"Wow, Kiku, Tokyo is so beautiful!" you exclaimed brightly, sitting next to said friend. You grinned. "I've always wanted to come to Japan."
Kiku smiled. "I am happy to see you enjoying yourself, __________-san. You are sure it isn't too much?"
You waved your hand. "Don't be silly, Kiku. It's amazing! I mean, sure, it's pretty crowded"—you gestured around the cramped monorail you were in—"but it's cool." You sighed contently, turning to face the setting sun, watching orange and pink streaks make their way across the horizon. "It's beautiful." A little more shyly you added, "All of Japan is beautiful."
Trying to conceal your blush, you shifted your gaze to see if he had taken the hint. Unfortunately, it appeared he didn't. He was watching the sunset too, but he wore that expressionless face like normal. So much for assessing situations and reading the atmosphere, you thought, your little happy moment quickly dissolving into bitterness. How many hints do I need to drop that I like him? You'd think he'd get it after I complimented his home country for the billionth time today.
You yawned and stretched, resisting the urge to lean against your Japanese friend. You had learned the hard way that if you did that, you'd end up falling on the floor face first. Plus, you really didn't want to screw this up. Sure, you were absolutely thrilled to be in Japan. It wasn't a lie that you had always longed to come, but now you had another, much more important reason: To win over your friend. You yawned again, letting your head droop a little. The exhaustion of the day was finally catching up to you, and it was hitting hard. But considering the sort of day you had had, that was understandable.
Kiku had been a long time good friend of yours, back to when he came as a foreign exchange to your high school and you were the only person not drooling over him and making him feel uncomfortable his first day. In honesty, you hadn't really cared when he came, as you weren't taken with him the second he stepped into homeroom like all the other girls were. Actually, the only reason you had gotten to know him was because you were the one chosen to take him to all your classes because you had the exact same schedule. Neither of you were quite sure how it happened, but you had quickly become close friends and had always stayed that way, even when you graduated and he moved back to Japan. He had even visited you a few times. Finally, today was the day you were going to return the favor.
You had arrived in Japan that morning, and were greeted warmly by your dear friend. (But it really wasn't that warm and cuddly like you wanted it to be; you knew he hated hugs.) He assisted in sending your luggage off to your hotel and from there he took you on a grand tour. You had seen almost every inch of Tokyo, and you were utterly beat. Right now, all you wanted to do was curl up in a ball on a comfy bed and sleep, but you couldn't yet. Reason one: Your hotel room still wasn't ready and wouldn't be for a few more hours. Reason two: You had promised to go to Kiku's house. You were hoping you could hit on him a little more while you were there. You were a little ashamed by your selfishness, but hey, people have done worse.
You were snatched away from your thoughts when you heard your name being called in Kiku's adorable Engrish. "Hmm?" You looked at him and blinked, staring into his warm chocolate eyes.
"You seem tired. When we get to my house I will make us some tea and we can look at the cherry blossoms together. Does that sound good?"
Immediately you brightened. Of course! How could you have forgotten? It had been on your bucket list to admire cherry blossoms since forever! You could see them now, pink petals falling softly against the horizon. The thought alone was pleasurable. Best of all, you'd be seeing them for the first time with Kiku.
"That sounds great! But uh—" you glanced out behind you, "—how long do you think that'll take? I mean, I really want to see them and I'm not the most patient person in the world and I am tired…" You trailed off before you could say something even lamer. Wow did that sound stupid, but I can't help it. Dang it, why does he have to be so freaking gorgeous?
He smiled softly. "Soon, I promise. My house is just on the outskirts of town in a rural area. I'm sure that will be relaxing. You have had a rather full and noisy day."
You nodded. "Got that right. And then I'll catch up on my sleep in the hotel and then we'll hang out together tomorrow and visit some farms and blah blah blah…" You sighed contently. "Sorry, rambling again. To put it briefly, I'm really glad to be here."
There was brief pause until he replied, "I am grad you are here as well."
You hoped the red seeping in the window from the setting sun would conceal your blush.
