Chapter 24: Date

I frowned at the message I had just received on my cell phone. Checking the sender again, I confirmed that Marui had sent the message… but since when had Marui decided to decorate messages with hearts?!

3 Hey Kitari, are you free today? Wanna meet up? I'm at the train station =D Hope you can come! 3

Yes, it was definitely strange. The smileys weren't so astonishing (he used them a lot), but as far as I knew, Marui did not add hearts onto his messages unless it was a practical joke…

…meaning that this was a practical joke.

That wasn't good either. I didn't like the idea of Marui inviting me out as a practical joke. We were supposed to be dating – albeit we had yet to go on a real one-on-one date. Still, that wasn't the point! It was still insulting, dammit! Ah, it was probably Niou. He likely stole Marui's phone and sent that weird message. That bastard, was he trying to make me go there and hang around the park like an abandoned puppy? Huh, forget it! I know better than to fall for that!

But what if Marui really meant it? What if he was really waiting for me? What if, by some crazy chance, he'd gotten it into his head that hearts were a good idea for embellishing text messages?

After all, the hyper tone and the smileys were very Marui-ish. The phrasing, even. Just… the hearts didn't fit. How did they get there?

I checked the clock. It was just past lunch, and I was at a loose end for today. Perhaps I should go, if only to find out whether he'd suffered severe brain damage to make him add hearts onto his message.

Yup, I'm free. On my way =)

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To my great relief, the message turned out to be for real. Marui was leaning against one of the pillars outside the train station with his hands in his pockets and earphones plugged in, a picture of lazy calm. Female passers-by cast him looks of approval; I too savored the image for a few moments before approaching him.

Noticing me, he smiled and removed his earphones. "For once you're quick to get somewhere."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I inquired, though he did have a point. I had a very bad habit of being late, but my curiosity had taken over this time and I'd made it to the train station in record time. "Anyways, did you know that you added hearts onto that message you sent? I got worried for your sanity!"

"Hearts? What hearts? I don't remember putting in any," said Marui, looking puzzled.

I pulled out my cell phone to show him the proof. "There. Hearts at the beginning and the end of the message. How are you going to explain that?"

Just then, his own cell phone beeped, signifying the arrival of a text message. He took it out and, flipping it open, skimmed the message. His forehead crinkled. "Hmm. Seems like Kirihara also got a message with hearts."

"Kirihara-kun? Kami-sama, Marui, what on earth are you doing? Is there something wrong with your phone?" I could just imagine what Kirihara's reaction to the heart-decorated message would be like – very loud and very violently energetic.

"Now that you mention it, Niou had possession of it the whole of last night. He probably programmed it to add hearts onto whatever messages I sent." His fingers moved swiftly over the keypad, navigating the phone with the ease of practice.

"Why did he have your phone?" I asked, baffled.

Not looking up, the redhead answered, "I left it at his house by accident… well, for all I know he might've taken it while I was there… Done." His face lit up in triumph; apparently he'd finished reprogramming the phone.

"So, why did you call me out?" I inquired. So far, there had been no clue as to his intentions.

"Well…" Marui ran his fingers through his hair, clearly embarrassed. "I was just thinking, we've never really gone out in the literal sense. Since we're on holiday now, I thought maybe we should do something…"

I stared at him, wide-eyed. I'd never thought he'd come up with something like this right out of the blue. "Wait, let me guess. My brother's been hounding you?" I tried, suspicious.

He looked hurt. "Am I really that superficial?"

"No; no, you're not," I hurried to reassure him. "Just… I really wasn't expecting…"

"It was quite a random idea for me too," Marui admitted. "But it seemed like a good one, so… well, I got us tickets to go to Disneyland, if you don't mind –"

"Of course I don't mind!" Pathetic as it was, I'd never been to the biggest amusement park in our country in my life. I was not exaggerating when I said, "I'd love to go!"

This time, he was suspicious. "Really…"

"Yes!" Completely forgetting that we were in public, I threw my arms around him. "Thanks so much! Kami-sama, Marui, I love you!"

