Merry Christmas everyone! Or whatever it is you're celebrating. "Happy three days off in the middle of winter" as my mother phrased it when told by one person "I don't celebrate Christmas'. This serves a second purpose too. Quick story where I'm not trying to shoehorn unruly characters into my puppy story. After this I'm sure my muse, imagination, and writing will all be able to settle down and agree. I hope. This isn't set in winter, but it's still a fluffy little story.
Zoicyte had always been one of the ones others looked too when trying to decide what to do for fun. He was the one that convinced all of his friends to join Little League. He was the one always able to find some spare quarters to spend at the arcade. As they got older, their definition of 'fun' changed. He was the first one to get a guitar in high school. He was also the first one to decide skipping was a better idea than going to study hall. He was the prime motivator for them driving too fast even before they got licences and was also the one who managed (no one knew how) to find the cigarettes they tried smoking behind the shed.
Needless to say, not all of their Zoicyte-induced incidents ended well. A spectacular example of that would be their first attempt at drinking. The less said about that, the better. Still, any time the guys got together, he was in the middle of it, making it fun for everyone.
That's what made it so odd when he stopped coming. He was always busy, it seemed. And he hadn't shown up to hang out in greasy jeans or worn the pink-striped dress shirt his grandmother had gotten him with his neon orange t-shirt in a while. Although his friends appreciated the lack of retina-burning 'style' that normally graced their graceless troublemaker, it confused them.
He seemed to actually be taking care with his appearance. From the guy that let his hair grow long because he forgot to cut it and quickly tied it back to avoid actually having to brush it into making a neat ponytail was only about two weeks. Quick enough to make his friends curious. What catalyst could cause him to act like this?
Zoicyte smoothed his hair in the nervous habit he'd acquired just a few weeks earlier. He didn't understand why he was acting like this, washing his truck and everything. His mother had been startled, before smiling in a way that would have made him violent had it come from one of his friends. It was a very knowing smile, though she'd refused to explain what it was that she knew. Said it was an 'adult' thing.
Such a pain.
As was this compulsion to speak to that girl around the corner. He'd had it for a while, yet he could never bring himself to act upon it. It was odd, since he usually had no trouble talking to girls. He wasn't some fumble-tongued twinkie, pining after a girl out of his league. Zoicyte didn't respect the normal 'leagues', causing both slaps and dates, depending on the disposition of the girl in question. He was no stranger to girls, making his inability to speak to this one even weirder.
He looked down at himself and brushed some imaginary dirt from the front of his shirt. Then he squared his shoulders, squashed the temptation to turn and run, and walked out. He stopped in front of her where she sat reading a book, her short blue-black hair shining in the sun. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it, unable to think of anything to say.
"You look like a fish out of water." She remarked, her soft voice sounding like an angel to him. She put a bookmark in her book and looked up at him. Her laughing blue eyes gently mocked his inability to speak. "Join me?" She asked, gesturing to the ground next to her. He nodded dumbly, unable to comprehend that he was now talking to her, even though he still couldn't actually talk...
He sat down next to her, leaning against the same tree she was using for a backrest. Both of them just looked out for a while, not saying a word. For the girl it was obviously a fairly comfortable silence, since she was smiling slightly. Zoicyte, for his part, was just wracking his brain, trying to think of just one of the witty comments he'd imagined for this conversation, something to make her laugh. He came up blank.
She watched him struggle silently for a while before taking pity on him. He obviously didn't know how to ask what he was here for. "Which one do you like?" She asked, breaking the silence.
He turned his head to look at her and almost lost his train of thought again. Still, he retained enough coherency to reply. Somewhat. "What?"
She shot him a teasing grin, obviously trying to put him at ease. "Which one do you like? Minako? She had a boyfriend at the moment, but I don't think it'll last. If you don't mind getting her on the rebound, just watch for the day she's in a foul mood. The next day say something kind and flowery to her. Quote Romeo if you can't think of anything. She'll think it's romantic."
He just looked at her, baffled. "What?"
She cocked her head to the side. He decided then and their that she looked even cuter like that. "Not her? I hope it's not Usagi you like. She's very devoted to Mamoru. I'm afraid you don't have a chance. Makoto's also not likely to go out with you. You're barely taller than her. She likes guys that she can wear heels with." He shook his head, not sure how to voice his actual interest. "Rei, then? I hope not, for your sake. She'd burn that neon orange shirt of yours. Then go through your whole closet, looking for anything like it to add to the fire."
