Aoshi headed for the restaurant with Misao’s arm still linked with his. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed she would always turn her gaze back up to him, as though making a decision as to what he looked like in "normal" clothing to her. He really didn’t understand what was so wrong with his other clothing. It wasn’t like he was wearing all leather with fake chains hooked from a belt buckle to his pocket or walking around with jeans so low on your hips that you’d be showing off your butt crack. He had more style then that and leather on him, since he didn’t mind admitting it to himself, suited his physique. He could wear whatever the hell he wanted, but because of Misao paying him good money, wanting his services, he would bend to her requests, but only a little though. Getting involved with her would be a bad idea…a very, very bad idea.
Aoshi remained silent and cast all thoughts aside as he entered the Rin Maru Restaurant and observed the manager on duty walking towards them and welcomed Misao in a nice professional manner.
"Good evening Makimachi-san, it’s wonderful to see you again."
"Why thank you Kuro-san." Misao replied politely back.
"Your other guests have not arrived yet, but I‘ll show you to your table. Please, come this way." He spoke and Aoshi continued walking with Misao until the man stopped and placed out a chair. However, Aoshi let go of Misao and pulled out his own chair, giving the surprised young woman a small smile as he placed his hand out indicating for her to take a seat. Misao did so and eyed Aoshi silently once more as he too sat down.
"See Misao-sama, I can be charming if the need arises." Aoshi spoke with a wink and his only reply back was the rolling of Misao’s eyes. She was just about to say something when she noticed Kuro-san return with two other guests.
"Good evening Makimachi-san, I apologise that my grandson and I are late. You remember my grandson Soujiro don’t you?" An elderly man known as Suichi Seta Snr spoke gesturing to a short man with dark hair and a smile on his face.
"How could I forget." Misao spoke and watched Soujiro’s smile grow slightly as she shook both of the men’s hands. However, Soujiro did not let go and in fact moved closer and planted a light kiss on Misao’s cheek. Aoshi for his part did nothing but watch.
"Excuse my rudeness, this is a friend of mine, Aoshi Shinomori." Aoshi had stared at the hands of the other two men before reluctantly shaking them with his firm grip. After the initial greetings and introductions the four of them sat down, Misao and Seta Snr diving straight into the meeting while Aoshi sat boredly and gazed around the restaurant. A waiter soon came with their first meal and Aoshi, with a small frown encasing his lips, looked down at the "morsels" on the plate and couldn’t help but ask what it was he was about to eat.
"Excuse me for interrupting, but what is this?"
"Snails, a delicacy from France. You really should try them Shinomori-san." Soujiro pipped up, Misao and Seta Snr having stopped their conversation to gaze at the slightly frowning Aoshi who did nothing but stare down at the snails as though they were ready to jump up and attack him.
"Go ahead Shinomori-san." Soujiro pressed once more, Aoshi’s green-grey eyes lifting up to stare over at his smiling face, but soon reverted them back down to the snails. There was a cracking sound from Soujiro who was using the appropriate utensils to crack the shell, but Aoshi was having none of it. He may be into trying new things, but he just realised he had found a limit to what he would try.
"I think I’ll pass. I’m on a ‘no snails’ diet." Soujiro laughed at his words and had to comment.
"You really are funny Shinomori-san."
"I was being serious." Came the bland reply. By now Seta Snr and Misao were back to discussing business, while Aoshi watched the waiter take their entrée dishes away (his untouched) and replaced them with a Caesar Salad.
"Does the meat come separately?" He questioned once more, completely ignoring the narrowed glance he received from Misao.
"There is no meat in this salad Shinomori-san, just bacon bits."
"I see…" He softly replied and began eating the bland salad.
Xx Fifteen Minutes Later xX
Soujiro had tried having a friendly conversation with Aoshi, but was stopped by Misao who said they were here for business and not a chit chat. Thus Soujiro finally joined in on the business conversations while Aoshi sat back in his chair trying to get the attention of the waiter. He really needed a drink, if only to pass the time.
Finally a waiter was walking over with a silver tray, but on it happened to be their desserts. Aoshi didn’t mind though since he smelt custard. Custard was something he could handle, but when he looked down at what the custard was drenched over he became unsure once more. His eyes drifted to Misao’s untouched one, then over to Seta Snr and Soujiro’s watching them take bites of the dessert. Aoshi lifted his spoon into the bowl and placed some of the dessert into his mouth.
"So what’s this then?" He questioned; knowing the "smiling freak" as Aoshi had opted to refer to Soujiro as was going to answer him.
"Um, spotted dick and custard I believe." There was a choking noise from Aoshi and three pairs of eyes turned to look over at his bent head.
