Happy Valentine's Day, Ash

Rated: T

Chapter Summary: Johnny takes Ash out for Valentine's Day to cheer her up - things go a bit differently than either of them expected.

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope your spending it with your significant other - or if you're like me, reading/writing fanfiction about happy couples to satisfy the all-consuming loneliness lol (or eating chocolate - that's good too.)

To make a long story short, I caved. These two are ruining my life…

In this story, I made Johnny a bit more confident; makes for better banter. ;-p Sue me…Be aware for strange innuendos abound and Ash being a bit rude to a hard-working waitress! Also, please ignore their food choices - pretend not all the animals in the movie are sentient - it makes writing about going out to dinner difficult enough already without all the vegan stuff I know very little about and am not willing to look it up just for the sake of a story. So please, just humor me.

"You didn't have to do this." Ash reiterated for what may as well have been the thousandth time that night.

"I know, but I wanted to." Johnny answered exactly like he had all those aforementioned times before.

Ash bit her bottom lip in a failed attempt at ignoring the strange glance she'd received from the waitress who had to wait for her to put the glass down before refilling her soda. Once the dark substance reached the brim, Ash reached over; grabbing the cold drink in her hand and taking a long swig of the sweet liquid if only to ignore the look Johnny was giving her over his menu. She adjusted in her seat; plaid red dress itched like fucking crazy and she regretted allowing the guy across from her to convince her to wear it.

Rolling her eyes a bit at his curious glance in reaction to her movement, Ash put aside those notions when she looked at him again. Begrudgingly having to admit he looked very nice if a bit out of place. Bright red button up shirt, black tie and jeans were a far cry from his normal green sweater and signature leather jacket.

Pushing that distracting thought aside, Ash grabbed a roll and began nibbling on the buttery bread as she tried to forget that she was even here and why she even agreed to this at all…

For clarity's sake, today was the most dreaded holiday of all -

Valentine's Day.

Even when she was still with Lance, she hated February 14th almost as much as she hated any other commercial garbage. Suffice to say, her ex was never one to be romantic in the least - didn't buy her cards, flowers, chocolates or any other cliche shit like the cheap asshole he was. The most he ever did for the holiday was reluctantly foot the bill for their cheap dinner at the local fast food joint down the street.

For Ash, Valentine's Day was yet just another day in her hellish life with a boyfriend who never cared for her one bit.

It didn't help in the least having to see all the happy couples smooching and hugging. Girls with their bouquets of flowers and big boxes of candy that constantly surrounded her that day even when Lance would barely hold her hand in public. Mostly walking one step in front of her to assert his idea of dominance and bring the point home, that according to him, she was merely backup.

Of course, it didn't mean she exactly wanted those cheesy things but it would be nice to feel somewhat appreciated at least occasionally - even if it was only one lousy day a year to be treated as more than just his hot little background singer - but that wasn't the case for her.

To make a long story short - Valentine's Day meant jack squat to her.

For some odd reason, she'd been even less happy since post-Lance and post-competition. Ash thought she'd feel more independent and empowered by this point. Treat herself to a nice dinner and buy her own damn box of chocolate to bury her sorrows in but she found herself skirting away from that idea almost as quickly as it infiltrated her subconscious. Ash preferred to sit alone in her apartment like a sad sack; watching anything that didn't have to do with the couple's holiday…

That is until Johnny knocked on her door (in practically a suit mind you) and asked her to join him for dinner.

Ash just stood there blinking at him for a long time until it dawned on her that the gorilla was indeed as serious as a heart attack. Yeah, it wasn't the first time they went out as friends but it being the holiday where couples go out to eat and such rubbed her the wrong way. Suffice it to say, it wasn't as if she didn't think about Johnny in that way - even she'd reluctantly admit, under the threat of death only, that she had a bit of a crush on him.

But that was the thing - Who didn't?

