Here's the last part, everyone! Sorry about it taking so long, but school was much busier than I expected. Thanks so much to Et cetera Et cetera for all of the support and advice. Happy Holidays! Enjoy!
Also, beware of a wee bit of swearing. Chiaki is an adult and his frustration certainly doesn't curb his speech.
Chapter 3: Grasping Warmth
He couldn't say that she was ignoring him really--couldn't even say that she was avoiding him. It was just that she wasn't seeking him out anymore.
And it bugged him. A lot.
He found himself waiting for her to show up at his apartment, demanding food and attention. She didn't. Multiple times a day he had to fight the urge to go to her apartment, he had to fight the craving he had to see her, to know what she was doing. He wondered if she was eating enough. He wondered how to get her back into his arms. It had been two weeks.
The baka! Didn't she know that he missed her? He scowled at his coat before glancing at the door and returning his glare once more to his coat.
What was even more annoying was the fact that she conveniently "forgot" that she had proposed to him. He could finally admit it: he had blown it. Would she ever put herself out there again, risking his rejection? He hadn't even rejected her—worse, he hadn't taken her seriously.
He sighed, his scowl finally fading away. His shoulders slumped as his conscience berated him.
Why should she risk herself again? She's always the one doing the risking.
His scowl returned as he willed his conscience to shut up. He made some risks too, dammit! Hadn't he admitted that he wanted to be the Golden Pair with Nodame??
His phone rang. He unconsciously perked up, his face taking on an eager countenance as he sprinted toward his land line. He grabbed it up, not bothering to glance at the caller id.
"Hello," he ground out rather breathlessly.
His body deflated. It wasn't her—wasn't Nodame. He shivered a bit, wondering absently if he had left a window open. It was a bit chilly.
"Shinichi, are you alright? You sound out of breath."
"I'm fine, Mother," he responded dully as he sat in a chair in his living room. He could tell by the tone of her voice that this call would take a while, at least fifteen minutes he mentally estimated. Ah, well, maybe it would take his mind off a certain someone.
"You certainly don't sound fine. Is orchestra practice going badly?" She sounded concerned. He mentally added another ten minutes to his tally.
"No, it's going well."
She sighed and he could almost feel her frustration with him. "What could it be then? There's not much else that upsets you."
He felt a bit affronted that she thought he was so one-dimensional. "I do have a life outside of music, Mother."
She had the gall to laugh. "Dear, I hate to point this out, but: no, you don't."
He opened his mouth to argue with her (he really felt like arguing with someone right now) and then shut it as he realized that she was right. Not only that, but he didn't mind that music had so invaded him. It had brought him many good things.
"Besides, it doesn't matter if music is your life. Think of how many great things have happened because of it," his mother continued. He shuddered. In very rare instances, her thought process seemed to mirror his. He cringed as he considered the possibility that he may become like her in the future. He loved his mother, but that didn't mean he wanted to be like her. "Why, you never would have met Nodame if it weren't for music!"
He briefly considered his life without Nodame. A little voice inside his head taunted him.
Oddly enough, it would be just like it is now.
He steadfastly ignored the voice. Damn weirdo forest and its side effects.
His mother had noticed his silence. "How is Nodame? I heard from a contact in England that she had her debut performance with Stresemann."
"I don't know how she is. We haven't seen each other for about two weeks." When she disappeared after I fell asleep with her in my arms, he added silently, resentfully. Not that he minded waking up in her bed (which, surprisingly smelled clean and a bit like lavender*), but he would much rather wake with her in the bed as well.
"Have you two fought?" His mother now sounded distressed. Chiaki fought a sigh. Another five minutes were added to the board.
"The baka hasn't called or stopped by!" He fairly exploded with outrage.
"What made her mad?" Her question was tentative. She was not afraid of Chiaki's outbursts, but rather cautiously trying to ascertain the situation and figure out his line of thinking which, to her mind, was often a little dense when it came to relationships. He was either too cold-blooded about them (as had oft been the case with Saiko) or too passionately involved emotionally and dealt with it through anger (as she had witnessed in regards to Nodame).
"Who knows what set her off? The weirdo!" He spit back in rage. All of his frustration began to bubble out of him. "It can't be that I thought she was joking! I thought it was, but now that I think of it—why would she be so overwrought about it? It was no different than usual. She knows how I feel about her, how we are."
"And just how are you two?" His mother countered.
"We, I—well, she…we, er, you know," he finished ever so elegantly. She sighed. Was that disappointment he detected?
"Shinichi, if you can't even explain it to your own mother, how do you expect poor Nodame to understand what kind of footing you two are on?" He had no response to that. "As your mother, I know things about you that no one else does."
He sincerely doubted that.
"I know that you love Nodame."
Oh. Okay. Maybe he should retract that last thought.
"I probably knew how you felt for her before you did. In fact, have you ever thought about your feelings for her in those terms, using that word?" His mind scrambled. Of course he had never used that word! Why would he use that word? Feeling it was bad enough, but to speak it, think it?!?
"Shinichi," she continued gently. Uh-oh, gentleness was never a good sign. "What did you think she was joking about?"
Of course. Trust his mother to pick up on that among everything else. "Um, well…"
"Nodame, well—she asked me…she asked me to marry her," he finished lamely, not knowing a way to word it better, to make him seem less at fault.
