Disclaimer: Flame of Recca belongs to its rightful owner, and that person is Nobuyuki Anzai, not me. I won't get in the way of your reading but I'd just like to say, please read the author's note at the end of this chapter. It's important.


COFFEE CONVERSATION


Fuuko Kirisawa was late.

Breathing heavily from a dash she had not anticipated, she entered the bistro along Akinomora avenue and scanned the place for the man who just sent her a text message almost fifteen minutes ago saying he was already there.

A guilty smile spread across her lips as she locked gazes with a familiar pair of light blue eyes from the back of the room. She ran to the man with the enigmatic eyes.

"Mi-chan! I missed you so much!" she yelled as she threw her arms around his shoulders and squeezed him. "I can't believe we were separated for nearly two weeks, I was dying of boredom!" she tightened her embrace.

"Fuuko, I can't breathe." Tokiya Mikagami choked out. From the corner of his eye, he noticed a group of middle-aged women watching them with knowing smiles on their faces. Not like he cared when Fuuko was in his arms.

"Sorry." Fuuko pulled back reluctantly. She sniffled.

Tokiya blinked. Were those tears in her eyes? And a while ago, did she just say she hated being separated from him? He expertly stopped a smile from escaping his lips. He had no idea that being in Hiroshima for a seminar would turn his strong-willed girlfriend into a drama queen. It became extremely obvious how much she missed him. This reunion was turning out to be better than he had imagined.

He stood up and spoke into her ear. "You're making a scene."

The expression on her face faltered.

"But it doesn't matter. I still love you anyway." He smirked.

Her face broke into a grin and she leaped into his arms again. To his mortification, the bistro burst into a round of applause.

Heat rose to his cheeks. He pretended not to notice when two waitresses sighed enviously in the background. To his left a girl, oh—make that a guy, winked at him. Some Domon look-alike let out a catcall. The girls to his right stared at them with dreamy eyes, while a little boy pretended to be gagging while the little girl next to him covered her eyes and muttered, "Oh gross."

This was very embarrassing. But when he turned towards her and saw that her face was all lit up in a smile, it no longer mattered.

He leaned down to speak into her ear. "You still owe me my welcome back gift, but I doubt I will be able to get it here, with all these people."

Fuuko's eyes went as wide as saucers. "What--?"

Tokiya rolled his eyes. "Remember our last conversation over the internet? You admitted that I was a bishounen."

"Did you have to rub it in? I remember that but I don't remember promising you a gift." She looked thoughtful.

Clueless, indeed. Tokiya leaned in closer and dropped a kiss on her cheek. "That's your clue."

He was very, very, very irritated when the bistro broke into another round of applause. Honestly, didn't these people have lives as well as their own businesses?

Fuuko blushed but she threw her arms around his waist and pulled him closer. "Now I know what you're talking about. But this is what I can manage at the moment. No, uh—privacy, you know."

The volume of applause went louder and did not stop until the couple sat down. "You look great. Did you lose weight?" Fuuko asked.

Mikagami, who did look great in a long-sleeved black shirt and jeans, rolled his eyes. And in three, two one—Fuuko counted silently—his face formed a smirk. "I did. So, why were you late?"

"Mi-chan--," she tried to think of ways to say she overslept her nap.

"Tokiya." He cut in.

"TOKIYA." Fuuko mumbled distractedly, focusing on her next move. In times like these when she was being pressured by Mi-chan, her natural creativity manifested itself spontaneously.

She had a strategy. Clearing her throat, she said, "With the type of acuity you possess, nothing and nobody can get away—unless you let them. I am going to get away and this will officially be the eighth time, if you're keeping count. I know I am."

Tokiya propped an elbow on the table and casually rested his chin on its open palm. He leaned towards her and regarded her with an intensity that would've caused her to falter. "What makes you so sure?" he asked.

She shrugged and grinned openly. "Because I'm one of your favorite persons. No—I strand corrected. I am your favorite person."

"So, the late Miss Kirisawa has the audacity to be cocky." Mikagami regarded her with a look she fondly labeled hide and seek, because it attempted to hide amusement in places where one could easily find—if one knew where to look. Fuuko found it in his eyes at that moment, the spontaneous sparks that surfaced when they were having verbal spars such as this one.

Tokiya took advantage of her moment of introspection by continuing his lecture on the cons of being tardy. "When it comes to rationalizing that nasty habit of yours, you need to take lessons in logic." He paused. "What you said was a fallacy built on a truthful premise but leading to a conclusion which begs for proof." He said, matter-of-factly.

Fuuko winced at her boyfriend's uncanny ability to relate the most isolated things, like being unpunctual, to the either the academe or his profession.

But she wasn't backing down. She raised her eyes to level with his challenging glare. "Which argument begs for proof? The one where I said I'm your favorite person? Seeing that you aren't over and above denial like I thought, you ought to rebut my contention by saying I'm not your special girl after all."

