Author's Note: More insubstantial writing – I work in an office now, so I just had this come to me. Self-insertion? Maaaaby. J Aoshi isn't quite the same, but I hope the ending result is satisfactory.
In The End
Staring at the computer like she had for the last four hours, Misao sighed. She had made a bet with herself that she would not keep staring at the clock until someone passed her on their way home. She would not be a clock-watcher. She would not.
Drat, twenty minutes.
"Misao, anything wrong?" Omasu paused as she passed by the young woman's desk at the insurance company where they worked.
Misao smiled at her supervisor. "Oh, I'm fine. Just did something stupid and I have to go back and fix it."
Omasu glanced at the clock on the wall. "Well, why don't you fix it and then head home. I don't think anything will happen in the last ten minutes of a Friday."
Misao beamed. "Thank you Omasu-san!" She quickly saved the changes she had made to the company data tables and turned off the computer.
Omasu blinked at her speed before teasing, "So do you have a date tonight?"
"Um, no, but I have some plans to possibly get one in the future." Misao scooped up her purse. "See you on Monday!"
Stepping out the door, she pulled out her cell phone and speed dialed. "Kaoru, hey, I'm done and on my way! Do you want me to pick up anything?"
Kaoru, her apartment mate, checked the fridge. "We're running low on milk and eggs. You know that they're not healthy if you eat so many at once."
Misao sighed, "I only eat one a morning! On a piece of whole-wheat bread!"
"Well, we're running low on that too."
"Right, well they're a store real near here. I'll grab it. Whatcha doing tonight?"
"Well, Kenshin asked me out on a date. We're going to that new restaurant downtown."
"Need any help getting ready?"
Kaoru sounded faintly regretful. "Actually, I'm headed out the door. We're catching an early dinner, and then a movie."
Misao smiled. "Well, I won't wait up for you."
"Call up Megumi."
"She gets off work in, what, an hour?"
"Think so! Gotta run!"
"Right – be good!"
Misao hung up her phone and briskly walked down the sidewalk. Tugging at her pin-striped shirt, she found the ReadyFood store and entered.
"So we need eggs, bread, milk, and. ice cream!"
She turned and smiled up at the tall figure walking down the frozen food aisle. "Hi Aoshi-sama! What are you doing here? I thought you had a store to run."
Aoshi Shinomori, self-made businessman in books, held up a large bottle of ready-made green tea. He was wearing a light blue dress shirt neatly tucked in a pair of black jeans while a set of gold-rimmed glasses hung from a breast pocket. "Ran out of refreshments. You look like you ran out of refreshment yourself."
She looked down at the chocolate ice cream in her hands. "Well, I ate the last of it last night. I think it was supposed to be Kaoru's, so I felt guilty."
The two made their way to the checkout lines before Aoshi gave her a small wave. Misao smiled half-witsfully. He was such a good-looking man, but for the three years she had known him, he had never dated anyone. At least that's what Kaoru's boyfriend had said.
Reaching her apartment a half-hour later by the metro, she unlocked her door and began putting away the food. Flipping out her phone, she dialed Megumi.
The doctor's professional voice answered, "Doctor Megumi Takani speaking."
The other sighed. "Misao, why do you keep doing that?"
"Because no one else has the guts to. Whacha doing tonight?"
"I work late, and then Sanosuke has offered to take me out to dinner."
"Oh" Misao forced the disappointment to stay out of her voice. "I was going to offer some chocolate ice cream."
"Kaoru's going out too, isn't she."
Misao wrinkled her nose at her friend's perceptiveness. "Yes, but no biggie. I'll just go check out The Strip."
"Well don't stay out late. You know those places get reputations."
"Well one of them is going to be me!"
"Sure, Misao. Have fun!"
"You too!" Misao hung up with a sigh.
Later that night she was storming down the sidewalk as best she could with a dress sandal dangling strapless from her foot and feeling the darker side of her social status.
The world is full of stupid people. Everyone knows it.
Misao growled to herself. All she had wanted to do was go to a club, cut loose and have some fun after a particularly hard week at work. Poor Misao was left out of the couple's loop. It wasn't the first time. She didn't hold anything against Kaoru or Megumi - their partners were great guys, and most of the time she felt completely at home as one of the gang. This was just bad timing.
But then the bouncer at the door wouldn't let her in. Dressed up in a shimmering purple, spaghetti-strap shirt and black pants that were just shy of being capri, she had taken extra care with her makeup in hopes of making her look her actual age of twenty-three. She had shown the man her I.D. but he had looked at it and called it a fake. Not such a big deal, she walked a few blocks away to another club and had the same thing happen. Angrily she had asked to see the club manager, some man named Shishio. He had stood in the doorway, cigarette in hand, and smirked.
"Well, she looks like a fake even if the I.D. isn't."
