High School Never Ends

Chapter 12: Strange Happenings

Tetsuko Kaburagi was bored out of her mind. Geez, this professor’s lecture is drier than a piece of toast! The brunette slumped into her seat and glanced around the auditorium. Antonio was taking a nap next to her and most of the other students were dozing off or goofing off, only a few were actually paying attention. I’m so bored I’m just about ready to keel over! The woman looked back at the white board that her professor was writing on. He jotted some facts about art history that she really wasn’t going to remember about cubism and modernism and she could just leave the class but then she wouldn’t have notes to study from. I should’ve taken a dance class for my Fine Arts credit. I would’ve looked like an idiot but at least I wouldn’t be falling asleep at this point. Tetsuko fished out an article she was co-writing and editing for work and grabbed her red pen. The write-up was both hers and Circe’s, a piece on domestic violence prevention that Tetsuko had poured her heart into. She uncapped her pen and began slashing for the second time. This sentence is a fragment, how did I miss that? That comma needs to go over here…this should be a semi-colon…that quote needs to be placed better…and this sentence would do better over here. For the next ten minutes Tetsuko read the article and for the rest of class she drew on Antonio with her pen when the professor wasn’t looking. By the end of class, the Spaniard had a lovely looking mustache and a mermaid on his neck.

“That’s all for today. Class dismissed.” The professor called, startling Antonio away.

“What’d I miss?” He asked, rubbing his eyes and fixing his leather jacket.

“Everything. Don’t ask me to tell you. I was doing other things.” Tetsuko gathered her notebooks and article and packed them away before standing up, smoothing out her vest and pants.

“You’re always doing other things, ‘Suko.”

“I just can’t help it!” Tetsuko stifled a laugh as she looked at Antonio’s face. He had no idea that he was sporting a curly mustache. He looked like a pirate.

“What’s so funny?” Her friend asked, glancing behind him to see if someone else was making her laugh. Apparently I have a bad poker face.

“Oh, nothing.” She stated brightly, making her way to the door. “Come on, ‘Tonio. Let’s head to the field house. I’ve got two hours before I have to leave for work.”

“Working out again? What’s gotten into you lately? You used to never exercise out of sheer stubbornness and now you go willingly?”

“I have to build up my strength to get into Sternbild’s Police Academy, ga-doy!” The pair walked out of the brownstone art building and onto the quad.

Sternbild University was a sprawling campus located in North Silver by the boarder of Gold, with buildings and colleges for every type of major or minor. No university was complete without a training center, a basketball arena, a stadium and various fields for other sporting events, and SBU had them all and more. Sprawling over miles, SBU was the college to go to if you were a somebody (or a nobody). The dorms were completely booked this semester and the next and Antonio had been lucky to get a room. The only problem was that Nathan was just down the hall in his own private room and Tetsuko got to hear all of the Spaniard’s complaints about it every time they had a class together. The woman led the bull-man through the quad, dodging other students and professors who were also walking and biking to their own buildings.

“I know all that because you won’t shut up about the police stuff, but you’ve been pushing yourself too hard. I just don’t want you to burn out.” Antonio clapped his hand on her shoulder and his concern made the girl feel guilty about giving him a ‘stache. So she told him about his new facial hair and the bull-man fumed as he dragged her to the nearest bathroom to wash it off.

Tetsuko leaned on a wall outside the men’s room, checking her phone for messages. It was weird, not having Bunny nagging her every second to put her phone or pay attention, or protecting her breasts from Karina. In fact, being in college was weird in and of itself. I’m surprised I’m even here, Tomoe. It would’ve been you and you would’ve had scholarships lined up with honors and half your generals done before you even walked onto campus. I’m just having trouble keeping up! Maybe Antonio’s right, I’m burning out. Between morning classes, the Journal, evening work at the bar and homework, there’s not enough time in the day to sleep. The brunette rubbed her eye carefully, trying not to smudge her make-up as she yawned. I guess that’s why I make it up in class. Tetsuko chuckled and glanced at her vibrating phone. It was Bunny. The woman opened the message and smiled.

Bunny: Old lady, remember we have a practice with Lyle tonight.

Tetsuko: Did you text me just to say that? I know already! Tell me what you really wanted to say.

Bunny: I have nothing else to say.

Tetsuko: Not even that you miss me?

Bunny: That’d be lying because I don’t. The school’s much quieter with you gone.

Tetsuko: You’re mean!

Bunny: Class is starting.

Tetsuko: Fine then, be a dick. Kisses!

She put her phone away when Antonio cal out “clean shaven” and they took a shuttle to the field house. Tetsuko checked in with the front desk with her student card and went to change for her work out. Throwing the combination to her locker, she opened the storage space and grabbed her clothes. Decked out black short shorts and a bright green sports bra, the woman pinned her bangs back and pulled the rest into a pony tail. She met Antonio upstairs in the weight room and sat down at a press machine after she warmed up. Starting out light, Tetsuko added weights as she worked out, chatting with her friend as she pressed her arms in and out. She felt good, stronger. Tetsuko loved working out when she was motivated. Most of the time she slacked off on exercise, but getting to the police academy gave her a reason to get fit. After weight training, the pair headed down to the indoor track. They enter the arena and Keith gave them a cheerful wave from across the track. He ran around and stopped in front of them, hopping out of his lane so other runners didn’t slam into him.

“Hello! And hello again!” The blond skidded to a stop right in front of the two brunettes with the biggest smile on his face.

“Hey, Keith! Running again?” Tetsuko stretched out her legs, feeling a slight tug from her right thigh. It had almost been a year since she’d be shot in the leg but the wound hadn’t healed as well as she liked and still gave her trouble sometimes.

“Yes, yes! Keeping the body healthy is a serious duty!” The blond proclaimed loudly. “Care to join me?”

“We’d love to, right ‘Tonio?”

“Sure.” Tetsuko grabbed the bull-man and the trio jogged around the track. After the first half mile Tetsuko’s breath evened out just a little as she got her rhythm, power surging to her legs the farther they went. Keith called out a hello to every new comer and Tetsuko teased him that he was trying to find a date. He, of course, denied doing such a thing. After the second mile, the girl challenged the boys to a race, the first to make it to four miles won, and the loser had to buy lunch.

“You’re on!” Antonio accepted, grinning widely. His specialty was endurance races so he was going to be a challenge.

“Sounds like fun!” Keith was a sprinter, but he’d get a huge lead and be hard to catch up too even if he slowed down. The trio stopped at what they deemed the start line and Keith asked a cute girl to count down for them. She smiled at him bashfully, blinking her eyes really fast like she was flirting. They got into position, crouched down to get as much traction from the track as possible.

“Four laps, buttheads!” Tetsuko reminded. Everything seemed to slow down to a single point: the words coming out of the cute girl’s lips.

“Ready…set…go!” She squealed. The three burst into motion as if shot from a gun, their feet pounding on the track. Keith was fast; his feet seemed to be flying on the wind as he pulled out in front. You’re not getting away that easily! Tetsuko panted heavily, laughing as she pulled in front of Antonio, taunting him with a smirk. He growled and sped up, but Tetsuko skipped away from him. After the first lap Tetsuko could tell that Keith was slowing up, his sprint becoming a steady pace. The second lap saw Antonio gaining on both of them, and the third all three of them were nearly neck and neck. Tetsuko felt a strain in her lungs, she couldn’t get enough air into her body, her mouth of dry, and her right leg was starting to cramp. The pain in her lungs blossomed throughout her body and the ache in her leg made her wince every time her heel hit the pavement. This always happens when she ran long distances, the ache and pain and irritation of pushing her body all got collapsed into little needling points of agony that tore at her bones. The only way to push through this is to run faster! She surged ahead, trying to pass Antonio who was getting in front even though she didn’t want to, couldn’t think of going any faster but did it anyway.

And then it was just gone. As fast as it came, the pain was gone, the cramp vanished into thin air and the fist eased off the girl’s chest. She was breathing easy, reveling in the simplicity of movement: feet pounding on the track, her arms swinging smoothly and her legs filling with power. Her long legs stretched longer, giving Antonio a run for his money as he tried to pull ahead. Keith was on their heels and Tetsuko was winning now, in front of the pack. The last lap flew past them and all there was to do was finish. She was so close! The brunette dashed towards the finish line happily. Quarter of the way there, halfway now, three fourths, almost done. Then the world slowed down to a single point again, only this time it was focused on Tetsuko’s heart. It skipped a beat, struggled to catch up and then beat too slow to sustain her running pace. What the hell? She stumbled, shuttering at the irregularity in her chest, clutching her shirt and took a bad step. Pain shot up her right leg, centering on her old bullet wound. Losing strength, her leg buckled and she crashed onto the synthetic track. She threw out her hands to catch herself, scraping up her palms and shredding her knees as she rolled uncontrollably. Tetsuko hissed as pain laced her skin, crumpled into her body to clutch her screaming leg with bloody hands once she had rolled to a stop, a cry stuck in her throat as the agony rendered her silent. She glanced up with glazed eyes as the boys came running back when they passed her.

“’Suko! What happened?” Antonio crouched down and put his hand on her head.

“Are you alright?” Keith was next to him in an instant, both boys breathing heavily on her face from their run. They sat her up and the blond pried her hands off her leg so he could stretch it out carefully. Tetsuko clutched Antonio’s arm in a death grip as the sting raced up her bones.

“Ow! Get your claws out of me!” The Spaniard exclaimed, tapping her hand to dislodge her fingers. He grabbed her hand instead, gripping tightly as Keith straightened out her knee.

