Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. Konomi Takeshi does. I'm merely playing with them for the moment.
A/N: Originally written for last Valentine's Day. May rot your teeth.
Be Your Valentine
However many times he had to see it, Atobe was yet to understand the point of Valentine's Day – well, aside from the rather obvious commercial appeal. If one really liked someone, they should have been able to confess it any day of the year. The only ones benefitting from such an artificial holiday were the companies selling chocolate and nauseatingly pink greeting cards, who undoubtedly had made up the entire thing in the first place. For Atobe, it was only a major annoyance in the form of idiotic teenage girls who mistook their superficial crushes for actual feelings and then proceeded to pushing those imagined feelings upon him. Ha. If any of them had truly known him beyond the public image, they'd hardly have been surrounding him with their little gifts all day long.
It was like that for everyone in the regulars, of course. Ootori had shown up for morning practice looking rather harried, obviously having been ambushed by girls on his way. Poor boy, having been born on such an unfortunate date. From what Ootori'd told him, everyone seemed to feel obligated to give him chocolate since it was his birthday. Add to that the actual fangirls the kind and cute boy had, and he looked like a hunted animal as he arrived, glancing around wildly as though expecting another girl to suddenly burst out of a locker. Thankfully for him, the only one suddenly appearing from anywhere was Jirou, for once showing up on his own without Kabaji there to carry him into the changing room.
"Oh, this is a really exciting day!" he squealed, clutching onto Atobe's arm as soon as he was close enough. "Don't you think so too, Atobe-kun? It's the day of love~"
"The day of stalkers being legal, you mean," Atobe said dryly. "I was surrounded by a gaggle of girls the minute I stepped out of the limo. I only barely made it here alive." He nodded towards the huge pile of gifts he'd already managed to gather despite the early hour. "I could open a candy store with all these sweets. I bet most of them don't even remember I'm allergic to chocolate." Of course, this wasn't strictly true; he'd merely said it to some girl in his first year of Hyoutei, tired of all the giggling girls as he'd been and hoping to diminish their numbers with that announcement. Of course, this hardly discouraged the girls, who flooded him with other sweets, cookies, and other such handmade goods instead. It didn't really matter what they gave to him; it all ended up in the trash in the end, anyway. He didn't care much for sweets, certainly not for something he couldn't properly identify the origin of.
"Atobe's a spoilsport," sighed Jirou, sounding somewhat more disappointed than Atobe would have expected him to be. Ah, well. Jirou always recovered quickly from any disappointments. It wasn't like he'd spend his time sulking, certainly not today of all days. Though Atobe might not have seen much of a point in it, and for Ootori it meant constant embarrassment and awkwardness, it was exactly the kind of holiday Jirou would enjoy – just like he'd already demonstrated.
And indeed, by the time morning practice started, Jirou was again all giggly and bubbly and very much awake. There were more people watching the practice than usually, mostly girls, but Atobe managed to prevent a full-on attack on his players by very clearly stating that he would single-handedly take away any Valentine's offerings given to the players during the practice and burn it all in a big pile. This caused quite some sounds of disappointment from both the club members and their audience, but at least it guaranteed him a relatively peaceful practice.
Right after he headed away from the changing rooms, however, he was again attacked by a flood of girls that didn't seem to end at all. It was only with sheer determination and Kabaji's bulk that he managed to make his way into his classroom, where the seemingly endless number diminished to only those in his class, or brave enough to enter anyway. Nevertheless, complete peace was obviously not to be had until the teacher arrived into the classroom.
Somehow he managed to survive until lunch. Kabaji thankfully settled himself by the doorway as soon as he arrived even without Atobe telling him to, keeping any unwanted arrivals away even as he ate his own lunch to make sure Atobe could at least eat his lunch in peace.
Of course, not everyone seeking to enter the classroom was a girl, or even someone Kabaji would stop from entering. This was made evident as Atobe soon heard a bright voice greeting him.
"Atobe~!" Jirou smiled brightly as he made his way towards Atobe's desk, gaining envious glances from several girls still lingering just outside the door. "Oh, wow, you really have a lot of fangirls, don't you? I haven't got even half as much," he whined as he took in the load of various offerings Atobe had reluctantly collected over the morning hours. It had turned out that taking an empty bag along had been mere wishful thinking – no way was that going to be enough to carry it all.
"Do help yourself to some," Atobe deadpanned. He certainly didn't have any emotional attachment to any of the gifts given to him by awkward girls who only knew him by face and reputation. Day of love, indeed. Rather the day of false images.
