty to sound Tomoyo out.

 

“You want me to do what?!”

Jin looked at her with obvious guilty conscience, an apologetic, crooked half smile on his lips.

“I didn’t want to ask you at all, but we just can’t make any progress with this case. Consider yourself an outside adviser for Public Safety.”

Jazz was at a loss for words. He had never wanted for her to get involved in his work before and honestly, neither did she. Helping Goto with some blueprints was one thing, but playing spy with some bigwig CEO? Would it be dangerous? Would it be as boring as the other two dates she had with him?

“I really wouldn’t ask you if I had another option. But it’s not enough time to place someone to do this. You already have a foot in the door.”

“A foot in the door? I had to fend off his advances for quite some time now. I’m not sure it’s wise to encourage him further.” Jazz was pretty sure she could defend herself if things got hairy, but she’d rather just stayed away from situations like this.

“I know, but you don’t even have to actually go on a date. Just casually ask him whether he’s free on the dates in question and we’ll see. I’m really sorry for springing this on you, but it’s urgent. And serious.” He bowed his head, actually bowed for her until she let out an annoyed sigh.

“Get your head up already. I do it. I will call him and see what I can find out, okay? But I’m not going full Mata Hari on him, just so you know!”

 

And somehow she still ended on this date. A phone call became not the cancellation of the date, but rather a relocating. Tomoyo was really pushy, a man who knew what he wanted. Unfortunately he wanted Jazz, who had no inclination to be with at all.

She tried to focus on the food and the atmosphere to make it through the date instead of listening to the narcissist and boring chatter of Tomoyo. The wine helped, but being intoxicated wouldn’t be wise so she took her time with her first glass although he always offered her a refill. Probably trying to get her drunk so he had it easier to get into her pants later. Halfway through the dinner Jazz excused herself and went to the restrooms, let some cold water flow over her wrists. That helped her to stay sober, cleared her mind. She still had to find out about those other two dates. Preferably before he offered to take her home.

When she came back she was smiling and Tomoyo actually got up before she sat down again.

“I thought about ordering the chocolate soufflé for dessert,” he casually informed her, almost making her choke on her piece of chicken. Soufflé took ages! At least better than rushing through this date so he could get her home already.

“Chocolate soufflé? Sounds good.” She took another sip of wine. “I heard they are showing this fantastic new play in the theater downtown.”

“So you are into plays?” He smiled in a way that made her skin crawl.

“A friend of mine is actually having a part in the play. She says that everybody who is anybody will come to the premiere. Even Eisuke Ichinomiya.” It was a shot in the dark but she figured that someone who was that obsessed with status and fame would jump at a chance like that. “My friend gave me two tickets and I was wondering if you want to accompany me there.”

If he took the bait she could wrap this up sooner than she had hoped for.

“Usually I’m the one who asks someone out,” he said with an amused smile. “But that sounds really intriguing.”

Jazz batted her lashes and tried a coy smile. Not her forte but he seemed to buy it.

“When is it?”

“Thursday in two weeks. It’s sold out of course and the after party is supposed to be THE event of the year.” All she could hope was that he wasn’t that well versed in the local theater scene, because there was no play like that.

“Oh, Thursday… hmm…”   He screwed up his face slightly and Jazz almost waited with bated breath for his answer.

“That is – unfortunate, but on that day I already have something else planned. Work, you understand?”

She feigned disappointment but nodded. “Of course. You are an important man after all, of course you are busy.”

“Exactly. I’m glad you understand. But – maybe I could make it to the after party? Do you think Ichinomiya will go there?” He tried too hard to come across as casual and she was a bit disgusted by his attempt on keeping the cake and eating it at the same time.

“I’m sure he will,” she replied sweetly before she flagged the waiter down. “Can I get some water, please?”

“So we could just meet for that party…” he suggested again but Jazz made a noncommittal sound and took another bite of her meal.

“Let’s not discuss this now. I want to enjoy the nice restaurant you chose.”

Tomoyo nodded once and smiled. “Of course. How about some more wine?”

 

More wine. And then some. With the almost giddy relief over her successful operation Jazz got a bit carried away and maybe had a glass too much. She wasn’t stupid, of course she didn’t get wasted. And she had casually asked him about the other date that was still open, just to double check. If he had told her he was busy that day, too, she would have been in trouble. But he had almost jumped at the chance of another date and Jazz had to drown the slightly guilty conscience of leading him on like that with the fantastic wine that restaurant was serving. The chocolate soufflé had been great and came with – surprise, surprise – even more wine.

And now Jazz was sitting in a cab, humming a song, happy that she had made it without having to kiss Tomoyo – or do something even worse. Maybe he was a decent guy, deep down, under all that shallow vanity and greed. But if she could believe Jin he wasn’t so there was no need to feel bad after all. It was great how her tipsiness took care of her worries, just like that. It had always been like this, she got careless and larking whenever she drank. A happy drunk. Better than getting angry or whiny.

She had called Jin from the cab and now was on her way to give him her report, and after that off home. She could hear the tempting call of her bed all the way into that cab, but her own giddiness had her bouncing her leg. She might have been tired but she would be unable to sleep now anyway.

Still with a spring in her step Jazz made her way over the empty campus towards Jin’s office.

“Are you drunk?” He was amused and surprised, it had been a long time since he last saw her like this.

“Not drunk, just – drunk-ish,” she happily replied. “Your office doesn’t suit you.”

Slightly taken aback by the sudden change of topic Jin looked around the room, back at her only to shrug once.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Jazz plopped down on his swivel chair and sighed. “It’s dull. And repressive. I couldn’t work here. There’s no sign of the spontaneous Jinji who once woke me up in the middle of the night because it was raining.” Or more precisely, to drag her to the roof of their building so they could make out in the rain.

The use of her old nickname for him and the pleasant memory she was conjuring made him smile.

“How much exactly did you drink?”

She shrugged and started to spin in the chair.

“Enough to make it through the date, not that much to forget about the mission. Or do anything stupid.” She stopped, let out a low “ohhhh” at the sudden dizziness from the spinning. Searching for support she grabbed the edge of his desk.

“I think you need a glass of water. Come on, let’s go somewhere else before my dull office makes you cry. “

“Thursday,” she said when he took her arm to steady her.

“Thursday what?”

“I’d bet he’s got that fancy secret meeting on that Thursday.” Her head was still spinning, maybe it had been more wine than she had realized. Jazz slightly slumped against Jin’s shoulder.

“Thank you. That really helps us a lot.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, kept her close so he could guide her through the hallways to his small room at the academy.

“Where are we?” she curiously asked once he had closed the door behind them.

“Instructors’ dorm. This is where I sleep most of the time.” He led her to the couch and sat her down. “Coffee or water?”

“Water. I don’t like coffee,” she almost pouted.

“Still not a fan of coffee?” He chuckled and poured her a glass of water. “Some things never change, huh?”

Jazz downed the glass and leaned back in the couch once she was done. “I swear, this was the worst date ever. Not only because I had to sound him out, but I’m really glad that I won’t have to do that again.” She closed her eyes for a moment, focused on breathing and on stopping the spinning in her head. When the couch dipped next to her she opened her eyes again and looked at Jin.

“I’m really sorry I had to ask that of you.”

She waved her hand dismissively. “It’s fine. As long as you have everything you need now. I’m not sure if I still can get rid of him if I go on another date with him. I don’t want to end up marrying that guy just for your investigation.” Her giggle was the only sound in the room and even in her tipsy state she realized how serious Jin was.

“What’s wrong?”

“I feel really bad for dragging you into this whole thing.” He furrowed his brow slightly and Jazz reached out and gently stroked with her fingertip across the crease above the base of his nose.

“Stop that or you get wrinkles,” she softly said, her thumb now gliding along his jaw. “I like your hair. It’s longer now.”

Jin tilted his head, both to lean into her touch and to be able to look her in the eyes. Last time he tried – something, she had stopped him. And now she was touching him like this. Was it just the alcohol?

“You are drunk. Try to sleep it off.” This must have been the hardest thing he ever said.

“Hm, no… not really drunk. Just – a bit more relaxed now.” Jazz shifted slightly, turned her body to face him better. “Are you worried about your little bird?”

If it wasn’t for her teasing tone he would have been taken aback but so he only smiled.

“The only little bird that matters is my songbird.”

It took only a tiny tilt of her face, her eyes wide with wonder when she heard that word. Songbird. He had teasingly called her that, years and years ago, because she was always humming and singing while she cooked. She still did.

His gaze flitted between her eyes and lips back and forth. Almost in anticipation her lips parted slightly, he could feel her breath, she could feel his hesitation.

“Jinji…”

Maybe he started it, maybe she did. It didn’t matter. Their lips met and after that reason was gone, replaced by a hunger that almost scared her. They hadn’t seen each other for eight years and even before they had broken up there wasn’t this spark anymore. And now it was back, in full force, engulfing her, consuming her fully. She carded her fingers though his hair, gasped into the kiss, spurred him on further. The soft give of his lips, the way he tentatively let his tongue glide over her bottom lip until she parted her lips more, invited him in, tasted him again – it just felt so right.

When they separated briefly, both panting for air, everything had changed. And everything was just the same. Like back then, in their early days, when they couldn’t kept their hands off each other. When they spent entire weekends in bed, only got dressed to get something to eat and sometimes they didn’t even made it through the whole meal without getting distracted.

It was funny how she could think about those things now, but she couldn’t deny that she had missed this, the intimacy, the feeling of coming home. When his hands slipped under the hem of her dress, caressing her thighs, it was like the first time and yet so familiar. And when he pulled her into his lap, hands roaming her body, his lips trailing kisses up and down her neck and shoulders, she was already in some sweet kind of haze that wasn’t because of the wine.

“Jinji… please…” Cupping his face she stared into his eyes, so many words in her mind but her mouth couldn’t say them.

“I know. Believe me, I know.” He kissed her softly, almost reverently. With a half sobbed, half sighed ‘please’ she broke him, stripped him of the last shreds of restraint.

Her fingers flew over the buttons of his shirt, she pushed both his jacket and the shirt off his shoulders while he unzipped her dress. Everything landed in a heap on the floor, off, just off. They had seen each other naked countless of times already, but that had been years ago. If it wasn’t for the wine Jazz would feel slightly concerned; her body had changed during that time, but so did his. He wasn’t that young man she knew anymore. But he was still so incredible fit and firm, strong arms, broad chest. A little bit pudgy at the belly, though. She liked it.

“Jazz… are you… are you sure?”

He was trying to catch her gaze, to get a straight answer from her. What he got was something else. She slid from his lap, knelt between his legs and started undoing his belt. With an almost shy smile she popped the button open and undid the zipper. Jin lifted his hips a bit so she could tug his pants and boxers down and her smile widened at the sight of his already hard cock. She remembered him, thick and hard and somehow the perfect fit for her. That had been something that always had been good between them. Even when they started drifting apart, the sex had been great.

Almost tentatively she leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the tip, making him hiss, his hands buried in the cheap fabric of the upholstery.

“You still like it when I do this?” she asked sweetly and sucked the tip into her mouth, her tongue lazily swirling around it. He still tasted the same, a weird thought that made her smile. Eight years and it was as if they had never broken up.

With a groan she parted her lips even more, started pushing down on him until he brushed against the back of her throat. She just kept him there for a moment until he started to squirm lightly. And with a cocky wink she just took him in even further, showing off what she had learned ever since they had separated.

“Hahhh… Jazz… oh god…”

She could feel his thighs tense under her hands, the slight tremble that made her shiver in return.

When she ran out of air she pulled back a bit, breathed and started to bob her head, eliciting moans and grunts from him. He even sounded the same. She didn’t mind that his hands cupped her face, that he pulled her off him and looked at her, panting and flushed. Almost tenderly he helped her up, kissed her, his hands buried in her hair.

“I want you so much right now,” he muttered, fingers finding the clasp of her bra, stripping her off her remaining underwear.

“Want you, too.” Her hands found his cock again, keeping him nice and hard for what was still to come.

Still locked in a kiss he walked her backwards, towards the narrow bed that was part of the dorm’s furniture. So far it had been sufficient for him and right now he didn’t care much anyway. Neither did she.

Once on her back Jazz closed her eyes, focused on the sensation of his lips and hands all over her body, getting reacquainted with every part of her. She gasped when his tongue flicked her clit, when he pushed two fingers into her. That felt so good and yet not enough. She rolled her hips slightly, grabbed his hair, made him groan at her impatience, her neediness. But that was it; she didn’t just want him. She needed him.

The mixture of the adrenaline, the wine and fact that the man she had loved most in her life was back between her thighs had her teetering at the edge too soon and with another flick of his tongue she came hard, squeezing his head between her thighs and arching her back. She needed a moment to catch her breath, regain the ability to think. He took that moment to stare at her in awe, to imprint her in this state of bliss and exhaustion to his memory. Until she reached out for him, wanting him closer again.

“You’re still tasting like milk and honey.”

She blushed at his compliment, the taste of her sex not something she usually discussed with people, but he gave her no time to be embarrassed. He crawled up her body, leaving kisses and nips every here and there until he could kiss her lips again. Jazz wrapped her arms around him, legs spread to give him room to settle on top of her, but he didn’t. Instead he hovered there, grunted when she wrapped a hand around his cock, fingers curled loosely, just enjoying the weight and feeling of him. Her tongue drew a wiggly line over his neck until she reached his ear.

“Jin…” It was a moan, a prompt, a plea, just one word that bypassed his brain and directly traveled up and down his spine.

“Condom.” He was barely able to hold back, he wanted to just take her already so when she bucked her hips, shamelessly rubbed her sex against him, he couldn’t help but grind back, almost rut against her.

“Birthcontrol,” she whispered back and gasped when his cock slid through her folds, hitting her still swollen clit.

“You sure?” Those words, pressed out between gritted teeth, made her moan in affirmation, she nodded and grabbed his waist, pulled him closer.

“Wouldn’t risk anything, you know that.”

The low “oh god” he groaned was almost drowned out by the loud, surprised cry she let out when he pushed into her. He grabbed one of her thighs, his other arm supported his weight on top of her when he started moving, urged on by her praises and encouragements. “God, yes!”, “Just like that!” and over and over “Jin” and “Jinji”. More kisses, frantic now, sloppy and greedy. Her nails dragged over his lower back, left red welts and small, crescent marks.

With every thrust he brought her closer to that feeling of being whole again after years of only having a vague idea what exactly was missing.

He came with her name on his lips, biting down on it hard so it wouldn’t escape. Not that she cared much, too lost in the pleasure, the wonderfully frustrating feeling of ‘almost there’. Without caring about the mess he’d made he rolled off her, held her tightly with one arm while his fingers finished what their joined bodies had begun.

She fell asleep almost instantly afterwards, just when her breathing evened out again.

4.

“Chief?” Hayumi knocked at the door, waiting for an answer. “Chief, are you awake?”

The door was opened for a couple of inches, not enough for her to look into the room but enough so she could see Namba, hair dishevelled, shirt wrinkly. Obviously he just got out of bed.

“Little bird, are you my alarm this morning?” He smiled sleepily, making her blush lightly. Morning hair, morning voice. It was actually sexy and cute at the same time.

“I am sorry, Chief, but Instructor Kaga is looking for you.” She averted her eyes, the fact that his shirt wasn’t buttoned up completely was flustering her.

“Kaga, huh? Well, in that case I better hurry up. Thanks, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Hayumi nodded but made no move to leave, prompting Namba to ask her if there was anything else.

“Chief, I just thought… you’re looking as if you had a rough night. Do you need someone to stick another pain patch on your back?” She still wasn’t able to look at him so she missed the smirk on his face.

“Thank you, but I’m fine. Don’t worry. Shouldn’t you be in class anyway?”

Her gaze shot up to him, her mouth falling open into an ‘o’, eyes wide. “Y-you are right! Instructor Ishigami will get mad if I’m too late!” She bowed quickly, something on the floor catching her attention, but she was already running off before her brain could register what it was. Or what it meant.

 

Jazz wasn’t sure if the banging sound was real or just the throbbing in her head, but she really wanted it to stop. No, it was real, and it was the reason she was awake now. And the voices were real, too. One was cheerful and loud, almost carefree. The other was Jin, lower but still too loud for Jazz’s hangover. Everything was too loud, she was hot and sticky. Slowly she crawled out of bed, a much shorter distance than she was used to. Jin’s bed was really small.

Jin’s bed.

Jin’s. Bed.

The memories came rushing back to her and with them the panic. She shot up, her head protesting violently while she dragged herself towards the door nearby, trying to escape into the bathroom to avoid an encounter with her ex husband first thing in the morning. Her ex husband she just had sex with. She didn’t have a blackout, she knew exactly what she had done the night before. Proof of it was still between her thighs, the sticky and unpleasantly cool remains of his and her mixed essence.

She stumbled forwards through the door only to find herself in a closet. Disorientated she looked around. Suits and jackets. A robe. A robe! She quickly dragged it from the hanger and threw it over her naked body.

“You okay in there?” Jazz could hear the amused grin in his voice, she had seen that face far too often to not hear it. He chuckled and she could feel the blush creeping into her face, not only because she was acting like a fool again. No, she was naked, probably looked like a scarecrow, was hiding in a closet AND acted like a fool. That was just too much that early in the morning. Sheepishly she opened the closet door and shuffled out again.

“Bathroom?” she croaked, her voice hoarse and her throat dry.

“Over there.” He pointed towards another door and Jazz just nodded before she rushed over. “You are lucky, the students all have shared bathrooms. At least I have one for myself.”

She could hear the end of the sentence only muffled, the door was in the way. A quick peek into the mirror confirmed that, yes, she was looking like a scarecrow. Her hair was a mess and the dark smudges of her mascara made her look like some raccoon after a really bad night. And the taste in her mouth… just gross.

She had no toothbrush so she simply rinsed her mouth with water and tooth paste before she hopped into the shower, trying to wash away the sweat and makeup, the other body fluids and the shame. The guilt. There was no time for her usual beauty routine, and she didn’t even have her own products, so she simply took his shampoo and the least manly scented soap she could find.

The water made her at least clean, so when she stepped out of the shower three minutes later she already felt better. Still, she had to leave as soon as possible. And they probably had to talk about last night, but not now. Her head was still spinning and she was terrified to think about what having sex with Jin meant for her emotional state. So she didn’t. Pushed all the thoughts aside, tried to act like a damned grown up for once.

Wrapped in a towel she came out of the bathroom, avoiding his gaze. So much for being an adult.

“Here.” Jin handed her a glass of water and some painkillers with a small smile. With a muttered ‘thank you’ Jazz took both and swallowed the pills, hoping for them to work fast.

“So, what are your plans for today?” He casually offered her a cup of miso soup. “The best against hangovers,” he promised.

After a sip – and the grimace she made every time she tried miso; she would never get used to that taste, no matter how long she’d live in Japan – Jazz started looking around for her clothes.

“Actually I have a really important meeting in less than one hour, so I better get back home, change and do something about my face and hair. My bosses will throw a fit if I mess this up.” She had spotted her dress and underwear, her shoes were near the door. Her purse on the table. Everything was there, good.

“If you ask me, your face and hair are just fine. Better that fine. I always wonder how you can look that beautiful in the early morning, especially after last night.” She knew he meant it as a compliment but the mention of last night made her uncomfortable.

“I’m looking completely wrecked and that’s exactly how I feel.” She turned away from him and slipped the straps of her bra over her shoulders, expertly juggling towel and bra so she could close the clasp without exposing herself. She could go back to the bathroom to get dressed, but time was really an issue right now.

“Could you call me a cab?” Without waiting for his answer Jazz slipped into her dress, letting the towel drop once she was decent and slipped her panties on. Her hair was still wet so she simply twisted it once and secured it into some messy bun with a hairtie.

“I could give you a lift.”

She turned to face him, bend down a bit to pick up the towel from the floor. “Thanks, but that’s rather unpractical. I will need the cab to get to the meeting anyway and so I could just let them bring me home, wait there and then bring me to my meeting.”

“Or I could take you home, wait there and take you to your meeting afterwards.”

There he was again, the stubborn Jin, the man who always had to get his way. Jazz rolled her eyes – and regretted it instantly because of the headache.

“Jin, please. I’m already late, I really don’t need this now. Call a cab, please.” She was embarrassed, frustrated, irritated. This argument led nowhere and she just didn’t have the time for that now. “You know what? Forget it, I’ll simply flag one down on the street.” After another disgusting sip of miso soup she grabbed her purse and her shoes and simply left without looking back. His signature move.

 

Hayumi was pushing her food around on the plate, too occupied with her thoughts to pay attention to trivial things like eating.

“Okay, what is wrong with you today?” Naruko’s irritation got the better of her when she forcefully put her chopsticks down, staring at Hayumi expectantly. “You’ve been sighing for a million times already.”

Unable to put her thoughts in words Hayumi stubbornly shook her head.

“You don’t want to tell me? Fine.” Naruko’s voice got softer now, sadder. “And here I thought we were friends.”

With wide eyes Hayumi sat up straight. “We are friends! It’s just – ugh, it’s just so complicated!” She slumped down in her chair again, the short boost of activity leaving her almost spineless again.

“Complicated is exactly my thing. Now spill it and we can figure it out together.” Her bright smile was a stark contrast to the sad face she had displayed just a second ago, making Hayumi think that it had all been an act. But she was too troubled to be angry at her friend.

“It’s – I’m a bit worried about the chief.”

Naruko furrowed her brow in confusion. “The chief? Shouldn’t you rather be worried about your grades? Instructor Ishigami wasn’t very amused about you being late again this morning.”

“I was only late because I was running an errand for Instructor Kaga. His aide was busy so he sent me – nevermind. Back to the topic, okay? Does – uhm, does the chief strike you as, as some sort of player?”

“Player?” Naruko seemed to try the word on her tongue, as if she didn’t get the meaning. Suddenly her expression brightened. “Oh, you mean because of that rumor that he hangs around Pachinko palors?”

“Huh? No, not that. He has explained the whole Pachinko thing. It’s just a cover to meet informants.” Hayumi waved with her hand before she rested her chin in her palm, elbow propped up on the table.

“Say, what would you think when you saw something in someone’s room that doesn’t belong there?”

“Like what?” Naruko mirrored Hayumi’s posture.

“Like – women’s shoes?”

“The chief wears women’s shoes? He must have a huge size, where does he get those?” Naruko faked a shocked expression.

“No, of course not! Can you please be serious! There were high heels lying on the floor! Does that mean he had someone stay the night?” Hayumi already knew the answer, it was the only rational one. The chief had spent the night with a woman.

“So what? He’s married, isn’t he?” Naruko went back to eat her meal. “I mean, the ring, the bentos – you knew that already, didn’t you?”

“That’s the point. He isn’t really married. They are divorced. And I met his ex wife, she’s actually – ugh, I have no idea what she is.” The kind of woman Hayumi wanted to be one day. Confident, successful, sophisticated.

“They are divorced? Then why is he wearing that ring? And who is making his bentos. Oh, do you think he can cook? That would be a very attractive trait.” Naruko was already eying some things on Hayumi’s plate.

“That’s not the important thing here! I want to know if you think he’s the type to play with girls. Women. Whatever. Maybe the ring is some kind of – I don’t know, some kind of trick. So that his hook-ups won’t demand anything more afterwards.” The annoyed way she bit her bottom lip gave her away. Naruko grinned.

“So, since when are you so interested in Chief Namba’s love life? I mean, he’s so much older, I bet he has a girl or two every now and then. Experienced. And still sexy for his age.” She smugly leaned back in her chair, watching Hayumi’s cheek growing redder with the second. “Are you jealous that you are not one of those girls?”

Hayumi gasped in indignation. “What?! No! That’s – that’s not it. Not at all!”

Sitting up straight again Naruko narrowed her eyes at her friend. “Oh god, Hayumi! Don’t tell me-“ She lowered her voice to a whispered hiss. “Don’t tell me you already have something with him and now he cheats with another girl!”

Instantly Hayumi hid her face behind her hands. “No! I’m just – what if – I kinda like him, okay? I just don’t want a rude awakening, okay? What if I tell him eventually and he just – just has someone else?” Her voice was miserable now and Naruko felt bad for teasing her so much.

“Hey, he’d be an idiot if he didn’t fall for you. But to keep guessing and losing yourself in some weird assumptions won’t help. Calm down, there’s a logical explanation for everything. Come, I’m treating you to some dessert.”

Still miserable and sad Hayumi settled for ice cream.

 

Dressed in fresh clothes, hair and makeup done properly Jazz already felt much better, at least physically. But her heart was still in uproar, beating violently each time her thoughts strayed back to the night before. Good sex, but a bad decision.

Work was a great distraction, the meeting provided her with lots of other things to think about than her love life – or the lack of it. After lunch with a potential client Jazz trudged back into the office, glad that at least the hangover could have been tamed with spicy food and lots of water.

“Oh Jazz, there is a cop waiting in your office. Again,” H informed her cheerfully. Too cheerful for Jazz’s liking that day, but there was no use in taking her bad mood out on others.

“Okay, thanks.” She smiled weakly at the receptionist before she made her way over to her office. What did Goto want this time? More blueprints? God, she hoped it was because of the blueprints. At least that would be a doable and simple task. Plus Goto was a friend, maybe he had some advice for her how to break the news to Jin. Because she had to tell him eventually.

“So, what do you want from me today?” she asked airily when she opened the door to her office.

“I was hoping for dinner to be honest.” It wasn’t Goto but Jin, sitting in her swivel chair, very much like she had been sitting in his last night.

“Oh.” Frozen in her tracks, not even having crossed the threshold Jazz stared at Jin who got up from her chair with a smile. He was really looking good, but then again, he wasn’t the one with the hangover. But he was the one who had great sex last night.

“I thought I’d owe you dinner. You know, as thank you for helping with the case.”

He was close enough to touch her now but frowned slightly when he noticed how reserved she was.

“That is a nice idea.” Her response was slow, careful. She was choosing her words, trying to gather her thoughts. Fought against the pesky emotions that welled up again. “But I’m not in the mood for ramen.” Brushing past him she walked to her desk, set her purse down and plopped down into her chair.

“Sorry, that meeting was hell.” She tried to take the edge of her rejection, knowing that she actually had to push him even further away to make sure she didn’t do anything stupid. Again.

Seemingly unfazed Jin took a seat and watched her rummaging in her drawers for some painkillers.

“Anything I can do for you?” The way he said that was so casual but she knew he meant it. Whatever she said, he’d do it if it was possible. Jazz closed her eyes briefly, gathered her courage.

“No, it’s fine. So, you won’t need my help from here on anymore, right?” She forced herself to look at him, tried to appear determined, business like.

“For the case? No, I think we can manage. It’s my job, you know?” He smiled, the wrinkles in the corner of his eyes showing. But his expression changed, the smile faded.

“Jazz? What’s wrong?”

She took a deep breath, straightened up. “We need to talk. About last night.”

He sighed, visibly slumped a bit. “Talking. That’s never something good.”

“Well, if we had talked a bit more back – ah, nevermind.” Jazz leaned back in her chair, already exhausted before the conversation had really started.

“Last night was-” The words ‘a mistake’ sat on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t make herself say them. “- not a wise decision. It was great, but it should stay a one time thing.”

His face fell but Jin quickly put on a smile again. “Way to make me feel cheap.”

With a tired chuckle Jazz tipped her head back, staring at the ceiling.

“I’m sorry.” She looked back at him, offering a helpless shrug of her shoulders. As if anything she said could change anything.

He got up, fingertips resting on the surface of her desk for a moment.

“I’m not.” In regard to her puzzled expression he explained: “Sorry. I’m not sorry. Not about last night at least. There are other things… but not last night.” With a sad smile and a single nod he turned to leave, almost missed her muttered: “Me neither…”

Almost.

 

During the next few days Jazz was glad that work offered her a good distraction, meetings and planning for new projects took up most of her time. But during the nights her heart and mind betrayed her, tormented her with memories of happier times in her dreams. Once or twice she even dreamed of that night with Jin, reliving the desire, the passion, the underlying sweetness that permeated it all.

She woke up after another memory/dream, this time about that time when she was cooking in the kitchen, singing along with the radio that was just playing.

Fontella Bass. Jin came rushing in, grabbed her and spun her around, set her down a bit from her chopping board away.

“What are you doing?” she asked, but under laughter.

“You sang ‘Rescue me’. And here I am, I’m rescuing you. From the evil leek as it seems.” He was grinning happily at his own joke, making Jazz burst out into a new round of laughter.

“You are impossible,” she chuckled but cupped his cheek and pulled him in for a kiss.

“That I am. But I will always come and rescue you if necessary.”  

She buried her face in the pillow, wondering why she was torturing herself like that. It had taken one year after the divorce before she was some kind of happy again. It had never been like with him, though, not when she was alone and not when she was with another man. It would never be like with Jin again. But then again, she didn’t want that anymore, back then when she asked him for the divorce. When she couldn’t take it anymore, the distance between them although they had been in the same room. The silence between them. The indifference. No, that wasn’t right. There had always been emotions, but that was just not enough.

She groaned and pushed herself up, out of the bed and under the shower, washing off the remnants of sleep and that stupid, silly, wonderful dream.

 

Namba twirled the pen in his hand, absentmindedly staring out of the window.

“… and the suspect escaped through the alley. But we found him ten minutes later.” Goto just finished his report and looked at Namba expectantly. “Chief?”

“Huh? Oh, yes. Good job.” Namba sat up straighter and put the pen down. “Anything else to report?”

“The preparations for the raid of that meeting between Hidai and the foreign buyers are finished.”

Both men nodded briefly.

“So… did he contact her again?” It was meant to come across as casual, case related. It didn’t.

“Actually he has. Called her at work. She lets the receptionist take his calls, though.” Goto had to suppress a knowing grin. It was funny how similar they were. Hadn’t Jazz tried not to ask about Namba when he last dropped by to ask for another set of blueprints the other day, too?

“Oh, okay.” The chief was looking out of the window again.

“If that’s all… I have classes later.” Goto waited for Namba to face him again.

“Yeah, sure. Thanks. Go and teach them – well, a lesson, I guess.” He chuckled briefly about his joke before he took a deep breath and got up from his chair. “I’m heading out. Meeting an informant. I’ll be back in two or three hours.”

Goto got up, too, and together they left Namba’s office.

“You’re not looking well, Chief. Maybe you should try to sleep more.”

Namba brushed the remark off with a wave of his hand. “Once that case is solved. It’s too important to get careless now.”

 

Hayumi was listlessly browsing the store. She needed new shoes, but that didn’t mean she was in the mood to shop for them. Couldn’t they just magically materialize in her closet already? Shopping was such a pain sometimes, especially now that she was constantly thinking about the chief and that mysterious woman who had spent the night in his room. Hayumi wasn’t stupid, she knew what a man and a woman alone at night usually did, but she didn’t want to believe that the chief was that kind of man. Maybe the woman had just spent the night there because she had nowhere else to go? Or because she was sick?

Who was she fooling? No one. The chief had sex with someone and it hadn’t been Hayumi. And here she had thought that there was something special between them. The way he always patted her head. Gave her candies. Smiled at her – it had to mean something, right? Right?

Why couldn’t she stop thinking about him? He was so mature and yet so laid back, kind but determined when it came to the job. She could really look up to him – and at him. He was really attractive after all. So she could either give up on him and focus on the training, or she could fight. Show him that she was more than just a student. She wasn’t a girl after all, she was a woman! And she would buy pretty new shoes and some clothes to prove it! She still remembered the dress he had picked out for her when they went on that mission. If that was the kind of dress he liked she would get something like it, and she would be forward and ask him out. For ramen. That was innocuous enough and still something he liked. And she would show him how mature she was, asking him out instead of waiting patiently.

Giving herself a mental peptalk she turned her back on the rather cute and girly shoes and made her way over to the more sophisticated, elegant heels. Where she promptly ran into a familiar face.

 

5.

“Mrs. Namba?”

Jazz turned around, the young girl in front of her now vaguely familiar.

“It’s Mann,” she corrected her.

“Oh, yes, sorry. But you are – uhm, the ex wife of Chief Namba?”

Suddenly something clicked in Jazz’s head. “I am. And you are this student, his ‘little bird’, right?”

Hayumi nodded eagerly. “Yes, that’s me. Although I’d prefer if you would call me Hayumi.”

Jazz smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name last time. I was a bit overwhelmed by suddenly getting dragged into some undercover mission. Nice to meet you again. Under better circumstances this time.” She bowed her head slightly, a gesture that Hayumi returned, but with a much deeper bow.

“I am sorry that you had to get involved in that mess. It was my fault, if I had been able to get that information on my own-“ Hayumi started to apologize just for Jazz to interrupt her.

“Stop this, it’s not your fault. Jin should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy. Hell, if I hadn’t already known Tomoyo I wouldn’t have gotten it either. So stop blaming yourself for it. It’s Jin’s fault and he knows it.”

“Oh no, the chief is – well, he is really capable. It was me who wasn’t-“

Jazz rolled her eyes. “Honestly, stop it. The whole plan had been bad. Jin knows it, I know it, and I’m sure deep down inside you know it, too. So don’t blame yourself.”

“You are really kind,” Hayumi shyly answered but let the topic drop. For an awkward moment they stood there, between rows and rows of shoes, not knowing what to say.

“Do you – do you have a moment? I have some questions. Regarding the chief.” Hayumi bit her bottom lip nervously and looked down at her feet, missing the way Jazz’s eyes narrowed slightly.

“Okay. How about a tea?”

Ten minutes later they were sitting in a café, both stirring in their cups.

“So, what can I help you with?” Jazz finally broke the silence.

“Oh, uhm… it’s just – I figure you know him pretty well and all… and sometimes I just don’t understand what he’s thinking.” Hayumi shrugged helplessly, a bit startled when Jazz chuckled.

“Honey, if I could tell what this man is thinking I didn’t have to divorce him. It’s fine, you don’t have to understand him. He’s very serious when it comes to his job so you can trust him to do everything he can to guide you through your training.”

“Oh, okay. It’s just – my question wasn’t really about him as the chief. I mean, he is the chief, no matter what, but I wanted to know more about him – as a person?” The way Hayumi fidgeted with her spoon made Jazz sigh. Oh dear, this girl was in far over her head.

“As a person? Well, that’s tricky. I haven’t seen him in years, I guess you know him better by now than I do.”

“You think he has changed that much since your – your…”

“Divorce is the word, hun. Don’t worry, I’m not bitter about it. And yes, I assume he has changed, because I definitely have. Although he still has some of the traits I know.” A small smile played on her lips but she chased those thoughts away. “But I can tell you a bit about the Jin I know, if that is helpful.”

“Yes, please,” Hayumi eagerly replied, blushing slightly when she noticed how loud she just had been.

“Okay, so what do you want to know?”

With a huge smile Hayumi leaned closer towards the table. “How did you meet back then?”

That was a question Jazz hadn’t expected, it made her hesitate.

“Actually… I messed up an operation for him when he was in training. Ran right into an observation and kinda chased the suspect off.”

‘Chased him off’ wasn’t the right expression, though. He had been hitting on Jazz who wasn’t in the mood to let him down gently. She raised hell when he tried to touch her and the suspect ran off, a whole bunch of cops and cops in training hot on his heels. Jin had almost knocked her over and had to steady her so she wouldn’t fall, angry that he had missed his chance to catch the suspect.

“Oh!” Hayumi’s eyes went wide, remembering her own first blunder and how harsh the chief had been on her. “I guess he wasn’t really happy.”

Jazz chuckled briefly, eyes looking back to that moment rather than seeing what was right in front of her. “You could say that. He yelled at me. And I yelled back. Some officer came and interrogated me and I was really angry for some time, telling them over and over that it was my right to defend myself instead of just standing there and letting that jerk grope me. I mean, I had no idea what was going on around us so I acted like I usually would. The next day I got a call and Jin apologized, explained the situation to me and refused to hang up before I accepted his dinner invitation. He took me to a small bar and we had ramen. I was 17 back then and he had just started working for the police.”

Her smile was almost ethereal, but then she blinked, fixed her expression into a neutral one and sat up straighter.

“You have been really young,” Hayumi remarked shyly.

“Yes, and so was he. 23. And cute, handsome, very driven.” Jazz sighed. “We got married not even three years later. That was definitely too soon. I know that today.”

It was hard for Hayumi to imagine the chief as a young man, energetic and idealistic. The way he had chewed her out when she had messed up her first assignment just to protect some random girl in the train – idealistic wasn’t really the word that came to mind when she thought about him. But he was serious when it came to the job and that was definitely something Hayumi could respect. And she was willing to learn as much from as she could. Jobwise.

“So you were not really the shy and quiet kind of girl?” she finally asked.

“No, definitely not. I’m loud, I’m stubborn. I’m not Japanese so I don’t really fit into the ideal of a Japanese woman anyway. He didn’t seem to mind. Never expected me to stay at home and just support him. He encouraged me to go my own way and find happiness in my work, too. But the more time we spent at work the less time we had together and eventually we led two separate lives under the same roof.”

Playing with the hem of her shirt Hayumi shyly smiled. “So that’s kind of woman he likes?” Confident, independent? Was that the kind of woman Hayumi could be?

Jazz shrugged. “That is the kind of woman he married. But that has been years ago, maybe he wants something else in a woman now.”

The way Hayumi bit her lip and kept glancing around was just too suspicious.

