Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Sakura » September 12th, 2008, 9:07 pm

Then again, do they really need sleep?
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » September 19th, 2008, 2:51 am

Well, down to the last chapter......... so far. I don't know if she has any more on that little eepc of hers or not. I may have to steal the thing and check. But anyway, on to chapter 20.

Words and Realizations

AN: Okay. I tried my best to get this out before Labor Day, and wouldn't you know it? I got it out exactly one hour before midnight! Yay me! So, there's some serious VxH fluff in this one, for all you VxH fans out there. Let me know how I'm doing with it, please! It's tough to write a believable fluffy Van, since he's kind of the silent, stoic type. Ah well. We all know what a romantic sweetie he is underneath it all, right?

Hmm. I suppose once every few chapters I should do this: I don't own Escaflowne. Seriously, like that's even a question. I would've made a good sequel that got VxH back together if I owned it, anyway. So! On with the story!

“You're driving,” Annie stated firmly as she shoved the keys into Hitomi's hands.

Hitomi laughed. “You're that hung over? Seriously, how much did you drink last night?”

“Too much,” she moaned, and Allen nodded in miserable agreement behind her. “I'm never going to have another alcoholic drink again.”

“Hm. I feel fine,” Van said, amusement glinting in his dark chocolate eyes. Hitomi bit down hard on her lips to stop herself from giggling at the uncharacteristically sheepish look on Allen's face. It was definitely a strange, and rather amusing, expression for him. Annie just glowered and muttered something incoherent. Hitomi thought she should change the subject, before Annie's very short fuse ran out.

“Where's Jason? I thought he was coming back with us.”

Annie shook her head, then looked like she deeply regretted the motion. “Naw. He wanted to snowboard some more, so he's hitching a ride back with someone else tonight. Why the hell doesn't he get sick? I mean, he drinks more than me, stays up all night...”

Hitomi thought it best to just let her rant as they loaded their few bags into the car and started for home. Van had taken the passenger seat next to her, and Allen and Annie had climbed into the back. It wasn't long before silence reigned in the back seat, and Hitomi glanced behind her to see both of them passed out.

“Thank God,” she said with a grin at Van. “Maybe they'll sleep off some of their crabbiness.”

“Never thought I'd see Allen with a hang over,” Van smirked. Hitomi giggled as quietly as she could so she wouldn't wake the cranks in the backseat.

“Seriously, though,” she said when she regained control. “I don't know if I should feel sorrier for Allen having to spend time with Annie, or Annie having to spend time with him.”

“I think they're good for each other. Annie doesn't seem to mind it.”

“True,” Hitomi agreed. “Besides, she's the one who said she'd take care of Allen last night so we could...”

She turned beet red as she realized what she'd just let slip. Van turned in his seat to stare at her and she squirmed under his intense scrutiny. Surprise and elation leaped through his senses, and he did his best to keep his face calm. Was last night a planned effort on her part, or was it just a stroke of luck? He hoped it was because she planned it. He couldn't help thinking how cute she looked, blushing and nearly wriggling with embarrassment.

“Really?” He asked, trying to sound casual. “Why would she have said that?”

Hitomi could have died. She wanted her seat to close up like a Venus Fly Trap and swallow her whole. She couldn't tell him she wanted to get him back to the hotel room because she wanted to jump his bones! Or that she'd put a lot of thought into figuring out how to get him to go just a little bit farther. Oh, lord, she wished he'd stop staring at her like that!

“Um, well, you know,” she stuttered, biting her lip. She took a deep breath and finished the rest in a rush, “I just wanted to spend some time alone together. That's all!”

Van grinned. He just couldn't help it. He knew he probably looked like a doofy, sappy, fool, but the fact that she admitted to wanting to spend time alone with him made him feel like he could fly- without his wings. Love, he supposed, did weird things like that to a person.

Hitomi stole a glance at him, embarrassed, needing to see his reaction. He was still staring at her, with a goofy smile on his face to make it worse! She blushed so hard that it physically hurt. Was he laughing at her? Well, even if he was, that stupid grin made him look so incredibly adorable that she didn't really mind.

“What are you staring at me for?” she mumbled. Now it was Van's turn to blush and search frantically for an explanation. How could he tell her that he thought she looked beautiful in the early afternoon light pouring through the windows? Or that he'd never felt this way before? He wasn't very good with words.

“I was just thinking that you look...” he hesitated. “It's strange to see you operating this machine.”

Hitomi blinked at him, confused, and Van wanted to smash his head through the windshield. Good gods, he was as hopeless as he was when he was fifteen. Basically, he'd just told her she looked weird driving a car. He braced himself for the slap he knew he deserved for messing up so completely, right after she'd admitted to wanting to spend time alone with him no less!

It slowly dawned on Hitomi that he was talking about her driving the car, and for a moment, she didn't know what to say. Was that really what he was thinking about? After she just told him she'd purposefully tried to get some time alone with him? Her hands tightened on the wheel. If that was true, then did he ever deserve a good, hard slap!

She looked over at him and noticed the goofy smile was gone, replaced by a disheartened and disgruntled look. Her hands relaxed and she smiled gently. Poor Van. She didn't know what exactly he'd wanted to say, but she knew in her heart that he hadn't been thinking about her driving. He was just plain horrible with words. The action that, he was good at. Hitomi's nerves tingled remembering his touch.

“That didn't come out right,” Van muttered beside her and she smiled lovingly at him.

“It's okay, Van. Really.”

His eyes flickered to her face, and her smile made him visibly relax. The disgruntled frown was slowly replaced by a tentative smile that warmed his brooding eyes. Hitomi found herself wishing she wasn't driving so she could lean over and coax his mouth back into that goofy grin with a kiss.

Annie poked her head between the two, effectively breaking the moment. “As scintillating as your conversation is, I'd rather not be hearing it. Can we have some tunes, already?”

Hitomi glanced into the rear view mirror as Annie made a grab for the ipod. Allen was awake, too, staring silently out the window. For the second time, she wanted to melt into her seat. What exactly had the two of them overheard? It was all innocent, right? Oh god, had Allen heard the bit about Annie keeping him out of their way last night?

The tips of Van's ears turned a painful red when Annie paused in her search for appropriate music to give him a withering glare. Apparently, she'd heard his verbal screw-up. There was no doubt in his mind that she'd corner him later and give him a scorching earful, and possibly the slap Hitomi had refrained from giving him. She finally picked a song and flopped back into her seat.

It's a critical solution, and the East Coast's got the blues
It's a mass of confusion- like the lies they sell to you-

Allen grimaced and looked over at Annie, singing along to the song. “Can't we listen to something less...violent?” he asked, just loud enough for her to hear.

“Just deal with it, princess,” she snapped without looking at him. He sighed and closed his eyes.


Annie flicked a glance at him, annoyed. He turned to gaze unseeingly out the window again, and her expression softened. Abruptly, she dived between the front seats and grabbed the ipod, ignoring Hitomi and Van's confused looks as she searched through the list of songs.

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse...

Annie settled herself back into her seat and stared out of her window, singing along softly to the words. In the front seat, Hitomi and Van glanced at each other often, sharing secret, shy smiles that made Allen's already sensitive stomach twist.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Jichia above, Annie had a knack for picking songs that poked a lyrical finger right in his most raw, open wounds. Why would she choose such a sad song? It hardly inspired the romantic mood he thought she'd be trying to foster in the two in the front seat. Not that they appeared to need any help with that. Actually, he was shocked that she'd interrupted their conversation in the first place. Not that he minded that, either.

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes

Allen turned to look at Annie. He couldn't help it. She sang so softly, but with such an intensity that it overshadowed the actual singer in the music. She shifted, and her deep, mahogany eyes locked with his.

And I will try to fix you.

It sounded like a promise, the way she nearly whispered the last line. In the front seat, Hitomi laughed at some remark Van made on the passing scenery, and the song switched. Annie swung her gaze back to the window, breaking the moment. After a moment, Allen took a deep breath and shook his head. It was silly to think any of that had any meaning. It was just a song, after all. His hangover must be making him melodramatic.

Van's thoughts were floating somewhere above the clouds while he helped unload the car. He and Hitomi had spent the entire drive talking, just idle conversation about mundane things. As far as he could remember, they'd never done that before. Their time had always been limited, forcing them to be brief. In truth, Hitomi had done most of the talking, but Van was more than content to listen and watch her. He wondered if she knew that she used her hands almost as much as her mouth when she talked.

“Thinking about how strange Hitomi looks, Vanny-dear?” Annie asked in a sickly-sweet voice. Van jumped as his thoughts crashed back down to earth. He'd been too distracted to notice that somehow he'd ended up standing outside with just Annie.

“That wasn't what I meant. I'm not very good with things like that,” he replied defensively.

“You mean like with compliments? No kidding,” Annie returned with a smirk. “That was one of the most pathetic things I've ever heard.”

“I didn't know what to say. It was the first thing I thought up.”

“An untrained monkey could've thought up something better,” she muttered. “How about, 'You look pretty, Hitomi' or 'I want to spend time alone with you, too, Hitomi'? Anything.”

Van hunched his shoulders and scowled at his feet. “Words just don't come that easily to me. Hitomi knows that.”

“Let's hope so,” Annie said, giving him a withering glare as she slammed the trunk closed. “At any rate, so long as you're making up for your lack of verbal skills with your nonverbal ones, she might not mind too much.”

Van hoped he could blame his red face on the cold as he hurried inside after Annie. He found Hitomi in the kitchen, preoccupied with putting something into the microwave. Van gave the whirring machine a distrustful look. The only time he'd touched the thing, there had been an oatmeal explosion.

“I hope you're okay with Cup Ramen for supper. Annie's not up to cooking, and I'm pretty hopeless at it,” she said apologetically. Van shrugged and accepted the steaming cup she handed to him. She motioned for him to follow, and they wandered up to her room. Once again, Van found himself hesitating just inside the doorway out of ingrained habit. Hitomi rolled her eyes at him.

“C'mon, Van. We just spent the night in a room together. This isn't any different.”

Van looked sheepish. “I know. I'm trying. Things are very different here.”

Hitomi was immediately contrite. “Sorry. I didn't mean it like that. You're doing a great job fitting in here. Really.”

“Hm. I have a better appreciation for how difficult it must have been for you on Gaea,” Van replied with a shrug. He came and sat next to her on the bed, and she beamed at him.

“Yeah, but I didn't stick out too bad there, did I?” she said proudly.

