Summary: Two horribly bad days collide and Ryuho finally pushes Mimori too far… and she pushes back. Ryu/Mim reflective fic w/ citrus. 6 chapters.
A/N: It seems I can't write a straight up lemon. No, some crazy plot has to firmly wrap itself around the action and good bits. But I had so much fun with it I thought I'd subject you to the whole thing. That's my cue to apologize for being so verbose- I guess I write how I speak. This is for those of you who clamored for more lemon after 'Sweet & Sour Pork'- careful what you wish for… (evil smirk) REPOSTED WITH EDITS!
Disclaimer: Not mine :tear-stained cheeks:.
Crash into Me
Chapter 1- Collision Course
The large red punching bag swung away at the jarring impact.
The links of the chain tethering it to the ceiling winced noisily as the oversized target swung back into the line of fire-
More swinging and more creaking as furious punches were launched at the inert weight. Ryuho found only the smallest solace in the familiar rhythm of the bag's pendulous sway as it retreated and then attacked again. Each blow rocked his entire body as he put the full force of his torso behind it. His muscles burned and his body hummed. His fists pulsed under the tight tape wrapped in thick, protective layers. Sweat clung to his skin, drenching his scalp and face and dripping down his chest and back; every contact shook little drops out of his green bangs into his eyes, the salt stinging them. He didn't care- it felt good.
Push it out…
All this stress, all this pent-up aggression… His nerves felt ragged and fried; his insides churned and roiled, threatening to bust through his ribs. If he could just push it out of his chest, send it out through his arms into that bag…
Make it stop…
The whole situation had been stupid and utterly infuriating. An informant's tip had sent them out to the Wasteland in search of an Alter User that had proved particularly resistant to capture for the past several weeks. The Commander had openly expressed great interest in him and the expedition team Ryuho was leading had sought to ambush him this time.
However, just as they were about to get their man, the Alter User's friends had launched some sort of counter-attack, allowing the subject to make a break for it. Ryuho had wanted to give chase, but had to call off his pursuit when Sheris had gone down hard behind him. After checking on her he found she was only stunned and banged up a bit, but it had been enough of a delay for the Alter User and his friends to make a clean getaway.
I can't believe I let it…
:BAM! BAM! BAM:ring-ing-ing:
The last shot sent the bag spinning around wildly on the chain, and Ryuho had to temporarily interrupt his assault to stop it and set it ready again. However, thoughts of the conversation with the Commander following his blunder sent a volley of fresh punches towards the defenseless target.
The disproving look in his superior's eyes after his report as he simply dismissed him, without reprimand, without any words at all. Just a fatigued gesture of the hand that said he'd heard enough. Ryuho had felt so ashamed that he'd hung his head low until he could escape the office.
Such a stupid oversight!
He'd hastily retreated to his room and changed into some workout clothes, intent on releasing some of his frustration in the gym. However, when he arrived he found it somewhat empty; of the few people there, no one was willing to spar with him. Perhaps he should have been more careful to conceal his emotions at the time- no doubt his murderous looks had scared off any potential opponents. In the end he'd had to settle with burning off his aggression with the ceaseless pumping of free weights before his current solitary match with the punching bag.
Why didn't I anticipate…?
He replayed the days event over and over in his mind; he realized with great displeasure that his most glaring mistake had been his own lack of ingenuity- in certain respects he had completely underestimated his opponent.
He should have anticipated that their target would be ready for them. However, he hadn't even considered that such preparation might come in the form of outside help- of friends willing to risk their liberty and lives in order to save their comrade. Hadn't considered it because he had never relied on such himself, but only now was he realizing why: he didn't have any.
No friends, just colleagues and acquaintances. Co-workers and teammates. But no friends. He'd thought that was how he wanted it, but now… Long ago he'd given himself specific goals, and in the blind pursuit of those goals he had simply cut away all elements he deemed extraneous, which included relationships of any sort. No buddies to hang out with. No girlfriends. No mentors. He hadn't even spoken to his father in ages. And where had it gotten him? He'd climbed the ranks of HOLY and had become a well-respected officer, a 'go-to' guy with an impeccable reputation. But ultimately it hadn't brought him any closer to finding him- the mysterious Alter User that had destroyed his family and ruined his life- than if he had simply wandered the Lost Ground for the last six years.
