Happy Valentine's day, my lovely readers.
Sweeter Than Chocolate
Amu took a look at the calendar hanging on her wall and an involuntary smile uplifted the corners of her mouth. Finally it was that time of the year again.
Her eyes lingered just a bit longer on the date circled with a black marker—a date splitting the month in exactly two equal halves—before she became aware of the goofy grin that was stretching her facial muscles. She reprimanded herself for her child-like glee—ever the stubborn character that she was—and channeled her attention back to the homework she was (supposed to be) doing. Being a high school senior was proving to be quite the trying task, especially when one had the history of honour student to uphold.
It wasn't anything she couldn't handle with a bit of effort though.
But her giddiness was becoming more and more difficult to contain, especially now that they had entered into February.
While writing the answer to the problem she was solving on the sheet of paper in front of her she thought she'd have to talk to Rima about going shopping for some chocolate tomorrow.
Getting her humour-appreciating friend to come with her had been harder than it should have been, but Rima had always had a bit of a problem with being honest to her own feelings—a trait that she shared with Amu in the intimate emotions department.
So it had taken quite a bit of skillful cajoling on Amu's part to convince the other girl to come shopping for chocolate with her and even a longer time spent in coercing her into making some home-made chocolate treats together afterwards.
It would've been easier on everybody if the shorter girl would just admit to herself what kind of chocolate it was that she was making for a certain navy-haired mutual friend of theirs but Amu knew better than to push her more than necessary. For all she knew, it could have a negative effect just when her fellow ex-guardians were making some progress in their odd relationship.
It was already the eleventh of the month when she stood proud and tall, wiping a trickle of sweat from her brow with the back of her oven mitten-clad hand and admiring her handiwork. She nodded to herself as she observed the cake she'd baked for any flaws before setting out to prepare the chocolate for the icing.
When she finished that task as well and nodded to herself in affirmation, Rima stood marveling her creation from behind her, taking a peek over her shoulder.
"I didn't know it was possible to draw so well with chocolate icing." Her tone was almost reverent while she watched with wide eyes what Amu's skillful hands had brought into existence.
The pink-haired girl smiled widely as she turned to face her friend.
"I'd love to teach you how, if you want!"
Rima laughed and politely declined, claiming she already had her hands full with getting the cookies done right. Nevertheless, she didn't fail to notice and comment on her best friend's brimming enthusiasm this year for this particular holiday.
To her utmost surprise, Amu's grin only became larger and instead of denying everything—like she usually would, much in the same manner that Rima had done earlier—and saying it was just friendship chocolate she was making, she nodded her head and even started merrily humming a song under her breath.
The former joker had a sneaking suspicion that if she got right this surprise she was preparing this might turn to be an even better holiday than Christmas.
After all, chocolate was his most favourite thing to eat in the world.
On the twelfth was the first time she heard him again after getting her surprise done.
It was well into the evening when she'd just come out of the bathroom, her body wrapped in a towel and her hair held up to dry in another, to hear the phone ringing in the living room. She didn't think much of it as her head was completely emptied of any coherent thought after having soaked herself so well in the bathtub.
But then her mother had called out to her and pulled her out of her delirium, saying that "some boy" was asking for her on the phone.
The circuits in her head re-connected and her heart leapt in her throat, slamming wildly against the bounds of her windpipe while she thanked her mom and raced in a flurry of terry cloth and wet pink tresses of hair for the receiver that was in her room.
"Hello?" she said into the phone once she picked it up and she immediately kicked herself for how out of breath she must have sounded. This was not at all like her, being so childishly excited over a phone call that she received every other day!
The person on the other end of the line seemed to believe her antics amusing though, as his good-natured chuckle carried to her through the receiver. Suddenly acting so silly became completely worth it.
"Why hello there," the smooth melodic baritone said to her and suppressing the smile that spread on her face upon hearing it became an impossible task. "I hope it's not on my account that you cut your bath time short—your mom was just telling me that you were taking a shower. I wouldn't have minded calling back later."