“Huh. I wouldn't say that,” Van replied, staring into his cup of noodles.

“Excuse me? What does that mean?” Hitomi squawked.

Van looked up at her with a surprised blink. “Well, your hair was short then. And your clothes were obviously not Gaean.”

“Why not? What was so weird about them?”

Van gave her a completely innocent look. "Your skirt was indecently short.”

Hitomi made a move to punch his arm, and he dodged out of the way.

“I liked it,” he added with a wicked grin. Hitomi had to laugh.

“Okay, so how about when I wore that Asturian dress?”

Van got a dreamy look on his face. “Yeah. I remember that. You ripped that skirt indecently short, too.”

He looked so happy about that fact that she had to swallow a giggle to keep her face serious. “I ripped it so I could run fast enough to reach you in time, you ungrateful jerk.”

“I wasn't complaining about it.”

“Men,” Hitomi sighed, shaking her head disparingly. She scooped up a few noodles with her chopsticks and blew on them to cool them down. After a moment, she looked up to discover Van fumbling with his pair of chopsticks, frowning.

“Here. Like this, Van,” she said. She held up her pair and showed him how to position them correctly. After several tries, he finally managed to scoop up one noodle.

“Why would anyone try to eat with two sticks?” he demanded as the noodle slithered back into his cup with a sad plop.

“Chopsticks are the traditional eating utensils of my country,” Hitomi replied with a grin. “Eating with them is an art. It's much more refined than using something shaped like a shovel to get food to your mouth.”

She slurped up a few noodles and grimaced at the splatters she left behind on her shirt. Van's mouth twitched as he hid a smile.

“Hm. So I can see.”

Hitomi ignored him and concentrated on eating her noodles as delicately as possible. After a few more fruitless attempts with his chopsticks, Van resorted to drinking the noodles straight out of the cup.

“We should see if anyone posted some pictures from yesterday,” Hitomi suddenly exclaimed. She jumped up and grabbed a flat, rectangular item from the top of her desk and flopped back down on her stomach on the bed. Van watched, amazed, as she opened it and a screen blinked to life.

“What is that thing?” he asked, pointing at it.

“Oh. It's a laptop. A portable computer,” she explained. Van looked baffled, but she couldn't figure out a way to make it clearer for him. Instead, she searched her friend's pages for recent pictures.

“I knew it! Alecia's got some up already!” she squealed as she opened the files. She prayed someone had gotten a few good shots of Van in his all his sexy swimsuit glory. She'd been too busy staring at him to take very many pictures of her own.

Van lay down next to her and propped himself up on his elbows to get a better look at the screen. They laughed together at the pictures of the pool basketball game, and Hitomi secretly drooled at a few particularly hot pictures of Van.

“Are you able to see more pictures on this, erm, laptop?” Van asked when they'd come to the last file.

“Sure! Wanna see my photos?” Hitomi asked eagerly. Van nodded, and she quickly clicked onto her own page. Here was a chance to show him a little bit more about her life!

Van listened intently to every story she told behind each picture. There was an entire album devoted to the trip Annie had taken with her back to Japan. There was another one for her friends, and another one for her college achievements. Her life appeared full and happy, and realization suddenly hit Van like a punch from a Guymelef.

He'd come here with the unconscious desire of asking her to return to Gaea, and a deep-rooted hope that she might say yes.

Now, looking at these frozen scenes from her life, listening to her, he didn't think he could do it. He couldn't ask her to make that choice. Besides, it was ridiculous to think she'd choose him over her entire world.

He watched her talking, memorizing the swing of her honey-colored hair, the gentle curve of her smile, the way her eyes crinkled in the corners when she laughed. He could have cried from his need for her.

“I'd like to see your school,” he replied through a dry throat to her casual mention of the possibility. He didn't, really. He wanted to burn it to the ground for taking her away from him.

Hitomi rolled onto her side and reached up a hand to tenderly brush a stray lock of hair away from his eyes. Her fingers lingered on his face, gently caressing his cheek, as she stared deeply, invitingly, into his eyes.

Van fought a war within himself. He wanted to touch her, to explore the warm silk of her skin and show her exactly how much he needed her, but the logical part of his brain screamed at him to stop. This woman could never be his. He had no right to touch her.

Then Hitomi leaned up to kiss him softly, and he no longer cared what was logical and right in this situation. If all he had was now, he would make the most of it.

His hand slid down to her hip as he deepened the kiss. Hitomi pulled him down on top of her as she lay herself back onto the mattress, her tongue eagerly meeting his in a wild dance. There was a controlled urgency in his touch that she responded to instinctually.

Van moved his hands slowly up, working his way under the thick fabric of her shirt. She made a breathless, eager sound and moved to accommodate his questing fingers. Her own hands found their way under his shirt, and he shivered at the tingling her fingernails caused as they raked over his skin.

It felt more intimate, somehow, here in her room, than it did last night in the hotel. Perhaps it was because they were surrounded by the evidence of Hitomi's life, of everything that made up bits of who she was. Her sweet scent, of wild flowers and fresh air, filled his senses and her sighs of encouragement drove him on. Van drew her shirt off with one fluid movement, and she followed suit moments after as she tugged his sweater over his head. His mouth moved down slowly, trailing from her earlobe to her collarbone, her fingers tangled in his hair.

There was no room now for logic or guilt or sorrow in Van's mind. There was only the two of them, drowning in the feeling of being together. They would be like this in Van's memory forever, with no regret and no need to make a choice. It would have to be enough.

Later, much later, when the urgency of their need for each other's touch was satisfied for the moment, Hitomi rested her head on Van's chest. His heartbeat was loud in her ear, beating in time with her own. Van's hand moved gently through her hair as the lean fingers stroked the honey-colored tresses. They could hear Annie coming quietly up the stairs and shutting the door to her bedroom.

“I should probably go downstairs,” Van said, his voice rumbling under her ear. Hitomi tightened her arms around him.

“Don't go,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Stay with me tonight.”

There was a long pause before Van spoke again. “I don't want Allen to think that we're-”

“I don't care what Allen thinks,” Hitomi cut him off. “You and I both know what we are and are not doing, and it's none of his or anyone else's business. But...if it bothers you...”

“No. It doesn't, if you don't mind,” he said, shifting his head so he could see her eyes. “But I don't want you to be dishonored in any way because of me.”

Hitomi could have laughed at his misplaced concern. She could have cried at his honest intensity. She did neither. She leaned up and kissed him lovingly instead.

AN: The two songs are "Garden of Eden" by Guns 'n Roses, and "Fix You" by Coldplay. Ja ne!
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Sakura » September 19th, 2008, 11:11 am

We're currently at page 82 in my document wow :thumb:
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » September 30th, 2008, 2:43 am

And you aren't done yet. Little Dinky has been at it again. She has a few more chapters written. So here;s the next one, chapter 21.

Ranting and Hope

AN: Wheew. Chapter 21, written and posted. Unbelievable! This chapter is mostly dialog, and honestly, not much happens. Just an in-between chapter to get Van to re-think his decision not to talk to Hitomi about coming back to Gaea. Well, mostly, it's about Annie's ranting about how stupid she thinks he's being. Oh, well. I wrote this very quickly, so please forgive the blandness and grammatical/spelling errors.

Van wasn't sure how long he'd been watching Hitomi sleep. The morning sun had yet to rise; he could only make out the vaguest of features as she lay cuddled up to him. Van's thoughts chased themselves around in circles, and he wished he could've slept longer to avoid the nagging pit of doubt and sadness in his mind.

Curse his internal clock! Fanelians rose with the dawn to work in the cool morning hours, and apparently he couldn't fight a lifetime of habit. Sighing, he pulled himself up to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Where're you goin'?” Hitomi muttered into her pillow groggily, wrapping the blankets tighter against the sudden chill from the absence of his body heat.

Van shrugged. “To take a shower. You should go back to sleep.”

She snuggled deeper into her cocoon, already more than half asleep, and he eased himself silently out the door and down the steps. He needed time away from her to clear his mind and come to terms with reality. When he was around Hitomi, the truth of their doomed relationship just didn't matter. But now, he knew for certain that he couldn't ask her to share her future with him, and he just didn't know what to do. Every time he thought of his looming departure, of touching her for the last time, his throat was gripped by such an intense desperation that he almost physically choked. He had to pull himself together.

Van crept around the corner of the dining room and stopped short at the sight of Annie seated at the table. Her face was illuminated by the glow of another one of those laptop-things, and she sipped on a steaming cup of tea.

“Does everyone on Gaea get up insanely early?” she demanded. “Al was clattering around in here almost an hour ago already. Why didn't anyone ever teach you the joys of sleeping in?”

In spite of himself, Van lips quirked into a tiny smirk. “A wise man once told me that the first cow gets the best grass.”

“Yeah, but the second mouse gets the cheese,” Annie retorted. “And if you're heading for the shower, don't bother. Allen's apparently the first cow today, Mr. Second Mouse.”

Van sighed and sank into the chair across from her. “So what cheese am I getting, then?”

“You get to spend time in my awesome company. Oh, and a warmed-up bathroom, I suppose.”

“I'd rather be the cow.”

Annie sniffed disdainfully. “Just for that, you can get your own cup if you want tea.”

Something hot sounded good in the chilly light of pre-dawn, and Van obediently got himself a cup. The tea was a bit to hot to drink, and he stared unseeingly at the curling steam rising from his cup, lost in his melancholy thoughts. It was nearly cold by the time he shook himself back to reality to find Annie watching him thoughtfully. Her penetrating gaze made him squirm uncomfortably in his chair.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“That's what I'm wondering. Something bothering you? 'Cause that didn't look like a “I'm in a happy place” zone-out.”

“It's nothing,” Van returned quickly. He took a sip of his cooled tea and pulled a face. Annie reached over and took his cup from him.

“Uh huh,” she said as she walked to the sink and dumped it out. “Are you feeling guilty about spending the night with Hitomi?”

“No- yes... It's complicated.”

Annie handed him back his refilled cup. “How so? I mean, you are planning on marrying her, right? So what's the problem?”

Van's stomach twisted, and for a moment he felt physically ill. The blood drained from his face, and he looked evasively away from her eyes. Annie set down the teapot carefully, watching his face intently.

“Van, you are going to ask her to come back with you...aren't you?”

Van felt a fist close over his heart, tight and hard. “I...can't” he forced out through a dry throat.