“I’ll be fine, guys. It’s just a leg crap.” The woman lied; wincing at the blond gently worked the pain out of her leg. Seriously, he should be a physical therapist instead of majoring in politics. “It’s probably because I didn’t stretch out well enough before sprinting.” No need to tell them about the other stuff. It’s probably just a onetime thing. A fluke. It’s really nothing. I think.

“You need to be more careful.” Antonio and Keith picked her up and got her off the track so they didn’t impede other joggers.

“I’ll go get you a first aid kit for those cuts.” Keith went to dash off but a kit was shoved into his face. It was the girl who started the race.

“Here, I got one.” She blushed like crazy when Keith smiled and thanked her.

“Its fine, Keith! They’re not deep.” Tetsuko protested when Antonio held her down so the blond could clean her up. “Ow! That antiseptic hurts!” She cried when the wipe irritated her scrapes.

“That means it’s working. Hold still!” Antonio struggled to keep his hold when Tetsuko thrashed around.

“Stop moving or it’ll hurt more!” Keith used his lecture voice and clamped down on her legs, continuing what he had been doing. Once her knees and palms were bandaged, Tetsuko pushed the boys off her and pushed off Antonio to stand up. Her leg protested, threatening to buckle again as she put weight on it. The girl glanced around, blushing at the crowd she’d gathered in the past few minutes. “Geez, people! I just fell! Nothing to see here.” She waved everyone away as Keith packed up the first aid kit. Most just shrugged and went back to what they were doing before, but some were still concerned and hung around until Tetsuko growled at them to go away. The brunette started hobbling away, favoring her right leg.

“Are you sure you’re okay? Very sure?” Keith was right behind the girl, pestering her with his worry.

“Yep! I’ll be right as hail after I shower!”

“It’s ‘right as rain,’ dumbass.” Antonio snorted.

“Bunny does it cuter.” Tetsuko retorted, grumpy that she was being corrected by her best friend instead of her boyfriend.

“Yeah, well, I don’t care.” The brunette huffed and limped her way to the showers, waving off the boys with no success. The woman finally shook them off at the girl’s locker room.

“I’m showering, perverts! Go away!” She shooed the boys back out of the locker room when they deliberately walked in with her. She slammed the locker door in their faces and huffed again. “Hentai,” she breathed. Tetsuko stomped to the shower room as best she could, undressed and wrapped a towel around her body before walking to a stall. She turned the water as hot as she could stand and massaged her thigh, listening to the water pounding on her body mixing with the chatter of other women in the locker room. The searing pain was gone now, but the soreness still remained. “What was that?” Tetsuko mused. That was the first time in a while that her leg had collapsed like that. Not since Martinez, if I remember correctly. Of course she’d had stumbles from her leg, but not any more than her usual bouts of clumsiness. The brunette winced as she rubbed her thigh, finding that more of her muscle was in pain than just that one spot. It was her whole upper leg on the outside of her thigh. I’m probably going to have to get this checked if it doesn’t go away. But not today. I still have to go to work, then my other work, and then I have practice with Karina and Bunny for her video…ug! There’s too much to do! I can’t let this slow me down.

Tetsuko cleaned herself up, leaning against the wall heavily when her leg protested standing. Once all of her tan skin had been washed clean of sweat, she turned off the water and went to get out when the world shifted. Her foot came down on the slick floor and she slipped. Crashing ass first to the ground again, the brunette swore as she tried to stand up.

“Damnit! What is happening to me?” She shakily put her hands on the shower stall and hoisted herself up.

“Are you okay in there?” A female voice called, her shadow falling across the closed shower curtain.

“Yeah, I’m good. Just slipped.” Tetsuko replied, wanting the girl to leave so she didn’t embarrass herself further.

“Okay. Be careful.” The shadow walked away, her footsteps echoing off the locker room’s walls. Tetsuko sighed and reached for her towel, her hand feeling around, searching until she grabbed the cloth. Drying off and slipping back into her clothes and Oxford shoes, the woman left the showers to go dry her hair. Tetsuko fixed her usual vest and rolled up her green shirtsleeves before grabbing the hair dryer out of her locker and doing her hair. It now fell to her lower back and was a pain in the ass to do, but Bunny liked it so it was worth the trouble. The only problem was she didn’t know just how long she wanted it to grow. She shrugged and twisted her hair up into a bun and brushed out her spiky bangs. Dusting on a layer of mineral powder, a layer of lipstick, and a layer of mascara, the girl was good to go. Her leg felt better after the hot shower and whatever weirdness that made her fall over multiple times seemed to have passed. Tetsuko threw her beauty supplies into her locker, zipped up her dirty clothes in her gym bag, grabbed her other stuff and left the locker room. Both Antonio and Keith were waiting for her, worried expressions on their faces.

“Geez, what’s with you guys? Did someone die and make you my keepers?” The Japanese girl laughed and clapped them both on the shoulder. “I fall all the time, remember? No biggie.”

“If you say so, ‘Suko.” Antonio shrugged as if it was no big deal, but Tetsuko could tell he was still worried for some reason. “Wanna grab a bite?”

“Can’t, I have to head to work. Petra will kill me if I’m late again.”

“But you must eat to take care of your body! Eat to stay healthy!” Keith protested, patting the girl’s back.

“I’ll get something on the way there! See ya later!” Tetusko thought she hid her slight limp well as when walked away, but then the turned around to wave, the boys still looked troubled and she faked it better. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. They’re worrying over nothing. I’m fine.

Tetsuko sped walked to her Chaser, stretching out her muscles as she made her way around to the parking lot above the Humanities building. She slung her bags onto her rack and strapped them in as she mounted the bike. Tearing off into the streets, Tetsuko was left only with her thoughts now. Geez, Tomoe, those two are just as bad as you used to be, fussing and worrying over the little things. You’d think they’d never seen me fall before! Dumbasses, it was a onetime thing! I hope. Nothing can go wrong, Tomoe. I can’t have problems right now with everything that going on, especially if I’m going to be a police officer. I have to be able to help people and get out there to do it!

But you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself first.

“What was that?” Tetsuko looked around the Speedway as she zoomed past other drivers. Did someone say something? That’s impossible, I’m on a freeway! I can barely hear myself think as it is! The brunette shook her head and switched lanes to catch her exit. She made it to work an hour early, completely forgetting to grab lunch like she told Keith she would. After checking in with Petra, the woman slid into her seat (she finally had a desk!) and booted up her computer. Her team’s desks were lined up in a big rectangle facing each other, Circe on her right, Kira in front of her and Markus next to her. Circe was already at her desk and bumped her swivel chair into her roommate’s as the other brunette kicked her bags beneath her workspace.

“Hey, you’re early. That’s a first.” Circe held out her hand and Tetsuko fished out the article she’d marked up and handed it over. The other brunette took the packet and swiveled back to her computer to look over the corrections. “There’s a bank article that Stan’s sending in to you later today and apparently Lunatic attacked again. No casualties, but it’s plastered all over the news.” Today Circe’s theme was blue: navy high-waist pants, a light blue blouse tucked into that, sky blue heels and earrings. But Tetsuko already knew that because it had been hanging up last night in the apartment. Circe was one of those people, like Bunny, who planned everything out ahead of time and Tetsuko was one of those people who didn’t plan anything at all. It caused quite a few problems at the apartment because Circe would blow up in her face if she sprung an article or a hang out idea or movie tickets on her suddenly without warning. It messed up her schedule. Like this morning for example, when Tetsuko woke up late.

“Tetsuko Kaburagi! Get you fat ass out of bed! You’re going to be late!” An annoyingly loud voice shouted at the half asleep girl.

“Wha?” Tetusko fell out of bed, having rolled over to the side too far. She crashed to the floor, startled awake. She grabbed at the clock on her night stand, having overslept a half an hour. “Shit!” The brunette leapt into action, ripping off her pajamas and scrabbling around for her room, frantically finding clothes and packing her school bags.

“I told you to pack last night so this wouldn’t happen because I know you love to sleep in. But did you listen to me? No!” Circe walked up the stairs and began helping shove books into the girl’s school bag. Even in sleepwear and semi bed head, Circe was beautiful and Tetusko paused a moment just to look at her natural beauty. “Get moving, Tiger!” The other brunette snapped.

“Now you’re calling me that?”

“If I call Barnaby ‘Bunny’ I can call you ‘Tiger.’ Now, straighten you shirt. Your other shoe is over there.” Tesuko grabbed her shoe and fixed her shirt before grabbing her now packed bags and running down the stairs. She ran a brush through her long hair and popped a stick of gum in her mouth before heading out.

“Bye, Circ!” The Japanese girl called up.

“What about breakfast?” The other brunette shouted.

“No time!” Tetsuko grabbed her keys. “I’ll grab something after class!”

“Listen to me next time when I tell you to plan ahead and this won’t happen!”

“’Kay, mom!” The girl ran out the door, forgetting to get breakfast between classes.

Now that they were both up together, Circe and Tetsuko were in a much better mood and were joking before the other half of their team joined them.

“What’s so funny girlies?” Kira’s black clad figure slunk into her chair, dressed in a skirt that was just barely long enough to cover her crotch and, there’s no other way to describe it, a harlot’s corset. The laces were tied so tight that her chest looked like Tetsuko’s in her Wild Tigress costume and Kira had left her hair down today, completing the vampire look with red contact lenses and a red Sharpie streak colored into her hair. Tetsuko had never seen her real eye color, the woman kept switching contacts. Last week it’s been black, the week before that she’d worn amber. Even if she didn’t wear contacts, the brunette doubted that she’d recognize Kira’s real color. The witch dragged Markus in behind her dress in a gaudy, bright pink suit that glared off of every light and accented his bleached hair almost painfully.

