Teru used to think that smoking was one of the most horrible and inexcusable of habits in anyone, regardless whether they were teenagers, adults or grown-ups.
Cigarette smoke choked her and permeated her clothes and stunk up her whole room for days on end. Moreover, to her cigarettes were a manifestation of idiocy in a way—because smokers realized the habit is hazardous for their health and that of their friends, yet they still adamantly refused to quit on it. Not only that, nicotine was addictive and one didn't need to be a genius to figure out that addiction is bad in more ways than one.
But most of all, cigarettes were a complete waste of money to her, since all they had was cons and still they were sold at such high prices. And people still continued to buy them, having already become dependent on them, being unable to live without them anymore.
The vicious circle of this vice made Teru scoff at anyone who was a habitual smoker.
Or, at least, she used to think that way.
That was before she met him.
If she had thought that habitual smokers were bad, she was almost sure that the word "chain smoking" was created for the sole purpose of portraying accurately Kurosaki's opinion and attitude to cigarettes.
At first, when she'd felt constantly slighted and teased by him, she'd found his smoking as yet another reason for her hate for cigarettes. And him. Because wherever he went, the cloud of cigarette smoke would follow him. Every moment he consciously realized that his hand was free, he'd take out and light a cigarette.
It wasn't just a horrible habit—it was an atrocious one.
Then he'd begun showing her his true colours and one thing had led to another and she'd fallen in love with him. She'd heard before that being in love with someone could make you put on rose-coloured glasses when viewing that person, but she had thought herself immune to such a thing—after all, Kurosaki was still annoying as hell most of the time even after they'd begun dating, so there was no way she was being affected by that weird syndrome, right?
She'd realized it only after she'd caught herself thinking that the smell of cigarettes did not irk her as much as it did anymore. It's not like she would ever be able to come to like it—that sort of thing was physically impossible—but she didn't loathe it with as much of a passion anymore.
Why was that? Well, she reasoned with herself it was probably because the smell of his favourite brand of smokes made her think of him. And in her mind, regardless what happened and regardless of his claims that he was a horrible individual unworthy of forgiveness, he still remained the most wonderful and most dear person to her.
Besides, his vice wasn't really all that great, when she considered it in all earnestness. He didn't steal, he didn't extort people for fun (though she realized well this was not entirely true on all occasions) and he didn't kick puppies just because he could. She was even kind of surprised that he had such an ordinary habit.
If he didn't have a nasty habit or two to balance things out, he'd almost be too good to be true.
This was why Teru established an odd, reluctantly accepting indifference as an attitude towards his smoking. She still hated the fact he did it—she didn't want him to get lung cancer—but she didn't make it a point to lecture him on it every chance she got like she would've thought she would when she first got to know him.
Gradually though, the more time she spent around him and the deeper she fell in love with him, the more annoyed she was becoming with it. And it wasn't even the ration type of annoyance that would be self-explanatory in this sort of situation: no.
She begrudged the cigarettes the fact that they were always in his mouth.
Whenever she looked him, whether he was just lazing around, working in the school or on his computer, he'd always have a cigarette stuck between his lips, drawing generous gulps of air through it.
And whenever she took in that sight, a vein would pop into visibility on the side of her forehead. She might be older and a bit more mature, but when it came to some of the things he did, she almost infallibly reverted to infantile behaviour.
It was his entire fault that she was jealous of the cigarettes he always smoked.
But could she really be blamed for feeling that way? Inanimate and unhealthy objects spent more time with his lips that she—his girlfriend of almost a year now—did! He claimed he loved her and that he couldn't get enough of her but no matter how she looked at it, it seemed that he preferred smoking to kissing her.
Not to mention that even when he did kiss her, his mouth was completely monopolized by the foul taste of the cigarettes.
This fuelled her hate for them even further.
At first she had decided not to say anything. After all, it was his business what he wanted to do with his health—it was his life. She didn't like this incredibly displeasing vice of his but she wasn't going to try to forcefully change him—that would feel like she was trying to impose herself on him and she didn't want that. He'd already done enough for her, bent enough of his principles for her sake – she wasn't going to con him into giving up smoking, too.
Which, of course, didn't mean that if he decided it on his own she wouldn't be endlessly overjoyed with the fact.
