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Godai's hands itched. How the fuck did Katsuragi expect him to keep his cool while hanging out with the Hayasaka brothers? The older one was giving him that shit-eating grin that usually meant he was busy carving someone up or making money, while the younger one kept twitching his fingers in the pockets of his over-sized fur-lined jacket.

'I mean, what the fuck man, we're in Myanmar!' Godai snarled in his head while taking a drag off Sasazuka's cigarette. He only smoked that brand now; the nicotine content was perfectly blended to help him keep his cool long enough not to kill people at random.

"Oi, Sensei? Ain't you done yet?" he puffed, glancing over at the slender young woman seated on a fallen tree nearby.

There was a sound of a vacuum, then a gulp.

"Gochisousama. Yep! All ready now," Yako replied as she stood up to pack her 7-layer bento box. Hisanori snickered as the clumsy girl managed to trip over the scattered boxes. Fortunately, she was wearing tights under her customary skirt, which effectively saved her from further embarrassment.

"Ikuzo," Godai muttered, taking one last drag before he ground the cigarette into the dirt. He could feel his blood pressure rising as the excitement built, but he had to make sure he'd covered the basics.

"You sure you had enough, Sensei? I don't need 777 demon tools zapping me like last time."

"Yep! I'm fine, Godai-kun. Ah, the terrorist base is a few miles ahead, in thick cover. The traps should start about a mile from here. I'm thinking a mine field."

"Ho, that monster really taught you well, Sensei," sneered Hisanori, who threw a large duffel bag over his shoulder. Godai threw a smaller duffel over his left shoulder, carrying it much like a disgruntled schoolboy. Yukinori un-zipped his jacket, muttering, "Let's just get this job the fuck over with."


As Yako had expected, the mine field started about a mile from their rendezvous point. The men followed her as she easily picked her path, placing their feet directly in her shoe-prints. Within an hour, her keen sense of impending, death-dealing doom had lead them through the land-mines, with only 6 breaks for her to snack.

They now stood on a ridge overlooking the training compound, which was roped off with barbed wire, covered in foliage, and lined with traps. Yako surveyed the scene below her, closed her eyes, then turned around and opened them.

"Here's the plan. Hayasaka-san, I need you to create a large diversion for us so we can get to the front door. Hayasaka-kun, I need you to take care of the guards just outside the entrance. Godai-kun, you'll cover me going in."

"Yokai."

Hisanori dropped the duffel bag to the ground, and knelt down beside it. He unzipped it quietly and began to pull out the pieces of a large RPG launcher. Godai had also dropped his bag to pull out a bulletproof vest and Kevlar finger-less gloves while stripping off his trademark black jacket and red shirt. Yuki double-checked his lines and hooks, pulling them fine and tight.

Yako doubled down on six bags of chips.


The terrorists had no clue what hit them when the rocket struck the gates of the compound. Dust, smoke, and body parts flew as Hisanori's second round threw open the gates.

Godai grabbed Yako around her waist as she clambered onto his back. He stepped back a bit, then he and Yuki took a running leap off the ridge. Hisanori watched as his little brother and the others landed, rolled, and jumped up running. The young woman didn't even look the worse for wear.

'Too much physical stamina to be human. That monster left the real demons behind,' he thought, as he loaded another rocket and casually blew up a supply truck outside the gate.

Yukinori glanced at the well-muscled yakuza who ran easily and smoothly, considering he was carrying a woman on his back. Their movements spoke of many close encounters with death, and an unusually blase attitude to danger.

He was surprised that they'd stayed on the right side of the law for so long.

"Your turn please, Hayasaka-kun!" Yako yelled, her voice carrying over the angry and panicked cries of the clueless terrorists, who could not pinpoint them through the smoke and carnage.

Yuki sneered and pulled up hard. His lines flew around Godai and Katsuragi to snag his quarry. A quick tug, then pained screams and blood splatters filled the air in front of them. Yuki's grin was icy, filled with cold mirth.