“Okay, what’s with the suit?” Tetsuko asked, shielding her eyes while pointing her pen at the offending clothing.

“I lost a bet.” The man didn’t say anything else but Kira’s witch-smile told it all.

“I didn’t want to know this morning and I still don’t want to know.” Circe waved them off and went back to her article. “How was lunch?”

“You mean ‘coffee,’ right? Because that’s all Marky had.” Kira applied another layer of purple lipstick to her face.

“Don’t call me that! It’s not manly!”

“Neither is a pink suit.” Kira pointed out meanly.

“You’re the reason I’m this in the first place!”

“Stanley! What in God’s name are you wearing?” Hardwick clacked up to the editing team with her usual sour milk scowl.

“A suit, ma’am.” The man answered seriously.

“Don’t wear it again and when you get home, burn it.”

“Yes, ma’am!” He looked pleased with that order.

“Everyone else, back to work!” And then the manager clicked away to harass someone else.

“Short lecture today.” Kira noted, taking out of stack of reports to edit.

“Thank heavens.” Circe agreed. “Let’s do what she said and get to work.” They worked for an hour, played hangman for twenty minutes, went on a coffee run when Markus passed out suddenly because of his narcolepsy, and worked for another two hours before Tetsuko got up to leave.

“Hey, ‘Suko, do you want to get something to eat before work? You’ve got time.” Circe asked well before her shift, but Tetsuko declined.

“Love too, but I can’t. I have to head out a little early today. Bunny will kill me if I’m late again!” Tetsuko chuckled. “Oh, and remember that I have that practice tonight with Karina so I’ll be home late.” The girl went to stand up but Circe’s had grabbed hers.

“Don’t you think you’re doing too much? For example, this morning you were all over the place. I even had to help you pack!”

“I just woke up late!” Markus and Kira jumped into the conversation after that.

“Yeah babe, you’ll kill yourself like this. Even I can’t work two jobs and go to school at the same time!” Markus stated, clipping Kira with a rubber band he shot off his fingers.

“It’s fine, I can handle it.”

“Okay then,” Kira snapped the rubber band back as she talked. “Be sure to come with us tomorrow, honey. We don’t get to see you enough outside of this hell-hole we call work.”

“Sure! See ya!” Tetsuko ran out the door. On the drive to Silver, her stomach growled viciously and cramped, like a tiger was gnawing at her intestines. “Damn it! When was the last time I ate?” Tetsuko signaled her lane change as she searched her brain for the answer. “Oh yeah, three days ago. Antonio dared me to eat a jalapeño, cream cheese, horseradish crepe. Didn’t want to eat anything after that for two reasons: ew and my stomach’s still upset. I guess I should pick up something to eat.” Tetsuko showed up to the bar a half an hour early, promising herself to get something to eat later. Everyone on this shift was already there. Blue Rose, Fire Emblem and Barnaby were running around the restaurant like normal, the others would come in later to replace everyone except Emblem who was working a long shift today. Tetsuko called out that she’d be there in a minute and went to go change. Tetsuko clocked in and dumped her stuff in the girl’s dressing room and changed into her Wild Tigress outfit. Once the mecha was on, the girl noticed that the leotard didn’t pinch her butt as much, if fit slightly looser now. Perfect! My butt cheeks don’t hang out like an old lady’s boobs now. Thank you exercise! Her gloves and gauntlets covered up the scratched on her arms and hands and her tall boots did the same for her legs, completely hiding the fact that she had been a klutz again. She placed her domino mask over her eyes, pulled out her hair do and did it up in Blue Rose-ish style and skipped out onto the floor. Her coworkers greeted her; she gave Bunny a peck on the cheek, startling him and clacking their suits together in the process and waved to the regulars in the restaurant. She worked happily, exchanging school gossip with Bunny and Karina and chatted with Nathan in between picking up and taking orders. Bunny was SBO now and he loved being in control, Tigress could tell as he informed her of his meetings and projects he was working on. He also told her that Principal Maverick had received that job offered he’d been applying to for the past five years. Some company that deals in Barnaby’s parent’s old robotics work or something like that. Tigress listened halfheartedly, busing a table and wiping if off as her partner collected the dishes to be washed.

“Are you listening to me?”

“Yep. Uh huh.” The brunette replied, using her talent to say something while thinking something else. That something else happened to be her philosophy paper due in two days that she hadn’t started yet.

“I’m going to unclip your suit and let you flash everyone in the bar.”

“Cool. That’s great, Bunny.”

“Tigress!” His harsh tone got her attention and the girl looked up from the table.

“What?”

“You weren’t listening to me.” Bunny eyed her from his helmet, his displeased face on.

“Of course I was!” He cocked his head and lifted and eyebrow at her response. “Okay, you lost me at the end.” Tigress held up her hands in defense. Before Bunn could lecture her, Ben called the girl into his office. Tigress shrugged at her partner and clipped off to see what her boss wanted.

“What’s up Ben?” Tigress sat down in his guest chair, her legs glad for the rest. Her right thigh still pinched a little from her tumble earlier, but other than that she was fine.

“Antonio sent me a message about your crash this morning and I wanted to check up on you.” The black man’s warm eyes stared into the girl’s molten ones.

“I’m fine, Ben. I just tripped, per the norm! Man, what’s with all of you today? First Antonio and Keith, then my co-workers at the Journal and now you!” Tetsuko crossed her arms, her vague amusement at all the concern evaporating into irritation, the kind she only really showed around Ben.

“We’re just worried. I don’t want to give you too many hours here for you schedule, so let me know if it’s too much and I’ll give you a break.” Ben stared her right in the eyes and she knew that he knew that she was hiding something else. “I’m always here if you need to talk to someone.”

“Well, something strange did happen.” Tetsuko caved under his gaze, twiddling her thumbs in her gloves. Ben waited for her to go on. “Right before I fell…my heart skipped a beat, I think. Then I felt it beat slower and that’s when I tripped.”

“An irregular heart beat? You’re never hadn’t any problems like this before, have you?” Ben went into concerned mode, his mustache turned down into a frown. If I had a beard, it wouldn’t be a mustache, that’s for sure. Maybe a goatee.

“No and I suspect it was a onetime thing. I’m fine now. That’s about it.” Tigress put on her chipper face, standing up to get back to work.

“You’re probably right, but if it happens again I want you to see a doctor. We don’t want you to overdo anything and I can always get one of the others to cover you shift.”

“Thanks, Ben!” She walked out the door and promptly forgot the conversation as the six o’clock rush came in.

Eight rolled around and Tigress, Blue Rose and Barnaby clocked out so they could go practice. Karina’s mother had rented out a dance studio for the night where they were going to spend two hours going over the dace the blonde had choreographed. Walking up the stairs, Bunny had to catch Tetsuko when her foot slipped off a stair. She fell backwards into his chest and he hauled her back onto her feet.

“Why are you helping Karina when you can’t even stay on your feet?” Bunny asked.

“Because I can,” Tetsuko pouted and finished walking up to the third floor.

“I shouldn’t have asked.”

“That and the fact that Karina’s friends Jane and what’s-her-face won’t help her out.”

“So then why are we?”

“Because we can.” Bunny snorted at her and continued up the stairs. They changed into their exercise clothes: Karina in blue sweats and a gray T-shirt, Bunny in loose black shorts and a red shirt and Tetsuko just slapped on her bra and booties again. The whole reason they were doing any of this late on a school night was because Karina had posted a video on Viewtube and by a miracle, an agent for a recording company had seen it and contacted her. Now the blonde chick had an opportunity to get a contract, but she had to sing a cover version of the hit song “Thank You, Summer Romance” while dancing because apparently idols had to dance to be of use to anyone. She’d asked Tetsuko to dance with her when her other school friends bailed on her and then Tetsuko had dragged Bunny into it. The last time they’d practiced Karina found out that no matter how hard she tried, the brunette couldn’t dance to something that wasn’t spontaneous. She’d been dubbed “uncoordinated” for the rest of the week. But lighten the mood before Karina could really insult her, Tetsuko showcased her robot skills, getting both blondes to laugh at her. The whole practice the brunette had struggled with remembering what went where and Bunny ended up giving her a hard time about it.

“I thought you were supposed to be good at dancing, old lady. I’m kicking your butt and you taught me.” Bunny pointed out on one of their breaks after Karina blew up at the brunette for being a beat behind.

“I’m good-ish at dancing, not choreography. Dancing is spontaneous and fun and when someone plans it out, I’m pretty much useless.”

“So if you’re useless, then why am I here? I didn’t agree to this.”

“Because we’re partners. And besides,” Tetsuko gave him an evil smirk, “Just think, Bunny: if someone recognizes you from you’re modeling days, you might have a new job!” Tetsuko teased, laughing with her boyfriend blushed from the neck up. He wasn’t ashamed that he’d been a model, he just hated it when Tetsuko brought it up.

“Shut up.”

“Ya know, I never did get to see you in that Speedo…”

“I said shut up!”

“Come on! You looked hot!”

“I don’t care!”

“Do you still have it?” Bunny was silent, his blush creeping into an even brighter shade, if that was even possible. “You do!” Before the blond could respond, Karina came stomping back in and got the pair off their asses and got back to work.

