Sleeping Beauty or Snow White?
Shining black hair flashed in the mirror as I struggled to get the soft mass up into its place under a bald cap. Green eyes stared in annoyance back at my own and then moved to the top of my head, following the movement of my hands as they fought the losing battle with my hair.
"Why are you trying to hide your wonderful hair," you might ask? Well, I am so glad you asked. Sit down people, because you're going to get a blow by blow account as to the origins of Natsuki Kuga, bodyguard extraordinaire.
I work for a large security firm that specializes in protecting high profile people. We mostly are hired as bodyguards while foreign celebrities are in Japan. I'm usually hired out to protect English speakers, seeing as I speak English better than I do Japanese. You see, I am half Japanese, half American. I spent most of my life in Japan until I was ten. My mother died, accidentally driving her car off a cliff and into the ocean while going to work one morning. My Japanese relatives couldn't afford to keep a ten year old so I was forced to move to the states to live with my father, who was hardly in my life due to him being a higher up in an American motorcycle company. He half-heartedly welcomed me, while my American aunts and uncles opened their doors and their hearts.
So, I spent my high school years in the States, living in the Washington D.C. area with my rather enthusiastic aunts. They got me interested in the criminal justice field; one of them is a CIA agent and the other is a criminal profiler for the FBI. Needless to say, it was great fun being psychoanalyzed by one and getting the crap beaten out of me during training sessions with the other. I graduated high school early, and began an undergraduate degree in criminology and psychology. As it turns out, I found that I was much better at actually doing the stuff they talk about in class. After a brief stint as an intern under my aunt at the FBI during my junior year, they practically begged me to work an under-cover recon expert, completely ignoring the fact that I was only twenty and had yet to finish my schooling.
Let's just say that my stint at the FBI was ridiculously short. I was let go due to my inability to take orders and follow protocol. Apparently I have a lone wolf complex. As my aunt would say, "I coulda told ya that one, even without the fancy evaluation!" After brushing up on my Japanese, I decided to come back to the Land of the Rising Sun. I found my way into my current job, which was kind of ideal for misfits like me. Reito Kanzaki, my boss and owner of the firm, loves having young, capable people working for him. The man is only 24, three years my senior, and runs the premier security agency in Japan. He has dubbed the agency ARTEMIS, due to the fact that almost all of his field agents arefemale. It suited me just fine, Artemis happens to be my favorite Greek goddess.
Anywho, back to my endless battle with my hair. This job calls on me to be a boy for its duration and so far it's starting off on something of a wrong foot. I have spent the last half hour on my wig, and all of my efforts have only resulted in tired arms and increasingly tangled hair.
A sound between a growl and a huff escaped my lips as I resigned myself to asking for help. I picked up my cell phone from its place on the vanity and dialed a number.
Please be Aoi, Please be Aoi, I thought in desperation at the ringing phone. I don't think I could've handled Chie at the moment.
"Hi there, sergeant sexiness," purred a voice over the line. Crap.
"Hey Chie, can you hand me over to Aoi, please?" My voice was lower than its usual husk as I fought with my embarrassment and annoyance with the obnoxious woman. Really, Chie was great to hang out with when she wasn't horny or drunk. Then again, she was almost always horny, and when drunk, anyone female should run for the hills; she was truly unstoppable in that state.
Nao Zhang, the fourth member of my intrepid team, is just as bad. She however loves to poke other peoples' buttons to see how far she could get before they blow up at her. The resident pain in the ass is currently working on finding information in regards to our current case. While her mouth gets her into trouble with clients, Reito keeps her on because of her excellent street smarts and her uncanny ability to read people.
"I can certainly give you a-" There was muffled thump and an "Ow". The other line emitted a clatter and a thunk as the cell was grabbed out of the dark haired woman's hand. It was probably thrown on a desk or chair as Chie and Aoi fought for positioning over the phone.
I chuckled then sighed, imagining the little wrestling match going on between Chie and her chocolate haired, blue eyed girlfriend. I waited out the prolonged match with growing agitation, hoping that it wouldn't turn into an impromptu make-out session. When I heard gasps and smacking noises, I had enough.
Should've known... "OI! There's somebody here, remember?" Shuffling and rustling could be heard, broken by feminine murmuring. Then a breathy "Hello, Nastuki, what can I do for you?" Spoke from the other end. I rolled my eyes.
Finally - jeez you two.
"Aoi, I need you to help with my disguise, I can't get my hair into the wig." I glared at the offending accessory. As if that would make it behave.
