Part I: Lining up the Shot
If you want my body,
And you think I'm sexy,
C'mon sugar let me know!
If you really need me,
Just reach out and touch me,
C'mon honey tell me so!
—Rod Stewart"Do ya think I'm sexy?"--
<<on line (12:06:22/11-20-30)>> <<YOU HAVE MAIL>> - READ MAIL <<DOWNLOADING>> <<DISPLAYING>> *****DATAMAIL***** TO: Carlos Jagger (NA/UNA/NY (212)-919-2772 Jagger, C) FROM: Katherine Ramis (PR/JAP/MT 06-543-2718 Ramis, K) 20-November-2030
Just kidding Cowboy, I think the only Japanese you know is 'gimme a beer'.
I've finally been released from the hospital, the docs having finished putting me back together, and was wondering if you could take a break from destroying Neo York to come out to MT and make sure all my new limbs are working right?
Think you can handle it?
Be waiting to hear from you!
Jagger sat, looking at the message displayed on his laptop's screen, the only sign of life the metronomic tapping of his index finger on the tabletop. Finally, a smile dawned on his face and he pulled up the address book window on the computer. He selected a specific number and the attached celphone activated.
After a couple of rings, the call connected and an androgynous face appeared on the screen.
"Yes? Can I help you?" The voice matched the face in its lack of gender.
Jagger frowned; he was sure he had the right number. "I'm calling for Nabiki Tendo."
The face answered back, its voice expressing disdain without changing tone. "Miss Tendo is unavailable at this moment. Please leave a number where you can be reached and a short message and she will return your call at her convenience."
Jagger's confusion cleared. He was talking to a simadam, a mid-level AI program designed to respond to verbal inquiries and manage information; essentially an electronic secretary. He frowned again; he didn't have time for this nonsense.
"Look, bit-brain. Parse these keywords through your input queue: Jagger, Avatar, Kitten. Now, get Nabiki on the line or I'll have you re-compiled into a vid-game."
The simadam's face blanked as it assimilated the unusual request, then responded with a neutral "Please stand by..."
After a few seconds of staring at a standard hold pattern, Jagger was rewarded with Nabiki's image, her eyes half-lidded and an eyebrow raised.
"Mr. Jagger, your lack of tact never ceases to amaze me." Her voice was cool with an amused tint.
Jagger waved off her comment. "Please, next thing you're going to tell me is you're giving the damn program the day off because I hurt its feelings. Since when do you have a simadam screening your calls?"
Nabiki's shoulders raised in a microscopic shrug. "Lately it has become an unwanted necessity.
"But I'm sure you didn't call just to molest my software. How can I be of service to you?"
"As a matter of fact," Jagger began as he leaned back on his chair, "there are two commissions I'd like for you to handle.
"First, I need you to review and confirm some information I've come by. I want to make sure of the source's accuracy. I'm sending you an abstract for your perusal." Jagger hit a few keys on the keyboard and a small window appeared, signaling a data spurt in transit.
Nabiki's face turned as she looked at the incoming data. She was good; her only visible reaction was the slight elevation of her eyebrows.
"This is rather... interesting information. I don't think it would be wise for you to transmit the entire package, even over a line as secure as mine."
"My thoughts exactly. Which is why I'll be taking the next available flight to Mega-Tokyo to personally deliver it and get your response. Which brings me to the second item."
"Yes?" He could tell he had her curiosity peaked by the brightness of her gaze.
Jagger grinned mischievously. "I want you to help me set up a surprise for Kitten..."
>>REPLY? (Y/N) - Y <<REPLY MESSAGE>> *****DATAMAIL***** TO: Carlos Jagger (NA/UNA/NY (212)-919-2772 Jagger, C) FROM: Katherine Ramis (PR/JAP/MT 06-543-2718 Ramis, K) 22-November-2030
I'm taking the scramjet tomorrow. Be at Narita International Airport at 4:07.
Oh, and sweetheart? Clear your schedule book for the next few days.
<<END MESSAGE>> >>SEND? (Y/N) --Y <<NEW MESSAGE>> TO: All@Kazei5
I'm heading out to Mega-Tokyo tomorrow.
I'll meet you at HK in a couple of days.