"Will you excuse me for a moment." Aoshi silently stood and walked off, in quick long strides towards the men’s restroom. Once he was in the confines of the bathroom he spat the dessert into a nearby trash can and washed his mouth out. Finally he lifted his face from the sink and looked at his reflection.
"I swear she’s torturing me." Aoshi mumbled to himself before wiping his hands and face and exited the bathroom to head back towards the table. As he walked back he heard the end of a conversation from Seta Snr.
"I had the pleasure of meeting your grandfather Okina years ago Makimachi-san. He is quite different form you, not as forceful I have to say."
"Yes I can actually agree to that. He very much loved entertaining the women, but never was he truly serious about the Makimachi Tea Shrine, perhaps that’s why it was left in my capable hands for I have no problem with being cunning or forceful."
"Still though, I respected him very much. So how is he these days?"
"Dead…" Came the sudden reply from Misao.
"I’m sorry to hear that." Seta Snr and Soujiro spoke simultaneously. At that point Aoshi sat back down in his chair.
"Yes, well you wouldn’t be the first." Misao stubbornly replied once more. Aoshi did nothing but turn to face Misao for a moment. He knew she was hiding her real feelings.
"There is no time for personal matters Seta-san. You asked for this meeting, I agreed to it so tell me what you want."
"Leave the Seta Coffee House alone."
"I cannot do that." Aoshi watched the old mans face redden in anger.
"Ojiisan, please calm down." The smiling Soujiro spoke and then he turned to Misao as he spoke once more.
"Misao, my grandfather has been in business for many years, we are of no threat to you." Aoshi arched his eyebrow, so this guy was on a first name basis with her. There was obviously a past between them and by the look that had flashed through Misao’s eyes she was not happy with him calling her by plain ‘Misao’.
"Actually Soujiro-san I don’t understand why your grandfather is being so stubborn. By the figures I have in my briefcase you are rapidly loosing customers, so you might as well let me buy you out of business and become rich men."
"I am rich enough with my branches Makimachi-san. You just wait and see your Tea Shrine won’t be popular for long. Shinomori-san, it was nice meeting you, but I’ve suddenly lost my appetite."
"I’m sorry about his behaviour, I do hope you understand why he is the way he is Misao. It was nice to meet you as well Shinomori-san and I bid the both of you good night." Aoshi did nothing but nod his head and watched Soujiro race after his mumbling grandfather. His eyes returned to Misao, watching her get up after signing for the bill. Aoshi followed Misao and they both headed silently towards the lifts.
Xx In the penthouse xX
Aoshi came out of the bathroom, barefoot but still dressed in the white trousers with his black silk shirt untucked and three of the six buttons were undone. He noticed Misao was sitting in a chair just at the entrance of the balcony doorway.
"I thought you didn’t like heights." Aoshi stated while heading over to the railing and leaning against it.
"It is true and so this is as far as I’ll ever go." Misao spoke, one leg crossed casually over the other.
"So when did your grandfather die?" Aoshi questioned lightly.
"About four years ago. We had this major fight over the Tea Shrine as I never wanted to take it over, but I stormed out that night, got a phone call about a week later and it was a family friend calling to tell me gramps had died of a heart attack."
"So did you get what you wanted from that old man?" Misao’s voice had been edged with sadness and so Aoshi thought it best to change the subject as he now sat up on the balcony railing.
"No, he is very stubborn, so it’s going to take me longer to convince him."
"Really?" Aoshi half-heartedly questioned as he lifted himself up onto his feet, now standing on the concrete railing and pressed his hands flat against the roofing of the balcony, his silk shirt lifting up and now resting at his hips.
"Can you not do that, you’re making me very nervous."
"Is that so?" There was a gleam in Aoshi’s eyes but Misao missed it completely, only watching, her eyes widening as he took a small step, a step to big for the thin railing as he "gasped" in surprise falling over the edge plummeting to his death. There was a scream, a chair hitting the ground and then a loud voice soon followed as footsteps hurried to the balcony’s edge.
"OH MY GOD AOSHI!" Misao had yelled in pure fright, not realising or caring as she yelled his name without the suffix. Her large eyes peered over the edge only to have her step back in fright as a head of dark shiny hair and laughing green-grey eyes peeked over. Aoshi casually raised himself up and over the railing to stand perfectly normal on his own two feet again and this time on solid concrete floor. Misao stared wide-eyed up at the smirking Aoshi.
"I cured that height phobia of yours didn’t I? After all look how far you’re standing out now." Aoshi observed as Misao’s orbs blazed angrily at him, but mere seconds past as the anger was gone and was now replaced with tears.
