Blurring The Lines Chapter One

“Come on, Mick, don’t be like this.” Andy called out as he pushed past the front doors of their apartment building.

Mick, dressed in the casual jeans and t-shirt he almost never wore, hefted the last of the carefully taped and labeled boxes into the back of his older, well maintained car. Andy knew the casual clothes had been purchased in college, at his urging, and the man wearing them now had filled out a bit more since than. The simple act of loading the car was nearly indecent given how tightly the cloth clung to the other man.

Mick, as always, was unaware of the image he was providing. It made Andy smile to himself and force out the raw honest truth that it wasn’t simple charity that had him and their room mates wanting the other man to stick around. Two years younger than the rest of them, not yet twenty seven, with dark auburn hair that shone like a copper penny in the sun, fair skin with freckles so small across his nose as to almost be invisible, topped off with expressive hazel eyes and classic features that lit up when he smiled, Mick was hot enough to stop traffic. That was, if he didn’t dress twice his age and take everything so seriously.

“Mick,” Andy was dressed in casual clothes too, a pink cotton school girl skirt, pink fuzzy slippers and a black t-shirt with the word ‘Bitchy’ emblazoned across it in gold glitter. “Don’t leave us.” He waited until the younger man glanced over his shoulder to twirl one of his pigtails around his finger, fully aware of how he looked.

All it earned him was a thin, small grin, not the full thousand watt smile such clothes and silly behavior normally gained. “Andy, we all agreed when we moved in together. If one of us couldn’t make rent, they’d move out.”

“Well, yeah, but we did that to protect you from us lazy ass artist types. None of us expected you to follow that. Come on, you’ll have another job in a couple of weeks, we can cover for you. With Samson’s newest fling kicking in his share we don’t even really need yours, we talked about it. Stay.” Truth was, they could only float Mick for a month or two. It was a gamble but that’s what friends did.

“I know full well none of you can afford that. Things happen, that’s life.” He shut the car door with a little too much force.

“Then stay, we can get you work down at Hardy’s. You know you can bartend again. Swallow your pride and stay.” Andy moved closer to where his friend leaned against his car,  he could see the internal battle between desire to stay and responsibility.

“I didn’t go to college to be a bartender forever.”

“Well, you didn’t become a cop to be kicked around by bigoted assholes either but shit happens, sweetheart. Now, open that door and let me help you carry those boxes back upstairs.”

Mick reached across the distance between them and slid a hand to the back of his friend’s neck, swooping in to place a quick kiss on the so far unpainted lips. “And let you break a nail? Never. Thanks for trying, Andy, I do appreciate it.”

“Where will you go? The housing market right now isn’t exactly grand. I’m not going to stand by and let my best friend be homeless, or, worse, sleep in one of those awful flophouses.”

That made Mick laugh, but the smile was still missing. “I have enough mothers, Andy.”

“Well, if any of them actually mothered you then maybe I wouldn’t need to. I’m serious. Where do you think you’ll go?”

Mick just shrugged. “I’ll be fine. If things get too bad I’ll go home for a bit.”

“Great, like that makes me feel any better.”

“I’ve got to go, Andy.”

“Shit, you’re a brat.” He tried pouting, but that didn’t work either. “You’ll have your phone on? I’ll worry if I call and you don’t answer.”

“Of course.”

“And you’ll come by, and still be our friend?”

“Of course.”

Andy sighed and studied the too-serious face for any signs of an opening. When all he found was quiet and unhappy resolve, he knew he’d lost. “I still say you’re an unforgivable brat, but I hate good byes, so.” He leaned forward and stole another kiss before quickly hurrying back inside the building. Nine AM, before breakfast, and already he felt like the day was ruined.

Mick stayed where he was, leaning against his car, and rubbed at his eyes. “Do you have something to say to me, or do you just like listening in to private conversations for fun?” He asked without looking up, feeling the other man’s eyes still on him.

The man that had hovered a good distance away but still well within easy earshot, jumped a little, startled, and the paper he’d been pretending to read crinkled in his hands. It was the first real look Mick had gotten of the fellow, and he was surprised at the age. The man had to have been close to his own age or a few years older. His sandy blonde hair was cut short in the back and left to fall in messy strands of stylized perfection around the top. It was a highly trendy style with their age group. Tall, close to six feet, and lean without being underfed, the man was attractive in a plain, over look-able way. It was the suit he was wearing that caught the most attention – far too well cut to be anything anyone in the neighborhood could afford. Far too well made to be anything most anyone could afford, let alone a twenty something kid.

