Hanakotoba: Ume

The plum blossom, symbol of early spring, represents the steadfast perseverance necessary for flowers to bloom amidst the snow. Makoto and Nephrite try this Valentine's Day thing out for the second time.

Date: 2017-02-14
Pose Count: 22
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 01:16:33 70804
Valentine's Day has come around again, with all it means for the romantic hopes and dreams of Tokyo's youth. It's a day that holds a lot of meaning for Makoto and Nephrite, in particular... and not all of that meaning is all that good. The memories have hovered like shadows in the back of Makoto's mind for the past few days.

Still and all, though, she's been looking forward to today. The weather has certainly cooperated beautifully: Tokyo's plum trees normally don't reach full bloom until late in the month, but the blossoms have opened early and the park's grove is a fantasy of pink and white, the day cool but clear. Mako found a perfect spot to spread out a blanket so they can sit under the boughs of one of the flowering trees out of the way of any passers-by, and have a good view of the grove.

Unaccountably - perhaps it's the echo of last year hanging in the back of her memory - Makoto finds herself a little nervous. There's no reason to be, she tells herself silently as she offers Nephrite a smile and a cup of warm amazake. "Happy Valentine's," she tells him. "I hope this is okay."
Nephrite 2017-02-14 01:35:33 70808
"It's more than okay," Nephrite smiles as he accepts the cup. And it is, of course. They could not ask for a more beautiful setting for today, and he could not ask for a better person to share it with.

But Makoto is not the only one who is anxious. Today is, in a way, an anniversary for them. But not really one to be celebrated. And he has a lot of recent news. About himself. Things that he's dying to tell her but does not know how to tell her. But it's Valentine's Day. Today is supposed to be about the two of them, not him. He sips at the sweet, milky rice drink, casting around for what to say. "It's been a year," he says. "Not since we met or started dating, but since... well, you know." He fidgets with the cup. "This is technically our second Valentine's Day, but it's really our first one together."

Because it is a date, he is wearing one of his expensive suit jackets over a simple button-up shirt. Out of a desire not to embarrass Mako, he put on jeans instead of the matching trousers with it. It's the pink suit. He matches the flowers.
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 02:03:55 70813
Mako also wore jeans, because a skirt is not the best thing in the world for sitting on the ground on a picnic blanket in February, but she's fancied up her spring-green mock-turtleneck with the addition of a white-and-black tuxedo vest. Her hair's pinned into a loose twist with the comb that she found hidden on the moon those months ago, dark green stone and smooth wood, a gift from another time. They make a picturesque pair, no doubt, surrounded by the plum blossoms.

"Yeah," she agrees, quieter than really she meant to. She has a cup of amazake for herself but she's not drinking it yet. "It is. A lot has happened since then, hasn't it?"

She glances down, still smiling, cheeks faintly pink. "I'm really glad that we can be here like this."
Nephrite 2017-02-14 02:28:28 70819
He nods. "Yeah. So many things have changed. Part of me can't believe it's only been a year. It feels like a whole different life. I'm glad I could spend so much of it with you."

He looks down into his cup. Still not sure what else to say. "I hope... this can be a better day for you than it was last year."
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 02:46:15 70823
Makoto's head lifts quickly at that, a soft laugh bubbling up in her throat. "Hey," she says, "we're doing pretty well on that so far."

Still, there's an awkwardness she's at a loss to explain. Mako falls quiet, watching Nephrite for a brief interval while she absently swirls the amazake in her cup.

Soon enough she comes to a decision and sets the cup aside, on top of the basket that she brought - there's cake, but that can wait a little while. Once it's carefully out of the way of any serious risk of spillage, she scoots herself across the blanket towards him, a little at a time, until she can curl an arm around one of his and lean in. "You okay?" she asks him, eyes turned upward to watch his face. "It seems like it's bothering you."
Nephrite 2017-02-14 03:26:11 70829
A small smile meets hers. "Yeah we are. I mean for one thing, it's a whole lot prettier here than it in my evil cave."

Her arm slips around his, and he leans his head against hers. "Yeah. I hurt you a lot. I put you in an awful position. I kind of hate that a day like today was tainted by what I was back then. It makes it feel like it's creeping into our relationship where it doesn't belong."

There is a pause, before he seemingly switches subjects completely. "I went through my jar of memories with Mamoru. Not all of them. There's so much to take in. But I--I do have a family. An aunt and an uncle and cousins. In Canada. I haven't contacted them yet. I will. But I just--I want you to know that I'm not going anywhere. You're still my Mako, and I'm so happy I get to be with you."
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 03:51:52 70832
Makoto stills, just for a heartbeat or two. Then her arm tightens a little more snugly around his, and she snuggles in a little closer. "I know," she says, and her voice is soft. "Whatever happens when you talk to them... whatever you find out, it won't change what we have, or your place here. I should've told you that before, when you were worried about what you'd remember, but I didn't think of it." Her voice drops softer still, into a barely-audible murmur. "Sorry."

