Ash makes his way out of the locker rooms and into the main hallway, and winces as the bright colours sting his eyes, he thinks he’s accidentally walked into cupid’s living quarters. The hallways are filled with whites and pinks and reds. The doorways and window frames draped with balloons and flowers. Posters claiming “Be my valentine” and “What's not to love about love?” decorate the walls. It looks like the aftermath of an earthquake, sprawling glitter everywhere in its wake. The event organisers have gone all out this year, so hard that it's almost scary.
The cheer squad travel around the school in packs, interrogating every individual to buy a rose or a box of chocolates for their valentine, wearing sparkly pink hair ties and little hearts painted on their cheeks. Ash has lost count of how many times he’s been approached by them in the last few days. With Valentine’s day drawing nearer within several hours, their eyes gleam in excitement, with a hint of desperation as agitation takes over, time slowly running out.
Ash hates it. He hates all of it. Valentine’s day is just an excuse to financially rip people off their money to waste on worthless treats that put their health at risk and contribute to the economic growth while people in poorer countries starve to death. It’s stupid and dumb and he hates all of it.
He walks to homeroom and makes his way over to the back of the class where he sees Shorter leaning over the table to converse with Eiji. They’re both laughing about something and Eiji ducks his head in and his eyes crinkle as his mouth lets out delightful giggles. Ash feels his heart perform a somersault in his chest and the corners of his mouth tug up in defiance against his will.
Shorter looks up and greets him when he slips into the seat next to him. The wild mohawk of his purple hair is hidden beneath a black hoodie.
“Good morning Ash,” greets Eiji with a smile that could light up even the darkest days.
“Good morning Eiji,” replies Ash in a soft voice. Shorter sits beside them, with an amused smile playing at his lips, watching Ash and Eiji talk so delicately to each other. Ash’s cold demeanour melts whenever he’s around Eiji. Cold, hardened eyes glaring daggers at anyone that dares look his way turn into tight-lipped smiles, welcoming with open arms, glowing with a sort of happiness that’s bought by being smitten.
Suddenly, one of the cheerleader’s that got rejected by Ash last week when she asked if he wanted to go grab a drink with her, appears at his side once again, as if magnetised to him and unable to stay away. The familiar furrow between his brows appears as he’d been disrupted from his conversation with Eiji.
“Hey Ash, are you willing to buy something from the Valentine stall? Remember all the money goes to a great cause. We have roses, teddy bears, balloons and Valentine grams that can be sent anonymously or-”
Ash sighs, “No Emma, I told you, I’m not interested.”
“There's not a single person you’re not interested in?” Emma replies, raising her eyebrows. Ash’s cheeks are blooming with a pink dusting and through a strained voice he says “No.”
Eiji looks down at his lap, the beginnings of a disheartened frown forming.
Emma pouts and starts to walk away. Shorter sees Ash shoot a quick glance at Eiji, the cogs in his head whirring as he formulates a plan.
In a moment of a quick rush of adrenaline, he impulsively makes a split-second decision.
“Hey, Emma! Wait! I’ll come by the stall at break,” he shouts across the room. Everyone else in the classroom descends into silence, peering at Ash with wide eyes and questioning glances.
She turns back with a beam and a promise holding to see him there. There’s confusion with a hint of hope lingering in Eiji’s eyes that Ash doesn’t seem to catch.
It seems that the news of Ash buying something for his valentine had spread throughout the school like a wildfire within two hours. Their stories varied from Ash having a secret love affair with a girl from Paris to Ash secretly being involved with the mafia, putting the life of his lover at risk. Everywhere he went, they all pointed and stared and whispered like he wasn’t right in front of their face. Countless people had come up to him in the hallway, probing him in the hope that he would give them a hint about his ‘secret lover’. They were relentless but Ash would not budge.
Shorter is currently accompanying Ash to the overly decorated stall, complete with a balloon arch. The cheerleaders notice Ash approaching them and straighten their spines and fix their hair, it’s pathetic, Shorter thinks, with a shake of his head. And completely useless. Even a blind fool can see he has a thing for a certain somebody.
Ash lets his eyes wander across the displays, presenting a range of different gifts to choose from. He takes his time, pointedly ignoring the expectant silence.
