5 Turnabout Honor Or Love

ThePudz: Always fun to try something different! I’ve stepped away from the usual stories to try my hand at the different ship of Cykesquill, which I hope you all very much enjoy!

JordanPhoenix: This goes to all the Cykesquill lovers out there! It was a joy to Wright with my two fave fellas again, and we hope the person we dedicate this to, andreapirlono1fan, enjoys our combined efforts!

Yanmegaman: Ah, always a pleasure writing with these two! This time around, we three of the Yatagarasu decided to pay homage to the Cykesquill shippers out there! ThePudz laid our foundation, I filled in the gap in the center, and JP brought things home with her beautiful finisher! We hope you all enjoy this collaborative work and look forward to the next! 😀

Mr. Coffee: A fascinating and unique tale of what could have been if cruel fate had changed ever so slightly…one where Athena would have ended up with a new Daddy instead of a Brother…

Road to Cosmos Space Center
December 15, 2016

“Where exactly are you taking me, Aura? I’d have thought we’d be on our way home after I just graduated from Law School.”

Simon Blackquill sat in the passenger’s seat of his sister’s car, looking at the empty grass fields all around him, a concrete road going straight ahead into some massive, spectacular building. “Oh, right, I was supposed to tell you.” Aura replied. “You’re still in that… Ninja business or whatever?”

“It’s Samurai, Aura. It was Samurai, it will always be Samurai, so for the millionth time, it’s Samurai.” Simon sighed.

“Yeah, whatever, you wave swords around and –”

“It’s not a sword.” Simon interrupted, causing Aura to tightly shut her eyes in frustration. “It’s called a –”

“Shut up.” Aura growled.

“S-Sorry.” Simon stuttered, looking away from his sister in embarrassment. He really needed to stop doing this stuff, but he can’t help correcting everyone when it came to his business as a Samurai. Even if I haven’t exactly done anything as one just yet. I still have that remaining goal after all these years: Fight against crime, either as a prosecutor, or a weapon. But I haven’t found anyone to protect yet…

“You still there?” Aura asked, snapping Simon out of his state of thinking. He jolted, turning his head to face his sister. “I was going to say, concerning your SAMURAI…” Aura glared at Simon for a full five seconds before continuing. “… Business. I think I may have a client for you. A, uh… friend of mine.” Aura explained.

“You do?! This soon?” Simon asked in surprise. He’d expected it would take at least many months, maybe even years.

“Her name is Metis Cykes. I’ve known her for quite a while, Simon, and she’s…” Aura took a moment to speak, appearing to be deep in thought about something. “She’s important to me, Simon. More than you can believe, and I… I can’t lose her. I know you can keep her safe.”

“Must be a really good friend of yours. If she accepts me as her protector, I’d be happy.” Simon replied.

“Thanks, little brother.” Aura smiled at Simon as they pulled out in front of the Cosmos Space Center. They both got out of the car, Aura walking to the front door whilst Simon admired the magnificent building. “You bring your throwing stars or anything?” Aura asked. Simon sighed yet again, and even though he knew he shouldn’t, he corrected her.

“They’re not throwing stars, they’re shurikens-



Simon followed Aura into the building, looking all around him. It was a mix of a Space Center and a museum, with miniature space crafts placed in glass cases and pictures and models of planets hung up on the wall. There was a drawing of Jupiter that looked very child-like and hung up next to a professional model of the same planet. The drawing had a name in the bottom left corner: Athena.

“That would be one of Athena’s drawings. She’s the daughter of Metis. Although I wouldn’t ask about a father when you meet her. If rumors are true, the dad walked out as soon as Metis said she was pregnant. Athena is… Well, quiet enough. She doesn’t need to be reminded.” Aura explained. Simon nodded, continuing to follow his sister down the hall and up some stairs. A gigantic window revealed a rocket just outside the building that was currently being built.

“So, what do you do here, Aura?” Simon asked with genuine interest. “Mechanics?”

His sister sighed while chuckling at the same time.

“You seriously do not listen to me, do you? I’ve told you before, I’m in robotics with Metis. Not only do we need robots around the building to help out, but you also get lonely out in space,” she explained. “An AI or two always helps. Your job here will be to protect our boss. She’s in the lab, probably with Athena.”

Simon took in the place, knowing this was most likely going to be a place he will see a lot in his life if Metis accepted him. It was huge, it would take some time to get to know every space of it. Simon noticed two boys in black clothing walking down the hallway past him, and he turned to look at them. “Guests?” He asked Aura.

“Nah, they’re frequent. That’s Clay and his friend, Apollo. They don’t speak to anyone but themselves. You seriously cannot separate those two!” Aura laughed. She opened the mechanical door to the robotics lab. “Metis, I’ve bought a client for you! He’s the nerdy brother I told you about!”

