: Dissonant Harmony :

by Shadow of Illusion


Summary: His once peaceful world was shattered early one morning; his stable routine thrown into variance by a single soul: his new, often obnoxious, neighbor.

Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue. Wouldn't be worth your trouble, anyway - I assure you.

WARNING!: Um, time-skipping involved. But that hardly seems to necessitate a warning label.

Brief A/N: I returned to writing fluff... and so this spun itself out on a random whim of, "gee, I wish there were more AoshixMisao stories..." (and listening to my sister plunk on the guitar) Please enjoy!


:: xoxoxo ::

He woke earlier than usual that morning. That, in and of itself, was an odd fact; especially considering he was up and about before the sun bothered to raise its lazy head from the horizon. A series of notes crashed against the thin walls of his apartment bedroom, and he almost swore the glass window shuddered from the impact.

Slowly, Aoshi removed the dark blanket and swung his feet to the cold wooden floor. The playing grew faster, the notes increasing in fervor as it reached a sudden crescendo, soaring towards the heavens before dwindling back to a softer melody.

As fascinating as it was, he held little interest for anyone or anything that failed to respect the unspoken laws of decent behavior in an apartment complex.

Shrugging on his bathrobe, he moved to peer out the window. Pulling back the curtains, his fingers pushed down on the upper blinds to provide a viewing source. Dawn had yet to arrive, making it slightly difficult to track down the guilty party, but track down the source he did. A tiny figure, nearly opposite his window, danced outside on the balcony while strumming a guitar. He narrowed his eyes in weary assessment. It had to be a girl, Aoshi decided, no boy was that scrawny or moved about quite like that. At least, none he had seen.

She seemed to sense his staring as the dancing and strumming came to a sudden halt. Her head turned this way and that, and he watched as she seemed to be staring back at him. Which was absolutely ridiculous, and he scoffed at the thought. But she raised her guitar in a mock salute before deciding to return inside.

Aoshi moved the blinds back into place and fastidiously adjusted the curtains into their former position. New neighbors, he groaned inwardly.

:: xoxoxo ::

Colors mixed and blurred, rendering themselves into shapes and objects beneath his skilled hand. Careful, masterful strokes eased life into the painting. He sat back to judge it. Blue eyes, the color of a stormy sky at daybreak, narrowed as they scanned the work.

And narrowed further as the screechy sounds of a guitar riff floated through his open window.

Honestly, he couldn't help the sigh that escaped him. Rubbing a hand down his clean-shaven face, Aoshi stood, unfolding stiff, long limbs from his seat as he stood. There was only one person in the entire apartment complex that would play a guitar at an ungodly hour. Only one soul who was uncaring enough, or free-spirited he supposed, to unleash that awful, ear-splitting racket upon the relatively quiet souls who resided here.

She beamed at him from her precarious perch on the balcony rail as he peered outside, guitar situated neatly on her tiny lap. He wondered if this was to become their shared morning ritual. Considering this had occurred nearly every day for the past few weeks, it would be a reasonable assumption.

"G'morning!"

Aoshi winced inwardly at the loud greeting. He leveled a frosty glare at the miscreant. "It was," he found himself replying in a level tone.

She stared at him, oceanic blue eyes gone wide in her tiny, pixie-like face. The girl unfolded her long, slim legs and hopped down from her perch in order to lean against the rails, long ebony braid swinging behind her. A large grin stretched itself from ear to ear. "Hey, he can speak!" she crowed jubilantly.

He felt his right brow curve upward faintly in response.

"I mean, you've never really said anything to me before. And, no, 'good morning' and 'good evening' do not count. That's not really conversational, you know." She paused, inhaled, and continued with zest. "That means I'm starting to grow on you, right?"

Aoshi wondered how it was possible to be this talkative this early. But the girl managed it. With apparent ease, at that.

She seemed to take his silence for an affirmative. "Awesome! Knew it'd happen eventually!" Her eyes sparkled in the early morning light, reminding him of sunlight tripping across ocean waves. Aoshi felt the sudden urge to capture that look, the bubbling life that poured from her in copious amounts. And squashed the same urge with a vengeance.

