Notes and Disclaimers: Masami Yuki, Headgear, Emotion, TFC, and NTV own the rights to the following characters, I came up with the situation. If they want to borrow the idea from me, I’ll be very gracious about it – I’m asking the same in return from them about the characters .
This story is, as C. Richard Davies put it, “about time.” If you are a minor and you have clicked on this story depite my waring, you are well on your way to a lifetime of disappointment and misery, since common sense is one of the most important things a person can have. So, to be blunt – if you are a minor or do not approve of sexual situations between consenting women of legal age, then go away, please.
If, however, you are in my intended target audience, if you enjoy this story, please let me know at email@example.com.
“Worldshaking” Fanfic supports Yuricon, a celebration of Yuri in anime and manga.
WSF is also a pround member of the Fanfic Revolution, because fanfic doesn’t have to suck.
And now, our feature presentation:
Love’s Labors Lost
The lieutenant finished signing the last document and slapped it onto the “finished’ pile for her assistant to file in the morning. With some surprise, she noted that it was later than she had thought. She’d have to hustle to get home and get her journal typed in order to get any decent amount of sleep before the conference tomorrow.
She shut the computer down, taking care to lock any sensitive papers and disks in her drawer, then glanced around her office, assuring herself that there wasn’t anything that needed her attention before she left. With a nod of satisfaction, she flicked off the light and locked the door behind her.
The night was balmy, a typical New York August night. The sky was clear – or would have been, in a place where the light pollution was less prominent. She looked upwards, saw that a few stars had managed visibility and felt pleased, at herself and the world. She’d traveled to many other cities, lived on several other continents; but there was nowhere to compare with New York City in Lieutenant Kanuka Clancy’s mind.
Traffic was light, no taxis appeared immediately available, so Kanuka set off for a subway station closer to midtown. It was a longish walk, but the evening air felt good, as good as the general buzz of energy in the city around her. Even at this late hour, cars, trucks and emergency vehicles danced with the taxis that sped by…too fast, she noted. It was a long time since she had pulled street duty, much less traffic patrol – she wasn’t about to let a few minor infractions bother her tonight.
No, she had larger things to worry about. Tomorrow, the conference, then the weekend and…what? Her lips pursed, thinking over the uncomfortable scene that would likely occur when…Kanuka shook her head abruptly as if in answer to a question.
“I will not let myself get sidetracked this time,” she stated firmly, only realizing she had spoken out loud when the woman next to her asked her if she had said something. Kanuka blushed slightly, glad for the sodium light glow that masked her embarrassment. “Sorry,” she said, but the woman had already moved on. No one lingered for long on a New York street, not even to speak to a cop. Maybe especially not to speak to a potentially crazy cop, Kanuka thought to herself.
The crowds were sporadic and Kanuka found herself alone once again on the street approaching the Port Authority. The area was never, had never been, the safest in the city, and all pretense at glitz and veneer had worn away in the last few decades. She kept her eyes up and her awareness on maximum, noting the positions of the other pedestrians, the loafers, drug dealers, and the few cops on patrol. She nodded slightly to a patrolman who caught her eye. He touched his hat brim briefly in acknowledgement and turned away.
Kanuka took a deep breath, immediately regretting it. The ammonia smell of urine, exhaust and hot streets made her choke. She stifled a cough and laughed out loud – she’d never be able to explain to anyone else why she loved this city so much – or why she felt she needed to leave it.
The smile on her face faded immediately. That was the crux of the problem, wasn’t it? Eventually, soon, she’d have to take the plunge and tell Kelly why she was leaving the city – why she was leaving her. Kanuka bit her lip in thought. She knew her ex pretty well, and she knew that no matter how delicately she approached the subject her news would not be received with calm austerity. Kelly O’Toole was Irish through and through and her reaction would be…
“Lieutenant Clancy?” A voice called from across the street, faint above the traffic noise. “Kanuka Clancy?”
Kanuka looked up, startled. There was something unusual about the way her name had been pronounced…she tried to identify the voice, but nothing leapt to her mind. However, recognition slid into place as soon as she caught site of the figure across the road waving at her. She lifted a cautious hand and smiled politely.
“Hello!” she called, then gestured quickly, “Wait there!” Looking for a break in traffic, Kanuka sprinted across the lanes and vaulted a low traffic barrier until she found herself standing in front of another woman. The woman was about Kanuka’s height, Asian, slightly built and with short, dark hair. She looked outwardly calm, but relieved to see a familiar face.
“It is Clancy, isn’t it?” the other woman asked in halting English. “We only met that once…” The look in her face said that she knew very well that her name was Clancy, but was still, after all this time, embarrassed by her behavior at their first meeting.
Kanuka smiled tightly. “And we were very drunk.” She played along with the polite subterfuge. ” Please, call me Kanuka, um, Kumagami-san? What brings you to America?”
The Japanese police officer smiled apologetically and switched languages. “I’m sorry, my English is still not as good as I’d like. I understand well enough, but speaking…”
Kanuka nodded understandingly, “I was lucky – I grew up with both languages.” She looked down at the luggage by Kumagami’s feet. “Do you have a hotel room arranged? I’d be glad to assist you…”
Kumagami bowed slightly but shook her head, “Please there’s no need. I’m here for the Patlabor conference and they’ve got me booked into the,” she pulled out a piece of paper, scanned it and read out loud, “the Omni.”
