Author's Note: I do not own the Ronins Warriors, I merely borrow them for the reading pleasure of you fabulous readers. This is a gift for Ghost of the Dawn; a simple little love story between Cye and Ghost's OC, Robyn. Rugged, seafaring Cye from her short story, Blindsided, sparked the idea. It is written in Ghost's Demons in the Doorway universe, so for those who have read DitD, the background of this story will make a little more sense. Although it is not necessary for appreciating this fic, I highly recommend checking out everything she has written regarding Robyn and the Ronins (and everything else. She is exceptional). Robyn belongs to Ghost of the Dawn: any other OCs (like Rae) belong to me.
Letters we kept to ourselves
Under snow will only dwell
The year had been long, but it was coming to an end.
Cye could not believe his good fortune that it would end here.
Twelve months in the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, monitoring the migratory patterns of whales and recording their findings, had been exhilarating, exhausting, and educational. The ship traveled near the Philippines, Japan, Russia, Alaska, and then Canada, porting in places like Kamchatka Krai, Russia; Anchorage, Alaska; and Vancouver Island, Canada. Areas he'd never dreamed of seeing. As the migratory season came to a close, the ship coasted down the United States before heading back to Japan.
It was too perfect.
As homesick as he was – as ready to return to Japan to see his friends and family as he'd been for months – he had one person that he could not resist dropping in on.
So when the ship docked in Port Orford, Oregon, well known for its whale population due to the rich kelp and algae beds, Cye arranged to take a few days of leave and catch a flight headed back to Japan instead of another vessel.
Cye had her address programmed into his phone and also scrawled on a scrap piece of paper. He left the harbor and the gorgeous beach Port Orford boasted and, set on walking to the tiny town. Cye didn't make it far from the boat before one of the crew members, an Irishman who worked maintenance, asked what he was after. Cye told him a rental car – Robyn was an hour north - and the man promptly reminded him that he wasn't quite old enough to snag a rental. The age restriction was 25 and Cye was just shy of 23; it'd be a "pain in the arse." Where was he going?
Cye told him, and elaborated that he was visiting a friend he hadn't seen in years. Five, to be precise.
The shipmate was only too delighted to help and harassed him into his own rental, telling him an hour was nothing.
The drive up the coastal highway was breathtaking. Cye could understand why Robyn gushed about the Oregon dunes and the forests. It would be easy to fall in love with this place. He was certainly already enjoying being in the United States this time around far better than the only other time he'd seen it.
That was an experience best forgotten.
They arrived at his destination just shy of eleven in the morning. Cye could see the apartment complexes his map said Robyn lived in, staggered in a jagged line not a quarter of a mile from the beach. His shipmate zipped down the narrow streets of the small town, across a rather pretty bridge over a river that snaked in a U close to the ocean, and back towards the beach and the apartment buildings. The closer he drew to her, the harder Cye's heart worked to keep up with his raucous thoughts.
Would she be pleased? Ecstatic? Would his sudden appearance be a nuisance, a disruption? They had communicated over the years, frequently for a good two years before he left for the expedition and couldn't communicate regularly with anyone. She was always thrilled to hear from him, and they'd talk for hours on the phone at least once a month. For living all the way across the ocean, Cye felt closer to Robyn now – or any girl at all – than he had all his life. He thought he knew her, despite the distance and the way she left five years ago, but did he really?
Would she even be home?
The thought slapped him like sand whipped by the wind. She mentioned, in some texts and phone calls, that she sometimes left town for weekends and even a week at a time here and there to visit a friend in California. What if he inadvertently hit a weekend when she was gone?
Then you'll have lost nothing, Cye told himself. And everything would be the same as it was.
But he was so close, his heart cried. In her city, just outside of where she laid her head and ate and did homework. How could he walk away, steps from where she stayed, and leave empty handed? Without seeing her once, holding her to him to convince himself that she was still real, still happy and healthy, and not just a voice on the phone or occasionally on the other end of a video chat?