“Hm, Shorter, what do you think I should buy?” Ash turns to him, a playful smirk on his lips, knowing that the cheerleaders are absorbing his every word.
Shorter decides to play along, “I don’t know, you seem to know them better than I do, so you have to choose." He silently applauds himself at the slight shock that overcomes Ash and disappears just as quickly as it had come.
Ash wonders whether or not he should buy an anonymous valentine gram when his eyes suddenly land on a huge teddy bear. It’s gigantic, looming over them dangerously and Ash is quite certain that it’s just as tall as him. It has a red bowtie and holds a stitched red heart reading out ‘Will you be my Valentine?’ in white lettering, with an arrow shooting through it.
He stares at it a long time, contemplating whether or not he should buy it.
“How much is that?” he asks, nodding towards the teddy bear sitting atop the display, smiling innocently.
“Ah,” speaks up one of the girls, “our grand prize,” she says with a flourish.
“You can certainly have this,” she says persuadingly, “howeverr, you also need to acquire each one of these gifts too,” she says, waving her hand all over the display.
Ash stands in silence for a moment and Shorter knows what he’s about to do before the words have even left Ash’s mouth.
“Deal, I’ll buy it,” he says firmly, already reaching for his wallet.
The cheerleaders stand frozen in place, eyes blown wide in astonishment.
“Well, are you gonna sell it to me?” Ash speaks up, an eyebrow quirked up in question.
They stand still, blinking and unmoving.
“Actually, instead of a single rose, can you make it thirty roses? And have a couple of balloons too, please,” he requests as they shot into action.
“Also, make it anonymous, and I’ll have someone deliver it to the person I want tomorrow,” they move like puppets under his command, in too much shock to question anything.
Several minutes later, when they’re walking away from the stall, Shorter overhears one of the girls say “Holy shit, whoever he’s involved with is lucky as hell.” Shorter knows Ash heard her because he smirks slightly while walking with his hands in his pockets.
“Soo” drawls out Shorter.
“What?” snaps Ash, knowing he’s implying something.
“You ever gonna get the balls to tell him it’s from you or what?” he asks casually.
Ash turns to him sharply, knitting his eyebrows together, accusing eyes zoned in on Shorter. “What?”
“You know what I mean,” Shorter replies exasperatedly.
“No, actually, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ash stubbornly juts out his chin, pouting.
“I’m just sayyingg,” Shorter drags out.
“What? ” Ash bites out again.
Shorter raises his hands defensively, “You guys have something,” he says shrugging.
Ash stops short in his tracks, “What do you mean?” he asks, his face set in curiosity.
Shorter stops a few steps ahead of Ash and turns to face him, “Come on man, you look at him like he hung the moon and all the stars up in the sky,” he replies.
Ash feels as if all the air in his lungs has been sucked out. He stands rooted to the spot, feeling the rush of ice cold water flow through his veins.
“What?” his voice comes out squeaky. “No I don't,” he says, hoping he sounds convincing enough.
Shorter raises an eyebrow in retaliation, “You smile more whenever he's around. He laughs more whenever you're with him. And don't even get me started on you both being fools,” Shorter says with a shake of his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“I've seen you both look at each other when you think the other is looking away, you know exactly what I'm talking about.”
Ash doesn't say anything, instead turns on his heel and keeps walking without a word. Shorter hums in approval and follows after him.
Eiji taps his fingers onto his crossed arms in apprehension, standing next to Yut-Lung as he contemplates over which roses look the best.
Eiji had exclaimed “They all look the same!” about at least 10 times now, but Yue still persists that, “They all have a different shade of red” and he needs the one that “Looks the best.”
Eiji is surprised that Yue even mustered the courage to even do something this drastic, he’s the type to usually sit back and expect everything to be done for him at his command. Seems like a switch had flipped and he’s taking matters into his own hands.
“Eiji, do I buy the burgundy one or the red one?” Yue asks, his fingers playing with his long hair, cascading down in a raven waterfall.
Eiji is just about to tell him to make up your mind and just pick one, when one of the girls at the stall interjects with an air of irritation, saying, “Look we don’t have all day, and like your friend said, they’re all the same colour.”
Yue frowns, “Well clearly you know nothing about flowers seeing as you can’t even tell the different colours apart,” he says smugly, as the girls bristle with annoyance.