"Kay, I'll be over shortly. You're at the safehouse, right?"
"Yeah. Thanks Aoi." I hung up before I heard a response. Sure, it was rude, but so is attempting to make out with your girlfriend while she's on the phone with someone else.
While waiting for the brunette, I fussed over my outfit for the night. It was definitely cool in my humble opinion. The tight black leather pants were cut to fit over the backs of shoes, or in my case, black leather boots; they also fit snuggly around my butt and were loose enough to be comfy. A white collared, buttoned up shirt with rolled up sleeves fit my frame well, showing off strong, lean arms and hopefully giving the illusion of a long, lithe and fit torso. This was the hardest part of the disguise, as I had to bind my breasts and put light padding over the wrapping. I had thrown on the padding after realizing that my breasts were still showing a little. The padding created a nice, flat, well formed "male" chest. A tight fitting black vest, again leather, further hid my curves (not that there are much of those to begin with) and added a nice place to fit some throwing knives. The outfit was topped off with various bits of jewelry, my favorite being an amulet with the image of a howling wolf etched in it.
As I peered in my vanity's mirror again I was extremely happy with my look; it conveyed someone who was confident with their appearance, but wasn't cocky by any means. Other than the fact that I looked like I was partially bald, I looked like a handsome young man looking for some fun at a club. Which reminded me...
"Sonova..." I growled under my breath. Aoi was supposed to be here by now. Honestly, I really hoped that Chie hadn't followed her girlfriend over. The woman was like a dog in heat sometimes. I had a sudden image of a dog with Chie's dark grey hair humping poor Aoi's leg as she attempted to walk down the street. I doubled over laughing, forgetting my previous anger, the bald cap falling to floor with a soft "plop" causing what little hair that was in it to cascade around my back and shoulders.
Straightening with a small chuckle, I cast my eyes around my safehouse. It was a standard studio apartment with a small bathroom attached. It was leased for five months under my alias, Misaki Kruger, and was conveniently located relatively close to a small Fuuka City Police Department building. Chie and Aoi were coming from there; it really should only be a two minute walk to get to my new home away from home. While sparsely decorated and furnished the studio had a nice view of the city and with its white washed walls and light maple wood floor, it felt open and welcoming.
My searching eyes finally fell on their prey. Moving over to the unmade bed and sitting down hard, I began sifting through the file that Chie and Aoi made for me. My mission was to protect a waitress who worked at the local night club, The HiMe Star. Her name was Shizuru Fujino. She's a true blue princess from one of the wealthiest families in Japan. The Fujinos are highly successful in the rare stones business. Why she was working as a waitress in a night club was anyone's guess. The youngest Fujino is a fourth year student at Fuuka University, working on a fairly prestigious psychology program. At the age of twenty-two, the young woman was a 4.0 student and was also already beginning her master's program. Because of her relative youth and charisma, she was often invited on morning talk shows to talk about her father's burgeoning political career. Young Miss Fujino was a media darling.
Shizuru was extremely popular while in high school and that carried into her college career. The woman actually had an official fan club before she was asked to be interviewed for her first show. They even had a small office on the college campus - I know, I looked. Honestly, I could never understand how a seemingly normal student could have so many followers. I mean her fan club's website had like an average of 200 hits per day, while the club itself had almost a hundred regular members. The club even had a hierarchy! Naturally, the team had all the club member's names and addresses and Nao - who had a number of street contacts - was currently snooping around the club's office to find anything suspicious.
So when she wound up on TV, her star only rose. OK, the heiress was completely meant for TV. She was ridiculously beautiful, with lightly golden skin that covered a curvy, slim, athletic body, thick wavy honey brown hair that framed a striking face, and her most amazing feature: bright big sparkling red eyes. She also had a musically soft and low voice that complemented her Kyoto accent. Put all that together with a polite smile, elegant and attentive posture, and a playful side, she was every TV host or hostess's wet dream. Obviously, she was a ratings success; any show that had her on it easily outstripped any other in its time slot. Of course, her small group of fans from school grew into a small army of devoted lunatics. She was followed just about everywhere by small groups of that army these days. There were now more than twenty websites devoted to her, including the college fan clubs.