The blond was only startled for a moment, his composure returning quickly as he folded the paper over and tucked it under an arm. With an air of unconscious habit, he straightened his suit jacket and reached down to snag the handle of a well made, but well worn, hard sided leather brief case.

“A.R.  McKale?” The blonde asked as he approached.

“If you had any question as to who I was, you wouldn’t have been hovering over there.”  Mick stayed where he was, leaned against his car.

A smile lit up the strangers face, warming his eyes. “Very true, my name is Alec Orwick. It wasn’t my intention to spy on you, but I didn’t wish to interrupt.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. Orwick.” He didn’t let the smile and open, disarming face work on him.

“I was wondering if I might have a moment of your time. Buy you a cup of coffee?”

“I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told your fellow members of the press, I don’t have anything to say that anyone wants to hear.”

The bright smile flashed again. “I’m not a reporter, please, just a few moments?”

Mick had always trusted his instincts and the young man across from him wasn’t setting any of them off. He tossed his head down the street. “There’s a coffee shop down on the corner. I’ve a little time.”

“Wonderful, thank you so much.”

They walked in silence down the street. The neighborhood was anchored by three shops: the local grocer, the local bar and the local coffee shop. The rest of the stores, pawn shops, small retail storefronts and the like, were all extras. It was those three that held the neighborhood together. It was to those three that just about everyone eventually found a connection and crowd to gossip with. The only reason Mick had any connection to any of the three centers of gossip and community was because Andy and Samson had coffee monkeys on their backs.

The take out counter was busy but the tables were almost empty, too far from the college to support a lingering student crowd in the morning. Mick led them to a back corner, one empty of other customers and far away from the bustle of the counter. Before either of them could settle in, one of the waitresses had slipped over to meet them.

“Aw, Mick, I’m glad you stopped in.” She leaned in and placed a kiss on the side of his face. “We’ve all been worried you’d leave without stopping by.”

“Hey, Jinny. Shouldn’t you be helping with the rush?”
She waved it off. “Boss lady can’t fire herself. Can I get you your normal?” She eyed the stranger in his too-nice suit. “And something for your friend?”

“Regular’s fine for me. Whatever he wants, he’s buying.”

“Just a coffee, thank you.” Alec offered up to the waitress but he was watching Mick settle into a chair across from him.

“Now, what can I do for you, Mr. Orwick?”

“Mr. McKale, I’m Mr. Toshi Hoshimoto Ranvier’s personal assistant. Are you aware of Mr. Ranvier?”

The casually dropped name wasn’t where Mick thought the conversation might have gone. “Who isn’t aware of him? The half human, half incubus illegitimate son and only child of Luke Henri Ranvier, the richest man in the world.”

“There’s some debate as to whether or not Luke Henri Ranvier is the richest man in the world but essentially, yes, what you say is true.” Alec’s words stopped at the movement from the counter.

Mick hopped to his feet and hurried over to where Jinny was carrying two coffees and a small plate with a blueberry muffin. “Thanks.”

“I’ve got it.” She protested, but he always helped. “He’s cute, but fellows dressed like that…” her lowered voice died off, leaving the warning unspoken.

“It‘s okay, Jinny, thanks.” He ignored her little disbelieving “tsk” as she turned back to the counter.  “So,” he settled back down and watched as the blonde added sugar to his coffee. “You work for Toshi Ranvier.”

“Yes, as I’m sure you can imagine, his position as heir and only child to such a wealthy man makes him quite a public figure. Add in his mixed heritage, and, well, the press hounds him. He receives numerous threats to his life every day. Up until this point, all they’ve been is threats.

“Several weeks ago, someone attempted to shoot Mr. Ranvier. They missed, but not by much.”

“There wasn’t anything in the papers about it.”

“No, and there won’t be. It’s been kept quiet. The police have been slow to investigate. Honestly, they’ve done nothing, and it’s my belief that they wouldn’t be too upset if the shooter succeeds next time. Mr. Ranvier’s father is rightfully concerned- he maintains a security force of almost two dozen and has long been unhappy that his son refuses such measures.”

