This took me a LOT of effort to write because even though I had this idea on my head for a loong time I'm having a bit of a writer's block so I have NO IDEA how I managed to write this. It came out a little more bitter than I expected, but here you go! This is my Valentine's Day gift for you all, and I hope you guys like it, even if it's just a little bit! (also posted on my tumblr, hiriki)
"…Then, I'll leave the rest to you."
The last bit of Saruhiko's response to Kusanagi was muffled by the loud sound of laughter coming from the small group of HOMRA members reunited at the bar entrance – apparently, Misaki was having a good time with Kamamoto and the others. Kusanagi sighed, turning his back to Saruhiko so he could glare properly at the clansmen.
"Could you guys keep it down? Totsuka really needs to rest."
A bunch of small apologies came from the group, and both Saruhiko and Misaki glanced at the small figure sleeping on the sofa, wrapped in blankets and breathing slowly – Totsuka's eyelids were peacefully closed and he had a small smile on his sleepy face, but his red nose was proof enough that he was sick.
Accidentally, the two boy's eyes met on their way back, and Misaki quickly turned away, grabbing his skateboard with more violence than necessary. Saruhiko resisted the urge to click his tongue and simply sighed.
"Can we go now?" Misaki asked in an anxious tone to Kamamoto, who shrugged in response. Misaki took that as a positive response. "Kusanagi-san, we're going!" The shorter boy announced with a somewhat angry yet low voice, and the other members quickly followed him on their way out of the bar.
"Be careful and don't get yourselves into trouble!" Kusanagi replied in the same low tone. He turned back to Saruhiko. "You think you'll be fine?"
"Then I'm going too." Kusanagi gave him a quick smile. "If anything goes wrong, you can call me on that number I gave you earlier. Thanks again for the help."
Something small bumped into Saruhiko, preventing him from answering; instead, he lowered his head, facing the small girl who just approached him.
"Oh, Anna! Good thing you're awake." Kusanagi smiled at her. "As I told you before, I'll have to go out for a bit, and Totsuka-san is sick, so you'll have to stay with Saruhiko since everybody else is out. He'll help you out with whatever you need."
Anna simply stared at the blonde man for a while before asking in a low voice:
"When will Mikoto be back?"
Again, Saruhiko repressed a gigantic urge to click his tongue. Why everybody in that place was so obsessed with the Red King?
"I don't really know… Mikoto isn't really the kind of guy who let others know if he'll be back for dinner, but I'm sure he won't take a long time, since he's tired and all." He talked in a quick pace until he reached the door. Then, Kusanagi stopped and waved at the duo. "You two, behave well. And thanks again, Fushimi-kun."
When Saruhiko and Anna were left alone on the bar with the sleeping form of Totsuka, the ambient became quiet again. Anna tugged Saruhiko's shirt.
"Saruhiko. Do you know when will Mikoto be back?"
This time, Saruhiko couldn't help but click his tongue.
"Didn't you just ask Kusanagi-san about that? I have no idea. Don't ask me of all people."
"I see." Anna lowered her gaze to the floor, and Saruhiko felt annoyed, wondering if he was being too hard on her; he didn't care that much about being a nice guy, but Anna didn't seem to worship Mikoto blindly like Misaki did. Not only that, but she was a kid; differently from Misaki, there were many things she didn't understand.
"He'll probably be back soon." Saruhiko tried to sound positive, but his voice came out of his mouth with nothing but annoyance.
"…I hope not."
"Excuse me?" He raised his eyebrows in shock.
Anna didn't answer, and simply made her way into the kitchen, occasionally glancing back at Saruhiko to see if he was following her.
The kitchen at the bar was small and simple, and, usually, Kusanagi would use the space as a small storage for food in general. That day, however, the table at the center was filled with chocolate bars, colored ribbons and empty chocolate molds.
He remembered Kusanagi saying something about Anna wanting to do homemade chocolate bonbons for Valentine's Days – which was a few hours away from them - , but Saruhiko had no idea she'd be so serious about that.
"So", he started, slowly, "that's why you don't want Mikoto to come back anytime soon, huh."
"It's going to be a surprise. Tatara said he'd help me, but he's sick so he can't." She glanced at Saruhiko, and he noticed how the small kitchen seemed appropriated for her small figure. "If Saruhiko doesn't mind, I'd like you to help me a bit."