Kanuka made a face. “That place is not really…acceptable. Here,” she reached out and hefted the bag, which was not terribly heavy, “let me bring you to a better hotel that costs a little less.” Before the other woman could protest, Kanuka had whistled up a taxi and instructed the driver with an address.
“Please, Kanuka-san,” Kumagami said hastily as they entered the vehicle, “don’t go to any trouble for me…”
Kanuka reassured the other woman, “Really, I’m not, Kumagami-san – I’m saving you from a horrible experience.” She gestured at the piece of paper still clutched in Kumagami’s hand. “That place is a dive. The Eastern is a better hotel and the accounting department will be happy that you saved some money. Besides, it’s closer to the conference location.”
The Japanese officer looked down at the paper, then at the American. “Then thank you,” she said solemnly with a small bow. “And please, call me Takeo.”
Kanuka nodded in solemn thanks. “Takeo-san.” She’d forgotten how American she’d become. Asking a perfect stranger, practically, to use her given name…well, the Japanese woman had recovered quickly, so no harm done.
Both women were silent for a moment, then Kanuka asked, “Is this your first time in America?”
“Not in America, no,” Kumagami answered. “I’ve only been to California, though.” She paused, “And Hawaii,” she said hesitantly, as if that might not be considered America in New York City.
Kanuka looked at her with pride, “That’s where I come from. I grew up in Hawaii.”
“But you live here in New York? That seems very far away.”
“It is. That’s why I live here,” and for the first time that day, Kanuka smiled brightly.
Lt. Kumagami relaxed slightly. “I know we never really hit it off the first time we met,” she smiled back at the other woman, “but I was very glad to see a familiar face here.”
Kanuka didn’t respond directly but instead asked, “Are you very tired? If you’re not, I can take you somewhere to eat that’s good and not too expensive – or we can go get a drink…”
Kumagami waved away the idea frantically, “Oh no! I don’t mean for you to disrupt your schedule for me! I’ll be fine once I check in…”
“It’s not a problem,” Kanuka insisted. “Really, I’d like to show you around. I’ve got nothing I need to rush home to.”
“But won’t you need to get some sleep – you’re one of the presenters tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, but later in the morning. And I can get by on very little sleep.”
Kumagami relented. “Although I know you’re going to too much trouble,” she said, “I’d be delighted. I’m not too tired, but I am quite hungry.”
“I know just the place,” the American officer said and subsided into a pleased silence.
Once Lt. Kumagami had been given a room, Kanuka left the woman to unpack and freshen up. “I’ll call the restaurant and meet you back here in 20 minutes.” She looked down at herself apologetically. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to be seen with me in uniform.”
“No problem,” Takeo said in accented English and gave the other woman a wave.
Forty minutes later saw the two women seated at a small, lower east side noodle house.
Kumagami looked around with a bemused smile. “This is so much like Tokyo that if I didn’t know I was in New York, I wouldn’t believe it.”
“I know it’s not fair, making you eat Japanese food your first night here, but for me it’s a treat. And this place is open almost all night long, so we can relax.”
“That’s alright,” Takeo said pleasantly. “I expect that they’ll be serving bad American food at the conference and the hotel. I’m sure I’ll get my fill of hamburgers and steak.”
Sake’ was poured and toasts made. They put their glasses down and Kanuka looked directly at the other woman for the first time. “I suppose now would be a good time to apologize for the last time we met. I was extremely uptight and rude.”
Kumagami shook her head, “You were fine – I was the one whose behavior was unconscionable – after all, you were a guest in my country.”
“No, really, it was entirely my fault. I was extremely poorly behaved as a guest and should have given you more respect as your rank and seniority deserved.”
“Oh no,” Kumagami said, “We can’t even apologize without competing.” She laughed lightly. “And now you sound like Ohta. Please don’t say things like that.”
Kanuka stopped mid-apology. “That was about the only thing we did right that night, wasn’t it?” she said with a tight smile.
Kumagami eye’s met hers and a broad smile broke out on her face. “Definitely. What a boor.”
Both women drank to the humiliation of Section Two’s most notorious officer and the memory of throwing the man out the window into the hot springs repeatedly.
The udon was, as Kanuka had said, excellent. They ate their noodles contentedly, while Kumagami caught Kanuka up on the current state of affairs at Section Two of the Second Patlabor Division. As far as Kanuka was concerned, it was all status quo.
“I get the occasional note from Noa,” Kanuka admitted. “She’s always so… cheerful.”
Kumagami sighed. “Yes, she’s very energetic. Exhausts me sometimes.”
They smiled sympathetically at each other.
“So, how long are you in New York for?”
“I’ll be returning Monday. First to Hong Kong to visit some friends, then back to Division Two.”
“That’s hardly any time to enjoy the city.” Kanuka said, then paused a moment in thought. “I don’t know how you’d feel about this, but if you’re not otherwise engaged, I’d be glad to show you around. That is, if you don’t have someone here you’re visiting.”
Kumagami shook her head. “I don’t know anyone in New York. But what about you? Surely you have prior engagements?”
Kanuka thought of the empty apartment that awaited her. “No, nothing pressing. Let’s meet tomorrow night at the networking party – say eight o’clock – and we’ll go do a little sight seeing or dinner or whatever. If you’re too tired, we don’t have to do anything at all.”
“That sounds lovely, thank you.” Kumagami’s eyes sparkled. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Kanuka looked at her watch. “It’s very late – You’d better get back to the hotel and I need to get some sleep myself. I can catch the subway right at the end of the block – will you be all right to get a cab back to your hotel?”
“If I’m not,” joked the other woman, “I can always ask a policeman.”