Inevitably, some fans would go too far, trying to get articles of clothing, or even try to get a hold of Miss Fujino's school things, to borderline stalking. Miss Fujino was at an event one evening and happened to find that her drink had been drugged, but luckily her father's people found her passed out in the ladies room on a cushy chair in the waiting area (hey it was a fancy hotel). The far more frightening incident occurred at The HiMe Star, where the client was assaulted in the break room. Her assailant had her pinned up against the back wall of the room and was getting ready to abduct her when the club manager and owner, Anh Lu, found them. The girl (which was a surprise) was escorted to the police station and was only charged with minor assault. She was released on bail and disappeared. Needless to say, Miss Fujino was shaken, and Anh Lu promptly hired us to protect her customers' favorite waitress.
These pictures seriously do not do her justice... I thought as I sifted through the file's photographs, thinking on the accidental meeting a week ago.
I had dressed for working in hot conditions on that Monday morning. I wore a white tight fitting tank, and tanned tight cargos. I loved those pants, despite the fact that they hugged my ass and legs; they had deep pockets on the thighs and were sturdy enough to handle the long motorcycle rides that I put them through. They also look awesome with my kick-ass calf length leather boots and plethora of leather jackets. I pulled my lightest jacket out of the closet near the door and laid it over the back of my small couch, flopping on it before grabbing the remote and switching on the TV. Since I didn't have to meet Chie and Aoi until later in the afternoon, I decided to check out some of the morning shows to see if our star was to be interviewed on any of them.
I was to meet Chie and Aoi at The HiMe Star at 2pm. Luckily, that day was not as hot as the forecaster called for, so I took my bike out for a ride before I had to meet the couple. After a nice ride along the water, I headed back into downtown Fuuka City. I caught sight of the equipment van as I screeched to a halt, jumping off the bike when it stopped. I made sure to kick down its stand before I let go, I would forget sometimes whenever I got too excited. After stowing my helmet in the bike's small storage compartment I pulled back the sleeve of my light leather jacket, revealing my sports watch to find that I was right on time. I smirked at my partners as I walked up to them. They were already waiting at the front door.
Chie gave me an answering smirk, "I don't think you can get any hotter, boss. I mean come on, you look like a biker's pinup girl!" She raked her eyes playfully over my outfit for the day. "Even Aoi's checking you out." She added, while jerking her thumb at her girlfriend. I flicked my gaze over to the chocolate - brunette. Yup, she'd been caught; her face was a flaming red.
Aoi mumbled something that I couldn't hear, but Chie did. Her grin became more pronounced and amusement danced in her brown eyes. "C'mon. Let's get this over with. I wanna get the set-up done on the cameras today, if possible." Apparently Chie was going to stop her teasing, so I shrugged and moved past her to the door.
The neon sign was off, grey and dull, above the bright crimson door. I grabbed the ornate H that acted like a door handle and pushed into the club. Chie let out a low whistle as we collectively took in the interior. A large circular bar dominated the center of the room with wide permanent long tables radiating out from it. I wondered what they were for, my eyes following one of them until it ended at the start of a dance floor. The dance floor met a large stage that took up the entirety of the back wall and wrapped around the corner; ending in the middle of the side wall. A smattering of round tables, their chairs turned upside down and placed on their tops, were scattered around the front of the club. Booths of all sizes wound their way around the parameter of the club, with islands of them dispersing the tables. Everything was in shades of gray, shinning black, and red.
We weaved our way back to a side door which opened to a wide, light corridor. The white walls seemed to go on endlessly and our sneakers squeaked on the black, slick floor. Finally reaching the manager's office, we all looked at each other daring someone to knock on the door. I scowled and banged on the wood with my impatient fist. Then I leaned on the frame facing the others and crossing my arms over my chest. I know - I'm a badass.
"I hope the manager's ho-" SMACK "OW! Aoi, what was that for?" Chie whined, rubbing the back of her head.
"A little pain now more pleasure later." Was the sweet reply.
I chuckled "Aoi, you know she never learns. Besides I think she likes the attention."
"Natsuki, it's too bad you haven't felt the pain of love." Chie grinned mischievously. Aoi sputtered and blushed. My eyes grew wide then I shook my head.
Right as I was formulating a snarky response, a melodious voice spoke right next my ear, brushing against the skin behind it and tickling my hair. "Ara, if one of you three lovely ladies were involved, I would gladly experience this 'pain'."
I practically threw myself away from the door, standing rigidly straight. My hand flew to my neck as I spun around to face my attacker. She was tall, really tall. My eye was level with her tanned neck and the top of a nicely shaped chest. Nice necklace. My eyes traveled up to meet clear cerulean eyes that were currently sparkling with amusement. The lady reached up and brushed back her ashy brown bangs with an elegant hand and suddenly smirked. She leaned forward, locking her eyes on mine.