Hell, even their resident powerhouse, Meena, had a blatantly obvious crush on him that Johnny either didn't notice or ignored. Ash believed it was the former even if it was obvious she was like a little sister to him. Point was - everyone's eyes typically lingered a bit too long in most cases when the guy would perform - he drew attention by either singing with that powerful soulful drawl or doing nothing more than being his normal sweet self.

Johnny seemed to have his own gravitational pull.

In the long run, it would be easier to find a person who didn't have a crush on the guy.

Johnny just oozed positivity and gentleness - who wouldn't be completely attracted to that?! He was basically the perfect boyfriend/husband material bundled with good looks and the sweetest demeanor you could ask for.

So, who cared if he made her heart flutter and palms sweat; knees go weak when he was around. Gentle, soothing voice calming her like nothing else could. The way he always had such kind things to say and always worried for her welfare when no one else had given much a crap about her before…

that didn't mean anything…did it?

Ash would even admit that he was the whole package - handsome, fit, kind, gentle, sweet, and had a gorgeous accent and voice (not to mention a nice ass) to boot but after her prick of an ex made her life a living hell, she wasn't exactly willing to throw herself back in the market again so soon.

Lance's betrayal still felt far too fresh to just jump right back into the dating scene.

Ash decided that she would rather explore who exactly she was first - spend some time on herself and learning to be alone for a change - but sadly, that didn't help either. She found herself depressed within months after their last concert and during the rebuilding; the music and songs she wrote leaning onto much darker subjects and feelings she'd suppressed a lot of during the competition. Betrayal, heartache, and pain she still had to work on getting out but it had gotten to the point where even Buster had noticed this was way beyond her typical teenage angst. Against everything she wanted, he suggested taking a break to "re-evaluate her life" as he called it. That koala was as honest and salty as they came.

The week off was probably the worst idea ever.

Holing herself up in her apartment and being forced to think about the sad state of her emotional status. After her writing and singing "Set It All Free", having a good career and friend's support, and especially and being rid of the toxic bastard for good, she thought she'd be in a better place emotionally.

Yet now she had to deal with the fact that since she wasn't now allowed to go to the theater, she couldn't just ignore all the calls pouring into her phone. Blocking his number didn't even help for now that she was home, Lance started showing up unannounced to her apartment at all hours of the day and night, which was sure to drive anyone up the wall.

It wasn't exactly Lance just being there and knocking like crazy - it was what he began to say through the door that angered her more than anything…

"I know you're in there!"

"Ash, babe, c'mon, I said I was sorry. How many times you gonna make me say it?"

"Let me in - I promise, we'll just talk."

"Give me another chance - I even got rid of Becky for you!"

"You did one freakin' concert! Even if you got your 15 minutes of fame and some decent gigs, you'll still never find anyone better than me…"

That last one killed her yet she never bothered to dignify him with an answer.

Ash abhorrently loathed the certainty and smugness in his voice that made her want to swing open her door and punch his stupid face in. How dare he insinuate that she of all people needed a douche-nozzle like him back in her life…

She reasoned with herself that Lance's latest reappearance yesterday was the only reason she agreed to Johnny today. She desperately clung to that connotation even as she dug out the only red dress (per his request) from her closet. She threw it on without even bothering to put on make-up or wearing a decent pair of shoes all while he waited for her in the living room.

Johnny still didn't seem to care about her lack of trying when she walked out of her bedroom.

Instead, he just smiled at her like normal before taking her to one of the nicest restaurants in town without nary a word on her haggard appearance…

"What are you thinking of ordering?" Johnny's pleasant accent infiltrated her ears, suddenly breaking her out of her inner turmoil.

Ash shrugged.

"I dunno…it's all kinda expensive." Ash finally said - her frugal nature dying a hard death as she stared at the double digits of all the entrees. She had to spend wisely to scrounge by while Lance wasted her hard-earned money. Her ex was like a sponge; forcing her to work menial jobs to get by on rent, bills, etc. Causing her to always be the responsible one; saving every single penny to survive - now here comes Johnny willing to shell out big bucks just to make her feel special on this shitty holiday wasn't making her decision any easier.

