Disclaimer: Standard disclaimers apply.
A/N: Tea. Yay. Tea good.
… As good as tea may be, reviews would be better. –wink wink-
Sixteen-year-old Misao Makimachi turned her head back and gazed up at the sky, a worried frown flitting across her fair features.
"Aoshi-sama, it looks like it's going to rain, ne?"
Aoshi tilted his gaze upwards as well and stated calmly, "Aa. We will head back after Okina's things are picked up."
Misao nodded, and the two set off briskly towards the clothing store to retrieve the Aoiya's (rather large) order of aprons.
Lately, business had been booming at the Aoiya, and the aprons had been soiled at a much quicker rate. Misao's apron had been ruined spectacularly, due to the fact that she was a favorite amongst the customers. Especially the male customers. Eventually, it had gotten so that whenever the young kunoichi had entered the room, catcalls and applause could be heard from every corner of the room.
One glance from the cold Aoshi Shinomori, however, had quelled their looks and whistles effectively. Even Okon and Omasu had shivered, for the glare of their ex-okashira could rival that of Saitou's 'I'm-going-to-kill-you-now-so-you'd-better-watch-out' look.
And thus, it came to be that Misao would be the only person to serve Aoshi his green tea. Whenever someone else approached him, he would give the poor soul a long, chilling stare before finally picking up his cup slowly and taking a sip. Misao was the only one whom this stare seemed to have no effect on, so she had taken to serving his tea and then sitting down with him to have some herself. Over time, this had softened the man, and he now felt an unusual kindness towards the young girl. Of course, Aoshi took great care never to show this newfound spark, and so Misao was oblivious towards this little development. As oblivious she was, though, even Misao was aware that their relationship had changed. Misao no longer felt nervous or embarrassed around the stoic man, and she now felt that Aoshi was somewhat more of a friend, rather than an idol or father.
Despite the pair's attempts to reach their destination before the bad weather set in, the sky had grown dark and raindrops had started to plummet down to the earth. Misao looked around helplessly for an open store, but it seemed that the owners were feeling particularly stingy today, as most of them had already boarded up in face of the oncoming store.
In a matter of seconds, Misao's hair was plastered to her face and neck, and her clothes were soaked to the point where they were sticking to her slim form. Aoshi was faring no better: his standard plain-colored yukata was soaked through, and you could just barely see two blue eyes peeking out from underneath his long bangs.
Aoshi raised his voice to be heard throughout the storm and said to Misao, "Look. Up nearby."
Misao raised her waterlogged head and was delighted to see a building with lights shining through the welcoming doorway. Gritting her teeth and tightening her hold on her many bags, Misao struggled through the rain, keeping her eyes glued to Aoshi's drenched back.
The two traipsed slowly through the rain, and eventually, they stumbled through the door of their newly found haven. Misao sighed dramatically in relief and collapsed into the nearest chair. A moment later, though, she dropped her bags down underneath the table and sprung up abruptly, as though she were finally noticing how wet she was. Aoshi, meanwhile, was standing uncomfortably in the threshold, looking warily about.
While they waited for someone to show up, Misao and Aoshi took note of their surroundings. Several tables were scattered amongst the pale yellow floor, and counters were set up in numerous places with strange machines softly humming. A soft light enveloped the pastel walls and ceiling. Definitely Misao's place to be. But Aoshi…?
One could almost see him squirming.
A voice called out suddenly, "Oh, hi there! I didn't know we had customers!"
Aoshi flicked his gaze towards the counter directly in front of them and saw a young woman, no more than 25, standing there with a warm smile.
She exclaimed excitedly, "Welcome, welcome! I'm Fukko."
Misao beamed. "Konnichiwaa."
Fukko gasped. "Oh my, you're all wet! Let me get you a towel, dear! And you there! Tall one! You need one too! Come, come!"
Misao protested, "Oh no, we're okay."
"None of that, nope! I'll get you a few towels; just wait here for a second, okay? Okay!"
Fukko had already disappeared through the back door, and Misao let her voice trail off.
