It was an hour from sunset, and a cool breeze was doing its best to combat the day's work of a hot summer sun. Nicodemus sat on a rocky ledge, staring off into the distance, pouting. No, he thought. Not pouting. Brooding.
It was not a good day to be single. It was the last day of Founder's Day Weekend, and the whole downtown area was converted into a street dance. All of the happy little couples had been in and out of the coffee shop all day, getting tall drinks with two straws, or cooing over the overly decorated mini-cakes that Lily had insisted that they stock for the celebration. Nicodemus had to admit she was right, but after the third wave of couples that came in all googly-eyed and mushy faced, he was ready to lace the apple tarts with cyanide.
He was deep in his imaginary slaughter of romantics when the crunching of gravel under sneaker clad feet alerted him to company. He glanced behind him to see Ikku, smiling sheepishly as she climbed up the rocky slope. He didn't bother to watch her as she crept up beside him, looking resolutely over the distance.
"So...how goes the pouting?" asked Ikku, trying to squint her eyes to focus on whatever he was glaring at.
"I'm not pouting!" he snapped, looking over at her smirking face. The look in her eyes let him know she had won. Weakly he continued. "I'm brooding."
"They're the same thing."
"No," he said, pulling a little dignity back into his voice, looking back over the valley. "Brooding has dignity."
Ikku was kind enough to keep her chuckle purely internal. They sat together for a long while, Nicodemus making the conscious effort, now that he had company, not to lapse into murderous silence. Ikku's little fidgeting kept the lack of noise on the non-prosecutable side of the law. As much as it was annoying Nicodemus to admit it, Ikku's presence was soothing his rumpled temper. Which might have been why her next train of thought caught him so off guard.
"This whole celebration of copulation just seems overdone," she said, scrunching up her nose at the gathering masses below. "I mean, what are they trying to prove?"
"I would think they're trying to show off the people they've hooked up with," replied Nicodemus leaning back a little bit and gazing up at the sky. "Either that or prove they're worth enough to be paraded around like that."
Ikku raised an eyebrow at him and gave him a rueful little smile. "You sound a bit jealous, my mopey little friend."
If looks could kill, Nicodemus would have spent the rest of his life in jail.
"I saw Jacob today." he said, staring back at the city. He felt Ikku's hand rub the lower part of his arm.
"I saw them too." she said. Without another word, his hand slipped into hers. She kindly looked away while he took the moment to gather himself back together.
"It's fine." he said, slipping his hand back to himself and straightening up. "The dance will be over in a few hours, and there is a whole half gallon of cookie dough ice cream in my freezer. I'm planning to eat enough of it to bloat myself to sleep. It will be wondrous."
"Sounds like a plan." said Ikku, venturing a glance over. From the look in Nicodemus's eyes, the plan was shit. He was going to be doing more pou...brooding unless she did something to distract him.
Well, it was a good thing that distraction was her specialty.
"I know something that would make you feel better," she said. Waiting until Nicodemus was looked at her she gave him one of her patented Ikku-looks. It wasn't warning enough.
"We should go out," she said, brushing a strand of dyed-purple hair out of his eyes. "Like, dating and stuff."
Nicodemus felt his mouth hang open slightly in shock. It wasn't often Ikku could silence him before he even started talking.
"Are....you asking me...out?"
"Sure!" she said, mischief creeping all over her face. Her finger traced down his cheekbone, dropping off the end of his chin. A small shiver went through both of their spines.
Nicodemus looked at her in shock a moment too long before saying,
But that was as far as he got before he was held in place gently by Ikku's roving hand. Before another syllable left his mouth, Ikku covered it with hers. Roughly, hungrily, she claimed his lips for her own, and just as quickly pulled back to gauge his reaction.
"What were you saying?" she half-asked innocently, carefully watching as Nicodemus's eyes unfogged.
"Ikku!" Nicodemus exclaimed, something that sounded like reproach creeping into his tone. Whatever his intention, this was the wrong tone to have.