<<END MESSAGE>> >>SEND? (Y/N) --Y >>QUIT? (Y/N) --Y <<off line (1:16:19/6-12-30)>>
Part II: Making the Pass
I don't want you to make my bed.
I don't want you to bake my bread.
I don't want your money, too;
I just wanna make love to you.
I don't want you to work all day.
I don't want you to be my slave.
I don't want you to be true;
I just wanna make love to you.
—Foghat, "Just Want To Make Love To You" --
Jagger strode down the exit tube towards the hustle-bustle of the Mega-Tokyo airport hub.
He stood in line at the customs desk, waiting for his turn. His eyes, behind dark shades, tracked the crowd roiling in the main corridor.
The people in front of him finally moved away and he approached the counter, dropping his carry-on bag on the table and handing his passport over to be inspected by the harried customs clerk.
The clerk skimmed the passport papers and asked in passable English. "Anything to declare?"
Jagger's response was curt as he continued to scan the crowd. "No"
"Purpose of visit?" The clerk's toneless question dripped with boredom.
Jagger smiled as he caught sight of the waving figure moving towards him. "Pleasure. Most definitely."
Jagger came up for air from the minutes-long kiss as Kitten and he embraced in the middle of the busy airport terminal. The crowd flowed around them, ignoring them in true Japanese tradition.
"Konnichi-wa, utsukushii," Jagger said gently. <Good afternoon, Beautiful.>
Kitten started and looked at him with surprise. "Did you just...?"
Jagger winked as he loosened his hold enough to lock her arm in his and led her through the milling crowd. "Well, you commented on my lack of skill in Japanese and I had a couple of hours to kill on the flight, so I figured, what the hell."
"I am impressed." Kitten said with amusement.
"I made sure I learned the basics. Y'know, ordering a beer, finding out where the bathroom is, asking for a lap dance." He gave Kitten an exaggerated leer and reached down behind her, grabbing a handful of her rear and squeezing.
"Jagger!" She pushed against the bigger cyborg to disengage his hand and said in mock anger, "You... are... hopeless," punctuating her words with sharp jabs on his side with her finger. Once done with the token reprimand, she grasped his arm possessively and leaned on it contentedly.
Then she noticed the direction Jagger was leading her. "Uh, Cowboy? Baggage claim and the parking lot are that way."
"Did you drive up? Dang, I should have told you to take a taxi. I made other arrangements for transportation." He scanned the crowd again and raised his hand to a young Japanese man standing near the exit.
The man was wearing an expensive-looking suit and holding a small sign with the word "Jagger" written in precise block letters. As soon as he saw the couple, he nodded and gestured toward the doors. "Kochira-ni, dozo." <This way, please.>
Kitten marveled at the size of the limo's back seat. She'd seen smaller apartments.
Jagger handed her a glass with something bubbly. "Here, hand me your keys. I'll have someone pick up your car and take it back to your place."
"I don't know..." Kitten glanced both at the glass and at Jagger with equal hesitation.
"Hey, don't worry. I'm meeting with Nabiki on the way. You can trust her, right?"
"Oh." She looked at him blankly for a second, ignoring the glass in her hand. "So you're here for business reasons, then?"
He didn't miss the change in her tone. "Sweetheart, I didn't need to come here personally to deal with Ms. Tendo. I'm here because you asked me to. This thing with Nabiki's just an excuse so I can write off the trip as a business expense." He smiled disarmingly.
"OK. Guess you're off the hook." Kitten nodded and smiled back, but Jagger didn't miss the small tinge of doubt that colored her words.
The two vehicles were parked in one of the many parking garages which hollowed out the bowels of downtown M-T. Kitten watched through the rear seat window as Jagger and Nabiki talked.
"You can contact me at the hotel once you have the results." Jagger handed over a packet and Kitten's car keys to Nabiki.
"How long should I wait before I call?" The fixer inquired as she handed back a suspicious-looking folder.
Jagger flashed a grin. "I'm sure you'll need at least 24 hours to assemble a complete report, right?"
Tendo raised an eyebrow and gave him a secret smile. "Enjoy your evening, Jagger-san."
Jagger noticed her expression and raised an eyebrow himself. "Is there something I should know?"
"Let's just say you are not the only one who likes mystery. Or surprises." With that cryptic remark, Tendo turned to her waiting car.
