A Reflection of Cream and Bread
There is a place that Asuna is occasionally found in Tolbana. She rents it out when she has the rare need to cook in a proper kitchen. A few people know all about it, Klein being one, and the other.. well, Asuna tries not let her mind go in that direction.
She's baking, but whatever sweets she is working on are doing just fine on their own. She's engaged in something even more rare for her. Asuna is apparently... relaxing. She's sitting on the porch, enjoying the day. Sure, she has a hand on her rapier, but that's just habit.
Kirito hadn't been in Tolbana for too long, it feels like. They've certainly made inroads on the Aincrad tower, not to mention how big Elder Tale Online itself is, considering all of the Lands and non-Aincrad dungeons as well. Entering the walled castle town, Kirito drifts to the side, off the beaten path, through all the residental areas. He's familiar enough to know how busy the main area tends to be.
That being said, the Black Swordsman finds a unexpected surprise at a somewhat more Adventurer-filled area, in the form of a chestnut-haired Flash. Then again, there are some memories that are unexpectedly coming to the front of his mind, and he pivots his walk pattern to stop next to the porch. "Hey, Asuna." He says, familiarly enough. That's enough to start this conversation, right?
If you've ever seen someone stung by a bee while reliving their most embarassing memory, than you'd know what Asuna's face looks like. She was spaced out, daydreaming about something. And then Kirito is just right there.
She leaps to her feet. She reaches down, smoothing her apron. Yes, she wears that whenever she's in the middle of baking. But now it just.. doesn't look cool, so in the midst of smoothing it, she banishes to inventory in a jerky motion.
Asuna realizes this reaction is probably not the best. So she takes a moment to collect her thoughts. Which go something like, 'Okay. That wasn't great. But we got this. Asuna, you are the Flash. You are calm. You are cool. You are collected.' She takes a few confident steps towards Kirito and after silently suggesting and throwing away a ton of really bad lines to greet him she opens with.
"Oh. Oh heyyy."
Oh, add to that a totally uncertain smile complete with a nervous bite on her lip.
Asuna's face brings a moment of flickering confusion to Kirito's, although after a second, he recognizes the embarrasment/panic for what it is. He's been in the same boat once or twice himself, you know? Not normally around other people, admittedly - Kirito's more likely to have his freakouts in private, as we all well know. He does briefly recognize the apron for what it is, but she banishes it to the aether, causing him to question why.
He does offer that familiar little smile that he is prone too, although her greeting itself does register as odd to someone who normally has talked to, generally, a more collected Asuna. "Hey." He does repeat, not realizing that he momentarily sounds like a parrot.
"What's up with the apron? Doing some hands on cooking?" He sounds slightly hopeful, as he should be.
He doesn't seem to notice. That is.. some both fortunate and kind of distressing. Asuna looks down at her feet for a moment. Re-center. It's not a big deal. Look back up and...
Line! C'mon brain. Line!
Nothing happens. Her inner dialogue types out ASDFSASDFDSF uselessly for a while.
"Kirito! How have you been? Apron?"
That sounds normal. Well, forced normal.
"It's great weather today, don't you think?"
She is cringing inside. But then the one thing that /is/ working in her head fires up.
That's not a real sound. It's just her inner cook reminding her.
"Sorry. Bread! Melon bread!"
The apron comes back and she rushes inside to make sure nothing burns. She's not just running away from her own awkwardness.
"It is very nice weather."
Kirito agrees in the brief moments before Asuna apologizes and runs away at the mention of melon bread. Well, not run away, although with the brief flash of movement she does to get back inside reminds him of the memories of her in combat, that he's seen at least. He stands there for a moment, blinking at the door.
After a second moment, Kirito heads after her into the little rent-a-home that she's temporarily acquired. He figures she's not in serious trouble, because there's not that many ways melon pan bread can go bad, and he doesn't smell any smoke, so it's not like the oven's on fire.
"Asuna?" He calls out, carefully standing in the entryway. "Is everything alright?"
"Yes, everything's fine!"
Asuna mutters some other things, but it's just to herself and it's mostly a string of critical assessments of her communication skills.
Then there is an oven opening and then the smell of melon pan simply floods the entire home and flows out through the door. Asuna sets out a basket, throws a white cloth into it, and then carefully arranges the melon bread in it. By carefully arrange we mean forgets that the bread is very hot, picks it up, nearly drops it on the floor, and fumbles it into the basket.
Four times in a row.
Rushing back out with the basket-and nearly crashing into Kirito in the process-she looks up at him.
She looks down, remembers the basket in her hands.
"I made some melon bread! You want some? I have some barley tea. It goes well with sweets. If you aren't busy, and you know, if you want to sit down and hang out for a bit."
