Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. Nor do I own the rights to any REM songs. A/N: The song "At My Most Beautiful" by REM has been chasing circles in my head, slowly forming a story of its own and refusing to leave the confines of my mind until I got it all out. It took awhile to find and applicable couple, but I'm a huge Rika/Henry pairing fan and it seemed appropriate. The italic words that seemingly make no sense with the dialogue are lyrics. Please enjoy :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. Nor do I own the rights to any REM songs.
A/N: The song "At My Most Beautiful" by REM has been chasing circles in my head, slowly forming a story of its own and refusing to leave the confines of my mind until I got it all out. It took awhile to find and applicable couple, but I'm a huge Rika/Henry pairing fan and it seemed appropriate. The italic words that seemingly make no sense with the dialogue are lyrics. Please enjoy :)
I found a way to make you
"Come on dude, just talk her into going," Kazu demanded. "She's going to make Jeri cry again, and if Takato has to spend another afternoon comforting Jeri, then I'm not going to have anyone to play cards with."
"Real sensitive there, Kazu," Henry bit back. "And can't you play cards with Kenta? Or Ryo? Or Rika?" Henry asked, leaning against the tree, surveying the scene with his usual calm.
"Dude, I'm tired of beating Kenta ("Hey!" Kenta protested), and there's no way in hell I'd play Ryo or Rika unless I got really good all of a sudden. Besides, she likes you most out of all of us," Kazu insisted.
"Actually, she likes Jeri the best," Henry pointed out.
"Whatever, she totally digs me most out of all you," Ryo smirked, his arms folded behind his head.
"Uhhh…Didn't she, um, straight up deny you when you asked her two weeks ago?" Takato asked, awkwardly scratching his head and looking a few yards away where his girlfriend, Jeri, and friend, Rika were arguing out of earshot of the guys.
"That's not how it went!" Ryo insisted, his face getting red.
"Dude, she totally gave you a black eye after you suggested that she needed time to think about it," Kazu laughed.
"I thought she was playing hard to get!" Ryo fumed, his face resembling a tomato. Kenta joined in the laughing. Takato caught Henry's eye, but both held back their grins. Any more insults to Ryo's ego were likely to cause a bigger scene than Rika and Jeri currently were making.
Speaking of Rika, Henry found his gaze drawn to where she was currently debating with Jeri, hands on her hips, her brow furrowed, loose strands of hair coming out of her pony tail. Henry watched her mouth, spouting out words he could barely make out from where he was standing. He was so focused on the majestic movements that he failed to notice that Takato had been trying to get his attention again.
"HELLO! Earth to Henry! Anyone home?" Takato asked, waving his hand in front of Henry's face.
Henry blinked, shook his head, and turned to his best friend. "Sorry about that. You were saying?"
"Well," Takato lowered his voice, glancing over at the other three boys, who were currently in an argument about using Digimon card game tactics on girls. "Are you going to ask her to go?"
Henry was surprised to say the least. "Takato, why in the world would you actually agree with Kazu on this? Remember what happened last time we went along with one of his harebrained plans?"
Takato subconsciously put his hand over the scar on his butt. Yeah, he remembered, but he had a good reason for going along with it this time.
"Look, Henry, we're best friends right?" Henry rolled his eyes, but nodded all the same. This didn't bode well if Takato was already pulling the "best friends" card.
"And I haven't asked you to do anything life-threatening in a long time, have I?"
Henry shook his head. This definitely did not bode well.
"Well, you know how Jeri is about making sure we do important life experiences together, right? Well, apparently senior prom counts as an important life experience, and she's not going to be happy unless Rika comes."
"Wait, you mean she won't go? I thought you asked Jeri to prom weeks ago." Henry asked confusedly.
"Of course Jeri's going!" Takato dismissed the thought with his hand. "But she's going to be unhappy, and I'd hate for her to look back on prom night and just be sad about it. It's really important to her." Henry looked at Takato whose eyes were pleading with Henry.
Henry sighed. It was all he could do, and he hoped Takato appreciated all he was about to do for him and Jeri. But what Takato didn't know was Henry's true motive behind his next move. "Fine," he said. Takato's eyes lit up with hope. "But if I die, I hope you feel guilty about it the rest of your life. Just make sure to bury me with a bag of oreos. The mint filled kind mind you."
Takato was about to laugh until he caught the serious look in Henry's face. As Henry started to walk away, Takato called out, "You're joking! Right?"
Henry vaguely heard him. His eyes were already set on his target. He walked right past the other three guys now arguing about seafood that resembled Digimon.
Jeri was looking very disgruntled. Her fists were clenched, her hair askew from running her fingers through it. It wasn't very often that Jeri went into angry mode, but when she did everyone made sure to steer clear. Everyone but Rika, that is. But the anger left Jeri's face quite suddenly as she watched Henry march in between her and Rika, ignore Rika's shouts of "What the hell do you think you're doing, Wong?", toss Rika over his shoulder as though she was nothing more than a sack of potatoes, and calmly walk off, shouting to Jeri over his shoulder, "No more arguing today, you two."
Everyone stopped talking to gawk at the scene unfolding, mouths agape. Even Rika, stunned by Henry's sudden moved, was still for a few seconds before flailing about. He clamped her legs in a death lock, leaving her to beat him with her fists.
"Dude," Kazu said in awe as he watched them walk out of sight.
"Dude," Kenta agreed in the same awestruck tone.
"Did that just happen?" Takato asked Jeri, as though questioning his own sanity.