She closes her eyes then and just sits for a moment, soaking in the warmth of his arm and the gentle press of his head leaning against hers, the fragrance of the plum blossoms around them. "It's nice to hear it anyway," she admits after a moment, with a rueful little smile. Still clinging to his arm. "Mamoru-niisan told me - about Canada, I mean, just that you'd remembered where you're from. Not any of the rest of it."
Nephrite 2017-02-14 04:20:08 70836
He relaxes against her as she speaks, watching the delicate flowers overhead. "I know. I mean--Mamoru convinced me how silly I was being." After a moment, he chuckles. "You mean you still want to be with me even if I'm a Canadian? What if I start dressing like a lumberjack? Will you still love me then?"

He leans over and kisses the top of her head. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be a downer. We're here to have fun." He reaches for his cup again and looks down into the amazake. "So I don't think I've actually had this before? It's like sake but sweet. It's nice."
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 04:29:37 70839
"I think you'd be a very stylish lumberjack," Makoto replies, the words hitching a little with laughter. When she looks up at him again, her eyes are bright with amusement. "I almost made you a plaid cake, but then I thought that would be a little too ridiculous so I had Ami-chan help me eat the evidence."

The strangeness from before has evaporated; with renewed cheer, Makoto leans and stretches out her arm until she can just reach the cup she abandoned earlier without actually having to move back over. "Amazake? It's good for flower-viewing like this, especially warm when the air's chilly. I'm glad you like it."
Nephrite 2017-02-14 04:48:49 70842
Nephrite laughs--and it's the booming kind that shakes them both and likely disturbs other viewers in the park. If Mako requires any further proof that the strangeness has gone away, that was it. "Yeah? Think I can work that into my wardrobe? I can start a trend. Lumberjack chic!"

"So! What else do we do for flower-viewing? What's this about cake?"
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 05:12:01 70848
"What cake?" The attempt at wide-eyed feigned innocence would probably work a lot better if Makoto were remotely capable of keeping a straight face. As it is, she's barely managing not to giggle. "I told you, we ate it already."

--yeah, no, she can't keep that up for so much as a hot second. "I made you another one, though. Here." She puts her cup down again so that she can drag her basket over and open it up, lift out the sealed container that's kept the small cake safe from jostling.

It's not even that she'd purposefully set out to make things different from last year, but maybe it was somewhere in the back of her mind all the same - there's no hint of rose petals or honey, and it's white chocolate this time instead of dark. The cake she presents to him, with a proud little flourish, is a pretty little white chocolate and raspberry torte, topped with a cluster of fresh berries, just about the right size to be shared between two people. "Tada~" Makoto sing-songs. "I hope you like it."

There's utensils and small paper plates in the basket too, of course.
Nephrite 2017-02-14 05:30:30 70853
The hungry grin that Nephrite gives her at her feigned innocence is the sort that he only adopts when he knows that Mako's got some hidden treat. He drapes himself over her dramatically at the news that the cake was already eaten. "But Mako! My sweet Mako! How can I live through Valentine's Day without your cake to sustain me?"

But then cake is there! He gasps delightedly like a child on Christmas. "It looks perfect. Can we eat it now? Or is there something special we need to wait for? Can I have one of the raspberries?"
Makoto Kino 2017-02-14 05:42:03 70856
Fortunately for both of them, Mako has grown enough accustomed to shenanigans like these that she does not actually drop the cake on him, despite the extra-dramatic draping. "No," she teases, "I just got it out to show it to you. Of course we can eat it now. Here--" Some hasty arranging and she's brought out the paper plates and plastic utensils. The cake server, she turns handle-first and offers to Nephrite.

"First piece is yours," she tells him, smiling brightly with the sheer pleasure of how pleased he is. "You can have all the raspberries if you want them, it's your cake."
Nephrite 2017-02-14 05:56:03 70860
He takes the cake server from her, leaning over to give her a kiss on the cheek. "You're too good to me."

He cuts two slices, even though she said he could cut one just for himself, and he does not take every raspberry for his slice. Really, it is just as easy to distribute two pieces of cake onto the little paper plates as it is to take only one. "So do plum blossoms have any special meaning? Also how do we tell plum blossoms from cherry blossoms? It all just looks pink to me."

He takes his first bite of white chocolate torte, and promptly sags like he's melting into the blanket. "Is this what happiness tastes like?"
Makoto Kino 2017-02-15 02:24:59 70958
Makoto accepts the plate with the slice of torte he cut for her with a warm, indulgent look, picking up a plastic spoon and scooping off a small bite of cake off the end of the slice. "If I'd realized you liked white chocolate and raspberries this much, I'd have made you something like this before now," she laughs, but she's blushing brightly from the praise.