Kanuka’s day began in a swirl of activity. Unlike many people who claimed the skill, she was genuinely able to get by on very few hours sleep. As a result, by the time her alarm rang she was already dressed and at her kitchen table with a cup of tea. She ran a critical eye over her notes for the day’s lecture and initialed the page. Her presentation would be very straightforward – she couldn’t foresee any problem with it, but it paid to be prepared.
When the phone rang, she lifted her head and listened for the message, but made no move to pick it up. As she predicted, the girlish voice of Kelly came from the speaker.
“Kanuka,” Kelly spoke evenly, making very sure her words carried no weight or censure, “I just wanted to wish you luck in your presentation today. Don’t call – I’ll see you soon.” There was a pause, then, “We need to talk.”
The phone clicked off. Kanuka sighed heavily. Why wasn’t life ever simple? Kelly was a fine woman, a spectacular lover, and a fun person to be around. But she wanted stability – a house in the country, a ring, a marriage and, Kanuka shuddered at the thought, children.
And all I want is to be a police officer. The police force is my family. I want to die in service, and be buried with my comrades.
Was that so hard to understand?
Her hair fell forward over her shoulders, almost into her tea. Standing, Kanuka emptied the cup into the sink and brushed her hair back from her face. She looked up into the reflection of her face in the window.
“I need space,” she said to herself. “That’s why I took the job offer.” It was that simple really. She’d be returning to Japan for the next few years, returning to work with a new Patlabor division – a diplomatic division specifically to be used for high profile, government related jobs. A Labor honor guard, and she’d be Captain. Surely Kelly would understand that?
Kanuka shook her head and her reflection answered with a mournful shake of its own.
The conference was, by turns, uninspiring and educational. Kanuka was gratified to meet colleagues she had never met before, and relieved to think that she wouldn’t have to meet some of them again. Many of the presenters had been assigned this job by superiors and it showed. They droned their presentations until the audience was hard pressed to stay awake in the hot auditorium. On the other hand, a few of the speakers were, like Kanuka herself, genuinely enthusiastic about the future of Patrol Labors. Many of these people were contacts she already knew and it was good to reacquaint herself with them. Although she kept one eye out, Kanuka never saw Kumagami the whole day.
Kanuka changed out of her police uniform for the cocktail party that night, borrowing the room of a colleague who was staying in the hotel. She showered quickly, brushed out her hair and changed into blouse and slacks. She’d have been more comfortable in her leather jacket, but the game had to be played properly and she knew it.
By the time she made her appearance at the cocktail party, the drinking was in full swing. Kanuka, glass in hand, made her way around the room, smiling and greeting potentially useful contacts higher in the police hierarchy. She was roped in by her superior and his cronies for a five-minute explanation of her new assignment, then excused herself to refresh her hardly touched drink. She checked her watch and looked towards the door. The next turn around the room netted her ten minutes of a senator’s time and a compliment from another presenter from that day. Kanuka checked her watch again. Ten after eight. She looked around but there was no sign of Kumagami. She dropped her drink onto a passing waiter’s tray and headed over to the bar.
“I’m sorry I’m so late,” a voice said just behind her. Kanuka started and turned to face an apologetic Kumagami. The short-haired woman bowed and thanked her for waiting. “I got tied up in a post-lecture discussion about Labor use in terrorism.”
“I wanted to attend that session, but I was required to be present at one of our local dignitaries’ speech on safe labor use in crowded areas. How was the speaker?”
“He wasn’t very prepared.” Kumagami said. She looked around the room. “It’s very crowded and hot in here. Have you made your presence known?”
Kanuka nodded. “Been around the room a few times. Is there anyone you need to be seen by?”
Kumagami shook her head. “I’m not important enough. Why?”
“I thought we might go somewhere less crowded for a drink. I didn’t realize that you were interested in anti-terrorist work.”
“Yes, I’ve been involved in several incidents with the Second Division – and Captain Goto is convinced it’ll be a growing problem.”
“I agree with him,” Kanuka confirmed. “Let’s go get something to eat and we can discuss his, and your, views. I think I have some news that might interest you.”
Kumagami’s eyebrows lifted, but she only nodded.
The restaurant in the hotel was a tasteful and intimate space. The two women took their seats by the French windows and looked out onto a sparkling cityscape.
“It’s a much more orange city than Tokyo is,” Kumagami said. “The lights, I mean.”
“Mmm,” Kanuka agreed. “I noticed that the first time I visited Japan. It gives each city a different feel.”
“Like Hong Kong – it’s a completely different kind of lighting altogether. Like multicolored jewels, or the stars.”
They drank their wine in silence, each lost in their thoughts.
“So,” Kumagami began, “you were saying that you have some news about anti-terrorist Labor use?”
Kanuka nodded. “I’m working with a multinational task force right now – we’re developing guidelines for anti-terrorist labor teams. In fact…” Kanuka turned to thank the waiter who had brought their appetizers. “In fact, if all goes well, I’ll be returning to Japan in a little while to help develop a new division of Patlabors, for use as escorts for diplomats and government officials.”
“That’s wonderful.” Kumagami looked a little wistful. “I love working with Second Division, but sometimes I wish I had a chance to do a little more.”
“Yes, wonderful…” Kanuka said quietly, turning her attention towards her plate. The food was as exquisite as the view.
“Is it not a wonderful opportunity?” Kumagami asked quietly. “Or do you not want to go?” She looked out the window and sighed. “I can understand wanting to stay here. Everything’s so alive, so vital, it’s almost like you can hear the blood running through this city’s veins.”
