Tea Leaves and Amber

There were very few moments in life that managed to upset John. When he was a child, his sister pushed him into the adult pool; when Nina died, his mother blamed him for her death; once, a child from the orphanage spilled tea on him during an Easter celebration.

He wasn't sure if he's feeling upset right now, or just greatly disturbed. He had been walking around the same block for the past 15 minutes, unsure of what to do. Masami had been flabbergasted - he wasn't sure whether she was furious or just surprised. He didn't even know what had happened between the younger Hara and him. One minute, Masako was pressing him into admission of jealousy, and the next, they were -

He wasn't even jealous, really.

No, really. That Kazuki-person is nothing but another co-worker of his friend. It wasn't that he was jealous. He was worried, yes. Worried that this celebrity would create an issue that would make the press hound his friend. He was definitely, undeniably, absolutely not jealous.

As if there's something to be even jealous about. They're just co-workers, after all. Gossip is overly-sensationalized. They tend to make big things out of the little things, like an assumption of two people being in a relationship when they were just out for coffee, as co-workers. It was an exaggeration of something that was barely there. And plus, if his friend was even remotely attracted to this man, she would tell him, right?

Masako and him had been having a closer friendship these past few days. Their encounter during the previous case was an embarrassment, but it was something they had gotten past. He acknowledged his wrongdoing and Masako had (thankfully!) accepted his apology and overlooked it. After that, he made it a point to remove any awkwardness between them by getting them more comfortable with each other. It seemed to work. He believed there really is more to her than what people would see.

He wondered what would happen to them now.

He shouldn't even be thinking about her. He was ashamed of himself. He was considered to be above temptation - above such worldly desires. He was taught not to give in to your desire and yet here he was, committing what could possibly be the worst mistake of his life. The first time was an accident he couldn't have prevented. But this -

He never intended to kiss her. No, he never would've thought of ever kissing those lips. But then something primal inside of him, something needy and aggressive burst forth until his own body moved against his better judgment. It didn't help that she reciprocated. No, in fact, it made matters worse, now that he thought about it. Had she rejected him, had she only pushed him away, he would've been ashamed enough of his actions right then and there. Had she rejected, he would have felt the whole gravity of the situation, and his mind would not be thinking of reasons why this is not wrong.

A little part of him, a tiny-tiny cell, perhaps, screamed she kissed you first, idiot! He squashed the thought entirely. It didn't matter who initiated the kiss. The point was that they did kiss, and it's unrighteous, it's inexcusable, it's despicable and wrong in so many levels. For one, even if he wasn't a member of the church, they weren't even together!

She was sent as a test, and he failed.

Her mother was furious. Masako had never seen her mother so furious before, she could swear she had seen her turn red in the face. She was actually scared of her.

It's not as if she yelled at them. Quite the contrary. She dropped whatever she was holding (Masako didn't pay attention to what that was) and promptly blushed a very angry red. And then silently, she pointed at John, who looked like he was about to faint any second, and said "out". That was enough to rattle the poor man. He looked at her with fearful and guilty eyes, hesitant to leave, and she nodded, allowing him to go. He needed to get out of there before Masami contemplated having someone kick him out.

"Mind enlightening me on what happened?" her mother said with a reprimanding tone, almost cold. Her stomach dropped. "You're lucky your father isn't here to see this."

The mention of the esteemed patriarch sent shivers down her spine. Her father was a cold, cold man. Ruthless in business and even more so in these matters. She had accepted long before she reached her adolescent years that her future would be decided by Kirihito, who had the best say in the matter. The only say, if she was to be truly honest.

Masami was still looking at her squarely in the eye, and she had the urge to look away, but she thought against it. "I'm sorry. I-"

"You never even told me you had such a cute boyfriend!"

Wait, what?!

"And so nice, too! And you kept him a secret all this time?"

Now she was confused.

"But I thought you - you didn't approve of relatio-"

"Why sweetie, no! Who am I, your father? Please," she waved her hand in the air, approaching the obviously shaken daughter.

Masako furrowed her eyebrows. She had no idea what was happening. All that her mind was processing was that her mother was talking gibberish.

"Jsdankjsjeedfk... Lksljda! Askld. Odklfkams!" All she can see was Masami's mouth moving up and down. And she approached her in what Masako saw as a swerving, drunken manner. The furniture around them moved, and the next thing she saw... well, she couldn't really remember.

John hadn't expected Masako to call him so quickly. In fact, he hadn't expected her to call at all. Ever. He figured she was probably mad at him for even doing what he did. It was his fault - why didn't he resist, after all?

"... Hello?" he answered hesitantly, wondering if getting the call was a good idea. There was a shake in his voice, a sweat running down his forehead. He gulped.

"Brown-san?" He paled upon hearing the voice, his eyes widening, his face turning a significant shade of white.


"Would you mind coming over? And please hurry." John was not able to reply for a few seconds, stunned at the sudden invitation from Masami. Didn't she just ask him to leave about twenty - fifteen - minutes ago? Masami hung up, probably impatient to wait for his answer.

He turned back towards the house. He was barely three blocks away from the Hara residence, thankfully. Not that far.

He wondered what could possibly prompt this invitation. He was almost too scared to come.

Okay, so maybe he was a little scared.

A/N: Hello there! I'm still alive. Albeit, a little half-dead... I'm so sorry.