Nerdy brother? Way to make impressions, sis… Simon stepped into the room and looked around to see the wonderful amounts of technology and robotics being put into work in a single room. Wires hung everywhere, machines whirred and worked away and in the corner, a little girl with orange hair tied into a side ponytail and gigantic headphones drew a picture. This must be Athena…

Athena noticed Simon looking at her, and she returned the stare, not saying a word. Simon knelt in front of her, slightly waving to her, half the reason to greet her, half to make sure she wasn’t a robot who had just malfunctioned. “I’m Simon.”

The girl continued staring into his eyes, before uttering her first quiet words.

“You’re… Kinda scary.”

Well isn’t that the perfect way to introduce yourself? Simon sighed to himself.

“That’s Athena, my daughter.” A female voice spoke behind him. The young man got up and turned around to greet Metis Cykes for the first time.

He certainly wasn’t expecting to see the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon.

A white lab coat covered a yellow kimono, and Simon saw the handle of a katana poking out through her clothing.

I can certainly see why she requested a samurai now…

The psychologist had gorgeous, long black, hair, and a perfectly clean, beautiful face that just accompanied the rest of her perfection. Her voice spoke with such softness, it couldn’t even be compared to a feather or the smoothest of silk.

“I assume you’re the guard Aura has been recommending to me?”

I never truly believed in love at first sight, I always believed in it developing over time… But this must be what they call love at first sight, there cannot be any other explanation for this feeling I have…

“Y-Yes, Simon Blackquill.” Simon bowed respectively to her, and she returned the gesture. She seemed to know Japanese culture fairly well, too.

“I do require your assistance, well… Permanently. I know this is a heavy task, but really…” Metis leaned in to whisper. “This isn’t just for me. You must protect my daughter, too. I’m a psychologist, but not only that, I know the psychology of criminals and bad people. It’s a second task for me. Tap into the mind of evil and ask ‘Why?‘ And as you can guess, criminals don’t like that being done to them. It hasn’t happened yet… But I’m afraid that one day, they might thirst for revenge.”

“I understand. I will do anything and everything in my power to protect you.” Simon didn’t know why he was so fast to accept this woman’s offer, but he was doing it right away. She was so soft, so caring… How could anyone hate her?

“Not just me, Simon. My daughter is the most precious person in my life,” Metis explained. “Her life should be as important to you as mine is.”

He turned around to glance at the child. She looked younger than eight at the very least. Of course, Simon was going to protect a little girl.

“I will. I promise I will.” He vowed with determination in his voice.

“I thank you. We thank you, Simon.” Metis smiled.

That smile… By God, that smile. It could bring so much light, not even the brightest of suns would dare stand a chance…

As Metis walked off, Aura jammed an elbow into Simon’s ribs.

“I saw those eyes. I saw how quickly you accepted,” she whispered harshly. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for this woman already?!”

“W-What?!” Simon cursed his obvious expressions, but he immediately cleared his throat. “N-No, I’m not. It’s just… She has a daughter. Naturally, I’m going to protect a mother, especially one as beautiful as her…”

“Simon.” Aura growled. “I asked you to protect Metis. I didn’t ask you to fall in love and start planning the wedding, goddammit. Get a grip on yourself.”

“Why are you intense on the fact I may like Metis?” Simon inquired mildly.

Aura’s lips tightened and she narrowed her eyes down to glare into her brother’s soul. He almost wanted to run away at how scary his sister looked right now.

“None of your damn business, Blackquill. Now go introduce yourself to everyone and try not to fall in love with anyone, especially not Metis.”

And with that, Aura walked away, shoving Simon on the way.

What’s up with her? She’s usually sarcastic or cheery, I’ve never seen her so angry in my life… Simon stared at his sibling for a bit, before sighing and walking out the room. Metis would probably want me to get to know everyone, as well.

And if Metis wants me to do something… By God, I will do it.

Cosmos Space Center, Cykes Apartment
March 25, 2017

“Thank you so much for doing this on such short notice, Simon,” Metis said as she fiddled with her earrings.

“Not at all,” he replied. “I am at your service whenever I am needed, after all, Metis.”

“Yes, but you needn’t feel as though I own you. I’m certain you must have some sort of life outside of watching over us and handling your trials.” The woman was now playing with her hair, making sure it looked right.

Simon remained silent. He didn’t want to tell the woman that she was mistaken in her assumption. Truth be told, whenever he wasn’t prosecuting or protecting the Cykes, he was most likely to be found at Whet Soba, his favorite noodle joint, or the Rakugo theater.

“A samurai’s work is his life,” was all he had to say in response.

The brunette beauty let out a sigh as she threw a white jacket over her yellow dress. “Honestly, Simon, you perform your duty admirably. You deserve time to enjoy yourself.”

Before Simon could reply, Aura entered the room, tossing a purple scarf over her shoulder. “You’re wasting your time, Metis. I’ve told you before, the closest thing Simon has to a friend is the noodle guy.”

Metis turned to greet the new arrival. “Well, I had hoped you were exaggerating.”

The elder Blackquill smirked at her younger brother. “I wish I was. More importantly, are you almost ready? That robotics seminar is starting soon, and I don’t think I need to remind you that we are the guests of honor.”

