A/N Hello everyone! This is my first Ronin Warriors fanfic, hope you like. Constructive critcism welcome. I don't own Ronin Warriors or the coffeeshop.

Between The Lines

Chapter One

Rowen slid deeper into his seat, ignoring the people as they moved around him. His nose was buried in a book and anyone who passed by would immediately assume that he was oblivious to the world that surrounded him, but that was the furthest thing from the truth. Rowen always knew; he missed little. But that didn't change the way he would pretend. Rowen liked to play little games like this with himself and his world. The purpose and results were never explained. It wasn't like anyone knew what he was doing anyways. Well, except for one person.

Across the table sat a tall blonde man, who, unlike his companion, was actually reading the paper in front of him. Calmly, as if with studied precision, the man would gracefully raise his teacup to his lips. Each sip was the same; each movement of the cup was the same. After five years of knowing him, Sage never differed, never tossed it up and tried it a new way. Never. Not once. Sometimes Rowen would get irrationally irritated with the repetition and try to force Sage to go crazy and lose his calm coolness. It never worked. The teacup rose again at the same speed, the sip the same appropriate small mouthful. The same. The same. It was always the same!

"Just say it."

Rowen looked up at his companion, who was now eyeing him from over the top of his paper.

"Say what?" Rowen responded, noticing the grumpy tone. Well, a guy was allowed to be grumpy every once in awhile, wasn't he?

"Say whatever it is that is currently bothering you as we sit here. The noise, the lack of noise, the amount of people? The way the girl behind me is tapping her fingers, the font on my newspaper, the angle that the table meets with the wall being not exactly ninety degrees because of the bump in the wood? Or maybe something so simple as the fact that I like to drink my tea in even intervals?"

"…You're creepy." A blonde eyebrow twitched amusedly.

"And you're easy to read, my friend."

"What are we doing here Sage?" Rowen demanded suddenly, sitting up straighter and tossing his book down on the table with a thump. The girl behind Sage started slightly at the noise. The warrior of Halo merely raised an eyebrow higher and lowered his newspaper. Calmly.

"I assumed it was the same thing we do every Monday afternoon. We have tea and coffee and I relax and you get over caffeinated and find reasons to go on rants. Why? Am I wrong?"

"I don't go on rants every Monday afternoon."

"Wanna bet?"

"Okay fine," Rowen sighed, leaning forward and staring intently at his friend. "But what are we doing here?"

Sage leaned back in his seat, a look of resignation on his face. He didn't answer because he knew it was a rhetorical question. It was just Rowen's way of warming up to the subject he was about to launch into. Just once, Sage wished that they could just have a nice relaxing lunch. But Rowen hadn't been relaxed for a very long time now, and these rants were a way of him working off some of his frustration. If it helped, Sage was willing to sit through it. Goodness knows Rowen had sat with Sage through worse.

"I think we're stuck, all of us. We're stuck in these same routines, day in and day out, just going about our business, living our lives. We have our schools and our jobs and our cars and our dates and appointments to make. We schedule meetings and style our hair, some of us more than others (at this Sage gave him a dirty look, but Rowen plowed right on), and we try to look our best as we go out into the world, and for what? What do we have? Where are we going? Is there any one of us who has made any momentous achievement? Are we successful? Are we happy? Have we achieved the middle upper class financial status that defines those of this society that have reached the point of leaning back and saying 'thanks, I know I've done my part and yes, I am a role model'?"

Rowen took a breath, but only a quick one.

"We were chosen as the only ones with the abilities to be able to save this world from dangers that no one, not even the military, could fight, and we were able to do this as kids, as teenagers! And here we sit, drinking our tea and coffee and watching people pass by until it's time to go back to work and school and realize that we are one hundred percent exactly like everyone else around us. That we are, we're…"

"Normal?" Rowen looked up at Sage, realizing that in his rant he'd started staring at the table and rearranging the coffee creamer packets in an arrowhead design.

"Normal? No! Normal would be okay with this. Normal would be proud of where we are, normal would be not looking around and realizing that there is something so inherently wrong with being so, so…"

"Normal."

"No! Okay Sage, I know where you're leading this and you're going to assume that because of what I've said so far that I'm unable, after all these years, to accept a more average role in society and that the occurrences in our teen years has over inflated my sense of self and that I'm suffering from post-traumatic-hero-disorder and that can't be possibly further from the truth. The truth is that we aren't normal! We never have been and to assume that now we are is just asinine! How many other people in this city, or any city for that matter, can point out the direction of their four best friends while blindfolded and not have talked to them in a week? If we were normal now, some of that stuff should have gone away. Maybe left residuals, but it should be mostly gone! But it's not Sage! I wake up every morning feeling as if all I want to do is to go fly and shoot some stuff-"

At this point Rowen's voice had risen and several tables were looking over in their direction. Sage shot Rowen a look and the warrior of Strata lowered his voice, if not his intensity,

"I wake up and want to fly, not to go make my way in the workplace."

"Are you sure that's not just a personal issue?" Sage joked but Rowen refused to rise to the bait.

"Look me in the eye and tell me that I'm wrong. That logic doesn't say that by now we all should be at the top of our respective fields, or we should be off fighting and…doing what we used to do. Or doing something…special. Look me in the eye and tell me I'm wrong."

"I think that you're too young for a midlife crisis."

"Sage!"

"Fine." Sage looked out the window briefly, eyes lost in the distance. "Fine Rowen. I do think that maybe things haven't turned out exceptional. But I think it's irrational to assume just because we were the right guys for some…stuff…when we were younger, that we would have to carry that momentum our entire lives."

"But that's the thing Sage. We never carried the momentum. It always swept us away. Then one day it was like we all paused mid-step and have been in a holding pattern ever since. Something…anything should have happened by now!"

Rowen went quiet for a moment and looked down at his hands. When he spoke again, his voice was soft, almost hesitant.

"I think we should put on the armors again." Sage's head snapped forward, and one violet eye drilled into his friend.

"I think you need to be careful what you're saying and where," Sage said, not kindly. Rowen looked up and his dark blue eyes narrowed.

"And I think you're just as close to it as I am. And I think you're hiding something from me, Sage." At that the tall man stood, dropping a bill on the table angrily.

"Go home Rowen. Get some sleep. You're becoming paranoid. It's getting old." Rowen stood hurriedly, realizing he'd struck a nerve. He grabbed for his friend's arm to stop him.

"Seiji-" Rowen started, but Sage shook his arm out of his grasp.

"Later, Touma." At that Sage left, blonde hair blowing in the wind and obscuring his face. As Rowen turned to leave the restaurant, and the prying eyes of the people who'd witnessed the argument, Rowen knew he was right. He'd definitely struck a nerve.