“It wasn’t yet four in the afternoon when Mick arrived at the police station but it was after seven when they’d finally let him out. The only reason he wasn’t still sitting in the small room was because four lawyers arrived. Dressed in suits and armed with papers and briefcases, they made if very clear they felt he was being harassed. The police wanted to either connect Toshi to the defeat of the attempted robbery or Mick to the robbers and weren’t happy with the slightly altered version presented to them.
If they found even the slightest means to connect him to the robbery, they’d charge him. Even if the connection were dismissed later, he’d still spend the night in jail, if not longer. If they connected Toshi he’d be in violation to one of the many rules the Containment Committee placed on any I/S living outside the sovereign borders of their camps. At best he’d be further restricted and fined and at worst his right to live outside the camps would be revoked and he’d be forced to move.
By the time Mick was released and climbed into the back of Toshi’s car, he had a headache, was hungry, thirsty and his hand was aching horribly. The press was already all over the robbery and the Ranvier bodyguard that had stopped it. Rumors were flying wildly and when he checked his cell phone there were no less than three dozen messages, all but four from family. The other four were from Andy and Samson worried that he’d gotten shot, or, more likely, arrested.
His family was easily taken care of. He called the first on the list of missed calls, briefly explained what happened, assured them he was fine and than asked them to please let the rest know he was fine. There were advantages to having a coldly pragmatic family, even if it was a huge family. He knew that within the hour every member would know he was okay and he’d be free to contact his parents directly, later.
Andy and Samson were a different story. The conversation with his sister took all of five minutes. It took more than that to get Andy to settle enough to even hear he was okay. Mick spent the rest of the ride home assuring Andy he was fine and refusing to gossip about what happened beyond that.
So when he finally reached the parking garage he was tired and ready to be home. He stood waiting for the elevator to open and felt the drivers eyes on him. The man, like all the staff hired to work around Toshi, was quiet and generally kept any thoughts to himself. Mick caught him staring.
The driver glanced away. “Thank you, for looking out for Mr. Ranvier.”
The words surprised him, Mick nodded back. “You’re welcome.” The doors opened and he was able to escape into the elevator.
He wanted to go straight to his rooms and just be alone for a while but his duty wasn’t over yet. Instead of the emptiness of his apartment he entered by the main door to Toshi’s public living room. It was empty but the lights were on low and voices were floating down from above.
Alec appeared on the stairs, taking them two at a time. “You’re home, come on up, Mick.” He disappeared back upstairs without waiting to see if Mick was following.
Mick followed and when he cleared the second story and was able to see into the living space he was surprised at seeing strangers in the room for the first time. Toshi sat in one of the raised chairs that lined the flat extended counter top of the kitchen and doubled as a table. He’d changed clothes into stylish but comfortable, loose pants and shirt, his hair was pulled back into a tail at the base of his neck. It was the first time Mick had seen it restrained.
In the kitchen itself an aged I/S woman moved with efficient grace. She stood just over five feet tall and had massive silver eyes. Her hair was braided and fell below her waist in a thick, pale blue rope. The lines around her mouth and eyes were deep cut and worn into her flesh by a lifetime of emotion. There was little doubt she was Asian, or of Asian stock and the smells from the food she was cooking were enough to make his stomach growl. Mick knew her by name only. Hamada Yokina was on Toshi’s payroll, she arrived monthly, some times twice a month, and cooked dinner.
Standing to the side where Alec hovered were two other men that Mick had never seen. One was a man of about fifty, his thinning hair trimmed short. Glasses sat on the bridge of his nose and his suit, while well made, was a touch old fashioned and out of date. His hands were folded in front of him and he waited patiently.
The second man, standing behind Alec, was younger, maybe in his late thirties or early forties and developing a slight paunch around his middle. He was dressed in medical scrub clothes and had a well stuffed bag sitting at his feet. Mick saw the doctor and his eyes went instantly to Toshi.
“Are you okay? They told me you hadn’t been hurt?”
Toshi waved it off. “I’m fine, let Alec do what he says he has to so he’ll go change and not be late for his date.”
