Notes and disclaimers: The story you are about to read is my own creation. The characters, however, stem from the brillant work of Tachiwaka Megumi and are owned by Kodansha and TMS, whom I would like to thank.
I would also like to thank Ganymede for the myth reminder, and to ask my biggest fan......do you like my story? *-*
By Stirling Twilight
Drawing out the mask from his pocket, Asuka Jr. began tying it over his eyes. Saint Tail stood behind him, smiling. As the music from the concert hall began, he turned toward her, arms extended; his whole posture bespoke trust. She took his hands first, lacing her fingers into his and moved within the circle of his arms. Holding her one hand, he slid his other around her waist, drawing her in. Her free hand came to rest on his shoulder, and they began to dance to the soft music from below. For several minutes, neither spoke. They slowly moved to the music, his cheek in her hair, both enjoying this intimate moment of being, once again, in each others arms.
Asuka Jr. smiled as he whispered, "Can I tell you, you look stunning tonight?"
Saint Tail laughed softly. "You can, but I wont believe you."
He sighed, still smiling. "Even blindfolded, youre beautiful to me."
Saint Tail dropped her head onto his shoulder and he squeezed her waist. To her, he was comfortable and exciting all at once, but he was something else too. Parts of her mind kept pointing out this puzzle to her, and so far she had managed to ignore the voices, but for some reason this evening they would not be silenced.
"Asuka Jr.?" she asked hesitantly. "Have you ever considered that you arent in love with me, but with Saint Tail?"
He stopped dancing then and drew back from her a step. He didnt let go of her and she didnt try to move away from him. To his credit, he looked like he was seriously thinking about the question. She was sorry to have ruined the mood, but the sudden need to know overwhelmed her.
"To answer your question," he began, "no, I have never separated the two in my mind. I can see, however, where you could be worried. I could, in theory, be in love not with the person, but with the persona." He paused again, considering. "I can also see that, in theory, my love could appear to be based on the most superficial of foundations." He pulled her closer, smiling; "Whatever its beginning it's now stronger than the foundation under Tokyo Tower. In my mind, youre like a really good book. I just havent gotten all the way to the end yet."
She looked at him, black mask over his eyes, and a smile on his lips. Reaching up, Saint Tail gently pressed her hand to his cheek. "Please dont misunderstand me," she pleaded. "I know you love me, I just wanted you to know."
Asuka Jr. leaned down, tilting his head, and she rose up and kissed him. At that moment the song ended and applause erupted from the audience. The timing was perfect, and they both sank back, laughing. Another song started, and they again fell into dancing. He pulled her as close as he could, and she moved forward to help him.
The young detective sighed, hugging her fiercely. "Im always afraid when youre near. It seems to be the night for confessions, so theres mine."
Saint Tail was surprised, but didnt stop dancing, almost knowing what was coming. So when he didnt continue, she did.
"Youre afraid that Ill leave," she offered, "and well never meet again. Youre afraid that someone else will catch me, and youre afraid that I might get hurt in some way. Am I right?"
She felt him smile into her hair. "You missed one."
"Oh, what was that?"
"You missed the one where the tall handsome police officer steals your heart from me."
Now it was her turn to smile. "I missed that one because none of them are going to happen!"
His smile grew and squeezed her. "How long do you think we can keep meeting in secret?"
"As often as I send you a challenge."
They lapsed into silence, moving to the music.
They had started coming together like this under a sort of truce. There was an unspoken trust they had in each other, and for Asuka Jr., if it meant being blinded for the duration of their meeting, he respected that and didnt complain. Saint Tail had taken to leaving him a second, more personal challenge like the one this evening. The score to the music they were dancing to, stolen by a rival composer and meant to make a true genius look a perfect fool, had been returned in time for the concert. Saint Tail had warned Asuka Jr. in the usual way, and he, and the police, had attempted to once again catch the illusive Saint Tail. As she made good her escape she had slipped another challenge into Asuka Jr.s pocket. It was as simple as, "Meet me on the balcony near the trees and wear the mask."
This was their fourth such meeting. At the last one he had forgotten the mask and so they stood back to back, holding hands, for a few moments. When he announced the temptation was too great and that she should leave, she squeezed his hand and was gone. Upon the spot, Asuka Jr. resolved to never be without the mask.
When the music stopped again she told him, as she always did, that they should go home, that he should not attempt to follow her, and that when she was next needed she would send him a challenge. He had clung to her then with an urgency that she returned in whispered promises, being no match for his strength. When they finally parted, they were both saddened, but looking forward to the next excounter.
Asuka Jr. sat reclining at his desk, hands behind his head, looking out the window. It was a beautiful spring morning, and he saw none of it. It had been almost a month with nothing from Saint Tail. He understood this meant her services were not needed, but this meant that his werent either. As a future police officer, he recognized that this meant all was right with the world, but as a lovesick teen, this sucked.
Dropping his chin onto his chest, he went over in his mind, for the ten millionth time, the several times they had met. The longest had only been fifteen minutes, and he once again marveled at the fact that they had seemed, at the time, both timeless and brief.
"Good morning, Asuka Jr."
Startled out of his daydream, Asuka Jr. found himself looking at the smiling face of Haneoka Meimi. He sat up and returned her greeting. She immediately began talking, but he didnt hear what she was saying, as his mind was now onto the fact that this girl had the strangest effect on him. There was a part of him that liked her, and that part tended to blush when she paid him to much attention. But she always blushed too, he pointed out to himself. There was a part of him that hated her, especially when she paid him to much attention. And there was a part of him that couldnt help but compare her to Saint Tail. Sometimes she and Saint Tail were one and the same, sometimes they were as different as two people could be. Currently his thoughts were mixed; a little bit of each was looking at the long red hair, the height, and the voice. Especially the voice, which he suddenly noticed, had stopped speaking. His eyes came into focus on her smiling face as she stood, obviously waiting for an answer.