"You bastard! How could you! How could you…" Misao thumped him on the chest, not knowing what else to do. Her heart had leapt into her throat when she watched him fall to his death…or was supposed to anyway. It had all been a game to him, but to her, his death would mean…loneliness.
"Are you crying?!?" Aoshi questioned in slight shock his hands resting on Misao’s shoulders as he felt them tremble while he pushed her slightly away to see if his calculations were accurate.
"I was so scared. I thought you…" Misao couldn’t finish. She felt like such an idiot, but in truth she never really was good with her emotions and what had happened only seconds ago broke the wall of the dam of emotions that she had let build up inside of her. Misao’s head leaned against Aoshi’s chest, her shoulders still trembling, but she did not sob. Oh how she didn’t want him to tease her about this. In fact what came instead was something quite surprising to her.
"I’m sorry…" Misao’s head snapped up at those words, eyes wide as she watched his finely chiseled face bend down as he brushed his lips lightly over hers, then instantly pulled away to stand at his proper height once more.
"You seemed to hide your feelings earlier tonight and looked too serious for someone your age. In fact, the truth is, I wanted to see a genki Misao-sama for once, but I guess I blew that." Misao never did answer his question, but instead did something she would have never thought she could have done in a million years, especially with someone of his occupation. She stood on tiptoes, arms reaching to encircle around Aoshi’s neck and crushed her lips to his. If Aoshi had been surprised he did not show it and only kissed the short woman back as she was currently assaulting his mouth with her tongue. Aoshi’s arms itched at his sides and finally he lifted them up to wrap around the petite Misao, bringing her chest close to his. Aoshi soon discovered there was a body under that business suit. Misao on her behalf moaned lightly at the feel of Aoshi’s tongue grazing across her bottom lip, but quickly her eyes shot open and she pushed away from him, chest heaving for air and eyes wide in mortification for what had just transpired between them.
"I…I…" Misao was having difficulty placing words together, but who wouldn’t when you’d just been in a passionate lip lock with Aoshi who was now calmly looking down at her, but his hair was slightly ruffled and his shirt was even more crinkled then before.
"Do not apologise Misao-sama, instead come inside and freshen up. You look like you could do with a bit of relaxation anyway." Aoshi spoke as he pushed Misao into the penthouse and slid the balcony door closed. Her face was bright red and Aoshi couldn’t help but smile lightly at how much he had affected her. She couldn’t blame him though; she was the one that initiated it in the first place. This was good; he could bring this up at a later date just to get her back for that spotted dick.
"So what is your idea of relaxation?" Misao questioned stiffly, face still burning red as she tried to get the feel of Aoshi’s lips away from hers, not to mention the taste of mint within his mouth as well. Unfortunately as hard as Misao tried, her mind would not allow it.
"Showering, ordering edible food in my opinion and watching lame shows on television that I can mock. What was your mind thinking Misao-sama?" Aoshi teased while leaning ever so closer to Misao’s face, looking like he was going to capture her lips in another heated kiss, but instead he let her dart away and watched her head for the bathroom.
Xx Twenty minutes later xX
Misao stepped out of the bathroom wearing a pair of jeans and a button down black shirt. It was quite casual for her, but still very smart. She eyed Aoshi and noticed he was doing exactly what he said he would, lying on the carpet, eating some beef fried rice and mocking a show he was currently watching.
"I will not bite no matter what you think Misao-sama, so you can come over." Aoshi responded but never faced her as he shook his head at the terrible fighting sequence of an old movie before flipping the channel to view something else.
Aoshi moved his head over his shoulder when he heard the sound of clothing moving, only to find Misao standing by his side dressed in normal clothing and not her pyjamas. He was about to question her when in fact she kneeled beside him, one hand absently brushing his bangs from his forehead before dropping her hand away and speaking first.
"I’ll be downstairs for a little while, so don’t wait up for me." Aoshi silently watched her leave, she not even taking the card key with her and so he would have to wait up for her. Aoshi didn’t mind and soon his attention was back to the television and mocking yet another samurai film.
Xx Three in the Morning xX
Aoshi yawned lightly, hand ruffling his messy hair as he sat up from the carpet to read his watch in the light of the television screen. It was late…or early and still Misao was not back. All she had stated was that she’d be downstairs so Aoshi only had three places to check which consisted of the bar, the lounge and the restaurant. He got up, taking the key with him and left the penthouse. As he hit the button to head down to the lobby he realised he was still barefoot and wearing crumpled white dinner trousers and his half buttoned black shirt. Shrugging his shoulders Aoshi entered the lift mumbling the lobby to the elevator operator.
As Aoshi stepped out of the lift, he turned to look at the male elevator operator and listened to what he said.
