He was supposed to kill her.
He was supposed to end the only remaining member of the Ushiromiya family, and it was supposed to be poetic, for her to be murdered mysteriously in the same island where the rest of her family met the same fate.
However, he couldn't bring himself to do it. He had gotten used to being around the brat, or more precisely, he liked her quite a lot. A lot. He liked the way she always had a comeback for everything, her unique reasoning, the conviction with which she talked about things that no one else would see, that dignified superiority she radiated, and also that innocence that was so transparent. He had to admit that he liked all those things just as much as he liked the way her legs looked in miniskirts and that sometimes he wanted to cover that grumpy face in kisses…
She refuses to accept that fact. Even after he chooses to kill Sumadera Kasumi and her guards instead, even as he carries her in his arms and runs away with her; she still beats him up until she gets tired.
She still looks at him as if he's a criminal.
He wonders if he did the right thing, if she would have rather died at that place, if the truth was too much for her to handle.
He decides he couldn't care less.
He likes the brat. He likes her alive and kicking.
She eventually stops after he explains, and sighs, and swears, and sighs again, and loses his patience. She hits a point where all she does is cross her arms and keep her chin up defiantly, and all he does is grin and tell her how obnoxiously adorable she is.
He takes it as a progress.
After a few hours she becomes aware of how much her body hurts from all that beating she received, and he tells her to sleep it off. She glares at him again, but eventually complies, falling asleep in the back seat as he drives for God knows how long.
They get to a town neither of them has ever seen in their entire lives, but he takes that as a good sign. They check in a hotel under not too suspicious fake names and he humbly accepts to sleep in the couch as usual. She's still grumpy and he doesn't understand why, until he cracks an eye open at 2 am and finds her at the desk trying to remake her cousin's diary to the best of her abilities, which is impossible at this point, but she claims to be a witch, so who knows.
The next few days are hell. Not only is she physically injured, but her pride hurts as well. She owes him her life now, and she depends on him and his money, and that annoys her to no end. She makes him extremely frustrated but incredibly excited at the same time. He pats her head and tells her that she's his special science project; that he'll make her into a fully functional, independent, adult, human being, or die trying, and she responds by calling him all sorts of colorful yet refined insults.
He thinks he's fallen in love.
They keep moving to other places and other hotels, and she finds something to whine about in every one of them, but gets used to the normal everyday life eventually. There comes a day when he wakes up and she's already made breakfast for both of them, and sometimes she goes shopping without him. He realizes that as soon as she finds a job she'll probably leave his side, and that's supposed to be a good thing. That means he gets an A on his science project, right?
He hopes to fail really badly.
However, he notices with time that she's found a will to live again, and a future to look forward to –she wants to be a writer, is what she admitted rather shyly- and that's more rewarding than he could have predicted. He feels proud of her, and kind of satisfied with himself, for giving her that opportunity, and in a rather unusual display, she even thanks him for everything. It sounds like goodbye is close in time and he wishes that stupid knot in his stomach would leave him for good.
Ah, he really is hopelessly in love. No good. No good at all.
She doesn't leave, though, and she's always prepared for yet another journey to another hotel in another city. He asks her one day and she claims that this nomad life is very inspiring for her stories, which she gradually starts showing him. They're much more upbeat and less melancholic than he expected, and when he comments that her magic is the thing that allows her to turn her personal tragedy into fabulous tales that could make any child happy, she actually smiles at him. An actual sincere smile, with curved lips and bright eyes and everything.
He stares at her in complete seriousness for a total of 0.2 seconds before kissing her on the lips without warning. After they part, it also takes her 0.2 seconds to slap him. Hard. Twice. She gets up so fast she hits her knee with the table, but she still keeps her head up as she locks herself in the bathroom; after all, the hotel room is too small for her to hide herself anywhere else.
He brings his hand to his burning cheek, and wonders why she would be hiding in any case.
She eventually comes out, and he apologizes, but he's not really sorry, not at all. He's in love with her and she's beautiful but her smile just makes her irresistible, is what he says, and she stares in disbelief before calling him an inconsiderate jerk who stole her first kiss without permission. She never explicitly turns his confession down, though.
He figures that just as she forgave him for letting her live, she'll also forgive him for daring to love her. He feels like an idiot, stuck in this limbo where she doesn't reciprocate but doesn't reject him, either.
However, the next day she wakes up early and puts more effort on breakfast, and she makes a pretty decent coffee as well. She doesn't glare at him and instead tries to make conversation, and he thinks that maybe he's still asleep. She shows him more of her stories, shares with him some of her plans for the future, asks him if he wants to watch a movie later.
He sets his foot down and asks her what the ever-loving fuck is wrong with her, and she snaps. What, is it a crime for her to try to be nicer? Can't she show her appreciation without being accused? If she's not paying for anything, then at least—
He cuts her words with his lips again, and she kisses back this time. He understands that she's just as stupid and immature as he is. He's happier than he's ever been as he wraps his arms around her, to make sure she won't try to run away again. She doesn't, though, and it's the warmest kiss he's ever had.