Five years was such a long time. He could already feel his heart crumble at the thought of missing her due to poor timing.
The Irishman slowed where Cye indicated. He had been watching the blip of the car on the map, and it landed right where it stated Robyn lived on Seaside Drive.
"Need me to wait a minute?" the man asked, after studying what must have been a troubled look on Cye's face.
"Yes," he said after a moment, depressed as if it already hadn't worked out. "I wanted to surprise her, but I need to make sure she's home."
Cye got out, one duffel bag slung over his shoulder – the other two left in the back seat – and cautiously walked past the parked cars to the sidewalk leading to individual apartments. As he neared 221, he heard a car door shut. A young woman with long dark hair walked around the front of a Hyundai with a laptop bag hanging from one shoulder. He looked back to Robyn's door as he slowed before the pathway leading to it. It looked quiet. Uninhabited. The blinds were barely slanted open.
God, she wasn't home. She was out of town, and he didn't know when she would be back, and why didn't he just call her?
Idiot. Call her.
Cye pulled out his phone and brought up his contacts.
"Are you looking for someone?"
The owner of the Hyundai was watching him curiously. The laptop bag went in the passenger side of the car, and then she shut the door and came back to the sidewalk. She was attractive in the way Sage was – in other words, disarmingly good looking - although dressed more casually in jeans, boots, a cardigan, and a green scarf. Straight dark brown hair, light brown skin, with pretty green eyes that now regarded him thoughtfully.
"Well I – er, yes. Do you happen to know Robyn McCarthy?"
Her eyebrows shot up. "I do."
"Do you know if she's home?"
The woman was silent for a minute, simply staring at him, and it was the kind of stare that made him want to squirm. She could give Sage a run for his money. Something flitted across her face and he wanted to call it recognition, even though he had never seen her before in his life. Then she smiled. He reflexively smiled back.
"She is." The woman extended her hand. Bemused, Cye took it. She had a firm handshake. "It's nice to meet you," she said warmly. Laughter threaded through her voice.
"You, too," he said carefully. She acted as if he knew her – even patted his upper arm – but then she walked away and got into her car with a wave goodbye. Dumbfounded, he waved back.
He shook his head as the engine started and almost went up to Robyn's door before remembering his ride. He jogged back to the idling car, thanked his shipmate, and grabbed the rest of his bags. Grunting with the weight, Cye lugged it all back with him to Robyn's apartment and rapped three times.
He could not believe he was actually here, and she was just on the other side of the door.
Faint footsteps reached his ears. His heart began to gallop.
Cye had a moment to think I should have showered and shaved when the door jerked open.
Her light, happy voice called, "Did you forget something?"
"No, I've already found what I'm looking for."
Robyn gasped and froze in the doorway. He grinned as she gawked up at him and used the opportunity to drink her in: vibrant red hair falling to her shoulders, long snug sweater over leggings. Her porcelain skin was healthy in its pale complexion; her eyes were wide and so gloriously like the shallow waters of the sea in the tropics.
She looked radiant.
"CYE!" Robyn finally shrieked. She lunged at him and Cye immediately dropped his bags to catch her. He laughed as she tried to climb him like a cat. When she wrapped her legs around his lower waist a tug of some indefinable feeling sizzled through him. He helped her out by hefting her up and her arms went around his neck and squeezed. Having her in his arms again, after five years, felt right.
"How are you here?" Robyn cried into his neck. "Oh, my God. You're here! Look at you!" She kissed the side of his face, then the tip of his nose, his forehead, his cheekbone.
He didn't have the same reaction he did when she lunged at him their senior year of high school.
Cye didn't know what type of reaction he was having.
A lump lodged in his throat when he saw that she was crying and laughing at the same time, color flushing her cheeks. Never in his life had anyone been this happy to see him. He was undone by her honestly given love and affection and it made him want to crush her to him even more. She made a pleased sound in her throat and ran her fingers over the stubble on his cheeks, then petted his head and exclaimed over the length of his hair. "It's gotten so long, it's practically at your shoulders! Ohh, do you pull it up?"