"Especially you, Sexy Pants-san." She husked, lowering her voice into a soft murmur. My mouth fell open, and heat ran into my pale cheeks. I'm pretty sure I was bright red at this point. Chie let out a muffled snort and I could hear Aoi giggling behind me.
I took a discreet step back shutting my mouth and then stuttering out, "H-Hi... Anh Lu, I presume?" She straightened to her full height - like all six feet of her - and slowly nodded. She motioned us into her office. The three of us filed in and stood in front of her desk, while she walked around it and smoothly slid into the cushy chair situated behind it. She then leaned back, running assessing eyes over us, lingering mostly on me.
"You're the team hired to help protect Shizuru, yes?" We all nodded. "Great! Shizuru was told that I would be hiring specialists to help out the security team here. I'm glad that there are so few of you. Shi-chan asked that you'll be discreet, and she honestly doesn't want to know whose going to actually be watching over her." She took in our surprised glances, and giggled daintily behind her long fingered hand. "Oh, I know, that girl certainly is an odd one. She thinks of this as a bit of a game; I believe she wants to use this experience as a base for her school thesis."
I scowled, "Lady, this is no game, Miss Shizuru is being stalked. Stalkers tend to escalate, especially if they are ignored, or scoffed at, over time. This person's mail has been ignored and was stopped from making contact with her at least one time; she is most likely to try something more drastic than simply accosting her in the hallway at work! Hell, there could even be more than one stalker!"
Ahn raised an eyebrow and sighed, "Right, umm -"
"Natsuki," I huffed out.
She blinked, surprised at the usage of my given name, "Na-tsu-ki, then," she carried on, rolling my name over her tongue. "Shizuru is well aware that her recent exposure in the media has garnered a lot of unwanted attention. Honestly, she's had issues with a lot of our customers in the past. I think we've had to ban four or five people because of her, and there's been about an incident a month due to overly amorous patrons. Shizuru really doesn't want any extra attention due to something that she has been dealing with in one form or another since high school, or so I've been told."
She paused, leaned forward in her chair placing her elbows on the wooden desk and laced her fingers in front of her. All traces of playfulness were gone from her expression. "I truly care for this young lady. She is a dear friend of mine, and I sincerely hope that she stays safe. Playing this 'game' of hers is the only way to keep her focused on something that won't allow for her to do anything rash. She thinks that trying to find out who is protecting her will help her read people a little better. It's her round-about way of self-defense.
This last incident really frightened me. None of the others that we've kicked out or banned were as sneaky and tenacious as this girl was. For one thing, she was stone cold sober - most of our customers don't have the guts to talk to Shi-chan without some booze in them. When I found them, Shizuru was so scared, she was shaking. You probably noticed this already from the TV interviews, she's a hard nut to crack. That was first time in the five years I've known her that I've seen her so vulnerable. And the bouncers said that her attacker was righteously crazy. Apparently the bitch was raving about all the lovely things that she and Shizuru had in common. The girl even graphically described what she would do to Shizuru once she got her alone." She made a face. "It was not pretty."
Okay, now I feel like an ass. Sometimes I hate my short temper. I looked again into those ocean blues. Worry and anger swirled in their depths. I softened my posture in understanding.
"I'm sorry Miss Lu," I started softy. "Chie, Aoi, Nao, and I will do our utmost to make sure that Miss Fujino stays safe until the police can find the stalker." I glanced at my two partners who were flanking me. Simultaneously, they looked at me then at our client, and gave her silent nods.
Chie stepped forward, pushed her glasses up to a comfortable spot on her nose and held out her hand, "Hello, Lu-san. My name's Chie Harada. I'm the recon lead." Anh Lu nodded and clasped hands with the tall black haired woman. "I also help Natsuki with surveillance." She added the last part with a smirk.
I also shook Anh's hand, "I'm Natsuki Kuga. I'll be point in this mission, and will have the most contact with Miss Fujino." I earnestly peered into her face. "I hope that I didn't upset you earlier and I am sorry for jumping to conclusions. Please, just call me Natsuki."
Eyes flashing mischievously, Anh broke into a wide playful smile. "Oh, I'm sure Shizuru will absolutely love you, Natsuki. And you don't have to apologize; your concern for Shizuru is duly noted and appreciated." Her smile widened, if that was possible. "Besides, you're too cute to be upset with for long."
