Haeret Lateri Lethalis Arundo
"Recca, you look very preoccupied," said Tomomi, glancing over in concern. She pulled to a stop in the parking lot of his apartment complex.
"Mm," answered Recca, staring sightlessly out the car window. His mind was dwelling on Hime and the guy she had been spending time with. It suddenly seemed so much more… real now. He wasn't just an amorphous idea, floating in his mind. He had a form. He had a shape. He had a voice.
An unfamiliar pang of jealousy had shot through his heart. He hadn't felt so very insecure about Hime since high school. After what they had endured together, there was nothing that could pull them apart. Not even death. And yet—and yet—what was she doing having dinner with this guy? What had happened?
"You're a million miles away," said Tomomi, looking at him in concern. Her voice softened and she asked, "What's wrong?"
Recca shook his head. "It's something that I'll have to sort out myself," he said, attempting a smile.
Tomomi shook her head. "It's what friends are for," she said gently, turning to look at him. He was facing away, though, gazing pensively out the passenger window. "Talk to me."
Recca shook his head, watching the stars. "It's a personal matter," he said. "I don't want to bother you with it."
"Maybe I can help," offered Tomomi simply.
"Sorry," said Recca. "There are some things I can't rely on others for," he explained.
"Recca," she said, leaning over and tapping him on the shoulder.
"H'm?" he asked, turning around. Whatever else he was about to say was lost as she closed the last few inches between them, cupped his face in her hands, and pressed her lips to his mouth.
His eyes widened in shock. For a few moments, he sat there, motionless; then he hesitantly returned the kiss, his hands cautiously on her shoulders, but a few seconds later, he pulled back.
Tamomi looked questioningly at him, an almost hurt expression on her face.
"Am I not good enough for you?" she asked, her voice soft, with a bit of tremor attached to the edge. "Don't you like me?"
"You're nice, Tomomi, but… but… I don't like you… not like that…" said Recca, blushing. He'd only kissed Yanagi, and somehow, Tomomi's lips just felt… wrong. Unfamiliar. The feel of her shoulders, her scent, her very kiss--- so unlike his Hime! Goodness knows what Hime was doing right now… but he didn't want to be guilty of the same thing. Not until Hime had told him officially that it was over, and he had no chance.
"Of course you like me like that," said Tomomi, tilting her head to one side. 'You just don't want to admit it. You're wrapped around that girl's finger, Recca, and she doesn't deserve you." She leaned forward again, never breaking eye contact. "You need someone who can make you… happy."
Recca shook his head. "Umm… I'd… I've got to go," he said, falteringly. The excuse sounded horribly fake, even to his own ears. He'd never been one to be easily frightened, but he was very intimidated. Women on the prowl weren't his favorite to deal with.
"Call me," said Tomomi with a slight pout to her lips.
"Sure," said Recca. "Dinner was great, and, um, I still think you look really cute." He tried to salvage what dignity he had left.
She gave him a halfhearted smile. "I'll see you in English class tomorrow," she said, waving at him, and he shut the door.
"It's two o'clock in the morning, Hanabishi," said Domon, coming stumbling in.
"You reek of smoke. Where were you?" asked Recca, lying on his stomach on the living room floor.
"The darts tournament," said Domon, "Over at the Sleepy Bear. Really fun."
"Did you win?"
"Nah, I got knocked out second round," said Domon, not looking particularly upset at that. "But a good friend of mine won, so I stuck around to cheer him on."
"Good for you," said Recca. "Say, what rhymes with 'Hime'?"
Yanagi took off her coat and hung it in the coat closet. "Hey, Fuuko," she said. "I picked up some ramen at the store, and--- oh! Recca-kun!" She looked at him, startled. "I didn't know you were here!"
"I have a present for you," said Recca, looking embarrassed.
"For me?" asked Yanagi, crinkling her brow. "It's not my birthday," she said doubtfully, "And Christmas and Valentine's Day are ages away."
Recca shook his head. "I just… I just wanted to get you a present. Because I love you," he said, looking at her frankly. He leaned over behind the couch and pulled out a small vase with a red rose in it, and a red envelope.
Yanagi smiled and took the vase. "It's so very lovely," she said, setting it carefully on the coffee table. "Fuuko will think it's pretty, too." She opened the envelope and extracted a paper.
Her eyes read over it and filled with tears. "Oh… Recca-kun!" she sobbed, throwing her arms around him. "It's… it's lovely."
"Read it aloud," said Recca bashfully.
"You are my hime, my Yanagi Rose;
And you know I'll always fight for you;
Of our love, everybody knows,
I sleep and breathe, eat and die for you.
"How could I ever find another girl
Who's half as sweet and kind and gentle a one?
I could search throughout the whole wide world
But it's a pointless task, as there are none.
"My sweet princess, would you ever leave
Your ninja all alone out in the cold?
To do such things would only make him grieve;
He'd much prefer with you to become old.
"So I wish to be your ninja forever;
And hope nothing our love will ever sever," read Yanagi.
"It's not a very good poem," said Recca, looking even more embarrassed at hearing his private thoughts voiced aloud. "Shakespeare I'm not, but, um, I thought it would make you happy…"
"It's made me very happy," whispered Yanagi, throwing her arms around his neck one time. "And it's a lovely sonnet. I didn't know you could write them."
"It took a long time, and Domon helped with some of the rhymes," said Recca, brightening. "And I think my syllables were off on some of them… but I tried. Because it would make you happy."
"Arigatou, Recca-kun," murmured Yanagi, her arms looped around his neck.
"See, I was thinking that perhaps I was neglecting you, and not thinking about your feelings, and… I just felt like you had other friends who could offer you what you wanted. More than I could," said Recca awkwardly. "So I wanted to try to reach your level. Because I love you."
"Recca-kun," said Yanagi, pulling away a few inches and gazing happily into his eyes. "It's not the poem so much as… as the thought you made the effort to try. For me." She closed her eyes and leaned forward to kiss him.
And this time, Recca didn't pull away.
"It looks like they got things worked out," said Fuuko approvingly, stirring her cappuccino in the coffeeshop the next evening. "They're so loveydovey, I have to go to the dentist." But she was smiling her approval.
"Good to hear it," said Mikagami. "I don't want that monkey to hurt her."
"What about me?" asked Atshushi, looking rather indignant. "I kind of got to like the girl…"
Mikagami gave him a freezing look. "If you try to split those two up," he said, leaving the rest to Atshushi's imagination. "Anyhow, you've done your duty."
"Thanks," said Fuuko. "You really helped."
"So, am I in?" asked Atshushi, looking hopefully.
"I'll put in a good word for you," said Mikagami.
Atshushi closed his eyes blissfully. A good word from Mikagami Tokiya practically ensured his acceptance into the fraternity.
"It was my pleasure," he said, scooting his chair away. "Can I take those dirty dishes for you?"
"Mm, I'm done," said Mikagami, and watched him bustle away with the dirty cups. "Toady," he murmured.
"But he's our toady, Mi-chan," smiled Fuuko. "Admit it, it wouldn't have worked nearly as well if you'd been the one."
"True," said Mikagami. "Anyhow, I hope we don't have to go through this again anytime soon."
"I don't think so," said Fuuko. "Knowing those two, it's smooth sailing from now on."