“He has a date but he won’t leave until he gets it into his stubborn head that he can.”
Mick glanced to the counter top and the two place settings on it and wondered who Toshi was expecting if Alec wasn’t joining him for dinner. “Okay.”
Alec was trying not to blush, he cleared his throat and motioned to the older of the two men. “Mick, this is George Farinholt, he’s one of Mr. Luke Henri Ranvier’s secretaries. Mr. Farinholt, this is Mr. McKale.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you sir, I hope the lawyers we sent were able to arrive in time.”
“They sped things up, yes, thank you. What’s this about?” He asked Alec, not comfortable with the attention.
“Sir,” Farinholt interrupted. “I know you must be tired so I’ll be brief. I’m here on behalf of my employer, he wishes to send his personal thank you and gratitude for your actions today. Not only for the protection you provided his son but for the saving of the many lives in the bank.”
The wording didn’t miss Mick’s notice. The father, just like Alec, was aware that Toshi hadn’t remained a passive partner in the afternoon’s events. “It’s just my job.”
“Indeed, he wishes me to say that he had reservations about the employment of only one security officer but you’ve proven the system works very well. Mr. Ranvier wished to express his gratitude to you and to inform you that you will receive a bonus for the efforts above and beyond what was required of you. Also, if you wish, Mr. Orwick and I have informed the publicity department of the situation. With your permission, we’ll allow them to handle any concerns or questions from the press?”
Mick glanced to Alec and at his slightest of nods. “That would be fine, thank you.”
“Well,” Farinholt smiled warmly. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get out of your hair. Toshi lad, it was good to see you again.”
“And you George, if my slave driver of a father ever gives you some time off come by, we’ll have tea. I’d love to hear how your grandchildren are doing.”
“Of course sir, goodnight.” Alec ushered the older man out, leading him to the door.
“Mick, this is Dr. Lebo. If you don’t mind I’d like him to take a look at that hand.” At Toshi’s nod the doctor smiled and moved forward.
“It was seen to by the paramedics.”
“Now, I’ve come all this way, wouldn’t want to waste the trip. Give me that paw up here under the light.”
“Iee, nasy aquc!” Hamada-san fussed, waving her hand at the doctor who was unwrapping Mick’s bandages on her clean counter.
“Hamada-san, easy ess.” Toshi tossed playfully back at her, slipping into the slang patois of the I/S containment camp.
“George is off, I’m going to change and get going.” Alec paused. “You’re sure you’re okay? Both of you?”
“Yes, now go.” Toshi answered for them.
“You’ll eat dinner?”
“Alright but you’ll call if you need anything.”
“Damn it Alec, get going or you’ll be late.” Toshi laughed and the sound surprised Mick. In the weeks he’d been there, he’d never heard the half breed laugh.
Toshi waited until the taller man finally disappeared into his apartment. “I swear, he’s such a baby about these things. All I’ve heard for half a year is about this girl and now, when he’s finally worked up the nerve to ask her out, he’s too fussy to go. How’s that hand look, doctor?”
“Ouch, careful!” Mick hissed as the doctor poked an especially sore spot.
“Some of these cuts should have been stitched but it can’t be done now. They should heal well enough. I’m more worried about this here. I think at least one, maybe two of the metacarpals might be broken. I can’t be sure with out an x-ray but with the pain and swelling, it’s likely.”
“It’s fine.” Mick protested but the doctor hit a nerve again while cleaning the cuts and made him wince.
“No, it’s not fine but I can wrap it up pretty well tonight but tomorrow you should come down to the hospital and have it checked out.” The doctor began to carefully rewrap the battered hand, adding extra layers of protection.
“He’ll be by first thing tomorrow. It’s unforgivable that he wasn’t allowed to have it tended sooner.”
“I’m right here, I can make my own decisions about things.”
Both men continued to ignore him. “If he’s in too much pain tonight to sleep I’ve left some painkillers, don’t take them on an empty stomach.”