"Sometimes," he said, perturbed that he sounded a little strangled.
"Hot." Robyn waggled her eyebrows at him and stayed where she was – in his arms. "And what is this?" She ran her hands down his biceps and squeezed the rock hard muscles holding her. "Damn, Cye, are you weight lifting the whales, too?"
He laughed breathlessly. "Yes, every now and again I go for a swim and practice tossing them aboard and back. Like big trout."
Reluctantly, Robyn slid down to the floor. Cye moved his hands to her waist, unable to tame his grin as she wiped her eyes and laughed at her own reaction. He opened his mouth to tell her how incredible she looked – how happy, how grown up, how it made his heart ache, how he had wished to have seen her grow for himself, but she rushed into a flurry of questions.
"How long are you staying? How long do you have? Does anyone else know you're here?"
"Only a few days," he admitted. "No; I only just learned we were docking near here yesterday."
Her face fell, but brightened as she said, "Well, let's make the most of it! Bring in your things, I'll get you settled in – we can go out for lunch and you can tell me about your expedition! And show me pictures!"
Robyn took one piece of luggage and Cye grabbed the other two. She chattered that she only had one bedroom, and when Cye offered to take the couch in the living room, she rolled her eyes at him.
"I have a queen sized bed, Cye. We're both adults; you're not sleeping on the couch."
He wanted to argue, but her expression brokered no argument and he let it rest.
True to her word, Robyn took him out for lunch in her little Toyota. She brought him to a pub in the downtown area, which was rather charming with its nautical theme and wrought iron lampposts. They sat at a small booth by the window. Robyn nearly bounced out of her seat with excitement as, per her request, Cye described parts of the expedition and his research to her.
Halfway through lunch – which was the best food he'd had since he left Japan – a lull entered the conversation. Over the sandwich and a draft, he simply watched Robyn when she wasn't looking at him.
She had changed for the better in the five years since her departure. Gone were the timid gestures, the posture that said she wanted to shrink inside of herself, the nervous chatter. She sat with straighter shoulders, eyed the restaurant curiously but without anxiousness, laughed easily, talked assuredly, and carried herself with the air of someone who knows who they are. Cye felt some of that, too, on the expedition. That kind of self assurance was hard won. Pride for her coursed through him.
It took him a moment to realize she was staring back at him, her lips quirked in a smile. She rested her chin in the palm of her hand. He could eat her up, she was so adorable – somehow livelier than her teenage self, somehow more grown up, yet more her at the same time.
"Penny for your thoughts, me matey?"
"Wasn't on a pirate ship, Robyn."
She laughed and he narrowed his eyes. "I seriously can't believe you," she said. She flung a hand at him and emphasized, "You! You look so good! Your rugged stubble, all that gorgeous hair, and you've gotten a tan, too – you're a bonafide sailor. Now all you need is a tattoo of an anchor."
"Can I start calling you Sailor?"
When he pulled out his camera to show her pictures, she left her side of the booth and saddled up to him, leaning over to see the small screen. It was more difficult than he thought it would be to not focus on how her body pressed against his. She smelled like sunshine and ripe fruit in the summer. Cye shifted uncomfortably while he explained some of the pictures, and her excitement only made it worse – she had no sense of personal space, and she was hanging on to his left arm and pointing out a tail or the fins of a few dolphins.
Why was this any different than when she did it years ago?
Because you're not children anymore, a voice reminded him.
I've been trying to do it right
I've been living a lonely life
I've been sleeping here instead
I've been sleeping in my bed…
I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart…
He knew she had classes and work, and worried that he disrupted her schedule, but Robyn waved it off cheerily. She did the books for a nonprofit nearby the University of Oregon – which was an hour's drive for her – and although she worked Monday, she said she'd work something out. She didn't have class until Tuesday evening. Aside from a few hours on Monday and Tuesday, Cye had her all to himself for over three days.
