A Fellow's Fancy

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For Miko who always asks about this story.

Out in the dining room, business was slow and Okon and Omasu had been coming in and out of the common room frequently. Okina was by the window staring outside looking dismal and old. The sun was shining bright through the glass panes, casting light through the man's thinning white hair.



"Okina, where is Misao?"

The old man turned back and the sad look on his face turned sharp, a critical stare, one that spoke of disapproval. The lines in his face deepened and his stance tensed.

"Need you ask?" the older man retorted. "She is out in the city yet again hopping about in those indecent little shorts."

Indecent little shorts?

Ah, yes, he recalled now. Okina and the others had been scolding Misao lately on her choice of attire. She would be turning twenty four this year. With the subsequent decrease of Oniwabanshuu business, almost to the point of collapse, Misao had taken to being managing the business of the Aoiya. Even so, she never was above a little frolicking and continued to do so as it pleased her.

She had taken to getting all sorts of dirty lately. Dust and dirt covering her sandals and her sandal wraps and her legs which she would then proceed to track through the Aoiya as she came through. That was how he'd taken notice of her legs. Now his eyes automatically drifted downward to see what she was dragging in upon her person.

Misao's uniform was most definitely inappropriate for her everyday use given her age and her station in life. He had not, however, deigned to enlighten her of his opinion on the matter, nor did he have any such intentions. He much liked her in her standard uniform.


He looked up as she came through the door. His eyes dropped to her feet only to see that they were bare.

"Tonight is the Lantern Festival, anyone going?" she asked.

Okina's expression was still sour from what he considered as, "Misao's lack of tact" and Aoshi remained silent. Her smile fell.

"No? But it's such a pretty festival!" she protested.

The silence continued and stretched.

"Do you intend to wear that?" Okina asked his voice tight.

She snapped her head in his direction, eyes narrowing in annoyance. It was an old argument, a familiar spark that could explode into an inferno in moments. She squeezed her tiny fists until her knuckles turned white and her body tensed with anger.

"I do not want to hear another word about my clothes!"

"You are too old to be dressing in such a fashion. Take in mind your reputation, girl!"

She blanched. "And stop calling me girl! There's nothing wrong with my reputation, right, Aoshi-sama?"

Her anger melted into a simple sort of pleading and he wasn't sure what to do. He rather agreed with Okina on the matter, but his own personal feelings led him to agree with her. He liked her uniform, but it was, in fact, inappropriate.

"Are you intending to wear that to the festival?"

She crossed her arms and the fabric of her uniform wrinkled and rippled with tension. It drew his eyes from her flesh to the hint of curves that gently teased the cloth beneath. Hastily, he looked toward the floor, to her feet.

Innocent feet.

"No," she answered after a pause. "Matter of fact, I'm wearing a kimono tonight."

Aoshi didn't have to look from the polished wood floor to know that the revelation had overjoyed Okina. The man's aged feet pattered across the floor and he heard Okina drop his hands onto Misao's shoulders.

"My dear girl, growing up so fast…"

He made the same comment every time Misao said she was wearing a kimono.

"You will be so beautiful. Maybe tonight you shall bring home a young man…"

Misao groaned and pushed away. Aoshi kept his gaze toward the floor, toward her feet and watched those dainty feet until she left the room.

Only she didn't leave the room… she stopped at the doorway on the opposite side of the room.

"You know, on second thought, maybe I will wear this tonight… "

With that, she truly left and Okina's good mood was dashed.

"Why don't you talk some sense into that girl?" Okina asked. He'd asked many times before.

"It's her choice."

The old man huffed. "Did you know the kimono she speaks of was a gift from a young man in town? She's been seeing him for quite a while now. Has she told you?"

Aoshi wanted to reach for his teacup and ignore the old man but there was no teacup. Okon had come and taken away his tea some time ago in her boredom. She'd promised to bring more but had not so far shown with the promised tea.

"Misao is old enough to make her own decisions."

"Is she now? What if the young man has more devious intentions? What if he has misconceptions about her due to her attire? I believe she is meeting him tonight for this festival… in the dark!"

"I trust that Misao can handle some amorous boy from town should he try to get too fresh with her."

"And if she is seeking a meeting with him? Surely you do not approve of this lasciviousness!"

"Misao is not taking a lover and I do not believe that you are convinced she is."

"You underestimate the curiosity of the young, Aoshi. What if she gets it into her head that she is missing something? What if she thinks she is long past the age of proper marriage? What if she thinks men prefer experienced women? What if she thinks it of you?"

Aoshi looked up, struck at the possibility. "She would not."

It sounded hollow to his own ears. Doubts…

Dirty, nasty doubts had appeared in his heart. Laid there like a silky web of spider eggs ready to hatch and eat him away from the inside.

"She would not," he repeated to himself but Okina was already back at the window staring outside once more.

"Perhaps it has been too long for you, Aoshi. You do not remember being young… I forget some days that you were born mature."

The cold cynicism in Okina's voice was another new development. Maybe he would speak to Misao later if only to keep Okina from harassing him.

Irritating idiots.

Men, the world was full of them and to her experience all of them were irritating idiots.

If it wasn't Okina being stupid over her clothes, it was Kuro and Shiro giving her semi-blank stares when she asked them questions, or Aoshi-sama staring at her feet.

He stared at her feet a lot.

A lot.

So much so that she'd once dedicated an hour to examining them to see if she'd missed some horrible disfigurement. She couldn't find anything. They looked like perfectly normal feet to her.