He grinned at that. "How do you know about the orange shirt?" He asked, curious.
She shook her head, obviously amused. "I've seen you lurking about, watching us. The first time, when you had that moon-calf expression on your face, you were wearing a bright orange t-shirt under a black and pink button up one. Not to mention your jeans and face looked like you'd been working on your car."
"I'm impressed that you remembered all that." He replied, quite honestly. He couldn't have said what he was wearing yesterday, let alone a few weeks past.
A wry smile graced her lips. "You didn't speak to any of them within a couple days, so I knew you'd be to see me sometime. If you hadn't come to introduce yourself soon, I was going to ask Mamoru to tell you that stalking's rude. That usually deals with most guys."
"Oh, I'm sorry." He said, suddenly worried. "I guess I didn't think of how you would feel with that." He chuckled a bit ruefully. "Until you said it, I didn't think of it as stalking. I should have. I'm sorry."
A more natural grin met that comment. "So you said."
Both were silent for a minute then. Assuming the conversation was finished, she picked up the book next to her and started to rise.
In a flash Zoicyte was on his feet, offering her a hand up. She took it, and he pulled her to her feet easily. He let go somewhat reluctantly. They just stood in front of each other, not saying anything. Finally he decided to break the silence. "You're Ami, right? May I call you that? Or would you prefer something else..." He trailed off as she shook her head.
"Ami's fine." She said, blushing slightly. He could barely see it, but it was there. It made him happy, somehow.
"I'm Zoicyte." He told her. She smiled again.
"I know. You're rather infamous. Not to mention we met at that math competition back in elementary." He raised his eyebrows, startled.
"Math competition? What math comp... Ohh, I remember now. The one the college sponsored." He gave her a sharp look. "You never did tell me your name, you know. You just went red and wouldn't say a word."
She blushed heavily again. "Well... I wasn't used to people acting like that. You... unnerved me."
He blinked, startled yet again. "Like that? I just punched that bully in the nose for picking on you. Nothing big." He looked up, thinking. He hadn't even remembered the contest until she'd mentioned it. "Well, that and give you my popsicle to cheer you up. I'll admit that was a little out of character. Usually I don't give up food to people."
She laughed lightly, face still pink. "No, most boys don't. And thank you for that."
He wrapped an arm around her in conscious parody of his actions as a child. "Don't worry. I'll be around always, right? Looking after you and all?"
She blushed again, since he'd just about totally quoted himself at ten. He dropped his arm, still amazed that he'd had the audacity to wrap it around her at all. It felt tingly, like he'd been sleeping on it odd. Suddenly seized by a wave of shyness, he quickly bade her farewell before taking off, some lame excuse on his lips.
She watched him go, slightly saddened by his last actions. She hadn't forgotten the boy that had come to her rescue seven years previously. Her secret crush on him had remained private, even with the influx of bubbly friends she'd gained in high school. It had hurt to see him watching them, knowing that he must be looking at her friends. No one ever noticed mousy little her, next to them. Still, he was one of the good guys. If he liked a friend of hers, she'd do what she could for him.
Even if she didn't really want to.
"Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid." He muttered, banging his head on the wall with every word.
"Not that I'm disagreeing, but what brought this on? You're acting even weirder than normal lately, and that's saying something for you."
Zoicyte looked up to see his best friend, Kunzite, at the entrance to the shed. Them and the other two they'd known forever had claimed this rickety building in Zoicyte's backyard as their hangout years ago, and they'd never gotten out of the habit of going there.
Zoicyte glared at him, not appreciating either the comment of the interruption. Kunzite just raised an eyebrow. "All teasing aside, what's up? We're worried about you, man. You're not acting like yourself lately. It's obvious and troubling. You know we're your friends, right?" He sat himself down on the edge of the card table.
Zoicyte sighed and rubbed the red mark on his forehead. "Yeah, I know. I just... It's... Arrgh!" With that frustrated noise he threw himself into the comfiest chair there, a padded monstrosity Nephrite had gotten from his grandmother when she'd replaced her recliner. He pushed it back to hard trying to open it up and the whole thing overbalanced backwards. He didn't seem to notice. "I was there. We were talking! She knew who I was! I actually did something nice for her when we were younger, and then I go and run off like a little kid with his first crush! She's lucky I didn't pull her hair and call her names, the way I act around her." He had managed to half pull his hair out of his ponytail in frustration.
