For some reason, the replacement chappie for the ficcie didn't load, so I am reloading the twoshots into a one-chappie fic...a long one. Enjoy!
Electricity was unavailable to the Xiaolin Temple that rainy late afternoon. Something about Dojo forgetting to pay the bills and their electricity getting cut off until Master Fung himself goes down to the city to talk to the manager of the electricity cooperative.
Deprived of her routine that consisted of surfing the net and making overseas calls with her cellphone (which ran out of battery today of all the days, leaving her charger useless), Kimiko had resigned herself to the possibility of death by clinical tedium.
Boredom, to be sure.
She peeked at the dividing paper walls between the Dragon Apprentice quarters. Clay was not there—perhaps he and Dojo were in the kitchen, collaborating in creating a sumptuous infusion of east and west cuisine. Omi's absence may either be explained by training or by his addiction to her handheld game.
Now as for Raimundo… She glanced warily at his bed. He could be with Omi, fighting for a turn with her video game. He may also be with Clay, exchanging chatters about sports or food.
Her eyes narrowed. Or he could have joined Master Fung on his trip to the city to scout some nice-looking girls.
But recently, to her utter surprise, he could now also be found in the room of scrolls, studying everything and anything that he deemed would be helpful to their search for the Sheng-Gong-Wu.
Ever since the brief horrible incident of him betraying the Dragons and then redeeming himself later on, he had subtly matured in his outlook in life. If she would be asked, he was already light years away from the cocky Rai she met the first time who was making fun of their fellow Dragon, Omi. He still held the same mischief in those playful eyes, and yes, he still managed to sound and act stupid at times (innately any man's trait, she believes), but there were moments she would catch him in his pensive, contemplative mood. His eyes staring at the horizon while he sat on the steps of the temple, his hair dancing with the breeze.
And she would stand there, silently watching him in fascination. She could only reflect on how it suited him, the newfound wisdom formed by the hard lessons of Life-sensei. And well…how very… becoming he was, especially when he was in of his unguarded moments—meditating, laughing, shaking his head, smiling, or simply sitting there, gazing at the vast azure skies overhead.
Realizing that her thoughts had been occupied by that guy in a span of more than ten minutes in a way she knew wasn't her usual lofty one, she crossed her arms and fell back on her bed, sighing out loud.
"Dojo should really be more responsible and start being more conscious of the bills," she said to herself. "Power interruption is interrupting even the flow of sanity in my mind!" Really now, she had way better things to do than to muse about him.
Her eyes went to the kitchen. Yes, maybe she could find something to take her time there. Maybe she could get Clay to teach her some easy dishes (for she was deprived of culinary talent, and her father seemed to have no intention at all to worry about it). Or maybe she could help Dojo wash the dishes.
Anything but getting occupied by the face and ways of a certain Brazilian boy who controls the element of the wind, held visible by the own hot air from his ego.
She picked up her umbrella and headed for the kitchen which was on a separate house from their main temple.
To her dismay, Clay was nowhere to be found, and so was Dojo. And she had no intention of allowing her ignorance of the cookery arts to lead her to do something stupid like burning the whole temple down to its ashes just because she couldn't control the flame of the oven.
But she did see a thermos of hot water. Smiling wryly, she opted to make coffee for herself. At least she knew how to do this one. Her father had always been fond of afternoon sessions with this beverage and even if he was still a strong advocate of the cha-no-yu ceremonies, he still loved a cup of steaming coffee. So as her father's daughter, she patiently studied the preferred taste of the man until such time that she could make his drink even when blindfolded.
It had been a running joke between them that his preference for coffee was unique—black coffee with two creamer packets stirred in it, topped with five teaspoons of sugar. She could remember asking him why he would bother drinking a bitter kind of brew when he would put sugar in it anyway, adding that he should better be off drinking hot chocolate.
His reply? A rarely-seen sheepish grin that made her father seem boyishly younger in her eyes. And then an apologetic, "I like my caffeine poison that way."
She had just finished stirring the cup when her attention was caught by the thumps and thuds outside. Instantly, her senses were alarmed. Putting down her coffee, she tiptoed outside, combining her light steps with the falling of the rain to curtain her presence.
She peeked outside the temple door and gasped.
Raimundo was outside, kicking his soccer ball with his ankle up and down. He was drenched in rainwater, but he didn't seem to mind—his concentration was focused on his activity.
"Three hundred one, three hundred two, three hundred three…" he murmured as his eyes followed agilely the every fall and rise movement of the black and white ball.
She unconsciously placed her hand on the wall, watching him. Even with her annoyance at him for practicing his soccer skills out in the shower, she couldn't deny the worry that suddenly overwhelmed her.
