Jay stared at her partner in mild disbelief as soon as they emerged from the Hyperion. "Street?"
Em shrugged. "Well, it was the only thing I could think of. And besides, Colin Farrell is cute in that movie."
"And I was beginning to think that you didn't have hormones." She decided to let Em's creativity-challenged remark slide as she mused on the more interesting point.
"Oh, come on. Who can resist lovely Irish eyes?"
"Does it have anything to do with the fact that he resembles Angel?" Jay asked shrewdly as they made their way to the car. She opened the door to the passenger's side as Em entered the driver's side. She couldn't see her reaction, but when Jay finally closed the door, she could see the beginnings of pink tinge her friend's normally fair face. Well, for a moment, anyway.
"You're one insane person." She started the engine.
"I know. That's why I joined MIB. Where are we headed to now?"
"The Ninth Underground. I've got a snitch there. We might be able to know more about these. Angel's information isn't exactly stellar. We can't just attack anyone who's wearing a watch."
"A black wristwatch," Jay remembered, her smile fading as the image of the boisterous teens entered her mind. "I remember seeing them yesterday. I thought they were just wannabe punks or something."
"What did they look like?"
A good ten hours later and they still did not know who the mysterious new arrivals were. Most of the sub-terrestrials and even aliens they uh, consulted had no idea who they were, only that they were dead nasty and tended to travel in packs. Jay tossed her hotdog wrapper into the bin casually and glanced at the sky. The sun was already halfway down, and the shadows elongated all around them. And already the night crowd was coming out.
"Come on, we've got one more place to hit. Caritas. Merl is waiting for us there. He has some information we could use."
"Let's hope it isn't as lame as the others," Jay griped as Em drove. The whole day they heard nothing but things they already knew and a good number of false leads.
"Yeah, me too." Em sighed.
"You ain't dirrrty, you ain't here to parrty!!
Oh, I'm overdue
Give me some room
I'm comin' through
Paid my dues
In the mood
Me and the girls gonna shake the room
Wanna get rowdy
Gonna get a little unruly
Get it fired up in a hurry
Wanna get dirrty
It's about time that I came to start the party
Sweat dripping over my body
Dancing getting just a little naughty
Wanna get dirrty
It's about time for my arrival
Ah, heat is up
So ladies, fellas
Drop your cups
Front to back
Now move your ass
I like that
Tight hip huggers (low for sure)
Shake a little somethin' (on the floor)
I need that, uh, to get me off
Sweat until my clothes come off"
"Oh God." Jay moaned as the raucous music swelled to an all-time high when the door to the nightclub opened. That Christina tramp was bad enough, now add a tone deaf and mucus-filled sub-terrestrial of an indeterminate sex hollering into the microphone was enough to make Jay seriously contemplate suicide. "No one said I had to do this when I took up the job."
"Want to kill Merl? Get in line." Em gritted, not much happier than she was.
Fortunately, none of the sub-terrestrials in here really noticed them, happy to be in their own little worlds, perhaps. Jay glanced around at the general populace. Not one human was in sight. Well, actually, there was quite a few, but she just saw one guy light up a woman's cigarette with his finger.
So not human.
"All right!" Lorne, the green-faced, tux-wearing subterrestrial that owned this joint said cheerily as he grabbed the microphone from the mucus ST and handed it to another lizard-like one hastily. "Kira, I'm tellin' ya, honey. You gotta learn how to relax! I know tomorrow's your wedding day, and no, your husband ain't gonna eat you. And hey, don't even think of pulling that Julia Roberts schtick!"
Mostly dead grateful that awful yodeling was over, the two made their way to the bar where a scrawny, disgusting looking demon was sitting, slurping his purple juice disgustingly loudly. Their amigo.
"I should kill you, Merl," Em said as they sat down, one on either side of him. Jay had not seen Merl before—Em having been in the business slightly longer than she had—but she definitely did not like what she saw now. He—she? It?—had very shifty eyes, which made it difficult to tell if he was telling the truth or not.
The small subterrestrial jerked violently, almost spilling his drink in the process. "Em!" he turned to see Jay and his eyes widened appreciatively.
"Oooh…And who will this yummy little candycake be?"
"Don't make me break your face, Merl." Jay said calmly, having a slight issue about disgusting little demons ogling her.
"Ooh, I like a woman who has spunk."
"Sorry. I like my men manly."
Merl looked insulted. Em simply looked amused. "You know, a smart mouth on a pretty woman is a very horrific idea."