Mick stopped toying with the muffin, leaving the increasingly smaller crumbs alone. “So what is it you want from me?”

“They’ve reached a compromise. Mr. Ranvier’s father will settle for a smaller security force, if carefully selected. The standards he set were high. Add in the difficulties of finding someone sympathetic to Mr. Ranvier’s mixed bloodlines, understanding of his intensely private ways and willing to work with his reluctance for any security measures, finding suitable candidates has been difficult. I’ve been making inquires for weeks, and there’s only been a few names that appear over and over again. Yours is one of the few.”

Mick sipped his coffee. “You haven’t heard. I got bounced off the force.”

That only made Alec smile again. “You underestimate my skills at research. There’s very little I don’t know about you. I know that you’re an Inky. I know that you started college at fifteen, graduated top of your class with degrees in both psychology and criminal science. I know that the federal government attempted to recruit you, but you entered the police academy instead. Graduated the top of your class there as well, started working on your master’s degree, dropped out when you made detective a year and a half ago. I’ve studied your case histories; filled with accommodations. I’ve spoken to the citizens you’ve interviewed, especially those in the I/S community. I’m fully aware that the charges brought against you were completely unfounded and used as a means to remove you. What I don’t know is why you refused to fight those charges.”

“You’ve done your homework but I’m not an Inky.”

The smile returned, hiding the bright interest. “Forgive me, raised in an Inky Commune. Both have the desired effect, which is, you’re a little more understanding of other people’s difference than the average person in security or law enforcement.  I also know enough about you to know you respect directness. I’ve been charged with hiring the security force to keep Mr. Ranvier safe, and you are my top choice. You’re smart, well educated, and have a tremendous record.”

“So? There are plenty of others better qualified than me. I’ve never worked personal security before.”

“True. Mr. McKale, this isn’t just about who can analyze threats. Mr. Ranvier does wear an inhibitor, but like most I/S, he misses little. Someone equally qualified but even slightly uneasy around him will be noticed. He’s resentful of having to add on a security force – it’ll be counterproductive if he’s unable to trust them.”

“How large of a team are you putting together?”

“Well, that depends. If you refuse I’ll be hiring three others. If you accept my offer, it’ll just be you.”

Mick laughed. “You’re crazy.”

“No, please, hear me out.” He brushed his so far untouched coffee aside and set his briefcase on the table. The latches popped open, and he began to pull papers out. “My proposition to you is this.” A paper slid across the table. “This is the salary range. There is room for negotiation.”

Mick nearly swallowed his coffee wrong, but Alec ignored him and kept going.

A second paper followed the first. “A list of standard benefits Mr. Ranvier offers his employees.” More papers joined the stack. “You’ll have an expense account, of course, and will be reimbursed for anything you require. Additionally, you’ll be provided an apartment that interconnects with Mr. Ranvier’s penthouse in Darsell Plaza. It’s not very large, but it has a private entrance – it’s the twin of my set of rooms. You’ll have access to the in-house staff, of which you may avail yourself. You’ll have a private office to work from as well.

“If you refuse, I’ll hire two on call bodyguards and one analyst. It won’t work as well, but it should keep him alive.”

“I was right. You are insane. The low-end salary numbers are twice what I was making.”

“Mr. Ranvier is a very good employer.”

“Then to add all the rest in? Just what kind of duties would be required?”

“You’d be expected to sort the threats we receive and file out the crackpots from anything serious. It’d be your job to check security at any event he attends, to see to it that it’s adequate and to make it adequate if it isn’t. You’d be required to escort him when he goes out, which isn’t often. Additionally, you’d be expected to investigate any serious threats. There’ll be bonuses if your investigations lead to arrests. Primarily, it’ll be your job to keep him safe.”

Another paper slid across the table. “You’ll be asked to sign a confidentiality contract; it’s a standard form that all personal employees must agree to. Also, as a member of his house-hold,” a thick stack of papers joined the pile, “you’ll be under a sideline jurisdiction of the Containment Committee.”

That raised Mick’s eyebrows. “How so? I thought they had no authority over humans?”

