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17 January 2016 @ 02:29 pm
Table #5, Prompt #87 - Join  
Title: Cavorting with the Enemy
Author: LuxKen27
Prompt: #087 – Join
Universe: Post-canon
Genre: Friendship/Romance
Rating: T
Word Count: 3,519
Summary: Charlie nodded, and grinned, and was unable to stop himself from laughing at her astonished expression. “What’s the matter, Janine?” he joked. “Can’t handle a bit of friendly competition?”
Table: here

Author’s Note: Originally written for baseballchica03, for the 2015 fandom_stocking holiday exchange. Further author's notes can be found here.

~*~

Janine Kishi did not like surprises. She did not like being on the receiving end of them, and she was terrible at springing them on others. She could plan and plan and plan and plan, but in the end, something would always go terribly wrong.

Yet here she was, leaning against the sun-beaten brick wall of a UCLA dormitory, cell phone in hand, attempting once again to do just that. Her eyes roved over the text message that she’d drafted during the plane ride from Massachusetts, but still couldn’t quite make herself push the button. Instead, all she could think about was every other disaster that had ever occurred as a direct result of her previous attempts to surprise others.

What am I doing here? she asked herself for the fiftieth time since boarding that flight to California. This is pure, unadulterated insanity. Her hand was shaking as she held the phone, her thumb wavering just above the ‘send’ button.

She’d never done anything like this before. She was the opposite of impulsive, meticulous almost to a fault – and, above all, she was practical.

She should’ve just left well enough alone… and maybe she would’ve been able to, if her relationship with Charlie Thomas hadn’t taken such an inexplicable turn after New Year’s.

What Janine liked most about her relationship with her childhood friend was that it was casual. They’d go out together any time they happened to be home in Stoneybrook at the same time, but it wasn’t intense, or all-consuming, or full of drama, as so many of her classmates’ relationships tended to be. Her relationship was – nice, and comfortable, and sweet. She looked forward to seeing him whenever she was home, but she didn’t feel tied to him, or obligated to miss him when they returned to their respective schools.

After all, what was the point? They were 3,000 miles away from each other for the grand majority of the year, and during their all-too-infrequent mutual time together in Stoneybrook, they were still in the ‘getting-to-know-you’ exploratory phase of their relationship friendship thing.

Or, at least, so she had thought.

Then, on the day after New Year’s, they’d met for one final lunch date before he returned to California. They’d headed for Renwick’s, their usual spot in the back corner booth. He’d been oddly quiet that afternoon, offering mere monosyllabic answers to her attempts at conversation, and seemed to squirm uncomfortably in his seat. Eventually, she’d stopped trying to engage him, and they’d lapsed into an awkward silence, and she’d started to wonder if he was trying to tell her something with his uncharacteristic reticence.

Janine Kishi had never been one to beat around the bush, and she had no time for game-playing. If he felt he had some sort of obligation towards her, she’d intended to relieve him of that burden.

“Whatever it is, you can tell me,” she said, her gaze squarely on him.

“W-what?” he mumbled, dropping his fork.

She chewed on her lip as her heart began to throb in her chest. “Whatever is distracting you – just tell me.” She paused. “We
are friends, aren’t we?”

He shifted in his seat, his expression somewhat sad as he lifted his head to meet her gaze. “Yeah,” he assured her after a moment. “We are.”

“So tell me what’s troubling you, and maybe I can help you work through it,” she suggested, smoothing her napkin in her lap.

He shifted again, leaning back in his seat, and nervously scratched at the back of his head. “Well…” he started, his voice faltering, “I – don’t really know – how to say this – ”

“Just say it,” she urged, fearing that she already knew what he wanted to say: that this friendship-dateship-relationship thing wasn’t working out. That he thought they should see other people.

That he’d found someone else.

“I love you,” he blurted out, catching her totally off-guard. “I think about you all the time – I even
dream about you.” He reached across the table, taking both of her hands in his. “I want you, Janine,” he added lowly, “I want you so bad that it hurts.”

All she could do was stare at him in response. It was the last thing she’d expected him to say, and she had absolutely no idea how to respond.

“Say something,” he pleaded, clutching at her hands.

She opened her mouth, but her throat didn’t oblige her brain. She felt like an idiot, sitting there with her jaw hanging open, but she truly had no clue what to say, or how to respond. Her heart was fluttering in her chest, and her breath was starting to constrict in her lungs. She felt very small, and very trapped, and very much in need of air.

