Happy Valentine's Day! Guess who wrote this entire thing in one day and neglected doing her homework at the same time. :snerk:
A quick note: I'm using the Japanese V-Day traditions in this one. Normally, I avoid referencing other cultures because I don't want to screw it up, but… I thought the idea was adorable. I'll explain the tradition at the bottom if you don't know it, so you can read that before the story or whatever you wanna do.
'kay, that's all. X3
Disclaimer: I NO OWN KEENGDUMB HARTZ.
.:-Let Me Love You-:.
"I want to go shopping."
Axel glanced at the blonde across from him only momentarily before raising his glass to his mouth and taking a quick sip. His nose wrinkled in response to the bitter taste and he set the offending drink down at a safe distance, running his tongue over his bottom lip in an attempt to rid himself of the flavor. Again, he peered over at the tiny girl and, finding her to still be staring at her lap, he took up his knife and fork and began cutting off a piece of the steak that he had been very particular about having cooked well done. When his teeth sunk into the meat and he felt a drip of what could have been blood or some sort of juice escape from the corner of his mouth, he cringed and allowed the utensils to clatter to the plate.
"This place sucks," He said finally. When the girl continued her silence, Axel pursed his lips and motioned with his fork at the salad that remained untouched, "You gonna eat that?"
The girl shook her head once and then the redhead's hand was snatching it away. She listened to the scraping of ceramic moving across wood and then the crunch of fresh lettuce pierced by a fork.
"Did you hear me?"
He swallowed, "Yea, you said my name."
The blonde frowned, eliciting the exact opposite reaction from him. Chuckling softly at her dejected appearance, Axel replaced his fork by the forgotten plate of meat, "I heard you, Naminé. You want to go shopping," At her nod, the pyro leaned back in his chair, "And what do you want to go shopping for?"
Naminé chewed thoughtfully on the inside of her lip for a moment, then shrugged, "I don't know."
"Well said. That tells me a whole lot," He replied with mock applause. The girl attempted a scowl that wasn't quite effective, so instead she let out a slow breath and decided to go for what she had discovered was nearly impossible: reasoning with him.
"I know what I'm looking for," She said, pausing long enough to allow Axel time to turn his attention back to her, "I just… don't want to tell you."
The corner of his mouth lifted, "That's not very good incentive to let you go, huh?"
Naminé huffed, "I'm not trying to run away, if that's what you're thinking."
"So then what're you after?"
This was becoming more trouble than what the girl thought it was worth. An idea that she had been pondering over for the past few days was now more of a hindrance, thanks to his never-ending questioning. It seemed by now that he would have enough faith in her to not attempt an escape; not only did she not have any clue of how to escape, but she knew that if she somehow managed there would be no chance of her surviving. She didn't have enough faith in herself to do that. But above those two things, she simply had no desire to leave him. Despite the fact that their relationship was initially prisoner and captor, there was something there that reassured her that he was different. She had always been the prisoner and maybe always would be, but he had gone from captor to companion with a few simple words that continued to resonate in her mind even a year later.
Vowing to herself that she'd only try one more time, Naminé parted her lips to speak, "I just want to pick up a few things," A response was on the tip of his tongue, but the girl blurted out before he could speak, "Girl things."
His brows furrowed quickly, and then his eyes were suddenly the size of saucers and his lips popped open to form a small 'O'. Perhaps the first lie he had ever fallen for, unbeknownst to him, but it brought about a fierce blush that Naminé attempted to hide behind her hands all the same. Axel had managed to close his mouth, but the discomfort was still evident on his face and it was tempting for the girl to reveal the lie, just to save her some embarrassment, but now she had an edge on him.
"Uh…" Was the first coherent, though unintelligent, thing out of the redhead's mouth. Naminé hung her head in shame, "Yea, um… okay. You got some money?"
The girl nodded meekly and wished above all else that she could disappear.
"Okay. Just stay around this area."
Another nod and she was up and heading for the door in a second. That was a conversation she never wanted to have with anyone, especially Axel, but it had slipped out without her registering the reaction that it might receive. Obviously, the pyro had responded in a way that wasn't surprising; for the first time, Axel had been at a loss for words. That might have been an accomplishment had Naminé not humiliated herself in the process.
