To Tea or Not to Tea…
An Aoshi and Misao Story
By Gemini523
Standard Disclaimers Apply
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Something's strange, no, I am strange
When I meet you, I am strange
My emotions scream out
My pitiful solitude
-Mayfly
Sung by Sasaki Nozomu.
Schwarz Ein - Dramatic Image Album III: Nagi's image song

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Inside a quiet shrine, isolated from the world, he waited. The Western style clock marking time in synch with the beat of his heart. Waiting for her…

Tick tock.
Any moment now, there would be the familiar sound of footsteps ringing on stone.
Tick tock.
Any moment now, she would appear, a tray loaded with everything she needed to make him his tea.
Tick tock.
Any moment now, Misao would appear, like she did every day, full of life and energy and sweet innocence that would break up the monotony of his day.
Tick tock.
Any moment now. Unconsciously, he strained to hear her footsteps, the sound of her voice as she hummed lightly, the clink of the tea things on a tray.
Any moment now.
Tick tock.
The usual time came and went, the wind whispered in the trees outside, the sun moved a little higher in the sky. She did not come. The clock continued its merciless march forward and still she did not come. For the first time in nearly three years, she did not come.

Unnerved by this sudden break in a seamless rhythm that had existed for so long, Aoshi rose and rushed back to the Aoi-ya. After all, there had to be an emergency, or something. Some reason for Misao's sudden and unexplained absence.

Everything appeared normal. Omasu was hanging out the day's laundry, Shiro was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables for the evening's dinner, somewhere above him, he heard Okon scolding Okina. Everything was absolutely in order. Except for Aoshi, whose day had been completely disrupted.

He walked quickly by a startled Omasu, who nearly dropped the laundry at the sight of him so unexpectedly, past Shiro, whose rhythmic chopping stalled in surprise. He hastily climbed up the stairs and past Okina's room, the open doorway currently host to a very angry Okon waving a ruined piece of cloth. They both stopped their arguing and watched him as he headed in the direction of Misao's room.

The door was closed, but she was definitely in there. He could feel it. He raised his hand and rapped on the wooden frame, opening the door when she replied.

He expected to see her laid up with a cold, anything. What he did not expect was to find her reading a book, comfortably curled up on her window seat, looking as though she did not have a care in the world.

"Misao?" He asked, quite startled.

"Hai?" She replied, not raising her eyes from the book. She turned a page and seemed to be amused by something she read, because she smiled and giggled softly.

"Is everything all right?" He asked, his hands clenched at his sides.

"Everything is fine, Aoshi-sama. Why do you ask?" She murmured, finally looking up at him with a disinterested expression.

"Well, it's 11:30...and you didn't come..." He began, mentally cursing himself for the slightly distressed tone of his voice. He fought the urge to smack himself silly, angry at how he had run up here as if he was on fire the moment she didn't appear. This definitely didn't lend credence to his "I don't care about Misao" defense.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Would you like me to send Okon with tea? I didn't think you wanted any." She said, her voice mercilessly calm, almost dismissive. She pursed her lips and returned her attention to the page in front of her, her body language indicating that she would like to be alone.

"Uh...no, that's okay." He said and turned to leave. He shut the door and almost beat his head against the wall. What was wrong with her? Where was her usual genki manner? Why didn't she seem to care? Wait...what was wrong with him? Why did it bother him so much? He had always wanted her to give up on him. Didn't he? Didn't he?

His left eye twitched. He tried to reason with himself. This was what he wanted. He wanted Misao to grow out of her childhood crush and move on...find someone worthy. He wanted her to....oh hell, he wanted her. He felt something in his chest clench at the thought. You idiot, he chastised. Admit it. You didn't actually think she'd give up, did you? You thought she'd continue to pursue you into old age and be there when you finally came to terms with your feelings. But she won't be. You strung her along for way to long, you jerk and now you've finally managed to push her away.

He sighed, and with the air of a defeated man, made his way back to the temple to meditate on this new predicament.

Any hopes that her first absence was an anomaly were utterly destroyed when, at 11:00 on the next day, Okon brought him his tea, and continued to do so for two solid weeks.