She withdrew from his grip, stood up abruptly, and left with restaurant without a word, moving in a haze of shock and confusion. She didn’t get far before he found her, and confronted her, and kissed her with such longing and desire that it left no doubt in her mind that he was telling her the truth.

“Please, Janine,” he whispered against her lips, “don’t leave it like this.”


But she had no other choice.

She’d gone back to MIT to start the second semester of her sophomore year, totally shaken by his confession and his plea. The depth and intensity of his words scared her – but not because she couldn’t reciprocate his feelings. By ripping the ‘casual’ label off of their burgeoning relationship, he was taking away the last of her pragmatic excuses for keeping her own heart’s stirrings at bay.

It had taken her a month to work up the nerve to contact him. And, though that conversation had been pleasant, he’d also made it abundantly clear that the ball was now in her court. Either way, she had to make the next move: towards him, or away from him. The only question was, what move did she make – and, more to the point, how could she make it from so far away?

On a whim, she decided to join the robotics lab at MIT, as a way to take her mind off her troubles. As much as she enjoyed theoretical physics, she missed being able to create actual working objects with her hands. She’d built robots for fun as a kid, and joining the lab was like regressing back to her childhood, when things were much simpler. It became her release valve for all of the tension in her life: stress, school, and relationships included.

The MIT robotics lab decided to enter that year’s Vex U robotics contest, and went on to sweep the state-wide and regional finals. When they won the competitions, landing a spot at the world championships, the first person she’d told was Charlie. Hearing his voice each time was simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to her since that post-New Year’s kiss. Talking to him made her feel alive on the inside, but it also reminded her of how much she missed seeing him, and touching him, and kissing him.

The chaos between them was becoming unbearable, but what could she do? It wasn’t like she could just drop everything and fly out to California to sort things out – and she’d never dream of asking him to come to her. They both had school, and work, and lives beyond the tangle of relationships they’d left behind in Stoneybrook.

And then Vex U announced the site of that year’s edition of the robotic World Championships: UCLA.

It was as if destiny had intervened – and Janine Kishi did not believe in destiny.

Nevertheless, she recognized the prime opportunity that had been laid out before her. She now had a reason to be in California – to be at his school, no less! – and to not take the time to see him and sort things out would be incredibly foolish.

…wouldn’t it?

Could she really wait until the summer to see him again? Could she put herself – or him – through that? What if his feelings had changed?

What if they hadn’t?

What if he found out about the competition, and that she’d be there as part of the MIT team? Would he be hurt if she didn’t reach out to him while in such close proximity?

She agonized over her dilemma. She had to sort her own feelings out first, of course, but she could sense that whatever it was that was going to happen between them was important – and if she didn’t do this now, she’d only live to regret it.

Even so, she hadn’t completely made up her mind until she was on the plane from Massachusetts to California. She would contact him, and request to see him, and let the chips fall where they may.

Which was how she’d wound up leaning against the weather-beaten wall of a dormitory on the UCLA campus that fine spring afternoon, cell phone in hand, her thumb wavering over the ‘send’ button.

With one final glance over her shoulder, she deleted all but the first word of her text and pressed send.

Surprise! she wrote.

The response was instantaneous. Hey! What’s up?

I’m at UCLA, she replied.

His response was so quick that she scarcely believed he’d actually had time to read her text: Are you serious?!

Yes, she typed, a smile curving over the corners of her lips. I’m here with my school, for the Vex U robotics competition.

Suddenly, her phone began to vibrate in her hand. Startled, she answered it. “Hello?”

“Are you serious? Please, tell me you’re serious,” he said, the excitement palpable in his tone.

She laughed. “I’m serious,” she assured him.

“Where are you?” he asked.

Her heart began to beat a bit faster. “I’m standing outside Reiber Hall,” she informed him. “It’s where our team is staying for the competition.”

He chuckled. “I’m sorry,” he teased. “I guess UCLA didn’t want to make anybody feel too comfortable. They’re hosting Vex U, but they’re also participating in it.”

She smiled, but her mirth drained away as her nerves flared up. “I would like to see you,” she said softly, averting her eyes and curling her arms around herself. Even though she was standing there by herself, uttering those words made her feel vulnerable, as their last, intense meeting resonated in the forefront of her mind.

“Give me five minutes,” he requested, abruptly hanging up before she could respond.

Janine swallowed hard, staring at the phone’s screen for a long moment before slipping it into the pocket of her pleated skirt. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering in spite of the sun and the light sweater she was wearing.

This was it. She’d launched her surprise, though it remained to be seen if the inevitable disaster would follow.