The two women spoke to each other for a moment longer, Aura speaking in her usual matter-of-fact tone while Metis spoke in the same subdued manner she always did, as Simon looked on.

Even being her brother, Simon had to admit his sister looked rather beautiful. Her purple hair was pulled out of its usual style and was allowed to flow down her back. She wore a white strapless dress with a purple sash around her waist and a purple scarf tossed over her shoulder.

Metis, however, was breathtaking.

Her flowing brown hair went down her back in waves. She wore two-star earrings and a yellow dress with brown frills at the bottom. Over the dress, she wore a loose-fitting white jacket.

Metis truly was a sight to behold even in her normal attire. But when she was prepared for a formal affair, she could drop the jaw of any man she walked past.

“Now then, Simon…”

Metis calling his name pulled the prosecutor out of his trance.

“Oh, er, sorry. What did you need, Metis?”

The brunette scientist smiled at the man while Aura threw a scowl at him.

“I simply wanted to make sure you know everything you need to do for Athena.”

“Of course.” The samurai replied. “I memorized your list to the T. She is to be in bed by 9 and you have a prepared meal in the freezer ready to be thawed. I will see to it that she brushes her teeth before bed.”

“And?” Metis added.

“A-and? That was all there was.” Simon stammered as he looked at the list Metis had given him, fearing he had missed something. Aura let out an exasperated sigh and snatched the list from his hands.

“She means how you plan to entertain the kid, numbskull. Athena’s 8 and it’s still 6. That means you still have at least 3 hours with the little tyke.” Aura said to her brother, placing a hand on her hip. “Don’t tell me you plan to just stare awkwardly at the kid for three hours. She’s already convinced you’re the boogeyman.”

“Aura, let’s not be rude.” Metis attempted to intervene.

“Oh, c’mon, you know I’m right. The girl hides from him as soon as he comes in here. Aura then glanced at her watch. “But that’s a topic for another time. We gotta head out now or we’ll be late.” The purple-haired robotics expert grabbed her co-worker by the wrist and began leading her to the door. “Try not to give Athena too many nightmares, Simon.”

And just like that, they were gone.

Simon stood by himself in the empty apartment now, thinking to himself.

Though she may have been a bit harsh, Aura did make a good point. I don’t believe I’ve had a five-minute conversation with Athena since I took the job of watching over the Cykes.

As if reading his thoughts, Simon heard the sound of a door opening in the hallway behind him and turned around to see Athena, dressed in yellow pajamas and wearing her headphones just like always.

Speak of the devil. Simon thought to himself. Well, no point beating around the bush. The samurai stepped tentatively closer to the girl and crouched to her level. “Good evening, Athena. I assume your mother told you that I would be babysitting you tonight, did she not?”

Athena didn’t speak, offering only a shy nod, her face registering practically no emotion.

Simon forced a smile, trying his best to keep the moment from becoming any more awkward. “Well then, what do you like to do for fun?”

The girl looked shyly down at the floor and mumbled. “I dunno.”

Gods, give me strength.

Simon stood back up.

“Well, how about I get dinner thawed and you think about that for a moment. Perhaps we could play hide and seek?”

Athena suddenly shrunk back, her eyes growing wide as she shook her head.

Simon could practically hear his sister in the back of his mind.

Yeah, that’s exactly what the kid wants. For the sword-wielding boogeyman to come looking for her.”

“Er… I’ll… I’ll just get that lasagna in the oven.”

With that, the prosecutor turned on his heel and headed for the kitchen, pulling Metis’s prepared lasagna from the freezer and unwrapping it from the plastic.

Popping the dinner in the oven, Simon decided to look through the cupboards to see if there was anything he could prepare for dessert. Surely Metis wouldn’t mind the girl having a little sugar if it got him in her good graces.

However, his search turned out fruitless… In a sense.

The only things he could find that could even remotely be considered dessert were various fruits, which were all sitting in a bowl on the countertop.

The black-clad man glanced at Athena in the living room. She sat on the couch and appeared to be watching something on TV. Simon recognized the music playing as the Steel Samurai theme song, a show he was rather partial to, though he would never admit it to Aura.

Well, it seems we at least have similar taste in television. Perhaps that’s something we could bond on at some point.

Looking back to the bowl of fruit before him, Simon suddenly had an idea.

Quickly rummaging through the cabinets once more, the samurai produced a large salad bowl and set it on the counter.

Grabbing an apple from the bowl, he tossed it into the air and, quick as lightning, grabbed his katana and sliced the fruit into pieces, which fell into the salad bowl.

I may not be a chef, but if there’s one thing any dullard can make, it’s fruit salad.

Simon grabbed another fruit from the bowl, a banana this time, again tossing it in the air and slicing the fruit into little chunks.

“Woooooow!” Simon suddenly heard from behind him. He assumed the girl was still watching her show and was commenting on a particularly intense fight scene. But upon turning around, he found himself proven wrong as he saw the girl now standing in the kitchen, staring right at him.

