Title: A Little Push
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Characters: Utsumi Kaoru/Yukawa Manabu, Jonouchi Sakurako
Summary: 'How dare he,' she tells herself, 'how dare he not pursue this, when he pursues everything else?' 1855 words.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: For Vaberella, who wanted a story about their first date. This took me forever to write, but that's okay, because it's a surprise anyway.
He's sleeping, or pretending to, head propped on the window of the car.
This is nothing new, but the feeling that sweeps over her when she glances over at him is.
She's gotten used to this. She doesn't ever want it to change.
When Utsumi realizes this, she can't breathe for a few long seconds and then she draws in breath so sharply it hurts.
Yukawa lifts his head from the window and looks at her with sharp eyes and Utsumi feels heat flash across her face and neck so fast that she feels like she leaned into a fire. She leans forward to fumble the radio on and doesn't even bother changing the dial to something she would actually listen to, just puts her hands back on the wheel and stares straight ahead.
Yukawa asks, "Are you all right?"
She says, "Fine, fine. Perfect."
She's lying. And, she knows he knows she is. She wonders how long it will be before he pushes to know, or if he'll leave it alone.
The man knows everything. It's only a matter of time that he figures it out.
Well, at least that will spare her the need for explanation.
She doesn't notice, but a whole month passes. He doesn't say a word. She doesn't know whether she should be angry or relieved when she realizes how much time has passed.
Jonouchi rummages in the small refrigerator, looking for yogurt and muttering imprecations on the container for hiding from her. Utsumi listens with half an ear, chin propped in her hand, elbow propped on the table. Her hair is down in her eyes, but she's too tired to push it out of the way.
Jonouchi sits down beside her, on the extra stool, having found her yogurt. She dips her spoon in, lifting out a pink glob and eating it before asking, "How is Yukawa-sensei?"
Utsumi lifts her head without moving her hand, startled. "What?"
Jonouchi smiles, amused, and says, "You said that Yukawa-sensei is oblivious." She eats another spoonful and then points at Utsumi with the utensil, "Of what, exactly, is he oblivious?"
Utsumi sighs and closes her eyes, letting her chin drop back down into her hand. "He makes me exhausted."
She stands up. "I'm tired. I'm going home. See you later."
Jonouchi is unflustered by Utsumi's sudden brusqueness and only nods. "All right."
Utsumi is almost out the door when she hears, "You should just ask him out to dinner. Give him a push."
She huffs in response and ignores Jonouchi's wave goodbye, and leaves, shutting the door with a bit too much force.
After a while, she settles on anger. That's not what it is, but if she tells herself otherwise, she'll lose her nerve. 'How dare he,' she tells herself, 'how dare he not pursue this, when he pursues everything else?' It's ridiculous, and Utsumi doesn't abide with ridiculousness.
So, she barges in, like she has so many times. He's alone, thankfully, because if he wasn't, she would have turned right back around and left. She's not that brave.
He looks up, the slight tilt of one eyebrow expressing his surprise. She represses the urge to roll her eyes, rests her hands on the table between them, stiff-armed, and says, "Dinner, tonight?"
The eyebrow arches higher and her anxiety ratchets up a notch. She ignores the butterflies playing tag inside, settling for raising her own eyebrows, knowing it will translate as impatience.
"Tonight?" he parrots. She knows he's buying time, trying to figure out her motive. This just means she's thrown him off-balance--which is just what she wants.
"You mean, like a date?"
She starts to lose her nerve, her bravado wearing thin, and so she shifts awkwardly back, and crosses her arms tightly. Realizing she's being too defensive, she uncrosses them, and, oh, but that's awkward, not knowing what to do with her hands. She keeps them at her side, forces herself to keep her fingers loose.
"Yes," she blusters, "like a date. Is that a problem?"
He looks as if he's considering it seriously, as if it's another problem to be solved. Or maybe, he's just confused enough that he doesn't know what to say. She's on the verge of saying, "You're busy," when he says, "What time?"
She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small piece of paper. She lays it down on the table, and says, "Just be here at seven."
It's not entirely uncomfortable, but the false starts he makes toward conversation are enough to convince her that forcing themselves into this mold was quite possibly not the best option. A date? How could she have ever thought this would be a good idea?
She reaches out the tenth time he clinks the ice in his glass, just a quick touch on his hand to gain his attention, and then says, "This isn't working, is it?"
He pauses, removing his hand from the glass, then gives her one of his rare grins and shakes his head.
"What do you suggest?" he asks.
"Let's get out of here."
She grabs her purse, and pushes away from the table. She smiles and says, "It's a good thing we didn't order dinner."
He nods and stands.
