All in a Day's Work
Disclaimer: The author rightfully respects the genius of Tachibana Higuchi, creator of Gakuen Alice.
Dedication: To the people behind the Alice Times. This was inspired by the first NatsumeSeries Contest they organized.
Author's Note: After Like a Fan Girl, Mikan should be shown grieving Natsume as much as he aggrieves her. Ü The tone is practically AU but with some imagination, this could be set way into the future.
It was the last day of a month-long assignment. All that was left to do was to make sure that the Prime Minister made it safely back to Japan. The last day of the mission also meant the last chance for less-than-peaceful individuals to try anything funny.
They could have bombed the auditorium while the Prime Minister was delivering his arrival speech. They could have ambushed his car when he was on his way to the state dinner. They could have kidnapped him while he was out jogging with the President.
But they did none of those things. Thus, it was highly logical to suspect that they would move now that all the promises have been made and all the agreements and treaties have been signed. The goal might very well be to keep the Prime Minister from following through. So if they were going to act, it was going to be today.
Natsume Hyuuga stood at the sidelines as the Prime Minister and other world leaders addressed the reporters for the last time. They were standing in a wide courtyard where a modest stage had been set up with typical lighting and sound equipment. Cameramen picked up footage from every angle, including from a scaffolding about ten meters high. The turnout was manageable but he wouldn't let his guard down. His eyes watched everyone present to detect anyone that acted the least bit suspicious. Natsume was extraordinarily skilled at determining whether someone was suspicious.
"This is boring," muttered his junior partner and protégé, Youichi Hijiri.
"Be quiet and be alert," Natsume ordered without looking at him.
"Natsume," Youichi began, "all we have here are political folks and glorified paparazzis. I've gone over the list twice. Everyone checks out."
"You should know better than to rely on a list from some public relations officer," Natsume said in a tone that said PR had the competency level of a skater boy. "And don't slouch. You look like science nerds could—"
And that's when he saw him: a tall, lanky man shuffling his way through the crowd of photographers. He looked like a member of the press, with his DSLR camera and the prominent ID hanging about his neck, but there was something about him that made Natsume doubtful of his credentials. The stubble on his face was too uneven and his eyes were a tad too red to be products of a hardworking man who missed a couple of shaves and a few nights sleep. No, this guy looked like he'd been planning something that could seriously overturn the results of a peace talk. These were flimsy indications but he'd been right before.
"Like science nerds could beat me up?" Youichi finished. "They might if they worked for Hotaru."
"Shut up," Natsume hissed then nodded towards his subject, "At two o'clock."
Youichi obediently trained his eyes on the stubbly man. His brow furrowed. "He's a photographer for the CN Journal. Why does he look so edgy?"
Natsume almost commented on Youichi's informal phrasing for the identification of a possible terrorist, but he approved that he caught on. Yes, Stubbly Joe certainly did look edgy.
"He doesn't look like a professional," Youichi commented.
"More likely an angry civilian," he agreed. "Eyes on the charge, I'm invoking DM-13."
Youichi nodded and they immediately parted. Natsume weaved through the crowd of reporters to get a closer look at his suspect. His instincts told him that this was the reason he was signed on for this assignment. He moved a little faster when Stubbly Joe reached into the inside pocket of his coat. Natsume was almost behind him now.
Then his phone rang, and with it the element of stealth disintegrated.
Natsume bit back a very violent curse when Stubbly Joe nearly jumped in surprise. He looked over his shoulder. For a second they locked eyes then Natsume reached into his pocket and moved away, pretending to be engaged in a regular conversation.
"Hyuuga," he said tersely.
"Natsume? Where are you?"
Good god. It was the wife.
Natusme kept his eyes on the suspect and tried the keep the irritation from his voice as he prepared to carry on a mundane conversation to discourage curious eyes.
"I'm exactly where I said I'd be."
"Let me rephrase then," Mikan said from the other end of the line. "Why aren't you here watching your son's play with us?"
"Listen, dear," he emphasized the last word for the benefit of the people who could hear him, "I really shouldn't be talking right now. The Prime Minister is giving a speech."
"Your son is Peter Pan," she returned with equal emphasis. He stopped walking.
"Peter Pan, you know, the spirit of youth. Something you definitely need."
He had to hand it to her. She successfully captured his attention when a very important task of fatherhood came into play. "You put my son in tights?"
"Yes," Mikan said. "And he looks adorable. You should see him."
"I'm working," he said through gritted teeth. He craned his neck and mentally swore when he saw Stubbly Joe had moved twenty paces away. "I'm a very busy man, darling."
"Ruka's busy too, you know," Mikan pointed out, oblivious of his situation. "But he's here. His daughter makes a wonderful Wendy."
"Ruka is a vet."
"He saves whales and African elephants."
