BGC Post 2040 File 6 – 13: The Real Me
The Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Continuation Fanfic Series
by P. Kristen Enos
Most of these stories take place AFTER the TV Series! So DON’T blame me if I ruin the ending for you because you read these stories first!
Lesbian/Yuri/Shoujo Ai Warning! (Non-explicit — at least in the “PG13″/”R” sort of way.) Just not written for children because they probably wouldn’t get half of it.
All rights belong to JVC/AIC, ADV Films and the other creative powers that be. I just want credit for writing the story.
Part 5: True To The Heart
Sunday Noon, November 20th
“Are you sure about this, Sylia?” Linna asked hesitantly as she took the offered glass of beer.
Her friend merely smiled as she sat down on the couch next to her. “It’s no fun having my own business if I don’t get to open and close it at will. Besides, this is far more interesting to me.”
“I’ll bet it is,” Linna remarked with a roll of her eyes as she took a sip. She had a drained and weary look about her, like a woman who was suffering from more than just lack of sleep. “Priss told me all of the details behind the lovers’ charade for Nana. I have to admit I envy Nigel since he seems to be the only one you spare your little ‘jokes.’”
Sylia gave a casual shrug. “I learned a few years ago that if I didn’t make myself laugh, then no one else would… But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, right?”
“No, it’s not,” Linna conceded.
There was a moment of silence as Sylia waited for Linna to formulate the necessary words.
“…Sylia, why did you tell Priss the full truth behind our make-out session?”
Sylia didn’t answer for another long moment as she sipped her scotch. She finally let out a soft sigh and said, “I think being Priss’s friend got in the way of being your friend. I’m sorry if I overstepped my boundaries and caused irreparable damage between you two.”
“Well, I don’t think ‘damage’ is the right word…,” Linna murmured. “So have you talked to her yet today?”
She shook her head. “All I know is that she charged out of here last night like a woman on a mission. I assumed it was to see you. Was I wrong?”
Linna shook her head. “She asked for a chance. To see if she and I… can make something real. But, I also don’t want to give up on Lisa. Not when things feel so… possibly right with her…”
Linna then let out a frustrated groan. Trying to change her mood slightly, she asked, “When I first met you guys, you hinted at Priss possibly being interested in me. Were you just teasing us? Or were those comments for real?”
“Yes,” Sylia answered with a wry grin even though she was clearly serious. “I had only known Priss for about a year before you came into the picture. We weren’t friends then but I knew enough to know she wasn’t involved with anyone. She was so clearly anti-social and guarded.”
She then paused and gave Linna a nudge. “So when she set the stage for you to join the team, I had to admit my curiosity was piqued about her motives. And when I finally saw how cute you were, pieces fell into place. I surmised that perhaps the reason why she didn’t have a boyfriend was that she was looking for a girlfriend. Whether or not she was consciously aware of it at the time was another issue.”
Linna felt herself glow red from head to toe at hearing another version of the events from four years ago. Instead of discounting anything, Sylia’s words started to fill in the missing pieces.
“And,” Sylia continued, “when I saw how you reacted to her, I assumed it would only be a matter of time before you two got together in some manner. Especially when you asked for directions to her place after she practically dumped you as a team member. In the beginning, I honestly thought you two were dating… I didn’t know about Leon then. Nor about her attraction to Nigel until Mackey told me.”
“WHAT?!” Linna blurted at the last statement.
Sylia now looked genuinely surprised for a moment but then her passive amusement returned. “Hmmm. Apparently you two never talked about romantic interests in general.”
Trying to compose herself again, Linna’s blush deepened. “Well, uh, we just stayed away from the subject. More important things to talk about at the time, I guess.”
Sylia smirked. “Of course…. So what happened last night?”
Linna recounted every detail, from waking at the noise of a would-be burglar to the hug she shared with Priss.
“And then what?” a very curious Sylia asked.
“We talked for another hour, just trying to sort through our past relationship. But we were both exhausted and turned in.”
“In the same bed?”
Though completely red, Linna squirmed and nodded. “But we were completely clothed!”