She leads the way. He follows after, moving ahead of her to open the door for her, and a few moments later, they stand out on the street. The lights from the restaurants and businesses are bright and garishly beautiful. Utsumi feels like she's escaped some awful fate. She turns to Yukawa just as he says, "Utsumi-kun--"
"Kaoru." His voice lilts up on the last syllable, a question.
Her name sounds foreign, unused, as he says it, but it pleases her and she smiles. "That's better," she says, "don't you think?"
"What about me?"
He has a small smile on his face that she doesn't quite get.
"You're Kaoru, but what about me?"
And, then she does. He's teasing her. The subtlety of it ticks her off momentarily, until she understands he has a valid point. Not that she's going to let him know that.
"Oh, I don't know," she answers. "Henjin-Galileo?" She quirks her head to the side, and gives him a knowing smirk.
He peers at her, and even though he's not wearing his glasses, she can't help but imagine that he's looking at her as if he is--that look of 'really now', that only glasses-wearers can pull off, snobbish, professorial. 'Wow, he really has that down', she thinks.
"That's not new."
"Let's discuss on the way."
He opens his mouth, but she interrupts, saying, "I'm still hungry. Where is that place you bought onigiri from?"
He tells her.
She doesn't feel self-conscious when he keeps his gaze on her in the car. She just hums to herself, along with the music he'd turned on when they'd gotten in, some jazzy tune that reminds her of candle-lit tables and people quietly talking, live musicians riffing in a corner.
She glances at him and says, "You're watching me."
"Do you mind?"
She shakes her head. "No."
And they are silent for the rest of the ride.
She browses, restless, taking in decor, while he orders. She knows what he'll get, anyway, so there's no point in hovering close. She wants to, but it's as though--and she smiles, because he's gotten to her in a way she's only starting to appreciate--as though they are each generating their own static field, and if she steps too close, sparks will fly.
It's not unpleasant, and it's not new, but she's never quite been so aware of it. She doesn't notice when he comes up behind her, and jumps a little when he says, "Ready?"
He smiles at her and holds up their food, in its plastic bag.
And it's nothing special because they have looked at each other before, often, but this seems different--momentous, unusual. She feels caught, like she so often does, caught by something about him, that indefinable difference of him.
She swallows, wonders if she looked anything like she felt: awestruck, lovesick, foolish. She nods, a little unsurely.
He doesn't seem to notice. He turns to leave and she falls in place, slightly behind, as she makes a face, disgusted with herself for being so...so insecure.
But really, this is all new to her. Most men are more...interested. Pick up on the signals a little more readily. And, really, she needs to stop over-analyzing this and just, just be. Be happy here, in this moment, be confident in that he's not going to reject her out-of-hand, because they are, after all, friends. And, she doesn't have to get a life-long commitment--that's ridiculous. She nods, satisfied with this conclusion.
"What is it?" he asks.
"What? I didn't say anything."
He slows his steps, turning slightly to look at her. "You nodded--like you came to a conclusion."
"Oh? Oh. It's nothing." She smiles at him, brightly. "Where shall we go?"
They decide on the bench at the University. It was his suggestion.
They split their hashi and say grace. A cricket chirrups somewhere to their left and a cool breeze sweeps through. Utsumi shivers in response, but otherwise the night is warm. There's just enough light provided by lamps to create a peaceful setting.
They eat silently. Utsumi says, after finishing one, "It's good."
"Of course," Yukawa answers.
"I may be up for a raise, soon," she says, after they've eaten their fill and set everything aside. She looks up at the sky, her hands on either side of her, flat on the bench.
"Good performance review."
"Ah, that's good then."
"Yukawa," she says.
"No, I mean, Yukawa. May I? Is that acceptable?"
He doesn't answer right away, so she looks at him. He gets it just as she glances at him, and she smiles, because the look on his face is just like when he figures out something important on a case.
"Ah," he says, "no honorific."
"Mm." She nods.
She nods and looks back up at the stars, still beautiful and demanding of attention, even as faint as they are. She's always been fascinated by the night sky.
He says, "You could call me Manabu; I wouldn't mind."
"It doesn't suit you half as well as Yukawa."
"Hmph," is all he answers.
She sneaks a glance at him, her mouth crooking up into a mischievous smile. She pushes against his shoulder, throwing him off-balance for a second and then laughs when he shoots her an utterly baffled look.
She says, to forestall the inevitable question from him about her actions, "I keep meaning to ask: what exactly is the EPR paradox?"
He shakes his head, "Never mind."
"How much time do you have?"
"Not enough, I suppose. Tell me anyway."
She asks questions as he talks, but mostly she just listens. She doesn't tell him she'll always find the time to listen to him.
There will be time for telling later. Right now, she'll just be.