Oh. My. God. The woman was almost as bad as Chie! I growled under my breath. I mean I know my looks get me a lot of attention, but Anh was taking this whole flirting thing too far. I opened my mouth to say something to that effect, but Aoi elbowed me in the ribs. I let out a whoosh of air and glared down at the blue eyed girl.
"And my name's Aoi Senou. I am Chie's assistant and the resident techie." Aoi bowed politely to our employer. "I would also like to apologize in advance for Chie, Natsuki, and Nao. Chie will probably hit on you in the near future. Natsuki'll get growly again, and Nao's…well… Nao." She then gave Anh a small smile.
Musical laughter filled the air as Anh absorbed the information that Aoi had so glibly given. "Thank you so much, Senou-san, I appreciate that you and your team are so candid. Please, I would love it if everyone would call me Anh. Anything more makes me feel old." She was still chuckling as she gracefully unfolded herself from her chair. She then clapped her hands in mirth. "Now tell me what you need to protect my precious Shizuru-chan."
So, armed with the cover that we were installing new surveillance systems, we got to work. I was to be the intern, i.e. I'm the gopher-bitch. I argued with Chie about the change in the hierarchy, but Aoi stepped in and pointed out that I could get away with snooping around if I had to do most of the heavy lifting. Damn Aoi and her iron-clad reasoning! I gave in so I could do my recon thing.
Chie and Aoi walked around the parameter of the club while I got familiar with all the nooks and crannies in the building. Although a little hesitant at first, Anh was also helpful enough to provide a list of places that Shizuru stayed at when she was working. I could see why, she had her own secure dressing room, for any "costume changes." It was complete with a small couch, a vanity and mirror, fridge, and a hot plate with a tea kettle. Anh mentioned that none of the other girls had accommodations like these, but then again, they didn't accidentally cause near riots due to their dancing.
Apparently, the club hired waiters and waitresses that were not only great with people, but were excellent dancers too. Throughout the night, the DJ would play certain songs, while the servers were to jump up on the nearest table to dance. They also encouraged their guests to join in on the dance floor or the side stage (they weren't allowed on the tables, for liability reasons).
When I had asked, "So it's kinda like Coyote Ugly, right?" all I got were blank stares. So much for Japan's supposed obsession with American pop culture.
In any event, each server gets one or two solo dances on the main stage. As long as the server stays reasonably clothed through the routine, they could dance to anything they wanted.
The club's activity began to pick up as the evening wore on. The servers were filtering in and began their pre-opening routine of getting tables ready and practicing their dances for the night. I wandered over to the bar and seated myself there, finding that it was a great vantage point. As I waited for my friends to finish their recon, I took in the increasingly busy crowd of workers. A friendly looking bartender, whose name was Mai, found her way over to me and gave me a glass of water. She then easily drew me into a comfortable conversation.
"So, do all of the servers here dance?" I asked the perky bartender.
She smiled and shook her head, orange-red hair flying into her face, "No, only the ones who volunteer to do it. It can be a little hard, moving around all night. Some nights, they have to do like eight songs on top of their personal ones. Shizuru-san has like three or four personal songs and they get played tons when she's here." She spoke Shizuru's name with a quiet reverence. "Oh, and she's known as Viola here, so don't tell anyone her real name." Mai looked sternly at me, her eyes hardening into amethysts.
Silently, I nodded as I sat back in my seat. "Wow, that's a lot. Is Miss Shizuru that popular?" I already knew the answer but I wanted to hear the reason why the red head spoke her name like that.
She let loose a sad sigh, "Shizuru-san is beautiful and graceful, but nobody actually sees that she's a great person, too. You see, my brother's ill and I'm all he's got. She found out about him and is paying for his hospital bills for me." She paused and gave me a watery smile. "She said that he and I need to focus on living, like the flowers in spring. Even though they are in full bloom for a short time, they try so hard. Shizuru-san views the hospital bills as an obstacle to our blooming. I think she sees the hospital as the winter, but she's so eloquent, I would never be able to repeat what she said.
So, here I am, working my way through college. My brother, Takumi, is working here too. Shizuru-san mentioned to Anh-san that he was good with computers, so he's our IT guy. It's great because Takumi can come in whenever he is needed and Anh-san lets him take it easy when he needs to."
I gave her a soft smile. That was totally unexpected. "Beautiful." Honestly, that was all I could say; doing something like that for a co-worker is going above and beyond. Shizuru's explanation was surprisingly poetic. Mai's smile widened and she lifted her chin proudly. A blush formed on her cheeks and she dropped her gaze back down to the glass that she was polishing.
