I really wanted to write a Valentine's Day fic in order to thank all my reviewers for being so nice and encouraging me (despite my constant lack of updating). So I sat down for a few hours and stared at my wall. Googled some Valentines sweets. Stared at my blank notebook. Ate some noodles. Picked my nose. And then I finally came up with an idea!
So here's to all my loyal and lovely little reviewers.
If you had a bad Valentine's Day, maybe this might make it up to ya! This is my Valentine's Gift to you. :)
Au. One shot. Yaoi. KanZe. Fluff...ish. Maybe? Rushed work. OOCness and amplified personalities.
゜*。*゜Valentine Cake ゜ *。*゜
On a hill just a few blocks away from Cross Academy, on a lonely little corner just down the road, there was a small bakery known as 'Nine Orchids.' The bakery was very popular amongst the students and its local neighbors and was constantly busy. However, no day was more hectic than today, for today was a time when customers overflowed and flocked to the bakery in hopes of tasting love in pastry form.
Skirts swayed around the legs of girls crowding inside the bakery as the silver little bell hanging over the door gave its melodious chime at the arrival of new customers. Despite the crowding floor, servers weaved their way back and forth between tables with professional ease. Over at the bakery display cases, customers fawned over the Valentine theme of assorted goods that were artfully arranged. From frosted sugar cookies to cherry chocolate kisses; heart-shaped strawberry cheesecakes, gourmet chocolate-dipped strawberries, ruffled heart cakes, stuffed caked balls, chocolate-dipped fruit kabobs and their current most popular item, gourmet confession chocolates.
Today, to put it mildly, was their busiest day of the year.
"Agh! I can't stand all of this lovey-dovey crap!" A blond server cried out as he let his head fall on the brick wall of the bakery. This place often carried the theme of love, but on this day everything became so sickeningly pink. From the pastries to the flushed cheeks of young girls-even to the stupid couples scattered around the shop.
"Don't worry Aidou-sempai. I'm sure your fan club will arrive any moment." Yuuki Cross, a short brunette, reassured, patting him consolingly in the back as she pulled strands of her long hair behind her ear. There was a kind smile playing on her lips; her big brown eyes all but shone with happiness. Which shouldn't be surprising. Most girls liked this kind of stuff, didn't they?
"What's the point of a fan club? It isn't really like they love him," a copper haired waiter mumbled as he stepped off the floor, a black serving tray nestled in the crook of his arm. The name 'Senri Shiki' was written over the plastic name tag pinned lopsidedly onto the breast of his black vest. He stifled a yawn as the irate blond growled at him while Yuuki simply skipped off with a smile to where a group of girls were ready to order.
"Shiki." A man approached, his hair golden against the lighting of the room and his eyes as sugary green as the hard candy Shiki secretly ate when he was bored. "Rima is here," he announced with an amiable smile. "You should go and serve her."
"Hmm." Shiki glanced to the packed floor with a weary expression before muttering an "okay" and slinking off with little enthusiasm. Takuma Ichijou, the floor manager, watched him go with a small chuckle. When he turned to Aidou, he noticed the red mark on his forehead that resulted from him dropping it against the wall. In a playful mood, he recalled a time when Aidou received a similar mark because he had fallen asleep with his head resting on a table. Patting the younger boy's forehead, he said, "If you're so tired that you keep falling asleep in uncomfortable places, you should just say so and I'll let you go home."
The blond jumped at the veiled accusation. "I-I wasn't sleeping!" And that had only happened once!He'd also had a very high fever that day too. It wasn't like he neglected his work! Whether Ichijou believed him or not, he didn't know. The blond was already cheerfully walking away, and it may have only been his tired brain beginning to break down, but he could almost swear he'd seen a sparkle or two around him. Aidou watched him go with a slump to his shoulders. That manager of theirs wasn't human...
"Stop slacking off," came a low voice from behind him. Aidou turned to glare up at a familiar face. Standing at an impressive six feet with light red-orange hair and a pair of fiery eyes was one of the bakery's pastry chefs- and his childhood friend- Akatsuki Kain. "If you want your Valentines bonus, you should be worrying more about work."
"It's fine for you," Aidou grumbled, childishly rubbing at the sore spot on his forehead. "You don't care about being lonely. You're just like Kiryu- and I'm not 'slacking' off."
"Who's just like me?" Asked a young waiter emerging from the hall, his arms curving around his back as he finished tying his bistro apron around his waist. A black hair tie clung patiently between his lips as he combed his silver hair back with his fingers and hastily tied it.
"Not you, the other one," Aidou sighed distractedly.
Ichiru Kiryu peeked out onto the busy floor, his lavender eyes scanning the crowds for any signs of imminent danger. Because he was often unlucky, he was always a few minutes (like an hour) tardy to work. There were certain people who liked to remind him that he should work harder to arrive on time. He was hoping to be spared the-
Well so much for that. "Good afternoon," he greeted his nemesis with a cold smile, "flat-chested."
"Afternoon," Yuuki grimaced with a tick to her brow, "demon."
A spark of electricity suddenly ignited between their deadly gazes. It was at this time that both Aidou and Kain chose to discreetly retreat back to their separate work stations. The sounds of calamity followed close at their heels. As Kain pushed the door of the kitchen open, the screaming made its way into the room.
Kaito Takamiya raised his head at the sound, a glare fixed on his face as he lifted hazel green eyes to the serving window where the two most annoying employees were currently having a shouting match. "Why isn't the manager interfering? They're going to scare away all the customers."
"Its Valentine's Day," Kain pointed out unhelpfully as he returned to his station. "Nothing will scare them away."
"The longer I work here, the more I start to hate this day." Kaito sighed, throwing his head back to stare at the ceiling above. He'd been decorating cakes left and right in nothing but bright and girly colors that he sorely wished it was Halloween again. As if the overdone love theme wasn't enough on every other day, on this day, it intensified to an unbearable point. Then there was the issue with the employees. Because of the huge amount of customers they got, most- if not all- of the bakery's employees were asked to come in. Which, as currently being exhibited, led to plenty of employee discord. "Even so, I have to admit the Valentine's bonus is well worth the trouble. Don't you think, Zero?"