"Yeah," came her faraway reply, just as disbelieving as Takato.
"I can't believe this!" Ryo whined, bringing everyone back to reality. "He's running off with my girl, and she just let him."
"Dude, she's not your girl," Kenta reminded him.
"Yeah! Remember the black eye?" Kazu taunted.
And just like that, the argument was on again and the peace shattered. Jeri looked at Takato who merely shrugged as he took her hand and went to walk her home.
"Henry! I swear if you don't put me down right now I will flip you over," Rika yelled, drawing attention from a few people. Most of them tittered about young people and their flagrant display of public affection. A few shook their heads, looking disgusted. One looked ready to dial the authorities, but the two seemed to know each other so she simply walked to a more quiet section of the park. One elderly woman on a nearby park bench nudged her husband, whispering, "I remember when you used to do that."
Henry knew he had made a chaotic mess of the situation, but he had to play it cool for now. "Rika, you can't flip me over; I have both of your legs. And your torso is at an angle that all you can really do effectively is punch me in the back," Henry winced as her fist met one of his ribs again. "And you're doing a good job of that. So tell me, are we out of sight of the others?"
Rika was taken aback with that question, "Yes. What does that have anything to do with anything?"
"Oh good," was all she heard him say before he dropped her unceremoniously on the grass below the largest sakura tree in the park.
"Owww! Henry! What the hell was that for? What do you think you're doing? I could kill you right now I'm so mad!" Rika shouted furiously, rubbing her backside.
"We need to talk," Henry began.
"Oh yes, because we usually talk with me slung over your shoulder like you're some sort of caveman," Rika spat back.
She's being sarcastic at least, Henry thought. That was a good sign.
"Well, we did that one time," Henry smirked.
Rika turned her head, trying to fight a blush. "That was only because my leg was fractured! And you promised never to talk about it again! EVER!"
"I haven't told anyone," Henry assured her. "But I only did that just now for dramatic effect. And to piss off Ryo," Henry mumbled as an afterthought, though Rika thought she heard the gist of it.
"So Wong," Rika began as she pushed herself up, cracking her knuckles, "What would you like me to put on your tombstone?"
"Why aren't you going to prom?" Henry asked, taking one step back to assure himself that the ground was firm enough for his footing. This wasn't going to be pretty.
Rika paused midstep, surprised by that question coming from him. "What does that have to do with anything?" she demanded again.
"Everything," Henry admitted, waiting for her to start the attack. Rika did not disappoint as she launched herself forward.
"You mean to tell me," Rika huffed as both her fists were caught by Henry, "that you dragged me away from everyone-" she swept her leg behind his feet, causing him to let go of her hands to jump over her, "-just to ask me about my prom plans?" Her roundhouse kick was caught mid-strike before it reached Henry's stomach.
Henry twisted her leg, pushing her off-balance. She fell back onto the grass, but Henry had her immobile before she could counterattack. Their breathing was heavy, and silence hung in the air before Henry leaned over her and answered, "Yes."
One word shouldn't have had such an affect on Rika, but the sudden seriousness in his eyes that replaced the usual glint of amusement unnerved her. The ploy was for their friends, but the question was genuine.
"My school doesn't have a senior prom," was Rika's immediate response, her defenses going up around her.
"You could come to ours," came his reply.
The furious look in her eye was back. "Like hell I'm going to your prom with that egotistical asshole."
"You don't have to go with him," Henry countered. "I'm sure Jeri invited you to go with her and Takato."
Rika sighed and went to rub her temple only to remember her hands were pinned to her side. Henry, sensing that the majority of danger had passed, released her arms and plopped down next to her in the grass, his head propped up by his arm, eyes trained on her.
"Henry, I love Jeri dearly, but I am not about to be the third wheel on that bike," Rika said, rubbing her forehead and suddenly looking tired. "I understand how important it is to her for us all to share this rite of passage or whatever, but she doesn't understand that I'm not one to tag along or go with someone I can't stand just to make her happy, you know?" Oh, Henry knew. "She didn't even really ask me how I felt about it. She was so upset at the thought of our group not all being there that she probably didn't think about it. It's not her fault though. I suppose she's entitled to be selfish once in awhile."
"So then," Henry began, his eyes boring into hers, "What do you want, Nonaka? Do you want to go?"
"I…" Rika's voice became quiet. "I don't know. I mean, it sounds fun enough—"
"Then go with me."
I found a way
Henry looked nearly as shocked as Rika when the words burst unbidden out of his mouth. He had been thinking about asking her for longer than he cared to admit, but, for all his physical and mental prowess, Rika unnerved him. She was in a league all her own, and he wasn't sure if someone like him would ever be able to be with someone like her. Nevertheless, his true intentions had been laid in front of her now, and he was quite determined as he repeated, "Go with me to prom."
He watched as shock danced across her eyes followed by disbelief then anger then—was that hope? It was soon replaced by a snort of derision. She was trying to protect herself again.
"Wong, if this is because Takato asked you to do something—"
"Forget about Takato!" Henry shouted, sitting up rather violently, causing Rika to do the same. "Forget about whatever he asked me, forget about Jeri, forget about Ryo and Kazu and Kenta! Just forget about what they want! Rika," his voice became quiet. "What do you want?"
Gone were all pretenses. Before Rika was a boy laid wide open, full of raw emotion. She had never seen him like this. Never. He was completely open to her; and she could use the weapons he had given her to kill this off now or to throw aside and embrace what she had been repressing for awhile now. She was so used to fighting everyone all the time, and she was tired of fighting her feelings for Henry. Perhaps, just this once, she could let him in. And maybe, just maybe, this might turn into something more. Maybe it was time to surrender.