"Your companion made her way to the entertainment lounge section in the lobby, just across from Kamiya’s Bar." Aoshi nodded his head in thanks to the information and headed towards the lounge.
Aoshi opened the door to realise no one was inside, well no one except the young woman who was playing the piano that is. Misao sat oblivious to him now leaning against the side of the piano and watching her. She had her eyes closed after all. Once the song ended, her eyes opened, ready to place her fingers over different keys to start another song, but recognised the figure beside the piano instantly.
"You play well."
"It helps me unwind." Misao instantly replied and placed her hands in her lap. She was beginning to wonder just how long he had been standing there.
"Is that right? Usually I just end up punching something as that helps me unwind." Aoshi responded while leaning more against the piano, this time turning to face it as he placed his chin on his folded arms, intense eyes still starring over at Misao who was staring blankly at him.
"What?" Aoshi questioned and watched Misao tilt her head slightly.
"I thought your ‘unwinding’ would be of a different nature." Aoshi caught the meaning of the sentence and raised himself from the piano.
"I told you before, no sex with clients remember?"
"Oh yes I remember, but I’m quite sure you’ve broken that rule right?"
"Play some more." Aoshi requested as he completely ignored Misao’s blunt question and moved to the side of the stool, still looking down at her.
"No, you’re here now and I can’t play with an audience." Aoshi moved again, this time he stood behind Misao, but dropped to rest upon his knees, arms swiftly going around her thin waist while his forehead rested between her shoulder blades.
"Wha-What are you doing?" Misao shakily asked.
"You cannot escape now, so please play something. I won’t utter a word so it’ll be like you are on your own." Misao took a deep breath. Play like he wasn’t here? Like that was even possible when she could feel the pressure of his hands around her waist and the weight of his forehead pressing into her upper back. Well she could always give it a try right?
Aoshi had been true to his words. Misao played three heart-wrenching ballads, all ones she could remember from her music teacher in high school, but tunes were forgotten when Aoshi’s deep voice cut through the darkness in her heart.
"I’m sorry for your loss Misao-sama." Fingers froze above the piano keys; Misao’s eyes slowly opening as she looked down at Aoshi’s joined arms wrapped snuggly around her waist. She knew Aoshi meant those words with all that he had, she could just feel it. Though he did not know her well at all, it was as though he was silently giving her comfort if she wished for it. Perhaps it was one of the services he gave to all women who just felt like giving up in the end, but there was at least hope to give the troubled women as he was someone (even if he was being paid) that would listen.
Misao spoke of nothing in reply to Aoshi’s words and continued playing the other ballads she could remember. It had been so long and she was quite rusty, but the tune did not flow into her mind or heart like they used to. Instead her thoughts were on the warmth coming from the man behind her as she could have sworn she felt it seep into her own body and sent away the darkness in her heart.
It wouldn’t have been more then fifteen minutes as Misao ceased all playing and dropped her hands to her sides.
"Can you take me back upstairs?" Came her soft request and Aoshi did exactly as she asked. He silently picked Misao up bridal style and left the lounge with her cradled against his chest. The two of them spoke of nothing as they headed back to the penthouse. Not even the lift operator dared to gaze back at the two of them since he received a noticeable stare when Aoshi entered the lift as though he was silently telling him to keep his back to them.
Xx Inside the Penthouse xX
Aoshi stood at the bedroom door, watching Misao who was now dressed in her pyjamas turn down her bed. His shirt was fully unbuttoned now, but he leaned away from the side of the door and spoke.
"You should get some rest Misao-sama, you’ve had a long day." Misao did not have the energy to snort at his comment or even make a snappy reply as though he was again treating her like a small child. Aoshi turned to leave since he knew he wasn’t going to get a reply when,
"Please stay with me tonight." Aoshi casually walked to the other side of the bed and slumped down onto the plush mattress. His back was against the headboard and he became mildly surprised when Misao moved to "his" side and wrapped her arms around his waist and placed her head against his chest, right at his heart. Aoshi gazed down at Misao seeing her eyes were closed, but he heard her mumbled explanation for this cuddling act.
"I just need someone to hold onto." Aoshi sighed lightly, his left hand lifting up and over Misao’s shoulders as he placed it onto her loosely braided hair and casually raked his fingers through her blue-black locks. His right however, lifted up to flick off the lights from a switch that was conveniently placed on his side of the bed and then returned it to rest at his waist and placed it over Misao’s left arm. Misao keeping in her emotions was doing her no good, but Aoshi would not bring up anything on the subject unless she did. Instead he let sleep claim him as it had Misao.
Just what will happen in the morning when the two awoke?
Xx To be continued xX