Toshi stood as the doctor was repacking his bag. “Of course, thank you Doctor. Apologize to your wife for me, I know you were in the middle of dinner.”
The man smiled and clapped Toshi on the shoulder. “She understands, it’s not like it was a long commute. Call me if you need me again.”
“We will, thank you.” He shut the door behind the doctor. “Dr. Lebo lives in the building.” Toshi turned around and nearly tripped over the aged I/S woman. “Hamada-san, you’re leaving too?”
She opened her mouth but her eyes slid to where Mick still sat at the counter.
“It’s okay, he can be trusted.”
“Sakura-sama, I should go. Eat every bite, you’re too skinny.”
Mick’s jaw almost fell open. In all his dealings with the I/S community finding any that spoke even passable English was rare. Generally, it was those of the younger generation but the vast majority only spoke in their mish mashed jargon of slang.
Toshi leaned forward and placed a kiss to the old woman’s forehead. “You worry too much about me. That’s what I have Alec for.”
She patted the side of his face before moving to leave. “I have to be home before curfew. I’ll be back in a few weeks.” She bowed, accepted his in return and bowed again as she slipped out of the door.
Toshi stood in the open doorway until the elevator opened, returned another bow and backed into the room before shutting the door. “Don’t look so surprised. It’s very useful to have the general population think none of us can speak properly.”
“Makes sense I guess.”
“Fake translators make a good living, it’s a proper scam.”
Mick stood. “Well, I’ll go before your company arrives.”
“My company?” Toshi stood confused but than understanding dawned. “Oh, no, I, I’m sorry, I was hoping you’d join me? I forgot to ask, I don’t figure you’d want to.”
“I, you,” Mick stuttered before nodding. “I, I’d be glad to. It smells wonderful. Just, let me run and change, there’s blood all over me.”
Alone for the first time all day, Toshi sagged back against the wall. It was easy for Alec to push him to befriend Mick but it wasn’t easy to accomplish. Alec, who was so nervous about dating but made friends like honey drew flies, couldn’t understand the deeply ingrained shyness Toshi struggled with every day. He’d promised to make an effort and at least see if he could grow more comfortable around the other man, so he would try.
Mick changed quickly, pulling on the casual jeans and an oversized sweater, opting for comfort over style and hoping that he wasn’t guessing wrong. The way Toshi-san had asked him sounded more social and not work related. It wasn’t surprising, after the day’s troubles, for them to at least have dinner together. He used to see the other cops stopping for dinner or a beer after work but he’d never been invited to join them.
When he re-joined the living room, music was playing and Toshi was in the kitchen plating the food. Mick paused and listened, surprised at the selection.
Toshi’s head snapped up, he’d been too lost in thoughts to hear the door open. Not at all like him. “Yes, you know him?”
“He plays better every year.”
Toshi laughed again. “Yes…you surprise me.”
“One of my mothers is from Argentina. I grew up on Gardel. I’m more surprised you’d know him.” He settled in at the counter by one of the plates. Pleased to see both chopsticks and a fork. Idly, he tried to balance the chopsticks in his left hand.
“There’s a small contingent of I/S from South America in this camp. You’ll see it in the food, it’s not really Japanese or Chinese not American or Latin but a mix of all the styles and flavors. Gardel’s played all over the camp, I don’t know what he’s singing about but I like the emotion in it.”
Mick listened for a moment and smiled. “The day when you will love me, the lovely clinging roses will dress up my old house in their festive colors, the wind chimes will be ringing to tell the world you’re mine now. The fountains madly singing how I am loved by you.”
Toshi had paused from where he was placing out the dishes of food. “That’s lovely. I didn’t know you spoke Spanish?”
Mick shrugged. “Understand it better than speak it and it’s Gardel. Mama Anna used to translate them all the time, that and anything she didn’t want us to know she spoke in Spanish.”
“Sure, but be warned I’m a light weight. I almost never drink but if a day ever called for it, today’s it. Thanks for the fork, by the way. Not sure how long I can mange with my left hand.”