From there you continued your ride in silence. Once you finally got off, Kiku and you walked a little ways until you were just outside of Tokyo, where he then hailed a cab to take you to his estate. By this point, it was a little hard to keep your eyes open. But still, your excitement managed to keep you awake. You had pictured this day for quite some time now. As cheesy as it was, you were hoping to make some kind of move on him as you sat on a bench under the falling cherry blossoms, or at least something along those lines.
On your way there, you admired the countryside. It was a bit of a shock how you so quickly went from being crowded and cramped and practically breathing other peoples' air to wide open, peaceful spaces full of lush foliage and clean air. Not to say Tokyo wasn't beautiful, it's just that there was only so much sight and sound you could take. You were very much looking forward to a bit of unwinding at Kiku's before the day officially ended. You yawned again and let your eyes slowly flutter shut.
"Um, __________-san? We are here."
"Wha…?" You blinked open your eyes and slowly sat up to meet Kiku looking at you with a small frown while holding the door open. "Oh, hey." You rubbed your eyes and gave a small laugh. "Sorry, guess I dozed off." You got up and out of the taxi, a little disappointed that he didn't offer his hand. But considering this was Kiku, you hadn't really expected that. Your moment of disappointment soon faded, however, when you spotted his house.
The moment you stepped out you couldn't stifle a gasp. "Oh my gosh, Kiku, your house is…amazing!"
Indeed, it looked like something out of a picture from a world history textbook. The house was long and low, with a bamboo fence on one side and a large garden on the other with a spring, and a little further away there was a small wood. The house was bent in an 'L' shape, and it looked very...ancient Japan (that was the best way you could think of describing it).
"Please, do come in," Kiku invited, walking past to the door. Still gawking, you padded after him.
He opened the door for you and, remembering Japanese customs, you slipped your shoes off. He smiled and nodded approvingly before doing the same.
"Wow…" you breathed. His house seemed even larger on the inside, and you weren't sure how that was even possible!
He led you down the long hallway, where it opened up to a dining room with a cute little kotatsu.
"Please, make yourself at home. Sit and I will make us some tea," Kiku said gently, motioning towards the table.
You obeyed, watching him walk off to the kitchen. You smiled to yourself and shifted comfortably on the lovely velvet cushion where you were placed. Your back was to a glass sliding door that led to the yard, the sun's last rays warming your back. You closed your eyes, enjoying the feel, sight, smell, and sound that was so miniscule compared to earlier that it situated well around you. The atmosphere was certainly nothing short of relaxing, especially after such a fast-paced day.
Kiku returned a few moments later with two cups of steaming tea. With a thankful nod you took yours from him, and your hands brushed. He immediately blushed, and you had to keep yourself from grinning ear to ear. It was hardly any contact at all, but it still warmed you more than the drink. Things like simply bumping his elbow was a great and merry occasion to you, because there was so few times he would be close enough for you to do that.
"Hey, Kiku?" you asked quietly when he took his seat across from you.
He raised a brow questioningly, his lips pressed on the edge of his cup.
"I was just wondering…could we drink this outside and look at the cherry blossoms? I want to see them before it gets dark."
He took a small sip and looked at you happily. "That's fine, __________-san. I have no problem with that. But they do rook nicer at night when the moon and lanterns illuminate them."
You smirked. "I'm sure they do."
You stood and allowed him to open the door for you and take you down the stoop, past the spring, and to the right where a little two person bench waited for you, surrounded on each side and behind by three cherry trees, their branches bent over it in an unrecognizable assurance. The moment you sat and craned your neck to stare, you immediately forgot about your hopes of flirting with him here. It was just the way the petals cascaded so gracefully in their own little dance, spinning and flipping in delight. The way the light from the rapidly disappearing sun bounced gleefully across soft pink, how they mingled together in some sort of tango. The way they seemed to float about you, the branches stretching to their limit to try and caress you. The way the petals did the work the branches could not, kissing your cheeks and resting naturally in your hair. They completely captivated you, entwining you in a gentle and blissful world of such few yet so many colors, a world that wasn't exactly heaven nor exactly Earth. It might have been cliché of how quickly a few flowers whisked you off to a world of a beauty you had never encountered, but it was nothing short of true. A petal stopped its downward spiral on your nose, and the softness of its touch astounded you. You gently wiped it away, never taking your eyes off of the precious scenery above that was just out of reach.