She didn't know when exactly did she start to move back into the kitchen, and then returned to her spot hidden from his plain view. All she knew was she was now holding her umbrella that she left on the kitchen table.
Her raven eyes returned to the boy outside, who was now on his three hundred and twenty-eighth count.
Now if she could only muster the guts to go out and give him the said umbrella.
Raimundo's senses heightened. He could feel eyes watching him, somewhere out in the bushes and pillars around this patch of space where he was playing now.
He knew it couldn't be one of his friends. Omi was cooped up in the other temple, polishing the floor. The monk was accompanied by Dojo, as per Master Fung's request. Clay had escorted the great master on the other hand, on his trip to the city. Kimiko was…
A small smile played on his lips. He could just imagine the misery of this hi-tech gadget brat now that their power was cut off unexpectedly. No computer, no cellphone, no nothing. He found himself wondering what she could be doing right now in the absence of her favorite things.
The impromptu contemplation jumpstarted the train of other thoughts that had been railing around his head for quite some time already.
Kimiko, the only rose among the thorns in the temple, could be as pricking as the said flower's spine itself. Her sarcasm was frighteningly intimidating. Her punches could rival those of the amateur boxers'. It didn't help that she held a poor opinion on him, basing on how she treated him like a hyperactive headache labeled a kid. It wasn't comforting that she behaved toward Omi the same way, for the monk enjoys motherly and sisterly affection for him—something she thoughtlessly withheld from him.
Yet for all his grievances against her, he must confess that she was the most interesting girl he had ever met. Not only because she was gifted with the power to control fire, or that she happened to be the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Japan.
Kimiko was an open personification of her element. She was as lively as the dancing tongues of the flame, laughing blithely at danger's way. Her almond eyes were as challenging—she would never back out from anything or anyone. He was witness to that in her Xiaolin showdown challenges. It was if she was saying every time, 'I'm not going to fall first. Not me, not ever.'.
The same confidence carried her strong will. Like a blaze refusing to die in the wind, she was relentless as a fighter. She may show it in queer ways like playfully teasing her friends, but he could read it in her eyes that her loyalty for her friends was deeply-set, and would readily walk to the ends of earth barefooted, if only for them. It was one of the things that encouraged him to go back to the side of his friends and defeat his personal ill emotions towards their advanced promotion as Dragon Apprentices.
Yet for all her high-spiritedness, she held something deep within her, the way the blue flame hid beneath the red and the yellow blazes. Lots of affection, lots of trust, and lots of gentle compassion.
How could he forget his first taste of that when, upon his return, she smiled his way and gave him an affectionate kiss. It was fleeting, but it was etched into his memory, along with the first time he saw her as a snotty little pest, and the first time he really saw her sometime later as a girl who represented all the things he liked that he never thought he wanted until she came along.
And he, like a moth to a flame, could simply just look at her in entrancement, held up in enthrallment by her spirited ways that only she was a master of. As much as he wanted to touch her, he only knew too well what was at stake.
He perfectly understood that she was only too capable of burning him.
Because she had affected him way too much than he would have it.
He cared for her. He liked her so.
And it was something he would keep a secret right until the end. Because roses prick and fire burns.
He grimaced when he felt that his ankle slammed the ball too hard. The black and white soccer ball wobbled uncontrollably high up into the air and bounced to the side, near the kitchen edifice.
Sighing, he ambled towards the ball to fetch it.
Leading him to an ebony-haired girl standing by the pillar, holding an umbrella and gazing at him.
She saw a flicker of surprise cross his face. Kicking herself, she stooped down and took the ball, handing it to him. "Here."
He took the ball, his eyes watching her intently. She refused to speak.
"What are you doing here?" he finally asked.
With reply as the only other option which seemed more normal than running back to her quarters, she spoke, "I was making coffee when I heard some noises outside." She shrugged. "And then I saw you."
He chuckled. "I was practicing my kicks."
"That much I have gathered," she said. "Why do that all of a sudden?"
"We had been so busy with the Sheng-Gong-Woo quest lately that I feel my skills are rusting." He looked at the ball with a self-depreciating smile. "And my suspicions were confirmed, yes?"
"And out in the rain?" she asked, lifting a brow.
This made the boy laugh again. "Back in my home, we practice anywhere, as long as it is a patch of ground. Irregardless of weather, we do our training."
"You have that much faith on your immune system, huh?" she said dryly. In a lower voice he knew she meant more for herself, she added, "I shouldn't have bothered worrying."
His eyes went to the other umbrella she was holding on her side. "Were you going to give that to me?" He pointed to what he saw.
Her cheeks turned pink. "Very…audacious of you to say."