“That was so cool! You’re like the Steel Samurai!” The girl commented, still looking at him in awe.

The prosecutor was in disbelief. That was the most the girl had said to him in all the time he’d been protecting the family. “You liked watching me slice the fruit? It was nothing, really.”

“Can you do it again? I wanna see!”

Simon found himself smiling. The girl seemed to genuinely be interested in his sword skills.

“Of course. In fact…” The samurai grabbed a pear from the bowl and handed it to the young girl before walking back to the counter and getting into a stance. “Throw that at me.”

“A-are you sure? What if you miss?”

“Don’t worry.” Simon gripped the handle of his katana. “I won’t.”

Looking at the fruit in her hand for but a moment, Athena finally drew back her arm and let the pear fly at Simon.

“I dunno about you, Metis, but I always hate those seminars. Such a bore.” Aura said as the two women stepped out of the elevator several hours later.

“I thought it was a lovely affair, myself,” Metis replied as they walked towards the door to the Cykes apartment.

“So, how long do you think Simon lasted with the Princess?”

“Aura, you really should be nicer to your brother,” Metis admonished. “Although, if I’m honest, I suspect I may need to console Athena.” She added, giggling.

However, both women were in shock as the door to the apartment opened to reveal Simon, leisurely relaxing on the couch, watching TV while enjoying a bowl of fruit salad.

Simon glanced away from the television and looked at the women. “Oh, you’re both back. The time sure flew by.” He placed his fruit salad on the coffee table and made his way over to take the women’s coats. “So, how was the seminar?”

“I-it was… Fine. H-how was Athena?” Metis stammered out in shock.

“Oh, her?” Simon asked jokingly. “She was no trouble at all.” He added with a smile.

“I – I’m quite surprised she opened up to you so quickly,” the psychologist admitted, tilting her head to the side and regarding him as though suddenly seeing him in a different light. “But I’m not going to lie… I’m also very impressed.”

Simon’s face grew warm, and his gaze dropped to the floor at the unanticipated compliment from the woman he held in such high esteem. In doing so, he missed the flash of jealousy and resentment in his sister’s eyes at this exchange.

“Simon was explaining to me how the samurai code of honor works, Mommy!” Athena chirped suddenly. “There are as many Virtues of the Samurai as they are of my age – 8!”

“Is that so?” Metis smiled softly at the girl’s enthusiasm. “I didn’t know you were interested in samurais, Athena.”

“I am now! It’s sooooo cool!” The child bubbled animatedly, beginning to tick off on her little fingers. “The Bushido Code 8 virtues are: Rectitude or Justice, Courage, Benevolence or Mercy, Politeness, Honesty and Sincerity, Honor, Loyalty, and last but not least, Character and Self-Control!”

“Alright!” Metis shook her head, let out an uncharacteristic laugh, and kissed her daughter on the forehead. “I’m going to stop you right now before you start swinging around Simon’s katana next! It’s past your bedtime little one, so you should go wash up, and I’ll be there to tuck you in shortly.”

“OK, Mommy! Goodnight Simon! Goodnight Aura!” Bouncing off the sofa like a little rubber ball, Athena dashed down the hallway.

Aura remained silently standing there, arms folded across her chest, too busy fuming to respond to the girl. Instead, her irate eyes were boring holes into both her oblivious colleague and sibling as they continued their exchange.

“It looks like I’ve underestimated you, Simon,” Metis said softly as she gazed with approbation at the young man, a catch of newfound respect and a twinge of affection in her voice.

Simon lifted his head and met his mentor’s gentle eyes, and fleetingly wondered if it was his admittedly overwhelming ardor for the older woman which was making him see things.

Because he was almost certain he wasn’t imagining the extra light he saw sparkling in the amethyst depths for a split second, but it was gone before he could be certain, as she cleared her throat then as if suddenly remembering his sister’s presence and looked away almost contritely.

“Oh, well, it’s nothing new …everybody does!” He attempted to joke awkwardly, trying to ignore the fact that he was presently the recipient of Aura’s narrow-eyed, icy stare. “Just ask my sister!”

“Well, Aura was wrong to ever do so,” Metis said quietly, and this time the fondness in both her tone and gaze was unmistakably palpable to all parties present. “I assure you, I shall make sure to never make that same mistake again.”

Simon swallowed heavily, as his vain attempts to fight his mounting feelings for the beautiful brunette went out the window, and instead grew tenfold in that next instant.

Without another word, the robotics engineer abruptly spun around on her heel and promptly exited the apartment, allowing the door to slam heavily behind her, leaving both Metis and the young samurai alone in guilty silence.

Cosmos Space Center
May 11, 2020

Being a student of psychology, Simon knew it was not uncommon for siblings to share a sort of rivalry, and at first tried to dismiss the growing rift between him and Aura as such, figuring her growing resentment and jealousy towards him was par for the course. He had already determined by now that she was somewhat jealous of anything or anyone that took the attentions of Metis away from herself, even if it was, however irrational, the doctor’s daughter (he was beginning to think there was more of an underlying sneer to his sister calling Athena “Princess” as opposed to endearment!), never mind himself!