Godai smirked while cracking his knuckles. His face held a terrible eagerness for the upcoming violence of melee combat. He shifted Yako on his back, made sure their centers of gravity were aligned, then drove them forward even faster. "Hold on, Sensei, we're going in!"


Yako flew through the air, bodily opening the hatch in the metal wall and landing gracelessly in the middle of the compound's underground bunker. She sat there, rubbing her head after the nasty crack it had taken on the rough concrete floor. Godai was definitely getting better at throwing her into the heart of the problem.

The three guerilla leaders whirled around, tearing their eyes off of the many screens that showed the erupting chaos. On one screen, Yako could see Godai cackling merrily as he physically molested the guards in front of the bunker; his feet on the back of two guards' heads, grinding them into the mud, as his fists and elbows battered three others. Another screen showed Yuki cleaning off his lines, his brother walking up behind him while idly loosing a rocket into a helicopter that attempted to flee.

"What the fuck is this girl doing here?" screeched one commander, while his two under-officers pointed their Kalashnikovs at her.

Yako dusted herself off, and looked directly at the commander. The man flinched. The woman in front of him showed no fear, no concern, no pain in her eyes; just a warm, syrupy-brown empathy.

"I've come to speak with you," she replied calmly.


On the flickering screens, the Hayasaka brothers had caught up with Godai, avoiding one unconscious soldier as he was thrown to the side by a sweeping mid-kick. Yako's braid, with its unique, shark-toothed hair-clip, flailed frantically against her ear, then lay on her shoulder.

Outside, Godai steadied his earpiece and received Akane's Morse code message. Grunting, he dropped his heels on a screaming guard's back while taking a seat on a nearby low wall.

"I take it Sensei is fine?" Hisanori asked pleasantly.

Godai merely grunted as he scrounged in his pocket for another cigarette.

"Then it's time for us to depart. Yuki, our exit will appear in 5 minutes. Let's collect some supplies."

Yuki crouched and retrieved the guards' weapons, slinging the assault rifles over his shoulder. Stretching up, he eyed Godai warily, before he and his brother turned their backs on him. They strode out together, but Hisanori couldn't help but ask a question that weighed on his mind.

"Oi, Shinobu. Why don't you cut the crap? How can you still be working with that tantei? The monster, her 'assistant', he doesn't show up anymore. You should be free to use that violence however you want."

Godai grinned, cigarette edge crushed between sharp canines.

"Never believe that monster is gone. Remember, he is even less normal than you could ever comprehend."

Hisanori paused briefly. His face was shadowed, a panther hiding in darkness. Godai had not turned around yet, but he knew what the older man wanted. Proof.

"Notice how she never gets hurt?"

Yuki hid a secret smile as his brother snorted in disgust. The two continued back through the ruined headquarters as the loud echo of swooping blades heralded a gunship rising above the forest line. Godai exhaled.


Two hours later, three sobbing men came out of the bunker with their hands up. Godai stood to one side as the Thai army came in to arrest the men, adding them to the lines of prisoners climbing onto a camouflage-covered truck. Yako came out, tripped on the last rung, then pushed herself up and skipped over to Godai.

"Piece of cake?" he asked, his eyes barely noticing her as he surveyed the scene.

"Un!" she responded, nodding happily. "Were the Hayasaka brothers fine?"

"Keh. Fuckers verified their pay and scavenged some souvenirs. Goddamn bastard Yuki wouldn't sit tight for a rematch."

Yako laughed gently and patted the large ex-yakuza's arm consolatorily.

"I'm gonna arrange our rides outta this shit-hole. You hungry?"

Yako's face popped up in front of him, all puppy eyes and drool. He sniggered and knocked her back down.

"Frigging rhetorical question. Oi, shit-for-brains!" he snapped, recognizing one of his information-brokers whispering with a general, "Get your ass in gear! We fucking well need a way back to civilization and two rice paddies. Sensei's hungry!"