By day one of week three, Misao had become so distant that he barely ever saw her anymore. She was gone a lot on mysterious errands and she seemed giddy and happy whenever he did see her. Happy without him. Happy in her new found freedom. He stewed on this for fourteen days. And on the fifteenth day, when Okon came bustling in with his tea, he had had it. "Where's Misao?" He asked, straining to sound casual.

"Oh...she said something about going to see someone." Okon replied lightly, handing Aoshi his cup of tea.

He held it tightly in one hand, trying to look nonchalant. "Anyone in particular?" He asked.

Okon raised her eyebrow. "Hmm...well...I don't remember his name..."

There was a crunch and her reply was stalled when she saw that Aoshi had crushed the tea cup in his hand.

"HIS name?"

"Aoshi-sama...do you want a rag to clean that up?" Okon asked, reaching to hand him the aforementioned rag. He didn't answer, instead he stood up and rushed out of the temple, leaving an extremely startled Okon to clean up the mess.

Misao wasn't in her room or anywhere in the Aoi-ya. Okina and the others didn't know where she was, and Aoshi was very nearly frantic.

He didn't know where to find her, or even to begin looking, and so overwhelmed, he slunk to his room to sort things out.

Misao was a grown woman now, she had been old enough to marry since she was fifteen. He had managed to convince himself that he didn't love her, but his theory was utterly shattered as easily as the teacup he had held in his hand earlier. It was frightening how one small thing could destroy the peace he had built. She had simply stopped serving him tea, but it was more than that. Because she didn't just bring him the tea and leave, she always stayed and talked and laughed and warmed his heart. By ending that habit, she had rent the fabric of their relationship, leaving him unsure and uncomfortable. Two emotions he hated. She had rejected him and it hurt more than he could have ever imagined.

He had been forced into realizing one simple and obvious fact: He loved her. And now...because of his stupidity, it might not even matter. For the first time in his life, Shinomori Aoshi felt utterly helpless.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Okon, did it work?" Misao whispered as the older woman passed her in the hallway.

Okon grinned and gave Misao the thumbs up. "Better than you hoped. He's utterly destroyed."

Misao smiled brightly. "Perfect."

"When are you going to tell him?" Okon asked carefully.

Misao's smile became slightly evil. "I think I'll let him stew on it for a little while...he deserves it."

Okon raised a critical eyebrow. "Well, don't string him along for too long, I don't think he has your perseverance."

Misao's smile softened. "I won't. I can't wait much longer...I just wanted him to see what it was like to be me for a while."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

She had bought a new kimono. He watched silently as Omasu and Okon oohed and aahed over it after dinner. His eyes narrowed slightly when they bowed their heads together and began discussing the reason for the purchase. He strained to hear, but couldn't. He got the gist of it, however, when Misao shrieked and blushed, swatting Okon lightly in mock embarrassment. "He's not like that!" She exclaimed.

His eyes narrowed until they were almost closed. Who was this mysterious man who had captured Misao's attention? Was he worthy of it? This matter needed to be investigated further. No one could just waltz into the Aoi-ya and take their place here without a thorough background check and NO ONE could date Misao without the fear of God being put into them first. Unconsciously, he cracked his knuckles. A frown set on his face as if it had been chiseled there, he rose from his seat and left the room, heading in the direction of his office to begin planning.

He didn't see Misao wink at Omasu and Okon as he left. The minute they heard his office door slide shut, they sprung into action. Tonight, the final part of the plan would be implemented.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

An hour later, she was dressed. The kimono had cost her a lot of money, months worth of saved tips and a loan from Okina. But it was worth it. Because tonight would be the night she would finally face him, and she wanted to look absolutely smashing when she did. The purple silk kimono, with a pattern of falling sakura leaves and darker purple obi highlighted her bright blue eyes and glossy black hair. With Omasu's help, her usually braided hair was up in an elegant bun, held in place with her mother's enameled hair sticks. She had chosen a simple bun, rather than the complicated hairstyle Okon wore, because it took too long but mostly because she secretly thought it was ugly. She also eschewed make-up. She may have looked like a lady, but she was still a tomboy at heart. "What do you think?" She asked, twirling for her two friends.

"Oh, Misao...you look so beautiful..." Omasu said, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

Okon nodded her agreement and stopped Misao so she could fuss with the cord on her obi. "If Aoshi-sama doesn't fall at your feet, then we'll just have to assume he really is gay."