"I told you - no looking at the prices. It's my treat." he said and the sugary sweetness leaching out of his mouth made her teeth ache.

Ash just "hmm'ed" in response; re-reading the specials before landing on something she'd been craving for awhile. A dish she used to get when her parents (when they were still married) used to drag her to fancy restaurants like this.

"In that case, I'll get the lobster." she was halfway teasing just to see the horrified expression on his face from the mention of a $40 entree, but it backfired.

Johnny just smiled; his canines on proud display as he nodded at her choice.

"Sounds good."

"...Seriously?" she couldn't help but mutter out, almost choking on a piece of dinner roll in the process.

"Yeah. You should definitely get that. I've never been fond of seafood but lobster is delicious - from what I remember anyway. Only had it once as a lad still living in England." he spoke like he did all the time. Accent airy, light, sweet and always finished with a fabulous smile.

God, this guy drove her freakin' crazy sometimes…

Ash's eyes were wide and shocked but Johnny didn't seem to mind as he went back to glance across the menu. She was about to say something but the waitress returned before she could utter a single syllable.

"How is everything so far?" the waitress asked, giving her a half grin before she purposefully gave a big, sultry smile to Johnny and for a reason unbeknownst to her, that really ticked her off more than it should have.

Ash didn't really care that countless women flirted with Johnny wherever they went…but after awhile, it began to get on her last damn nerve.

Especially considering how damn naive Johnny was to all of it…

No, she didn't exactly have the right to be mad for all intense and purposes, her and Johnny were basically "just friends" but still, when you're out to dinner with someone, especially on Valentine's Day, that should mean something. Like don't fucking make eyes at a man when he's having dinner with another girl, but apparently, this chick didn't get it. Johnny wasn't technically friend-zoned - even if she wasn't crazy about the offer of a candle at dinner or all too aware of the fact she had a chronic condition of resting bitch face - so the damn waitress shouldn't have picked up on that or assumed otherwise…

"It's great." Johnny replied, not even noticing when the employee's green eyes skirted to his body longer than what was necessary.

"Wonderful. I'm glad you're enjoying yourself." the woman said with what to Ash sounded like a purposeful innuendo…

Ash was surprised at herself; suddenly shook her head as if to rid herself of her obsessive thoughts, adamant to stay silent for she assumed she was perhaps being overly dramatic or just seeing things. But those thoughts flew out the window when the waitress suddenly caressed a slim paw across Johnny's broad shoulder as slyly as possible - as if she was shooing away a bug or something but Ash knew better.

Biting her tongue, Ash pushed those thoughts back - perhaps there was a reasonable explanation - maybe she just recognized him as the cute British-accented singer from television but the longer the cheetah glared unnecessarily long at Johnny, Ash began to further doubt it.

That look on her face was more of wanting to mount him (or the other way around) than wanting his autograph…

"So…are you ready to order?" the waitress continued with an unnecessary roll of her tongue.

Aw, hell no…

"Hey, how about we get more rolls here first?" Ash asked the tall, slim woman.

Empty bread basket dangling out of her fingers as she stared up at the woman; being sure to give her a less than pleasant smile as she interrupted whatever the flaunting bimbo was about to purr out next.

"Oh. Yes, please." Johnny intervened a lot more polite than the hussy deserved to be addressed but Ash let it go.

"Of course. I-I'll be back to take your orders." the waitress, whose name tag said Savannah, spoke before giving one last lingering glance to Johnny before she disappeared into the back room; thin tail swishing behind her. If Ash wasn't mistaken, her scrawny ass should not have been sauntering that much…

Not even aware of the dirty look she was sending the disappearing waitress til Johnny spoke up.

"Is everything alright, Ash?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah." Ash shrugged off his confused glance with a lazy smile.

Johnny didn't look all too convinced, but as usual, he just accepted it in that laid-back way of his.

"You sure you wanted more bread? You might get full before the meal even arrives."

Of course he was the level-headed reasonable one…

"Nah. I didn't eat much today, "she lied, "I can pack it in when I want to."

Dammit, why did that sound sexual? What the hell was wrong with her brain tonight?