“Did you two kiss?”
“When we first woke up, she kissed me,” Linna answered, not able to look up from her glass of beer. “It was nice… And then she showered and left.”
Sylia chuckled. “It must be true love if you didn’t rip each other’s clothes off.”
“Sylia!” a mortified Linna blurted.
“Sorry, sorry!” she responded without sounding at all repentant. “So what’s next?”
“Well, we agreed not to pursue anything while Nana is staying here. It would just be too complicated to try to explain anything if we were found out. Especially by Nene. And then there’s the fact that you and Priss are supposed to be the lovebirds.”
“And what about Lisa?”
Linna winced and rubbed her forehead. “She and I are going to talk Tuesday night. I have no idea what I’m going to say to her. I don’t dare mention anything because of her friendship with Nana. But I don’t know what I can say that would make sense otherwise. I don’t do this secret identity thing well when it comes to people who really count. I guess I’d make a horrible Sailor Moon.”
“Actually, Sailor Uranus or Sailor Neptune would be more appropriate.”
Linna glared at the smirking Sylia.
Clearing her throat, Sylia remarked, “You just said you don’t want to break things off with Lisa.”
“I don’t,” Linna said adamantly. “I feel so different when I’m with her. As if this is what it’s like to have a grounded, ‘normal’ life with someone. At least relatively ‘normal’ if you were to compare her to Priss.”
“Hmm. She’s not a rock singer or a Knight Saber. But she is a reporter.”
“I know, I know,” she groaned. “There’s a part of me wondering if I should just call it quits with her to avoid something disastrous happening. After all, even if we were to let her in on the secret of the Knight Sabers, Priss is the one I’ll be with every time a crisis happens. Lisa would have to be extremely secure, and I would have to be completely resolved with Priss. Otherwise, it would just be too dangerous and complicated.”
Linna finished off her beer in a single gulp. “I guess that’s also why I came here to vent to you. After all, you had to struggle with choosing between Nigel and Reika. What did you use as the basis for your final choice?”
Sylia was quiet again, her expression now grim. She took another sip of scotch and answered softly, “Linna, I never chose between Nigel and Reika….”
Linna’s eyes widened but she kept quiet as she waited for Sylia to finish.
“I chose the Knight Sabers. Nigel was part of that package.”
“But, Sylia, when we beat Galatea and thought the Knight Sabers were through –”
“I was more secure in my relationship with Nigel then. Plus, I thought Reika was out of my life permanently….”
Sylia then took a breath and added with seeming casualness, “But I wasn’t the same person then, four years ago, or even eight. And the same could be said of you.
“If I have any advice for you, Linna, it’s to make your decision on who you are now, not as who you were in the past or on what kind of fantasies you might have had back then. And with that, you need to look at Priss as who she is now, both the good and the bad. You should also give Lisa the same analysis. That’s the only way to be fair to everyone… That’s the same advice I would give to Priss.”
Linna smiled genuinely at her and said, “Thanks, Sylia.”
* * * * *
“… I thought it was only fair to tell you as soon as I was certain,” Sylia said as she sat in the chair of the Pit control room. She looked at the computer monitor, which displayed her words in a text box. “I completely understand if you don’t want to go through with everything given what’s going on.”
There was no response for a moment but then Sylvie’s words appeared on the screen. “I think I had a feeling something like this would happen. And I’ve already given it quite a bit of thought. I realized that coming back just for Priss wouldn’t have been very wise if she had indeed been available but we ended up not working out… Right?”
Sylia smiled at the hesitancy. “Yes, Sylvie, you’re very correct to look at it that way. Your primary reason for doing something should be for yourself. Not for someone else, who may or may not be there for you.”
“… Then I would like to proceed. It will be awkward being around her for a while, but with a new identity and a new life, I think the possibilities and risks would be worth it.”
— End Chapter 48 —
* * *
Sunday Afternoon, November 20th
From her spot on the couch, Sylia looked from Mackey to Nene and back again. She wore a passive look as she assessed the clearly nervous couple who sat on the other couch.
