"You're done!" Cleao bounced over, clasping her hands behind her back and beaming at the pot in front of Majic as if it were the most exciting thing she'd ever encountered. "See?" she said brightly, turning her attention to the boy himself. "And you didn't think it'd be ready in time! You have to learn to trust me!"
Majic stared at the liquid chocolate he'd just produced. "Ah… I guess so," he agreed, managing a smile. I was kind of hoping it wouldn't be done on time!
There was a sense of impending doom hanging over his head - a doom that had been hovering, unseen, for just one day shy of a month. A doom that a 15-year-old apprentice was not ready to face. A doom that would probably make even the bravest of men quiver in their boots.
And that doom was called White Day.
"I'll get the molds," Cleao volunteered, and went bouncing off again. She was in a good mood - and why shouldn't she be? All that awaited her the next morning were the sweet possibility of chocolate and the promise of holiday sales.
Majic sighed, wiping his hands on the cocoa-stained apron Cleao had cajoled him into wearing. He wasn't really sure why he'd made chocolates. He'd been out earlier that day buying chocolates - for the only two girls he really knew to give them to. There were two boxes for Cleao - one being "from Orphen", though Majic's teacher hadn't actually asked him to pick them up. He'd taken the initiative - for the sake of his own sanity, if nothing else. And the third box...
The fabric of the apron twisted in his fingers. The third was for his classmate, Eris, and she was the reason he was dreading the coming day with such a fervent passion.
"Here!" Cleao jolted him out of his thoughts by setting the chocolate moldings down in front of him. "All that's left is to let them set - then you can pack them up in a box tomorrow. Okay, Majic?"
"Okay. Thank you, Cleao." He tilted the pot sideways, using the spoon he'd been stirring with to scoop the thick mixture into the molds she had provided.
"Hey, Majic?" The girl was giving him a puzzled look. "How come you're so quiet now? I thought you'd be happy we finished this on time."
"Eh… I am!" he lied, hastily. "I'm just surprised, that's all."
She beamed again, apparently unwilling to accept that. "Now you'll be able to give them away tomorrow, hmm?" Her tone took on a teasing note. "So, who are they for?"
If I'm smart, they're not for anyone. The problem was, he knew there was someone expecting them. Or hoping for them, at least. Someone who had given him homemade chocolates of her own a month ago on Valentine's Day. Someone he'd never even thought of thinking of that way up until then - someone that was a good friend, who he didn't want to hurt. And who, if he were being completely honest, he could only ever give store-bought chocolate to in return.
Heh… up until I panicked and begged Cleao to help me make some. Majic winced. He wasn't really sure what he was trying to prove. He couldn't give Eris homemade chocolate anyway; she'd think he had feelings for her, and then he'd be in a mess twice as big as the one he was already in.
No one ever said it'd be this hard to confess to not having feelings for someone.
And it wasn't like she was an exception to anything, he reminded himself. His teacher and his magic seemed to take up his every thought these days. He couldn't bring himself to think much about girls at all any more; Orphen's lessons, and Orphen's approval, were everything.
So why had he made the chocolates?
"Majic? Hey, Ma-jic!"
He blinked, and focussed on Cleao, who was standing with her hands on her hips, clearly annoyed with his lack of response. "Ah… sorry, Cleao," he told her, with a sheepish smile.
"Gee!" She sighed, impatient. "I ask a simple question and you go all spacey on me! If you don't want to tell me, just say so!"
"No, it's okay. I was just thinking, that's all." He turned his attention back to the chocolate. "I haven't decided if I'm going to give it to anyone."
"Why not?" Cleao seemed to recover from her irritation, swiping a spoonful of the sticky liquid candy and blowing fiercely to cool it. "Any girl would be glad to get chocolate this good - and probably a lot would be glad to get it from you, Majic."
He couldn't keep from blushing. "I-It's not really about that. I'm just not sure I want to give it, that's all."