A careless shrug from him. "It's just the two of us out here." Realizing that it sounded so…well, wrong, he rubbed the back of his head, laughing uncomfortably. "I-I mean…"
"Fine," she immediately said, thrusting the umbrella on his hand. "Eat it, be happy. Good day." She turned her heels and pivoted back to the kitchen.
Leaving him puzzled, but not for long. A grin spread itself on his face.
"Practice is over," he said, jogging after her into the kitchen.
Kimiko sighed when she heard his footsteps arrive inside the kitchen. Busying herself with the coffee she was stirring, she waited for him to say whatever he had to say that he had to follow her here.
"The umbrella won't help," he said, settling on a seat next to her. She didn't reply. Unfazed, he continued, "But maybe you can make a cup of coffee for me?"
Hey eyebrow arched. He replied with a boyish grin.
Minutes later, she pushed towards him a steaming cup of black coffee.
"Thanks," said the boy, holding it carefully. He blew on the drink gently and tasted it, testing for its suitability to his tongue buds. Despite herself, she gazed at him subtly, wanting to know how her coffee-making skills fared.
He frowned. "Too bitter." In a flourish, he got up and headed for the cabinet.
She steamed. "How dare you! I made the coffee for you, and this is how you express your gratitude?" Had he been closer to where she was seated, she could have punched his shoulder in annoyance.
"What can I do if it really tastes dry?" he asked, shrugging. He had returned to the kitchen table, bringing a jar of sugar and creamer packets.
She was about to snap at him when she froze.
Whistling, the boy unscrewed the lid of the jar and took one teaspoon of sugar after another. With held breath in anticipation, she silently counted.
Three…four…five! Five teaspoons of sugar! Her eyes widened some more when he tore two packets of creamer and stirred them into his sugary concoction.
"What are you looking at?" he demanded, lifting a brow. This boy certainly looked like one who didn't relish getting his coffee preference questioned.
Swallowing slightly, she said, "I-If you like your coffee so sweet, why didn't you just make hot chocolate?"
He tipped his chin, contemplating. Then all of a sudden, he smiled—a boyish, endearing smile that nearly made her heart stop. It was a smile she had found to be fond of the most. Her father's smile, only this boy was able to give it a different quality of its own. It was proudly unapologetic, un-sheepish but good-natured.
And her dear heart wouldn't stop pounding.
It was followed by a shrug. "I like my coffee this way."
She was stunned. How could he… it was too… preposterous! How could he resemble so much her beloved father whom she had made her yardstick for her future special man?
"Hey, what's up?" he asked when he noticed the dazed expression on her face. "Did my coffee disturb you THAT much? Well, if you think my drink's too hideously crude for your taste then"
"I-I think I better light the lamp," she said, getting up. Digesting this was too much even for someone like her, Dragon Apprentice of the Flames.
He looked at her in bewilderment, and then shrugged.
She caught sight of the lamp on the upper cabinet shelf. Tiptoeing, she reached for it, but her height was not enough for it. She tried again, this time even making a little jump, yet to no avail. She was on the verge of giving up when she felt someone come from behind her.
"I'll get it," said Raimundo, leaning over her the back of her shoulders to reach for the gas lamp. The unexpected proximity made her gasp involuntarily. She could not remember anyone getting this close to her, let alone a boy. Treated a princess in her house back in Japan, everyone she knew treated her like fragile crystal—something too beautiful and too precious to touch.
But the boy standing behind her… he didn't give a care in the world if her family could buy perhaps all the soccer grounds in his hometown. When he would find her annoying, may it be because of her snobby remarks towards her other friends or the constant ringing of her cellphone, he would flatly say so. He was clearly ignorant of pretenses, and even if she wouldn't admit it out loud, she knew that was one of the things she quietly admired about him. He was real.
"Here." He was looking down at her, his mouth twitched. "Your mind's busy somewhere else?"
She was grateful that rain and the dark clouds had made the kitchen darker, hiding her blushy embarrassment. "S-Sort of." She reached for the gas lamp, but she was still somewhat shaken. Her fingers slipped, making her lose her grip on it.
To her dismay, it shattered on the ground, the crashing sound reverberating around the kitchen.
She collapsed on the floor, groaning. "Oh no…" Of all the lessons that Master Fung had been imparting to them, the one that he emphasizes on the most was discipline and concentration. And when he finds out about this mishap, she knew he would give her a…make-up assignment for it (which may range from floor polishing to washing the dishes, both her outright waterloos).
"Hey…" Raimundo knelt down in front of her, gazing at her sympathetically. "Don't look so down. It was an accident."