“I find myself continuing to be surprised by you, Mr. McKale. I expected you to be competent in your line of work but the rest, knowing Gardel, basic Japanese, how to eat with chopsticks? Are all Inkies as diverse as you?”
Mick toyed with his chopsticks. “I’m actually on the lower end of most of my family. Some of my siblings are so brilliant, my parents know things that I can’t even imagine.”
Toshi joined him on the other side of the counter and they ate sharing casual and superficial conversation and sake. Neither man was entirely comfortable but it was born from shyness not dislike and like rusty hinges they were slow to open. As the bottle of sake disappeared, the conversation grew more free and more comfortable, they settled on the sofa to finish the remains of the bottle and pick at the remains of the desert.
“Can I ask?” Toshi began. He found they both were asking permission before asking questions.
“What was it like growing up in an Inky commune? They fascinate me.”
“I didn’t really grow up there, I was eleven when they took me in.”
“I didn’t know that, I assumed you were born there.”
Mick shook his head. “No, no one is ever born there. Our commune is seventy years old and there’s only been four births in that whole time. It’s a science thing, no need to produce children when there are so many without homes. I was a foster kid with them when I was eleven and officially adopted at thirteen.”
“I’m sorry, that was too personal of a question.”
“Don’t be, I’d rather have someone ask. People hate us because they don’t understand. It was science that nearly destroyed the world but it was also science that almost saved it, if they hadn’t formed communes and locked themselves away so much would have been lost. They were only stupid thinking all of you I/S in the camps had developed an ideal way of living together.”
“But in those early days, no one knew what it was really like in the camps. Can’t really blame them for wishing for the best.”
“Inkies can be twice as nearsighted as a normal person. They get very single minded. Sometimes, a couple of my parents would just disappear for weeks, they’d never leave their research. Sleep in the labs, eat in the labs, shower in the labs, it was crazy. Research, science, study, it’s all that mattered. They’re good people though.” He refilled their sake cups. “Even when they found out that I wanted to be cop, they never questioned.”
“Inkies don’t become cops.”
“Inkies do not become cops. At worse, the black sheeps become poets and artists and such, lawyers even, but not cops.” He was smiling now. “They looked horrified when I told them but I know now they were just worried about me. People don’t like Inkies. Cops don’t like Inkies.”
Toshi watched Mick’s face grow distant. There was a look to his eyes that spoke of broken ideals. “Do you know how many half breeds there are globally?”
“I don’t know, there’s just under seven million I/S so I’d say a thousand, a couple hundred maybe?”
“There’s ninety two of us.”
“Wow, that’s way less than I’d thought.”
“Of those ninety two, sixty four are under the age of eighteen. There’s only twenty eight adult half breeds in the whole world. Twenty one of those twenty eight are male. Eighteen of those twenty one males, counting myself as one of the twenty one, have been castrated.” He looked to the shocked and slightly horrified expression on the humans face. “I’m only one of three adult male half breeds intact in the entire world.”
“Why would they do that?”
“It’s the reason why so many more males are allowed to live. It’s much more difficult to sterilize a female. Think of how many I/S here in this city alone are shine addicts and by extension, prostitutes. Yes, it’s very difficult for a half breed to be conceived but still there are hundreds of conceptions a year just in this city alone. Only a few dozen ever are actually born, most half breeds are genetically unstable and die shortly after birth. If they live the week, their family will smother them.”
“Oh my god.”
“It’s very rare a family will allow a half breed to live. Males have a better chance because they can be sterilized.”
“Why? Why would your people do that?”
“It’s not just the I/S, it’s the human’s too, but it’s less for the mother to be human. Both species are repulsed by the very idea of our two kinds mixing, its abhorrent. You’ve noticed, haven’t you, that in the death threats I receive the vast majority are over my blood lines not my wealth?”
“Yes but I thought it was, like, a racial slur. People tend to doubly hate someone that’s different and doing well, especially in such hard times.”
Toshi shook his head and studied his hands wrapped around the sake cup. “No, it’s my very existence they hate. I’m the only half breed in the world with black hair too. All the other’s have red or brown, one of the children up in Canada has dark grey but it’s not black.”
