A/N: Well, this is a challenge from Mayuko-Chan. I really liked the idea, so I decided to get right on it. And if you don't mind, I'm gonna borrow half of your idea on how Kyou started working… Heh. This is gonna be fun! Well, enjoy!
Disclaimer: Don't own, not making any money!
Warnings: Eventual KyouXAaya ahead!
Main Characters: Kyou, Aaya, and Miine
Additional Notes: The title comes from Aaya's habit of calling Kyou "Kyounkichi", which means "Lucky Kyou" when roughly translated. And yes, I know that Miine's name is actually spelled "Mine", but with the English possessive "mine" it would get confusing, so I doubled the "I". Does that make sense?
Chapter 1: A Debt to Pay
Souma Kyou growled as he stared at the shop door as if it was the very gate to Hell. In his mind, it was. It was so…frilly looking. With that—what was that? A mermaid?—and the snake all wrapped around each other, and the harp—there was no way. Not a chance in Hell. He wouldn't do it. He, Souma Kyou, Cat of the Zodiac, would never be caught dead setting foot in a store as…girly as that. Let alone working in it. He sent the sign that loudly proclaimed "Ayame; value from the heart" a prolonged death glare, imagining himself tearing it to little pieces. "No way," he grumbled, turning his back to the shop and crossing his arms moodily over his chest. In fact he looked rather like a whiney child.
"Kyounkichi! You came!" The voice made Kyou freeze with a look akin to a deer caught in the lights of a speeding eighteen-wheeler semi.
He swallowed, chills racing down his spine. Shit! Gotta get outta here now! "Don't be stupid!" he snapped. "I was just passing and saw your stupid sign—I was admiring its stupidity."
Behind him, Ayame laughed, shaking his head. "You still owe me, Kyounkichi, and Gure-san told me all about how you're going to so graciously pay me back."
Kyou couldn't suppress a groan. Damn that Dog! He finally turned and faced his cousin. Ayame was standing in the now open doorway of his shop, eyeing Kyou with mirth sparkling in his golden eyes, grinning though his left arm was in a sling and cast. Despite the cast though, he still managed to look like a fashion model, with his hair sparkling in the sun and his cheongsam a deep violet trimmed in silver threads. "I don't care what that pervert said, I'm not gonna work for you! Just take the money out of my account!"
"I'm afraid I can't do that," tsked Ayame, still smiling. "I need help in the store more than I need money, at the moment."
"Find someone else to be your dummy!"
Ayame laughed again. "But, dear Kyounkichi, don't you see? It's the perfect compromise! Even Tohru-kun agrees—she said it would make her so happy if you helped me out." He sighed. "But then, I suppose if you won't help me, I'll just have to ask Tohru-kun…"
The retort died in Kyou's throat and he glared. Of course Ayame would pull the Tohru-card. Shigure probably told him to. Goddamit! "Fine! I'll help! Just leave Tohru out of it!"
His cousin positively beamed at him. "I knew you'd understand Kyounkichi! Now, come!" He made a wide, sweeping gesture with his good arm as he held the door open, and said the words that made Kyou's blood freeze. "It's time to get you a uniform!"
Still smiling like an idiot, Ayame giggled. "Well," he said, "You can't expect me to let you work in my wonderful establishment without a uniform that proclaims the glory of my work, can you?" Before Kyou even had time to answer (or defend himself), Ayame had pulled him into the shop, laughing all the way to the changing rooms in back. The unfortunate Kyou found himself practically thrown into a changing stall that happened to be quite small. The door was shut and somehow locked from the outside by the time Kyou got his bearings.
"Let me out, you psycho!" he growled, pounding on the door.
Ayame laughed. "Not until you find a uniform that fits and speaks of my designing genius!" he said as he threw several outfits over the top of the door and onto a very angry orange head.
In a rare moment of clarity, Kyou realized that he might as well just try on the outfits and get out of the dressing room that much faster. Grudgingly, he picked up the nearest piece of fabric between his thumb and forefinger, careful not to touch it more than was necessary. It was a maid uniform. Nearly gagging, he threw it back over the top, ignoring Ayame's cry of "My beautiful work!" There was no way he was wearing that. He picked up another. It was a nurses' uniform this time. It received the same treatment as the maid's uniform. Kyou went through two more outfits before he realized they were all female outfits. "You idiot!" he yelled through the door. "Get me something for a guy!"