Aoshi set a hand lightly on Misao's shoulder with a slight plop. "Let Fukko-san get the towels, Misao. Heaven knows we need them."
"Okay, Aoshi-sama. Whatever you say."
Aoshi's mouth quirked up at the corners. "Aa."
Soon, Fukko bounded back into the room, and she tossed a few large towels to Aoshi. He caught them smoothly and gave one to Misao, who immediately proceeded to let down her hair from its customary braid. Her slim fingers fumbled around the hair-tie at the end of her braid, and after a few seconds of twiddling this way and that, she felt two hands take her braid gently and unclasp the pin.
Misao smiled warmly and said, "Arigatou, Aoshi-sama."
Bending her head down, Misao shook her hair out violently. Water sprayed out and landed on the floor, but when she was finished, her hair was neatly scattered, cascading over her back in waves. Aoshi watched in fascination as she took her towel, slipped it underneath her raven locks, and shook her hair over it.
Fukko said brightly, eyes wide, "That is some head of hair you've got, Miss…?"
"Misao! Makimachi Misao!"
"Wow, wow, wow! Incredible, Misao-san! I would kill for something like that, yup!"
Misao laughed nervously. "Arigatou. And please, just call me Misao."
While Aoshi simply wrapped his towel around his shoulders, Misao leaned in towards the counter and asked curiously, "What is this place anyway, Fukko-san?"
"I'm surprised you haven't wandered in here before, Misao-chan. This is the Amawa Café, recently found and discovered. We have everything from crackers to bread to tea."
Misao turned to Aoshi and smiled. "Shall we find a seat, then?"
Fukko called after them, "I'll be with you in a second, all right?" and disappeared into the kitchen once more.
Aoshi led the way towards a round table, and the two sat down comfortably as they waited for Fukko to come by.
Aoshi voice quietly, leaning towards Misao, "She reminds me of you."
Misao scowled jokingly and said, "Aoshi-sama, if you're not going to elaborate, why ask in the first place?"
"Tchah. So unresponsive. Anyway, what are you going to get?"
"Depends on what there is, I suppose."
Misao picked up a sheet of paper from the table and gestured to it. "It's a menu, Aoshi-sama. Take a look."
Aoshi picked one up and scanned it carefully. Ah. Green tea.
Misao teased, "Let me guess, Aoshi-sama. Green tea?"
Aoshi blinked. "How did you know?"
"Aoshi-sama, you are so… ordinary."
Misao waved her hand nonchalantly and replied, "Well, it's not like you're a risk-taker, right?"
Aoshi leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Fukko suddenly shot up beside them and declared, "Excuse me, I'll take your orders now! That okay?"
Aoshi twitched, and Misao… Misao flew three feet in the air.
"Agh! Fukko-san, you surprised me!"
"Gomen, gomen! You ready yet?"
"Sure," Misao replied.
"What'll it be?"
Aoshi stated softly, glancing at Misao's triumphant expression, "Green tea will be fine."
"And you, Misao?"
Grinning, the kunoichi declared, "Bubble tea!"
"Ah! You're an interesting one, Misao-san! Not many people try the bubble tea! It's great, though, I promise! What flavor would that be?"
"Um, what flavors are there?"
Fukko rattled off with a grin, "Strawberry, grape, apple, orange, kiwi, and lemon. Take your pick."
"I don't know… what do you think?"
"Kiwi's interesting! So is strawberry! Apple and kiwi are pretty much the same, and lemon and orange are sour-sour-sour!"
Misao beamed nervously. "Kiwi it is."
Fukko swept away, promising that their drinks would come in a few moments.
Aoshi continued smoothly, "You were saying…?"
"Mm. As I was saying, Aoshi-sama… you are so predictable."
"I'm not predictable."
Misao looked amused. "Okay, then. What's your favorite fruit, Aoshi-sama? Would it possibly be the apple?"
Aoshi frowned. "Aa. Your point?"
Misao said with a laugh, "My point, Aoshi Shinomori, is that anyone with half a brain can guess your likes and dislikes, because you're so ordinary."
"Ordinary, am I?"
"What's your favorite color, Aoshi-sama, hmm?"
