YEARS AWAY FROM WHAT I NEED
DISC: I don't own Hana Kimi or the characters. They belong to Hisaya Nakajo-sama and are licensed through Viz Media here in the U.S. Please don't sue. I'm not profiting from this story, other than the benefit of the joy of writing it.
Chapter 20 - Valentines Day Slip Up
February 13th. The boys had been ditched. The girls needed to study and the boys would have to just spend the night without them.
Masa sat at the desk that Kyoumi used at Nakatsu's house, furiously studying for both finals and entrance exams. He had to get into Tokyo University. Sure, there were other schools that taught architecture, but almost universally, the top architects in Japan had studied at Tokyo U. He might also need to eventually do some graduate studies in the United States - at Harvard, most likely. But first, he had to get into Tokyo U.
Math wasn't a problem. Math made sense. You learned the rules, then followed them, and you were set. History was also pretty much set for him. It doesn't change, so you learn it once and you're set. But English and Biology were another matter. He always had to exert more effort to do well for these subjects.
Nakatsu was leaving him alone to study - since he knew these subjects weren't exactly his strong suit. Instead, he was fretting about what to do for the next day. He kept opening and closing the box with the earrings. Well, she certainly did seem to like the bracelet he'd gotten her. He was probably worrying too much over nothing.
Still, he couldn't help but wonder what kind of chocolates Kyoumi was making him. Yeah, he wasn't so naïve to think they were actually studying.
"I've never made chocolates before. What do we do?"
"You're asking me?" Sakura glared in disbelief. "Don't you remember? I'm the sporty girl. I don't know from cooking."
Sighing, Midori took charge. "Honestly. The first question is: do your men like sweet things?"
"Masa doesn't typically prefer sweet things, but he doesn't dislike them either."
"Okay then," Midori looked like a battle general as she laid out the ingredients in the home economics room. "YOU," she pointed at Kyoumi, "will want to use milk chocolate. And you," she nodded at Sakura, "will need dark. So the next question is, presentation. Are we going for subtle chocolates - something that is a gift so they should understand what you're feeling, even if you're not blatant about it - or do you want something more direct, that can't be misinterpreted?"
"What… what do you mean?" Sakura stuttered and blushed.
Smacking a hand down on the table, Midori exclaimed, "Come on! I've got my own chocolates to make! Do you want to do heart shapes or do you want to go with traditional candy shapes? Or what?!"
Kyoumi sniggered at seeing Sakura so hesitant. "Oh, I definitely think you should go with something heart shaped. I can just see Masa's reaction to you giving him your chocolate covered heart."
"Shut it, Kyoumi." Unbelievably, Sakura was pouting.
"And you? What about yours?" Midori asked.
"You should make him little chocolate soccer balls."
"Yeah, right. Well, if I'm making him soccer balls, you should make Masa some tennis balls. After all, it was seeing you on the tennis court that made him fall for you."
Midori's eyes lit up. "Oh. Yes. That will work." She began setting out the ingredients. "We'll do a truffle filling and make a soccer ball coating. And you. We'll use peanuts as the core for the tennis balls - coating them until they're round, then decorating them with a yellow sugar. And for the hearts, we'll use pretzel twists filled with peanut butter to make the heart shape, then dip those. All right. Let's get to work!"
"What are you making for Kayashima?"
"Chocolate covered gummy bears, shaped to look like ghosts."
"Ghosts?" the two girls asked in unison.
She nodded. "It's my way of showing him that I'll always accept every part of him. He didn't tell me until recently, but… he can talk to ghosts."
The two girls stared in disbelief.
"I know. There've been a lot of people who freak out about it. It's kept him isolated. He's really only had his uncle to talk to about it. That's why he and his Uncle Taiki have always been close. But now, he's got me."
The roommates shared a look, then smiled. "So what do we do to start?"
(AN: If anyone wants to know how to make these chocolates, just let me know! I could make any of these at a moment's notice.)
Kagurazakas Manami, Saki, and Tamami were in the kitchen of the shrine where Kyoumi had grown up.
"I can't believe you're making me make chocolates," Tamami grumbled as she finished shaping her 38th chocolate treat.
"Oh, come on," Manami said softly. "You know you're fun. Besides, this is good practice for when you finally get a boyfriend."
"Mom!" Tamami barked, "I told you I don't have time for one right now. I have to finish up my residency. This is the one day I've got off this week."
Smiling, Saki replied, "And you know you love spending it with your family."
Tamami blushed, then scowled. "Yeah. But I'd rather just spend it with you guys, not sit here making lovey dovey crap when I don't have anyone to be lovey dovey with."
"You can always take some of your share of the chocolates to your patients. And the nurses you work with. That will be nice won't it?"