The silence of the restaurant hadn't been noticeable until the girl returned to the bustling street outside. A brisk gust swept her new coat about her thighs, but a thin pair of white leggings did little to protect the rest of her legs. The boots that were a result of an unexpected costume change seemed to weigh her down as she wandered through the mass of people wearing strange fur hats upon their heads. She noticed that many of them had coats that looked much better suited for this harsh weather, as opposed to her own that was decorated intricately with blue and black threads upon white leather and fluffy cuffs around her wrists that seemed more for show than practicality. The heat that had been the result of her blush was frozen to her skin and pale hair whipped wildly about her face. Though reluctant to take her hands from her pockets, she did so long enough to pull her hood over her head and tug the strings tight.
Leaving Axel soon seemed to be a mistake; while she didn't want him to know what she was up to, having his warmth by her side was something that she initially hadn't appreciated. Fortunately, the shop she was looking for wasn't too far from where the hotel that they were using as a temporary home. What made it even easier in this world of strange writing and an even stranger tongue was that the shop clearly displayed its products in the window. Had this not been the case, she never would have guessed that a sign reading шоколад would have indicated chocolate.
The snow that never seemed to end was beginning to intensify when the colorful little shop on the corner came into view. The girl was immediately drawn to the pale pinks and light blues that seemed out of place in such a desolate land, as though it was a last attempt by the owners to bring life to a city that had already seen its better days. What had drawn Naminé to the place still rested in the window and she hurried over to press her face against the glass.
Delicate boxes adorned with hand-painted hearts and flowers were decoratively arranged on shelves lined with pink and white shreds of tissue and synthetic red roses dripped with dew. More of the strange language advertised what Naminé assumed to be different types of chocolate and a painted sign that read Счастливый День святого Валентина! was placed at the top of the display. The very sight of it caused her to frown and reconsider entering the store where no doubt she would be unable to communicate, but a heavy weight in her pocket reminded her of what she sought.
A tiny bell above the door chimed as Naminé entered cautiously, peering around at the few people already browsing. Many of them seemed to be her age or a little older, but none of them paid her any attention. Still hesitant, she allowed the door to close behind her. Now that she was here, she still had no idea what sort of chocolate that Axel would like, considering he liked it in the first place.
"Maybe I should have asked him…" She mumbled to herself, biting her lip. Anxious fingers tugged at the hem of her coat as she approached the nearest display where individually wrapped candies were placed neatly in a tiny box the shape of a heart. Her fingers reached for it, then abruptly pulled away and she started to the opposite side of the store. Bringing Axel something that looked like a heart may not have been the best idea.
Her eyes found a simple white box with a red rose painted in the corner tied together with a red ribbon and she swiftly picked it up. It was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand and, by the sound of it, contained only a few of the chocolatey sweets, but something modest- not to mention cheap- was all she needed. Spending the money on this would make living in the area more difficult than it already was since neither of them had a steady flow of the local currency, but it was something she felt she had to do. Or rather, wanted to do. But he couldn't know that… he had to be believe it was only an obligation.
Satisfied now, a smile curved her pink lips upwards. It was perfect for him. It was simple enough to hide her intentions, but not so plain as to seem indifferent. Her original anxiety of entering the store was forgotten until she turned around and found a heavily set man sitting behind the counter and she remembered the problems the language barrier would pose. Her fingers tightened on the box and she considered wandering about the store to prolong the time before she would have to speak, but decided ultimately to get it over with. She would have to pay eventually.
The man glanced her way as she approached and offered a smile, oblivious to her discomfort, and he set down the newspaper that he had been reading.
"Здравствуйте," He said, causing the girl to hesitate only a moment before hurriedly placing the box on the counter and lowering her gaze to her boots. Unseen by her, the man raised one brow and carefully slid the box towards him. Naminé flinched and looked up when he continued, "Как дела?"
"Um…" She mumbled softly. How had Axel dealt with this? As far as she knew, the pyro didn't know the language either, but perhaps she had simply never heard him use it. Her lips parted, preparing an explanation that the man wouldn't understand, but instead she opted to shake her head and mutter apologetically, "No."
Realization dawned in the man's eyes then and a wide smile creased his face, "English?" He asked and the girl could only stare in surprise and relief. He chuckled deeply, low in his throat, and said, "You could have asked, miss."
The thick accent that weighed down his voice deterred the girl for only a moment before she uttered a quick, "I'm sorry."
Another hearty chuckle caused Naminé to blush in embarrassment.