Eiji jumps in before it goes further and grabs Yue’s arm, “If you’re not gonna buy something then I will. So make up your mind.”
Yue turns to him, a smirk plastered across his lips, “Oh, please do, you can buy something for your little crush.”
Eiji tightens his grip on Yue’s arm threateningly and through a strangled voice grits out, “Be quiet.”
But deep inside, a part of him that had been nagging at his mind all week wants to take a risk. So he takes a deep breath and steps forward boldly. Also because he wants to rub it in Yue’s face.
There are valentine grams with different designs and messages written on them, different coloured balloons, and boxes of chocolates. He spots a huge teddy bear, sitting atop the display, it's nearly as huge as him and he lets his mouth fall open in wonder.
“Are you selling that?” he asks.
The girl nods, “Yes, but it’s already been reserved by somebody else.”
“Oh,” Eiji replies in disappointment. The teddy bear would've been cool to own.
He turns back to the other products still laid out. Next to him, Yue has picked up a box of chocolates in his hands and is reading the label stuck on the back.
Eiji debates between picking out a Valentine gram or picking out a bunch of roses. He settles with the former and picks out a simple Valentine gram, decorated with a string of hearts, it reads “You’re sweeter than honey.” He also decides to buy a large box of chocolates, along with three fake roses. While he’s paying for his items, Yue has picked up around twenty roses in one hand and four boxes of chocolates in the other, struggling to hold onto them. Eiji snickers while he struggles and Yue shoots him a glare, hidden beneath the roses shadowing his view.
When they’re walking away, Eiji asks, “So are you just going to dump all of those on his lap and run away like last time?”
Yue huffs out a breath, making his fringe flutter upwards. “No,” he says begrudgingly.
“You know, the entirety of the school population will give him love confessions tomorrow, so you're gonna have to do something that makes you stand out,” Yue says, nodding towards the Valentine gram in Eiji’s hands.
Eiji’s heart drops to his stomach and he feels a sweat break out. “What are you talking about?” he asks, pretending to be oblivious and staring at a spot on his shoes.
“Well, I’m pretty sure those aren’t for you to confess your undying love to me,” Yue says, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
“How would you know?” Eiji challenges.
“Because you’re so far up his ass, that you don’t even spare a glance for anyone else,” Yue says without batting an eye.
Eiji coughs, the air suddenly getting stuck in his throat and Yue sniggers next to him.
The next morning sees the whole student body thrown into chaos. Couples suck face at each given corner of the school building, pinned against the walls and making inappropriate noises that the passers-by are resulted to suffer from. Lockers lining the hallways are plastered with flowers and cards, barely hanging on with the weight of the gifts bearing down on the tape. Already, the hallways are strewn with litter from package covers and envelopes. Every five minutes, someone will get down on one knee, holding a huge poster, while the others around them whip out their phones to capture humiliation or happiness.
Eiji is currently accompanying Yue as he marches down the hallway carrying his gifts, glaring at anyone that doesn't make way for him. Eiji notices Sing at his locker, talking to a girl with long hair and glasses, as she hands him a rose with a shy smile. He accepts the gift with a grateful smile and says something back to her.
Yue notices them, and he feels anger prickling away inside him. Keeping his gaze zoned in on Sing, he makes a beeline towards him, almost barreling into someone taking their sweet time walking. Sing startles when Yue suddenly appears at his side, almost tripping over his feet and falling into his chest, but Yue composes himself, face pulled into a frown and glaring at the girl that stands in place, shocked.
She looks between them, confused but then seems to get the message and apologises to Sing and scurries away. Eiji decides it’s best if he stands a few feet away from them as Yue thrusts his gifts onto Sing’s chest without a word.
He looks away, fixing his gaze onto the floor. He hears them talk quietly, murmuring under their breaths. He hears the ruffle of a package and a soft gasp as two bodies collide. Eiji blushes in shame, feeling like an intruder imposing on their intimate moment. He can hear some people whispering as they see the exchange.
Eiji wonders if he’ll receive any gifts today. Probably not.
It’s as if someone had heard his foolish thoughts and decided to laugh in his face. A pair of red converse enter his field of vision and his heart skips a beat.
He hurriedly looks up but disappointment courses through him as he isn't met with jade eyes and blonde hair.
