Disclaimer: *sings* Not mine, not mine, not mine!

Author's note: Thanks for all the enthusiastic reviews!  I was really quite anxious, but you've all laid my fears to rest with your encouragement, so thank you.  ^_^ 
  Well, where would a 'night before' be without a 'morning after'?  Here goes!  *still smiling, she enjoyed writing the opening scene so much* ^_^

  Enjoy!

Ice and Chaos

 Fourteenth

  The dream of her mother's arms faded sweetly away from Misao's sleeping mind, as the light of dawn streamed through the bedroom windows, welcoming her to the morning's world.

  Misao couldn't quite bring herself to open her eyes.  If she did, she would realise that it had all been a dream- a beautiful, comforting dream, but something without substance in the face of the light of day.  If she opened her eyes, or moved at all, she would have to accept that she was alone in her bed, and that another day of her life-as she-knew-it had begun.

  She sighed, preparing herself for the moment of true awakening.

  She heard an answering sigh nearby, so close that the warm breath of it swept pleasantly over her cheek.  The sigh was one of deep, absolute contentment.  The sigh was a low, male sound.

  Along with the soft exhalation came a movement of the hand that Misao suddenly became aware of on her back, and the arm that was wrapped around her.

  She opened her eyes.

  Aoshi's face lay, gently passive in sleep, a bare few inches from her own.

  His hand moved up her back to hold her more completely, and he shifted subconsciously closer to her, bringing the warmth of their bodies together.

  Misao gazed into his face in wonder.

  It wasn't a dream.

  A slow smile crept over her face.  There was no way she was going into school today: not with Aoshi here with her, at last, the way she'd dreamt of for so many weeks past.

  She couldn't stop herself- he looked so peaceful, and so coldly beautiful.  She leaned carefully back to get her camera from beside her bed, and took a picture of Aoshi, framing him with the pillow beneath his head.

  Putting the camera back, she smiled gently at Aoshi's sleeping face.  He looked so different when he wasn't on guard from the world.  It felt so perfect to be lying beside him like this.

  Misao closed her eyes, willing sleep to claim her once more, so that she could wake a second time in Aoshi's arms.

  As waking awareness stole gradually over Aoshi's senses, he felt the presence of a slim, soft source of pleasant warmth against him.

  Misao.

  As his eyes blinked open and gained focus, he saw her, right beside him.  Amazing.  She was just as beautiful now as she'd ever been- and people are supposed to look their worst in the morning, apparently.

  Misao seemed to be immune to any attack on her beauty, Aoshi mused.

  She was pretending to be asleep.  He could tell.

  He moved his arm slowly to stroke his hand down her back, and sure enough, Misao snuggled closer, fitting the length of her body to his, lifting her arms and stretching herself from head to toe against him as she 'woke', a funny smile on her face as her eyes opened. 

  "You were awake," Aoshi said quietly, a softness in his voice that took even the echo of an accusation from his words.

  Misao smiled.  "You caught me," she murmured, in a tone of immense satisfaction.

  Aoshi smiled back.  He hadn't even realised he was doing so, but he couldn't miss the resulting look of surprise, then pleasure, on Misao's face.

  "Is that a smile, oh ice-block Aoshi?" she said, trying not to giggle.  His arms tightened in a playful warning around her slim frame as a response.

  He couldn't seem to help his slight smile widening, though.  But then, he couldn't think of a reason to prevent it widening, either.

  Misao stretched again with a yawn, flexing her fingers as a cat flexes its claws.  Aoshi took the opportunity to lean forward to her exposed throat, kissing her soft skin in a slow lover's caress of his lips and tongue combined.

  Misao felt a shudder of heat rush through her at Aoshi's touch, and her arms instinctively slipped around him to better allow her to hug herself to him, bringing their bodies close together with tender force.

  She nuzzled against his neck, ready for more, but Aoshi suddenly pulled away.

  "What is it?" she asked, slightly anxious.

  He was still staring at something beyond her shoulder.  She glanced over, craning her neck, to see her clock on the bedside table.

  "Don't you have to go to school?" Aoshi asked, finally looking back into her eyes.

  Misao did not want to go to school.  She had no intention of leaving even the bed, if she could help it.  She tried the first tack that came into her head.