“True, but because Mr. Ranvier technically has access to the private apartments that interconnect with his own, they can be searched. I’ve worked and lived with Mr. Ranvier for six years. In that time they’ve searched my rooms twice. Generally, they just check the land line records to make sure Mr. Ranvier hasn’t accessed them and, at most, they do a walk through. I’ve been blood tested a few times as well. It’s annoying, but it’s acceptable.”

“I’ve never had an interest in private security.”

“I’m aware of that, which is why I’ll say one thing formally and a second informally. The first is this: the original contract of employment is for thirty days. At the end of the thirty days you can walk away. If we both agree to renew the contract, it can be dissolved with three weeks notice by either party at any time. If something occurs, I might be able to have a system in place to replace you before that three weeks, but it’s taken me almost three weeks to get to this conversation, so I want to give myself the same amount of time again.” The employment contract appeared from the briefcase and joined the stack.

“The second thing is this; Mr. Ranvier is almost a shut-in. He rarely goes out, rarely has company in. Most of the events he is forced to attend are very secure already. He’s capable of taking care of himself. Yes, we receive a fair number of threats, but most are empty. You’ll have time to work on any side project you might want to. I know for a fact that Mr. Ranvier will fully support any private investigations you might wish to pursue.” The brief case snapped shut.

“All I’m asking, Mr. McKale, is to give us the thirty days.” He dropped a twenty dollar bill on the table, twice or more the total for the drinks and muffin that sat uneaten, and handed over a crisp business card. “Read over the paper work, think about it, then call me. That’s my private line. I can always be reached there. If I don’t hear from you by two o‘clock, I’m contacting the other three. I want this resolved today.” Alec scooped up his case and paper. “Thank you for hearing me out, Mr. McKale. I look forward to your call.”

Alec slipped out of the coffee shop and didn’t look back. Anyone else would have been fooled by the carefully guarded expression Mr. McKale wore, but Alec had picked up a few things living with Toshi for so many years. There was very little other humans could hide from him. He saw McKale’s shock at the entire offer, but he also saw the curiosity and the interest in those hidden hazel eyes. There was a reason why he needed to come down and meet with this man personally, and it had worked out beautifully. There was no way McKale wouldn’t be calling; it was only a matter of when.

Mick sat with his picked apart muffin, cold coffee, and small mountain of paperwork for a good ten minutes after Alec Orwick had left. The Ranvier Corporation owned most of the city in one way or another and it was controlled by it’s iron willed CEO totally. Everything he’d ever heard about Luke Henri Ranvier made it clear he wasn’t a man to cross but little was said about his son. Mick never followed gossip but Andy and Samson did and the only things other than the man’s parentage that Mick knew was that his father was ferociously protective of him. The opportunity to work for the family that had, debatably, more power than the government was tremendous. It wasn’t an offer to take lightly and the answer to accept or refuse would lie in the stack of legal papers before him.

“Want me to heat that up for you?” Jinny asked, she was close enough that it made Mick jump slightly. He’d been so lost in thought that he hadn’t heard her approach.

“Thanks, and Jinny, can I borrow a pen and some paper?”

“Of course love.” The twenty dollar bill disappeared as she gathered up the cold cups of coffee.

At ten of ten, Alec’s phone range. “Yes?”

“I’m in, at least for the thirty days.”

A thousand pound weight suddenly lifted from Alec’s shoulders. “Good, from what I saw of your car you’re already packed up. Do you know how to reach Darsell Plaza?”

“Of course.”

“Use the East Hansel Street entrance to the parking garage, the attendant will be expecting you.”


“And, Mr. McKale, thank you for agreeing.” Alec only half listened to the automatic ‘you’re welcome’ Mick mumbled before hanging up. His attention had been drawn to the slight sign of movement near his open office door. He hung the phone up and turned back to the papers on his desk. “It‘s taken care of.”

“Wonderful.” The less than enthusiastic reply came from the edge of the doorway. There was a rustle of fabric but by the time Alec glanced up all that he could see of his employer was a swish of long black hair.

Alec grinned to himself, quite pleased and returned to the morning reports.


Darsell Plaza was considered by most in the city as a sign of hope for the future and a symbol of the chaos of the past. One of the makers of the virus that so ravaged the world was Darsel Pharmaceuticals and anything bearing the name quickly became a target. It didn’t matter that the Plaza that so closely shared names was owned by a former transportation baron and hadn’t been anything more than apartments and office space for decades, the building had been stormed.

