**I have edited this story since it's original uploading in Nov. 2012. Also, because I love where the story is currently in the manga series, I am continuing from where the anime left off and adding some plots here and there that stem from events in the manga series.**
Disclaimer: I do not own Library Wars: Love and War. However, this story is the product of my own imagination and it would upset me greatly to see it copied and republished without my permission.
Chapter Three : Another Chance
"So, did he tell you yet?" Komaki questioned, sitting down in the chair across from the young clerk that seemed to capture the heart of his puzzling subordinate.
Shibazaki looked up and smiled at the soldier, nodding gently as she placed some of her rice in her mouth and looked over to the journalist who soon came to occupy the seat beside her. Maki smiled, offering Komaki a small wave and Shibazaki a slight smile.
"Ah, it seems that I have entered in on an interesting conversation. Let me guess, Tezuka told you about the trip?" Maki asked slyly, and Shibazaki nodded slightly.
"Indeed, he did." she said simply, placing a spoonful of her soup delicately into her mouth. "We are planning on packing up tonight and leaving tomorrow after work." she replied, before sending Maki a suspcious look. "But enough about Hikaru and me... What about you?" she jeered, and Maki straightened up in surprise, her cheeks growing slightly pink.
"What about me?" she asked cautiously, and Shibazaki smirked, sending Komaki an evil grin, and he smirked; she was a quick learner.
"Well, as it seems that Hikaru and I are such a topic of conversation... what about you and the Major? Weren't you both rewarded leave as well, how comes you haven't left yet?" she urged, causing Komaki's attention to shift focus, even if he already knew the reason, he was going to play along and humor it.
"Well," the reporter sighed, resting her elbow on the table top and leaning against it, her palm in her cheek, "Ryuusuke is... well... Ryuusuke. He's as stubborn as #!*% , and I cannot convince him to leave, even for a day! He says the men need more work than ever, and with Dojo gone, it means even more work for him." she sighed, and Komaki paused in his chewing.
"Then I can stay." both women look up at the soldier with surprise.
"But, sir. You deserve this as much as the rest of us! It wouldn't be the same without you around! Besides, you couldn't possibly manage all of those soldiers by yourself!" Shibazaki argued, setting down her chopsticks, while Maki continued.
"Exactly! It'll be at least a week to a week and a half until everyone is back! That's not very fair." Maki added, and Shibazaki nodded, but Komaki shook his head and waved his hand dismissively.
"Pish-posh, you all worry far too much about me. I'm an instructor for a reason, you know!" he exclaimed, pretending to sound hurt, before continuing. "Since the museum operation, Genda has been working the men nearly into the ground; they need a break too." he said with a chuckle, finishing his food and rising to his feet. "Besides, I'd feel like the third wheel going with all of you! You're so young, and in love! You all deserve to have time alone with each other! I'd only be intruding."
And with that, he made his way towards the entrance of the cafeteria, despite the protests of both women. At least... until Shibazaki said something that made him pause.
"But what about Marie!" she asked, causing both the reporter beside her and the Task Force member to hesitate. Komaki paused, a small smile began to form on his lips as he thought of the sweet eighteen-year-old he had just recently entered a relationship with. It had taken some time, but he'd gotten Marie to open up a little to some of his co-workers and she had quickly become good friends with both Iku and Shibazaki, so he wasn't surprised that the young clerk mentioned her. Smile still intact, Komaki glanced back at Shibazaki and offered her a slightly shrug.
"Maybe..." he said gently, before turning back and leaving the canteen.
Komaki sighed, lifting a hand and scratching the back of his neck in thought. Shibazaki had played her trump card, and he knew Marie would have loved to take the trip with them and he wanted more than anything to take her too. However, deep down, he also knew that they didn't know the guilt he felt about everything that had happened. True, his regrets made him feel as though he was cutting himself off, but his friends came first, and they all deserved it more than he did; he still felt like it was his fault anyways. But he'd never tell them that.
He knew what he was doing...
He just felt horrible for pulling Marie into it too.