"Im sorry," he began, blushing, "what did--"
Sister entered the room causing people, including Haneoka, to rush to their desks. As homeroom began, Asuka Jr. let out a soul-felt sigh, and wondered what she had been talking about.
Every time they met, he held her with a bone-crushing grip. Sometimes she felt all the air pressed from her lungs, and once he had lifted her off her feet, but she never once said anything or moved away. She knew the reason why and had even gone so far as to tell him so. Of course she had the same fears he had, especially the one about his heart being stolen by someone else, but like the others, even this one melted into nothingness when she would think, in the next second, of her trust in him. There was nothing she didnt trust him with, including her true identity; it was just a game they played. She little doubted that if he wanted to he could guess who she was. She knew him well enough to know that he didnt want to guess, or to be told. She also knew that he could never catch her, so the ball was always in her court. She liked it that way; knowing she had power over him. Of course his power to fascinate was just as strong, she just had the advantage of knowing who he was, while he was missing that vital clue.
Smiling at these thoughts, she rolled over onto her stomach, causing Ruby to hastily scurry away. Meimi held the pilfered handkerchief to her nose for the tenth time that hour and breathed deeply. Sighing, she dropped her hands.
"It doesnt smell anymore, Ruby," she whined.
Ruby made a sympathetic sound, drawing closer.
"I spoke to him today," she continued, "but he wasnt listening. He had a far away look about him." She closed her eyes, picturing him. "He was thinking of Saint Tail," she concluded with a knowing nod. Ruby came close enough to touch their noses together. Meimi giggled and rose onto her elbows. "I think he thinks about me a lot, dont you, Ruby?" Ruby made an affirmative mew and snuggled closer. "I think hes wonderful, dont you, Ruby?" Again Ruby agreed. "I think I need to steal another handkerchief!" Meimi concluded, rising to her feet. Ruby giggled and rolled onto her back.
"The one Saint Tail stole " Meimi finished, and saw that he was back in his body at the mere mention of the name.
"What?" he asked foolishly.
"The musical score that Saint Tail stole, remember? I have tickets to the concert on its final night, would you like to go with me?"
This must have been what she was talking about yesterday, Asuka Jr. surmised. Looking up into her blue eyes, he felt his color rise. "Yeah, sure," he stammered, "Id like that."
She flashed him a dazzling smile and turned back to her desk. Asuka Jr. felt his internal organs turn to mush in the after glow of that smile. He suddenly saw Haneoka in the wedding dress at the Junior Design Contest and the internal melt down continued.
Walking her home after the concert, Asuka Jr. felt the evening was about as perfect as possible. When he arrived to pick her up, he found her waiting for him in a burgundy evening dress that left his eyes and jaw locked open. Her parents thankfully hadnt lingered to witness his discomfort, and his father had dropped them at the concert hall, promising to return when they called. Asuka Jr. remembered two of the musical pieces from his slow dance on the balcony, and when Meimi had asked him why he was smiling he blushed hotly and turned away. She squeezed his hand then, and said no more. During the final movement, Meimis eyes had swelled with tears and he quickly offered her his handkerchief, which she smiled at and accepted. Afterwards he had called his father and explained that they wanted to walk home, which he agreed to. And now, arm in arm, as they neared her house, Asuka Jr. began slowing his pace.
"You look stunning tonight," he whispered.
Almost, Meimi repeated what she had last said to this comment. She smiled and slid her hand into his, enjoying the feeling of his hand without her gloves. "Thank you," she replied, "and thank you for coming."
He turned his head away and laughed. "I really had a good time."
"So did I."
He stopped before the gate of her house and turned toward her, feeling suddenly awkward. She saw his discomfort and took charge of the situation.
"Asuka Jr." she began firmly, "I know..." but words failed her.
"Meimi-chan," he interjected into the silence, using her name for the first time. "Its not what you think..." but then words failed him as well.
She flashed him a smile that turned his knees to rubber. "Do you know why I asked you to join me tonight? Did you look at the program? Did you notice the name of the suite?"
The program was in his free hand, rolled, at some boring point of the concert, into the shape of a telescope. She dropped his hand and he looked at the tube. It protested being unrolled by re-rolling and at first he couldnt understand what he was looking at.
"Dont you remember in literature class we learned about Greek myths? About how Orpheus lost his wife and traveled to Hades to get her back, but lost her again at the last second?"
"Because he turned and looked at her," he finished, nodding, "I remember." Then his head came up in surprise, recognition dawning on him. "You were thinking of Saint Tail."
Her eyes took on a mischievous gleam. "No, I was thinking of you. When I said I knew, I meant it. And I want you to know, I dont mind."
Asuka Jr.s mouth fell open. Before he could react further, Meimi stepped up, kissed his cheek and let herself into the yard. "Good night, Asuka Jr." she called over her shoulder, but then stopped at the door and turned to face him. He still stood, galvanized and gaping. She flashed him a smile, and was gone.
Several of the boys in his class had asked him how it was that so many girls seemed to like him, and standing there, before Haneokas house, he wondered himself. To have the love of Saint Tail and the admitted affection of Haneoka Meimi seemed almost too good to be true. How much better would life be if they were, in fact, one and the same? Grinning at this thought, he reached into his pocket to draw out the mask, and managed to also draw out his handkerchief. He smiled at them both, and brought the handkerchief to his nose; it smelled of Meimi.
Meimi dropped her bedroom curtain as he turned to go. She held the new handkerchief to her cheek, smiled, and happily spun in circles until she was dizzy.