It was somewhat ridiculous how great an affect he had on her, after so many years, seeing as how merely hearing his voice over the phone had her pulse in complete disarray. But she reckoned his reason for calling tonight was what had her as exhilarated as she was.
"Oh, no, I'd just come out of the bath when the phone rang, it was no problem." She sat herself on the edge of her bed and fidgeted with her toes, her smile still wide and strong. She suddenly felt very self-conscious—as if she hadn't talked to him just a couple of days earlier. "So, um…" She swallowed thickly, her grin never faltering. "How have you been, Ikuto?"
There was a small pause on the other end of the line before her interlocutor answered her during which she imagined him sitting down somewhere with his fancy outlandish brand of cell phone to his ear as he did so.
"I've become even more of a slave to this old man's whim since I last called you. I'm starting to doubt whether becoming his apprentice wasn't one of my biggest mistakes as an artist." He laughed and she smiled again, knowing full well he didn't feel any real regret over the decisions that had led him to where he was today.
She humoured him by not calling his ill-disguised bluff though.
"At least you'll know that if you can endure that, nothing will be too hard in the future." They shared a chuckle before relapsing into a short comfortable silence. "Are you ready for the performance? It must be in what, a few hours?"
"Ah, about that…" His words hung in a way that she didn't like at all. A sudden feeling of unease settled in her gut at the way he begun what he was saying. "There were some unforeseen problems over here and some circumstances that forced the concert back a bit…"
"Uh huh…?" Amu prompted in a hollow voice that didn't feel her own while her heart took a plunge for her feet with the same speed it had leapt up just a few short moments earlier. She could already feel with every fiber of her being where this conversation was going.
"So we'll have to do it tomorrow instead of today as was planned. Everything has become so busy that the old man said something about cancelling my time off for the time being until we sort out the mess with the producers. And so, err… I don't think I'll be able to keep my promise of coming home tomorrow evening, Amu."
There it was. What she'd felt he was going to say from the moment he'd started on the topic.
Knowing this conversation would end up this way didn't make it any less painful to actually hear though.
All her plans and thoughts were dashed so suddenly, without any warning at all, that the resulting disappointment crushed her for a moment, rendering her incapable of the simplest tasks of speaking or even breathing.
"I'm really sorry, Amu. I really am. I'll keep trying to find a way around it, but the damned bastard has pretty much roped me into this completely."
His voice sounded so pleading with her and so apologetic that it made her feel even worse. It wasn't Ikuto's fault that things had gone wrong with his and his father's concert today. It hadn't been something he could've controlled in any way.
He wasn't to blame that they wouldn't be able to spend their first Valentine's as an actual couple together. It had been taken out of their hands by chance and now there wasn't anything they could do to change how things stood.
"What are you saying, silly—it's not like it's your fault or anything. These things happen, I guess." She wished she didn't have to force the words around the lump that had formed in her throat—it was really difficult to talk like that. "Don't worry about it! We'll postpone the reunion for after you take care of your responsibilities over there. Right now you should just focus on doing your best and stealing the hearts of those Europeans with your violin playing! Do your dad and all of us here proud on that stage, alright?"
He didn't answer for a while and she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown during that time because it felt like he could feel her instability of mind over the phone or something. 'Nerve wracking' didn't even begin to accurately describe the feeling his silence begot in her.
"Alright, of course." He heaved a great sigh and that's when she knew that he was as displeased with this new predicament as much as she was. It made a small smile ghost over her lips before it was stifled by the growing numbness in her heart. "I just wanted to say I'm really sorry for how things turned out, Amu. I'll make sure to make it up to you later, I promise."
She smiled mirthlessly and nodded although she knew full well he couldn't see that over the phone.
"It's okay, Ikuto, really—as long as you don't take chocolates from any other girl, I'm willing to forgive you." She tried to be light-hearted about it but her attempt was too forced to come off as genuine.
Much like her earlier, he must've felt it but humoured her by not calling her white lie.
"It is chocolate so I can't make any promises, but I will try my best to resist temptation." Even his playful teasing had this sudden lackluster quality that wrenched on her heart. "Hey, the old man is calling for me again so I've got to go, but I'll call you again as soon as possible."