Kunzite just looked at him for a long moment, not having really expected this. "So all this... Is just over a girl?"
Zoicyte rolled to face him suddenly and fixed him with a baleful glare. "Not 'just' a girl." He said, voice clipped. "Not 'just' anything."
Suddenly his expression became vague and happy. "She's smart, and pretty, and nice, and sweet, and she said I can call her Ami."
Kunzite was at a loss. He'd never seen his friend like this before. "Did she now."
"Yup!" Zoicyte grinned, then launched into an extremely detailed story about how his afternoon had gone.
Kunzite stopped listening.
Zoicyte was just a hair from pacing. She wasn't here. Why wasn't she here? She was always here. He'd met her here every afternoon for a week, ever since their first conversation. She had seemed shocked at first, but he was sure she liked his company. He made her smile, didn't he? He made her laugh. He listened to her when she talked.
So why wasn't she here?
He was just about to declare the day a waste and go home to sulk when she sprinted up, her ever-present book in her hand and a bag bouncing on her hip. He jumped to his feet, happy to see her. He helped steady her as she took deep breaths, trying to even out her breathing. "Sorry." She gasped out. "Sorry. I'm rather late, aren't I? I'm sorry, I couldn't find anything I was looking for."
"That's fine." He told her sincerely. "I'm glad you made it. Deep breaths, that's right. I've had days like that. Everyone has. Don't worry about it."
Ami continued trying to calm herself down. At first she hadn't given a second thought to it when he came and joined her. He still hadn't told her which of her friends he liked, so she gave him pointers for all of them. Well, except Usagi. Still, as the week went on, she'd found herself looking more and more forward to seeing him. Each day she'd gotten pickier with her clothes and hair until today, the culmination.
She'd probably gone through every outfit in her closet, trying to decide what to wear. She never did that. Then she'd searched until she'd found the perfect hair clips to go with the sundress. The sandals she'd decided on, a gift from Minako, were not suited to the running she'd done in them. Unfortunately, by the time she'd gotten ready to go, she was already supposed to be there.
She knew they hadn't really set a time, or even formally agreed to meet. Still, she'd wanted to look her best for him, and had been devastated when she realized he may notice she wasn't there and just leave. She was probably just an amusement to him, and companion to chat with. That didn't stop her heart from beating faster at the thought of him.
So she'd tore her kitchen right up, looking for the gift she'd gotten him. Finally she'd gotten everything together and run out, hoping with all her heart that he would wait. She was so happy when she saw him there and knew that he had. She had seen him before he'd seen her, and his fidgety motions had put an extra burst of speed in her feet. If he left before she got there... She was too winded to call out if he left, too tired to chase after.
But he hadn't. He'd seen her, jumped up to help her, and was currently holding her arm and rubbing her back, denying she had any reason to repeat the stuttered apology she was forcing out. Finally she got herself under control. Unfortunately, he let go of her at that point. She did her best to hide her disappointment.
She did blush a little at the look in his eyes as he took in her outfit. He likes it! She said to herself, gleeful. All her work and worry would be worth it if he liked it. She continued to bask in his attention as her offered her and hand and helped her settle onto the ground.
However, she couldn't take much of his scrutiny. It was just such a private moment, like it was just him and her in the world. She'd only just gotten her breathing and heart rate calmed down. Instead, she broke in with a diffident comment. "Umm, I've got something for you. Just a moment." She fussed with the small case slung over her shoulder. It was her old insulated lunchkit from when she was younger.
"Here!" She said with a smile, presenting him with one of the white-wrapped objects. He returned her smile as he took it from her hand.
"You brought popsicles?" He said, grinning. She nodded, blushing. Zoicyte thought it was adorable that she blushed so easily. He was also touched by the thoughtfulness of her gift. "Thank you."
She muttered a response, looking at the ground. They unwrapped their treats and enjoyed them in silence for a moment before Zoicyte decided on something to say.
"You know," He started, looking at his orange popsicle before shooting a look at her grape one. "Much as I like this colour, I find myself envious of yours, too. Must be because I haven't had any popsicles at all in a while. Would you mind if I had a taste? You can try mine too, if you like."