Okay, not great, but yeah! That time she nailed it.
Getting hit with the delicious smell of melon pan is a clarion call to Kirito's stomach, although thankfully it doesn't grumble. Near call, though. While the smell is inviting, Kirito does not enter the room any further unless invited. This does nearly cause them to crash, though.
Asuna remains smooth on her feet, though, and Kirito steps with the motion briefly to make sure he doesn't smush the bread himself. He looks down, and this time his stomach can be briefly heard, causing a light flush to cross his face. Sure, he eats, but he just really hasn't picked up on the food handicrafting yet.
"Thank you." He says, first and foremost, because you always thank the cook. "Melon pan and barley tea sound like a delicious combination; of course I have the time to join you. Although..." Kirito leans in towards her and the basket, left hand nearabouts slipping around her waist as he gestures between the two areas, considering he's in the doorway-.
"Are we going to eat on the porch, or inside?"
Asuna's thoughts race. But mostly they just note Kirito's proximity. Repeatedly. Something like, omgomgomgomgomg he's close. And he's blushing. He was blushing, right? What does that mean? It means something, right? Do I want it to mean something? Oh no I'm blushing!
Ack, that was loud! Too loud. Stop blushing!
"Inside is kind of a mess."
Did I leave my clothes all over the place? I can't remember. God. Why am I freaking out? Stop blushing!
She makes herself smaller with a slouch, and he's nearly touching her with that gesturing hand and why does that seem so amazing?
"Let's.. let's sit."
She very abruptly slips away from him to set the bread down. And then races right past him again to get the barley tea. It's not that she's rushing. Well, she is.
Maybe that's why the tea is nearly spilling as she brings glasses out. More racing thoughts. Why didn't I just bring the glasses and the pitcher? Why are my hands all funny. Let's just sit down..
The glasses are set down and she sits. Abruptly. Her eyes a bit wider than normal. A breath. Mostly stilled poise. She takes hold of a piece of bread and holds it up a bit too close to Kirito's face for it to seem like the hand off she intended. It seems more like she is holding it up for him to take a bite. That's not weird, right?
.... stop blushing, Asuna!
Kirito takes half a moment to observe Asuna putting her title to the real use: doing everyday stuff quickly to maximize future lazy time. The response was loud, but her reasoning was even more of a surprise: Asuna didn't seem like the type to leave things messy, but... well, he supposes everyone can have a day where they just need to let things be a bit messy.
"One moment, one moment-" He says quickly, hastily dropping himself in the farther chair so she can have the easierr one to access.
When she comes out as speedily with the tea, he half-starts, prepared just in case there's a slip and fall, but no, he should know by now; she can handle herself. (Generally.) He leans back in his chair, tapping away briefly on the menu to get rid of his excess gear, although then she offers a bit of bread. It's quite close.
Kirito leans forward, and promptly takes the bite instead of taking the bread.
He.. bit the bread. Asuna didn't mean for this to happen, but now that it's started, what should she do? She checks her brain for ideas, but that thing continues its streak of being utterly unhelpful!
"How is it? I haven't made this a lot, so I'm sorry if it's not very good."
Asuna tries to think of how one disengages from feeding another person. She's seen this in manga, but the next panel it seems to always be done.
Yep, still nothing.
"I haven't seen you around a lot lately. Has everything been okay?"
Strangely, Asuna senses herself relax a bit. Other than the very unusual bit about her feeding Kirito, this isn't a complete disaster. He's still here, and sure, she's totally acted weird, but no running away yet!
"After this, I want to show you something amazing! I got a mount for myself."
She looks down at the melon bread. Is she supposed to eat and hold the bread for him? This never came up in the manga. Brain has no ideas.
Thanks for nothing, brain!
He indeed, bit the bread. It looked like it was being offered!
"It's delicious." Kirito says after a moment. It's Asuna. Of course it's delicious. "Especially when it's fresh and warm out of the oven like this - one of the best ways to eat bread, if you can't get cream to go with it!" Is that a subtle reminder of a previous event? Is Kirito capable of that?
To follow up on this answer, considering that there's still bread in front of his face, Kirito leans forward and takes a bite of it again. Nomf! However, he does seem to realize that she can't exactly feed herself like this, so there's a moment where she finds herself with a bit of melon pan in front of her face as an offer. Kirito is perfectly capable of being helpful!
Is Kirito aware of what this looks like, considering how feeding each other is often, especially in Western shows, done in weddings? Perhaps. Perhaps.
"You got a mount? That's interesting. I look forward to seeing it."
Then, ever the irrepresible Black Swordsman goes in for another bite.