"Yeah, sure…" Amu muttered noncommittally, not entirely listening.
"Good night, Amu. Sleep well."
"Thanks, Ikuto. Good luck to you—bye."
The sound of the line going dead punctured her thoughts of a cake that would never be eaten by the person it was intended for, long hours spent in preparing said treat with lots of love and devotion and dreams and plans dashed in a heartbeat by chance events that are beyond human control.
The thirteenth was met with a very strong outburst of apathy on Amu's part.
She went through the day much like a mindless zombie would have, she imagined, having been zoning out the entire time in school, having paid only half attention to anyone who spoke to her and not really paying much heed where her legs were taking her when on the way home.
When she looked up she found herself staring at the sky-scraper that used to be an amusement park once upon a time—an amusement park full of memories for her and a certain someone who wouldn't be there tomorrow.
A grimace scrunched up her face as she turned on her heel and this time consciously maneuvered herself on the real way to her house. Coming here had done nothing to improve her mood—to think that without thinking this is where her legs would take her…!
If anything, she felt even more displeased than she'd been before.
Usually she'd try to reason herself out of such a slump because she believed such moods to be much too counter-productive but she felt she had a right to be grumpy for at least a day, if for anything out of respect for all the plans and daydreams she'd had about something that would now never come true.
She looked up from her trudging feet to be met with the frontal façade of her beloved home which was of little consolation to her at the moment.
A heavy sigh tore from her lungs as she made her way inside.
This was not how things were supposed to go today.
At least she hoped that Ikuto was having a better day than her—his entire career as a musician could depend on his performance today and however displeased she was with it getting in the way of their get-together she'd never wish anything ill on it.
The same evening at the dinner table Amu found it hard to muster any appetite. Instead of eating her dinner heartily like she usually would, she just pushed it around her plate with a painfully impassive look on her face.
This quite odd behaviour on her part had her parents and sister very puzzled and quite a bit worried.
"Amu? Honey? Is something the matter?" her mother asked tentatively, not knowing how thin the ice she was stepping on was.
Her daughter just continued poking her food with her fork, not even bothering to look up from the plate.
"Amu, did something happen at school today?" her father tried as well and this time she did look up from what she was doing, a somewhat dazed expression in her eyes—as if she'd just come back from a faraway place and the first thing she'd heard upon returning was her father's words.
She stared at him for a while—with that same painfully detached look on her face—before shrugging her shoulders and going back to playing with her food.
"Nothing really," she muttered noncommittally.
"Honey, are you going to eat that?" her mother asked her in that same worried tone while gathering all the plates on the table—which her family members had emptied already—and eyeing her mostly untouched one.
Amu sighed and sat back in her chair, setting her fork down.
"No… No, I guess not." She picked herself up and put her dish on the counter. She didn't notice Ami walk past her towards the fridge until the younger Hinamori daughter made a gasp of surprise.
"Is this a cake?!" she exclaimed excitedly while taking the object in question from the fridge and setting it on the table. "Can I have a piece?!"
In a remote, unconscious part of her mind, Amu panicked and automatically shifted on the defensive, getting ready to lash out at her kid sister for touching something that wasn't meant for her to have.
Before she could start screaming though reality caught up with her. Why shouldn't Ami have some cake? It's not like the person she had meant to eat it with would be able to come in time to even taste it before it spoiled…
What Amu was also unaware of was how vividly these thoughts and battling emotions within her showed on her face while she stood before her family, who were looking curiously—with their breaths held—as her expression changed from enraged to shocked to dejected in a matter of seconds.
"Yeah, do whatever you want…" the pink-haired girl finally said in a resigned tone before turning her back on the kitchen and making for her room.
Her family members shared an odd look amongst themselves before her mother called after her,
"Didn't you make it? Would you like to have a piece too?"
"I'm not hungry!" came the yelled out answer from the top of the stairs before a door slammed shut.
Ami just shrugged her shoulders and immediately turned to busying herself with taking the lid off the cake—
—only to stand completely awestruck when she did.