When there was no response, both Kain and Kaito glanced at the executive pastry chef who was vigorously stirring a whisk in a bowl as though he were grinding the bones of a poor victim in his own blood. Kaito and Kain exchanged uneasy glances before giving their work their full attention once again. If there was anyone who was scarier on Valentine's Day than the battling due who were now at the crescendo of their argument, it was Zero Kiryu. Despite the sacred Valentine's Day bonus, Zero was the only employee of the bakery who invariably refused (quite passionately) to work on Valentine's Day. Back when Juri Kuran ran the place, that had never been a problem. However, since the new bakery owner had taken over, Zero Kiryu no longer had the choice of refusing.
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ .·´ ¸
He was going to quit.
He was going to quit.
He was going to freakin' quit!
Stupid Valentine's Day. Stupid girls; stupid holiday; stupid cakes; stupid bastard! Zero Kiryu hated Valentine's Day. He hated having to work on a holiday he didn't like and he hated being bullied into it. Dropping the bowl and whisk onto the counter, he tossed a glance back at Kaito and Kain. Judging by the way the two tensed even with their backs turned to him, he could imagine what his expression must have looked like. A ragged sigh fell passed his lips as he ran a hand through his silver hair. Screw this. "I'm taking a break."
"Sure thing," Kaito acquiesced, sprinkling red, white and pink candies over chocolate biscuits. "Try not to kill anyone on the way out, ne?"
Zero wouldn't didn't bother making any promises to that sarcastic comment. Besides, he already felt like killing someone.
Stomping out of the bakery's back door, Zero felt February's chill nipping playfully at his nose and cursed it under his breath. Pulling out his pack of smokes between his cold fingers, Zero was reminded of yet another reason why he despised the bastard he worked for: because Zero was the only one who smoked, his boss had decided it was in the best interest of everyone (excluding Zero) that anyone (aka, Zero) who needed to smoke (again, Zero) should do so outside of the bakery. Thanks to that decree, Zero found himself standing alone in the back lot of the Valentine's Bakery, a cigarette burning bitterly between his frozen lips as he kicked at the gravel beneath his feet.
There should be a law against people who abused their power because of a personal grudge on their employee. Inhaling his cigarette slowly and keeping the smoke in his lungs for a heartbeat, he breathed out, watching the wisps of fumes become unraveled by the air. It wasn't like Zero could blame him, though. After all, Zero had a personal grudge against his boss, as well.
12 years ago...
The sky was clear today with only a few lonely clouds scattered about. They looked kind of pathetic floating up there all alone; but then, he must look pretty pathetic himself, lying on the rooftop of his middle school building with no one else around. Especially on Valentine's Day. While the rest of the student body was running around and going crazy in the name of love, he had retreated here in the hopes that no one would find him. Namely, his brother Ichiru.
Because Ichiru was so attuned to Zero, he knew without a doubt his brother would instantly pick up on his bad mood. Which wasn't something Zero was eager to explain. After all, who would find any pleasure in telling anyone that the person they liked had rejected them without even speaking. Its all because Zero had to fall for an idiot girl like her that he was in this situation to begin with. She was seriously thick headed, and yet, without a word, he'd fallen as though the floor had just been stolen from beneath his feet. Coincidentally, she was also his best friend, which made the situation that much more painful. After dealing with his one-sided feelings for so long, he'd finally mustered enough courage to confess. In the end, she had been the one confessing, just not to him.
The quiet breeze toyed with silver bangs, swaying them over lavender eyes that glanced towards the shadow that crept up on him. Because he had been so deep in his brooding, he hadn't noticed that another student had come out onto the roof top. Dressed in his properly worn school uniform and peering down at him with deep, russet eyes encased by long, thick lashes was the ever so aloof student council president, Kaname Kuran. The guy was like some sort of celebrity in the school; everyone always went on about him. To Zero, he had always seemed closed off and cold. There was this air of arrogance around him that just rubbed Zero the wrong way. Plus, seeing him this closely, Zero didn't understand why everyone went crazy over him. What had Yuuki found so attractive? Put off by his own thoughts, he sat up wearily.
"Is there something you wanted?" And to be snarky, he added mockingly, "Kuran-senpai?"
The school prince said nothing. Instead, he stepped forward, holding out a steel blue, UV coated box that was dressed in a fancy design that hung from the teal bow he held with his fingers. It looked like those boxes they gave you when you bought gourmet chocolates. The girl who gave that to him must have really liked him to buy him something so expensive. Gingerly, Zero took it from him, eyeing the box before glancing back at the student president. The quiet eyes urged him to open it.
Zero was more than a little confused by this. Was Kuran afraid there was a bomb in here and was using Zero to make sure nothing would explode? Tch, some senpai. Yanking at the bow, Zero wondered if maybe Kuran was tired of all the sweets he got today and was hoping to pawn off the goods on Zero? He wasn't too big on sweets, but...
It was a cake.
Zero peeked up at Kuran. Slowly, his eyes fell back onto the cake snugly resting in the elegant box that been handed to him by the student council president; by Kuran-senpai. By a boy. It wasn't in the shape of a heart, and there was (thankfully) no pink frosting; it was a simple, round, red velvet cake that was covered in a cream cheese icing and dusted around the sides with red crumbs. There was a thin heart shaped block of solid chocolate angled over the top with a pair of strawberries placed at its heel. On it, in red, shaky written letters was a simple message: 'I like you.'
Was this a joke?
"My father helped me bake it," Kaname-senpai said, speaking in a quiet voice while his eyes were trained fiercely on the open lid of the cake box. "It'll taste a lot better than it looks."
What was he saying? Zero stared anxiously at his senpai as though he'd just lost his mind. Was-was he actually saying that he baked this for Zero? He was really confessing to him on Valentine's Day? Zero stood to his feet.