Annie stared at him with impossibly huge eyes. “What do you mean, you can't? Don't tell me you're already engaged to some princess or other! Or that your council won't let you or something, because I know you love her enough to fight them for her.”

“No, no. It's nothing like that. My council is probably hoping that I'll bring her back with me,” Van returned miserably. “But I just can't ask that of her. Hitomi has a life here, and a family, two families. She has friends, and hopes, and goals, and a life. I cannot ask her to give all that up. I won't make her choose.”

Annie stared at him for a long, long moment. “Van, I think that may be one of the sweetest, most selfless things I've ever heard anyone say. And it's definitely the stupidest.”


“I mean, how dumb are you? Don't you gotta get married and produce an heir and all that? And have you ever had even a passing interest in another woman since you met Hitomi?” When Van shook his head dumbly, Annie continued her rant. “Well, neither has she. I mean, ya' know, with a guy. Or a girl, whatever. She loves you. She loves you, you brainless idiot! How the hell do you think it's gonna sit with her someday when you've gotta marry some other woman? I'll tell you how! It's gonna break her damn heart, and it's gonna tick her off, too! I mean, didn't you love her enough to want her to be the one you do that heir-producing thing with? Or wasn't she good enough 'cause she's not royalty?”

Van sat listening to her wild rant, his mouth hanging open. Annie looked like she was about to throw the teapot at him, scalding tea and all. He thought it might be safer to keep his mouth shut and let her tell him off. Her words sparked off a tiny glimmer of hope deep in his veins.

“Van, listen to me. It's gonna to be a hard thing for her to go through, but you've got to at least give her the choice. I know you're just trying to protect her, but you're making the decision for her. And it's the wrong one.”

Van gave her a hard glare. “How do you know that?”

“Something like what you two have doesn't come around very often. Maybe once or twice in the history of the world, no matter what Hollywood wants us to believe. And it's worth fighting for, Van,” Annie returned earnestly.

“I'd be asking her to give up everything. What can I possibly offer in return?”

“How about yourself?”

“That's not enough,” Van replied bluntly.

“It will be,” Annie insisted, her face intent. They could hear Allen coming up the stairs then, and she gave his hand a quick squeeze. “Just think about it, okay?”

Van gave a terse nod as Allen came into the dining room and Annie stood up to make more tea. Gratefully, he slid silently downstairs and headed for the shower. His thoughts swirled so wildly that his head ached. What if Annie was right? The tiny spark of hope had grown to a roaring fire that raged through his very bones. Was it possible that Hitomi might want to go back to Fanelia with him?

Upstairs, Allen watched Annie uncertainly from his seat at the table. She paced furiously around the dining room, occasionally muttering under her breath and cracking her knuckles. She was beginning to make him too nervous to enjoy his tea. On her fifth pass around the table, he reached out and grabbed her arm, effectively pulling her to a halt. She turned to glare menacingly at him.

“Did something happen when I was downstairs?” he asked. “You were relatively normal before I showered, and now you're...” he paused, searching for a delicate way to say 'scary'. Nothing came to him, and he just left the words hanging.

Annie threw her hands up in exasperation. “He's not going to ask her! Can you believe that? After all the effort I put into it, he's not even going to ask her!”

“Who's not going to ask who what?” Allen asked, hoping his assumption for what exactly she meant was wrong. Annie gave him a look to shrivel his skin.

“Van, obviously, you squid-brain. Van is not going to ask Hitomi to go back with him, because the stupid moron thinks he just can't ask her to give up everything for him. Ugh! I mean, it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!”

Allen frowned. “Not really. He doesn't want to hurt her. In his own way, he's merely trying to protect her.”

“Yeah, I figured that out for myself, thank you,” Annie retorted. “This is another one of those 'chivalry' things, isn't it?”

“I- I suppose you could call it that.”

“So, apparently, chivalry makes you stupid,” she huffed as she resumed her pacing.

“It does not,” Allen ground out. “Van's decision is caring and honorable-”

“It's dumb,” Annie cut in. “Allen, it's just dumb, and you know it. And it's wrong, too!”

“I think it shows how selfless he is when it comes to her. He's putting what's best for her above his own desires.”

Annie gestured wildly. “Oh, is he? She loves him, Al! I mean, she really really loves him. If he asked her, I'm know she'd give up everything for him! To stay with him-”

Annie stopped at the flash of pain that crossed Allen's face. He looked quickly away, and she paled slightly.

“Oh, god, Allen. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have- lord, I'm such a bitch!” she wailed, smacking herself on the forehead.

“It's alright, honestly.”

“It's my big mouth. I'm always talking and not thinking...” she bit her lip. “I didn't mean to be cruel. Really.”

“Annie, you weren't cruel,” Allen replied evenly. “It's not about Hitomi. At least, not specifically. I want them to be happy. Truly happy.”

“Oh,” Annie replied uncertainly, clearly not fully understanding his explanation. She chewed on her bottom lip again, and Allen sighed.

“So, you think it would be wrong of Van not to give her the choice?” he prompted. He'd rather see her pacing and furious again than looking awkward and sad. Besides, the fact that she felt so bad for possibly causing him pain had started a warm feeling spreading through his chest. He wasn't altogether certain that he was comfortable with that, or how he'd had the impulse to reach out and smooth away the worried wrinkle on her forehead.

“Huh?” Annie blinked twice, and then swung back into full-force indignation mode. “Oh yeah! Of course it's wrong! He shouldn't decide for her. Or is that another chivalry thing, making decisions for people?”

“In order to protect someone, yes.”

“You can't protect someone from everything,” Annie persisted, resuming her pacing. “And this is just gonna end up hurting both of them in the long run. This is so stupid! After all the work I did to get them back together! They're gonna screw it up! The whole trip, wasted! A complete waste!”

Allen frowned, irrationally stung by her comment. “I wouldn't say that. Wait- Annie, are you wheezing?”

“No!” she responded instantly. Allen gave her a look, and she wrinkled her nose at him. “Alright. A little. What do you expect when Van drops this bomb on me?”

“Shouldn't you be taking your medicine?” he asked , concerned in spite of her seeming nonchalance. “And we shouldn't talk about this until you've calmed down.”

Annie rolled her eyes, but she headed out of the dining room. “Yes, ma'am. You'll make a good mother someday, Princess Alice.”

Allen resisted the momentary urge to punch something. She wasn't going to let that embarrassing episode die, was she? He sipped at his tea through tight lips. For Jichia's sake, he was merely concerned for her health! He didn't want to see her looking like she did the night of dancing, so pale and struggling to breath. It just didn't sit right with him.

Hitomi wandered into the room, rubbing her eyes and yawning. He gave her a polite good morning, and she smiled sleepily at him.

“I'm always the last one up, aren't I?” she said as she plopped herself down across the table from him. “What was going on down here, anyway?”

Allen schooled his features into a polite but bland mask. “What do you mean?”

“It sounded like there was an argument,” Hitomi replied with a shrug. “Was Annie being impossible again?”

“We were...disagreeing over the merits of chivalry,” he answered after several moments of quick thinking.

“Again?” Van asked, catching the end of their conversation. Hitomi turned to smile at him, and he felt that glimmer of hope leap up and bang against his chest. Could there be something more for them? Could he see that smile from her every day of his life?

But what if Annie was wrong? It was too good, to big to hope for. Van moved like an automaton through the motions of getting breakfast ready as his thoughts swung back and forth. Did he risk knowingly causing her pain now by asking her to make a choice? Or did he say nothing and possibly cause her pain, and definitely cause pain to himself, sometime in the future?

“Van? Van,” Hitomi waved a hand in front of his face to get his attention. “Is something bothering you?”

Van snapped back to reality. He really had to remember to school himself so he wouldn't give away his inner turmoil. He gave her what he hoped was a convincing smile. “No, nothing's bothering me. I was just...wondering what we're doing today.”

“I declare this our official “lounge around and do nothing useful day”. Any objections?” Annie exclaimed as she entered the kitchen. “Dear lord, you're not letting Tomi cook, are you?”

She rescued the pancake batter from Hitomi before showing Van how to keep the bacon from turning into little crispy pieces of ash.

“And you're going to spend some time thinking about what I said, right?” she said in an undertone to Van after Allen and Hitomi left the room. Van gave her a sharp look.

“I'll think about it,” he muttered back. “But I don't expect to change my mind.”

Annie smirked. “Oh, I think you will, Van.”

Hitomi came back in to grab a few plates, and Van couldn't help but watch her. He'd always watched her, even back when he was a gawky, angry, fifteen year old boy that didn't have a clue how he felt for the strange, green-eyed girl from the Mystic Moon. He'd gone five years without seeing her when she'd returned home after the war. But then, he'd always believed they'd be together again somehow, sometime. Could he live with the knowledge that he'd never be able to watch her just going about her life again?

Annie gave a knowing nod. “You're definitely going to change your mind, Van. No doubt about it.”
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Sakura » September 30th, 2008, 5:05 pm

I sure hope Dinky is making this a happy end. I didn't like the end of the original story. It was all messed up...
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Dinky » October 8th, 2008, 2:54 am

No worries. A happy ending you shall get, Sakura. Maybe. We'll see. Hmmm...
.....sometimes you have to lose your mind to find it......

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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Sakura » October 8th, 2008, 8:04 pm

The kitty would be pleased...
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » October 12th, 2008, 5:31 pm

Ok, I've been slow at posting, sorry. On to Chapter 22....... of the never-ending story. But things are getting heated up, poor Allan. So read and enjoy.

Fights and Snowmen

AN: Chapter 22? Holy crap! How long can this story get? Oh, well. It can't be too much longer, since there's only THREE DAYS LEFT! At any rate, this is a bit longer chapter, so I hope you all enjoy it. I swear this thing is writing itself.

Van realized that he had never, not even as a child, spent an entire day doing absolutely nothing. He and Hitomi had spent the majority of their time lounging on the futon together, eating popcorn, watching movies, and listening to Allen and Annie pick at each other. He decided right then that he was going to have to do this more often in the future. Even kings deserved a day off once in a while, he supposed. Especially if Hitomi returned to Gaea with him. He could see them spending the whole day alone in his chambers-

Those were dangerous thoughts, and Van did his best to beat them into the back corner of his mind. For her own happiness, he'd made the decision not to make her choose. Hadn't he? Oh, it was ludicrous, and terrifying, but the hope Annie'd planted refused to die. A future without Hitomi was becoming increasingly too painful to contemplate. He needed her.