He whispers that he loves her as soon as they part, and she looks down and to the side and everywhere except his face, and he feels a piece of himself die. He hugs her and pretends not to notice that she's avoiding to hurt him, and he feels even stupider than before.
It still doesn't get him to stop.
They add the kisses to their everyday routine as if it's the most natural thing, and soon they turn to French kisses, which turn to full makeout sessions, which turn to sex. Everything escalates with such speed and ease that it scares him, for he doesn't know if they're leaving something unspoken or there's simply nothing to speak of. He still reminds her that he's happiest when he's with her, and she just closes her eyes or hides her face on his shoulder.
That's the only thing that bugs him. That and the fact that he won't stop telling her how much he loves her at every chance he gets, even if he doesn't get a response and even if that murders him slowly and painfully.
They eventually move into an actual apartment and he gets a somewhat steady job, which feels more like babysitting some paranoid politician than guarding him since there's really not much to protect him from; and part of him thinks that he's trying to fulfill some twisted marriage fantasy he didn't know he had, what with him spending the day bored out of his mind and looking forward to coming back to hear her saying "Welcome home" in monotone, unnecessary English and serving him a warm plate of the dinner she shouldn't have bothered making.
He starts to think that she loves him, too, or at least that's what he likes to believe. He thinks he sees her smile briefly after he kisses her good morning, thinks he sees love in the extra effort she puts into making eggs the way he likes them, or never forgetting to prepare his bath after a long day. He feels something special whenever she reads him a paragraph of a story, her own, or someone else's, or when she tells him something her mother or brother used to say. He thinks he saw her kissing an old bullet scar of his one of these nights, but he's not entirely sure; maybe he was dreaming.
Those things make him sigh pathetically and the lack of excitement in his job leads him to over-think, which is never good. Still, he keeps up the routine for the time being, until he either gets a direct confirmation or manages to break the tension.
Thankfully, external forces do the job for him.
His absolutely boring client has to take care of an absolutely boring matter overseas, and Juuza has to go with him to protect him from more non-existent forces of evil. However, this time Mr. Paranoid is also bringing the family along, because he's the kind of guy that can't separate business from leisure time, or because his wife wanted to go to the beach, it doesn't matter. He'll have to babysit four people in total: his regular client, his wife, and his two daughters, and of course he'll be rewarded accordingly. Ange's first question is how long will this job take, and her second one is how old are the daughters. He fails to see the connection between these questions until he answers: One week. 18 and 21. She lets out a small "huh" before telling him to start packing, then, even if he's not supposed to leave until 3 days from now.
He doesn't understand why she's upset, but he knows she is, because she's furiously washing the dishes and not speaking to him, and when he wraps his arms around her waist in an attempt to piss her off –she usually hates being interrupted- she doesn't yell at him to go away or whisper that he's annoying, but instead she makes a conscious effort to ignore him. He keeps calm; however, he knows that she'll explode sooner or later.
He waits for her on the bed for a couple of hours, and he wonders what's keeping her so busy, but decides not to question. She's already upset for some reason that he thinks has something to do with him leaving her behind while he does the kind of job through which he met her. The fact that there are other rich young girls involved probably doesn't help, either, but of course, it's not like he'll get her to admit that, so there's no point in forcing her to talk about it.
The following days she goes back to normal, or as normal as they can possibly get, but there's a certain tension that can be cut with a knife. He knows that bringing up the subject will only get him in trouble, and he doesn't think their fragile limbo relationship can handle an actual serious fight just yet. She notices his discomfort much sooner than he would have liked, but he claims he's just tired, ruffling her hair and putting on a smile that's meant to convince himself more than her, and they resume their routine like every other day.
He procrastinates on packing until the night before his flight, and she points out how useless he is at something so simple. He's essentially throwing on the bed everything he's going to take and she's patiently folding clothes and keeping everything neatly on the luggage. He insists that there's no need for her to do that, since he's going to ruin it all when he unpacks, anyway, but she claims that she wants to; it's their last night together, after all.
The tone she uses and the way she looks down at her hands when she says it makes it sound as if it's indeed their last night, and he chuckles a bit to lighten up the mood. "I'm not going to die…" He says, and she doesn't answer, but gives him a weird look, as if she's trying to say something else but simply can't.
They finish packing in silence and when he collapses on the bed, he makes sure to hold her tighter than ever; now he's afraid that being left behind is reviving some old feelings she hasn't overcome, and the last thing he wants is for that unbearable sadness to dominate her again. It takes him a while to fall asleep, but he finally succeeds, as she apparently relaxes and buries her face on his chest.
In the morning she wakes him up with kisses, and he's confused but grateful, so he doesn't even ask for the time or says good morning before running his fingers through her hair and nibbling on her lips lightly. However, as he slowly comes to his senses he realizes that there's something utterly wrong and bizarre about this situation, and he freezes as she continues kissing his neck almost desperately.