Kitten slid back to leave space for Jagger as he opened the door and climbed into the limo. As soon as he closed the door, the car moved out smoothly towards the exit.
Kitten looked at him with a slight degree of annoyance, "What's going on, Cowboy?"
Jagger tried to look innocent. "I told you. I'm just dropping off some data for Nabiki to check up on. Routine business."
"So, what's that?" Kitten pointed to the folder in Jagger's hands.
"This? Just something I cooked up with Ms. Tendo's help."
"Excuse me?" Kitten crossed her arms, her no-nonsense voice coming to the fore.
Jagger poured some more wine in her glass and charm in his voice. "I told her that I wanted to take my woman out for a good time, and to set it up, no expense limit. You think it was worth it?" He opened the folder and let Kitten look through the contents.
It took her a minute or so to get back her voice.
Part III: Dropping the Ball
I got a little change in my pocket goin' jing-a-ling-a-ling,
Wants to call you on the telephone baby, a-give you a ring.
But each time we talk, I get the same old thing.
Always no hugg-ee no kiss-ee until I get a wed-in' ring.
My honey my baby, don't put my love upon no shelf,
She said don't hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself
- Georgia Satellites, "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" -
The magic folder that Nabiki had provided had been amazing. Later, Kitten commented to Jagger that it seemed as if the fixer had noted every casual remark or offhand comment that she had made in the last couple of years, and compiled them into a full schedule designed to fulfill every wish and whim she'd ever had.
First it was dinner at a restaurant with the reputation for the most exquisite sushi platters in Mega-Tokyo. Jagger surprised Kitten by not only enjoying her selections, but ordering several variations which left her gasping in appreciation from their overpowering flavor.
Then they were off to visit an assortment of night clubs and discotheques, providing a variety of music and performances to satisfy Kitten's mercurial tastes. Jagger tried gamely to keep up with the frenetic dance steps attempted by other dancers half his age while Kitten laughed at the sight. He was able to recoup some of his dignity at one point as a slow piece allowed the aged ex-cop to take his partner's breath away by leading her through a sweeping ballroom promenade in perfect synch with the melody.
But the highlight of the evening had been when they stopped at the entrance to the Imperial Gardens. These days, you had to have both money and connections to gain admittance to the exclusive park. But Jagger had merely presented a letter to the guard at the gate and they were through. Kitten was entranced as they made their way quietly down the green-fringed path, the moon glowing through the artificially misted air. Jagger cherished the look of pure bliss which emanated from his lover's face.
Finally, the limo dropped them off at the Tokyo Hilton, and they rode the elevator up to Jagger's suite. Kitten rested her head on his shoulder and purred contentedly as Jagger held her close and softly kneaded her neck.
The elevator doors opened and the couple made their way down the hall, holding hands, anxious to reach the next step in the evening's plans.
Using the keycard provided, Jagger unlocked the door and led Kitten into the darkened suite. He didn't bother turning on the light as he gently hugged her from behind and began nuzzling the sensitive spot behind her ear with his lips. The door silently slid closed behind them, leaving the room illuminated solely by the city-glow from the balcony.
"Hmmmm...." Kitten sighed with appreciation, simply content to stand there in his arms. "Jagger," she said finally, turning within the circle of his arms, and wrapping her own tight around his body. "Thank you, I had a wonderful evening."
Jagger spoke into her ear as he continued his ministrations. "And it isn't even over yet, sweetheart."
Laying her head on his shoulder, Kitten gave another deep sigh of satisfaction. They stood there, silent and unmoving for several long moments. Finally, Kitten turned her head, giving Jagger an inquisitive stare.
"Jag..." Kitten paused, swallowed and started over, "Carlos, can I ask you something?"
He caught the hesitation in her voice. He drew back slightly to look in her eyes. "Something wrong, honey?"
Giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, Kitten disentangled herself from Jagger's embrace and took a step back. Looking around nervously for a moment, she finally took a deep breath and spent a good minute studying the tops of her boots.
"Carlos?" Kitten swallowed hesitantly, and dug into the inner breast pocket of her coat, producing a small box. Flipping it open with her thumb, she turned it around to reveal a broad gold band nestled amid folds of black velvet. "Will you marry me?"