It was the most intricate picture drawn with chocolate icing that she had ever seen. It was a drawing of a cat-like creature—which seemed oddly familiar to the little girl though she couldn't quite put her finger on how and why—with really big paws that were rather out of proportion compared to its small body and the cat was playing a violin. Under the drawing in Amu's pretty handprint was a "Congratulations!" written.
Ami stared at the cake for a while before placing the lid back on it and carefully, so as not to damage it, returning it to the refrigerator.
She didn't know why Amu had made it and she most definitely couldn't understand how she could've been so quick to back down from keeping it from her when it was obvious her sister had baked it with a lot of love and devotion that had been intended for a certain someone.
And that certain someone was definitely not in the kitchen that moment.
Amu waited the whole evening for a call because he always called her after he'd had a concert because he knew she worried a lot.
She waited and waited but the call never came.
And it was with a painfully bitter taste in her mouth and her thoughts racing at a thousand miles an hour that the Hinamori daughter went to sleep that night, disappointed and hurt.
This was definitely not how this day had been supposed to go at all…
The dawn of Valentine's Day didn't find Amu in a much different mood. If anything, she felt bleak and void inside—she didn't even have the energy to be displeased and grumpy anymore.
She got ready at her usual leisurely pace and even had time to have some breakfast before leaving.
It was with a jab of pleasant surprise that she found her cake, whole and untouched, in the fridge where she'd last left it instead of half-eaten like she'd expected it to be. She threw a look at her sister over her shoulder but Ami was making a show of not paying attention to her. In fact, she so skillfully avoided eye-contact that Amu knew she'd been looking closely at her reaction when she'd opened the refrigerator door.
She smiled at her little sister and picked up the jam from the fridge before closing the door.
As she sat herself across from her younger sibling, Amu schooled her features into a look of indifference while she smeared the jam on a piece of toast.
"Didn't you want to eat cake yesterday?" she asked her jam-toast in a passive tone before taking a bite out of it.
"I changed my mind—it didn't look very good. Didn't want to get indigestion," Ami told her cereal between taking spoonfuls of it.
"Oh, really?" Amu asked with a corner of her mouth slightly tipping upward.
"Yeah, really." Ami did a better job at stifling her smile than her sister—no doubt thanks to years of being the "actress" of the house.
"Well, I suppose you'll probably find the leftover cookies in the bottom drawer equally as revolting then. I had accidentally made too much chocolate for the cake's filling and I had to do something with it afterwards. Dispose of them for me, would you?" the elder Hinamori girl requested with a mask of impassiveness while exiting the kitchen.
"Count on me for it, sis," Ami called after her while going for the bottom drawer of the cupboard, licking her lips as she did so.
With such a good start of the day, Amu had almost forgotten why she had been grouchy in the first place.
However, when lunch rolled around and girls and boys started calling each other out of their classrooms to give and receive chocolates she was instantly reminded. Her smile disappeared and she suddenly found herself without any appetite for her boxed lunch.
"Himamori-san?" a very familiar sheepish voice somewhere at her side urged, causing her to make a grimace.
"It's Hinamori, Nikaido-sensei, and you know that."
The teacher beamed at her and she eyed him with bubbling irritation.
"Now, now, no need to be hostile, dear. I just thought I'd let you know that we've received a call from your dad—he said you need to come home immediately." Her brows rose high over her eyes in wonder. "I've taken care of things with your teachers and the principal, so you hurry on home, Hinamori." Nikaido ushered her to get her things together and leave as soon as possible, leaving her little chance to argue the point.
"B-but…!" She tried contesting while he led her down the hallway, her bag slung haphazardly over her shoulder and her coat hanging only halfway put on. "Did he say what happened? Why do I have to cut school? Why are you pushing me? I can walk on my own, you know!" she finished irritably, jerking her shoulder out of the pushy teacher's grasp.
Seriously, what was wrong with this guy today?
"He didn't say but I think it's going to be a surprise," Nikaido said with a really suspicious smile while completely ignoring her testy comment earlier.