“Okay, spill it. I’ve already told you half of the story of my life, no need to get shy now.”

“Why did you break up?”

Yes, why? Jazz had thought about this very often already, and she wished there was an easy answer.

“I loved him, very much. And I think he loved me, too. But there was one thing he loved even more and after some time I got tired of playing the second fiddle all the time.” She rubbed her temples briefly and sighed.

“Did he – did he cheat?” So the chief really was a player? Hayumi wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t for his ex wife to tell her. But Jazz shook her head immediately, denying this suspicion before it could take roots.

“No! God, no. I was talking about his job. It always came first and I got tired of getting stood up, of our friends already making jokes that it was useless to invite him because he would cancel anyway and I would come alone to parties and such. And eventually I was so used to doing things on my own, it felt as if we weren’t married at all.”

For some time she had tried to revive their relationship, had suggested to try out new activities, to make one day a week a couple’s day. In the third week he had to cancel the movie night because of a work emergency and Jazz had given up, already too tired to fight any longer. And when that one undercover mission came up…

“Let me tell you this – and I’m saying this as a friend, although we don’t know each other that long – but if you can, you better tone done that crush you have on him. I can understand it, he is warm and smart and can be really sweet, but you won’t get happy with him. Not as long as you would have to compete with his job.” She leaned a bit over the table, forearms on the surface.

“Maybe you are stronger than I was, but do you think you can do that? Compete with the whole country for his love? Because that’s what you would have to do. The safety of the whole country… what’s that in comparison to some missed dinners? To evenings you spent alone? To the constant fear that one day he won’t come back from an undercover mission? Maybe it would be easier for you, since you are a cop yourself.  But from my experience let me assure you: It’s killing you. It’s chipping little pieces off your heart and soul, and you start hating the job he does. You start hating the people and the whole damn country because every single person seems to be more important to him than you.”

By now tears were shimmering in her eyes, her voice was thick with anger and hurt. Maybe she was still a bit bitter about the whole divorce after all. Maybe she was just emotional because of that little lapse the other night. Whatever it was, she knew she was making a scene and although she didn’t care about the looks people gave her she could tell that Hayumi was more than uncomfortable.

With a dry chuckle Jazz wiped her eyes quickly.

“So long story short: don’t do it. Don’t tell him about your feelings, don’t hope for anything in return. Try to find someone who can put you on his number one spot in life. Not someone who is bound to break your heart without even realizing. You deserve more than that.”

Hayumi nodded weakly. “I’m sorry for bringing up bad memories,” she sincerely said with a bow. “And I’m sorry for interrupting your shopping trip.”

This time Jazz laughed out loudly. “Don’t worry about that. I was just finished anyway.” She stretched a leg out from beneath the table, showed off her shoe.

“Oh, those are pretty!”

“Thank you. My favorites shoes just broke today, I lost a heel when I stepped into a crack in the street.” Jazz opened her shopping bag for Hayumi to see. The smile on the face of the younger woman faded. She had seen these shoes before.

 

“Chief? We have a problem.” Goto didn’t even wait after knocking to open the door; he rushed into the office to find Namba absorbed in some paperwork.

“What’s wrong?” Namba let the papers sink down and frowned.

“Apparently they changed the meeting location for Thursday and none of our sources can tell us where they are going to meet now. The city is too big to just hope and wait we will somehow find them in time.” Still standing in front of the desk Goto seemed both determined and resigned.

“What if we tail Hidai and simply follow him around?” Namba mused loudly only to shake his head dismissively. “But we wouldn’t be able to prepare properly. No, we have to know in advance.”

There was a brief moment of heavy silence until Goto pointedly cleared his throat.

“You know, maybe we could use some help…”

“No! I know what you’re thinking, but I have promised her that she wouldn’t have to do that again.” The vehemence in his voice left no room for an argument, but they both knew it was their best bet. Namba ran a hand through his hair and exhaled deeply.

“Okay, we can at least ask her. But we won’t pressure her, you got that?”

With a nod Goto accepted the condition.

“Should I ask her?”

Maybe it was better that way, after all Jazz and Namba hadn’t talked since that day in her office. They needed some distance before they met again – at least he did.

“Yes, good idea. But make sure she understands that she has a choice.”

“Don’t worry, chief, I will.”

Still, Namba couldn’t shake off the bad feeling when he watched Goto leave his office again.

 

In a nice dress and heels, hair and makeup actually done with more care than usually and a basket with some snacks and drinks in hand Jazz tottered into the building, flashing the receptionist a bright smile.

“Hi, I would like to visit Tomoyo – uhm, I mean Mr. Hidai.”

The young guy behind the counter barely raised his head.

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No, this is a surprise visit.” This earned her at least a disapproving glance.

“I can’t let you pass without an appointment.”

She inwardly rolled her eyes – of course this couldn’t be just easy – but kept her smile in place.

“In that case I would like to make an appointment. In, let’s say, five minutes?”

The boy – she couldn’t think of him as a man – looked up again, this time clearly annoyed.

“That is not that easy, Miss.”

“Mann. Jazz Mann.”

Realization flashed across the boy’s face. “Oh. Miss Mann? I think we have talked a few times.”

Suddenly a smile replaced the scowl he had showed her before. Jazz rejoiced silently, glad that this was obviously the same receptionist that had called her to make the appointments so far. And maybe the same one that had sent her flowers on behalf of Tomoyo.

“I’m glad you remember me.” She gave him a pointed look and his smile wavered for a second.

“I’m not supposed to let anyone through.”

Jazz raised the basket. “I just wanted to surprise him with an indoor picnic. He doesn’t have another woman in there, does he?” Her tone was light and joking, she couldn’t care less about this, actually she would appreciate it if Tomoyo set his eyes on someone else.

“No, no, don’t worry. He is in a meeting right now, at least for another ten minutes… well, I guess he will be happy to see you there. Okay, but this is a huge exception.”

She nodded eagerly. “Of course. And I will let him know how nice you have been to make this surprise possible.”

She winked at him and quickly hurried past him at his sign. Finding Tomoyo’s office wasn’t hard, but now she had to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Some hint on where the meeting would take place. She couldn’t be too obvious, couldn’t rummage through drawers or his notes. She quickly browsed through his schedule, but of course there was nothing. Neither scribbled on the post-its on his desk. This was an expensive office building, surely the waste bins would get emptied every day. Still, Jazz quickly searched the trash, again without finding anything.  She got impatient, always listening for footsteps or other signs Tomoyo might come back. Not a born spy, or a detective. Jazz was just a normal woman, and her nerves were getting the better of her. Close to tears, half of frustration and half of despair, she opened his drawers and tried to browse the papers in there, but it just was too much stuff in there to actually know where to begin.

And then she heard him.

When Tomoyo opened the door to his office Jazz was smiling at him, sitting in his chair.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

He hesitated for a second before he smiled back, closed his door behind him and stopped in front of the desk. “I’m sorry, did I forget that you were coming?”

She got up, motioned towards the chair for him and grabbed her basket, held it between herself and him.

“No, and actually I am the one to be sorry. I haven’t called you back all week and I feel bad about it. There was an unexpected tax inspection in my company and everyone was panicking.” She offered him an apologetic smile and shrug and he laughed.

“You are forgiven. This is a really lovely surprise.” His glance towards the basket was accompanied by the question what she had in there.

“I figured you are a busy man and maybe would enjoy a nice lunch with me. And since I’m practically ambushing you here I decided to suggest an indoor picnic. Right here. What do you think?”

“I think that sounds delicious.” The way he said that send shivers down her spine, but not the good kind. Not like Jin had done a few days ago.

She quickly pushed those thoughts aside. Very dangerous terrain she was toeing there, she hadn’t changed her mind on that after all. There was no use in reheating whatever was left of their affection for each other, it would only lead to heartbreak. Again. She blinked and moved a step backwards when Tomoyo came closer, almost dancing away. Teasing him. She had to keep her distance and him interested. A dangerous dance.

“I have some onigiri, some sandwiches and fruit. Nothing fancy but I hope you’ll like it.”

“If we want to make it a picnic we can’t eat at the desk.” With his eyebrow raised he motioned towards the couch but Jazz shook her head.

“If we want to make it a picnic we have to sit on the ground.”

With an amused chuckle, as if she was a very entertaining act, he took off his jacket and placed it on the floor. “Let’s make it authentic, shall we?”

Somehow she managed to get through this lunch without ending up as the dessert, although the gazes and some lingering touched he sneaked in between bites made it painfully obvious what he was hoping for as next course.

As a single woman she knew the magic of an ‘emergency call’, that saving grace that often ended a disastrous date. Unfortunately there was no one who could call her, she hadn’t told anyone about her plan after all. It was actually his phone that rang and marked the end of the lunch.

“Sorry, I’m having a meeting now. I would love to – continue, though. Maybe for dinner?”

Jazz started to pack the leftovers into the basket. “I would love to, but that tax inspection isn’t over yet. I could just sneak away for an extended lunch break, I will probably have to work through the whole evening. But I will call you, okay?”

He was already getting up and Jazz bowed slightly. “Thank you for sharing this lunch with me.”

Tomoyo grabbed his jacket and shook it once, stepped closer and leaned in. “Thank you for this nice surprise.”

She couldn’t avoid the dreaded kiss this time, simply closed her eyes and hoped it would be over soon. It wasn’t even a bad kiss, just – definitely the wrong man. Even if he wasn’t a suspected criminal, he was dull and conceited and just not Jin.

With a tight smile she pulled back. “I’m better going now.”

“Sure. Let me walk you out, okay? I just need to grab some papers.” While he hurried to his desk, still a pleased smirk on his face, Jazz noticed something that must have fallen out of his jacket pocket. A small piece of paper. A business card? Pretending to take up her basket she quickly grabbed it, almost crying in joy when she saw what it was: just what she had been looking for.

 

6.

Once Goto’s phone rang he hurried to answer, hoping it was the call he was waiting for.

“I swear, you won’t get away with a stupid ‘thank you’ this time. This was so much more unpleasant than you could even imagine.”

He smiled weakly at Jazz’s annoyed voice, he already knew what she would say next after this very informal greeting.

“I think I have what you need. And I need a shower and a drink now.”

He felt slightly guilty, she sounded really fed up and tired. And he really hoped she hadn’t to do too much to get this information.

“I’m dropping by later, try to relax for now. And although you might not want to hear it: Thank you.”

Jazz grumbled something and hang up.

She wasn’t mad at Goto, but she sure was disappointed that Jin had sent him instead of coming on his own, like some decent person would do. No, he had sent the only other person she couldn’t stay mad with, one of the kindest cops she ever knew. But still a cop and of course he had an agenda. She couldn’t blame him for that. So she blamed Jin.

Not even one hour later Goto was standing in front of her door, patiently waiting until she opened, wrapped in a robe, hair still wet.

“I thought you were joking when you said you needed a shower.”

Jazz shrugged and handed him the card. “I wasn’t. Neither about the drink.”

“Was it really that bad?”

“I had to pretend that I like him, I had to make him believe that I like him! I know that you might do this for the safety of the country all the time, but I am just some architect, not a spy! And I hate lying to people and I hate that you make me do this! And I hate that I’m so good at this, too!”

Goto was visibly taken aback by the intensity of her emotions, by her anger and tears, but he also understood that it wasn’t directed at him.

“Tell him – tell him that I’m out. Whatever happens now, he better finds someone else to play along. Maybe his little bird is suited better for this.”

She slumped down a bit, let Goto lead her to her couch.

“Do you want to talk?” He sat her down and waited for her answer, carefully examining her face but Jazz only waved him off.

“No, it’s fine. Nothing another drink and a senseless shopping spree can’t cure. Go, go and earn the laurels for this.” She motioned towards the card he had put into his breast pocket.

“You know that’s not what’s going to happen.”

“The shopping spree? Oh yes, that will happen.” She started playing with a strand of her wet hair, twirled it around her finger.

“You know what I’m talking about.” The calmness he exuded was infuriating for her right now but after all those years it didn’t surprise her. That was just the way he was, cool and calm, collected.

“Yeah, yeah. Go and tell Jin everything. And don’t forget the part with my involvement in this being over.”

With a soft nod Goto got up again. “Don’t worry, I will let him know. Although he’s already beating himself up because of this.” After a second of hesitation he added: “Should I come back later? So you can yell a bit at me? Get rid of some of that anger?”

Her tired smile was answer enough, she didn’t even have to shake her head. “No, I’m going to bed early, today really took its toll on me.”

“Okay. But call me if you need anything. Even if it’s just someone to vent to.”

Jazz watched him leave and wondered – for umpteenth time – why Goto wasn’t married yet. He was such a great guy, handsome, smart, kind. Is it wasn’t for her stupid infatuation for Jin she would have made a move already. With a sigh Jazz poured herself another glass of wine and decided to order some food.

 

“Oh, Chief! Sorry, do you have a second?” Hayumi skipped over to Namba when she spotted him in the hallway, determined to set her plan in motion. That talk with his ex wife had only fueled her resolve to ask him out. Of course she would tell Hayumi not to pursue the idea of dating the chief, obviously his ex wife was still in love with him. It had been her shoes that Hayumi had seen in his room after all. And then she sat there and talked to Hayumi as if she really was a friend. She wasn’t! Jazz Mann was a liar, a manipulative, calculating bitch! That was what she was!

In her righteous fury Hayumi had seen right through that caring older friend act. Oh, Hayumi might be young, but she wasn’t stupid, no ma’am. And she knew that she would have to act quickly or his ex would sink her fangs into him again. But if Hayumi asked him now and convinced him to go on a date with her, he would quickly forget about his ex, right? There was something special between them, wasn’t it?

“Oh, little bird, now is not a good time. This whole Hidai business is keeping me on my toes.”

Namba hurried past her and Hayumi needed a moment to gather her wits and follow him, making three steps for every two he took.

“Okay, then how about later? I mean, you have to get dinner eventually. We could eat something together…”

“I will probably just eat at my desk,” he interrupted her.

“I could get you something. Ramen? Would you like me to bring you dinner later? I could do that,” she eagerly suggested only for him to falter for a split second.

“I’m not sure… I might have to leave later and maybe I just get something somewhere.”

“No, that won’t do. I’m coming to your office later and bring you something. Don’t worry, I can cook, you will like it.” She had to stop walking to avoid bumping into Namba who now stood rooted to the floor.

“You want to cook for me?”

“Uhm, ye-yes?”

A wide smile appeared on Namba’s face. “I think that’s the best thing I heard in the last few days. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Hayumi’s expression mirrored his, her joy was pure and bright. She nodded and ran off to start cooking while Namba chuckled and went to see Goto.

 

“I’m not sure, chief, but whatever had happened there today, Miss Mann seemed rather agitated because of it. You know her better than me but I guess she’s really upset.”

Until now Namba had been in very high spirits, the small business card with a note of the exact time just the right thing to brighten his mood.

“What do you mean, she’s upset?”

Goto’s usually almost stoic expression changed, he frowned, obviously thinking hard about how to say this without saying too much.

“She was – yelling.”

Namba shrugged. “You have never been married, but a woman who yells? Not unusual.”

“Chief, I think she has been crying. Is it normal for her to cry?” If it was wrong to tell Namba Goto would deal with the consequences later, for now he wanted to make sure that the little mission they had sent Jazz on wasn’t actually causing her distress. It was one thing to demand things like that from recruits or officers, but not from civilians.

“Oh.” Namba fiddled with his pen for a moment, twirled it between his fingers. “Goto, you take care of the preparations. I think I better go and make sure she’s alright. It’s my responsibility after all.”

Half an hour later he was knocking at her door.

Jazz was hurried to the door, some money in her hand.

“Was about time,” she grumbled when she opened, only to stare slightly flustered at Namba.

“Sorry, if I had known you’re already waiting for me I would have come sooner.”

“What are you doing here? I thought you were my dinner.” She widened the gap and let him enter, checked the hallway once he was inside. “That delivery guy should have been here ten minutes ago.”

“Should I cook you something?” He gave her a once over and Jazz suddenly remembered that she was already in her pjs. Not the sexy kind, though. The baggy shirt and shorts kind.

“No, it’s fine. I’m sure my food will come every minute now.” She covered her front with her arms, tried to hide the shirt from him.

“Wait, is that – is that my shirt?”

“What? No! That’s just some old shirt I found in my closet…” She chuckled nervously and hurried past him into her kitchen. “You want a drink?

“That’s my old academy shirt. Don’t try to deny it.” With a huge grin he followed her. “Tea would be good.”

Jazz quickly prepared some tea, glad that she didn’t have to explain why she was wearing his old shirt. Well, mostly she did because it was comfy. Big. She had gained a bit of weight in the last few years, not much but definitely enough so she didn’t want to squeeze herself into second skin clothes anymore.

“Did you only come to check my state of dress?” She squeezed her eyes shut, that had been a stupid question.

“No, I was just wondering how you are. After that undercover stunt today.” Jin took the cup she was offering him and looked her once up and down.

“I’m fine, don’t worry.”

He put the cup down and stepped closer, so close that Jazz had to tip her head back to keep looking at him.

“You are a terrible liar, you know that? Now tell, what ails my little songbird?”

The sad smile that tugged at her lips made him regret this nickname, but he couldn’t help it; she would always be his songbird, his nightingale.

“I’m not such a terrible liar anymore. I made Tomoyo believe that I was actually there for him today, not for your stupid mission! I was that convincing that he kissed me.” Or he was just the kind of man who had no clue when a woman was really interested in him and when not. Jazz pressed her lips tightly together, challenged Jin to say something, anything.

“I’m so sorry to hear that.” His thumb gently brushed over her lips until she relaxed a bit. “I know that I’ve been asking a lot of you and you didn’t have to actually play along. Especially not since both of us knew where this would end.” He cupped her cheek now, saw how her eyes welled up. “So sorry…”

She grabbed the lapels of his jacket and pulled him close in the same moment he leaned in, their lips meeting in a far from gentle kiss but she didn’t mind. Anything to erase the memory of Tomoyo’s kiss. He gasped when he hoisted her up onto the kitchen counter, the cool surface a shock for a moment – even more than this stupid decision she was about to make. Jin’s hands slid up her naked legs until he reached the hem of her shorts, pulled her hips closer to the edge, closer to his body. And Jazz just let him. She let him kiss her, touch her, let his hands wander beneath this stupid shirt she should have thrown out years ago.

She even urged him on, wrapped her arms around his neck and returned the kisses with a passion that shouldn’t surprise her after that other night, but she couldn’t believe that she was doing this AGAIN.

Jazz hooked her legs around his waist and pulled him closer, until she could feel the hard bulge in his pants against her clothed core. Why did he make her so weak, even after all those years? Was it just because he had been her first love? Her first man? Her first husband? She had dated since they had broken up, had even been in a relationship that had lasted for over a year. But had she felt with any of those men like she did now? As if it was simply right?

What was it that Jin had and that every other man lacked? She pushed these thoughts aside and focused on the feeling of Jin between her legs, his lips on her skin, his wandering hands. When he pulled the shirt over her head her hair got somehow entangled and she yelped when he pulled too hard.

“Oh, sorry,” he mumbled, close to her ear when his fingers soothingly ran through her hair.

“Don’t sweat it…” Jazz titled her head slightly so he could kiss neck. When he nipped at her throat Jazz shrieked and jumped a bit, hitting her head at the cupboard above her.

“Ouch! Dammit, Jin! That hurt!”

“Me biting you or you bumping your head?”

“Both.” She pouted slightly, this was not going as she had planned.

“Here, let me kiss it better.” He placed a soft kiss on the top of her head, one on her forehead, her cheeks, the tip of her nose and back to her lips. She sighed into the last one, wrapped her arms tighty around him.

“Hold on, I think it’s getting a bit too dangerous here.” With his hands under her ass he hoisted her up again and wanted to carry her towards the bedroom when he suddenly grunted and hissed – and not the sexy kind.

Jazz slid from his arms, Jin went down on his knees, his face contorted in pain.

“Oh my god, what’s wrong? Jin?” She crouched down next to him, tried to find out where it hurt.

“My – my back… I think I did my back in…”

She just wanted to say that it was stupid to try to carry her after all, but a “I told you so” was not the right thing to say now.

“Oh, okay. Lie down. Come on, lie down.” She urged him onto the floor, straddled his legs and started pressing her hands onto his back, next to his spine.

“Tell me where.” With steady pressure she followed the curve of his spine until he yelped. “Okay, take a deep breath. Trust me.” With that she put both hands on his back and pushed hard. There was a clunk and a grunt from Jin, but when Jazz took her hands back he carefully wriggled.

“I – I think it’s better now…”

“Good. I have some soothing ointment, let me get that. Can you get up? To the couch?”

She quickly grabbed the shirt from the kitchen floor and pulled it back on, the urge to cover herself suddenly flaring up now that the heat between them cooled off. It was probably better this way; she had almost done something stupid again. Why did she always react like this when he touched her?

Jazz inwardly chided herself while she grabbed the ointment from her bathroom cabinet.

“Where did you learn that?” Jin asked when she came back and settled next to the couch on her knees.

“You really want to know? I dated a bonesetter for some time. He was really good and showed me some easy tricks. Like that one.” With careful movements she started rubbing the ointment into his skin and he sighed in pleasure.

“Maybe I’m getting too old for stunts like that,” he joked self-deprecatingly.

“Maybe I’m getting too heavy for this,” she hot back only for him to protest.

“No, that has nothing to do with you. You are still light as a feather.”

“A feather with a stone tied to it. Don’t worry, I don’t feel offended.” Her thumbs rubbed circles in his back, she was wondering how she should phrase the thought she just had.

“Anyway, thank you for doing this. And I’m sorry for spoiling the mood and all.” He turned his head to watch her, smiled at her focused expression.

“Actually… I think it’s better this way. I mean, the other night has been great but let’s be honest, it doesn’t change a thing about our problems. We didn’t break up just because we weren’t into each other anymore. We had real issues and sex just can’t smooth it all over.” There was a hint of sadness in her voice but she tried hard to deliver this without emotion. Getting all nostalgic now wasn’t the answer.

“Since we are already honest… I never forgave myself for letting you go.”

Jazz turned her head so he couldn’t see her face anymore. “I never forgave myself for leaving…”

She got up abruptly and wiped her hands on her shorts. “Okay, I think you’re good to go now. No heavy lifting in the next few days, though.”

While he buttoned up his shirt Jazz tried to regain her composure. She waited for him at the door, wanted to make sure that he really left.

“So, are you okay? Because of Hidai and all…”

Jazz nodded. “I’m fine. But you better arrest him soon or I will have to chase him off the next time. And we both remember what happened the last time I did this.” She smiled wryly, but Jin’s smile was warm and honest.

“Yeah, I remember. And don’t worry, once he has this meeting it will be all over.”

She nodded slowly. She wanted this all to be over so she could go back to her usual life. And she needed him to be far away from her. When he was close her common sense seemed simply inexistent.

 

Jin slowly walked back to his office, he still had to sign some papers before he could turn in for the night. Besides, he wasn’t really tired yet. The scene in Jazz’s kitchen kept replaying in his mind. Not only the saucy parts, but the way she had looked at him. God, he had really messed that one up. The only really good and long relationship in his life and he just let her walk out of his life.

But she still had his shirt. A small smile played on his lips. To be fair, he still wore their wedding band but that had other reasons. No, she had kept his shirt and even if it had nothing to do with him anymore after all that time, it was still something she wanted around that reminded her of him. Of them.

Maybe there was still a chance…

When he walked around the corner, his office already in sight, his steps slowed down briefly. There, in front of his office, on the ground, sat Hayumi, a bag in her lap, head resting against the door.

“Hello little bird. Isn’t it time to go to sleep already?”

There was no denying that she had been crying and he felt a pang of guilt in his chest.

“Chief? Here is your dinner…”

 

7.

There was another bouquet of flowers waiting for Jazz the next day she came to the office. They were beautiful but she couldn’t bear to look at them so she left them on H’s desk. Last night, after her food had finally been delivered – cold of course, but she wasn’t in the mood to eat anymore anyway – she had spent an hour or so trying to detangle those pesky lingering emotions. Jazz wasn’t a very controlled person, she knew she would get weak the next time she met him again. So she would have to keep her distance from Jin, just to make sure. Maybe in another seven years she would be able to pull herself together and not jump him at every chance. She was so pathetic.

At least that whole disaster with Tomoyo would stop in a few days. She still couldn’t believe that he was criminal, but in the end you could never tell just by the look of someone. Keeping her distance from him would be so much easier than from Jin, especially once Tomoyo was caught and arrested.

Jazz sighed and tried to focus on work and for some time it worked just fine. And then something happened, a sound, a word, a scent, something that reminded her of Jin or of their marriage and Jazz had to cling to her focus, had to suppress the memories and look forwards.

When she came out of her office once to get some files H called her over to the reception desk.

“Miss Mann, is it your birthday?”

Jazz blinked and shook her head. “No, why are you asking?”

“Because there’s another flower delivery for you. Although… this is rather strange.” H put a small pot on the counter. “It arrived three minutes ago.”

Jazz stared at the small white flowers and green leaves. Clover. Someone sent her clover. No, not someone. She knew exactly who had sent her that.

“Throw it out.”

H’s eyes grew wide. “What? Why?”

“Doesn’t matter. I don’t want that.”

“There is also a card…”

Jazz raised her hand and shook her head again. “I think I know who sent that. Take it home or throw it away, I don’t care. I just don’t want to see that again.”

Her hands were still trembling when she came back into her office. Clover. Clover of all possible flowers! Of course he would send her clover.

He had picked her some clover after their first date. After their first fight he had apologized with a little bouquet of clover. And of course his proposal, completely out of the blue, a spur of the moment thing when they were just sitting outside and he suddenly plucked a clover, twined it into a circle and proposed with it, promising her his love and a real ring later.

She got both and for some very happy years she thought she had it all. But then his career got more and more important and eventually the ring was just a piece of metal with a diamond, his love had grown cold and she had to accept that nothing could last forever. Sending her clover now was almost cruel, although she was sure that his intentions had been far from that.

A few deep breaths later Jazz dialed his number, her heart racing.

“Hello, this is Namba. I can’t take your call right now, please try later again or speak after the *beep*.”

For a moment she hesitated, should she really leave this as a message? It would be easier for her, but not very classy. Well, she didn’t feel classy today anyway.

“Hey Jin, so… uhm, I got your flowers.” Pause. “I wish you wouldn’t do this to me. You know I can’t – this isn’t a good idea.” Another pause, a deep sigh. “So please don’t come and see me anymore. And don’t call me. I’m sorry, it’s just – I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. Goodbye.”

She ended the call, a heavy weight in her guts. It was better this way. It was better. If she kept telling herself this, she might believe it in the end.

All she wanted was going home early today, curl up with some wine and maybe a good book. Anything to take her mind off things and make her believe that her life was still normal. If it ever was.

Of course life wasn’t that simple. Or normal. When she left her office that evening someone was waiting at the reception desk for her.

 

Hayumi was staring off into space, her mind replaying the conversation she had wit h the chief last night over and over. He didn’t even apologize. He had forgotten about their date, had brushed her off and sent her to bed without even batting an eye. Was it that Jazz had been talking about? That he missed dinners and dates because of something more important? Well, Hayumi might understand if it really was something more important, like a mission to save Japan or maybe a VIP. But that hadn’t been the reason he had been late. No, SHE was the reason. His ex wife again.

Hayumi had seen that his shirt wasn’t buttoned correctly, how disheveled he was. That dopey grin was another hint. But she wouldn’t give up now. The war wasn’t over yet, far from it. No, Hayumi had just begun and she would fight for him, for his heart. For their future. Jazz Mann had her chance – and she blew it. Now it was Hayumi’s turn and she would use it wisely.

“Good morning, little bird. Still sleepy? It was a bit late last night, huh?”

She jumped at the voice next to her, straightened up and looked around to see if anyone overheard them. No one seemed to pay attention.

“Good morning, Chief. Did you enjoy your late night snack?” She gnawed at her bottom lip, waiting for his answer.

“I did, thank you very much. Katsudon is actually one of my favorites.” He patted her head gently and Hayumi felt as if her heart would explode.

“Say, if I talked to your instructors and got you out of classes today, would you help me with the preparation of the raid on Thursday?”

With a bright smile she nodded eagerly. “Of course, sir! It would be an honor!”

He chuckled lightly, shaking his head in amusement. “Sometimes I really regret not having an aide. Maybe you would have done a terrific job. At least you would keep me entertained. And fed.”

Back in his office he grabbed his phone to call Ishigami, but frowned. “A voicemail. Just a second, okay?”

Hayumi nodded and took a seat. She was happy. Obviously her plan to conquer his heart through his stomach was working well. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice his frown, the way his face fell. How he paled a bit. She only looked up when he set his phone down, a bit more forceful than usual.

“Chief? Is something wrong?”

He rested his hands on the desk, head hanging low.

“Chief Namba?” she hesitantly repeated.

“Yes, sorry, just – bad news. Okay, okay, back to work.”

The rest of the day he was rather tight lipped, seemed very stressed. Short tempered, but professional. Hayumi didn’t know if she liked him like that, but she was glad that she could help him after all.

 

“Surprise! I thought I could return the favor.”

Jazz faltered, her smile strained. “Tomoyo… that certainly is a surprise.”

He leaned in and kissed her briefly and she had to suppress her urge to flinch.

“I thought I’d whisk you away to a nice dinner.”

She wasn’t prepared for this. What should she do? How should she act? If she turned him down now… could she turn him down? Would that endanger the whole operation she had helped setting up? Quick thinking. She had to make a decision now.

“That sounds – great actually. Sorry, let me take care of a last thing, okay? I’m with you in a minute.” She smiled brightly to distract him while she started scribbling something on a piece of paper.

“H, could you make sure that the sender of that clover gets this? A nice thank you note for his present. And make sure he gets it fast, okay?” She tried to convey the urgency of the situation with her expression and cursed herself for not confiding a bit more in her receptionist.

“Sure thing, I’ll take care of it.” H smiled and took the note, a bit startled when Jazz grabbed her wrist.

“As soon as possible.” Jazz emphasized this point and H nodded slowly.

“Okay. I got it.”

With that Jazz took a deep breath and turned towards Tomoyo. “So, where are you taking me?”

“That, my dear, is a surprise.”

The whole ride in the car Jazz was nervous. She tried to guess where they were heading, but couldn’t tell just by the streets they were going down.

Tomoyo kept blabbering about some stuff she had no interest in and she was still trying to figure out what to do now.

“So, this is our fifth date now, isn’t it?” There was something in his tone that caught her attention.

“Really? You might be right…” Only now she noticed how close they were sitting; he must have scooted closer while she was distracted. Bad mistake.

“The first moment I saw you I knew you are not a one of those ‘three dates women’. I just knew you had too much class for that.”

His hand ghosted over her thigh and Jazz sat up and turned away a bit.

“I also have too much class to get laid before the dinner.” She smiled sweetly, let the possibility of a ‘but maybe after that’ float between them.

“Ah yes, never keep a lady hungry – in no regard.” He winked and chuckled, leaned back in the seat and told his driver to hurry up.

There were a lot of innuendos and unwelcome touches that made Jazz more than uncomfortable and she excused herself several times, pretending to go to the restroom but actually she tried to call Jin. The first call went right to the voicemail and after that she only got the recorded message that the number she had dialed was currently not available.

Her anger was flaring up but she had to smile for Tomoyo and think of a reason to cut the evening short after all. She declined most of the alcohol except for a glass of wine, claiming she had an important meeting the next day.

“You know, I like the whole ‘hard to get’ act, but not when it borders on being a prude,” Tomoyo dryly remarked when she politely shook her head when the waiter came back with another bottle of wine.

“Maybe I simply prefer to stay sober enough to actually enjoy the evening,” she managed to reply instead of choosing some stronger words.

He looked a bit sheepish for a second there before his usual rich guy’s confidence was back in place.

“Don’t worry, I will make sure you’ll enjoy it.”

She really needed a plan now, she wouldn’t sleep with him just to keep the act going. Where was Jin? He used to be inseparable from his phone and now she couldn’t reach him for hours? That must have been a joke, and not a good one. At least she couldn’t laugh.

Jazz was torn between playing for time and wanting this to be over as soon as possible. She dreaded the moment when the waiter would come with the bill and the dinner was officially over. After excusing herself for the last possible time she prayed that she would reach Jin on the phone but when she came back to the table – and an already impatient Tomoyo – she knew she would have to get out of this on her own. Maybe she should fake food poisoning? No one tried to get into the pants of someone who was constantly throwing up.

“Shall we?” Tomoyo got up and offered her his arm that she hesitantly took. Was it better to make a scene here and now? Or should she wait until they were outside? While she was still thinking he already led her outside.

But she mustn’t get into his car. Under no circumstances. Maybe she could call a cab or something – her mind was racing, it was hard not to simply freeze on the spot so he had to drag her away. Her feet kept on moving even without the help of her brain. If everything failed she could still simply burst out in tears; wouldn’t be too hard the way she felt just now.

Jazz was almost jittery by the time they left the restaurant, her throat tight, heart racing. Hopefully Tomoyo would think it was because she was excited, not anxious. With her phone in her coat pocket she felt at least a bit at ease but now she regretted that she hadn’t instructed H to give her the classic ‘emergency call’ so she could fake her way out of here.

“As a gentleman I offer my lady the choice of course – your place or mine?” Tomoyo let his arms slide around her waist and pulled her closer. “Although I have to tell you that I have a jacuzzi at home.”

Jazz squirmed slightly. “And I don’t have a bathing suit, so…”

“You won’t need one, that’s the advantage of a private hot tub.” He was whispering in her ear and now Jazz felt really grossed out. She stiffened in his half embrace but he didn’t seem to notice.

“So, my place then, huh?” He was leading her towards his waiting car when suddenly two men cut off the way, clad in black and acting all intimidating. With success.

“I think we are all going to our place.” One of them motioned behind Jazz and Tomoyo where three more men were standing.

“What are you-?” Tomoyo seemed just as surprised as Jazz was but when one of them brushed his jacket away a bit to reveal the gun he had beneath Tomoyo immediately shut up.

“What is happening?” Jazz hissed, annoyed and scared. She had wanted to get out of the situation, but not like that!

“Your sugar daddy has to talk shop with someone, sweetheart,” the man with the gun said with a grin. He had an accent that was strangely familiar to Jazz.

“I’m not your sweetheart and he’s not my sugar daddy,” she snapped only for Tomoyo to grab her arm.

“You better shut up now.” He nodded towards the man with the gun. “Who has sent you?”

“That is not for me to tell you. Keep your little bitch on a short leash or something might happen to her.”

They had cornered Jazz and Tomoyo and now led them to another car. Pretending to be scared – well, maybe not as much pretending but exaggerating – Jazz kept close to Tomoyo; he gave her at least enough cover to slip her hand into her pocket and grab her phone. She had done this a million times with closed eyes and now she prayed that it would work now. This might be the last time she would ever call someone.

 

“Chief? Is this here correct? Seems not right…” Hayumi showed Namba a form and pointed at one column.

“Trust me, I filled those out a million times already. This is correct.” He sighed and rubbed his temples briefly.

“You are looking tired. Maybe we should take a break. You could smoke or get a coffee…” She had hoped that spending time with him would be a bit more – romantic. It wasn’t. Only work, work, work. But this was important after all.

“You wouldn’t mind?” He motioned towards his box of cigarettes on the desk and Hayumi nodded.

“It’s fine, Chief. If it helps you, just do it.”

He chuckled lowly and sighed again. “I think I better get us another coffee. I’m right back.”

Hayumi went back to the forms, trying to get everything right. So many rules and figures, her head was spinning. And the chief was a bit strange, ever since they were in his office.

With a sigh she rested her head on the desk, now that the chief wasn’t there to see it. With her eyes closed she simply breathed, in and out, tried to relax until the ringing of a phone startled her. Namba’s phone. What if it was an emergency? She quickly grabbed it but hesitated when she saw the name on the display. His ex wife. Anger welled up in her, she wanted to throw it against the wall to make it stop. And it did, even without crashing it. She let out a relieved breath, there was no way she could have explained why she destroyed the chief’s phone. Just like she wouldn’t be able to explain why she deleted the notification and blocked the number of his ex wife. Her fingers were doing this on their own, she didn’t even think about it much.

Whatever Jazz wanted, it couldn’t be that important. It was probably just another attempt of her to get into his bed. Hayumi couldn’t allow this, the chief was more than just a man for casual sex. Someone like him, so kind and warm, so smart and determined, someone like this deserved more than some sneaky ex wife who only broke his heart.

With racing heart and sweaty palms she put the phone down again and went back to work, trying to act as if nothing at all had happened.

“Here, I got one for you, too.” Namba set the coffee down on the desk and plopped down in his chair. “So, where were we?”

 

“Where are we going?” Jazz stage whispered towards Tomoyo in the backseat of the car the men shoved them in.

“I have no idea,” he hissed back, obviously less than pleased and really clueless.

“Was that a train station over there?” She tried to stare out of the window.

“I don’t know.”

“That restaurant, what was its name again?” She had to gather as many information as possible right now.

“’Blooming lotus’? Why are you asking that?” He looked at her with confusion showing in his expression.

“I don’t know, maybe because it gives me a false sense of security to talk about mundane things when we are getting kidnapped,” she snapped, voice just above a whisper.

“Hey! Be quiet back there! Or I’m going to gag you,” one man from the front seat threatened.