"…Wait… Lady…" He calls once, twice, but she doesn't stop; instead, her hands cling onto his shirt for dear life as she straddles his hips. She's usually not the one to approach him first, and tends to still be a little shy, so he's either having a very lucid wet dream or she's drunk, which seems unlikely. When he calls her for the third time and she just tightens her hold on him, he decides it's been enough, so he sits up and grabs her by the shoulders, looking at her right in the eyes. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Are you rejecting me?" Answering his questions with one of her own is a coping mechanism he's already seen before, so this is the confirmation that something is horribly wrong. She can't possibly expect him to be aroused when she's acting strange without an apparent cause, so he doesn't bother answering with words, instead just untangles himself out of her hold carefully, so they end up sitting in front of each other.
"What is it with you?" He asks again, calmly but seriously.
"You haven't touched me for the past few days and you'll be gone for a week". She shrugs, as if it's the most obvious thing.
"So… do you think we'll die from sex starvation or something similar?" He chuckles. She crosses her arms. His smile is gone immediately.
"No… I think you'll settle down for something else while you're away". This time she avoids looking at his face again, like she tends to do when she can't find the right words. "I was trying to prevent that".
"So your plan was to get me horny and then send me away with a couple of young girls? You really didn't think this through, Lady". He sighs dramatically and her gaze returns to him, now more panicked and full of regret. "What kind of man do you take me for?"
"I think you already know that". Her arms are still crossed over her chest, but her face looks as sad as it was the previous night, and he can't take it anymore.
"Monogamy's not as boring as it seemed, you know?" He smiles. "It can't be boring when your girlfriend is a witch".
"I'm not your girlfriend". She says, matter-of-factly, and for a short moment he holds his breath.
"Well, whatever you are. Whatever this is". He points at her and then himself. "I like this. I don't need anything else".
"That's not what I meant". She shakes her head. "I meant: I'm not your girlfriend… why is that?"
He stares at her in silence, unable to say anything, as if someone just asked him the most complicated question in history. Why isn't she? Why isn't she? Why? They already live together, sleep together, eat together, fight, cuddle, make love, fight some more, know everything about the other, and love each other, if he's been reading her signals right. Why isn't she his girlfriend, then?
"…do you want to be?" He offers, awkwardly. He's never actually done this before, since he's never had any sort of formal bond with anyone.
"That's not what I said".
"Then what do you want?" His anxiety is starting to show.
"I don't want you to do things just to please me!" She finally breaks. "I want you to do things because you want to. I don't want you telling me that you love me because you think that's what I want to hear, I don't want you not sleeping with other women because you think it would make me happy, but because you don't want to do it, and I don't want to be your girlfriend if I'm the only one who wants it".
"God, Ange, you're so obstinate". He thinks right now is a perfect time to start dropping honorifics, and he runs a hand through his hair in exasperation. "It's not like I'm going away specifically to cheat on you; the thought of being with someone else hasn't even crossed my mind, because I like what we have. Before this, I never had anyone that made me want to settle down or even stay at the same place for over 2 weeks, but I actually like returning to you every night. And the only reason I've ever said that I love you is because I do, because I can't help it. I love you, with the 'I'm in love with you, I want to marry you one day' kind of love".
He sees her face grow progressively redder with every word, and at the end of his sentence she's looking away again, but he knows it's out of embarrassment this time. He wraps his arms around her waist and holds her tightly, leaning his head on her shoulder and nuzzling her neck.
"I'm happy with this, too…" She admits in a low voice, hugging him back. "And I love you, too".
He's thankful she can't see the stupid grin he has after hearing those words, after finally confirming it, but a guy's got to keep his cool, so he only answers as confidently as possible. "I know".
"…and I do want to be your girlfriend". She adds before hiding her face on his shoulder.
"Then it's settled". He returns them to their original position, with him lying on his back and her resting on top of him. "Ah, those days without you will be hell, you know? I'll miss you a lot".
"Me too…" He refuses to let her be sad again, so he quickly continues:
"But I'll be thinking of these nice little moments all the time, and I'll bring you a souvenir".
"If it's silly, don't bring me anything". She sentences, and he laughs again.
"No, don't worry; I'll bring you something very expensive". He winks, caressing her back. "Now… where were we?"
He moves his arm from her back to her head to softly bring her face closer to his, and uses his other arm to move one of her legs so that she's straddling his hips again.
"Wait, we can't do this, you have a flight in…" she pauses to remember what time it was, but he uses the moment to kiss her lips instead.
"We obviously have time, if you were planning to do this from the beginning. I'll trust that you woke me up on time". He smirks, and then fakes seriousness. "Besides, that sex starvation is a real thing, I could die".
"Shut up". She rolls her eyes at his stupidity, and he's infinitely happy to see her return.