"It's a very lucky boy that is receiving these," He said, smiling, "You're a pretty little thing."
The blush intensified and the girl averted her eyes shyly. Not because of the compliment, but rather the insinuation. Axel wasn't exactly a 'boy' and he most certainly wasn't to her what the man had implied, as much as she wished it could be so. Over the time that they had spent together, Naminé knew that the pyro had become much more than just someone to follow. She had carved out a special place for him in the heart she wasn't supposed to have, even if he wasn't aware of it, and she would have given almost anything to be able to tell him what she thought of him. How she felt about him. Maybe he wouldn't return it, or maybe he'd laugh and remind her that they didn't have feelings, but at least he would know. At least he would know why she blushed when he would look at her, why he could make her laugh even when he hadn't been trying to, and why she reserved for him a smile that she had never given anyone else. At least he would know why he never had to remind her to not run off. Why, despite what he had put her through, he was the only one she trusted to keep her safe. To drag into the darkness of Nothing. To be her friend.
"Thank you," She said softly in response to his words, "But you're wrong. I'm the one who is lucky."
The man helped her to sort through the foreign money and she departed with a lighter pocket and a box protected by a paper bag in her hand. Snow was falling heavily now and she opted to head for the hotel. If Axel wasn't back already, he probably would be soon, so maybe she would have the chance to hide her gift and wait for the perfect moment to give it to him. A blast of warm air thawed her cheeks when she opened the door and she tried to blink the black shadows that the bright snow had caused out of her eyes. The receptionist offered a polite smile as the girl started towards the staircase. After an unfortunate experience with an elevator in another world, she had been reluctant to use one again, no matter the location and how much Axel teased her for it.
"I've been waiting forever," He would say, leaning against the door to their room with his arms crossed, as she hauled herself up the last step. She would try to scowl, but her exhaustion would never allow her, and she would hear only his snickers as she slumped against the wall.
Fortunately, they were only on the second floor, so she had no trouble making the trip. Upon arriving at the door, she took a deep breath and prayed that he hadn't returned. She fished out the key from her pocket and inserted it in the lock.
The breath rushed from her lungs to find the room empty as she peered around the door. The relief was momentary, however, as she rushed to the nightstand by her bed and quickly placed the box inside. A fluttering erupted in her belly as she sighed deeply. Now all she had to do was wait for him to come back and, hopefully, he wouldn't mention her excuse to escape his presence.
The mattress groaned in protest against her weight when she sat down to remove her boots and toss her coat aside; she watched her toes curl in on themselves and she attempted to warm them by moving them back and forth on the scarlet-colored carpet. Already she could feel her body warming up; even without the fireplace that Axel was careful to keep alight for her. To make up for that particular loss, the girl crawled under the thick blankets and curled her knees up to her chest. Hopefully he would be back soon…
As she waited and thoughts flitted in and out of her mind, Naminé wondered if maybe she should take a risk and somehow hint at the true intentions behind the chocolate. She blushed at the mere thought of telling him flat out and was fearful of how he might react, but she tried to remind herself that he had never hurt her. He had become angry or frustrated, yes, but he rarely laid a finger on her. If he rejected her, she would be disappointed but not surprised. If he accepted… she couldn't even imagine the possibilities. The prospect alone made her feel giddy and she couldn't help the peal of giggles that bubbled past her lips. But how to tell him?
She was up in a second and digging through the nightstand in search of something to write with. After having succeeded in finding a pen engraved with the name of the hotel, she dug through her small pack at the base of her bed and drew out her sketchbook. Carefully, she tore out a rectangle shape from the corner, folded it at the center, and quickly scribbled a few words inside. The pen paused for a moment as she hesitated in making the final stroke, and then she folded it up and went to slide it under the red ribbon on the box. She stood staring at it, wondering what might happen if he reacted in a negative way, but a quick self-assurance convinced her to go through with it. Instead of replacing back in the drawer, she opted to tuck it carefully beneath his pillows. Axel was such a light sleeper, she had learned, that he would probably immediately realize that something had been placed in his bed; hopefully she would be asleep when he found it.
Just as she flopped back down on her bed, the knob on the door rattled and Naminé had to swallow past the lump that jumped into her throat. The redhead sauntered into the room, starting slightly upon seeing her, but then he let out a large yawn before heading for his bed. The girl tensed.