“Sorry, I’m just a bit nervous,” Jazz sheepishly answered.

“Don’t worry, cherié, this isn’t about you. But you should choose your company more careful the next time.”

Jazz huffed a dry laugh, not even looking at Tomoyo. “Yeah, tell me about it…”

 

The ringing of his phone pulled Goto away from the examination of another file.

“Hello?”

No one answered and he just wanted to hang up when he heard voices and indistinct background noises. He quickly looked at his display again, started recording the call and put it on speaker.

“Where are we going?” That was Jazz, it was definitely her voice. What was going on? With a strong sense of dread Goto hurried over to Namba’s office. This wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t that Jazz had accidentally called him.

“Chief! It’s Jazz! I think she’s in trouble!”

Hayumi’s eyes widened when Namba jumped up and hurried to Goto who still held his phone. She could faintly hear Jazz’s voice, saying that she had gotten kidnapped.

 

8.

“Uhm, Chief…” Hayumi timidly began but Namba cut her off.

“This is not the time! Goto, tell me exactly what happened!”

So Goto simply did that, gave a short report of how his phone rang. A very short report. In the end they kept listening to the phone, hoping for more hints, but all they got were traffic noises and some more snippets of conversations until some man told Jazz to finally shut or – he left the threat hanging in the air and for once Jazz seemed to listen. Although she kept muttering things like ‘supermarket’ and ‘train station’. Unfortunately she couldn’t give them a street name or anything else that would help them to find her.

“Okay, Goto, go and gather some men. Hayumi, stay here and keep listening. As soon as she gives us another hint, tell me.”

“Sir? Sir, this here got just delivered for you.” Naruko popped up, right into the tensed atmosphere in Namba’s office, and held out a small note to him. “Did I – did I miss something?”

With a sigh Namba grabbed the note and looked at it. “Well, that’s a bit late now…”

Hidai took me out to dinner. Help! How should I act now around him? Fake an emergency call!

 

Nervously Jazz kept looking out of the car window, trying to find out where they were heading. The guys in the front didn’t talk much and Tomoyo had no idea either, so there was no use in talking to him. What should she do? What did they want?

“I will never again go out with you,” she simply said, not that he cared. Tomoyo only scoffed, he had other worries right now.

After almost 20 minutes the car finally stopped, much to Jazz’s surprise not at an abandoned warehouse but a nice, upscale neighborhood. The men led them inside to what turned out to be a typical Japanese inn with a restaurant and a small garden.

“This is much nicer than the place you took me to,” Jazz remarked and noticed with a deep satisfaction how annoyed Tomoyo was.

The men around them only snickered, one winked at Jazz who coolly looked ahead. No use in fraternizing with the kidnappers. Jazz had been to Stockholm once, she didn’t need that syndrome on top of the souvenirs she had gotten there.

“Mr. Hidai, thank you for following my invitation. And thank you for bringing such lovely company. Enchanté.”

A man greeted them once they were pushed into a nice traditional room with tatami mats and a narrow table.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

Rolling her eyes at these cliché lines Jazz looked around, trying to figure out where they were and how she could get out again.

“Mr. Hidai, why this hostility? Take a seat, get a drink. The sake is very good here.”

With one hand stretched out towards the table the man smiled at Jazz.

“Thank you, I think I’ll have sake,” she said and walked towards the chairs, a bit staggering on her feet.

“Very well. Mr. Hidai, will you join us?”

Once they all had a cup Jazz turned towards their host. “Would you be so kind to tell me with whom I’m actually drinking?”

The man tilted his head and smiled. “Of course, mademoiselle. My name is – Charles. Simply Charles.”

“Well, simply Charles, cheers.” She knocked the sake back without hesitation; figuring that if they wanted to kill her they would use other means that poison.

“Where are my manners. Can I take your coat, mademoiselle?”

Jazz stiffened. They had taken her purse when they shoved her into the car, but no one had thought of searching her coat. Hesitantly she handed it over just for some guy to shove a hand into her pocket.

“A phone?” Charles sounded disappointed, as if he had caught a child trying to steal a cookie.

“It’s off, sir.”

Relief flooded Jazz. “It ran out of battery during dinner.”

“Ah. Well, in that case you won’t miss it, right?” Charles smiles and motioned towards his henchman who dropped the phone on the floor and slammed his heel into it, shattering into a million tiny pieces.

“My games…” Jazz wailed in faked indignation.

Someone else started frisking Hidai and took his phone, too. Now she really was in trouble.

“Mr. Hidai, I am really interested in this – thing you want to sell.”

Charles now completely focused on Tomoyo, gave Jazz a chance to examine her surroundings. She wondered if anyone had gotten her call and if yes, how long her phone had actually kept going. If someone was coming for her. Not Jin, obviously. He hadn’t taken her calls and although this wasn’t the right time for it, this hurt much more than she had expected. Seven years and with only one night she was right back at square one.

“I actually already have a buyer,” Tomoyo just explained.

“Ah yes, but now you are here already, so why not talk about business?” Charles drank some more sake before he continued. “I would say I pay what the others wanted to pay plus 20 percent.”

“And if I decline?” The tremor in his voice gave Tomoyo away. He was scared and that told Jazz she should be scared, too.

“Well, in that case I would have to persuade you.” The men around them more or less subtly changed their stances, showed off guns and knives.

“But if I sell it to you, I will get trouble with the original buyer!” Tomoyo almost jumped up only for Charles to wave lazily.

“Non, I will make sure that won’t happen. I give you my word.”

By now Jazz was fed up with them talking as if she wasn’t even there, and about things she didn’t fully understand.

“And the word of a gentleman can be trusted, right?” She smiled at Charles who nodded once, looking at her with renewed interest.

“Mr. Hidai, I suppose you don’t have the merchandise with you, do you? Non? Well, how about you go home and get it, then? I will keep your lovely companion here – just to make sure you’re coming back.”

Jazz bit her tongue, there was no need in telling Charles that Tomoyo couldn’t care less about her. Before she could even protest two men led Hidai away, leaving Jazz and Charles in company of some more henchmen.

“Now, my dear, would you like to have dinner with me?” Charles motioned towards the table again and Jazz shrugged.

“I have already eaten, but I guess I could eat a bit. Maybe a dessert.”

“You are not scared of me, are you?”

A waitress clad in a traditional Yutaka entered with a tray and bowed before leaving again.

“I had worse dates. Hell, this isn’t even the worst one tonight.” Jazz took a plate with sakura mochi and quickly put her hands together. Charles laughed.

“You are a witty one. I like that in a woman.”

She huffed a short laugh. “Really? What else do you like in a woman?”

He gave her an amused grin. “Me.”

Without batting an eye Jazz took a mochi, raised it to her lips and bit off. “Oh sorry, did you expect me to be shocked?”

“Ah, mademoiselle, you are like a fresh breeze in a stuffy room.” He quickly said something to one of his men in French, smiled again at Jazz and raised his cup once more. “If Mr. Hidai isn’t back in one hour or tries to escape, you will have to pay the price.”

“Like I said, the worst date of the night. Probably even of my life.” She ate another mochi before she wiped her fingers with a serviette. “I think I’m done with dinner now. May I excuse myself to wash my hands?” There was defiance in her voice, a hint of sarcasm. She had understood what he had been saying. They would kill her either way. Time to get out.

“Chief! The connection was interrupted!” Hayumi called out when she suddenly heard a peep and then the busy signal.

Namba and Goto were standing next to Shinonome who was typing at his laptop in dizzying speed.

“So they started at this restaurant… then a train station… super market…”

“Can you find her?” Namba was impatiently staring at the screen, already five cigarettes in.

“I’m working on it, so back off,” the hacker grumbled. “Why can’t she just turn on her GPS like a normal person…”

“Find every single security cam that has recorded that car they left in! We have to find them!”

So Hidai had taken Jazz to dinner but someone else had kidnapped her and that really frustrated him. He clenched and unclenched his hands, again and again, the nervous energy needed a way to leave his body. As if this whole situation wasn’t already nerve wrecking enough, now they also lost the only connection to Jazz.

“Dammit!”

He wanted to slam the wall, kick and punch something, someone, preferably that stupid bastard Hidai. Why did he have to take Jazz out tonight? Why did he have to take her out at all? She had made clear that she had no interest in him and yet… and yet Namba had made her pretend otherwise just to get his investigation going. And once again he had proven that Jazz had been right all along – his work always came first.

“Chief? Anything I can do to help?” Hayumi almost reached out but let her hand sink before she could actually touch his arm.

“Hm? Oh, you’re still here? No, it’s fine… go to bed, it’s getting late…” he brushed her off, turned back towards Shinonome.

“B-but Chief, I really-“

“Hayumi, go to bed! I don’t have the time to babysit you now! This is serious!” With every word his voice got louder until Goto pulled him a bit to the side.

“Chief – yelling at her won’t change anything. Let her stay, tell her to get coffee – decaf for you. We have to stay focused here.”

For a second it seemed as if Namba would yell at Goto next, shoulders squared, expression cold. But then he exhaled, almost deflated.

“Yes, you – you are right. Hayumi, stay if you like. I’m going to – I don’t know. Just give me a minute.”

He left the room, leaned against the wall outside. Why had she called Goto? Why in the world had Jazz called Goto and not him? Was she really that stubborn, that resentful that she wouldn’t ask him for help?

Of course she was. He took his phone out, thumb swiping over the underside. He didn’t want to listen to her message once more, but maybe if he would, there was a hint… No. He had listened to it several times already and Jazz had sent it around noon, so there was no connection to her kidnapping. He knew this, knew it all, but he played the message nonetheless. Only that his phone showed him another voicemail. A cold shiver ran down his spine when he tapped the button and listened to it.

“Jin? Dammit, Jin, where are you? Listen, Hidai showed up and dragged me to dinner. When you hear this, call me. Or simple come here. ‘Blossoming lotus’. I can’t stall him all night and I don’t want to break his nose just yet.” A short pause. “You – you once said you’d always come to rescue me. Now come!”

With a pounding heart he checked the time. Dammit! He could have saved her if he had heard this before! He was so close to smashing his phone against the wall, only barely held back. This stupid, stupid phone!

But she had called him. Had called for him. And he would find her.

 

Jazz stormed through the hallway towards the bathroom. At least as much as storming was possible when she was flanked by two huge guys, making sure ‘she wouldn’t get lost on the way’. She was angry and annoyed, all she wanted was to get out of there somehow. She needed a plan.

Once inside of the restroom she looked around, but there wasn’t a conveniently placed weapon or even escape route. She couldn’t climb through the tiny window and she couldn’t break through the wall.

“Oh shit,” she groaned, pondering her options. If she couldn’t escape through the restroom, she had to get out of it first. But not with those thugs outside.

“Hey, uhm, can you get me my purse?” she loudly asked into the room, hoping the guys could hear her.

“No.”

“Okay, so have any of you some tampons? I could use one.”

There was some shuffling and whispering before one of them asked: “For what?”

“For what? Really? I’m on my period, you moron! Now go and get me a tampon or I will make your life hell – even more so than it must already be!” Channeling her best PMS bitch Jazz yelled at them through the door, hoping they would buy the act.

More French was whispered, Jazz could understand that they were arguing which one of them would go and get the dreaded utensil, but eventually one of them left. Good. Now she had to get rid of the other one and that wouldn’t be that simple. And she didn’t have much time. Quickly she knelt in front of the toilet and unscrewed the seat, constantly reminding herself that she might get killed if she didn’t do whatever was necessary to escape.

Still crouching on the floor she groaned loudly. “Hey, is there still one of you out there? I – I think I need help…”

“I’m not helping you with that, lady!” The panic is the thug’s voice was almost hilarious but Jazz had to focus.

“Not that! Damn, I – ugh… I think it’s not my period… I think it’s my appendix…”

The door opened slowly and she heard footsteps, waited until she saw the shoes. The guy leaned down towards her.

“Are you -?”

With all her strength she hurled the toilet seat at him, hit his head and kicked his stomach on the rise while he was falling. Another hard smack with the seat and he stopped moving, head bleeding. She only hoped she hadn’t killed him.

Adrenaline was pumping through her body when she ran out of the restroom, through the hallway only to see another man coming towards her. She turned around, stumbling forwards, a dead end. With a deep breath she jumped against a wall – paper wall, thank goodness, but still with wooden braces.

Ungracefully she fell into another room, somehow getting back on her feet, her right side aching terribly. Another wall, this time with a door, another hallway. No one in sight, but she heard the commotion behind her, pushing forwards. She had to get out, she had to make it! Another room, a window! Her heart was racing, her lungs burning, her muscles screaming at her but she pressed ahead, jumped out of the window, leapt into freedom. Or so she thought. She ended up in the inlying garden of the inn, panting, hurting, sobbing.

 

“Chief! We found the place they brought them to!” Goto burst through the door into the hallway where Jin was sitting on the floor, head resting against the wall. Immediately he jumped up – groaned a bit at the exertion – and followed Goto back into the office.

“’Sakura Inn’, 20, maybe 25 minutes from here. There is a CCTV in that street.” Shinonome showed him the footage of the car, of Jazz getting out and being led inside of a traditional looking Japanese house.

“Okay, I want every available man-“ Namba just started when his phone rang. With a curse he took the call. “What? Oh… when? Uh-huh… where? Good… stay there, watch him. We’ll be there as soon as possible.”

He sighed deeply and straightened up again. “Okay, change of plans. One of our patrols spotted Hidai. We are going there and arrest him. Securing the data is priority number one.”

Hayumi stared at him, eyes wide. Did he just abandon his ex wife? For the sake of the operation?

Goto didn’t even question the decision, but the tension in his jaw, his clenched fists told a different story.

“What? Anyone something to say?” Namba challenged them and Hayumi stepped up.

“Chief! What if Miss Mann is in danger?”

“She is a grown up woman, she can take care of herself. We have to get that data, cadet. That is the whole point of this operation.”

She had never seen him this hard, unyielding. He hadn’t even used her name, let alone his nickname for her.

“But –“

“No talking back now! I know what you want to say and yes, it sucks! This is personal, but personal doesn’t always mean important, you got that? First Hidai, then Jazz. Dismissed.” Namba’s breath was ragged, his chest heaving under the weight on his shoulders now – and on his heart.

 

Jazz cursed her own stupidity, why hadn’t she checked the directions before bursting through walls and jumping out of a window? She tried to calm down, panicking now wouldn’t help her. The garden didn’t offer much cover, of course everything was neatly trimmed and groomed. The small pagoda and the pond wouldn’t hide her. There was a small wooden fence, some trees and bushes. The trees where too small to climb on and the bushes to narrow to hide behind. So she crawled under them, made herself as small as possible.

And then she waited. Every sound, every creaking made her cower deeper into the greenery. The waiting strained her nerves, made her jittery and anxious.

She could hear voices from the inside, hurried steps. Something breaking, probably the debris she left behind after destroying that paper wall. It wouldn’t take long for them to find her, but at least she had put up an honest to god fight!

Seconds ticked by, turned into minutes. Parts of her body hurt and other parts were numb. But she didn’t dare to move.

Footsteps, a door sliding open. Jazz held her breath, shaking under the leaves.

And then – someone whistled. Imitated a bird. A nightingale?

“Jin…” she whispered, almost sobbed. “Jin!”

“Jazz? Where are you?”

She crawled out from under the bush as quickly as she could, leaves and small twigs sticking to her, in her clothes, in her hair.

“My god, Jazz!” With a few huge strides he was next to her, steadied her, pulled her close only to let her go a bit when she winced.

“How are you? Are you hurt?”

“What are you doing here?”

They were speaking at the same time, cautiously checking each other; Jazz to see if it was really him and Jin to see how badly she was hurt.

“God, I thought they – I thought I’d – what took you so long? Why didn’t you call me back?!” She lightly punched his arm, unable to endure this tension any longer.

“YOU have told me not to call you anymore!” He chuckled, her display of anger rather amusing right now.

“And since when do you listen to me? You know I can be irrational! I don’t need to make sense all the time, I can change my mind whenever I want!”

Jazz was already angry, already confused about her own her emotions, she didn’t need him to point out how ridiculous this all was. The fact that she still loved him.

“I listened to you because I didn’t want to upset you!” He was close to tear his own hair. She could be so infuriating, so frustrating, so wonderfully surprising and adorably inconsequent.

“Oh yeah? Great plan, Sherlock, am I looking happy to you?!” She was still panting, her chest heaving with every shuddery breath she took; maybe she had broken a rib. Maybe it was only his presence. But now that the adrenaline was running out she needed something to keep her going and if that something turned out to be completely unjustified anger at her ex husband, who was she to complain? As long as it kept her from breaking down, from crying her heart out, she wouldn’t complain.

“Happy? No, actually you are not looking happy. You are looking fierce, though, and right now I’m not keen on messing with you. But you better get moving now, I want a doctor to have a look at you. You can yell some more at me later.” He supported her, one arm around her waist, and Jazz leaned her head against his chest.

“Thank you. For coming to rescue me.” After everything her voice was just a whisper now.

“I told you I would. I told you.”

 

9.

Police cars were parked outside, an ambulance or two to add some variety. Paramedics were taking care of some cuts and scrapes Jazz had, but the bruised rib was by far the most annoying injury she had suffered. To her relief the guy she had knocked out was still alive, some stitches and he was good as new. Charles had already been taken to the PD when Jin led her outside and Jazz wondered how she could have missed all this.

“How did you find me?” she eventually asked, too many things have been happening for her to keep up with.

“Meticulous police work. A bit of luck. Some very clever victim sending hints. It wasn’t easy, but we managed.” His eyes shone with pride and Jazz nodded slowly.

“Good. What about Hidai?”

“We have arrested him, not even 15 minutes ago.” It was another voice and Jazz turned around to see who was speaking when Goto came closer, with Hayumi in tow and another man. Tall, brown hair, and impressive scowl on his face.

“Ah, Captain Kaga, good to see you.” Namba didn’t move an inch away from her, still standing right next to her.

“Chief! They have the data!” Hayumi practically skipped over but came to an abrupt halt when she saw Jazz, completely wrecked and covered in cuts and bruises. “Oh my god, Miss Mann!” She was close to tears, a fact that almost startled Jazz. Except for their conversation that one time they weren’t exactly friends. They barely knew each other. That girl had to toughen up a bit before she was a real officer.

“We’re wrapping this up here, you go and take Miss Mann to the hospital, Chief.” Goto nodded towards Jazz who smiled gratefully. She really wanted to leave, although the hospital didn’t sound exactly inviting.

“Thanks, I will.”

“Can I come, too, Chief?” Hayumi piped up.

Jazz shook her head slightly, she’d rather be alone with Jin. Or just alone. She wouldn’t be able to watch that girl fawn over her ex husband, not on top of the physical pain she already felt.

“We are going to a hospital, not getting some ice cream. It’s not the place for little birds. You better go back and to bed, there’s class tomorrow morning.” Namba almost reached out to pat Hayumi’s head but changed his mind, only someone who looked closely was able to see how his hand twitched briefly.

“But Chief, I – I really have to tell you something… something… important.” The miserable look on her face made his conviction falter slightly, but Jazz just sighed and groaned when she moved a bit, drawing his attention back to her.

“Tell me another time, okay?”

His rejection hit a weak spot, whatever held Hayumi together so far melted away under his dismissal.

“NO! This is important, okay?” Goto, Namba and Jazz all turned to face Hayumi at her outburst. Only Captain Kaga shrugged and walked off, this wasn’t his fight after all. He had better things to do.

Namba squared his shoulders, stood up to his full height.

“Is it more important than bringing an injured person to a doctor?” His admonishing tone was so out of place that Jazz had to bite her tongue not to laugh.

“Y-yes, Chief…” Hayumi didn’t seem to notice the contradiction in his behavior, but she didn’t back down and Jazz couldn’t help but to respect that. Standing up for the own convictions was admirable after all.

“Well, what is so important that you don’t want me to take Jazz to the hospital, then?”

“Uhm… Chief… first I want to remind you that everything worked out in the end, right?” The way Hayumi fidgeted with her hands nervously made Jazz anxious, too. She wouldn’t tell him NOW what she felt for him, right? After that speech Jazz had given her? Dear Lord, that girl was really out of it.

“So, that call earlier… that one that went to your voicemail, when Miss Mann called to ask about help with that date… uhm, I – I somehow – ACCIDENTALLY – I might have… deleted the notification?” Her voice trailed off, leaving the group in silence. Jazz couldn’t think, and obviously Jin couldn’t speak. Goto subtly changed his stance to be able to hold Jin back in case he lost it.

“You… you did WHAT?!”

Jazz’s hand shot forwards, grabbed Jin’s sleeve and tugged him back. “Calm down, let her explain.”

With a nervous glance towards Namba Hayumi swallowed once and let her head hang. “I – it rang when you were getting coffee… and I – I wasn’t thinking, I just wanted – I wanted her to leave you alone.”

“You wanted her to leave me alone… what gives you the right to decide who may call me and who not? Who are you to think you can make this decision?!” Namba was yelling and Hayumi flinched visibly.

“Jin!” With a gasp Jazz jumped up and pushed herself between them. “I think this is enough.” The sharpness of her tone didn’t leave much room to argue.

“I didn’t want – I didn’t think…” Hayumi stammered, almost freezing when Namba glared at her.

“That is right. You didn’t think. Tampering with the phone of your superior – that is more than stupid!”

“Jin! It was only one call! I called you over and over later. There just wasn’t service, I think.” Jazz tried to calm him down, reason with him.

“No, there was just this one call. My phone didn’t show any more else…” He made a noise of disbelief and took out the phone. “Blocked… you are blocked. How-?” He turned his gaze to Hayumi again, full of anger and disappointment. The young woman cowered under his glare and now even Jazz lost her composure.

“God dammit, girl! Are you really that desperate?!”

“I – I didn’t think something like this would happen!” As long as Jin had been yelling at her Hayumi had just taken it all, but now that it was Jazz her fighting spirit came back.

“You didn’t think I might call him for something important? When I’m part of this stupid mission?” Trying hard to hold back Jazz didn’t even raise her voice yet, just stated the facts for now.

“But you could just as well call someone else! Instructor Goto for example! I mean, why would you call the chief if you don’t like him anymore? I thought – I just thought it would be better this way! Before you hurt him even more than you already did!” In her unshakeable conviction to be on the right track Hayumi hurled these words at Jazz who stared at her in utter disbelief.

“I hurt him? I hurt him? What about he hurt me?”

“You got over him just fine! Dating other men and all that! But he – he’s still hurting. He’s still wearing his stupid wedding band and he won’t even talk about it!”

Jazz’s eyes flitted over to Jin who sheepishly shrugged. She had noticed he was wearing it, at first had brushed it off as prop for the undercover part. Later she had assumed it was for him to keep the women on distance. Women like Hayumi, who developed a crush and might cause trouble.

“You had left him and now he tries to get by somehow. He doesn’t even see that there are – that there are people caring for him…”

Jazz inwardly groaned, now really wasn’t the time for Hayumi to confess. But the young woman only kept on ranting.

“And why did you leave him? Because of missed dinners? Nightshifts? Undercover missions? That is just selfish!” Hayumi was breathing heavily, still fighting with the adrenaline.

Jazz took a deep breath, tried to keep calm. She didn’t look at Jin who was watching her intently.

“I left him… because I understood that his work was more important for him. So I pushed my personal feelings aside and did what was best for the both of us.”

“Just leaving him instead of fighting?”

Jazz’s anger exploded, finding a suitable target in the equally angry woman in front of her. “No! I have fought but at some point I had to make a decision!”

“And you don’t think you should have asked me before you filed our divorce?” Jin asked suddenly, making Jazz turn her head and lose focus.

“What? I didn’t ask you because I already knew your answer. God, you couldn’t have make it clearer if you had written me a letter.”

“What are you talking about?” He furrowed his brow, couldn’t followed her train of thought anymore.

“Jin, I heard you! Back then when you were talking to Ozawa about that undercover mission!”

That tinge of sadness, of frustration and lingering pain wormed its way into her voice, replaced some of the anger and made Jin falter for a second before he answered.

“But I had told him that I didn’t want to participate!”

“Yes, but it was the way you had said it! You regretted it so much more than just because you couldn’t help a friend. You WANTED to go, the only thing holding you back was me! Do you think I wanted to be your ball and chain? That I was happy knowing you couldn’t do what you wanted because of me? Not because of us, just because of me!”

Sooner or later their love would have broken at it, at the unspoken accusations, the fact that he was unhappy, feeling trapped in their marriage. No, he wanted to get out there, to climb up the ranks. Going on undercover missions, saving people and the whole country – what did she have to offer that was better than that? Nothing. She had nothing. So when they started drifting apart because of all that she put a stop to it before their love was completely gone. To save what still remained. Preserve the love like she had preserved the clover ring he had given her, a lifetime ago.

“I – I think I really want to go to that hospital now,” she managed to say before the lump in her throat took her voice away.

“Yes, of course… I’m taking you there.” Jin reached out towards her arm, but Jazz shook her head.

“No. Goto,” Jazz croaked, tears held back only by her own stubbornness.

Slowly Jin let his hand sink again, nodded once and turned to Goto.

“Would you…?”

“Of course. Come, Jazz.”

She didn’t even look back at him, or at Hayumi.

 

“Chief, I – I’m really so-“ Hayumi began once Jazz and Goto were out of sight.

“Oh, you will be sorry, don’t worry. You haven’t only violated my privacy, you have also endangered an ongoing investigation! You have put my wife in danger-”

“Your ex wife,” she timidly interrupted.

“You are not the one to comment on my marital status! She could have got killed because YOU were selfish and stupid! Do you really think a public safety officer should act like that?!” He was furious, partly because of her, partly because of himself. He couldn’t change the mistakes he did in the past and he couldn’t change hers, but she had definitely overstepped a boundary and he couldn’t let her get away without consequences.

“Tomorrow you will leave the academy.” He reined in his anger for now, tried to think of all the things he still had to do. Paperwork and reports about the operation that night for example. Getting everything ready to expel a cadet.

“B-but Chief…” Hayumi’s bottom lip trembled, tears welled up in her eyes.

“No buts. Your actions were inexcusable.” He couldn’t let himself get swayed by her display of emotions. She had proven to be unreliable, not only by tampering with his phone. She had been made rash decisions before but at least they had been fueled by her sense for justice. Now she just had acted on her own selfish desires and Namba couldn’t let that slide.

“Go back to the academy and to bed. I still got work to do.” He fumbled for a cigarette, not even looking at her.

“Your ex wife had been right: you are cruel.” With a sob Hayumi ran off, leaving Namba with a sour expression.

“So that’s what she thinks, huh?” Lighting up his smoke he stared off into the distance, into the direction Jazz and Goto had left to.

 

“Jazz?” Goto carefully knocked at the door, waiting for her to answer.

“Come in.”

She was lying in a hospital bed, at least cleaned up a bit, some pain medication taking the edge out of the pain in her ribcage.

“How are you?” Goto sat down in a chair next to the bed, grey eyes watching her intently.

“I’ve been better,” she admitted and sat up with a groan. “But I’ve also been worse. Why are you still here?”

He shrugged, his pokerface impeccable. “I didn’t want you to be alone here.”

“Don’t you have something better to do? Work?”

He leaned back, kept his gaze on her. “Ishigami is currently interrogating Hidai, Kaga does the same with that Charles. I’m not exactly needed right now.”

She smiled weakly. “Don’t tell me Public Safety can spare you for a minute. I know the whole thing would fell apart without you.”

Goto’s lips curled into a small smile. “Thanks, but you know that’s not true. The chief though… without him things would be definitely more difficult for the rest of us.”

“What, now you’re singing the praises on him?” She leaned back into her pillow, closed her eyes and exhaled. “You don’t have to do that.”

“Do what?”

She couldn’t see his face but could imagine his feigned innocence.

“You won’t change my mind. I made my decision years ago.”

For a moment silence engulfed them. Goto shifted in his seat and Jazz opened her eyes again.

“What?”

“I’m not supposed to tell you that but I’m afraid if I won’t do it, no one will. And that would be a shame. Since you are already talking about decisions… the chief had to make one earlier. About going after Hidai or coming to get you.”

“And he went after Hidai, I know. Good thing you could arrest him.” She was tired and there was this dull ache that she just couldn’t ignore. Did he really have to make her talk about this now?

“Not exactly. He called in some favors. Captain Kaga went after Hidai. The chief – he directly came to get you. There might be an investigation about that soon; the commissioner had made it clear that Hidai and the data had top priority. Plus we lost the chance to get the original buyers. That might be a problem after all.”

Jazz didn’t know what to say. She was touched. And angry.

“See? That is exactly what I never wanted. I didn’t want him to have to choose between his job and me. Because he would lose either way.”

“You know how he sometimes says that personal isn’t necessarily important, right?” Goto asked, now leaning forwards in the chair. Jazz nodded weakly.

“Well, this time personal was also important, at least for him. His personal decision was the most important one. And the right one.”

Jazz turned her face away from him, not wanting him to see her cry. Eventually she fell asleep.

When she woke up again Goto was gone. Someone else was sitting in the chair, eyes closed. Jin looked older than she remembered him, older now that his smile couldn’t be blamed for the crinkles around his eyes. The stubble on his chin and cheeks was something between a five o’clock shadow and a three-day-stubble. His clothes were disheveled and his looked as if he had ran his hands through it constantly.

This was the man she had wanted to grow old with and now they were both growing old on their own.

His eyes fluttered open, wearily he sat up and wiped his face with his hand.

“Hey, how are you feeling?”

Jazz smiled at his voice, still hoarse from sleep. She had heard that so often before but never expected to hear it again.

“Sore. And a bit muddle headed,” she finally admitted.

“Probably the pain meds. Do you want some water?”

He handed her a glass, waited until she took a sip before he set it back on the small bedside table.

“What are you doing here? And what time is it?” There was no clock and she didn’t feel like sitting up to search for her phone – oh, her phone. Well, maybe there was an insurance for accidently becoming part of a PSD operation and having the phone crushed by a criminal.

“It’s still early, go back to sleep.”

Pondering her options for a second she scooted to the side.

“Join me.” It wasn’t even a question, she just wanted him close now. After everything she had been through that day, after what Goto had told her she probably was crazy to do this now. But who wanted to be sane when it meant being reasonable, always not getting what she wanted?

Hesitantly Jin sat on the bed, let her tug at him until he finally laid down next to her. Jazz snuggled close, against his chest, while he put his arm under her head.

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t elaborate about what and why, but she didn’t care. Instead she lifted her head a bit so she could watch him in the dim light of the emergency lighting.

“I’m not. I’m not sorry for whatever happened, because in the end it all brought us here again.” Almost shyly she leaned in a bit, waiting for him to meet her in the middle.

It wasn’t the most romantic location but in this hospital bed they shared a few kisses that neither of them regretted. Eventually they just lay there, in each other’s arms, almost dozing off but not quite yet.

There were still a lot of questions, maybe even doubts, but Jazz knew for sure that things between them had changed. Or better, the important things were still the same but she and Jin had changed.

“You know, I think we were just too young back then,” she finally whispered. He hummed in agreement, waited for her to continue.

“You were so eager to get a high position in the force and I was so eager to prove that I’m not just some housewife. Maybe we should have paused every once in a while to wait for each other instead of constantly rushing ahead.”

He shifted a bit so that Jazz’s head ended up on his chest.

“Well, I had tried to secure a position early so I could slow down eventually and focus more on us. Looks as if I missed that point.” He chuckled wryly but Jazz raised her head and looked at him.

“And? Are you there now? In that position you wanted?”

“Well, I really do like the position I’m in now.” He teased her, placed a quick kiss on the tip of her nose.

“Not this!” With faked annoyance she rolled her eyes. “Are you happy with being the chief of that academy? Is it that what you wanted?”

He pondered this question for a moment. “Actually I think it is. I enjoy my work very much. There’s a lot of responsibility, but less risk now. Hardly undercover missions left, and nothing that would last for days.”

“Almost leaves you time for a private life, huh?”

This was a crucial point now and both of them knew it.

“I do have a bit of free time each day, that’s true.” With his eyes searching her face and finding something like encouragement, he continued. “And maybe I could spend this time with someone every now and then.”

“For dinner, maybe?” Taking it slow might be the best idea now. Jazz didn’t want to rush back into things with him, that hadn’t worked too well last time.

“Hm, how about for breakfast?” He carefully pulled her up a bit, kissed her again, taking her breath away.

“B-breakfast sounds good, too,” she stammered once he released her again. Taking it slow was overrated anyway. For now she didn’t want to think about this anyway. She was right where she wanted to be, in this hospital bed with the man she loved.

 

10.

Once again Jin fluffed up the pillow on the couch, making Jazz chuckle at his attempts of making her comfortable.

“You’re going to ruin my pillows if you keep doing this.”

He looked up to see her bright smile and relaxed a bit.

“I just want to make sure you’re not hurting. Are you still hurting?” Cautiously he sat down next to her, pulling her legs over his lap so she could lie on her back, head resting on a pillow he had just fluffed up to perfection.

“I’m much better, thanks. They only kept me in hospital for observation anyway.” Her rib was still far from fine but the pain was bearable now, only flaring up now and then when she moved the wrong way.

“So, how was your day?” She looked at him expectantly, after all she was still cooped up at home until she had recovered.

“Better now that I knew I would see you in the evening.”

With a chuckle she swatted his arm playfully. “You are a sap, did I ever tell you that?”

He hummed, a smile on his lips. His hands started gently stroking her legs while he watched her reaction, how she sighed and closed her eyes.

“Kaga broke Hidai. Sang like a bird, that stupid-“

“Jin,” Jazz sharply chided him. “I don’t like him either, but watch your words.”

“Why?”

She sat up a bit, propped up on her elbows. “Because I’m sick of him and I don’t want to waste another minute on him, not even long enough to curse properly.”

“Okay, okay. Anyway, we found the original buyers and with that the case is officially closed.” He sounded very satisfied with his day and Jazz smiled. She liked him that way, all confident and in peace with the world and himself.

“That’s great news. Hey, what was that data about? You know, what kind of information did Hidai want to sell?”

Jin hesitated a second before he exhaled loudly. “Names. It was a list with every single law enforcement officer that ever was undercover or currently is undercover.”

Oh. Suddenly she knew why it had been so important to secure that data.

“So… on that list, there is – there’s also your name, right? And Goto’s…” Her head spun, this could have ended ugly. “Wow. That is – serious business.”

“I wouldn’t have allowed for you to get involved if it wasn’t serious.” There was still a hint of regret in his voice, especially since she was still hurt.

“Oh, stop blaming yourself. You know full well that it was my decision and nothing could have changed my mind. I’m a big girl, Jinji, I knew what I was getting myself into.”

He shook his head, but there was a proud smile on his lips. “No, you didn’t. But you are right, I wouldn’t have been able to stop you. You are so stubborn.” He chuckled and Jazz grinned back at him.

“So are you. We are quite a couple, huh?”

“That we are.” The fondness of his words made her blush lightly. Their relationship status was still up in the air, they danced around the topic without ever saying anything definite. Well, not that they had much time to discuss this yet, she had been discharged from hospital that morning and Jin had went to work after bringing her home.

“What happened to the girl?” Before he could even buy time by asking her what girl she was talking about. “The little bird?”

“Ah, yes… she – she left the academy. Her transgression has been too grave to keep her there.”

It wasn’t that Jazz had expected anything else but it still made her a bit sad. This girl had been blinded by her crush on Jin and for that Jazz couldn’t really blame her. The silence threatened to get uncomfortable so she changed the topic.

“Hey, what about your ring? Are you still sooooo in love with me that you can’t take it off?” She batted her lashes at him teasingly and he started to squirm.

“What? Did I actually get that right?” She was laughing now, although that hurt a bit.

“No.” Almost grumpily he scooted away from her, let her legs slide from his lap.

“What’s wrong? Jin? I was only joking.” She sat up with a wince, a bit confused at his suddenly changed mood.

“No, it’s just – I’m a bit sensitive about that topic.” He didn’t look at her, just fiddled with the ring.

“What topic? That we once were married? Or that we got divorced?” Now she felt bad about bringing that up.

“No, that’s not – okay, but promise me you won’t laugh.”

She nodded quickly, this seemed serious all of sudden.

“It’s stuck. I gained weight and now I can’t take the ring off anymore. Hey, you said you wouldn’t laugh!”

Jazz pressed her lips tightly together but couldn’t help that the corners of her mouth twitched. Her body trembled with the laughter she held in. God, he was so adorable, getting all flustered in his wounded vanity.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” She was still giggling while she carefully straddled his lap, trying not to put strain on her ribs.

“Hey…” Her hands cupped his face, made him look at her. “You’re still as handsome as back then when we first met. Actually I like how you’re looking now. So mature and… sexy…” She leaned in, close enough so they could kiss, so he could feel the warmth of her skin and her breath.

The first kiss, a brush of their lips, was sweet and short. When Jazz pulled back she grabbed his hand and raised it to her lips.

“Let me try something…” With a teasing wink Jazz kissed his fingertips, one after the other. She wrapped her lips around his ring finger, sucked it into her mouth, guiding it towards her cheek rather than taking it down her throat. He groaned, eyes fixed on her lips. For a moment she idly let her tongue slide against his finger, took her time before she started playing with the ring.

He shifted a bit under her but she held his hand at the wrist and continued to suck at his finger.