He'd told her a few times that he liked it when she was taking initiative and being on the offensive when it came to their relationship. But how was she supposed to be initiative when he was always sucking on those stupid things?!
Teru heaved a great sigh, a look of annoyance twisting her features as she glared at her notebook in front of her. This wasn't good—thinking about this matter always unruffled her feathers and now wasn't a good time to be distracted by such thoughts. She had exams coming up and she needed to focus.
"What's wrong? University material getting too tough to handle?" the subject of her distracting ponderings spoke up from by her side, in a light, joking tone.
She turned to look at him and her brow and the corner of her mouth twitched slightly when she found Kurosaki sitting on his sofa next to her with a newspaper in his hands and a complacent smirk on his face.
And a cigarette sticking from his mouth.
She sighed dramatically again, demonstratively turning away from him.
"Are you stupid? Of course not! I'm a hardworking and really smart girl—there's no way this sort of problems would be too hard for me when I study seriously. Just shut up and go bald already, Kurosaki!" she mumbled under her breath, trying to immerse herself in school work again. She didn't want to look at him anymore or she might really blow a fuse and say things she would later be called childish for even thinking.
But in facing away from him, she missed the puzzled look that seized Tasuku's features. He blinked a few times, as if doing so would bring some clarity to her sudden and completely unprecedented outburst.
What had he said that had annoyed her that much?
He took a long drag of his cigarette and exhaled a puff of smoke that rose slowly to the ceiling and then diffused in the air. He sighed and folded the paper putting it away. He stared at her profile and the severe expression on her face for a bit before putting his cigarette in the ashtray and resting his chin on his propped up elbow.
"Hey, what's up with you? Why are you so angry?" It was unlike Teru to not have any reason whatsoever for being pissed. Sure, sometimes her reasons were silly and stupid—because she was too, and he said that with all the love he had—but they were reasons nonetheless.
So her completely uncalled for reaction to seeing his face was something he found absolutely inexplicable.
His query seemed to only irritate her further though, because her grip on the pen she was holding tightened and he could see her lips set in a straight line.
"What the hell do you care? Go back to reading your newspaper and leave me alone, baldy!" she responded ill-temperedly and practically buried her head in her notebook. She hoped that would be enough of a hint for him to leave her alone.
She really wasn't in the mood for this and the stench of the stupid cigarette still slowly sizzling in the ashtray wafted to her nostrils tauntingly.
Tasuku's brow twitched in now mounting annoyance as well. What was with her way of speaking to him anyway? It had been a while since they've been in a pointless spat. If pissing him off without reason was what she was trying to achieve, she was doing a damn good job.
"What's your problem? I thought you were studying so I didn't say anything because I didn't want to bother you until you were done!" he snapped back, incapable of reining in his reaction.
"Oh, is that so? How considerate of you. Then you should stick with your plan and shut up—you're ruining my concentration." The twitching tic in her eyebrow was getting worse. She paid it no heed as she continued. "Better yet, go smoke somewhere else, Kurosaki—you're giving me a headache!"
"Wait a minute! This is my apartment! I can smoke wherever the hell I want—!" He began fervently but halted mid-sentence when she got up and started gathering her books briskly.
He stared dumbly for a couple of seconds, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
"Where are you going? Weren't we going out to dinner when you finished studying?"
She glared at him out of the corner of her eye once she'd got all her things in her hands.
"I can't focus here, so I'm going back to my place. I don't know if I'll be hungry later, so you can go ahead and eat without me—"
She made an attempt at a hasty escape but before she could pull it off, he caught her by the arm. His hold was tight but not painful and just firm enough to convey his change of tack from habitually quarrelling to serious.
"Why are you angry with me? Tell me or I wouldn't be able to change it."
"I'm not angry. I just need to get some fresh air, which is impossible when you're around." She was putting up a fight with this and being obnoxiously obstinate. He didn't appreciate that. He hated it when she was acting like a tough nut to crack.
Whenever she did, he had to resort to his Ultimate Tactic.
Now seemed like a fine time to whip it out.
So he did. He pulled her by the arm until she lost her hold on her books, letting them clatter to the floor, as he held her tightly in his embrace. He was so much larger than her frame-wise that it felt like she was completely engulfed by him when he hugged her like this.
The closeness was his sure-fire way of crumbling her defenses.