** ERROR **
It takes Asuna's brain a moment to react. She's got this expression that is hard to place. Her cheeks are crimson, though. Her eyes are wide. As if she were simultaneously alarmed and delighted. And embarassed.
She takes a bite. Words are slow but they do eventually rattle their way out of her spinning brain to her lips.
"I'm glad you like it. Oh, and in the middle. I made something new."
The third bite probably gets to it. She's filled the middle with cream. She remembers that bread was much better with a bit of cream.
She realizes at some point she's starting at Kirito as she waits for his reaction. She looks down, then takes another bite of the bread he's offering. It ends up leaving just a little swirl of cream at the right corner of her lips. She doesn't notice.
"After we finish I can introduce you to Tomoe. She's the best."
When Asuna's cheeks flush, Kirito definitely knows that *something* is, has happened, although not perhaps the scale of how much he is contributing to the mess that is Asuna-The-Flash right now. Which, is of course, all of this is his fault.
In the middle? That third bite does get to the surprise, and his black eyes widen for a moment, before closing in something akin to satisfaction. Ah, if every group had an Asuna or a Nyanta, there would be a lot more happier people in Elder Tale.
Yup, that's a happy Blade Dancer right there. However, when his eyes open, they linger for a moment on her lips. Hm. "Hey, Asuna?"
That is intended to grab her attention more fully, even as Kirito leans in as close as he was holding the bread, but -- no, no kiss, although the care in which he cups her cheek in one hand to brush off the cream with his thumb might just be as bad. "There." He says, his voice soft. "Had something on your cheek."
Like, uhh... your hand? That is still there, Kirito?
He likes it! She can tell, because he's got that silly, dreamy look on his face. Not that she cares! It's no big deal, right?
Oh yeah, stop blushing!
... stupid cheeks.
Her voice sounds so earnest, and she leans forward. And he comes closer at the same time!
Waitwaitwaitwaitwait whys he doing that? He's really close.
Then her eyes are closed. She doesn't recall telling them to do that. And he's.. his hand.. it's.
"Ki-Kirito.. I.. this is just too sud-"
That's when brain realizes he's just cleaning her face. Stupid brain.
"-errr.. oh, right, of course!"
She pulls back from his hand as if it gave her a shock.
Her mouth seems to be moving, but the words aren't there. She just looks pointedly down and away. She can't even think about stopping her blushing.
Just too sud? Suds? Sudsy? Sudden? Oh. Oh. Ooooh. Kirito's brain continues quietly clicking along as his face registeres only a little surprise, before the surprise clears for... consideration and acceptance? This all happens quickly, before the look settles back down to his more regular part smile as he recalls his hand, resting it on his thigh as he takes a bite of the other bit of bread he's, yes, still holding.
Is this just giving his brain a chance to work?
"You had said Tomoe, earlier? That's what you named your mount?" He prompts. Is that an out? It's awfully suspicious for Kirito to give an out...
Please hold, Asuna is currently rebooting.
... and performing an update.
Maybe that's why, when 'looking down and away', her eyes were still shut.
** BEEP! **
Brain has finished loading basic conversation. Unfortunately Spaz.exe is still running.
"Oh err.. yeah! Yes. Tomoe Gozen! The great woman warrior! I'm sure she'll live up to her name!"
She suddenly gets up and takes a bite of the bread. The bread that she was holding. Which Kirito bit. Bzzzt!
It's almost like we..
"Let's go! Right now!"
She grabs her glass of barley tea and drinks. Okay, she gulps. She remembers to strike a casual pose. And manages to somehow get more cream on her when she takes the next bite of the melon bread.
Her eyes lock on Kirito, she tilts her head. It's her attempt to strike a confident, attractive pose. With cream on the tip of her nose.
... oh yeah..
"Lead the way."
Tomoe Gozen... yes, that seems appropriate for Asuna. Kirito's smile slightly widens when he hears her say 'great woman warrior' - while she may be talking about her mount, he knows that he's looking at one. One that, admittedly, is making him wonder if she's feeling okay.
Watching her gulp the tea then eat more bread, the unexpected happens again, and his gaze lingers.
Yes, that's an 'may I have your attention?' Asuna, even as the Black Swordsman steps forward with casual confidence in what he's about to do. He leans in for the kil- kis- klei- klean, both hands this time cuping up to cup those fair cheeks, first one thumb, then the other, brushing down her nose.
"It's very good bread." He says, with a lightly teasing tone. "You don't have to wear it to convince me."
She can lead the way. She knows right where to wai.. wai.. whaat.. ?!
That's.. that's really nice. Hopefully she doesn't have a heart attack. Oh look! Her eyes closed again. And she's got this really dopey smile on her face.