She patted his shoulder, more intent on her spoonful than on him. "I'm sure you'll think of the right thing to do."
Majic forced a smile in response. I hope so.
"It's tradition! Tradition!"
"It's a stupid tradition!"
"It's not even hard to follow! You're just selfish!"
"I'm selfish!? You're the one demanding things left and right! 'I want clothing.' 'I want ice cream.' 'I want chocolate.' Always!"
It was oddly soothing to wake up to this. Majic buttoned up his shirt, the normality of the morning easing his anxiety enough so that he felt up to facing the day. He had both the store-bought and homemade chocolate in the bag to take with him when he met Eris; he wouldn't have to make a final decision until the last minute, anyway.
"I bought you a box!" Cleao accused, from behind the door.
"You bought it with my money!"
Good point, Oshou-sama. Still, Cleao wasn't likely to concede. Majic picked up his bag in one hand and the remaining two boxes in the other, and headed for the door.
"But the thought! It's the thought! You owe me chocolates!"
"I owe you!?" This was about to become serious; one could tell from Orphen's tone. "Let me tell you something, you - !"
"Ah! Cleao!" Majic interrupted what was likely to become an insult, distracting both of his companions for a moment. "Here," he continued, holding the two boxes of chocolates toward her.
Her eyes lit up as she took them. "Ooh! Thank you, Majic! But why are there two of them?"
He gave her a deliberately oblivious smile. "That's because one is from me, and one is from Oshou-sama."
"Oh!" Abruptly, Cleao's whole demeanor changed. "I take back what I just said! Thank you, Orphen!" She didn't seem to notice his scowl, too busy beaming over her gifts. "Well, I'm going to take advantage of those fantastic sales! Good luck with the chocolate, Majic!"
And before Orphen could take back what his apprentice had given her, she was out the door and loose on the market.
The dark-haired sorcerer turned his scowl on Majic. "Che! Who told you to get her one from me?"
I can't win, can I? "Sorry, Oshou-sama; I just thought you might forget." It wasn't quite a lie. "Is there anything else you need before I go out? I have to give Eris hers."
Orphen shifted his gaze to the bag in Majic's hand, then back up to his face. "I see two boxes."
"Eh…" He would notice that, wouldn't he? Majic scratched the back of his head, feeling his nerves creep up on him again. "I'm not sure which to give her."
His teacher made a dismissive noise, as if to sum up what he thought of the whole business. "Homemade or store-bought, you mean?"
"Yeah…" The blond shifted, the reminder making him feel even worse. "I felt bad, so I made some…" He stopped, realized Orphen probably didn't want to hear about it. "Well! Anyway, I should go. I won't be too long."
"Majic." Orphen's voice halted him in the act of reaching for the door handle. He offered a lazy smirk when his apprentice turned back toward him. "Whichever you don't give to her, want to give it to me?"
Should've known… "Okay, if you want them."
"I didn't ask if I wanted them!" An annoyed frown took the smirk's place. "I asked if you wanted to give them to me!"
Majic stared at him for a moment, puzzled. What does he mean by that? For some reason, the words set off a strange fluttering in his stomach; he had to swallow hard, and will it aside for the moment. "All right, Oshou-sama," he agreed, trying to sound normal. "If there's nothing you need me for…" He paused, and then, without really knowing why, plunged onward. "If you don't mind my asking, did you get chocolates for anyone?"
Another dismissive noise. "I don't give out chocolates."
That does sound like Oshou-sama. "Mm, I see." If there was a reply to that, Majic didn't know what it would be. He wasn't quite sure what to do about the strangely satisfied feeling he got from hearing it, either. "Well, I'll be back later. Goodbye!"
And he made a hasty retreat, before he could come up with an excuse to put off the meeting with Eris for any longer.
The conversation bothered him.