That practice also happened to be the same one where Tetsuko cliché-ly slipped on a banana peel (she’d missed the garbage earlier) and dumped her coffee on Karina’s favorite towel, as the blonde had yelled at the brunette. She then didn’t speak to Tetsuko for the rest of the night. Now as the blonde girl stretched out, Tetsuko wondered if Karina was still giving her the silent treatment. She’d been fine at work, but who knows what could happen now. Karina just made the pair stretch out and got straight down to cleaning the routine with military efficiency.

“You were off by a beat!” Karina nitpicked once the trio had hit the last pose of about the billionth time they’d danced the routine. Tetsuko felt like she was acting like a stripper when she threw back her head, her breasts poking straight out while she was on the floor.

“I was?” She cocked her head at the blond.

“This is our last practice session! You have to get it right!” Karina was in one of those moods again: the kind where she started breaking glass and using it to slaughter anyone who pissed her off. Tetusko knew what she was about to do was going to tick her off more, but the blonde needed to chill the frig out.

“Yeah, how ‘bout we take a little break.” Tetsuko stood up and began walking away like she was shrugging the whole conversation off, when she really was taking Karina’s words to heart.

“What are you talking about? You need to work on this until you get it!” The blonde’s voice rose and octave, her snippy attitude biting the brunette’s ears off. Tetsuko stopped and swung her head to look back at both blondes.

“But I can’t have a breakthrough, without taking a break!” She smiled devilishly as she threw her hand into the air like Nathan would, all the while laughing at her lame joke. “Ha! I kill me!” She left the room but stayed near the door to make sure Karina didn’t surprise her with a surprise I’m-going-to-kill-you attack when the brunette’s back was turned.

“What is wrong with that woman?” Karina snapped and Tetusko heard Bunny get up from the floor.

“I have to say I thought the same thing.”

“What?” The blonde’s voice softened. “You’ve made the same lame joke about taking a break?”

“You misunderstood.” Bunny replied. Does he always have to sound so posh? “I meant that in the past I’ve wondered what was wrong with her as well.” Bastard, he’ll pay for that later.

“Oh, right.”

“But after hanging around her for a while I began to realize that she’s different.” Bunny sounded sincere, so you’d better not make any jokes about me being mental this time! Tetsuko waited for her boyfriend to finish with baited breath. “She’s the kind of woman who thinks about the needs of others before she thinks about herself.” There was a pregnant pause where Tetsuko wanted to give Bunny a big kiss for being nice to her while she was supposed to be out of the room. “Like this break. I’m sure she decided to do it so we wouldn’t get tired of practicing.”

“You sure about that?” Karina sounded skeptical but her temper had calmed down, and that was the goal all along. “Because that’s not the way I see it.”

“Not to worry. She’ll be ready before we film. Once she commits, she’ll never let you down.” Oh, and speaking of letting someone down, Tetsuko dashed off to her bag to grab her peace offering and walked back in as Karina finished talking.

“You know, you really have changed.” She was looking at Bunny and cut off her words as the brunette walked up to her. “Huh? That was a short break.”

“Here, before I forget. I’m sorry Rosie.” Tetsuko held out a new towel she’d swiped from the store. ‘Masa had just gotten in a new shipment and he wouldn’t miss one towel. Hopefully. “This is for you.” Karina’s face went slack, her jaw dropping a tiny bit. Tetsuko slipped her hand behind her head and she blushed slightly.

“Huh? What’s this?”

“Well, I kinda ruined your towel, if you remember. So here.” Tetsuko scratched the patch of skin in front of her ear, trying not to blush anymore in her embarrassment. She broke things all the time, but when it was her friend’s things, her guilt at being a klutz really came out.

“Wait, you bought this for me?” Karina took the towel and stared at it like the cloth was an alien. Then she unfolded it and the trio stared at it. Okay so it wasn’t perfect or “cute” but it was a towel, right?

“You sure she’ll be comfortable with that towel?” Bunny remarked, smirking at the green snake logo of Liquors Kaburagi. By experience, he knew the kanji spelled out the Kaburagi’s family business and Tetsuko mildly wondered if Karina knew that.

“Of course, she will! Right?” Tetusko gave Karina a look that said please just say yes to Bunny won’t harass me anymore!

“Huh?” She’s got to stop saying that. “Well, if you’re asking me whether or not I like the thing, then I don’t.”

“Oh.” Tetsuko felt really bad now. Every time I try to fix something I screw up. Typical.

“But I don’t have another towel, so I’ll use it.” Karina folded up the towel and held it close to her chest. “I don’t really have a choice.” Bunny laughed and walked away to get a drink.

“That’s the spirit.” He chuckled. When he was gone Tetsuko spoke again.

“I really am sorry I wrecked your towel.”

“Is alright, really.” Then Karina started running towards the studio door. “I think I’ll take a break!”

“Wait!” The blonde stopped and looked back. “Would you happen to be free tonight?” I don’t want her out too late, but I still need a little help. Karina looked surprised and at least a little happy. Tetsuko didn’t know if it was from the prospect of staying up later or having the perfect opportunity to grope the brunette’s chest, but either worked, she guessed.

“Five, six seven, eight.” Karina clapped out the beats as Tetsuko hit the final pose for the second billionth time that night.

“I got it! Whoo hoo!”

“Great. Can I go home now?” Karina looked dead tired, her expression droopy and angry at the same time.

“Are you mad at something?” Tetsuko asked, grabbing her water bottle. “Sorry for making you stay late, but I really wanted to make sure I got the routine down. Now Bunny can’t make fun of me!”

“Good for you. I’m leaving.” The blonde walked across the studio with ice in her tone.

“Ha! You’re boyfriend’s gonna be mad that you were out all night with an old lady!” Tetsuko flashed her some finger guns. “Come on, and tell me! I’m right, aren’t I?”

“No, I don’t have a boyfriend.” Okay, that’s weird. She doesn’t have a boyfriend? But she’d like, Ms. Player!

“So, you aren’t popular with the boys anymore? Seriously, girl, I’d think you’d have at least six by now!”

“But out, Boobs!”

“Huh?”

“I am perfectly capable of finding a boyfriend without your expect advice, you old fart!” Karina stormed out, leaving a confused brunette in her wake.

“What’s with her?”

Another week passed with Tetsuko juggling school, two works, workout schedules and individual practice times, but she managed not to kill herself and still be on time for the shooting. The recording company Titan had even sent over a professional camera man to film the trio on a performing stage that they’d borrowed for the evening. Two lonely stage crew hands who worked in the theater were the there to make sure any vandalism wasn’t committed to the theater’s property and Bunny had informed them beforehand that Tetsuko was bound to break something anyway and she’d punched him for it. But during the course of setting up the lights and stage, the skinny blond stagehand had disappeared. When Tetsuko pointed that out, Bunny just waved her off and did a final check on his hair while they lounged in the audience’s seats. His outfit consisted of an untucked, white button-up shirt, a black tie, black leather pants paired with his white belt and red boots. Tetsuko actually tried to keep hers less “retro” this time, wearing bright green skinny jeans with a black corset top. She was still wearing her flat Oxfords though and Circe had insisted that she curl her hair. The pair played a game of I Spy while Karina added the finishing touches to her make-up in a compact mirror, having left all her other things in the dressing room backstage. The blonde had stayed in character too, putting on her Blue Rose make up, but instead of the revealing costume, she wore revealing street clothes: navy colored jeans with lace detail, a light blue and very sparkly tank top, with matching blue heels. She’s also not but on her blue wig, for which Tetsuko was very grateful. It’s embarrassing to ride with someone on the subway when they look like a cosplayer and there’s no convention in sight.

“We’re ready on set!” The cameraman barked, ordering his assistant to adjust the camera a hair.

“Do they have to be so bossy about it?” Tetsuko sighed, standing up and working the stiffness out of her legs. “We’re right here!”

“Shush up. He can probably hear you.” The trio of young adults walked up onto the stage and one of the theater’s workers checked Karina’s microphone one more time before ghosting off the stage.

“Break a leg, sweetie!” Karina’s mom waved encouragingly from her seat in the audience. Karina ignored her, already in her singer-mode. They took their places and the camera was rolling. The music started up from the sound system and they were off. Tetusko thought she did pretty well, they did end up filming the routine like a billion times, but once she was off the stage, the brunette was very proud of herself.

“Hey! What do ya know about that? I am actually good a choreography!” She skipped down the hall to the dressing room with a huge smile on her face.

“Yeah right! You were sill off by a beat!” Bunny shrugged at her, a glow of triumph at being better floating around him.

“Well, excuse me, flash dance!” Tetusko snapped playfully, just grateful that this whole thing was finally done. Out of the corner of her eye, the Japanese girl spotted the blond stagehand who’d been absent for most of the filming. Oh, so he was still here. She saw him turn away around a curtain, a bright pinkish streak disappearing behind his body. His glasses-clad eyes flicked around, as if he were hiding something. She was about to call out for him when Bunny punched her arm in his I-know-you-know-I’m-being-playful-but-inside-I’m-enjoying-it way and she got distracted. Tetsuko pushed Bunny into the men’s dressing room while the girl’s headed inside their own. There they were greeted with disaster.

“What the hell?” Karina screeched. Her make-up bag’s contents were strewn all over the counter, her beauty magazines thrown on the floor and her pink bag missing.

“What happened in here?” Tetsuko asked, walking in and looking around. She wasn’t expecting an answer but Karina gave her one anyway.

“How should I know?” She snapped at the brunette, running around and gathering up all her stuff. “My bag’s gone!” Karina searched high and low but it was gone. She looked about ready to cry.