What was most discomfiting about his sister’s increasingly illogical behavior was the fact that he instinctively knew the deeply intuitive and sensitive little girl could sense Aura’s not-so-hidden umbrage towards her, which only made her appear more withdrawn whenever Metis’s coworker was around.

On the upside, ever since the night since he’d babysat the child, her newfound bond with Simon had sprung up, grown, and deepened. Athena had essentially ditched her shell when it came to him, and as her mother proudly pointed out to him, had even begun to show interest in psychology, something that had never been evident until she’d met him.

“It warms my heart how much my daughter looks up to you,” Metis told him one day, unable to hide the adoration from her voice. “You have no idea how much I love seeing how well you interact with my Athena.”

“Your daughter means a lot to me,” Simon admitted. “She’s a great kid. Such a sweet, precocious girl.”

“And she seems to be embracing Japanese culture as well! Athena used to tease me about my passion for all things from the Far East, including asking why I insisted on wearing a kimono underneath my lab coat. But yesterday she gave me the most incredible Noh mask for Mother’s Day!”

Did she?” Simon asked casually, turning away so she wouldn’t see the slight color heightening his cheeks. “That’s a pretty unique and innovative gift for an 11-year-old, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” she said softly, coming around and standing before him, so he had no choice but to look at her. “I wonder who could’ve possibly given my little girl the idea of such a perfect gift?”

Flashback two weeks ago

“My Mommy is a woman of logic!” Athena wailed helplessly to Simon, her big blue eyes filled with distress and frustration. “She’s not into the traditional mushy feelings and gifts that most other mothers are! So giving her flowers and chocolates just won’t do! I hate when Mother’s Day and her birthday come along because I never know what to give her that she will actually like, and not just for pretend!”

“Relax, Cykes-dono,” he commanded, a hint of amusement flickering in his normally somber tone. “You are very bright to have determined that your mother is a unique woman. Ergo yes, the customary trite presents associated with most mothers would be far beneath her. However, as she does have very distinguished interests, I’m going to help you find the perfect present. You have my word.”

Scrolling quickly through the internet, he landed on the perfect item to bequeath.

“A Noh mask?” Athena eyed him quizzically. “I know you and Mommy share a love of all things Japanese, but what made you pick this?”

“Noh, or Nogaku, derived from the Sino-Japanese word for “skill” or “talent”—is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century,” Simon lectured. “Developed by Kan’ami and his son Zeami, it is the oldest major theatre art still regularly performed today. Your mother is a great fan of not only all things from the Land of the Rising Sun but of theatre. Since it’s also going to be her birthday the next day, I had my own idea of what to get her to compliment this.”

“What is it?” Athena asked excitedly.

Simon told her, and her face lit up with excitement.

“How awesome is that!?” She clapped her hands, then wrapped her arms around him in a huge hug. “You’re right, Mommy will love it! Let’s DO this!”

As he proceeded to make the order and requested express shipping for the item, the redhead ducked her head shyly and looked up at him through her lashes.

“Simon, I wanted to let you know that I’ve never seen my Mommy happier than since you’ve been around,” she mumbled. “She’s so lucky you’re such a close friend of hers.”

His face reddened at the unexpected praise.

“I’m not the only friend of Cykes-Sensei,” he mumbled with embarrassment. “My sister is also both her colleague and friend, and has known her for much longer.”

A slight shadow crossed over the girl’s face at the mention of his sister, but then she smiled brightly.

“I know Aura is her friend too… And I know she likes my Mommy a lot…” Athena said carefully, obviously unable to voice her thoughts properly on the matter. “But it’s a different kind of friendship that Mommy has with you, Simon. She seems happier and less uptight… more… human around you, and not like one of those robots that she and Aura love so much.”

“Cykes-dono, your mother is far from a robot,” he told her gently. “She’s a very brilliant woman and at the top of her field! Although she may not be able to express her emotions very freely, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel them. She loves you very much.”

“I know… I guess you’re right, and she just has a hard time showing it.” Athena shrugged, then resumed her trademark sunny beam once more. “I guess I’m lucky to have you too then, aren’t I? I mean, I know you’re not old enough to be my Daddy, but I wanted to let you know that you make me happy too…you’re like the big brother I’ve never had.”

Simon felt an unfamiliar wave of emotions swarm through him at the child’s innocent words, but found he couldn’t find the right ones to convey back anything as suitably fitting and without guile. He was at a loss of what to say to let this little girl, who he’d come to cherish as much as his own blood sibling, and whom he would protect with his livelihood if it ever came to it, know just how much she meant to him as well.

Even though this little munchkin deserved to hear the words…he just couldn’t. Years of being all about an unspoken honor, of diligent silence, of suppressing his tumultuous growing fervor for the woman who’d borne her, had left him entirely incapable of such a feat.