Kanuka looked at her in surprise. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve always felt.” She watched a couple stroll by arm in arm on the balcony. “I want to go, though. This kind of work is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. And although I was only there for six months, I really loved living and working in Tokyo, it’s just…”
Kumagami sipped her wine. “It’s just that there’s something keeping you here.”
Kanuka looked out onto the city then back at her plate. “Yes.” She moved a few food remnants around on her plate with her fork. “But you didn’t travel halfway across the world to hear about me.” She looked up, her face unreadable, and said, “When we’re done here, why don’t we visit the Empire State Building – the view is beautiful from the top.”
“That sounds like fun,” Kumagami said politely, allowing the change of subject to pass by without comment.
Kumagami looked like a kid, Kanuka thought. The Japanese policewoman craned her neck up to try and see the top of the Empire State Building, and looked around at the art deco architecture with wonder. Kanuka led the way out of the elevator and around the observation room out onto into the open air. A few tourist groups clustered around each other, taking pictures and laughing in several languages. Kanuka and Kumagami passed around the building to find a corner where there was room for them to stand at the railing.
“That way is uptown,” Kanuka gestured, “New Jersey’s to your left.”
“It’s very beautiful,” Kumagami breathed.
“Yes,” Kanuka agreed, then fell silent. They walked slowly around the building’s perimeter, the American woman pointing out landmarks and buildings of interest. She and Kumagami spoke of crimes that had occurred at those places, or people they knew in common. Kanuka found her gaze, once or twice, lingering on Kumagami’s face as she spoke, or her hair, as it moved in the wind. She wondered if this had been the source of their initial dislike for each other…it wouldn’t be the first time attraction and repulsion went hand in hand. Probably not. She started as the other woman spoke suddenly.
“And here we are, back where we started – just like life,” Kumagami joked. “What about getting something to drink? Do you know anywhere we can sit and be comfortable?”
Kanuka smiled. “Comfortable? No, not around here. I know a place that serves good sake’ though.”
“That sounds perfect – as long as there’s no karaoke involved.” Kumagami said with complete seriousness.
“No karaoke,” Kanuka confirmed, equally seriously.
An empty bottle of sake sat on the counter. Two women seemed intent on working their way to the bottom of the second that sat between them. Kanuka felt her face pleasantly warm, and Kumagami’s cheeks had a bright flush as well.
“And here’s to us getting off on a better foot this time,” Kanuka toasted and drank.
“Right,” Kumagami said, lifting her drink in answer. After she had swallowed, she shook her head slightly. “What the heck was our problem in the first place?”
“Alpha wolf, I think,” Kanuka said simply. “There’s only room for one.” She watched Kumagami’s reaction carefully. Would the other woman have read something more into it?
“Mmm,” Kumagami agreed. “I’m trying to be a little less competitive these days.” She smiled ruefully. “Life with the Second Division will do that to you.” She toyed with her glass, then said, “I had a chance once, to head a new division.”
“But you turned it down?”
“Yes.” The Japanese woman spun her glass around and around in her hands. “I haven’t had any other offers.”
Kanuka was silent. It wasn’t surprising. The Second Division was known as a kind of dumping ground for Tokyo police misfits. You got one chance to get out – or none at all. If you missed your chance, well, then you had no one to blame but yourself.
Kanuka poured herself another drink, finding it hard to think of something to say. She was, as many people had noted throughout the years, a “quiet” drunk. She pulled into herself, allowing others to carry the conversation. With Kelly it had been easy, her ex-lover being a garrulous and talkative soul. But Kumagami seemed as withdrawn as Kanuka did and as host, she felt obliged to do something about it.
“Do you,” she took a deep breath, trying to clear her head, “Do you think you’ll ever leave Second Division?”
Kumagami looked up sharply, her dark eyes meeting Kanuka’s. Kanuka could feel a thrill run down her spine and shook herself physically to stop the sensation.
“Why?” Kumagami asked, her voice edgy.
“Why what?” Kanuka wasn’t sure what the other woman was referring to – did she somehow sense what Kanuka was thinking?
“Why do you think I’d leave?” Kumagami wasn’t looking at Kanuka anymore, there was something in her tone of voice, something…homesick, that made Kanuka want to reach out and touch her.
“I just wondered if you wanted to,” Kanuka began, then paused. Suddenly she banged her glass down on the table with a sharp noise. “Lieutenant Kumagami,” she barked in Japanese, “how interested are you in anti-terrorist Patlabor use?”
Kumagami straightened in her chair and responded quickly. “Very interested, sir!” she barked. “May I inquire why?” her voice softened, probing for something she hoped she heard.
“You may not, Lieutenant.” Kanuka said, a slight grin passing quickly over her lips. “I’m invoking my right to be mysterious and change the subject.”
“That’s not fair,” Kumagami said, then waved the bartender over to order another bottle. “In which case I’m suspending my responsibilities as guest until you tell me.”
“I can’t, really.” Kanuka said. “But, maybe, let’s just say that there’s a slight possibility that if my new project gets off the ground, then maybe you might hear from me again soon.” She stressed every qualifier in the statement.
Kumagami’s face flushed a darker shade. Kanuka watched with fascination. Was that flush personal or professional? Kanuka rebuked herself for her fancy. It was nothing more than wishful thinking and sake’ talking in her head. She knew perfectly well that Kumagami was more interested in her Patlabor project than in her.