Got you, Mi-chan! Reverse psychology and logic rolled into one cogent argument. She hid a smile, proud of herself for learning how to use his language from the times she spent in his company.

Tokiya fell silent, impressed. How did she manage to constantly amaze him? Logic was supposed to be his forte, not hers. She was supposed to excel at reading barometers and stuff like that. Being in a relationship with her was like waking up every morning and finding yourself in a place you never set foot in, filled with excitement and adventure.

After a substantial amount of time passed (and Fuuko looked smugger with each second), he still could not think of a clever remark so decided to speak freely. "If you were not my special girl, I would have tortured you for making me wait."

Fuuko brought a triumphant fist down on the table. "Yeah! You just let me get away with being late, buster! You lose, Mi-chan! Loser! Loser!" she chanted, throwing upward punches in the air repeatedly.

All eyes (which amounted to twenty-seven pairs) were drawn towards their table like magnets for the third time. A businessman sitting close by almost dropped his coffee mug in shock.

"I can't believe this." Mi-chan said, rolling his eyes dramatically.

"And besides, you don't mind waiting for me. You're fond of me." Fuuko asserted.

Tokiya raised a brow. "Feel free to jump to conclusions."

Fuuko shrugged. Mi-chan was being Mi-chan again. Besides, when she said she loved Mi-chan, she meant the whole package.

She reached for the book beside him and scanned its cover. "Plus, you have this to keep you company. What's this? Pride and Prejudice … wow, it says a lot about… you."

"Thanks a lot." Tokiya muttered.

A waitress appeared and unloaded two cups of coffee from her tray.

"I took the liberty of ordering." Tokiya told his girlfriend, who was presently occupied with the book. It was rather obvious and he had no idea why he said it. Perhaps it made him feel good to inform her that he knew her preference when it came to simple things like beverage. He also knew she consistently placed two teaspoons of sugar on her coffee. On Mondays she would never order her favorite hazelnut brew. She hated it when the coffee creamer would form lumps and float on the drink… she had coffee with Yanagi Sunday nights around eight o'clock p.m. …

The waitress walked away.

Fuuko momentarily glanced up from the book and flashed him a sideway smile.

Tokiya sipped his coffee seriously, noting the flood of warmth that covered him at the sight of her smile.

"Mi-chan—"

"Tokiya." He coolly interrupted. "I thought we settled this."

Fuuko sighed, then in an instant, her face changed and she grinned mischievously. "Baby," (He nearly spit out his coffee at this) "this is really different from the stuff you read. I mean, the last book was on Marxism, it had that ugly symbol in barf green on the cover. That was after you read Aristotle's Republic. Jane Austen, the author of this book, wrote about themes that I never imagined would interest you." Fuuko said, holding the book up. "You know, she's writes openly about the nature of life."

"And you think I can't relate to that because I'm an ice block." Tokiya said in a dry tone.

"Feel free to jump to conclusions." Fuuko shot back.

Tokiya suppressed the urge to laugh with a mild snort. It seemed like she was stealing his trophy in this verbal sparring match. He had to do something.

Noticing that she had not touched her coffee, he reached out and started stirring it for her. "You know who Jane Austen is? It seems as though you've been paying attention in your literature class after all." He then took the sugar container lying nearby and dropped in two teaspoons for her.

Fuuko glared at him. "Duh, of course I listen in class. I think you have this mistaken notion that we're still in high school and I sleep in class or cut classes—"

"No. Maybe there were other reasons, like distraction. Perhaps your thoughts were engaged in something or someone. " Tokiya looked skeptical.

"Yeah? Who?" Fuuko snapped, aware of his jealous streak.

"Me." He said this as if it was the most natural truth in the world. Taking a sip of her coffee and deciding it was good enough, he pushed the cup back towards her.

Fuuko blushed. "Okay. I didn't see that coming. But you know what, going back to our conversation, what I meant was that Jane Austen practically founded the genre of romantic comedies with her works. Do you read romantic comedies?"

Tokiya replied with scant affirmative.

"See? Now you understand why I'm confused at your choice of reading material." she handed the book to him.

Tokiya shook his head. "I bought this book in Hiroshima for you."

Fuuko blinked. "Me? Are you sure? Because if I weren't familiar with Jane Austen, I'd think it's a self-help book for people like you. You read it."

Tokiya muttered something inaudible under his breath. His girlfriend was clearly unaware of the fact that he went past all standards of patience and thrift in purchasing for her the collector's edition, packed with cliff notes and other valuable information. That was a mean feat in itself. "I already read it way back in high school. It was on my reading list in world literature. You can very well relate to it, Fuuko."

"You think so? Why? What's it about?"

Tokiya closed his eyes to help him focus on the story's summary. "It's set in the Regency era, but I don't have time to explain that right now. A woman named Elizabeth Bennet is initially attracted to Fitzwilliam Darcy but is repelled because of his pride."