Now everything felt raw and wrong. His entire existence felt strangely off balance- he'd poured blood, sweat, and effort into putting himself in the proper place to avenge his family, but he had been left with absolutely nothing to show for it. Just a meaningless rank and position, a distant and fearful respect from his colleagues, and a deep-seated and overwhelming need to fight something, anything, on a daily basis. What kind of life had he created for himself?
All for nothing!
:BAM! BAM!— KA-BAM:cree-:SPOOOOSH:whuuuuuump:
The last blow, glowing with the hint of his Alter, proved too much for the thick leather and it ripped down the length of the bag, exploding on the side and dropping all of its sawdust innards into a giant, dusty heap on the floor. Relieved of its weight, the top half of the bag listlessly swayed with the lingering momentum of the decisive jab.
"Damn it to Hell!"
A deep, calming breath only slightly smoothed Ryuho's prickly nerves. A quick glance around proved that everyone in the immediate vicinity had not only seen his little performance with the punching bag but had heard his accompanying outburst. He felt the tips of his ears grow hot with embarrassment, but he quickly fixed a defiant look on his face as he walked away from the bag. To his dismay, he found that he was still brimming with stress and unresolved aggression. Perhaps some calisthenics in his room might calm him down; nothing else was working. Woe to anyone who got in his way; he felt an increasing urge to rip flesh and hand the owner their offending body part if anyone so much as looked at him funny.
So of course he was in the foulest of moods when he ran straight into someone on his way out of the gym…
Mimori Kiryu brutally rubbed her fingers in her eyes as she leaned back in her swivel chair. The lingering, hazy image of a computer screen still danced in her vision despite her closed eyelids.
One more try…
Sitting straight up, she wheeled back in front of the computer and typed furiously on her keyboard, searching the hard drive for a keystroke history. She already knew it wasn't there. She'd spent the last half hour looking for the same thing- the seven hours of data she'd diligently and painstakingly collected and entered since that morning. Critical data that was time-sensitive and absolutely necessary for a deadline that was fast approaching.
Could I really have been so stupid?
She groaned in despair. One little button. One little 'save' command could have prevented this veritable nightmare. She always saved. What had happened?
You idiot, you know what happened. That stupid call…
Indeed, a call had come in that the Expedition Team sent out that day had met with some resistance; some of the members would be heading straight for the medical bay once they returned to headquarters. Ryuho had been leading that expedition! What if he was hurt? Without another thought Mimori had dropped everything at her desk and raced straight to her station in the Emergency Department.
However, when she reported for triage duty all she was met with were a handful of HOLD officers and Sheris waiting for treatment. No Ryuho. Of course he was fine. He was always fine.
Mimori was given bay 3- a whiny HOLD officer who had received a pretty harsh knock on the head after an explosion. As she evaluated him for a concussion, she found that Sheris was being treated in the bay next door. Only a hanging curtain separated the two areas and Mimori could hear everything as the girl related her 'harrowing ordeal' to the tittering, curious nurses.
Via an over-dramatized monologue, Mimori learned that Sheris had gotten caught in a sneak-attack and had lost consciousness, only to awaken in the arms of her 'dreamy' partner, Ryuho. Apparently, instead of pursuing the escaping Alter User and his cohorts, Ryuho had scooped her up, carried her back to the mobile unit and had fussed over her condition the whole ride back. The nosy nurses cooed and gasped in all the right places and Mimori had to stop herself from visibly rolling her eyes at the ridiculous scene. While she knew the girl had to be exaggerating at least a little, she nevertheless recognized the achingly familiar pang of jealously twisting a knot in her stomach.
It turned out that the HOLD officer did indeed have a concussion and she spent an entire hour and a half of time she didn't have treating him. When she was finally able to return to the research lab, she was met with a curious uproar. It seemed that in her absence one of the experiments had malfunctioned and tripped the circuit breaker for the entire lab, cutting power to everything, including the computers. After rebooting her station, Mimori realized with horror that every single entry she'd made through the course of the day had been lost!
And now here she was, trying every desperate little trick she knew of to somehow recover her 'M.I.A.' work. It was hopeless. Everything was gone.