Before she could think of a proper comeback, the heavy metal door had been slammed shut. Infuriated, she kicked the door repeatedly with her high heeled sandals until the strap broke. No one answered. Fighting back tears, she made her way back towards her apartment. Halfway there, she had an idea. Aoshi Shinomori worked late at his bookstore, but he had a nice bottle of vodka that the group had given him a year ago as a joke. The man never drank. With a determined toss of her head, Misao changed directions.
With a smile at the doorman and an edited explanation of her bad night, the landlord let her into her friend's apartment. He knew her from her frequent visits with 'the gang'. With a word of thanks, she shut the door and went on a hunt to supply her personal club. Aoshi had quite a nice place, for being a bachelor most of his life. Everything was neat, tasteful, and comfortable. The particular pride and joy of the room was the long, sea foam green couch. Misao grabbed a bottle of orange juice out of the fridge, the vodka from the back of the kitchen cabinet, kicked off her wounded shoes and settled in with the television.
Two hours later she was sufficiently drunk.
Even though she felt the alcohol lacing through her body, she stubbornly took one last shot, coughing as it went down. Sulking, she scrunched her slouch deeper into the pillows. The television was slowly going out of focus, and she waved the controller at it.
Well, it's not that interesting anyway. She mused. Her head felt so heavy, but she wasn't tired. Not... perhaps if she rested her head...
Aoshi Shinomori returned at about a quarter to twelve. The landlord had been snoring at his desk, so he let himself in. Habitually flipping the light switch, he paused at the sight of a body, half buried in the couch. He immediately knew who it was by the long braid dangling over the edge of the seat cushion. The figure squirmed, jamming knees and elbows deeper into the seam between the padding of the seat and the back.
He walked over, noting the half-empty bottles of orange juice and vodka. Shaking his head as he sat down next to her, he touched her shoulder. "Misao, what have you been doing?"
She brushed him off with an incomprehensible mutter before squirming her body into the corner of the armrest. It did not look the most comfortable. Aoshi couldn't help but smile at the picture. He gently drew her towards the center of the couch, trying to get her to relax. Instead of accepting his actions, she began squirming away with a sleepy whine.
"No... it's cold... I'm cold... leave me alone..."
Aoshi pulled her back, amused. "Of course you're cold, dressed in pants and a shirt like that and drinking. You need a proper bed."
He maneuvered her limp body so that her head rested on his shoulder while he untangled her legs from the pillows she had burrowed under. Unexpectedly, she wrapped her arms around his waist and rubbed her cheek against his chest, with a small contented noise. He froze, unsure of her actions.
"Mmm, Aoshi-sama, you're warm."
She began squirming again, sliding down his chest till her shoulders rested against his thigh and her head was in his lap. Arms still half-around his waist, she rested her flushed face on his hip and promptly fell back asleep. Her body began curling up on itself, toes digging back into the cushions. He looked ruefully down at her.
"You're part cat, you know that?"
Kicking off his shoes and taking off his belt, he stretched out on the couch next to her.
Misao woke feeling almost completely cozy, except that her left shoulder was cold. She shifted to try and find something to cover it with and heard another movement. Too content to wonder, she reached over to pull whatever was generating such pleasant heat closer to warm her up. She felt something give, and drew it over her. It wasn't wide enough, but it at least was covering her bare arm. Stretching her legs, she found them tangled with another pair.
There was another sound of movement, followed by a groan and Misao found herself sandwiched between a sleeping Aoshi and the back of his comfy couch, tucked snuggly under his left arm. She stiffened, instantly awake. Clenching her hands which were tucked against her chest, she cautiously tilted her head up to look at his face. He still slept. Letting her initial panic ebb away, she smiled. The arm that she had unconsciously placed around her decided it liked that idea. Aoshi turned on his side and drew Misao up against him so that her head settled just beneath his chin. His fingers began stroking her back just between her shoulders and she couldn't help but sigh. The fingers paused.
Misao looked up into half-opened blue eyes. For a moment they merely stared at one another, unmoving. Then Aoshi broke the silence.
Misao gave him a small smile. "Good morning."
"So, do you want to tell me what had you so upset last night?"
She glanced past him at the containers still on the coffee table and groaned. Ducking her head, she answered, "It was stupid really. I shouldn't have..."
"What was it?"
Blushing, she avoided his eyes. "I was mad because no one ever believes that I'm as old as I say I am. It happens all the time, and usually it doesn't bother me, but yesterday... yesterday was just bad."
"And you decided to break into my home and get drunk to make up for it?"
She sighed, "Stupid, I know, but I just wanted to get something out of all my effort. I mean, I dressed up and everything." She frowned. "I didn't break in, I was let in by Okina."
"Mmm..." Misao couldn't help noticing how his chest vibrated when he spoke. "Well, why did you come here?"
"Kaoru and Kenshin and Megumi and Sano were all out doing their own thing. I was on my own... and then I couldn't get into the club, then I broke my sandal, and I was just so mad. I knew that you wouldn't mind... at least, I hoped you wouldn't."