"Yeah, I know. Horrific only to people who can't hold their own against that smart mouth."
"She got you there, Merl." Em cut in with a smirk.
"Now, all insults aside, what do you have for us?"
Merl glared at her. "That rookie chick of yours just spoilt my mood, Em. It's gonna cost you."
Em slid a slim wad of fifty-dollar bills toward him. "That enough?"
"What do you wanna know?" "New arrivals. Nasty, travel in packs? Watches conceal their identity."
"Ohh, them, you say? They're Japanese. Well, the original ones are. The younger ones, the ones they turned are from different cultures. Very fixed bunch. Said they were hunting some vampire for two hundred years or so. Came from Germany, last I heard."
"The night before."
"Why can't they be detected?"
"How should I know?" he whined.
"Fair enough. What are they called."
"Oh, this is going to cost you—" Merl said wickedly, grinning. Em reached over and calmly peeled off a bill from the stack. The disgusting subterrestrial's reptilian eyes widened in horror.
"No bargains, Merl. You know that."
"All right! All right!" he made a grab for the note which Em dangled, just out of reach. "I'll tell ya already! Gimme that!"
Em placed the bill down. Merl grabbed it sullenly, took the rest of the notes, and stuffed it into his pocket. Giving her a sour glance, he said, "They call themselves some crazy name…let me think…the Ishinshishi."
Jay raised an eyebrow. What kind of a name was that? Merl went on, more to himself now than to them. "Crazy bunch of demons, man. Killing here and there…"
"Why are they here, Merl?" Em asked.
"I told you. To hunt down some vampire guy. They accuse him of being a traitor or a liar or something. Heavy stuff, I think."
"Do you know the guy's name?" "What do I look like, the freaking Oracle of Delphi?"
Jay blinked at the sudden voice behind her. Whirling, she turned to see a young man just one seat away from her, his slender, yet well-built form hunched slightly over a beer glass. He wore a long red bandanna, and his hair was falling all over his eyes, giving him a sexy reckless look that would never fail to draw women to him in droves. Deep, soulful, chocolate brown eyes seemed to pierce through her in that instant, his fine features amused yet intense at the same time. He wore a black duster with a black buttoned shirt inside. This guy looked no older than twenty-five, but one look at his eyes told her that he was much, much older. Em narrowed her eyes.
"You were listening?"
"It's not that difficult. I heard you speaking of my hunters."
"You're the one they're after?" Jay asked.
"Yes. For two centuries."
"Why?" This time, Em asked the question.
"It's a very long story."
"I don't need your help," Souzou said quietly. "I can deal with them." Reluctantly, he had told them his story, about how he was Captain of the Sekihoutai, but they were later betrayed and hunted down by the Ishinshishi, a government body. He had escaped death by being turned by a vampire, and somehow, the Ishinshishi had known. With a single-minded purpose to kill him, they enlisted the help of vampires to make them immortal. But they had made a mistake. They had gotten blood-crazed demons instead.
Being cast out of the vampire community, the Ishinshishi grew even more bitter and furious in their loneliness. They killed and fed and turned people, completely insane with bloodlust. Demons as a general rule, had to be eliminated, but this clan of demons were a very powerful force to be reckoned with, and none really wanted to get in their bad books. And so they had followed leads and his trail. He led them on a wild-goose chase all over the world and had landed here.
Right in the midst of MIB operations.
Jay walked beside him, quiet and contemplative. She was no longer the ice maiden he had thought her to be, but she was no less an enigma to him. The other woman named Em had been called back and had left early.
"We didn't say we'd help you." She said finally. "Because of this…clan, people are dying, or becoming demons. Me and Em, we're going to stop this."
"You can't stop them." He said seriously. "No one can."
"Don't be so sure," she said casually. "The MIB's always got one end-of-the-world promise hanging over our heads all the time. One little clan is nothing compared to what the extraterrestrial branch normally does."
"You might die." To his surprise, he realized that he actually…kind of cared about that.
"That's not a problem." He looked at her then. "You would give up your life for the people who don't know you exist?"
Earlier, they had told him who they were and what they did. To say he was not impressed at all would be a lie. But he could not help thinking that it was foolish. He had tried to help the people of Japan, and look at what he ended up as. The people had even believed that the Sekihoutai was a false army just out to create trouble and even hated them.
She was serious. "Yeah. If the situation calls for it."
"Because." She stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. "You were the captain of an army. You should know why."