Without a word, the box and its contents splattered on the ground between them.
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ .·´ ¸
Zero flicked his cigarette away and crushed it beneath his shoes before he turned to head back inside- only to find the damned door was locked. It was his Valentine's Day curse. Everyone thought he was just being neurotic, but he was really cursed. Because he had spurned the affections of someone so rudely, he was constantly being made to pay on this accursed day. With a frustrated growl, he turned away from the back door and headed around the gate towards the front of the cafe.
The storefront was always packed with young girls in their Cross Academy uniforms crowding around to peek inside the bakery. They were the bakery's regulars who showed up even when it wasn't Valentine's Day, so he wasn't surprised when the girls started to giggle and wave in his direction. Zero would have loved to believe the reason they were always coming around wasn't because of the attractive staff, but rather the delicate pastries and sweets they sold. But Zero wasn't an idiot.
Throwing them a half-hearted wave, he walked into the bakery prepared to be chided for smelling like cigarettes. The silver little bell attacked to the glass door announced his arrival. He was immediately greeted with a synchronized bow from both Yuuki and Aidou, who only realized it was him after they had welcomed him. They both grumbled about having unnecessarily wasted their charms on him, but he was already well on his way towards the employees' lockers to get rid of the smell that lingered on him. That is, until he was bumped into by one of the customers.
It was seriously packed today, he thought as he caught her shoulders lest she fell to the floor. The girl began to stumble out an apology as she turned to him. The moment she saw his face, she let out a squeak and flopped out of his arms. "K-K-Ki-Kiryu-sensei!"
Sensei? Zero was taken back by the title. It was true that he was the executive pastry chef, but no one really addressed him like that. Well, except Kaito, but he only did it to piss Zero off.
"Ah, I, um..." Her face turned red so quickly it was like someone lit a fire beneath her cheeks. It looked so painful that Zero almost felt the need to take her to a hospital just to be sure she wouldn't spontaneously combust. "You see, in, I, because of...I wanted to...here!"
Zero let out an 'oof' as the girl shoved a box against his chest like she were running him through. Glancing down at the weapon, he frowned, ignoring the giggles from the girl's friends behind her. "Please accept this."
"You're giving me a cake?" Zero asked, reaching to take the box when the girl suddenly straightened up, pulling the box away and pressing it tightly against her own chest. She blinked at him behind her glasses. "I, its a sign of m-my...my feelings for you."
"So you're giving him a cake...that he baked himself?" Zero blinked as he noticed Ichiru standing near by, his head resting where his hands were bridged together over the top of a broom. "Isn't that sort of pointless?"
The girl laughed nervously, fiddling with one of her braids and adjusting her glasses in fidgety movements as she stared at the floor. "Y-yes, I see how, um...its, heh..."
"Ichiru, you jerk!" Yuuki- who had been loitering near by- shouted behind Zero, bumping against him as she tried to reach Ichiru.
"Its fine," Zero sighed, wondering whether that break he took had even been worth it in the end. "I'll-" Before he could finish his sentence, the girl clutched the cake so tightly against her chest, Zero was sure she'd crushed it.
"I'm s-sorry for the trouble!" She shouted before running past him and right out of the bakery, her friends quickly at her heels. As if things couldn't possibly get any worse, that bastard chose this moment of all to show up at work.
"Still making people cry on Valentine's Day, Kiryu?" The voice of rich chocolate teased while the sensual bedroom eyes of the bakery's owner met his own. Tall, dark and handsome; he had grown to be quite the looker- not that he hadn't already been attractive enough as a fourteen year old boy.
Maybe it was because his brown locks had darkened and his wide eyes had narrowed into sensual promises; their chestnut color having been imbued with a tinge of red that gave him a predatory look. Even his face had become more prominent; his pouting lips had thinned, yet remained full; his jaw became pronounced and the cheekbones that had once been curved with baby fat were smoothed into elegant proportions.
Whatever the case, the twenty six year old Kaname Kuran oozed a deadly sex appeal.
"Tch." Zero absolutely hated this asshole. "Like you're one to talk."
"Kaname, the cafe is adorable!" A dulcet voice praised as a woman stepped forward, her flowery heels thudding softly against the Brazilian walnut floor boards while her clear blue eyes danced around the bakery. Waves of hair spun of gold fell around a designer fox fur coat that spoke of luxury and beauty. Thin pink lips pulled up into a smile as she slid a pale hand through Kaname's arm, her face radiant with pleasure.
Zero watched Kaname turn t0 her with a charming smile. "I'm glad you approve."
"It is, however, a bit over crowded, wouldn't you say?" The suggestion those words carried made Zero unwittingly glare.
"I'll be happy to accommodate you. Please, come this way." Kaname gestured for her to move forward and began leading her to the second floor where his apartment loft was located. As if suddenly recalling Zero's presence, he turned to him and ordered, "have someone serve us immediately."
Zero answered with a glare. Even after twelve years, he continued to punish Zero for his knee jerk reaction to a confession that had taken him completely off guard. It wasn't his fault. What straight, thirteen year old boy wouldn't be surprised? Hell, Zero had been kind compared to how other boys might have reacted.
"I'll be right over~" Yuuki called to a group of girls pinning for her attention on the other side of the room. As she crossed Zero's path, he reached out and caught her long hair in his hand. She jerked to a stop with an indignant yelp, turning to glare at her silver-haired best friend (not to be confused with her number one enemy in silver hair, Ichiru) with a furious glare. She was about ready to break his neck for innocently standing there with a grip full of her hair still tangled around his fingers; and then she caught sight of his expression.
"Go serve Kuran." Releasing the still captive strands of her hair from his hand, he walked away.
"Ah! Um..." Yuuki almost reached out for him, but thought it might be better to give him space. She glanced towards the stairs that lead to Kaname Kuran's loft and let out a sigh. "...yeah."
