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Reggie picks you up at the airport in a year-old Daihatsu Hatchi. "So, the folks are skeptical. They'll come around, but I decided it wouldn't be great to have a full-family thing. Everything big's already gone from the apartment, so we're on an air mattress tonight, bee tee dubs. And hey, I think I have an Eve detour for the road trip!" She gives you a deep, 'I missed you!' kiss, but only after all of that has come out. "I can't wait for you to meet Jack Aubrey!"
After kisses and chatter, I offer up, "We could snag a hotel if the mattress sucks, right? Detour sounds great! And yes, meeting your little one will be awesome." It's been a week. I'm super horny. I really, really hope she's up for something, even if it's i front of the cat and on an air mattress. Seriously. Seven days with no sexytimes makes one weak. I hold her hand as she drives.
It takes about forty minutes to get to Reggie's apartment, in a "transitional" neighborhood that downtown revitalization hasn't quite reached yet. The elevator's out, so you walk up three flights with your bag to get to the roomy but very empty apartment.
The cat is perched on a box, staring at the door as you enter.
He doesn't move, but when he sees you, he arches his back and hisses.
"Jack Aubrey! That's not nice!"
I'm not a cat lover, but even I know that's a bad sign. I offer Reggie a smile, like "it's cool", then I sort of stand there, hoping he gets used to me. I'm not going to try and pet a hissing cat. That's stupid.
Jack Aubrey keeps it up for another few seconds, then leaps off the box and stalks to the kitchen.
Reggie frowns. "I'm sorry, Trev!" She gives you a kiss. "Just wait. He'll love you as much as I do!" She looks toward the kitchen. "So, it's totally up to you, but do you want to meet my sister for dinner? The folks are being buttheads, but she's curious to meet you." She bites her lower lip. "I should warn you. She's pretty, uh, direct."
I relax a little when JA leaves us alone. On the subject of her sister I grin, "I'd love to meet your sister. Let's meet her for dinner, some place neutral, you know? Should be fun." I pull her into an embrace, "Jack's not going to mind if we get reacquainted tonight, right? It's been foreverrrrr."
Reggie's grin is mischievous. "Tonight? You don't want to get reacquainted now? I do..." She trails a finger down your cheek and turns to go into the bedroom, where there's a full-sized air mattress made up with sheets and a comforter, and a small lamp sitting on another packing box.
"Forever seems right, doesn't it? This week has seemed like a year..." She kicks the door closed behind you and kisses you all over your face.
I follow her to the bedroom, offering no objections. Relieved actually. I wrap my arms around her, kissing softly, enjoying the contours of her face, delighting in the taste of her chapstick (it's cold). "You know, one thing about Lansing and the cold, is there are more pieces of clothing to remove.... that's nice."
You help each other out of all your layers. The room seems chillier than it probably is, because it's so bare of furniture and comforts, and Reggie shivers a little as you hold her, her hands tracing your ribs while you kiss.
Tell me, Trev, what sort of "reacquaintance" is this? Hungry? Gentle? Playful?
Shivering and cold means hard nipples! hahaha, just kidding.
Okay, I wasn't.
It's literally been a week, so the first time is hungry. Famished, suck the marrow out of the bone. Second time is playful, though. Laughing, giggling, tickling, loving. So nice to be back with Reggie.
After the second time, Reggie snuggles up to you for a few minutes' nap.
When you wake up, there's a loud, plaintive mewing coming from outside the bedroom door. "Poor Jack Aubrey wants to be fed." She kisses you and gets to her feet. Without dressing, she crosses to the door and opens it. Jack Aubrey gives you a glare, then twitches his tail as he turns to follow Reggie to the kitchen.
Reggie calls back through the door, "Do you like Greek? There's a cool old place called Amphora that Gemma and I used to go to all the time, in high school."
I watch her leave, because damn, that ass. Then I hop up to clean off, heading for a shower. "Sounds great, Reggie Bar." There, trying a new nickname on for size. Punkin didn't end up working so well. For either of us.