"Alright. Whatever you say." Johnny replied with a deep chuckle tickling his throat as he placed the menu aside to take a drink of his tea. He was not helping the British stereotyping she constantly teased him about…

About to retort with a well-timed quip when Savannah returned; bread basket piled high with more rolls and she placed them gently in the middle of the table.

Ash was careful to sense a bit of irritation reeking of her in waves, yet didn't say anything as the annoyingly elegant and graceful woman pulled back to reach for her notepad.

"What can I get you?" Savannah asked, her almond shaped green eyes flicking over to Johnny.

"Ladies first." Johnny replied, gesturing to Ash and the waitress sent a smile her way even if wasn't half as bright as the one she sent Johnny earlier.

"Of course. My apologies. What may I get for you tonight, ma'am?"

Ash cringed at the moniker but answered anyway.

"I think I'll have the lobster." she requested, slipping closed the leather bound menu with a satisfying thwack. She flinched at the sudden wind in her face; she was far too used to reading off an illuminated menu at a fast food joint. This all still felt so weird…

"Alright. Roasted red potatoes and corn on the cob alright for the sides?" Savannah asked, scratching the pen lightly on her notepad; not really even bothering to spare the porcupine more than a quick glance. Ash felt the sudden desire to kick the woman in the shin.

"Yep." Ash replied, placing the menu back down before taking another languid drink of her soda. Inwardly cursing that she was still not legally old enough to drink alcohol - she'd never been more tempted to break out her fake ID more than ever tonight..

"For you, sir?"

"Um. I think I'll have the sirloin - medium well, please."

"Great choice." the waitress replied and Ash cringed at the not so subtle smile she flashed him. "What sides would you like with that?"

"They all sound so good! What would you suggest?" Johnny asked.

Why did he have to be so damn friendly?

Savannah made a big production of getting closer to him, peering over his wide shoulder before speaking, "My favorites are the garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus." she finished, languidly pointing to the options with her pen as she spoke. Her arm lingered over his a bit too long much to Ash's annoyance.

"That sounds wonderful. Let's do that." Johnny replied while handing her the menu.

Ash carefully noticed the shy smile the waitress sent him and if anything, her blood just boiled further.

"Perfect. I'll get your orders sent back. Anything else you need?"

"For you to kindly fuck off…" Ash muttered internally, the words desperate to escape but she also didn't want this chick spitting in her food or something.

"Nope. Thanks a lot." Johnny was all too accommodating with his bright white smile that the cheetah eagerly returned.

"Of course. I'll be back." she promised before disappearing into the back again.

"...don't bother, lady…" Ash muttered under her breath into another warm buttered roll.

"What?" Johnny asked. The poor naive soul.

"Nothing." Ash replied, wiping her buttery fingers on the cloth napkin atop her crumb-strewn lap. "So…you regret asking me here yet?"

The confusion and surprise on his face was almost comical, "What are you talking about, Ash? Are you not having a nice time?"

"It's alright. Not exactly my scene but-" she trailed off with a shrug and groaned at how her bothersome dress bunched up around her waist when she did so. Not even embarrassed anymore as she made a big production of yanking it down.

"It's not necessarily mine either." Johnny replied with a laugh; nervously adjusting the tie around his neck; if she knew any better, he looked rather uncomfortable in his clothes too. "B-But I thought you deserved to be treated nice today and this fit the bill - also, this was one of the only restaurants in town that still had reservations open."

As sweet as it sounded, it rubbed her the wrong way.

It felt too much like pity since she had been feeling like utter shit lately and Johnny was a good (…great…best) friend who probably picked up on that before anyone…it still didn't make it any less irksome.

"Johnny. I gotta ask you something." Ash stated before her brain could really catch up.

"Of course. Anything." he replied while taking a sip of his drink.

"Why the actual fuck are you doing this?" she asked, holding back a snort when he suddenly spat out a bit of his tea onto the table the second the curse left her lips.

"Excuse me?" he sounded so offended as he wiped off the remainder from his mouth with the white cloth napkin.