"… Thanks for that very public declaration of your affections," he said, effectively reminding me of where we were.

I immediately let go of him and stepped away, blushing furiously. "Umm… sorry…"

He too was blushing, albeit nowhere near as badly as I was. "It's okay. You have every right."

The stares of the passers-by bored into my back, uncomfortably reminiscent of the way the fangirls' glares used to. I bit my lip, willing them to look away even though I knew it was useless. "They're staring," I whispered fiercely at him.

"So they are. Do we care?" A warm hand took hold of mine. "Let's go; the train's going to leave any minute."

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"Due to a power failure, the lights have momentarily been disabled. The ride is unaffected," came a synthesized voice over the speakers. "Please continue to enjoy yourselves. We will fix the problem immediately."

I sighed. Of course, things would just have to go wrong on so important an occasion for me. Standing in the pitch darkness, I felt around for Marui. There'd been a mild commotion at the blackout, but I was quite sure I knew where he was. "Ne Marui-kun, let's just go on now."

"Mm." It seemed that it was the general opinion of the people in the waiting area – the whole group began pressing towards the gondolas that we were supposed to ride.

"Wait your turn, please!" entreated the ushers, trying in vain to organize the large group of determined tourists. Eventually, we managed to get a boat and followed the rest of the fleet.

Peaceful silence engulfed us as we coasted along the waterway in the darkness. What with the excitement of the day, I was feeling a bit lightheaded. Taking advantage of the darkness, I shifted closer towards him – he didn't move away, and I smiled happily. Today is really a great day… "Thanks, Marui-kun," I whispered. Not waiting for a reply, I leaned against him, closing my eyes with a sigh.

Suddenly, the lights came back on, and I heard an unintelligible shout followed by a scream of "MARUI-KUUUUUUN!!!" Puzzled (after all, Marui was right next to me), I opened my eyes and looked around…

… only to join in the chorus of screams. "WHO THE HECK ARE YOU?!!"

The person whom I'd been sitting next to raised one dark silver eyebrow. "Arn? You do not know who Ore-sama is? Ore-sama is –"

I didn't bother to listen further, instead frantically looking around at the other gondolas. Two gondolas away, I spotted a familiar shock of red-pink hair. The person with the hair was, of course, my wayward date. He was currently fending off a very enthusiastic orange-haired male companion in the boat, with limited success. The gondolier was having a tough time keeping the craft from crashing or capsizing; his fellows on the neighboring gondolas quickly steered clear.

Having confirmed his whereabouts, I now had time to freak out about my own situation. I'd just been up close and personal with this… this beauty-spotted egoistical freak of a guy?! And I'd not suspected a thing!

"You!" I pointed accusingly at him. "You could hear me calling you 'Marui', couldn't you? Why didn't you say anything?! I am so embarrassed now, all because of you!!"

He raised his other eyebrow. "Ore-sama had no part in this. You humiliated your own self, peasant."

I barely resisted the urge to bang my head on the side of the boat. For one, it wasn't going to help at all; two, it was rather low and I didn't fancy placing my ass in a position where it was more elevated than my face.

A boy with golden cat-like eyes and dark hair in the next boat adjusted his cap. "Mada mada dane."

"You little mmmngphf!" I struggled violently, prevented from strangling him by the Ore-sama guy in my boat. Oh Kami-sama why does this have to happen?!!!

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A short time later, when we'd gotten well away from the rest of that crowd, I was still fuming. "That asshole! Who does he think he is anyway, the owner of this place?!"

Marui smiled crookedly. "He is."

"What?!"

"Seriously. He's Atobe Keigo, the narcissist among narcissists and the filthy rich of the filthy rich. His family owns something like half of Tokyo's commercial and industrial sectors…"

"That's just too rich." I couldn't begin to imagine how a single family could own so much – after all, I don't even own a decent bike myself.

"I agree with you there. That's why he's as swollen-headed as he is. You haven't seen his fanbase – his whole school and Hyotei's external tennis club attend all his matches and cheer like their lives depend on it." The redhead laughed, as if embarrassed. "The fans I have don't even begin to compare."