Annoying minx.

He allowed the barest of frowns to cross his face before he resolutely closed the window and drew the blinds. His painting would simply have to wait until she left for the day.

:: xoxoxo ::

It had been a quiet day. Not having woken up to a guitar solo threw him off slightly, and he wondered when exactly he had expected it to become part of his daily routine. He cleared his mind of such thoughts, however, to focus on his new piece. It was nearly finished, despite the fact that he had been given two weeks longer before it was to be displayed. Perhaps he would take a breather, allow the paint to dry, and come back to it. Something was still off – a little time away might give him the insight to remedy it.

A slight gust blew threw the window, toying with the blinds and curtains. His mistake, he glumly admitted, was to move to close it. His neighbor just happened to be outside and caught the movement.

"Hello over there!" She grinned widely, legs akimbo as she waved excitedly.

Normally, if he looked at a person long enough, they would mumble some sort of excuse and leave him be. Then again, he mused, the key word would be normal. And that girl managed to avoid the word like it was an atrocity.

"I'm Misao Makimachi, by the way. What's your name?" Misao leaned against the thin balcony rail, her long braid slipping over her shoulder with the movement.

"Aoshi Shinomori." He rarely hated the genteel mannerisms his parents had instilled early in his childhood, but at times like these – Aoshi felt entitled to resent it.

"Do you paint?"

His hand had wrapped itself around the window's base in preparation to close it. He looked at her, mildly curious as to her question. "Yes."

Misao's eyes beamed brightly as if secretly amused. "I wondered. Well, have fun with it!"

As he watched her tiny form disappear inside, Aoshi wondered at her question. Minutes later, a meeting with his mirror answered it. He frowned at the smudge of dark color on his chin. The expression darkened minutely as he recalled just what had distracted him enough to cause it.

:: xoxoxo ::

He sighed and fought the urge to turn around and head towards the check-out line. It was normal to run into people you knew at the supermarket, he was well aware of that, but to run into her? The small woman beamed up at him from beneath a worn jean beret, and tugged at her bright green jacket in excitement. Her hair was, as normal, tied back into a long plait that ended below her hips – messy strands of the dark locks framed her face in a manner that seemed to be orchestrated rather than haphazard.

"Hiya! How're you doing, neighbor?"

Aoshi stared down at her impassively from beneath the shield of his long bangs. She was absolutely incorrigible, he decided. And attractive, an unwanted voice whispered as he took notice of her tiny denim shorts, snug white tee, and black converse. She didn't bother with much jewelry or makeup, which somehow relieved him. He didn't think it would suit her very well, either.

"Um... earth to Mr. Shinomori... come in, please!"

He contemplated the thought of answering, but shrugged it off. Nodding in a vague gesture of politeness, he made his way towards another aisle. She followed.

"So, I was wondering..." she trailed off as he inspected a package of tea. Clearing her throat, the girl continued, undaunted by his lack of attention. "Do you want to come over sometime for dinner, maybe? I don't know if you cook or not – but I'm not too shabby at it, and I always thought having a home-cooked meal does wonders for the soul, or something like that." She grinned, pearly teeth flashing. "Interested?"

He shot her another long stare, and she shifted slightly. Her eyes flickered slightly with disappointment. "Guess not? Okay then, maybe I'll ask sometime later. You're busy, right?" She covered up any letdown previously apparent with a grin.

Aoshi watched her go, a slight twinge of guilt rippling in his stomach. "Misao."

She paused to look back over her shoulder at his quiet tone, surprise flickering transparently across her face. "Yeah?"

"Are you perhaps willing to wait until Wednesday?"

Her eyes lit up, and he felt somewhat pleased at her reaction. "You bet! Does seven o'clock work for you?"