"But Kyounkichi! The nurses' uniform would have brought out the wonderful definitions of your face!"
He heard a sigh from Ayame and footsteps. He rolled his eyes. Stupid Snake. The footsteps returned, and several more outfits were thrown over. This time, Kyou caught them. "Try those," said Ayame through the door. "I think those are more your type."
Again, Kyou picked up the nearest one with his thumb and forefinger. Luckily, it was a relatively normal shirt and a pair of pants—jeans even, instead of the leather Kyou would've expected. He raised an eyebrow. There has to be a catch… He searched the outfit over and found nothing out of the ordinary. The shirt was black silk and had a small white snake sewn into the lapel; the sleeves were long with a slit about three inches long at the cuffs. Kyou checked the rest and found they were all far more tame than the nurses' uniform; in fact—although he would never mention it out loud—he actually liked a few of them. However, he chose the black shirt and jeans.
"How's it coming, Kyounkichi?" asked Ayame. "Has my magnificent work taken away the very breath from your body? Are you too stunned to speak? Have—"
"I'm done," said Kyou, mostly to stop the rant and partly because he beginning to feel a little claustrophobic, locked in a dressing room and all. "Let me out!" He heard a clanking of keys and relief washed through him. Finally.
The door opened and Kyou nearly fell out and into Ayame's arms. When he looked up he found a frown on the previously smiling face. "Kyounkichi? Are you all right?" asked Ayame, pressing the back of his hand to Kyou's forehead. "You look pale. Perhaps I should call Tori-san to come and check you out?"
Kyou scowled and batted away the hand. "I'm fine. I just don't like small spaces." Ayame seemed to quiet after that as he carefully adjusted minor details on the outfit Kyou had chosen. At least he has the decency to look guilty. "Now what?" Ayame moved toward the counter, gesturing for Kyou to follow.
"Well," Ayame started, "You'll work the register since you don't have any training in sewing or sketching and that sort of thing. You'll also help stock and fetch things when Miine or I need them. Simple really, Kyounkichi." He laughed loudly.
Oh God, thought Kyou. How am I ever gonna make it through this? He shook his head as he finally trudged over to the counter where Ayame stood, head cocked and waiting for him. Ayame smiled brightly and flicked his hair, leading Kyou to a door behind the counter; he turned to Kyou, eyes sparkling, and his smile turned almost secretive, but it reminded Kyou more of the guy from The Shinning. "And this is where all of the magic takes place! Just behind this door are wonders of every sort and clime and ethnicity! Prepare to be amazed!" And with that, he threw open the door and ushered Kyou in. The teen studied the room with a raised eyebrow. He was clearly unimpressed.
"That's it? I was expecting balloons at least."
The room that he had been dragged to was a rather plain room—at least, by Ayame-standards—and it was really a little bit of a letdown (not that Kyou would ever admit this). The walls were eggshell colored, the rug, which was decorated with a snake design, was navy and purple. A few potted plants littered the room, particularly near the desk set back in the corner with a sleek new laptop closed on it.
Ayame shrugged. "It's all in how you look at it. Besides, you have so very little imagination. Sad, really." He was oblivious to the glare Kyou gave him as he gestured to the pair of contemporary black couches facing each other in the center of the room. Ayame himself merely took a seat at the desk but Kyou remained standing, his arms crossed over his chest. "Now, Kyounkichi, we must discuss the terms of your service here, must we not? I believe we should start with pay."
A frown crossed Kyou's lips and his forehead creased in confusion. "Pay? I thought I was going to be paying off—"
A flick of his good wrist and Ayame interrupted him. "Non, non, Kyounkichi! Really! Do you think I would make you work for nothing? Of course not! Every good turn deserves another and you should never have to work for nothing. Every minute spent should be compensated for—hard work deserves remuneration." He smiled, although it looked different somehow to Kyou, tainted almost. Then it was gone and Ayame's familiar hundred-watt smile returned. "Of course, it won't be as much as it would usually be until your debt is repaid, but it won't be anything to scoff at, either."