He stormed down to the lobby, walking straight out the back door and into the courtyard in a blind fit of self-annoyance. Never had he ever felt so scared, so angry. Not even when his own life was on the line did he find it so hard to breathe. Growling to himself, Dojo kept walking, his feet carrying further and further away from the hotel, until he felt himself slowing down. Eventually, he came to a stop, unable to force his feet forward. Closing his eyes, Dojo let out an exasperated sigh, before shoving his hands in his pockets and lifting his head to darkening night sky. Letting another breath escape his slightly parted lips, Dojo opened his eyes. It was a clear night, and he could hear the sound of the ocean waves crashing upon the beach and on a normal day he would have smiled at the serene atmosphere, but tonight was different. Tonight uncertainty rolled around in the pit of his stomach and nothing but the soft giggles and loving smile of a certain brown-eyed burnette would be able to put his racing thoughts at ease.
Dojo lowered his gaze and looked silently over the gently rolling waves. He had always loved the ocean, ever since he was a little kid, and he would always look forward to the vacations his family would take at the end of each summer, when they used to travel from their inner-city apartment to their summer home on the beach. He had experienced some of the best moments of his childhood there, and when he heard that this was the location the team was being sent to for their vacation, he was ecstatic. He had been planning on showing Iku everything, letting her in and showing her the best years of his childhood was only a small step, but he wanted her to accept him for everything he was. He wanted to point everything out to her; the docks where he and his father would spend hours on the boat, perhaps even the small park that his father had proposed to his mother in all those years ago.
Dojo let a small, bemused smile slip onto his lips as his gaze falling to rest on his bare feet as the small waves crawled up the sand and lapped around them. He had thought and thought and even re-thought about it; he thought about anything and everything that they'd been though and he kept returning to the exact same result, but his fears sent more shockwaves through his body than the nightmares he had been subjected to after the accident. No, this was a new sort of fear entirely, it was the fear of losing her.
Fingering the small velvet box in his pocket, Dojo found himself gazing down at the water that was slowly rising up to meet his ankles. He chuckled, when he'd ran out the door, he had forgotten to put on his shoes...
Dojo froze. He ran out. He ran out on Iku!
"Damn it, Atsushi, you idiot!" Dojo let out a groan and he sank to his knees, one hand slipping through his bangs in aggravation as the other clutched the small box in his pocket, as if it'd disappear as soon as he let it go. Then, as if realizing that it was still there, Dojo carefully extracted the black box and held it in front of him. His expression loosened up and he gently unclasped the decorative lock and slowly lifted the top until it snapped into place, proudly displaying the small ring. He was about to make one of the biggest decisions in his entire life and the pressure should have been eating him into a pile of bite-sized Dojos by now, but every time he thought of seeing the ring slipped perfectly onto the ring-finger of her left hand his heart soared and he felt lighter than air. This is what he wanted more than anything and yet... he didn't know how to tell her.
Sighing, Dojo's shoulders slumped and his head fell in defeat, before he looked up again and gazed that the little piece of twisted metal that seemed to hold so much more meaning than any other piece of jewelry. It was a small, woven and glistening Sterling Silver band. A claw-like setting adorn the center of the woven pattern and within it very center a small diamond was mounted. Even the small petals that splayed out from beneath the rock and its metal casing only seemed to remind him more and more of Iku. Chuckling softly, the man could already imagine the girl's response to the ring's design, most likely something about how a simple, less expensive ring would have been okay, scolding him for spoiling her with something so extravagant. He wouldn't argue, because he would easily agree, but she was well worth it, and she deserved to be pampered at least once in her life, although she'd fervently argue it. Yet, he had to admit it, the ring itself was a little more sophisticated than he had originally wanted, but the small section of carved silver at the bottom of the shank made it all worth it.
The thought of her agreeing made a smile force its way onto his lips, and suddenly, he was overcome by the urge to see her. He wanted to apologize for walking out. He wanted to explain the way he felt about her, to get down on his knees like he was now and asked her the question that had been on the tip of his tongue for so long.