Thinking about the patients in her ward, those who would be stuck in the hospital tomorrow and very unlikely to get any Valentine's Day treats at all, Tamami had to smile. "Yeah. It'll be nice to give everyone a little something. But I still say it would be better if I wasn't single. It's just not fair. You've got dad," she nodded at her mom, then at Saki, "and you've got Makoto and Kyoumi's got Nakatsu. Who the hell have *I* got?"
Silence filled the kitchen and Tamami looked up to see her mother's eyes wide with panic and her sister-in-law's wide in shock. She went back over her words and then gasped at what she'd let slip. But what was worse, the two women in the kitchen were staring over her shoulder.
"What?" The sound of Makoto's voice was disturbingly quiet from behind her.
Her mother had regained her calm and gone back to making chocolates. "Oh, nothing dear. Tamami's just a bit jealous because she doesn't have a boyfriend for Valentine's Day."
Tamami didn't have to turn around to know that Makoto was staring at her, so she just continued to make chocolates as well, following her mother's example. Saki's eyes were bouncing around the room from person to person. Finally, they widened as Makoto grabbed Tamami's shoulder and spun her to face him.
"What did I hear you say about Kyoumi and…"
But before she could say anything, her mother just waved a hand. "It's no big deal, dear. Your sister told me all about it at Christmas. It seems she's got a boyfriend. I bet she's making chocolates for him right now."
Makoto stared in shock. "Am I to understand that Kyoumi is dating… NAKATSU SHUICHI!?! And you don't have a problem with that??!" He was yelling now.
"Kagurazaka Makoto, you lower your voice right now. You may be an adult, but I am STILL your mother!" She turned back to the stove. "And yes. That is correct. Kyoumi's boyfriend is named Nakatsu Shuichi. And it would seem that he's quite serious about her."
Tamami nodded and Makoto's eyes bugged out of his head. Saki looked like she didn't quite know what to do.
"Have you all LOST YOUR MINDS?" he exclaimed. "May I REMIND you that she is FOURTEEN years younger than he is? How can you possibly allow this to go on?! This is your daughter - your sister! You're just going to let that APE take advantage-"
Tamami slapped his face. "Makoto, just shut up. Mom and Dad raised Kyoumi to be an intelligent young woman. She knows her own mind. This is EXACTLY the reason that she didn't want to tell you about it. When she told me about how she met him again, how they started dating, it was the happiest I've ever seen her in her entire life! And the only bit of sadness that she expressed was that YOU might not accept it."
The diminutive woman glared daggers at her brother. "And let me tell you something, you had BETTER just learn to live with it. Kyoumi is going to MARRY Nakatsu Shuichi. With or without your blessing. And if you do ANYTHING to make her feel that her family is not behind her decision, she will LEAVE this family BEHIND. And if I lose my sister because of YOUR DUMB ASS, I will NEVER FORGIVE YOU!"
With that, she stormed out of the kitchen and up to her room, leaving a gaping trio behind her.
Once she was in her room and collapsed on her bed, she exhaled loudly, thinking, `God, I hope that temper tantrum was enough to convince him. Kyoumi. I am so sorry. Me and my big mouth.'
Classes had gone pretty much as usual for a Valentine's Day at St. Blossom. Most of the class had plans for delivering chocolates to whomever from Ohsaka had captured their interest at the Christmas dance, which meant tension was higher than usual. But the classes themselves, well, they were typical of any day.
Well, except for the fact that they'd gotten back their English papers. Sakura had gotten only eight points less than Kyoumi and was gloating spectacularly. "Highest mark in the class!" she bragged.
"I got a 99. You only got a 91," Kyoumi laughed.
"Yeah, but you don't count. You're too smart. It's a given that you'll do well. And how the heck did you lose a point, anyway?"
"I misspelled Oedipal complex."
Sakura glared, her mouth a tight line before she spoke, "You're kidding."
"No. I feel really stupid about it. I spelled it O-E-D-I-B-A-L. I mean, really. Oedibal? I might have well have written that he wanted to EAT his mother." She groaned and her roommate just shook her head in disbelief.
"Only you would get so upset about something like this." Then she laughed. "But that just proves my point. Your score doesn't count." She grinned widely, then seemed to remember something. "So… You ready to go deliver some chocolates?"
Kyoumi grinned, then reached to unlock the door to their room. She'd just opened the door when she heard Hisa calling.
"Yo. Kyoumi. You've got a visitor."
"Ha!" Sakura replied. "Looks like loverboy couldn't wait."
Hisa smirked. "It's your brother."
"Makoto?" she responded, her eyes wide with worry. She ran to the lobby to find out what could possibly be wrong.
As she got to the lobby, she said, "Makoto? Makoto, what's wrong? Why are you here?"
Grimacing, he looked at his beautiful sister in her school uniform and replied through gritted teeth, "Let's go talk in your room."
"What is it? What's wrong?" she was panicked now.