Kumagami was speaking, but Kanuka hadn’t been listening. She asked the other woman to repeat herself, and Kumagami’s eyes fell to the table.
“I’m sorry, I’m probably presuming. I just thought that, since you weren’t presenting tomorrow, we could take this last bottle back to my hotel room.”
Kanuka stopped breathing for a moment. Was she…?
Kumagami laughed. “I’d normally never be so rude, but my feet are killing me in these new shoes and I long to change into something more comfortable!”
Kanuka’s body relaxed, but her mind raced. She was being ridiculous. Kumagami would probably be mortified if she knew what Kanuka was thinking. She’d better get herself under control and fast. This was definitely behavior unbecoming an officer.
“Sure,” she found herself saying. “That’s fine. I’m not presenting at all tomorrow, and you must still be suffering from jet lag.” She waved away Kumagami’s attempt to pay part of their tab. “Come on, we’ll walk, as long as your feet hold out. The fresh air will do us some good.”
The night was exquisite. Music seemed to pour from every restaurant door and the sounds and smells of the streets screamed “New York!” at them. Kanuka was amused and pleased at Kumagami’s reactions to her streets – her people. She found herself grinning at the Japanese woman as they walked uptown.
“I’m glad you came for the conference. It’s nice to know that we can both lighten up a little,” Kanuka said with a grimace. “I felt like a heel after the first time we met.”
Kumagami nodded. “I did too.” She reached a hand out and took Kanuka’s fingers in a brief clasp. “Thank you for showing me around your city.”
Kanuka’s heart sped up a little as she squeezed the other woman’s hand then pulled away.
They were laughing at something, some joke or other, when they rounded a corner and walked right into a small cluster of uniformed policemen. Kanuka wiped the smile off her face as she recognized them. The male policemen knew her and shot off a quick salute with she returned with alacrity, but the tall, redheaded female cop just nodded.
“Kanuka,” her voice was musical and girlish, even when she was on duty, and nothing could quite remove Donegal from her vowels. Kanuka nodded solemnly to Kelly and gestured at Kumagami as she introduced the other woman as her colleague from Japan.
Kelly gestured with her head and asked if she could have a moment of Kanuka’s time. She hesitated, but something told her that this was as good a time as any.
The two women walked off a short distance. Kanuka could see Kumagami smiling politely and attempting to engage the other cop in chitchat. She turned back to Kelly, only to blanch away from the accusing stare.
“That was fast work, Kanuka,” Kelly said. “How long have you known each other?”
Kanuka shook her head. “It’s not like that Kelly – we’re really just colleagues. I met her once before when I went back to Japan for a short time. She’s my replacement at the Second Division.”
“Ah, another mech-head, then.” Kelly’s lips pulled back in a knowing smile. “Don’t try to pull one over on me, Kanuka. I have the gift of truth and you know it.”
Kanuka sighed. One of the many drawbacks of life with Kelly – her conviction that she was blessed with some supernatural power to “see.” “I’m not trying to do anything. We share an interest, that’s all.” She didn’t state the obvious – that it Kelly had never shown any interest in Labors, or Kanuka’s work with them. Kanuka took a deep breath. Tonight wasn’t the night to…
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” It was more a statement than a question. Kelly’s eyes were full of hurt disappointment, but her tone was resigned. “I’ve seen it coming for a while.”
Kanuka stared, her mouth open. How does one even answer something like that? She had never believed in Kelly’s “sight,” but…
Kelly looked back over towards Kumagami then shot a dark look at Kanuka. “It’s to be Japan, then?”
Kanuka shut her mouth and cleared her throat. Keeping her voice low and even she said, “Now’s not the time to talk about it.”
Kelly gave her a sad smile. “Later, then. You can tell me all about it.” She reached out a hand and squeezed Kanuka’s arm briefly. “Good night, Kanuka.”
The tall redhead turned away, pasting a bright smile on her face and rejoined her colleagues. Kanuka took a few breaths, trying to determine what Kelly had meant by it all, before she also joined the others.
Kumagami held up a picture and waved it in Kanuka’s direction. In English she said, “Look what Officer Jamison has given me.” Kanuka reached out to take the photo as Kumagami continued. “He was in Tokyo last year for the International Labor show. He took this photograph.” Kanuka glanced down as Jamison laughed.
The picture showed two Labors – both Ingram type 98s. One was standing at the ready, and the other was dangling by the leg from a construction crane. On the ground in front of the Labors stood several people, whom Kanuka immediately recognized. Captain Goto stood smoking laconically, Asuma was shouting something at the labor – or perhaps the crane operator, Noa was visible inside Alphonse’s cockpit and Kumagami stood next to a command vehicle. Otah’s form was clearly dangling from the arm of his Labor, as he futilely attempted to detach it from the crane – an action that would have caused it to crash to the ground, probably killing him.
Kanuka laughed suddenly. “What on earth?”
Kumagami shrugged. “It’s Otah. Who can ever understand the whys?”
Jamison, a dark-skinned man of medium build, smiled cheerfully, “You can have it, Lt. Kumagami. I thought it was funny, but I expect you probably thought it was funnier – since you work with the man and all.”
Kumagami took the photo back and bowed towards Jamison. “Thank you, Officer Jamison. You are very kind,” she said in lightly accented English. Kanuka thought that the words sounded very pretty the way Kumagami had said them.
In a few minutes, Kanuka and Kumagami, with her new treasure tucked safely away in her purse, had recommenced their walk uptown. Kumagami asked questions about the neighborhoods through which they passed, but aside from a polite answer or two, Kanuka was silent.