Your tea long gone cold, you weren't pulled away from the surreal canvas above you until everything became dark and Kiku's porch lights flicked on. It wasn't the kind of darkness from night though, when the sky has turned to indigo and the moon has turned things pale. This was a sad, grey kind of darkness where shapes blended into cold, meek things. You peered through the branches to see the sun officially gone, yet the moon was obscured by ominous clouds. Suddenly, everything was damp and quiet. You shivered, not enjoying this abrupt phase back to harsh reality at all.
You bit your lip nervously. "Looks like some kind of storm is coming. We'd better get inside, Kiku."
He blinked, realizing that you were talking to him. He followed your gaze to the clouds above. "Right…" he said quietly.
You two went back into the house, where you guiltily handed Kiku your cup. "Sorry I didn't really drink it…" you apologized.
He shook his head and carefully took the tea from you. Again, your hands brushed. If you weren't so focused on trying not to blush, you would've seen that he was doing the same. "No, that is fine, __________-san." He glanced at a nearby wall clock and frowned. "It appears that your hotel room should be ready right about now."
You took a look at it yourself and nodded. "Yeah, I guess it is. Hey, Kiku, think you could turn the news on? I want to see if it'll really storm or not."
"Of course." He walked into another room and switched on the TV. He flipped through a few channels while you made yourself at home on the couch until he found the weather channel. You observed the confusing radar, not paying any heed to the person next to it who was speaking rapidly in Japanese and gesturing at a map of the area, pointing at the swirls of clouds and explaining what it all meant. Sadly, without a proper explanation you couldn't tell how bad the storm was going to be, how long it would last, nothing. You were so focused on trying to figure it out that you didn't notice Kiku turn pale next to you.
"I give up," you grumbled, leaning backward. "Kiku, what is the guy saying?"
He hesitated before turning to and saying grimly, "Well…it seems that he is giving final warning to a really bad storm that is just below tsunami revel with high winds, hail, the likes. It's supposed to last all night. He's suggesting that everyone leave where they are and go home right away or stay where they're at for the night."
You blinked. "Well that's…not cool. When's it hitting?"
As if in answer, a loud clap of thunder suddenly shook the room. You jumped with a yelp.
"No dip," you hissed, clenching your heart. You took a few deep breaths before saying, "So what now? The hotel is almost an hour away. Should I stay here?"
He wrung his hands, and you could practically feel the waves of sudden awkwardness that were coming from him. "Well, I suppose you could, but what about your luggage?"
You waved that aside. "What about it? It's not going anywhere."
He averted his gaze, which was all the same since you were feeling a little weird yourself. It really wasn't something to get all worked up over, but you liked him so much you just couldn't help it. You waited for a reply with growing anxiety, hoping he wouldn't reject you. If he did, that would mean that he didn't really like you, and your crush on him was so large you weren't sure you'd be able to take that, even if that made you sound like some desperate junior high girl. Finally, he said slowly,
"Alright then, you can stay."
You breathed out in relief. "Thanks, dude. Where am I going to sleep?"
"The guest room. Here," he stood and began walking down a hall, "I think I have something you can wear to bed."
You followed him to his room, which was very simple, yet tasteful, much like your friend. You stood under the doorway as he rummaged through his drawers before coming back to you with a bundle of clothes.
"I think these will fit." He handed them to you, which you took carefully like you were afraid they’d suddenly melt in your hands.
You bowed slightly, knowing how that was a sign of thanks. "Arigato, Kiku. I'm pretty tired, so I think I'm going to go to bed now."
Kiku tried to hide how much he liked hearing your sweet voice speak his native language. "Al—Alright." He pointed past you and down the hall. "The guest room is down there, and the bathroom is right next to it."
"Cool. Goodnight, Kiku."
As you turned to walk away, you heard him murmur softly, "Goodnight…__________-san."
You frowned slightly, closing the bathroom door behind you. "I wish he'd stop adding 'san' to my name. We're friends, after all," you muttered to yourself as you changed into simple sweatpants and a T-shirt. "Hopefully, though, we won't just be friends for long…"
By now, you could hear the torrents of rain slashing against the house ruthlessly, and it was actually freaking you out a little. You swiftly made your way to the guest room and shut the door tightly.