His hand had continued its stroking in the middle of her justification, making her eyes want to fall shut again.
"It's not every night I get to be a personal heater for a girl."
Misao laughed and used the comment as an excuse to wrap her arm around his waist. With a quick stretch, she resettled herself in his grasp and yawned, "I'm not a girl, I'm a woman."
At his dismissing tone, she reared up and glared. "What!"
He blinked. "Girl, woman, female race, whatever."
"You sound so chauvinistic about it! I'm a woman - more mature than a girl."
The side of Aoshi's mouth twitched. "You're making yourself sound like a pouty little girl. Can you prove it?"
The challenge resparked her anger from the night before. Misao wrinkled her nose. "Sure!"
Temporarily stumped, she looked down at him, his usually well combed hair mussed about his face. Blue eyes were calculating her reaction, and she rose to answer. An idea popped into her head, one that if she had paused to fully consider, would have immediately been dismissed on grounds of having too many consequences. Instead, she acted.
She dipped down and pressed her mouth to his. That was it - a kiss. The sensation was odd so she tried to change it... still not quite right... not what she expected...
What were you thinking Misao! This is stupid - so incredibly...
Aoshi's mouth moved against hers, his head tilted, and then the kiss transformed. His hand came up to catch the back of her neck, holding her there while his lips explored her own, not that she could bring herself to pull away. She wasn't cold anymore, just the opposite. She felt his arm around her waist, drawing her up, and then he turned, tucking her back against the couch. The cushions gave under their combined weight. Aoshi didn't stop until they both had to find better ways to get air into their lungs. Slightly bewildered at the sudden change in their relationship, Misao merely looked up at his lightly flushed face. He smiled, a full, honest smile.
Her mouth opened but she couldn't get anything out. He smiled again, dropping a another kiss onto her parted lips which turned into a second thought-numbing experience.
Misao finally managed to gather her common sense and sat up. Avoiding his confused gaze, she ran a hand over her now hopelessly messy braid. "Aoshi-sama. I can't do this if it means nothing to you."
"Why would it mean nothing to me?" He sat up along side her.
She sighed as she screwed the top back on the vodka. "I mean, you're a spectacular guy... and I do like you, but, to be honest, I've always though you beyond my reach."
He tried to take her hand, but she drew back. He frowned. "Why do you think that?"
"Cause, you're the kind of guy who would out with women like Megumi, or someone classy. Not the friend who acts like a kid half the time. Maybe it's justified that people keep assuming I'm seventeen."
She had to look up at her name. Aoshi was observing her with a very strange light in his eyes. Uncertainly she shrugged. "Well, it's true isn't it?"
"Misao, don't ever degrade yourself like that. You're special in your own right. You don't even compare to any other woman."
"But you -"
"Have liked you for a very long time."
Misao stared wide-eyed at him. "What?"
This time Aoshi sighed. "I would have thought that pretty obvious by now. I don't kiss women twice in two minutes if I don't have a long-standing reason to."
He raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"
Fidgeting with her glass, she muttered, "I never thought you would like me. Friends, sure, but not more."
Aoshi took her by the hand and gently pulled until she was sitting comfortably on his lap. Meeting her solemn gaze, he placed a butterfly kiss on her nose. "There is more, if you care to try it. Why wouldn't I like you?"
"Because," She paused as he began to lightly nibble her neck. "I'm such a little girl."
"And here you've been trying to prove you're a woman."
She mockingly shoved him back before shifting her seating position on his lap. Knees digging into the pillows on either side of his legs, she faced him. "I am one! But some think otherwise."
Hours later a knock on the door was rudely followed by a spiky brown head. Sano looked around the living room and called out, "Yo! You forget about our lunch?"
Aoshi appeared in his bedroom doorway, pulling on a newly pressed shirt. There was a noise from the bathroom, and Misao stepped out, hair unbraided. Sano blinked.
"Hey Sano! How was your date?"
"Great, weasel. But what are you doing here?"
She glared. "Quite calling me that! And it's none of your business!"
Aoshi broke in. "Sano, I'm running a little late. Could you meet me there?"
"Sure." Sano shrugged and did a double take at the coffee table. "Hey man, I thought you didn't drink."
Aoshi took him by the arm and pushed him back out the door. "I don't."
Misao grinned from where she stood in the bathroom doorway. "There's going to be some explaining to do later on."
"In the end it'll all turn out fine."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because both Kenshin and Sano have been pushing to me to make us into a trio of couples."
"And they never said anything to me?"
Aoshi finished buttoning his shirt and gave her a peck on the forehead. "Don't pout."
"What? There you go again!"
Before she could go into another rant about being patronized, he had pressed her against the doorframe and stolen the words right out of her mouth. When he straightened, she blinked up at him and then frowned.
She poked him in the stomach. "You better not think that kissing will get you out of trouble either."
Unable to help himself, Aoshi began to laugh.
Blah. not very good. But at least I got something going. My creative juices have been rather dry lately.