“I think I've started to mold,” Annie piped up from her nest of blankets and pillows on the floor as their third movie in a row ended. Hitomi turned off the screen, but made no move to untangle herself from Van's arms. Allen stood up and stretched, looking like he'd just woken up from a long nap.

“What?” he asked, eying the hand Annie held up to him quizzically.

“Jeez, what happened to your all-important chivalry?” she demanded mockingly. “My muscles have atrophied, you gotta help me up.”

Sighing, shaking his head, he grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet. Reluctantly, Hitomi stood up and began to help them clean up the mess of pillows and blankets.

“I got it!” Annie suddenly squealed, making everyone jump. “Let's make a snowman!”

“A what?” Allen asked as he exchanged a confused look with Van.

Hitomi's eyes sparkled. “Oh, I haven't done that in years. C'mon, you guys!”

The two girls had bounced up the stairs excitedly before Van even had time to stand up. He and Allen exchanged another uncertain look, shrugged, and followed them up the stairs.

“So, what exactly is a snowman?” Allen asked once they were outside. Annie dropped the ball of snow she was forming, and Hitomi gawked at him.

“You mean... you've never made a snowman before?” she asked in a shocked voice. Both men shook their heads, and her eyes grew even larger. “Neither of you?”

“What about snow angels?” Annie demanded. Allen and Van glanced at each other, and Annie's voice rose to a squeak. “Snow fights?”

“Fanelia doesn't get snow, except in the mountains,” Van explained placatingly. Not that he'd have ever had the chance to play in it if Fanelia had oceans of it. Playing was not something he'd really been allowed to do, except in his very early years.

Hitomi's face suddenly broke into a grin. “Well, we've got plenty of snow here. We can make as many snowmen as you want!”

“Oh, oh! Contest!” Annie shouted. “Me and Allen against you two! Who can build the best snowman?”

“You're on!” Hitomi shrieked. “Wait- who's gonna be the judge?”

Annie shrugged. “We can call Jason or something. Not like it matters anyway, since we're gonna win!”

“Not likely,” Hitomi retorted as she and Annie both scooped up snow and began rolling it furiously into a ball. Van and Allen gave each other yet another confused look as the girls began racing around rolling up snow. After several minutes, Van shrugged and followed after Hitomi as she pushed her growing snowball around the yard.

“Allen! Get your lazy butt over here and help me!” Annie demanded.

“Help you with what, exactly?” he retorted as she stopped the ball she was making at his feet.

“Here. Roll this around until it gets big. Huge!” she panted. When he didn't make a move to start, she rolled her eyes at him. “Stop looking at me like I'm insane and just do it. Unless you want Van and Tomi to win.”

Personally, Allen didn't care who won this ridiculous, childish contest, but he realized it was probably safer for him just to do what Annie demanded. The four of them rolled, patted, smoothed, and fought over the “perfect arm-sticks” until the dim winter afternoon faded into a Grey twilight.

“Well, would ya look at that?” Annie stated proudly, looking over the army of snowmen scattered over the front yard. “Me and Al won. Definitely.”

Hitomi pouted good naturedly. “Okay. The snowman pushing over another snowman is good. But ours is the biggest.”

“I think it's a tie,” Van interjected with an uncharacteristically happy grin on his face. Who knew wasting an afternoon behaving like children could feel so good? The only problem was, he'd been so involved with helping Hitomi that he'd stopped trying to come to a decision about his dilemma. He was no closer to an answer than he was this morning, since all he really wanted to think about was finding innocent reasons to touch her.

Beside him, Hitomi giggled and pointed at Annie. The brunette was taking aim at the back of Allen's head with a large, well-packed snowball. It slammed into it's target with a resounding thwack, and Allen staggered forward. Hitomi and Van burst out laughing as he swung around to give Annie a dark glare. She put her hands up innocently.

“I didn't throw it!” she exclaimed. “Must've been those darn neighbor kids.”

A muscle visibly twitched in Allen's jaw as he glared silently at her for several long seconds. Unperturbed, Annie smiled sweetly at him until he finally turned away and began walking towards the house. Quick as a flash, she scoooped up another snowball and chucked it at his retreating form. Just as quickly, he spun around to catch her in the act. Perhaps he'd turned a bit too quickly, because the snowball caught him square in the face.

“Oh shit...” Annie gasped under her breath, but she was grinning madly from ear to ear, as if that couldn't possibly have gone any better. Everyone froze as the snow slid off his face and hit the ground with a sad little plop.

“Annie,” Allen said, his eyes still closed and his expression calm.


“I would hide behind something quickly if I were you.”

His face was still a mask of deadly calm, and for a split-second, Annie eyed him with confused amusement. Suddenly, he yanked the head off of one of the snowman and threw it straight at her.

“Holy crap!” she shrieked, diving out of the way. “I thought you couldn't hit girls, Al!”

“The code of chivalry would make an exception in your case,” he snorted, packing a snowball as quickly as he could. Hitomi and Van stared disbelievingly at the two of them, mouths hanging open. Allen declaring a snow fight? With a girl?

Annie grinned wickedly. “Alright! Get ready to be humiliated by a girl, Al, 'cause you're gonna be crying by the time I'm done with you!”

Hitomi stood there next to Van, completely bemused. Part of her wanted to join in, while the other part felt like pulling up a chair and some snacks to watch this historic event from the sidelines. The inevitable stray snowball smacking into the side of her head decided the matter for her; she scooped up a snowball and chucked it at the unsuspecting Van. She had a fleeting glimpse of surprised maroon-brown eyes before she ran for cover.

It wasn't long before he had her pinned down, out of ammo and reduced to attempting to shield her head from his relentless shots.

“Surrender?” he called when she curled up helplessly in the fetal position.

“Yes, yes!” Hitomi gasped out between fits of wild laughter. Van pulled her to her feet and helped dust off some of the snow clinging to her coat and hair. She loved the way he looked now, so happy and carefree. The lines of care and worry that creased his forehead had been smoothed away and he finally looked his age. Like the college student he could have been, if he had been born here instead of on Gaea.

Impulsively, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him hard. She could sense his initial surprise, but his cold lips warmed quickly under her own and his arms found their way around her waist. If only she could keep him like this forever...

“Annie! Did you just throw a rock at me?” Allen's outraged voice slammed them back into reality, and they pulled apart enough to look over at the still-fighting pair.

“It was just a teensy little ice-chunk. Whiny baby!” Annie retorted, then quickly dived for cover again from a volley of snowballs careening towards her exposed front.

“How long do you think they're going to keep this up?” Van asked Hitomi in an undertone as the two fighters whirled, dodged, and threw as furiously as they could.

“Dunno,” Hitomi replied with a grin. “But my bet's on Annie.”

Van contemplated the fight seriously for a long moment. “I'd say Allen. There's a lot of pride at stake here.”

“Ha, ha, Allen! Say your prayers!” Annie taunted as she advanced on the blond with an armload of snowballs. Allen was out of ammo, and Hitomi gave Van a very pointed 'told you so!' look.

“What the hell-?” Annie shrieked as Allen suddenly darted forward and tripped her. She landed on her backside, her armful of snowballs flying every direction as Allen heaved his shoulder into a small snowman. Her breath was knocked out of her in a loud whoosh as the mound of snow toppled directly over her helpless form, effectively burying her. Van turned to give Hitomi a distinctly smug smile.

“Surrender?” Allen asked, standing over Annie menacingly with one of her dropped snowballs. She was struggling to hard to catch her breath to be able to answer him for a full minute.

“Yes, holy shit! You win!” she finally gasped out. “Dirty rat-cheater!”

Allen knelt down to start digging her out of the pile, looking superior. “Hardly. You would've done the same thing.”

“I would've tried to do the same thing. Don't think I could've pulled it off, though,” she said with a beaming smile. She let him help her to her feet and brush the clinging snow off her coat. By then, night had fully set in, and the yard was illuminated only by the orange glow of the street lamp.

“Hey, I wanna get dry and warm again. I'm going in,” Hitomi announced. Everyone trooped back into the warmth of the house and stripped off their sopping coats.

Van felt the weight of his thoughts settling back onto his shoulders as he and Allen headed downstairs to change into dry clothes. His smile slid into a frown as the worried lines in his forehead reappeared. He changed slowly, distractedly, because he knew the moment he was back in Hitomi's company nearly all his rational, objective thoughts would desert him.

“Van,” Allen said quietly, catching his attention. Van snapped his head up to meet his sharp blue eyes. How long had he been lost in the storm of his thoughts?

“It's not my place to bring this up,” Allen began slowly, uncertain of what he should say. He settled his face into a carefully controlled, blank mask and continued.

“I know that you've decided not to ask Hitomi to return to Fanelia with you.” Van's eyes widened, surprised, and Allen held up his hand to stop him from interrupting. “Annie was... a bit upset about it. Van, I wanted you to know I understand your decision, and I think it is both noble and strong.”

Van clenched his jaw and silently looked away. Allen thought he was making the right decision. So, that was it then. He'd have to go through with it, no matter the cost to himself. The little spark of hope in his soul fluttered, sighed, and went out.

There was a long, heavy pause before Allen spoke again. “But Van, for the first time I find myself wondering if doing what is noble will be the right thing. Perhaps it is not even noble to make such a decision for her at all.”

Van swung his head slowly back to look at the blond knight, too confused and shocked by his words to be able to make any response. Allen gave him a ghost of a smile.

“Annie is Hitomi's closest friend. And while she may not be...sane, I believe she is loyal. It would be foolish to disregard her advice. I don't think she'd ever knowingly let someone hurt Hitomi, unless there was a greater purpose for it. Remember, Hitomi chose you. She came back to Gaea once already for you. You may never have a chance like this again, Van. Don't waste it.”

Allen started up the stairs, and Van watched him go with a mixture of dazed confusion and uncertain elation. He thought- Allen Shezar thought- that he should ask Hitomi to return to Fanelia with him. Van had always had a deep respect for the Caeli Knight, even when he'd thought he'd lost Hitomi to him. There had always been an intelligent and kind man under the irritating arrogance; his opinion weighed heavily with Van.

The ashes of his dead hope rekindled into a blazing inferno as Van bounded up the stairs to rejoin the group.