"Stupid," you said to yourself while climbing into the small bed, "you're too old to be afraid of a stupid storm. Get over it."
And so with that, you made yourself comfortable and closed your eyes, the pounding of sleet echoing in your head.
"Alright, fine," you whispered hoarsely as you made your way down the hall. "Maybe I'm not too old to be scared of storms."
Indeed, you had managed to keep yourself in the guest room, but you hadn't slept at all because the storm was growing increasingly louder. Wind was whipping at the house wildly, begging to break through and tear it apart. Lightning constantly swirled with the hail and rain, whose audio still could not be beat by the thunder. This was a storm that was utterly terrible, and you couldn't seal the small whimpers that your lips issued every once in a while. As you made your way tiredly down the hall, you watched the floor continuously light underneath you, feet looking bleach white and clumsy as another clap of thunder shook you. Or maybe it was shaking the whole house. You really weren't sure. And where were you going anyway?
You were wondering this until you found yourself standing at Kiku's door, looking at it timidly. Dear Lord, what were you doing? You couldn't just waltz right in and tell him you're scared of storms. And even if you did, then what? At the very most he would only pat your back once and reassure that the storm wouldn't hurt you. Jesus, did you feel stupid. But when another blast of thunder shook the floor beneath and was immediately followed by more screaming rain, you squeaked and rushed inside.
The first thing you noticed was that it was much quieter in there. The rain sounded soft, almost soothing, and the thunder didn't seem to be hovering over your head as much. Well no wonder he was still sleeping soundly as if it was nothing. You stood under the doorway, still shy. But again, a clap of thunder made your adrenaline shoot up and you raced to his bedside, too panicked to blush or think. You looked down at Kiku for a moment, taking in how cute he looked when he was asleep. Oh wait, that made you sound like a stalker. His back was to you. Hesitantly, you reached out and after another minute's hesitation shook his shoulder.
"Ki—Kiku? Could you—could you please get up?" you stammered quietly, choking on your own ridiculous words.
He shifted and you stepped backward as he slowly roused and sat up, blinking sleep from his eyes. He looked around briefly, then spotted you. With a confused blink he paused before whispering,
"__________-san? What is wrong?"
"I…well I…uh…you see…" You stole a glance out the doorway, seeing flashes of white decorate the window and envelope the hall. "The storm, it's…it's a lot louder in my room." You were blushing madly by this point. You seriously wondered if you had ever sounded so dumb, and around him of all people! He was probably thinking that you were idiotic, too. The thought made your heart feel heavy. You glanced sideways, feeling his brown eyes bore into you and you shuffled your feet, wondering what he was going to do next. When he finally spoke, you had to strain to hear him.
"__________-san…if it's bothering you, you can…you can…"
"I can what?" you asked quietly, still looking down at the floor. You bit your lip nervously.
Meanwhile, all the blood in Kiku's body was rushing to his head, or at least that's what it felt like. When you confessed your fear of the storm, it reminded him of when he was younger and also scared of storms, and what his fake older brother Yao would do to comfort him. He actually didn't blame you for freaking out; he had his room insulated because he couldn't stand them himself sometimes. And it was pretty bad, he could tell, because it was much louder in the room than it normally was. Thoughts returning to his childhood, Kiku remembered how Yao would allow him to sleep with him if the storm was taking place at night. But he was grown man now, and you were a woman! He couldn't try that method on you...could he?
"You can sl—sleep here, if—if you want…"
You snapped back to reality and your face flushed as you commenced chewing your lip thoughtfully. You actually liked the idea, but it was because it would've offered comfort and quiet and rest, not because of anything perverted. Although, you didn't want to do anything that would make your friend uncomfortable…but still…
"Um…o—okay," you said softly. You swiftly stepped around the bed and shyly crawled under the covers facing away from him, trying to stay as close to the edge as possible. You reassured yourself in making these hasty actions by reminding yourself that he was the one who invited you in the first place.
Still, you didn't want to disgruntle Kiku, and being in this position was probably driving him nuts. You kept very still as he settled back down carefully, a fair distance away from you. He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to. He was so tense it was like another storm was about break. You felt awkward about this, too, but you had to admit being this close to your long time crush did feel nice…
You were suddenly blinded by a bone white flare, the kind that look like they're happening right before your eyes. It was then chased by a boom of thunder that made everything quiver and made it feel that the whole world was about to break apart. Heart literally skipping a beat, you flipped over and quickly scooted closer to Kiku. He stared at you with wide eyes, also a bit shaken.