“Don’t worry, girlie. We’ll find your bag.” Just then the image of the blond stagehand being sneaky popped into Tetsuko’s head and she went into a moment of thought. He looked like he was hiding something when he was by the curtain. And then he turned away from me suddenly and ran. What if he knew I’d recognize whatever he was carry? What if it was Karina’s bag? Tetsuko leapt into action, running out of the dressing room and dashing across the stage to follow the blond bastard.

“Where are you going?” Karina yelled.

“I think I know where your bag went!” Tetsuko ran faster, not even heading Bunny’s cries when he asked what was going on. Tetsuko leapt over ropes and stage props until she ran out the exit and into the dark back alley way of the theater. The brunette heard the sound of and engine and flipped her head towards the street. The blond creep was just getting on his Moped, his very effeminate outfit looking like something Karina would wear. He smirked with blue lipstick on his face and revved the small engine before zooming out into the lit streets. Tetsuko growled and took after him, running with all the strength she’d built up at the gym.

“Give me back my bag!” Karina shouted at the thief as he drove into the street and Tetsuko dashed behind him on foot.

“Dude!” The brunette panted out, keeping just a few feet behind the Moped, “Just give us the bag back! There’s really nothing of value in there like money or something!”

“Are you completely nuts? Look at what you’re wearing! My guy friend would probably like to swap girl talk with you!”

“Go away!” He called back in his wheezy voice, pushing his bike faster. Tetsuko was in trouble, if he sped up anymore, she was going to lose him. And Karina’s bag.

“Why the hell would I do that? You’re the one with sticky fingers!”

“You don’t understand! You get to see Karina all the time!”

“I understand you’re a crazy stalker!” Tetsuko sped up, just an arm’s reach away from grabbing the thief off his bike before he got enough speed to leave her in the dust. She was almost…there…when it happened again. Her leg blazed in pain, and clenching her teeth to keep in a scream, Tetsuko lost her footing, her outstretched arms barely missing the punk’s collar. She folded, her body losing all the momentum she had gained from her run and hit the sidewalk with a hard crack. Damn it! Tetsuko cursed and got up again, no matter how much her leg was cramping. I can’t let them see me like this! She hobbled forward as quickly as she could, but she didn’t have to worry. Unexpectedly, Antonio’s truck pulled onto the street, taking a wide turn in the process and causing the thief to slam on the brakes, skidding to a stop two inches away from the green truck.

“Watch where you’re driving, bastard! I have the right of way, my light’s green!” The Spaniard yelled at the blond who nearly hit him and got out of the car to yank the skinny guy off his bike with one fist clenched against his collar.

“’Tonio! Grab the bag!” Tetsuko scrambled towards her friend, her finger pointing at Karina’s infernal bag. The bull-man gave her a strange look and snatched the pink bag out of the thief’s hands.

“This is what you wanted?” Antonio asked once Tetsuko had reached him, bent over panting as she grabbed the bag.

“Yeah, it’s Karina’s. What are you doing here?”

“You said you needed a ride home, remember?”

“Oh, yeah…”

“Tetsuko!”

“Boobs!” Both blonde’s plus one concerned mother and a stage hand came running up to the group.

“You got my bag back for me!” The blonde girl grabbed her bag and squeezed it tight once she’d reached the brunette.

“Well, actually, ‘Tonio did…” She was cut off by Bunny.

“Just don’t do anything else stupid. You were running in the middle of the road. What if a car hit you?”

“Always concerned about me, aren’t you, Bunny?” Tetsuko replied. Oh good, he didn’t see me fall. And Antonio didn’t either or else he’d be a lot more concerned. Right now, the bull-man looked like her wanted to pummel the thief who nearly dinged his car.

“If I lost my favorite accessory I’d lose half my mojo. That and the fact you wouldn’t be drooling over me anymore would suck.” Bunny winked seductively.

“I do not drool!”

“Yes, you do.”

“Do not!”

“Do too!”

“Shut up!” Antonio interjected. “Both of you quit you’re bitching!

“I do not bitch!” Tetsuko protested, ignoring the throbbing in her leg.

“No, you are a bitch.” Bunny remarked, shielding his face from his girlfriend’s fists as she attacked him.

“That’s it! You’re not getting laid tonight!”

“We’re not even having sex!” Barnaby replied indigently.

“Doesn’t matter! Get out of my sight, road kill!”

“With pleasure. That run messed up my hair and it demands my attention.” Bunny waved off the brunette’s insults about his hair and walked off. Antonio was walking off with the other stagehand to hand the bag thief over to the police when they arrived. Karina’s mother was shooed away by Karina and then it was just the two girls.

“Uh, Boobs…” Karina started. The brunette turned to her, half thinking about soaking in the bath tonight to relax her cramping muscles and half listening to the blonde. Karina unzipped her bag and pulled out her towel. “I’m a…I’ll treasure this forever!” Karina suddenly blurted out, and then ran off blushing and giggling at the same time.

“That was weird.” Tetsuko decided, watching Karina dash away. She shrugged, rolled the Moped onto the sidewalk and hopped into Antonio’s truck to drive it back to the theater.


Barnaby loved being the SBO President. He loved the meetings, activities, fundraisers and the responsibilities. They let him strut his stuff and her perfect hair. Right now he was in a budget meeting with his presidency and the club leaders and they’d been hashing out the school’s budget amount for club activities to an hour and a half and blond was very pleased with their progress. They weren’t done by a long shot, and even though Barnaby could stay in this meeting all day, he noticed that his classmates were losing interest. Time to stop for the day and Barnaby internally moaned at their ineptitude for paying attention.

“Alright, we’ve covered all the major budget concerns if you need to discuss finer points, please feel free to contact the treasurer or myself. That’s all for today.” Barnaby let the kids go, closing the meeting with brisk professionalism. The club leaders scattered like mice in the presence of a cat, leaving the blond alone in the school’s conference room. Shrugging, Barnaby began to gather up his papers and folders and tidied up the oval conference table. He shoved abandoned handouts into and pile and his eyes grabbed onto a square of intricately folded paper as it was shot across the table. He glanced down at it, choosing to ignore the person who slid it to him, and noticed that it had his name on it. Or his nickname anyway. Barnaby picked up the note, glanced at it, and then rolled his eyes towards the woman twirling around in a swivel chair at the foot of the table.

“Do you have to act like such a child?” He remarked pointedly at his girlfriend. Today she wore a simple ensemble: black dress slacks, a simple, loose blouse and her Oxford heels. A visitor’s pass was pinned to her shirt, glinting in the lights of the room.

“Do you have to act like a stuck up jerk? That was not the greeting I wanted to hear.” Tetsuko stopped her spinning and grinned at the blond brightly. She had had an early shift today at the Journal and Ben had given both of them the day off, making this officially date night.

“What were you expecting?” Barnaby carefully unfolded the note and read the simple message it contained: Bunny, I love how you try to make everything perfect. It make me want to be perfect for you – Tetsuko. The boy smiled softly. You’ll never be perfect, but you’re perfect to me.

“I don’t know,” Tetsuko leaned back in her chair and kicked her foot off the ground to spin again. “Maybe a ‘hi, Tetsuko,’ or a smile, or a kiss-“ She was cut off by Barnaby walking around the table and grabbing the arm rests of her chair, bringing her spin to a halt and pressed his lips against hers. Barnaby loved kissing Tetsuko because she surprised him most every time they did it. Today the blond throught she’d attack his face or something because she’d asked for a kiss, but instead she kept it simple, slowly moving her lips against his They parted and the girl smiled widely.

“Like that?” Barnaby asked.

“Yeah. You’re getting better at these public displays of affection.”

“Public? We’re alone in the conference room.”

“Bunny, the door is open.” The brunette hooked a thumb towards the door where several students were peeking in. Barnaby put on his displeased face to cover up his embarrassment at getting caught kissing his girlfriend.

“Don’t you have club activities to attend?” He raised and eyebrow disdainfully. The spies dashed off faster than a bat out of hell.

“You’re scary when you do that.” Tetsuko remarked from under the blond.

“You left the door open on purpose.” He let go of the chair and straightened his school uniform.

“Na, I just forgot to shut it.” Tetsuko stood up, brushing off her pants and pulling her blouse down. Barnaby really liked her work’s dress code; it forced the brunette to spruce up a little. “Hey, do you even like all this meeting stuff? Seems kind of boring to me.”

“Yeah, I do. In fact I’m starting to have fun.”

“Fun? Are you serious?” Tetsuko crossed her arms akimbo, like she couldn’t believe that Barnaby liked meetings when she clearly knew he did.

“My whole life used to be about revenge, but now everything feels different.”

“You’re telling me. First you wouldn’t shut up about Ouroboros and now you’ve completely wiped them from your mind.”

“Which is all the better for you anyway. Now I won’t lose you in the conversation.”

“I resent that.” Tetsuko stuck her tongue out at him.

“I know.” Barnaby’s eyes flicked down to sneak a peek at her pushed up breasts. She’d been so busy that he nearly forgot what they looked like in a button down. Then, while he was distracted by her chest, Tetsuko chucked a bag at him.

“Oof!” Barnaby caught the backpack against his abs and held it by one strap. “What was that for?”

“That’s the date night bag. It’s got everything you need. Except one thing.” Tetsuko’s eyes lit up and she smirked evilly.

“And what would that be?” Barnaby didn’t know if he should run now or run later.

“You’ll see!” Tetsuko dashed out the door, slinging her own bag onto her back.