"I want to go," she said, barely more than a whisper. But it was enough for Henry. She was always enough for Henry.
She could see the glint of amusement in his eyes once more as he took her hands and pulled them to a standing position.
"Then I just have one question for you," Henry said, the corners of his mouth trying not to smile as he still held both her hands and asked once more, "Rika Nonaka, will you go to prom with me?"
"Yes, Henry," Rika replied, trying not to look too elated, the ends of her mouth betraying her happiness, "I will go to prom with you."
A way to make you smile
"YES!" Henry did an exaggerated fist pump, causing Rika to roll her eyes. But it was only a moment before he swept her into a huge hug, twirling her round and round. She threw her arms around his neck and laughed as they spun, eventually collapsing on the ground, still laughing and out of breath. Her smiles were rare, her laughter even more so, and Henry relished in the thought that not just anyone could make Rika Nonaka this happy.
They were both looking up at the clouds when Rika asked, "So why me?"
That was a loaded question, Henry thought to himself. "I guess I'm just a masochist for pain," he replied nonchalantly.
Rika snorted, "You must be. You know what people say about me. I don't think you know what you're getting into."
"Does it matter? And I think it's adorable that your grandma calls you Rika Tsunami," Henry teased.
Rika groaned and shut her eyes. "Don't remind me. But she's right, you know."
Henry smiled, "I suppose so, but even tropical storms have an exquisiteness all their own."
Rika smiled a little, and opening her eyes, replied, "So you have a thing for natural disasters?"
Henry laughed. "No. But beauty can come from chaos."
A comfortable silence settled between the two teenagers for a few moments before Rika turned to him, still smiling. "So, you want your tombstone to say 'Why aren't you going to prom?'"
I read bad poetry into your machine
"Henry Wong!" Rika stormed into Henry's dorm room, "What is the meaning of this?"
Takato, who had been fast asleep on his side of the room, jerked awake, took one look at Rika's stance, mumbled something about needing to talk to Kazu down the hall, and quickly made his escape. He'd seen enough of their arguments to know he didn't want to be there at the start OR the finish.
Henry, already prepared for the argument about to start, especially since they seemed to be occurring more and more frequently, turned to Rika calmly in his desk chair. "What is the meaning of what?" he asked.
"Don't play dumb with me," she threatened. "What the hell is this about?" She pulled out her cell phone, pushed a few buttons, and Henry heard his recorded voice through her speaker reciting a verse of poetry he was reading for class the day before.
He waited for the last of the message to end before the phone started to offer her options as to what to do with the message.
"Message deleted. End of new—" Rika hung up the phone, her hands still on her hips. "Well?"
This was indeed a more dangerous situation than Henry had anticipated. Henry had to take at least one literature class to fulfill his core requirements for his college degree, and he heard somewhere that girls liked having guys read them poetry. So he simply put the two together and figured maybe Rika was one of those girls. It was a risk, especially since stress levels were running high for both of them since midterms were almost over. But Henry was having some serious doubts now about his decision and was trying to figure out a way out of the situation. Honesty was always best with Rika.
"Well…you know I'm taking that literature class, right?" he ventured. Rika's purple eyes bore into his gray ones, daring him to continue.
"And we're studying poems that focus more on the number of syllables per line and not so much on the rhyming…" Henry looked at her hopefully. She stilled looked ready to attack him, which would be a bad idea considering the close proximity of all his computer stuff.
"And I thought girls liked it when their significant others read them poetry," he finished lamely, trying to gauge the danger level of Rika's temper.
Rika took a deep, calming breath, but her voice was soft and deadly. "Henry, I don't know how many other girls this has worked on—" Henry flailed his hands and began to protest that she had misunderstood, but Rika held up her hand to silence him before continuing, "But it sure as hell doesn't work on me. Seriously? You read me some depressing poem about a tragic love affair that doesn't even rhyme and is written by someone else and expect me to just act like some lovestruck sorority girl over it?"
"I thought it was supposed to be a romantic poem," Henry muttered a bit defensively.
"The girl dies at the end. It's horrible," Rika retorted. "Seriously Henry, I thought you knew me better than this." And just as abruptly as she arrived, Rika was gone.
Henry turned around and ran his fingers roughly through his hair. He couldn't understand why, out of all the billions of women in the world, he had to fall for the most difficult, irrational, ill-tempered one. He was the most calm, collected person he knew, yet Rika always managed to throw him off balance. His good intentions had been misconstrued to the point it was almost ridiculous. Perhaps she was just PMSing and he needed to give her a day or two to cool off. Yeah, that was probably a good idea.
Takato poked his head through the doorway. "Is it safe to come back?"
I save your messages just to hear your voice
"Henry, this is Rika. I put your shit in a box by the door. Come by when Jeri's in to get it."
"If you would like to save this message, press 9-" BEEP. Henry didn't know how many times he had listened to that voicemail in the past three days. She had called him when she knew he was in class so his phone would be turned off and she would be directed straight to voicemail. He thought it was just another one of their arguments that would blow over in a few days, maybe a week tops! Half of Henry told himself that he should probably just go over and get his stuff and be done with it, but the more irrational half squashed that notion. He couldn't even bring himself to delete her last message to him. He loved the sound of her voice, even when irritated, or angry, or surprised… Dammit! He had to still mean something to her!