A heavy hand landed on my shoulder, "Wow, Noob-tsuki, you're already flirting with the staff and it's your first day out in the field?" Chie was clearly enjoying her role a little too much.
I sighed and turned in my seat, giving Chie a glare. She waggled her eyebrows, unfazed. "So, hey, could you tell my esteemed partner that we need a camera set up over there?" She pointed towards the front, to the top right corner of the club, which had an excellent view of the side stage and the DJ's nest.
Aoi rolled her eyes. "I still say we should put one over the stage. This way we can see all of the action without any washing out from the lighting systems." She gave her taller girlfriend a disapproving glare.
"Hey I don't know much about these things, but why don't we have one on the stage, pointing towards the bar." I gestured towards the front door. "The other in Chie's corner should face behind it, towards those tables and the entrance. That should cut out any lighting issues, right?"
"Wow, Natsuki, you're actually good at this." Aoi smiled, grateful that the issue was apparently resolved.
Chie, not wanting to admit any sort of defeat, bowed mockingly, "I am humbled before you, my master."
"Yes, you have much to learn, my young padawan." I said gravely in English, giving her a small bow in return. Star Wars vocabulary sounds weird in Japanese.
We both turned to Aoi, grinning from ear to ear. She scoffed "Come on guys, focus! Yoda, I need you to stake out that booth so we can stick a camera in Luke's corner." She jammed Chie's glasses back on to her nose. Chie takes them off when she's helping Aoi install equipment. "Luke, we need to go get two more cameras and another monitor, I don't want to lose my eyesight because the images are too small."
"Why do I have to be Yoda? He's old, tiny, wrinkly, and speaks backwards." I whined, crinkling my face up into a pout.
"Yeah, I wanna be Han Solo!" Chie joined in.
Aoi threw her arms up "Fine! Natsuki, you're Luke." She rounded on Chie, "You can be Solo, now move before I get all Jabba the Hut on your asses!"
Chie and I promptly fist bumped, congratulating each other on a fine job in getting Aoi riled up enough to swear and reveal her inner geek. Aoi huffed and crossed her arms over her chest.
Chie threw an arm around her girlfriend and murmured into her ear. "I love it when you speak geek to me." Aoi blushed and wrapped her arm around the tall brunette's waist as they walked away. She then leaned up and whispered something into Chie's neck that made her chuckle.
I sighed and made myself ready for the trip over to the corner. "They're a cute couple, aren't they?" I jumped slightly as I stood, hoping the movement would hide my surprise.
"Yeah, Chie's a pain in the ass at times, but her heart's in the right place. I honestly don't know how Aoi puts up with her. Aoi is the definition of kindness, I don't think that there's a mean bone in her body."
Mai sighed, "I wish I had my special someone." Her eyes glazed over as she stared dreamily off into space.
I snapped my fingers in front of her face "Hey! Earth to Mai! Urgent message for Mai." I leaned back as she snapped her violet colored eyes back to me. "Can I get some water?" She nodded and handed me a bottle from the fridge under the counter. I gave her some money and nodded before I turned and made my way over to the corner booth.
"Ara, ara, a new face! And what a pretty one at that. Wake up, Sleeping Beauty." Spoke a low musical voice in a pleasant mix of English and Japanese. Even her accent is pretty and I bet the lady who belongs to that voice is really pretty too, I thought in my haze. I had never heard a Japanese accent sound so nice. My lips formed a smile, and I snuggled further into my jacket, willing the voice to carry on.
"Why thank you, miss. But I really do think that you should wake up, that position you are sleeping in looks rather uncomfortable." The voice was now laced with amusement. I could feel the warmth radiating off the other as she moved closer. It was odd that the voice responded to my thoughts. Wait a minute…
"Holy guacamole!" I yelled as I bolted straight up into a seated position. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes with the heels of my palms. My mouth dropped as I took in the person who owned that hypnotic voice. My eyes widened as they travelled from the tops of the woman's sandaled feet to the top of her tawny head. I ticked off the physical features of my 'body'. Golden skin-check. Long, long legs- check. Athletic, yet curvy body-check. Light brown hair and a gorgeous face-check. I gulped as I met dancing crimson eyes. Big, red eyes- check.