She puts the spoon in her mouth and, torte melting on her tongue, looks upward at the flowering branches interlaced above their heads. "--mmm." It takes another handful of seconds until her mouth's no longer full and she can answer his other questions. "Plum blossoms have just one flower to a bud, instead of blooming in clusters like cherry blossoms do. Also," a stray petal has drifted onto the blanket; setting her spoon down across the edge of her plate, she reaches out to capture it with a fingertip and hold it up. "Cherry blossom petals have a notch at the end, but these are round."

Mako's gaze lingers on the petal as she speaks, where it remains delicately balanced upon her fingertip. "The biggest difference," she says, "is that plum trees bloom earlier in the year, right at the beginning of the spring when there's still the chance of snow or ice. And they stay on the trees longer, instead of scattering right away like cherry blossoms do. So," she looks up from the petal to meet his eyes again, "while the sakura is a symbol of things that are beautiful because they don't last very long, ume represents perseverance. the kind of tough beauty that's willing to bloom in the snow."

A moment's consideration passes before Makoto lifts the petal briefly to her lips, then leans forward and reaches out to touch that one fingertip to the center of Nephrite's forehead, leaving the petal stuck there like the meihua makeup of an Imperical Chinese court lady.
Nephrite 2017-02-15 03:08:05 70961
"I love everything you make," says the puddle of Neph-goo with absolute gravity. He's lounging back on one elbow, his plate resting on the blanket next to him. "Most white chocolate I've had just kind of tasted like sugar. You make white chocolate and raspberries taste like heaven."

He listens intently to her explanation while savoring another heaping spoonful of torte. At a break in her lesson, he grins at her. "Your encyclopedic knowledge about flowers never fails to be sexy, you know."

Despite the joke (not entirely a joke, really), he's nodding seriously as she explains ume's meaning. "Perseverance. That sounds perfect."

And then he is petaled. He remains absolutely still while she presses the pink petal to his forehead. He attempts to screw his eyes up to see it, but of course, it's not easy to see one's own forehead. Instead he sweeps his hair back with a dramatic flip. "How do I look?"
Makoto Kino 2017-02-15 03:38:08 70964
"Se-- Neph." Now Mako's really blushing; it was a joke, she's sure, but it kind of didn't entirely sound like one and it's really just unfair of him to say stuff like that while he's lounging there in his expensive pink jacket looking like he belongs in a photo shoot. Clearly the only solution is to seize her plastic spoon and stuff a bite of torte into her mouth before she can embarrass herself.

By the time she swallows, she's feeling a little steadier again, and anyway he's modeling the petal she decorated him with. Makoto's hand goes to her mouth in a useless attempt at smothering a fit of giggles.

"You look gorgeous, just like always." Despite the laughter, it's nothing but sincere. For a moment all Makoto can do is sit there looking at him, eyes overflowing with affectionate admiration. "I am so lucky."
Nephrite 2017-02-15 04:22:40 70969
Nephrite feels just a little bit smug that he made her blush. She looks so cute with the pink in her cheeks, matching so well with the warm brown of her hair. But crowing about it would be mean. So he models the petal that matches so well with his jacket instead. "So it's my color, then? I know you were skeptical about the pink."

His eyes meet hers. "Not half so lucky as me." He leans in, eyes locked with hers...

And promptly boops her on the nose with white chocolate.
Makoto Kino 2017-02-15 04:36:13 70970
"I was skeptical," Makoto agrees with a nod, eyes sparkling. "But you make it work. I shouldn't ever have doubted."

She finds herself involuntarily holding her breath when his eyes catch and hold hers. He starts to lean in towards her, and she leans a little herself and tilts her head, anticipating a kiss--

--instead, a white chocolaye nose-boop.

"Hey!" Makoto yelps and rocks back, sputtering with surprised laughter, reaching up to swipe her fingers indignantly over her frosting-smudged nose.
Nephrite 2017-02-15 04:52:28 70971
He laughs, the petal unable to take all this shaking and fluttering away from his face. "Sorry, sorry. I couldn't resist. Here." He tugs a cloth handkerchief out of his pocket (a must for any occasion suitable for dressing up) and moves to dab the frosting off.
Makoto Kino 2017-02-15 05:03:48 70972
"So rude," Mako accuses good-naturedly. Letting her hand drop, she holds still while he wipes the frosting away. Before Nephrite can draw back the handkerchief, though, she reaches up to catch his wrist and leans in again, as though she's about to share some kind of a secret.

"I love you, Nephrite." And she leans the rest of the way in to steal the kiss she thought she was getting a moment ago, quick and sweet.

This time when Makoto sits back, still rosy-cheeked, she's looking very pleased with herself.
Nephrite 2017-02-15 05:15:32 70973
For once, he's the one caught by surprise. The stolen kiss shocks Nephrite into silence. The soldier of lightning won this day.

Beneath the canopy of flowers, the ume representing tough beauty, he remembers to smile back. "I love you too, Thunderbird."