And yet, they had never really defined their relationship. After senior prom, Henry knew that they were more than just friends. They had this unspoken agreement that they wouldn't be overly couple-like in front of friends and family, but the others began to notice. Whether it was the subtle hand-holding during a movie night at Henry's family's apartment, or a stolen kiss after school let out that their friends just happened to catch a glimpse, or the times Rika brought Henry to her mother's for dinner. As they grew older and started college, their relationship seemed to grow as well. Both Henry and Rika seemed more comfortable with their relationship and less concerned about hiding their affection. Not one month ago, one of the library janitors had walked in on Rika and Henry taking a much needed study break. Needless to say, the two had been banned from the library for the remaining semester.
Henry smiled, recalling the memory. He felt that the punishment had been a bit harsh though. He definitely used the library more than Rika, and they hadn't been doing anything more than making out in a secluded study room. He could think of several other students that should be banned for life for doing much worse.
But Henry was brought back to the problem at hand. He was faced with a choice: pick up his stuff and throw in the towel, or figure out a way to apologize to Rika. He could just walk away now, try to play off the awkwardness whenever their old group got together, and forget about the only girl that ever left him breathless, left him guessing, left him constantly surprised, left him with a gaping hole in his soul when she wasn't there. Hell, who was he kidding? Henry was in too deep and he knew it. The only question now was how he was going to fix it.
She was mad that he said other girls liked poems, that the poem didn't rhyme, that the poem was depressing, and that the poem was written by some random guy—WAIT! That was it! Henry smiled to himself, dialing his voicemail once more for inspiration.
"Henry, this is Rika. I put your..." Oh yes, Henry knew exactly what he was going to do.
You always listen carefully to awkward rhymes
Rika slung her backpack down on the floor the minute she walked into the shared dorm room and flung herself facedown on the futon under her bunk bed.
"Tough day?" Jeri inquired from the top of her bed as she perused a magazine.
A bridal magazine, Rika thought as she turned her head toward the side, looking up at her best friend and at the tiny winking diamond on her finger. "Not really more than usual. My painting instructor's been an absolute Nazi this past week. He's done nothing but criticize anything new I've painted. He says they're all bland and empty, and then he took them all home."
"Why?" Jeri asked, her curiosity aroused.
Rika shrugged, sitting up, "Supposedly to burn them. He said it was the only proper place to put them." Out of the corner of her eye Rika spotted something shiny on top of her clean desk.
"What's this?" Rika asked, picking up what appeared to be a burned CD.
"No idea," Jeri replied, turning back to her magazine.
That was suspicious. If Jeri had no idea where the disk came from, she'd be burning with curiosity right about now and demanding that Rika put it in their boom box. Rika turned the disk over. At the bottom was scrawled an almost illegible "I'm sorry." Rika could recognize that untidy handwriting anywhere and, fighting the urge to break the disk in half, placed the disk into the stereo and pushed play. Out of the corner of her eye, Rika saw Jeri's head turn, listening intently for what was about to come.
"Are you sure this is on?" came Takato's voice.
"Yes doofus! The red light is on!" answered Kazu's voice from further back.
"Right," Rika could almost see Takato rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment.
"Takato, just go to the keyboard and wait for Kazu's count," yelled Ryo from somewhere in the background. Rika unconsciously scrunched her nose.
"Kazu's count?" asked Kenta, confused.
"Yeah! My count dude! I'm playing the drums so I get to count off."
Rika was trying hard not to laugh at her friend's antics, but she could hear Jeri giggle. "They're a bit ridiculous, aren't they?" she asked Rika.
Rika was about to agree when she heard another voice.
"Hang on a sec." Henry's voice was crystal clear. He must have had one of the microphones. There was some strumming and tuning.
"Ready? One! Two! Three! Four!" Kazu called out.
Whatever Rika was expecting, it wasn't this. The guys hadn't had a jam session since high school graduation over two years ago. Yet, in a week's time, Henry had not only rounded them up, but made them learn a new song. A song, she realized as she listened to his voice, that was about her.
He sang about how they met, how she inspired him, how she drove him crazy, how he couldn't live without her. But most of all, he sang about how much he loved her. Four and a half minutes later, there was silence. Then the player switched to track two, and his voice was back.
"Rika, I didn't mean to make you think you're like every other girl out there, because you're not. You're unique, and perfect the way you are: Rika Tsunami or Rika Nonaka. I hope this song, despite my bad poetry skills, shows how sorry I am for upsetting you. And I hope that, despite everything that's been going on in our lives lately, we'll have a happy ending. I love you."
Rika almost never cried. Maybe it was the stress of exams. Maybe it was listening to track 3, which consisted of Henry singing the entire song again, by himself, with an acoustic guitar. Maybe it was the fact that her favorite hoodie of Henry's was packed in a box and not out for her wear and make her feel better because it smelled like he was right there with her. Maybe it was the fact that she was PMSing and out of chocolate. Whatever the reason, she was just glad Jeri had the sense to climb down and let Rika cry into her lap, gently stroking Rika's hair and murmuring words of encouragement. The ball was in her court, and Rika knew what she had to do.
You always say your name like I wouldn't know it's you
"Hey Henry, this is Rika. I umm…was wondering…if maybe you wanted to meet up in the park this Saturday? Around two? In the usual spot. I'll be waiting…"BEEP!