She leaned heavily over her keyboard and drove a fist down on the desk in frustration- BANG! Several nearby technicians jumped in surprise, and in embarrassment she dropped her head in her hand and hid behind the curtain of her hair. There was nothing to be done. It was after hours and she wasn't going to accomplish anything else today. She might as well head to her quarters and curl up into a ball and die. Or at least get some sleep so that she could get up bright and early and repeat the entire tedious project again tomorrow…
"Oh Jeez, what a freaking NIGHTMARE!"
A little outburst actually felt kind of good, but the relief was all too short lived. Sighing resignedly, Mimori pushed away from her desk again and pulled herself out of her chair. On her feet, she felt an all-consuming weight pulling her towards the floor. She hadn't realized how tired she really was. All that stress and frustration, it was finally catching up to her and she hoped she made it all the way to her room before collapsing. She felt totally disgusting. She didn't want to see anyone else today, just wanted a hot bath and some sleep.
Trudging sluggishly to the personnel quarters, she navigated the halls on autopilot, still obsessing over her perfectly hellish day. One stupid button! Just one! God, what computer didn't have an automatic save program? Even my obsolete PC has auto-recovery. What kind of rinky-dink operation is this anyway? She snickered when she realized that the only thing missing from this perfectly horrid day had been Ryuho calling with yet another request for her to return to the Mainland and leave him in peace. No doubt he would call instead of pay her a visit because the mere sight of her would undoubtedly cause him to vomit on his shoes. Why does he treat me like a leper? Am I really so horrible? He won't even let us be friends…
And even as she thought these things, she knew that despite her desire for autonomy she still pined for his attentions, however slight. That was why she felt like coming apart at the seams every time she thought of him. It's entirely his fault for making me rush off to the ED like that… Stupid Ice-man…
Should she really have been that surprised when she smacked right into him on her way past the gym?
The jarring collision was off-center, spinning both around as they each fell towards the floor. Ryuho easily caught himself, but Mimori landed hard on her butt. She let out a pained "Ow!" as Ryuho barked out a harsh, "Watch where you're going, damn it!" A hint of familiarity suddenly seized each of them and both froze in place, snapping their mouths closed. He looked down at her sprawled on the floor and, for a moment, completely forgot himself. Staring up at him, she was equally speechless.
Ryuho couldn't help noticing that at this moment Mimori was somehow different than he'd ever seen her. She was frowning, and she had a harrowed look about her. Her hair was roughly tousled, clinging haphazardly to her cheeks and shoulders as though she had been finger-combing it absentmindedly. And her bottom lip was plump and raw, as if she'd been worrying it between her teeth for the better part of the day. Her rich brown eyes were bottomless, holding both frustration and confusion in their depths. And her fall had dropped her into a strangely enticing pose, like the scantily clad women in those raunchy magazines that were forever falling out of Cougar's locker. The total effect was a devastatingly beautiful girl laid out on the floor before him.
Mimori, on the other hand, was mortified. There he was, the object of her teenage infatuation, standing over her in his workout gear like some Olympian. His skin glistened with a fine sheen of sweat and his wet hair hung alluringly over his merlot-colored eyes. The sweat made his black muscle shirt stick to him in all the right places and his pants sat low on his hips giving her a perfect view of his spectacularly chiseled abdomen. And there she was, sprawled ungracefully on her butt, legs wide and hair all over her head like she'd just been electrocuted. Mimori immediately revised her thoughts from before- this was the perfect ending to her heinously terrible day! Where was a rock to crawl under when you needed one?
After finally recovering himself, Ryuho managed to spit out an automatic yet hollow acknowledgement, "Ms. Kiryu."
Though utterly embarrassed, something about hearing her last name cross his lips yet again made Mimori bristle. Though socially appropriate, her response was cool and entirely unimaginative. "Excuse me; I wasn't paying attention to where I was going. Please forgive me."
Realizing that she was apologizing because he had not, Ryuho felt some of his anger return. How dare she make him falter in public like that by… looking so…
"Of course. But in the future you should be more mindful of your surroundings, Ms. Kiryu." The words flew out of his mouth of their own volition. He didn't mean to say it, hadn't known where it came from; however, his pride would hardly let him apologize or take it back.