"Ki—Kiku," you whimpered quietly, unsure of what to say.
"It—It's alright, __________-san. It is just a little storm," he tried to assure, another clash of thunder interrupting him.
"You call that little?" you shot back in a small voice, coming even closer. Your foreheads were almost touching now.
Kiku watched you closely, feeling a blush creep across his face. Under normal circumstances, he would've pushed anyone else this close away, but when it was you…he didn't want to. He suddenly remembered back when he was a child, the things Yao would do to lull him into sleep when storms kept him awake. Rather shyly, so that it took him almost a full minute for him to do, he put an arm around you. Just one. And it wasn't drawing you close or stroking you or anything like that. Just sitting. But that was all you needed to feel warm inside.
You stifled a gasp of surprise and locked your eyes with his. For some reason, you found yourself silently snickering at his expression, which looked almost scared. Hoping that maybe the time for your confession had come, you leaned your head in so now your foreheads could touch and slowly shut your eyes. "Kiku…I have something I need to tell you."
"H—Hai?" he urged anxiously, a bit startled by the cool tone of your voice and the sudden contact. But it was…it was nice being this close to you. His heart picked up pace when he thought of this.
Your eyes slowly reopened in response to more thunder. You looked just above his own, too nervous to look at him directly. Your heart was pounding painfully in your chest now. You released a long, gentle breath, which tickled Kiku's face. His eyes widened and both of your faces heated. You shifted uncomfortably, trying to harden your will. You had wanted to tell him this for ages, and you sure as heck weren't going to let it slip past this perfect moment.
Resolve restored, you managed a small smile before saying carefully with emphasis in each word, "I've…I've liked you for a long time, Kiku." You took a deep breath and your gaze shifted downward. "I like you…more than in a friendly way. I've wanted to tell you…for so long…but I was scared of what you might think, how you would react. I would hate to…to trash this friendship because of my selfishness, so I never told you…but I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep it up, and I had no idea how you felt." You shut your eyes again. "Kiku…you're so nice and polite, to me and everyone else. And I like how quiet and attentive and comforting you are, and I think you're…that you're handsome." You grinned embarrassingly and covered your mouth with the sheets. "I just…I really, really like you, Kiku…"
Silence. Or at least, he was silent. The storm was still brewing outside, as if it was mocking you of his hesitation, like it was telling you that he didn't feel the same, that you were being a fool. You shuddered with fear at the notion of rejection and felt tiny tears form in your eyes at the thought.
You whipped your head up when your name was finally spoken, and not formally, no less. For once, Kiku didn't look so blank. Instead he looked…happy?
"Ye—Yes?" you squeaked, pressing closer to hear his barely audible murmur.
What he said next made joy course all through your veins. "__________...I like you, too. You are nice and polite to everyone as well, and you're very caring for the ones you love. You always listen to me when I have something to say, and you're so always happy, and you love life, and…you are beautiful."
"Oh, Kiku…" you choked, trying to hold back your tears. "How—how long have you felt this way?"
The darkness concealed his blush. "A long time, __________. I think maybe a little too long."
There was a pause as you gazed into each other's eyes, seeing every scrap of hidden admiration for each other finally bubble to the surface. You wrapped your arms around him and he did the same, pulling you close to his warm chest where you could hear his strong and steady heartbeat. You relaxed and couldn't hold back a wide smile. You both lay there for awhile, absorbing each other's presence and letting the discoveries carry you off into silent bliss.
"…Hey, Kiku?" you eventually said.
"Hai?" he asked, looking down at you with a blink.
"I don't think I'm scared of storms anymore," you answered with a smile.
Then, to your astonishment he lowered his head to give you a chaste and delicate kiss, lips just barely brushing yours. Either way, you shivered and your happiness was threatening to overflow as you gladly returned the favor.
"That is good, __________," he replied with a warm smile of his own.
You both slept soundly that night, neither even considering to leave each other's embrace for even a moment as a storm that raged like your passions that flowed through your hearts died down overhead.