"Here are the files you wanted, President Ayuzawa." Yukimura held out the pile. Misaki thanked him and gestured for him to set them on her desk. He put the load of papers down gratefully and retreated.
"Happy to be back?" Kanou asked from beside her.
"I am," she admitted. "Happy to be off duty?"
"Oh yeah," he said.
At that moment, the bell signaling end of the school day rang. As the crowd of exiting students swelled and dissipated, two boys blew past the council room at dead a run.
"I'm going to win!" cried the one.
"No, you won't!" laughed the other.
Misaki shoved away from her desk and rushed out into the hallway in pursuit.
"No running the halls!" she yelled.
They glanced back at her, but both were smug in their belief they could outrun her with the lead they had.
Neither saw the figure that stepped out of the classroom ahead of them.
He caught them by their ties. Both let out loud retching noises as they were pulled off their feet by their necks. They landed on their backs, coughing and gagging. Usui looked down at them with narrowed eyes.
"No running in the halls," he said.
Misaki stopped, rolling her eyes. He'd done it again.
Sakura sidled up to her, giggling. "Looks like somebody stole your job."
"I would never steal Misa-chan's job," Usui said with feigned indignation as he joined them. He slung an arm around Misaki shoulder and pulled her close. "I'm just helping out because Misaki is so wonderful and so busy she deserves all the help I can give her. I'll do anything she wants; she needs only to ask."
Sakura and the others girls within earshot gave heartfelt sighs. Misaki growled and shoved him off her.
"Cut it out with the servitude act already!" she said, blushing hotly. "It's getting old."
Usui leaned in close so that his lips brushed her ear and made her shiver. "What other act would you have me play, then, hmm?" he whispered. "Would you rather I play the dominant male who carries his woman home over his shoulder and makes love to her the rest of the day?"
The girls outright swooned.
"Sh-shut up right now!" ordered Misaki.
Usui pretended to be stung by this. He slumped against the wall, looking putout. Even knowing he was just doing it to get to her, Misaki sighed and pressed a kiss to his cheek to apologize. He straightened, good mood instantly restored, and took her hand, pressing his own kiss to the back of it. Misaki blushed again and looked away.
"H-how are things going with your uncle?" she asked, changing the subject.
Usui shrugged, turning her hand over to trace hearts on her palm. Misaki hid another shiver. "We argued for the couch. But I won and he had to take the bedroom."
Misaki smiled as she remembered how happy Usui had been to get his old apartment back. There had been a rough couple of weeks where they'd both been called in for more questioning by the police, and twice to give testimony against Usui's grandfather in court, along with Cedric, the skittish maid Misaki had befriended, and surprisingly enough, Gerard. Now with the old man safely behind bars for a whole laundry list of illegal activities, including attempted murder, child abuse and neglect, they were finally back home where they belonged. Cedric had even transferred from his home city to move in with Usui. For getting off on such a rough foot, they were bonding quite well now.
"How's the guardianship going?" she asked.
Usui made a few more tickling passes over her skin before answering. "The papers are officially filed. Cedric says once we get a copy then I'm free to claim independence as a minor, if I want."
"That's nice of him," Misaki said.
Usui shrugged, noncommittal. He lifted her hand again and this time pressed her fingers to his lips, mumbling around them, "I'm thinking I might just… leave it as is. I've only got a year until I'll be declared an adult anyway. And Cedric's a pretty easy guy to live with."
Misaki knew what he was trying to say and smiled. Usui added in a soft undertone, "Though I'd rather be living with you." He nipped at her fingertips, making her jump and snatch her hand away.
"No, you wouldn't," she told him. "Not with how things are at my house right now."
Usui looked at her solemnly. "Your father?"
He had been aghast when she'd told him about that, and then apologetic that he hadn't been there to help. She'd told him it wasn't his problem to take care of, it was hers. And she had taken care of it. Her father took off again before she even came back, and her mother had taken it better than she'd expected.
"That isn't the problem," she huffed.
Misaki rolled her eyes. "As if you don't know. He's your uncle. I blame you, personally."
"Ah." Usui grinned knowingly and retook her hand. "But I can't be held responsible for the things he does."
"You brought him with you to my house for dinner. If you hadn't done that, they never would have met."
"We'd just gotten back and he didn't know anyone else. Should I have been rude and left him at home?"
"Yes," said Misaki, trying to tug her hand away again. But he held tight this time.
"Besides," Usui said, pretending not to hear, "I highly doubt your mom wouldn't have met Cedric anyway, at some point."
"Maybe not," Misaki mumbled, being stubborn. "But she just got over my father, again. Another man is not what she needs right now. Especially not one that comes over every day."
"She likes him."
"Does not. She lets him in just to be polite."
Usui laughed outright at that. "I love how hard you fight to stay in denial about the things you care about."
Misaki could only splutter in indignation.
"But don't fight me over this, okay?" he whispered. He released her hand. Misaki scowled at him in confusion when he just stood there, but then realized an odd weight around one of her fingers. When she saw the ring, she sucked in a breath.
Usui took her face in his hands and forced her to look at him. "It's only a promise ring," he said. "For now. But tell me you'll wear it."
Misaki closed her eyes and exhaled deeply. He watched her, gaze intent. When she opened her eyes and saw the worry he was trying to hide, she snorted.
"Stupid, Usui," she said, "Of course I will."
The next thing she knew she was in his arms, being spun in dizzying circles as Usui whooped with joy.
"I-idiot!" she yelled, embarrassed. "Let me go!"
"Never!" He stopped and cupped the back of her head, pulling her up for an intense kiss. "I'm never letting you go now."
Mocking clapping came from behind them. "How adorable."
They both turned at the sound of that dry voice. Igarashi stood there, watching them. Misaki couldn't tell if the expression on his face was one of exasperation or disgust.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, surprised.
"What? You're allowed to pop in on me whenever you want but I'm not allowed to do the same? I didn't think you were one for double-standards, Ayuzawa."
"To what do we owe the honor?" Usui asked with bland sarcasm.
"I'm here to talk to you about your brother." Igarashi held up a thick manila envelope. "He's been making some surprising moves since taking over the family business. Surprisingly successful that is. He's been trying to get me to invest. I want your advice on it."
"You want Usui's advice?" Misaki couldn't help being amused.
"I do," Igarashi said in a tone that silently added, "Unfortunately."
"You can use the student council room," said Misaki, letting Usui go and stepping away. She didn't get far before he pulled her back for another kiss.
Igarashi wrinkled his nose at the open display of affection. "I'll go on ahead then."
"Meet you for dinner tonight?" Usui asked her once Igarashi had gone.
"Only if you promise me that one doesn't come with you."
Usui chuckled. "You know that's impossible. Even if I leave him home, he'll still show up when he figures out where I've gone."
"Mm, you're family's stubborn that way, I guess."
Usui kissed her nose. "You'll fit right in then."
"Is that supposed to be a compliment?" she swatted at him. "Get lost. I'll see you tonight."
She watched him walk away. Only then, when he couldn't see, did she let her smile come through. Abruptly, Usui turned back, caught her, and winked. She blushed, whirled, and stomped away, yelling, "Stupid, perverted alien!"
His laughter followed her down the hall.