So it was like this that Amu went on her way home, pretty much thrown out of class halfway through the school day on this wretched holiday. She had been looking forward to this stupid day so much since the start of the new year, especially since she hadn't seen her boyfriend in two and a half months.
They had talked about his coming back on the thirteenth so they would be able to spend his week off from touring in Europe with his father—who had taken him on as his apprentice a year ago—and both had really looked forward to it only to have their plans collapse on themselves in the last minute.
Amu had never really cared of this holiday—she didn't even feel it was a real holiday to begin with.
But she'd never had who to celebrate it with in the first place so maybe it had been a case of sour grapes?
Whatever the case, she'd wanted to spend all day today with Ikuto because being away from each other for months on end was proving more difficult for her since they'd officially become boyfriend and girlfriend on New Year's. She'd wanted him to try the fruits of her cooking labour as well. There was nothing better in the world than bringing a smile to your loved one's face with some delicious food.
But she guessed she'd have to get over that and move on. There was always next year anyway…
"Look at you—with your head hung so low one would think you were looking for something on the ground."
Her heart that had felt laden with lead for the last couple of days suddenly leapt in her throat at the sound of that voice. Suddenly all she could hear was her pulse beating fast in her ears' blood vessels, pumping blood in an intermittent rhythm from her heart to all parts of her numb extremities.
She looked up slowly, afraid that she would break whatever hallucination she was having if she made any sharp movements.
And sure enough, there he was, in all his tall, lanky glory, standing just by the side of her house's fence, just as she last remembered him.
He had his violin case swung over his shoulder, a hand in the pocket of his stylish black coat and that trademark catty smirk on his face. He was looking at her with that intense sapphire gaze of his that set free the flock of butterflies in her stomach.
"Well?" he urged her after they spent a couple long minutes just standing there looking at each other. "Some kind of reaction would be nice about now," he said with a laugh bubbling in his statement.
But Amu was still frozen to the spot. She had lost control of her lower jaw at some point and it hung open and loose. Her hands had fallen limp by her side in astonishment and she was still trying to decide whether she was daydreaming or if he was really there, right in front of her, just a few steps too far for her liking.
When he shifted his weight to his other foot while he waited for her mind to catch up to reality, a skeptic smile on his face, she realized that this was really happening, that he wasn't a figment of her imagination and what was she doing, wasting time just standing there?!
Her bag dropped from her shoulder and fell to the ground as she leapt into a run towards him.
"I still can't believe you'd go as far as to lie to my teachers to get me to cut school, seriously," she muttered with a pout even though maintaining the grimace was really difficult considering the joy that was filling her being to the brim. "Weren't you supposed to be "the responsible adult in this relationship"?" She laughed while she pulled the dress through her head, smoothing out the wrinkles when she set it into place.
"Yes, well, I guess even us responsible adults need to resort to a prank or two when circumstances allow for no mature way of handling things," Ikuto told her, his back facing her while staring at her wall as she changed behind him. "You really have made some re-arrangements here in the time I haven't been around, haven't you?" he said in a cheeky tone while scanning her wall in front of him with a wide smirk on his face. "I thought the release of these was limited to Europe during our tour—to think that you somehow managed to get one as well…"
Of course, he meant the large poster of him and his father side by side on a stage in Europe for one of their concerts. It had indeed been a very limited edition kind of thing. It was only thanks to Nagihiko's thoughtfulness as he'd passed by a street vendor selling them when he'd been in Austria with his family for a performance that she'd even known of its existence. She couldn't have thanked the long-haired dancer more when he'd returned with this gift for her.
It was all coming back with a vengeance to bite her in the butt though—God knew that this guy needed no more ego inflating to his already overlarge self-esteem. To have him find out about her "dirty little secret"…!
It was a very good thing she had her back to him because she wouldn't have been able to rein in her blush in time for him not to notice it otherwise.
"Don't get the wrong idea!" she started defensively, stumbling over her words as she did so. "I-it was a gift, so it would've been rude not to hang it after receiving it!" She did up the few buttons on the collar of the one-piece dress before examining her reflection in the mirror. She scoffed at the mother of all blushes that was adorning her face and waited a bit for it to pass before allowing him to turn around.