On the platform level of the floor, Ichiru watched as Zero disappeared into the back looking as dejected as ever. His twin really did have horrible luck when it came to love. Shaking his head, he returned his attention to the giggling girls at the table. "Was everything to your liking today?"
It was always amusing to him to watch them attempt their still novice skills of flirting as he attended to them. Unlike Zero, Ichiru had no problems making people fall for him. Sweeping a hand through his tied-back hair, he sent the girls a dashing smile that darkened their blushes and had their hearts thudding against their chests. In the distance, there was an ominous sound of footfalls racing towards him. Ichiru's handsome smile faltered a second before he nearly went crashing face first onto the able as someone hurtled themselves at him from behind. The girls screamed in surprise as coffee was spilled and dishes clattered from the undignified impact he made catching himself against the hard surface. With a tight smile, Ichiru turned to glare at the idiot who had attacked him.
"Let go of me, Kurenai."
"Ichiru, I missed you so much!" The teenage girl cried as she rubbed her cheek against his back, her thin arms tightly sealed around his waist. "Its Valentine's Day and, even though we both have to work today, we should spend this time together!"
Aidou watched the debacle that was Kiryu and Kurenai from across the room. The twenty five year old was currently trying to pry the sixteen year old girl away from him by seeing if her head came off.
"Can't they ever focus on work for once?" While they were over there goofing off, he was the only server who was actually doing his job. Did they expect him to pick up everyone's slack?
"Oh, Idol~!" A group of girls at a table near the window were waving him over. "Oh my gosh, he's so cute!" They (not so discreetly) whispered (really loudly) to each other. "Will you serve us, Idol?"
"But of course~" Aidou called as he floated over to the table where his fangirls beckoned to him.
"This place is more like a host club than a bakery," Rima Touya, a strawberry blonde with striking blue eyes, mumbled as she was forced to listen to Aidou and the group of morons that fawned over him. Sitting across from her, his uniform ruffled from sleep, Shiki yawned. "That's because we were told to spoil the customers."
"Shiki." Rima leaned forward as she twirled the fork with a small piece of chocolate cake in the air. "Shouldn't you be working?"
"I am working. I'm spoiling you," he mumbled while closing his eyes. "Do you need anything else?"
"I want another strawberry milk," she said, looking at the bottom of her empty glass.
"Kay," Shiki replied, opening electric blue eyes to spot a pair of smiling green eyes approaching. Rima followed his gaze to see the bakery manager step towards the table.
"Is everything alright here?" Ichijou pleasantly asked.
Shiki pointed to the empty cup. "Rima wants more milk."
"That's it! If I have to make another heart-shaped cake pop, I'm going to kill myself!" Kaito snapped throwing the cookie cutter onto the counter and glancing up. It was only then he realized there was someone other than Zero who was missing in the kitchen.
"Hey, where the hell is four eyes?"
"I saw him standing behind one of the potted plants on the floor earlier," Kain mumbled distractedly as he changed the round #3 decorating tip on his icing bag to the rose petal tip for the new batch of cupcakes.
Kaito let out a dismayed groan as he made his way to the serving window, surely spotting Kaseumi Kageyama, their confiseur, standing over a table where the beautiful Ruka Souen was staring up at him expectantly. Even from here, Kaito could see the poor guy's knees shaking. Every year their little candy maker confessed to that woman, and without fail- Kaito winced as Kageyama turned away with a dreary expression- he was rejected.
Behind him, Kain sighed. "Again?"
"Yeah." Kaito rubbed at the back of his neck. "The poor guy. Watching him get rejected all the time is depressing. He should just give up."
"More importantly..." Kain pointedly put down the decorating bag. A cupcake with a seven petal rose was blooming beautifully up at him, but his expression was grim. When he turned to look at Kaito, the words flowed voicelessly.
The older man cursed.
"I'm so worthless."
"There is no reason for my existence."
"I'm gonna die alone."
Kaseumi Kageyama, the aspiring candy maker, lamented as he sat in the corner of the kitchen with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees. He didn't deserve to tarnish the title of confiseur. "I'm going to give up candy making forever."
"Come on, you can't do that," Kaito said as he and Kain tried to lure the young man out of the corner, "you're the only confiseur here- everyone loves your candies!"
"The children in the neighborhood always come by to buy some," Kain added helpfully as the two patissiers tried to encourage their depressed co-worker.
"I'm despicable. A complete waste of space. I'm disgusting...my candies must taste the same way- I-I should just kill myself!" Kageyama shouted as he sat up and wrapped his hands around his own throat.
"Hey, stop that!"
Kaito and Kain reached for his arms to try and pry his hands away from his throat, but Kageyama struggled valiantly against them. If Ruka Souen wouldn't love him, then he had no reason to be alive- even if candy making was what made him happy in life.
All three men froze.
There was a chill that swept through the room and gripped at their hearts. Turning stiffly towards the door, they were faced with a pair of bone chilling amethysts. "For every second you waste wallowing in that corner." The horrible presence stepped forward, sliding a long, sharp knife from the island. "I'll cut off a centimeter from your fingers until you're rendered fingerless." There was a beat of silence as the words sunk in. "Do you understand?"
Kageyama jumped to his feet. "Y-yes, sir. I'll work hard and do my best!"
Kaito laughed as Kageyama threw himself back into his work. Fear trumps misery, he guessed as he walked over and swung an arm around Zero's shoulders. "Man, Zero, you're scary when you're threatening your subordinates."
"That threat goes for you too," Zero pointed out as he grabbed Kaito's hand and twisted it in his grip. Kaito, with a flurry of "ouch, ouch, ouch, my hand-Zero that hurts," stumbled away to bother Kain.
"Zero!" Yuuki appeared at the serving window, waving a folded piece of paper between her fingers. Zero walked over and took it from her, the corner of his lips sinking down as she explained, "Kaname wants everything on that list."
It was a long list...