  "What, hoping to see me change into my school uniform?  Perv!" she said laughingly, pressing a fingertip against his chest as if to push him away.  Never mind that they both knew her school didn't have uniforms.

  His response was to growl, "No," at her in a low voice, while pushing the sheets down from her naked shoulders to pool about her waist with a slow slide of his hand, looking at her pointedly.

  "Nothing left to see," he said. 

  Misao stared at him with a half-laughing, half-amazed look on her face before pulling suddenly away from him, grabbing the pillow from beneath her head and throwing it at Aoshi's face.

  He shifted the offending pillow from his head, pushing Misao unintentionally with it.

  Misao yelped as she narrowly avoided falling off the bed and cried, "That's it, if it's war you want, it's war you'll get!  You'll pay for that, Aoshi!"

  Grinning and laughing, she pulled the sheet up to make herself passably decent, and started pummelling Aoshi with the pillow.

  Aoshi, astonished at the laughter slowly bubbling up within him, fended off her onslaught for a few minutes, before saying with sudden authority, "Game's over, Misao," and sitting up, leaning over, grabbing Misao and pinning her beneath him.

  They were both breathing a little fast by that point.

  "You're going to school," said Aoshi commandingly, breaking the mood away from what their relative positions may have prompted.  He hadn't had to face his lover's most persuasive technique yet, however.

  Misao looked straight into his eyes from beneath her lashes, and let her teeth rake slowly over her lower lip.  Aoshi couldn't deny how incredibly sexy she looked at that moment.  He tried to push that thought aside.

  "Do you really want me to go, Aoshi?" the girl beneath him said, in a sweetly low voice that made Aoshi's skin feel pleasantly warm.  He mentally shook himself.

  "Yes," he growled.

  Misao had already remembered something by that point.  "Really?" she persisted, lifting a hand to trace a feather-light trail from Aoshi's neck, down his chest to his stomach, where she drew circular patterns on his sensitive skin with a fingertip.  His eyes closed involuntarily, and he drew a deep, quick breath in a reflexive reaction to the sensations her touch was sending in tingling waves across his body.

  "Yes," he replied again, sounding less convinced than before, his voice little more than a whisper of his sighing breath.

  "Well, you've forgotten," Misao murmured, as she wrapped her arms around him to pull him down to her, "that it's Saturday…"

  "Hm," came the reply.

  The rest of the conversation was lost as Misao lifted her mouth to Aoshi's.

  "Good thing my dad isn't home at the moment.  I really don't want you to have to meet him yet," Misao said as she led the way to the kitchen.

  The passing of a couple of hours had seen them showered and dressed, and looking for food in Misao's kitchen.

  The dark-haired girl went through a couple of cupboards, pulling out the things to make sandwiches, while Aoshi positioned himself against the counter, leaning back against it and gazing at Misao as she went about the room.

  A couple of times, she glanced in his direction.  Once, she winked at him with a smile that sent him a message he couldn't misunderstand.  His lips twitched in the hint of a smile.

  "So where have you been staying?" asked Misao as she started buttering slices of bread.

  "With Ven- that guy you saw me talking to, that time in the street."  The day we separated, he added to himself.

  "Oh.  What's he like?  How do you know him?"  Misao stopped short then, trying to stop all her questions pouring out at once.  She worried that she was sounding pushy already.

  Aoshi didn't seem to mind much.  "Ven's usually pretty quiet, but he has a way of being in charge without needing to say too much.  He's been a pretty good friend.  He's got a sister, as well- Maree."

  Misao couldn't help feeling a little twinge of jealousy at that point.  There was a girl there…  She got to spend time with him during all the weeks I've not even been able to speak to him.  "Is she nice?" she asked, forcing her jealous thoughts aside.

  "She's all right.  Dresses a bit like a goth a lot of the time, but there's more to her than that…" Aoshi didn't know how to continue: he was sure there was more to Maree, but he hadn't been able to fathom those depths yet.  "She looks out for her brother a lot."

  "Is she pretty?"

  The question jumped out of her before Misao could even realise she wanted to ask it.  She kept buttering the bread quickly, hoping Aoshi didn't think she was being jealous.

  There was a slight pause.