“I-I have already-“ he exhaled audibly, “-already tried… soap and oil… lotions…”

She hummed around his finger, keeping a serious expression as good as she could. That wasn’t easy, the sounds he made, his expression and most of all the growing hardness under her core.

“You – holy! – you really think that will help?”

She let his finger slide out of her mouth and grinned at him. “Depends. I think it helps really well – maybe not with the ring, though.” Still holding his wrist she leaned in and kissed him deeply, his free hand snaked around her waist and pulled her close. As long as he was distracted she changed her grip and with one rather harsh tug the ring finally was off.

Still panting she leaned back, held it like a trophy. “Metal expands when it gets warm. Basic physics.”

Jin was breathing equally heavy, chuckled in between. “Now that that’s off, how about we take the rest off, too?”

Jazz threw the ring on the table behind her, now that her hands were both free she grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head, sucked in a sharp breath at the movement that tugged at her bruises.

“Hey, hey, my little songbird… careful. Don’t worry, we have all the time of the world.” His fingertips lightly brushed over her skin, made her shiver in anticipation.

“I like it that you’re not wearing a bra.” He grazed her nipples, sent goose bumps over her body.

“I’m injured and at home. Why should I wear a bra?”

The almost breathless question made him smile, he loved how much his touch affected her. Last time there was an urgency that made him sloppy, he had missed most of her finer reactions. The way her breathing sped up, how her pupils dilated at his caresses and kisses. How her breath hitched in her throat when he grazed an especially sensitive spot, like the area just under her breast or at her hips, just above the waistband of her pajama pants. The needy little whines when he kissed her neck.

“Tell me if something’s hurting, okay?” He breathed the words into her ear, his hands slipped down to her ass, cupped her cheeks and slightly pulled her up. Jazz got the hint and carefully climbed off his lap so he could tug at her pants, gravity dragging them down as soon as Jin had pulled them over her hips.

“I think… I think it’s better if I’m on top this time…”

Her panties followed and she stepped out of the fabric pooling at her feet, reached out and took his hand so she could give him a tug. He stood up, stepped right into her space so she had to take a step back not to lose her balance. But she also wanted to be close to him so she leaned right back into him, her hands slowly unbuttoning his shirt.

He was right after all, they had time. No need to rush, and she wasn’t in the condition for hasty, fast and hard sex anyway. And not in the mood.

She wanted to savor this, not the almost desperate desire from last time. This was hopefully the beginning of something lasting so she wanted to make this last.

With every brush of her fingertips his heart leapt; when she finally opened the last button and pushed his shirt off his shoulders he sighed, as if the weight of the fabric had been unbearable by now.

Jazz placed soft kisses all over his chest, his shoulders, his neck, wherever she could reach. Her hands were now unbuckling his belt, almost shyly she tilted her face up, waited for him to kiss her. She needed the reassurance of his lips against hers, other than last time there was no alcohol to give her courage.

Jin’s hand gently cupped her cheek, though his kiss wasn’t as gentle. His fingers twitched against her face, as if he was holding back, wanted to pull her even closer, kiss her even deeper. Have all of her.

Once his pants were open she pushed her hands under his boxers, made him groan when she curled her fingers around his hard cock.

“I missed you so much…” He said what she was thinking, making her smile.

“I missed you, too. Missed your taste… missed how you make me feel…” With growing impatience she pushed his pants down, brought some distance between them so he could awkwardly step out of his pants.

“I missed your taste more…” He turned her around and laid her back on the couch, careful not to put any strain on her ribcage. He kissed her lips, playful and with a smile, happy to have her here again, this time under better circumstances. This time he wouldn’t let her go again.

His tongue drew a wiggly line down her body, he left kisses on his way. On her breasts, tongue circling her nipples until they hardened and darkened. On her stomach, kissing each bruise and cut, eliciting whimpers from Jazz, making her squirm in need. He places a soft kiss the inside of each of her thighs before he looked up, watched her face as he licked his lips, drew his bottom lip between his teeth.

Jazz buried a hand in his hair, her chest heaving. She nodded once, reassuring him that she really wanted this. And when his lips and tongue started to explore her folds she closed her eyes, tipped her head back into the pillow, sighed in contentment.

“Jinji…”

He answered her breathy plea with a groan, circled her clit with his tongue. His hands held her thighs open, she arched her back, rocked her hips slightly, tried to increase the friction, the pleasure he caused her. But before he could push her over the edge she pulled her hips back, made him look at her.

“Let me…  I want… sit up…”

She crawled back a bit, gave him room to actually sit up, straddled him and kissed her own taste off his lips. She lowered her hips, let his hard cock slide through her drenched folds. His hands found her hips and she grabbed his cock, steadied him before she lowered herself, took his cock in, only a bit at first. She kissed him deeply while she sank down on him, gasped into the kiss when he filled her up completely.

“Welcome… home…” she panted, grinned and kissed him again, swallowed his moan when she started moving.

“Feels so good… you feel… so good…”

She rocked her hips, slowly at first, testing out how much her body could take. And it could take much more. His hands cupped her ass, helped her find a rhythm. She fell into a lazy grind against him, rolled her hips, let her clit brush against his pubic bone with every movement.

“Can’t believe… I went so long… without you… and your sweet… pussy…” He bucked his hips, made her yelp, made her see stars.

“God, I want… you so much… deeper…” she panted.

“We can… arrange that… how’s your… rib?” Sweat was starting to glisten on his forehead, making his hair stick to his skin.

“How’s your… back…?” she teased him, gasped when he bucked his hips again to drive himself deeper into her.

“Even if I’d… break my back… I wouldn’t stop… now…” he assured her, wrapped his arms around her. “Hold on tight.”

She hooked her legs around his waist and squealed when he turned them around, making her groan slightly.

“You okay?”

“Don’t you… dare to stop…” she threatened him, making him chuckle. After some shuffling Jazz was halfway comfortably on her back, Jin kneeling between her legs, her ass resting on the top of his thighs. He gave her a couple of careful thrusts to test if she was okay and she moaned, reached for the armrest her head was lying on to grab it tightly.

“More,” she demanded, voice almost breaking. She was so close already, the discomfort from her bruised rib forgotten for now.

And Jin gave her more. With one arm he held her leg, the other hand found her clit, send sparks through her body, made her cry out.

“Missed your voice… too… my little… songbird…”

It didn’t take him long to have her back at the edge, but this time she didn’t stop him. She let the pleasure build up inside of her, until she couldn’t take it anymore, until she trembled and arched her back even more, her knuckles white from how hard she was gripping the armrest now.

She came with a loud cry, eyes tightly closed. The bliss that flooded her was better than any pain meds, but the fact that he followed her suit was even better. He slumped down a bit, careful not to put his weight on her, but she pulled him closer, wanted him near.

While they tried to catch their breath and cooled off a bit no words were spoken, only kisses and caresses travelled back and forth between them.

 

Epilogue

A few days later Jazz visited Jin at work. They had spent every night together ever since she got home from the hospital. There was a still unspoken agreement that they were together again, without putting a label on their relationship.

But she felt married again, and she loved this feeling.

“Hello my sweet songbird,” he cheerfully greeted  her when she stepped into his office, a huge smile on her lips.

“Hey Jinji. Ready for dinner?” She leaned over his desk and kissed him briefly.

“Just one more minute. I have to finish this and then I’m all yours.”

Jazz sat down in a chair and looked around his office.

“This office doesn’t suit you at all. It’s-“

“Dull, yes, you mentioned that before.” He chuckled when she frowned, not sure what he was referring to. “You were quite tipsy back then.”

“Oh.” She looked down sheepishly before she took a deep breath. “Anyway, but I have something that suited you quite well until now.”

“Is it you?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

She laughed and shook her head slowly before she stood up and walked around his desk, leaned against the edge of the wooden table.

“Maybe,” she teasingly said and reached into her bag. “Okay, this might be… I don’t know, rushed maybe. Or simply stupid. Interrupt me when I cross a line but –“

Suddenly she was nervous. Had he felt like that when he made a ring out of that clover back then?

“You left your ring at my table… I – I took it to a jeweler. They made it wider. It should fit now.” With slightly trembling hands she slid the ring back on his finger. “You – you can take it off now whenever you want…”

“Never.” He cupped her face with his hands and pulled her close. “I never want to take it off.”

The kiss they shared sealed their bond, without vows or a celebrant. Just one ring, two hearts. One love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never have I ever

It was a lazy summer evening and at Long Island were no guests, just the usual bunch of guys and Jazz hang around. Kunihiko was reading a woman’s magazine, there was a baseball match on TV and Jazz had a cardboard box in front of her.

“What is this?” Yamato poked his head between Jazz and the box and extended a hand to its content.  She swatted his hand away.

“Don’t touch this. My parents have sent me some of my old things. Yearbooks, some old photos, private stuff.”

“Yearbooks?” Saeki suddenly stood beside her. “Come on, let’s have a look. I’m dying to see you in your school uniform.” He winked at her.

“Then die.” Ren was unfazed and focused his attention on the plate with food in front of him. Yuta and Takao joined the others and tried to peek into the box. Kunihiko looked up from his magazine.

“Have they sent your trophies, too?”

“You have won trophies?” Yamato sounded skeptical. “I can’t imagine Pouty to be the best at anything.” He laughed.

“Thank you, Yamato, you are such a sweetheart. I’m really surprised that you don’t have a girlfriend,” Jazz replied sulkily.

“What are the trophies for?” Yuta asked.

“Weeeeell~” Kunihiko started to answer but Jazz interrupted him.

“Uhm, nothing special, just some contests…” she tried to change the subject. “Hey, have you ever won a contest?”

Everyone nodded and started to talk at the same time. “Sure, for writing…”

“A science fair at school…”

“Piano contest…”

“I won an award as start-up entrepreneur…”

“Some sports competitions…”

“For a paper I submitted two years ago…”

“Hey, not all at once!” Jazz laughed and closed the box before one of the guys could find something embarrassing inside.  “I know you all for several months now and still there is so much to learn about you.” She pondered for a moment. “I know! Let’s play a game! We have played this in camp a lot to learn things about each other.”

Yamato groaned and rolled his eyes, Yuta smiled widely, Takao nodded lightly and Saeki smirked.

“Oh Jazz, tell us more about you at camp. Was it a girl’s camp? Have you made pillow fights and practiced kissing with each other?”

“Ewwww… Saeki, you are such a pervert.” Ren shuddered.

Jazz rolled her eyes. “No, nothing like this. It’s called ‘Neverhave I ever’ and is really simple.”

“It has to be or otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to play it.” Yamato smirked.

“Oh, shut up. We can make it a little bit more interesting. I know, wait a moment!” Jazz dashed behind the counter and grabbed some glasses and a bottle. Then she cleared a table and set the glasses down.

“Okay, come here and take a seat.” She sat down at a chair and the guys joined her. Jazz sat between Yuta to her right and Kunihiko to her left. Next to Yuta was Takao, then Yamato, Ren and Saeki.

“So, everyone of us says something like: ‘Never have I ever been abroad.’ It has to be true of course. Then everyone who actually has been abroad has to take a shot.” She filled the glasses with liquor.

Kunihiko frowned. “What’s that? Shuchu?” Jazz nodded.

“Wait a minute.” Kunihiko stood up and went to the counter to fetch some bottles. He handed her one of them. “Here, take this. It’s not as strong as shuchu. Otherwise the game won’t be long.”

“Oh, okay.” She shrugged and took the bottle. Then she continued to fill the glasses and handed them out.

“One round as example?” Takao and Ren nodded.

“Okay. Let’s stick with this abroad thing. Who actually has been abroad yet?”

Ren, Saeki and Kunihiko raised a hand. “You have to drink.” The three men downed their shots and Jazz immediately refilled their glasses. “Yuta’s next.”

“Uhm, okay… oh, I know! I have never been bungee jumping.” Jazz, Yamato and Takao drank.

“Takao, your turn.” Takao considered the task.

“Uhm, never have I ever cheated on a test.” Yuta and Kunihiko.

“Uncle, really? And you have always told me to be honest.” Jazz giggled.

Yamato: “Never have I ever came in last in a race.” Jazz rolled her eyes and made a muffled sound, then she took her glass as the only one.

Ren: “Never have I ever lost my keys.” Jazz, Yuta and Yamato.

Saeki: “Never have I ever smoked.” Kunihiko made a face and drank. To the surprise off all the others Ren drank, too.

Kunihiko: “I have never written a book.” Saeki took his glass.

“Very funny, really.” He drank.

Jazz: “Never have I ever kissed on a first date.” Yamato, Saeki, Kunihiko and Yuta.

Yuta: “Never have I ever been in a fight.” The others all took their glasses.

“Jazz, too?” Yuta asked in surprise. She nodded and Kunihiko chuckled.

“Yeah, she was quite a tomboy.”

Takao: “Never have I ever stolen something.” Yuta, Yamato and Saeki.

Yamato: “Never have I ever been in hospital over night.” Jazz, Ren, Yuta.

The mood got lively, they laughed and made jokes. Ren fell asleep with his head on the table.

Saeki chuckled: “Never have I ever been so drunk that I passed out.”

Kunihiko, Yamato and Yuta. Suddenly Jazz glanced to her uncle, an eyebrow slightly raised. He nodded stealthily.

Kunihiko: “Never have I ever I have never made out in a public place.” Saeki, Yamato and Jazz.

Jazz: “Never have I ever had a one-night stand.” Yamato and Saeki. Jazz silently tapped on Yuta’s thigh and pointed at Saeki under the table. Yuta immediately got the hint.

Yuta: “Never have I ever dated more than one girl at a time.” “Wait, what about Jazz? Shouldn’t we rephrase that so it applies to her, too?” Yamato interjected.

Jazz nodded. “Okay, but let’s not say it specifically each time. You say ‘girl’ and I just assume you said ‘or boy for Jazz’, okay?”

Everyone nodded. “So, what about dating more than one girl at a time?” Yuta asked again. Saeki drank.

Takao: “Never have I ever cheated on anyone.” He blushed and glanced at Jazz who slightly smiled. Saeki drank.

Yamato had noticed what the others were doing. “Never have I ever used a pick-up line.” Saeki, Yuta and Kunihiko.

Saeki: “Never have I ever… uhm, I think I have to resort to the boring stuff… Never have I ever stayed till the end of a party and helped to clean.” Jazz and Takao.

Kunihiko: “Never have I ever had a threesome.” A wicked smile played on his lips. Saeki drank.

Jazz: “Never have I ever seen porn.” She grinned. The guys looked a little bit guilty, all except Saeki. Takao blushed a little bit, but they all drank. Little by little their pronunciation got sloppy.

Yuta: “Uhm, never have I ever dated the ex of a friend.” Saeki and Yamato.

Takao: “Never have I ever had a blowjob.” His cheeks were bright red and Jazz couldn’t hold back her laughter. She winked at him. “We could change that.” She giggled and Takao blushed even more.

Saeki, Kunihiko, Yamato and Jazz drank. Jazz gave Takao a meaningful look while she downed her glass.

Yamato: “Never have I ever been sued.” Saeki drank.

Saeki: “Never have I ever – never been… uhm… never been… ” He was obviously really drunk and struggled to keep awake. “I have never been… I have never been in jail!” He swayed. No one drank.

Kunihiko: “Never have I ever been hit by a girl.”

Saeki and Yamato drank. Jazz drank, too. Takao stared at her wide-eyed.

“Does that mean you have been hit by a guy?!”

“When I was ten or so. He was hardly bigger than me at that time. Relax, Takao.” She laughed. “Oh, is it my turn again? Uhm, never have I ever have I ever had sex in a car.” Saeki and Kunihiko.

Yuta: “Ugh, it’s getting harder already… wait… Never have I ever been naked in public.”

“Really? I would have sworn you were the type of guy to streak during a sports match or at a party…”

Jazz giggled again, then took her glass. She was the only one. All the guys, except for Ren and Saeki, who was really drunk by now, looked at her shocked.

“I lost a bet, okay? Don’t ask any further.”

Takao: “Uhm, never have I ever tried to secretly make pictures of the girls I slept with?”

Yamato laughed. “Is that a question or a fact?”

“Huh, oh, a fact of course.” Takao blushed again. Saeki drank or better, he tried to, but he spilled more than he actually swallowed.

Yamato: “Never have I ever bought a new car.”

Although he had downed quite a lot of shots he was still chipper. Kunihiko and Saeki drank. One moment later Saeki passed out on the table.

Jazz jumped up from her chair and cheered, Yuta joined her and gave her a high-five while Kunihiko and Yamato smirked. Only Takao was a little bit too tipsy to celebrate.

Jazz looked at her unlce. “I told I could drink him under the table! You owe me ten bucks!”

Takao’s eyes widened. “When did you make that bet?” She grinned and showed him her phone.

“He texted me that I would pass out before Saeki if I kept drinking like that.” She danced a little victory dance when Yamato came and patted her on the back.

“So Jazz, and now back to the beginning. What about these trophies?”

Her bright mood instantly darkened. “That’s none of your concern.” She soot a glare to Kunihiko. “Don’t you dare tell them about it!”

Her uncle chuckled. “Don’t be mean to me, after all it was me who passed you the bottle with shuchu so that you could fill it in Saeki’s glass.” He winked at her. “You better tell him or you’ll never hear the end of it.”

Jazz pouted. “Fine.” She shrugged. “I was a contestant in some beauty pageants and won the first price like three or four times.”

Yamato gaped at her, then he began laughing. “Yeah, sure. That’s a good one!” Yuta, who had been fetching some water, opened the box and took out a trophy.

“Uhm, Yamato? She’s serious. First place ‘Miss Cherryblossom’.” He waved with the little golden cup. “And there are more inside.”

Yamato stopped laughing, Jazz snatched the trophy from Yuta, Kunihiko grinned and Takao muttered: “I think she’s pretty enough to be Miss whatever she wants…”

“Well, at least you’ll always be Miss Pouty.” Yamato blew her a kiss and laughed at her disgusted face.

Jazz threw the trophy at him but failed, then she grabbed Takao’s hand and pulled him from his chair. “What? Where are we going?” The lawyer was confused.

“I wanted to change one of your ‘nevers’.” She winked at him and giggled while she dragged him out of the bar under the surprised eyes of the others.

Always on the roam Part 2

You were pleasantly surprised just how good you could mask your own feelings after that night with Nomura. You had cried for half an hour after he left, then you changed your sheets and washed them, getting rid of is scent in your bed. A shower did the same for your body. A strong coffee chased the remnants of your hangover and lack of sleep away. When you left your place you felt empty, but okay.

That changed the same instance you entered the office and saw Nomura at Kirisawa’s desk. He glanced at you briefly and showed you a small smile and you nodded, almost mechanically, before you sat down at your desk and started working. A lot of paperwork waited for you and you were glad that you had something that kept your wandering mind occupied. Rob had almost instantly answered your text, sending you a link to the website of a nice little hotel, somewhere outside of the city. The huge lump in your throat threatened to suffocate you for a moment, but then you got a grip on yourself again. You wouldn’t cry anymore. You wouldn’t wallow in self pity. You would suck it up and keep going, giving Rob a real chance now that Nomura wasn’t in your obsessed mind any longer.

Of course that was a lie. Of course sleeping with him didn’t change your feelings, at least not like you wanted it to. Your crush was even stronger now and since you knew how incredible sex with him could be it was even harder not to fantasize all day about him. But you knew that he wasn’t the type of man for something steady, that he usually only slept once with a woman and then he was gone. Well, he had already slept with you. It was done. No chance for another try. You could now bury your hopes and move on. No more wondering how it would be, how it would feel, what he would do with you. You knew now and even though you craved for that closeness you had shared the night before, it was clear to you that you would have to be satisfied with the memories, because you wouldn’t get the real deal once more.

You were deep in thoughts about that form in front of you when a voice made you look up.

“You look especially cute today.” You knew it was Nomura even before you saw him, the voice was unmistakable. You had heard him groan and whisper dirty little things in your ear. You would never forget that voice.

“Thank you, Deputy Chief, but I’m working right now. If there’s nothing I can do for you I would like to continue what I’m doing.” You tried to sound professional and calm. You managed somehow.

“Such an eager little detective… actually I have a task for you, but I’d like to discuss that in private. Would you come into my office, after lunch break maybe?” The look in his warm brown eyes was friendly, no trace of anything else than his usual, good co-worker style behavior. You instantly knew what he wanted to talk about. He wanted to make sure that you were on the same page, that last night had just been fun, no strings attached, no drama. Sure.

Still, you nodded. “Of course. I’ll come by your office after lunch.”

With a satisfied nod Nomura tapped on your desk with his finger twice and left. You stared at your desk and wished he would have touched you instead.

 

As if the day wasn’t already horrible enough Rob called you just before lunch, telling you he was around the corner and would love to take you out for lunch. Since you couldn’t think of an excuse you agreed, took your bag and met him in front of the PD. You took him to a little bistro that almost no other detective ever visited and you were glad for that today. Too much was swirling in your head, you couldn’t take the usual teasing now. You couldn’t take anything now. Rob was sweet like always, told you about the errand that took him there. You supposed it was some kind of excuse to meet you after you had stalled him for some days. You ate something, forgot instantly what it was, your guilty conscience preventing you from even tasting the food. You ate mechanically and nodded politely to Rob’s talking.

“So, how about next weekend?” Your attention was on him when he asked you that.

“For what?” You weren’t really listening, you know it was impolite but this was your least problem right now.

“For our trip? I called the hotel and they do have some rooms available. I thought maybe… we could book a double room? Or is that too straight forward?” He looked at you with a mixture of anxiety and hope and you really felt like throwing up. God! You were the worst person EVER!

“A double room? With only one bed, I presume?” He started to fidget under your gaze until you forced yourself to smile. “Okay. Sounds good to me.”

He smiled brightly back and sighed in relief. He had definitely shown a lot of patience and you knew what he expected from this trip. And somehow it seemed easier just to give in than to actually sort out your feelings for him – and for Nomura.

Rob insisted on walking you back to the PD. And since the universe or karma or whatever decided that you hadn’t suffered enough yet you met Nomura in front of the building. He stared at you and Rob, at your linked hands – not that you had been keen on that, but he had just taken your hand casually and you couldn’t bring yourself to pull it back – and his expression turned wooden.

“Hiroshi is already looking for you. Stakeout tonight,” he said, but his voice sounded strange.

“Uhm, okay… oh, yes, Rob, this is Deputy Chief Nomura, my superior. Deputy Chief, this is Rob,” you said when you felt the gaze of both men on yourself. You couldn’t meet Nomura’s eyes, you were only silently praying to get out of this really horrible mess soon.

“I remember you. From that singles party,” Nomura said and shook hands with Rob.

“Yeah, that’s right. It had been a lucky day for me,” Rob answered and pulled you closer.

“Don’t forget to come by my office,” Nomura reminded you and turned around.

“Of course. I’ll be right there,” you assured him and put some distance between yourself and Rob. “I’ve got to go now. Sorry. I’ll call you about the weekend. Got to check if I can take some time off,” you mumbled apologetically and dodged his attempt to kiss you with a quick motion towards the PD. He got the hint and hugged you briefly.

“I’m looking forward to it. Let’s hope you can get some days off,” he said and waited until you disappeared in the building.

 

You heaved a sigh and headed to the elevator. Nomura was waiting for you. The sight alone made you want to cry, but you stubbornly forced the tears back.

“He seems nice,” Nomura remarked and you nodded silently.

“Have you told him…?” You shook your head.

“Will you?” You shrugged. The elevator pinged and the doors opened. You stared straight ahead and got in, Nomura followed you. You both were silent. You wondered if somehow there were more floors today than usual. Fully aware that this was stupid, but the way up seemed like an eternity.

“You know,” Nomura suddenly started and brought your attention back to him, “we should – hm, nevermind. You better find Hiroshi first. I think what I wanted to discuss can wait.” He turned towards you, scanning your face, and sighed. “Do you regret it?”

Your heart felt like a stone, cold and hard and unable to actually do its work. You took all the strength you had left and faced him.

“Last night? No, I don’t. I wish I wouldn’t have done that without clearing things with Rob first, though. He really doesn’t deserve this. But aside from that? It was the best night of my life and I would do that every time again if I had the choice.” The elevator stopped and the doors opened. “And now I hope you’ll excuse me since I have to find my boss.” With that you almost ran through the hallway, out of his sight, away from the sheer despair that tried to drown you.

 

You hid in the restroom for some minutes, wiping some few stray tears away and taking deep breaths, trying to calm down. Stupid, stupid, stupid! That had been so stupid! Why didn’t you just present your heart on a silver platter to him? So he could just crush it with that charming smile he always wore? You wanted to scream, you wanted to cry, you really wanted to smash something, but instead you forced your hands to stop trembling and went back into the office.

“There you are! You need to go on a stakeout tonight!” Kirisawa instantly spotted you when you entered the room.

“Understood.” You nodded, not even asking a question. Where? When? Who? Didn’t matter. Anything that kept you occupied was welcome.

“And Nomura was just here. I should give you off next weekend?” Kirisawa frowned and looked at you. With wide eyes you stared back until you realized what just had happened.

“Oh, he must have overheard the conversation I had with my – my boyfriend…” you mumbled and suddenly everyone in the office fell silent.

“What?! You still got that guy? How comes he isn’t fed up with you yet?” Tennoji blurted out and the other laughed.

“Yes, I STILL have that boyfriend. He is really nice and sweet and wants to take me on a trip next weekend!” You almost shouted, the teasing was just too much today.

Kirisawa only nodded. “Got it. Next weekend. You’ll get the weekend off.”

Kyobashi casually came over to your desk. “So, you will spend the weekend somewhere together? You know what that means? Hotel sex is the best, you don’t have to care about the neighbors or the furniture…”

“I swear, if I hear another word from you about that trip or me having a boyfriend or anything only remotely sexual, I will staple your balls to your thighs. And that will be only time I ever get near them, do you hear me?” you hissed back and Kyobashi raised his eyebrows, chuckled and went back to his desk. All you wanted to do was banging your head against the wall. But you didn’t.

Why had Nomura done that? Was it another way of teasing you? Did he try to push you even further away, conveniently into the arms of another man? When you closed your eyes you could still feel Nomura’s kisses, his touches, could still hear his groans and the dirty little things he had whispered to you. You could feel the heat rising in your face but unlike last night it pooled around your eyes. You so desperately wanted to cry and at the same time knew you couldn’t.

You quickly slapped your own cheeks twice to focus again on other things, grabbed your phone and wrote a text for Rob that you could get some days off that weekend. But you couldn’t bring yourself to actually send it. Maybe tomorrow.

 

The stakeout was quite standard. You sat in a car with Kyobashi – him of all people! – and stared at the door of a building, waiting for a perp to arrive.

“You have been pretty moody today,” he suddenly said and you groaned. You didn’t feel like small talk at all. You felt like a good, old fashioned chase. You wanted to run after an escaping perp, grab him after a while and slam him to the ground. No unnecessary cruelty, just to keep him from running. That would at least help you with your nervous energy.

“Yeah, you think so?” you scoffed and grabbed the binoculars to peer down the street.

“Yes. I think you’ve never before been like that. Not even when it’s that time of the month.” He shifted in his seat and you rolled your eyes.

“It’s called ‘menstruation’. Say the word, it doesn’t bite you,” you growled.

“Hey, I don’t want to pry, but you know that I can read you like a book and honestly I’m afraid that you will explode when you keep going like this.” He didn’t even seem to listen to you.

“So what? Are you trying to help me or do you need some new topics to make fun of me?” The sarcasm was thick in your voice and Kyobashi chuckled.

“No, I think I have enough to tease you about. I just don’t want you to do something stupid. At least not when I’m in a car with you.”

You frowned at him but then gave him a short nod. “Don’t worry, I got it under control.” Kyobashi nodded back and now you couldn’t stop thinking how bad it must be when even Kyobashi started to get worried.

24 hours. Wasn’t there this song? “What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours…” Yeah. Yesterday at this time you were tossing and turning in your bed with Nomura and now your whole life was a huge mess. It had been a mistake, you could see that now, and still you couldn’t really regret it. You only wished you could stop thinking about it.

The perp showed up shortly before Tennoji and Eiki came to replace you. You didn’t get the chase you were hoping for, but he did resisted arrest so at least you could get some adrenaline that helped you chase some of the somber thoughts away.

And after that? You were allowed to go home and sleep. You didn’t have to go to work before noon. The perfect excuse to not send a text message to Rob.

 

The next days were similar. You tried to avoid Rob, you tried to avoid Nomura, you buried yourself with work and after your shift you spend some time in the gym, tiring yourself out. The less energy you had the less you dreamt at night. And you didn’t want to dream because you always dreamt the same. Nomura, how he held you, kissed you. Nomura, how he told you he loved you. Nomura, how he made love to you. Not simply sex, but love.

You were so tired. This was not the life you wanted, not this empty existence. Didn’t you always think a man wasn’t the way to happiness? That you had to be content with yourself to be able to love someone else, not the other way around? So why the hell were you pining for Nomura so much? Why couldn’t you just move on?!

You were angry, mostly at yourself, mad about your lack of self-discipline. And on the other hand you were too tired to change anything, too tired to fight for – for what? Nomura? Rob? Your own sanity? You were a coward and you knew it. So when Friday rolled on and Rob sent you the last instructions for your trip the next morning you simply accepted it as your fate.

 

You dragged yourself to work on Friday morning, wordlessly sat down at your desk and started ploughing through the paperwork, when a piping hot cup of coffee was sat down in front of you. Looking up you saw Hanai, a tight smile on his face.

“Thanks,” you muttered and grabbed the cup, burning your tongue at the first sip but at least you felt something.

“Is something the matter?” you asked when he still didn’t left.

“Yeah, somehow.” Hanai frowned, obviously he wasn’t comfortable with the topic. “We are worried about you. Personally I fear you will wear yourself out when you continue like that. And your mood isn’t good for the team. So, if something bothers you, maybe it helps you to talk with us about it.” You would have smiled at his apparent uneasiness and that he still came to offer you some support, but you were too exhausted to do so. So you just nodded.

“Thank you. I’m really grateful for your offer, but that’s something I have to figure out myself. But I’m sure I will be better soon.” He nodded back and patted your shoulder awkwardly before he went back to his desk.

You must be a really pitiful sight when even Hanai noticed that something was wrong. You let out a short, bitter laugh and returned your attention to your paperwork.

In your lunch break you decided to go to the roof, the fresh air better than anything else to help you think. At this time tomorrow you would be in that cozy little hotel with Rob. Maybe you would explore the surrounding, maybe he would only explore you. The thought alone of his hands all over your body, his lips on your skin made you panic. You weren’t ready for this. You would never be ready. You just couldn’t imagine that it would feel like with Nomura. It would never again feel like that time.

Standing at the banister, letting the cool air and the wind chill your face and trying to even your breathing you didn’t notice that someone else came out to the roof, too.

“Already dreaming about your weekend?” The voice made you jump in surprise.

“Hello Chief Deputy,” you said without turning around. “Excuse me, I have to-“ you began and wanted to leave but he grabbed your arm.

“Don’t. Don’t go.” You froze. His touch, the sound of his voice – was that pain you noticed?

“Sorry, my break is almost over, I have to go back to-“ you muttered just to get interrupted again.

“No, that’s not what I mean. Don’t go-“ He let go of your arm. “Sorry. I – I shouldn’t… it’s nothing. I shouldn’t be bothering you…” You looked at him, noticed the dark circles under his eyes, the nervous way he ran his hands through his face and hair. He looked shaken.

“N-Nomura… what…?” You didn’t dare to hope, to breathe, to think. Did he come to prevent you from going on this trip? This stupid, meaningful weekend trip with Rob?

“Ah, sorry princess. Don’t mind me, please. Just – it had been a hard week,” he answered and showed you a smile. It was as faked as the ones you showed lately.

“No, please, speak your mind.” You were shaking slightly, fear and nervousness mixed with hope and anticipation. Would he really fight for you? Try to change your mind? Here and now?

“I-“ He stared at you with wide eyes before he closed his mouth again. When he kept on talking you could feel everything inside of you die. “I wish you a great trip.”

You could only nod briefly before you fled.

 

You ran to Kirisawa’s office and begged him to let you go early. You couldn’t stay here any second longer, already the tears started to form and you knew you wouldn’t be able to fight them anymore. Realizing in what state you were he granted your request and you left after your lunch break, not even saying “goodbye” to your coworkers.

At home you just managed to close the door behind you before you broke down.

You needed a few hours, but eventually you calmed down, washed your face – the cold water stinging so pleasantly against your swollen eyes – and started packing. You went through the motions like a sleepwalker, your brain not even involved. At least you didn’t dream that night.

 

The next morning found you much too soon, not enough sleep and the tormenting days before had you grumpy and moody. If he wasn’t part of your problem – albeit unintentionally and without his own knowledge – you would feel sorry for Rob. One hour before he would came to get you he called you one last time, making sure you were awake and ready. Well, you were at least awake.

 

The knock on your door startled you. A quick glance to the clock showed you that you had been spacing out for almost 45 minutes. You cautiously went to your door, almost reluctant to open it at all.

Another knock, more forceful this time.

“I’m coming,” you said and put your hand on the doorknob. As soon as you turned it and unlocked the door, it was pushed open from the outside, almost slamming against you.

Irritated and slightly angry you wanted to yell at the intruder until you realized who it was.

“You are still here!” Nomura stared at you with wide eyes, a light sheen of sweat on his skin, his breathing ragged.

“Well, I live here,” you replied, wanting to slap yourself for saying something stupid like this.

“I thought you were off to your trip.” He seemed confused.

You shrugged. “I – I cancelled it,” you said in a monotone voice. God, you were so empty. So pathetic. “Why are you here?” The question came rather late into your mind, but once it invaded your thoughts you couldn’t think about anything else anymore. Why? Why was he here? Why was he here when he thought you weren’t even at home anymore? Why?

“Actually…” he awkwardly scratched his neck, still standing in your doorway, while you stared at him, waiting for the moment this all would make sense.

“I wanted to – to convince you to stay. Not to go on that trip. And now I feel stupid because you already cancelled…”

Okay. This was not what you had expected.

“Why? Why don’t you want me to go on the trip? I thought you wanted me to go. Even ordered Boss to give me some days off.”  Because the safest way to get rid of you was to drive you into the arms of someone else.

Now it was his turn to stare at you. For some moments none of you said a word.

“When I wanted to talk to you the other day – I wanted to tell you so much… and then you popped up with that guy, holding hands… and really, I thought if you were happy I could just leave you be – but I can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” He slowly came closer, shut the door once he was in your hallway and you breathlessly waited for his next move. He stopped right in front of you, his fingertips almost touching your cheek, but he still hesitated.

“Are you and – Rob? Are you still…?”

Instead of an answer you got on your tiptoes and kissed him. Not a fierce, passionate kiss. A simple, gentle kiss, two pairs of lips touching.

When you parted you cleared your throat and avoided his gaze, afraid to ask what was on your mind.

“So, you came here for me?”

He chuckled. “I came here for you. Hoping to have actually a chance with you. I wanted to make you forget about Rob.” He dropped a kiss on your nose.

“Who?” you asked giddily, almost drunk on your own happiness.

“Right answer,” he mumbled and kissed you again. You would have to talk about all this, but right now, there in his arms, you weren’t even able to think straight. You moaned into the kiss and grabbed his shirt, pulling him closer. As if a switch had been flipped the kiss suddenly turned heated, his tongue glided into your mouth, playing with your tongue.

He reluctantly pulled away, resting his forehead against yours. “We – I don’t want to rush things,” he mumbled and you nodded slightly, hummed your affirmation while you kissed him again, nipping at his bottom lip what you had learned was something he liked. Slowly you backed up towards your bedroom, pulling him along with you.

“That’s not… what I meant… with not rushing… things…” he muttered between kisses and you pulled back briefly to look him into the eyes.

“We can take it slow – as soon as I got you naked,” you said, voice firm because it was exactly what you thought. You just needed him. Everything else you could discuss later, but now you needed to feel he was real, actually there with you, not only some delusion your wrecked brain had come up with. He definitely felt real under your hands, your lips, pressed against your body, but you had dreamt so much about him lately that you just had to make sure that he REALLY was the one pulling your shirt over your head right now.

Your fingers flew over the buttons of his shirt, pushing the fabric and his tie away to touch his naked chest while he pulled you closer so that your still bra-covered breasts were pressed against him.

“I missed this so much,” he muttered, his lips trailing down your neck. “Missed you so much.” You gave him a needy whimper as answer and tilted your head to give him better access. His lips felt even better than you remembered and you were eager to find out if that only applied to his kisses or to everything else, too.

You could hardly believe this was really happening. Nomura, the man that according to the rumors never fell for someone and never had sex with a woman twice, actually came to your home, after you already had sex once, and was now undressing you, although he said he didn’t want to rush anything. This had to be karma making it up to you after sending you through hell for so long. And you gladly accepted it.

While he worked on your bra you quickly rid him of his tie and jacket, pushed the shirt off his shoulders and put your hand on his belt. He groaned against the skin of your neck and ripped the bra off you, hugging you tight after your breasts were bared to him. The feeling of his skin against yours was mind blowing. You would never get enough of this sensation, already knowing that you wouldn’t have been able to stand being touched like that by anyone else anymore.

“This – this is not just sex, right?” you asked, suddenly scared by the intensity of your own feelings.