Time seemed to slow to a standstill, and she attempted to analyze his half of the conversation while she waited. It was safe to conclude that he was excited to see her; that much had been quite obvious, both in his tone and in his insistence on coming directly to her upon learning of her whereabouts. That was all well and good, but what were his expectations? Seeing him suddenly, with such short notice, gave her little time to prepare herself, to plan for all of the possibilities.

They hadn’t really talked about That Conversation, from their last meeting in Stoneybrook. He’d made a confession and a plea, but he hadn’t forced her to respond in kind. Instead, she’d slipped away, taken her own sweet time to process everything, and had only made tentative contact with him a month later. They’d continued to chat intermittently – casually, just as they had before That Conversation – and she’d started to wonder – had anything truly changed between them?

And now here she was, out on the limb that she’d abandoned him on all those months before. It had taken her awhile, but she finally decided that she was ready to make that leap. She had to at least try, she’d told herself; she didn’t want to regret missing what might’ve been, simply out of fear. She’d feel like a fool if she’d somehow missed a golden opportunity that she’d never expected to fall into her lap, but at least she wouldn’t regret trying to make a go of it.

“Janine!” a warm, familiar voice called out to her, bringing her out of her reverie.

She turned, and smiled, her arms falling away as she spotted him bounding towards her. He was dressed casually, in jeans and sneakers and an oversized UCLA sweatshirt, but his grin was radiant – and infectious. Her own smile widened as he drew closer to her, rapidly closing the space between them, and he wrapped his arms around her in a giant bear of a hug, lifting her off of the ground as he twirled her around in a slow circle.

“It’s so good to see you,” he told her as her feet met the concrete once more. He cupped her face in his hands, his thumbs trailing along the lines of her jaw as he gazed at her. “How’s my favorite girl?” he inquired softly.

Before she had the chance to respond, he kissed her, his lips soft and pliant as he cradled the back of her head, his fingers curling into her hair. It had been sudden, and startling, but the kiss was gentle and sweet, reminiscent of their very first kisses, way back when – and strangely devoid of the passionate intensity of their last meeting.

She worked hard to shove aside her disappointment, returning the kiss in kind, concentrating instead on finding an answer to his question. Finally, she broke away from him, forcing her eyes open, and she looked up, her gaze meeting his.

“I’m well,” she replied, her eyes searching his for any hint of enthusiasm, romantic or otherwise.

“I’m glad,” he murmured, his hands still cupping her face. He traced the crests of her cheeks with his thumbs, gently nudging her glasses from their resting place. His expression was incredulous, as if he couldn’t believe that she was really standing there, right in front of him.

He swallowed hard. “I’ve missed you,” he said after a long moment, his voice gravelly and raw.

She nodded as she reached out for him, her hands finding the smooth expanse of his chest. “I’ve missed you, too,” she confessed. “I think” – her eyes fell to his mouth – “I think we should talk.”

He nodded slowly, his lips curving into a salacious smile. “Okay,” he agreed, leaning into her, capturing her mouth in a swift, sensuous kiss, one that stole the very breath from her lungs.

The intensity of the caress caught her off guard, and she curled her hands into the soft material of his sweatshirt, firstly to orient her spinning head, and then to tug him closer, to fold her arms around him, her hands climbing up the backs of his shoulders as she pressed herself into him.

He tilted his head, deepening their kiss, his hands sliding over her shoulders, down the planes of her back, finding and squeezing the curves of her hips. She felt herself flush, her heart fluttering frantically in her chest, her knees weakening as he opened her hips and stepped closer to her as his tongue sought entrance into her mouth. Her breath constricted and her mind went blank, and it was all she could to do to process each new sensation suddenly flooding through her body.

She lost all sense of place and time as she clutched at him; everything was happening way too fast and yet at a deliciously slow pace, as if he was doing everything in his power not to overwhelm her. She had no idea how long they’d been standing there – or indeed, that they still were standing there, so lost was she in the heat rising between them, the urgency edging into their kisses, the feel of his hands on her body, smoothing over her waist, her hips, the curve of her backside.

She gave up trying to label all of the feelings welling up and crashing over her – she felt free and overwhelmed and confused and curious and unbearably overheated, as if every single nerve ending in her body was on fire, and every single synapse in her brain was firing simultaneously. It was amazing, and scary, and addicting, and a small part of her wondered if this is what he’d felt for her, for so long – and if so, how he ever managed to hold himself in check for any length of time.

She felt him ease away, tracing his tongue over her lower lip before nipping at the corner of her mouth, and then she felt him smile. “Perhaps we should continue this conversation elsewhere?” he proposed in a teasing tone.