  Aoshi's eyes softened almost kindly.  He understood Misao's feelings.  "Yes, she's pretty.  Prettiest cousin I have, unless you want to call Ven pretty," he said.

  Misao turned to stare at him.

  "Cousin?"

  "Yeh," Aoshi nodded.  "Ven and Maree are my cousins."

  Soujiro waited while the phone kept playing the calling tone against his ear.  No one picked up.  It kept ringing, again and again, but no one picked up.  It looked like Misao's dad was going to start another argument with her last night…  What happened?  Did her father even go away on his business trip like he'd planned?  Misao usually asks me over when she's on her own for so long…

  "Where are you, Misao?" he murmured to himself as he re-dialled and listened to it ring again.

  His foot kept tapping against the floor.

  The air whipped through Misao's dark hair, though it was relatively powerless against her heavy plait.  Her eyes shone with laughter and freedom in the headlights of a car passing the other way.

  She'd missed her place in Aoshi's car.  The journey they'd shared had stayed with her, and she wanted to have it back again.  She wanted to drive away forever with Aoshi.

  But he'd made her promise that they'd go back that night, even if it were late.  He didn't want her getting into trouble on his account- or on hers, for that matter.

  Now, cruising along the highway with the moon rising to their left and stars wheeling endlessly overhead, they had the next few precious hours of their lives with which to stay by each other's sides.  They had this small slip of time, small compared with all the time they wanted to spend together in the future, with which to travel through the darkness and exist in the same place, at the same moment.

  Such a simple thing, yet it can mean so much.

  Minutes after Sou gave up, the phone started ringing, and he quickly answered only to hear Angel's voice greet him.

  The brown-haired boy's face seemed distracted as he spoke on the phone, his eyes glazed, preoccupied with something only he could see, far away beyond the ceiling above his head.

  He lay speaking to Angel, forcing politeness and interest into his voice, but he couldn't bring himself to feel involved in the conversation.

  It was hardly a conversation, anyway.  Sou let Angel's noncommittal words sweep past him as he shifted onto his side to gaze through the window.  Evening.  Quiet, deep and blue.  Sometimes lonely, sometimes comforting.  Sou didn't know how the evening made him feel this time.

  He tried to concentrate on the conversation.  He tried not to worry about Misao.

  The headlights shone without warmth against the outlines of Aoshi and Misao, who sat on the roadside side by side, staring at the occasional passing car.

  The stars seemed lonely that night to Misao, in a vague, far away, 'no need to worry about it until tomorrow' kind of way.  She let herself lean sideways against Aoshi, resting her head on his shoulder.

  She smiled a little secret smile as his arm came up to encircle her, holding her gently against him.

  "Why didn't you call?" she asked suddenly.

  "I did.  You were out."

  Misao blinked.  "When did you call?"

  "Yesterday evening.  Right before I went out for a walk."  Aoshi's slight smile crept into his voice, and Misao found herself smiling as well, knowing the look that was on his face at that moment.

  "Oh."  She suddenly laughed, moving away from Aoshi to turn to face him, bright eyes sparkling with laughter meeting an icy blue gaze that shone with amusement.  Misao couldn't resist: she kissed him.

  He didn't seem surprised: he returned the kiss easily, lifting his free hand to cup her face gently as his mouth teased hers.

  Misao grinned uncontrollably against Aoshi's lips as he kissed her, and, feeling it, Aoshi pulled away to search her face with amused curiosity.

  Misao shook her head, still smiling.

  "I just can't quite believe how things have turned out, that's all: that we've ended up like this," she said smilingly. 

  Aoshi still smiled slightly, but some other strange look came into his eyes as he gently pulled Misao to him, so that her head rested on his shoulder again.

  He held her loosely around her waist, and gazed off into the darkness beyond the car headlights.

  "We haven't ended up anywhere yet, Misao.  There's a way to go yet."

  His quiet words barely reached Misao's ears, and she only smiled contentedly, closing her eyes as the first tide of sleepiness began to lap at the edges of her mind.

  Aoshi's mind drifted away into thoughts of his own.

