I would just like to note that I crowed in triumph when I got to shove in a characterization detail I've wanted an excuse to use for ages in the yakitori scene. Also, the other half of the 'we' who wrote the book is, uh, a manga-ending spoiler, which is why I was evasive. As it stands, this fic will make sense even to anime-only fans.
"Aaah, Madoka-han!" Emishi beamed at Madoka as she opened the door, although of course most of the effect was lost. "Is Shido here?"
"I'm afraid not; he left before breakfast," Madoka said, tilting her head curiously. "Did you want to see him about something urgent? He took his cell phone, but he said it might not work where he was going."
"No, nothing urgent." She could almost hear Emishi's careless shrug. "Just wondered if he wanted to go see the new amusement park in Tomoeda with me - which is a really long shot, I know, not his sort of thing at all but Ginji's got a job, and I really wanted to celebrate - hey." He brightened perceptibly. "I don't suppose you'd like to come with me?"
"Well - "
"Oh, come on. When was the last time Shido took you on a proper date, eh?"
"Last Tuesday. But if you'd like . . . "
"Yeees! I guarantee you it'll be more fun than some swanky restaurant," he added, sotto voce. "Shido has his good points, but showing a girl a good time ain't one of them, you know?" Madoka made a vauge noncommittal noise and decided not to mention the date had been to a taiko concert in Ueno Park.
It wasn't until they were on the train that it occured to her to ask what he was celebrating. Emishi laughed, a little sheepishy. "Our second novel just got picked up. The editor says it'll be printed by next spring." She took advantage of the swaying train as an excuse to lean closer to him, and he wrapped an arm over her shoulder to help steady her. It was a lot skinnier than Shido's, and he didn't smell of sweat; in fact he smelled vaugely of artificial fruit.
When they got out the pavement was so hot Mozart complained about the state of his paws. "Sorry," she whispered. "I should have brought your shoes. Emishi, is there any grass we can walk on?"
"Sure. Over there - Madoka-han? Would you be offended if I took your hand?"
"Not at all." She didn't need it; Mozart could guide her perfectly well. But she enjoyed the contact. He had big, strong hands, she thought as he tugged them along. Callused, in different places than Shido's.
When they ran out of grass Emishi managed to snag a newspaper and knelt to wrap it around Mozart's feet. Mozart thought it was fine now they were off the asphalt and on concrete, but picked his feet up obligingly. Madoka coudn't help giggling.
He bought her mango-flavored ice cream from a man who was singing horribly off-key, and offered one to Mozart, who refused with injured dignity. Emishi just sighed, declared that Mozart had no taste, and got himself a strawberry popsicle.
"So," he said to her, between licks. "How d'you feel about ferris wheels?"
"I don't know. I've never been on one."
Emishi gasped theatrically. "What? Never? We have to fix that. Right away. Come on." He took her by the elbow and headed off, all the while still licking at the popsicle with a variety of wet slurping noises. She imagined he was getting artifical strawberry syrup all over his face.
She let herself be led, and listened to the murmur of the crowd and the occasional appreciative whistle. One man, a fellow with a sweaty smell and faint accent, came right up them and asked, hesitantly, "Ah - are you two together?"
"Yes," Emishi said firmly, before she could get a chance to reply. "Very much so." He tugged her against him and gave her a big, sloppy kiss on the cheek. She found herself blushing, but she sent an apologetic grin in the approximate direction of the man before turning to nibble delicately on his ear. She could feel his cheeks warm up as well.
Mozart thought this was all terribly undignified, and before she could do anything more he tugged her away. Emishi followed, laughing, and then they were running, with people hastily getting out of their way. She heard another dog bark somewhere. They moved from the pavement onto soft grass, and then she felt the sun vanish and Mozart stopped abruptly. Madoka skidded to a halt and stuck a hand out; she felt the trunk of a tree. Emishi was panting and wheezing; the crowd sounds had retreated into the distance.
"You know," she told him sweetly, "you could have just said I was spoken for."
"Sorry. But, yanno, a scary boyfriend who's right there is so much more intimidatin' than a scary boyfriend who's miles away and who lets another guy take his girl out." He lifted her hand and kissed it, with a flourish and a smacking sound. "And I really didn't like the way he was eyein' you."
She smiled and leaned against him, wrapping an arm around his waist. "Oh, it's fine. I don't mind if people think we're an item. You're such a nice man." Feeling mischevious, she took the opportunity to give his ass a good squeeze.
Madoka imagned there were not very many people who could make Emishi squeal indignantly and stammer. She was pleased to be one of them. She munched contentdly on the remnants of her ice cream cone, while he wound down, finally deflating with a sigh. "Madoka-han," he began, sounding midly reproachful. "Not that I'm not flattered, but could ya please give a guy some warning next time?"
She chuckled. "You didn't warn me before you kissed me."
