Disclaimer: I do not own.
A/N: Hehe. Uh... I found a new pairing?
How many times has it been?
One too many, she thought dryly, watching him slurp down the noodles with a detached sort of interest, her own large bowl clean and empty. His satisfied sigh signified the end of yet another round, and she stifled a sigh as well.
This is the last time. I will not hang around this boy any—
"Oi, Idol-san, are you admitting defeat already?"
Violet eyes flickered. "I finished before you."
"No." He took a long drink of the noodle's soup before setting the empty bowl down with a clank, identical to hers. "The challenge was to see who enjoyed their ramen the most, not who inhaled noodles like a ramen robot."
"Are you saying I ate like a robot?"
He grinned playfully, eyes twinkling with mirth. "I didn't say anything like that." The boy fiddled with his chopsticks, absently scraping for some microscopic leftovers remaining in the bowl. "Besides," he continued, "I'm only being observant."
Her eyes narrowed at the boy next to her, taking in his sports jacket and casual slacks. In comparison, she was dressed impeccably in the latest fashion, her skirt, her boots and even her jewelry matching perfectly. He was more prepared for a ramen-eating contest than she was, but then again, it wasn't like she was ever prepared for these impromptu challenges. The ex-Jack always seemed to run into her when she was, more often than not, alone and feeling depressed to boot.
"That's a surprise," she remarked carelessly, trying not to think that he had just given her a significant glance. "If that's the case, I'll leave you to your observing."
"Whoa, hold on," he protested, waving his chopsticks to stop her. "Aren't you having seconds?"
"We've already had three bowls each," she reminded him.
She lifted an eyebrow, "It's getting late. Aren't your parents worried?"
"What about your brother? Isn't he worried?" he shot back.
It was a slight blow, but a blow nevertheless. They both knew that Ikuto wouldn't worry about her tardiness unless she was in mortal danger or if Amu was involved in some way or form. Even though she was mostly over it, she wasn't really over it... nor did she think she'd ever be.
Swallowing the painful lump rising in her throat, she raised her hand to call the check. She would not sit here with him another second. "Excuse me Sir—"
"Sir! Two more bowls of tonkatsu ramen please!" he called loudly over her voice, ignoring her startled look.
"Sure thing!" the old man called back, already draining the noodles.
"You..." She started fiercely, but he caught her hand and pulled it back down, not looking at her. She shut her mouth at that and then turned silently away from him. He released an audible breath and let go of her.
She almost didn't hear him, being loud and crowded as it was at this hour. But he was sitting close enough for her to hear his sighs, so it didn't surprise her. Still, it was rare of him to apologize, and in spite of herself, her lips tugged reluctantly.
"Sorry for what?" she asked. When he gave her a surprised look, she continued airily, "If you mean that I'm picking up the tab, then that's a no. You're paying for everything."
"What? But you're richer than me!"
"You're the gentleman."
He sighed in mock defeat, throwing his hands up. "Fine, fine! I can't say no to a compliment, can I?"
She rolled her eyes, "What compliment? The point is that you dragged me here to eat, therefore you have to pay for—"
"Wait a sec, you're the one who agreed to challenge me!"
"And I won, didn't I?"
"Being a ramen robot, yeah."
"Why do you say that?"
She propped her chin on one hand indifferently, glancing at him. "Why am I a robot? Idols aren't robotic, you know." Not that she cared, really, what he thought.
He mimicked her pose and replied, "I didn't say you sang like a robot, Idol-san. I'm saying that you ate ramen today like you didn't taste anything. All three bowls." She didn't say anything. He leaned toward her slightly and said in a lower voice, "If your brother was here I bet you would have eaten happily like a dog."
Her back stiffened at his words and she snapped, "We wouldn't have eaten here in the first place!"
Almost immediately she regretted her words as soon as they came out, the sharp volume silencing the ramen house as the occupants turned to look at them. Still, what she said was true; she and Ikuto would have eaten at a far more quiet and expensive place, with white tablecloths and faint music in the background. Certainly not a small and crowded ramen house where the tables were hard wood full of gnarls and dents left from countless bowls of noodles, or where the background noise consisted of hearty conversations and unrestrained laughter. She added in a quieter tone, "Ikuto doesn't like eating out."
But the boy was unfazed, leaning back smoothly in his seat as he replied, "Is that so?" Then, in an inaudible mutter, "So I'm just a backup, huh?"
"Nothing." He broke into a wide grin as their noodles came, exclaiming in his usual cheer, "Okay! Since I'm picking up the whole tab, I might as well enjoy every single bite! You'd better enjoy it too." His chopsticks strayed near her steaming bowl and he continued, "But since you're not in the mood for ramen, I guess I'll help you out a bit..."
Her chopsticks were barring his way in a flash. "Who says I'm not in the mood?" she asked dangerously.
"So aggressive!" He laughed and returned to his bowl, apparently satisfied by her reaction.
Utau turned to her bowl as well, allowing a slight smile. It didn't matter how many times this happened, because it had always been the same. Somehow or other, whenever she ate ramen with him, her chest and mind felt a little lighter than before, and she always walked out with a mood as full as her stomach. At the very least she was glad for the distractions these challenges provided.
After all, she reminded herself, it was he who would pay for the meal. She had absolutely nothing to lose in playing along with his game. And speaking of which...
"Whoever finishes last gets to pay next time, Idol-san."
"You're on, Souma."
A/N: I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. THIS being the fic, the anime/manga, the pairing, and my desperate attempt to make this situation as realistic as possible. Surprisingly, Kukai and Utau are quite easy to write... kudos to Peach-Pit for developing the characters so well. :D By the way, I have no idea when this fic takes place. Somewhere in between the ramen moment and... the end of the series? Eheh.
More Kukau anyone? Please write some. I'm sure there are more readers than just me who want to read about them.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it!