The Chipped Cup

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A/N: Fun fact: Shoma and Aoto's dad is named after Hiroshi Yoshida, one of my favorite artists. His work is beautiful, check it out if you get a chance.

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On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who journeys, not from place to place, but through time.

Shoma fidgeted with his watch, making sure that he had the right time. The tea shop was unusually packed, yet he couldn't help but feel alone. He had never come without Aoto before, and all the chatter was making it hard to think. The shop bell dinged, and his head snapped towards the door, only for him to be disappointed to find that it was a traveler he did not know.

"Did you think that was me?" A voice said in his ear. Shoma jumped and spun around.

"Why did you do that?" he exclaimed, putting his hand over his heart. "You could have given me a heart attack."

Darcy tried to stifle her laughter. "I'm sorry, I came in the back way and couldn't resist." She took the open seat next to Shoma.

"How are you doing?" he asked. He cringed at the sound of his own voice- it sounded two octaves too high. Nervously, he cleared his throat.

"Um, pretty much the same as when we talked yesterday," Darcy said. "My life isn't all that exciting; well, except for the whole time travel thing."

"Yes, except for that." The corner of Shoma's mouth curled upwards. Darcy bit her bottom lip. She couldn't be certain, but it almost sounded like Shoma was flirting with her. She dipped her head to hide the blush that was already starting to make her cheeks warm.

His hair was a little longer than it had been over a month ago. Granted, Darcy was used to seeing him in the video chat, but it wasn't the same as in person. She still couldn't believe that he had agreed to meet her at the tea house. Though he made it sound more like he was dutifully accepting a business transaction than meeting a friend for tea. Though honestly, what had Darcy expected? That Shoma would say that he had been waiting for her to ask him that since the day they first met, and then go on to proclaim his undying adoration of her? The thought of him doing that made her heart flutter.

Shoma had traded in his suit for a long, unstructured coat, slouchy pants rolled up to reveal a pair of expensive loafers, and a plain dress shirt. The entire ensemble was a mix of ridiculously formal and overly casual that strangely worked on him. Then again Darcy thought that Shoma looked good in everything he wore... though his 1930s suit was her favorite, not that she would ever tell him that.

"Are you sure everything is alright?" Shoma asked, rolling up his sleeves. He politely waved for Imlach to bring over hot water.

"YesImfine!" Darcy exclaimed, waving her hands in an awkward x-shaped gesture to assure him that she meant it. He furrowed his brow as he deciphered her jumbled reply, before giving a pleased nod.

"I have a surprise," he said. He pulled a chabako, or tea box, from beneath the table.

"Really? What is it?" Darcy asked, trying her best to remain calm. Internally, however, she could hardly keep herself from jumping up and down. He brought her a gift! Just for her. But was he just doing it to be polite- she had read something about gift giving being a Japanese custom- or could it be possible that Shoma felt the same about her as she did about him?

Shoma pulled up one of the side panels, revealing the contents of the cedar tea box. It included his own toolset for matcha, as well as various samples of teas and a box of sweets. But he ignored all of these, instead pulling out a small pouch, a thermometer, and two ceramic tea cups. She noticed that the teacups were a deep blue- her favorite color.

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