“Get back here, old lady! Where are we going?” Barnaby ran after her, drawing attention to both of them as they careened through the school’s halls. Tetsuko had taken the bus today, saying that she wanted to joyride in the blonde’s new red sports car that Maverick insisted he had. He’d disapproved of the motorcycle from the start and decided that Barnaby needed a more sophisticated mode of transportation. Barnaby really didn’t care either way, but he had to admit that the car was seriously cool. Of course, Barnaby didn’t let his girlfriend drive; they’d get in a crash that way. In the end, they ended up at the recreation center where Tetsuko proceeded to humiliate Barnaby.

“No, old lady! I’m not wearing that!” The blond tried to keep his face from breaking out into a blush.

“But I didn’t pack you any other swimsuit!” Tetsuko held up the pink and blue striped monstrosity by one of the leg holes and twirled it around her finger. She smiled, clearly pleased with the boy’s situation.

“How did you even get that?”

“I accidently found it in a locked trunk in the back of your closet. You’re going to have to replace the lock ‘cuz I kind of broke it.” Tetsuko waved the Speedo in Barnaby’s face and pulled it out of his reach when he grabbed for it.

“How did you get in? My apartment has a code and a fingerprint scan on the lock!” Barnaby leapt at the girl and she danced out of the way.

“First, you building’s doorman let me in and I asked him to add me to your scan thingy since we we’ve been going out for, like, forever. And the fact that your pass code is the first eight digits of pi was easy to guess. Seriously, I Googled it. Then I went up into your room and used Barnaby-logic. Where do you put clothes? In the closet. Where do you put really embarrassing clothing that you want no one to see? In a secure box in the back of said closet. I also found your superhero action figures in there, but I’ll save that teasing for later.” Tetsuko dodged Barnaby’s hands as he tried to grab his Speedo.

“Give that back!”

“Never!” She laughed gleefully. “I want to see you in it!”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“No!”

“Do it and I might just lose my top in the pool,” Tetsuko sang, waggling her eyebrows at him.

“Don’t think you can change my mind by offering to flash me.” Barnaby had entertained the thought for 1.2 second, but decided that if he gave in once, he’d give in next time too. Even if the reward was sweet. Tetsuko put her hands on her hips, the swimsuit still clenched in her fist.

“Then I guess you’ll be swimming naked. I think I’ll like the show.” She cocked her head at him, winking seductively.

“Fine! Give me the damn thing!” Barnaby swiped the suit out of her tan hands and sulked off to the locker room. This is not going to be fun. I thought this thing was going to collect dust for the rest of my life. I should’ve burnt it when I had the chance. Oh, well. At least I can show the old lady up in the sexy category. My abs beat hers every time. Barnaby changed in the locker room, hiding from any other men in there and took a good look at himself in the mirror as he tied up his curls in a short pony tail at the base of his neck. Chiseled abs, long, lean legs, toned arms and defined pectorals, Barnaby Brooks Jr. was every woman’s dream. And some men’s too, as he found out when a creeper was watching him in the locker room. The blond glared at him dangerously and the dude raced out of the room. There is no way she’s not going to be drooling all over me, but I really wish it wasn’t because of this swimsuit. Barnaby sighed and grabbed his towel. Outside Tetsuko was waiting for him in a blue and white striped halter bikini with matching bottoms. So this must be the mysterious fourth swimsuit she didn’t wear during spring break. I like it. She was pulling her long hair back into a low pony tail, a pink inner tube rested against her leg, the pink frill around the side making it seem like a child’s toy. It probably was.

“Finally!” She threw her arms in the air, staring happily at the blonde’s swimsuit. Barnaby noticed that her waist was slimmer and decided that she was damn hot enough to maybe beat him in the sexy category.

“You really wanted to see me in this that much?” He folded his arms, keeping the embarrassed blush down. I’m usually fine with displaying my body, so why does this girl make me so shy?

“Seriously, the photos I found on Google are nothing compared to this!” Barnaby pushed his glasses up his nose in distain. “You’re going to swim in those? You seriously need to get contacts.

“I find it inconvenient to have to put lenses on my eyes to see when glasses are perfectly capable of the same thing.”

“Yeah, but now they’re going to get soaked in chlorine.”

“I’ve got four other pairs.”

“Three actually. I kinda broke one.” Tetsuko twiddled her thumbs as they walked down the water soaked floors to the pools. The smell of chlorine got stronger with each step and the screams of splashing children and adults echoed off the tiles.

“You did what?” Barnaby fumed.

“I used them to pick the lock on the chest that I found in your closet. Oops.” Tetsuko dodged Barnaby’s light punch (not really trying to hurt her but he had to do something to get her to understand that he was angry) and she slipped on the wet floors.

“Ow!” Her butt bounced off the tiles as she skidded a few feet down the hall.

“Are you okay?” Barnaby reached out his hand to help her up but she just smacked him with her inner tube.

“It’s your fault I fell! You tried to punch me!” She stood up, using the wall as a support.

“You used my glasses to break open a lock on my trunk in my closet!” He shot back.

“All to get you to wear sexy clothing!”

“I do wear sexy clothing!”

“Let me rephrase that: to make you wear revealing clothing. Better?” Tetsuko picked up her

“Yes, that’s more accurate.” And just like that, the fight evaporated. Tetsuko grabbed Barnaby’s hand and dragged him into the indoor pool complex. There was a pool for the children with a playground, a pool for playing water polo and shooting hoops and a pool for serious lane swimming and diving.

“Last one in gets a wedgie!” Tetsuko sang, speed walking towards the game pool.

“Don’t run! You slip enough without help!” Barnaby tailed her, waving off other girl’s stares as they drooled over his Speedo. I am never wearing this again, he vowed mentally, kicking himself for giving in to the brunette. He over took Tetsuko and leapt into the pool first with a graceful plunging dive. He hit the water hands first and made a minimal splash. When the boy popped up, Tetsuko threw her inner tube at his head and took a couple steps back from the edge of the pool.

“What are you waiting for, old lady? Your hip replacement?” Barnaby taunted, backstroking further away from her so he didn’t get jumped on.

“Move aside, grasshopper! My water ninjutsu is an ancient art passed down for many generations.” Tetsuko hit some ninja poses, waving her arms in the air like a dork and then clapped her hands together like she was praying. She half ran toward the pool and jumped high into the air. “CANNONBALL!” She hit the water with a colossal splash, her knees pulled tight into her chest. Barnaby shielded his face from the splash, but the force of her cannonball pushed him further into the pool by force. Tetsuko surfaced, gasping for air and laughing at the same time. She’d lost her hair elastic in the jump, her beautiful brown hair clinging to her head and shoulders. Barnaby swam over to her, pulling the inner tube behind him and handed it to the girl with an innocent smile.

“That didn’t look like ninjutsu.”

“That’s because it wasn’t.” Tetusko grabbed onto the pink inner tube and smacked some of her wet hair out of her face. Barnaby made a show of helping the brunette with her hair and swam around behind her to pull it back. Then his fingers drifted lower, over her shoulders, back and down to her hips. “Bunny what are you-“ Then he hooked his fingers in her swimsuit and yanked it up. “Ow! What was that for?” Tetsuko tried to smack him in the face but the blond laughed and ducked under the water. He watched his girlfriend reach for her bottoms, the water blurring his vision even with his glasses. Right now, her butt cheeks were hanging out of the cinched up suit, tan mounds of muscle that had (to Barnaby’s surprise) tightened up since the last time he’d seen them bare. Tetsuko pulled out the wedgie and Barnaby popped up again.

“You said the last one in would get a wedgie. I was just doing what you said.” Barnaby covered up his face as a wave of water crashed into him. Tetsuko splashed him and started a water war and even dragged other swimmers into it. After they were both tired of getting chlorine in their eyes, both young adults floated and swam around the pool, Barnaby trying out different swimming strokes and Tetsuko just floating in the middle of her inner tube. They drifted into the shallows and when the blond could stand with half of his body out of the water, he scooped up his girlfriend in a princess carry and chucked her further down the pool. She squealed in delight and Barnaby noticed that she had flown farther than he’d meant to throw her. She also felt lighter in my arms. I wonder if she’s lost weight.

“Bunny! Do it again!” Tetsuko swam back to him, smiling like a fool.

“Hey, Tetsuko, did you lose weight?” Barnaby asked when she reached him.

“Don’t act so surprised, I can lose weight if I want too.” Tetsuko smacked the water with her open palm and sprayed the blond. “It’s all those work outs I told you about. Antonio and I go to the gym most every day now. I’m trying to get into the police academy and you seriously have to be ripped to pass the fitness test.” That’s right, she mention trying to get into the police force. Well, if anything all this exercise is doing her some good. Barnaby smiled and picked her up again and tossed her down the pool. Then some chick tried to basically seduce the blond when Tetsuko had to go to the bathroom and when the brunette came back, the girl got her ear chewed off. So did Barnaby for that matter.

“Hey, you should’ve known that putting me in this was going to attract unwanted attention. I can’t help that I’m a stud.” Barnaby shrugged as Tetsuko defended her territory from another girl who was trying to take a picture of Barnaby from her dry spot on a towel.

“Yeah, but this is for my pleasure, not anyone else’s! If you apartment had a pool I would’ve made you put it on there! But no, you had to pick a complex that didn’t have a pool!” Tetsuko harmlessly splashed the blond girl who dashed away to save her phone from water damage.

“What does my apartment not having a pool have to do with this?”

“Nothing! Forget I mentioned it.” Tetsuko swam back over to Barnaby and kissed him on the cheek. Then she yanked his swimsuit down, causing the blond to scramble to cover his manhood.

“Old lady!” He hissed as he pulled his Speedo back up.