Two days later, back in Japan, Yako was back at the office about to exit Godai's black Benz E-class. He'd managed to keep this car intact since Neuro had been gone for three years. Ah, the perks of being the VP of Mochizuki Trust General Research.

"Don't forget your date with Kanae," Yako reminded him as she stepped out of the car.

"Like hell he can!" yelled Kanae, as she tottered down the street with a massize, 11-layer bento box in her hand.

Yako grinned widely and hugged her friend tight. She truly tried not to drool on Kanae's shoulder as she thought about the excellent cooking within the box.

"Unhand her, before you start gnawing on her head again," Godai groused, grabbing the young woman from Yako's hands. He threw his cigarette down on the sidewalk, crushing it under his heel as he smashed his lips onto Kanae's own. Yako giggled behind her hand as the "non-couple" embarrassed passers-by, then remembered the bento that Kanae had dropped.

"Well then, I'll take my leave," she chirped merrily as Godai shooed her away. While she could read the fine emotional tension in Kanae's body and Godai's stance, she had learned long ago that the humans needed to discover and understand some situations on their own to truly understand and enjoy the mystery that was life. She skipped up the stairwell of the building, already tasting Kanae's superb meal.

Godai looked behind himself suspiciously as Kanae got into the car. He'd caught a glimpse of a flying insect that certainly was not normal. No one else may have noticed, but as an information-broker and top manager, it was the sort of thing Godai would not let slip past. He laughed out loud, clutching his sides even as he shut Kanae's door.

"Hey, what's so funny?" Kanae asked, pouting as he got on the driver's side.

Godai shook his head and favored the young woman with a quick pinch on the ass.

"Let's just say you won't have to worry about Katsuragi's choice of men anymore. The worst of the violent, sadistic mother-fuckers she knows is coming back for his servant."

He buckled up, revved the engine and pulled out smoothly into traffic as the young woman tried to understand the gangster's strange mood.


'I better take vacation before the cock-sucker decides to check on servant #2.'

"Oi, Kagohara, we're going to Hawaii." he stated bluntly, his free hand sliding up her smooth legs. The action was a trigger; neither Godai nor Yako had acknowledged the underlying anger in Kanae's frame when she'd appeared, and Kanae had had just about enough of being outside their little detective-assistant world.

"You think I'll go with you just like that?" she spat out, swatting his hand away from her. "You didn't even tell me you were going with Yako to Myanmar on some dangerous mission! I mean, what sort of twisted abandonment play is this? I last heard from you a month ago, you come over, we make like bunny rabbits, then you disappear! Why the hell do you expect me to...are you even listening to me?"

Godai took his finger out of his left ear, but never moved his eyes from the road. "Bitch, shut up. You want me for my money and my bad boy stance, plain and simple. You come running back no matter what because I'm the VP with the shiny foreign car and a nice new pad. But I can tell that you won't let me meet your parents, not me, some fucking yakuza refuse with too many piercings and not enough education. Every time I'm gone, you get at least seven new numbers in your cell-phone, and random guys are always calling for you. So do me a favor."

At this moment, Godai pulled off onto a quiet side street and reached over to open Kanae's door.

"Get to fuck out if you ain't happy to see my ass back in one piece."

Kanae shrank in her seat, staring at Godai. His aura of potential violence had grown to the extent that even she could feel it, that lurking malice he carried, but never used in front of her. Despite that, his voice had not even risen in volume. He had not looked at her even once. He just sat there, emotionless, reaching in his pocket for his pack and his lighter. A cigarette soon dangled from the corner of his mouth, framed by his lip piercings. He idly flicked the lighter open and closed. Once. Twice. Three times.

Kanae curled in on herself as her cell phone rang. Before she could move, Godai had the treacherous device in his hands, and was inspecting the caller id.

"Kizuma-kun. This one a keeper?"

