Title: Once Upon a Late Night Shopping Trip
Warnings: No, not really.
Word count: 2,222. No joke. Mikami would sakujo me be upset if it were anything different. Like 2,223.
Prompt: Written for the Secret Santa contest at dn_contest. 'Pale' since they are both fair-skinned with the possibility for extremely subtle Mikami/Naomi, perhaps.
A/N: Not mine. Also, first ever official, posted DN fic. Be gentle. :3
The slender young man snapped on his latex gloves carefully before sliding his hands into a pair of gray winter gloves. He gingerly pulled a cart from the row. If he had his choice, he would go without, but he had put off the shopping for so long that there was no way he'd be able to carry what he needed in his arms. Besides, all that…dust. And dirt? Right by his face? No, thank you; he'd deal with the cart.
He pushed the cart methodically (he was methodical in everything he did,) wincing at the errant squeak behind him. He turned to question the perpetrator but – no one was there. No one else was in the aisle at all. His brow furrowed and he looked back at his cart.
It was impossible. He didn't pick squeaky carts. Squeaky carts were inferior and, being a perfectionist (or at least, that's what he liked to tell himself,) he couldn't have a squeaky cart.
He gave the shiny silver contraption a slight push.
He jumped back as if he'd been stung. His cart was the inferior one. His cart was…no. No, that was just unacceptable. Looking around, he backed a few steps before spinning on his well-shod heel and heading to the cart corral. He pulled out another one and this time, he had the wherewithal and the intelligence (or so he told himself) to test it. He let out a sigh of relief, felt the pressure in his chest decrease.
Couldn't shop with an inferior cart.
Moving down the first aisle, he plucked a package of biscuits off the shelf and set it carefully in their designated corner of the raised child's seat. If biscuits went in the main area of the basket, there was a chance they'd get squished.
And he couldn't deal with squished biscuits.
He added a bag of rice to the main compartment of the cart. He had a taste for cold cereal, but he would never allow himself to eat it. Things could get in there. Oh, they say those plastic bags inside the boxes were sealed "airtight for freshness" but who knew what got in before they were sealed?
Rice, however, could be boiled. And he well knew that boiling killed…things. He gave a delicate shudder. He added a second bag of rice.
He grabbed two bags of frozen vegetables; this week was mixed vegetables, and broccoli. Next week was for corn and peas. If he changed his schedule, his stomach would get upset and well, he couldn't have that.
A thought flitted through his mind; that maybe he was imagining things, that maybe – he carefully set a bag of four (not three, or five) tomatoes next to the biscuits – he should try eating corn this week, because, when was the last time he had tried? But then he imagined the upset stomach and all of the things that accompanied it and shut off his mind. Better not to court trouble, after all.
He rounded a corner end-cap to head toward the dairy products. He preferred to keep a bottle of milk and a carton of eggs on hand. Just in case. He pulled the first bottle and glanced at the date. It was as he thought.
He set the bottle down on an emptier shelf and pulled out the next one. What was with this store? A milk bottle with a sell-by date within three days was impossible. There was absolutely no way he could drink an entire bottle of milk within three days. He was contemplating the virtues of complaining to the store's manager when he pulled out one last bottle. It was dated six days from now.
That was acceptable. Slowly, he replaced the milk bottles he had taken out. Labels out, sitting evenly on the shelf. After all, he'd worked in a grocery store before. He knew how important it was that the products be displayed accurately.
Setting his chosen bottle of milk in his cart, he headed down the aisle to the eggs. He regarded them suspiciously (as he did all things) and opened a carton, carefully inspecting the small eggs one by one. A minuscule crack in one of the small white orbs could lead to big problems. Bacteria problems and bacteria was not happening as far as he was concerned. After the eggs passed his strict inspection, he set the carton carefully next to the tomatoes and biscuits. They always went next to the tomatoes.
He rounded another corner and headed down the last aisle and toward the register. Being near the middle of the night—his preferred time for shopping because there were less people--the store was pretty much empty, except for a few people here and there. There was a small black-haired woman at the far end of the aisle, most of her upper body inside the tall, glass-fronted freezer, reaching for her own stack of frozen vegetable bags. He wondered what schedule she was on. Maybe she was buying corn.
As he moved down the aisle, cart not squeaking, the woman pulled back from the freezer and toward her cart, dropping the bags in. Her hair was a glossy, blue sort of black, a deeper black than even his own. It hung, silky straight, nearly to the elbows of her shiny black leather coat.
As if sensing him watching her, she looked up at him as she moved to the handle of her cart.
He felt himself stutter and stop. She was beautiful, and if he was honest, he had no problems noticing beautiful people. Not that he did anything about it. But he noticed them, who wouldn't? And she was beautiful. Well. Her coat was a bit rumpled. And...well, she had that crimp in her hair, probably from a ponytail. He felt his eyes tighten a bit as he studied her. There was a bit of a smudge below her left eye, most certainly from her makeup...but underneath the smudged dusting of makeup, the tired eyes and the--really, did she need that much?--smeared eye liner, her pale skin was flawless and smooth, and white as the moon.
She was utterly still, staring at him as he floundered for words, for an excuse behind his rude behavior.