Dojo sighed, closing the box and placing it back in his pocket as he slowly rose to his feet, looking out across the ocean once more, before taking a step back. However, no matter how badly he wanted to, he knew it wasn't the time, when it actually would be the right time, he had absolutely no idea, but he knew that this wouldn't be the night. Too much had happened, and she was probably upset with him. Taking another step back, Dojo trudged through the sand back to the boardwalk and from there he let his feet carrying him back towards the hotel without another word, only the thoughts of holding Iku and seeing that always-so-forgiving smile she gave him whenever he apologized for doing something stupid. Dojo smiled at that thought, and he took another deep breath, before picking up the pace and jogging the rest of the way.
If only he could tell her...
Iku sneezed softly, before giving the sides of her jacket a small tug, pulling them closer and welcoming the slight warmth it provided as she stood outside in the courtyard, gazing at the flower beds that surrounded the area. She let out a soft sigh, tucking a few strands of hair behind her ear, before looking up at the full moon that illuminated the sky and letting cool ocean breeze wrap itself around her. Dark brown eyes sparkled with the light of the shining stars, and she took a deep breath. Her mind was racing, every thought, no matter how hard she tried, tracing back to Dojo.
She couldn't stop thinking about it. She'd never known him to act like that before; not since she'd met him at least. One moment playful, another gentle, the next ruffled, and finally... scared. She wasn't used to this, she didn't even know that it was possible to for anyone's attitude to change that rapidly. To say that she was worried would be an understatement; it went beyond that now. And although she would admit that she didn't know him as well as she would have liked, she knew him enough to distinguish this from his normally laid-back, but strict personality.
Letting out a sigh of frustration, Iku closed her eyes, her thoughts relaying the happenings of some of their previous outings over the past two months; outings that took place on nights much like this. He'd always walk her back to her dorm, an arm around her shoulders or her waist or holding her hand, always something to assure her that it was all real. Whether they were returning from a dinner out, the movies, or wherever they went, he'd always walk her up to her dorm room, ignoring prying eyes, and kiss her good-night, before telling her not to be late for work in the morning and leaving. Iku smiled at the thought, in its own way, it was a sweet gesture, and it only seemed to add yet another aspect to his already-charming personality.
Now that she put some thought into it, he wasn't like most of the guys she had dated in the past. He never pressured her, never tried to change her, never discouraged her. Iku smiled, zipping up her jacket and placing her hands on the concrete banister that acted a barrier between the blooming flower beds and the drop-off tothe beach about ten to twenty feet below. He always put her first, no matter the situation, even before they were dating. He was always protecting her; from her parents, the media, the evils of the world, even from Tezuka during the start of her induction to the Task Force. At the same time, he had pushed her harder than anyone... because he wanted her to stop before she got hurt. Sighing again, Iku shook her head and pushed away from the banister and walked over the center of the courtyard. She smiled to herself as she extended her arms and close her eyes as the thought of her and Dojo's first 'offical' date popped into her head.
He had decided to take her to the theater to see 'Swan Lake', and as they made their way back to the base, Iku had inquired about how the dancers could manage to spin around so elegantly without getting dizzy. Passing through the nearby park, Iku gave the dancers' movements a try; spreading her arms and spinning on the ball of her foot, hopping and twirling experimentally from one foot to another, laughing at herself, until she spun into her boyfriend's arms. She wasn't sure when he had gotten in front of her, but as she apologized and attempted to pull away, his arms were already around her waist and his chuckling made her knees weak. Her arms folded underneath her as she leaned into him, her eyes growing slightly, but he only smirked. Iku opened her mouth to protest, when something in his eyes changed, and she fell silent as he leaned in, gently touching his lips to hers and closing his eyes.
Initially, Iku was surprised by his actions, but her eyes soon fell shut and her arms slid up from his chest and wrapped around his neck. She felt herself being drawn closer as one of his hands slid into place on the back of her head, but just a suddenly, he gently pulled his lips from hers and pulled her into a hug, gently pulling her head down to rest on his shoulder. Originally his embrace had filled her with a sense of warmth and her stomach fluttered with hope at what all they could become, but there was a small voice of doubt that resided in the back of her mind and her thoughts had begun to waver. However, as time went on, Dojo had proved to her time and time again that this wasn't some cruel joke that her mind was trying to convince her of, he proved to her that he really cared for her, more than anyone she'd ever known. He accepted her with open arms and that thought alone had sent her directly to cloud nine.