“No, it never was for me anyway. Always knew I wouldn’t be able to let you go,” he confessed, making sigh in relief. Good. That was good – wait, what?

“But – but you left that morning and I thought-“ You slightly pushed against his chest so he backed off a bit, enabling you to look into his eyes.

“You never gave me the chance to talk to you afterwards. And then you planned this trip with that guy… I wasn’t even sure what exactly you want.” You were standing in front of each other, bare from the waist upwards, already panting – was this the right moment to discuss this?

“I’m sorry,” you muttered and actually meant it. All the wasted time, all the pain and insecurity – and not only on your side as you now learned.

“I’m making it up to you,” you promised and opened his belt. He groaned once more when you opened his pants and pushed your hands inside, under the fabric of his boxer briefs.

“Me, too,” he whispered, his voice slightly strained while your fingers curled around his already hard shaft. Feeling him in your hand, hard and heavy, slightly wet at the tip, was so much more than you had hoped for in the last few days and you reveled in the sensation. You dropped down on your knees, pulling his pants and boxers down and licked his length before he could even try to stop you. Not that you expected him to even try. He hissed when you took him into your mouth, enjoying the musky, slightly bitter and very unique taste of his precum.

“I – if you keep that up – I won’t…” He was panting and barely able to talk and you suddenly felt proud that you were the reason for that.

With a wet pop you released him from your mouth, licking your lips briefly, making him groan at the sight.

“Come here,” he ordered and you gladly complied, taking his outreached hand that helped you up. As soon as you were standing again he kissed you deeply, his hands now opening your jeans, tugging the fabric down over your hips, taking your panties with it. You stepped out of pants and panties as soon as they hit the floor, eager to be naked with him. Your hands buried in his hair while you kept kissing him you slowly walked to your bed, only letting go of him enough to crawl on it and drag him with you.

“Need you now,” you whispered, not even in the mood for any more foreplay, just wanting to feel him deep inside of you, making this even more real to you. You barely managed to get a condom from your bedside table, the impatience making you tremble slightly. He took the wrapper from you and kissed you gently, pushing you down and rolling the condom over his cock.

You lay on your back, eagerly awaiting him, legs parted, arms reaching out for him. Without hesitation he lay on top of you, supporting his weight with his knees and elbows. He kissed you gently, searching your face for any sign of discomfort or hesitation, but finding none of it. You just smiled at him and nudged his nose. He positioned himself and you wrapped your arms around him, hands on his hips to pull him closer .With one swift, impatiently awaited thrust he was inside of you, not stopping until he filled you completely. You were whole again. A soft sob, almost a whimper escaped you at this wonderful feeling and only when he kissed your eyelids you realized that you were crying.

“I love you,” he mumbled, prompting another sob from you. Your hands grabbed him tighter, your legs wrapped around him, too, you wanted him as close as possible.

“I love you, too,” you replied, feeling as if your heart would burst. Your head was spinning, unable to process what was happening right now. This was everything you ever wanted. And then he started to move.

It wasn’t the passionate, ecstatic sex like last time. You weren’t drowning in desire, not shaken by waves and waves of pleasure. This was so much deeper, so much more intimate and meaningful – truly the best sex you ever had. He wasn’t only touching your body, but soothing your heart.

Nomura held one of your thighs, making you tilt your hips slightly to thrust even deeper into you, making you moan and sigh, eliciting an occasional sob when your emotions got the upper hand over the fever your body was going through. You wanted him closer, deeper, more – just more of it all. You begged him to go faster, deeper, clinging to him as if he was the only thing that kept you sane. Unlike the last time there was no desperation, not the urge to memorize every touch because you knew this wouldn’t be the last time, there would be plenty of others so you could just enjoy it and get lost in the moment.

You exchanged countless of kisses and even though the fire in your belly was burning hot, you somehow knew that you wouldn’t reach the peak this time. This act was more an expression of your feelings than of your desire. This was not fucking, this was making love. And you loved every second of it.

When Nomura started to moan more, his breath already ragged and his skin sweaty, you knew he was close.

“Come for me,” you whispered, urging him on. “Come for me, Tadanobu.”

At the sound of his name from your lips he gasped, his thrusts stuttered, he pushed deep into you and kept grinding more than thrusting. His lips found yours, his hand grabbed your thigh almost painfully tight. After some seconds he slumped down on you. His weight was just perfect. You loved lying beneath him like this, covered by his body, your sweat mingling with his, your breath mixed while you sloppily kissed a last time for now. With a deep sigh he pulled out of you and got rid of the condom before he lay down next to you, pulling you close.

“I’m not letting you go again,” he said and snuggled closer and you smiled, this was so much bliss, so much happiness that it almost hurt. Almost.

When he had caught his breath he kissed you softly, pulling you on his chest so your ear rested over his heart. His heartbeat was so comforting you feared to fall asleep immediately.

“Uhm, you – you didn’t came?” It wasn’t exactly a question and you smiled even more.

“No, not this time.” You were fine with it, you suspected that your body couldn’t have handled the happiness AND the pleasure anyway.

“Hmm…” He sounded dissatisfied. “I’m not sure if I can let this slide.” His hand ran up and down your back, leaving a tingling sensation in its wake.

You lifted your head and smiled at him, sleepily and content and completely satisfied.

“It’s fine. I got so much more than just physical pleasure. And you will have countless of opportunities to make it up to me.”

He pulled you closer, your head down on his chest again.

“Yeah. Yeah, I will.”

You fell asleep to the sound of his heart – beating just for you.

Always on the roam Part 1

By the look in your eyes I can tell you’re gonna cry, is it over me?

If it is safe you tears, for I’m not worth it, you see.

For I’m the type of boy who is always on the roam,
Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home.

You knew it was wrong, you knew you should have fought those feelings when you first realized that they were there. But you couldn’t. Maybe you didn’t want to even. Maybe you thought that it would be different, that you would make a difference. That he would change for you.

You were so dumb. Naïve and dumb. Why should he change? Things were going great for him.

You remember when he told you not to fall for him and you jokingly said that wouldn’t happen. It was already too late then.

You couldn’t exactly say when it happened, just that one day you noticed a certain warmth in your belly when he entered the office and greeted you with his usual: “You’re cute again today. Do you want to go on a singles event with me tonight?”

And at some point you just agreed. Why not going out and meeting new people? You were tired of eating alone, sleeping alone, longing for someone, something that you tried to deny in the first place. You didn’t really want to meet someone new, but maybe, just maybe Nomura and you could talk a bit and get to know each other better. Maybe he would find you interesting. Maybe he would develop a crush on you just like you did on him.

 

It took less than five minutes to regret your decision. Of course he didn’t fall for you. He hardly even spoke to you. After the introduction he flirted with a beautiful red haired woman and you had to watch. You couldn’t NOT watch it. It was like a car crash – you just had to look.

How she threw her head back when she laughed and placed a hand on his arm. How he made sure that her glass was always full. The smoldering glances. The small touches. The smiles. Ugh. You hated every second. With your last ounce of self respect you tore your gaze from them and met the eyes of a nice looking man across from you. He smiled at you and you tentatively smiled back. Flirting wasn’t exactly your strong point, but after another glass of wine it seemed easier.

You talked a lot with Rob, that was his name, about his job – he worked at a bank, credits or something – his hobbies – he loved to go fishing and hiking – and his choice to be a vegetarian. He wasn’t exactly funny but cute and he tried really hard to make you smile. It was – nice. So when you saw Nomura walking away with that redhead you didn’t hesitate to give Rob your number – and get another glass of wine.

 

The next few days you felt awful. Whenever you saw Nomura your heart pounded and your stomach clenched. You couldn’t stop imagining what he might have done with that woman that night. You wished to be in her place. Even for just one night. Everything was better than this unrequited crush. You tried really hard to get him out of your mind, out of your heart.

 

You went on some dates with Rob. You let him kiss you after your third date. It wasn’t exactly bad but it didn’t make your heart race. Still you were willing to give him a chance. He really seemed to like you. Actually called when he said he would. Never tried anything without checking if you were okay with it. He didn’t even choose a restaurant for dinner without asking if you liked it.

So you found yourself on your couch, making out with Rob after another date, hoping time would pass quickly so you could send him home and go to bed. To dream of Nomura. That night you cried yourself to sleep.

 

You had romance, did you break it by chance over me?
If it’s so, I’d like for you to know that I’m not worth it, you see.
For I’m the type of boy who is always on the roam
Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home that’s my home

 

The next day you came to work, tired and grumpy, just to run into Nomura on the way to the office.

“Hey, my favorite detective! You are cute as always!” His cheerful voice made you want to punch him. Or kiss him. Or both. You did neither.

“Nomura, good morning. What can I do for you?” You didn’t even fake a smile, just looked at him with your slightly red eyes.

“What’s wrong, princess? Didn’t get much sleep?” He winked at you and you simply sighed. Why did you have to fall for him? Him of all people?

But you did and now you had to either get rid of those feelings or act on them. You were afraid of both options.

“Something like that, yeah…” you muttered and he peered at you intently.

“Trouble with your boyfriend?” He sounded actually concerned.

“No, not really trouble, just – stuff. Anyway, did you need me for something or was that just the impression I got from your exaggerated greeting?” If you had to choose between fight or flight it was the latter today.

“If you want to get a new boyfriend you can come to another singles event tonight. A cute girl like you won’t have trouble to get someone else.” You felt his warm gaze on you and wanted to scream at him to shut up, that it wasn’t so easy to replace another person, someone you actually dated. Kind of. Somehow. But you didn’t. You found yourself nodding again.

“Sounds good. When and where?”

He grinned. “How about I take you there tonight?”

He could take you anywhere and you would be happy, so you nodded again.

“Great. I’m dropping by the office at 8pm. Be ready by then.” With that he waved and walked off. And you cursed yourself for being so stupid.

 

The evening came and with it your nervousness. He would take you there. Did that mean he would bring you home afterwards? Or would he ditch you again to spend the night with another woman? Why did you even do that to yourself? And still you ran to the bathroom at 7.30 to touch up your makeup and change your clothes. At least you had some spare clothes in the office in case you stayed the night. Not that anyone would notice.

Halfway confident with your appearance you went back to the office, just to get some teasing comments from your co-workers. They were all ready to leave, Tennoji and Eiki already gone. Kyobashi, Hanai and the boss were still there and Kyobashi unabashedly looked you up and down.

“Having a date tonight?” His eyebrow raised he looked at you.

“I’m going to a singles party with Nomura,” you admitted and Hanai frowned.

“I thought you had a boyfriend?”

“Uhm, things are – complicated…” you vaguely answered and went to your desk, pushing piles of paperwork around.

“Are you following my example and get a boyfriend for every day of the week?” Kyobashi kept asking.

“No, just going out. It’s not as if I’m obliged to end up with one of the participants. I just don’t feel like staying at home tonight.” You didn’t want to discuss this right now. You and Rob, that was something undefined and honestly you didn’t saw a bright future for the both of you.

Kirisawa stared at you for a moment.

“You could come with us to Station,” he finally offered.

“But I already agreed to go to the singles event. It’s not that I can cancel at the last minute.” More that you didn’t want to. You still hoped that spending time with Nomura could lead to something between you. Even though it usually just led to more tears you shed alone in your bed afterwards, while he was surely having fun with another woman.

You really needed to get over this! And you would! First thing tomorrow.

The door was opened and Nomura came in.

“Hey guys, I’m going to borrow the princess for a bit,” he announced and nodded at you.

“Princess? More like the grumpy stable-lad,” Hanai said and you poked you tongue out at him.

“I’m ready, we can go,” you said and took your bag.

“You’re looking really cute,” Nomura said, waved toward the others and opened the door for you.

The ride in his car was awkward. You analyzed every motion, every glance, every word, but in the end you weren’t any wiser.

“So what’s with the guy you dated? Why aren’t you with him tonight? Why are you coming to a singles event instead?” He broke the silence eventually and you looked at him, slightly confused.

“Well, actually… he’s nice and all, but he isn’t the one, you know? Nothing exclusive anyway. And all I want to do is go out and get a bit drunk, talk with other people. It’s not that I’m going to hook up with someone.” You shrugged.

“I never saw you as someone who would hook up with someone else in the first place,” he answered with a grin. Yeah, right. You weren’t that type of girl. You wanted something steady, that was just the way you were. Not flings or one-night stands. But your heart wanted Nomura, and he wouldn’t give you something steady.

“Maybe you saw me in a wrong light, then,” you answered seriously. “Maybe I am the type for a hook up. And maybe that’s exactly what I’m looking for tonight. Just one night. Without strings attached.” You looked out of the window, your words the closest to an actual confession you dared to admit.

 

Oh, you keep telling me, you keep telling me, I’m your man.
What do I have to do to make you understand?

For I’m the type of guy who gives girl the eye, everybody knows.
But I love them and I leave them, break their hearts and deceive them
everywhere I go.

 

You arrived at the bar where the party was held. You had stopped talking again after your little statement. Nomura put on a smile when you entered and you did the same. After the introductions he started flirting with a blonde, a nurse or something, and you started to drink. Not much. Just enough to numb your heart and your brain. You suddenly realized that you hadn’t asked him if he would take you home afterwards or if you should get a cab. Oh well, you would see eventually. It didn’t really matter.

You talked with some people, both guys and women, not really trying to make friends or find a date, just chatting and drinking. Soon the first couples formed, but there were still enough possibilities to casually talk with others. You got another drink and realized that you might be a bit tipsy. Time to get some air.

You stumbled out of the door, took a deep breath and decided to just walk up and down a bit. When you came around a corner you saw them. Nomura and the blonde. She was trapped between the wall and his body, giggling, with a hand on his arm. He leaned against the wall with one arm, the other hand brushing her hair from her neck. He leaned in and whispered something that made her giggle once more. You couldn’t hear them, just watched them being so close. You turned around before you could see them kissing. You instantly regretted coming here at all, your heart ached so much and you felt completely sober. Sober and stupid. He would never consider being with you. Never.

You went back inside and took a seat at the bar. You weren’t in the mood for the party anymore. You were in the mood to drink. Not the wine you usually had. You ordered some Tequila shots and downed the first two without even blinking. The barkeeper shot you a glance but you only waved him off. No need to worry about you.

Half an hour and maybe six shots later Nomura came in, his hair and clothes slightly disheveled. The sight nearly broke your heart. At least the part that wasn’t already shattered to dust.

“Hey princess, I thought you had left already with someone,” he cheerfully greeted you and sat down next to you.

“Thought the same about you.” Your answer was already slurred.

“What are you having?” There seemed to be worry in his eyes but maybe you were just too drunk already to read him correctly.

“Tequila.” You motioned the barkeeper for a refill.

“Is that a wise decision?” Nomura seemed amused.

“Is it ever?”  You had trouble to fixate him with your gaze already. Maybe it was time to switch over to water. Oh, what the hell! Just one more. You downed the shot and made a face. The time for salt and lemon had long passed.

“So, didn’t found someone for tonight?” he kept teasing you.

“Who says that? I mean, the night isn’t over yet, is it?” You tried to get up but swayed until Nomura grabbed your arm to steady you.

“I think your night is over. No more Tequila for you,” he chuckled. “Seems as if you missed your chance for a hook up.”

“Hmph…” The sound you made wasn’t ladylike, it was a typical drunken noise to show your disagreement, confusion, anger – every little emotion you just felt. “So what about you? Already got lucky or do you want to go home with me?” Your in alcohol drenched brain made you say the most horrible things.

“You wouldn’t want that, princess,” he said, somehow sad. But you were too far gone to notice.

“What? Afraid I wouldn’t like it?” With that you got on your tiptoes and kissed him. A sloppy, drunken kiss that ended in giggles. But still so much better than anything you had imagined.

“Come on, live a little,” you taunted him and he clenched his jaws. Next thing you knew was that you were driving back in his car. He was actually taking you home.

 

The tensed silence was even worse than on your way to the party, but it helped you getting a clear head. Or at least a clearer head. There was still enough Tequila and unrequited longing to drown all your reason. When he put his hand on your thigh at a red light you almost jumped. When his hand wandered upwards you wanted to moan.

“You sure about this, princess?” He was still looking at the road.

“Definitely.” Maybe that was the solution for your problem. You could just forget about him once you had him in your bed. It wasn’t your heart that wanted him so much, it was your body. As long as you kept telling yourself things like that you could actually go through with this hook up thing.

“We are here, princess. Still sure?” He gave you another out but again you ignored it.

“Absolutely. So how about you stop talking and come in instead?” You left the car in a rush of bravado, walked, slightly swaying, to your door and fumbled with the key.

And suddenly he was there. Pressed closely behind you, his hand on yours helped with the key, his breath ghosted over your neck. When your door finally opened you were already panting, his lips were attached to your neck , one arm around your waist kept you upright. You stumbled into your hallway together, every reservation forgotten when you turned in his arms to kiss him again. This time it was even better, slower, but still full of desire and hunger. Your knees grew weak and you clung to him desperately.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do this after all,” he whispered, his voice already hoarse. “You’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“Convenient excuse, Deputy Chief, but I’m not that drunk.” You rattled off your badge number, your social security number and your telephone number. “Prove enough? Believe me, I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Maybe, but it’s still a stupid decision.” But he didn’t stop kissing you, touching you. His hands were all over your body, opening buttons and tugging on clothes.

“I don’t need to be drunk to make stupid mistakes,” you replied before you opened his belt. And if all this was a mistake, at least you would enjoy every moment of it.

Your clothes landed on the floor all over your place while you slowly made your way to your bedroom, pausing every once in a while for a heated make out session against a wall, a door or on a piece of furniture. You were rather surprised that you made it into the bedroom at all. And still had your panties on. Nomura was in his boxer briefs, dark and tight, and if that sight didn’t get you sober nothing else could. The realization was like a bucket full of ice water. He was really there, in your bedroom, in underwear, and he WANTED you. That much was clear. And you felt not only your body reacting, but also your stupid heart. The pounding wasn’t only from your arousal.

“Hmm, princess, you have no idea how long I wanted to see you like that,” he put your thoughts into words. His hands on your waist pulled you closer and he kissed you again, your lips were already swollen and red but you just couldn’t stop. Kissing him was like a dream come true. He slowly walked you over to your bed and stopped next to it. He kissed your neck, your collarbone, down to the valley of your breasts. Dropping on his knees he let his lips trail over your body until he reached the waistband of your panties.

“I think you don’t need these anymore,” he muttered against your skin and tugged the fabric down your legs. You gasped when your sex was exposed to him, his hungry eyes and curious hands. He grabbed your hips and pushed you on your bed until you were sitting on the edge. Everything was like in a haze, the heat of his tongue trailing up your thigh, the strength of his hands holding your hips, his beard tickling your skin. You didn’t want to close your eyes, you wanted to watch him all night long, his face finally buried between your thighs. You were propped on your hands behind your body so you had the perfect view when he wrapped one of your legs over his shoulder and licked a broad stripe over your folds. You couldn’t hold back your moans when his tongue circled your clit, making it the centre of your needs when he flicked it over and over, sucked it between his lips. At some point you plopped down on your bed, your back arched, your mind blank, just focusing on the pleasure he caused you. Your breath came in quick, shallow puffs, mixed with sighs and moans and occasional ‘fuck, yes’s and ‘oh god’s. Your legs started to tremble, your whole body taunt and needy, ready to snap any minute now, the pressure in your belly almost unbearable when he brought a hand up and slid two fingers into you. With a loud cry you came on his tongue, your core clenching around his fingers. You panted and sobbed, the intense pleasure coursing through your body made you almost oblivious to anything else.

So you only noticed Nomura hovering naked over you when he kissed you again, the taste of your arousal on his lips and tongue. You reached down and grabbed his hard cock, feeling the precum on the tip. Nomura hissed when you spread the sticky liquid with your thumb over his tip before you started to gently pump his cock.

“You better – ughh, stop that… I don’t want to… to come like that…” he pressed out between gritted teeth. You grinned lazily, still in your afterglow, but stopped and got up slightly. He moved away to give you room and you crawled to the middle of the bed, patting on the mattress to show him where he should lie down. When he did you straddled him and leaned in to kiss him, your hips grinding down on him, his hard cock gliding through your slick folds. He grabbed your hips, threw his head back into the pillows so you had the chance to attack his neck. Your breasts grazed his firm chest, your hard nipples begging for attention when he cupped your soft mounds and started to play with your nipples.

It was torturous for the both of you so when you finally decided that you had played enough with him you were already in need for another release. You reached for your nightstand, opened a drawer and pulled a condom out. You shifted slightly and opened the wrapper, looked at Nomura in all his naked glory beneath you and a wild pride surged through you. The one you loved, the man you wanted more than any other man before – he was here and you would have sex with him. And afterwards you would be free to love someone else.

At least that was the plan. You rolled the condom over his cock, held it in place and positioned your hips. You lowered yourself onto him and you both moaned when he finally entered you. You took your time, wanted to savor the moment and every single inch of him. When you were finally sunken down on his lap as far as possible you put your hands on his chest to steady you and watched his face as you started to raise and lower your hips. He had his eyes closed, his lips were slightly parted, you saw and felt the heaving of his chest, the beating of his heart. For a moment you made yourself believe that it beat only for you.

Nomura’s hands slid from your thighs up to your hips. One stayed there and the other mad it’s way to your breasts. He rolled and tugged your nipple and you sped up your movements, riding him so that you dragged your clit over his pubic bone for more friction.

Your soft whimpers and his low moans filled your ears, you felt the light sheen of sweat covering your body and the heat in every spot he touched.

Suddenly he wrapped his arms around you and sat up, holding you in his lap while he kissed you and you just wanted to cry. This kiss wasn’t the hungry kind, not only lust and passion, it was sweet and soothing and sent your heart into overdrive.

Before you could get drunk on that feeling he had shifted you both so he could lay you down on your back, your legs wrapped around his waist while he kept sitting on his knees. Your ass rested on his thighs, your hips were raised, your breast bounced with his every thrust. Each one hit your sweet spot deep inside your core and even more, each thrust was directed at your heart. You felt the fire burning again in your belly but you were afraid that this time it would consume you fully, not leaving anything behind but an empty shell. There was no denying anymore, you had lost your heart to this man who only thought of you as a casual sexual adventure.

An especially deep thrust made you cry out in pleasure and despair, you sobbed and panted, unable to decide if your body or your heart was in charge right now.

“So good, princess… feels so… perfect… come for me… come around my cock…” he muttered while he started circling your clit with his thumb. You were so close already, so close, so afraid, so confused – so done for.

You grabbed your sheets tightly when the pleasure overwhelmed you again, you arched your back, tried to meet his thrusts as good as you could. You gasped, followed by a long moan when he slumped down on your, kept thrusting some more before he came, too. You trembled under him, the waves of your orgasm washing over you when you felt him twitch inside your core, when he growled in your ear and bit into your shoulder.

You only noticed your tears when he rolled off of you to get rid of the condom. Quickly you wiped your face clean, suddenly only wanting him to leave as soon as possible so you could cry openly. But he stayed. He snuggled close to you, hugged you tightly form behind and rested his head between your shoulder blades.

“You are really something,” he mumbled, his words affectionate and his touches gentle.

Your exhaustion made you fall asleep quickly.

 

Don’t you know that I’m the type of man who is always on the roam,
Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home.

When you woke up in the morning he was still there, but already getting dressed.

“Morning, princess. Sorry, I’ve got to leave, early meeting in the PD. Are we good?” He smiled at you like on every other morning when you met in the hallway. It was killing you.

“Sure. I better get ready, too. New case, lots of work today,” you answered, trying to keep your voice steady. He nodded, obviously satisfied, and grabbed his jacket.

“See you at the PD.” With a last wave of his hand he was gone.

He had been right. You had made a mistake. Sleeping with him didn’t help you to forget him, it only made your infatuation grow bigger. Now you would never be able to get over him.

With a self-depreciatory laugh you got up, took your phone and answered to a text Rob had sent you the evening before.

‘I would love to go on a weekend trip with you. Can’t wait!’

You weren’t fair to him, but maybe you would be able to love him eventually. If you were ever able to get your heart back from Nomura.

You know, I can’t make it all alone.
Sometimes that’s the way, that’s the way.
I’m not sad, I’m not sad, I don’t love you.
Just got to do.

Leather jacket

Snuggled against the broad back of your boyfriend you are enjoying the wind that roars in your ears, almost just as much as the roar of the engine somewhere under you. The vibrations of the motor bike seem to travel directly into – no no no, focus in the ride! It’s been a long time since you and Hiroshi had some time alone together, but now you have wrapped up that long and difficult case and even if you and Hiroshi don’t have a day off together you can still go on a ride with his Harley after work.

That’s why you are racing with him through this warm summer night, the lights of the city long left behind, the moon and the stars over your heads spend just enough light that you can see the landscape flying by. It’s like dreaming.

You wrap your arms tighter around his waist, his leather jacket warm at your cheek. You love the smell of it, the old leather and Hiroshi’s scent mixed together to something utterly comforting and soothing.

Suddenly he pulls over and the bike rolls towards a small clearing. You hop off and wait for him to tell you why you have stopped. He taps on your helmet and you take it off while he does the same.

“Look over there,” he says and points away from the street. You turn around and see water glittering. The stars and the moon are reflected, the movements of the waves makes them sway on the ground and stay fixed on the sky. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

“Wow…” you mutter and he steps behind you to wrap his arms around you. The night air around the lake is chilly, but his chest pressed against your back is warm. “I would never have guessed that there is a place like that around here.” You are so awestruck that you whisper.

“Yeah, it’s pretty hidden,” he whispers too, but right next to your ear and it sends a shiver down your spine.

“How hidden?” you ask after some seconds.

“If you go over there you can’t be seen from the street,” he answers and points towards a group of trees next to the lake.

“And have you brought me here with an ulterior motif?” you ask further, teasingly this time.

“Hmm…” he hums in your ear. “Maybe…” With that he nibbles your earlobe and you squeal before you wriggle out of his arms and start running towards the trees. He follows you with a grin.

 

When you reach the trees you realize that there’s even a small bench. Sitting here and watching the stars could be pretty romantic. But the long time without him and the sight of him in his leather jacket was just too much for you. No way you will be able to keep the mood purely romantic. You love how he looks in that black leather. It is soft and worn, smells like Hiroshi and freedom and adventure. Whenever you smell it you feel adventurous yourself. That and the fact that the ride itself is pretty hot with all those vibrations and Hiroshi between your thighs – you just wish he could have been in another position. Not on that Harley, though. Even though it’s a pretty sturdy machine, there’s no way to get frisky on it. But it can take you to places like this.

Your musings are interrupted by Hiroshi who slowly saunters towards you. You love the way he walks when he isn’t in duty. All confidence and swagger, and he has no idea what this does to you.

“I see you found the bench,” he says and you can actually hear his smile. “Isn’t the view breathtaking here?” He sits down next to you and puts an arm around your shoulders, pulls you closer and kisses your temple.

“What about your ulterior motif you had mentioned?” you ask, not wanting to let the mood drift into the wrong direction.

“Ah, yes.” He grins and you can see it in the dim moonlight. “I thought about something that would make this view even more stunning.”

“Yeah?” You raise an eyebrow, unsure if he can even see it.

“You, naked, bent over that bench,” he simply explains and now you’re glad that it isn’t bright enough so he can see your suddenly burning cheeks. You don’t know how to answer that. Usually he isn’t that straight-forward, but then again, he can be pretty bold. You simply nod and turn your face to kiss him, giving him the answer without words.

He pulls you closer and cups your face, his thumbs running over your jaw line while his tongue brushes yours. You love the way your kisses usually start, sweet and slow, before they become more urged and passionate, before the hunger washes over you and robs you of your senses, before reason gets swallowed by lust and need.

There are already the first changes in his kiss, the desire slowly noticeable. The way he starts sucking at your bottom lip, how his hands slide down your neck, leaving tingles in their wake. He pulls you even closer until you almost straddle his lap, but he has made clear what he wants today so you just hover over his lap without taking initiative.

Slowly he opens your jacket and presses kisses on the naked skin of your cleavage. His hands grab your hips and he pulls you down on his lap and you wrap your arms around him, your hands buried in his hair. Your kisses get more and more passionate, his lips roam your neck and you nibble at his jaw line from time to time. You slowly grind down on him and he groans, his hands sliding under your shirt and pushing your bra up. Your breasts spill out of the cups and he gently massages them, his thumbs rubbing your nipples that are already hard from the cool night air. He takes off your jacket and shirt, the bra stays where it is for the time being. You know that Hiroshi likes it when you’re naked but he also likes it when you keep something on. Not much, though. ‘Naked is the new black’ he once said when you asked him if you should wear something special for him.

You start taking off his jacket and shirt, too. It’s your turn now to explore his chest and stomach with your hands and lips. You gently run your nails over his skin, leave light red trails that are barely visible in the soft moonlight.

“I love it when you do that,” he groans approvingly and you smile. You love how much you affect him. You want to drive him crazy with desire just for you. You never felt so sexy and covetable with any other man before and you want him to feel the same. He is the one for you.

You shiver when he licks your bare chest and he stops.

“Are you cold?” he asks concerned but you shake your head.

“Not really. If you’re worried so much you can warm me up already,” you purr teasingly. He growls and pulls you closer.

“I’m going to make you sweat in no time,” he grunts, his voice thick with desire. He crashes his lips against yours and cups your ass, groping the soft flesh. He really likes your ass, more than your breasts. That’s why he likes to bend you over, like over this bench. He just loves taking you from behind, his eyes glued to your ass and his cock that slides into you again and again.

He lifts you up and you scramble off his lap. Standing next to the bench he opens your jeans before he pulls it down. He crouches down in front of you and helps you take off your shoes before he fully pulls your pants off.

“Are you overly attached to those panties?” he asks when he slowly trails his hands up your legs. You shake your head. You have dozens like that, simple cottons panties. Not sexy but comfortable. And easy to tear.

“Good,” he whispers when he’s finally face to face with you again. He pushes you backwards against the wooden bench.

“Turn around,” he says and you comply. He quickly puts his jacket on the bench before he gently pushes you forward until you kneel on the soft black leather. You put your hands on the backrest and wait with bated breath for his next move. He leans in and kisses your neck and you moan. Goosebumps run over your skin at his touch. He trails his lips and hands over your arched back, his fingers grazing your sides before he slides them over the soft curve of your hips and down your legs. On their way up again he strokes the inside of your thighs until he reaches your panties. You know the fabric is already damp and he hums approvingly when he notices it, too. His fingers wrap around the edge of your panties and with a tearing sound he rips them off you. You moan again. His fingers now dance over your wet folds, the cool air in stark contrast to his warm hands. He gently slides a finger inside you and you gasp.

His other hand snakes around your body to circle your clit with two fingers. Your arms tremble but you stay upright.

“Oh, that’s… so good…” you moan and he chuckles.

“Not only for you,” he growls with a deep voice. “But I can’t wait any longer.”

He pulls his hands away and next thing you hear is the clinking of his belt and the sound of his zipper. Then you feel his hard, velvety length pressed against the soft flesh of your naked ass. He simply rubs himself against you for some moments, his hands grabbing your hips tightly.

“Ugh, you feel so fucking good,” he groans before he slides his length between your thighs, through your wet folds. You are panting and so is he, the excitement and arousal constantly growing. You want to beg him to put it in but you can’t. All you can do is moan but as if he heard your thoughts he finally pushes into you and only stops when he’s buried in your warmth to the hilt.

He leans over your back and kisses your neck again. You turn your head and try to kiss his lips but it’s a sloppy kiss, all tongue and nothing else. Then he finally starts to move and you almost sob. The whole foreplay seems to have taken ages and all you want now is that he fucks you hard and relentless. Again he wraps an arm around you and starts rubbing your clit, slowly at first but then faster, speeding up like his thrusts. You try to brace against the force he uses and smile when you feel the bench moving with you. You just hope that it won’t break. But wouldn’t that be a funny story, a great memory? You giggle lowly but of course Hiroshi hears you.

“What’s so… funny… huh?” he grunts and gives you a particularly hard thrust.

“Just… enjoying… the ride,” you reply, as smugly as you can muster.

“You’re going to… enjoy it… even more,” he promises and his other hand leaves your hip to grab your breast. He rolls your stiff nipple between his fingers, tucks and pinches it lightly. A jolt of pleasure shoots through you and settles in your belly where the tension is already hard to bear. You moan loudly, not caring for your surroundings. You are alone after all.

Only the slapping sound of his hips slamming against your ass is heard, your panting and your mixed moans.

“Hi- Hiroshi, I’m… sooo close…” you cry out and he starts pounding you even harder, his fingers work you over the edge. You grip the wooden backrest harder, your body trembles and a breathless gasp marks your climax. You close your eyes and let the waves of pleasure wash over you, the satisfaction and love fill your heart and make you sob.

Hiroshi slows down but doesn’t stop, he grunts while pushing into you again and again, his hands back on your hips. You feel weak now and just want to lie down but keep yourself in this position. You know that he is close, too, the way he grips your hips is almost painful and his breathing is labored.

“Fuck,” he hisses under his breath.

“Exactly,” you sass and he slaps your ass as answer, not too hard, but it’s enough to send him over the edge as well. He grunts and thrusts deep inside of you, followed by some more shallow thrusts.

Still panting he leans in to kiss your cheek.

“I love you,” he mumbles, his sweaty chest pressed against your back.

“I love you, too,” you answer, slightly shivering since your own sweat cools off in the night air.

Tomorrow you will have to work again but tonight it’s only you and him, the stars, the moon and the faint smell of his leather jacket under your skin.

Heaven Hath No Fury: Two Endings

XIV. Their own free will.

Bowing was not in the nature of either the Minister of Wishes or Punishments, but the weight of each god’s guilt in the face of Miho’s admonishments was considerable.

“Make your choice,” Mieke growled, itching – it seemed – for them to resist so she could justify a bloody approach to their mission.

“We…” Leon began, but Zyglavis finished for him.

“… have bowed enough,” he stated carefully, and continued more quickly when the Goddess of Canes Venatici sharply lifted her chin, “but…

He stepped aside, leaving Leon alone before the throne room doors.

“But,” Zyglavis repeated, “you are right. Punishment is long overdue.”

With deliberate ceremony the doors swung inward, and hand in hand, fingers entwined, Miho and Mieke stepped past Leon and Zyglavis into the throne room.

The greeting the they received was less than gracious, with not a word uttered before a sphere of light, large enough to engulf both goddesses, came barrelling toward them.

“Not unexpected,” Miho dropped, raising her free hand.

Just her palm touched, and a tingle raced through her body as the King’s energy began to diminish, shrink until it was little more than a tiny golden pearl dancing over her fingers.

“Have you nothing to say?” Miho asked, her voice a surprisingly restrained whisper.

“Let me rip an answer from his throat,” Mieke snarled, more eager for carnage than Miho it appeared.

“Then he’d be dead, his suffering short,” Miho pointed out, closing her fist around the bright bead of power.

Quick hiss.

A few sparks.

It was gone.

“I cannot be killed,” the King proclaimed haughtily, then flickered his gaze to Leon and Zyglavis who had moved up to Miho’s right shoulder.

“What’s this?” the King sneered. “Mutiny?”

“I may be the Minister for Wishes,” Leon declared, “but of all those you have wronged in your existence, she most deserves retribution.”

“Do you truly believe she will not steal your stars also?” the King questioned, holding his ground, but when Zyglavis added his piece, there was far less certainty in the celestial monarch’s eyes.

“For my failure to protect her, to stand up for her, to rescue her,” Zyglavis began, “my very own betrayal – I would give her my stars is she requested them.”

“Outrageous!” the King exclaimed.

“But it will be your stars I’ll be taking, Morthwyl.”

All but Miho and Mieke seemed stunned at the pronouncement of this name.

None had heard it before, and yet instantly they knew Miho had spoken the true name of the King of the Heavens.

In shock and horror he stumbled back against his throne, eyes bulging – for her knew the implications.

All confidence fled.

Miho had him exactly where she wanted him.

“Miho!” Karno shouted, he and the other gods running to join Leon and Zyglavis.

“Leave it,” Leon commanded. “It’s over.”

“Yes, it is,” Miho agreed, stepping up to the King, whose attempts to flee were quashed by Mieke.

“Morthwyl,” she said, a hateful word, “give me your stars.”

There was absolutely no hesitation, and just like that, Miho’s tormentor surrendered his power, his immortality, his everything.

And Mieke no longer needed to keep him from running. His body slumped pathetically to the floor at Miho’s feet, all the shine, the luminescence of his presence void.

Slowly, Miho turned to the now sizeable crowd behind her – not just the zodiac gods, but others who now peered at her, flabbergasted – and smiled as she inhaled.

“Now what?” Scorpio asked, blunt as ever despite his mortality.

“Now, I banish this miserable creature to a mortal life on Earth,” Miho replied in a strong, clear voice, looking from god to god, “give you all back your stars, and leave the zodiac gods to govern the Heavens in a way – I hope – that will not necessitate my returning here again.”

“What?” Krioff blinked, and everyone else was just as stunned.

“You’re not going to take the King’s place?” Ichthys blurted, and Miho raised a brow.

“Would you like me to?” she queried, and it was clear Ichthys didn’t know how to answer that question without digging himself into a hole. “I never desired power for power’s sake,” she explained, and there was silence but for the deposed King’s whimpering, “only what I needed to exact my revenge, and prevent this malevolent wretch from causing further suffering.”