"Listen. I appreciate the sentiment, I really do. But who are we trying to kid? Even if we're making decent money now, this isn't for either of us." she said a bit louder than intended, ignoring the sudden stares of their fellow diners.

More happy couples to bother her…just peachy…

"I know that and I told you a dozen times already, I wanted to do this for you." Johnny reiterated as he had all night - displaying the same calmness he always showcased.

"You're still not answering the 'why', Johnny." Ash clarified, leaning back in her chair in hopes the earth would open up and swallow her whole. Why couldn't she just keep her mouth shut for once? She could have just eaten and enjoyed the damn lobster, but no…she had to play twenty questions instead.

"Do I need a reason to want to ask you, my best friend, out for dinner?"

Ash cringed at how he said it but answered anyway.

"'Friends' don't do this for each other. C'mon, Johnny, we've known each other for awhile now... I mean, yeah, I appreciate you trying to drag me out of my funk lately, but I don't know…I just…I don't get it - you could have asked someone else. Someone who might have appreciated it more and you could have had a lot more fun than you're probably having with me, and - " Ash tapered off, hands subconsciously reaching for another roll when Johnny suddenly reached across the table and placed his hand over hers before she even got close to the basket.

"I am having a good time with you - like I always do." he spoke clearly.

Ash froze; eyes wide as she stared at his large hand over hers; fingers enveloping her small paw and his palm felt so wonderfully warm against her slightly chilled skin.

A slightly frustrated sigh left his throat before he began to speak.

"Listen...I-I never wanted to push you, Ash." Johnny spoke; his voice escaping in a hushed whisper and she couldn't help but lock eyes with him across the table.

Ash was sorely tempted to pull her hand away; push those lingering doubts about her real feelings for Johnny aside but for some reason, her hand refused to budge. Fur prickling on the back of her neck when his thumb brushed ever so gently over the back of her hand.

"What are you talking about?" her mouth moved without her permission but the words came before she could stop them.

A part of her was terrified.

For so long, she knew where she and Johnny stood - best friends on the edge of perhaps something greater but never delving off that cliff. Instead, they hung out - going over to each others respective places to watch a movie or bum around, maybe practice a song or two, but she was not at all prepared to think of it further when Johnny suddenly let out another languid breath before continuing.

"Ash…I-I've never really hid how I've felt about you. At least, I tried to be transparent in that sense…" Johnny whispered with the barest hints of a shrug and it was so incredibly boyish that it had her heart accelerating in her chest. Feelings she cared not to ponder long arose in her and Ash bit the inside of her cheek to feel anything other than them.

Ash did not want to have this discussion.

Refused to believe the whole time how many hints Johnny always dropped. Disregarding how he never treated other girls the way he did her; even when it came to going out but she was adamant it was only as friends. Never wanting to get wrapped up into something she had no idea how to handle anymore. She didn't want another repeat of Lance - a cute guy reeling her in hook, line, and sinker. Her ending up falling for it like so many times before for the dude to just cheat on her and use her for his own selfish gain…but one thing always bothered her to acknowledge…

Johnny was not Lance.

"You know I'd never force you into anything you don't want, Ash." Johnny admitted, hand gently squeezing hers as his other scratched nervously at the back of his head. "I never wanted to be too forward or make you uncomfortable with asking you out officially so soon after your breakup. You know that's not who I am. If you want honesty, Ash, the reason I asked you here tonight is because I thought you deserved a nice Valentine's Day…" Johnny explained before his hand was gone.

For some reason, she hated how unbelievably cold she felt now - as if in those few moments she'd felt sun for the first time after a seemingly endless harsh winter…

Ash was left utterly speechless for what had to be the first time in her life.

If Lance had ever showed kindness to her, there was always another motive or he needed/wanted something in return. True unconditional kindness was nothing she was used to - didn't totally know how to handle it when people were just doing something out of the goodness of their heart. Always putting up defenses in fear of being hurt was who she had become - and for now, the walls stayed if only to preserve that part of herself.