"Is that so? Then it's a good thing for me you're not a rude girl then, isn't it?" he murmured pretty much to himself as he rested his head on his hand.
She didn't deign his comment with a response, choosing instead to smooth out her hair and fix it in the hair-do she had decided on for this outfit.
"Okay—you can turn around now," she said somewhat self-consciously, a smile tugging on the corners of her lips.
"Good, my back was starting to hurt from standing like this…" he pretended to grouch but when he laid eyes on her pretenses became impossible to keep up.
A wide, sincere smile spread on his lips as he beheld the sight she made in the dress he'd given her as a present on Christmas. It was a deep red one-piece with just enough frills to bring out the feminine contours of her face, hugging her curves in just the right way and falling freely to her sides from the waistline.
It flattered her in every way possible.
"It looks really great on you, Amu," he admitted sincerely after a quick assessment.
He got up from the bed and stopped only when he was right in front of her. She swallowed with some difficulty, her gaze pinned to the ground in a sudden swell of embarrassment. Nevertheless, she found herself unable not to comply when a curled index finger pulled her head gently up by the chin. She was immediately captivated by those deep pools of perfect blue when she did. The smile on his lips was almost enough from up this close to have her knees collapse from beneath her.
"You're so cute, Amu," he whispered to her, and when he leaned closer she found herself holding her breath.
When all she received was a kiss on the tip of her nose and a lopsided smirk, she wouldn't have it. Her small hands fisted themselves in the fabric of the front of his shirt, pulling him close until he bent just enough for her to snatch the sort of kiss that she'd wanted to receive.
After she pulled away with a becoming pinkness adorning her cheeks, Ikuto's smile widened. He cradled her chin again, fixing his azure eyes on her honey coloured orbs.
"Will you be my Valentine today, Miss Hinamori?" he asked her, causing a smile as brilliant as the sun to flourish on her pretty face.
What Amu had had in mind for Valentine's wasn't really much different from what they'd do on any other day—spend it in one another's company, talking, joking, laughing and just being together without any interruptions from the rest of the world.
And that was exactly what they did. Their Valentine's date included Ikuto faking being her father to get her out of school earlier, going to her house so she could dress in something more appropriate for the occasion, spending a vast sum of money in the arcade, doing some makeshift karaoke in the park (with Ikuto on the violin as accompaniment for Amu's singing) and then going for some dinner in a nearby restaurant.
"I'm really glad you could make it today, Ikuto," she told him once they finished their meals.
"I gave you my word, didn't I?" He smiled brightly at her, earning a smile from her in return. "Besides, there was something that I just had to give you today, so I had to find a way to make it here in time." At the curious look she gave him, he just shook his head at her. "You'll see soon."
"Would you like any desert?" the perky waitress asked them after coming to carry away their vacated plates.
The pink-haired girl's date had just opened his mouth to respond when she cut across him with a polite smile directed at the waitress, "No, thank you very much, no desert for us."
Her reaction puzzled both the girl serving them and her boyfriend but once the waitress went away, Amu hurried to dispel Ikuto's confusion.
"You didn't think you were the only one who had something to give today, did you?" She grinned somewhat cockily and sat back in her seat. "And for that, I'd need you to leave some room for desert."
She liked the spark that lit in his eyes at her statement—it was always nice to have someone who trusts your culinary talent.
They were in a well-lit part of the park again, seated on a bench while she placed the plastic bag she'd been carrying around all day gingerly between him and her. As she busied herself with the task of taking the cake out of its container she didn't notice him procure a prolonged rectangular box from his coat's pocket.
She got rid of the plastic bag by stuffing it back in her pocket and cleared her throat before looking him full in the face. A look of curiosity was clearly written on his features and she couldn't help but grin at his nonplus.
"As you know, on this day, Japanese girls give their… boyfriends…" She'd been too full of herself, thinking she'd be able to say this with a straight face and without a hitch. She was still too self-conscious of the new development in their relationship to be able to be completely open about it.
But she'd never let such a thing stop her from what she was intending to do.