Smiling to herself, Iku twirled around just like she had that night, staying on her feet with a better sense of balance and adding a leap here and there. She let out a small laugh as she danced clumsily around the courtyard, until the sound of clapping floated through the air, halting her in her spot. Iku opened her eyes and blushed as her eyes found her boyfriend leaning against the gates into the courtyard, looking more amused than ever. Iku scowled at the cocky smirk he wore, before turning away and folding her arms over her chest, childishly refusing to look at him.
Dojo chuckled at her antics, before opening the gate and stepping into the courtyard, extracting his hands from his pockets as he leisurely approached her from behind. Glancing back to see if her plan had worked, Iku gave a small 'eep' as his arms wrapped around her waist and he leaned up to whisper against her ear, sending involuntary shivers down her spine.
"It seems that someone's been practicing." he teased lightly as her hands fell to rest over his and she entwined their fingers while he continued, "pity you aren't the only one." He knew exactly what was coming next and when Iku let out a huff he smirked victoriously. She knew he was smirking, but she was unable to resist the urge to look back at him, so Iku squirmed a little in his unyielding grasp, before lifting her gaze to meet his over her shoulder; big mistake. Dojo smirked, he'd won, and she knew, because within seconds, he slipped his lips into hers and she smiled against his mouth, leaning back against him as she gently kissed back.
When they separated, a gentle shade of pink graced Iku's cheeks, and her boyfriend chuckled, before stepping back and pulling her with him until they were standing in the center of the courtyard. Iku stared down at the entricate patterns of seashells and flowers stamped into the tiles beneath their feet, before noticing the small squeeze Dojo gave her hand and looked up at him curiously. He smiled in response, and she was about to ask him what he was doing, when he leaned over and whispered against her ear.
"Just trust me and close your eyes, you'll figure it out soon enough." Iku obeyed, albeit suspiciously, before feeling him pressing a soft kiss to her cheek and chuckling as he pulled her a little closer.
"What exactly are you doing?" she couldn't help it! The suspense was killing her, and when her boyfriend remained silent, she opened her mouth to repeat her question, when he shushed her.
"Just relax, Iku. It's okay." he said softly, and Iku let out a small huff, but tried to make herself relax anyways, and only then did she realize that the ground was swaying slightly. She cracked open her eyes in slight concern, but she soon realized that she was wrong. No, the ground wasn't moving, they were moving gently from side-to-side. Slightly surprised, Iku was tempted to look back at Dojo, and when she finally caved into her urge, she barely caught sight of his closed eyes before he playfully reprimanded her. "Close your eyes, Iku. That's an order."
She giggled at his light, commanding tone, before quietly complying and returning to her previous position. Indeed, knowing that she was safe in his arms, she felt her worries slip away, only to be replaced by the light weight of his chin resting on her shoulder and the the soft tickle of his dark hair brushing her cheek. Although she wasn't about to complain, she'd never seen him act so... affectionate before, and while she welcomed the change, it left her a little confused as her mind tried to search for some logical reason, but continuously found none. Not until he spoke again in a soft, regretful tone that she hated hearing.
"I'm sorry for walking out on you, Iku. I-" He knew that she hated it when he apologized for little things, she had told him too, but he hadn't expected her to interrupt him either.
"Enough, you know I hate it when you apologize, Atsushi." she said, her voice barely more than a whisper as she turned in his arms and met his unsettling gaze as she continued. "So, please... just stop. You always have a reason for the things you do, and although it may not always make sense to me, you always do something to earn my forgiveness before you even ask for it." she said with a small laugh as the unease expression on Dojo face lifted and he offered her a small, shy smile. Iku giggled, before leaning forward and touching her forehead to his and smiled softly. "After all, it's impossible to stay mad at you forever. And trust me, I've tried."
At that, Dojo scowled slightly, before smirking and pulling away, but only to lean up and kiss her forehead. Even if he had grown some since she had first joined the Task force, she was still about an inch taller than him, but he didn't care. He loved her. So much more than she could ever imagine. And to hear those words come from her, he felt his confidence rise and he almost reached for the ring in his pocket, but stopped himself as Iku lowered her head carefully tucked it into the crook of his neck. He smiled, gazing down at the cute, almost innocent expression on her face as she closed her eyes. No, it would have to wait, because he had no desire to ruin this moment, so he pushed that thought from his mind and simply let himself revel in the warmth and secure feeling of holding her in his arms.