Majic sat at the table, both hands clasped around a mug that he wasn't even drinking out of. So far, he was still alone at the meeting place he and Eris had agreed on, and what occupied his mind at the moment was Orphen's strange request. A request that hadn't seemed strange until he'd added that last part. "I didn't ask if I wanted them! I asked if you wanted to give them to me!"
Why would he say something like that?
And why did it matter enough to make his heart jump the way it was?
He liked to think he understood his teacher pretty well, after spending so much time with him… but sometimes… well, sometimes, he just didn't.
That yanked him back out of his thoughts. Eris was hastily making her way across the outdoor soda shop, cheeks flushed from running. "I'm sorry!" she gasped, reaching his table. "I'm sorry… I know I'm late, but I got here as fast as I could! I'm sorry for making you wait!"
"It's ok." Majic couldn't help but smile. He had to admit, he was genuinely fond of Eris… she was a decent person, and a good friend. But still… "I have something for you," he told her, and opened the bag in his lap.
"For me?" He wasn't even looking at her, but he knew she would be blushing. "Well… I guess… it is White Day, after all," she said, sounding hesitant and awkward.
"Uh huh." It was funny, but… after all that worrying, that agonizing, that questioning… now that she was here, he had no doubts. He didn't even hesitate before pulling the box of store-bought chocolates from the bag and handing them over to her.
Eris had never been good at hiding her emotions, so he saw very clearly when the hope and the expectation in her face fell to bitter disappointment. "Oh… oh!" She took the box from him, and looked down, trying to force a pitiful imitation of a smile. "Thank you, Majic!"
"I know you're disappointed…" He had to drop his gaze; meeting her eyes was giving him a feeling like a knife twisting in his gut. This was the right decision… but… "I couldn't stop thinking about all the time you must have put into yours. So… I made some too, and I wish I could give them to you, because it isn't fair that I didn't. But…" He shook his head, feeling wretched. "I couldn't."
"It's all right." Her voice had that quiet, wavering tone like she was trying very hard not to cry. When he looked up again, he saw that she had his gift hugged tightly to her chest, as if she expected them to be taken. Her eyes glittered, but she blinked rapidly. "It'd be meaningless anyway, if you didn't want to give them to me."
Majic sucked in a breath sharply, feeling like her words had just doused him with icy cold water. "I asked if you wanted to give them to me!" Exactly like Eris had said. "… if you didn't want to give them to me." Meaning… if he wanted to give them to her…
It would mean he had feelings for her.
Oshou-sama… He couldn't breathe for a moment; it was hard to think. Majic dragged in another gulp of air, thoroughly shocked by his revelation. Is that what… Is that what you meant…?
Somewhere outside of his confused haze, he was aware of Eris getting up from the table. "Thank you, Majic." She quickly swiped at her eyes, and smiled to cover it up. "For being honest. Excuse me, please."
And then she was running past him, back into the crowd on the street.
"Eris!" He half-turned in his seat, but she didn't stop, and he didn't move to go after her. With a sigh, Majic turned around again, slumping back down against the chair. He felt bad for hurting her, but it was better to be honest now then to get her hopes up and break her heart later.
And now… Oshou-sama…
He leaned forward and rested his face on his hands, feeling almost dizzy. Oshou-sama was asking if I… It was almost unreal, but it struck home. The way his heart had jumped when Orphen had asked… that satisfied feeling he'd got from finding out his teacher wasn’t giving chocolate to anyone else…
I'm in love with him!
The craziest part was that Orphen had to have figured it out before he did. That was the reason for his strange question; he was trying to let Majic know that he knew, and that he was okay with it. He knew… All along, I had feelings for him - and he knew, but I didn't…
He probably should've been embarrassed, but for whatever reason, that strange satisfied feeling was back. Majic felt a smile tugging at his lips. Oshou-sama is always ahead of me, isn't he?
On impulse, he opened the bag again and took out the neat box he had prepared. Inside were the chocolates he'd spent his afternoon on - the chocolates made to go to someone he really did have feelings for. And, being totally honest, the person he cared for the most was Orphen. So…
I guess it is best to be honest, isn't it?