For hours they walked up and down the few streets that compromised the downtown, talking and catching up, sometimes popping into shops. Robyn slipped her arm securely through his and left it there, only letting him go to show him something or when she became particular animated as she talked.
Cye never realized how acutely he missed her until she was right in front of him.
Robyn drove them back to her place as the sun began to set. They had a small dinner, still full from a late, big lunch; Robyn cooked pasta and made a red sauce with tomatoes, olives, onions, and spices. Cye was suitably impressed. He offered to stir the simmering sauce, and in between stirs he contented himself with crowding her and poking his nose in every cupboard in her small kitchen.
"Frozen dinners, Robyn?"
She bristled at his tone. "I don't cook every night! Especially nights when I have class. Not everyone whips up something homemade for every meal, Cye. And who are you to judge, anyway – I've seen you eat cold cereal."
He chuckled. In her cupboards, he found condiments, snack bars – for school, no doubt – cereal, pasta boxes, canned vegetables – real canned vegetables in mason jars, green beans and tomatoes and peaches - sugar, flour; the staples of an adult. On the counter he found small jars of rosemary and thyme; fresh spinach and carrots in the fridge in unmarked bags.
"I'm proud of you, Robyn. You have actual ingredients instead of just-"
She made a sharp shushing noise and pointed a warning finger at him.
He leaned against the kitchen's island and watched her with amusement, folding his arms. He nodded at the jars on the counter. "Do you frequent a farmer's market?"
Robyn watched him for a second, and then abruptly looked away. Her face was a little flushed, but it was rather hot from the cooking food. "Sometimes – some of the fresher stuff I just got from Rae. Her dad has a huge vegetable garden and whenever she visits, she brings me food."
Cye remembered the young woman with the dark hair. "Was she just here?"
Robyn hummed in agreement. The sleeves of her sweater were rolled up to her elbows, and she'd put her hair up in a clip. The kitchen was growing uncomfortably warm, and Cye almost considered removing his own sweater in favor of the lighter shirt underneath. "She stayed for two weeks. She left today – you just missed her."
"I think I met her out in the parking lot."
She brightened. "You met Rae?" Robyn deluged him with the tale of her and Rae's friendship, and he realized this was the friend from California. Santa Cruz, to be exact. She was deliberately vague on how they met, but happily told him everything under the sun about her friend over the last few years. Since they lived ten hours apart, they only saw each other a few times a year – Robyn flew down for Christmas, and Regan drove up in the spring. Sometimes Robyn would visit in the summer if she could or vice versa, and Regan and her twin brother took her to San Francisco, and once all the way down to LA, and every October they all meet halfway in Northern California near the Redwoods to stay in a cabin, and Cye just had to join them one year, maybe the whole gang. Rae earned a degree in architectural engineering and dabbled in photography – her stepmother used to do weddings – she surfed for fun, too, Cye, you have something in common! – and she practiced ballet because her older sister danced for the San Francisco Ballet…
Cye listened and watched Robyn's enthusiastic body language. Her hands flitted around like small birds. He was encouraged that she'd made friends here – friends willing to drive such a long way to spend time with her – but it simultaneously made his heart ache. She talked about this friend and other things a little bit when they corresponded over the last few years, but never much; she always preferred to hear about them. What were her boys up to? He wished she had been more forthcoming and he knew these things about her life. But it was nice to hear some of it now.
"So I haven't heard much from the guys in the last few months. What's everyone been doing while you've been away?"
Before telling her, Cye gave up on the sweater and took it off, laying it over a stool at the small island that apparently served as a table, as well. Robyn's eyes cast down to his arms and torso, and he pretended not to notice. "Ryo's been on a construction job for the past few months, so that's probably why you haven't heard from him. Kento's working for his parents for the time being, and Rowen spends all of his time at the university doing graduate work. Sage, I'm not sure. Training students at the dojo. He's not settled on whether to take it over or do something with his degree."