It took a full minute for me to register that I was now face to face with the person I was supposed to be protecting. I shuffled further into my seat, noticing that she was wearing very short athletic shorts and a tight tank-top that revealed lots of that glowing skin. I was a little incredulous; she makes friggin exercise clothes look ridiculously sexy. My eyes widened as I realized I was staring. Shizuru did, too.
She giggled. I groaned.
"Ara, I do believe that we have a Snow White on our hands." Shizuru clapped her hands in front of her ample chest. An impish smile formed on her lips. "I know that Snow White is supposed to be awakened by true love's first kiss. It's too bad only my voice woke you."
I blushed from head to toe, thinking quickly. I turned away shuffling through my things. I had to show that I wasn't affected by her teasing, or she might just carry on with it. If that happened I'm sure I'd faint. My hand brushed my cell. I grabbed it and smirked, putting my hands over my head stretching out the last of my sleep. Turning in my seat to face her again I began to tap at it, pretending that I was calling someone. In reality, I was franticly texting Chie and Aoi for help.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell."
She cocked her head to the side, "There's no need to apologize. It was I who frightened you, after all." Shizuru then smiled her patented half smile. I've seen that smile so much on TV. It was a mask. I knew, mostly because the expression never actually filled her eyes. Right now, her smile and posture spoke patient anticipation, but her eyes held mischief. I was determined to put a real smile on her face.
I put the phone to my ear, slightly turning my face away from her for some privacy. "Hello, I'm trying to get a hold of someone to help me return a runaway princess." I said into the phone, steeling a quick glance at my charge, judging her reaction. She was stunned; her eyebrows were slowly disappearing under her bangs. I inwardly groaned as she visibly stopped herself from asking what the hell I was doing. "Seriously, I think I might have one of your princesses here in Fuuka City." I put a hint of irritation in my voice.
She cracked. "Who are you calling?" She whispered. Her arms wrapped themselves around her stomach and she took a tentative, but curious step closer.
I cupped my hand around the phone and a replied with a soft "Tokyo Disneyland." Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide in panic.
I glanced down as I pretended that I was taken off hold. "Hello, you're a supervisor? Ah, no, she's not wearing a gown, but I think that she might just be one of your actors." I paused. "Oh, a description? Sure thing." I stood up and stepped forward, getting into her personal bubble. "Okay, I'm not great at this but here it goes." I began circling her, noticing that we were of the same height, but I was slightly taller. "She's approximately 172 centimeters, athletic but curvy, clear lightly tanned skin, and has shoulder-length honey brown hair that's thick and wavy."
I came back around and stopped right in front of her face, so I could watch her as I described my favorite features. "Regal facial structure, long eyelashes, and the most amazing eyes anyone could have. Really, I'm surprised you guys let her out of your sights!" I paused again. "No, you don't get to hear about her eyes! What! You're an idiot!"
Shizuru lowered her gaze, looking somewhere on the floor. "Ya know what? I think I'll keep her." I said the last part in a murmur, not needing to say it any louder, seeing as we were so close. I pretended to hang up on the Disney people, stuffing the phone into my back pocket.
Without anything to do, my hand came up to cup her delicate chin, forcing her to look into my eyes. She was shaking with suppressed mirth and her eyes were dancing with laughter. "Yup, your eyes are absolutely beautiful, especially when they laugh."
She stepped back and burst out laughing. I mentally gave myself a high five. Her voice was amazing, but her silvery laughter was heavenly. "Either you actually called Disney, or that was the most elaborate pick-up line I have ever heard." She looked at me, eyes sparkling as tears rolled down her cheeks, and gave me a brilliant smile. "Thank you, Snow White. I haven't had a laugh like that in a very long time."
She brought up a long-fingered hand and brushed at the happy tears on her cheeks. "My name is Shi- Viola, by the way."
I gave her a theatrical bow. "Many thanks, Princess, but I did mean it when I said that your eyes are incredible. They are such an odd color, almost like the many shades of red that are found in autumn. I-"
My phone rang for real this time and I pulled it out to check the caller ID. It was Nao. Damnit. I growled and then glanced at Shizuru. "Please excuse me, I have to take this." I held out my hand for a hand shake. "It's nice meeting you Viola." We shook.
I jumped as I shook myself out of my revelry. I blinked down at the pictures that were now being held loosely in my hands. Then the knocking began again.
"I'm coming! Chill out!" I raced to the door and threw it open. Chie froze in mid strike, almost punching me in the face. Aoi gasped. I looked at them in confusion.
Chie sighed, rolling her eyes in the process. "You remember when I said you couldn't possibly get any hotter?"