“That’s payback, stud.” She drawled , sending shivers up Barnaby’s spine. The blonde’s hands moved at lightning speed, intent on revenge as he pulled out the knot holding Tetsuko’s halter up. The cloth fluttered down and the girl scrambled to catch it before her breasts popped out. “Bunny!”

“Tetsuko!” He mocked, swimming as far away and as fast as he could. The brunette growled and tied her suit together before giving chase. They swam in circles, weaving in between other swimmers and avoiding the lifeguard as the prey and the predator played their game. Barnaby turned around in the water to tease his girlfriend when she dropped under the water. The blond looked down, preparing for an attack on his ankles. Tetsuko launched herself at his waist instead and they both became a splash of waving arms and laughter. The brunette challenge Barnaby to a diving contest, swimming to the side of the pool and heading towards the diving boards. They joined the line for the high dive, chatting the shivering in the cold air. Barnaby went first, performing a flawless swan dive into the deep end.

“Do you have to be perfect?” Tetsuko called down to him when he surfaced as she climbed up the ladder.

“Yes,” came the reply. She rolled her eyes at him and continued to climb. Barnaby swan the appropriate distance away to watch her dive. She cannonballed again, sending off the biggest splash yet. Barnaby shook his head at her and waited for her to come up. Tetsuko didn’t surface for a few seconds, and then a few more, the ripples from her splash the only indication that she was still down there. Barnaby waited for a moment more, and then dove under the water, a sense of panic flowing into his limbs. Tetsuko was huddled halfway between the deep end’s floor and the surface, hovering as she clutched one of her legs. The blond heard muffled shouts from above the water, and another body dove in behind him. Barnaby shot down to the brunette, grabbing onto her shoulders to let her know he was there. Tetsuko let out a stream of air bubbles and the life guard showed up to help Barnaby haul the girl up in her ball. They broke the surface with gasps of air and Barnaby and the life guard dragged Tetsuko to the pool’s edge. Barnaby climbed out first, helping lift his girlfriend out of the water as the life guard pushed her into his arms. She was hissing and gasping at the same time, still holding onto her leg.

“Tetsuko, what’s wrong?” Barnaby asked, keeping the fear out of his voice and laying her down on the concrete. He was near hysteria inside, but on the outside he projected calm and cool.

“Give me her leg.” The life guard’s hands prying the girl’s away as he straightened out the muscle. Tetsuko yelped, gabbing onto Barnaby’s arm.

“It’s just a leg cramp! Stop that! It hurts!” Tetsuko tried to grab her leg back but the life guard wouldn’t let her smacking her hands away.

“If she’s complaining that means she’s fine.” Barnaby stated, relief filtering into his voice. Damn, that girl scared me! What if she hadn’t come up? “Since when do you suffer from cramps?”

“Since I started my period, ass wipe.”

“You know what I meant.” Barnaby’s relief was turning into anger as Tetsuko tried to deflect the question.

“This is only the second time. I think I need more potassium in my diet.” The brunette got checked over by the life guard and when he determined that she was going to be fine, he shooed away the crowd that had gathered around the trio. Barnaby helped Tetsuko stand, letting her lean on him until her leg felt better.

“Do you always have to drawn a crowd when we’re here?” He asked, shuffling the girl off to their towels and a bench.

“Hey, the ice skating was not my fault.” The boy snagged the towels and wrapped them both up and sat down on the bench.

Date night went swimmingly after that, literally and even though Barnaby had to beat some girls away with a stick, he didn’t mind the attention, especially if it made Tetsuko jealous. They got in the water again, staying the shallows as the brunette loosened up her leg muscles again and Barnaby didn’t roughhouse with her anymore. Even if it meant getting splashed with no way to retaliate, so be it. Back in the locker room showering up, the blond vowed to hide the Speedo somewhere Tetsuko wouldn’t find it. It would be better to get rid of the thing altogether, but he didn’t have the heart to give it up. If it gave the brunette wet dreams about seeing Barnaby in it again, all the better for the blond. Rinsing off the chlorine, Barnaby put himself back together with practiced hands until he was dressed in one of Tetsuko’s hoodies and a pair of jeans and his red boots.

Barnaby walked out of the locker room and spotted Tetsuko fiddling with her phone against the wall, leaning heavily on her good leg.

“You take forever, Bunny. I even dried my hair.” To prove her point, the brunette did the shampoo commercial hair wave.

“Mine looks prettier.” Barnaby ran a pale hand through his locks and preformed his signature flip. A girl down the hall gasped and squealed and Tetsuko gave her a fierce glare.

“Don’t say that. It makes you sound gay, like Nathan.”

“But I’m not.”

“Well obviously. You’re dating me.” Tetsuko preened, showing off all her curves in jeans and a Mr. Legend T-shirt. She’d wore the thing so many times that Legend’s face was half faded and the graphic was cracked. “Anyway, Keith’s girlfriend’s back in town.” Tetsuko scrolled something on her phone and continued taking, “Okay, so they’re not official but with the way Keith’s acting they might as well be.”

“It Nathan spying?” Barnaby strolled over and leaned in to get a better look at the screen.

“Yep. And he’s keeping me updated, but he’s gonna have to turn in soon. He’s got an early test tomorrow for his biotech class. Something about renewable energy.” Tetsuko sent off another message and pocketed her phone. “Apparently she’s a cutie, but he’s getting nowhere with her. They met, like, forever ago and he’s only just now making his move.”

“Maybe she’s hard to approach without sufficient preparation.”

“And you’d know all about that.”

“Preparation is an important step to any endeavor. Not that you’d know anything about it.”

“Prep is for cautious people! You just got to get out there!” Tetsuko started skipping down the hall, her bag bouncing off her butt. They talked more about Keith’s girlfriend in the car, Barnaby driving around to the other side of Silver. They were cruising down the speedway, Barnaby just taking a less frequented route to his girlfriend’s apartment and at this time of night, the road was completely empty. Tetsuko was blathering on about the police academy she was trying to get into and how knowing the difference between expressionism and impressionism was pointless if you were pursuing a career in art when the unexpected happened. And by unexpected, Barnaby meant a crashing billboard. He slammed on the breaks and shoved the steering wheel all the way to the left as Tetsuko screamed. The falling structure nearly pulverized the car, and Barnaby swerved out of the way, knowing he’d never hear the end of it if Maverick found out he wrecked the car after having it only a week. The blond turned the vehicle around, the back wheels skidding to face the car the other way as they ground to a halt. Tetsuko was clinging to his torso and shoulder, a terrified expression on her face.

“Whoa! What the hell?” She yelled, gazing out the window. Barnaby caught sight of a white haired girl in a red dress punching the hell out of another billboard just down the street, her hand digging into the metal frame as she cracked the lights underneath. What is she? An injured man was kneeling close to where she was. The blond pulled the car out of the way and both young adults leapt out the car and ran towards the man. The girl had decided she’d killed the flickering screen of a gorgeous brunette model enough and turned on the man shouting her name.

“Cis! Stop!” The gray haired man was clutching his arm and Barnaby reached him just as the girl pulled her fist back to punch another billboard that was behind him. The blond scooped up the man and carried him to safety as the sound of shattering glass and electricity went off behind him.

“Are you alright, sir?” The man was older, his gray hair long and flipped up from the sides of his head. His nose was red for some reason and his gray eyes stared at Barnaby like he couldn’t believed he’d been saved.

“Aren’t you-“ He began in a smooth, yet frazzled voice. Tetsuko leapt in front of the males as the white haired girl yanked her fist out of the sparking billboard.

“I’ve been itching for a good fight!” Tetsuko growled, baring her fangs.

“Be careful, she looks really strong.”

“Duh, that’s why it’ll be fun to pound her into the ground.” Cis, Barnaby guessed that the girl’s name, loomed with her shoulders hunched and head down. She uttered a string of word in a robotic voice, taking a step towards the group and listing all over the place.

“Sexy, celebrity, popular, nerdy, smart, professional…” She kept up her chant with each step she took, her blue eyes glowing an eerie red. She shot toward Tetsuko like she was thrown from a cannon, grabbing onto the brunette’s ribs as they were both pushed back ten feet.

“Finally! A challenge!” Tetusko hissed as she pushed against the girl’s shoulders, her tan fingers digging into the girl’s white jacket. “Hey! Lady! Whooooaaa!” Tetsuko shouted as she strained against the hold on her. Then Cis tightened her grip and threw the brunette into the air with tremendous force. Barnaby nearly dropped the man he was holding to go catch his girlfriend when she landed heavily in a crouch, safe on the ground against.

“Popular, smart, charismatic…” Cis rambled, turned back to face the group. Barnaby set down the man and joined his partner in a fighting stance.

“I guess talking isn’t an option.” He stated.

“Then it’s time for plan B.” Tetsuko affirmed. They leapt at the girl at the same time, getting behind her and each grabbing one of her wrists and shoulders and pulling her arms up. Her head went crazy, twitching all over the place before Barnaby felt her arms straining and was surprised when the girl brought her arms down roughly and spun both him and Tetsuko around and around. They both screamed, (manly in Barnaby’s case) but as Cis spun faster and faster, he let go and skidded to a halt on the concrete, using his hands and heels as brakes.

“She’s powerful!” He announced rather belatedly.

“No, duh!” Tetsuko shot back still hanging on while Cis spun. “What’s wrong with her? This is crazy!” Tetsuko was flipped upside down the white haired girl brought her down to the ground on her back. Barnaby flinched as Tetsuko cried out.