Robyn made a noise of sympathy. "Poor guy. I'll have to email him soon." She turned off the heat under the noodles. "How's that sauce coming?"
Cye lifted the lid. The smell of tomatoes and tarragon filled his nose. "Done."
They ate on the couch instead of the island. The living room and kitchen were wide open to one another and they used the kitchen lights and one lamp to illuminate the room. Robyn curled up next to him with her plate in her lap.
"This is delicious," he said. Since her head was right next to his shoulder and he wanted to do it, he leaned down and kissed her hair. "Thank you for making dinner."
She beamed at him. "You're ever so welcome. I figured you deserved a bit of pampering after roughing it on the high seas for a year."
"You figured correctly," he said. "I'd like to make dinner tomorrow, if that's all right."
Robyn wriggled happily, like a child who's just received an unexpected present. "It's more than all right! Cye, we can go grocery shopping together again."
He laughed. They spent the next hour filling one another in on each other's lives. Robyn suggested watching a movie, and he picked one from her small collection – one of their favorites from high school. She grabbed a blanket from a pile of them folded in a wicker basket by the television, turned off the kitchen light and the lamp, and wedged herself between him and the back of the couch as the movie played.
At first it was just like old times; enjoying one another's company, commenting over the movie, laughing at the funny parts. Something in Cye settled with her in his arms, and it was purely innocent; the love he had for her as a child.
Then she switched positions to get more comfortable, and something in him shifted, too. He noticed her smell again, with her hair tickling under his chin and so near his nose. Her fingers idly stroked the back of his hand as she would stroke a cat's head. Tracing the veins of his hand, moving over his knuckles and the chafed skin there from helping out the crew. He was hyper sensitive to her feather light touch. His attention kept straying from the movie to watch her fingers dance over his skin.
Could she feel his racing pulse?
"Your hands look like they have stories to tell," Robyn said quietly. She turned his hand over, palm up, and glided over the calluses on the pads of his fingers. Her nails tickled the sensitive skin of his palm.
It felt more intimate than her kisses from that morning.
"You wouldn't want to hear most of them," Cye said, struggling to keep his voice steady. His breath moved a few strands of her bright hair. "Too boring."
"I don't find anything you tell me boring. I'd listen."
The sweet comment, and the loyalty behind it, registered, but he could not tear his eyes away from her small, pale hand caressing his larger one. He was at once mesmerized and tortured. A thought leapt into his brain: leaning over her, plunging his fingers into her hair, and kissing her. Her lips, her face, her neck. Feeling her move under him.
Cye was seconds away from excusing himself when a small furry body broke the spell. Weight settled on his legs and there was suddenly a pair of bright blue eyes staring at him. The cat walked up his thigh and -
"Argh!" He sat up to dislodge the animal and disrupted Robyn.
"Dinah!" Robyn cooed. The cat walked across Cye to her, purring and rubbing against her owner. "Meet Cye, baby!"
"I'd rather-" He sighed as Dinah sniffed his fingers and then shoved her face against his knuckles. He stroked the ginger tabby once and then gave Robyn a dismayed look.
She rolled her eyes and addressed Dinah with, "Papa Cye has discriminatory views of your kind. I apologize on his behalf. We'll get him to come around." She climbed over Cye, the cat clasped to her chest. He grunted as her weight pressed on his stomach.
He remained on the couch while Robyn brought Dinah into the kitchen, setting her down by what he assumed was a water and food bowl he didn't see on the other side of the main counter. Cye used the opportunity to let his pounding heart slow down, and to mentally brace himself to be in her presence without those unwanted thoughts flooding him.
Robyn is your dear friend. Who lives in the United States. You are just visiting. You have to return to Japan. She has a life here. Those feelings can go nowhere.
When she returned, he was sitting upright on the couch. When she sat next to him to finish watching the movie, ruffling his hair and giving him a hard time over his dislike of felines, his mind and body continued to betray him.
Songs Referenced: "Skin and Bone," by The Native Sibling and "Ho Hey," by The Lumineers