He did. Because there were many things worth dying for, there were people, helpless people out there worth protecting. No matter what people said, what they did, they still mattered. He knew all of that. But it had been so long, so long…all he had cared now was his survival. His ideals had long gone, faded with time, his pain, his anguish were merely ghosts in his memory. His honorable dreams for equality, for better times had all dissipated. Instead of dreaming now, he brooded, filled with self-loathing.
He no longer dreamt, surrendering to this existence that would never bring any sort of light to him. He was a different man now, the harsh sands of time having taught him countless valuable lessons. He couldn't even stay long in one place; the Ishinshishi would know where to find him. All he could care about now was how to slip through them, how to kill them in order to survive. He did not have time to care about humans now, whether they lived or died. Being a vampire had taught him that much; save your own skin first, always.
But why, why, when he looked into Jay's—Jessica's?—eyes, all that seemed to fade away? All his excuses, the pain he'd gone through. He felt as though he'd been stripped of all that, left only with the ideals he'd dreamt of all so long ago. The feeling was frightening; he had never felt that way around anyone at all. He tore his gaze away from hers. "I do know."
They walked for a long while in silence. Finally, Jay said. "Would you like to have coffee?"
He looked at her in surprise. "Excuse me?"
"Coffee?" she asked again. "Hot beverage, drink of choice. I had one this morning, but it tasted like recycled garbage."
His better judgement nagged at him, but he ignored it, just as he had always ignored the quiet whispers of his conscience all these years. "Of course."
The diner was empty at this time, save for a surly looking waiter who had skulked off somewhere else after serving them.
"Mm," Jay smiled as she took the first sip, feeling the caffeine skitter down her spine. "This diner always makes the best coffee."
With effort, Souzou willed himself not to look at her neck once more. He knew that if he did, he would take her and turn her then and there. She was so much lovelier up close despite her line of work, so…innocent. At the same time, he knew that if he reached out to touch her, that innocence that drew him to her would crumble, and he would definitely leave her. No, she deserved more than that. She deserved more than him.
He said nothing, simply looked at his own cup of coffee. It was warm against his cool skin, serving as a reminder that he had to feed, or else he would be too weak to do it tomorrow night. Animals now were out of the question; he had always hated rat blood, they stank of the sewer. Maybe he would pay a visit to his contact later. Goodness knows he needed the diversion. Being around this woman was wrecking havoc on his senses.
Maybe it was his hunger thinking. If he'd fed, the thoughts he'd had earlier would go away. Yes, that was it. It was his hunger thinking. Why had he even agreed to have coffee with her in the first place? "Is there anything else I need to know about the Ishinshishi?"
"I've told you all I know of them." He replied. "But I have also heard that they had acquired a kind of gadget from a pawnshop. A curious device not too long ago."
She looked interested. "Why didn't you tell us that earlier?"
"It slipped my mind."
"Oh." She stirred her coffee.
"Truly." He seriously didn't want to know why he suddenly thought it so important she realized he was not lying to her. When had he ever cared about lying to anyone?
She gave him a faint smile; once again, she was so different from when he'd simply observed her. So different, and yet still so exquisite. "Which pawnshop is it? Jeebs?"
"I believe so."
"Jeebs." She trailed off, her eyes darkening with realization and disgust.
He brought the coffee cup to his lips so he could watch her without her realizing it. She truly was a beauty, and it was all he could do not to crush his lips against hers, trap her body in his arms, ravish her as a woman like her truly deserved, to have his name fall from those lips of hers…
Stop it, you have more self-control than that. Where has it gone to?That was the problem. In her presence, he had always felt like his self-control had faded away into oblivion, and no matter how hard he grasped for it, it never came. It was frustrating.
"I need you to do something for me," she said finally, looking straight at him. He set down his coffee cup calmly. She slipped on her dark sunglasses and looked straight at him, glad for the black tint of the glasses. She definitely did not want him to see how much she didn't want to do this, which was a first for her.
Jay had always neuralyzed people without much of a problem. She didn't like it, but she did it anyway. It was a job. But now…she surprised herself by realizing how much she didn't want to do it. For some reason, she desperately did not want him to forget her.
Taking a deep, silent breath, she willed herself to speak again. She had to get this done. She had to. "You have to forget everything." She said finally, silently proud that none of the disturbing feelings she was experiencing right now had gotten into her tone. She held out the neuralyzer in front of him.
"Forget you, too?" he asked suddenly.