Again, through gritted teeth, he said, "I'm here to stop my baby sister from doing anything stupid."
From doing… Oh.
Her expression became determined as she responded, "Yes. You're right. We should talk in my room." Without a further word, she spun and regally strode back toward her dorm room. Her older brother stalked angrily behind her.
When they got to the room, Sakura jumped from where she had been nervously chewing on her pencil and said, "Is everything alright?"
Ensuring the door closed behind him, Makoto spun and said, "No, Sakura, everything is most assuredly NOT alright. Did you know? What am I saying? Of course you did. You're all insane. Well, I'm going to bring you all back to sanity if it's the last thing I do."
"Um…" Sakura began.
"The man is FOURTEEN YEARS OLDER THAN HER!" he shouted at Sakura. "What the hell is wrong with all of you?" Arms thrown wide, he was exploding with frustration. "He ought to be locked away for perversion! And you!" He spun on his sister and pointed at her, then melted a little. His voice was gentle, tender as he continued. "I know you've had your fantasies about him, but it's not healthy - you KNOW it's not. I can't let you take this any farther. You're my sister and I love you. As your big brother, I need to protect you."
The petite writer took a deep, calming breath. Then, she turned toward the desk and pulled out Sakura's box of chocolates. "Sakura, I believe you're going to be late for your date if you don't hurry and get changed. And you wouldn't want to waste this opportunity to give Masa these chocolates that you worked so hard on."
Sakura nodded and grabbed her clothes, escaping into their bathroom.
Once the bathroom door was fully closed, Kyoumi looked up at her brother, sat at her desk and said, "Aniki, I do wish you'd sit down. This is obviously going to be a long conversation and I don't want to get a crick in my neck looking at you." Then, she continued to just look at him, placidly, until he sighed and sat in the other desk chair.
"That's better. Now, I have to ask - what are you doing here?"
He sputtered at her, "Wh- wha? What? What am I DOING here? I just told you! I'm here to bring to an end all these foolish notions of you DATING that blond baboon!"
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, projecting an air of supreme disappointment. "In case you haven't looked at a calendar, it's Valentine's Day. And instead of spending it with your pregnant wife, you're HERE?"
He scoffed, "She knows where I am and why."
"And that makes it all better? You're quite the romantic, Makoto. I'm sure Saki was thrilled about spending this day alone."
"We're not talking about Saki and me. We're talking about YOU."
She nodded. "Ah. And you think that I should take romantic advice from someone who's so STUPID that he leaves his pregnant wife alone on the most romantic holiday of the year? And why on earth would I-" She cut herself as Sakura exited the bathroom, looking funky cute in a miniskirt with a thick belt, a mock turtleneck, and go-go boots.
"Well, I better get out of here if I want to go help Midori prepare for her date and still meet Masa on time. I'll tell her to make sure she stops by to help you with your outfit, too."
Kyoumi nodded and smiled. There was no need for Sakura to be helping Midori. And Sakura was the one who dressed Kyoumi for her dates. The meaning was clear. Sakura would let Nakatsu know what was up, so that he could help solve this little dilemma. What the heck. They knew it had to happen sooner or later.
She grabbed the box of chocolates, her purse and her cell phone, and escaped the room.
"You're not going on any date, Kyoumi." His words were quiet and angry. "I won't allow it."
She sighed. "Aniki, let me set you straight on this. I am in love with Nakatsu Shuichi, and-"
He snorted interrupting her, "Like you're even old enough to know what love is!"
Her head shook sadly. "I see. If you aren't even willing to converse with me, there's nothing left to say." She folded her arms and waited.
"It's just infatuation. Believe me, you'll thank me later for what I'm doing today." She sat there impassive, allowing the words to just flow over her.
He sighed. "Okay, if you won't listen to reason, I guess I'll just have to beat some sense into that asshole. When I get done with him, he'll be sure to leave you alone."
She smirked, but otherwise ignored him.
"Where is this house of his that he bought?"
"Hm," she replied. "I wonder."
"I'm serious, Kyoumi. Tell me where he lives so I can go kick his ass."
Her look spoke volumes of "You think I'm going to tell you?" as well as "Kiss my ass."
"I can wait here all night if I have to."
She just shook her head in response and the two of them settled into a staring contest.
About 10 minutes later, there was a knock at the door, and without a word, Kyoumi stood, crossed the room, and opened the door.
"Kyoumi! Is everything okay? Sakura called to tell me your brother was… here…" Nakatsu's speech slowed as he saw the glowering face of Kagurazaka Makoto. Kyoumi gently pulled him into the room and closed the door about half a second prior to her brother erupting into screams.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MY LITTLE SISTER YOU DUMB APE?!"
Nakatsu blinked then looked at the shrieking Makoto, then back to Kyoumi, who appeared to be very, very angry from the way she was simmering quietly.