"Kirito.. I'm so happy you like it."
Something about. wearing.. something? Ears aren't really listening, brain isn't working.
"You like what I'm wearing? This.. this old thing? I've worn it around you so many times before."
... kiss me, you fool!
Wait.. where did /that/ thought come from? That's not right at all!
Something is definitely wrong with Asuna, but Kirito by now has gotten it mostly figured out. He's not an *idiot*, he's just... he thinks more with the logical and rational side of his brain rather than the emotional. It's how Kirito just is. There's something, somethings, though, that can't be too rational.
Relationships require a bit of emotion. He may game like one, but Kirito is not a robot.
"Asuna?" He prompts again, feeling like he's said her name quite a bit.
After another moment or so, though, his brain sort of just, gives up. Shrugs at him. At this point, buddy, it's on the heart, not the head. Kirito smiles briefly at Asuna, a more true one than his normal everyday one, before he tils her head up, tilts his down, and ...
There is this moment, when he says her name, where she blushes even more and casts her gaze to the side in embarassment. It's in this moment, when everything seems quite beyond her ability to clearly express that the way he says her name silences every confusing voice.
There's a fragile note in her voice. All her usual bravado covers this up, but something about today just has her thrown off enough to give up on the mask entirely. At first, it was involuntary.
She wanteed to be cool. She wanted to blow him away. But as good heroes do, Kirito saved her just as she was failing.
Now, though, she throws the mask off entirely. On her own. And then she looks up and his face is there. She wets her lips nervously, biting her lip for just a moment.
He's kissing her. Asuna didn't realize the intervening space was closing and then gone. It's just suddenly Kirito is kissing her, and she melts into what she really wants. Her arms wind around him, and she presses close.
And yeah, her heart is pounding in her ears.
And yes, she's kissing him back. With everything she's got.
... Now.. that's nailing it..
Look at these two, attempting to handle things like grown adults. Some part of Kirito briefly starts wondering about endgames, and goals, and this trapped situation, but for once, his logical brain puts it to the side for now. When Asuna responds - positively (thank goodness) - to the kiss, and even kisses back, Kirito relaxes.
The hands on her cheeks drift down to her waist to hold her til the kiss breaks off so he can get air; virtual reality or not, it is impossible to do 24/7 makeout sessions. (Which is, in a sense, a shame.) Kirito, ever the quiet one, looks at Asuna, his dark eyes full of quiet warmth and affection.
Now's the point where you say something stupid to make Asuna feel better, Kirito. "Hi." Good enough.
He's inwardly marveling at the feel of her in his hands, because, hello??? Who wouldn't? He sighs deeply, though, and leans his head forward to rest his forehead on hers, a little headtouch that for him, means just as much as the kiss did.
"Well..." He then trails off.
Asuna's eyes flutter open when the kiss ends. At some point she closed them. She forgets exactly when and it doesn't matter. Her lips curl into a warm smile.
It's said gently and softly, but she pours as much affection into it as she can. The world just shifted so much around her. Her feet feel a bit unstable, but somehow her heart is more steady than ever.
"Also.. wow. I.. you know, I'm sorry for acting so strange. I just didn't know if you saw me the way I see you."
It's strange, how relaxed she feels now. How easy it is to talk, now that the tension is past and she's in his arms. She meets his eyes steadily and she doesn't let go of him. She does bite her lip and hold back a playful laugh.
"We can.. do that again sometime, right?"
That smile, the returned hi, the gentle, soft affection... Yes, this is part of what Kirito doesn't understand, and wants so very much. He can only hope he's giving off that affection, although when she apologizes for acting strange, he shakes his head.
"I was concerned for a second." He admits ruefully. "But now..." She finishes talking, and one eyebrow smidgenly raises.
"I think so." Kirito says solemnly. "But... sometime?"
With that very brazen declaration, the Black Swordsman leans down and in to the White Flash, kissing her lightly on the lips again. What, now is included in 'sometime'. So is 'near future', 'tonight', 'tomorrow', 'the day after tomorrow', 'next week', and... 'years.' You know.
Kirito does some of his best work when he's brazen. And that was the perfect response to Asuna's question. She responds with enthusiasm to the kiss, maybe taking that 'light' kiss to something a bit more firm along the way.
She's excited, she's being kissed by the guy she's wanted to kiss her for a while, and then he just went and did it again!
She's breathless when it ends and so Asuna leans against Kirito. She smiles and then laughs softly. It takes her a moment to pick out what she wants to say.
"There's.. no time like the present, is there?"
She happily nuzzles against Kirito's neck. She's gone from walking on egg shells to gliding on the clouds.
"So.. am I your girlfriend, now?"