"Nope. Not that one, either. You'll love Amphora! Save room for dessert." She pulls the shower curtain aside and steps in to join you. "One word. Pie. Every kind of pie you have ever dreamed of."
You get cleaned up and dressed, and make it back out of the apartment without being mauled. It's a short drive to Amphora, an aging building from the 50s that shows every year of its existence. Reggie pulls into a spot in the lot, and you walk in to a large, comfy space with patched vinyl booths and a plump grandmotherly type in a black dress presiding behind the counter.
A young girl at the hostess stand smiles and starts to ask "How many?" just as Reggie spots her sister in a booth near the back of the dining room. "There she is!" Turning to the hostess, "I found her. Thanks!" She leads you back to the booth. Her sister, a few years older, stands, gives Reggie a peck on the cheek, and holds out her hand.
"You must be Trevian. I'm Gemma."
Pie? Not baklava? Cool. I like pie.
Hand shake? Interesting. "Hi, Gemma. It's great to meet you." I give a solid handshake, not firm, not squeezing. Not looking at her boobs. She's really pretty. I wait for them to take a seat, scoot in beside Reggie.
Reggie and Gemma already know what they're ordering (gyro and fries for Reggie, eggplant parmesan platter for Gemma), but they wait for you. Reggie orders a bottle of cheap Greek red wine that she promises is tasty, regardless. The menu is nearly as thick as a phone book, pages and pages of Greek and Italian entrees, sandwiches and salads, in addition to a full-on selection of diner food that reflects the full history of this place. Two kinds of Jello salad, for instance, and a full page of "Specialty Burgers" that includes "The World Famous Ouzo Burger. Meat marinaded in Ouzo and Greek spices, then ground fresh each day. Served with Feta, Red Onions, Olives, and sliced Banana Pepers" (sic). You get the idea, basically anything you want, as long as it's neither healthy nor fancy.
While you look over the menu, Gemma asks Reggie about her preparations.
"When's the truck coming for your boxes, Reg? You need me to do anything before you go?"
What do you order, and more importantly, how long does it take to decide?
It takes maybe five... ish minutes. There's too much goodness! I finally go for the ouzo burger, because seriously, ouzo burger. It looks delish.
Gemma and Reggie both smile approvingly. "You will love it. Gemma doesn't eat meat anymore, but I think she still fantasizes about that burger sometimes. If she looks a little turned on while you're eating it, it's just her lust for meat, don't flatter yourself..."
Gemma sticks out her tongue, then remembers she's being an adult and straightens her face. "My sister. Is full. Of shit."
Reggie chuckles as the waiter arrives to pour the wine.
"So, Trevian. My dear sister says you're studying programming? How's that going for you?"
I take a sip of the wine, it's cheap but yummy. A dessert wine. I don't mind it at all. "It's going great! I take a few classes each semester, as much as I can afford. I'm not picking up many hours at the restaurant lately, so I have to do the best I can. This thing with Black Marlin has been a godsend, really. I'm able to put a little back after taking care of bills." That sounded really good. I just started a bank account this past week, so it's mostly true.
Reggie's mostly just watching the exchange. Clearly, Gemma's gathering intel for the family and your elf isn't going to intervene unless she has to.
"That's great. So, and I know I'm grilling you, but big sister, it's my job, assuming you don't wind up inheriting a billion dollars by playing a video game, how do you see your life going? Reggie's going to be a vet, with a research degree in the bargain. What's your trajectory?"
I give Gemma a shrug when she sort of apologizes about grilling me, like "I knew it was coming". I answer her as honestly as I can, "I don't assume I'll win, Gemma. This quest has been incredibly fun so far. I've gotten to learn about Eve in a way I never would have before. It's brought Reggie and I together when we were already the best of friends. I got some cool gear and a little cash for now. The quest is great and we're doing really well, but I don't expect to win. I want to win, sure. But I assume I won't." I pause to take a sip of the wine, buy a second or two, let that sink in.