"… Chocolates to show their love for them. And so, for today, I prepared this especially with you in mind, to express my feelings and to wish you luck from now on in Europe as well." Her face was surely rivaling the colour of a ripe tomato but she didn't falter. "Go on, take the lid off!" she urged almost impatiently, eager to see his reaction to her handiwork.
He gave her a confused smile before doing as she said only to have his eyes widen at the intricacy of the image that greeted him from underneath the box. There must've been at least a ton of chocolate in the making of this, but he couldn't even imagine how much time she must've spent drawing the picture on top of it.
Ikuto looked on at the culinary masterpiece before him with a heart-melting smile before shifting his gaze to the girl who was quite literally standing on the edge of her seat. Her eyes and ears had possibly doubled in size as she awaited a reaction from him.
"If it tastes half as good as it looks, I think it will be safe to say that you've really outdone yourself, Amu." The grin that split her face made him feel like the most blessed man in the world, having her there by his side. This reminded him… "I think you've more than deserved this then."
He handed her the rectangular box, and she looked at it oddly before giving him a puzzled look. He smirked at her again.
"Well, I do know about the Japanese tradition for Valentine's Day, but perhaps you don't know that on this day men in Europe buy their girlfriends gifts in order to show them how much they appreciate them and to convey their feelings more easily. So it was with you in mind that I had this made," he explained smoothly while taking the lid off the box.
Amu sucked on a breath as what was revealed beneath it mesmerized her with its beauty.
It was a clover-like shaped pendant on a silver necklace. The clover was made of four heart-shaped pieces which had four different colour stones covering the small heart-like plates: a red one, a blue one, a green one and an orange one. It was a very beautiful piece of jewelry and it sparkled so exquisitely in the light of the moon.
When she lifted her gaze to look at him once more, her mouth hung open like a fish and finding the words to say suddenly became impossible. He just smiled at her, patient as always with her antics, walking over to kneel in front of her.
He took the necklace gently out of its box and put it around her neck, pulling back a bit to admire it on her when he did.
"There. Now your outfit is perfect. As long as you have this on your neck, you'll always think of the four of them and they won't be far from you."
She knew he meant her four precious Shugo Chara that she had disappear on her years ago. He knew how hard she had handled it and how much it saddened her that there was hardly any proof in her life anymore that they had even existed at all. This made it all the sweeter that he had gone out of his way to have this pendant made for her. It was the tangible proof that her guardian characters lived on in both their memories.
Her eyes filled with tears and she opened her mouth to say something but found she still couldn't articulate anything. Was the roller-coaster of emotions from recent days catching up to her at the worst possible moment, perhaps?
"And as long as you have this on, you'll know that I'm always by your side, even if I'm halfway across the world. Because it will remind you that distance can't change the way I feel about you."
Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at him, a tear escaping her eye. He smiled in that way that would've made her knees weak and buckle beneath her if she wasn't already seated. His thumb tenderly brushed away the droplet that had overflowed from her eye.
"I love you, Amu. Every minute of every day of every week, in Japan or Austria or anywhere on this Earth; and I'll keep showing you how much for as long as you'd like to have me by your side."
She tried to force her voice to work for a bit until she found that it was an exercise in futility.
That's also when she realized she didn't need to say anything at all. Instead, she leaned forward to catch his lips in a sweet kiss—much sweeter than the chocolate she had used to make his cake—and hoping she'd be able to convey all the feelings she couldn't put into words.
As he kissed her back, Ikuto thought that all those years spent in making her see that it was him she wanted, him that she would fall in love with, him she should be with, had all been worth it for moments like these.
Moments that he treasured and held dear in his heart; moments he focused on when he performed in front of those scarily huge crowds of people in a foreign land which would never become a home to him.
Moments that made life worth living.
Moments that were much sweeter than his favourite chocolate.
A/N: A rather large ball of fluff and corn but that's what Valentine's is all about, right? Oh and, in case you were wondering, Ikuto didn't call Amu the evening before coming home because 1) he wanted to surprise her, and 2) because you have to turn your cell phone off while on a plane. :D