Athena stared at him then, a knowing grin on her face as she discreetly tapped at her oversized headphones, and with a start, Simon realized that even without having said a word, she still somehow knew… Had somehow heard – no, sensed –the emotions he kept hidden within his heart.

“It’s OK, I know you do, Simon,” she told him kindly. “I do, too.”

Back to Present

“Athena is a very bright girl, and she knows about your passion for your hobbies,” Simon replied gruffly, his cheeks growing even more heated as he averted his gaze. “I’m sure she needed no assistance at all in selecting your gift, Cykes-Sensei. What matters is you liked it.”

“But I didn’t like it.” She said, causing him to jolt and swing his eyes back towards her now mischievously twinkling orbs.

“Y – You didn’t?” He cursed himself for revealing the surprise and unforeseen flicker of pained disappointment in his steel eyes, which he wasn’t quick enough to hide.

“No, I didn’t like it,” Metis corrected him, her eyes sparkling. “I loved it. I loved it every bit as much as those tickets for the Noh Theater performance, which were found on my desk this morning with my birthday card, from you and Aura.”

“Well…” He looked away, knowing full well she knew Aura’s name had been naught but a formality. “The thought was there…”

“My daughter idolizes you, Simon,” Metis informed him suddenly. “She adores you as though you were her actual big brother. It means so much how caring and protective you are of my greatest treasure.”

“It is my solemn duty and foresworn nobility as a Samurai to protect that girl with my life, Cykes-Sensei,” Simon looked her right in the eye. “As long as my heart beats in my chest, I will forever ensure the safety of Athena Cykes. I swear this to you upon both my sword…and my life. It is my bound Samurai Honor, Cykes-Sensei.”

“Thank you, Simon. But tell me something…your reasons for being the sworn protective guardian of my daughter, is it merely for the honor, and nothing else?” She peered searchingly into his eyes. “Is that truly all it’s about, then?”

Simon couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t possibly let this ethereal angel know that it was the love he felt for her, not just Athena, which had inspired this unbreakable vow. He was thisclose to a full-blown confession – and ruining everything. Metis only saw him as her protégé after all…

“The Bushido Code….it’s affiliated honor is most complex,” he replied guardedly, dropping his eyes. “I – I care for… the girl. I’ve made no secret of that in the least. I –I’m sure the four of us will enjoy tonight’s show immensely.”

“A show where the actors all wear masks. It seems everybody wears a mask, whether on or off stage,” Metis whispered, her eyes never leaving his. “I can’t help but be enthralled and utterly captivated by such performers…. Some more than others.”

Simon swallowed hard but he could only nod back in response as his gaze remained transfixed on hers, unable to look away this time.

An unspoken exchange passed between mentor and student at that moment, and in that instant, he realized words weren’t needed.

Metis knew.

They both did.

October 6, 2020

“Happy Birthday, Simon,” Aura told him grumpily that morning when she rang him on the phone. “I hope you enjoy your special day. I’d have told you this in person, but I’m feeling unwell and won’t be at work today.”

“How very kind of you, big sister, to remember,” he drawled insolently, not even bothering to mask his ire another moment. “It means so much to me that you have broken the cold silence between us at last, which has existed since Metis’s birthday, when you churlishly insisted that she probably loved my so-called “stupid” theater tickets gift to her more than the katana you presented her with, and then refused to join us for the show that night.”

“I’m sure you, Metis, and the Princess enjoyed your special family outing even without my presence!” Aura exploded wrathfully. “Perhaps that was childish on my behalf, but I was just so sick of you one-upping me by that point! And I’m tired of you trying to take her away from me!”

Simon knew he shouldn’t have been as shocked as he was to hear this, to have his suspicions confirmed at last, yet he still was utterly and flummoxed – and aggravated.

“Aura, what the hell is wrong with you!” He exclaimed incredulously. “I value Metis’s friendship just as much as you do, but I would never wish to drive a wedge between the two of you! There’s enough of her to go around for all three of us! There are zero reasons to be so resentful towards me or poor little Athena, who I am positive can sense your writhing envy with that special hearing ability of hers!”

“Until you came along it was just the Princess I had to share Metis with! It was always me and Metis!” Aura snapped. “We used to go out on all those special work outings and she would always turn to me first whenever she needed advice on a particular project…now it’s you who is her escort to these invents in my stead!”

“You do know that these work outings weren’t actual dates don’t you?” He asked bluntly. “Also, your expertise is robotics, and she will still go to you for all matters relating to such! I am her go-to man for all things about psychology, which is my familiar milieu…”

“Are you truly this daft?!” Aura shouted, sounding as though she were near tears of frustration now. “Simon, are you honestly that obtuse regarding how I feel about her? Can’t you see that Metis is more than just a coworker to me?”

Simon had a very good idea where this conversation was going, but also knew better than to push the issue before his sister was ready.

“Is there something you wish me to be aware of, Aura?” He questioned mildly.