"I suppose this is relevant?"
"Of course it is! I'm going to go with white. Do you like white, Aoshi-sama? Do you?"
"And if I do?"
Fukko sang as she glided over the floor, "I'm back!"
She skidded to a stop before them and said brightly, "Here you go. One green tea and one bubble tea, right?"
Fukko placed the cups in front of their respectable owners
She produced a rather large straw from one of her many pockets, adding, "You can use this to get the tapioca pearls on the bottom, Misao."
Aoshi held out some money for the drinks and Fukko took it, adding with a flourish, "Enjoy!"
She disappeared once more behind the counter, leaving the two alone.
Misao eagerly stabbed her straw at one of the inviting dots and sucked in her breath, watching with glee as the dark sphere shot up the straw. Aoshi held back a laugh at the childish glee she showed. Misao chewed thoughtfully, closing her eyes.
"Wai! I like it!"
Aoshi sipped his hot tea slowly, keeping an eye on Misao. "Good, is it?"
"You betcha! Much better than ordinary green tea!"
"You don't say."
Misao laughed and smiled up at Aoshi. "It's cold and refreshing… and sweet, too! It kicks green tea butt!"
Misao cheerfully took another drink from her straw, and again, she watched as the green slush shot up.
Aoshi glanced at Misao and said slowly, "I suppose that you think you aren't ordinary?"
"Mmhmm! I'd like to see you try to guess some of my favorites, Aoshi-sama."
"Very well. What shall I start with?"
"Eto… what about my favorite color?
"Your favorite color is purple."
Misao scowled. "How did you know, Aoshi-sama? I never told anyone that!"
"I have known you since you were a child, Misao. I don't think I count as 'anyone'."
"You're favorite food… ramen."
"All right, I give up. What is it?"
Misao grinned wickedly. "Bubble tea."
"That wasn't fair."
"I'm a ninja, Aoshi-sama. Since when am I fair?"
"Mm. That's true."
"Okay, my turn. You're favorite drink in the whole wide world…"
Misao took a long drink from her cup and licked her lips. "Aoshi-sama, what you need is change."
"I do not."
"Sure you do. Tea is the only drink you drink, ever. You don't even drink water!"
"Tea is refreshing. It calms the mind."
"What about bubble tea, then, hm?"
Misao pushed it forward towards him. "Try a little, at least!"
"No. That's unhealthy."
Laughing, Misao took it back. "Unhealthy?"
"There must be a reason why it's called 'bubble tea'."
"No way! It's perfectly safe!"
"So you say."
"Anyway… how does it feel, Aoshi-sama?"
"How does what feel?"
"That's not a word."
"It is so!"
"Aoshi-sama, what's your favorite animal?"
"You tell me."
"I'm gonna have to say… bird."
"No fair! I guessed right, didn't I?"
"See? See? You are totally ordinary."
Misao took another long, noisy slurp from her cup and beamed. Aoshi watched with wary eyes, glancing down at his own cup of bland tea.
He muttered after a bit, "Maybe…"
"What was that, Aoshi-sama?"
"Maybe… you could spare a bit?"
"What, of bubble tea? No way!"
Aoshi frowned. "No?"
"I offered, remember? Wouldn't want you to drink something… unhealthy."
Aoshi took one look at her teasing smile and replied, "Maybe I lied."
Aoshi gestured slightly to her drink and asked (very nicely so), "Could I…?"
Alas, Misao drained her cup with one smooth motion and set it down with a clink.
"Oops! Finished it all. Whatever will we do?"
Aoshi looked at her cup, then looked up at Misao. His eyes slid back and forth slowly as Misao watched in glee.
Leaning forward slowly, Aoshi pressed his lips gently to Misao's, holding them there for what seemed like an eternity. The rain outside and the clanks coming from the kitchen went unheard as the two disappeared into their own world.
At last, Aoshi pulled apart and smacked his lips carefully.
An anxious silence stretched between them as Aoshi tried to find the perfect word.
A/N: Slight AU-ness. Bubble tea (otherwise known as boba) was introduced in 1980. Review!