She finally gave them a smile and said, “Congratulations, you two. I already knew Mackey would ask, but it’s another thing to have you accept, Nene.”
Nene blinked as the words sunk in. She looked mildly surprised as she asked, “So you’re okay with this?”
“Of course,” she answered genuinely. “But I have the easy part of all of this. Creating a legitimate identity for Mackey and ‘upgrading’ him on a regular basis with Nigel is fairly straightforward and easy to plan for. You, however, will have to determine how to deal with your family, with your famous Romanova curiosity. Have you thought that part through?”
Nene gave Mackey a look, and he responded with a gentle squeeze of her hand.
Clearly feeling more confident, she said, “We talked about it for a bit this morning and I think we’ve got the basics down. And the rest we’ll just have to improvise as we go along.” Then she answered with her usual bright grin, “It’s like being a Knight Saber, right?”
Sylia giggled and nodded. “Touché. We’re a team off the battle field, too.”
* * * * *
The sound of clinking glasses filled the air as everyone toasted the news of Nene and Mackey’s engagement.
They were seated at a long table at a karaoke bar. The engaged couple and Nana were seated on one side while Priss, wearing her fake braces, sat between Sylia and Linna on the other. Henderson had been invited but had declined, claiming exhaustion.
“Nene’s father was so excited that he almost wanted to take the next flight out here,” Nana exclaimed.
Before anyone else could react, Nene jumped in and said, “But we promised him we’d come and visit when Mom goes back home next week. That way we could celebrate with the whole family, too!”
“Well, Mackey, that means you better take her ring shopping tomorrow,” Sylia added with a wink. “Definitely don’t want to face the Romanova Clan literally empty-handed.”
The young man blushed and said to his future mother-in-law, “Sorry, Nana, it was a detail I kinda forgot in all of the excitement in the past week.”
“I don’t mind!” Nene declared as she embraced his arm. “I have you and that’s good enough!”
Mackey grinned. “Yeah, but Sylia is offering to pay for the ring –.”
“With your share of the inheritance, Mackey,” his sister added for clarification. “It’s sizeable enough that you two should live quite comfortably, even if you indulge in a rather impressive engagement ring.”
Nana looked at her daughter and said, “Take my advice this time, Ne-chan, and get a really nice ring. It should quiet your father down about having to wait and wonder all these years if you two would make it official.”
Nene laughed. “All right, Mom, I -”
“It looks like a party here!” Yuuji’s voice exclaimed.
The group turned to see Daley and Yuuji standing nearby hand-in-hand with Leon and Jeena in the background. They had clearly been out enjoying themselves that night as well.
Leon immediately locked gazes with Priss, who returned his stare but then turned her attention to Nene as she rose to greet the newcomers.
“Hi, Guys!” Nene greeted merrily as she hugged them in greeting. “We’re celebrating my engagement to Mackey! Come join us.”
Both Daley and Leon blinked in amazement but then joined Yuuji and Jeena in congratulating the couple as they sat down. The male couple sat down on the bench next to Sylia while Leon and Jeena sat next to Mackey.
Now facing each other at eye-level, Priss and Leon again locked gazes for a moment before the singer turned her attention back to the celebration.
After making certain everyone who was already at the table had been introduced, Nene took the liberty of presenting the newcomers, mainly for her mother’s benefit. “Mom, this is Daley Wong, my coworker, and his partner Yuuji Akamatsu, who’s a reporter at the Tokyo Sun. And this is Leon McNichol and Jeena Malso, who command the Neo-Tech Crimes Unit!”
Nana’s eyes suddenly lit up with recognition as she declared, “Oh, so you’re Leon! Ne-chan spoke so much about you when she first began working with the ADP.” Then she added with a wink, “She talked about you so much that I thought she had a crush on you.”
“MOM!” an instantly red Nene blurted, “I did not!”
The rest of the table responded with varying degrees of giggling, some trying unsuccessfully to smother their amusement.
Leon had a grin from ear to ear as he looked at Nene. “That almost makes these years of teasing worth it!”