Misao glared at Okon.

"He is NOT!" She said heatedly.

Okon shrugged. "Okina and I have always had our suspicions..."

Misao made a horrible face took a menacing step forward. Okon stood her ground.

"Maa..maa…you two!" Omasu said, pushing the two apart. Shooting a dirty look at Okon, she pushed Misao towards the door, handing her an elegantly embroidered shawl as she did. "Here, it will be cold tonight." She said brusquely, straightening Misao's posture and stepping back to take a final look. With a satisfied nod, she shoved Misao out the door. "Go! And make us proud!" She said, swatting Misao's behind before sliding the wood panel shut. Turning to her friend, she said tearfully, "Oh, Okon, our little baby is all grown up and seducing the Okashira. I...I'm so proud!" The two of them hugged and cried, overwhelmed with it all.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Misao skipped by his office on her way out the door, pausing to knock on the frame. Without waiting for him to respond, she slid open the door and popped her head in.

"Aoshi-sama, I just wanted to let you know that I was going out tonight and not to worry if I came back late. Bye!"

Before he could reply, she was gone.

Going out was she? He rose quickly from his seat and followed.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The clacking noise of her shoes against the road was the only sound, echoing against the trees and back out into the velvety darkness. Misao wrapped her shawl closer as she walked, shivering not with cold, but anticipation. He was following her, she could feel it.

Aoshi stealthily slid into the shadows behind her, becoming increasingly anxious as she walked away from the bustle of nighttime Kyoto and into the darkness of the forest. He knew what young people did alone in places like this. Okina had told him, hoping he would use the information to his benefit. His anxiety was replaced by fury at the idea that some pervert was going to take advantage of his sweet innocent Misao. Some demon predator who had used her kindness and virtuousness to his advantage. The bastard. He would know the pain of Aoshi's kodachi before the night was over.

Misao disappeared from his sight and he increased his speed, not wanting to leave her alone for a moment with the evil lecher. She had stepped into a clearing. A quiet and deserted clearing. A perfect place to molest unsuspecting girls, it was so far away from prying eyes and ears. Now all he had to do was wait for the soulless jerk and then kill him.

She stood in the center of the clearing, her sweet face illuminated by the milky light of the moon. She looked strangely...determined.

"Now you understand." She said aloud, startling him. Who was she talking to? He didn't sense anyone around. Maybe this guy really was some kind of demon.

"Now you understand what it feels like to love someone so much that you can barely breathe, and to have that love shoved back in your face." She said, looking in his direction.

"Now maybe you understand how much you hurt me, Aoshi-sama."

He stiffened. She was talking to him. He didn't understand...

"I wanted to teach you a lesson. I wanted you to ache for me..." Her voice lowered, her eyes shining with tears. "Because I couldn't stand it anymore, the not knowing."

He stepped out of the shadows and into the clearing, his face incredulous. "You mean...all this...was a trick?" He asked.

She nodded. "All of it. There is no boyfriend. There has never been anyone but you..."

His eyes flashed. She had been deliberately torturing him. Anger was swiftly replaced by the thought that he had thoroughly deserved it. It had taken an extreme measure on Misao's part to get him to realize his feelings. She had been so patient…but even she had her limits.

Before she could take another breath, he was there, roughly pulling her towards him, kissing her fiercely.

It was heaven...it was everything. Despite the almost violent passion of his lips, his hold was gentle, a caress. His tongue swiftly parted her lips and entered to taste her, her senses overwhelmed, all she could do was moan softly.

He pulled away then, hands raising to cup her face, tilting it upwards so he could look into her eyes. "Don't you EVER do that to me again!" He said hoarsely.

She smiled then, her eyes alight. "Baka. I think you've learned your lesson."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Past the clearing and through the trees, Omasu and Okon high fived each other in triumph before sneaking back to Aoi-ya.

"Ne, Okon?"

"Hmm?"

"Have you noticed how Shiro looks at the girl at the vegetable stand?"

"Why, now that you mention it, Omasu, I have."

"He's too shy to say anything, though."

"Well, looks like we're going to have to do something about that, Omasu."

"You read my mind!"

Back at the Aoiya, an innocent Shiro sneezed as he put away the last of the dishes. Little did he know it would be his last night of peace…
Coming Up on Yahoo! Chat