"Can you light the fireplace?" She asked quickly. Axel raised one brow at her tone.
"Someone's hyped up. Hi to you, too." He muttered, heading towards said fireplace and kneeling down before it. Naminé watched as he pushed around the charred logs for a bit before allowing a small flame to dance to life on his fingertips. The wood caught fire immediately, like dry reeds struck with lightning, and the pyro again started towards the bed.
"Er, wait!" The girl blurted again. She tried to ignore the annoyed glare sent her way, "I'm thirsty. Can you get me a glass of water from the bathroom?"
"I've got a better idea: you get it yourself."
Naminé chewed on her lip, "Please?"
Standing dangerously close to the bed, Axel crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes, "What's with the royalty act, huh? I'm not gonna be your servant boy."
The girl whirled around so that her back was facing him when he dropped face first into his pillows. The fluttering in her belly intensified when she heard the box shuffle against sheets and her eyes shut tightly when the pyro uttered a curse. The soft thud of pillows falling to the floor seemed ten times louder than they should have been and then she heard the sound of the candies shifting against each other. The silence that followed seemed worse than the sounds leading up to the moment; her breath stilled in her chest.
"Happy Valentine's Day," She whispered timidly, "Sorry it's not very exciting. I didn't have a lot of money."
The girl tensed when Axel tried to lighten the mood with his typical chuckle, "Hey, no, it's great… thanks, Nami."
Nami… he called her Nami. The twisting in her gut loosened just a little bit; he had never called her that before. He always told her that he didn't like nicknames, but he had made an exception for her… Nami…
The soft lull of the girl's breathing served as a way to pass the seconds and minutes and hours. She had long since fallen asleep, tucked deeply in the warmth of her blankets, but Axel knew that he would not find sleep for a long while. The simple gift that he had received was enough to keep him occupied, pondering over what it could mean and why she would take the time to buy him something for a holiday that he had completely forgotten about. He couldn't remember ever celebrating it, not even when he was a Somebody. But here he sat, staring at a tiny box of chocolates in the dark with nothing but the gentle flame in the fireplace to provide them warmth. His fingers traced around the corners, curled around the red ribbon, smoothed over the painted red rose, and stopped on the little piece of paper that had turned his thoughts in a direction he hadn't ever considered.
Carefully, he slipped the paper from beneath the ribbon and unfolded it. The careful handwriting was hardly visible in the dark, but he didn't need to see it to know what it said:
Happy Valentine's Day
But that wasn't what caught his interest. On the opposite flap was drawn a shape that sparked too many thoughts to count; some good, most bad. But perhaps he now had another reason to put this shape on the side of 'good'. Smiling lightly, he trailed a finger along the outline of a tiny, delicate heart.
"Giri-choco," He uttered to himself, and then cast his serpentine eyes upon the small form of the girl in the opposite bed, "Or honmei-choco? A nice little puzzle you put out for me, Naminé," Gently, he folded the paper and tucked it neatly back under the ribbon, "Maybe one that I'll take the time to figure out."
The pyro placed the box on his nightstand, glanced once more at the girl, and lowered himself onto his pillows, "'Night, Nami."
Hidden by the darkness, a smile flickered upon small, pink lips. Honmei… that was the answer to his question. Hopefully the puzzle would prove to be intriguing enough for the fiery redhead to pursue.
Blegh, not nearly as good as I was hoping, but oh well. What can ya do?
Okay, first off, this is set during the time when Naminé heads off with Axel after Sora awakens, taking place in a random Russian town because there's gotta be a Disney movie somewhere set in Russia, so the other language was Russian. The translations aren't really important, but if you're determined to know what they are, feel free to ask.
Now, the Japanese tradition. On V-Day, women will give the men chocolates, amongst other things. If the man is just a friend, boss, co-worker, etc. the chocolate is referred to as 'giri-choco', a sort of obligation- which is why Nami referred to it as such, if you remember- and is really just given to show appreciation. If the man is a crush, boyfriend, husband, etc. the chocolate is referred to as 'honmei-choco'. Its purpose should be obvious, yea? So that's your culture lesson for the day.
Okey, hope you enjoyed it. Oh man, this is gonna be posted on the fifteenth, not the fourteenth… darn. Oh well. Reviews are welcome and encouraged; flames will be used for Axel's enjoyment. Thanks for reading!
Until Next Time,