Saruhiko simply stared back at her and shrugged. It's not like he had anything special to do, and even though he didn't know a thing about cooking, he had already promised Kusanagi that he'd look after Anna so she wouldn't get in trouble in the kitchen.
"It's okay by me."
"Thank you, Saruhiko."
Saruhiko tried to organize their workspace a bit, remembering how Misaki would always get stressed out in the first times he tried to cook something. The thought made him feel bitter, and he only noticed that he was almost crushing a chocolate bar with his hand when Anna made a muffled sound behind him.
"What's wrong?" He turned to her, trying to hide the half-destructed chocolate bar with his body.
Anna was struggling to wear a light pink apron, her hands hopelessly trying to reach her back and tie a proper knot. Saruhiko clicked his tongue.
"Here, let me help you." He turned her around and quickly finished his task. Maybe because he was staring too much at the apron with furrowed eyebrows – there were a bunch of phrases in English that made no sense embroidered on it - , Anna said:
"Tatara made it for me."
"Uh. That's nice."
They started to work quietly; Anna handed him a piece of paper with Totsuka's handwriting, where he had written a recipe for chocolate bonbons. Saruhiko had no idea how they'd do all these things – what the hell was that 'chocolate tempering' thing? – and he was busy between trying to understand the recipe and wondering why his life was so goddamn hard when his eyes noticed there was something different about the chocolate – it was couverture chocolate, the kind of high-quality, expensive chocolate that Misaki once bought in middle-school only to complain later that it was 'too bitter' and 'tasted like shit'.
And there he was again, thinking about Misaki. Saruhiko let out a deep breath and tried to focus on the world around him.
"Saruhiko, are you okay?" Anna glanced at him. She was using her hands to break the chocolate bars into smaller pieces, placing them into a clean bowl afterwards.
"…I'm fine. Worry about yourself."
They've returned to their mutual silence, and Saruhiko was trying to grasp the general idea of the recipe – apparently, there was more than melting the chocolate and tossing it into molds when it came to making homemade chocolate – when he noticed that Anna was using several bowls for the same purpose: stocking pieces of the chocolate bars.
"You know, you can put them all in a single bowl. They'll fit."
"I know." Anna added two chocolate chunks to the largest bowl. "I'm separating them by person." She pointed at a blue bowl that was half-filled with chocolate pieces. "This is yours, Saruhiko."
"Uh. Wouldn't it be quicker to melt them all at once…?"
Anna simply pouted.
"I thought it'd be nice to do them separately so I won't get them mixed."
"You won't get them mixed. It's all the same thing. You can separate them when you pour the melted chocolate on the molds." He stared at a large, red bowl that was completely filled with chocolate chunks. "These are for Mikoto-san, I guess…?"
Anna blushed a little.
"No. They're for Tatara. He's sick, and tomorrow is his birthday. I'm giving him a lot of chocolate bonbons so he'll get better soon."
Saruhiko rolled his eyes – that kid needed to go to school.
"…If you give him a lot of chocolate, he'll most probably get even more sick."
"You think so?" She seemed to consider the possibility.
"Then I'll give these to Mikoto-"
Saruhiko took a small breath.
"Let's just melt them all together and you can decide how much each person gets later. It's less troublesome and it'll take much less time."
Anna stared at him for a few seconds, then nodded silently. After he reunited all the chocolate pieces into a single pot, she asked:
"Will you give chocolates to someone, Saruhiko?"
Her voice tone was innocent and calm, but Saruhiko couldn't help but feel annoyed at her words.
"Why would I? I'm not a schoolgirl."
"Neither am I." Anna pouted discretely.
"You're much closer to being one than I am."
Anna kept herself silent for the next couple of minutes, watching as Saruhiko tried to follow Totsuka's words on the paper. The kitchen was filled with the sweet smell of melting chocolate, and Saruhiko's arm was starting to hurt from the repetitive movement he was doing with the spoon. Anna decided it was a good moment to start another conversation.
"Tatara told me that you can give chocolates to anyone you like on Valentine's Day. You should try it, Saruhiko."
"I told you already, it's a girly thing."
"Tatara didn't say that."
Saruhiko rolled his eyes.
"Just because Totsuka-san didn't-"
"You fought with Yata again, didn't you?"
Anna watched silently as Saruhiko's hand trembled and his fingers tightened around the spoon. Suddenly, the mask of indifference he used to wear every time became more and more weaker.
