I don't believe this...
Naoto Shirogane sat herself down on one of the horizontal ventilation shafts that littered the roof, crossing her arms and trying desperately not to lose control of her emotions. Even though the day was beautiful, the sun was shining, and the temperatures were beginning to become warmer with the approach of spring, Naoto was having the worst day ever. She slowly began to take deep breaths and let them out in succession, her normal method of calming herself down.
I should not allow myself to feel this way... Naoto thought to herself with a scowl, unable to stop herself from letting her temper get the better of her. And yet how can I possibly stave off such frustration? This occurs every single--
Naoto blinked as she looked down at her left wrist, noticing the green text on the face of the watch. "Distance: 4 meters"
"Souji-kun?" She looked up, her eyes widening as she beheld her silver-haired boyfriend standing in front of her. "Why are you here?" She felt perplexed at the sudden appearance, and yet she was soothed by the knowledge that Souji had found her, that he was near her on what could possibly be considered the absolute worst day of the year.
"I thought you might want to have lunch with me today." Souji smiled as he sat down to Naoto's left, placing a bento on the ground. "I hope you don't mind."
"O-oh!" Naoto blushed slightly, taken aback at the sincerity of the gesture. "Not.. not at all, Souji-kun. I'd be thrilled to..." ...as long as we aren't interrupted, she added in her mind, her eyes glaring at the door to the stairwell.
"You seem distracted," said Souji, smiling over at Naoto with his usual tranquil demeanor.
"Is it that obvious?" Naoto laughed nervously. He's been able to read me like a book for so long... it's comforting, but quite frightening, as well...
"You're clenching your hands." Souji grinned as Naoto looked down at the balled fists at her knees. "You always do that when you're angry."
"I'm not... angry. Honestly. It's simply that... today has been a very depressing day. That's all." Naoto sighed, but she couldn't help but laugh spitefully inside her head at her predicament. Depressing... Yes, depressing, frustrating, annoying, insane... Just fill in the blank.
"Would you care to talk about-" Souji began, but Naoto had leaped from her seat and leaped back behind the air duct with the grace and reflexes of a cat.
"I'm not here," she said shortly as she pulled out a Swiss Army Knife from one of her pockets.
"I'm not here, Souji-kun! Please! I--"
"Hello, Souji-san!" Souji turned to see a group of students—mostly girls—running toward him, waving happily in greeting. A black-haired girl with even darker eyes led them to where he was still seated. It was she who had addressed him, and Souji recognized her as a student in his own class named Haruka. "Have you seen Naoto-kun anywhere today?"
Souji's brain worked frantically, trying to process everything that had seemed to happen all at once. It didn't take him long to understand what was going on, however, as he noticed packets of sheet music clutched in the hands of each student.
"...No, I haven't seen her all day." Souji kept his face and voice passive, almost curious, trying his best not to seem suspicious... or to look behind him to see where Naoto had disappeared to. If she had still been there, they'd have noticed her. "Why do you ask?"
"Aww..." Some of the female students appeared disappointed by Souji's news, but Haruka waved at them to quiet down. "Well, Kashiwagi-sensei had the brilliant idea of having groups of students serenade other students--"
"—and teachers," interrupted another student.
"...And teachers," Haruka corrected herself, the entire group giving a mass shudder, "for Valentine's Day. Thankfully, it kind of backfired on her because she won't be given anything until White Day."
"...if she gets anything at all."
"Ruki-chan, don't be mean!" scolded Haruka, though many of the others snickered behind their hands. "Anyway, Souji-san, if you do see Naoto-kun at all, please let her know that we've been assigned four songs, and that they're all for her."
"Four?" Souji blinked. "That many? But who would..." They're serious? No wonder Naoto wanted to hide.
"We can't say who requested them because of confidentiality reasons." She shuffled her feet, her face displaying a look of honest guilt. "Sorry, Souji-san... I know she's your girlfriend, but please don't blame us. We're just doing what we were told."
"I'll... let you all know if I see her." Souji smiled politely, though he was firmly committed to protect Naoto from such an embarrassing ensemble at all costs. No one should have to deal with this... Kashiwagi went too far this time.
"Thanks, Souji-san! Have a good lunch!" The group waved as they headed back across the rooftop and back into the school. Once again, Souji was alone.
"Naoto... they're gone." He blinked as a vent grate fell with a clatter to the cement, and he looked behind him to find Naoto crawling out of the duct, her face beet red and her eyes blazing with shock and fury.
"...F-f-four?! They want to sing four songs?! To me?!" Naoto was aghast, outrage dripping from every pore of her being as she climbed back over the duct and sat beside Souji once again.
"Maybe they sing well?" suggested Souji, but he knew the answer before Naoto spoke; she had given him "the look".