“Goddammit Simon! You can’t seriously be this dense!”

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Try me and I’ll let you know.”

“I-I’m gay,” she blurted out.

“Hi gay,” he deadpanned. “I’m Simon.”

W –What?!” Aura gasped in disbelief. “Didn’t you hear me? I mean, I like girls!”

“I like all things associated with Japanese culture. I think they call folks like me… Weebo?”

“Are you purposely not hearing me?” Her voice shook. “I just came out to you!”

“Sorry, I thought we had switched just saying things that were stupidly obvious.”

After a few more moments of assuring his sister her sexual orientation didn’t matter to him and that he loved her regardless, a wave of guilt plagued his conscience as Simon realized that while Aura had made a life-changing declaration to him, he would never be able to make his own in return – especially not after this!

How could he possibly confess to his sibling that there was legitimate validation for her jealousy now?!

Cosmos Space Center
October 6, 2020

“Happy Birthday, Simon.” Metis smilingly approached him at the end of the day, an enormous dome-shaped item in her hands with a white sheet draped over it. “I hope you like this present… And don’t already have one like it in another color!”

“Is it impossible for me to return it if I do?” Simon chuckled, enjoying the fleeting but frequent moments of humor he was seeing more and more of in the woman who held his heart. “This is most unexpected.”

“I hope you like it.” Her smile suddenly turned bashful. “I wanted to find some way to express to you how much you’ve come to mean to both Athena and me over the years and I figured your milestone 21st birthday was as good a time as any!”

Grinning, he lifted the sheet off what was a birdcage, revealing a majestic brown hawk with sharp yellow eyes, staring intently at him from his perch inside the golden bars.

“Cykes-Sensei…” His words died in his throat at the sight of the glorious avian creature. “H –he’s magnificent.”

“As Japanese falconry, known as Takagari, was a symbol of nobility and warrior spirit for a samurai, I thought having a pet hawk is yet another samurai-like quality for Simon Blackquill,” she peered up at him through her lashes. “I’m glad you like him.”

“I love him,” he stated firmly, his enthusiasm for his new pet evident. ” I’m going to name him Taka.”

“I – I’m so elated that you love Taka so much already,” She murmured, with a look in her eyes he’d never seen before. “I so wished to somehow give you even an ounce of the happiness that  Athena and I have known since you came into our lives…”

Taka’s not the only one I love. His heart began to beat erratically in his chest. I’m sorry, but I can’t hold my tongue any longer.

“Cykes-Sensei, I know you have to work late tonight, but is there a possibility for you and me to get together tomorrow night, after work – alone?” He asked abruptly, leaning forward to tenderly brush a lock of chestnut hair off her forehead. “There is a matter of great importance I wish to discuss with you.”

Metis nodded mutely, taking his hand from her hair, and pressing it against her cheek as she stared back at him, letting him see the completely unmasked devotion in her eyes. She understood their work location was neither the time nor the place to declare what they already felt – what both already knew.

It was a truth that could no longer be contained or denied any longer.

Leaning forward, she brushed her lips lingeringly against his cheek, sighing deeply as she did so into his ear. He closed his eyes, savoring the sensation of her touch, her sweet scent.

Her voice trembled as she spoke.

“I – I think the time may have come for you to finally call me Metis.”

And that was when Simon Blackquill knew he would love Metis Cykes until the day he died.

Prison Center
October 7, 2027

“Simon! Talk to me, please! It’s been seven years today since you were accused of being my mother’s killer!” The 18-year-old Athena Cykes wailed, an unending torrent of anguished rivulets pouring down her cheeks as she pressed her hands against the glass barrier separating her from the prisoner. “Tell me why you’ve allowed yourself to be on death row for a crime we both know you never committed!”

“Hysteria doesn’t suit you, Cykes-dono.” Simon idly patted Taka’s feathers, the hawk dutifully remaining perched on his shoulders as he’d been from the moment that he’d set eyes on his master. “I thought losing those headphones meant you had finally gotten a better reign on them and everything around you which affected them. I am sorely disappointed.”

When the frustration builds and I think I might explode – I take a deep breath. Athena opted to ignore the blithe criticism. I want to shout, have a tantrum, and beat my hands on the ground like a toddler. I want to vent, let it out, but I don’t want to say words I don’t mean, be hurtful. It’s just so easy to be cruel at that moment and then the damage is done. So many times that I’ve wanted to unsay things, take it back. I’m learning how to deal with it, but slowly.

Why are you insisting after all this time that you killed my mother? You loved her! I know you did! Why are you doing this?”

Seven years later, those same grey eyes which had looked upon her for three years with brotherly affection now settled upon her at last, but were now shut off and icy, belying no emotion whatsoever.

“You know not of what you speak. You were simply a naïve child, Cykes-dono,” he stated dully, unable to meet her prying gaze. “And even though you’re legally an adult now, evidently, you still are. Obviously, you didn’t know me as well as you thought you did. I’m not the man you believed me to be. I did a horrible and wicked thing and I will be punished for it.”