Instead, it’s a girl, holding out a valentine gram and a box of chocolate for him to take. She has light brown hair and warm hazel eyes, a sprinkling of pink sitting atop her cheekbones. She smiles hesitantly, and Eiji beams at her in response. He takes her offering as she quietly says “Happy Valentine’s day Eiji,” and promptly turns around and walks away quickly.
He stares after her in wonderment, in too much shock to say or do anything. He didn't think he'd receive anything from anyone today, much less someone he didn't know too well. Eiji vaguely remembers helping the girl pick up her books that she'd dropped. They'd talked a little here and there during the classes they'd shared but other than that, they hadn't really interacted much before. His chest blooms with gratitude and he smiles widely, tightly clasping the gift.
To his utter surprise, the gifts and confessions don't stop coming his way all throughout the whole day. He can't take 5 steps without someone stopping him and handing him something and walking away quickly. His arms are full with various gifts weighing down on him. And the smile plastered on his face seems to be permanent, his face hurts from smiling for so long.
Yue is latched onto the arm belonging to Sing. The constant scowl on his face is replaced with something far more serene, he almost looks at peace with himself, and the expression is so foreign to Eiji that it’s almost scary.
They walk in front of him, arm in arm, stealthily moving forward and risking a look around them. Yue turns his head back towards Eiji and quickly shoots him a wink, and Eiji smirks back in response.
They’ve reached their destination.
Yue suddenly rips away from Sing’s hold, and whips out a mirror, stopping mid-stride. He raises it above his head, pretending to look at his reflection, and touches his hair, while actually looking around him in the hallway, cautious for any passersby. Sing stands behind him, and he leans his head against Yue’s, looking into the mirror. Eiji sees Yue’s eyes widen just a fraction and a blush starts to crawl up his neck.
Eiji moves fast behind them, shadowed by their figures. With his heart in his throat, Eiji takes out the letter from his pocket. It’s been burning at his leg this whole day, a fire he just couldn't put out even if he tried. He clasps the letter tightly in his shaky hands, and stares down at the letter in contemplation, his mind spouting out the worst possible scenarios. Stormy jade eyes cloud his vision and his heart leaps in his chest. He swallows through the lump forming in his throat and breathes in deeply through his heart rate that’s speeding ahead what’s considered average.
“Honey, we have visitors,” whispers Yue behind him, through gritted teeth, and Eiji picks up the last of his scattered courage and steps towards his locker. It’s already been crowded with possibly hundreds of gifts hanging onto dear life through a thin strip of sticky tape.
“Eiji,” whispers Yue harshly, and Eiji hastily shoves the letter through the small opening in his locker and whips around, a hot burst of adrenaline coursing through his veins. He immediately takes off in the opposite direction, leaving Yue and Sing behind. Yue gawks loudly but follows after him, Sing hot on his trail.
He did it, he took a chance.
Now he has to wait and see if it’ll bite him in the ass or gift him with something beautiful. He desperately wishes for the latter.
Ash Lynx is the high school heartthrob. It’s common for half of the school population to have a crush on him, because when he walks past, he takes your heart along with him. On most valentines days, he’ll receive an immeasurable amount of gifts from a quarter of the school population, and love confessions from another quarter. It doesn't surprise him anymore, and he isn't the slightest bit fazed by it. But it is stifling to have something thrown in his face every five seconds, he can't even breathe let alone take a small step. Shorter, Alex and Bones are the subjects to his suffering, as they’re currently carrying all of his gifts for him, grunting and groaning in annoyance at having to endure this “every damn year.”
Ash frowns, he thinks he saw a familiar mop of black hair rush past the corner of the corridor, but it could just be anyone.
He makes his way towards his locker, backpack slung over one shoulder and hands in his pockets as he strolls down the hallway with ease. There are clusters of people standing around his lockers in groups, whispering in anticipation for the moment he opens his locker.
He unlatches it slowly, cautiously peeking in through the little gap and seeing his locker filled to the brim with cards and envelopes. Inch by inch, he opens it up, and already, countless letters are flooding out of the opening, and he drops his hand away from the door with a sigh, letting them flood at his feet.
Behind him, Shorter, Alex and bones all sigh deeply simultaneously, and they bend down to pick up all the clutter collected at their feet. Ash collects them until he can no longer hold anymore, shoving them into a bag hurriedly. He feels bad for his friends to endure this every year.