"...Souji-kun, they're from the symphonic band. They perform on instruments because they are incapable of singing. Trust me. I overheard one of their 'performances', and I do believe they are akin to what Yosuke-san would call... 'Nails on a chalkboard'." She shook her head as though trying to banish the sounds from her mind. "However, the serenades are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg."
"You mean your shoe box?"
Naoto nodded, her arms shaking slightly from the tightness of her clenched fists. "Not only is it overflowing to excess with a massive influx of love notes, but I've also taken the liberty of procuring an extra pair of shoes from home."
"You think your shoes will become stuck from all of the notes?" Souji asked in slight shock.
"That... and the melted honmei-choko that will completely ruin the pair in the box." Naoto turned to Souji and gave him a grim nod. "It has... happened before."
"Wait, honmei-choko?" Souji shook his head, amazed by the fervor of the other students. Honmei-choko was only supposed to be given to a loved one. Otherwise, tomo-choko was given, the type meant for friends.
"Exclusively. It makes no sense at all."
Souji moved closer to Naoto, looking concerned. "...How can you stand it all the time?"
"Stand it?! I can't stand it! It's... unbelievably frustrating!!" Naoto shouted the last word, unable to hold herself back. "How could I ever appreciate a day which stresses the pursuit of selfish infatuation through the presentation of meaningless gifts and the endurance of horrible caterwauling?!" She slammed her fist on the metal air-duct, a ringing gong sounding from the impact. She had lost control of her temper, but she didn't care. Souji wouldn't judge her for it. Souji wouldn't tell her she was being a child or immature or anything like that. Souji would listen, and that's what she needed at that very moment: a friendly, understanding ear.
"It... depresses me! Every year, it's the same routine! It's bad enough that I have to endure such things during the year, but massive escalation occurs throughout the day! This day! I wish there would be one year, just one, where I can actually accept a gift from someone who truly cares about me, who truly understands what..."
She couldn't finish her sentence. Souji had taken that opportunity to hold out his bento to her, and it interrupted her train of thought. "Is... isn't that your lunch?"
"Your lunch, Naoto." Souji smiled kindly, placing the bento on her lap.
"Wait... You... What-- That lunch is... for.." Once again she was taken aback. He always does that... Always. When I least expect it, he always calms me down... makes everything better...
"...I thought you might feel like this today, so I thought this would cheer you up." Souji wrapped his arm around Naoto's shoulders, causing her to blush... but she didn't complain. She was far more comfortable with him now than she had been before Christmas Eve.
"Souji-kun... you... didn't have to do that... I mean, I--" Naoto shook her head slowly as she opened the lid of the bento. She knew what Souji had made; he always made the same thing to cheer her up. But when she looked down into the open box, her eyes widened and her pulse quickened.
It wasn't what she had expected at all.
The bento contained sliced California Roll, as she had deduced. However, not only was there a single compartment instead of the multiple divisions of a normal boxed lunch, but the slices of prepared sushi were set around in a heart-shaped pattern. The area in the middle of the bento was empty except for a collection of words printed in the middle of the heart, and Naoto found herself unable to look away as she read them aloud to herself:
Valentine's Day is more than just a celebration of love. It's a day to give thanks to the people who are most important to you in your life. Naoto, you're the most important person to me, and no matter what day it is, I hope you know that I love you with all my heart, and that I always will. ~Souji
"...Oh..." Naoto squeaked, gently setting the box back down on the ground... and then without warning, she leapt into Souji's lap and kissed him on the lips. Her arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him closer as she drank deeply from his very being, only increasing in enthusiasm as she felt Souji return her embrace and affection. That... that was so...
Naoto released the kiss rather reluctantly, staring deeply into Souji's gray eyes with her own silver-blue orbs. She suddenly felt a twinge of regret, and her face contorted in sorrow. "I... I'm so sorry, I... didn't.. get you any honmei-choko... Souji-kun, I--"
"Do you think that matters to me?" Souji smiled brightly, kissing Naoto's forehead and making her cheeks turn deeper crimson.
"N.. no, but.. I... I wish I..." Naoto shivered as she stumbled over her own tongue, the words hesitant to pass between her lips as she thought frantically for something, anything, that she could do. And then an idea struck her, and she smiled affectionately at her boyfriend. "S-Souji-kun...?"
"Yes, Naoto?" Souji's hand rose to gently caress her cheek, and the gesture bolstered the detective's confidence.
"...Would you... eat the lunch... with me...?"
Souji frowned, and it was his turn to be taken aback. "But it's your lunch, Naoto..."
"But... you're important to me, too..." She leaned forward, resting her head on Souji's chest.
"...Okay." Souji smiled, knowing better than to argue with Naoto once she had made up her mind.
"...Thank you so much, Souji-kun..."
"For what...? I didn't-" His protest was halted by a soft finger that was placed on his lips.
"You did... Just... trust me." Naoto grinned as she removed the finger, replacing it with a soft, sensual kiss.
The bento sat forgotten.
"I love you... Souji-kun..."