The old news footage had captured a very medieval mob scene. Angry people, many of them ill, burning and looting as they went, striking out at the only symbol they could find. They hadn’t managed to tear the building down, but they did manage to damage it beyond easy repair. And so it sat, empty, hollow, like the city around it, as the years slipped away.

Mick had been a small child when the Containment Camp that had been established on the outskirts of their town had been opened up. It was Ranvier Industries that had won the contracts to privatize so many of the Camp’s day to day functions. That hadn’t surprised anyone; what had was that Luke Henri Ranvier had moved his corporate headquarters to their small city.

It brought a fresh influx of money and jobs, not enough to fully reverse the effects of the depression that had lingered since the plague years, but enough to really brighten things. Things were still too costly, money was still too tight, but there was money now and people were buying things again. Jobs were scarce but there were more jobs to be found.

When Ranvier had purchased the barren Darsell Plaza in the downtown district people had laughed. When he tore it down a disconnected sense of cleansing swept the city. Mick had been six when they’d broken ground to re-build. He was almost twelve when they’d finished. It was the tallest building in the city, not a huge boast given Darsell only had forty stories, but it still dominated the sky line. Modern, secure, it was reborn clean and fresh, a physical promise to the better days Ranvier Industries were slowing bringing about.

Then, Luke Henri Ranvier had announced the buildings name would remain the same. A small museum and gift shop was opened in the lobby documenting the original building’s destruction. As he so often did, Ranvier had soothed and comforted with one hand while slapping on a harsh reminder and forced responsibility with the other. The community accepted it, but they didn’t like it. To make matters worse, the building was kept private. Several of the apartments were occupied by high ranking Ranvier employees but none of the office spaces were directly used by Ranvier Industries, as if he’d been afraid to trust his company to the city’s unstable temper.

It was a building that represented a world that Mick didn’t belong in. He’d watched it be torn down and recreated, a massive mirror for the city around him but he was outside both changes. He had never imagined he’d visit Darsell, let alone planning to move in.
The attendant at the parking garage directed him to the private section and Mick rolled past him.  He followed the directions to a second series of gates, this time not secured with an attendant but rather with locked keypads and cameras watching everything. The gate swung open at his approach, confirming that someone, somewhere was actually paying attention.

The cars inside the secured area were far nicer than the old heap Mick had, but the section he’d been directed to was oddly deserted. A nice, well maintained motorcycle sat by itself in one the spaces. Built into the wall was a locked door that Mick was willing to bet had a nice set of tools behind it. A single, non descript, black car sat in another space, the kind of car that came with a driver. Neither bike nor car looked like they received much use but both looked well maintained.

Nearby was an elevator and standing in front of it was Alec Orwick and a half dozen men in work clothes. Mick pulled into one of the spaces close to them and turned off car. He gathered the legal papers from the seat beside him before he popped the car door open.

“Mr. McKale, I’m pleased to see you again. If you don’t mind, these gentlemen will take your boxes upstairs. I’ll see to it that by this afternoon you have access codes for the gates, locks and elevators.” Alec couldn’t help grinning, and he offered his hand in welcome.

Mick glanced at the car where the workmen were quickly loading the numerous boxes onto hand carts. It made his belongings look small and few. “It’s Mick, no one calls me anything but Mick.” He accepted the hand. “I figured the thirty days couldn’t do any harm and I’ve time on my hands. Your papers.”

Alec accepted them and led them to the elevator, the workmen were obviously lingering so as not to take the same elevator up with them. “Fine, Mick it is, then please, call me Alec. Let me show you your rooms and than we’ll see if we can find Toshi-san to introduce you.”

Alec glanced over the papers once the doors of the elevator shut. “I’m surprised you called so soon. I would have thought you’d have wanted a lawyer to review these.”

“What questions I had, I ran past my brother.”

“Your brother’s a lawyer?”

Mick nodded. “Two of my sisters and one of my brothers. I’m surprised you didn’t see that in the background check.”

“Well, your family is extensive. If I’d followed up on every member I’d still be researching.”

“True. Some times even I forget what they all do.”

“Another advantage to being an only child.” Alec’s grin widened and the doors opened saving Mick from replying.