"Goodness!" His mother was surprised. "And now…"
"Now, she seems to have given up. I told her after I found her when I returned from London," he stopped himself abruptly. It was hard enough to deal with his personal life, let alone recount it to his mother, for God's sake!
"Told her what? That you would marry her? That you love her? Want her? Just what did you tell her, Shinichi?" Was it him or was his mother sounding a bit peeved?
"Well, obviously I told her that I wanted us to be the Golden Pair," he stated. Duh.
There was silence on the other end of the line. "Um, Mother?"
Chiaki's mother (heck anyone who had met Chiaki and Nodame) knew about Nodame's term 'Golden Pair' to describe her dream concerning their music. Chiaki thought for sure that his mother would at least understand what he was saying.
There was deep breath before he heard her voice again. "Shinichi, I'm going to say this and then you're going to fix it. The Golden Pair is a dream Nodame had for the two of you, but that dream pertained to the musical part of your life. And while music may be a part of both of your lives that can't be separated, Nodame doesn't know that when you say you want to be the Golden Pair, what you really mean is you want to be with her, that you need her."
For once, he didn't deny that he needed her. He had already figured out that his life was cold without her. Chiaki scoffed. "How could she not know?"
"Nodame is very open. She hides none of her feelings. She has always faced her feelings for you directly. After all this time, she expected you to do the same. When you didn't, she could only assume that you do not feel the same, that it is only her music that is important for you."
Chiaki was so still that he wondered if he had stopped breathing. Had he still not face his feelings for her directly? No, he admitted, he hadn't. As his mother had pointed out, he had never come out and said it either aloud or in his thoughts.
"Shinichi, are you there?"
His mother's insistent voice cut through his thoughts. "I am."
He didn't pretend to misunderstand. "I do as you say. I fix it."
It wasn't often that he listened to another give advice; even less often was when he listened to it. He felt rather like a scolded child. No, he shook himself, he wasn't doing this to please his mother. He wasn't even doing it for Nodame. He was doing it for himself. He needed that warmth in his life. "Goodbye, Mother."
He didn't hear her response. He hardly remembered setting the phone down and leaving his apartment. All he could think of, as he filled with a determination he usually only felt for learning a piece of music, was Nodame. He had to find her.
He heard the music before he saw her. Pathetique. It was just as compelling as the first time he had heard it. He stealthily entered the practice room. How odd that it would be a full circle.
She didn't notice him, so caught up in the music was she. He felt irrationally piqued. She was all he could think about for two weeks and she could forget him by merely placing her fingers upon the keys of a piano? He watched her closely. Or maybe not…
She seemed troubled. Her playing was as gripping as usual, but there was something…he couldn't put his finger on it. She seemed almost tied down rather than set free with the music. She could do it without him, succeed on the world stage of music. Likewise, he could do the same. Yet…yet, he found he didn't want to do it alone and cold. Drifting back from his thoughts, he watched as she finished the last bars of the song. She sat still and silent once it was finished.
She jumped, startled, wide eyes spinning to look at him. "Senpai?"
She seemed confused by this statement, watching as he came closer. "You're wearing a winter coat. Maybe you should have brought a scarf?"
It seemed so surreal. To have not seen her for two weeks, to have obsessed over her (yes, he could now admit it—at least to himself), to have been tormented by the memory of her proposal…all of this and upon their reunion she asks about a scarf. Well, it is Nodame.
"A scarf can't fix this coldness," he answered. He steeled himself. He could do this. Face his feelings directly, as she had done. Above all else, he could not let Nodame beat him. "I'm cold…"
She opened her mouth to respond, more confused than ever. He beat her to it.
Her mouth closed. She was frozen, afraid to hope. He sighed.
"Please don't make me beg. I've missed you. I don't want to be without you." He was only a foot away from her now. She looked uncertain. "And it has nothing to do with being the Golden Pair."
Her gaze was soft as her hands gripped the edge of the piano seat with a strength so forceful her knuckles turned white. Chiaki fidgeted. Why hadn't she responded? Did she still not understand? Had she truly given up on them? Did she—
His thoughts were cut off as her body collided with his, her arms wrapped around his waist tightly. "Senpai, I'll be here for as long as you want me."
He felt warmth invade his muscles, his bones, his marrow, his very being. He wrapped himself around her, intent on absorbing as much of her as he could. "You baka."
She did understand. He didn't have to use flowery words. He didn't have to shower her with flowers. All she needed was some reassurance. He remembered her proposal.
"Senpai, will you marry me?"
He wouldn't bring it up now. Besides, he thought he would really like to try a do-over. One where he did the asking, did the risk-taking. He figured it was his turn.
As he held her in his arms feeling her warmth transfer to him, he revised his opinion. She wasn't like the sunshine. Never like the sunshine, he vowed fiercely. For the sunshine was intangible, unable to be grasped, to be kept. If there was one thing he was never going to allow out of his grasp, it was Nodame. So, no, she wasn't sunshine. She was pure warmth. And he was never letting go.
Okay, that's it everyone! The * is a reference to one of my fave Nodame fanfics (you know which one). And really the last line is not meant to remind anyone of a cheesy line from that huge movie years ago. You know the one: starts with T, ends in itanic. Please put any thought of that movie that the final line may have brought up out of your mind. Hopefully, this fic is less cheesy than that movie. Sigh. Well, thanks for sticking with me!