Hikaru’s finger were flying over the keyboard. It only barely registered in his mind that a question was asked. “Huh?”
“Do you want to play a game?” Hokuto was shuffling through the side cupboard.
Ruby knelt at the coffee table and was clearing it of everything unnecessary. Lying abandoned on the lounge, was her novel.
“Um,” he frowned at the new part of the paper he’d added. It had been days since he last wrote anything on it, guilt made him pull his laptop out and start, and it was a guilt that made him sit in the communal area and try to still be social. ‘Funny, everything sort of faded into the background while I was working.’ Stretching his shoulders, he answered. “Sure. Let me shut down first.”
The three of them sat around the low table, a board game in the centre.
“Where’s Takashi?” Hikaru looked around confused.
“You spaced out for two hours. They’ve already gone to bed.” Hokuto flipped through the instructions. “That is some amazing concentration skills that you have.”
Hikaru bowed his head. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Ruby jumped in. “It’s something you’re passionate about, right?”
Numbly, he nodded.
“Then no-one has the right to pull you away from it.” She smiled.
They sat side by side, so close his knee bumped hers. They were touching on bare skin. The tickling sensation making him hyper sensitive.
She didn’t move out of reach, in fact, it felt like she was moving closer to him.
His mind began to imagine all kinds of things, all of them centred around her loose knee length skirt that was pooling in her lap and exposing her knees to him. ‘Stop it, you’re not a hentai. Think proper thoughts.’ He clenched his hands into fists under the table, wanting nothing more than to run his palms along the warm skin of her thighs, the hem of her skirt tickling his forearms… ‘STOP!’
“Anyone need a drink?” Before waiting for a response, Hikaru was on his feet and heading to the kitchen.
“Ice-tea, please.” Hokuto called out.
“I’ll help,” Ruby said close behind him.
It took everything for him not to leap back into the kitchen cabinets. “It’s fine. I’ve got this.”
Ruby ran her eyes over him in a cold calculated move. “Are you alright? You seem a little flushed.”
Feeling the heat in his face more, he turned away and busied himself getting glasses and ice-tea. “Do you want some?”
The glasses clinked as he poured, the tip of the spout hitting by accident.
“Hikaru, do you… that is, I know we’re adults and things should be easier now… it’s just.”
He didn’t dare look around at the woman, his heart was racing, a thin sheen of sweat breaking out over his skin, and his hearing tuned to only her. He could hear every breath, every flick of her tongue over her lips, rustle of fabric as she moved.
“After that kiss, I thought it meant we’re more than just friends. But nothing else has happened.”
Her bare feet made quiet taps on the floor. Suddenly he was forced to look directly at her as she took his face in both of her hands and held him steady. “Can we stop with the games?”
“I want to know, because I have accommodation booked and a whole plan for travelling around Japan, if I maybe should be cancelling all of that.” Her hands released him, slowly and with jerked movements, she let them drop back to her side. “I know I’m assuming a lot; we haven’t been on a real date or made any promises. But I have this feeling that if we…” She froze there. “That is.”
Hikaru couldn’t stop the words from just saying themselves. “I think I’m falling in love with you.”
Ruby blinked a couple of times. “Same.”
Inhaling deeply, he continued. “But, you’re not going to cancel anything because of this.”
“What?” The smile that had been beginning to show, disappeared completely.
“You didn’t come to Japan looking for a date, you came for an adventure.” It was stabbing his gut, very single word plunged into him with the intention to kill him. ‘Keep talking, don’t make her change her life for no reason than just a vague feeling.’
“Do what you want, don’t hang around for me to see if this can develop into something.”
She was silent for a while as she thought. “This is even more confusing.”
Hikaru went back to pouring drinks. ‘Baka! What are you doing? She’s changed her mind and wants to give you what you want, and you’re talking her out of it? What if she goes off and meets someone else, or realises that she doesn’t actually feel any love for me and flies home, never to be seen again?’ Another voice in his head responded. ‘Because that’s her choice.’
He sighed. “I have no right to ask you on a date or to kiss you again because I really don’t have the time to give to you, I’m sorry. You deserve a man who will choose you first, not work.”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “I’m not some precious princess or an object that has to be worshiped.” Her jaw clenched.
The intimate mood in the kitchen was quickly replaced.
Hikaru stepped back. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You did. You’re not trying to protect me; you’re trying to stop yourself from feeling anything in life. Who says that I wouldn’t priorities my work before you? I’m on holidays so I’m not thinking about my work at the moment, I act very differently when something has to be done.” She gave a humourless laugh. “What are you so afraid of? Why is feeling anything for someone so scary for you that you push them away with this time bullshit?” Not receiving an answer, she snatched up two of the glasses from the counter and stormed off.