They stayed that way for some time, before Iku slowly lifted her head and gave a small yawn, blinking against the courtyard lights, before looking at Dojo lightly. He raised a brow and she was about to lower her head again, when he stepped back, putting a good distance between them and sending her heart plummeting. Her eyes widened in slight fear, before realizing that he held her at an arm's length with their hands still entwined and a small grin playing across his lips. By this point, Iku was completely confused by the man's actions, but before she could even utter a word, he took a step in and pulled her in the rest of the way. Iku gasped in surprise as one of his hands slipped down to her wrist, guiding her hand onto his shoulder, before his fell down to rest on her waist. Curious, Iku tilted her head to the side and he smiled a little wider.
"I'm going to teach you how to dance." he said simply, and she blushed slightly, lowering her head.
"Am I really that bad?" she asked, laughing softly as she looked up at him shyly, half-expecting him to him to laugh, when instead, he did the complete opposite and shook his head.
"No, I just want to hold you a little longer. If you don't mind, or course." he said softly, and Iku smiled, her cheeks still dusted with a light pink as she gave him a small nod before answering.
"You know you don't have to ask." she replied, and Dojo nodded, before taking a step to the side and having her follow. They started with simply movements, small delicate steps until Iku was a little bit more comfortable, before moving a little faster. During the majority of their 'lesson' Iku's head was bowed and his mouth was beside her ear, gently whispering step-by-step instructions to her as he led her through their music-less dance. In the beginning, she eyes were all but glued to to their feet, specifically hers as she clumsily fumbled to match her boyfriend's perfectly-timed steps, but she eventually closed her eyes and let the sound of his voice guide her, letting her head fall on his shoulder once again with a small giggle.
Curious, Dojo slowed down their movements and glanced down at his partner. "What?" In response, the young woman smiled lightly, her shoulders giving a small shake as she laughed quietly.
"You're not wearing shoes, Instructor Dojo." she giggled, opening her eyes to look up at the man, surprised to see him blushing a little as he gave a shaky laugh.
"Heheh, yeah. I figured that out a little while ago, when I got a splinter walking back here." he said with a chuckle, before seeing Iku lift her head and quickly added, "Don't worry, it was small and came out before I got here."
Iku relaxed, about to lowered her head again, when the gentle ocean breeze swept up into the courtyard, rushing around her legs and causing her to shiver slightly, despite the warmth Dojo provided. He seemed to notice too, and glanced down to see her in a pair of dark blue sleep-shorts that only came down to her mid-thigh, leaving the rest of her cream-colored skin exposed to the chilling ocean air. Smiling slightly, he pulled her into a small twirl, before releasing her hand wrapping both of his arms around her, holding her against his chest.
Leaning up he gave her another loving kiss on the forehead, before resting his head against hers and taking a hold of her hands and whispering, "Cold?"
Iku scowled, looking away stubbornly, she knew he was right, he knew he was right, but she still hated admitting her weaknesses, no matter how childish it seemed at times. Dojo chuckled, taking a step towards the hotel and gently pulling her along until she started to move on her own and caught up to walk beside him. Dojo glanced over at her, smiling softly as she slipped under his arm as he held open the door and took the lead towards their room, glancing back only to grin at him with all that energy he had seemed to lose over the years.
It was funny, despite it all, that he still wasn't quite sure what it was that drew him to her. Whether it was the equal passion she held for books, that bright, bubbly, and endlessly welcoming personality that was a complete contrast of his own, or something else, Dojo knew one thing for sure. This is where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Standing by her side, holding her hand, protecting her.
Dojo smiled as they stopped in front of their hotel door and he watched as Iku fished for her key.
He was in love with Iku Kasahara, and he never wanted to let her go.
Well, hello, my lovelies.
Yes, I have finally updated with chapter, though it's only some minor adjustments here and there and no real plot tweaks. I will be taking down chapter 4, though. I'm not too pleased with how it came out and I want to change it a little bit.
Anyhoo, I've been crazy busy, so don't expect any consistent or timely updates!