Henry sat on their favorite park bench that Saturday afternoon, listening to her message again. He'd come early, hoping he might catch her before she changed her mind, but Rika was nothing if not punctual. So when two o'clock came rolling around, Henry caught sight of her fiery hair shining in the afternoon sun. She was carrying two cups of coffee and looking anywhere but Henry's eyes.
"Here," she said, handing him one of the coffee cups and sitting down next to him on the bench. Henry frowned at the space between them and at the awkward silence that had settled.
"Oh Henry!" Rika said, turning toward him quite abruptly. He was surprised to find her eyes welling up with tears. "I've been such an ass. I overreacted! And you went through all that—and the song was so sweet of you—and I was just so mad and upset at that comment and—"
"Rika," Henry interrupted, setting down his coffee and tilting her chin to look into her eyes. Sorrow, doubt, worry, and a hint of something Henry had only seen once before—insecurity. "I should be more careful in what I say. I didn't mean to make you think that you were just like any other random girl to me. And we've both been really stressed out lately."
"I know," Rika leaned into his hand. "It was really irrational of me, but when you started generalizing about other girls, I got jealous. Then you said we were just "significant others" and I thought maybe that meant you didn't want to be my boyfriend or never saw us going anywhere—"
Henry cut her off with a well-timed kiss. After they broke apart, he said, "Rika, there has only ever been ONE girl EVER for me, and that was always you. Even in middle school, when we first met when we were 13. And then I was worried that maybe our group wasn't good enough for you and after the dust settled you'd leave. And then in high school you didn't seem interested in dating, and after seeing what you did to Ryo I figured that maybe I should just be your friend since I didn't want to ruin things with us."
Rika listened to Henry with rapt attention. "And then?" she prompted.
Henry smiled and leaned in, touching his forehead to hers. "And then you said yes when I asked you to prom. I thought my heart would burst I was so happy. But starting a relationship with you was like walking through a minefield. I didn't know if you wanted to stay friends or if I could start something more serious. And you gave so many mixed signals…" he looked at her pointedly.
She conceded with a small nod before smiling. "But then I kissed you."
Henry grinned at the memory. It was a goofy grin; something he didn't often show, but Rika liked the fact that she could get him to look that dopy. "Yes, you kissed me and told me to 'man up' as I recall. And then I knew."
"Knew what?" Rika asked, giving him a small peck on the lips. Before leaning back into his outstretched arm across the bench, sipping her coffee.
"Knew that this was it. You were where the buck stopped. Everything began and ended with you, and as long as I had you, I had everything I'd ever need. There was never anyone else, and there will never be anyone else, Rika. You're enough for me. You're like a hurricane, you know? But once you get past all the chaos into its eye, you truly appreciate its beauty."
"I suppose I am a bit like a hurricane."
Henry chuckled. "Rika Tsunami, as your grandmother would say."
Rika and Henry sat on the bench quietly for some time, sipping their coffees, lost in thought. It was Rika that finally broke the silence.
"You know, I think that's the first time you ever said that to me."
"Said what?" Henry asked, looking down at his girlfriend.
"Think hard, Wong. What did you say at the end of your song?"
"That I was—Oh…that. I'm sorry it took me so long. But I think I always have."
"Well, aren't you going to say it to my face?" Rika demanded, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
Henry had a matching glint in his eyes. "Well, I suppose I should do this properly then." He grabbed both of her hands until they were standing next to the park bench. "I love you, and you alone, Rika Nonaka."
At your most beautiful
"I love you too, Henry," came Rika's whispered reply.
They shared a rather long kiss that was broken only when Henry began to spin Rika about, laughing and breathing heavily.
An elderly couple watched from a nearby bench as the two young adults collapsed to the ground, still laughing and panting. "I remember when you used to do that," the woman told her husband who merely smiled and held her hand.
I found a way to make you
"No, you were the one that promised Jeri you'd wear whatever bridesmaid dress she chose."
"Yes, but in return, she got you to promise that you'd dance with me for as long as I wanted during the reception."
"Nooooooooooo. As I recall, she had a blackmail photograph of you when you both went out that night, drank too much, and accidentally called Takato's mother instead of Takato to go pick you up at three in the morning."
"Aww damn. I thought she made you promise."
"Nope," Henry grinned cheekily at his girlfriend as she sat on his lap. Henry thought she looked quite beautiful in her yellow bridesmaid gown. He didn't mind that his suit was getting mussed up or that she wore his jacket over her shoulders, leaving him in a very appalling yellow silk vest and tie that matched her dress.
Rika watched Takato and Jeri dance among the various other couples on the dance floor. Jeri was looking quite radiant in her white gown, and she had never seen the goggle head look as happy as he did now, surprising since he was almost always happy. But dammit! She wanted to dance too! But Henry adamantly refused. Rika knew for a fact that Henry could dance, quite well, but for some reason he always made a big fuss about doing it in public. Like that was going to stop Rika.
"Heeennnrryyy…" Rika sang in his ear. Henry perked up. She wanted something if she was using that voice, and he smiled as he wondered just what tactic she was about to use.
"Yes, dearest?" Henry asked innocently. He only called her that when he wanted to get a rise out of her.
It almost worked, but Rika only smiled sweetly (a little too sweetly in Henry's opinion), and nuzzled her nose into his neck, breathing in his cologne. "What if I bribed you? Hmmm?"
Henry's curiosity was piqued, but he couldn't help but chuckle at her antics. "And just what do you intend to bribe me with?"
Rika moved backed to Henry's ear before whispering, "Oreos." Henry stopped mid-chuckle, which amused Rika. "Mint filled oreos."