“What?” she mumbled in response, forcing her eyes open as she fought to get her bearings back.

He pressed a small kiss to the corner of her mouth, and then her cheek. “Do you really wish to be seen cavorting with the enemy?” he asked.

She furrowed her brow. “What are you talking about?” she replied, shivering in spite of herself.

He released her then, taking a step back, and a cool rush of air enveloped her, making her aware once more of the world beyond their embrace. She tugged at the hem of her skirt, and then realized that he’d lifted up his sweatshirt, revealing a black t-shirt with a vaguely familiar logo printed in white across the chest.

Her jaw dropped. “RoMeLa?” she gasped, her eyes meeting his. “You’re a member of the robotics lab?”

He nodded, and grinned, and was unable to stop himself from laughing at her astonished expression. “What’s the matter, Janine?” he joked. “Can’t handle a bit of friendly competition?”

“Since when are psychology majors interested in animatronics?” she sputtered haughtily.

He lowered his sweatshirt back into place and smirked at her. “Since their girlfriends let them help build robots when they were kids,” he replied archly.

She flushed again, tugging furiously at her sleeves, at a complete loss for words. She couldn’t believe he even remembered that – they hadn’t exactly been playmates as children.

His expression softened. “Oh, come on, Janine, don’t be cross,” he cajoled. “Seriously, I did this because – I wanted to have something in common with you, maybe some way to reach you, since the direct approach didn’t work.”

“It worked,” she contended, “just maybe a bit too well.” She shook her head, still feeling incredulous. “You really joined RoMeLa, just to have an excuse to see me?”

He nodded. “I wasn’t willing to give up on us that easily.”

She averted her eyes. “I feel a bit ridiculous,” she confessed. “I had no idea you felt this way about me.”

“I’m the one who should feel ridiculous,” he said with a smile. “I mean, I thought it was really obvious.”

She shrugged. “Perhaps it was,” she conceded, “but I was too thick-headed to see it.”

“Or maybe you didn’t want to?” he suggested, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.

She shrugged again, tugging a little harder on the sleeves of her sweater.

“Well, you know now,” he intoned after a long moment, resting his hands on his hips, “so what do you intend to do about it?”

She speared him with an amused look. “Now who’s being thick-headed?” she mused, mirroring his stance. “I think it’s fairly obvious why I’m here.”

He grinned at her. “It is,” he assured her. “You’re here to lose.”

She gaped at him. “Well, you certainly sound sure of yourself!” she returned. “What makes you think that your piddly little RoMeLa team can even hold a candle to mine?”

“Ooh, so that all-mighty MIT pride shows itself at last,” he crowed. “Care to make a wager, then?”

She narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “What did you have in mind?”

He considered her question for a long moment. “If I win,” he contended, taking a step closer to her, “then you have to spend the night with me. Here,” he added with a flourish, gesturing at their surroundings, “and you have to do whatever I want.”

Her heart skipped a beat, but she wasn’t about to back down – her competitive nature just wouldn’t allow her. “And if I win?” she asked coolly.

“If you win,” he mused, clasping his hands around her shoulders, “then I’ll go to MIT to spend the night with you.”

“And do whatever I want?” she inquired.

He nodded, a slow smile curving over his lips. He caressed her shoulders, leaning into her, his breath ghosting over her cheek. “So what do you say?” he murmured into her ear, before pressing a kiss to the smooth expanse of skin just below it.

She closed her arms around him, holding him in place and gliding her hands up the smooth planes of his back, relishing the anticipatory shiver that rolled down his spine. “You’ve got yourself a deal,” she replied with a smile.
 
 
 
LuxKen27: BSC - Charlie/Janine OTPluxken27 on January 21st, 2016 04:31 am (UTC)
Wonderful! =) I'm glad you enjoyed it and are looking forward to more. So am I, hehe ♥

I read your author's note and agree with all of it, especially the missing how it used to be snark to love.

It makes me sad the way that comm went downhill :-/ I sometimes go back and reread old snarks but pretty much ignore all the capslock multipart gif parties that come down the pike now. This series descended into ridiculousness, yes, but the early canon at least still holds up pretty damn well 30 frickin years later.
jessicarae729jessicarae729 on January 21st, 2016 06:18 pm (UTC)
I feel the same way. Occasionally I'll read some of the newer ones of my favorite books, but the hate is no fun to read. I felt like the old stuff was more along the lines of lighthearted mocking.

I go back and read 3foot6's stuff once a year or so because it's still comedy gold, no matter how many times I've read it. :)