Aoshi inclined his head in agreement. Misao's face was aglow with pleasure. "Awesome! Don't be late, okay?" Without waiting for another word or gesture, the girl darted off to who knows where. Surprisingly, Aoshi felt as though it was something to look forward to. As he picked up the remaining items on his list, he wondered if perhaps the girl had grown on him, just as she had suggested the other day. Somehow, he frowned at the cart handle as if it were to blame for his present dilemma, that did not sit well.

:: xoxoxo ::

She had done something to herself, he thought as she ushered him in Wednesday evening. The rambunctious hellion of a neighbor somehow appeared softer, more feminine. At least, he amended, as much as she possibly could without becoming someone else entirely. Just that thought alone made his insides curl with displeasure.

And the fact that he had just been of that opinion nearly set him on edge. So, when she offered to take his coat, he found his actions to be stiff and too polite. She could tell, and her large eyes scanned his thoughtfully.

"Well, everything's done!" she chirped, radiant smile lighting up her face. "Hope you're not a vegetarian or a vegan, or whatever, because I always have meat with my meals. But it's fish tonight, so I guess it'll be lighter. Is that okay?"

Aoshi knew she was rambling to put him at his ease, and appreciated it. He nodded, "Yes."

"Great!" Her tiny hand closed around his and she pulled him towards the dining room. He followed, allowing her to guide his steps. "So, take a seat, make yourself to home, and I'll have everything out in a sec!"

He hardly paid attention to what he ate, only discerning that it was good, and she was most definitely not 'shabby' at it, true to her claims. Instead, his head was filled with her laughing eyes and quick conversation, her antics and wild gestures. She was like a sprite, he decided, as they moved on to dessert. All action and mischief rolled together into a whimsical package.

And he found that he still wanted to capture her essence on paper. On any medium, actually. She would suit so many. Clay perhaps, he thought, would accommodate her. Or oil. Something that could portray her charm and vivacity.

His artist's eyes noticed Misao wore navy blue tonight. It suited her eyes and highlighted her fair skin and dark hair. Aoshi wondered absently what her hair would look like unbound and flowing about her thin form. His eyes roved her face and landed on her small but plump mouth. And belatedly realized that she was asking him a question.

She grinned in a slightly lopsided fashion as she repeated herself. "So what did you think? Was it horrible or did you like it?"

He floundered slightly, and hoped she was asking about the meal. "It was very good."

Her eyes lit up, "Great! I tried out one of my friend's recipes, so I was hoping that it was as good as he said it was. You never know, right? But I'm glad it worked out!"

Aoshi merely nodded in acquiescence. When he left that night, he wondered just how she would look portrayed as a fairy, wings unfurled in mid-flight while strumming some sort of instrument. It kept his mind from wondering about certain other things, at least.

:: xoxoxo ::

Somehow, as the weeks slipped by into months, Misao Makimachi – his once most aggravating neighbor – had turned into a daily guest. With a key of her own, no less. He still had yet to figure out just how she had managed the last feat, but opted to not pry into it. Considering the girl, it was a safer route.

So, as he applied the final coat of paint to his newest project, he heard a creak of the door. Before he could cover the miniature statue, a startled gasp of awe sounded to his right. He groaned inwardly, his heart racing in slight panic. Surely, she would think he was an idiot for doing something like this, if not worse.

Aoshi Shinomori was no coward; but, at the moment, he didn't dare look at her reaction.

"That's amazing! Oh, wow! Geez, I didn't know you were this awesome!" She pranced around him and the creation, her light steps echoing slightly in the Spartanly decorated space. "Aoshi! That's me, right? It's so gorgeous!"

He glanced at her through his dark fringe of bangs, mildly surprised at her elated smile. "You... like it?" The question came out in lower tones than he had meant, but she heard him plainly.

"I love it!" She threw her arms around his shoulders. Aoshi stiffened slightly as he felt Misao's slight form pressed against his. Forcing himself to relax, he turned slightly to gauge her reaction more fully. Her eyes were glued to the statue, tracing the delicate folds of the wings, the gentle fluttering appearance of the goddess-styled dress, and admiring the long ebony locks that seemed to have caught a breeze.

Misao's pert nose crinkled, and her face clouded slightly as she studied it.