"And since when does it matter?"
"It matters to Yata. He was sad."
The words floated slowly between them, and Saruhiko felt like laughing.
"Oh, he was? To me, he looked as stupid as usual."
He began to mix the chocolate furiously, and Anna studied the white knuckles on his hand through her marble.
"…Your red is becoming smaller, Saruhiko."
For the sake of his own temper, Saruhiko decided not to answer. It's not like getting into disagreements with Misaki was something rare these days – back at middle school, they'd rarely fight or disagree over something, but since HOMRA became a part of their lives – a part of Misaki's life - , every single thing would be enough to make Misaki get annoyed at him, at how Saruhiko couldn't love and worship HOMRA like Misaki himself did. The idea of losing his best friend to a bunch of hoodlums terrified him more than he liked to admit.
He couldn't care less if his 'red' was becoming smaller.
He didn't know how or when it happened, but, somehow, Kushina Anna managed to make him do a small, stupid homemade chocolate for Misaki. He wouldn't give it to him, of course. That was downright ridiculous. No. He'd only made it so Anna would shut up. On his first opportunity, he'd eat it and wipe from Earth that stupid heart-shaped chocolate that was looking back at him, almost making fun of him.
"Yata will like it." Anna looked at the bonbon in Saruhiko's hands with approval.
No, he wouldn't, Saruhiko thought, disgusted at the idea that he was the one who made it.
Just as he put Anna's chocolates for Mikoto back into the freezer – they were filled with strawberry jam and smelled quite good - , the Red King popped up on the kitchen's door.
"What are you doing, Anna?" He asked lazily. "Oh, and Fushimi too."
It was the first time that Fushimi saw Anna so nervous.
"Mikoto, you can't enter." She said in a serious voice, staring at him in a mix of confidence and hesitance.
"Why not?" He asked in the same lazy tone.
"I-It's my space. Only mine." She hugged an empty bowl like she was trying to reinforce the idea with the gesture.
"Then why is Fushimi allowed inside?" His golden orbs stared for a second at Saruhiko's hands, busy with his heart-shaped chocolate.
Saruhiko felt like using his red aura to burn that damned thing on his hand, and perhaps burn the entire kitchen in the process in order to erase all the evidences.
"He's helping me. Please go away." Anna frowned back at Mikoto.
The Red King shrugged.
"You win." He turned his face to Saruhiko. "The others are back. Yata wants to talk with you."
The last bit of Mikoto's speech almost made Saruhiko drop the chocolate on his hand. He stared in disbelief at the kitchen floor for a second, and his mouth made a weird noise before he asked:
"Misaki wants to talk with me?"
Was that a smirk on Mikoto's face? There was something fishy about that situation.
When Saruhiko was about to get out of the kitchen, Mikoto made an attempt to get in, but Anna caught him in the act.
"You can't come in."
"My bad, my bad." Mikoto turned around and followed Saruhiko on his way out of the kitchen.
Misaki almost jumped from his seat at the sound of his King calling his name. He turned his head to where Mikoto's voice came from, quickly enough to see Mikoto tossing Saruhiko at his direction like he was something the King had just found and wanted to share it with Misaki.
"Wha- Mikoto-san!" Misaki's face was a mixture of confusion, surprise and shyness.
"I figured out you'd have trouble calling him, and since it seemed really important to you… there you go."
With that, Mikoto simply turned around and threw himself in the closest sofa, eyes watching the sleeping form of Totsuka.
There was a moment of awkward silence between the two boys – Saruhiko simply stared back at Misaki while the other members curiously watched them. Their stares seemed to annoy Misaki, and he suddenly exploded into anger and nervousness.
"Ah, that's it! I can't talk here with you guys!" He glared at Saruhiko. "And you! You follow me for a sec!"
Without any more words, he stomped to the bar's entrance. Saruhiko followed him a few seconds later, feeling a little lost and confused. It was like they were back to their middle-school days – the taller, shy boy with thick-frammed glasses always following the shorter, hot-headed boy with chestnut hair.
Only when they were already on their way to their usual alley where they always went when they didn't want to be bothered, Saruhiko finally noticed that he was still holding the small package with the stupid heart-shaped chocolate inside. He felt tempted to throw it away in the middle of the streets, but just as soon as the idea hit him, they arrived at their destination.
