Chapter Fourteen:

Rae stood in her room, fist tucked into her hip, a contemplative frown on her lips. Parties were never really her thing. Sure, she went to them, she spent time making herself look good for formal affairs, but this was something a little different. The only people she would really know were Takashi's family and Mitsukuni's family. She shrugged when she realized that wasn't completely true. Ren was the DJ, Akira was baking cupcakes, and Sora has snagged an invite via Takashi. She wasn't going to be completely alone.

Rae smiled when she thought about how the invitation was executed. She and Takashi had been talking over dinner about the formal invitation she had received. Rae had been confused because her card already had "+1" circled. She was Takashi's +1 and he had to explain that the Hitachiin's not only loved big parties, but they also wanted their guest to be comfortable and with Akira and Rae on the guest list, Sora was a given addition because he was their best friend. Takashi had asked Yuzuha if Sora could attend, and the family matriarch was more than happy to oblige, stating that Sora was an "absolute delight" when she had come to speak with Rae about all the legal paperwork.

But now Rae had a minor dilemma in that she had to come up with a dress casual outfit that was fashionable. Yuzuha ran a fashion empire; tacky clothes just wouldn't do for a New Years party that the fashion maven was responsible for. She had a few expensive and nice outfits, but none that were dress casual. They were all for days in the office where she was in board meetings, meetings with clients. This was a party, not business. Though that was somewhat debatable, Rae thought as she thought about the very reason this party was as large as it was.

Still, when it came to outfits, Rae much preferred her jeans and a t-shirt. Akira would be the person to talk to this about when it came to looking cute all the time, but Akira's clothes were never expensive and she didn't really know what expensive looked like.

Rae pulled out her phone and pulled up her favorites. "Sora! I don't know what to wear." She moaned sitting on her bed in an exaggerated slouch. She looked at her newly painted toenails and sighed. "Dress casual isn't my thing."

"I had a feeling I was going to get this phone call, though I was expecting it to be at ten in the morning, not eight in the evening." Sora said. "That's precisely why I picked out an outfit for you and used Morinozuka-san's money to buy it. It should be at your front desk. Wear it, no objections."

"Takashi bought me an outfit?"

"Well, it was my idea. You're hopeless when it comes to clothes," Sora said with a dramatic sigh.

Rae glared at her phone screen and rolled her eyes. Sora would frequently rub it in her face that she was not a fashionista. She wouldn't even admit to Takashi that most of her professional attire was all picked out by Sora. Takashi still thought she had some semblance of professional decorum. "Am I going to like this outfit?"

"I'm hurt. Truly I am. After years of friendship and a year as your assistant and you think I don't know what you look good in," Sora answered. Rae could see him hold a hand to his chest. "What sweet bitter betrayal is this?"

"Grow up."

"I tried that, I didn't like it too much." Sora quipped. "Just wear the outfit I picked out and I swear Takashi will want to take you home."

Rae blushed and shook her head quickly. "Jerk."

"Are you missing a knife? I think I just found on in my back."

Rae laughed and wiggled her toes. "Thank you."

"I live to please," Sora laughed. "Did you see the memo I put on your desk earlier?"

Rae groaned. She had been trying desperately not to think about the memo.

Miyagi-san.

It had started out so cordial, so kind and heartwarming.

We have been very impressed with your activities as a mediator for this firm. You have saved our clients a lot of time, and a lot of hardship through you quick and exacting methods when it comes to negotiations of this caliber.

Then it was like she was shot. Which is not something she wanted. Though she had never actually been shot, so she couldn't exactly place the feeling.

However, as a new associate with the firm, the name partners believe that your efforts would also be practical within the courtroom. Starting in January, you will be put under the mentorship of Tanaka-san and will start approaching law through the lens of the courtroom.

We greatly appreciate all that you've done mediation wise, but we believe that it's time to expand your legal background.

Her problem wasn't so much the courtroom as it was the idea of coming out a loser. Win-win was the way she approached life. Why did there have to be winners and losers in the law. Her focus at law school was contract law. Mergers and acquisitions, prenuptials. She was also experienced in Family law because she worked as an intern in that division.

"I don't want to talk about courtroom statistics, Sora," Rae sighed.

"I know, but some of the judges in family law are intense. You should at least let me give you a rundown in the next few days." Sora said.

"I'll think about it." Rae wasn't even going to say no. Sora was in that rare category of people who know the social brouhaha of the legal world. He knew what judges were holding back decisions because of his own failing marriage, and what lawyers were having affairs. If she was going to be thrown into the world of family law, she was going to need a couple lessons to get her up to speed.

"Do you want me to come over later with wine?"

"No! This isn't a wine kind of situation. It's a sake kind of night frankly." Rae and Sora frequently joked about "drinking nights" where the type of alcohol was actually a flavor of ice cream. Sake was Rocky Road.

"I'll be there in twenty."

0o0o0o0

Rae stopped pulled open her front door and grinned when she saw that Sora had brought Akira along. They both held a carton of ice cream. Balanced on top of Akira's carton was a pink pastry box.

"I brought cupcakes," Akira grinned.

"You two are the best," Rae said moving out of the way.

Sora looked around and whistled. "You really did have no clue what to wear."

The entire house was covered in stray pieces of clothing. Rae's place wasn't really big to begin with, so the masses of clothes made it look so much smaller, and made Rae contemplate giving some of her older clothes to a shelter for women.

"We should clean up before we eat," Akira stated. "Sora picked me up from my apartment after I had a walk with Mitsukuni. I should be going to bed."

"You can sleep here tonight," Rae grinned. She moved to her kitchen and grabbed some bowls and the ice cream scoop. "I have to get up early tomorrow and get some casework done anyway."

