Shinjiro knew this was coming. But even prior foresight didn't ease the daunting feeling of his team's accusing eyes.
"Thanks to your recklessness, we've lost Gemini, just when we need her the most." said Ratchet in a voice devoid of her usual warmth and emotion. "There's no one to blame but you, Shinjiro."
Shinjiro didn't dare to took at the others faces but he could feel them glaring daggers at him. Those daggers cut a more painful wound than any injury he had ever received in battle. What hurt the most, was that every harsh word of what Ratchet said was true. He was fully aware of what he had done and the rest of the New York Combat Revue had every reason to be angry at him.
Shinjiro's head had been lowered in shame for a while. At last, he steeled himself, raised his head up and met with Ratchet's icy stare.
"I understand what I've done, Ratchet I'm prepared to face the consequences."
Then he stood up, straightened his back and said with all the dignity he could muster-
"I'll play Peppermint in the show while Gemini's on maternity leave."
The others' icy glares faded to looks of relieved satisfaction.
"That's good." said Ratchet, finally smiling "It's such a hassle having to recast at the last minute."
Mr Sunnyside then stood up, having been quiet throughout the damage control meeting.
"And now that my lovely assistant has finished chewing you out, Shin-Sham, we can get onto congratulating you and your Mrs!"
The others gathered around, giving their blushing captain hugs, handshakes and pats on the back.
"You weren't in a hurry to say anything earlier." Ratchet observed. Sunnyside smugly adjusted his spectacles.
"That because, frankly, my dear, you're just so much better at playing the Bad Cop."
Ratchet proceeded to further cement her position as the deepest sigher in New York. She shook her head and put a loving, somewhat sisterly hand on Shinjiro's shoulder.
"Congratulations to both you and Gemini, Shin. I have no doubt that you will be excellent parents."
Ratchet would know about parenting. Many had come the time when Shinjiro would hear her bemoan to Sunnyside; "Why are they always MY staff when they mess up?"
When everyone was finished gushing, they went to the auditorium to begin the rehearsal. The songs' lyrics were easy enough to remember, but it was a very active dance routine. Many jumps and twirls were involved, so they couldn't knowingly allow a pregnant woman to perform it. Having helped Gemini to rehearse, Shin was of course the only one who could fill her role at the last minute.
When rehearsal was finished, everybody was given a couple of hours free time before opening that night. Ratchet came to see Shin before he left.
"By the way, Shin, are you bringing Gemini to watch the show tonight?" she asked.
"Well, maybe, if she's up for it."
"Give me a call and let me know before six thirty. We're thinking about having a baby shower after the show."
"Wow, that's really nice of you all! Sure I'll see if she's up for it!"
he picked up the plastic bag which contained his costume.
"By the way, I'll going to drop my costume off at the dry-cleaners on the way home. Would you like me to take yours, while I'm at it?"
"No, it's fine. Cheiron took them to the one just bellow her office, this morning. You just go home to your cute wife!"
This was of course an instruction that Shinjiro had no objections to complying with. Once his costume was safely in the capable hands of the dry-cleaners, he made his way home. As his hand pulled on the door handle, he contemplated what he should say to his wife. There was something she was expecting him to say, but in his head it sounded so cliché and embarrassing. But on the other hand, it was just the two of them in the house. Nobody else would be around to criticize. So he marshalled his courage opened the door and said;
"Honey, I'm home!"
He could hear Gemini giggling in the kitchen. At least it was just her laughing and she hadn't brought any guests around to laugh at him. She came out to meet him and folded him into her arms.
"I've always wanted to hear you say that!" she laughed as she kissed him. Shinjiro had always known Gemini to be an otaku who loved it when real life paralleled television. Such as that time she went to wake him up and he asked for five more minutes. This gave her the chance to fulfil her childhood dream of waking someone up by pulling their blanket away. But while he did feel silly, it was usually worth it, just to see Gemini's face light up.
"So, how'd everyone take the news?"
"They seem happy for us. In fact, they're hoping to throw a baby shower after the last curtain, tonight."
"Awwwww! That's so sweet!" she cooed. "I think we have some of the best friends anybody could ask for."
"Well, yeah. Even if they were a little mad at me for having to recast you at the last minute."
"So who'd they get?"
"Peppermint will be coming out of retirement."
Gemini shook her head and gave an amused sigh. "You know, it's funny to think that my husband in drag, is prettier than me. Truth be told , I'm a little jelous."
"Don't be. It takes a lot of heavy make-up to get me looking like that whilst you have the advantage of being naturally beautiful." said Shin, as he ran his fingers through his wife's brilliant red hair. She in turn kissed his cheek and gently hugged him.
"Aw, Shiny, you're just a big old sack of sugar."
She took hold of his hand and led him to the kitchen. It was filled with a warm aroma of almonds, spices and coconut.
"Come on I made us some chicken curry!"
"You made all this? If you'd have waited, I would have made us something to eat. The doctor told you to take it easy, this morning."
"I'm pregnant, not dying from a soap opera disease!" Gemini said, while sitting herself at the table. "Besides, you usually make food in small doses and I'm eating for more than one person now."
"Well, that's true..." Shin sighed. He knew how active and energetic Gemini was. He also knew that she was fully capable of taking care of herself. But he was her husband and the father of her child (or children, if it turned out to be twins). It was not only his job to worry, it was his sworn duty.
"Would you at least let me take care of Larry for you?"
"Are you really that determined to stop me from moving a muscle? Look, giving up dancing for a while is one thing, but I've got to draw the line somewhere!" she said as she pointed her fork, menacingly at him.
"I...I'm sorry. But I'm a samurai. I'm honour bound to protect the ones I love. Even though most of the time, it feels like you're the one protecting me..."
She had to laugh. Not a scornful cackle, but an amused giggle, much like when a small puppy carries it's leash over to you, wagging it's tail with a happy expression on it's face. He was adorable. Her well meaning, overbearing, husband.
Gemini reached across the table and rested her hand on top of Shin's. As she gazed at him, her blue eyes seemed to twinkle with happiness.
"I guess I kind of take you for granted sometimes. Sure, you can take care of Larry. But only when you've eaten! You're gonna need a lot of energy for the show tonight!"
With a smile and a nod, Shin agreed. After giving the traditional Japanese thanks for the food, they ate. After the hearty meal, Shin went to the stable that Sunnyside had built in the back and filled Larry the horse's feed bag with oats. Once Shin was finished bushing the horse and making sure he had water, he took a shower and got ready to pick up his costume.
Shin and Gemini drove to the Little lip theatre. Outside, the posters were being changed, crediting Peppermint taking Gemini's role.
"I reckon there's not many guys out there who'd go to all this trouble. Most guys would have just looked for someone else to fill in, not do it themselves." said Gemini, hiding a snigger in her voice.
"Like I said, it's my duty. My duty as leader of the New York Combat Revue Stars Division, to wear a dress and prance about on stage!" said Shin, a bit too passionately to be taken seriously. In the end, he just couldn't keep a straight face and they both had a fit of laughter.
Gemini took a breath and composed herself. She put her hands on Shinjiro's shoulder.
"I'm so glad I married you." she planted a deep kiss on his lips. "I really love you, Shiny. I don't think I tell you that often enough."
They had one last hug before parting ways. Gemini went to the auditorium to wait for the show to start and Shinjiro went to change into his costume. To prepare for the show, the return of Peppermint, the baby shower and unbeknownst to him, the paparazzi.