Kumagami stopped walking. Kanuka took a few steps, then turned with a slightly distracted look. As if suddenly aware of the other woman, Kanuka’s face cleared, then filled with concern. “Oh! I just realized – your feet must be killing you. Would you prefer we get a taxi?”
Kumagami studied Kanuka seriously, then shook her head. “I’m fine, thank you. It’s just that…maybe it would be best, though, if you go home – you seem upset.”
Thoughts raced around Kanuka’s mind. How much to tell this woman – this virtual stranger? What would be polite, appropriate? She was at a complete loss for words. Finally, she settled on, “I’m sorry – I have some things on my mind.”
“I can see that,” Kumagami said mildly. “Would you prefer to go home? I don’t wish to be a burden.”
“No,” Kanuka said quickly, “you’re not a burden and …and I’d prefer to have some company.” The admission was not an easy one. Kanuka always projected a smoothly competent exterior. It was not easy to admit, to herself or to anyone else, that occasionally, she needed help.
Kumagami stepped to the curb and lifted a hand, a piercing whistle falling from her lips. “We’ll take a taxi.”
Both women were silent for the duration of the cab ride. Kanuka spoke up only when Kumagami attempted to pay for the ride. “I’m the host here – I’ll pay.”
Kumagami bowed. “Then, when you come back to Japan, it’ll be my treat.”
Her mouth shut tightly, Kanuka didn’t reply.
In Kumagami’s room, the Japanese woman was finally able to exchange shoes for slippers. With an exaggerated sigh she sank into a chair by the window. “At least allow me to pour,” she said and filled two courtesy coffee mugs with sake’. She watched Kanuka closely as the American drank in silence.
“You don’t have to tell me, you know,” Kumagami said.
Kanuka looked up guiltily. “I’m sorry. I’m being rude. I just had a small shock back there. Kelly, Officer O’Toole is a friend and…”
“And she broke up with you?” Kumagami’s voice was guileless. “You’re a hard woman to read, Kanuka-san, but I’ve been a cop a long time.”
Kanuka flushed. “Our relationship ended some time ago. It’s just that,” she inhaled, held it a minute, then exhaled. “I hadn’t told her I was taking the job in Japan.”
“It seems like a strange place to tell one’s ex-lover about a life change. The street I mean.”
“That’s what I thought, but I’ve been thinking about it,” Kanuka drank her sake’. “I think she wanted to tell me she already knew – and to tell me that she understood.”
Kumagami stood and walked across the room in response to a knock on the door. Room service entered with a tray. Kumagami signed the receipt and closed the door after the young man had left. She lifted the tray lid to reveal a selection of small, crustless sandwiches.
“Please, help yourself,” she gestured to the plate. “I hate to drink on an empty stomach.”
Kanuka took a sandwich, but did no more than nibble on it.
“So,” Kumagami said pleasantly, “if I may be allowed to indiscreetly recap. Your ex-lover used a public situation to say goodbye. Any ideas why?”
“Yes,” Kanuka answered automatically. “Kelly’s, well, Kelly’s a passionate person. When we were together it was really good…or really bad. I think she preferred this way of saying good-bye so that it wasn’t either.”
“So,” the Japanese woman wiped her mouth with a napkin, sipped more sake’ and shot Kanuka a look. “Now you’re free.”
“Yes.” And then the realization of what the other woman had just said hit her. Kanuka looked up pointedly. Dark eyes met dark eyes evenly. “I’m completely free.” Kanuka echoed. “To go wherever I want, do whatever I want…”
Kumagami never took her eyes from Kanuka’s as she said quietly, “Well, thank god for that.”
Tension built within Kanuka, but she couldn’t be sure – what if she was completely misreading this? “I, uh,” she began, then regrouped. “What do you mean?”
Kumagami set her mug of sake’ on the table and smiled apologetically. “I mean, I’m already feeling awkward about this – I don’t want to have to feel guilty too.”
Kanuka gaped openly at the Japanese woman.
“I’m sure you’ve taken psychology classes, as have I,” Kumagami continued. “You and both know that love and hate, attraction and repulsion are just opposite sides of the same coin.” She gazed at Kanuka frankly. “In the light of that knowledge, doesn’t our previous encounter make more sense?” She stood, pushing the short hair back from her ears as she paced across the floor. “I snapped at you,” Kumagami admitted, “when we first met because…”
“I understand,” Kanuka interrupted. “You don’t have to continue.”
The Japanese woman leaned against the room door, arms folded across her chest. “Well, we’re both intelligent women. What do we do next?”
Kanuka stood. “It depends on how you define intelligence. If you define it as a good understand of strategic situations, knowing how to get in, find a target, accomplish the objective, then get out with the minimal amount of damage; then what we do is say good night, I go home to my apartment and we’ll see each other tomorrow at the conference.” She gave the other woman a little smile.
“But…?” Kumagami asked with an answering smile on her face.
“But,” Kanuka said, “not everyone defines “intelligent” the same way.” She took a few steps into the center of the room. “Some people might say that an intelligent person is one who, when faced with an emotionally charged situation will seek to defuse it.” She took another step forward, watching Kumagami carefully. “And of course, then there’s native intelligence. That kind of intelligence responds to certain situations with a intuitive understanding of the broader issues between the parties – with common sense, as they say.” Kanuka stepped forward again. “In all honesty, Takeo-san, I’m at a loss.”