Kyou could only stare at his cousin, feeling suddenly awkward for some odd reason. "Oh, all right," was all he could manage.
"Next on the list are your hours." Ayame opened the laptop which he always kept on and brought up the week's schedule, peering at it through slitted eyes. "Your hours will be determined by the week, so it could change from week to week—but such is the life of a tailor!" Kyou rolled his eyes, but he still couldn't shake the oddness of seeing Ayame staring at a computer screen with a serious expression. "Let's see… This week it will be…four to eight—all week. Is that fine?"
Kyou scowled before sighing in defeat. "Fine," he muttered.
Ayame clicked out of the program and beamed up at Kyou. "Congratulations! You're now an official member of the staff of Ayame's!"
Kyou snorted. "Whatever."
Before Ayame could respond, there was the tinkling of a silver chime from the front of the store and he glanced toward the door, then back to Kyou. "Ah! A customer! Feel free to explore back here, but please, try not to disturb anything—some of the fabrics are quite expensive. I shouldn't be too long, but there's a small kitchen area through the door to your left. Help yourself." Kyou didn't answer and watched his cousin leave with a disdaining look.
Idiot. He shook his head and turned his claret eyes to the laptop. "Since when does Ayame have a laptop?" Curiosity nearly got the better of him but the sound of Ayame's laugh through the wall stopped him. It was probably something stupid anyway, he convinced himself as he flopped down on one of the black couches. He could hear his idiot cousin schmoozing a customer and a sneer curled his lips at the thought of the moron who probably believed whatever asinine story Ayame was feeding him. Way am I the only sane one?
When Ayame didn't return after nearly fifteen minutes, Kyou began to feel hungry. His stomach was beginning to growl, making his annoyance levels raise.
"…There's a small kitchen area through the door to your left. Help yourself…"
Getting to his feet, the teen decided he might as well explore the kitchen. What he hadn't expected, however, was the small woman that was already bustling about the small canteen, humming happily under her breath. It was a moment before she noticed Kyou, but her big brown eyes widened and she gasped in delight when she finally did. Actually, she almost reminded Kyou of Tohru, in a way—if it weren't for the maid's uniform that is. "Oh my! Tenchou didn't tell me we were having company!" she squeaked, clapping her hands together, smiling brightly. "Who might you be?"
Kyou blinked. "Kyou," he answered. "Souma Kyou—I'm Ayame's cousin."
"Oh!" The woman rushed at him, grabbing his hands and playfully bouncing on her feet. "You must be the new employee! Tenchou said something about you coming—but he didn't say it would be today! Oh how wonderful! I'm Kuramae Miine; I sew a lot of the outfits."
Something deep inside of Kyou recoiled at the woman—Miine—and her exuberance but he stopped himself and forced a bare smile. "Ah." He looked over her shoulder at the small kitchen niche. A counter, a fridge, a rice cooker, and a microwave were the only significant fixtures besides a tea maker. "Um, do you think I could maybe have something to eat?"
She grinned, not yet relinquishing his hands. "Of course! There's some left over onigiri that Tenchou made yesterday—it should still be good, and you're welcome to it. It's quite delicious." With that she led him over to the counter before finally releasing him to pull a tray of onigiri from the fridge, offering it to him with a smile.
His own smile was wavering as he took the small white balls of rice. "Thanks."
She giggled and drifted over to the tea maker. "You're welcome, but really, thank you. I don't know what Tenchou and I would have done if you hadn't come to help."
Kyou frowned, but didn't ask. He told himself he didn't care, but he wasn't quite sure that was it. In any case it didn't matter as Ayame came bounding through the door, in higher spirits than earlier. "Ah, Kyounkichi! I see you've met Miine! Good, good. However, I'm afraid it's nearly time to close up the shop, so you should probably head home."