Though red-faced, Nene gave him an evil smile in return. “I guess you’re in a good mood since you look like you guys were out on a double-date!”
“Nene!” both Leon and Jeena blurted at once.
The startled table was now silent as the two NTCU officers exchanged a look and blushed.
Letting the moment pass, Nana cleared her throat for attention and said, “Jeena, Nene had told me that you seem to have had your arm replaced. That television footage was quite vivid.”
Glad for a change in subject, Jeena nodded and held up her replaced arm, which was covered by her long-sleeved shirt and leather glove. “It’s a temporary robotic prosthetic. A standard size for a medium female. I won’t get my final boomer prosthetic until February. But this’ll do until then. Besides, my little boy thinks it’s cool because it makes me look like an anime superhero. – Speaking of children, Nene, Mackey, are you two going to have any right away?”
The couple’s smiles instantly faded, as did those of everyone else at the table, except for Yuuji, who watched the changes in expressions curiously.
Seeing the change in mood, Jeena said, “Oh, I’m sorry if I said something I shouldn’t have.”
“No, it’s okay, Jeena,” Nene added hastily. “It’s just something that’s not something we can, um, count on. — Hey, Daley and Yuuji, are you guys ever going to have kids?”
The gay men both spit up their drinks.
Shaking his head, Daley pushed his glasses into place and said, “We’re both full-time career men. I think children would get in the way of that.”
“Are you two legally married?” Nana asked curiously.
“Yeah,” Yuuji answered with a grin, holding up both of their hands to show the matching gold bands. “We tied the knot two years ago.”
The older Romanova looked quite impressed. She then looked at her hostesses. “Well, this is something you two should strive for, right, Sylia? Priss?”
“WHAT?!” Leon suddenly blurted, loud enough to cause a silence in the entire restaurant.
The man then mumbled an apology and tried to act casual even though his face was completely red. He couldn’t pull his searching gaze from the two women in question.
Ignoring his outburst, Sylia smiled at Nana as she snaked her hand up along a stiffening Priss’s arm to rest on her shoulder. “I think it’s far too soon to talk about such things. Though it’s always a possibility, right, Darling?”
With her eyes glued to the drink in her hand, a pink Priss muttered, “Yeah, I guess.”
Linna giggled and added with a nudge, “Well, I think you two make a cute couple. You definitely have my support.”
Gripping her glass with whitening fingers, Priss turned red as Sylia gave Linna a wink.
Looking quite stricken, Leon finished off his drink in one long drought.
— End Chapter 49 —
* * *
Monday Morning, November 21th
Carrying his bass guitar in its case, the bandana-wearing Maxon let out a low whistle as they walked into the recording studio. “This place is heaven on earth! Look at all of this beautiful equipment!”
Both Fox and Jaid looked similarly impressed as they brought in their own equipment.
Priss set her guitar case down on the floor and looked around, the barest hint of a smile on her lips.
“How long do we have this place again, Priss?” the blond Fox asked as he sat down and looked at the control board like a boy with his first toy.
“As long as we need. A friend of mine is footing the bill as a long-overdue favor,” she answered simply. She didn’t bother to add that in exchange she would be undergoing white noise tests starting that night.
“Oh, I can definitely move here for the rest of my life!” Maxon declared merrily. “The vibes in this building alone can help with inspiration. And the fact that this place wreaks of money doesn’t hurt.”
Jaid let out a hearty chuckle befitting his burly drummer’s frame and said, “You’re just jazzed that this place is filled with top named recording artists. I saw you drooling at the sight of those bubbly idol chicks we passed in the hallway.”
“Hey, eye and ear candy never hurts once in a while,” he responded indignantly.
Priss suddenly froze as a familiar squeal jolted her mind. She clutched the nearby chair to steady herself.
“Priss?! You okay?” Jaid asked as he took a step to catch the swooning woman.
“Ye-yeah,” she answered after a moment. She grabbed her duffle bag and headed toward the door. “Got a headache. Let me go take care of it while you guys set up. I won’t be long.”