In the kitchen, Hitomi handed him a steaming mug of hot chocolate and motioned discreetly for him to follow her upstairs. They slid past Annie, who sat cross legged on the floor in front of the Christmas tree tuning her guitar, up the stairs to Hitomi's room. This time Van didn't hesitate in the doorway. He followed her inside and shut the door quietly behind them, watching the way she smiled at him. They settled themselves side by side on the bed with their legs stretched out in front and their backs propped up on the headboard.

“Tell me about Fanelia, Van,” Hitomi said as she snuggled herself a little closer to his side. Van watched the way she wiggled her toes in her socks and warmed her hands on her mug.

“What do you want to know?” he asked. “You know about everything that's been happening with the rebuilding.”

“No, no. Tell me the interesting stuff. Tell me about the people, the customs, the food. The way you live there. I hardly got to spend any time in Fanelia when I was on Gaea. I guess I just want to know more about your life.”

Van didn't know what to say. The simple fact that she wanted to know more about his country, his people, made him want to jump up and do a crazy, happy dance. Or better yet, pin her down and kiss her senseless. Hitomi looked at him expectantly, and he thought hard for something to tell her.

“Once a year, we have the Festival of the Dragons. It's similar to your Christmas celebrations. Without the tree, which I still think is a strange thing to do,” he finally said.

Hitomi blinked. “I guess it is, when you really think about it. So, no tree. Do you give presents and stuff?”

Van happily explained, in detail, all the old traditions of the Fanelian holiday as he watched her face. She listened with rapt attention, demanding to know about other customs after he'd exhausted his knowledge of the Dragon Festival. As he talked, his mind raced with sudden clarity. He was going to ask her. He was going to ask her to share his life as a Fanelian with him. Annie and Allen were right. This was worth fighting for. He had to at least try. She deserved to know that his deepest desire was, and had been since she had left him standing at the base of Escaflowne, to have her back in Fanelia, with him.

Hitomi launched into descriptions of similar Japanese traditions, and Van studied her cheerful face carefully. She loved him. He could see it in her eyes, even if they had never really said the words out loud. But was it strong enough for her to give up everything she had for him? He had to know.

Van suddenly leaned down and kissed her deeply, effectively silencing her in the middle of an explanation. She didn't seem to mind being interrupted and relaxed into his arms as he explored her mouth. He could taste the chocolate on her hot tongue before he moved away to explore the sensitive skin below her ear. She sighed happily, her hands twined in his unruly black hair, goosebumps shivering over her from his kisses. Their touches were gentle this time, and slow, with none of the controlled urgency of their earlier intimacies. Both took their time just exploring the other, and it was many long minutes later when they lay side by side, twining their hands together.

Everything felt right, and Van knew he couldn't ask for a better opportunity. He watched Hitomi examine his calloused hands for several blissful moments before gathering his courage and taking a deep breath.

“Hitomi,” Van hesitated, uncertain of his next words. She turned to look at him expectantly, and he stared fixedly at a point on the wall.

“Yeah, Van?” she asked after the silence stretched on a little too long. Van licked his dry lips.

“In three days, I have to go back to Fanelia-” he began. He stopped in surprise as she abruptly wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed so hard he winced.

“Don't. Don't talk about it, Van,” she begged, her voice muffled as she pressed her face into his chest. “Please. I just- don't want to think about it yet, okay? Let's just forget about it and enjoy right now. Please?”

She sounded slightly desperate, and Van wrapped his own arms around her tightly. He knew that he should insist, that he should keep talking while his mind was made up, but he couldn't ignore the pleading in her voice. Tonight, he could do what she asked and pretend that things could just go on like this indefinitely. Once he asked her, he knew things would change forever, one way or the other. He'd waited so long, one more night couldn't hurt.

“Okay. We'll forget about it for now,” he murmured into her hair. She rewarded him with a dazzling smile, and just for a moment, everything was perfect.

Downstairs, Allen found himself seated on the couch, drawn there by Annie's music like a rat to the Pied Piper's flute. She played the guitar as skillfully as she played the piano, and he listened in silence. The only light came from the sparkling Christmas tree, and the soft glow made the atmosphere feel surreal.

The whole situation made Allen extremely twitchy. And that, in turn, thoroughly ticked him off. He shouldn't like the fact that she'd left her hair loose to tumble down her back in a shining curtain of deep mahogany. He shouldn't even been thinking the word “mahogany” in relation to her hair. It sounded so much more unattractive, and therefore so much safer, to just call it brown. And he shouldn't be noticing how long and thick her eyelashes were when she closed her eyes and hummed along to her music. Or that the way her nose turned up just that tiny little bit at the end made it so much cuter than anyone else's nose he'd ever seen.

Why was it, again, that he'd ever preferred tall blonds?

He couldn't stop himself from staring at her, admiring everything about her petite frame, no matter how hard he tried to find fault with her. It made him so angry with himself, and so uncomfortably on edge, that he felt ready to snap. Abruptly, he stood up to leave the room. He just couldn't take his inner war any longer.

Annie's hands stilled the guitar strings and she turned to look questioningly at him. “What's up, Al?”

“Nothing,” he bit out shortly. Annie waggled her eyebrows and gave him a slightly mocking smile.

“Not feeling guilty about tripping a poor defenseless girl, now, are you? Or perhaps you're just embarrassed that you had to resort to such dirty tactics to beat me, eh, Princess?”

Allen swung around to face her, fury twisting his handsome face. “Stop calling me that.”

“Oh, lighten up, Al. It's a joke,” Annie retorted, rolling her eyes with annoyance. He had a sudden, violent desire to snap her neck.

“It's always a joke with you. You never stop! From the moment I arrived here, you've tried to turn everything I am, everything I stand for, into some ridiculous joke!”

“Maybe because it is ridiculous!” Annie returned, on her feet now, glaring up at him. “All your fake manners and your damned, pretentious chivalry. You're just using that stuff as a shield to keep people from seeing you. All you want people to know is the perfect knight in his perfectly poofy-sleeved uniform. You're like a kid playing make-believe!”

“That chivalry, those manners, that is what I am. It's what I was raised to be, the highest ideal of my society. At least I command respect, unlike you. Annie, the eternal child,” Allen sneered.

“I would rather people despised me for being who I am than earn someone's respect for being what I'm not,” Annie hissed. “And I would rather be an eternal child and be happy than let my life turn me into a bitter, lonely adult like you.”

“What would you know about it? What kind of hardships have you ever had to face in your perfect, coddled life? You have not seen what I have. You have not lost like I have. And yet you think you have the right to condemn me for how I have chosen to live my life? You are nothing but a silly, naive, little girl.”

If he had been saying those words to Hitomi, or Millerna, or even Merle, he would have seen tears sparkling in the depths of their eyes. But not Annie. Her deep brown eyes regarded him coolly in the dead air of the room.

“And you are an arrogant, pig-headed, bastard,” she returned evenly. The chill emanating off of her clashed with the boiling anger pouring off of him as they faced each other mere inches apart. Suddenly, all Allen could think about was how easy it would be to bury his hands in her hair and kiss her until her icy rage melted into a fiery passion. That was really what he was so angry about in the first place, anyway. He wanted her, damn it, and all she did was laugh at him. His hands twitched, moving up towards the thick cascade of her hair on their own.

There was a pounding knock on the front door, and both of them turned their heads to see Jason walk in the room. He looked up to catch them standing toe to toe.

“Ah...sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt anything,” he said quickly. Annie gave Allen one more icy glare, then stepped away.

“Naw. It was good timing, actually. What're you doing here, J?” she replied calmly.

“We're playing tonight at Mully's,” he answered after a swift glance at Allen. “I just swung by to see if you wanted to come and watch.”

“Hell, yeah. Just lemme change first,” she replied, not even bothering to look over at Allen's mask of forced friendliness.

Jason turned towards him questioningly. “What about-”

“Oh, he doesn't want to come,” Annie interrupted, giving Allen a hard glare. “It wouldn't be his thing. You know, the loud bar, the dancing...”

Allen glared back at her with narrowed eyes. “Yeah. Not my 'thing' at all. Sorry, Jason.”

“Hey, no problem, man,” Jason said carelessly. He was either ignoring the strained atmosphere or oblivious to it. Either way, there was an uncomfortable silence between the two men after Annie ran lightly up the stairs to change.

“So, uh, where're Tomi and Van?” Jason asked after the clocked ticked away several long minutes.

“Upstairs,” Allen answered shortly. For all his friendliness, he did not like the tattooed, pierced man. There was something in the way he looked at Annie, an underlying possessiveness, that set Allen's teeth on edge.

Annie bounced back down the stairs then, and they hustled out the door as fast as they could. Allen could have pulled all of his hair out by the roots and burned it. It was his fault Annie'd run out the door without a backwards glance at him. And looking like that, too. If he hadn't been such an ass, if he'd been able to handle the fact he found her attractive, maybe she'd still be sitting in front of the Christmas tree with her guitar.

Allen laid out his bed in a fury of self-directed anger. How could he have behaved like that to her? Why did he have to say those things to her? Thank the gods Jason had interrupted them when he did. His now-rational brain shriveled at the thought that he had almost tried to kiss her. There was no doubt in his mind how she would have reacted, and it wouldn't have been to melt into any kind of passion, unless it was to passionately try to kill him. What the hell had he been thinking?

He tossed and turned, dozing fitfully until he heard her quietly entering the house in the very early hours of the morning. Somehow, he was going to have to try to salvage the mess he'd made of their tentative 'friendship'. He just hoped she'd be willing to forgive him.
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Sakura » October 14th, 2008, 2:06 am

*kitty mark*
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » October 19th, 2008, 8:59 pm

Chapter 23, and I thought the last one was long. Dinky is getting longer winded as she goes along. At this rate she won't have a novel, she'll have a whole series. Well, I hope you enjoy it.

Plans and Cakes

AN: Well, here's chapter 23, and it's a doozy. Longest one yet, and I think I should've broken this one up into at least two chapters, but oh well. I wrote this one in parts randomly and put them all together, so I hope it flows okay. Honestly, I'm too fed up with my stupid writer's block to sit on this and re-do parts of it, so I'm posting it as is. Please, let me know what parts to fix, cut out, change, etc.

Van knew he was being a coward by slipping quietly out of Hitomi's room before she woke that morning. He knew he should stay, that he should watch her eyes drift open and then make her listen to what he needed to say, whether or not she really wanted to hear it. He didn't want to think about leaving any more than she did, but they had to talk about it.