“Perfect. She’s perfect.” Barnaby’s focus shot to the man still sitting on the ground, watching the fight with awe. Tetsuko got up quickly before Cis could strike again, and ran towards a building. The white haired girl raised her hand as she pursued and brought it down just a hair’s breadth behind Tetsuko’s retreating back, cutting into a brick wall and sending up a cloud of dust. When debris cleared a little, Barnaby saw Tetsuko staring at something he couldn’t see. Then Cis’ head spun all the way around as she turned her body, her head staying in the same place while a synthetic skin torn around her neck.

“Yes. No. I am sorry. I don’t know. I am fine. Popular. Sexy.” Cis’ arms reached around the twisted her head back into place as electricity sparked and swarmed around her body. “Yes.” Her voice sounded less human by the second, now just a garble of electronic noise formed into words. Barnaby couldn’t believe his eyes: this was the robot his parent’s wanted to create. A android that looked just like a human.

“That chick! She’s not human!” Tetsuko shouted, frozen by the Freudian display that the robot was putting on.

“I had no idea that such an advanced android even existed! It was all just concept a few years ago!” Barnaby’s mind was mentally flipping thorough all his parent’s research as the synthetic skin on the robot burned away over one eye, exposing a flesh colored face of metal beneath it.

“No, it couldn’t until now.” The gray haired man was standing by Barnaby now, his hands folded behind his back, his black coat billowing in the evening air. “I’m the one who brought her into existence.”

“You created her?” Barnaby asked in awe.

“Yes. To show the world that androids have infinite capabilities. That they could easily surpass humans.” The man’s voice got smoother and more passionate as his little speech continued.”All my life I’ve worked to create a perfect cybernetic being, one that will rise above us all.” Okay, he’s officially off his rocker, Barnaby thought, getting out of his crouch. “I poured all of my data into one prototype: Cis. She is perfect! Cis is my masterpiece!”

“Perfect. Popular. Well rounded. Geeky. Hot.” Cis continued her chant as she pulled back her arms to punch at Tetsuko.

“Knock it off! And stop babbling already!” The brunette, defended herself with her forearms, tucked into her body to reduce the robot’s target area.

“What do you want? Why did you program her to act so crazy?” Barnaby demanded.

“She’s not programmed to do this. This is all just a peculiar malfunction.” The man thought for a second. “Her memory is full of data about most everything in this world. I wanted her to be well rounded in everything from poetry to mechanics, stardom to obscurity. I wanted to her to become the strongest being in the world, so I needed powerful examples for her to draw from: today’s most popular celebrities, the world’s most celebrated artists, victorious war lords, smartest scientists and richest people in the world. You name it, she’s got it stored somewhere.”

“But then, a few months ago the vehicle that was transporting her was struck by lightning. In the commotion that followed afterward, Cis jumped out the car and fled and I didn’t see her for months. By the time I was able to track her down; her system seemed to be damaged by the electrical shock.” The man’s’ face never left the fight as Cis swung her arms again and again, trying to hit Tetsuko who dodged every single one. Cis sweep kicked, but the brunette leapt up dodged and avoided another fist thrown her way. “Now every time she’s sees something similar to information stored in her interface, she shifts into battle mode instead of using her data to learn and that’s what we’re witnessing now.”

As interesting as this was, Barnaby needed to stop the chit chat and get in there to help Tetsuko because not only were they fighting in the street, someone had started a fire. Barnaby glared at the man who was in a monologue now and turned back just in time to see Tetsuko get jabbed in the face and fall to the ground. “But this is far better than I imagined! And none of it would’ve been possible without your parent’s research.” Barnaby started in shock, his eyes widening. Who is this guy?

“You still don’t recognize me, young man?” The man turned to face the blond, his features popping up in Barnaby’s mind younger, with chestnut hair and a funny looking beard. Barnaby had seen his face before, and it clicked.

“You’re-“

“The name’s Rotwang and I worked for your mum and dad.” An old photograph Barnaby had flashed though his head, a picture of his parents and himself surrounded by other scientists. Rotwang was standing next to his mother, a small smile on his face. “And yes, Cis is based on their research. It was passed down to me and I took it to the next level. They would’ve been so pleased.” Barnaby’s vision snapped back into the present at those words, his anger getting the better of him.

“The hell they would!” He yelled. “My mother and father wanted to build a machine that could save people’s lives! Not some mindless weapon of mass destruction like that thing’s become!”

“Young man, I put their theories into practice! As scientists, that’s what they would’ve wanted!” A cry of pain diverted his attention as Cis yanked Tetsuko up by her hair and dragged her across the street to throw her into a wall.

“I am sorry. I don’t know. I am fine.” Cis’ voice no longer sounded human, just a garbled mechanical noise formed into words. She looked at Tetsuko for a moment, slumped against the ground and walked away. Most of her skin and clothes had burned away, leaving nothing but the metal shell of her form behind.

“Unfortunately, Cis will continue to destroy the city unless she is shut down. Sternbild is plastered with advertisements and billboard’s that will jump start her interface and mess with her system.“ Rotwang smirked as he came to this realization.

“Damn it!” Barnaby hissed.

“Okay, that really hurt.” Tetsuko stumbled to her feet. “Why does it always have to be fucking robots! Why are they always trying to kill me!” She pointed an accusing finger at Barnaby, wiping some blood and dust off her face. “And you’re not help at all! Chatting away with your new best friend!” She turned back to the robot and growled. “It’s payback time!”

Tetsuko ran and Cis and leapt onto her body, planting her feet on the robot’s shoulders and hooking her fingers under her chin. Cis tried to throw her off, twisting and turned around quickly. “Hey! Quit moving! Whoa! What the?” The brunette shouted, then she shuddered violently and hunched into her body. Cis took the opportunity to activate some jets in her legs and float off the ground. Rising into the air, she swung around hard and tossed Tetusko into a pile of garbage bags.

“Hold it!” Barnaby raced to stop the robot before she could go anywhere, grabbing onto her waist and weighing her down before Cis could escape. “Are you okay?” He shouted back to the brunette. She glared at him from her trash. “Sorry, standard question!”

“Aw, crap.” Tetsuko cursed, letting out a string of Japanese swearwords which Barnaby half understood. The jet’s heat was scorching the blonde’s pants but he didn’t dare let go. “Damn it! Why does she have to fly too?”

“Hold it you metal fiend!” A piece of debris smacked Cis in the face and threw off her trajectory. She and Barnaby swerved around in the air before crashing to the ground. The blond rolled away and hopped up to face the robot. Keith came running up towards him, more rocks in his hand. The robot’s neck and head were sparking out of control as she stood back up.

“She’s like a zombie!” Tetsuko called out, struggling to stand. “Get her brain!”

“Great advice! Now why don’t you come over here and prove it?” Barnaby shot back.

“Can’t! thanks to your little chat, I got the shit kicked out of me!”

“You’re useless.”

“I am not!”

“Stop fighting, you two! Fighting each other is not what we need to be doing now!” Keith chucked a rock as the robot’s leg and smashed the jet right off its calf.

“Nice!” Tetsuko cheered behind them.

“Hold it right there! I can handle this one. Barnaby, I need you to knock her off balance so I can get her head, okay, okay?” Keith asked strongly, yet politely.

“Sure. Three…two…one!” Barnaby leapt, trusting Keith to do his part and ran at the robot. Its whirled on its one thruster and the blond kicked at her other leg, disrupting her path. Keith threw another piece of debris and it clanged against the robot’s neck, ripping out some wires. It turned to glared at him with it’s lifeless eyes and forgot all about Barnaby to go after Keith. The robot charged, connecting hands with Keith as they struggled for dominance.

“What kind of robot is this?” He yelled.

“The kind that kills you!” Tetsuko informed. Keith disconnected with the robot and took a few hits to the torso by the machine. Then he attacked.

“I won’t let you endanger my friends anymore!” Keith took a run and punched the robot in the face, whipping her head around and snapping off some more wires.

“Keith! Catch!” Barnaby picked up a metal pipe and threw it at the other blond, distracting the robot in the process to give him some time to strike. Barnaby kicked the machine in the chest to get her attention and Keith grabbed onto the pipe to leap up and swing it down hard. Metal bit into metal, severing Cis’ head from her body and the hunk of robotics crashed to the ground sparking. Barnaby was at a better angle and grabbed the bare from Keith to plunge it into the robot’s head with finality. The machine’s eye lights flickered, its head shorting out and dying. The body fell lifeless next to the kids with a resounding clang. Barnaby glanced up, discovering Rotwang was gone. All that was left in the street was three young adults and a dying robot.

“Bunny! Keith! Move now!” Tetsuko yelled. They did as they were told and ran, not knowing why. The robot exploded behind them, catapulting the boy’s right into Tetusko’s trash pile where they landed with a crash. Keith was halfway buried in garbage on the brunette’s right and Bunny was upside down on Tetsuko’s left, glancing at the girl’s inverted form as he felt bruises forming.

“How did you know it was going to do that?”

“You need to read more comic books. The robots always explode when they die. Ga-doy.”

“Let’s get out of here.” The blond concluded, the night wearing thin on his patience. “You know, before Tetsuko gets fined for property damage.”

“This was not my fault!” She shouted.

“Yes, yes, let’s.” Keith dug himself out quickly and helped the partners up.

“What were you doing here anyway, Keith?” Barnaby asked as they walked to his car.

“I was walking John after my date and heard you fighting. So I came to find out what was going on.”

“Good thing you did!” Tetsuko beamed at him tiredly.

“I’ll give you a ride home.” Barnaby offered.

“Thanks! And thanks again!” Keith accepted graciously.

“Just don’t let your dog mess up my leather interior.”

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