Author's note: Well, there you go!  Any worries that they'd only fall apart again can be safely forgotten- well, for now at least *wink*

  Oh, and in case anyone wants to have a go at me for the cousin thing, here's the thing: I'd had them in my head as cousins from the very start of this fic, even before Ven and Maree actually appeared, and though you did all think Maree wanted to seduce Aoshi, well…  Okay, she was pretty relaxed around him, but to be honest I don't think she really flirted with him.  I guess it's easy to read into a boy/girl relationship of any kind, though- easy to go into a story like this expecting that kind of love triangle…  But that wasn't what I was really trying to set up.  Anyway, that's my defence!  ^_^

  Til next time, then!  Please leave a review!  *happy dance*

Notes to reviewers:

Thank you to battousai rk8520 (*runs away* ^_^), AiteanE (Okay, in response to the three questions- it's a pretty big house, and I'm working on the premise that Misao prefers to be in the room furthest away from her dad's.  Soundproof walls: *raises an eyebrow* Well they'd have to make quite a bit of noise to wake up her dad on the other side of the house!  Sou: he calls before turning up, so no problem there.  I had these things in my head, as 'goes without saying' things to myself, so I guess I could have mentioned them somehow in the chapter, but I think it would've ruined the mood a bit…  Oh well.  Hope I made sense!), len (Thank you!  ^_^ *claps hands* I'm going away in less than two weeks now!  Hurrah!), ceres17 (Too comfortable? *giggles*  Well I was working on a 'been building up for a while, both feeling it was the right moment' basis.  *dives in front of Maree* Nooooo! ^_^), MoonPhoenix (Thanks! I'll try and update soon next time!), Hitokiri-miao miao (Yes, I've updated!  I wouldn't leave it two weeks, only to go away for another two weeks! ^_^), paula (Thank you!  ^_^  I'm so glad you like the story!), imaninz (*grin* Thanks- glad you liked the banana ^_^  I don't think Aoshi would act irresponsibly towards Misao… but let's see, shall we? ^_^), bee (*sweatdrops and grins* I'll try!  *giggles at the comment of 'sex on wheels'* I don't know why that makes me giggle… *giggles again*), snow blossoms (Pretty name by the way ^_^  Thanks, I'm glad you liked it- here's hopin' for a happy future, indeed! ^_^), Kitten Kisses (No worries!  Just glad to hear from you.  ^_^  Hey, your birthday is the same as another reader's- Hitokiri-miao miao.  ^_^  And thanks for the Sou note- he's special to me, so I'm glad you approve ^_^), Luli451 (Thank you thank you!  *jumps around happily* I was pretty worried about it, but your comments were so lovely, thank you!  And here is more, indeed. ^_^), FlameSolo (*grins, shakes her head and offers FlameSolo a cookie*), nekonomiko (Ahhhh, well there's angst on the way for definite.  Ooh yes.  But obviously I'm not giving anything away!  ^_^  I'm glad I'm saved!  ^_^  It's funny though, everyone was so worried I'd let Aoshi and Maree get it on, when, to me, they've been cousins and I've planned on the last chapter's events since the very start of the story.  ^_^ But I hope you enjoy what's to come, too!), Falling rain (Depends what you define as 'really bad'.  *grin* Just kidding!  You'll have to wait and see, I'm afraid.  But I'm glad you liked it so far, and approve of Aoshi's characterisation!), lebleuphenix (Love the metaphors!  ^_^  Margarita, huh? *grins happily*  I'm glad you approve!  And yes, I helpfully provided a 'morning after' scene, aren't I nice? *shakes head at self with a grin*), sophomoric genius (*grins so widely it's a wonder her face isn't splitting in two* Thank you!  It's funny, I'm quite a big Soujiro/Misao fan too- I've been reading a fic by Selene called 'Under the Circumstances', don't know if you know it, that's a Sou/Misao fic, and very good- sometimes makes me wonder why I'm putting Misao with Aoshi! But then I remember the things about their coupling that works and is interesting- like you say, they're such different people, but still very conceivably a couple.  ^_^  And here you got the morning after- and I'm very relieved you don't think it's OOC- I'm trying really hard in that area.  Thank you ^_^) and bittersweetKandy (I love Soujiro too ^_^  Don't worry, he's not gone).

Thanks for your reviews!  I'll be back with the next chapter when I can- I'm hoping to update at least once more before I go away.  Fingers crossed!  ^_^  Seeya then!