"It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I wanted to run that poor fellow off." He sighed and leaned against the tree, his jeans scraping on the bark. "But I'm sorry if it annoyed you. I didn't mean any harm."
"I know. That's why I didn't knee you anywhere painful." Madoka reached up and ran her fingers through his hair, widing a few strands around her finger. "It's okay, though. You're you. I like you."
He chuckled and wrapped his arm around her shouders. "I like you too. Shido is a very lucky man. And I keept tellin' him that but I don't think he listens. Man, if I had a girlfriend like you ..." Emishi sighed heavily, and Madoka rubbed at his side. "He runs off all the time. Doesn't that bother you?"
Madoka turned and reached up to cup his face in her hands. He made a vauge, confused nose, but let her do it. "Emishi," she said firmly. "It doesn't bother me. Because I know that no matter where he is, his heart's right here with me, and he'll always come back." She smiled.
After a moment, Emishi smiled too, and caught her hands in his own. "I think I know what you mean."
"Good. Now, this is an amusement park, and I shouldn't have to be the one dragging you around. Shall we go try the ferris-wheel?" Mozart snuffed and sat up. He didn't see why she wanted to go, but she was the boss.
The nice young woman really did seem apologetic about it, but she was firm. No dogs on the wheel.
"You could go up alone," Madoka suggested quietly. "I'll wait for you here." It was getting uncomfortably warm; probably late afternoon by now. Maybe they could go get dinner later on. Mozart whined, and she knelt down to pet him. It wasn't his fault that people were idiots, and she certainly wasn't going to leave him here while she rode the ferris-wheel.
Emishi was quiet for a minute, then took her hand. She looked up, confused. "I'm not leavin' you alone down here," he told her softly. "It's not half as much fun alone. Most things aren't."
They walked off hand in hand. It wasn't until they were lost in the crowd that Emishi said miserably, "If they didn't let him on there, they probably ain't gonna let him in any other rides. You wanna go somewhere else? There's a movie theater - I mean, I don't know if you like movies, but -"
"Let's just walk around for a while," she interrupted, before he could start babbling. She had no objections to movies, if they had a good soundtrack, but right now she'd rather spend the time with Emishi. She didn't get to meet him nearly so often as she would like. She barely knew anthing about him. He was a good man, and good friend of Shido's; he objected strenuously to the helpless getting hurt, or anyone being unhappy. He had a large family, mostly women, whom he cared for deeply but didn't talk about much. He had been a warrior, and perhaps still was, but things were more peaceful these days and even though she could tell from his hands that there was still a constant low-grade tension in him, a perpetual state of alertness, he had room to be other things. He had written a book, under a fake name; she had gotten the audio edition and listened straight through, and nearly fell out of her chair laughing, several times. He couldn't cook anything but chocolate cake, but he made wonderful chocolate cake. She knew he smelled good, and had a nice laugh, and she liked the feel of arms around her.
He didn't answer, just brushed a little hair away from her ear and started walking again.
"So then he says, you really shouldn't open that door. So I, bein' a nosy bastard, open it. I mean, he ain't actually trying to stop me, yanno? Just wringing his hands and looking like a lobster. And what do I see, but Uryuu and Juubei-han sprawled out on the floor, lookin' like they're making out. And panting like ferrets in heat. I mean, I look again and I see Uryuu's got his hands wrapped 'round Juubei-han's neck and Juubei's got his needles out and he's about to stick 'em through Uryuu's shoulder, but still." Emishi snickered, and squeezed her hand. "Course, soon as they noticed me they broke it right up. Should have brought a camera."
Madoka sighed and attempted not to look amused. "Something similar once happened to a girl I was in a quartet with," she said. "It was at my parents' Christmas party. I opened the door on her and her boyfriend - well, ex-boyfriend, but he had been her ex-boyfriend for about two minutes at that point and so I made unwarranted assumptions. I closed it as soon as I realized they were screaming, of course, but she had to find me after the party and explain it was in anger, not in ecstacy. I was ten then, of course; I've since learned to distinguish the sounds." She felt her cheeks warm, but the air was cooler; it was probably past dusk, and it wouldn't be visible.
"Let this be a lesson to us." Emishi stretched, and whistled softly. "Wow. Sun's going down already. You wanna head back? Or grab some dinner first?"
"I would be most pleased to have dinner with you, as would Mozart." Mozart whined in affirmation. He wanted yakitori, if she didn't mind. "Ah, and could we possibly have yakitori?"
Emishi beamed; she could tell by his voice. "'Course we can. Whatever you want. There's a man with a cart right over there." He took her elbow and steered them toward it.
She ordered a skewer with onions and sauce, and another of plain meat for Mozart. Emishi asked the man if he had tofu; when the answer was no, he pouted, then sighed and said, "Just the two, then. I'll pay." His tone brooked no argument. Besides, Emishi was old-fashioned like that. It always made Madoka a little uncomfortable to let someone pay for her, but she had learned to put up with the sensation.