Kanae shook her head despondently. None of them ever were.

"Stalker?"

"Ie."

After the ringing stopped, Godai opened the phone, and scanned the list. His fingers quickly flew over the unit, switching between navigating the contact list by date and deleting certain new contacts. After the last delete confirmation, he threw the phone into the backseat. He leaned back over Kanae's seat, and slammed the door shut. This time, he turned and looked at her, full in the face, her eyes loaded with tears she would not let drop. He stroked her cheeks, and wiped those droplets from the corners of her eyes, licking him thumb as he considered his next words.

'Goddamn bitches always make me strain my brain. This evolution shit is fucking annoying.'

He sighed loudly and leaned his forehead against hers.

"Kagohara, you're the one who told me that this would be a fling. A friends with benefits deal. Fuck, not even that, a stress relief valve for two of the Worry repeatedly about Katsuragi Yako club. You know you or I wouldn't be right in our heads if I didn't watch Katsuragi's back when she's called in to do crazy shit and if you didn't make the meals to fuel us. It's not like that freak of nature is here now."

Kanae nodded slowly, still too muddled to look up. She knew that she was the instigator. Godai had been like a loyal, feral dog that Yako made do odd jobs and other, less savory things. She'd felt their mutual need to not worry about the young detective all the time. The first time had been hard, rough, and fast - a moment when she'd caught Godai pacing Yako's office while the detective worked one of her first hostage negotiations without either of her assistants. The one that Godai had referred to as a freak had not been seen since the horrible "Sicks" nightmare.

She remembered what she'd told Godai, after they sat on the couch half-dressed, watching Yako walk out with the criminals and the hostages. She'd told him that it wasn't personal. Just sex. Just nervous relief. He wasn't anything she wanted to bring home to her parents. He hadn't even looked at her. He'd just stood up and pulled back on his vest, covering up the tattoo of the most evil-looking parrot she'd ever seen anywhere. Somehow, that carnal release became a tradition after every one of Yako's adventures. She was pretty sure that Yako knew everything, considering that she hadn't actually told Yako about this date tonight. Yako never commented, nor seemed to mind; she was more encouraging, if anything.

So why did it feel like she was always trying to fight Yako for Godai? And constantly losing?

Kanae wiped the rest of the tears off of her eyelids, then abruptly looked up and pecked Godai on the lips. The peck became a longer kiss and soon Godai was in danger of losing control as the cigarette fell from his lips, allowing him to ravage Kanae mercilessly. They broke off, panting, and Godai retrieved the fallen smoke. Kanae stroked his arm, his leg, his hair, then took in a shuddering breath. He was still looking at her intently, his eyes dark and brooding and much too serious for a fling. Shit, what had they done to each other in the name of stress relief? Two dogs loyal to Mistress Kasturagi, that's all they should have been, but that was not all it was anymore.

"So, when will we leave? I need you to buy me a bikini. And tell me everything about this trip. Exactly how much Thai curry did that girl eat?"


Yako sighed gratefully, her stomach just a bit bloated. Layers of a massive bento were scattered around the office, and a few rice grains were stuck on her cheek. Akane was back on her wall, swimming in a delicious black tea blend.

Yako stretched, then laid back on the couch. She didn't have the energy to go home tonight, after travelling for so long. She was beginning to think that she should take Godai up on his offer to build a shower in the office - despite the questionable construction firm that he'd recommended. She used the remote to find a game show on television, then snuggled into the cushions. In the gloom of the dark office, with just the TV on, Yako couldn't help but remember that night.

Partner. He had called her that, as he'd held her skull in one hand. A weak demon he may have been, but his stomach still felt unbelievably warm and solid where he had slammed her head. She hadn't forgotten the way he had gazed at her, electric green eyes taking in everything, pushing back...something. Something possessive and powerful. The sort of look a master would give to his prized art collectible.