"I'm sorry, okay?!" Misaki screamed at him before Saruhiko could finish his words. There was a faint blush on his cheeks. "I didn't mean to be rude with you. I mean, I'm talking about earlier." Saruhiko opened his mouth again, trying to say something, but Misaki interrupted him again. "Don't fucking talk until after I'm done talking, okay?! I-I need to say this stuff!"
Saruhiko clicked his tongue.
"You don't ever change. You say you're all sorry for being rude with me and stuff, and then you keep acting like that…"
"Well, it's my way of acting! You got a problem with that?!"
They stared at each other's eyes for a second. Saruhiko smiled weakly, defeated.
When did he ever had a problem with anything about Misaki?
"No. That's why I don't think you should apologize."
Misaki blinked in confusion.
"But- you were all sulky and sad when I left, earlier!"
"What? I wasn't." For some stupid reason, Saruhiko felt his face hot.
"Of course you were! I couldn't stop thinking about that all day! And then I started to remember all the times that I, uh, was rough on you, even though I don't really think I was rough, but you probably think I am because you're all sensitive and shit-"
"What are you even saying, Misaki-"
"SHUT UP AND LEMME FINISH IT, DAMN IT! As I was saying, I know you get fucking annoyed whenever we fight, and I get mad too! And since you can't bring yourself to do some shit about it, I decided I'd fix it myself! That's why, I'm sorry!" He made a small pause to breath. "And you better be sorry too, goddamn it!"
"Huh? What have I done wrong? And why are you even apologizing-"
"For fuck's sake, you're my friend!" Misaki's eyes were glued on him, gleaming with despair and something else- something that was scary and beautiful, something that would appear only when Misaki looked at him. Something that made Saruhiko's cheeks feel hot. "I don't want- I don't want us to be apart like that! We're a team, remember? We're on this together!"
In the next moments, Saruhiko simply stared back at Misaki, at that beautiful gaze that made him feel so uneasy. The chocolate was probably melting on his hand, but he couldn't stop himself from staring, he couldn't stop himself from feeling-
"So, you've got nothing to say?!" Misaki frowned at him. "Why do I have to be the only one-"
"I'm… sorry." Saruhiko sighed, and then smirked a little. "If that makes you happy, there you go, Mi~sa~ki~."
"Ha! I knew you had it in you!" Misaki looked accomplished. He then grinned. "Ah, I just remembered! I bought a nice thing, you should come and see. I don't fucking know why, but when we went out today there were chocolates for sale everywhere, and I found that one we used to eat all the time back in middle-school, the one with little pieces of peanuts and tons of caramel! We should eat together! And we should do it quickly, or Kamamoto will end up eating everything like he always does." Misaki frowned. "But still, I don't get why there was chocolate every fucking where-"
"Don't be dumb. Today's Valentine's Day."
"Ehh?" Misaki blushed in a mix of horror and surprise. "No wonder there were so many g-girls in the street! And why did you called me dumb for?! I bought you fucking chocolate, monkey!"
"So what? Do you want a trophy for your kindness, Misaki~?"
"At least don't be an asshole and give me some chocolate too!"
"I don't have any." He effortlessly tried to hide the small package between his hands, but Misaki's eyes followed the movement of his fingers, both eyelids narrowed in suspicion.
"Then what's that you're holding, huh?"
"Fine." Saruhiko made an annoyed face, shoving the little package into Misaki's hands. "It's chocolate. It's a heart-shaped chocolate. Don't stare at me like that, it was Anna's idea."
"She gave you this?"
"Don't be stupid. She wanted me to make it and give it to you." Saruhiko clicked his tongue. "I said it was stupid and that you wouldn't want it, but she-"
"Are you kidding me?! It's chocolate! Who cares if it's heart-shaped, alien-shaped or whatever? Of course I want it!" Misaki unwrapped the chocolate with both hands. It was divided in two irregular pieces. "Oh, it's broken, though."
"Yes. It's an accurate representation of my heart."
"Whaaat? Don't say crazy stuff!"
"…You don't get it, do you?" Saruhiko sighed. "Well, it's not like I expected a virgin to understand it."
"What are you- hey! Don't go walking away by yourself! Here, you can have your stupid heart back!"
Saruhiko turned around, and, for the first time in the day, he was smiling for real.
"It's yours." He added in a small voice: "And it's been yours for a long time."
And he knew that it wouldn't change even if Misaki broke his heart even more.