“I’m sure you’ve heard that I was a teenager before my father learned I existed? It’s a popular story in the gossip magazines.”
“I don’t read trash, but yes, I’d heard.” Who hadn’t heard? At the time it had been the hottest topic of conversation even in the closed commune.
“I was ill a lot that first year. I only saw my father five times and he couldn’t stand to look at me once that whole year. Even now, he sends George over rather than come himself. There’ve only ever been two people that I’ve met as an adult that haven’t required time to get used to me. Alec is one and you are the other. I just, I just wanted to say thank you. I know I’ve been avoiding you, Alec keeps lecturing me over it. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t accept.” Mick nearly snapped back. “Don’t you ever be sorry for reacting naturally and I don’t ever want to hear you thanking anyone for treating you like they would anyone else. That’s nonsense. I know what it’s like to expect people to hurt you, don’t ever apologize for being careful.”
In one swallow Toshi finished the last of the sake in his cup. “I’m sorry, I’m drunk.” He pushed himself up out of the soft comfort of the sofa but the room spun and he stumbled.
Mick moved quickly, springing to his feet and reaching out to steady Toshi only to find himself far more drunk than he first thought. The world tilted and Mick felt them both falling. He twisted and half dropped, half threw them toward the sofa. He braced himself for how badly this was going to hurt his hand and let them land in an untidy heap.
Only his hand didn’t jar and didn’t hit anything. Toshi’s hand was wrapped around his wrist and held both their arms out of the way, safely above sofa or end table. Mick opened his eyes and stared into a mess of tangled black hair and Toshi’s shoulder. It sunk in slowly that he was laying full spread on top of his employer and he was drunk enough to not want to move any time soon.
The body below him was far warmer than it should have been and far leaner as well. There was a nice solid strength to Toshi but far to little beyond that, he had an underfed quality that surprised Mick. Their heights were close enough that they lined up well, their legs tangled together. It felt good and he was almost drunk enough to snuggle into that warmth.
Toshi landed on the soft sofa but was quickly smothered by Mick’s weight. He held firm to the wrist, trying to keep that damaged hand safely away but it let his sensitive fingertips feel the pulse beating under his grasp. Mick landed with his head pillowed along his shoulder and their legs tangled together.
And suddenly the scent of Mick was everywhere. Vaguely citrus from his shampoo with a touch of sandalwood from his soap but over and mixed with it all was the scent of Mick himself. Healthy, vital, and strong it was erotically human and pushed a button Toshi thought he’d long since lost. He sighed and his body arched up, sliding into a more comfortable fit to the body above him before he even knew what he was doing.
Mick pulled away slightly, startled and aroused at the movement below him. He balanced himself on his good arm and watched as Toshi settled in under him. The half breed’s haunting eyes were shut and the thick length of his black hair spilled over his shoulder. Toshi sighed again, a sound that went straight to Mick’s groin, and his luminous eyes opened to mere slits.
There they lay. Only a few inches separated them and all Mick wanted to do was kiss those lips, kiss that neck and see if Toshi would arch to display it for him the way he had that afternoon. He could almost taste the skin against his lips, feel the pulse in that oh so sensitive hollow of the half breed’s throat. Mick’s already too snug jeans were suddenly growing far tighter.
Then he remembered this was his boss and that they’d both had far too much sake and it was only the combination of both those thoughts that kept him from ravishing the body below him.
“Are you okay?” He asked and those stunning eyes fluttered open.
Toshi nodded, unsure of what to say.
Mick smiled but it wasn’t a happy smile. “I think we’re both drunk.” He started to extract himself from the tangle they’d become. “I should go to bed, I don’t want to be late for work tomorrow.” Mick hurried to his feet and regretted looking back. Toshi was half sitting up and looked totally perfect. His face was flushed slightly, his lips were parted and he almost looked ready to beg to be pressed back to the sofa. “Good night, Toshi-san.” He hurried to the safety of his room.
The door clicked shut and Toshi collapsed back down on the sofa. “I’m going to kill Alec.”