Of Tea and Public Confrontations

To kid-icarus-uprising-addict; Merry Christmas!

# rhythmthiefsecretsanta2016

Charlie sighed. Chamomile tea washed over her taste buds and a pleased smile graced her lips. It had been a long time since she had the chance to visit her favorite café; with all the rebuilding and cleaning up after the Hanging Gardens had fallen, there wasn't any time since she had written her name on every volunteer clean-up sheet that she could find. Plus, Phantom R has been more active than ever. Between the two, Charlie rarely had time to relax, let alone be able to sit down and enjoy her day. And it was such a beautiful day too—clear skies, warm weather, the crowd's chatter as a boy yelled in the distance. So peaceful—

A small body slammed into her gut.

She crashed to the ground, chair overturned and tea staining her dress. A rough tongue bathed her face and neck and Charlie grunted as she tried to push the dog away, cursing internally. A wagging tail hit her knees and she scowled, knowing that her dress was positively covered in paw prints. Charlie shoved the dog off her, long enough to get a good look at it, but it took no offence and returned to attacking her face with spit. Her eyes widened. She recognized this dog, its white fur with a spot over its eye and that neckerchief

"Fondue, bad dog!" A pair of hands dragged the dog off of her and Charlie looked up to see a familiar head of red hair and brown eyes hidden behind round glasses. He continued to ramble as he pulled Fondue off her. "I'm so sorry, miss, he's usually not like this; I've never seen him react like this before—" Finally, he looked her in the eyes and his jaw dropped. Several emotions flashed across his face—surprise, wariness, fear. "Merde…" he whispered, unable to keep it in.

Charlie narrowed her eyes and handcuffed him. "Phantom R, you're under arrest for the appropriation of cultural artifacts."

Phantom R flinched back, holding up his hands as he stammered out, "P-Phantom R!? I'm sorry, miss, but you must be mistaken! Y-Yes, you see, we've never even met before! Yeah, that's right!"

Charlie wasn't fazed by his pathetic excuse. She hauled him to his feet, the handcuff secure around his wrist. "There's no use trying to fool me, Phantom R. Not only did you think I wouldn't recognize your mutt, but you thought I wouldn't see through such a flimsy disguise!?" she said with a scoff, snatching the glasses off his face and looking through them. As she thought, the lenses were just glass!

People were giving them odd glances. Charlie didn't care much; she was apprehending a criminal. But Phantom R's eyes flickered around the café veranda, panicked. "Could we perhaps do this somewhere else, miss?"

"Worried that someone will reveal your identity, Phantom R?" she accused, quietly enough so that no one else could hear them. She wasn't sure why. "Don't worry; you'll have plenty of time to reveal it yourself at the Constabulary."

"Now, now, Charlie, there's no need for such hostility," he whispered back, finally dropping the pretense of a normal person and slipping into the persona of her rival. He pulled her close, his customary smirk stretching his lips. "I didn't intend for you to see me, after all. Can't a thief check in on his favorite detective?"

"Are you sure you have to check on me? It seems you're the one most likely to get a football to the face, connard."

"Such language! Do you kiss your father with that mouth?" Charlie's glare hardened her hand curling into a fist. "But we shouldn't dance around the issue, should we?"

"You've been arrested, but you still have time to make stupid ballet puns?"

Phantom R looked genuinely hurt. "Interpretive jazz."

"Fine." Charlie ground out. "What do you want?"

"Just what I said. I wanted to check on you." His eyes softened as he looked her up and down. Charlie felt her cheeks heat up. "I haven't seen you much after everything that happened."

"I've tried to arrest you several times since that happened," she reminded him.

"True," he said, inclining his head. "However, you're not exactly one to complain if you were hurt, especially not in front of your enemy. And I wanted to be sure. But then Fondue…"

"Well, I'm perfectly fine, not that it's any of your business…" she grumbled, glancing away. "If that's all, I'd like to get back to our normal routine cat and mouse."

"Just one more thing." A hand cupped her cheek and tilted her head back up to look Phantom R in the eyes. He smiled at her and its sincerity blew her away. "Thank you for saving my life, Charlie." Leaning down, he kissed her hand, a quick brush against her knuckles and her blush became redder, going up to her ears. "There are no words that can describe my gratitude and, unfortunately, I must continue to take advantage of your kindness."

Those were the words that snapped her out of her trance. That and the realization that the hand on her cheek was the one she had handcuffed. "Why you…" Charlie lunged forward, but Phantom R danced away, his smirk having returned. Charlie wanted to punch it off.

He laughed at her efforts, fluidly twirling out of her grasp time after time. "See you next time, Charlie!" Phantom R called out before darting into the crowd, weaving into it so seamlessly that he disappeared.

Charlie stopped, panting hard as she scanned the crowd. Her heart beat fast in her chest, thudding against her ribs like it was trying to burst from her chest. "Damn thief," she said in between pants. "I'll get you next time, I swear." But even as she vowed to catch him, her face continued to burn red as she remembered the affection in his eyes.