“But,” Teorus began, but the rest of his sentence failed when Miho swept her arm in a dramatic arch, starlight floating majestically from her fingertips and coming to rest within the eyes of those to whom they belonged.

Perhaps now – if they all worked together – they could overpower Miho and Mieke and hold them accountable for their act against the King, but the crowd merely parted as Miho stepped toward the exit, Mieke behind her dragging Morthwyl by the collar.

“Where will you go?” Zyglavis asked quietly when Miho reached him, and she paused to look him in the face.

“Away,” she responded, “but never truly far. So don’t fuck this up.”

That was all the goodbye anyone got. The Heavens fell quiet, still, the calm before a storm of insecurity perhaps, but at least freedom from tyranny.

 

In the wake of their triumph, Miho and Mieke laid together, their legs entangled. Blissfully Miho raked her fingers gently through Mieke’s hair, savouring the silky sensation and the softness of her lover’s breath against her breast.

“Think they’ll come looking for you?” Mieke wondered aloud, before kissing against one of Miho’s nipples.

“In the afterglow of victory, you want to talk about them?” Miho scoffed, but her indignation was exaggerated.

“I just want you to be safe, to be free,” Mieke grumbled, tilting her head back to look up into Miho’s face.

“I think we’ve made a pretty good argument for leaving us alone,” Miho smiled, bring her lips closer to Mieke’s, “but if they’re stupid enough to disturb the peace, I’ll destroy them all.”

OR

XV. Made to kneel

Miho’s shadow cast a deep darkness across those at her feet. With their knuckles pressed to the glossy, marble floor outside the King’s throne room, Leon and Zyglavis found it impossible to rise, to move, to defy – though they had made their decision to stay loyal to the status quo.

Even though it was pointless.

“There was a time,” Miho said, eyes cast down at her brother, “I wanted to kill you, Leon.”

Her fingers slipped slowly through his hair, brushing his bangs up then tilting back his head so he could see her standing over him.

“A part of me still does,” she told him thinly, leaning down to whisper. “The ruination of a life, for the ruination of a life.”

“Miho, don’t,” Zyglavis barked, and her head snapped to him, her fingers curling in Leon’s hair and gripping tightly.

“Don’t what? Exact appropriate revenge upon the brother who handed me to a monster on a silver platter?” she growled, and it was echoed by Mieke snarling. “Do you know what he did to me, Zyglavis? How I held my heart so tightly bound because I didn’t want anyone to think for a second I used my power to steal away their free will for my own desire? That is what Leon did – snapped his fingers and had me sprawled, writhing beneath the furious thrust of the King and made me want it!”

Her exclamation was accompanied by the sudden rise of Leon’s body, and as if he was weightless, Miho flung him aside with such force his body cracked and imprint in the marble wall.

Before he could even let out a winded groan, other gods, including the enfeebled Karno, Krioff, Huedhaut and Scorpio came running down the wide hall in their direction. But they all slid to a swift halt when Mieke’s form bulked out into the celestial form of the Goddess of Canes Venatici, and snapped threatening jaws that barred their path.

“She will eat you,” Miho warned with a smirk. “Or at least chew you up and spit you out again; I don’t think she finds you any more tasteful than I do.”

“Miho,” Zyglavis entreated once more, redirecting her ire.

“He’s sitting in that throne room knowing full well what’s transpiring here,” she sniggered, glancing to the large doors behind Zyglavis’ back. “And he will leave you to languish at my mercy because he is a coward.”

It would have been the perfect moment for the King of the Heavens to burst onto the scene and prove Miho wrong – but he did not.

“Cling to that hatred you’ve developed for me, Zyglavis,” Miho began again, reaching for his cheek with her palm sizzling, “because…”

“Hate you?” he frowned, and it was not as a result of imminent pain. “What you’re doing is madness, but whether you believe me or not, I hate myself more for playing a part in what led you here.”

“Your self-deprecation is wasted on me,” she spat, enveloping him in flame and finally more formally announcing her presence to the King.

Zyglavis’ charred body cartwheeled through the immense doors, then skidded across the mirrored floor before slamming into a vacant throne.

The King stood beside it, and didn’t even look down at the smouldering body to his left. His pale eyes staring straight ahead and meeting Miho’s fierce gaze.

“That is quite enough,” the King’s voice rang out, and though his stance was strong, not a single soul missed the tremble in his voice.

“Oh?” Miho chuckled, stepping through the debris alone, while Mieke easily held any resistance at bay. “What now, my love? My greatest, deepest, desperate love? Enough? No no, not yet.”

As she cleared the crunching splinters of lacquered wood and crystal, the King began to gather his strength in blazing wafts of bright divine energy. It gathered from places older than anyone could remember, even the King himself had forgotten perhaps, but Miho seemed entirely unconcerned.

She stood, relaxed and waited.

“Majesty…” Zyglavis croaked, shakily raising himself up on one elbow, his uniform smoking, his skin charred. “Please… she…”

“She has NO power here!” the King roared in an absolutely unheard of display of raw public emotion.

“In one word, I will have all the power,” Miho whispered. “You will give me your stars as willingly as I once gave myself to you.”

“There is no such word,” the King growled. “And I will give you nothing but the end of your miserable existence,” he added arrogantly.

Though his voice had gathered some strength, there was still a kernel of doubt.

“Hmph,” Miho smirked, then admitted, “I nearly gave up. When I couldn’t find it buried anywhere in the Heavens, in no record or archive – then I realised you’d never have allowed it to be recorded.”

“Miho,” Zyglavis entreated once more, and in the split second her gaze shifted to him, the King launched a massive sphere of pulsating power at her.

For a second she was engulfed, muted by the potent luminosity, until tendrils of green flame wreathed in glittering, slithering, aqua shards broke through and revealed her unharmed at the centre.

“You knew if anyone ever discovered your true name,” she persisted unfazed, walking a slow, menacing path toward her target, “they could bring you to heel, and so I abandoned my fruitless quest to find it. Instead…”

“You have nothing!” he laughed, but Miho hadn’t quite finished her sentence.

“… I’m going to give you a new one.”

Any clamouring noise behind them died. All out in the corridor beyond Mieke, who still held back those who might defend the King, fell still and silent.

“Impossible,” the King gasped, readying another attack, greater fury building in his movements until Miho was but a few arms lengths before him.

“We shall see,” she smiled, eyes sparkling galaxies. “The former Goddess of Fate’s influence over what things are and will be, was the first thing I took – the power to re-write fate, after that.”

“It’s not…” the King actually stuttered, stepping backward.

“So I name you…”

All strained to listen, but only Miho and the King himself heard the name she whispered.

His eyes grew wide and the light around him shattered like glass then dimmed to nothing.

“Now give me your stars, you malodorous creature,” Miho hissed, pinching his chin harshly and pulling their faces close. “Then get on your knees and beg for your life.”

Tears touched the chalk of his cheeks, but with his true name on her tongue and in her mind, the King could not resist Miho’s command.

It was more of a slump that dropped him to the floor, shuddering and utterly pathetic in defeat.

“Please,” he murmured in a hoarse appeal, “spare me.”

Though he had done as she asked, Miho was still caught in the moment of receiving stars unlike any others she had stolen. Her senses expanded everywhere, every tiny little corner, and flooded her mind and heart with an almost overwhelming feeling of omnipotence.

“Spare you?” Miho parroted, her voice now carrying with it a dark reverberation. “No.”

As curt as the word itself, was the snapping of barbed, shadowy wires sprawling from Miho’s body and stringing the deposed tyrant up by wrists, neck and ankles.

A spectacle, a demonstration and a warning to any who might consider further overthrow.

“This era ends with you,” she snarled, biting the end off each word.

Then she tore him apart.

Whatever matter made up the former King of the Heavens was ripped asunder. Joints popped, bones broke, and blood sullied the regal décor of the throne room. Mushy piles of what could no longer be recognised as belonging to either man or god, hit the floor and quivered before melting into pools of silver that quickly evapourated.

Exhaling a slow breath, Miho closed her eyes – the moment had been such a long time coming, she wanted to savour it.

“Now what?” Scorpio called from beyond Mieke, the only one to raise his voice amid gods who still had their stars but were stuck dumb by what they had just witnessed.

“Mieke,” Miho dropped, and the huge dog returned to her human form before striding to take her love’s extended hand.

“What difference does it make to you,” Miho said, kissing the back of Mieke’s hand before drawing their bodies together, “if your puppet strings are pulled by a king, or a couple of queens?”

Staggering to his feet and clutching his slowly healing chest, Zyglavis peered at the entwined goddesses as they kissed – passionately, fearlessly.

“She really killed him?” Ichthys piped up, and Karno nodded slowly.

“Looks… like it,” he exhaled, sweeping his eyes to Leon whose head hung.

“What do we do?” a nervous god queried somewhere in the crowd.

“What do you do?” Miho laughed, her voice carrying to every ear in the Heavens. “You do exactly what you’re told, just as you always have.”

Grinning, Miho led her most loyal partner to the throne and sat, before the Goddess of Canes Venatici draped herself comfortably across a welcome lap.

“And,” Miho went on, sifting her fingers lazily through Mieke’s hair, “for you impotent zodiac gods, I have a whole host of ways for you to entertain me.”

“Can we have the King back now?” Ichthys whimpered. “Please?”

“Nope,” Miho snickered flippantly, lolling her head back, “but, little fishy, I guarantee that as each day passes you will wish for his return more and more.”

“And shame we control the wishes now,” Mieke added with a wide grin.

But it was Miho who had the final words.

And the punishments.”

 

WHICH ENDING DID YOU LIKE BETTER?

Heaven Hath No Fury: Original Sin

“Leon!”

It was the most animated Miho had been in… she didn’t know how many days and nights had passed in seclusion. Her body actually ached when she stood she had been sitting stationary for so long, just staring into the reflecting pool – watching Earth ebb and flow, but powerless to influence it in any way.

The arrival of her brother was unexpected; the King had told her no one would find her, no one could see her – if she was going to be petulant, stubborn, if she insisted on defying him, then she would do so alone.

“How did you even find me?” she gasped, stopping sort of hugging the man who, looked unusually… disturbed.

“You’ve been wishing so hard,” he pointed out in an attempt at casual. “Think I couldn’t hear you?”

“Heard and unanswered,” she pointed out, drawing herself up.

The Goddess of Corvus was not short, but Leon was still taller. In their childhood he’d always loomed over her, and even as adults it seemed when they were simply side by side, he was an immense tower.

Now, however, he seemed somehow so much smaller – not even his shadow could touch her.

“This, this is unbearable,” she growled. “Brother please, help me escape this nightmare.”

Hesitantly his answer came.

“I… am here to grant your wish,” he declared, but he sounded so unsure, and this concerned Miho deeply.

“Then let’s get out of here,” she urged, taking his hand, but her usually confident, arrogant brother did not budge.

In fact, he cast his eyes to the ground.

“What?” she frowned. “I wished to be freed from this purgatory, so free me.”

“I… must also grant the wish of the King,” Leon said, his voice quiet, his voice incongruously diminutive with every other memory Miho had of him.

The King’s wish.

Miho’s chest clenched.

“And what, exactly, has he wished for?” she questioned.

But she already knew.

He had already gone so far as to strip her of her title and position, and to cloister her away on an isolated estate from which she could not use her power – and she had not broken. Her consent was all he could not take by force.

But he could wish for it.

“He wished you’d fall in love with him,” Leon answered after a short pause, “and I have to grant it.”

“No,” she hissed, balling her fists and scowling at him. “Why would you… how could you even think of granting that?”

“No one defies the King, Miho,” Leon pointed out, and this caused true rage to blossom across her pale features.

I defied the King!” she roared, eyes blazing.

“And look where it got you,” he volleyed. “You won’t even remember this, you’ll be happy,” he added, but this had the opposite of its intended effect.

“No, I won’t,” she snarled, backing away from him like there was somewhere she could run where it would make a scrap of difference. “You would betray your own family for that… monster?”

“He’s the King, Miho,” Leon retaliated, stepping toward her, but she scurried back like he meant to physically assault her.

“He’s taken enough!” she barked, but her voice had become thick and panicked. “Don’t… don’t take my free will too, don’t make me his slave.”

Brows knitted, Leon struggled. He was himself powerful, but the King was something else entirely. It was not that he feared the repercussions of defiance per se, would never admit to fear, but he had to rationalise what might happen if a minister such as himself was to disobey – others might also, chaos could allow evil to gain a foothold.

And to prevent this, all he had to do was sacrifice his sister to a creature who, even he had to admit, was the single most selfish being he’d ever encountered.

“I’m sorry, Miho,” he exhaled finally, lifting his hand slightly, fingers poised, and full force horror exploded in his sister’s eyes.

“Leon!”

The light touch of gold-spun hair tickled against Miho’s cheek – and she smiled up at the King who hovered over her. Though the hands that held her down gripped tightly, possessively, there was a gladness in her heart that sang amid the shortening length of her breathing.

“Your Majesty,” she exhaled, unable to blink for fear his angelic presence would vanish.

Her body hummed so powerfully for the want of it him it was almost painful: a deep, aching, burning resonance, as much a part of herself as the lips that longed to kiss him, the heart that beat for him, and the warm, wetness of her core that desperately beckoned him inward.

“Tell me what you desire,” he commanded, the twist of his lips a smirking, arrogant tease in which she saw only benevolence.

“Ahh,” she groaned, the torment of his rigid length rubbing just between her legs, so infuriating she could barely form a coherent response. “My King, fill me so…”

Her response, as she had spoken it then, continued in a gushing overflow of sexual yearning and hyperbolic banalities – while an unseen figure at the bedside loomed like a storm cloud flashing with violence.

“I desire the crush of your throat beneath my palms, to feel bones bend and snap,” Miho’s shadow snarled, unheard and glaring at the monster king as he forced the air from her past-self with the crush of his body. “I desire the slide of your entrails through my fingers, slick and slippery with the last of your malodourous life, and I want to see the light of the stars leave your eyes, your last thought regret you ever crossed me.”

Revulsion rose into her throat as her-past self moaned incomprehensibly.

Glowing, sweaty, dominated and enraptured by complete and unparalleled worship, this pathetic ghoul of her former self, wrapped around the most powerful creature in all the heavens; and though she knew now his perverse heart had no true capacity for love, her past-self loved him with such brutal dedication it very nearly tore her apart.

But as she reached out now to pull him away, knowing what she did, knowing he would tire of her and cast her so thoughtlessly aside, her hand passed through him.

An incorporeal observer of the past, her rage and frustration were the only things with true substance.

Yet she was suddenly tethered, unable to recoil, and just as the King had all but suffocated her with his unchecked want for control over her then, Miho felt herself slipping back beneath him and the wish her brother had granted.

“GET OFF!” she roared, sitting bolt upright in the cold, dark room.

The power of her exclamation was so extreme, the blankets flew apart, the fabric shredded and sent scattering around the space.

In surprise, woken so suddenly from fitful slumber, the slender, pale and naked figure that had been curled against Miho’s body, flinched to wakefulness and the urgent gasping of her companion.

“Miho,” a soft voice whispered, and a gentle hand sought fingers clasping the sheets in a vice like grip. “You are awake now.”

Angrily the Goddess of Corvus sobbed out the remnants of sleep, and the sensation of pressure within that was nothing short of the most heinous violation.

“The nightmare is over,” her lover told her, her other hand sliding slowly up Miho’s exposed spine to the nape of her neck. “Retribution is soon, is now.”

“I know, Mieke,” Miho panted, grasping for calm, “and it will be such a reckoning.”

“And I will help you,” Mieke smiled, rising up on her knees and snuggling into Miho’s back, and wrapping her deceptively thin arms around the other goddess’ neck. “And keep you safe.”

What grace she’d lost in forsaking the Heavens – what pain she’d suffered in knowing the truth – those ragged edges of memory still deep in her mind and flesh were smoothed by honest words and honest intimacy. The Goddess of Canes Venatici, savage and vicious in her most powerful form, lapped gently against the ghostly wounds that still bled in Miho’s soul; and the vengeful rage swirling within became a little less tumultuous… for a few hours.

Astoria: In Chaos – Part Seven

Though Miho laughed, Cyprin was clearly trying not to hit out at Hydra with their aura.

“Hydra!” Jazz barked, and he momentarily stopped.

Jazz,” he acknowledged, licking his lips.

Oh, how she knew that look.

“What’s going on?” Cyprin managed, straightening out their clothing.

“Everyone is the building is on heat,” Miho chimed in, even as Jazz fended Hydra off and warned him to calm down.

“How about you then?” Hydra leered, side stepping Jazz and grabbing Miho’s wrist faster than either she or Jazz could intervene.

“No thanks,” Miho laughed, but his grip tightened and he nudged her against the wall.

“Hydra!” Jazz growled, reaching for him as Miho protested again.

“Get off!” she snapped, no longer laughing, no longer smiling.

His face grew closer, a split second from contact when Miho spoke the second syllable lept from her lips, Hydra stalled.

Blinking like he’d just woken, Hydra had very little time to consider his proximity to Miho, before Jazz pulled him back so hard he stumbled across the office.

“Jeez,” Miho exhaled heavily, slumping a little.

“What the hell?” Hydra gasped, touching his mouth with the back of his hand like he’d actually kissed Miho.

“Yeah,” Miho agreed, looking back out into the hallway to find the semi-naked threesome participants sitting up and looking dazed, then horrified.

“Agent Mann,” Cyprin prompted. “Whatever just happened is going ot have substantial fallout.”

Nodding, Jazz glanced at Miho.

“You okay?”

Fabulous,” Miho replied. “Not sure how, but if I can do something to help with the mop… up…”

Yeah… ew… that wasn’t really what she meant.

“Let’s get on with critical incident protocol,” Cyprin said. “You’re welcome to assist Agent Mann, Miss Fujiwara,” they added.

“Just stay close,” Jazz told her and Miho inclined her head. “That came out of nowhere…”

He he, get it, came out of nowhere?

“… there’s no telling what else might happen.”

“Frogs from the sky,” Miho murmured.

For the rest of the day, Miho worked with Jazz, consoling distraught HERA staff, assessing their needs, and filling out referral documents for appropriate services. It was rewarding when you put aside the bizarreness of what had occurred. At the end of the day, there was still no explanation as to what caused everyone to suddenly become so horny they couldn’t resist one another; all HERA knew, was it had occurred locally, spreading no further than the building.

Day 31

Agents and administrative staff were understandably reserved the following day, edgy, wondering if some unseen force would drive them toward lewd acts again – or worse.

Miho had slept through the same dream of being chased by Zeus and friends to the whooshing, rhythmic sound from above.

In a tangle of blankets she woke with a start and nearly fell from the bunk. Breathing heavily, she took some time to calm herself before getting dressed. She’d always managed on her own, lived on her own, been fine on her own, but now she found herself wishing she could wake beside Hades… and not just because the ‘wake up’ was amazing.

She greeted Jazz with a yawn and went through the motions of a yawn, before asking if she could spend some time with Mieke in achieves.

“Cyprin wants me investigating what happened yesterday,” Jazz told her.

“The archives are pretty well guarded though, right?” Miho pressed. “Should be fine, and it’s like you said, Zeus would be an idiot to attack the building head on.”

“After yesterday I’m not leaving anything to chance,” Jazz said, ignoring Miho’s sigh. “Don’t tell me you’re stir crazy already.”

“Not stir crazy,” Miho frowned, “just – I don’t have a whole lot of friends, and it would be nice to at least see the one I can talk to about all this stuff. I also need to make sure she’s okay after yesterday.”

“Send her a message, she can meet us for P.T. this morning,” Jazz compromised.

“P.T.? Doing what?”

“Cardio and weights in the gym, sparring, then swimming,” Jazz listed, and Miho stretched her arms above her head.

“You and me, sparing?” she grinned. “No auras though, that would be cheating.”

“Sure,” Jazz smiled, accepting the challenge.

Naturally, Jazz knocked Miho on her ass a whole number of times – her training making her far superior to a mere journalist – but that wasn’t to say Miho didn’t have her moments. Mieke cheered and grinned when Miho pulled a number of dirty tricks to gain the upper hand, and in the face of criticism declared when it came to physical combat there should be no rules.

“Normal baddies don’t play by the rules,” she argued, stepping out of the women’s change room with both other women behind her, “I don’t imagine the godly monster kind would be any different.”

“It’s not about rules,” Jazz argued, “rather technique.”

“I have technique,” Miho laughed.

“Dirty fighting is not a technique,” Jazz persisted. “You know as an agent here, you’ll have to pass a number of physical tests.”

“So you accepted the offer?” Mieke queried, looking happy.

Luckily for her, yesterday had been her day off, so she’d not been caught up in the libido incident.

“More or less,” Miho nodded, dipping her toe in the luke warm water of the indoor swimming pool. “We got a little distracted, what with Zeus and all.”

Her comment was flippant, but Mieke knew her well enough to see the vague shadow of uncertainty in Miho’s eyes.

Perhaps to hide this fact, Miho lined herself up with the edge of the pool, and arched a graceful dive. Her body broke the surface, but the impact was a little harder than it should have been, not because she had misaligned her entry, but because the water was…

“Wha!” Miho gasped, struggling to the blue, giggling surface and grappling for the pool’s edge.

“Is that…” Jazz began, but Mieke finished for her as she helped pull Miho to safety.

“Jello.”

“I like jello as much as the next person,” Miho said, trying to wring the sticky goop from her hair, “but only if naked men are wrestling in it.”

Though they might have liked to ponder that a little more, or at the very least access the Tres Spades Jello Tournament fiction, Jazz contacted Cyprin while Mieke went to change and Miho slipped into a shower stall.

Except when she turned the taps, a steady blue stream of sloppy jello emerged.

“Uuuuugh,” she growled, stomping out and turning on one of the basin taps to find much the same. “Great, guess I’m staying sticky.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Mieke snickered, and Miho swatted her backside.

“I’d have thought HERA would have some kind of protection against stuff like this,” she grumbled.

“I’m not sure anyone anticipated water turning to jello,” Mieke argued, handing Miho a towel.

“Looks like the whole building has been affected,” Jazz reported, striding back into the change room. “Toilets blocked…”

“Showers useless,” Miho huffed.

“… catering is in an uproar,” Jazz finished.

“On the bright side, the jello isn’t trying to hump anyone,” Miho added.

Later that day in Cyprin’s office, they confirmed agents had been unable to discover the origin of the power that had unceremoniously transformed the building’s water to blue jello. Though once again it had only affected the single HERA building – not the primary building, and none of the agents reported anything offsite – the daily operations of the organisation were seriously impeded.

And it didn’t get much better.

When furniture started to move around on its own as if alive – fridges chasing people out of kitchens, chairs refusing to be sat on, tables rolling onto their backs – there was no way work could be done in the building, and most HERA employee were forced to evacuate.

This included Miho and Jazz, who – with armed agents just in case – left for Jazz’s apartment. A black town-car drove carefully in front of them, and there was also one at their flank; their presence actually made her more nervous.

“My very own motorcade,” she smirked, burying her apprehension behind her smile.

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Jazz sniffed.

“Oh believe me, I’d prefer we could do our thing without the need for armed guards,” Miho declared. “And, well, thank you for letting me stay at your place. I know Hydra only didn’t put up a fuss because of what happened yesterday.”

It wasn’t like Miho was rude, but it seemed a bit out of character for her to thank Jazz just like that; Jazz looked at her sideways just brief, and found Miho peering back at her honestly.

“You’re welcome,” Jazz smiled. “We moved to a bigger apartment not so long ago so, he’ll be there later but you probably won’t notice him unless something happens.”

“If Zeus messes up your apartment, I’ll kick his ass,” Miho huffed, and Jazz laughed.

“You’ll have to get in li…”

The conclusion of her sentence was swallowed by a monstrous flash of lightning that hit the lead car, but it was hardly normal lightning. Before Jazz’s reflexes could kick in, the car in front leapt into the air and was engulfed by flame, flipping on its side.

No matter how quickly Jazz slammed on the brakes, there was no avoiding collision, as their car skidded in the treacherous conditions. Desperately, she lurched across the centre console against the vehicle’s momentum and grabbed hold of Miho as best she could, enveloping them both in Hera’s protective shield a mere split second before impact.

Grimacing against the strain of high velocity metal bending around them, the stress of absorbing the speed at which they hit the other car, Jazz could do little more than close her eyes and concentrate. To them both it seemed as if they moved forever, when in truth their crunching spin lasted but a few second then stopped, before the trailing car hit and slammed them up against a brick building.

When the screaming ceased, and the mangled cabin of their vehicle was filled with the two women panting.

They’re in a car wreck, get your mind out of the gutter!

“You okay?” Jazz hissed, immediately tugging away her seatbelt.

“Okay is not the right word,” Miho gasped. “How are we even still alive? We are alive right?”

“Not for long if we don’t get out,” Jazz growled, swivelling in her chair and beginning to kick at her door. “That was Zeus.”

“Figures,” Miho volleyed, searching for something to break her window that was miraculously still intact.

An old-fashioned steering lock caught her attention, and she stretched to reach it on the floor before swinging as best she could. The roar of further thunder-claps and the accompanying lightning muffled the shatter of glass, but Miho was more concerned about the heat growing from the crumpled bonnet and radiating through where the windshield used to be.

“This way,” she barked, beginning her awkward climb out the window.

And Jazz didn’t hesitate to follow, her mind a blur of what she was going to do after they were both free. Through snow and slush, they scrambled away from their vehicle like it might explode at any moment, but Jazz grabbed Miho and pulled her to a stop when Artemis stepped around one of the burning town-cars.

“I suppose it makes sense you’d be guarding Hades’ pet,” Artemis maligned, stepping slowly, deliberately around what looked to be a smouldering car door. “But what a waste.”

“I am no one’s pet,” Miho spat, her nose wrinkling and her lips drawing back into a sneer.

“Ha!” Artemis laughed. “Hera may as well be a golden cage. You can sing all you like, but they will keep you locked away until you forget how to sing.”

“Complex metaphor,” Miho nodded. “I didn’t expect that from someone so stupid looking.”

“Damnit, Miho,” Jazz hissed through her teeth, urging her backwards until the world flashed and was shook by thunder so close it rattled around inside Miho for some time.

“Get out of the way,” Zeus drawled at Jazz, a man seeming several hundred feet tall though he wasn’t dissimilar in height to Hades.

“You have got to stop whatever you’re doing here, Zeus,” Jazz declared, but her tone leaned toward pleading. “Can’t you see what is happening to the world?”

“You would blame me, when all I ever wanted was the one I love returned to my side!” Zeus growled, lifting his hands.

“Oh shit,” Miho murmured, doing her best to resist the urge to close her eyes, but she jumped against Jazz suddenly, when something abruptly splattered against the ground before them, and it wasn’t Zeus’ wrath.

Unless Zeus’ wrath now looked like a bloody, frog-pancake.

“Is that…” Jazz began, but paused when the sky rained down an amphibious hail of Kermit the Frog’s extended family.

Artemis looked to Zeus, but Zeus’ fierce gaze was fixed on Jazz.

And as the wind picked up and began to dance down the street in whirling dervishes, frog filled tornadoes swept in from both ends of the street.

“Hey! Down here ladies!” came a voice above the frognadoes.

Yeah, frognado.

Dripping with frog guts, a sewer grate to Miho’s left shifted away, and head popped up.

“Quickly!” the figure below urged.

Their pinkish-grey eyes peered up, dark grey, curly hair swishing around strong shoulders. A hand reached for Miho’s ankle, but Miho pulled back, just as Jazz dragged her from the path of an arrow fired by Artemis.

“Or you can stay there and be slaughtered if you’d prefer,” the individual below sniffed dismissively, but Miho had already crouched.

“I’m convinced!” she quipped, dropping her butt into the slush before lowering her legs into the manhole.

“Don’t you dare defy me!” Zeus roared, and more lightning cracked against Jazz’s shield, a violent spray of sparks and peacock feathers attesting to the sheer power Jazz had to resist.

“Hurry, hurry,” the unnamed person muttered, very nearly dragging Jazz into the darkness.

“Ack!” Miho squeaked, movement around her feet suddenly leaping toward the brightness of the manhole, revealing a great torrent of fuzzy rat bodies. “No, no, no, no, I hate rats, not rats, not rats, why did it have to be rats?”

“The rats are your friends,” their rescuer declared, taking Miho’s wrist with one hand, and generating a gentle light that illuminated the narrow sewer tunnel.

The frosty sludge.

The grimy bricks.

And a really, really big crocodile.

“Don’t mind Agnes, she’ll guard our retreat, so less talking and more running.”

Miho was then dragged into motion, and Jazz followed closely behind.

As they travelled at speed, other small critters – including mice and several cats – joined their little procession through the undercity, with Agnes lumbering behind. There was no evidence of pursuit, but such were the twists and turns they took, even if Zeus or Artemis had entered the sewers behind them, Miho thought they would have seriously difficulty locating them.

“Where are we going?” Jazz demanded to know.

“As far from angry Zeus as possible, Hera,” their leader replied.

Of course, this caused Jazz to blinked, for her soul’s identity wasn’t common street knowledge. She chose, however, to say nothing, as the tunnel widened suddenly before them, filled with light emanating from a multitude of tiny, delicate, glowing mushrooms.

Miho might have appreciated the sight, if she wasn’t so out of breath having fled the wrath of top tier gods on a rampage, and that there was now a mouse peeking out from her collar.

“Tea?” the nymph offered blithely as she climbed down a ladder into the surprisingly clean and homely space.

“Who are you?” Miho gasped, nearly losing her footing as she also descended.

“Jackie,” they answered, peeking a little cheekily over their shoulder and tossing Miho a wink.

“Well, that explains everything,” Miho snorted. “But thank you for the assist.”

“I can’t get reception down here,” Jazz scowled, her face dark, her eyes now a little watery; she had – after all – just lost several colleagues.

“So Jackie… you’re a…” Miho prompted, heading to where Jackie had a spotless kitchenette.

“Nymph,” they replied cheerfully. “Chamomile?”

“Yeah, I’m definitely in shock,” Miho grunted, finding herself a place to sit, slumping forward a little and dislodging her little mouse friend.

“You’re safe here,” Jackie assured, chorused by the soft prattle of a boiling kettle. “Zeus is fucking crazy.”

“I need to get in contact with HERA,” Jazz blustered, burying her upset behind a veneer of cold calm, “but there is no reception.”

“There’s a landline over there, go ahead and use it,” Jackie said, pointing over at a retro, circular dial phone. “But best you don’t have them ferreting around down here searching for us, there are all sorts of nasty things.”

Her brow twitching, Jazz lifted the phone receiver from its cradle and began to dial, while Miho stared at her shaking hands.

“How did you even know?” she whispered, and Jackie responded.

“It’s my business to know what’s going on in Astoria,” they answered lightly, carefully handing Miho a steaming mug of sweet-smelling tea. “So when Zeus and Artemis make landfall, I’m there to find out why; aaaand there you are, Hades’ squeeze.”

“How do you even know that?” Miho exhaled, lowering the mug without taking a sip.

Bringing up Hades made her realise, that in such a short time she had come to miss him, that in the aftermath of what she had just escaped, his arms around her was what she wanted most.

“Aw, don’t worry,” Jackie soothed, plopping down beside Miho and putting a slightly muscular arm around her shoulder, “I’m sure Hades, and probably some of the other super gods will high-tail it down here once they learn you and Hera were attacked in the open street like that.”

Turning her head, Miho peered at the nymph closely.

There was a strange, androgynous beauty about them, a near hypnotising depth to their eyes that made Miho forget they were in a sewer – until Jazz let out a loud breath and put the phone receiver down.

“Cyprin thinks it’s too dangerous to go back to the beta HQ right now,” she reported, flicking her braid over her shoulder. “There was nothing officially recorded about our plan, or the route we were taking, so it may be there is a mole in HERA feeding Zeus information.”

“Lovely,” Miho sniffed, cracking her neck. “I hope Hades gets the opportunity really kick Zeus’ ass for this.”

“So,” Jackie prompted, slithering her arm away from Miho, “what’s the plan?”

“Can you get us topside?” Jazz asked, but she assumed since the nymph appeared to live in, and move around through the sewers, they had the ability to get just about anywhere.

“Of course,” they smiled – not arrogantly, but simply proud of their own abilities. “Tell me where you need to be, I’ll get you there.”

“Great, I’ll have Hydra meet us, say, behind Queens Library at Broadway?”

“No problem,” Jackie nodded, and Jazz returned to the phone, presumably to call Hydra.

“So what’s gotten Zeus’ panties in such a twist over you?” Jackie then enquired, focusing back on Miho. “Love triangle?”

At this Miho nearly choked on her own breath.

“Hell no!” she coughed. “Zeus is a grade-A cunt, stomping around with an aura of hubris far bigger than lightning bolts he’s killed HERA agents with,” she spat out, the colour rising in her face.

The increase in volume of her voice also caused various rodents milling around to sit up on their hind legs and look over – black beady eyes curious for a second before…

Butterflies.

All of them with a quiet whooshing noise, ceased to be rats and mice, and began fluttering around the space on delicate, brightly coloured wings making no sounds at all.

“Umm, which one of you was that?” Jackie frowned, scrutinising a lacy opalescent butterfly that had landed on the back of her hand.

“It wasn’t you?” Jazz asked.

“Well don’t look at me,” Miho shrugged, but Jazz was looking at her.

“Okay, coincidence is one thing, but if I ignore all the circumstantial evidence much longer, Miho, readers are going to get pissed off.”

“About friggin’ time I got some super powers,” Miho nodded. “But, my transmutation skills are just as out of practice as my necromancy,” she replied.

“All that happened at HERA HQ, only happened when you were there,” Jazz insisted, narrowing her eyes and batting a couple of fluttering insects away. “And then the frogs on the street? You were there.”

“So were you,” Miho pointed out, peering at her hands like they were the source.

“Hey, frog and butterflies are cool,” Jackie grinned. “Do something else.”

“If it’s me, I’m not doing it on purpose,” Miho admitted. “So in advance, I’m sorry if you end up as a butterfly, or a frog, or a sentient piece of furniture.”

“You’d better no,” Jazz scowled. “As if this isn’t already complicated enough.”

“What was that thing Zeus dug up?” Miho exhaled heavily, shaking her head.

“You know about that?” Jackie piped up, leaning their face closer to Miho.

“You mean, you don’t know?” Miho countered, and Jackie’s brow twitched. “Isn’t it your business to know?”

“Well obviously I won’t know this until you tell me,” Jackie volleyed. “So spill it. What about Chaos?”

“Chaos is right,” Miho sniffed. “Zeus dug up a glowy thing, and now it’s in me.”

“Ooooh, well that’s a whole different level of pain,” Jackie declared, and their expression made Miho feel genuinely uncomfortable. “Zeus stopped flailing about in a tantrum a while ago and started making plans to retake his position at the head of the Pantheon, but he didn’t have enough power, even after recruiting other gods to his cause.”

Though Jazz wanted to get in contact with Hydra as quickly as possible, she couldn’t pass up this kind of information, and began listening intently.

“And where better than in New York to find congealed deposits of Chaos’ energy?” Jackie smiled, like it was all no big deal. “I’ll be honest though,” they continued. “It’s a bit weird you ended up with it – how’d that happen?”

“It just did,” Miho answered. “Hades and I encountered Zeus and friends uncovering this angry ball of light, that then just came at me and… poof…”

Lightly, she tapped her chest.

“It just, seeped in,” she sighed. “Aaand, now it’s apparently frogs and butterflies.”

“Chaos sought you out,” Jackie concluded. “Ouch.”

“Well, how do I get it out?” Miho exhaled, then swallowed.

Jackie shrugged.

“No clue,” they admitted. “But the saying shit happens? Oh, shit is going to happen because of you from now on.”

“Because I needed more of that in my life,” Miho grunted, looking to Jazz. “HERA can help with this right? I mean, Chaos, can’t stay in me, look at the city right now – the last thing it needs is more anarchy.”

“Amen to that,” Jackie agreed. “So, maybe you should get your boy on the horn?”

With a nod, Jazz returned to the phone to contact Hydra, while Miho stared intently at the butterfly sitting on the back of her hand.

“Cheeseburger,” she whispered, flaring at the inset, but it did nothing but slowly flap its wings in contempt. “Bah, I’m not hungry anyway.”

“Understandable,” Jackie smiled sadly. “I doubt any of those HERA guys survived the crash.”

“Way to make me feel better, Jackie,” Miho grumbled, lifting her eyes to focus on Jazz.

Miho could see the strain through Jazz’s professionalism, and it made her angry.

“Zeus is going to pay for thi…”

Poof.

The butterflies disappeared, and tiny sparks filled the air; agitated, white oscillations cutting jagged paths through the air.

“Ahh, if you’re going to explode, could you maybe wait until we get to street level?” Jackie pleaded, and Miho closed her eyes against their burn.

“Let’s go,” Jazz prompted, slipping her hand around Miho’s and pulling her to her feet.

Without Jackie, Jazz wondered if they’d ever have made it out of the sewers. The smell had faded to the very edge of their awareness, but the gloom seemed to stick to their skin.

When natural light finally returned, they blinked furiously against the bright, and Hydra had wrapped his arms around Jazz before her eyes had adjusted to the glare.

“Don’t tell me to let you go,” he growled against her neck, ignoring both Miho and Jackie who stood close by.

