Disclaimers: Everything here belongs to me. That's right. Me. Mine. Steal, die, after being beaten with a sledgehammer. Vague disclaimers are no one's friend.
Dedications: Well, I think the blame for this little ficlet lies solely on Usa-chan, so she's going to get a dedication for this one, even if she never reads it. Ryoko, this one also goes out to you for like James and Claudia so much. Finally, to Brujah, Aya, and Biscuit, for being my eternally amusing muses.
The door opened with a near inaudible click, sliding open over the thick beige carpet, and closed again nearly as silently. He couldn't hear the footsteps approaching him, even though he knew they were coming. He didn't even bother to look up from his book. This was fast becoming another of their customs, after all.
He almost had to wonder if perhaps they had too many habits and rituals between the two of them. Depending on the level of animosity they'd reached during the day, there were even specified ways they would have dinner or say good night. As he figured it, one of them could write a novel detailing their behaviors towards each other and when and how each was to be used. Probably the only reason that book was out there yet was because it take all the fun out of-
Both her forearms settled on his shoulders as she draped herself over the back of the couch he sat on. She was definitely relaxing, slowly but surely, about how casual touching. When he first met her, she scarcely allowed even the simplest brush, but you had to adapt quickly if you were living around Gypsy. He'd learned that when he moved here fifteen years ago, and he'd watched her learn it over the past two months. If he could say nothing else (and he certainly could), he could at least admit Claudia was very adaptable.
"What're you up to, Jamey?" Her breath was very close, and he could feel her breath in his hair. Well, that was definitely... different. Not necessarily bad, but definitely different.
"Reading," he answered, eyes not leaving the page, even though he had long since quit reading. "I would think even you could figure that much out."
"Hmph," she snorted rather inelegantly. "When did you learn to do that?" She didn't give a chance to answer before continuing. "I'm thinking about hitting the town with Juliano. Think you can keep your cousin out of trouble while we're gone?"
He felt a brief moment of fury, though he couldn't imagine why. "You didn't ask if I want to come too."
He could almost hear the pout on her face. Even if he turned his face, he wouldn't be able to see it; she hid such things carefully still. "You looked like you were busy here."
"So you asked Romeo but not me?"
Her forearms pushed away from his shoulders as she stood abruptly. "Well, forgive me for not wanting to disturb you, boytoy. You're always going on and on about how busy you are, so I thought-"
Then he was on his feet as well, glaring at her from the other side of the couch. More and more often lately, their mock fights kept turning into real arguments. If he wanted to think about it, not that he did, he could pinpoint the fact this development began when Claudia started hanging out with amnesia boy. Romeo pissed him off for reasons he didn't understand; he didn't like the other man around Gypsy, especially since she was newly (if not happily) married, but it was when the Italian man was with Claudia that his blood started boiling. "Well, you thought wrong. Or did you even bother thinking at all?"
Blue-green eyes flashed dangerously, and as Claudia started circling around to his side of the couch, he had to wonder if this was what people meant about having your life flash before your eyes. Yeah, from now on, he needed to make sure his mouth consulted with his brain before it took off on its own. It may have just created one of the biggest screw-ups of his life, if the murderous expression on Claudia's face was any indication. "What the hell is your problem, James?" Yep, he was in trouble: James, not Jamey or even boytoy. "What's wrong with you? And why the hell do you keep taking it out on me?" Well, that was true too; he'd certainly instigated a lot of their more recent disagreements. "Is it me? Juliano? What?"
"I don't like him," he muttered.
She frowned hard, but even that was preferable to the scowl she'd just worn. "You don't still think he's faking it, do you?"
"No, I'm pretty sure he's not faking," he admitted begrudgedly.
"Then what?" She eyed him suspiciously when he didn't immediately answer. "You're not... jealous, are you?"
He'd forgotten just how much about other people Claudia really caught, even if she didn't always recognize it in herself. "I'm not jealous."
She continued as if he hadn't spoken. Thankfully, this rather seemed to amuse her. "That's really kind of sweet, boytoy." So they were back to nicknames. He was saved. "I don't know why you would be though. It's not like --"
He didn't give himself a chance to talk himself out of it, and instead he took that final half-step closer to her and, seizing her shoulders, pulled her up closer to him, pressing their lips together. Even as he did and felt her remain unresponsive against him, he could only think that he was shortly to end up a bloody stain on the study wall. She definitely wasn't going to suffer him to live, not after this --
Her arms wrapped around him, fingers tangling in his hair, tugging him closer still as her lips began to respond beneath his. They remained like that for several minutes till the need for air drove them apart. She let go of him with one hand to touch her own lips in apparent confusion, and all he could think was their strange relationship had changed once again.