"Nevertheless, my carelessness is unforgivable for someone like me with an Apprentice rank," she replied miserably. "Master Fung…will be so disappointed…" She let out a sigh of defeat and started gathering the broken pieces of the former lamp.
To her surprise, he too, started to pick up the shattered pieces. Had she been not too worried about the master's most likely reaction, she would have teased him for his out-of-the-blue initiative to actually help someone.
She blinked when he faced her, winking conspiratorially. "Don't worry. I didn't see anything if you didn't."
Upon grasping what he just said, she burst out laughing. He was saying that he was on her side. For some reason, she felt a significant part of her worries disappear.
"Maybe it would be faster if I get a broom," she was starting to say when he suddenly yelped. She grimaced. "I most definitely need to get that broom."
"Yeah," agreed Raimundo, checking out his bleeding finger.
She was on her feet though when she found herself looking back at him. He had resumed clearing the pieces of the broken lamp, as if determined not to let one measly wound stop him. Slowly, she bit her lip. This was one of the rare times that she could see the innate kindness in him that he most often camouflages with his bravado and air of cockiness. She had seen it function when he graciously turned down the Apprentice title the first time it was offered to him. And it was simply amazing to see that part of him resurface in this situation. She couldn't point out what exactly in her and in this condition merited such privilege from him, but she did know that she was happy to see another part of Raimundo's personality revealed.
Her eyes softened. Quietly, she sat down beside him, making him look at her in surprise.
And then wordlessly, she took his injured finger and wrapped her small silk handkerchief around it.
He opened his mouth to speak, but perhaps deciding it was not the best time for words right now, he clamped it shut again and smiled her way gratefully.
A second later, the room was flooded with lights.
She steeled her nerves and finally lifted her eyes to meet the steady gaze of their sensei. The broken pieces of the gas lamp were on the table while the four Dragons stood in the corner, waiting for the master to speak.
"Since it is our rule that rough-playing inside the kitchen is not allowed, you should already be aware that this would mean a make-up task for you, Raimundo," said Master Fung, his eyes measuring silently the Dragon of the Wind.
She shut her eyes tightly. When the lights returned, so did Master Fung and everyone else. Before she could speak, Raimundo had stood up and told everyone that he was taking full responsibility for the broken gas lamp.
And now, he was being given the penance.
"I understand, Master," came his firm, sure voice. This made her open her eyes to look at him.
There was no sign of regret on his face for taking the blame. Again, she remembered how he told her not to worry. If she only knew he meant that he was going to do this…
"Very well. Dismissed." The great master got up as everyone else flocked around Raimundo, asking what happened. He had only one reply—a sheepish grin.
"Just like…Father," she mused once more. Yet again, she was overwhelmed by another memory of her father. She had also broken something, only it was her mother's favorite porcelain coffee cup, certainly more expensive than a gas lamp.
But giving her a reassuring smile, her father told her not to worry. The next day, she overheard him telling her mother that he accidentally broke her precious porcelain cup, but he did try to fix it up. To her and her mother's surprise, he presented a glued-together fragmented cup—no doubt a product of her father's late-night session to make up for it. He could have easily bought a similar cup in the department store—it was only too easy with his money.
But he didn't—he chose to do the labor of love instead. And she felt even more affection and respect for the man.
Since then on, she had used that broken cup for her drinks. Never mind that it spilled, or it was not aesthetic. It represented how much her father cherished her, even when he was away for most of the time.
Funny that, but she was feeling the same thing right now as she watched Raimundo cheerfully take the mop and pail out. However, it still felt different, with her heart skipping beats and her cheeks warming for some unfathomable reason.
He must have sensed her watching him, because he had turned her way. He shrugged, and then smiled, as if saying it was no big deal.
She walked towards him, still feeling upset. "You shouldn't have—"
He laughed. "I told you, you didn't see anything. Now go mind your own business, brat."
The pair of Brazilian eyes smiled at her tenderly. "I'm fine. Go."
With that, she felt that the pieces had finally fallen into their places.
It was all too blatantly clear: when she asked fate for a special guy who would be as worthy of his skin as her father was, it responded by arranging for their paths to cross.
It took her this long to read the response to her wish, but then, it was already insignificant.
For she had liked him even before she knew he wore her father's smile or had her father's taste. It was just a bonus that he happened to fit her yardstick.
"Thanks Raimundo," she said softly. "But you can't get rid of me, no siree." She took the mop from him. "We're in this together."
He paused, and then smiled. "Hell yeah."
They both headed outside, where the rain has ceased to fall and had given in to the tranquility of the evening, the clouds all cleared up, revealing the twinkling stars swimming in the seemingly eternal black mantle of the moon-reigned skies.