I found a way
Henry moved his head to look her in the eye. "You're joking! They're out of season! It's the middle of summer, and they only come out around Christmas!"
Rika twirled a perfect curl around her finger, glancing at the dance floor and acting disinterested. "Well, I may have a stash, you know, for occasions such as this."
Henry was at a loss for words. Rika turned back to him, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"You've been planning this the whole time!"
"Well, I've got to have a few aces up my sleeve."
"You don't play fair."
"Neither do you, dearest."
"I have to dance the entire night?"
Rika nodded in affirmation. "The entire night, Henry."
"Even if I break my leg?"
"Even if every bone in your body breaks."
"That would make things difficult."
"Fine. But I want three bags!"
"Three bags, Rika."
"Two bags, final offer."
Henry groaned. "Fine! But I'm not sharing!" he said as he pulled her up with him and led her to the dance floor.
"That's what you think, Wong," Rika called to him in her singsong voice as he twirled her out.
"No Rika, I'm pretty sure I'm not sharing," Henry said in a serious voice, but Rika could see the glint in his eye. He was challenging her as he dipped her low.
An elderly couple watched from a nearby table as Henry dipped Rika. "I remember when you used to do that," the woman told her husband who merely smiled and held her hand.
"Wanna bet?" Rika asked as Henry pulled her back up.
The worker at the dry cleaners could never make sense of the answer the two giggling adults tried to give her when she asked what the black and green streaks were all over the yellow dress, vest, and white dress shirt. "Beautiful chaos," they had said, whatever that meant. Oh well. She could probably still figure out how to remove it. It did smell rather minty.
A way to make you smile
At my most beautiful
At my most beautiful
Henry glanced at the clock. It read 4:45 in the afternoon. He sighed, rubbing his eyes then glancing at the computer monitor, looking at the hundreds of lines of programming he had already written. It was Friday, and yet he knew he still had another hour of work to accomplish.
He knew he should be grateful for finding such a good job right after graduating from college, but sometimes he couldn't help but feel slightly resentful. After all, it did cut into his dinner plans with Rika that evening.
Rika. Just the thought of her caused a pleasant shiver to run down his spine. Almost without thinking, he brushed his hand against his pocket where the box was, the box he had been carrying around the past two weeks. While Henry loved to gripe about his job sometimes, it did have its perks, namely the reasonably sized salary that allowed Henry to buy the shiny rock in his pocket. He knew he'd move up the proverbial corporate ladder in a few years and his job wouldn't consist of quite as much menial work, and he hoped by that time he would have an actual family he would be supporting.
But he was getting ahead of himself again. First came dinner tonight. He was sure tonight was the night when it would be the perfect time to ask Rika. Never mind that he had been holding on to the ring for weeks looking for the right opportunity; Henry had a good feeling about tonight.
He turned his focus back to the blinking cursor on the monitor.
Five minutes later, Henry threw up his hands in defeat. He'd come in tomorrow to finish the rest. His mind was too full of Rika and dinner and the impending proposal that he couldn't concentrate on anything else.
Henry was almost back to his apartment building when his phone began to ring. He glanced at the caller ID before answering it. "Hey Rika, I just got to my building, so I"ll be over as soon as I can change—" He stopped, listening to the frazzled talking of his girlfriend on the other line. "Oh, yeah that's fine. I understand… No really, this expo is important and if you still have to work on that last piece..." Henry tried not to let his voice sound upset as he replied back to her. "Do you want me to bring you something- Oh… Jeri brought you dinner? Okay… We'll just meet up another time. Yeah… No big deal... Love you too."
Henry looked down at the phone he just hung up, feeling as though a huge balloon had deflated inside of him. He had the entire evening planned. They would eat at that nice Italian corner restaurant where they wasted many a Saturday afternoon people watching, followed by a walk through downtown and ending up in the middle of the outdoor square at the gazebo. There, Henry would get down on one knee and finally propose like he had been meaning to for the past two weeks.
But he should have known better to plan his proposal around Rika's art exposition. It was her first major expo, and it was being shown at a very well known gallery in downtown Tokyo. Rika was rather proud of herself since she refused to use any of her mother's connections to find someone to display her work. Having won such an honor though caused Rika to become even more focused on making sure every piece in the new collection was a masterpiece. This in turn occasionally resulted in cancelled appointments, not only with Henry, but Jeri and Takato and other friends and family as well. Yet, Rika still made the effort to reschedule as many meetings as possible.
This thought didn't comfort Henry very much as he threw some vegetables and rice noodles into a wok for dinner. Dinner he would be eating alone. Again.
Henry had set off to work early that Saturday morning with fresh determination. Not only did he complete his workload from Friday, but he had most of Monday's work finished as well. It would be on his supervisor's desk early, which may earn him a fairly good bonus come December. It was only spring, but hey, it never hurt to plan ahead.
Still feeling rather upbeat despite yesterday's disappointment, Henry decided to walk to his favorite park. Rika and he had spent many a pleasant day throughout that park, whether napping in the summer, crunching through the leaves in the autumn, or throwing snow at each other during the winter. The spring brought with it sakura blossoms, which he knew Rika secretly loved but denied liking when anyone asked, claming she hated all things pink.
Speaking of Rika, Henry thought he caught a glimpse of her as walked toward their favorite bench. It was near a hill on which sat the park's largest sakura tree. Upon arriving, he realized that it indeed was Rika, sprawled out on a blanket, several blank canvases strewn about. One looked like she had started to paint something but immediately slashed it out with all manner of clashing colors. The paints sat near a portable easel that also held a blank canvas. It looked as though Rika had stared at the canvas from her blanket until slowly, the week's exhaustion caused her to drift off to sleep.