"That's not nice, Atobe," Jirou whined, his face remaining in a frown for exactly the 1.7 seconds it took him to notice the stuffed cat lying atop the other presents with a blue ribbon around its neck. "Oh, you got a cat plushie?" Jirou's eyes lit up as he saw the soft toy. "That's so incredibly cute!" He reached out a hand to pet the thing's head. "Uwah, and it's so soft, too~ It's almost like a real cat with all this fur! You're so lucky to get things like this~"
Atobe merely looked at the thing dispassionately. Honestly. He didn't even like cats. "Yeah, well, if I even bother to take it home my dog will probably tear it to shreds the moment I step inside," he sighed, returning his attention to his lunch box. He quite preferred bringing his own lunch rather than going to the school cafeteria; a place aimed towards mass production hardly could meet his exacting standards as well as his personal chef even in a high-class school such as Hyoutei. "After being stuck with all those sweets, it must smell irresistible."
"Oh." Jirou's face fell. "Poor cat."
Despite the multitude of meetings he had to bear over the day, by the time afternoon practice rolled around, the one with Jirou was the only one Atobe could readily recall. The girls blurred into each other in his mind, none of them interesting enough for him to give them a second thought, or indeed remember their names. They should have been thankful he actually bothered to pretend to receive their gifts and didn't dumb them all in the trash right there at school. As a result of such grace, though, Kabaji was loaded with presents as a somewhat ill-tempered Atobe made his way into the changing rooms.
"I swear, if anyone approaches me with a Valentine's gift anymore," he said coolly as he started changing into his tennis uniform, "I'm going to seek a restraining order."
"What, on whatever girl's been courteous enough not to bother you during the school day?" Oshitari asked, raising his eyebrows. "How very inconsiderate of you~"
"No, on every damn female not directly employed by my family," Atobe growled. "And even that's only because our current head cook's a woman and I like making sure my meal requests go directly to her. I don't care if it's Mary, mother of Jesus, but I'm not going to accept one more gift today."
Perhaps thankfully, everyone else seemed quite cheerful about the day; even Ootori had cheered up. Atobe heard the reason for this was Shishido, who'd driven away another bunch of girls. Lucky Ootori. Kabaji was a wonderful friend, but he wasn't exactly about to yell at idiotic schoolgirls, he was far too kind for that. But whatever the reason, everyone else was happy, and thus surprisingly patient about Atobe's own bad temper. Even all his barked orders of extra laps didn't manage to bring the mood down too drastically, and by the end of the practice, more or less everyone was smiling as they headed to the changing rooms.
Atobe, for his part, didn't go to the changing room right away. He wasn't exactly up to hearing Mukahi bragging about the amount of chocolate he'd received, or everyone teasing Hiyoshi about not receiving as much as the rest of them, or just any of the general Valentine's hassle. Only Kabaji stayed behind, looking at him questioningly.
"I'm going to run a couple of laps, still," Atobe said. "You go on ahead. I'll call for someone to come take care of all that rubbish." Kabaji seemed about to say something, most likely to protest, but Atobe interrupted him immediately. "That girl from your art class has been waiting forever," he said, nodding towards a lone figure that still lingered even as most other girls had already left the side of the courts. "She's never going to approach you if I'm there. Now, shoo." And, finally, Kabaji did leave, a slight flush on his tanned face.
It wasn't until a while later that Atobe himself headed towards the changing rooms, heeling vaguely satisfied as always after good practice. He expected to find the regulars' changing room long since emptied, but to his surprise, this wasn't the case. Well, perhaps it wasn't truly that much of a surprise – the one he found was Jirou, lying curled up on a bench.
"Oi, Jirou, you should go home, too," Atobe noted. Then, not too shocked at the lack of answer, he stepped closer to shake the blonde's shoulder. "Jirou!"
This was when he realized that Jirou wasn't sleeping at all. Instead, he was well awake, though his eyes were shut tightly. Awake, and crying.
Atobe might have come across as a cold, selfish bastard at times, but even he had a heart. And even he couldn't look at a crying Jirou without getting concerned. "Jirou?" he asked, frowning as he crouched down next to the bench Jirou was curled up on. "Jirou, what's wrong?"
And, finally, Jirou spoke, still not opening his eyes. "'M sorry, Atobe," he murmured. "I'm sorry I'm such an idiot…"
Now, that didn't exactly explain the situation much at all. "What do you mean, you're an idiot?" Atobe asked. "What have you done that you'd need to apologize to me?"
"I…" Jirou swallowed, then slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position. It was probably for the better, anyway – less of a chance he'd fall asleep before Atobe found out what was bothering him. "I… got you a Valentine's gift."
"…You got me a Valentine's gift." Atobe's voice as he echoed Jirou's words was rather blank, mostly because he didn't have any idea how to react to such a comment.