Elbowing him, I scolded, "Stop feeling inadequate or you'll really look pathetic. And enough of the mind-boggling facts. We're here to enjoy, not ogle people's bank account balances."

"True," he conceded. "But might I know how you managed to mistake him for me?"

I colored up instantly. "Well, he didn't say anything when I used your name, and he didn't pull away or anything…"

He frowned. "What were you doing that he might need to pull away?"

"Nothing! How could you mistake that weird fanboy to be me, anyways?" I shot back.

"He was sleeping! So he was totally unresponsive, then halfway through he suddenly leaned on my shoulder –" Marui cut himself off mid-sentence. "Anyways, when I realized that it wasn't you, I pushed him off immediately!"

"Why did you cut yourself off, hmm?" I gave him the look.

"Aw come on Kitari, don't be so hard on me!" he pleaded. "I'm sorry, okay?"

Those liquid violet eyes, even after all this time, were too much for me. I melted immediately. "Okay, okay," I relented. It wasn't as though I was blameless either. "Where shall we go next?"

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"Hey, that ride looks great!" Marui pointed at the huge, wildly twisting and soaring structure of a rollercoaster.

I peered at it. "What's it called… 'Raging Spirits'? That sounds creepy…"

"It's a rollercoaster; how creepy can it be? Stomach-turning, maybe, but not creepy. Let's go!" He moved purposefully towards the long queue not too far off. Giving in, I followed.

Ten minutes later, we were strapped inside a carriage and whirling around the track, screaming blue murder along with the other passengers. As the carriage slowed and began to climb steeply upwards, I felt a strong sense of foreboding building up. It was as I'd expected – just as we reached the top of that incline, we plummeted sharply, rising into yet another incline. I gasped as the negative-gravity hit me, feeling as though I'd left half my innards twenty meters above.

In the breathless moment that we hung at the top of the second dizzying height, I felt a hand touch mine. Glancing over, I saw Marui directing a reassuring smile at me. Even as we tipped over, going into what felt like freefall, I could still feel his hand gripping mine. My confidence surged; we were in this together. Almost immediately, my screams changed from screams of shock to screams of exhilaration.

When we got off at the end of the ride, my knees were shaking, but I decided that it wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be.

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We decided on an early dinner at a cozy establishment with a good view of Mount Prometheus. It was no romantic candlelight experience; on the contrary, we had mini food fights, horsing around and generally making fools of ourselves.

"You idiot!" I scolded, glaring at the meatball that had landed, after a fashion, right in my lemonade. It sat pretty on top of an ice cube, red sauce floating shamelessly around it in a distorted circle. "And you're supposed to be a tennis player! What kind of throw was that, anyway?"

He had the decency to make an attempt at abjectness. "… I thought you'd catch it... you know, tennis involves hitting more than throwing…"

"That's not the point. The point is that I now have a meatball in my lemonade, which means you're going to have to get me a new drink," I informed him with a blindingly bright smile.

Marui threw up his hands. "Have it your way."

The real calamity struck later, when we were about to pay the bill. It was probably the worst thing that could have happened.

"That will be 4800 yen, please," said the waiter, who looked uncannily familiar. One doesn't often see people with perfect smiles that never falter – not in real life, anyway. I glanced at his badge, which read, "Fuji Syuusuke". It looked like a part-timer's badge. Fuji Syuusuke… where had I heard that name before?

Marui gave the waiter a queer look, but did not comment. "Yes, hang on a sec." He felt in his pocket, then, frowning, rummaged about his whole person. "Wait a moment…" His movements grew increasingly agitated; he searched through each pocket again in vain. "Damn, where is it?!"

Anxiety began to creep over me as I watched. Marui didn't usually get so worked up. "What's wrong?"

He looked up, violet eyes troubled. "I can't find my wallet!"

Oh Kami-sama, must nothing go right for me – for us? "Where do you think you might've dropped it?"