Yako shivered, and drew her knees up to her chest. She couldn't forget the feel of his body, so strong yet so broken. He had even looked shocked at her words.

She turned onto her side, facing into the chair, her hands between her legs, curled into a tight fetal position. She hated nights alone, like these, but she didn't want to go home.

She didn't want to leave the last place that he had been.

She remembered how she'd placed herself completely into his hands as his slave, if he would give her the strength to see Sicks' defeat. So contrite, so hurt, so broken, he could have asked her to lick his shoes and she would have eagerly. Her fingers curled tightly as her emotions began to well up in her chest. Hadn't she told that stupid demon not to worry?

~ Partner ~

'Neuro, am I shining brilliantly enough for you? Can you see and feel my presence through all time and space?'

Her breathing hitched, and tears leaked from her tightly closed eyes, even as she consoled herself. She couldn't cry. She wouldn't cry. She absolutely had to resist the urge to...


BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT!

As the tears hit her shirt, a large electrical current seized her body, wracking it with pain. Her head snapped back and she shrieked into the darkness, her hands still pressed between her knees. Eventually the current died down, but not before her new sky-blue mini skirt had been singed to a crisp, and rendered useless. Panting, Yako stood on shaky legs to strip it off and throw it across the office angrily, revealing one of Neuro's parting gifts.

777 demon tools of the evil emperor: evil pressure shield.

It completely protected her soft tissue and organs, but it also shocked her whenever her tears fell on it. Or whenever she was depressed. Or pretty much at random intervals, but never when she was solving a mystery. She was pretty sure it was fueled by mysteries and puzzles, so it was quite well fed and happy to show it.

'Who the hell was missing that god-forsaken demon? I hope he gets lost during the Inquisition! If I see him again, I'll, I'll...' her thoughts raced pettily in her mind, but the empty threats fell away.

'I'll miss him, but I still won't lick his shoes!'

Sighing, Yako found an old school skirt and the blanket that Neuro used during his final night on earth inside one of her desk drawers. She wrapped herself in it, and returned to the couch. Curling into the fetal position once more, she dried her eyes and remembered. In her exhausted state, she did not notice the winged eyeball that perched above her.

"Found you, worm," rumbled a deep voice, a harbinger of pain, submission, evil genius, and comfort.


Two weeks later, Yako was happy to be on the plane back to Japan. The guerilla army had not been particularly difficult to work with, and 'Kyuubei' restaurant in Ginza had been very willing to honor her request on the rebels' behalf. She was comfortably ensconced in the first-class plane seat, and dozing off - she had not gone back home to her apartment since the Myanmar affair, sleeping on the wretched office couch most of the time. She had been agitated, expectant, and her mind spent half of its time thinking about Neuro.

"Now...it is time to wake up," she heard in her head. Moaning softly, she opened her eyes as the voice was compelling and attractive, despite the frightening menace underlying its words.

'I'm truly a masochist, aren't I?' she thought wryly, as she opened her eyes to a flash of blue.

'Blue...eh?'

A shadow loomed over her window. She knew that stature, that shadow, that suit, that shoe. She knew, deep in her heart, under the layer of cold sweat that had broken out over her body, slicking down over a certain tattoo on her back to pool just above the waistband of her skirt.

"This mystery is on the tip of my tongue!"

"Neuro!" she cried, but her voice was drowned out as the engine on the wing next to her burst into brilliant blue flames.


The plane was able to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport, and all of the passengers were quickly evacuated from the plane, except for one older gentleman, whose heart appeared to have failed him due to the shock of the engine failure. The airport emergency rescue personnel gave every passenger a thorough examination before the airline arranged for transferring passengers to receive free accommodations at a local hotel while new bookings were prepared. On the outskirts of the chaos, Yako stood in her own ocean of calm, following the emotions around each passenger as he or she entered the terminal.

She had not imagined it. She would not be shaking in excitement and fear like this if he wasn't back. She would not be dry in her throat as if Sai was about to slice her in half, which was insane because Sai was most definitely, excellently dead.