Ikku had obviously had enough.
"What? Am I not good enough for you?" she hissed, gathering her sitting self up to her full height. Nicodemus quickly recovered to see how far he had stuck his foot in his mouth with that one word.
"No, it's not that..."
"Is it because I'm a girl? Have you gone totally to the other side?"
"Is it me?!?" she said, voice gaining volume enough to cause Nicodemus to wince.
"No, just let me explain..."
"I think you've said enough." she hissed quietly, standing and turning to exit. "If all you've got to offer is insults, then I guess I'm leaving. I see you don't want anything from me."
"Now wait just a minute..." he said, rising to his feet, face darkening. Grabbing her, he took a breath and continued. "I never said..."
"You didn't have to," she replied, spinning around with tears in her eyes. " know when I'm not ..."
"Hush," he said, placing a finger on her lip, very cautious that he did not get it bitten off. Ikku tried to pull away, but Nicodemus's grip was strong enough to keep her there until his point was made.
"Now you listen," he said, talking quietly, trying not to sound annoyed. "That is not what I meant at all. What I was trying to say is that there are two perfectly good reasons I wouldn't date you right now, and they have nothing to do with your worth as a girl, or as a person."
Ikku blinked a couple of times, the tears clearing with the onslaught of sense, and forcibly calmed herself. Walking back toward the ledge, she gently shook off Nicodemus's hand and sat down with an apologetic shrug. He joined her, not mentioning the shrug or the reason behind it. He wasn't completely stupid.
"What are these reasons you speak of?" she asked, looking out over the Valley. Nicodemus was silent a moment before he answered.
"For one thing, I am not going to date anyone out of pity," he said, not looking at Ikku. "Don't get me wrong, I like you, and I think dating you would be interesting and challenging. But I don't want any kind of beginning to be based on the fact you are sorry that I'm sad about my dating past."
"Oh," she said, looking guiltily down at her hands.
"You're a great girl," he said. "But if we are going to date, it's because we both want to, not because you want to make me feel better. Because eventually that want will fade, and you'll resent it."
"Fair enough," she said quietly, feeling fairly embarrassed. "You said there was another reason?"
Nicodemus's eyes twinkled slightly in laughter.
"Who was it that you just dumped?"
"Brent..." she said, not comprehending his point.
"And isn't he a linebacker on the football team?"
"And didn't he take it badly?"
"Well," said Nicodemus. "I don't want to be Brent's reason why the Goddess Ikku dumped him. I've had enough broken bones this year as it is."
"Oh." said Ikku sheepishly. She had honestly not thought about that. Staring off into the distance, she sighed.
"So, I guess it's not that I'm a wretched kisser."
Nicodemus looked at her, his eyes amused but his tone neutral. "Not at all."
"Ok," she said, leaning against him. Her girlyness had won out over her logic, and she was still feeling a little silly about overreacting. But if Nicodemus noticed, he didn't say anything.
The sun slowly sank down, and they wandered back in the general direction of their homes. Still walking in silence, they arrived at the street where they would part. Ikku waved and smiled warmly, turning towards her house. Nicodemus's voice stopped her in her tracks.
She turned around, when suddenly there he was, kissing her. His body molded against hers, one hand sneaking to her waist and the other around her head by way of her neck. Slowly, firmly, he kissed her, the very tip of his tongue teasing slowly across her lips. The small surprised noise she made caused him to crack one eye, mischief and caprice shining through. Opening his mouth a little more, he teased her bottom lip with his teeth, as she unconsciously started to kiss him back. She relaxed into him, her knees feeling a little weak as he traced spirals on her back, underneath her waistband. Holding her for a moment, he broke away, staring her in eye. She opened her eyes again, very bewildered. With a playful nip on the nose, Nicodemus stepped back.
"I meant what I said," he reminded, turning to walk home. "If it's ever not pity, let me know."
He walked into the growing shadows, the fading sound of music drifting through the breeze, leaving Ikku standing there alone. She, for a very rare moment, was at a loss for words.