Softly, she said, "Makoto, Shuichi has been nothing but a perfect gentleman, so STOP TALKING ABOUT MY BOYFRIEND LIKE THAT!" She pulled back as if she were going to punch her brother, but Nakatsu stopped her with a soft hand on her shoulder. And before she could stop him, he knelt and prostrated himself before her brother.
"I am in love with your sister, and I humbly request your permission to court her formally."
Simultaneously, the Kagurazaka siblings responded, "Shuichi, you don't have to do this!" and "Like HELL I'll give you permission!"
Nakatsu remained kneeling as Kyoumi continued, "Makoto, I'm only going to tell you this once. I love Shuichi. He loves me. Enough to kneel before your dumb ass. If you can't accept our relationship, then I will formally renounce you as my brother."
He turned to her, "Wait. What?"
"I've made up my mind. I love you, Aniki, but I love Shuichi more. And I WILL stay by his side."
Shuichi lifted his head, but remained kneeling. "No," he said. "No. I won't allow that."
Kyoumi turned her head toward him in shock. "Shu-"
"I can't come between you and your family, Kyoumi. I just can't. I've read your stories. I know exactly how much they mean to you. If you were to give up your family for me, eventually, you'd start to resent me."
"Kyoumi, I love you too much to do that to you. To divide your loyalties. But don't you worry." He turned to Makoto. "I'll win him over. I'll do whatever it takes. I'll camp outside his house if I have to. But eventually, he'll see how serious I am about you. How I'd give up everything for you. I'll do whatever it takes."
Makoto looked at the footballer, then his sister, his face a blank. Then, he scowled. "Really. You'll do whatever it takes?"
He nodded and smiled his patented Nakatsu-will-overcome-everything grin.
"So, if I say you have to let me beat you up every day for a month, without taking a swing at me in return, you'd do it."
He nodded and lifted his chin as if putting it out there as a target.
Makoto raised an eyebrow. "If I told you to put on a dress and run through St. Blossoms singing, `I'm a pretty pretty princess,'?"
"I'm sure Dr. Umeda at Ohsaka would have one that would fit me."
He smirked. "Is it true, what my mother told me, that you… that you… don't believe in… that you're waiting until you're married?"
At this, Nakatsu looked offended. "I would NEVER do anything to dishonor the woman I love."
Makoto ran his hands through his hair and paced the room. "AHHHH! If you ever hurt her, if you ever make her cry, I will personally cut your balls off. Are we quite clear about this?"
"You. Come home more often. Saki misses you." He pulled Kyoumi into a hug and then stormed out of the room.
The couple looked at each other quietly, Nakatsu still kneeling on the floor. "Did he just…?"
Chuckling, "Yeah. I think he did," she replied, pulling him up and into an embrace.
"Happy Valentine's Day, my love," he commented.
She started and pulled back. "Oh, yeah. I have something for you." She grabbed her own box of chocolates out of her desk drawer. "I made these for you."
He grinned and opened the box. "Oh. Little soccer balls! How did you get the chocolate to do that?"
"Midori helped. Sakura made little hearts and little tennis balls for Masa, and Midori made little ghosts for Kayashima."
He smiled. "You girls worked hard… Wait. Kayashima? Ghosts? My roommate in high school was Kayashima. He was the nicest guy, but people used to give him shit because he saw ghosts."
"Oh. That's probably his uncle. Midori said his uncle was training him and stuff."
Shaking his head with a lopsided grin, he said, "Damn. Kayashima. Small world." He popped one of the chocolates in his mouth. "Mmmm. These are really good."
Placing her hand on his she smiled, "But don't eat them all now. We've got a dinner to go to, and we don't want to keep Auntie O waiting. Just give me a second to change, okay?"
He nodded, and she disappeared into the bathroom to put on one of the dresses her mom had bought her at Christmas and apply some makeup. Her hair would just have to go up in a quick knot. There wasn't enough time for anything else.
While she dressed, he sat on the bed and played with the box in his pocket. Before long, she came out in an emerald green silk dress, with a sweetheart neckline bordered with little clear crystals, the dress contoured to show off her curves as it settled into a wispy handkerchief hemline that floated right around her knees. Black patent pumps on her feet and the emerald bracelet on her wrist set off the rest of the outfit. Her hair was in a knot, chopsticks holding it up off her neck.
"My mom got it for me during Christmas. She thought it matched the bracelet you got me pretty well." She spun quickly. "Do I look okay?" she asked.
He smiled. "Almost perfect. But… I think something is missing." He pulled out the box and held it out to her.
She opened it and gasped. "Oh. Oh, Nakatsu, they're beautiful."
"Only the best for the woman I love."
She blushed and put them on.
"Well, let's not keep Auntie O waiting," he said, and took her arm to escort her to dinner.