Heading back to his work station, Zero set to complete everything that wasn't already ready done on that list. Despite being cold-hearted (and possibly still gay...), Kaname Kuran was quite the ladies' man. Ninety percent of the female customers that flocked to the bakery were in love with him. They would diligently stop by for a brief chance to catch a mere glimpse of him and it wasn't hard to see why.
Kaname was rich, young and handsome-he gave off the air of being a gentleman even while his eyes dripped of seduction. He seemed like the over all package when in reality, Kaname was really the worst kind of man. There was always a different woman on his arm and while he momentarily showered them with attention, they would easily be discarded. Some people were deluded in thinking that he was a kind man, when in fact, every move he made was calculative and petty with revenge (at least when it came to Zero).
But he hadn't always been this way.
After Kaname's first confession, Zero had gone out of his way to avoid seeing him- not that it was hard to begin with. They rarely ever saw each other. Still, there had been no point to Zero's efforts. Two days after the incident, Kaname's father had died. It was all the school had talked about. Kuran had disappeared for nearly two months before he returned, and when he had, it was obvious he was a completely different person.
Each Valentine's Day, every girl in their school would line up just to give him chocolates- the same as always. Only this time, Kaname would refuse them all. Whenever they asked for a reason, Kaname responded with, "they're simply not good enough."
All the girls had becomes twice as infatuated with him as before, constantly blabbering about him, and even making excuses for Kaname's rude behavior. In their feminine delusions, they believed the reason why Kaname never accepted anyone's sweets was because of his father.
Haruka Kuran, who was the founder of the Nine Orchids Bakery famous for their Valentine's Day sweets, had been an amazing wasn't a person in the world who could compete with that, but they still tried. That included Zero's best friend, who was a hopeless case in the kitchen.
It was a few weeks later that Zero found himself standing in front of the bakery one day. It wasn't because Zero was interested in Kaname Kuran, it just so happened that he was curious about the place because Ichiru loved sweets. It had nothing at all to do with the guy visible through the glass window. Nothing to do with the charming smile on his face as he served his customers.
Even so, after that day, Zero couldn't get Kaname out of his head. He thought about him day and night, wondering what might have happened if he had reacted differently that day. To think the boy who had confessed to him when he was thirteen was now plaguing his mind at the age of sixteen. How was that possible? They had never even spoken to each other outside of that Valentine's Day. Even then, all Kaname had said was..."my father helped me bake it..."
How could that possibly lead to these feelings?
"Finally!" Yuuki cheered as she walked out of the employees locker room dressed in her trench coat and wool knit scarf. "I can't wait to go out tonight~"
"You have a date, shortstack?" Kaito asked as he leaned on the display case just outside the kitchen window, clearly ignoring his cleaning duties.
"Stop calling me that!" Yuuki protested indignantly as she freed her hair from the inside of her coat and began shuffling around in her purse. "And sorta."
"Kaito, come clean up your station!" Zero shouted from the kitchen, putting the last of his baking instruments away.
"I'm coming, stop shouting," Kaito grumbled stepping into the kitchen and frowning at the pile of dishes that were yet to be washed. "Wasn't Ichiru supposed to get to those before he left?"
Zero eyed the pile of dishes disapprovingly. "He's already gone. I'll take care of them."
"If I hadn't watched Maria drag him out earlier, I'd say he was shirking his duties on you," Kaito said in amusement. As he began to clean up the colorful mess at his station, he noticed Kain was finishing up a rope decoration with royal blue icing around the bottom border of a double layer chocolate strawberry cake.
"Are you taking that one to go?" Kaito smirked.
"Yeah," the tall guy replied, putting the icing bag down and staring at the final product of his work. It came out better than expected, especially since he'd rushed through it. Kain quickly, but carefully boxed the cake in one of the bakery's elegant stripped designs and tied a teal bow around it. Once he was done, he lifted the box into a bag and began to clean up the remaining mess.
"We'll be leaving now," Ichijou's voice sang through the kitchen and both Kaito and Zero responded with a, "thanks for the hard work." Even through the server's window, they could see the blond manager walking away with his lover, their hands held tightly between them. "Ne, Senri, where do you want to go tonight?"
"Ha ha, isn't that too forward?"
"I like your bed," Shiki admitted. "Besides, Takuma, weren't you the one saying you wanted to make me moan a few minutes ago in the lockers?"
"Aha," Ichijou's laugh had a melodious ring. "Well I guess we can celebrate after~"
The bakery's bell chimed, signaling their departure. Both Zero and Kaito nearly collapsed from relief. "Jeez, don't they realize we can still hear them! Isn't it against the law to be so annoyingly in love at work?"
Zero returned to scrubbing the dishes with fortified resolve. "Just hurry up and finish so we can go." He needed to smoke badly.
"I'm heading out now," Kain called, surprising the other two who turned to find that they were missing their third pastry chef. Kain, already dressed in his normal clothes with his station spotless was walking away with Aidou, who was grumbling about being lonely on a day like Valentine's Day. The bag with the cake he had been working on was hanging at his side, held loosely between his fingers.
A smile tugged at Kaito's lips. "You think Kain will finally confess to that annoying blond?"'
"If Aidou shows up with a backache, we'll know," Zero said with a soft laugh as he dried his hands off now that the dishes were cleaned. He really hoped things went well for Kain. God knows how long he'd been pinning after Aidou.
"I'd rather he not come in at all." Walking over to Zero's side, Kaito lifted a stack of plates in order to return them to their proper place. "He complains like a broken record over every little thing. I think I'd kill him if I had to put up with him after something like that."
"I guess," Zero mumbled, putting away the glass cups. In companionable silence, they finished getting the rest of the dishes to their original places.
"You know...its not that late," Kaito informed him, shooting a glance towards the front door through the kitchen window where the evening had just settled. "Don't you think it would be fun to go out and celebrate?"
Jeez, Kaito thought crestfallenly, at least pause to think about it! "Its Valentine's Day...don't you have someone to go out with?" When Zero didn't answer, he persisted. "You're pretty good looking, I'm sure you could score some hot chick if you really wanted to."