While he’s throwing a pink card into the bag, he hears Shorter let out a soft gasp, and he turns around to see him clutching a pretty pink envelope. It’s blank save for the beautiful handwriting addressing him. Shorter is staring down at the envelope with wide eyes, and he looks up at Ash in amazement. Shorter hands Ash the envelope, and he takes it reluctantly.
Shorter watches him while he reads the front side, and Ash feels a chill crawl up his neck at the all too familiar handwriting scrawled upon the letter. It itches at him as he tries to desperately place as face to the handwriting. The realization engulfs him whole and his stomach drops as a flash of hazel eyes and an angelic laugh appear in front of his eyes, knocking the breath out of him.
He feels Shorter place a warm and reassuring hand on his shoulder, grounding him. “You know what you have to do,” he says gently.
Ash takes a deep breath and recollects himself, and he slowly rises to his feet. He nods firmly at his friends and says, “Let’s get to work,” determination set in his eyes.
Eiji is making his way to the cafeteria, third-wheeling behind Yue and Sing. He avoids looking up and making eyes contact with anyone and firmly keeps his gaze locked onto the floor.
The whispering starts slowly at first and then it bursts into a hushed silence.
Yue frantically tugs at his arm, urging him to look up. Eiji looks around, confused but then he sees them.
The hallway is split down the middle, people taking refuge at the sides as he stands in the middle, dumbfounded. Yue quickly drags Sing with him to the side, leaving Eiji abandoned and wide-eyed.
Shorter and Alex are making a beeline straight at him, Alex carrying red helium balloons in the shape of hearts. Shorter, however, is carrying the huge teddy bear that was being sold at the stall.
Eiji, confused, tries to move out of the way, but Yue shoves him abruptly when he tries to move, making him stumble forward. Alex stops in front of him, smiling softly and hands Eiji the balloons. Eiji takes them, extremely confused. Alex steps back, letting Shorter come forward with the huge teddy bear.
Shorter holds out the heavy gift to Eiji, he very hesitantly accepts it. It’s bigger than he remembers, coming up to his chin and nearly making him stumble backwards with the unexpected weight of the cotton. Eiji shoots him a grateful smile and tries to say thank you when Shorter shoots him a wink and steps back, his hands behind his back and a smirk playing at his lips.
Then he steps forward. He holds a large number of roses in his hands, a soft smile on his lips as he comes nearer and nearer to Eiji.
He holds out the roses in offering, but Eiji’s hands are full, and he panics. He quickly turns to Yue and Sing, giving Sing the balloons and Yue the teddy bear which he gratefully holds.
The entire building has descended into a deathly silence and everyone is staring at them, calculating their every move. Ash steps forward into Eiji’s space, holding out the bouquet of roses between their chests. Eiji is sure that every person in the building can hear the loud drumming of his heart in his chest and see the way his knees are slightly trembling at their close proximity. He holds his breath, not daring to breathe out and shatter this moment.
Ash is leaning down and closer towards him, and just as there’s a hairsbreadth of space between them, he whispers, “Happy Valentine’s day Eiji,” his breath fanning onto Eiji’s lips, sending a shiver down his spine.
Without thinking, his limbs move on their own accord. He rises on his tiptoes and snakes an arm around Ash’s neck, bringing them impossibly closer and smashing their lips together. Ash obliges, moving their lips together softly and slowly. Eiji feels his stomach swoop, like a bird taking flight. His hands rake through Ash’s soft blonde hair, grasping and pulling him closer.
He hears a shout of joy somewhere behind him and someone else wolf-whistles and someone else is clapping and someone else is shouting “Finally!” and the hallway suddenly erupts into shouts of exhilaration and in a split second, everyone has descended into chaos.
They pull away, leaning their foreheads against each other and smiling so wide that their faces hurt, breathing deeply. Ash smiles at him softly, and Eiji feels his heart skip a beat.
“I heard you like my ‘jade eyes that shine in the light’” Ash says against his ear, teasingly. Eiji doesn't reply, instead, he brings Ash’s mouth back down on his and smiles against his lips in response.
The roses between their chests are squished out of shape, but Eiji doesn’t care, he has what he wants right here, in his arms.