"Emishi," she asked, when they had wandered off and found a bench to sit on. "Why didn't you get any dinner? Don't you like yakitori?"
He sighed. "You'll think it's stupid, Madoka-han." She raised her eyebrows and waited, and finally he said, almost whispering, "I don't eat meat."
"Oh." She frowned. "Why not? I didn't think you were a serious Buddhist. Ah, forgive me if I'm prying - "
"Nah, s'fine." He shrugged; she could feel the motion against her own shoulder. "Just, everf since I met Shido, I can't bring myself too. Which is stupid. He doesn't mind meat. And his friends eat meat all the time." He chuckled. "Eh, I get funny ideas sometimes."
All humans got funny ideas, in Mozart's opinion. Madoka sighed, and took another bite of chicken. It was very good. She leaned against Emishi, and he threw an arm protectively over her shoulder. She could get used to this. Emishi sitting next to her, Mozart comfortably beside her feet, and not a care in the world between them. "Emishi," she said thoughtfully. "How long has it been since you took a girl on a date?"
"Well, not counting you?" He was silent for a minute, then said, "Yanno? I don't think I ever have. Not a proper date, and all. I've brought them flowers. And had dinner with them, and stuff, but doing something with a girl, just the two of us, just because it's fun?" He sighed, and leaned closer. "I could get used to this. Hey, there's an idea! Shido-han and I could alternate. You'd get twice the dates, and we'd have all kinds of fun. And we're not really doing anything wrong, are we? 'Cause I'm not going to put the moves on you, or anything. Just show you a good time. I'm good at good times."
"Really, it's not necessary. I don't mind a life that's a bit boring." She set down her empty skewer and leaned against him, taking his hand. "But thank you for inviting me. I had a wonderful time today."
Emishi squeezed her hand. "Madoka-han?"
"Would you be offended if I kissed your cheek?"
"Not at all," she assured him. Her heart was beating quite fast. "Not now, and not ever. Within reason."
He kissed her, then pulled away. "Good thing you added the condition."
She couldn't quite restrain a sunny grin. "I think I understand you pretty well."
When they opened the back gate Shido was waiting for them. He must have been leaning against a tree; he came right over and gave her a tight hug, and she burrowed comfortably into his embrace. "I was starting to wonder what was taking you so long," he said gruffly.
He didn't sound worried, but Shido never did. Madoka went up on tiptoe to kiss him, and he kissed back eagerly. He smelled of sweat and his heart was beating steadily. Only after they had pulled apart did she whisper, "Emishi took me to the new amusement park in Tomoeda, and we had a wonderful time." She smiled. "And he would have taken you instead if you'd been here."
Shido growled. "Emishi ..."
"Hey, I just thought I'd offer. Didn't expect you to actually go. Where were you, anyway?"
"Busy," Shido said, and did not offer any further explanation. He didn't let go of her, either. She hid her smile in his shirt.
"Hmmph. Well, if you're going to be busy all the time, watch out. I might steal her away, yanno." Emishi chuckled.
Shido sighed heavily. "I know you wouldn't." He hugged Madoka again, then let go; she shifted to stand protectively next to him. "You're too much a gentleman to seduce a woman who doesn't want to be seduced, and we're very happy."
Mozart thought that they were all being silly. If Madoka liked them both, there was no harm in spending time with them both. since they were all human and nobody was going into heat. Shido didn't think this was any of Mozart's buisiness. Madoka couldn't keep herself from giggling. "Hey, what's so funny?" Emishi sniffed. "'Cause I'd sure love to be let in on the joke - "
"Oh - " A sudden inspiration struck her. "I'll epxlain next time I see you. You'll come back sometime, right? We can all three of us go somewhere." Shido made a noise like a startled chicken. Madoka made sure her sweetest smile was in place as she continued, "We're friends, aren't we?"
Slowly, Shido exhaled. "Yeah," he said, and there was a hint of wistful fondness in his voice. "Friends."
"Right!" Emishi rubbed his hands together. "I'll come up with something. You too can go back to making out now. I'll call you!" And with a wild whoop he turned and headed for the gate.
"Emishi," she called out before he could shut it behind him. "Thank you very much. I had fun. I'll call you!"
"Aww! I'll be pining by the phone!"
And with that, he snapped the gate shut and they were alone. Mozart growled softly, and Shido hugged her again and told Mozart it was fine, he really didn't mind Emishi. Madoka hugged back. She never felt better than when she was in Shido's arms. She let her fingers trace tiny circles on his back and listened to the soft, measured tone of his breath.
Finally she kissed him ago. "Come on," she whispered. "Let's go inside. I'm glad you're home again."
"Yeah." It would have been hard for someone who did not know him to tell, but there was relief in his voice, and she held on tight. "It's good to be home."