"I…I'm sorry if it seems as if I had different intentions. I swear I did not. I didn't want you to think we have to date now or something."

"Yet you showed up at my house in a tux." Ash muttered out.

"...Perhaps I wanted to persuade you to get out of the house for a bit. I hated seeing you cooped in there since Buster banned you from the theater. I-I just wanted you to have a nice time." Johnny wasn't looking at her now, eyes steadfast on the table where he worried the cloth between his thumb and index.

"...So, is that what all those other times were too? You know, the movies, pizza at your place, and even the arcade? I don't recall being down in the dumps then…" she asked and a half-smile formed when instantly, Johnny's face flushed.

Why did he have to be so damn cute when he was embarrassed?

"Like I said before…I never wanted to push you into anything, Ash." Johnny shrugged before meeting her eyes again. "You told me how your ex never treated you right. Always pushing you to the side as if you were better in the background. I hate to say it, but when you told me that, I'd never been angrier at someone before in my entire life ."

Ash's eyes widened in utter shock and her wall began crumbling.

"For that bloody wanker to treat a beautiful lady, such as yourself, so rudely is downright despicable." Johnny spoke with such hardened conviction - even barely concealed anger - and her heart started to beat frantically against her chest when she heard it lacing that normally calm voice.

It only dawned on her now that Lance never called her beautiful - it was always just "Ash", "babe", or the worst one by far, "you're super hot" he coined only when he was really drunk.

Lance never referred her to with such refined terms…

She had little time to contemplate it further when Johnny continued to speak.

"What he did to you wasn't right and a part of why I did this was to show you how you should have been treated… Treasured. So, yes, maybe I had a bit of a selfish motive for wanting to spend this day with you…but…" Johnny tapered off; eyes once again lowering as if ashamed and it broke her fucking heart to pieces. "I-I understand if all of this is just fruitless for me and really, that's perfectly okay. I just want you to be happy, Ash. That's enough for me."

The softness he spoke with. How a true gentlemen spoke and how she never bothered to admit it before. Everything Johnny had done; whether it be calling her up at the most random times just to see how she was feeling, bringing over food or a new movie to watch on weekends. Always spending time with her to cheer her up and she did appreciate having him around her house.

The stifling loneliness actually drifted away during those times…

Now, here he was - baring a heart so pure and leaving it on the table. The ball in her court. To either just accept his friendship - Johnny would never push her for anything further. Or to see beyond the kindness he portrayed; the boy who had been perusing her for awhile without her caring to comprehend it at all. He didn't blatantly ask her for a date or kiss; just was there as a constant friend who was willing to wait for her to realize the amazing opportunity she had right in front of her this whole damn time...

As she sat there and looked at him, it seemed to hit her all in the chest at once…

What the hell was she so afraid of?

Before Ash had any time to really think of what to do, say, or even how to react, apparently her body decided for her. Seeing that sadness on Johnny's face that didn't belong whatsoever, Ash moved; desperate to erase that expression from his face as quickly as possible.

So, in this pretentious, flamboyant restaurant filled with dignified people, Ash suddenly climbed atop the table much to Johnny's (and the fellow customers) shock. Dark soda knocked over and spilling across the pearly white canvas in the process as she made her way over to Johnny.

The sound of the table jostling and glass hitting the table with a thunk caused Johnny to look up. Wide brown eyes lifted to hers in obvious confusion of what exactly was happening yet before Johnny could even utter a word out of that cute mouth of his, Ash shut him up with her own.

The shock of feeling's Johnny's mouth under hers was shocking to say the least - for damn, did it feel a helluva lot better than those previous times the unwarranted thoughts flitted through her brain. Her hands were less than gentle as she grasped onto the fur on his cheeks and tilting her head against his mouth.

Ash became instantly aware of two things in that moment - One, this had to be Johnny's first kiss for he didn't know what the hell he was doing. Two - she didn't care because it felt that amazing.