"On a good day, I get to save a population of fifteen million households," he hissed, making sure the rest of the audience didn't hear that last part. He ducked behind a person then positioned himself ten steps away from Stubbly Joe.
Mikan remained unimpressed. She sniffed, "He's asking for you."
"Tell him I'll make it up to him. I'll be there in his next soccer game."
She sounded skeptical. "Really?"
"That's not good enough Natsume," Mikan said testily. "If I have to see that heartbreaking look on his face again when he finds out you're not showing up, I'll just weep. Have you ever seen his sad eyes? They absolutely bore into you."
He couldn't help but smile when he pictured his eldest. "He's five years old."
"He has your eyes!" Mikan insisted. "It's sharp and piercing and when it starts to well up— god, you have to be here."
He didn't answer at once. He realized Stubbly Joe was nearing the stage. He caught the eye of another agent and inclined his head slightly. Unfortunately, more than one guard had picked up the gesture and they started closing in on the suspect.
Damn it. They'll make him panic. Where the hell is Youichi?
"Natsume, did you hear me? You have to be here for sure."
Mikan's voice jarred him back to the conversation. He needed to get her off the phone right now. "I'll take a leave, a month-long leave."
To his annoyance, instead of being appeased, she started to list his next assignments with irritating accuracy. Mikan spoke doubtfully, "You'll give up Washington, Lithuania, the APEC Summit and the FILA World Cup, to be here?"
He paused. "I'll take Lithuania and the World Cup, but I'll attend two soccer games."
He could practically feel her prickle. "Washington and the World Cup, three soccer games and a trip to the ice cream parlor."
"Just the World Cup, two soccer games and a trip to the ice cream parlor."
"Two trips and you'll take our daughter with you."
Natsume scowled. "You're being awfully demanding."
"I'm carrying our third child," she retorted and he bit his tongue.
Mikan had been irritable during her first pregnancy. She became disagreeable in her second. She was being downright impossible in the third. Whoever said women absolutely glowed when they were with child was not a married man.
Natsume watched his teammates converge on the hot spot. Stubbly Joe must have realized he'd been spotted because he began pushing through the audience. Natsume moved too, keeping a constant distance of three meters between them.
"I move to renegotiate when I get back," he said hurriedly.
"Denied," Mikan said at once.
Stubbly Joe started to make his move. With his hand still in his coat pocket, he took a few steps toward the front of the crowd. He was near the stage now, practically at the wings. It wouldn't be a perfect shot but any hit would be breaking news.
"I need to go," he said hastily when Stubbly Joe finally fished out his weapon.
"Don't hang up on me! The last time you did—"
What happened after that was quick, indisputable logic. He really didn't want to negotiate with his wife right then. The suspect was about to take a shot. Therefore, Natsume Hyuuga did what any quick-thinking agent would do in his position.
He threw his cellphone and beaned Stubbly Joe at the back of his head.
The suspect fell forward. There was a unified shriek as he crashed to the floor, upending a railing and some reporters. His gun flew out his hand and was caught by another agent. Then Youichi dropped from out of nowhere and pushed Stubbly Joe to the ground.
The world leaders were ushered off the stage immediately. Natsume ran up to his partner and took a good look at their would-be assassin just as the rest of the security rushed over. Yes, this guy wasn't a hard-core criminal. He was simply another malcontent city voter.
He knelt next to Youichi. "Where did you come from?" His protégé grinned smugly. Natsume glanced up. "Did you just jump the scaffolding?"
"Ten meters, new record. Are you promoting me yet?"
Natsume snorted. He left Stubbly Joe to Youichi and the other security men then finally retrieved his phone, which had clattered a few feet away.
"Did you just chuck your cellphone at someone?!"
"But I didn't hang up," he responded quickly. Sometimes, Imai-issued gadgets could be such a pain. Who would've thought Mikan's signal all the way from Japan would survive that impact?
"Oh my god! This whole time… you were getting rid of me…" Mikan's voice suddenly softened. "You saved someone's life, didn't you?"
"I'm proud of you." He could hear the smile in her voice and his irritation evaporated. "Will I see this on the evening news?"
"Probably. Show Peter Pan, okay?"
"You're his hero," she answered affectionately. "I need to go, love. Act Two is about to begin. But about your leave—"
"One soccer game, a trip to the ice cream parlor and I'll take our son to the World Cup," he interrupted when his fatherhood synapses finally reconnected.
"Wonderful," Mikan said happily. "When will you be back?"
"Sunday dinner. See you then."
"Sure. Oh, and next time, when I say 'Peter Pan', you hang up, okay?"
She laughed, mentally adding the word to their long list of key phrases and passwords. "Okay." Finally, she disconnected and Natsume pocketed his phone.
"Was that the wife?" Youichi asked with a wobbly grin.
Natsume rolled his eyes. "Isn't it always?"
"What did she say?"
He shrugged then said proudly, "My son is Peter Pan."