"I'm not going to lie, Gemma." I continue, still talking to her like a friend, even though what I'm about to say will probably piss her off. "I'm still figuring out what I want to do when I grow up, you know? I thought I wanted to be a video game programmer, and I'm not so bad at tech. But seeing Eve's life laid out in front of me, I've realized I don't have her genius, or her passion and drive. I don't think I can do what Eve's done. Not any more." I look over at Reggie now, hoping she's still with me at this point. I haven't admitted this to her, not until right now. The programmer thing.
"That doesn't mean I'm changing majors or anything. I like programming, I like working with gear, all of that is where I want to be. It's a big field, lots of places to land. I'm still a work-in-progress." And that's it. My spiel. I thought about adding in some suck-up bit about being with Reggie and loving her and wanting to do right by her, but that just seems... like suck-up material. Sure, it's a little true. But a little not exactly true, either.
Reggie finds your hand under the table, in a now-familiar gesture, and squeezes.
Gemma moves her gaze off you and gives Reggie a look. "Honest. That's good, Reg." Focus shifts back to you. "Give me your hand."
Reggie snorts. "Seriously, Gem?"
Gemma ignores her. "Give me. Your hand."
I give her the hand that isn't holding Reggie's, of course. I hope she doesn't do the Bishop thing with the knife from Aliens. I would pee myself.
Gemma places your hand flat against the table, then makes a fist and lightly bops it. "That is the provisional Cooper seal of approval. You are on a probationary period of however long I decide it lasts. There are Three Laws of Dating a Cooper. One, you must not harm Reggie, or through inaction, allow Reggie to come to harm. Two, you must do what Reggie tells you to, unless it's fucking stupid, or it conflicts with Rule One. Three, you must not do anything fucking stupid that might lead to you getting killed or arrested, or whatever, unless it's necessary to protect Reggie. Understood?"
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding and squeeze Reggie's hand happily. Smile. "Cool. That's not unlike Aasimov's laws of robotics... mostly. But I got it. And thanks, Gemma. You're much cooler than Reggie said you'd be." I pause for effect, then crack up at Reggie's expression.
Everyone grins, and just then the food arrives in a cloud of delicious smells. Your burger is huge, with steak fries on the side and a cup of tzatziki you could almost swim in, with a little squeeze bottle of something that just has to be spicy, from the look of it.
"Try dipping the fries in the tzatziki. Awesome!" She does the same with her own fries. "Gem, don't you wish you could have some of Trev's meat? It looks so..." She can't finish. She's cracked herself up.
"Whatever. An eggplant does what I tell it to." She pauses to take a bite. "So, Trev, has Reggie revealed her plan to visit the PRD?" She sees your blank look. "The People's Republic of Detroit."
To play along with Reggie I make a show of enjoying the Ouzo Burger. I'm not faking it, to be honest. But I'm just playing and I don't overdo it. Don't want to make her mad.
"She mentioned something about an Eve-related trip, but she didn't say, ah, PRD."
So, here's what you know. Detroit's Chapter Nine bankruptcy was approved by a judge in 2015, and the trustees mismanaged the transition as badly as the city managed its own loss of large-scale manufacturing. For a few years, Detroit was truly an orphan. No municipal government, no public services, no law enforcement except for what the holdouts banded together and provided for themselves.
Then, Sergey Brin did something colossally stupid. He sent teams in to build a dozen massive and vandalism-proof SuperMaxWifi access points at strategic points around the city, then distributed newly-developed micro-repeaters throughout the area by seeding cans of spray paint that were left in caches for the near-feral gangs that were busy tagging the still-standing walls of the city's architecture. No press releases.
There must have been some sort of conspiracy, because a number of other billionaire entrepeneur/philanthropists did their own thing behind him. Various collectives and cooperatives and a few communes. At least one group that openly calls itself a cabal. All thriving on the initial backbone of high bandwidth, protected-and-paid-for net-neutral connection.
A group of designers making custom marital aids with 3-D printers. Tesla Motors' new R&D facility, in the barely-reconstructed ruin of an old muffler plant. A hermetic coven of technoshamans selling "digital fetishes" for the new-new-new-age set.