Van simply didn't know what to say to her. He hated himself for running away, for grasping at any excuse, every excuse, to put it off just a little longer. His time was running out fast.

The Christmas tree lights were on when he came down the stairs, casting a dim glow over the cozy living room. Van was surprised to see Annie curled up on the couch, fully dressed in clothes similar to the ones she'd worn to go dancing. He tried to sneak past without disturbing her, but the old floorboards creaked loudly under his feet. Her eyes shot open and she sat up rubbing her eyes.

“Morning, Van,” she yawned. She stretched, reminding him a little of Merle after a nap, and pulled a face. “Blech. Waking up in jeans sucks.”

Van studied her curiously. “Are you going somewhere?”

“Huh? Oh. No, just didn't feel like actually going to bed last night. Anyway, what're you doing up so early? Are you still trying to decide whether or not to ask Tomi to go back with you?”

“No,” he replied quietly after a slight pause. “You were right, I need to ask her. I just hope it's the right thing to do.”

Van nearly fell over when Annie jumped off the couch and hugged him so tightly he lost his breath, once again reminding him of Merle. It was surprising how much he missed her affectionate glomping.

“Well, holy shit, you had me worried for a while!” she cheered. “What're you doing down here, then, if you haven't asked her yet? Shouldn't you be up there, you know...asking her or something?”

Van shifted his eyes uncomfortably away from her penetrating gaze. “I haven't decided what I want to say yet.”

“Are you serious?” Annie demanded. “Van, you've only got three days left! You've gotta give her some time to think about it, you know. You can't ask her at the last second and rush her into a decision!”

“I know that! I'll ask her today. I will,” he stressed at Annie's disbelieving snort. She gave him an exasperated look over her shoulder as she headed into the kitchen.

Van didn't care. He had just realized that although the heavy weight of indecision had been lifted from him, now he had to face the ludicrously terrifying prospect of actually asking Hitomi. Honestly, how would he even start? Maybe he should just trick her into coming to Gaea for a short vacation, and then somehow convince her never to leave. Or tell her the pendant was broken, and since he couldn't send her back, how about getting married? It might work...

“Dammit. Tomi hid my coffee again!” Annie's frustrated voice broke through his ridiculous contemplations. He looked up to find her standing on the counter to rummage through the top shelves.

“Uh, does she do that often?” he queried.

Annie hopped lightly down and scowled. “Only when we have guests and she wants me to behave. Dammit! I need some caffiene this morning!”

Van tried his best to look sympathetic, though he couldn't help mentally siding with Hitomi. He'd seen Annie on espresso, after all. But he kept his mouth shut as she heated water, muttering things like “freakin' herbal tea” and “coffee grinch” under her breath. Suddenly, she set the teapot down with a clatter and gave him a thoughtful look.

“Say, Van, maybe you should call Tomi's parents. You know, ask their permission to marry Hitomi and all.”

“I- what?” Van's face turned ashen white as all his blood puddled into his toes.

Annie tapped her chin pensively. “Yeah. You really should talk to them first. So, I guess it's a good thing you haven't asked her yet.”

“But... why? Annie, is this a joke?” Van asked weakly.

She stared blankly at him. “Don't you have any traditions like that? Getting the parents' permission before asking some girl to marry you?”

“I- I suppose we do,” Van replied helplessly, feeling his blood-deprived heart flopping around madly inside his chest. Maybe he should put his feet in the air to get the blood drained out of his toes and back where it belonged.

“So, what's the problem?” Annie asked, clearly confused at his hesitation.

“In Fanelia, permission to marry is granted by allowing the courting to take place at all, so I just assumed...I really have to ask their permission now?”

“I guess your system makes more sense than ours, huh? I mean, why bother letting them date if you're not going to let them get married? But that's the way it works here, so- yeah. You should really ask them now,” Annie nodded slowly. Van swallowed convulsively and licked his dry lips with an even drier tongue.

“Alright. If that's what's expected, then I'll do it,” he intoned in the voice of someone agreeing to his own execution. Grinning, Annie unplugged her phone from it's charger and flipped it open. Van had seen enough people use those devices to be able to clue into what she was doing.

“What, now?” he asked, his voice careening higher than it had since he'd hit puberty.

Annie looked up at him with large, surprised eyes. “Well, yeah. The time difference, you know. Didn't you just say you'd do it?”

“I didn't know you meant right now,” Van replied, forcing his voice down the two octaves to his normal speaking voice. He was not going to show her how panicked he felt. He could be calm, in control. Allen would never have lost his cool charm over a little something like getting parental permission to whisk their daughter off to another world.

Apparently, Annie saw right through his attempts at appearing calm and collected, or perhaps his squeaky, pre-pubescent voice gave him away. Whatever the reason, she stopped searching for the number to reach out and squeeze his arm sympathetically.

“Van, if you're going to do this, you kinda have to do it now. C'mon, how hard can it be? I mean, you've rebuilt an entire country, haven't you? I think you'll be able to handle talking to Tomi's parents. What's the worst that can happen?”

“They'll say no?” Van retorted swiftly with a grimace.

“Well, yeah,” she hesitantly agreed, chewing her lip. She squared her shoulders with a frighteningly determined look in her eyes. “But they won't. Look, just consider this practice for having the real talk with Tomi.”

Van wanted to crush the cell phone into infinite tiny pieces that could never be put back together again. Annie's “encouragement” really wasn't helping him at all. But if he was going to ask Hitomi to return to Gaea to be by his side, then he wanted to do it right. Clenching his fists, he willed himself to be strong like the king he was, rather than a coward like the fifteen year old boy he had been. He gave Annie a tight nod and she dialed the number.

Van heard her speaking to Hitomi's brother, asking him to get his parents on the phone, while his mind raced desperately to plan what he was going to say. All his planning was useless, though, because his mind went perfectly blank when Annie handed him the phone. She gave him a double thumbs up, mouthed 'good luck' at him, and discreetly left the kitchen.

“Hello? Van, are you there?” Hitomi's mother's voice echoed gently through Van's ear. She sounded so much like Hitomi that it was disconcerting. Van gave a silent prayer to every god he'd ever heard about before clearing his throat.

“Yes. Yes, I'm here,” he replied slowly.

“Is there something we can do for you?” Hitomi's father asked with calm curiosity. Van took a deep breath. This was it.

“Actually, I have a question I need to ask you, sir. All of you,” he added. Closing his eyes, he gathered his courage and forced his voice to sound normal.

“I would like your permission to ask Hitomi to return to Gaea with me. As- as my queen.”

The silence on the other end was deafening. After several moments, he pulled the phone away from his ear to look at the screen, wondering how to tell if he was still connected to Hitomi's family or not. Should he take the silence as a definite 'no'?

“I knew this was coming,” Hitomi's mother finally said quietly, more to herself than anyone else. “Since the day she came back from Gaea, I knew this was coming.”

“I'm sorry,” Van replied simply, instinctively responding to the sadness in her voice. He ached deep inside with the knowledge that he was the cause of her hurt. There was no pain in the world worse than a mother's loss. He knew that from experience, from watching his mother wither before his eyes when Folken didn't return from the Dragon-Slaying. And now, if Hitomi chose him, he would be bringing that same hurt to another mother. It made him feel sick.

“You don't need to apologize, Van,” her mother said gently. “No one gets to choose who they love, or when or where they fall in love. You shouldn't feel guilty for something beyond your control. I knew Hitomi would leave us again someday to go back to you. She needs you, Van. Ask her, with my blessing.”

Van had not cried in years. Not since the day his brother died. But his throat was thick with unshed tears now from the pure, gentle, motherly voice. It was like his own mother picking him up after he'd made a mistake, soothing away his worry and pain.

“Thank you,” he managed to say in a husky voice when he trusted himself to venture to speak.

“Will we be able to see her sometimes?” her brother piped up suddenly in a quivering voice.

Van hesitated, wanting to be completely honest with them. “I don't know.”

There was a heavy silence, and Van found himself holding his breath. Hitomi's mother had given her permission, but her father had yet to say a word. Van lamented the fact that the remarkable Mystic Moon device only allowed him to speak to her family, but not to see them. He felt uneasy and lost not being able to read the older man's physical cues as he waited for a response.

“I suppose no father is ever ready for this,” the man finally sighed. “Ultimately, the decision is hers. All I've ever wanted for her is that she has a good life. Do you think she'll be happy on your Gaea?”

“I hope so, sir. I'll work hard to give her a good life,” Van answered promptly.

“I know that. For what it's worth, you have my permission to ask her,” he replied gruffly.

Van was suddenly buoyed up with a relief so profound he wondered if his head was touching the ceiling. Certainly, his feet couldn't still be firmly planted on the ground. He hardly knew how their conversation ended, or what else he said before closing the phone. Her family had given him permission, even their blessing, to ask Hitomi to return with him!

“Annie, you can stop pretending you weren't eavesdropping and come back now,” he called out. She slunk sheepishly around the door, but the grin on her face was even wider than his.

“So? What happened?” she asked gleefully.

Van crossed his arms over his chest. “You were listening the whole time. You tell me.”

“I only heard your side of the conversation,” she defended herself. “Just a lot of pauses and thank you's. What did they say?”

“They gave me their permission,” he replied evasively. He wasn't going to repeat everything word for word to anyone. Ever. Well, maybe to Hitomi someday, if she ever wanted to know.

Annie just shrugged. “Fair enough. At any rate, now you can't change your mind again. You've gotta ask her!”

She hummed happily to herself as she pulled out mixing bowls and ingredients and piled them haphazardly on the counter top. Van got the peculiar feeling that he'd just been tricked.

Hitomi shivered slightly and drew the blankets closer around her curled form. Van was gone again, and the sun wasn't even up yet. It was surprising how quickly she got used to his body heat next to her in the bed. He was like having her own giant hot-water bottle, only he was a lot more snuggly and sexy. She grinned and buried her face in her pillow just remembering the feel of his hot skin on hers.

But last night, he'd wanted to talk about his leaving. Hitomi's grin melted into a troubled frown as she rolled onto her back. Why had he brought it up? And why had she stopped him?

Deep down, she knew it was because it struck a chord of panic that reverberated through her whole being. What if he was going to tell her that this was the last time they could see each other? He was a king, after all. He had responsibilities, duties, rules he had to follow that she couldn't even begin to imagine. Van loved her, she knew that with unwavering certainty, but she also knew that his country was more important than anything else to him. Including her, in some ways. So many people depended on him that he had no choice but to put Fanelia first.