"Kaito," Zero sighed glancing over his shoulder as he closed a low cabinet and straightened up. "If you're in a hurry, you can go. I can close up by myself."
"That's not..." Kaito ran a frustrated hand through his brown hair. "That isn't what I meant."
The silence returned, but only Kaito was aware of how awkward it was. He cleared his throat and turned to Zero's back, grateful his friend didn't bother to turn around. "Look, I don't really like going out on this day. Girls get super clingy and guys just complain about being lonely and horny. So, I was just suggesting you and I go grab a drink at the bar."
"Thanks, but no. I'm not in the mood to get drunk."
"Zero, you're actually an idiot, aren't you?"
Zero bristled at the sudden insult and fixed a glare at Kaito. "What?"
"I was trying to ask you ou-"
Both patissiers tensed, turning to stare at their unimpressed boss who was standing in the door way with that 'I-have-better-things-to-do-with-my-life' expression on his face. They had assumed they were alone since everyone had already gone home. It was Zero who was the first to recall that Kuran lived on the floor above the cafe. "Before you go home," Kaname said, his gaze leveled on Zero. "I need you to make one final thing."
"What?" Hadn't Zero taken care of everything on his damned list already? What the hell else did this bastard want? "We're off the clock, Kuran. I'm not your personal slave."
"You'll be compensated for the overtime," Kaname said flippantly, as though that were the issue. Then he gave Zero the look. It was a look everyone was quite familiar with- Zero the most. Once, Zero had been foolish enough to challenge that look. The result was a month of hellish work, and though he had been one step closer to financial stability, he had also been a step away from death by exhaustion. So swallowing the bile in his throat and choking down an angry retort, he bit out a, "what would you like?"
Something lit up in those awful, decadent eyes of his and Zero knew the answer before it even left his lips. "Red Velvet."
Kaito didn't really understand the sudden tension that passed between their gazes, only that it was near suffocating. He was momentarily relieved when Kuran turned to address him and the suffocating tension dulled. "Takamiya, make sure to lock up on your way out."
"Eh?" There was something in the sudden look Kaname shot his way that gave Kaito the impression of being held at gunpoint. He swallowed with a bit of difficulty, waiting for Kuran to turn away before he could breathe easily again. Once the kitchen was reduced to two occupants, he turned to Zero. "What the hell was that all about?"
Zero ignored him as he began pulling out ingredients and bakeware that he'd just put away back. There was a tension in his body and the sudden look of calm on his face made Kaito sigh. Zero was on the level above pissed. Well, Kaito thought, there went his chances. "I can stay and help if you-"
"Its fine." Zero's words were clipped, his voice low and hard. There was a bitterness in it that made Kaito wondered if something really was up between Zero and the owner. Everyone else seemed to believe something had happened between them- not that any of them could provide any definitive evidence for it.
"Alright," he reluctantly capitulated. "I'll see you tomorrow, I guess."
Why was he making him do this? Zero wondered as he whisked together a mixture of vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla in a large, clear bowl. He'd already preheated the oven and taken care of preparing the cake pans. There was another bowl beside the one he was using. Taking it up, he dumped it into the mixture and began mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ones.
Red Velvet cakes were popular at this bakery. It mostly had to do with the recipe its founder had created. Haruka Kuran had loved Red Velvet cakes, so Zero was told by his wife back when she was in charge. Juri Kuran had often told him the story of how the first cake she'd ever tasted was Haruka Kuran's Red Velvet cake.
"It had been horrible," she confided in him with a wrinkled up expression, only to be replaced with a beautiful smile that lit up her face. "Our wedding cake was a Red Velvet. I have never tasted a cake so delicious and I never will again."
Zero really wished she would have never told him any of that. It only made his guilt swell over his rash reaction back on that rooftop. To think that he had scorned such a meaningful thing...
With a heavy sigh, Zero separated the cake batter and evenly placed it into two identical, eight inch pans. As he put them into the oven, he resolved not to worry over issues that he couldn't control. After all, he had already attempted to make amends, and that had gone as well for him as that confession had for Kaname...
Zero stood in the doorway.
The classroom was empty save for the tall brunet who was staring down at his desk. There was no visible reaction on his face at the sight of the velvet cake resting on the wooden surface. It was an exact look alike to the cake Kaname had given Zero in middle school, even down to the simple confession ('I like you') written on the chocolate heart. He stared at the cake for a long time, and Zero wondered what must be running through his mind. Kaname seemed at a loss for what to do. When he glanced up, his eyes met Zero's.
Kaname walked over to him.
And then past him.
The cake was left at Zero's feet.
Wiping his hands on a rag, Zero regarded the six inch cake iced in cream cheese frosting with red velvet crumbs coated around its sides. He wasn't going to bother making it look the same as the other cakes from their past; though really, all he would be excluding was that chocolate confession at the top. Instead, he would use a scarlet red icing to create three five petal row roses accompanied with veined leaves of green icing around them.
Twenty minutes later, the cake was finally finished. Zero glanced at the clock with a longing to go home. The sudden silence of the cafe was making him uneasy. He was so used to working in a loud environment and wishing it would be quiet that, now that it was silent, it unnerved him. Pulling the cake from the fridge, he carefully made his way to the bottom of the stairs that led up to Kaname's loft.
"Kuran," he called out, hearing only silence.
You damn asshole. Making me bake a cake and then ignoring me!
Grumbling, Zero began to climb the steps, careful not to drop the velvet cake lest he be forced to make another one. When he reached the top, he was prepared to start kicking the door until the bastard appeared. So when he saw that the door was left ajar, he wasn't really sure how to take it.
Are you serious...
Stepping inside, he called out warningly, "I'm coming in!"
Still no response.
Shuffling down the narrow hall, Zero noticed red petals scattered on the floor. They led to an open room on his right. Guessing this might be the place Kaname wanted the cake, he chanced a glance inside. The lights were dimmed, he noted, hoping that he wasn't going to walk in on anything. To his immense relief, no one was around.