Hearing the familiar address yet again, she narrowed impatient eyes at him. Yes, of course he had to be a complete asshole right now. What better time? I'm already looking like a total spazz down here on the floor; why not call me an airhead, too? She'd had enough. "I'll do that. But you should be more tolerant of other people's mistakes."
Her deadpan delivery was enough to shock him into silence and she used the opportunity to try and pull herself into a more dignified position, preferably one on her feet. Seeing her struggle for footing, Ryuho's exceptional social upbringing finally kicked in and he reached down to help her stand. As he gently grasped her around the ribs and pulled her up he noticed with an amused delight how light she was. He also couldn't help noticing the tiny span of her waist, and how seductively her hips flared below that as they grazed against his rising thighs.
However, this tiny mental tangent only angered him again and he found himself admonishing her once more. "So where were you headed in such a reckless hurry?"
She had been grateful for his help in standing, not being entirely sure that her weariness would allow her a dignified rise from the floor. His aid had her grasping his slick shoulders and leaning into his neck as he righted her. She rolled her eyes in bliss as she caught the heady smell of exercise and 'man sweat' wafting off of him. It immediately coiled something deep and primal in the pit of her stomach; she found herself lingering entirely too long in the crook of his neck, simply inhaling. However, the sound of his last comment over her shoulder had her frowning for the millionth time that day. Yes, definitely a contender in the Asshole Olympics! Well, maybe it's time I threw my hat into the ring…
That was the moment that a devilish little voice whispered an ingenious plot in her ear. Hoping to capitalize on his apparent distaste for a certain blaze-headed speedster, she feigned her most innocent look and replied, "Actually, I was hoping to run into Cougar. Have you seen him?"
Ryuho almost dropped her at that, but had the presence of mind to maintain his hold, though he did pull her away at arm's length. He tried his absolute best not to balk, but the attempt failed miserably. Mimori immediately sensed the wan in his stony façade. Hmm, that got more of a rise out of him than I thought!
Instead of answering, Ryuho narrowed suspicious and incredulous eyes at her, "Why are you looking for him?" She couldn't have possibly fallen for those ridiculous lines of his! He can't even get her name right!
Utterly pleased with her newly acquired ability to ruffle him, she continued the ruse, offering him a somewhat surprised and guilty look as she quietly whispered, "Personal reasons…" She then averted her eyes, batting her eyelashes for good measure. Take that, you walking Popsicle!
Ryuho couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was she serious? Was she actually going to give that libidinous, impulsive hot shot the time of day? A new kind of anger rose in him directed at her ridiculous naiveté. Of course, it would be a cold day in hell before he said anything. Why should he care who she saw?
Still, he couldn't quite manage to extract all of the disproval from his voice. "Sorry, I haven't seen him…" …but when I do I'll be sure to rip his spine through his throat and beat him with it if he so much as looks at you…
He finally let her go and, having nothing else to do with his hands, crossed them moodily in front of his chest. Though she had delighted at getting a rise out of him, Mimori couldn't help but feel disappointed that she wasn't really accomplishing anything with her silly charade. However, she continued just to spite him. "Oh, well if you do, please tell him I'm looking for him…" …if you can pull your head out of your ass long enough to acknowledge anyone else's presence, you sexy, self-centered prick…
He bid her a hasty adieu, sensing an urgent need to retreat. "I'll do that. Good evening, Ms. Kiryu." I need to get out of here right now and salvage the remains of my dignity…
She matched his curt and chilly farewell with one of her own. "Ryuho." …I need to get out of here before I hit him or… Argh!
Realizing that there was nothing left to say, both finally stepped away from each other. Mimori turned around first and tried to walk away in a manner that did not communicate her weariness from the long day or the seething anger sparked from their brief interaction. It resulted in a sort of quick little sway that she knew must have looked ridiculous. However, Ryuho found himself lingering on the image of her retreating silhouette and mentally cursed himself as he about-faced, then cursed himself again as he realized that he needed to go that same direction to get to his quarters. He ducked a bit too hastily back into the gym, counting down enough time for her to disappear and all the while feeling like a foolish preschooler. When he reappeared, he noted the telltale swing of dark hair as she turned the corner. Barely able to contain his renewed vehemence, he stalked silently to the haven of his apartment.
To be continued…