Henry approached very slowly and quietly, knowing that Rika could be surprisingly attuned to small sounds. But he needed not worry, for Rika was deeply asleep. Carefully, he lay down next to her.
I count your eyelashes, secretly.
She's most peaceful when she's asleep, Henry thought, brushing a few red wisps of hair from her face. It was a face he knew so well. He remembered how she had so many freckles when they were younger, though they never quite disappeared the older she got. Even now he could see a light sprinkling of them dusting her nose and cheeks. Rika was never one to wear much makeup except on very special occasions or when she was showing her art to be displayed for some gallery. She explained once to Henry that the art curators took her more seriously if she looked older, which she needed makeup to do.
Yet, he loved her best completely natural. He didn't like how mascara clumped eyelashes. It made them harder to count. And Rika has such lovely, long eyelashes. "I love you," Henry murmured as he ran his fingers through her hair, pulling it out of its pony tail and letting it fall around her.
With every one whisper I love you
Rika sighed in her sleep, slowly coming back to the land of the living. Her eyes cracked open slightly. "Henry?" she asked, yawning.
"Am I dreaming?"
"Why? Do you dream of me often?" Henry smirked, turning onto his back and closing his eyes.
"Ah, so I am awake. You're never that snarky in my dreams."
"Do I just give in to your every demand?"
"Just a poor outlet for your sadistic urges…"
"Sounds about right."
"Loving you so completely only to be abused."
"You never complain."
He could feel her sitting up now, most likely ready to get back to work. "Did you come here for inspiration?"
Rika let out a frustrated sigh. "Yes, but it didn't work. I thought it would be invigorating, you know? Fresh spring air, sakura blossoms, getting out of my studio…"
"What did you start to paint on that one canvas?" Henry asked.
"Crap. It was all chaotic crap."
"I dunno. I kind of liked it."
"So, can I have it?"
"Why on earth would you want a crap piece of art?" Rika demanded.
"Well, if you're just going to throw it away, why not give it to someone who'll at least appreciate it? I might even hang it up at work."
"Henry Wong! Don't you dare!" Rika threatened. But her threat was lost on Henry, a faint smirk tugged at the edges of his mouth. He looked so relaxed there, hands behind his head, eyes closed, teasing her. The lighting, the park, his expression—everything was perfect. Rika almost wished she'd brought her camera.
It was at that moment inspiration struck, and Rika quickly reached for her paints and her easel.
Henry, hearing movement, assumed that Rika was about to start working again. Not wanting to distract her, he made to sit up. But Rika, as though she could read his mind, barked, "Stay there, and sit still a moment."
The order seemed odd to Henry at first, but after listening to the first few brush strokes, his smile was back. "You're painting me, aren't you?"
"It's okay. I am pretty inspiring."
"Would you like to know where you're inspiring me to stick this brush handle?"
That seemed to quiet Henry down for a bit. "You know, I could probably hang this new painting next to that other one you did this morning in my cubical at work."
It was all Rika could do to not throw her palate and canvas at him and cover him in paint. Henry seemed to realize this, for he tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal his laughter. Eventually, the laughter stopped and Henry settled into an extremely relaxed position. The slight rustle of wind, the warm spring afternoon, and the soothing strokes of Rika's brush slowly lulled the young man to sleep.
I let you sleep.
It had been almost two hours since Rika had begun painting her final piece to hang in the gallery. She knew when Henry's breathing had become steady that he was fast asleep, which both eased and complicated her ability to paint him. Thankfully, he didn't shift around too much in his sleep.
Rika felt rather badly about canceling on him last minute yesterday; she just didn't have time to get all dressed up, go eat, and visit for hours on end. It was all for nothing too. She still hadn't been able to paint a damn thing worth displaying. He had seemed so excited too! And a bit nervous, though she couldn't fathom why. Perhaps his job was giving him stress as well? They hadn't had much time to talk about it these past few weeks; she had been so busy with getting her art together. But Rika promised to herself that she'd make it up to him, even if it meant digging into her secret stash of mint oreos.
Henry's breathing became lighter, and he moved onto his side. Trying to get a reaction out of me, Rika thought. He's awake now; he's just pretending to still be asleep.
I know you're closed-eyed watching me. Listening.
Just in time too, Rika thought as she put the finishing touches on her last masterpiece. "I'm almost done, you know. I just need you to lie back down for a second."
"Just one second?" he teased. Nevertheless, he complied, laying back down almost exactly as he was before, eyes closed.
He heard some shifting, and before he could react, Rika was leaning over him, pinning his arms, an evil glint in her eye. "Hey! What gives?" he demanded.
"Oh, I just wanted to show you how 'inspiring' you were." And without further ado, Rika dug her fingers in the only spot Henry was ticklish: right below his ribs.
"Aaaah! Rika! No fair! I just woke up! Help! I'm being tickled to death!"
The few people nearby only looked and sighed. An elderly couple watched as they walked past the two young adults. "I remember when you used to do that," the man told his wife who merely smiled and held his hand.
Henry finally managed to seize both of Rika's wrists and roll her to the side of him. "Ouch! Something jabbed my leg!" Rika exclaimed.
Rika looked down, finding the offensive item and pointing to his pocket. "Hey Henry! Is that a cell phone in your pants or are you just happy to see me?"