Caught off guard, she couldn't think of what to say for a moment. The way he was gazing at her, the intense way his dark eyes were fixated on hers…the all-too-handsome sweep of his jaw, the slightly commanding air he held even now… He said again, his voice soft, yet filled with intensity and something neither of them really wanted to decipher. "Do you want me to?"
She couldn't do this, she realized. She could not bring herself to press the button, to erase his memory. I don't want to. I'll be breaking the rules in a million ways, but screw the damn rules.
He was the only man in a very long time who had actually caught her attention and held it, the haunted way his eyes looked, the soft way he spoke, the way his hair fell carelessly over his eyes, barely hiding the bright red bandanna tied around his forehead, with the ends spilling to loose to his back, the mysterious air he always held around him. He was the one person she did not want to forget she ever existed.
Momentarily appalled at the sudden train of thoughts that were all so alien to her, she couldn't think of anything to say. She placed the neuralyzer neatly into her suit and slowly removed her sunglasses. Suddenly, she didn't want to be around him. He confused her, made her feel things she thought she'd forgotten more than a year ago. That was one of the reasons she had joined MIB in the first place, to get away from the emotions that living a normal life entailed.
Finally, she said the only thing she could think of, the only thought that stayed strongly in her mind. "No." She stood up, her gaze fixed steadily on his handsome features. She had failed this time. She had a test, and she failed. She didn't care. "Be careful. You never know when the Ishinshishi might be near."
"I've lived this long without them getting me."
"They might get lucky this time." Her demeanor was back to what he'd seen last night, guarded yet heart-achingly vulnerable at the same time. "Be safe."
She laid down a card, which was bare save for a number that was printed on it in black letters. "If you…need anything, give me a call." He nodded once. She turned to leave.
Finally, he said. "I'll see you around."
She never looked back. She willed herself not to. "We'll see."
He waited for a few minutes after the diner door closed, picked up the card, and slipped it into his pocket.
For crap's sake, she was a freaking MIB agent, dammit! MIB agents never gave in to their emotions, no matter how strong they are. Furious at herself for being so weak, she balled her fists at her sides, her fingernails digging painfully into her palm. The words Zee had spoken to her on her very first day wafted back to her, clear as a bell.
You are no longer part of "the system." We're above the system. Over it. Beyond it.
She sighed. Her interaction with Sagara Souzou had been nothing but brief, but what did she feel so drawn to him? She had never once believed in love at first sight, but now…what was he doing to her? He had woken up something that she'd pushed down deep into her heart so long ago, and she wasn't sure if that was a good thing. She didn't want to know what it was, only that if she ever fell in love, if she ever did so, it would be disastrous. Besides, they, for one, would be impossible. She was a MIB agent, he was a subterrestrial, a vampire. It would never work out, not even in her dreams.
Valiantly, she tried to forget about those soulful chocolate eyes that had made her feel so warm all over.
"Souzou!" Sarah Kendall's eyes brightened considerably when she saw who was standing at her doorstep. He was as breathtakingly as handsome as ever, with washes of moonlight illuminating his face, the face Sarah had always known as nothing but perfect. She knew what he was, of course. She was addicted to him, literally speaking. Contacts were people who were addicted to a vampire's 'kiss', who gathered a thrill out of it.
Souzou had always felt bad at doing that, especially so when his victims looked blissful after that, but it was for the benefit of both parties, and he wasn't really hurting them anyway.
"Sarah." His voice was like a caress, and she shivered slightly, her cheeks already growing warm. Damn, he was still as handsome as ever. "How have you been doing?"
"Same old, same old," she smiled at him as she drew him in an intimate embrace. "You're colder than usual, Souzou. How long have you gone without?"
"Three nights," he replied as he returned the hug, distracted by the pulse he saw throbbing in her neck. He had never realized that he was so hungry.
"Oh man. Are you all right? I mean—"
"Of course," he assured her, stepping into her apartment. He would never lose control and drain her dry, of that he was sure. He had more discipline than that. She smiled. "I knew that."
Trailing a finger down his deliciously broad, hard chest, she sensuously removed his coat, before moving to fiddle with the buttons on his shirt. "I missed you, Souzou. God, you were always the best." She said, reaching up to plant a seductive kiss on his lips, which he eagerly returned. Sex and blood had always gone together, no questions asked, and neither party had an objection to that pleasurable arrangement as far as he knew. He ran his fingers over her skin as he claimed her mouth, eager to dispel the thoughts of Jay from his mind. With a flick of his wrist, the halter top Sarah had been wearing fell to the ground.
And as Souzou pushed Sarah back onto the large couch, his thoughts had never once turned to Jay.