Alec stepped out and held the door. “This is the private entrance to our floor.” He pointed down the hallway. “That’s my apartment door and over here is yours. I almost never come in this way.”  There wasn’t a lock, but a keypad and he quickly moved to tap in the code. The door clicked and opened. Inside he flipped on the lights and stepped aside. “It’s furnished but you have a redecoration budget if you’d like to change it. Just let me know, anything you want removed can easily be tossed into storage.”

Mick walked into a living room that opened directly to a kitchen. The single room was larger than half of the apartment he’d shared with two, sometimes three or four others. The furniture was neutral, well made, but with no personality. The kitchen was cutting edge and functional. It was too much space for one person.

“In here,” Alec moved toward one of the two other doors in the large main room. “Is the bedroom.”

Mick followed to a bedroom almost as large as the main room, set with a huge bed, a closet bigger than a bedroom should have been and a small work station off to the corner.

“Bathroom’s in here. Only real downside to these apartments is that they have no windows, they’re internal rooms but you really don’t notice it too much.”

Mick kept his mouth shut over the bathroom, set with separate shower from the soaking bath tub, large mirror and counter. The entire apartment was finished in blues, tans and gold, making it pleasant but impersonal.

“Who stayed here before?”
“No one, it was meant to be a guest quarters but it’s never been used.” Alec hurried out to the main living room as the first of the handcarts of boxes was arriving. “That door there leads to Mr. Ranvier’s main living space. Come on, I’ll show you around.”

Mick paused, uncertain about following. “I should wait, I’m not really dressed to meet my new boss.” He’d forgotten the old clothes he’d been wearing until the newness, the crispness of the apartment reminded him.

“Nonsense. Come on, let me show you around.”

Alec opened the door that lead to the main living area. “Most days, my door stays unlocked. There’s little worry of either Toshi-san or myself entering your rooms without permission. This is the main living space.”

Mick followed him into what would have been an upscale, if normal, living room. The furniture had an extra touch of style that only items of expense carried but otherwise looked soft, comfortable and lived in. The large panel television attached to one wall would have been impressive to most anyone else but Mick had grown up around technology addicts and was used to seeing such things. There was next to nothing personal about the space. No newspapers or magazines lay scattered about the end tables, no photos hung on the wall, there were no mementos sitting on the bookcases. The closest thing to personal were the dozens of books that lined the shelves along the wall.

The space was split in two and like in his own rooms the kitchen opened directly to the living space, an informal arrangement Mick was surprised to find repeated. The kitchen seemed smaller than it should have been for the grandness of the room, scaled down and again, informal.

The room was dominated by the outer wall. Floor to ceiling the wall was a sheet of windows. Tinted but without blinds, they stood forty stories up and gazed out over the city below them. It was an awesome sight and seemed out of place with the casualness of the room it encased.

“Wait until the sun goes down, the view is astounding.” Alec nodded to the windows before pointing to a third door on the same wall as the one that held the doorways to their apartments. “Toshi-san had that suite turned into a mini-gym. It’s not extensive but it serves our needs. I talked him into a lap pool last year. Door on the other side leads to Toshi-san’s rooms. Stairs there lead down to the offices and public space.”

Mick followed Alec to the well disguised, but oddly unadorned, spiral stairwell. It occurred to him that the entire collection of rooms had an almost minimalist approach to things and the stairs continued the trend. Just styled enough to be less than Spartan but  a far cry from ornate.

The stairs turned them down to a repeat of the living space above. Only this time the furnishings were classically elegant and far less comfortable. The colors went from tans and soft earth tones to rich, deep blues and greens accented in dark woods. Chairs and sofas clustered together in convenient conversational groups, highlighting the still impressive view out the wall of windows. A formal dining room with a large dark wood table so highly polished it shined sat behind half closed French doors.

“There’s a second kitchen back behind the dining room. In theory this is where Toshi-san does his formal entertaining. That’s Toshi-san’s office. My office is the front half of his.” Alec pointed to the closed door. He’d left it open when he’d gone down to meet Mick. “This here will be your office.”

Alec led them to the door closer to the one that lead out into the main hallway and opened it. “Again, if you want to redecorate feel free. I took the liberty of setting it up. We’ve been using it mostly for storage.”

The room wasn’t large but it was certainly more space then he needed. There was a small round table off to one side with several generic office chairs around it. A wide, dark wood desk was set so the person using it would face the door, file cabinets were placed within easy reach. A tv screen was again mounted to the wall and a computer workstation was set up. The colors and style reflected the same general, classic rich tones and styles of the bottom floor.