But what if he'd wanted to tell her something else? This trip had changed their relationship completely. Hitomi knew that. Going back to the way things were, pretending nothing was different, was just plain stupid. What else could they do, though? Their options were limited.

She rolled out of bed with an unhappy sigh. The last thing she wanted to think about was what was going to happen when Van had to return to Fanelia. They still had time. There was no reason to put a dark cloud over what was left of their days together by talking about it. Hitomi prayed fervently under her breath as she got into the shower that Van had forgotten whatever it was he wanted to bring up last night. Today, they were not going to think about anything but enjoying each moment.

Van was lounging against the sink eating toast when Hitomi made her way into the kitchen. He gave her a distracted smile, and she suppressed a groan. It looked like whatever was on his mind last night was still bothering him. He could be persistent, she knew, when he thought something was important. Well, she could be stubborn, too. Besides, she knew about ten different ways to distract him without having to think hard about it. She'd turn him to putty in her hands, literally, if he tried to bring up the end of the trip.

“Morning, guys. Hey, did I actually beat Allen getting out of bed today?” she asked cheerfully.

“Mm,” Annie replied as she slid two pans into the oven. “Tomi, where's my coffee?”

“The coffee I hid? I'll give it back next week. Are you going somewhere?” she asked, eying the brunette's outfit. She leaned over to look in the oven. “And why are you baking a cake?”

“I felt like baking something this morning. And I went somewhere last night and just didn't go to bed. Soooo,” Annie turned to survey the two of them leaning against the sink with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “What are your plans for the day?”

Van swallowed hard and choked on his toast. He whooped and coughed while Hitomi pounded him on the back and Annie stifled her giggles and put on an unconvincingly concerned face.

“Are you okay?” Hitomi asked, peering anxiously into his red face. He coughed a few more times before taking a deep, toast-free breath.

“Uh, yeah. I just swallowed wrong,” he answered, glaring daggers at Annie when Hitomi went to pour him a glass of juice.

“We haven't got any plans today,” she told Annie as he took a drink. “Unless you have any, Van.”

Annie couldn't hold in her laughter when he choked and half his mouthful of juice went up his nose.

Allen lay still, reluctant to give up the warm comfort of his blankets to face the morning. He could hear the other three talking and laughing in the kitchen as he stared up at the basement ceiling. The sound of Annie's laughter made his stomach twist up into an unpleasant knot just remembering their argument.

If he closed his eyes, he could see the icy anger darkening her dark brown eyes to an eerie black. He'd behaved so inappropriately, wrongly taking out his frustrations on her, that the thought of facing her this morning made him cringe inside. He was going to have to make it up to her somehow.

With a long, heavy sigh, he dragged the covers off his body and made his way slowly up the stairs. Annie was the only one in the kitchen, though he could hear Van and Hitomi talking in the dining room. His luck didn't seem to have improved since the night before, Allen thought ruefully as he stood in the doorway awkwardly.

Annie glanced up to see him there, and her lips thinned into a straight, white line. She glanced away too quickly for Allen to be able to read the emotion in her wide, dark eyes. He noticed that she'd never changed out of the clothes she'd left in last night, and he wondered if she'd slept at all. Their long moment of strained silence was broken by the oven alarm, and she busied herself getting the cakes out to cool. Allen smoothed his hair nervously.

“Uh...good morning?” he said hesitantly. Annie, her back to him, merely gave him a soft “Mm” in reply. He frowned slightly, uncertainty tainting his clear blue eyes. This might be even more difficult that he'd thought.

“Oh! Good morning, Allen!” Hitomi chirped as she caught sight of him. She gave him a cheerful grin, completely oblivious to the tense atmosphere in the room.

“Good morning to you, Hitomi,” Allen returned. He smiled his most charming, brilliant smile at her, determined not to let on that anything was out of the ordinary this morning.

Hitomi blinked a few times. When Allen decided to turn on the charm like that, the effect was still sort of devastating. He really had a seriously handsome face and...

Van's arm brushed her shoulder, and she forgot all about Allen's smile. Honestly, the man had nothing on Van. When Allen smiled, she got a little dazzled, but when Van smiled, her very bones melted into a puddle. It was a sad shame that with all his charm, looks, and kindness, Allen had no one who felt for him what she felt for Van. It was too bad, really, that he and Annie didn't get along. Hitomi almost laughed at the thought of Allen trying that smile on Annie. She'd probably ask him if he was feeling sick.

“Um...Van and I were just talking about going to see my school. Annie's not coming, but do you want to join us?” Hitomi asked Allen when she'd collected her wits. Part of her really wanted him to say yes, since there was a little, nagging, worried voice that kept wondering what Van had tried to talk about last night. If Allen was around, she wouldn't have to worry about it. But she also wouldn't get to spend one of her last precious days with Van alone together. Darn it! Today was supposed to be happy, not complicated!

Allen gave Annie a swift, discreet glance. A very pointed 'don't you dare!' look was written across her face as plainly as if she'd painted it on with black ink.

“Thank you for inviting me, Hitomi, but I think I'd rather stay here today. I... need to write some observations for Lord Dryden about this world,” he lied quickly, slightly proud of himself. He'd never been any good at lying, not having had much practice at it, but Hitomi seemed to buy it. He'd just ignore that skeptical look on Van's face.

“Great. Well, I'm off to bed, then. 'Night,” Annie yawned. She poked a finger threateningly at Hitomi as she passed. “Don't touch my cakes, Tomi.”

“Normal people sleep at night,” Hitomi called after her.

“So why would you expect me to?” drifted the sleepy reply from the stairway.

Hitomi dragged Van out to the bus stop as soon has they'd had breakfast. Van shoved his frozen hands as deep into the pockets of his coat as they would go. How could anyone live in this frigid place?

“Why are we taking this, er, bus instead of Annie's car?” he asked Hitomi after they'd been waiting for more than ten minutes.

“Well, I forgot to ask Annie if she wanted to car today for anything, and parking around the U is impossible. Besides, public transportation is definitely something you should experience while you're here,” Hitomi reasoned. She didn't tell him that her main reason was because they wouldn't be alone enough to have a serious conversation.

The bus roared to a halt in front of them, and Van took a step back with wide eyes. The door was flung open, and Hitomi grabbed his hand to haul him up the steps into the relatively warmer interior. Van's head swiveled in every direction, taking everything in, as Hitomi pulled him down into the seat next to her.

It was loud, louder than any of the other vehicles he'd seen on the Mystic Moon, and he hung on to the seat in front of him as it swayed and lurched down the road. Van wrinkled his nose in distaste at the peculiar smell in the air: a mix of body odor, stale smoke, and cologne. More than half the seats were empty, and he cast doubtful glances at a few of the seedier men hunched over in their spots.

“You ride this thing alone?” he demanded after one of the men spat onto the floor. Hitomi gave him a half-exasperated, half-amused look.

“It's perfectly safe, Van,” she insisted. “It's waiting at the bus stop that can get a little scary sometimes.”

Well, that certainly didn't make him feel any better! One more reason to get her off this world to someplace safer. Specifically, someplace like Fanelia's palace, where he could protect her. He frowned heavily, his face becoming serious.

“Hitomi, when I leave-” he began, but Hitomi suddenly sat up straight and pointed out the window, as if she hadn't heard him.

“Look! There's the apartment Jason used to live in. See it? That brown building over there,” she exclaimed. “Oh, and there's the mall we usually shop at...”

Van dutifully looked where she pointed with a sinking feeling in his stomach. That was two times Hitomi had stopped him from bringing up the end of the trip. Did she somehow know what he was trying to ask her? Was she purposefully stopping him from bringing it up? Or was it just that she hadn't heard him over the roar of the bus?

Yes, that was probably it. She just hadn't heard him because she'd been too busy looking out of her window. Besides, he thought ruefully, this was hardly the place to bring the subject up. Van knew he wasn't very good when it came to romantic gestures, but even he could come up with something better than this. The right moment would come along eventually. He'd just have to be ready when it arrived.

Hitomi heaved an enormous mental sigh of relief as she prattled on about mundane buildings and unimportant landmarks. Van had almost ruined everything by bringing up the looming end of their time together. It was like a big, black splotch of ink on the perfect white page of her happiness. Why couldn't he just forget about it for another day or two like she wanted to do?

All her babbling had made her mouth dry by the time they reached their stop. Van looked grateful to be out of the bus and back on solid, non-moving ground, and Hitomi grinned, excited to show him around her campus. He stared disbelievingly around at the buildings, the busy traffic, and the bustling crowds as the two of them headed off down the sidewalk. Hitomi reached out to take his hand, and his fingers gripped hers through their thick gloves with gentle strength.

“Is it always this crowded?” he asked, a tiny amount of awe coloring his voice. Hitomi surveyed their surroundings thoughtfully.

“Actually, it's usually a lot busier than this,” she stated seriously. “A lot of students are home for the holidays, and there aren't any classes going on right now.”

Busier? Van's mind boggled at the thought. How did more people even fit on the sidewalks? He was beginning to feel claustrophobic as it was, but Hitomi moved through the crowds with uncaring ease. She pointed out buildings, took him through a maze of connecting tunnels, and showed him the dorm she and Annie had lived in their first year. Van's brain ached with the complexity of it all by the time they settled at a small restaurant table for a late afternoon meal. Life in Fanelia was much simpler, much slower, than what it seemed to be here. Would Hitomi be bored with palace life?

“The Village Wok has some of the best food in Minneapolis,” she said to him now as she looked over her menu. “So, what do you think of the campus, Van?”

He studied his menu with interest. What the hell was Moo Goo Gai Pan? It sounded like something an infant would babble.

“It's much larger than I expected. It's very impressive,” he conceded as he closed his menu, deciding to let Hitomi pick out their food. “It feels a bit lonely, though, like no one cares about anything but their own affairs. I guess I'm just used to everyone knowing who I am, and here I'm just another face in the crowd.”

“That's true. It's easy to feel like you're a faceless nobody here. Just another number in the system,” Hitomi agreed thoughtfully.

The restaurant was mostly empty. They were seated at a small table for two tucked against the wall away from most of the other customers. The lighting was dim, the low murmur of voices was soothing, and the warm atmosphere had relaxed them both. Van studied Hitomi's face as she stared into the tea cup she twisted around and around in her hands. Her green eyes looked thoughtful, but a tiny smile pulled up the corners of her soft, pink mouth. Her honey-colored hair was tousled from her hat and the cold wind, and her cheeks had a radiant, healthy glow. He couldn't imagine a more beautiful woman than her.