Kumagami pushed off from the door. “Me too,” she said. “Look at us, two intelligent women and we can’t figure out a thing that would be obvious to the most uneducated person.” She took two steps into the room and within touching distance of Kanuka.
Neither moved nor spoke and the tension, which had been building slowly, had now become a palpable presence in the room. Kanuka stared openly at Kumagami, noting the dark eyes, the thick, straight, black hair – all things she had seen stare back at her from her mirror, but so rarely in the face of her peers. Even more, Kanuka saw in Kumagami a genuine dedication to the job. This was a woman who, more than anything else, wanted to excel as a police officer. Someone whose interests and desires mirrored her own – in many ways. Kanuka found one hand poised, not quite touching the other woman’s cheek.
With an iron effort of will, Kanuka breached the final inch and stroked the back of her hand softly along Takeo’s jaw. She moved closer to the other woman as her hand reached Takeo’s hairline, and her fingers brushed gently against the short strands. Kanuka could feel the heat in her face, and the tingling throughout her body and she prayed fervently that she wasn’t being made a fool of.
Takeo’s eyes had never left Kanuka’s. The Japanese officer took Kanuka’s shoulders in her hands and leaned forward, her lips parted just slightly, her eyes closed. Kanuka met the kiss and felt a wave of intense relief, adrenaline and excitement wash over her, leaving her almost too weak to stand.
They touched each other tenderly, almost delicately, as if each woman was afraid the other might break or, more accurately, break and run. What part of Kanuka’s mind was not filled with skin, and tongue and lips was afraid, terribly afraid. She was not a promiscuous woman, her lovers had been few, and none of them had made her feel quite this terrified.
Kanuka broke away, panting, and stared at Takeo. “Part of me can’t stop screaming that this is a terrible idea. You’re leaving to return to Tokyo in two days.”
“That leaves us two days,” Takeo said, with irritating rationality. She buried one hand in Kanuka’s hair and pulled them together. Her mouth was cool, tasting of sake’. Kanuka found her arms around Takeo’s body, digging into the lithe, muscular form. When she could no longer breathe, Kanuka pulled away slightly, but found herself held fast by Takeo’s grip. The other woman was looking at her, a slight smile quirking the corner of her lips.
“What are you afraid of?” she asked. “This is as much my idea as yours…” her eyes grew wide. “Will it make you feel better to know that you aren’t the first woman I’ve been with?” She put her hands on Kanuka’s cheeks. “Or do you need more sake’ before you’ll relax?”
Kanuka felt some of the concern drain from her body, replaced immediately by a different kind of tension. She threw caution to the wind, pressing her mouth hard against Takeo’s, taking possession of the other woman. Takeo responded, predictably, by seizing Kanuka physically and attempting to assert her authority.
Clothes were literally flung off their bodies, as each struggled to gain control. Kanuka found herself, for a brief moment, pinned by the surprisingly strong Japanese woman, but slipped out of Takeo’s grasp a moment later.
With looks of pure concentration, they wrestled for a moment, each seeking to dominate the other, until the Japanese woman gave a little half laugh and gave in. “I’m trying to be less competitive,” she breathed, as Kanuka buried her face in Takeo’s neck.
The American woman moaned loudly. She had never felt like this with anyone before – never wanted to be so much a part of someone else’s life…. With this thought, Kanuka stiffened and pulled away. That was why she felt fear where she never had before.
Takeo looked up at her from half-closed eyes. “Why did you stop?”
Kanuka pushed her hair back from her face and shook her head.
Takeo sat up and faced the other woman. “Why?” she asked simply.
Kanuka lowered her head slightly, then looked hard at Takeo, her dark eyes smoldering. “Because I could lose myself in you. I’ve never wanted that – I’ve worked hard at not losing myself in anyone. To want that as much as I do right now…”
Takeo lifted a hand and stroked Kanuka’s hair, following it down its length onto Kanuka’s shoulder. She continued to stroke along the other woman’s arm, until her hand met Kanuka’s on the bedspread.
“I could say, ‘I’m already lost,’ ” Takeo said quietly. “Or, ‘we’ll get lost together,’ but both wouldn’t be true.”
“Takeo,” Kanuka said, “I don’t do one or two-night stands.”
“Neither do I.”
“But you leave in two days.”
Takeo leaned forward, one strap of her camisole slipping off her shoulder as she moved. “And you’ll come home to Japan soon.”
Kanuka stared as the other woman’s mouth moved along her shoulder towards her neck. Her eyes closed as Takeo’s lips met her own and she sighed, “I’m going home.” Her fear slipped away in sensations of warm skin and hands caressing her, and she smiled as she embraced Takeo strongly. Sliding her mouth down to Takeo’s, Kanuka muttered, with a distinctly amused tone, “I’m home already.”
Kanuka’s thoughts ranged wildly as she stroked and kissed Takeo. It *was* as if they had always known each other – each reaching unerringly for the most sensitive areas of the other’s body. As Kanuka rained tiny kisses on the other woman’s ear, she knew, almost instinctively, that slipping her tongue into the corner of that ear would drive the other woman mad. Takeo writhed in Kanuka’s arms, gasping with the intensity of the sensation. Kanuka smiled at the other woman’s tormented moans and turned her attention to Takeo’s neck. Something about the skin underneath her ear made Kanuka want to sink her teeth into that neck. Takeo’s breath was coming faster and faster and her hands gripped Kanuka’s arms so tightly that the American was sure she would have dark bruises for days. Takeo’s voice came in broken gasps, pleading Kanuka for more, to never stop and Kanuka obliged. With a series of whimpers and shudders, Takeo managed to convey a sense of urgency that Kanuka could not ignore. Never removing one hand from a firm nipple, or her mouth from Takeo’s neck, she slipped her other hand lightly under the edge of soft panties, only to encounter even softer hair and skin. With a growl, Kanuka filled Takeo, biting down on the skin beneath her. As Takeo shook in her arms, thrashing strongly, Kanuka flicked one finger across the nipple, and heard, tasted and felt Takeo surrender to her.