“Believe me,” Jazz murmured, just as happy to feel his warmth as he seemed to desire hers, “I’d like to stay just like this, but…”

“It’s too dangerous out in the open,” he filled in, separating from her enough to look into her face, “but you’re not hurt are you?”

“No,” she smiled, “but things are a whole lot more complicated now. We’d better get going.”

“Thanks for the help, Jackie,” Miho said, and the nymph gave her a bright smile that twinkled in their eyes.

“No problem,” they grinned, giving Miho a light hip bump. “I could leave a rat with you, you know, in case you need my help again.”

“Umm, no rats,” Miho rushed, shaking her head furiously, and Jackie laughed.

“Eh, I’ll be keeping tabs on you anyway,” they chuckled. “Stay out of Zeus’ way okay?”

“That’s the plan,” Miho nodded, and joined Jazz and Hydra at his car.

Astoria: In Chaos – Part Six

MAJOR SMUT ‘WARNING’ … no REALLY.

Day 29

Miho woke before Hades, despite the fact he didn’t really need to sleep at all. He was lying on his stomach, one arm draped over hers, his head facing her.

“Well, now you’ve gone and done it,” she said to herself. “An Olympian god has a toothbrush in your bathroom.”

Chewing her lower lip, she continued the study of his face, until the light trace of her finger down his cheek roused him from slumber.

“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” Miho smiled, unable to keep her lips from turning upward.

The slow blink of his amethyst eyes as sleep slowly receded, was really cute.

Suddenly, however, Miho found herself pressed into the mattress, Hades’ weight against her, and her lips captured.

“Gah!” she gasped, when he released her. “What was that for?”

“Do I really require a reason to kiss you first thing in the morning?” he queried, eye contact so close. “Especially when you’re thinking such cheeky thoughts.”

“I was doing no such thing,” she huffed, wriggling a little, but she fell still suddenly when she felt his hand trail slowly down her torso and over her hips. “Okay, maybe I was… pondering,” she corrected, inhaling as Hades lifted his chest away from hers, in order to slide his hand to the hem of her nightgown and beneath.

“Pondering what, exactly?” he prompted, brushing just his fingertips through the fine, manicured triangle of her bush.

“Uh,” she breathed, spreading her legs a little wider in open invitation. “You know? I don’t remember.”

“Hmm, okay,” he whispered, speaking the words against her earlobe before nipping at it lightly. “Why don’t you tell me what you are thinking now?”

“I… am thinking Mieke won’t be up yet,” she sighed, his fingers beginning slow, lazy circles around her clit, “so there’s no way she’ll interrupt us this time.”

“You’re thinking about Agent Genever?” he snorted, biting down a little harder, and Miho let out a little yelp, soothed by the probing pressure of several fingers wormed inside her.

“Not anymore,” she exclaimed breathily, her hips lifting to meet his hand each time he plunged into her with increasing speed. “Only you,” she muttered. “All I can see, and think, and feel… is you.”

“Good,” he murmured against her skin, his tongue wandering down her throat. “Means you aren’t thinking about your neighbours hearing us.”

“What neighbours?” she panted, gripping his shoulders and urging him to roll to the side.

Taking the hint, Hades moved, and Miho’s hand dove into his boxer briefs to stroke him in rhythm with each lusty penetration.

When Miho’s ministrations began to falter, her breathing irregular and her eyes rolled back a little, she squeezed out broken words that made no sense – just hitching, utterances meant to reflect the incoherence the force of her orgasm flushed through her body.

A euphoric heat.

A beautiful pain.

A shudder and complete loss of bodily control, but safe wrapped in Hades’ arms.

“Not a bad way to start the day hmm?” he smiled, stroking her hair as the quivering subsided, and focus returned to her lidded eyes.

“Lucky I’m still conscious,” she eventually managed, kissing him fiercely before throwing off the covers and straddling his legs. “Or you’d not get this,” she grinned, wrapping her lips around his cock and sliding it into her mouth slowly.

“Maybe, I am not… finished with you yet,” he grated out, torn between the urge to push his head back into the pillow, or watch the tenacious bob of Miho’s head.

“Uh huh,” she hummed against his head, trailing the tip of her tongue around the ridge of his foreskin, following each pulsating vein.

When she dared to graze her teeth against the supple skin, Hades lifted his head a little – not in alarm, but perhaps more in surprise.

“This,” she smirked, looking along his solid abs to his face, “is for the presumptuous toothbrush placement.”

But her nibbling was gentle, not cautious, but certainly careful, from the tip to the base, before she sucking one testicle into her mouth.

“Oh… gah…” Hades exclaimed as her hand resumed its grip on his length. “Miho… you…”

Releasing him from her mouth made a delicious, wet slapping noise, and again Miho lifted her head.

“That look on his face,” she thought. “I can make the God of the Underworld make that face.”

Somewhere in the back of her mind she acknowledged the enormity of this, that so powerful a creature would surrender so completely to her.

“Second drawer beside the tampons,” she instructed, clambering up onto her knees and shuffling her body over his. “Unless you want me to finish this our here.”

Hades was already fumbling for the drawer, fishing around… tossing a tampon back in, before he managed to grab a condom – which Miho immediately snatched from him.

Her hips pressed down, her enflamed lips so drenched with desire, folded around his hardness. Meeting his gaze, Miho rocked herself against him as she placed the corner of the condom foil between her teeth, teasing the edge with her tongue.

“You have a wicked streak,” he murmured, stroking up and down her thighs before taking hold of her hips.

Slowly she tore across the small packet and withdrew its contents.

“Maybe, just a little bit,” she grinned, scooting back enough to place the condom over the head of his cock, and roll it gradually down.

“I will let you get away with it, for now,” he smiled back, but his jaw was tensed until she leaned forward all the way over him and kissed him again.

Wriggling her pelvis, she positioned him at her entrance, aching in her depths for the sensation of complete and utter fullness, for an internal friction met with external stimulation that last time saw her black out.

“A man can wait only so long, Miho,” Hades growled, digging his fingers into her ass cheeks and lightly pulling down, but she resisted him – enough for her to know he was being very mindful not to over-power her.

“As a god, you have all eternity,” she hissed against his lips.

“I only want eternity if I can spend it buried in you,” he rumbled, and this time was successful in breaking her mild resistance.

She enveloped him, and both closed their eyes to savour the sweetness, their pulses racing, their bodies united.

When that moment broke, Miho took Hade’s hands from her butt and interlaced their fingers. Her steamy gaze burned into him as she undulated her body deliberately, moderately, sliding him almost completely out before rolling forward until she could submerge him no more.

Sweat began to shimmer across their skin, the salty sheen evidence of their increasingly energetic entanglement.

Squeezing her hands once, Hades unravelled their fingers, and she continued to ride him, he took a firm hold on one breast, and pinched the nipple of the other between his thumb and forefinger. She winced then bit down on her lip, the backward tilt of her head signal enough she enjoyed the sharp sting of each pluck against her pert nub.

“Yesss,” she breathed, desperately digging down, leaning forward to bite against his neck, whimpering as her body approached that place were its movements were driven only by the instinct to feel that explosion of ecstasy again.

But, she wanted to hold off, wanted him to cum first, and so she kissed him hard and filled his mouth with her tongue, focusing on her mission, clinging to hold back the swiftly approaching storm of raw bliss.

Hades flinched, his own hips rising up to meet the downward motion of Miho’s, until his ass didn’t even touch the bed. He thrust with the kind of passion that still frightened him, but was helpless against. Miho’s taste surrounded him completely, the radiant heat they shared an intoxication potent enough to push him to the very limits of his self-control.

And when he came, he pounded into her roughly, bouncing her onto him so hard he feared she might break, but Miho just gripped one of his wrists and pressed his fingers to her clit, grinding against him as he rode out his high.

“Hades… yes, ye…eh…eh…” she panted, and Hades felt it when she came, squeezing him tightly, milking the very last of his offering into the condom, until she flopped forward against him.

Heaving to catch her breath, swallowing to endure the eruption that at first cause her muscles to contracted, then spasm before relaxing, Miho clung to wakefulness with her lips pressed to Hades’ neck. Lightly his fingertips ghosted up and down her spine and she shivered again, nearly peaking again from just that feeling alone.

“For god’s sake… don’t move,” she exhaled unevenly, twitching against and around him still.

“For my, sake?” he chuckled, rolling her onto her back.

“You know ex-actly… what I mean,” she huffed, bleary eyed as she looked up at him. “Wha…?”

The top of Hades head was suddenly all she could see, and a bolt of lightning struck her sharply as he closed his lips around her screaming clit and suckled softly.

“No, no,” she growled. “I really will pass out if you, if you do that to me again.”

He lifted his head, his chin smeared with her juices.

“You are safe here with me,” he told her seriously, flicking out his tongue against her.

“You’re going to kill me,” she whined. “Hades… if I die…”

“You won’t die,” he chuckled, smoothing his fingers from her pucker, back to the welcoming smile of her pussy. “I won’t let you die.”

“Son-of-a…” she gasped as he drove into her, long digits curling upward and dragging out in broad strokes that had her back arching beyond her control.

With his free hand, Hades forced her flat against the mattress, and plunged vigorously to her core, while his tongue assaulted the angry red of her swollen clit. Miho writhed as much as she could, held down as she was, until her head jerked back, her mouth dropped open, and all parts of her became stiff.

Lapping in long motions, drinking up her sweet tang mixed with sweat, Hades continued until Miho fell slack, then moved in beside her.

Her head had drooped to the side, her eyes closed, and though her breathing remained heavy as it fought to feed the wild race of her heart, it soon began to even out. Hades moved away only briefly to discard the condom, before settling Miho back in his arms, gliding his fingers through her hair until – several minutes later – Miho began to stir and opened her eyes.

“Mmm,” she murmured weakly, her body delightfully heavy, the ache of her muscles reminder enough of how strenuous their ‘morning exercise’ had been. “You can’t keep doing that.”

“No?” he queried, kissing her tenderly.

“Seriously,” she sighed opulently. “I’m not sure the human body was built to withstand orgasms that powerful. Blacking out cannot be healthy.”

“I will ask Dr. Phelps, shall I?” Hades smirked.

“Only if I can be there when you do,” Miho volleyed, nipping at his chest.

“Which somehow leads me to the one thing we didn’t discuss last night,” Hades segued. “Have you reached a decision about working for HERA?”

“Hmm,” she hummed, swirling a fingertip around his left nipple. “It was difficult to tell Detective Yashitori selective truths,” she admitted. “But at the same time… I get it.”

Miho closed her eyes and smushed her cheek against Hades’ firm chest.

“With you and I, and the toothbrush… you don’t think me cruising into a job without even an interview, smacks of nepotism?”

“Your interview has been all I’ve seen you do so far as a journalist,” he answered. “And I’m not offering because of how I feel about you romantically.”

“Tongues will wag,” she warned, flicking her tongue against his skin.

“Will that bother you?”

“Me? No, I’ll just tell them they’re jealous I get to black out on a regular basis,” she grinned. “I’m more concerned about your reputation, picking up strays. You have to lead, and if your subordinates think you…”

At this Hades chuckled.

“Anyone intimating, alluding or outright declaring you owe your job to special treatment will be reprimanded,” he told her clearly. “And if they have time to wag their tongues, they’re clearly not focusing their all on work.”

“Well, I do need a job,” she noted airily, “and your insurance plan is top rate.”

“So, you agree?” he prompted, tipping her chin up a little, and his hopeful expression made Miho’s heart melt.

“You’d better not go looking at me like that at the office,” she chuckled, pecking him on the lips lightly.

“That’s the advantage of being the Underworld Princess,” he smirked, “I can look at whoever I like, however I like, wherever I like.”

“Uh huh,” she sniffed, throwing off the blankets but rising gingerly against the twinge of her recently tensed muscles. “Brrr,” she shuddered, unaware just how cold the apartment was snuggled up to her beau. “It’s freezing.”

“It did snow yesterday,” he pointed out, and Miho grabbed her robe, wrapping it around her naked body as she went to the window, outside of which was still dim.

“Less snow, and more blizzard I think,” she reported with a frown.

Looking over her shoulder, she caught the tail end of Hades sighing.

“Hm?”

“The power of Olympus and its gods, especially the top tier, keeps balance on Earth and everything in its proper place,” he explained, also exiting to join her by the window, sans robe. “With Zeus away from his throne and others joining him, it looks as if Earth is finally beginning to reflect the discord of the Pantheon.”

“That isn’t good,” Miho frowned, shuddering a little, as much from the thought as the cold.

Hades wrapped his arms around her and gave her a light squeeze.

“I’ll need to return to Olympus,” he declared soberly. “If Persephone has been unable to keep the seasons from changing, the top tier gods need to meet.”

“Persephone? If seasons are her um, jurisdiction? Portfolio? With the weather like this, could she be hurt, or… can gods even get sick?” Miho queried, turning around to look into Hades’ face.

“Not from illnesses the affect mortals, no,” Hades answered, “and I doubt very much, this is about Persephone alone. After breakfast, I’ll check, just to be sure.”

“Well I’m sorry to say what I threw together last night is all that was left that was edible, unless you want cup noodles for breakfast,” Miho confessed. “Left my groceries at the mall with my phone.”

“We can go out for breakfast,” he determined, sliding his hand down one of her arms to take her hand and give it a tug toward the door. “I know this excellent little vegan café not far fro…”

But Miho had planted her feet.

“You’re not going to tell me you’re into cross-fit too are you?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at him suspiciously. “Because you know, I love meat…”

“I have gotten that impression, yes,” Hades interrupted, an uncharacteristically cheeky smile reflecting in his eyes. “I was joking. You pick the venue, I will cope.”

“I’m just saying,” she clarified, allowing him to lead her toward the bathroom, talking as they go, “by all means eat all the wheat grass and spinach you like…”

“What’s wrong with spinach?” he piped up.

“Mushy, flimsy, limp,” she listed.

“Hmm, could the limp part be the one that bothers you most?” he questioned, reaching in to turn on the shower with the kind of familiarity of someone who’s done so a million times.

“I’m not the one finding sexual innuendo in everything I say,” she pointed out, voice suddenly syrup as she pushed her robe from her shoulders and let it slip to the floor.

Goosepimples assaulted her skin and made her nipples almost painfully hard, but the bathroom was quickly filling with the gently waft of steam, and the promise of further exercise.

It took Miho some time to locate her winter clothing. When she and Hades exited her apartment building into the morning frost, however, she still felt underdressed. Hades on the other hand, dressed in his suit from yesterday, didn’t seem all that bothered, but quickly made his way to where he’d parked his car.

Which was completely frozen over.

“Roads haven’t been ploughed,” Miho noted, continuously moving her feet.

“I doubt the city was expecting such severe weather at this time of year,” Hades noted, looking over the frozen shell that enveloped his car.

There were very few vehicles on the road – it seemed even locals of Astoria, of New York thought better of venturing outside.

“I can go back up and get some cold water?” Miho suggested, but Hades was glancing about.

When he was done, and Miho noted there was no one in sight, Hades places his bare hand against the ice. It popped and screamed, then cracked like glass, before falling away in jagged pieces.

“Or you could do that,” Miho sniffed, eagerly folding herself into the front passenger seat when Hades opened the door for her.

Once closed inside, Hades had to fight to get the engine to start, but it finally turned over and Miho cranked the heater.

“You know, after yesterday, I’m surprised you weren’t called away last night,” she thought aloud. “With all that’s going on…”

“Had something else transpired, I would have been notified immediately,” he assured her, carefully navigating the icy road.

“Are they connected? The zombies and the weather?” she asked, but continued to hypothesise. “But what is even the point of these zombie attacks? The mall I mean; what’s the endgame?”

“There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of a correlation,” Hades responded, slowing for a red light, “except…”

And he glanced at her.

“What’s that look for?” she ruffled. “Just because I was there for three of the attacks doesn’t make this about me – I mean, that would make for a pretty arrogant story, right? Not to mention there have been other incidents involving the zombies where I wasn’t there.”

“I know,” he nodded. “And I was not suggesting you had anything to do with them.”

“My necromancy is a little rusty,” she revealed.

It was a tense journey, with Hades even finding it difficult to safely drive – when abruptly he pulled the car to the curb, hitting the brakes in a way that had them sliding for some distance before finally coming to a stop.

“What the hell?” Miho blurted, not looking into her lap for fear she might find her wildly beating heart there.

The expression on Hades’ face, however, caused Miho to swallow further exclamations.

“What is it?” she queried quietly.

“Zeus,” he replied flatly. “He is close by, others too.”

“Here, here?” Miho scowled. “In Astoria, even after you caught Minotaur?”

“I am certain my brother is here,” Hades confirmed, then looked to her. “Stay here.”

“Stay here, are you kidding me?” she snorted, unclicking her seatbelt as Hades exited the car.

“Miho,” he admonished, but she didn’t let him continue.

“Don’t even,” she said curtly. “Until I sign off on that employment contract, you’re not my boss.”

“This isn’t about taking orders, Miho,” he told her, his eyes darkening. “Zeus can be dangerous and spiteful, and if he thinks he can gain an advantage over me by using you, I believe he will.”

“And you said there were others with him,” she countered, assuming a stubborn posture. “So, if you go after him alone, it’ll be one against many; that isn’t something I’m willing to just sit in the car for.”

“This is a situation where you just cannot help,” he insisted, taking her shoulders, but still she glared at him with dauntless obstinacy.

“I can watch your back, that’s something,” she argued, lowering her brows when he looked set to offer another rebuke. “It’s not in my nature to sit on the side-lines, mortal or not, I accept the risks that come with chasing the truth.”

Sighing, Hades cuddled her to his chest.

“Snuggles can’t win arguments, Hades,” she told him, voice slightly muffled.

“I know,” he sighed, resigned, “So stay behind me, and if I tell you to run, do not hesitate or sass, just go.”

“The not sassing part is going to be tough,” she murmured as he released her, but straightened her posture as he turned down the sidewalk.

She followed closely behind, trying to match the indents he made in the snow, until he stopped outside a building site, the fence surrounding it boarded to hide whatever lay beyond.

“Here,” Hades said in a low voice, easily pulling away part of the barrier to let them through.

“Usually you’re telling me to keep out of fenced off areas,” Miho whispered wryly, trying to sound nonchalant, “not breaking into them with me.”

If Hades found this to be amusing, he didn’t show it – all shadows and foreboding as they began their way through scaffolding to a metal stairway leading down.

Swallowing hard, Miho tried desperately to ensure her footfalls made no sound, that she kept her balance on the icy surfaced – Hades did not look back to see if she was fine, either trusting she could manage or focused on the fact his rebellious brother was so close by.

After several meters voices began to drift to them, and Hades slowed his pace. There was something so very unnerving seeing a man of his stature tip-toe, and it increased the rate of Miho’s rapidly beating heart.

“… will turn the tide,” a deep voice declared smugly.

“Perhaps,” followed a female. “If…”

“If, Artemis?” the first voice growled, as Hades finally turned to Miho and motioned for her to crouch in order to stay concealed on the landing they had reached.

Inching to the edge, slightly at Hades’ back, Miho spied six individuals, two of whom seemed to reach out with just their existence in invisible waves that shook her.

Like Hades.

The other four were covered in dirt, shovels and picks lying around them.

Much like Hades, the man who could only have been Zeus, was not what Miho had expected, except perhaps for the mean glint in his eyes and the sneer on his lips – he was the epitome is sour, or arrogant, of belligerent.

But, her gaze was drawn to the pulsating white orb nestled in the palm of Zeus’ hand, a light no larger than a tennis ball, but sparking erratically with an energy Miho felt immediately fearful of.

“With this, Poseidon will have no choice but to side with me, and Hades’ betrayal will be undone,” Zeus smirked, closing his fingers around his treasure.

But the moment that light began to ooze through his grip, slithering through the air in sinuous streaks that seemed to cut through reality, Zeus looked less certain.

Miho recoiled from the edge as those crackling serpents coiled upward to their vantage point, threatening to give them away.

“Go,” Hades hissed, only just loud enough for Miho to hear, and she moved to comply as she had agreed, but found herself suddenly yanked back by the ankle.

If she had not been dragged into view – mid-air – above where Zeus and Artemis stood staring with necks craned, Miho’s yelp certainly would have drawn their attention.

Desperately she reached for Hades’ hand, his arm outstretched toward her with equal urgency.

Their fingers brushed, but parted, leaving Miho dangling upside down beyond his reach.

“What, is this?” Zeus snapped, his eyes flashing with lightning.

“Uhhmm,” Miho uttered, trying to wriggle free as the ribbons curled up her legs and began to wind around her waist.

She wanted to call for Hades, but if she did…

Hades’ actions gave himself away.

The purple gloom of his aura stretched forth bony fingers to grasp her, pin-pointing his position for Zeus and Artemis to see, but the former’s lightning slashed at its attempts to retrieve Miho leaving her stranding amid a frightening storm of godly power.

“Hades!” Zeus shouted, a sound booming with anger, a rage that tore through the cold and caused Miho to fall still, even as the flashing streams sputtered up her torso.

Gasping, she echoed Zeus, but her was a breathy plea.

“Should have stayed in the car,” some distant part of her thought, tensing against the throbbing slivers as they reached her throat.

“Help…” she mouthed, all air from her lungs crushed by sudden contraction, a violent boa constrictor squeezing so tightly she thought she might pop.

With his aura still struggling against Zeus, evading Artemis’ where he could, Hades pushed himself up, took two swift strides and then jumped. His arms closed around her, interrupting her silent scream, and together they fell like stones at the other gods’ feet.

The other figures, demis Hades might have recognised had he not been so preoccupied, quickly surrounded them, and Hades rolled over Miho protectively and glowered the full force of his opposition.

“Zeus, I did not come here to fight,” he announced, his tone a thin wire stretched almost to its limits. “Stay your hand.”

“Stay my hand?” Zeus snarled, struggling to control his outrage. “When here you are, sneaking like the plague rat you are, poisoning the Pantheon against me.”

“This is not how we should discuss our differences,” Hades pressed, ever so quickly glancing down at Miho, who looked up at him with wide eyes – seemingly in shock. “Don’t you see what is happening out there?”

“And you would hold me responsible for that,” Zeus snorted, stepping toward them, and in response Hades rocked back to his feet, drawing Miho up with him. “You were the one who defied the King of Olympus.”

“Because you were wrong,” Hades volleyed, trying to stay calm as he and Miho were surrounded.

Zeus he could go toe to toe with – Zeus, Artemis and a pack of demis? Perhaps not.

“You chased Hera away, chased her to misery yet still demanded she belonged to you,” Hades continued, eying all about him. “You were so desperate to control her again you leapt at Deandra’s ruse and put Olympus and Earth in peril: selfish, personal desire from a god – my brother – who I know to be better than that.”

“Selfishness is taking the Pantheon for your own the moment you spied the slightest chance!” Zeus roared, then pointed at Miho. “And I’m going to take it back.”

Hades’ arms tensed around Miho who still seemed dazed, only half hearing what was going on around her.

Drums were sounding, thumping, thumping, somewhere inside her, a rhythm broken by the heavy pounding of her heart. It felt as if the earth was shaking, that she was about to lose her balance and topple into nothingness, despite the strength of Hades’ embrace – and the voices around her seemed muffled, garbled, rearranged in a confusing muddle.

“You may occupy my throne for now, brother,” Zeus grated, “but I will be taking it back, along with that mortal.”

“Definitely, not,” Hades dropped flatly, his expression darkening, his lips peeling back a little more. “If you want to return to Olympus, you will have to win back the trust of your family, not act like a terrorist or create chaos on Earth.”

“Earth is insignificant!” Zeus roared, and with the others close – getting closer – Zeus reached out as if he could simply pluck Miho from Hades’ grasp.

“Hades,” Miho whispered, burying her face in his chest, but it was the structure that answered. Shuddering violently, steel girders cried out, rivets popped and flew dangerously across the frigid space. Perhaps the weight of ice and snow had compromised the structural integrity of the building, but the way pieces of metal and wood fell around them, then continued to fire about, suggested something else was at work.

The chaos provided Hades a moment to dodge past Zeus for the stairs.

“Hades!” Artemis barked, leaping into his path.

The glowing aura of her bow and arrow aimed at his chest, her expression a little unsure – hunting was one thing, firing about the God of the Underworld was another.

“You are wrong to follow him like this, Artemis,” Hades told her, his own aura looming to provide support. “You know his actions further destabilise both worlds.”

“He is the rightful king,” she argued, drawing the bowstring back further.

Rather than respond again with words, Hades opened his mouth, but swiped at Artemis with the reaper, forcing her into defence.

As Hades burst out onto the street, blasted by a fiercely swirling storm of icy shards, the construction site began to topple. Debris tumbled from the very top first, and Hades and Miho’s retreat down the road was echoed by the clatter of destruction, muffled only by the howl of biting wind.

“I’m all right,” Miho told Dr. Phelps, though the serious gaze from Hades kept her lying down.

“heartrate and blood pressure are normal.” Dr. Phelps said aloud, pretty much ignoring her.

“Blood work?” Hades prompted, his arms crossed.

“Pathology is working on it.”

“Yoohoo, right here,” Miho sniffed.

“We can’t ignore what happened, Miho,” Hades explained. “Whatever Zeus was digging for, sought you out, was absorbed into your body.”

“And it felt like being inside a pinball machine,” she described, “hitting everything at full tilt and ricocheting every which way, but now I feel okay. Hades you – you have to go to Olympus.”

“I know,” he sighed, “but I also need to make sure you’re safe.”

The conversation seemed to go around in circles, until Cyprin arrived with Hydra and Jazz, and they stepped outside to talk.

“Maybe you should take her with you,” Cyprin suggested. “Zeus surely wouldn’t risk trying to infiltrate Olympus with everyone on high alert.”

“I thought about that,” Hades exhaled, “but the top tier gods could be occupied for some time working on a solution to our current situation – I will not be able to ensure her safety personally any more there, than here.”

“This building has a dungeon too right? If I remember correctly, the other one was pretty secure,” Hydra smirked. “Mostly.”

“That’s a bit harsh,” Jazz chided, but then looked thoughtful. “Leave her with me until you come back. We’ll stay in the barracks, do paperwork, until you return.”

Hydra blinked.

“Baby-sitting?”

“I’m not a baby,” Miho grouched from her infirmary room door, “and I don’t need sitting..”

Hades looked set to rebuke, but Miho continued.

“… but I don’t fancy a run-in with Zeus. So, if it’s the dungeon or hanging out with Agent Mann here, I choose the latter. She’ll be a good role model.”

Was she being serious? Hard to tell.

“Promise you won’t leave her side,” Hades frowned.

“I’m an adult, Hades,” Miho snorted, patting his cheek firmly. “Not an idiot looking to get swatted like a bug. I’m not going to go looking for trouble.”

“Oh?” he uttered, taking her hand. “Precedent would suggest otherwise.”

“What could I possibly get up to in a HERA building under Agent Mann’s supervision?”

“Hm,” Hades mused. “No doubt a lot.”

“Go save our worlds,” Miho grinned, pulling him to her lips, speaking against them. “I’ll be a good girl.”

Reluctantly, Hades stepped away from her with a curt nod, offering Miho no more than that before he departed, leaving her with only Jazz and Hydra.

“I’ll be out in a moment,” Miho breathed, chewing her lower lip a minute before turning back into her room.

Warning Miho against any strenuous activities, Dr. Phelps let her leave the infirmary with Jazz and Hydra, the latter seeming quite disgruntled.

“Is it me you’re pissed off at or Hades?” Miho asked him bluntly.

“This isn’t pissed off,” Hydra sniffed, tipping his chin in an arrogant way that reminded Miho of Zeus.

“Right, right,” Miho nodded, not taking his attitude lying down. “I suppose pissed off is a giant nine-headed serpent thing running amok through the streets?”

“Three, actually,” Hydra corrected tersely.

“Three streets?”

“Three heads,” Hydra growled, aware he was being baited, but unable to keep from biting.

“Hmm, so the sucky attitude is about an inferiority complex then; I guess that makes sense,” Miho mused, looking purposefully thoughtful, even as Hydra tried to cross behind Jazz toward Miho.

“Okay, that’s enough, both of you,” Jazz snapped, catching Hydra’s arm to hold him back, even though she knew he wouldn’t actually hurt Miho.

Okay, maybe she didn’t quite know – for his hatred of Hades and the gods in general still ran deep, and it was clear Miho had endeared herself to the God of the Underworld. Jazz had read it all over Hades’ face, his body language, when she had arrived at the infirmary once again on account of the wayward journalist.

The way he looked at Miho went far and beyond how he’d ever looked at her – things she now found in Hydra’s consideration of her.

“We’re all going to get along, or I’m going to be the one getting pissed off,” she added, then looked to Miho. “Miss Fujiwara…”

“Miho,” Miho piped up.

Miho,” Jazz amended, “if you really have somehow stolen something Zeus wants, you’re going to need both myself and Hydra on your side…”

“Okay, I know, I’m sorry,” Miho sighed. “Biting off more than I can chew is sort of my trademark, but this is the first time I’ve ever actually regretted it… sort of.”

“Sort of?” Hydra frowned, and Jazz glanced at him in warning.

“Well, I don’t regret going with Hades into that construction site,” Miho elaborated. “Zeus and Artemis and all those others against Hades…”

“What did you think you could do to help?” Hydra pressed, and Jazz rolled her eyes, pressing the elevator call button.

“More than sit in the car where it was safe and let Hades get hurt where I couldn’t put myself between him and his enemy,” Miho glared, stopping to inflict the full force of her fierceness at Hydra, and though he was certainly not afraid of her, he had to admit she definitely had a way about her that some would find intimidating.

Her courage and conviction he also had to pay – if it was he and Jazz, he’d have said the same thing.

“Powerless sucks,” Hydra conceded, even managing a slight, understanding smile. “You’ve got balls, I’ll give you that.”

“Yeah well, right now my balls are on lockdown,” Miho grunted. “So, Agent Mann…”

“Jazz,” Jazz revised, just as Miho had.

Jazz,” Miho repeated. “What’s the plan?”

“The barracks is on sub level one,” Jazz answered, ignoring a quiet groan from Hydra. “For now, you and I stay put inside this building.”

Miho wasn’t used to following – a free spirit in every sense – but she was afraid of Zeus, and what it might also mean for Hades if she got herself captured like some stupid damsel in distress.

“Yes Ma’am,” Miho saluted, and Jazz shook her head.

This was going to be a loooong assignment.

That evening, Miho finally laid her head down and stared up at the ceiling of the barrack’s sleeping quarters. Several others, including Jazz, were already asleep, but Miho’s mind buzzed.

The day had not been anything she’d expected, but lately that actually seemed the norm. What else seemed to have slipped so quickly into familiarity, was having Hades close at hand, and it was his face she saw last before she drifted off to sleep, and thoughts of his lonely toothbrush back in her apartment.

In sleep, she ran. Her footfalls crunched heavily in the snow, while Zeus, Artemis and a pack of rabid creatures from Greek mythology snapped at her heels. She knew she had to keep going, not to slow, just get around the next corner and Hades would be there to hold her safe – but when she turned that corner she found just another street of ice and cold and the closing shadows of her foes behind her.

From somewhere above, the wind seemed to pulse in a heavy rhythm – not a helicopter – but the terrible beat of giant wings that caused cars to roll over, street signs to pull free of the asphalt, and glass to shatter.

“Hades!” she panted, the purple glow of his aura somewhere ahead, just out of reach, and Zeus wrapped his fingers around her arm and jolted her to a jarring stop. “Get off!” she roared, wheeling around with her free fist clenched, but that wasn’t how Zeus ended up cartwheeling away from her, collecting the rest of Miho’s pursuers in the process.

In the white of the snow, Miho stood in a deep darkness, but she didn’t know where it came from.

Day 30

“You look like shit,” Jazz told Miho, holding out a cup of coffee when the other woman emerged into the mess hall. “Feeling okay?”

“Nightmares,” Miho admitted. “Other than that, just peachy.”

Jazz studied her carefully, searching for any visible changes the unknown energy might have caused.

“You’re going to make me blush if you stare any longer,” Miho announced, ignoring the curious gaze of several agents partaking of their breakfast. “Would you like me to twirl?”

“Sure, twirl away,” Jazz shrugged.

Despite wearing a pair of borrowed sweat pants and a hoodie, Miho’s pirouette was quite graceful – she even managed to complete it without spilling the coffee from her mug.

“That was pretty good,” Jazz acknowledged. “Do you dance?”

“Used to,” Miho stretched, grunting a little as she took a seat. “But, I ended up not having the time for it, running around after you and Hades and the likes trying to cover up the truth.”

“Speaking of running after Hades,” Jazz prompted, lifting an eyebrow, urging Miho to elaborate on that idea.

“Oh? You want all the juicy details huh?” Miho chuckled over the rim of her mug. “Right here?”

She glanced about, noting the few agents who remained look quickly away.

“Hmm, is that a personal inquiry, or is it professional?” Miho continued, tilting her head a little.

For a moment Jazz thought about this, unsure exactly which it was.

“Both,” she said finally. “Hades is someone I admire; holding the Pantheon together in Zeus’ absence, especially now in the face of recent events, must be no small feat…”

“You think I might get in the way? Be a liability?” Miho filled in, but Jazz shook her head.

“Irrespective of who you are or what you do, Hades makes no decision lightly,” she expounded.  ”If he wants you around then he’s weighed up the pros and cons….”

“So wounded you think there’d be cons,” Miho pouted in an exaggerated fashion.

“It’s not about that,” Jazz went on. “It’s about whether you’re actually more to him than a vessel for whatever Zeus is after.”

“So if I was to get swatted by Zeus, it would actually make a difference to you whether I was with Hades?” Miho chuckle.

It was all quite serious, but Miho’s laughter wasn’t about mirth, but rather covering up her apprehension.

“Not directly, but if his girlfriend was to get harmed, it would certainly hurt him.”

“Girlfriend huh?” Miho said to herself, turning the word over in her mouth.

“Do you plan on answering?”

“Oh, sure,” Miho laughed again. “We haven’t talked labels, but ahh, he has a toothbrush at my place – interpret that how you will.”

The look on Jazz’s face said it all, as did the way she nearly choked on her coffee.

“I’m not big on applying labels to things,” Miho shrugged. “No need to overcomplicate. We are what we are, so you stop fretting about it…”

“I’m not fretting about it,” Jazz sniffed. “I just like to do my job well.”

“I said I’d be a good girl and I’m certainly going to try,” Miho grinned. “Having Hera’s soul and her artifact should make guarding me a breeze.”

“Mm, so he told you about that,” Jazz murmured.

“Maybe that tells you more about how much he trusts me, than the toothbrush,” Miho smiled, but it waned as she shook her head, trying dispel the warm-fuzzies invading her body.

Jazz observed this. It may have been true that Hades trusted Miho enough to share secrets as big as who was Hera’s reincarnation, but there was something about how Miho refused to definitively answer the question about the status of their relationship, that bothered Jazz – it was like Miho was holding back, not fully invested, and if that was the case, perhaps she couldn’t be entirely trusted regardless of the way Hades felt about her.

After breakfast, Jazz escorted Miho to the Public Relations section in the building, and introduced her to various people she might end up working with. Why Jazz was giving the tours when she should have been out in the field doing her job, wasn’t asked; she watched Miho work the room, making a good impression with her infectious smile and confident body language. Before long, she had convinced one agent to let her help with his assignment, and was sitting beside him at his desk brainstorming ideas.

Relaxing a little, Jazz dug out her phone and sent Hydra a message. Much to his disdain, she’d suggested he could investigate the latest zombie sighting without her. Outside was still a whiteout, and while the cold wouldn’t kill him, it made moving around the city difficult. She had to smirk a little at his curt response stating he wasn’t far away, knowing that was just how he was, but she looked up suddenly to the sound of a moan.

“Whoa, hey there!” Miho barked, rolling her chair away from her new friend when he abruptly placed his hand against her leg and slid it all the way up her thigh.

As she stood, she and Jazz alike blinked at the sudden state of the office.

Agents – men and women, women and women, men and men – had abandoned their work and were entangled in various states of intimacy.

“Um, Jazz?” Miho prompted, stepping in beside the only other person in the room who seemed to find the situation bizarre.

“Miss Fujiwara,” the male agent smiled, approaching her with a lusty expression. “I cannot get over just how… much I want you… I have to…”

“You have to stop right there,” Miho warned, her eyes flashing with the danger of him pushing any further, and Jazz also glared.

“But how am I supposed to kiss you if you keep running away?” he asked, stars in his eyes, lips puckering.

“That’s close enough Agent Warwick,” Jazz warned, nudging Miho behind her, just as a bra came flying across the office and landed over Agent Warwick’s shoulder.

“What the hell is going on?” Miho exhaled, peering wide-eyed at the unfolding orgy.

“Good question,” Jazz grunted. “Let’s go.”

The pair backed into the corridor where two people walking in their direction stopped suddenly to embrace and press against the wall, hands diving beneath clothing.

“Is this a balance of power thing, like the weather?” Miho asked, but Jazz didn’t have the answer. “And why aren’t we making out right now?”

“My guess is because I have Hera’s artifact, and you got hit by some buried super power,” Jazz reasoned, motioning for Miho to move hastily to a nearby stairwell.