Her band mates watched her leave in silence but knew to follow orders first before devoting too much attention to possibly wasted worry.
Seconds later, Priss pushed her way into the ladies’ room while securing the dampening collar around her throat. As soon as the thin leather choker was latched in place and switched on, the mental squeal was gone.
After taking a deep breath, she splashed water on her face and stared at herself in the mirror. She didn’t like the fact that she looked a little scared and that her heart was pounding a hundred beats per second.
She knew this wasn’t regular white noise. There was a Sylvie-bot in the building.
* * * * *
“I’m really glad you’re able to join me for a girls only lunch, Jeena,” Nene said sincerely as they sat at their table the restaurant.
The other woman gave her an easy grin in response. “I’m definitely glad to do it. Although I will admit I wonder if there’s some sort of ulterior motive behind it.”
Nene blushed and nodded sheepishly. “Well, you’re the only one I know who’s been in a marriage – like between a man and a woman, and who’s not a relative of mine.”
“Ah, and so you want some advice on things not to do?”
“Well, kind of. I – I know this is going to be really nosy, but why are you and Billy divorcing? You seemed like such a good couple when I saw you at Daley and Yuuji’s party.”
Jeena chuckled to herself and said, “Yes, that is a nosy question. But I guess you have a right to ask if you’re concerned you and Mackey will meet the same fate. I don’t think you two will, though.
She then took a deep sigh and began her explanation, “Billy and I met at the police academy; we were both cadets in the same class. He’s the sweetest, most considerate guy you can ever imagine. And we got along extremely well and became good friends. Then we dated for almost a year before he proposed. But I wasn’t in love with him, and he knew it. However, since I figured he was the best catch I could possibly get, I accepted, thinking I would fall in love with him over time. And part of it was that I was young and inexperienced, and had never been in love before.
“As the years passed, and I still did not feel what I thought was the emotion of love, small annoyances that were once forgiven turned into huge fights. I began to resent the fact he was not creating the emotions I thought I wanted, and he resented the fact that I made impossible demands on him since I didn’t know what I wanted. I learned the hard way that you can’t be a romantic while trying to live a non-romantic relationship…. And poor B.J. was caught in the middle.
“So that’s when the NTCU opportunity here in Tokyo came up, and we decided to have a trial separation. It quickly became clear that we were much happier being apart than together. In fact, if we hadn’t started off our relationship as friends, I don’t think we would be able to be so amicable to each other now or mutually agree so easily on what’s right for B.J. So now we’re just friends,” Jeena finished with a sip of tea. “Anything else you want to know?”
Nene blinked as she absorbed the story. Then she shook her head. “No, I think that answers my question. And… yeah, it does sound like Mackey and I won’t have that kind of situation. I definitely love him, and I know he loves me.”
“That must be nice,” Jeena said with a genuine smile.
* * * * *
“You guys can stay if you want, but I’ve got plans,” Priss said as she zipped up her jacket.
“I think we’re going to stay and work on the music tracks,” Fox said, his attention far more focused on the control board in front of him.
“Rest up, Priss,” Jaid said with a wink as he relaxed on the couch. “You sang your heart out today! We’re expecting even better tomorrow!”
“Then you guys better not be here all night,” she said with a smile as she grabbed her helmet and duffle bag.
Maxon stood and grabbed his own jacket, “Hey, Priss, I’ll walk down with you. Especially since I’ve got to get some eats if we’re going to pull a late nighter.”
Once they were in the empty elevator, Maxon commented, “Jaid’s right. You sang great today. It seems that break was needed for everyone. By the way, I’m going to throw a party this Friday. You’re welcome, of course. And you can bring Linna, even though I know she doesn’t like me. But well, since she is your… roommate, I guess.”
Priss blinked and then smirked. “Well, you two are just going to have to get used to each other and play nice. I can’t commit right now, for either of us. But I’ll let you know before then.”
He frowned a moment and then said, “I – I, uh, was thinking of inviting Leon, too. Since he was our roadie and buddy for so long. But, I wasn’t sure if it’d be okay with you or not. You’ve got squatter’s rights and all.”