He leaned forward suddenly, capturing her slim hands between his calloused ones. She looked up, startled curiosity in her bright green eyes, and he took a deep breath. Now was the time to tell her.

“So, what can I get for you two today?”

Van and Hitomi jumped at the waiter's cheerful question, and Van whipped his hands away from hers to smooth his napkin uncomfortably.

“Oh! Um, we'll have the General Tso's,” Hitomi replied quickly, flustered. “That's okay, right, Van?”

He nodded with what he hoped would pass as a normal smile. Stopped again! Fate seemed perversely determined to keep him from asking her! The silence that stretched out between them after the waiter walked away was slightly awkward, but Van couldn't bring himself to try again just yet. Hitomi fidgeted for a moment before launching a conversation about their favorite foods, and he willingly followed her lead.

The right moment was just going to have to wait until he could make sure they were completely alone.

The house had been strangely silent after Hitomi and Van had hurried out the door. No sound drifted down from Annie's room, though Allen had strained his ears listening for something. He'd sat on the couch, staring out at the snowman war zone from the evening before with lonely eyes. If he hadn't started that fight with Annie last night, what would they be doing now? Eventually, he'd given up waiting to hear any signs of life from her room and headed back downstairs.

He came awake slowly in the dark basement, completely disorientated for a moment.He hadn't meant to fall asleep on the futon after his shower, but he supposed his lack of sleep and the oppressive silence wore him down. The clock told him it was late afternoon as he stretched the kinks out of his neck. Sighing heavily, he made his way upstairs to see if Annie was awake and willing to listen to him yet. The dining room lights were on low, and he walked slowly into the room.

There on the table was Annie's cake. Blue frosting covered it's round form, decorated with delicate white icing. Allen came closer to look at it and blinked in surprise. Written on the top, with painstaking calligraphy, was “Happy Birthday Allen”. What in Jichia's name-?

“Hey, Al. I baked you a cake,” Annie said softly from the living room. She moved towards him hesitantly, watching him with uncertain brown eyes. It was so strange to see her acting unsure of herself; Allen didn't like the way it made his conscience squirm uncomfortably. He cleared his throat.

“Thank you. It's- uh, it's beautiful,” he replied carefully. “It's... not my birthday, though.”

She grimaced and wrinkled her nose. “I know that. But it's just...I don't think you've ever had one before. You know, with everything that you've been through. And I just wanted to make one for you, because everyone should have birthday cakes. And- and I think you really deserve one.”

When he just stared at her, confused and bewildered, she tugged self-consciously on a loose strand of her dark brown hair.

“I didn't mean to make fun of who you are. I just don't like to see you hiding behind something you're not to try to make people like you. I mean, sure, you're not perfect, but neither is anybody else. And sure, people respect you for being the perfect Jello knight-”

“Caeli Knight,” Allen corrected automatically. He could have decapitated himself for interrupting, but Annie merely flapped a hand at him and continued.

“Whatever. My point is, they may respect you, but that doesn't mean they like you. Not really. I kind of tend to go to far, you know? I laughed at you because I want you to drop the act and just be happy. So I baked you a cake, because, you know, cakes make people happy. And I guess I just... wanted to make you smile for real.”

Allen just stared at her as it dawned on him that she'd baked him this cake as some sort of bizarre apology. She wanted to see him smile. It was the strangest thing anyone had ever done for him. And the sweetest.

“It's okay, though, if you don't want it,” she added when he merely stood there looking at her, saying nothing.

“No! No, I think it's wonderful. I'm really-” he paused and took a deep breath. “Annie, I'm sorry for what I said last night.”

She raised her eyebrows and half-quirked the side of her mouth into a smile. “Yeah, but it was true, wasn't it?”

Allen frowned. “No, it wasn't. Not completely. My behavior was unacceptable-”

“There you go again, being all stiff and proper,” Annie griped, rolling her eyes at him.

“And there you go, acting like I'm being ridiculous when I'm only trying to apologize!”

They eyed each other warily for a long moment before Annie broke into a huge grin.

“So, wanna have some cake?”

She wrinkled her nose at him comically, and Allen found himself laughing gently. Their relationship was one of the strangest and most volatile he'd ever been a part of, but it was fun. She was fun.

They brought the cake back into the kitchen to cut it, and Allen marveled at how the tension between them had completely disappeared, like they'd never argued in the first place. But then, he reasoned, Annie didn't do things by halves. Either she was angry at you or she wasn't. Grudge-holding wasn't a part of her character. He'd never been able to forgive and forget so easily, and he admired that about her.

He also admired her really, really great curves. Even in fuzzy pajama pants, her back view was incredible. Her tight tank top stopped a few inches above the waistband, and for some reason, he couldn't stop thinking her belly button piercing was incredibly erotic.

Annie cut the cake into huge slices, and Allen decided he'd been missing out for years dating tall women. His height gave him a huge advantage at getting a casual glance down the front of her top. He should feel guilty, he supposed, as he surreptitiously eyed her chest, but she was the one always telling him to loosen up and enjoy himself.

“Van's going to ask Tomi to go back with him,” Annie said through a mouthful of cake. Allen exaggeratedly chewed and swallowed before answering her.

“Of course he is. I told him to do it,” he replied matter-of-factly. Annie stared at him, her fork poised half-way to her mouth.

“Why would that make you sure he was going to ask her?” she demanded.

Allen concentrated on his cake, a smug smile tugging at his mouth. “Van's always respected my opinion, so naturally he'd listen to me about something like this. I have a lot more experience than he does with women, after all.”

“Yeah, 'cause your track record's spectacular,” Annie snorted.

“Well, what makes you so sure he's going to ask her?”

Annie shrugged nonchalantly, but she looked like she was trying hard not to burst out laughing. “Oh, I talked him into calling Tomi's parents this morning to get their permission.”

“He actually did it?” Allen sounded shocked, and Annie's laughter bubbled up as she nodded in answer. He shook his head, chuckling, imagining Van trying to keep calm.

“I wonder what kind of weird wedding traditions Tomi's gonna have to do,” Annie said when she'd stopped giggling.

“What made you think of that?”

She waved a hand at the decimated cake. “The cake. At American weddings, there's always some kind of wedding cake. The bride and groom have to cut it and then feed it to each other.”


“Yeah. Here, I'll show you,” she said, grabbing two frosting covered chunks. “We have to link our arms, like this. And then we take a bite of each other's piece. Like this.”

She took a careful, little bite of the bit Allen was holding, and with a grin, he did the same to hers. He supposed, in the back of his thoughts, that the mischievous twinkle in her eye should have been a clue to step away from her as fast and as far as he could.

Without warning, she smushed the rest of her piece onto his surprised face. He pulled back sharply and wiped the frosting out of his eyes.

“What the hell-?” he spluttered.

She grinned her infamous shark grin. “That's the other part of the tradition.”

Allen stood there, torn between laughing or tearing his hair out in frustration. Annie licked some frosting off her fingers, and suddenly he lunged across the room. She shrieked in surprise as he smeared his sticky piece across her face, laughingly twisting out of his reach. There was a tense pause as they stared at each other's cake-coated faces before diving at the remaining pieces.

Blue and white frosting flew everywhere as they breathlessly battled an all-out cake war. Allen laughed as he grabbed her wrists and pinned her against the counter, slipping and sliding on the messy floor. She struggled futilely in his firm grip, weak with giggles, as she tried to smear one last piece into his hair.

Before he knew what was happening, before he realized what he was doing, Allen leaned down and kissed her sugar-coated mouth.

It was true that Annie never did anything by halves, and this was no exception. The kiss under the mistletoe had nothing on this, Allen thought dazedly as their tongues wrestled together and his hands slipped from her wrists to her waist. Somehow, he wasn't sure if he'd lifted her or if she'd jumped, she'd ended up sitting on the counter top without them breaking the dizzying pressure of their mouths. Her legs wrapped tightly around his waist as his lean fingers pressed into her hips. For once, he didn't care about what was proper or how he should be acting when her frosting covered hands wound themselves through his hair.

It was electric, it was exhilarating, and it was terrifying- because his hands were creeping up the bottom of her shirt, and she was pulling him even closer with those legs of hers, and neither one of them was about to stop.

A sudden banging of the front door and a murmur of voices slammed Allen back to reality, and he jerked away from Annie like she was a red hot coal. He backed away hastily as she blinked and rubbed her mouth with one frosting covered hand.

“That wasn't what I- we shouldn't have-” he stuttered incoherently. His foot slipped on a bit of frosting, and he suddenly found himself flat on his back, his breath knocked completely out of him. Annie raised an eyebrow at him from her perch on the counter top.

“Watch out for that frosting, Al,” she said dryly, as if nothing abnormal had just occurred.

“What the hell happened in here?” Hitomi screeched as she and Van stopped dead in the doorway. Two pairs of confused eyes stared down at Allen's grimacing face. Van's mouth twitched suspiciously at the sight of the frosting-covered knight.

Annie shrugged with a grin. “Cake fight. He lost.”

Hitomi knelt down to help him up, and Annie shot an expectant, hopeful look at Van. He scowled and surreptitiously shook his head. Annie rolled her eyes and sighed as she slid off the counter top and moved to wash the frosting off her hands. Allen joined her, and if she noticed that he was being careful not to touch her, she didn't show it.

“Ugh, I need a shower,” she groaned, and he agreed silently. He could definitely use a cold one.

Later that night, Van lay watching Hitomi sleep as a pale ray of moonlight illuminated her peaceful face. She'd kept them downstairs with Annie and Allen the entire evening, helping clean the kitchen, hanging around talking about nothing in particular. It seemed as if she hadn't wanted them to have time alone to talk. He berated himself for thinking that of her. It was most likely his insecurities and fears making her innocent actions look like more than what they were.

He could've found a way to ask her tonight after they'd gone up to her room. He should have tried harder, but she'd kissed him so passionately the moment her door was shut that he couldn't do anything but respond.

Could it hurt to wait one more day? He hadn't been able to bring himself to ruin what they had right this moment, not yet. His fingers brushed over her sleeping face tenderly before he pulled her just a little closer to his side.

As his eyes drifted shut, he promised himself that no matter what, he would ask her tomorrow. For now, he would have one more night of heaven.
Dogs have owners, Cats have staff

Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

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