The flower petals on the floor led into the center of the room to a low table covered in a burgundy cloth. There were two sets of plates on the table with wine glasses to accompany them. An imported bottle of wine stood proudly amongst a field of desserts and chocolate strawberries. Zero felt a twitch to his brow at the sight of some of the pastries. Did that bastard take those from the display case?! Now Zero was going to have to make a new batch for tomorrow! There was an empty space in the center and Zero correctly assumed it was where this little prize was supposed to be set down. Carefully, he placed it down amidst the elaborate display. That bastard had probably planned this for that woman he'd seen earlier...
Zero's hands tightened into fists at his sides as he straightened to leave, only to visibly flinch as Kaname walked into the room, seemingly unaware of his existence as he toweled his wet hair dry. He was wearing a dark shirt with most of the buttons left undone, his sleeves curled back on his forearms while his black slacks fell against his bare feet.
Kaname didn't say a thing as he looked down at the cake with a thoughtful expression. "Looks delicious."
There was a bead of water sliding down the cord of his creamy neck and falling into the dip of his collarbone...Feeling uncomfortable, Zero looked away, forcing himself to speak brusquely. "That was all, right? I'm leaving now."
The sound of Kaname's hand capturing his wrist echoed in Zero's head so loudly he almost didn't hear the quiet words that followed: "Sit down."
"Just for a bit," Kaname murmured, his eyes still fixed on the cake.
"I have plans," Zero lied. Kaname's expression darkened as he glanced at Zero from the corner of his eyes. "With Takamiya?"
"..." Zero looked away, ignoring the way the fingers around his wrist tightened. "Where did your date go? Have her keep you company if you're so lonely."
"Sadly, she wouldn't be half as entertaining as you are." Releasing his wrist, Kanamed walked around the small table and sat down. He looked confident that Zero wouldn't leave. Zero glared at him for as long as he could before very reluctantly plopping down in his place.
"I think its about time we buried the hatched, don't you think?" Kaname asked, nodding to the velvet cake in the center of the table. Zero scoffed, averting Kaname's gaze. It wasn't like Zero was holding a grudge about it. Kaname was the one who couldn't seem to let it go, always trying to punish him for nothing.
"You were the first person I ever loved." Zero's gaze jumped to Kaname, searching the serious man across from him for any hints of lies. Instead he found those annoyingly sensual eyes soft with honesty. "It took all of my courage to confess to you. So it really hurt when I was rejected."
There was a pang in Zero's chest as he recalled the quiet boy on the roof top whom he had assumed was nothing but arrogant. Those wide brown eyes had been fixed, not on Zero's face, but on the lid of the cake box; his fingers tightening over the fabric of his pants as he admitted he had been helped in baking the cake.
"Despite that, my feelings for you had not been daunted in the least. I had only realized how unrealistic my hopes were." Kaname interrupted his memory, and as Zero stared at him, it was his own fingers that fidgeted against the fabric of his uniform.
"It took me a while to finally get over my feelings for you," Kaname said flippantly as he rested his elbow on the edge of the table and leaned his head on the back of his hand. "Then out of the blue..." His languorous eyes peered up at Zero beneath his heavy lashes, but it was as though Kaname were some place else. Perhaps, back in that classroom, staring down at a familiar-looking cake he'd once spent all night baking with his father for a boy who had unwittingly stolen his heart.
"Is he making fun of me?" Zero watched Kaname's lips pull up into a sad smile. "Ah, he must really hate me." Kaname's distant gaze returned to Zero's. "But you were really confessing to me, weren't you?"
"It-" Zero felt the words lodge in his throat as he tore his gaze away. "It doesn't matter."
"Like hell it doesn't." Zero started when Kaname suddenly stood up, looking down at him with a fierce expression. So different from the thirteen year old Kaname, yet not so different at all.
"Zero, lets start over."
Zero gaped as Kaname walked around the table to his side. "Start over?"
As Zero moved to stand, Kaname placed a hand on his shoulder and he leaned over him. "I love you." As Zero's heart thundered in his chest, Kaname began pushing him down-Zero's eyes widened with panic. His hand shot out, instinctively catching Kaname by the shoulder to stop his descent.
"A-are you trying to seduce me?!" Even to his own ears, he sounded like a confused idiot.
"No." Being this close to him, Zero couldn't help but stared as Kaname's lips moved. "I am the one being seduced."
With that, Kaname crushed his lips against Zero's and pushed him down against the floor. Zero's head spun as he fought for purchase against Kaname's chest. Pushing his boss with a hand, Zero tore his lips away, an irritated crease between his brow. "W-what about that woman?"
"Sara?" Kaname frowned, eyeing the luscious neck being exposed to him with hungry eyes. "She's a family friend." Zero's tattoo was displayed over the curve of his neck. The day Zero had got it had been like hell to Kaname who had wanted nothing more than to nibbled on each inked line. "She's also engaged," he murmured distractedly as he bent down to nip at the center of the black crest. Zero tensed beneath him and Kaname misunderstood the situation, quickly adding, "not to me."
Zero's body betrayed him with a shiver as Kaname's tongue ran along the curve of his neck. Almost giving in to the pleasure, Zero forced himself to ask, "why was she here with you?"
"Since she doesn't like sweets-" Kaname's hand slipped under the fold of his uniform, plucking at the buttons "-she asked if I could help her choose something for her fiancee."
Swallowing a bit desperately, Zero admitted, "I still feel like I'm missing something here." How had things progressed so quickly? What the hell was even going on?!
"Zero." Kaname pushed himself up on his arms.
"What?" Zero frowned at him.
"You're in love with me."
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Zero demanded as he shoved Kaname back and sat up, scowling at the surprised brunet. "If you knew that much, then why the hell have you been such a damn asshole!"
Kaname's eyes lit as a soft chuckle fell from his lips. Creamy and smooth; dark and sinful; cruel and almost evil. Nevertheless, it made Zero's heart jump in his chest. "Sorry. This entire time, I've simply been testing you."