CRAP! Henry thought. It was the ring box! "That's not what you think!" He could of face palmed himself for giving such a stupid answer, but Rika didn't seem to notice. She was still in a rather teasing mood.
"Oh reaaaaaaaallly?" she drawled out, brushing her hand over the pocket. Her smirk was replaced by surprise. "It's a box." She sat up, looking at Henry questioningly. He could only stare back at her, trying to think of a plausible excuse and hoping his panic wasn't showing on his face. Apparently it wasn't; Rika was leaning back over him, looking ready to pounce.
"What's in the box, Henry?" Her smile was predatory. "Is it something for me?"
Honesty was always the best policy with Rika. "Yes," came his quiet answer.
This caught Rika's attention, and she began to notice something else: Henry, Master of My Emotions Henry, was fidgeting and looking nervous.
"Henry?" She questioned softly, cupping her hands around his face and making his eyes look into hers. The last time she had seen this particular emotion was when the hospital called him to tell him his father had suffered a mild heart attack: Henry was scared.
"You trust me, right?"
"More than anyone," came his honest reply. Their foreheads touched. Rika reached down his pocket, never worried about personal barriers between them, and retrieved the box.
It lay there, a simple black box, in the palm of her hand. Wheels began turning in Rika's brain. She jerked her head sharply, meeting Henry's eyes, a questioning look across her features.
Henry nodded, encouraging her to open it. Glancing down at her palm then once more at Henry, Rika turned to the box and carefully pried it open. Henry watched Rika's face with bated breath, observing every minute reaction. A thousand emotions washed over her face as she stared at the brilliant diamond winking back at her from the platinum band. Gently, she pulled the ring out of the box and looked at the inscription on the inside of the band: I love you. ~Henry. Then, just as gently, she placed the ring back in the box and snapped it closed. The snap seemed to echo across the park.
"How long have you had this?" Rika whispered, still looking at the box.
"So, last night, huh?" Rika looked at him with a wry smile.
Henry shrugged a bit sheepishly. "I thought last night, yes."
"We artists are just too temperamental I suppose."
"But you're always worth it."
"No matter how chaotic we are?"
"Chaos can be beautiful."
There was silence for several moments before Rika leaned toward Henry, almost close enough to kiss. Henry didn't miss the mischievous look in Rika's face as she said, "Well Wong, are you going to man up, or what?"
Henry didn't miss a beat as he grabbed both of Rika's hands, causing her to drop the box on the blanket, and pulled her to a standing position. "Rika Nonaka," he kneeled in front of her, trying not to look too elated, "Will you marry me?"
Tears came unbidden to her eyes as she nodded her head, "Yes." Henry broke into to a full smile and stood back up, brushing away her tears with his thumbs. She laughed them off and threw her arms around his neck, knowing what was coming.
Not far off, the same elderly couple stood, observing as the young man spun his future wife round and round in circles, both laughing, kissing, and whispering "I love yous" until they collapsed on the blanket. The forgotten box reopened and the ring placed on the lady's finger. "Well, you didn't quite do it that way," the woman told her husband who merely chuckled as he led her down the path. "No dear, but I expect they will have a long, happy marriage too," he told her.
I thought I saw you smile
Two weeks later, an elderly couple found themselves in front of an art gallery in Tokyo. The wife had needed to do some shopping, so the husband obliged by taking her to the downtown shops. Ready for a break, the husband pointed to the gallery across the street and suggested they go inside. He paid the small entry fee as his wife read the pamphlet they were given.
"Look dear. See how old the artist is? She's so young!"
"Yes, but her paintings are very well done."
"I agree. Look at the vibrant coloring on this one of the docks…"
And so the couple went through the maze of walls and paintings, occasionally remarking on the excellent quality or the lifelike appearance of the scene being portrayed. They were nearing the end of the exhibit when the husband found one of the curators running the gallery. He was inquiring as to when the paintings would be for sale; his wife and he had found a small one entitled "Takato and Jeri Make Breakfast" and had fallen in love with it. The expressions of the two people in the painting, one looking frazzled and the other amused as they had flour everywhere, had elicited many chuckles from the couple. The worker had just walked away from him when his wife was impatiently signaling him over once more.
"Yes, dear?" He inquired, coming to a stop before the last two paintings.
"Look! Look at this young lady!" she pointed to the small plaque with the artist's photo and a short biography. "Who does she remind you of?"
The husband squinted and looked closely. The photo was of a very pretty albeit serious looking young woman. Yet that hair looked familiar… "Why, it's the young girl from the park!"
"Yes! And look who she dedicated her art from this exhibit to." She pointed at a small card between two paintings. The top one was rather chaotic and unlike any of the other canvases in the gallery, colors seemingly thrown haphazardly together. Its name read "Rika." The bottom one was of a handsome young man, fast asleep under the sakura blossoms. Both husband and wife recognized him as the young man from the park that was almost never without the girl. The card underneath it read "Henry."
"Read me the last card dear," the husband entreated. "I seem to have forgotten my glasses."
She complied. "I dedicate this artwork of my first major exhibit to my best friend, my fiancée, and the other half of my soul, Henry, who could always see beauty in the midst of chaos."
I found a way to make you
I found a way
A way to make you smile
A/N: Yes, I know I should post the next chapter for my other story since it's been a ridiculously long time and the next chapter is practically done, but this had to get out. It took about 8 hours of typing/editing/brainstorming, but it's out of my system. I do hope you all enjoyed it.