And also, according to Reggie, a business/collective seeded by Eve's contributions. Artists. Set up in the ruins of yet another old auto factory. Studio spaces, massive-scale 3-D printers, a full-on foundry. A maker-space for creatives that dream large.
I look to Reggie, "You... uhm, sure you wanna go there?"
"We'll be fine. Gemma's a cop, and she says we'll be fine. Right, Gemma?"
"Sure, you'll be fine. Watch each other's backs, and download the updated maps before you cross in. Reggie, your carry permit's up to date, right?" Reggie nods.
I gawk at Reggie, "Your carry permit? You own a gun?" Not accusatory. It's kind of a turn on.
"Yeah, a couple. Dad's a cop, too. Made sure we could take care of ourselves."
"Yeah. Reg's a better shot than I am, and I've got a Marksman ribbon. Sexist bastards."
"Cool." I answer. "So, you're gonna make all our money, and protect the homestead? This is getting better by the minute." I'm joking. She knows I'm joking. I hope Gemma gets it, too. I have a stamp. I don't wanna lose it.
Reggie and Gemma both chuckle at your joke. Conversation stays light but focused on you, Trev. Gemma asks about your family, about Jake and Tandy, the Little Dipper. Not an interrogation, but certainly still an interview.
After the waitress clears your dinner plates, she brings the dessert menu. There's one page with the usual—baklava and tiramisu and chocolate cake, that sort of thing—followed by two pages listing at least a couple dozen kinds of pie, including some you've never heard of. Cloudberry Creme Pie?
"If you go for pie, and you should go for pie, pick a backup. They sometimes run out."
Do you go for pie, Trev?
I go for pie. Baklava is my backup. "Cloudberry Creme Pie, please." I ask when the waitress comes by.
As your pie and coffee arrive, Reggie is telling Gemma about Queen Liliuokalani and the Warriors. She pulls up a video on her phone, and you hear Lili's sweet soprano singing "Sunday Kind of Love" over that airtight acoustic accompaniment.
"Gemma, they were so good. It makes me a little sad that they don't get the chance to play very often, since they're scattered around going to college in different places."
Your pie is tasty, filled with a tart-sweet amber cream, with a perfectly flaky crust.
Trev, seems like the spotlight's off you, for now. Anything you want to ask Gemma about?
It we win that money, we're totally going to bankroll Lili's band. It's in my little book.
"Gemma," I lead off, "How do you like being a cop? What's your... trajectory?" I smile and take a bite of pie as I ask, enjoying the moment to grill her. My tone is still playful, though.
With my hand under the table, I sneak over to Reggie's thigh, and creep further. Just teasing her, trying to make her nervous.
"Most days, I love it. It's different from when Dad started, of course, but a lot of it's still the same, too, y'know? Police work is mostly about people. I'm working the Property and Auto Theft desk now, just moved up to detective from patrol."
As her sister talks, Reggie squirms a little, but she doesn't stop your teasing.
"I'd like to make Captain, some day. Maybe be Chief, someplace smaller."
You feel Reggie's arm cross your own, and then her hand rests lightly on your crotch. She starts stroking you with her thumb.
"It's an honest job, and I'm good at it."
Oh ho. she wants to play, huh? Well, I'm not squirming. I will be tent pole soon. Two beautiful girls, one of whom I was intimate with earlier, that's all it takes. I snake the back of my hand along the zipper of her jeans, "Detective? That's awesome! Working a desk, that's cool. I bet you've got lots of toys and data for hunting down GTA fools. That sounds interesting. Do you have a partner, or just do case work? What's the office like?"
Reggie keeps playing with you until she feels that you're nice and hard, then with the other hand dabs at her mouth with her napkin. "Trev, sweetie, can you get up so I can slide out and go to the bathroom? I'm sure Gemma can come up with some embarrassing story about my awkward phase to entertain you while I'm gone."
I believe you used the phrase "tent pole," right, Trev?
So... what do you do?
Damn. She got me.
I give her a look, slightly narrowed eyes, not angry just, 'you meanie'. "You mean you got out of that awkward phase?" I elbow her a little. Then, well, she got me good, so I slide out of the booth, and turn away from them as I stand up. I pivot around and come up slightly behind the booth like I'm making room for her. It's probably obvious as all hell, but a guy's gotta try to not look like an idiot, right?