"What the hell do you mean by 'testing'?" Zero demanded. Did he mean to say that this whole time Kaname was just screwing with him?
"It would be embarrassing," Kaname took Zero's hand in his own and nipped at the tip of Zero's thumb, "to be rejected twice by the same person, wouldn't you say?"
Zero reached around Kaname's neck and pulled him close for a slow kiss as their fingers shifted and locked together. To think, this whole time Kaname had still harbored those feelings for him... As he pulled away, he quietly admitted, "I wouldn't have rejected you."
"I know." Kaname smiled as he pulled Zero close. "But it was still very amusing."
"I wish I didn't have to come in today," Yuuki bemoaned as she stepped onto the empty floor, collapsing in the nearest chair and dropping her cheek against the cold surface of the table. It felt kind of nice. "Ugh. I'm so hung over."
"Another lonely Valentines? Maybe you should consider implants," Ichiru crudely suggested as he walked into the room with Maria skipping happily at his heels. Sauntering over to Yuuki's table, she plopped down across from her, her feet kicking back and forth as she dropped her chin between her palms.
"Are you okay, Yuuki?"
Yuuki gave an imperceptible groan.
"Do you want to hear about my Valentine's Day?" Without waiting for an answer, Maria regaled Yuuki with an embellished tale of her escapades with Ichiru- who glared at her through the story.
"Hey, Ichiru," Kaito called, already dressed in his whites. "Where's Zero? He's usually the first one here."
Ichiru shrugged, looking thoughtful. "I haven't seen him. I don't even think he came home last night." A look of shock crossed his face. "Do you think something happened to him?"
Everyone jumped as a loud thud announced the presence of a certain blond. Aidou hissed as he caught himself on all fours, a sharp pain shooting up his back. He glared at Kain, who was offering him his hand with a look of guilt over a veiled hint of amusement.
"Fucking hell," Kaito groaned.
"Get away from me, you asshole!" Aidou shouted, swiping at Kain's hand only to cry out in pain at the movement.
"I told you not to come in today," Kain sighed, shaking his head at his friend-turned-lover's bullheadedness.
"Aidou will you be okay working today?" Ichijou asked worriedly; the only concerned face amongst the sea of amused ones. Aidou flushed and began to argue that he'd be fine to work. He'd never missed a day of work before and he wouldn't start now.
In the midst of the 'morning after,' no one noticed as the bakery owner stepped down from his abode looking unusually happy today. He noticed the commotion with disinterest, turning his attention instead to one person. "Takamiya."
His voice rung like a bullet in Yuuki's head and she jolted out of her seat, knocking her chair back against the floor. Running her hand over the table she'd been drooling on with an imaginary rag, she glanced at her boss, trying to look very much like she hadn't just been sleeping on the clock. Kaito shot her an amused look before turning to his boss. "Is there something you needed?"
"You're in charge of the kitchen today," Kuran informed him matter-of-factly.
"What?" Kaito frowned. "Why? Where's Zero?"
Kuran leveled him with a look. "He wont be coming in today."
That caught Ichiru's attention. "Did something happen with my brother?"
"There's nothing to worry about," Kaname reassured, turning away as a smile played on his lips. "He's in good hands."
The Nine Orchids Bakery was silent as the sounds of its owner slipping back into his apartment was punctuated by the thunk of his door closing. The scattered employees said nothing as the very strange (blissful, almost) mood their boss was in, and the unprecedented vanishing act of the head patissier, sunk in.
Ichiru was the first to break the silence with an explosion of amusement. "Man, its about time."
"You're telling me," Yuuki mumbled, pushing her bangs over her forehead- then glaring when she realized who she was agreeing with.
"All that sexual tension was killing me," Kain admitted, unaware of the deadly look that got him from Aidou.
"Looks like they've finally got it right this Valentine's Day," Ichijou said happily.
Kaito glanced towards the stairs that led to the second floor and scoffed. So the really were... Ah well. He better get started early today, seeing as he being left in charge. They were missing some of the pastries from the display cases, he noted with a frown. He'd need to replace them.
As everyone began to scatter to their respective work places, Yuuki hobbled over to the register in the corner, looking like a zombie. Takuma gave her a sympathetic look as she held on to the counter to keep herself in place. "Is Shiki here? I'm going to need help waiting."
"Sorry," Ichijou said, looking anything but. There was a cheerful look on his face as he explained, "Shiki couldn't get out of bed this morning since we were at it for quite sometime, so I told him to stay put and rest. Of course, that was after we did it once more this morning."
"No~" Yuuki whined covered her ears and shutting her ears. "Ichijou, please don't say things like that with such an innocent face!"
"Don't worry Yuuki, I'll help serve today!" Maria sang as she ran to go change into a spare uniform. Today was her day off, but if she could spend another day beside the love of her life, then she'd be happy.
"No!" Ichiru groaned, face palming at the thought of having the little brat hanging off his arm for another day. With a sluggish enthusiasm, he went over to the front door of the bakery and switched the sign from closed to open.
Well, time for a new day, he thought as he turned away.
Okay, okay. I know what you guys are thinking. Scarlet, wtf happened to the lemon?! Ha ha. It was gonna be there, but it just didn't end up being there...I've been working on this for three days straight. I even skipped sleep to get this monster done, but then I fell asleep during the day yesterday (which is why its late) and I just finished it now. Dx
So I might be inclined to adding the lemon as a second(ish) chapter or, I don't know. I actually really like this universe. I'm tempted to write the full story because there was so much I couldn't fit in. Well, anyway, I hope you guys liked it. ^^
Disclaimer*** I don't condone smoking or eating unhealthy amounts of sweets. Though, I am guilty of the latter. And I truly apologize if I've written something that makes any baking student people scoff. Its no secret that I am horrible in the kitchen. ):
I know its late, but dammit, I worked hard on this! So, no, I'm not gonna use the word 'late' when I say: Happy Valentine's Day!
Yours truly, Scarlet. :)