He was confused at this sudden change of attitude. Glancing from the girl to her fantasy twin, he failed to see the problem. After all, she hadn't minded his using her as a model, so what now?

"She's prettier than me," Misao voiced her thoughts abruptly in a petulant tone.

Aoshi sat in silence for a moment, fighting the odd urge to laugh. He glanced at her, and saw her glaring at him. She removed her arms to cross them firmly over her small chest. He felt a slight loss at the lack of warmth. He leaned back, patiently waiting for her to state her mind.

"You're laughing at me."

His eyebrow lifted slightly. "No."

"Yes. You are. I can tell." She glared fiercely at him.

"I believe," he stated indifferently, "that my work hardly compares to the original."

Aoshi watched, slightly amused, as her mouth fell open at his statement.

"Y-you...!" She pointed a finger at him, disbelief etched clearly onto her features. "You said a whole sentence again! And a compliment! I should put this on my calendar!"

The amusement suddenly fled.

"I mean, it's nice and all, just really rare!" She cajoled, catching his change of mood. Was he becoming that easy to read? He hoped not.

A lengthy silence stretched between the two, but, somehow, it wasn't uncomfortable. Should it be, he wondered. She fidgeted slightly and played with her hair as she looked from him to his work and back.

"You know what I think?"

He hummed slightly in response.

"I think you're in love with me."

Aoshi looked up, completely startled by her sudden announcement. His heart skipped slightly in his chest at the thought he had refused to ponder since their first dinner together. Brows faintly furrowed together, he stared at her, silently questioning.

"Well," she pouted, "it would be completely awkward if you weren't, you know, since I'm totally head-over-heels for you."

His stomach clenched with something and his heart stuttered again painfully at her bold declaration. His mind whirled before everything clicked neatly into place. That would explain his allowing her to invade his life, his privacy, and somehow allow her to attach herself to him. He had thought about it before, momentarily, but had always shut it down before allowing himself to probe the matter too deeply.

But, somehow, this felt right.

Misao fidgeted more anxiously, face slightly red as her blush deepened. "Come on, Aoshi! Say something, will you?"

He lifted his head and looked at her, eyes searching hers. Content with what he saw, he nodded slightly. "...Perhaps you are right."

She grinned widely, and struck a pose. "Of course I'm right! Misao Makimachi is always in the right, I'll have you know!" At his silence, she punched his shoulder. "You could admit it."

He nodded merely to placate her.

"Aw... you take all the fun out of it."

:: xoxoxo ::

Aoshi woke early that morning to the sound of a guitar softly strumming. He blinked, bleary vision clearing slightly to make out Misao's slim form outlined in sunlight as she stood near the open window. She grinned when she caught his glance, a wicked glint in her wide blue eyes.

"G'morning!"

He grunted in response and sat up, the dark blankets pooling around his waist. His eyes flickered to the alarm clock on their shared nightstand before fixing on her once more. At least she had waited for a more normal waking hour. Today.

"Y'know," she began thoughtfully as her nimble fingers tuned a slightly off string, "I kind of miss our neighbor days."

Aoshi felt his brow rise at that.

"Not that I don't like living with you!" Misao quickly amended, mouth quirking at his silent disconcertment. "I just kind of miss you glaring at me from the window."

"...I did not glare."

Her brow rose to match his.

Aoshi matched her stare, and the quiet debate lasted less than a minute before she erupted into a fit of giggles.

"Did too glare!"

He chose not to reply, opting to instead get ready for the day.

A pair of slim arms wrapped themselves around his waist contritely. "All right, you didn't glare." Merriment laced her tones, "But it was awfully close to it." As she laughed into his back, Aoshi allowed her the win. Besides, maybe he had glared at her. Just slightly.

She had been an aggravation, after all.


:: xoxoxo ::

Ah... (head-desk) Aoshi makes Kenshin look like an open book in comparison... But this was so much fun to write (thank goodness for Misao)! Comments and critiques are very much loved and appreciated, so please review to let me know what you think!