“No!” She cried desperately. “That’s not true! I know it isn’t!”

“Grow up!” He bit out harshly. “You idolized a man who was nothing more than a murderer! Deal with it and move on with your life, dammit!”

It is almost as though he is both his adult self and childish self simultaneously. As if he never fully managed to grow up, part of him was left behind in youth, possibly because his emotions, so tightly reined in, could not manage to grow or mature.

The discord in his heart was almost deafening and nearly overwrought the young attorney’s senses.

He still seems to retain the innocence, yet not the naivety and on occasion the emotions of his younger self I knew and adored, a young man with outstanding deductive and analytical powers yet still, at heart, a man child. Somewhere inside him, I need to believe he’s still that same teenage boy, with a sense of adventure, and honor, perhaps more pride than most, and maybe…emotion. I find myself wondering when he locked up his emotions and threw away the key, and hoping I can find this key and return it to him, so he can express emotion once again.

“I’m not only a lawyer now – which I became to save you! – but am also a grown woman now, Simon Blackquill!” The beautiful redheaded teen declared, jutting her chin stubbornly as she shoved back her chair, even as cold tears spilled from her eyes. “You can’t tell me what to do! And you can’t stop me! I will prove your innocence if it’s the last thing I do! So, TAKE THAT!”

With that, she stormed off, leaving him staring after her with a heavy heart. What a beauty the girl had grown into over the years. He hoped that pesky sonic hearing of hers hadn’t allowed her to sense the emotions he’d now perfected in repressing. After all, he’d done a good enough job of convincing everyone he’d killed the woman he’d loved, hadn’t he?

I gather I’ve grown quite adept at hiding my broken insides, my emotions. Emotions. The very thing that makes us human. You can have happiness, pride, excitement, and relief. Every emotion is considered good. But what would you be if you didn’t feel hurt, pain, or despair? You can’t have the good without the bad. There is no light without darkness. The trick is to balance them, so the bad doesn’t seem so terrible, and you can truly appreciate the good.

Ah, sweet Athena. She looked so much like her mother now it gutted him to look at her. He hoped she would never uncover the ugly truth behind his confession – the one he’d willingly made, knowing it would cost him his life, just so hers could be saved.

Because he’d made the honorable vow to protect Athena Cykes with his life. Just as he’d sworn to Metis Cykes he always would.

The hefty metal clang of his shackles echoed loudly in the hall as he was escorted back to his cell on Death Row.

The prison cell was more of an open-air holding pen, containment with no protection from the elements. The walls were metal rods laid in a crisscross pattern. The stench of sewage was ever-present and the inmates were crammed in so tight they were constantly touching one another. When the food came the strongest ones ate every bite, with no thought of sharing. Crying or wailing was the quickest way to die, a heavy would ram the person’s skull into a pole and lie them next to the doorway for removal. It wasn’t so much of a tool of a justice system, more of a place to put inconveniently rebellious people. The prison itself was on the way to the market for most townsfolk and the trail went right through the middle. As a law enforcing spectacle it worked for generations, the worse the prisoners suffered the better.

This urine-soaked hell-hole had been his home for seven years.

His prison cell was barely six feet by four. The walls were the same thick grey stone as the dwellings of the region, but instead of a wide window with a flower box, there was a barred opening with thick metal bars and no glass. In the summer the fresher air was a relief, helping to alleviate the stench of festering sewage but in the cold seasons, it let in a wicked draft and reduced the temperature to near freezing. It was no brighter inside than the gathering gloom of dusk, even at midday. The bed was a plank of wood on legs, there was no mattress, no cushioning, and only one thin blanket. It was either suffocatingly quiet or pierced with the screams of tortured inmates.

It was nothing compared to the tortured confines of his mind, which he escaped back to the moment he heard the heavily barred doors slam shut behind him. His surroundings didn’t faze him. Nothing did anymore. It was as if he died with Metis all those years ago but his heart kept on beating just the same.

Now I am nothing but a shell, worse than a robot and bereft of a love I took for granted – which I should have pursued when I had the chance. Even though you’re gone, Metis, these feelings I have for you can’t end until my body ceases to function and my soul is released for whatever comes after. I hope that somehow, they are embedded into my soul and that by the time I join you in the afterlife, our love will endure. Even on my dark days, my love for you rides underneath it all, keeping my mind from sinking into the mire that claimed me in the past. I know that however deep I fear I’ve fallen, your spirit has remained with me like the solid ground to steady me, giving me the ability to cling to the remains of my sanity until the day we are reunited again. I kept my word to you, Sensei. But how I wish I could have told you then that protecting Athena was never just about my honor – it was about love. A love that will never die.

JP: This throwback was a tale I did with my two best buds during the height of our “Yatagarasu” Wrighting days. I hope you enjoyed our unique spin on Cykesquill! 😉


Heart-Warming Java Shots Copyright © by JordanPhoenix. All Rights Reserved.

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