"Yeah. Well, actually," Jirou wiped his eyes, but it was rather in vain considering the amount of tears that continued falling still, "I got you three… I thought you'd like at least one of them. But then I realized none of them are any good…"
"Jirou." Atobe still held his hand to Jirou's shoulder. "Where are those gifts?"
"…In my tennis bag." Jirou pointed half-heartedly at his tennis bag, which lay opened on the floor under the bench, right in front of Atobe.
Reaching into the open bag, the first thing Atobe found was a slightly battered, wrapped box with such a strong scent drifting from it he could identify the contents even without opening it. "You made chocolate?" he asked, raising his eyebrows. He couldn't remember Jirou being exactly a miracle in home economics, though his skills certainly surpassed Atobe's own.
"Yeah." Jirou ducked his head. "Well, not all on my own… my mum helped me with it. She wondered a bit why I would want to make the chocolate when it's usually girls who give it but in the end, we had pretty much fun with it. I think it turned out very good, too…"
Atobe slowly turned the gift in his hands, still not opening it, trying to think of something to say.
"But then," Jirou continued hastily, "I thought you might not like it because it's homemade and not something high-class or something that you usually eat. So, I kind of got you another gift…"
At that, Atobe reached into the bag again. The next thing he found was a stuffed toy, a soft little sheep with rather familiar-looking blonde, curly fur imitating wool. All in all, the sheep's half-sleepy expression reminded him of a certain someone…
"I thought you'd think it's too childish, though," Jirou murmured. "So, since it was too late to go and buy anything else, I made something for you last night…" And, not waiting for Atobe to look for it, he bent down reached into the bag himself, drawing out a thin folder. From there he took a drawing, presenting it to Atobe.
It wasn't a masterpiece, certainly not something to be displayed in a regular art gallery any time soon, but it was good enough to see what exactly it was about. The two of them were there, playing tennis judging by the racquets and balls and other such equipment present. Obviously he couldn't tell the score from the picture, but he could indeed tell that Jirou was properly awake, properly awake and smiling, besides. After one more glance to appreciate some of the details such as the necklace the Atobe in the picture was wearing – clearly one he'd got from Jirou on his birthday – he turned his gaze to Jirou instead. "You were going to give all this… to me?"
Jirou looked miserable, the curly head hung low. "I'm sorry, Atobe," he murmured. "I didn't mean to make you upset…" Atobe could still hear the tears in his voice. He'd never heard Jirou sounding like that before, not even when they had lost in the Nationals.
"It seems to me," he said quietly, "that the only one upset here is you."
"But… you don't like any of it, do you," Jirou said, biting his lip. He still didn't raise his eyes to look at Atobe. "You're allergic to the chocolate and your dog would eat the sheep… and even then, you don't want any gifts. Now you probably don't want to see me anymore, like you said about those girls…"
"…Jirou." Atobe's voice was firm, now. "Look at me." And then, as Jirou finally raised his teary gaze to meet Atobe's, Atobe continued, "I'm not allergic to chocolate… I just said it once in hopes of making the girls leave me alone. Didn't work well, obviously. And if I liked a gift, I'd hardly let Beat get his teeth to it no matter how delicious it smelled." Moving the hand on Jirou's shoulder to lightly brush against the tear-streaked cheek, he added, "And most importantly… I didn't dislike those gifts for themselves. I disliked them because they were from girls who don't even know me past my appearance and wealth. They'd run screaming if they saw just how much of a bastard I can be at worst, and yet they claim to like me. There's nothing honest in those gifts, Jirou… no true feeling whatsoever. That is why they irritate me."
"Atobe…" There was something hopeful in Jirou's tone, as well as fear, as though he was afraid that hope was empty. Atobe hated that tone. Jirou shouldn't have been speaking with such a tone no matter what the situation. Not Jirou, who always thought the best of everything.
"You should know me well enough, Jirou." Atobe raised his eyebrows. "You've certainly seen me at my worst, be it swearing or yelling or so damn close to crying… If even after that you still wish to give me something for Valentine's… I'd be a fool not to accept such a gift."
Now, Jirou's eyes lit up in the all too familiar manner, and Atobe found himself smiling in return. "Do you mean you like me too?" And, before Atobe could say a word in return, Jirou had quite literally attacked him, shooting forward from the bench he was seated on and closing Atobe's mouth with a kiss, knocking them both down on the floor.
As Jirou finally let him go, Atobe looked up at him with raised eyebrows. Jirou smiled sheepishly in return. It was, Atobe decided, much preferable to his crying face. "You are quite lucky, Akutagawa Jirou," he said, "that you were correct with your guess."
Jirou's smile just then, he decided, was worth any possible amount of fangirls and their chocolates.