Akira frowned. "I heard about that. Family law is a bit rough isn't it?" she asked. "Divorce. Sometimes I'm really happy my mother never had to get involved in that kind of stuff." She shivered.

Rae shook her head as she walked back over.. "But I'm also going to do adoptions. That's what really matters. Divorce happens, but adoptions are wonderful things. And family law isn't just divorce and adoption. We have juvenile courts. I get to represent rich kids who get in car accidents."

Sora dropped his tub of ice cream on the coffee table. "Your outfit is downstairs. I'm going to go grab it, but you can't open it until tomorrow. I want it to be a surprise."

"So you want me to trust your judgment," Rae said tucking a fist into her side.

Sora coughed and gave Rae his best "I'm completely offended by this statement" look. "Rae, you really need to learn how to trust me. I have a great sense of style and I would never lead you astray." He made his way to the door and grinned back. "Trust me. Takashi won't want to take his eyes off of you tomorrow night."

"He can barely keep his eyes off her anyway." Akira giggled.

"You two need to stop," Rae sighed, rolling her eyes.

0o0o0o0

Takashi was sitting in his room when a knock interrupted his thoughts about the party the next day. He turned in his desk chair and hummed in response.

Mitsukuni came in holding Usa-chan. "Takashi!" he greeted. He bounced on the edge of Takashi's long mattress and glanced around. "Ready for tomorrow?" he asked.

Takashi nodded. He had picked up the outfit his mother had ordered for him. Normally, he would have wanted to pick his own outfit, but his mother assured him that she would get him a outfit that would compliment Sora's choice for Rae. The thought struck him as just a bit fanciful. The two of them hadn't picked out their outfits, but they would likely match.

"Have you talked to Rae today?" Mitsukuni asked.

"She called this morning," Takashi said. "She wants to get lunch tomorrow,"

"Before the party?" Mitsukuni asked, looking up at the ceiling. "That sounds like fun."

"She has news." While Takashi kept his voice even, he couldn't help but look at the ground pensively. He tapped the edge of his desk.

Mitsukuni slipped off the bed and moved to lean against the wall next to Takashi's desk. He was staring at a wall scroll that was hanging near Takashi's bed. "I'm sure it will be good news. Don't look so worried."

Takashi looked up and smiled at his cousin. "Not worried."

"She hasn't had anymore experiences with that awful, Iwate woman, so whatever she has to say must be good news." Takashi had told him about the encounter in the law office and how Rae had remained calm.

Takashi nodded as Mitsukuni launched into a long winded story about his walk with Akira. He started speculating about the types of guests that would be there from Europe. Takashi leaned back in his seat and listened to his cousin with a small smile on his face.

0o0o0o0

Takashi was sitting in a French bistro waiting for Rae. He had ordered a pot of tea for the two of them and was picking at a croissant not actually eating.

Rae came skipping in, running a hand through her messy windblown hair. She smiled as she slipped in between tables to get over to Takashi. She only paused next to him for a moment to give him a kiss on the cheek. "I'm so glad you could meet with me before the party." she said slipping into her seat. "I'm a bit out breath, just give me a moment."

Takashi took Rae's hand and gave it a squeeze, smiling at her. "Tea?"

Rae nodded as she looked around. "You don't get too many French bistros in Japan." She pulled her hand free so that Takashi could pour her a cup of tea. She grabbed a small piece of his croissant and popped it in her mouth. "So I wanted to talk to you because of something that's happened."

Takashi looked up as he slid a cup towards her. He was always attentive, but because he was in the middle of serving tea, giving her a simple acknowledgement would get his point across.

"My job description is going to change a little bit," Rae stated as she took a sip of the warm tea. She paused for a moment and Takashi savored the look of complete serenity on her face. "And by a little, I mean a lot."

"How?"

Rae glanced around as she kept her cup in her hands so she could stare at the dark liquid. "I'm going into the courtroom for family law. The firm thinks that I would be an asset both as a mediator and a lawyer. They've given me a mentor, too. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Tanaka-san has been a family lawyer for a really long time, and the firm wants me to be a family lawyer, so he is naturally the best fit. However, I didn't want lawyer."

"You don't like the courtroom," Takashi said.

"You are correct." Rae said. "I hate the courtroom. Social anxiety is a funny thing. Mediation works because it's a small group of people. Which is why the firm felt that Family Law was a little more appropriate for me. Most of the cases can be handled outside of a courtroom, and if they venture in to the courts, it wouldn't draw massive public attention."

Takashi studied Rae carefully. She was biting her lip nervously and turning the cup in her hands. He wasn't entirely sure what he could do for her. He knew she didn't like public speaking. She'd admitted that much, and Takashi understood. He was a man of little words, and anything that consisted of long presentations were a little nerve racking. The courtroom terrified Rae but she was good with law, so her insecurity had to come from somewhere else. "Can I help?"

"You can just be you," she grinned at him, pushing her fringe out of the way. "I'm just going to get busier it seems. I don't quite know what to do about time. But maybe we'll just have to have dinner in my office more often." She winked at Takashi, attempting to come off as the carefree youth.

Takashi smiled and leaned back in his seat. "We'll figure it out," he told her. "You'll be great in the courtroom."

"We shall see, Takashi," Rae sighed. "We shall see."

Rae grabbed Takashi's hand in hers and lifted it up so that his hand was open. She lined up her own thin fingers with his and smiled. "You truly are perfect, Takashi."

Takashi smiled and pushed the rest of his croissant towards her. He had the feeling that whatever happened; Rae was going to make time for him. She seemed to only want to talk as a reassurance that their relationship wasn't going to fail because she was working more. Already school and work dominated their lives. "You are, too"

Takashi held Rae's hand as she used her open one to eat the small broken pieces of the croissant. She would put a piece in her mouth and hand one to Takashi. "So tonight should be interesting."