It was sloppy; his mouth completely unsure as he maneuvered to try and perfectly fit it against hers. Ash couldn't help but smile against his lips and pull him closer out of sheer need to have his warmth closer. Large hands trembled only for a second as they skirted firmly over her hips before grasping lightly onto her sides and back and holding her tight as she grasped onto him. Ash was so lost in the sensation of his mouth that she didn't even care that her annoying dress again rode up; she was just happy she'd worn leggings.

Her quivering legs gave out after a few more moments; her knees hitting the hard table were ignored as she deepened the kiss. Ash learned yet something else in this small chunk of time - Johnny was a notoriously fast learner. She suspected if he could learn the piano that fast, his kissing skills were no different. He began returning it more intensely - seemingly uncaring they were now essentially making out in front of a group of strangers.

Neither wanted this moment to end but eventually, their kisses ebbed away to soft brushings of mouths and eventually pulling back enough to shyly glance into each others heavily-lidded eyes.

"Ash…?" Johnny muttered breathlessly; his warm breath skirting pleasantly over his face. There was so many questions in just him breathing out her name but she didn't care to answer them right now.

Instead of responding verbally to him, she leaned in to kiss him again - desperate to taste his lips again.

"Just take that as a yes." she spoke once she reluctantly pulled away and the shy smile he gave her had her chest aching in the best way.

"You mean…we can…date?" he asked.

"Would I have kissed you in a packed restaurant if I was going to say 'no'? And if it's any consolation, I never kissed Lance in public."

"I suppose not." he shrugged.

"It's a resounding yes but only on one condition, Johnny."

"Uh. Sure. Of course. What's that?"

"Never bring me here again."

"Heh." the relief that flooded his face was almost comical, "No problem. There's an awesome burger stands an uncle of mine owns that a lot better - won't empty your wallet either." he answered with a chuckle and grimace as he pulled at his tie again, "Best part - no dress code."

"Then what the hell are we doing here? Can't we just leave this stuffy, lame joint and go there?"Ash groaned; feeling now so out of place in the restaurant full of chandeliers and people in clothes that cost more than a few months of her rent. It was only now that they realized that they indeed were not the only two people in the world.

"Heh. You're right." Johnny chuckled and seemed to just now notice every single patron's eyes were still glued on the couple - including the stunned waitress standing by their table with a pitcher of tea.

"Uh… Check please." he timidly continued, face as red as a tomato and Ash couldn't help but laugh.

Walking out of that restaurant felt better than it probably should have.

No, not everything was perfect but it shaped up to be a much better day than either could have anticipated. Ash took a moment to glance up into the gray winter sky as the snowflakes began gently falling to the earth. What seemed so depressing this morning was now calm and rather beautiful to her now. Who would have thought all you needed was a little change in perspective to see the world through a whole new set of eyes?

Ash let out a breath she wasn't aware she was holding when Johnny's hand suddenly moved to grasp hers.

The nip in the air didn't seem as bad when his warm hand enveloped her own. She took a moment to glance up at him; black blazer rather fetching on his frame even if it was a bit too big. Red shirt now had the first few buttons undone and his tie was dangling over his shoulders. She smiled in picturing him rooting through his dad's and uncle's closets just to find something suitable to wear in order to take her out to dinner. More amazingly was how he openly admitted it; so endearing on how much work he'd put into this whole plan of his.

How it ultimately paid off for both parties involved…

"Happy Valentine's Day, Ash…" Johnny spoke; hand gently squeezing hers in a firmer hold. The breath leaving his mouth coiled around his face until it disappeared into the grayness of the cold air. His kind brown eyes crinkling around the edges as he smiled at her and it was now she knew she would never get tired of seeing that smile.

"You too." Ash chuckled before walking closer to his side to rest her head on his forearm.

Smiling beside herself as she took a deep breath of the fresh winter air surrounding them during the slow walk to his uncle's restaurant. A feeling of complete warmth and happiness she hadn't felt for a long time settling permanently in her chest.

Yeah, as cliche as it sounded…perhaps from now on, Valentine's Day (and pretty much every day in between) wouldn't be so bad anymore.