And, that way… Majic smiled to himself again, sliding the box back into the bag. That way I can at least expect an honest reply in return.
Majic jumped, spinning away from the door and instinctively tucking both arms behind his back. "O-Oshou-sama!" He lifted a hand and scratched his head nervously. "I didn't think you'd still be in the same place…"
"You've barely been gone twenty minutes." Orphen leaned back against the chair lazily, shutting his eyes. "Where did you think I would've gone?"
"O-Only twenty minutes?" Funny, it had seemed longer… "Ah, right." Majic shook his head to clear it and summoned all of his courage. "I gave Eris her chocolates."
No response. Well, what did I expect? He took a deep breath, and plunged on. "You said you wanted the ones I didn't give her, if I wanted to give them to you."
That did get a response, albeit a small one. Orphen opened one eye to look at him with mild curiosity. "And?"
"I thought about it…" Majic opened the bag. "And… And I guess I do." Quickly, before he could start having second thoughts, he pulled the box out and held it toward his teacher. "Uh. For… For you." His hand didn't shake too badly.
Orphen opened both eyes, and pushed himself to his feet. He gave Majic the faintest hint of a smile - but a genuine one, and not a smirk. "Thank you," he said - just that - and took the box.
Majic pulled back his arm. His fingers were shaking, so he jammed his hands together in front of him. It was over; he'd made his confession. But now… "I don't suppose… you…"
The older man guessed his question. "I told you, I didn't get chocolates for anyone."
"Oh." That left him at a loss. Majic licked his lips nervously. "Well… uh…"
"After all," Orphen kept talking, as if he hadn't noticed his apprentice trying to reply, "what would we do with two boxes of chocolates?"
Two boxes? Majic blinked. Then… We? "Oshou-sama…"
Again, the sorcerer acted like he hadn't heard him, glancing away from the shorter boy to open the box. "Cleao helped you to make these, didn't she?"
Thoroughly confused. Yes, that about summed it up. "Um… yes…"
"In that case," Orphen said decisively, looking up at him again, "you eat one first." He took one of the chocolates out, and held it up in Majic's direction. "They could be poisonous."
All right… Willing to go along with whatever his teacher had in mind - and trying to ignore the way his heart was hammering against his chest - the blond reached out to take the offered candy.
Only to have his hand rudely shoved out of the way. "Put that down," Orphen told him, fixing his apprentice with an unreadable stare. "Unless you want me to think you're trying to trick me."
This is strange… And promising. Majic willed his hands to quit shaking so badly, hope and anticipation making him almost breathless. "Okay, Osh - mmph!"
He didn't have a chance to finish that; the dark-haired sorcerer, true to his impatient nature, interrupted by shoving the chocolate home.
Ah… what is he…?
Orphen had stuffed food into his mouth before, and it wasn't the first time his fingers had been a part of that stuffing… But he'd never done it with something this small, and the faintly salty taste of his skin plus the rich sweet from the chocolate was making all kinds of strange sensations jump around in Majic's stomach. He had definitely never pressed a neat morsel onto his tongue with that sort of deliberate firmness, or let his fingers trail back out of the younger boy's now slack mouth with an almost seductive slowness, either. Majic felt his eyes slide shut almost of their own volition, chocolate plus the remembered pressure of Orphen's fingers sending little shivers of delight up and down his spine.
Oshou-sama… you… you…
Orphen had clearly been watching his reaction with interest; when he finished the chocolate and opened his eyes, the older man was still gazing at him. "Good?" he asked.
Majic nodded emphatically, and couldn't keep what was probably a really silly smile from spreading across his face. Unreal! "Very good, Oshou-sama."
"All right. Then I'll have one." Picking up the box from where he'd set it on the desk, Orphen almost off-handedly held it out - though the deliberate gaze he still had fixed on his apprentice's face spoiled the casual effect.