She is so getting a spanking tonight.
Reggie moves past you, brushing her hip against you 'accidentally' as she goes. Gemma smirks as you slide back into the booth, you've clearly been caught but she's not saying anything.
She does entertain you though, with a story about Reggie's first school dance. Reggie's date brought a lovely corsage fashioned from purple anemones and baby's breath.
"She was so excited when Don showed up with that corsage! Mom drove them to the school. She was going to pick them up three hours later, but Reggie called in tears not even an hour later. Couldn't even explain what was wrong. Of course, Mom jumped right in the car, worried as hell." She takes a sip of coffee, chuckles. "Turns out that was the night Reggie discovered she was allergic to anemones. She'd been feeling the tickle start up, but the first big sneeze took her by surprise just as she was taking a drink of that bright red punch they always serve. All over her, all over Don, and to top it off, she just couldn't stop sneezing!"
I'm relieved and really happy that she lets me off the hook. And that story is classic. If it only makes her sneeze... "Thanks for that, Gemma. That's an awesome story." Since we're alone, I lean in and ask, "So... do you have anybody special?" I'm asking to open her up, my tone is not me asking her out or anything.
"I'm currently in a deep relationship with my badge and gun. It's crazy, but it's still not easy to be a woman and a cop at the same time, y'know? So, for the time being, I'm not looking. I guess I'm willing to be surprised, but not sure how that would happen."
She sips her coffee again. "Listen. Before Reggie gets back. If you let her, she'll run your life. She's always been like that, and she's good at it, but... push back every now and then, okay? Keep her honest, challenge her. She clearly loves you a lot, and I can tell you're into her, too. But, don't surrender all the time. Make sense?"
"Well," I say as I finish up another bite of pie, "That badge doesn't know how good it has. I know we just met, and this sounds like a total suck-up, which it isn't because I already have 'a stamp', but I think you're pretty cool. Smart, motivated, down-to-earth, and I know you know you're pretty so I'll just acknowledge it here. Anyways, you chase that career and make it work. And if someone gets between you and your badge, you're smart enough to do what you want."
I quirk a little frown at her advice for me. "I'm not excellent at... trajectory. I'm hoping we can be good for each other. And you remember you told me to challenge her when she tells you I suck, okay?"
Reggie comes back about then, bumps you to the inside of the booth and gives you a quick peck on the cheek. "Let me guess. She told the one about my 10th Grade science fair project going horribly wrong and releasing a gas that stank so bad all the judges vomited."
I move over and I grin when she kisses my cheek. "Nope. Allergy attack at your first school dance. But thanks for that." I put my hand back on her thigh, but not playing with her like before.
The rest of the coffee passes in easy conversation. When the three of you are ready to leave, Gemma insists on picking up the check ("It's a big sister thing.") After you put back on your coats and gear, Reggie's sister gives you a hug and a sisterly kiss on the cheek.
"Remember, the seal of approval is provisional, and I've met cops from your part of North Carolina at conferences. Go it?"
"I got it. Don't worry, I know how to stay under the radar, and I'll take care of Reggie... or, well, stay out of her way and keep her happy." I answer honestly.
"Oh. And do your best to win that damn quest, alright? It would be very nice to have a rich little sister."
The rest of your time in Lansing passes quickly. A day or two of mostly waiting. For a moving truck to take the boxes. For an interview with a local news organization that Tonya set up. For dinner with Reggie's folks, who finally decide to take you seriously after Gemma talks to them.
Strangely, Reggie's dad, the cop ("Call me Jim"), takes to you right away, talking about basketball pretty much non-stop when the ladies don't interrupt. Her mom, not so much. Mrs. Cooper (not Natalie) is so determinedly skeptical about you, you almost decide she's some sort of old-school racist, but Reggie explains in the car afterwards that she's mystified, but "it's definitely not that."
Friday morning, Reggie's car is packed with your travelling bags and you're on the way. To Detroit.