Priss pursed her lips for a moment and then answered, “Maxon, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t invite him to parties for a while. I’ll let you know when it’ll be okay again.”
“Sure, no rush on that,” he said as the elevator came to a stop.
The two of them exited the posh lobby, only to be stalled by a huge crowd of screaming female fans around a limo out front. At the center of the throng was a tall, preppy-looking young man who was one of the hottest singers of the moment.
Maxon looked at the guy and tapped his forehead as he tried to remember the man’s name, “Hey, isn’t that Hiroki something-something? I think he has the current number one hit on the j-pop charts.”
Priss didn’t notice anything as she froze in her spot. Her eyes glued to the tall and quiet companion next to the man signing autographs.
The face that was Sylvie’s immediately focused on Priss and Maxon. With cool detachment, she gave them a scan, considered them not worth watching, and turned her attention to other people in the maddening throng, like a good bodyguard boomer would.
Feeling her heart pound out of her chest, Priss forced herself to look away as she began to walk towards the parking garage. “Gotta go, Maxon. See you tomorrow!”
“Um, sure, Priss. Have a good night,” he called after her. He watched her rushed and stiff strides with a frown, but then continued on his own errand.
* * * * *
Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, Priss leaned against the wall and quietly waited.
The only sound in the pit was from the also casually dressed Sylia as she occasionally tapped on the keyboard of the mobile workstation as data continued to scroll across the computer screen in front of her.
Priss watched Sylia from the corner of her eye, taking in the seriousness of the other woman in her “work-mode”.
“Priss, did something happen today?” Sylia suddenly asked, still not looking up from her readings.
Priss’s stomach clenched even though she really wasn’t surprised at the question. With an air of apparent casualness, she responded, “Why do you ask?”
Sylia noticeably stiffened at the non-answer. She then consciously relaxed and turned around, meeting the other woman’s stare.
After a pause, Sylia said, “These preliminary readings are noticeably exaggerated. And I can’t tell if it’s boomer-related, emotional issues, or both. And before we expose you to the boomer downstairs, I would like to get a sense of any variables which may impact the tests.”
Priss lowered her gaze and stared at the polished floor. “There’s a Sylvie-bot somewhere in the recording studios.”
Sylia was quiet as she waited for more information. When nothing else was said, she surmised, “You must have seen her then if you knew it was a Sylvie-bot because you hadn’t been exposed to that level of white noise before.”
“It was an educated guess since the white noise level was so intense,” Priss replied, a slightly stubborn edge to her words.
Though still facing the floor, Priss saw Sylia’s body twist back to the direction of the console.
“So,” Sylia said, apparently taking on a casual tone of her own, “How are things with Linna? She told me her side of things yesterday. Congratulations.”
Priss narrowed at her eyes at what she knew was not a coincidental tangent. “Thanks. But we’re in limbo right now because she’s supposed to talk to Lisa tomorrow night. We’ll figure out what to do next based on the answer Lisa gives her.”
“About open dating? Well, if Lisa says ‘no’, then you’ll have Linna to yourself, right?”
“I guess…” Priss suddenly frowned as a thought occurred to her. “Is that you wanted to have happen? When you told me about your make-out session with her?”
Sylia was quiet for a long moment as she continued to face the busy monitor before her.
She then answered, “I honestly don’t care if you and Linna really do enter in a romantic relationship, or you remain just friends. My point was to get you two to talk about something that was four years overdue. What would happen next is something I was willing to trust you two to resolve in some satisfactory fashion….
“When she asked me my advice about how to approach the matter of the two of you, I told her she had to be honest with herself. That is the same advice I would offer to you, especially since we’re all familiar with your own romantic history. -“
Priss gritted her teeth and clenched her fist.
“ –The bottom line for me is that I do not want to see Linna hurt again,” Sylia stated. “And as her best friend or her lover, I would think you’d want the same thing.”
Still shaking and with a red flush to her face, Priss then took a deep, calming breath. She asked briskly, “Are we going to do the white noise tests or not?”
