“A partnership,” Eddy said more to himself than anyone at the table. The chopsticks skillfully pinned a mushroom, raising it a few inches over his plate. It hovered there a moment. It wasn’t as if he’d never worked with anyone before. Recent events with Bluewolf alone proved that. But he wasn’t comfortable with making a practice of it.
“An open partnership.” A thin layer of sauce and a few scattered vegetables covered the china plate Ryu pushed forward to rest his elbows on the table. His fingers folded together and his chin leaned into them. “We’re committed to this, there’s no question. And we’ve managed to get this far solo, but,” his head cocked to the side, his eyebrows arching as if it punctuated the sentence.
The mushroom popped into his mouth. “Ok,” there was an obvious change in his tone. “A partnership. How are you proposing we work this?”
“I can set Ryu and Vivian up with comm devices like the one I gave you,” Aaron indicated to Eddy. “Aside from that, I have a man in my R&D section that I trust implicitly and from whom I can get us various bits of techno-gadgetry all in the name of ‘test and evaluation.'” He paused to take a bite of spring roll, “Anything on a larger scale and we might have to seek outside assistance.”
The words outside assistance didn’t sit well with Eddy’s already skeptical thoughts on the entire deal, and he voiced his concerns plainly, “What kind-”
“You just got out from under one government group; you want to jump in with another?”
Aaron had a feeling Eddy would see things that way. Hell, he was still getting used to the idea of being free and clear himself, “I’m not saying we hand her our secret decoder rings and the keys to the Batcave. She’s just an option for resources, something we can hash out later if needs be.”
Eddy nodded, not really agreeing, “If needs be,” he repeated.
Ryu picked a pepper from his abandoned plate and bravely dropped it into his mouth. “I’m not wholly comfortable with the idea, myself. We all at least have the same thing to lose. They don’t.” The pepper burned over his tongue. It was a familiar sweet feeling. “But they’ve been more than trustworthy up to now.”
“Up to now.”
Aaron nodded, and Ryu continued, “And like the man said, ‘If needs be.'”
Eddy looked over to Vivian. His hand had found her knee and squeezed it gently. Her lips spread over her face in a smile, and she squeezed his hand back. He held her gaze there for a few seconds.”Ok.” Eddy Lane then turned to the two men across the table. “But if the papers start calling us the ‘Superbuddies’, we re-think this whole thing.”
That was enough to break the tension that had been building and after a few seconds of trying in vain to keep straight faces, smiles broke out all around the table. “Agreed. But I do suggest we find a base of operations of sorts.”
“I’d ask that it no longer be my apartment,” Vivian said, giving Ryu a look.
“Hey, I’m just a squatter for the moment, talk to the other me,” he said, pointing at Aaron.
“Sorry, dear. I’m still getting used to the idea that he’s you and you’re him.” She said, waving her fork between the two men sitting opposite her.
“My apartment is a bit on the small side,” Ryu began, “but your place seems plenty big enough.” He said, nudging Aaron and motioning for the teapot.
“I have a hard enough time dealing with Kaye when I traipse in all hours of the night. Somehow I don’t think she’d care for house guests at three in the morning.” He passed the still steaming teapot across to Ryu. “I was thinking more of a neutral area, someplace that doesn’t get much pedestrian traffic during our working hours.”
“The old fort,” Eddy spoke slowly, “It closes at dusk and I’m sure we can all manage to get there without attracting too much attention.” He paused for a moment, “Though there is one more thing you just brought up.” He said to Aaron.
“And that is?” Aaron had a feeling where Eddy was going. As soon as he said her name, he’d started thinking the same thing.
“Your lady.” Vivian supplied. Apparently she had picked up on things as well.
“Sorry to be digging around in your head, but she does have… abilities that might be of some help to our little venture.” Ryu sipped his tea quietly and waited for Aaron’s response.
“Well,” Aaron started slow, rubbing his chin. “I’m not opposed. Kaye’s had her share of reservations in the past, but she can more than handle herself.” He finished the spring roll. All of it was true, even if he was still a little wary of her going into danger regularly. It wasn’t machismo. It was a genuine love and concern, no different than he knew Kaye felt every night he donned the Bluewolf costume. “But I think this is different…”
“I should hope so,” Ryu interjected. “If nothing else, you’ve seen our faces.”
“Bottom line, it’s her choice.” Eddy nodded. “I’ll talk to her.”
Vivian turned that bright smile to Ryu, “And what about you? Is there a Mysterious Mrs. Ryu?”
Ryu chuckled and shook his head. “Alas, no.”
“He’s a monk.” Aaron jibed, elbowing him in the ribs.
“Really?” Vivian leaned over the table.
Ryu shook his head. “No, not really. I mean… I mean, not exactly.” He sighed as Aaron laughed a little louder.