Ami blushed and nodded, before holding out hers for him to take. She obviously expected them to trade for a moment. Zoicyte had a spirit of mischief in him, though. He threw a quick prayer to whomever might be listening that he not scare her, and wrapped his hand around hers to pull it to his lips. She went redder, but didn't pull away. In fact, she hesitantly raised her hand to his to do the same thing for her taste of the orange one.
He smiled in satisfaction, glad there was at least a hint of returned feelings. If she really just wanted them to be friends, she wouldn't have done that.
It didn't really matter, though, except that it buoyed his mood from happy to euphoric. The next move would have to be hers, since she was so shy. Anything more, and he was afraid he might scare her. Well, for now, at least. As long as she was still comfortable around him, he'd continue to crawl into her confidence and heart.
Ami was barely able to taste the rest of her popsicle, so focused was she on what had just happened. He... I... We just... And I... She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. I think this is more than a crush. I think I'm in love with him.
It was something new for her, and she didn't know what to do about it. Sure he was spending time with her now, but he was probably just at loose ends, it being summer break. He couldn't actually like her. Could he?
They'd finished their treats by now, though they still didn't say anything. Zoicyte was just enjoying the feeling he was having, sitting next to her and knowing she maybe-kind of-might be interested in him. Ami was the restless one, not sure what to do or say next. That was when she realized he'd managed to get some of the ice cream filling just below his lips, apparently without noticing. She stared at him, entranced by the thought of his lips. Without noticing what she was up to, she raised her hand to his face and managed, somehow, to turn him to face her as she wiped the spot off.
She blushed, but didn't look away as he took her hand in his and sucked the finger clean, grinning. She couldn't look away. She was entranced by a pair of blue-green eyes that seemed to look right through her. She bit the corner of her lip, unaware she was doing so. The gaze locked with hers sharpened at that.
Before she was aware he was moving, Zoicyte was right in front of her, his nose almost touching hers, they were so close. His hands were somehow cupping the back of her head, preventing her from pulling away in the embarrassment and confusion she could feel faintly. He was still staring into her eyes.
"Ami." He breathed, voice soft. Hearing her name whispered like that caused her to shiver slightly. "Lovely Ami. May I kiss you, Ami?"
She couldn't think, couldn't talk. All she was able to manage was to nod slightly, her mouth forming the word her voice wouldn't support.
Then he was kissing her, their eyes sliding shut as he glided his mouth over hers. Slowly he explored those tantalizing lips, the ones he'd dreamed of for weeks. Kissing her was even better than he'd imagined. He'd kissed lots of girls before, but this was different. This was special.
This was Ami.
Her hands somehow found their way to his body, one resting on his chest and the other threading through his hair. They helped convey her displeasure as he pulled away lightly. He moved around her face then, kissing her cheeks, eyes, forehead, nose... He returned to her lips often, murmuring soft words to her. "Lovely, lovely Ami. So sweet, so wonderful. You're amazing, wonderful. You're like an angel. Adorable as a child, beautiful as a young woman. Sweet Ami. Kind, smart, collected Ami..."
She blushed, and he could feel it in the sudden heat of her face. "Zoicyte... are you sure... you want me?" She asked, hesitantly.
He wiped that idea from her lips with his own, turning slightly more aggressive to make his point. "Of course. You're captivating, incredible, wonderful. And silly, a bit. Why wouldn't I be sure? I can't believe you're still single for me to have a chance with. Ah, girl, if you only knew what you do to me... Why would you pick me, that's the confusing part. Anyone with taste would be after you. You're so enchanting..."
"Not like you?" She answered while he worked his way up to her ear and back down. "Who wouldn't like you? You're like a knight from the olden days, just without the armour. Chivalrous and wonderful and everything..." He stole her lips again.
He was chuckling as he pulled back slightly. "My friends might not agree with you. They think I'm a troublemaker. Do you mind that?"
She shook her head, a dreamy look in her eyes. "No. Not at all. Stay with me?"
He pulled her close in a tight hug. "Of course. You won't ever get rid of me now."
"Good." She replied, heart full. "Because I'm not going anywhere either."
"Good." he sealed their new pact with another kiss, more content than he'd ever been. "Very good."