“… Of course. Right this way…”
— End Chapter 50 —
* * *
Tuesday Morning, November 22nd
Beginning his workday, Daley walked down the hallway of police headquarters toward the collection of vending machines to get his first coffee buzz of the day. He paused in his step at the sight of Leon standing by the window, staring out at the view of the city. Recognizing the melancholy look of his friend, he shook his head to himself and then pushed his glasses into place as he continued forward.
“Hey, Leon,” Daley called out, “You’re here early.”
“Hey, Daley,” he responded softly, not turning from his view.
Daley let the silence continue as he got his cup of coffee from the machine. He then sighed and decided to take advantage of the fact that the hallway was currently empty. “Still reeling from the news of Priss and Sylia, hmm?”
Leon jumped a bit, clearly startled at the comment. Then he blushed and shrugged. “I guess I was clinging to the hope that as long as she didn’t get involved with someone else besides Linna, there was still this small chance we could get back together. Ah, well… Part of me wants to call up Nigel and see if he wants to share an evening of drowning our sorrows in a six pack or two.”
“Maybe a little too late for that. I’m sure he was one of the first to know,” Daley commented as he took a sip. “Hey, if you want, I’ll take you out drinking tonight. I’ll drive so you can get as drunk as you want.”
Leon was quiet for a moment, as if pondering the option. He shook his head and said, “Nah, she’s moved on, and so should I…. So, do you think Aya in Records is still interested in me? Thinking about it, she is cute.”
Daley’s eyes noticeably widened but then he gave a supportive smile. “Haven’t heard anything recently because of all of the rumors about you and Jeena.–”
Leon’s face turned red, his expression clearly uncomfortable.
“–But I can always inquire on your behalf if you want me to.”
“Thanks, Pal. I’d appreciate it.”
* * * * *
Seated in a noodle shop that was conveniently situated half way between police headquarters and Tokyo University, Nene paused before taking another bite from her lunch as a thought suddenly hit her. “Wow! Mom, you’re going to be gone in a couple of days. In some ways it feels like you just got here.”
Her mother paused in her own bite as she mulled over the comment for a moment. “You’re right. I’ve been too busy to really think about it. It feels like we really haven’t been able to spend so much time together, yet at the same time it feels like so much has happened.”
“That’s right. It sure hasn’t been boring!” Nene commented with a silent sigh.
“Nene,” her mother began hesitantly, her tone turning a little serious, “You said Mackey and Sylia’s parents are dead, right? Do they have any other relatives? People that we should meet now that the engagement is official?”
Her daughter stared at her with wide eyes as her mental wheels spun madly. “Um, I don’t think so. Mackey and Sylia are pretty much each other’s only real family, as far as I’ve seen anyway. And I’ve known them both for years now.” She blinked and then added meekly, “But I’ll ask them…”
Nana tsked and commented, “It’s such a shame that there are only two of them. I guess you would want a small wedding then.”
“Oh yes, very small.” Nene nodded anxiously. “After all, my sisters were the ones who had the lavish ceremonies, and that’s just not me. Or Mackey, for that matter.”
Her mother studied her face for a moment.
Nene fought every urge to drop her gaze and shift in her seat, though she knew that her mom probably saw the strain just as clearly as any movement she was trying to stifle.
After the torturous pause, Nana finally let out a sigh and focused her eyes on her food. She said solemnly, “Ne-chan honey, I’m going to say this just once: I don’t know exactly what you and your friends are trying to hide, but I’m going to continue to pretend I don’t see anything in the hopes that someone will someday have the courage to tell me the truth. Not that I’m saying that it’s a requirement, nor am I going to tell your father anything about this. It just hurts that someone doesn’t trust me enough instead of making a fool out of me. That’s all…”
Nene sat frozen in her chair, her chopsticks limply poised over her bowl. Her face drained of color, she opened her mouth to speak, but then paused. She swallowed the pending words and continued to eat.
Watching her out of the corner of her eye, Nana swallowed her own sigh and quietly chewed her food.