The coffee Fuuko attempted to swallow almost spewed out of her nostrils. She ended up choking. Tokiya's instant reflexes led him to pat her on the back.

Next thing he knew, she was choking back laughter.

"What's so funny now?" Tokiya drawled.

"I'm sorry." She reached for his hand and give it a light squeeze. "It's just that the Darcy guy reminds me of someone." She looked straight into his eyes as her lips formed an affectionate smile.

He turned her palm over and laced his fingers with hers. "If you are accurate, you must be thinking of a handsome, rich, intelligent, well-bred--"

"Yes, it's you." No point in denying the obvious. Besides, her attention had drifted from the enumeration of his finer qualities to something more interesting. She stared at their locked fingers, appreciating how it made her feel like his hand was molded just to fit hers.

"What happened to them?" she asked when she managed to find her voice.

Tokiya's eyes snapped back to her face. Like her, his attention had lingered on their hands. His eyebrows narrowed. "What's the use of buying the book if you want me to tell you the whole story anyway?"

Fuuko pouted.

And because sometimes actions speak louder than words, Tokiya had no choice but to indulge her request. He sighed. "Well, Darcy started to pursue her and show his affections but Elizabeth had already labeled him as arrogant and proud, like someone I know would do."

"Okay—fine, let me entertain your digression if only for your amusement." she gave in, but with a grin. "I've called you an arrogant conceited jerk in the past because that head of yours, Mi-chan," --at this point, Tokiya again insisted that she call him by his first name-- "was so inflated I wondered how it could ever fit into your front door. Remember those times you called me a monk—"

He cleared his throat, because he did not want to remember those incidents when he used to associate a certain beautiful girl with banana-loving animals. "Anyway, Darcy gathers enough courage to propose to her and then—" He sealed his lips decidedly.

"And then what?" Fuuko asked.

Tokiya merely blinked. Their hands were still clasped so his attention drifted to the length of her fingers.

"And then what?" After reiterating the question thrice, she clenched her jaw and tightened her grip on his fingers, almost crushing them.

It would have cost him his pride if he growled in pain, so he absorbed the pain behind a stoic façade and did not release his grasp on her hand till she finally relented and loosened her crushing grip.

"You're still as violent as you were the day I met you." Tokiya accused.

"Don't blame me because you could've easily let go instead of enduring the pain." Fuuko shot back. She started stroking his almost bruised knuckles with her free hand.

Tokiya scowled at her. "Did it occur to you that apparently, I didn't want to let go?"

Fuuko looked up at him in surprise. Then in three, two, one—Tokiya silently predicted, a slow smile spread across her lips.

And this time he didn't see it coming, the gesture that melted his heart and would remain burned in his memory forever. She raised his hand to her lips and pressed a kiss to his knuckles.

An eternity lapsed and all he could do was stare at her.

"Breathe, Tokiya!" she ordered, breaking into gales of laughter. "It wasn't that bad. I believe you mentioned on more than one occasion that I'm a hot kisser."

She was tactless. A stone would appear more modest when placed next to her. But she was right, and this time he could not let her get away with it.

His face softened into the beginnings of a smile. "Perhaps I did."

Fuuko's eyes widened. Tokiya Mikagami—her protective, conservative boyfriend, did not normally take outrageous comments like that lightly. The last thing she expected was an agreement. Whenever he agreed to something disagreeable for her sake, there was always a price.

"and the only way to prove that you are a hot kisser is if you showed me here. We would both be happy. You can revel in the fact that you're right and I would get my welcome-back gift."

She looked at him and her face reflected doom.

Reverse psychology, baby. Don't mess with the expert. Tokiya's face spelled out his thought.


Author's Rant:

((Woohoo, pretty clever, Tokiya! Turning the table by using her logic tactic on her. But don't underestimate Fuuko Kirisawa—she's going to score a major point in the next chapter))

Author's Note:

I'm back guys and it feels great! ) I promise that I will not abandon you in this new fic. To all readers of Memorabilia, my apologies (if you want to know the reason why I discontinued that fic, head to my profile). This is what the future chapters would have materialized into if only I had actually researched and gotten past the anime/manga chapters.

There's something important for you to keep in mind as you read the future chapters. The plot is not presented to you chronologically. Why? Because I'm setting you up for a challenge.

This fic will be made up of eight chapters. After I post the last one, I'd like you to tell me how the chapters should be chronologically arranged. If there are at least ten readers who get it right, then….

Then we'll cross the bridge when we get there. For now, I'll have to dangle the suspense.

I will post CHAPTER 9 as the results chapter after I get your opinions. I will also reveal what I'm going to do in behalf of the readers who have identified the correct chapter order and for those who have been supporting this fic.

Send me a note, guys. Post a review. After all, I've been gone for a while and I missed writing for you.