And he could see it was already working.
While she was still trying to pull away, he could practically hear it in her voice as she complained that she was really half-hearted about wanting to be freed. So instead of letting his quick temper get the better of him—like he usually did—he pressed her closer to his chest and buried his face in her soft hair next to her earlobe.
"Why are you angry with me, Teru?" he asked her again, this time barely above a whisper. His mouth was so close to her ear that she could feel his breath tickling her.
He was so sly, she decided while she fought that blush that threatened to rise on her cheeks. He wasn't playing fair at all. He knew that she could never keep up the act when he started talking with that tone which he saved for her and her only.
"I told you I wasn't angry, stupid Kurosaki!" she insisted, but instead of trying to pry herself away, her small dainty fingers fisted the front of his shirt, holding onto him tighter.
He smiled softly.
"And I told you that I wasn't buying that. So tell me—you've never been really good at hiding things from me, you know."
She mumbled something incoherent against his chest that he failed to catch.
"What was that? I didn't hear you."
"I said it was stupid and it doesn't matter," she muttered petulantly, burying her face in his shirt and hiding her face from his view.
"It matters to me," he insured her in a cajoling tone, one of his hands' fingers intertwining in her long locks of soft hair.
The touch made her heart skip a beat and her cheeks to flare with colour. When he gently pulled her away from himself to look at her face, cupping her chin so he could lock his gaze with hers, her pulse was already racing.
"I already forgot," she murmured truthfully because all the tension that had settled so securely in her shoulders had left her the moment he had given her that look.
He didn't seem convinced in the sincerity of her statement, but, to his credit, he didn't comment on it and leant in towards her when she did as well.
They had done this so many times already and yet every time it took her breath away. When his lips touched hers and locked together with them, it sent a pleasant warmth streaming throughout her entire system. He talked sassily and used crude language so the first time he had kissed her she had been surprised by how soft and gentle his lips were.
She buried the hand that wasn't holding on to his shirt in his blond mane of spiky hair as she clung onto him for dear life. When she felt his tongue tracing the curve of her lips she wasted no time in parting them so he could deepen their kiss.
He was lucky that his arduous kisses and the way his nimble tongue explored her mouth numbed her brain completely. She didn't have enough mental resource to spare for anything else other than the indescribable, pleasant feelings that his sensual ministrations begot in her and how content she would be if they could stay like that—entangled together—forever.
But that was an unrealistic wish, because they broke apart not too long afterward when the need for air had become much too pressing to ignore.
He didn't pull away too far though, placing his forehead against hers, a serene expression on his face while he gently kneaded her scalp while she tried to regain her breath.
"Feel any better?" he asked her huskily.
"A bit, I guess," she relented.
Her hand that had been fisted in his shirt took his that wasn't buried in her hair, weaving her smaller fingers between his. She looked almost mesmerized at their joined hands with bated breath and a racing heart. Being near him always made her feel so warm and secure, like she was safe from any kind of harm and as if she could accomplish anything.
When he held her, it was like nothing else in the world existed but her and he, huddled so closely together it was impossible to tell where he ended and she began.
Teru sighed slowly, a small smile playing on her lips.
"Then again, if not for your nasty habit I wouldn't have felt bad in the first place," she said with a feigned pout, squeezing his fingers lightly.
When he seemed just as puzzled, she just laughed quietly. His nonplussed expression was always so innocent and priceless—how could she possibly stay angry at him for long?
"Seriously, Kurosaki, I know you're an adult and you can do whatever you want, but you always taste like cigarettes."
She was surprised that he blushed and turned away from her in embarrassment at her claim. She grinned and was overcome by the realization of how cute he could be without even meaning to before she pulled him in her embrace again, savouring the pleasant feel of his lean frame pressed up against her.
He didn't say anything and it was only after a minute or two that he reluctantly began to return the embrace, wrapping an arm around her waist. She had absolutely no idea what was going on in his head.
For this reason it was much to Teru's amusement that the very next day found Tasuku making his first attempts to quit smoking.
A/N: The topic of the story was something I thought would definitely bother Teru once these two got together, so I had to explore on it. I intended for it to be really short and quick but, as always, things got out of hand. *sighs* Anyway, this is my first attempt at writing my two new favourite characters so feedback would be more than hugely appreciated~