Jagger stood stunned for a few seconds, then burst out with a bark of laughter. "Whee-oo. That's a good one, Kitten. Had me going there for a sec." He stopped when he saw her expression. "You're kidding, right?"
For a long moment, Kitten said nothing. Her jaw worked soundlessly, her eyes narrowed and her brows drew together as her expression became first one of anger then sadness. Tears welled up in her eyes as she took another step back from the cyborg ex-cop. "N-no..." she managed, voice almost cracking, "I'm not. You mean a lot to me Jagger and... and..."
The rest dissolved into a choked off sob as she turned around, the box containing the would-be wedding ring vanishing into her hand with a crunch.
"Aw, shit." Jagger moved up to her, his face and voice filled with contrition. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I didn't mean to... It's just that it was so sudden... Hey, c'mon, hon." He placed his hands on her shoulders, making apologetic noises.
There was a few moments of silence, broken only by the sound of Kitten sniffing back her tears. "Y-you didn't have to laugh you know," she said at last. "I mean, I'd have understood if you had wanted to think about it... But you didn't have to laugh..."
"I said I was sorry." Jagger gently coaxed her to sit on the edge of the bed. He called out "Lights." and the dimness was replaced by the indirect light of the lamps placed around the room.
He settled down next to her as he continued. "Look, it was just so out of the blue I didn't know what to think." He gestured vaguely in the direction of the ruined jewel box. "I mean, marriage? How did you come up with that? Why?"
Kitten turned to look at Jagger, wiping at her eyes as she did so. "Didn't you say you loved me? I thought... I thought that by asking you to marry me, I could put some sense of normalcy in my life." Rising, Kitten stepped away from the bed, looking at Jagger directly.
"It's not like I was going to ask you to move here to MT or anything... I was just hoping that if you said 'yes' then..." she paused, her confused tangle of emotions obvious by the expressions that crossed her face. "I could have a nice wedding and a man who loves me and..." Kitten slowly ground to a halt, her face filled with a mixture of despair and want.
Jagger moved to join her, holding her hands in his. "Of course I love you, honey." A tinge of exasperation crept in his voice. "But what does marriage have to do with it? My word isn't enough for you that you need a signed contract?"
He moved one hand to hold her chin. "Kitten, look. I know you're not happy about..." He raised her hand and gave a quick squeeze, enough to make the synthskin press taut against the cybernetics underneath.
"But never think it makes you something less. You're better than any street sam or chrome job. And it's because you have this." Jagger let her hand go to softly tap a finger to her temple. "Arms and legs are just extensions of the real you. Chrome or meat, it doesn't matter. It's your knowledge, your experience, your self that makes you who you are."
Jagger moved to hug Kitten close. "And that's what I'm in love with."
"Thanks Cowboy," Kitten sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with the cuff of one sleeve. "I... I guess I should've known you weren't the marrying type, ne?"
Putting her hand in her coat pocket, she once again produced the small ring box. "Here, I want you to have this anyway, so I can be with you no matter where you go." Prying the shattered container apart, Kitten slowly removed the undamaged ring inside and held it out to Jagger.
He looked at her steadily for a few seconds, warring thoughts clouding his eyes. Finally, he took a deep breath, as if readying to dive in uncharted waters. Smiling ruefully, he took the gold band from Kitten and weighed it on his hand.
"If you're willing to put up with a beat-up, old carcass like me, how can I refuse? You'll always be a part of me, ring or not, but I'll gladly wear it for you. And, who knows? Maybe you can teach this old dog a new trick or two.
"Here. Let's see if you guessed my size right." He handed the ring back to Kitten, then presented his left hand, palm down and fingers spread.
"Guess?" Kitten gave a snort of laughter, "Get real Cowboy, I asked Nabiki before buying this." Holding Jagger's hand steady, Kitten slowly slid the ring onto one finger. "T-there you go Cowboy..." Kitten swallowed and blinked back a fresh onset of tears, "I hope you like it."
Jagger brushed her cheek and smiled. "It's wonderful." Then he frowned as he assimilated her first comment. "Wait. Are you saying she knew about the ring before...? Why that sneaky, mercenary little..."
Kitten pressed a finger to his mouth. "Jagger. Shut up." She leaned forward and replaced her finger with her lips.
Jagger returned the kiss, breaking off just long enough to call out "Lights" again, blanketing the room in concealing darkness.
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