This was right out of a dream. Majic resisted the urge to pinch himself, reaching into the box for another chocolate. Who would want to wake up from a dream like this? His whole body tingled with the memory of his master's more-than-casual touch. It was a thrill he never wanted to lose.
Because this has to mean he's interested… he actually does want me! It was a dizzying realization; made him feel like he was floating and hooked, both at once. Majic fought once again to keep his hand steady, not wanting to mess up the moment.
It's almost too good to believe…
Either not noticing his distraction or not willing to wait for him, Orphen leaned forward and almost took a bite of the blond's fingers. The hot, moist suction of his mouth kept them trapped while his tongue curled to work the chocolate free of their grip.
Majic couldn't look away from Orphen's gaze; his breath was coming shorter and his body reacted with aching-sweet rushes of want. He pulled back his fingers and they came free very slowly, as if the taller man were reluctant to release them. The part that had been exposed to the air felt cold, a sharp contrast from the flushed heat covering the rest of him. "O-Oshou-sama?"
His fingers had been completely freed; Majic pulled them back hesitantly. "I want…" He sucked in a breath and tried again. "I want…"
A corner of Orphen's mouth quirked up. "Mm?"
"I want…" Majic took another breath to steady himself. "I want that chocolate!" he blurted out.
And the next instant, he was firmly clasped in Orphen's arms, getting his second taste of the chocolate, this time on his master's tongue and the inside of his lips as he was engaged in a soul-searing, achingly passionate kiss.
Majic tightened his arms around his teacher's neck. Chocolates, girls, and anything else about White Day were going to be far away from his mind for quite some time…
It was just starting to get dark when Cleao came back to the hotel. The day had been more than satisfactory, in her opinion. Slung across her shoulders and tucked under her arms were bags and packages - White Day specials. And waiting for her in her room were the two boxes of chocolates from Majic and Orphen.
Not as good as homemade chocolate. That was the only thing that wasn't quite as she would've liked it. The remembered taste of the chocolate she had helped Majic to make was enough to make the store-bought replacement seem like cardboard. Hmm… I wonder if…
The blonde girl set down her purchases, and looked around the room for a bit, expectantly. Sure enough, there it was - the neat box of Majic's carefully prepared chocolates, sitting open, forgotten, and mostly full on the table.
Cleao smiled to herself, picking up the box. Well, since he didn't give them out… he won't mind if I just have one…
A door opening distracted her before she could translate that thought into an action. Looking over, Cleao saw Majic closing the bathroom door behind him. He was wearing a huge white bathrobe, his hair was wet, and his cheeks were a bit flushed from the heat of the water.
"Ah! Majic!" Cleao set the box down quickly. "Did you give lots of chocolates today?"
He blinked at her, as if trying to remember who she was. "Uhh… oh. Yeah."
Geez, he's been so spacey lately! "Well… since you didn't give these to that girl, after all…" She gave her most winning smile. "Can I have one?"
Majic shook his head, a funny little smile on his face. Strange that his cheeks were so red… he must have just gotten out of the shower. "You'll have to ask Oshou-sama; they're his now."
"Tell her there's no chance in hell!" Orphen's voice called out, almost as soon as Majic had finished speaking. "Those are my chocolates; she's got plenty of her own!"
"Ooh…" Cleao fumed, wishing she had a good retort. Orphen beat me to them! I should've asked sooner… "Why? That's not fair!"
Majic shrugged, giving her an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Cleao, but it's not up to me." He turned down toward the room he shared with Orphen. "Excuse me, I'm just going to get dressed."
"Hmph." Cleao wandered down the hallway. The water was running in the bathroom, which only added to her defeat. "Or-phen! Are you in there?"
"Yes, I'm in here!" Irritable as usual. "Wait your turn!"
Cleao made an impatient noise and started to move away - then halted abruptly as a thought struck her. Wait a minute… Orphen had been in the bathroom…
But didn't Majic just come out of the shower?