For His Own Good
By Laura Schiller
Series: Shugo Chara
Copyright: Peach Pit
Amu remembered her good manners just in time. "Um, hi. Mama, this is Hotori Tadase. He's the student council president."
"I'm pleased to meet you, ma'am," said Tadase, with a small bow. "I just dropped in to talk with Hinamori-san about some Guardian business, if that's all right. I hope I'm not disturbing you?"
Guardian business. Amu's heart sank just a little bit. Of course he wouldn't come just because he wanted to see her.
"Of course not, Hotori-kun," said Mrs. Hinamori, visibly charmed. "Why don't you come inside and make yourself comfortable? Let me take your coat, here. It's terribly cold out, isn't it? Would you two like some snacks? Milk, cookies...I could make some tea if you'd like." She beamed a welcoming smile, hustling Tadase indoors like a motherly sheepdog and clearly burning with curiosity. Who knew her daughter's young friend was such a gentleman? He had 'future son-in-law' written all over him.
"Tea and cookies would be great, Mama," said Amu, privately resolving not to take the last cookie this time no matter how tempting it looked.
A moment later, Amu and Tadase found themselves sitting next to each other on the living room sofa, with a pot of green tea, two tiny cups and a plateful of biscuits dipped in white chocolate on the coffe table in front of them. Amu rather hoped her mother was out of earshot, and was profusely grateful that her father was at work and Ami on a playdate at a friend's house.
"You have a lovely home," said Tadase, rather stiffly – or was that her imagination?
"Papa likes Western decor," said Amu, motioning toward the fluffy beige sofa with several pillows, the pale wooden coffee table and bookshelves, the fireplace and the family photographs on its mantel. "Your house is more traditionally Japanese, right?"
"Yes. It's...rather empty. Not as cozy as this."
Amu made a face. "You wouldn't find it so cozy if Ami were here. She stands on that footstool with her toy microphone, turns up the TV at top volume and sings in her squeaky, whiny voice whenever one of Utau's songs comes on. And my parents go crazy over her – 'Waah, Ami-chan! You're so cute!' – The noise gets so loud you can't hear yourself think."
"Sounds like a close family," said Tadase, looking amused, with a hint of wistfulness. He had no siblings to be annoyed by. "Your parents must be proud of you both."
"Yeah...I guess." Amu looked down at her pink-and-black goth outfit, hand-picked by her mother, and smiled wryly.
"Listen, Hinamori-san..." Tadase picked up a cookie, turned it over in his hands and stared at it instead of eating. "There's something I wanted to tell you...something important..."
Why was he looking at her like that? His scarlet eyes glowed like the sea during sunset; it was making her dizzy.
He put back the cookie and fidgeted in his seat. "About what I told you last Christmas ... that I liked Amulet Heart..."
A sudden rush of blood made Amu's ears ring and her cheeks burn. It was unbelievable. Here was Tadase, in her house, on her faded, sun-bleached living room couch, talking about that day. The day they almost kissed. And could it be...?
"It's not true."
Her heart pounded; she forgot to breathe. Tadase's voice was very low now, possibly to keep it from trembling; his face was just as flushed and glowing as hers.
"You have so many different facets, like a jewel...that's why you sparkle. Heart, Spade, Clover, Diamond, it doesn't matter. You're beautiful no matter if you transform or not. I love you, Hinamori Amu. Everything about you."
For a moment, Amu had no idea what to do; then, to her own surprise, she found that her eyes were scorchingly hot and a lump had come into her throat. It was the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to her...and yet it stung.
"You're such an idiot," she sobbed, addressing her teacup because she couldn't meet his eyes. "Making me wait this long...if I had any sense, I'd throw you out right now."
"But I didn't mean – please don't cry, Hinamori-san – "
He held out a handkerchief; that was too much.
"Just say my given name already! Don't you know I've been waiting for that for two bloody years?"
She looked up at him, tears and all, with a half-defiant, half-pleading expression in her red-rimmed eyes, and he understood.
"Amu...I'm so sorry."
The accustomed honorific at the end of his name fell away. It was as if they were really seeing each other for the first time, with open, honest faces – no transformations, no outside facades, just two people who loved each other very much.
Without any more words, he leaned towards her until their faces were as close as they had been in the forest last Christmas. They hesitated for just a moment, just to feel each other's breath and savor the moment; then their lips met in a gentle, tentative first kiss.
"So yeah," said Amu, once she had got her breath back. "In case you haven't noticed, I love you too."
He smiled and put his arm around her shoulders; she cuddled up to him contentedly, feeling that this was the happiest day of her life.
"Ever since I first saw you, I've always thought of you as my prince...oops, sorry!" She jumped away from him, embarrassed at having used the forbidden word and waiting for Kiseki to snap him into his cackling, raving chara-change.
He shrugged. "I had a little talk with Kiseki. He's promised not to do that anymore."
The tiny smile on his face was an unmistakable look of triumph...and of love. With a cool-and-spicy, complicated, wonderful girl and a crazy but caring Shugo Chara, what more could a boy want?
The five little eavesdroppers behind the photos on the mantelpiece were beside themselves with glee.
"That's my boy!" Kiseki was so bursting with happiness for Tadfase's sake that he even forgot to brag about his clever idea. Ran and Suu were in raptures as Miki tried her best to hush them; if they got caught, they'd be in trouble. Dia simply smiled. The two humans were both shining brightly, and that was enough for her.