Takeo relaxed her grip on Kanuka’s arms, going limp in the other woman’s embrace, and sighing heavily. “Mmmmm,” she moaned, as she leaned her head against the American’s shoulder. “That was nice.”
Kanuka said nothing, but leaned down and kissed the other woman’s forehead lightly. The first kiss was followed by a second, on Takeo’s nose, which was followed by the lightest possible pressure on her lips. Takeo’s eyes opened and she slid her arms around Kanuka’s neck, her mouth opening. Kanuka kissed the corners of the other woman’s lips, then teased them with the lightest touch of tongue. With a sigh, Takeo captured Kanuka’s mouth and drew her in.
Takeo sat up abruptly as they kissed and leaned heavily on Kanuka until the other woman was forced to fall backwards onto the bed. Pinning Kanuka’s arms lightly above her head, Takeo set out to trace every curve of her body with her lips. Kanuka murmured something as Takeo brushed her cheek across the skin of her belly.
“What?” Takeo asked, her mouth tasting the skin under one of Kanuka’s breasts.
“Touch me,” Kanuka answered, her words becoming a moan, as the lips slipped around the curve of the breast, passing over the nipple. Takeo removed her hands from the other woman’s arms, sliding down the sides of her torso, onto the slight curve of her hips. She sat back, stroking her hands softly along the muscles in the other woman’s thighs, down past exquisite knees, and along the muscular calves. Each foot was held, caressed and released. Takeo looked down at Kanuka, who seemed oddly complacent, her eyes closed, and breathing deeply and slowly. The Japanese woman laid her hand once again on Kanuka’s thigh. She slid her hand along the junction of leg and thigh, running her manicured nails through the thick curls of hair.
Leaning forward to whisper in Kanuka’s ear, Takeo ran her fingers lightly between Kanuka’s legs, watching her face closely. “Here?” she blew the words into Kanuka’s ear, as her finger just barely stroked over Kanuka’s clit.
The American’s eyes rolled in her head. “Yes,” she pleaded, as fingers slid into her, playing with her. Kanuka began to whimper slightly, as Takeo bent over her, fingers playing across lips and clit. A sound ripped from Kanuka’s throat as Takeo’s tongue slid between her fingers. The Japanese woman laughed, as Kanuka’s hands gripped her head, fingers entangling themselves in her short hair. She lowered her mouth to Kanuka’s center, conscious of the sensitive body beneath her. It wasn’t long before she was aware of a building tension in Kanuka’s muscles. Takeo entered Kanuka, never taking her mouth from the other woman. Kanuka’s hips lifted, and with muffled scream, came, while Takeo stroked her with hands and lips.
Long after Kanuka had relaxed, one hand playing with Takeo’s hair, the Japanese woman lay on Kanuka’s stomach, tracing the other woman’s ribs.
Kanuka shifted and stretched beneath Takeo. Time and the silence stretched, but neither woman seemed to want to be the first to speak.
Kanuka drifted in and out of sleep, aware only of the warm body on her stomach, and of the feeling – a feeling she hadn’t known in a long time – of pleasant comfort, happiness without reserve. Her eyes opened as Takeo shifted, moving to lie by her side.
“When are you leaving?” Kanuka asked quietly, surprised at how little concern she felt, how little tension filled her voice.
“I was supposed to leave Monday, but seeing as there is an international task force liaison here in New York – and seeing as the task force is meant to be working on Second Division’s turf, I’m applying for an extension of my trip. I think that the contacts I make here will be invaluable for the Patlabor unit.”
Kanuka nodded. “That makes sense. And seeing as my colleague from Japan has traveled all this way to learn about Labors as anti-terrorist forces, it only makes sense if I ask for some leave to work with her on the topic.”
“Mmm. Sounds like important work.”
“Very. Could make a big difference in almost all the major cities diplomatic arrangements. It will probably lead to major protocol changes…and training, very probably all over the world.”
“How exciting!” Takeo rolled over and smiled. “When will you come back to Japan?” She leaned over to brush her lips across Kanuka’s.
“I was supposed to leave in two months, but seeing as my Japanese colleague is already here, I might be able to move it up a month.” It was Kanuka’s turn to kiss Takeo.
“Can you make a move that quickly?” Takeo asked. “I mean, I have a large apartment, you can…you’d better stay with me, but, what about your place?”
Kanuka shrugged. “I’ll explain rent control to you later.” She smiled, a genuine, happy, unreserved smile. “Right now I have some very serious business that only you can help me with.” She held out an arm and to her immense delight, pulled a pliable and cooperative Takeo into her arms.
They might only have a week together now, but weeks turn into months and months into years.
Kanuka looked into Takeo’s eyes, noticing the firmness, the uncompromising standards, the dedication and she nodded. It wasn’t without it’s challenges, but like being a cop…in the end, it was always worth it.
“It’s a lot of work,” Takeo said, as if reading her mind, “Labor units, love, life…” She kissed Kanuka deeply. “But that’s what makes it worth doing.”
Kanuka didn’t bother answering with words.