Marui opened his mouth to answer, but was interrupted by a polite cough from the waiter. "Might I be correct in guessing that you have misplaced your cash and currently have no means of paying the bill?"

"Kitari, I'm really sorry, but do you happen to have enough on you?" Marui's pleading gaze was irresistible; even though I felt like telling him it was his own fault, I knew that that would just be evil. I dutifully searched my own belongings and, after a long, tense moment, finally extracted a crumpled 1000-yen note.

"That's all I have," I said apologetically.

The waiter was still smiling. "I believe there is still a deficit of 3800 yen."

Marui clenched his eyes shut for a second, then turned to face the waiter. "Fuji, I'm really sorry, but we can't pay. I don't think there is a very high chance of my getting my wallet back soon. Is there anything we could do to cover the cost of our meal?

Fuji's smile widened. "Of course there is."

And that was how we came to be washing plates at the back of the restaurant. Fuji had vanished with a tall, bespectacled brunette, who looked like the complete opposite of the ever-smiling boy, and left us to watch Mount Prometheus' famous firework display – while washing dishes.

"This is all your fault," I fumed, though I didn't really mean it. He didn't want his wallet stolen, either.

"I know…" he sighed. "I promise, I'll make it up to you some other time, okay?"

Good, so there will be a next time. "You had better."

Fireworks bloomed in the distance, making the night sky blaze in a multitude of brilliant colors. The image of Fuji and his brunette partner bathing in the glow of those fire flowers appeared unbidden in my mind's eye; I pushed it to the back of my mind, determined not to think about it.

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"Would this be the item you are searching for?" inquired the man at the service counter, producing a familiar bleached denim wallet.

Marui's eyes widened. "Yes, that's mine! Thank you so much!"

"It wasn't much trouble. Someone brought it in not long ago," replied the man. "Have a nice time."

As we walked out, I asked, "Is everything intact?"

He had already opened it and was looking through the contents. "Yeah. Amazing. I was sure they'd take the money. After all, this place has so many tourists…"

"You're lucky, then," I commented. "Now we have enough to go home!"

Marui gave me a part-exasperated, part-amused look. "You had your train card on you the whole time. I'm sure we could've gotten home.'

I pouted. "Aww, you're no fun."

We headed towards the train station. The place was comparatively quiet; it wasn't near enough to closing time to be flooded with the hundreds of tourists rushing to leave the theme park.

At this time, the train too was empty. We easily found seats and settled down for the return journey.

After a long moment of silence, I said, "Thanks for today. It was really fun."

He laughed sheepishly. "You don't need to lie so as not to hurt my feelings, you know."

"No; really," I disagreed. "It was fun. Even if it wasn't so… conventional."

Marui opened his mouth as if to argue, but closed it again with a resigned smile. "Thanks, Kitari."

Impulsively, I leaned against him, resting my head on his shoulder. When he didn't pull away, I smiled. "It's nothing."

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OMAKE

"Oh Kami-sama, we've missed our stop!"

"What?!"

"We both fell asleep! Now we're in Ofuna!"

"… Damn."

OWARI

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A/N: I'm so sorry I took so long to update. Again. It's been… two months, I think. That's somewhat better than my other fics, which have been rotting since the new year. O.o

Anyways, this is the last chapter of this fic! Hopefully it's an acceptable ending. Never been that great at endings… :-X It's an ultra-long chappie 'cause I didn't think I could keep it going long enough to split it into two, and also because it's the final and I don't particularly feel like doing an epilogue. Tell me what you think =) I personally think this chapter could have been much better-written, since I did it in bits and pieces and it may not be as coherent as the first few chappies. T.T

Credits to Shu-chan, without whom I would never have been able to write most of this fic, and for the ideas for this chappie in particular. –hugs–

And today's my birthday! I vowed I'd finish it by the time I turned fifteen, and I have accomplished it! WOOOOHTS!!!

Well, that's about all I have to say. Do leave me your thoughts and opinions so that I'd know how to improve my writing =)

Please Review! ^^