She was forced to accept that he simply didn't want to meet her gaze and settled for her feet. Maybe it was some show of humility?

She had told herself she gave up trying to understand him long ago and yet she continued to wonder. It was automatic, she couldn't stop her brain from launching into deep ponderings over his behavior. Was anyone else this disturbed or was it just her? She wasn't the only female that ogled Aoshi-sama, not by a long shot. But surely she was the only one who watched him with such… devotion.

She settled down onto the floor of her room with a heavy sigh. When there came a crisp, firm knock at her door, she called absently for them to enter. Okon and Omasu were always so prissy with the knocking and then the barking of orders. She expected a barrage of comments on her lack of proper order in her room only to hear her door slide open and then complete silence.

"Okina is concerned."

The tone, the voice, the very presence of Aoshi set her to her feet immediately. It wasn't even a complete voluntary act; it was a response to his sheer presence. Even if she stood on her table, she wouldn't be high enough to meet his gaze evenly. So short…

"He's worried about something dumb; I can wear-" she trailed off when she noticed his gaze was directed toward the floor. "Stop looking at my feet!"

He immediately looked away.

"What is going on with you, really? Aoshi-sama, are my feet ugly?"


"Do you have a lover, Misao?" the door slid closed behind him. The sound of the panels clicking met in her ears like one of those huge new trains slamming on loud, squealing brakes.


One question and she found herself transported back to childhood, a stumbling, fumbling girl with her first crush fighting off a blush.

"A lover," he repeated, his clear blue colored eyes flickered up to hers.

"A…" she couldn't fight the flush that time. She felt her face burn with it. Her whole body felt hot. He was accusing her of having a … man… a lover? A… a someone who wasn't him? Absurd.

"Okina is concerned," he repeated, dragging those intense eyes down her frame. It felt as if her clothes went with it, clawed straight down to her feet.

"He-" she started but stopped when he moved.

He took a step forward. The simple stride seemed long, or was her room small? She wanted to move back or to step away but she couldn't. She couldn't back away from him like she was afraid; it would look dumb. It would make him think she would be intimidated or- he kneeled.

The very sight of him sliding down onto one knee squeezed the air from her lungs. She gasped for a breath that wouldn't come. His hands, so large, so beautiful, things she had admired as she poured his tea, reached for her.

The warmth, the heat of his palm around her ankle made her head feel light. She scolded herself for being juvenile as he slowly lifted her foot off the ground forcing her to balance on one foot awkwardly.

"He thinks you might give the wrong impression."

She heard him, but it wasn't what he was saying. It was surreal. It was something she'd never experienced before in her life; it was… Her entire insides felt hot and kind of… throbbed.

"Do you know what happens between a man and a woman Misao… when they are alone?"

He lifted her foot and rested it upon his folded knee. Leaning, he nuzzled his face very gently against her thigh. The saliva in her mouth evaporated. Her tongue felt swollen and out of place.

"Do you know...what a man thinks when he sees a woman of your age with bare legs, Misao?"

The tone was soft, seductive… he was liquid sex; he was oozing all over her. It felt… good. Was this why women took lovers? Omasu had always said a woman's duty was- she felt his lips against her knee and his breath against her thigh as he lifted his head.

When one hand curled around her hip, her knees felt weak, her foot slipped off his leg and she almost hit the floor. He caught her, guiding her so she sat, her legs spread over either side of his bent knee, sitting her on him. The flush over her body heated impossibly further. The sheer intimacy of... the sheer mass of… her crotch was against his thigh, he was so…hot.

Gently, his nose traced against her earlobe, tickling her. "Do you want to know what a man thinks… what I think when I see you in this?"

"Aoshi-sama." It was a whimper.

Omasu was so wrong, so wrong. There couldn't be anything bad about being a man's lover or… her womanly duties. Omasu had never been this close to Aoshi-sama…

"I want to part those slender thighs and lay you over my futon…"

She shuddered. His hand slid up her back to rest between her narrow shoulder blades. If he let go she'd be a puddle of flesh on the floor.

"To kiss the arches of your feet…"

His breath was hot enough to scald, she thought. She could feel the sweat at her back. Gah… was he as hot as she was? It was so hard to tell where the heat ended. Touching him only made her hotter.

"To suck your tiny toes."

Her hands fisted in the material of his yukata. When had he put that on? When had she reached for it? His scent was everywhere. She wanted to rub her face against his chest, to lick his skin! She wanted that scent on her.

"The sight of your little legs is a subtle invitation for sex."

He was slipping.

Slipping away from her.

She didn't notice he had completely withdrawn from her body until she was on the floor and alone.

"To ease Okina, only wear your uniform within the Aoiya."

He turned to the door. She was too breathless to speak. He left as silently as he'd come and she was left to battle the fading heat alone, confused, aroused, amazed, flushed…

Aoshi-sama liked her feet… her… her… she made him… the thought alone made her face flush again. Dropping lifelessly back onto the floor, she closed her eyes as her deep pant slowly faded. How inappropriate would it be to sneak the outfit into the Temple? Maybe under a yukata?

Left alone, she slowly digested the information. For hours, she stewed. Over the night, she dreamed… and in the morning, she smiled.

The embarrassment slowly eased and a slow, shy smile replaced the flush from hours earlier.

This was gold.

She smiled brightly. How many ways could she think of to tempt him into repeating yesterday? With that in mind, she headed for the kitchen scheming away.

Gold indeed.