* * * * *
“Well, he obviously found himself a new seat,” Lisa smirked at the sight of her cat Fluffy settling on Linna’s lap once the other woman sat down on the living room floor of her apartment. “He’s been skittish for the past week but I haven’t had a chance to hook up with Nathe to see if he’s noticed too.”
“He is just absolutely adorable!” Linna exclaimed of the gray and black cat that had claimed her lap as his new property. Larger than most small dogs, the purring cat was stretched out on his back to get the full benefit of a tummy rub.
Stretched out on the floor next to them, Lisa smirked and remarked, “You can say that as one who hasn’t been woken up at 5 A.M. by a paw up the nose because you’re sleeping through his self-decreed breakfast time…” She added with a wink. “At least not yet, you haven’t.”
Linna blushed at the comment, but a pleased smile appeared as well. However, she was immediately distracted by a thought that caused a sullen expression.
Noticing this, Lisa studied her for a moment and then decided to bite the bullet. She took a breath and asked, “So what is it that you want to talk about?”
Linna froze and then let out a sigh. She opened her mouth to speak, closed it, and tried again two more times.
Lisa gently teased, “Is it that bad?”
Linna then blushed and finally said, “You, uh, might think so.”
Keeping visually focused on the attentive cat, Linna began softly, “I was going to tell you some made-up story but I know you’re too smart for that so I guess the truth is the only thing. The biggest thing is that I need you to promise to keep this secret, especially from Nana.”
The other woman’s eyes noticeably widened but her cool reporter’s veneer returned as she waited patiently for the new words.
“I, um, want to let you know that I can’t believe that I’m actually going to tell you this. I always hated people who did this. In fact, I even belted someone once.”
Now Lisa looked absolutely confused but kept her mouth shut.
Linna paused and swallowed before continuing. “First of all, Sylia and Priss aren’t romantically involved. I guess it was a convenient cover to explain Priss living there and keep Nana from prying too far into their personal lives. But I didn’t know that when we went out to dinner with them Saturday. I think I was a bit jealous to see Priss respond to Sylia in a way she never responded to me…
“So when she showed up at the apartment later and, um, admitted that she had ro-romantic feelings for me too, I-I felt like my old crush on her never really went away after all. I don’t know if it’s really more than a crush that just needs to run its course but I can’t deny the feelings are still there. That’s why I felt like I needed to tell you before we made any plans to go away to a hot springs.”
Not hearing a response, Linna snuck a peek up to see the other woman staring out the window with a very solemn expression.
Feeling her heart lurch, Linna blurted out, “But I don’t want to break up — er, I mean, stop dating you either.”
Lisa blinked in genuine surprise, but a skeptical look quickly appeared. “So you want to date both of us?”
With her face as red as a tomato, she answered, “I – I can’t blame you if you want to end things between us. I mean, I hate guys who play with more than one woman at a time. I even belted a bastard once for that…” She took a strengthening breath as she added, “But I really like you too…”
Lisa asked softly, “Enough to compete against Priss for your heart?”
Linna thought about her answer for a moment. “I feel so different when I’m with you. It’s like… we’re on a — a normal date, like those romances I’ve always wanted to have. Being with Priss is just so… different.”
“Have you two slept together?”
“No, we haven’t had sex,” she answered softly.
Peering at her over her glasses, Lisa finally let out a soft sigh. “If we’re going to try this, then I have some conditions: You don’t have sex with either of us. And when we’re together, you don’t discuss your dates with her. -“
Stunned, Linna broke out into a hopeful smile.
“– I can’t promise I’d feel comfortable after a while. But it’s the only way I can think of that might make this work… I’ll admit that this was not what I was expecting you to tell me.” Lisa reached over and gave her cat Fluffy a scratch behind the ears, which was promptly rewarded with a bigger purr. In doing so, she found herself almost face to face with the other woman. “So, have you had anything to eat yet?”
Mesmerized by the nearness, Linna hesitantly leaned forward for a kiss, pausing to see if she would get a negative reaction.
Lisa remained frozen for a moment, but then smiled and closed the distance between them.
— End Chapter 51 —