Relief flooded through the teen. Thank God! Time to leave and escape the idiots of the world in his room. "Tomorrow at four then?" Ayame had barely finished nodding before Kyou was out the door and halfway down the street. He fumed the entire way to Shigure's, glaring and scowling at anything and everything, his temper shorter than usual. He slogged up the path to the house his foul mood festering as he caught sight of Yuki disappearing through the trees on the way to his garden. Because of his bad mood, he would have immediately retreated to his room per usual, however Tohru stopped him.
"Kyou-kun?" she called, poking her head out of the kitchen doorway. "You're home?"
"Yeah," he sighed, glancing longingly at the staircase before turning back to the princess of the house.
Tohru smiled warmly. "Welcome back! Um, could you help me wash these dishes?"
He just couldn't say no. He never could to Tohru—she was like a sister to him. "Sure." He followed her to the kitchen, blinking when he saw the massive amount of dishes that had somehow accumulated it the sink. He cringed as he noticed the crusted-on food and grime and other things he didn't even want to know about. "What the hell?" he muttered. "What's with all the dishes?"
Tohru bit her lips, looking nervously from Kyou to the pile of filthy dishes. "Um…well… You see, Shigure-san forgot to clean the dishes he takes to his room at night when he's hungry…"
Kyou groaned. "What an idiot."
"Oh! I'm sure he didn't mean to Kyou-kun! He's just been so busy with his new book and all—oh my!" she gasped, finally noticing the uniform Kyou had forgotten to change out of. "Did you get new clothes?"
He looked down at himself. He hadn't realized he was still wearing the uniform. "Uh, yeah. It's my uniform, I guess. I forgot about it."
Tohru's turquoise eyes were sparkling as she fawned over his new outfit. "It looks wonderful! You're so lucky Kyou-kun!" Kyou shrugged awkwardly—he didn't feel lucky in the least.
"Let's get to work on these," he muttered, gesturing to the dishes.
"Oh! Of course!"
They had hardly got through five plates when they were interrupted by a very unwelcome voice. "Well look who's home." Kyou glared darkly at the doorway where Shigure had appeared. Shigure scratched the back of his head sleepily, smiling dazedly. "How was your trip to Aaya's?"
Tohru nearly jumped at the answer, her eyes growing wider as she bit her lip harder, trying to keep from rushing to fix the problem. Her mother had told her once that some problems should just be left to fix themselves and she thought that this might be one of those problems. Although, she did wish she could prevent the coming confrontation. "Kyou-kun…"
Shigure only laughed. "Come now, he's not that bad." Kyou bristled at his cousin's suggestive tone. "Why don't you tell me about it?"
He snorted, grabbing a dish and a rag and scrubbing furiously. "Why should I bother? He'll probably call you later and jabber about it till he goes hoarse." His crimson eyes narrowed as he encountered a particularly stubborn spot.
With a chuckle Shigure waved away the accusation that was probably true. "Yes, well, I want to hear what you have to say about it."
With no little effort, Kyou ignored his idiot cousin and continued to scrub, gritting his teeth. Eventually, Shigure would get the hint—at least, that was his hope. He was disappointed, however, when the novelist continued to pester him. After Shigure flopped over him proclaiming in a whiney voice that Kyou didn't care about him anymore, the teen had had it. "Goddamit! Get off of me!" he growled as he shoved Shigure off and to the floor. "Damn Dog! What is with you?"
On the floor, Shigure was pouting as Tohru flitted worriedly around him, checking for injuries. "I just wanted to know if you took the job," he faux-whimpered.
Kyou rolled his eyes, moving onto another dish. "Yeah, I took it. Happy now?"
Shigure smiled from his place on the tile. "You'll like working with Aaya," he said, laughing as he got to his feet and brushing away Tohru's worries. "He's rather interesting when he's working." Kyou snorted and Shigure turned slightly more serious. "You pay attention to him—you might learn something important."
As if, Kyou thought, finishing off the last dish. The only important thing I'll learn is to steer clear of morons.
A/N: Well! Sorry about the long wait, Mayuko-Chan! I don't know what happened. I just completely lost all drive to write anything. Hopefully that's past. I hope you liked the first chapter. There should only be about five, but I haven't written any others yet, so it may be a while. Please, just be patient, okay? I'll write it when I write it. Please, review!