"Well, you just broke that threshold. By a lot."
I stepped back, signaling them to come inside. Turning around to hide my blushing face (I'm not really good at taking compliments about my looks) I marched back to the vanity. I plopped into the seat, waiting for Aoi to catch up.
"Alrighty then, let's get you into that awesome wig that I got you." Aoi ran her fingers through my hair, smoothing it out for easier styling. "I'm probably only going to be able to do this a couple times for you, so pay attention. Oh, and you really don't need a bald cap because the wig is dyed to look like your natural hair color."
She then quickly styled my hair into a tight bun. She intentionally left some of my shorter hair out of the bun to complement the wig. I winced as she placed the wig over my head and dug the pins into my scalp.
"All done!" She glanced at my image in the mirror. "You look great by the way; just don't let anyone distract you!" She gave me a little wink before turning to Chie.
Chie then stepped forward and announced that she was going to add a little extra to the outfit. "You're still wearing those blue contacts, right?"
I nodded "Yeah, I'm waiting till right before we leave though. They kinda itch."
"Okay. Since they probably won't cover all of the green in your eyes, I have a couple of things that could bring out the blue from the contacts." She pulled a navy blue skinny tie and a black leather fedora out of her satchel. The hat had a blue strip of fabric, the same color as the tie. "Some of that jewelry's gotta go. They could mess with the voice alternator."
"Voice alternator? I thought that my voice was low enough to pass as a guy."
Chie snorted. "Yeah it is, but since you had to go and talk to the body, we had to make sure that she can't recognize you. So, Aoi and Youko-san created this nifty device that essentially lowers your voice a bit more." She held up something that looked like a choker.
I took it and checked it out. It looked like a thin leather dog collar, complete with small silver buttons, etched with the heads of howling wolves. It was okay, I guess, so I put it around my neck.
"Push in the button on the center of your neck." Aoi ordered. I obliged and looked in askance at her. "Okay now speak"
"Umm Aoi, This is "I stopped in surprise. What came out of my mouth was my voice, but not really. It still had that raspy husk, but it was an octave lower than usual. "Aoi, this is amazing!" I stood up and gave her a big hug.
She gave me a small squeeze before stepping back. "Thanks, I had Chie test it out, and I figured that it would work even better on you because of that raspy quality you have. I guess I was right."
Chie stepped in and threw the tie around my neck. She then tucked it under my stiff collar and tied it very loosely, so the knot was resting on my sternum. She also unbuttoned the shirt a little more than what I would have liked, but since she essentially picked my out getup I didn't protest. After that, she placed the fedora snuggly on my head, so my wig's bangs fell into my right eye. She backed away, glancing at her girlfriend.
I took off the extra bling from around my neck and the clip on ear ring but left the amulet tucked under my shirt. Finally, I popped in my blue contacts, pushing my hair out of my eyes. I turned without looking at the mirror. I wanted to see my friends' reactions first.
"Wow," An awed whisper came from Aoi.
"I concur. This is turning out to be the best mission ever!" Chie fist pumped.
When I finally faced them, they critically took in my disguise, checking for any flaws.
"You know. I'm a friggin' genius. The tie and hat really helps hide the green in your eyes. They're so vivid that I thought that no naturally colored contact could change them enough." Chie stepped forward again and placed her hands on my now flat chest.
I yelped and fought the urge to jump back. I knew that she was just testing the padding, but it's kind of hard to fight instinct.
"So, I pass, right?" My new voice husked out.
Aoi shivered and gave a weak thumbs-up.
"Dude, if you were a dude, and I wasn't gay, I'd do you right here and now."
Okay Chie, that's gross. I rolled my eyes and then checked the time on my awesome new watch.
"Right, guys. Let's get this first day right. We don't know what's going to happen, but Nao said that the word on the street was that Shizuru might be attacked tonight. Nao's already there, I think she's posing as a waitress, and Anh should be aware." I looked at them gravely. "We all know the potential that stalkers bring to the table. We have to make sure the body stays safe and gather any clues that the police might use."
They both nodded and then began to gather up their things. I finally turned to look in the mirror for the first time since my disguise was completed. I raised an eyebrow at my reflection. Damn, I look good. With that confident thought, I spun around to grab my helmet off the coffee table and walked out with my team to get to work.
AN: Hey All! This chapter has been beta'd by my awesome beta: Athena Sampaio! This is the third incarnation of the chapter.
What do you all think? Reviews are awesome as always and any mistakes are my own.