For one of the few times in more years than he could count, he was utterly speechless. Oh, sure, he was known for being quiet, but he always knew what to say - he just chose not to do so. But this time?Completely, utterly speechless. When she spoke up finally, he felt himself twitch, startled by her low voice.
"Was there...ah...did you say something?" She looked up at him, dark brown, almost black eyes, ridiculously guileless and huge against the backdrop of her paper white skin. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He closed his mouth, cleared his throat and tried again.
"No. Uh, forgive me, please." He shifted his cart slightly to the right in order to go around her. She could at list adhere to the rules of the road, he grumbled silently to himself as he moved past her. He let a wan smile light up his normally stern, pale facade.
He was more than halfway down the aisle from her when she called out,
"It's so quiet, huh?" She shrank back a bit when he turned to look at her over his shoulder, stumbling a bit over her words. "I mean...just. Here. At night." She swallowed. "It's lonely."
"I…actually prefer to shop at this time of night. Less – people – crowded."
"Oh." Her face fell a bit. He felt the blood rush to his cheeks, felt the two twin roses bloom on his face. Of course, it was merely due to the warmth of the store. He loosened his collar (but only a tiny bit – didn't want to wrinkle anything). He kept the gloves on. He gave her another small smile, a tiny bow and started to move away again.
"Do you…um. Always shop here?" His brow furrowed at her question.
"Ah, yes… quite often. I live near here." And he told her why?
"Oh...of course." Her cheeks tinged red a bit and she turned away, back to her cart. "Have a nice evening." It was nearly 2 in the morning.
"You as well." After a moment, he stepped back slightly before turning on his heel and grabbing the handle of his cart again. He pushed it toward the registers; his goal was in sight.
The squeaking started again.
She was sitting in the car, rifling through her bag, looking for her wallet. She glanced out the window at the fat snowflakes drifting lazily to the parking lot. Cursing under her breath, she finally located her wallet and, stuffing it in her pocket and lifting her hood, climbed out of her car and hurried into the store.
A blast of warm air greeted her and she pushed her hood back before grabbing a hand basket and heading to the produce aisle. She had a taste for a particular meal, so she knew what she needed. At least the trip would be short.
She selected her vegetables, setting them in the basket without putting them in the offered produce bags. She moved somewhat haphazardly through the aisles, adding rice and noodles and sauces and bread and various other sundry items, filling her basket. She had a half-thought about organizing the items in the basket so they'd fit better, but ignored it, tossing it from her mind.
She headed down one last aisle and, looking further down the aisle, reached for a package of grated wasabi, her eyes shooting back when they brushed something other than the package she was expecting.
Her fingers jumped back and she looked at the wool glove clutching the package in front of her. Her eyes narrowed. She recognized that glove. Tracing her eyes from the long, slender, wool-covered fingers to the owner's pale face, tinged with pink. His eyes widened - in surprise? Recognition?
His arm shot back jerkily, and he clenched his fist, keeping his arm tightly by his side.
"You, ah…" Why did she seem to lose words around him? "You're not shopping at your normal time." A small ghost of a smile flirted with his thin lips, before the stern line set in again.
"No. I have plans that will prevent it from being possible tonight." She nodded and stepped back a bit. After a moment's hesitation, he pulled the package off the shelf and, after seemingly taking time to think of his actions, handed it to her. "I believe you were reaching for this." She blinked at it and nodded.
"Thank you." She put the package into her basket and watched as he took one of his own, adding it to his ruthlessly organized shopping cart. She gave a small nod, mostly to herself than anyone else, and started to head down the aisle. She had a small thought, let out a breath and turned on her heel.
"Do you want to get tea?" She watched his retreating back as he slowed to a halt. He didn't turn to face her, merely glanced at her over his shoulder.
"No, thank you."
Feeling more disappointment than she cared to think about at the moment, she nodded again. She turned to head down the aisle again, stopping when she heard his low, smooth voice again.
"As I said, I have plans this evening. Are you free on Thursday?" She stopped to look at him. He had a look of stun on his face, as if he couldn't believe he had just asked. He fidgeted with items on the upper rack of his cart, moving the tomatoes slightly to the left.
"I'm sorry?" She shook her head, opening her mouth to speak, but he cut her off.
"You asked if I want to go for tea. As I said tonight won't work, but yes… I would like to try for Thursday, perhaps." The pink tinge rose on his cheeks again. "You, ah… if you want to, of course."
She gave a soft, slow smile, a similar pink hue tinting her own cheeks.
"Yes, that would be nice. Do you..at Nippon Bakery?"
"That would be fine." She gave a small nod, exchanged a smile with him and hurried down the aisle before he could say anything else – like back out, when he was obviously so uncomfortable asking.
She wasn't sure what his name was. She didn't know anything about him. He could be a murderer for all she knew. Once she found out his name – on Thursday – she would use her resources and background to dig up all the information she could.
But for now, she would take it as it appeared – take him as he appeared. He seemed a bit young, but intelligent and thoughtful. Someone she could have a conversation with. Even… even with Raye, she hadn't been able to have a real conversation in so long – she was retired, technically, and therefore got pushed aside, even when Raye used her as a sounding board for a case he was working on. And if she offered any insight, it was more or less ignored.
No, she didn't know him. But, well, you had to meet new people sometime, right?
Please R&R. Thanks.