Author's Note: For those interested, I should be posting up the first chapter of the Aomine story some time this week. This is the final chapter of Whimsical so I hope you enjoyed! I think I've learned a lot from the experience and I definitely appreciate all the reviews, alerts, favorites and the supportive messages! Thank you all so much!


Eight

"Good morning, Ryouta-kun!"

This situation seems eerily familiar. He can vaguely recall the last time she paraded up to his door in the wee hours of the morning. Through bleary eyes, he stares her down as if this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. "What time is it?" he groans, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"It is the first day back to school!"

"I asked for the time, not the day, Hotaru-cchi~"

She wags a finger at him in return. "You shouldn't be worried about the time. Yes, it will be another hour before school even starts but the early bird catches the worm, don't you know? I already have club activities starting today."

Ryouta is still unsure how he fits into this. "Ah, Hotaru-cchi, I don't have practice until–"

"Perfect."

There is a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and he gets the impression that it is never too early to admit defeat. Obvious she will shoot down whatever excuse he tries to hand her. And while he has a bad feeling about this, there's not much he can do but acquiesce in the face of her persistence. After surrendering all too easily, he ducks back into his house to don his uniform for school. The whole time he can feel himself yawning and he feels especially chagrined to think that he will not even be given the opportunity to have breakfast – but such is the sacrifice of dating someone like Hotaru.

As soon as he comes out of the front door, Hotaru has snagged his hand in hers and promptly starts dragging him off toward school at a faster pace than he wants to go. "Alright, with this, we should be one of the first ones there. It's a great feeling, isn't it?" The question is entirely rhetorical but she says it with a grin.

Tears are almost streaming down his face – comically – as he glumly responds with an obedient, "Uh huh." Although, while he is not particularly enthused about whatever activities Hotaru has in store, the warmth of her hand does manage to coax a smile out of him.

Unfortunately, when they arrive at the school and she leads him to the student council room, the first order of business seems to be paperwork. And while she is busy shuffling through sheafs of paper, she has him carrying boxes – and he's not entirely sure what's inside them but they are particularly heavy.

"Ah," she exclaims with a deep inhale. "It's good to be back at school."

Ryouta does not entirely share this sentiment, and he does have a bit of a quibble about being abruptly wrenched out of bed and dragged all the way to school just to be her lackey. Yet, he supposes, they have always had an odd relationship to begin with. Although a small part of him wonders what – if anything – has changed since she confessed to him.

Preoccupied in thought, he hardly notices when a hand waves in front of his face. "Ryouta-kun? Hello? Earth to Ryouta-kun!"

"Hm?"

"The bell just rang, we need to be getting to class."

He glances down at the box still cradled in his arms and hastily places it away as instructed. "Alright, Hotaru-cchi." It occurs to him that they have never spent lunch together before, but she seems intent to speed off toward her own classroom before he can even get a word in about it. That leaves him feeling a bit dejected as he starts down the hallway to his own classroom, only to stop when he hears the sound of loud footsteps slapping noisily against the ground behind him.

"Ryoooouta-kun!"

As he turns back to see what she is sudden yelling his name for, he is shocked to register the sight of her running at max speed down the hallway toward him, screeching to a halt just before she bowls right into him. A few of the other people in the hallway seem to give them odd, disapproving glances.

"Sorry, sorry. I forgot something."

"Huh?"

Hotaru grins cheekily at him before reaching up and grasping his tie. With a sharp yank, she pulls him down to eye level with her and plants a kiss right on his lips before he even has a moment to react. Then she pulls away, beaming triumphantly as though she is proud of herself. "There we go! Oh, and let's eat lunch together today. Okay? Bye!" She speeds off before even hearing his answer – as is typical of her.

"What's with that stupid grin?" Kasamatsu asks as they pass each other in the hallway while Ryouta is on the way to his classroom.

The blonde rubs the back of his head awkwardly. "Good morning, Kasamatsu-sen – aah!" He is interrupted by a swift jab to the side that robs him of his breath.

"If you had been honest in the first place, I wouldn't have had to go through so much trouble back there, you know," the upperclassmen grumbles as he aims a couple more jabs just for good measure. "Don't make me regret it."

It almost sounds like his gruff way of telling Ryouta to take good care with Hotaru in the future. Although he can't be sure – his captain has an odd way of expressing himself sometimes. Still, Ryouta gives him an appreciative smile.

The time until lunch feels particularly long and monotonous in the face of his hunger – having skipped breakfast. The growling of his stomach is subdued only when the bell rings and he starts out his classroom. Or at least he tries, but not before a gang of fangirls quite literally flock to him. Amongst the dozen, he is told repeatedly how much he has been missed and how much they all want to go to karaoke with him.

He tries to play off their comments as he usually does. But the clock is ticking and the ache of hunger is making him particularly impatient.