“So most of HERA’s agents are humans?” Miho exhaled, following Jazz’s quick pace up the stairwell. “You think gods, demis and monsters might be immune to…”

“How am I supposed to know?” Jazz huffed, slamming her palm against a door – that didn’t budge. “Oh come on,” she growled, giving it another shove, but she stopped when she heard a few loud grunts from the other side, followed by a few oh-baby, oh babys. “For fuck’s sake.”

“Literally,” Miho grinned, watching, actually amused, as Jazz hit the door with her shoulder, shoving the bonking pair away from their love-making surface, and sending them tumbling to the floor.

Which didn’t really stop them – they simply assumed a new position and continued to screw like no one was watching.

“Please let Alex be normal,” Jazz whispered, skirting around a threesome in the corridor in order to reach Cyprin’s door.

And so it was, that Cyprin was normal… Hydra, however, not so much.

The two women stood in the door way of Aphrodite’s child, staring as Hydra chased Cyprin in laps around their desk.

“Don’t just stand there!” Cyprin yelped.

“Go ahead and join in Jazz,” Miho chuckled. “I’ll wait outside.”

Astoria: In Chaos – Part Five

MINOR SMUT ‘WARNING’

Day 27

The two women talked, snuggled, wrestled, tickled, ate more chocolate and eventually fell asleep, but Mieke had to get up for work at 6am and was out the door looking weary – but happy – leaving Miho to clean up.

In a sleep deprived daze, Miho replayed the conversations of last night.

“Have to shelve that for now,” she muttered, dropping a couple of bowls into the sink.

Still in her pajamas, she plopped back down in front of her laptop. Unlike the previous day, however, the sentences began to form, and once she had begun writing, her fingertips flew across the keyboard with ridiculous speed. On the screen appeared the contrast between what the city citizens knew, and what the suited authority known as HERA kept from them, alongside the ins and outs of theology that could change the entire world.

“Imagine,” she thought, “A world without ‘faith’ because the facts of the higher powers of the Earth were revealed. Might make things better, but could very well make things worse.”

That was of course assuming people believed it. There would always be deniers, the self-deluded, who would believe what they wanted to believe despite the facts. One only had to look as far as those refusing to vaccinate their children from preventable diseases to see just how stupid humanity could be.

As she continued, she considered all Hades had told her, things Jazz had said, and then pictured Detective Yashitori’s face as she asked the same questions Miho herself had asked not so long ago. Oh, how she had fought against the heavy curtain of secrecy: fought Hades, fought Jazz, fought HERA.

Now she knew.

It was heading into twilight when she finally finished her article and printed it out several times over, tucking one away in a safe hiding place. Then she considered how she was going to contact Hades. It struck her that she didn’t have his phone number – he hadn’t given it to her – and she recalled the HERA building being closed for structural integrity inspection. Still, with no other way, scribbled a quick note to him, showered like the wind, then threw on some new clothes, smoothed down her head, and headed out.

HERA agents stood as silent sentinels outside the fenced-off, blacked-out area around the HERA building, the foyer of which also seemed to be shrouded in large sheets of plastic. Though she didn’t recognise either of the two men, or the single female agent, she approached one with the same confidence she tackled everything, and smiled brightly.

“Evening,” she greeted. “I have something of importance to give Hades.”

True to form, the agent simply eyed her.

“Come on, tell me you guys don’t know who I am by now?” Miho grumbled. “I’m the reporter Hades took up to Olympus, and only yesterday was here when zombies rushed this very building.”

This did cause the agent to consider her a little less stoically.

“So, Hades? Can you call him down here for me?” Miho prompted expectantly.

“Hades is not available at present,” the agent told her plainly, and a little huffily, Miho took an envelope from her bag.

“Okay fine,” she sniffed. “How about you give him this? And in case you’re wondering, it’s the article I’ve written about this whole operation and everything I’ve seen recently, so, you might want to ferry it post haste to the hands of your friendly neighbourhood god as soon as possible. Print runs happen pretty early in the morning you know.”

Pressing the envelope against the agent’s chest, Miho released it.

“Oh, and if he stands me up for dinner, I won’t be held responsible for the consequences,” she smiled sweetly, then turned on her heel.

All that remained now, was for her to wait.

At her favourite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Miho took a sip from her fourth cup of coffee. For surely the five hundredth time she glanced at her phone to see she’d been waiting three hours.

Three hours and nothing.

Not even a text message.

Despite being wired thanks to the caffeine, she was well and truly weary.

The caffeine was the only thing keeping her awake.

“So that’s how it is,” she muttered, scowling as she emptied her cup, and it clattered back into the saucer.

Rolling her shoulders, she shuffled out of her booth loudly and shouldered her bag, muttering under her breath. But when she lifted her eyes to fix them balefully on the exit, Hades blocked her path.

“You’re still here,” he noted and looked first relieved, then frowned as he took in her expression.

“Only just,” she announced, her tone in no small part sour.

“I tried calling the number you put in the envelope Agent Hall passed on,” he explained, “but it connected me with an Italian man somewhere in New Jersey.”

“Excuse me?” Miho blinked, frowning as Hades took the slip of paper she’d written on from his pocket and read the number from it. “No, 1, not 7,” she corrected, exasperated.

“I see, that would account for Mr. Morticella then,” he agreed.

“Come on Hades,” Miho sighed. “You’re telling me that with your resources, the ones Agent Mann used to track me down with Detective Yashitori in fact, you couldn’t have looked up my number?”

Shifting a little uncomfortably in the face of her irritation, Hades conceded her point.

“Yes, you’re right,” he acknowledged humbly, nodding apologetically. “And I am sorry, but I have been… busy.”

Exhaling a heavy, lung-emptying sigh, Miho allowed her shoulders to slump. She was being unfair, and was just pissed off because she was over-tired and not at all used to being kept waiting.

“No, you’re right,” she admitted. “You’re right. Zombies trump my sorry ass.”

“It’s not that sorry,” he hazarded, leaning just a little to indicate he had glanced at the posterior in question.

She had to laugh.

Her smile waned a little though, when Hades dropped the folded article she’d written on the table where she’d been sitting, and lowered himself into the booth – after all, she didn’t know how he was going to react.

“This is quite a comprehensive story,” he noted: benign.

Studying him – his expression, his posture, his eyes – Miho returned to her seat opposite him.

He, glanced at the empty coffee cups.

“Fuelled by coffee?” he queried lightly.

“Yep,” she nodded. “Though I still don’t think much of what I’ve experienced has sunk in.”

“It may need to,” he told her gravely. “I still haven’t discerned the origin of the zombies, nor those behind them, and there was another incident involving them today.”

This he told her freely, despite the fact she’d compiled all his secrets in plain writing.

“Anyone hurt?” she ventured, and Hades winced a little.

“A member of the public was killed,” he admitted, and Miho bit her lip.

“That’s likely to draw more scrutiny from city law enforcement,” Miho pointed out, like he didn’t already know that. “If you haven’t heard from her already, you’d better brace for Detective Yashitori.”

“She has made some inquiries,” he affirmed. “Her Lieutenant also,” he added. “But they’re not the first, and will unlikely be the last.”

“She’s tenacious,” Miho warned.

“So are you,” he replied, the slightest of smirks touching his lips, but Miho frowned again.

“And look where that got you, Fairy-floss.”

“Where exactly is that?” he queried, unruffled and peering at her steadily.

For a good half a minute Miho just looked back in silence, until finally she responded.

“You’re not going to ask me what I’m going to do?” she scowled. “You’re not going to ask me to keep my mouth shut?”

“Do I need to ask?”

This caused Miho to scoff.

“Do you assume you don’t, just because we slept together?” she volleyed, but Hades didn’t falter, didn’t flinch.

“No,” he said, “but I do assume based upon what I have come to know and understand about you, that you have no intention of attempting to publish this.”

Hackles rising, Miho had to bite down on her tongue to prevent a snapping retort from escaping.

Hades, meanwhile, smiled at her mildly.

“Are you angry because I am making such an assumption, or, because in making it I’ve robbed you of the opportunity to make the grand reveal?”

Miho couldn’t help but react to this, but before she could stand out of indignation, Hades had placed his hand over hers in a light grip.

“But I will ask anyway,” he told her, much more seriously. “If – now knowing what you know, and feeling about it how you feel – you will please uphold HERA’s policy of secrecy, for reasons not borne of anything other than to protect?”

His please hit her exactly where it was meant to.

“Oh, see that’s not playing fair,” Miho grumbled, and Hades’ reply – that could have been amused – remained serious.

“All’s fair in love and war, I’m told,” he declared, his thumb moving slowly over the back of her hand, and Miho straightened a little.

“We’re not at war, Hades,” she responded carefully. “Our opposition came about because you and HERA were acting all shady. Anyone with an ounce of concern for civil liberties and proper authority would be concerned.”

“If that were true, I’d have had a whole lot more than you to contend with,” he said easily, eyes unwavering.

“Lucky for you then,” Miho nodded, finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the soft sensation of his skin against hers.

It traced warm little arches back and forth, a sweetly idle but entirely purposeful motion that rippled to other parts of her body.

“I should go,” she announced, exhaling the last word as she began to shuffle sideways, but Hades’ grip tightened and she stalled. “Come on, I need to go begging to my editor to lift my suspension, or my diet for the foreseeable future will be cup noodles.”

“Work for HERA,” he said, a statement delivered with certainty.

“Excuse me?” Miho blinked.

“You have a way with words,” he explained as she settled back, “I’ve seen plenty of evidence of that. You’re driven, fearless, even if sometimes far too irresponsible, but I’ve also had the privilege of witnessing you throw down a fully grown, and well trained agent, so you’re hardly helpless.”

“You don’t… owe me anything,” she told him slowly, trying to figure out his motivation, despite the glowing resume he’d just recited. “You don’t need to buy my silence; you already know I’m not going to publish anything that could compromise HERA.”

“That’s not why I’m offering,” he responded, but Miho remained suspicious.

“And I don’t need recompense for the other night, either,” she added, and this caused Hades to frown.

“You think so little of me? That I’m the type of man to offer someone a job because I slept with her?” he articulated, a thin fissure of hurt wearing into his expression.

Miho swallowed. She had reached across the table and slapped him in the face with her comment, her handprint brightly outlined on his cheek.

“Or maybe,” he continued, his hand withdrawing, “that’s the type of man you’re used to.”

“Hades, you’re not a man,” she exhaled, slumping a little. “And I’m sorry for questioning your integrity, you know, everyone speaks of you so highly, so reverently, it just doesn’t make sense.”

“What, doesn’t make sense?” he pressed.

She sighed again.

“Me, after no sleep,” she groaned, and rubbed her eyes. “I need some downtime, uninterrupted sleep.”

“Right,” he conceded, voice tight. “You should go home and rest properly.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, and finally managed to get to her feet.

Maybe she’d have kissed him, at least on the cheek, but it didn’t seem appropriate now.

“If you’re staying on Earth for a while, make sure you’re eating properly, what with Persephone not here to keep an eye on you,” she offered instead.

“If you’re so worried,” he replied, looking up at her as she stepped beside him, “consider my offer; you can keep an eye on me yourself.”

“I’ll think about it,” she agreed, and with one last awkward nod, Miho headed out of the cafe.

It wasn’t until she stepped onto the street and was hit in the face by the cool air, she realised her cheeks were on fire. Her body was tense, uncomfortably so, and her hands had made fists all by themselves.

“That could have gone better,” she muttered to herself, then, with a careful look around the street, she began in the direction of home.

Day 28

After sleeping like a rock, Miho woke to find a text message from Hades.

Now you can call and abuse me if I don’t show up on time…

At this Miho snorted. The message went on to detail the employment he’d offered, and with growing interest she explored the terms.

“Wow,” she exhaled, shaking her head. “This is… wow.”

A position in HERA’s media department writing cover stories. It was the absolute opposite of what she’d been pursuing her whole life, the opposite of her stance on lies.

She would become ‘The Man’, and that idea made her feel very awkward. Still, she could not deny, she wished she hadn’t seen the rotting faces of the zombies that had attacked Olympus – even now, safe in her apartment, she felt a creeping fear that just outside there would be more, or worse, someone she knew or cared for had become one.

Mieke came to mind, and Miho scowled fiercely at her phone.

Aside from the outline of the position Hades offered – hrr hrr – the salary and insurance package was far and beyond anything she could have hoped to achieve in journalism.

Then she had to weigh up the merits and pitfalls of having Hades as her boss.

Was that another nail in the coffin of their ‘not really’ relationship? Sleeping with the boss was never a good idea.

Sighing, Miho rolled over and texted Mieke. She was, after all, an employee of the organisation, and likely knew Hades far better.

That’s a tough one. You know it’d be cool to work together… but I also know how you feel about the whole cover up thing. Follow your heart?

“Follow my heart? Really Mieke?” Miho growled. “So not helpful.”

Still sprawled out in bed, Miho glared at the also unhelpful ceiling until Hades’ face appeared there.

“No, no, no. Bad,” she huffed, finally dragging herself up.

Skipping breakfast thanks to a fridge containing only out-of-date items and a carton of pretty rancid milk, Miho headed for the mall. The shopping list on her phone allowed her to focus on something totally benign.

She wound her way up and down the shopping centre aisles, dropping this and that into her cart – many of which weren’t on the list – but it wasn’t until she’d nearly run over a toddler that she realised she’d spaced out.

“Sorry,” she murmured to the mother who glowered, but what she really wanted to say was she should keep her offspring on a leash.

Pure maternal instinct.

As she passed through the checkout, wincing at the total and realising her next credit card statement was really going to hurt, a rise in noise beyond the supermarket drew her attention toward the food court.

Rolling her cart in that direction, she was met very suddenly with a rush of people – frightened people, screaming, crying people – and not a single one of them paid her any mind.

“Gunman?” Miho thought, perhaps the most likely scenario, but rather than run, she rolled her trolley against the nearest shopfront, and dug her phone from her pocket.

Reporter mode, activated.

It wasn’t the first time she had put herself in harm’s way for a story; there was of course Minotaur, but she’d hadn’t seen this coming. No, there had been other times she’d resisted the instinct to flee, and forged on in search of an exclusive.

What she discovered, however, was no gunman.

Having slunk her way to the food court, what she found caused her body to seize up.

Tables and chairs were upturned, a thankfully empty pram nearby lying on its side. Food and drinks littered the floor, a multi-coloured mess of convenience splattered everywhere by people caught completely off guard.

“No,” Miho exhaled – a weak, shuddering breath.

“Help me,” came a rasping, desperate plea, and Miho spied a teenager on the ground nearby.

His expression told Miho he was not only petrified, but in considerable pain, as did the impossible bend of his leg mid-calf.

“Please,” he cried, his voice a little louder, and Miho motioned for him to be quiet.

Clumsy fingers fumbled for the text message Hades had sent her, and frantically Miho hit call.

“No, no!” the teenager cried suddenly, raising his voice loud enough to draw the attention of more than just the creature crawling close enough to grab his ankle.

“Fuck,” Miho dropped, abandoning her phone in favour of grabbing the metal leg of the nearest fallen chair.

With all her strength, she swung the chair at the zombie’s head, and with a sickening crack the blow made good purchase.

“Why here?” she hissed, throwing her weapon at the four shambling shapes that approached, before grabbing hold of the teen’s wrist. “This is going to hurt like hell,” she warned him, then began to drag him out of the food court along the polished floor. “Hades!” she shouted as they passed her phone still sitting on the ground. “Get to Astoria Mall, right now!”

They passed her trolley, but Miho – for obvious reasons – ignored it. Several times she tripped over something left behind by a fleeing shopper, but she and her semi-conscious cargo made it to one of many exits largely uninterrupted.

“Where is mall security?” she gasped, peeling off her jacket to place under the teen’s head, before checking for bleeding wounds.

She hadn’t seen any mall cops, and that was odd.

Sirens wailed in the distance, but Miho hoped HERA arrived first – if others entered the mall there was a real risk of further contamination, forget about the spread of undead rumours.

“No!” she barked suddenly, when a couple of men approached the doors outside of which Miho was camped. “No one else goes inside.”

For a few seconds they stared at her.

“Ma’am,” one began, but Miho chewed the end off the rest of what he’d been about to say.

“No really,” Miho insisted. “If you want to be helpful, go on and seal up any way those mad men can get out.”

“We need to move you back, Ma’am,” the other man declared, completely ignoring Miho’s imperative.

“Aren’t you listening to me?” she snarled. “The last time I saw these guys, they had explosives strapped to their chests and they did a whole lot of damage to nearby buildings!”

That caused the men to pause, but it had the desired effect. One of the men called for bomb squad backup, while the other barked orders at uniform police officers finally arriving on the scene. The downside to that was, her apparent knowledge of people performing terrorist activities, immediately placed her under suspicion, so as she and her injured teenaged friend were evacuated from the area, he was taken to a waiting ambulance, and Miho was place in custody.

“Well,” she mumbled to herself, “at least that bought some time?”

Watching from her place in the back of a police car, Miho actually managed a mirthless laugh at the relief she felt when she recognised several new additions to the crowd – suits and plain clothed HERA agents taking charge. And the uniforms simply relinquished control, while others, including the men who had ordered her to remain for questioning, argued a little before being overwhelmed.

“Yep, that’s how they roll,” Miho snorted.

“They?” asked a familiar voice, and Miho’s view was blocked by the appearance of Detective Yashitori. “Don’t you mean you?”

“Not yet,” Miho responded, looking up at the woman as she opened the back of the patrol car and motioned for Miho to get out. “I don’t know, maybe.”

“Officer Bryce says you’ve seen the perpetrators of this attack,” Narumi went on, studying Miho carefully, critically, “and is holding you for questioning because you also suggested they may have explosives?”

Licking her lips – a nervous tell to be sure – Miho searched the crowd of police and suits.

“So what did you see exactly?”

Another sigh emptied Miho’s lungs and she met Narumi’s gaze.

“What I saw was five, hmm maybe six men, old, worn looking with sunken cheeks,” she detailed. “Bloodshot eyes, the kind you get from being hyped up on meth or ice: aggressive clawing and biting and tearing anyone who got in their way.”

It was an accurate description, and similes weren’t lies.

At least Miho told herself that.

“You have experience with drugs?” Narumi enquired, raising a brow, and Miho chortled.

“Come on, Detective, this is New York and I’m a reporter.”

“Well, right now you’re suspected of involvement, or at the very least knowledge of, a terrorist act,” a tall, well build man announced as he sidled up to Narumi’s side.

“Meet Detective Tennoji,” Narumi smiled, but it dimmed as a shadow fell over her.

“A pleasure to meet you Detectives,” Hades greeted pleasantly, and Miho fought to keep from smiling herself.

Before they could speak, before they could ask, he handed Narumi a document.

“Miss Fujiwara has been released to my custody,” he told them.

“Like hell!” Tennoji growled, drawing himself up.

“On whose authority?” Narumi demanded to know, slightly more composed.

“It’s all in that document,” Hades explained, then took Miho’s arm.

Stubbornly, Narumi shoved the document at Tennoji, and grabbed Miho’s other arm.

“This is not a game of tug-of-war,” Miho frowned. “Detectives, please trust they know what they’re doing.”

“I’m far more interested in what you have been doing,” Narumi stated flatly.

“From what I have heard, Miss Fujiwara made a case for first responders not entering for fear of there being an explosion,” Hades reasoned. “Hardly the actions of a terrorist.”

“You’re going to help them cover this up now?” Narumi hissed at Miho.

“I think I was pretty forthcoming with what I saw, Detective,” Miho shrugged, only now pulling her arm away. “I’m no terrorist. I just happened to be here when this all went down and in all honesty, I’m still shaken.”

“Let’s go,” Hades prompted, giving Miho’s arm a slight tug.

Tennoji moved to intervene, but Narumi stopped him.

“I don’t know if they have explosives,” Miho said when they were out of earshot, “but it was the best I could do to buy ti…”

Prophetic maybe?

The blast sent a massive cloud of smoke and dust into the air at the centre of the mall complex, though Miho was unable to see it. As if by reflex Hades moved, and Miho found herself enveloped once more in Hades’ arms, his back to the beleaguered building inside which subsequent detonations sounded.

Screams rose up from the morbidly curious crowd well outside of danger’s range, and though they too were well out of harm’s reach, Hades continued to shield Miho until relative silence settled once more.

“Sometimes it sucks to be right,” Miho whispered, her eyes closed, her body rigid until Hades straightened.

“More people could have been injured, perhaps killed if you’d said nothing,” Hades responded, his breath shifting the hairs behind her right ear.

“And I… didn’t tell her what I really knew,” she breathed, consciously relaxing her body back against him.

“I didn’t think you would,” Hades smiled. “And I am glad you’re safe.”

Then he flinched as something cold touched his cheek. Looking up, his brows twitched at the sight of snow at the end of spring.

“Is that…?” Miho trailed off, also peering upward, and her question was answered as the snow began to fall like a blanket. “What the hell?”

Hades’ expression looked grim as he released her.

“Hades?”

“You said you were shaken,” he focused back in, but she could tell his mind had no gone elsewhere. “Will you be all right?”

“I’m okay,” she nodded, chewing the inside of her cheek for a few seconds. “What do you need me to do?”

“I’ll have an agent take you home,” he replied, narrowing his eyes like he thought she might put up a fight – but she didn’t.

“If you can spare one,” she nodded.

“I can.”

Despite the chaos, the magnitude of what needed to be sorted, Miho was soon inside a company car being driven home.

Hades had touched her hand before she’d entered the cabin, a fleeting sign of affection though his expression remained serious. It was clear to her he was reluctant to let her out of his sight, and if she was honest, as the car moved away she felt less safe.

Exploding zombies should not be a norm.

At Miho’s apartment the agent lingered, making triple sure she was okay before he left.

After using her spare key to get in, all locks were double checked before Miho finally released some of the tension from her shoulders.

On her way to the bathroom, she glanced out the window at the snow that was falling like a billowing white.

“Ugh,” she grunted, turning on the bath taps.

Though the weather had been mild for weeks, the abrupt cold snap added to the fraying edges of her nerves. Then there were the two detectives to think about, eyeing her off like she was involved in terrorist activities and worse, covering it all up. She hadn’t lied to Narumi, but she hadn’t told the whole truth, and Miho realised just what a fine like she was walking.

With another grumble, Miho submerged herself deep in the tub, and let out a long, luxurious sigh. As the warmth sank through her skin to muscles tired from being tensed for action, more of her new reality sank in also.

“I’m a fuckin’ hero,” she whispered to the reverberating walls.

She had, after all, rushed headlong into dangers and dragged that boy – whose name she did not know – from the infections jaws of a slathering zombie.

“Oh shit,” she muttered, for two reasons.

One, because she was supposed to text Hades and hadn’t.

Two, because she had abandoned her phone in the mall.

She’d had to remember where her spare apartment key was, but it hadn’t twigged until that moment that her bag and belongings were not with her.

There wasn’t much she could do about it since she didn’t have a landline phone, and so she closed her eyes and inhaled a deep, steamy breath.

There she allowed herself to be suspected half way between awake and asleep, and time slipped away until she was jerked to attention by three solid knocking sounds from somewhere else in the apartment.

Sitting up, she strained to listen until the knocking came again.

“Damned broken doorbell,” she hissed, pulling herself up.

She gave her body a cursory dry before wrapping herself in a towel – whoever had come to visit would just have to deal with her moisty, dishevelled state.

“Okay, okay! I’m on my way!” she called, when the knocking sounded for a third time, this time more emphatically.

Hades blinked when Miho swung the door open, a grumpy frown affixed to the heat-flush of her face.

Drips fell from rebellious strands of hair that had escaped her messy bun, and the tucked-over knot keeping the towel around her looked set to unwind.

Likewise, Miho stared right back at Hades, suddenly wishing she hadn’t opened the door looking much like a drowned rat.

“You didn’t text,” were his first words, breaking the moment.

“Left my phone at…” she began, but he finished.

“At the mall,” he smiled, holding her handbag out to her.

Swallowing, Miho extended her hand, but the second she closed her fingers around the strap she froze.

His gaze, though fixed upon her face, seemed to smooth along her shoulders, along the ridge of her collarbones, and down to her barely concealed breasts.

With sudden desperation, Miho’s body demanded she drag Hades inside and devour him, but some small angel or demon in her mind told her not to; there was still the whole job offer thing to consider.

“Are you alright?” he asked, closer than he had been – somehow he’d stepped forward and she’d not noticed, sandwiching her hand and the bag between his body and hers.

“Ahh… I’m…” she said, but finishing that sentence proved difficult as his face drew closer. “Hades,” she whispered.

“No, I’m Hades,” he told her quietly, lips hovering before hers. “You, are Miho.”

“Right,” she swallowed, her free hand taking hold of his upper arm. “We shou…”

Tired of her hesitation perhaps, but more likely reaching the limit of his self-restraint, Hades silenced Miho with the ardent smother of his lips; and Miho crumbled, leaning into him with encouraging reciprocation.

In the doorway of her apartment, they bundled up all the day’s, week’s emotion, and let it melt away through the dance of their tongues and a transference of body-heat and passionate need.

All thought and rationality fled from Miho’s mind – her body simply responded as Hades backed her into the apartment and kicked the door closed behind them.

“No more polite,” he growled.

The confident roam of his hands beneath the towel, its path up her left side and to her breast, demolished the lingering remains of Miho’s self-control. Within seconds she found herself toppling back onto the couch, and Hades straddled her, tugging away his tie and pulling at the buttons of his shirt.

Awkwardly, vision a hazy blur of desire and urgency, Miho struggled with his belt buckle while her mind tried to figure the location of the nearest condom.

“Handbag, handbag,” she muttered, searching the lounge though her lust kept drawing her back to the final reveal of Hades’ perfectly chiselled chest, the definition of his pecs and abs.

“There,” Hades pointed at the floor behind Miho’s head, right where she’d finally abandoned it.

The bag, not her head.

The way he reached forward, laying his body against her, caused Miho to shudder with anticipation. She took the opportunity to kiss up his neck as he took hold of her handbag and dragged it within her reach. Miho dug a hand into it blindly as Hades sat back, wriggling to get out of his pants; once he’d achieved that, he took his shaft in one hand, and wormed his hand between Miho’s legs, rubbing fingers against her clit in firm strokes.

“How am I supposed to…” Miho whined, having difficulties pulling open the small zipper compartment where she kept a small supply of ‘just in case’ contraceptives. “Fuck… Hades, stop, stop, I can’t get the damned…”

Hades chuckled as she fumbled in frustration, but he was of little help, and Miho whimpered as he slowly burrowed two fingers into her moistness.

“Okay don’t stop,” she huffed, biting down on her lower lip, watching him stroke his cock, base to tip. “Uhh, that is sooo sexy,” she purred.

“Let me help you with that,” he smirked, releasing his erection and leaning over her again.

“Oh,” she breathed when he withdrew his fingers, and his head nudged against her entrance.

It was a really stupid thought, but suddenly Miho understood how easy it could be to say ‘fuck it’ and have unprotected sex. She wanted Hades to just throw all caution to the wind and pile drive her, the two of them as close as two people could be – but he did no more than tease, and a few seconds later rocked back triumphantly with the small foil packet in his hand.

“Quit smirking and get on with it,” she snarled, glaring, squirming beneath him.

“Still impatient,” he grinned, tossing the packet aside and rolling the condom over his length, before slowly licking his fingers.

“Hades,” Miho hissed, reaching her arms up and clawing at the air, and he was more than happy to indulge her need.

Running his thumbs along her inner thighs, he parted her legs and then leaned down to meet her hungrily lips. He groaned into her mouth, remaining poised at her entrance but holding back – and though he wanted her badly, the frenzy in her eyes was something to savour considering it had felt like she’d kept him at arm’s length since their first ‘encounter’.

When her nails dug more firmly into his shoulders and she bit down and held onto his lower lip, he finally relented, driving himself inside her to the delicious tension she squeezed around him.

Breathing came intermittently, gasps interrupted by their chests pressed together, by the strenuousness of Hades’ thrusts, and the frantic need to taste one another’s thirst.

“Miho!” came a call from outside the door, an urgent one at that, and the voice was followed by a second sentence and the unceremonious entrance of Mieke into the apartment. “I heard you were in a…”

Compromising position?

“Oh… god…” Mieke gawked, absolutely frozen but for her mouth that somehow kept moving. “Hades! Sir… wow… I mean, oh god, Sir!”

At Mieke’s abrupt arrival, Hades had laid down against Miho, curling his arms under her shoulders and sheltering her like he thought the interloper might be a threat – then he met Mieke’s wide-eyed shock.

Of course it was obviously what he and Miho had been doing, their lightly sweating bodies crushing together, Miho’s legs wrapped around the back of his thighs leaving his ass fully exposed.

“Worse timing ever,” Miho hissed out against Hades’ neck, nipping at the skin despite their situation.

“Agent Genever, if you could turn around?” Hades suggested, still a little breathless.

“Yes, buns… I mean Sir! Sir!” Mieke corrected quickly, spinning around, and the moment she had, Hades reluctantly eased himself out of Miho and stood up.

With a heavy sigh, Miho rolled over and looked up at him while he collected his clothing, pouting furiously.

“I’ll just…” he began, and Miho finished for him.

“Yep, go ahead, bathroom’s the first door on the left.”

With an apologetic look – like the interruption was his fault – he pecked her quickly on the lips then disappeared.

It wasn’t until she heard the door click that Mieke whirled around, just as Miho – still naked – sat up looking pissed off.

“Oh. My. God,” Mieke whispered conspiratorially, crossing the room but stopping short of sitting down on the couch that now seemed… um… contaminated? “Does this make you two official?”

“No,” Miho grumped. “It means you’re an exceptionally effective contraceptive.”

“Wait, wait, hold on,” Mieke blurted. “You two were trying for a baby?”

“Are you on crack?” Miho exclaimed. “I can barely look after myself let alone an infant, and even if I wanted babies… no. Cock-block.”

“I’m sorry,” Mieke grinned, her pale cheeks filled with colour. “But you know, what has been seen cannot be unseen so…”

“I suggest you unsee it,” Hades declared, appearing fully dressed.

Miho still sat there stark naked and not at all bothered by that fact.

“Right,” Mieke nodded, taking a step back from the couch and unable to meet Hades’ eyes. “I just wanted to check on Miho, but now I see she is… okay I’ll just…leave and let you two do… stuff.”

“Be careful in the snow, Agent Genever,” Hades warned, walking her to the door like it was his apartment.

“Sure thing, Sir, and sorry again for interrupting your… nothing… bye.”

Hades let out a heavy breath and remained staring at the door after it had closed behind Mieke, but he heard Miho laughing.

“There is no way she is ever going to forget your divine ass,” she grinned, and though he looked at her reproachfully when he turned, she only smiled the wider. “And once she gets over her shock, expect to get teased.”

“I would hope she’d know better,” he grumbled, flopping down onto the couch and dragging her into his lap.

Relaxing against him, Miho closed her eyes and let him kiss her briefly.

“Hmm are you hungry?” she asked him as her stomach gurgled. “I never managed breakfast and skipped lunch so…”

“I could eat,” he replied, planting his lips against her shoulder, and Miho lolled her head back.

“Food,” she clarified, patting his cheek before dragging herself up.

“You’re not going to cook like that are you?” he chuckled, giving her bum a light smack.

“Don’t be stupid,” she tsked. “I’m going to put an apron on.”

While Miho whipped something up, Hades watched her with a smile – a hungry smile. When he offered to help, she batted him away until food was laid out. As they ate, conversation danced around their interrupted exercise and what it might mean, and stayed away from the topic of explosions and zombies, and ended up instead talking about Mieke, right up until Miho yawned for the fifth time.

“Okay, I think it’s time I put you to bed,” Hades chuckled, taking up the dishes from the table and putting them in the sink.

“And after you’ve done that, what then?” Miho queried, standing behind him with their glasses in her hands.

Slowly, he turned to consider her, reading over her expression but ultimately responding with a question.

“What would you like me to do?” he asked.

“I knew you were going to ask that,” she grumped, reaching around him to put the glasses with the plates.

When she straightened, he brushed the back of his hand against her cheek, and without even thinking about it, Miho leaned toward the touch.

“Ugh, I want you to stay and keep the nightmares away,” she murmured, and Hades smiled.

“Gladly,” he told her gently, leaning forward and kissing her forehead.

Though a little begrudgingly perhaps, that he had made her say it, Miho led Hades to her bedroom.

She had put on more than an apron before cooking dinner, but little more than an unimpressive pair of sweatpants and a hoodie. That he still wanted to follow her to the bedroom when she was attired like that, encouraged her more than she thought it should.

“Arms up,” he instructed, but she batted his hand away when he reached for her.

“You may be considerably older than me, but I’m not harbouring any daddy fantasies,” she chided.

“How much do you like that outfit?” he enquired, peering at her so seriously, a serious response formed on her tongue.

“Er, it’s just some cheap running gear,” she shrugged, then flinched as purple light flashed around her in the shape of Hades’ reaper aura, slashing the fabric away from her body without casing her a single scratch.

“That, is cheating,” she told him sternly, and this time it was he who shrugged.

“Or is it merely using all resources to my advantage?” he asked, smoothing his large hands lightly over her shoulders.

“I mean it though, if you treat me like a child, I will definitely throw a tantrum,” she persisted, and Hades held up his hands.

“And I’m well aware of how intense those can be,” he chuckled, and Miho gave him a playful shove against his chest.

“I’ll get you a towel and, I probably have a spare toothbrush around here somewhere,” she told him, snagging a baggy t-shirt from under her pillow and slipping it over her head before heading back into the hall.

When she returned, Hades’ shirt was already hanging on her wardrobe door, and his belt was sliding free.

Swallowing another yawn, she nudged the folded towel against his back.

“Bathroom is the…”

“Found it earlier,” he pointed out.

“Oh, right,” she sighed, following up some mutterings about best friends.

And by the time Hades re-entered the bedroom, Miho was already tucked into bed on the left side.

Without hesitation, Hades moved to the right, slid in beside her, and snuggled her against him.

“I put my toothbrush next to yours,” he said against the top of her head, and Miho looked up at him with a slightly concerned expression, clearing her throat before responding.

“Um, I’m not sure that’s… that’s such a good idea.”

“And why wouldn’t it be?”

His question sounded innocent enough, but Miho knew he wasn’t that dumb.

“Next you’ll be wanting a drawer, then some room in the wardrobe,” she pointed out, speaking dramatically with her hands to cover the awkwardness.

Hades did not seem the slightest bit fazed.

“Would that really be so bad?” he queried calmly, and Miho rolled over and sat up to look down at him.

“Okay, fine,” she huffed, scowling as if the next things she spoke had been drawn from her using torture. “You know I… sex with you was amazing, but home visits and toothbrushes and drawers aren’t casual sex, they’re more than that, and you… I may act like I’m fifty feet tall, but I’m 5’11” and mortal but you… you’re not. You’re an actual god, immortal and powerful, and I don’t know many stories from history where that ever worked out happily ever after.”

“So far an accurate assessment,” he nodded.

“Then you see the problem I’m having here,” Miho exclaimed, but Hades shook his head, and pulled her against his chest by the wrist.

“You think I haven’t also had these thoughts?” he asked her, smoothing back the hair either side of her face. “The very moment I felt myself stir beyond mere physical attraction, I had to wonder if there was any point.”

Despite being the one to bring it up, Miho swallowed the lump suddenly in her throat.

“Perhaps we were simply drawn together by circumstance,” he continued evenly, but his fingers continued to sift through her hair, “caught up in this chaos not even a god like me has all the answers to, but there has never been anything false in how I’ve acted toward you. I’ve never done, or said anything I didn’t mean.”

“I… don’t know what this means,” Miho sighed, biting her lower lip in frustration, but Hades laughed.

“Are you truly so unaccustomed to the concept of love?”

“Whoa whoa, you’re just going to come right out and say it?” she rushed, attempting to sit up again, but Hades preventing her from rising.

“Would you have me call it something it’s not?” he offered. “You are not one for lies, I’ve learned.”

“Well, no I wouldn’t want you to lie,” she frowned, getting all tangled up in terminology and dogma. “But…”

“But what?” he prompted a little more flatly. “Have I misread the signs? Because if I have, I’ll…”

“No,” she admitted, but looked away like she was for some reason embarrassed.

Miho.

Embarrassed.

“No,” she repeated. “It’s just that, I’m too old now to look for anything other than a future.”

“And there is no future with me?” he continued.

“I don’t know!” she admitted. “Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe a mortal should take odds she has a fighting chance of winning.”

“You did take a chance, picked a fight, with me in fact,” he pointed out. “And I’m telling you right now – you already won.”

Slack jawed, Miho just peered at him, lost for words.

“I will show you,” he whispered, brushing her cheek softly, “give me your trust, and I’ll show you.”

Gnawing at the inside of her cheek for a moment, searching his eyes, his expression for any trace of falsehood, of a game gods were purported to enjoy playing with mortals, Miho – finding none – dropped her chin a little, and leaned her head into his touch.

“You have my trust,” she declared breathily, finally lying down again, draping herself over his body and snuggling down.

“Jeez,” she muttered as he wrapped his arm around her, and she planted a kiss against his pec. “Our clashes, Minotaur, Olympus, the zombies, explosions… this… I feel like a stone being tossed about by a raging river, tumbling rapidly in one direction to some unknown destination.”

“The unknown isn’t all bad,” he reassured her with a kiss to the top of her head. “But even if it is, I’ll be with you to face it.”