“It should work fine. Thank you.”
“I’ve filed the mail we’ve received by date. I’m sure you’ll work out your own system from there.”

“How does the mail work? Do you receive it all or is it sorted?”
“The building mail room sorts and scans for obvious threats. Then we receive it in two stacks, those on the list of personal contacts and those not.”

“I’d like to receive the second stack directly.”

“Of course. I…” Alec had developed a sense of where his employer was. It was almost essential given how quietly Toshi moved around. “Well, it looks like you’ll get to meet sooner than later. Toshi-san?” He barely heard the suppressed sigh and the quiet footsteps moving from office to kitchen froze.

“Yes, Alec?”

Mick turned surprised that anyone was behind them. His hearing was excellent but there’d been nothing to give the other man away. He was standing between the offices and the dining room. In one hand he held a stone ware mug obviously heading to find a refill of whatever had been inside, the other, curled into a loose fist. Mick could see little of the man he’d now be expected to keep alive expect a waist length curtain of black hair so glossy it reflected the light. He quickly noted the simple dress pants and casual button down shirt both finely made but the man’s feet were clothed in tabi socks.

“Behave.” Alec warned in a voice too soft for Mick to hear but knew Toshi would catch the very softly whispered warning. “Mr. McKale, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Toshi Ranvier.“ It was a force of will not to grin and darken Toshi’s mood further. His friend was so glum looking at having been caught slipping like a thief for another mug of tea that he nearly laughed. “Toshi-san, this is Mr. A.R.  McKale, the security agent I spoke to you about.”

Mick kept his hands at his side and bowed to nearly thirty degrees. “Hajimemashite.”


Toshi found himself bowing back on instinct. Caught off guard and surprised, some of his unhappiness at the entire situation was put on hold. “Ohayo gozaimasu. You aren’t Japanese.”

“No, my command of the language is limited too, sir.” Mick stood from his bow and it was only from long exposure to the I/S community that kept any visible sign of how startled he was from his face.

Mick wasn’t sure if he was expecting a half breed to simply look more human or less but there was little doubt that the I/S heritage was dominant in the man before him. The eyes were far too large, nearly double the size of a standard humans and they carried the extreme colors of an I/S. Toshi’s eyes were clear, sky blue, nearly crystal and combined with the larger than human size it was the feature that dominated his face. The shape had just the hint of an Asian form, coming to a slight almond point which only accented the color and size. His skin was golden but several shades too light to be purely Asian. He was a handsome man, strong featured and exotic. Not tall but neither short, Mick guessed they were of a similar height.

The oddest thing was his hair. While it may have become trendy for many in the I/S community to dye their hair in shades of dark brown and even black, their eyelashes and eye brows still showed their natural colors. Toshi’s hair wasn’t a dye job. The midnight black length of his hair matched his eyebrows and eyelashes and was the only outward sign of his mixed blood. He was a stunning man. Powerful, graceful and Mick found himself startled by the sheer presence of the half breed. Mick was suddenly very grateful that he knew the other wore an inhibitor so his very uneasy thoughts wouldn’t cloud the first impression he presented.

“Well,” Toshi glanced from Alec to the far younger than he’d expected security officer. “It was nice meeting you. Now, you’re fired, go away.” He caught Alec’s harsh look as he turned away to continue to the kitchen for more tea. The amusement he found in Alec’s reaction to his rebellion was almost going to be worth the lecture it was sure to produce.

“Don’t listen to him, he can’t fire you.” Alec forced out when Toshi had cleared the dining room and disappeared into the kitchen. He turned to face their new recruit, expecting to find uncertainty, worry or even anger on his face but found only the same unreadable distance the other man wore so easily.

Mick drew another slow, easy breath and deliberately forced himself to relax. “I thought he was my employer.”

“Well, he is but I run his household. Technically, you work for me because other wise we’d never be able to hire anyone. Toshi would fire them all on the spot. Why don’t you go back upstairs and get settled in?” He forced the warm smile back on his face and had little doubt the other man saw through it.

“Sure.” Mick wandered back to the stairs. “This is going to be fun.” He mumbled to himself as he made his way out of sight.