"Excuse me, I have to borrow this person." A terse voice cuts through the excited chatter of the fangirls as Hotaru shoves her way to the forefront of the crowd and grabs for Ryouta by the collar of his uniform, causing him to stumble along behind her.

Even after they have broken free of the fangirls and shaken most of them off their tail, she still insists on dragging him along forcefully. From behind her, Ryouta is unable to see the expression on her face. But he has been in this situation before. Girlfriends that are particularly insecure that eventually give up, saying they cannot handle his popularity. Or otherwise girls that are only there for his popularity. He wonders just how affected Hotaru is. Is she mad?

The answer to that is rather anticlimactic, as she grins back at him. "Okay, it's my first time making a bento so if it tastes horrible, you can just consider yourself a guinea pig." On the contrary of his concerns; she seems entirely unaffected.

"Hotaru-cchi, you don't mind the fangirls?"

She continues to pull him along until they make it to the rooftop. "Hm? Why would I worry about them? I already know that you're a model and you're a famous for being on the basketball team, too. Of course you're going to be popular."

"It doesn't bother you?"

Once they are on the rooftop, she settles down against the side of the building and motions for him to join her. "I trust you, Ryouta-kun. Now, are you ready to eat? I made a lot. I know you missed breakfast because of me, so fill up." As she says that, she puts down a three-tier bento box. With each level unveiled, the food itself actually looks delicious and well-made.

Looks, as it turns out, can be particularly deceiving. Aesthetic value is all that her food turns out to have. The moment he lifts his chopsticks to his lips and takes a bite, his face turns a solid shade of green. It turns out to be a struggle just to swallow, for the corrosive flavor rolling across his tastebuds nearly activates his gag reflex.

"So, how is it?" she asks excitedly, as though she cannot already tell.

Well, since he is hungry enough and there is probably not enough time to make it to the cafeteria to buy anything decent... there is little choice but to keep diving in. He regrets that thought as soon as he hazards another bite. Immediately after swallowing, he tries to say, "It's really good, Hotaru-cchi," but tears are already streaming down his face and betraying his words.

"You're lying." With that, she snatches the chopsticks out of his hand. "You don't have to force yourself. But I guess if you are actually willing to keep trying to eat it even though it doesn't taste very good, you must really like me after all."

Is this supposed to be a test to measure how genuine his feelings are?

"Here," Hotaru says as she dips her hand into the pocket of her jacket, producing a melon bun that she passes over to him. "Sorry that it wasn't very good. I will try again next time and it will be soooo good you won't be able to put your chopsticks down. For now you can have this."

Hesitantly, he accepts it, only to see that Hotaru herself is picking at her own food and eating it. Her nose crinkles every time as she chews and swallows but she forces herself despite that. His golden eyes wander down to food she has offered up in substitution. And he wonders if she purposefully picked this up just in case – knowing that her food might not be good enough.

Ryouta sighs to himself as he reaches over and retrieves the chopsticks she took from him just moments ago. Then he starts slowly consuming the lunch box, tier by tier.

"W-what are you doing eating that? It's not any good!" she tells him, reaching a hand over to try to yank one of the layers of the box away from him that he is currently eating from.

Ryouta pulls out of her reach and hurriedly shoves the rest in his mouth. "Nope! I'm eating it all, since Hotaru-cchi made it."

"You might get sick!"

"Mm, it tastes good."

"You're lying again."

He grins cheekily back at her. Despite all of her protests, even Ryouta can easily tell how happy it makes her to see him eating something that she made. As much as she stammers about it being terrible and how he should just eat the melon bun she offered.

When lunch is over and the bell rings for them to return to class, Hotaru sullenly packs away the three-tiered box, now empty. And Ryouta himself is already feeling the after effects of having eaten it – in the form of a fierce stomach ache developing. He smiles despite it all.

"Make me a bento again tomorrow, ne, Hotaru-cchi?" Ryouta supplies two clasped hands and a wink to try to wheedle another lunch out of her.

She chops him on the head with the side of her hand. "Idiot, you shouldn't force yourself just to be nice to me. It's okay to tell me that it isn't any good. And you don't have to ask for more, either. It's okay if we just eat at the cafeteria."

The blonde merely shakes his head. "Nope, I want to eat the food that my girlfriend makes~"

For his comment, he manages to elicit a fierce blush that colors her cheeks. Immediately Hotaru tries to avert her gaze to hide her embarrassment but he catches her by the chin, then leans in for a kiss. The brush of their lips is soft and brief at first but as she grows more receptive, they remain connected even after the final bell rings.

"We'll be late for class," she tells him hastily, breaking away first.

Ryouta grins as he brushes a few loose mousy-brown tendrils away from those dark eyes of hers. "I don't mind being late today, Hotaru-cchi!"