Book 2, Chapter 065

When JD departed, Ean was left alone with Sakura. They sat in awkward silence for a moment before Ean said: “So… you left the antidote in Japan, but you had the rest of an arsenal on you when the aliens picked you up? What’s up with that? I thought you said they’d grabbed you on your way home from a bath house.”

“I did,” Sakura said. She gave Ean a sidelong look. “But I never said I went there to take a bath.”

“Oh.” Ean blinked. “Well, that just made you a whole lot scarier,” he muttered.

“What was that?” Sakura asked. She picked up the claws JD had bent and frowned at them.

“Uh,” Ean said. “I wanted to say that…er…I didn’t mean to chase you off earlier. I mean: I’d rather have you staying as a guest than taking on mercenary work that involves attacking me just so you can get a hotel room or whatever.”

Sakura snorted. “No, it’s okay. I had no right to come on so strong earlier – especially since you’re already seeing someone. It’s no wonder you reacted angrily.” She sighed. “I didn’t know. It must be nice.” She fiddled with the broken claws for an awkward moment and then stood.

“The truth is,” Sakura said, “that I don’t want a handout. I’ve lived my whole life on the gratuity of the ninja clan that adopted me, and now that I’m free of them I don’t want to just end up dependent on someone else. So even without that earlier awkwardness between us, I can’t stay here.”

Ean snorted incredulously, and Sakura looked at him in surprise. “Who said anything about handouts?” he asked. “You broke me out of an alien containment facility before they could do whatever the hell they were going to do to us there. I think you earned a few nights of bed and board.”

Sakura laughed. “Really? Even after a stunt like this?”

But it was an uncertain laugh – because she’d failed her first solo mission and didn’t know if she could get other work, but she was stranded in a foreign country and didn’t have a place to stay or anyone she could let herself depend on and didn’t have any friends to offer moral support, and she was afraid she’d burned the only bridges she’d had without knowing she’d had them, but she was alone in the world for the first time in her life and in it way over her head and….

“Enough with the sympathy cards,” Ean growled at me. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, even after a stunt like this,” he told Sakura. “If you need a couch to crash on, just let me know.”

Sakura smiled. It was a shy smile that she only revealed because she knew Ean couldn’t see. “Alright,” she said. “I’ll think about it.”

And then, like any ninja in need of an escape, she vanished.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

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