"Ms. Katsuragi?"

Yako turned around quickly, jumping as an unfamiliar voice called her name. She was not eager to turn her attention away from the mayhem around her. While watching the body of the older gentleman being lowered from the aircraft, she had caught a whiff of negativity from nearby family members, and a hint of malice from another person who stood to one side near a fire truck. She was met by a tall, blond man, whose piercing blue eyes critically examined her. Yako made the mental transition over to English, as Akane wrote appropriate responses and vocabulary on her shoulder.

"Hello, I am Katsuragi."

The stranger stuck out his hand. Yako blinked, then remembered to grasp it firmly. The stranger continued as they shook hands briefly.

"Connor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We're treating this as an attempted terrorist act and we see that you were on the passenger list. Care to share any insights on your fellow passengers?"

Yako could read the disdain that the man held for her. His mind practically screamed his thoughts, 'Hostage negotiators, what a waste! You don't fucking negotiate, you arrest them or kill them. They've got this young tramp waltzing around, consorting with criminals and terrorists and all sorts of sick fucks; what, does she screw them into submission?'

She sighed and began to rub her temples. She really was not in the mood for this. Even her rubbing couldn't stop the feeling of her hair tightening around her scalp, the sensation of malicious, boring digits squeezing her brain like a disgustedly ripe melon -

Her eyes flew open.

"Sensei understands your heightened awareness, Mr. Connor, but she wishes to assure you that this was not a terrorist act. Yet."

Above, behind her, she could feel him looming. The wide shoulders, the narrow hips, forming an immaculate shadow as the evening sky darkened around the scene. Her breath hitched in her throat, as miasma caught in her lungs. It took all of her mental strength not to burst into tears, but the old, familiar feel of claws against her vulnerable throat made her suck it up.

"However, Mr. Connor, Sensei believes that it would be best to carry out this investigation when all of the passengers get to the hotel. I believe that is where you plan to take our statements again?"

Connor narrowed his eyes at the interloper.

"And you are?"

"Ah, allow me to humbly introduce myself. My name is Nougami Neuro. I am Katsuragi Yako's most honored assistant, even though to associate with or displease her is to court death itself."


The baggage handlers stood near the fire trucks, waiting for the bedlam to die down. D.H.S. had ordered all bags removed and handed over to their officers, so they were stuck here long past the end of their shift, waiting for permission to empty the cargo hold.

"Jeezus, can't they put a lid on this?" muttered one, as he watched firefighters check out the remaining engines and the fuselage.

"For fuck's sake, the Lakers are playing tonight, and I got a hundred-spot riding on this game," groused another.

Far away, Yako's head bobbed up and down in Neuro's crushing grip. The demon was cheerful, the taste of not one, but two mysteries dancing on his tongue. He could feel one of the mysteries ripening, while the other, minor puzzle glowed with readiness. It was like a main course with light dessert.

Neuro glanced quickly down at Yako, gracing her with a knife-filled grin.

Well, maybe dessert was still to come. With Yako's body dangled reassuringly (differently) off of his arm, he was definitely back, and very, very, hungry.

Suddenly, Yako was ripping out of his grip, losing a few locks of hair in the process, and screaming at the top of her lungs.

"Get away! Get away! Get everyone off the plane, get out, get away! Salgan, quittez, leave, nigete!"

By this time, only emergency personnel remained near the plane. Her cries rippled through the small gathering, and the bystanders quickly took action as an ominous rumble began in the cargo hold.

"Oh holy fuck, it's another bomb! Clear outta there!" yelled Conner, even as he ran helplessly towards the unfolding drama.

Neuro grabbed hold of Yako's head, reeling her in like a fish on a line, and threw her behind his body. She lay on the ground, stunned, and could only cover her head as the explosion roared to life, and pieces of the plane began to fall around them.

"Hihihihi!"