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Sweet Like Candy (and Cuter Still)

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     "—And now I have to stay away from anything sweet for two weeks!" Kiro's voice was edged with a theatrical hysteria, the reality of the situation evidently much less dire considering the adorable pout gracing his features. The blonde had been complaining to his best friend for the better part of a half an hour, rattling on about the recent 'disaster of the year' that occurred between him and his agent.

     "Kiro," the young woman's answering tone held notes of amusement mixed with sympathy, her eyes watching his dramatic fainting motion as he laid across plush bed. The small stuffed panda she had gifted him a few weeks prior was sitting against the large pillows, making her heart flutter pleasantly in satisfaction that he enjoyed it. "You can do it. You've taken on so many other challenges, what's a little candy break?"

     Instead of being encouraged by her words, the superstar let out a childish whine of her name and rolled back onto his stomach, bringing up his hand to cup at his cheek— the side that held the villainous cavity that started this whole calamity. A few days ago, Kiro had called the producer in a frantic state, saying the agent was threatening to take him to his personal dentist because of a passing comment of Ouch! while he had been eating. Lo and behold, the man made good on his promise, and the dentist had doomed Kiro the second the word 'cavity' passed his lips: both him and Kiro's agent gave him a strict candy-and-dessert-free schedule for the next couple weeks. Of course, since Kiro was a busy star with places to go and people to see, he already had the tooth filled in the same day they caught the problem; however, they wanted to be sure there wouldn't be any more pesky cavities popping up in the future, so they essentially grounded Kiro.

     And 'grounded' it seemed to be, indeed. Sure, the blonde usually had an innocent and almost childlike sense of optimism all the time (he was like her personal little sun, after all), but after being cut off from his guilty pleasure of sweets, Kiro threw what could only be called a tantrum. But he never lost his common sense— Kiro still did his job and was a responsible adult in the ways that counted. It was only after-hours of filming, recording, and whatever else he had on his busy schedule that the barely-petulant actions came up. The singer resorted to pouting away in his room, and after the first two days of solitude, he called the producer in complaint of loneliness and invited her to hang out.

     So she came over, and here they had sat: him lounging on his bed in a variety of strewn-out positions across the sides of the mattress, and her plopped down into a cozy velvet bean bag with a computer next to her softly playing background music. Sometimes Kiro's songs played from her music playlist, sometimes other top hits from the recent years, and sometimes songs by such unknown artists that Kiro had to do some research on his phone to find out more.

     Suddenly, Kiro's head perked up, catching the attention of his friend. With a sparkling grin aimed at her, he chuckled and tilted his head to the side. "You can be my replacement sweets!" His sunny expression and distracting smile threw her off guard, and it wasn't until his features morphed into confusion at her staring that she shook her head a little and gave him a puzzled look of her own.

     "'Replacement sweets'? Kiro, what are you talking about?" she giggled out. The star's cheeks faintly flushed pink, but the chiming laughter only encouraged him with the comment he had blurted out the moment it popped into his head.

     "Well, obviously I'm cut off from real desserts— so you have to be sweet enough to make up for them! For the entire two weeks, got it?" His eyes sparkled with glee and just a hint of mischief, and the woman couldn't tell if there was just the slightest touch of flirtation hidden in those words. Feeling unusually brave, she shot back her own line with its own teasing lilt.

     "Okay, I'll bite. But what would you count as sweet enough for your candy diet?"

     They'd been doing this a lot, lately: dancing around outright confessions and settling for friendly-borderline-flirty banter. Anyone could see the two clearly liked each other in a way that was more than friendly; but both had their own reasons to hesitate, unknown to the other. So they fell into a comfortable middle-zone, and the farthest anything reached was a brisk peck on the cheek or back of the hand (which usually resulted in red faces and shy, avoiding eyes).

     "Hm... Well, I've got an idea! We'll go out somewhere in town, and throughout the day if I get the urge for something sweet, you have to give me... a kiss," he finished, a smirk tugging at his lips even as a shadow of worry reflected in his eyes. Always cautious to not overstep their boundaries, willing to let her choose their pace.

     Despite her face feeling hot, the producer found herself enjoying the boldness of his deal. Maybe this will be the tipping point. Maybe we can start to be... something more than friends, her mind softly whispered, only turning her face more pink. Cupping her chin with a jokingly thoughtful expression, the producer pretended to meditate on her answer until a smile broke past onto her lips and broke the facade. "Y'know what? Let's call it a deal. Where do you want to go for the day?"

     Kiro's excited features shined as he sat up, the emotion in his eyes dancing as his bright grin freely returned at full-watt.

     "The new grand market that opened, on the other side of town."

 ---

     She was pretty sure this was all part of Kiro's plan.

     The newly-opened market square was full of sweets— candy pops that resembled cute animals, a wide variety of cakes, cookies with ingredients ranging from common to peculiar— and every time they wandered past a stand with displayed desserts, Kiro would dramatically pretend to hold himself back from grabbing a bag of the treats before turning to her with the same expectant, devious expression. Already, she gave him six cheek-kisses— plus one large embrace that Kiro snuck after the third peck on the cheek, his arms wrapping around her tightly and using his surprising strength to lift her up off the ground and closer to him. The young woman was pretty sure her face had been permanently pink ever since they passed that first set of advertised lollipops.

     Regardless of her embarrassment, though, she was having a terrific time. The non-food-related stands were interesting to look at, and she even got to buy a bracelet with various gems and stones of her choosing on it (Kiro, of course, immediately jumped at the opportunity and suggested they get matching ones to remember the trip). They also passed by the tent of a talented painter, who practically begged for a chance to paint the "young, jubilant couple" on their market trip. Instead of arguing, Kiro simply smiled that dazzling grin and said: Maybe sometime soon!

     Investigating a particularly fascinating table— the owner had sets of tarot cards with hand-painted designs that looked utterly magnificent— the producer was suddenly snapped out her inquisitive gaze by Kiro calling out her name from another stand nearby.

     "You won't believe this! Oh my god, you have to come see these, they're the cutest things ever! Oh, why do I have to be on this stupid candy break?!"

     Already knowing what was going to happen, the woman laughed and made her way over to where she could see Kiro's blonde head above the thin crowd. Peeking over his shoulder (which she had to stand tall on her toes to even do), the producer accidentally let out a gasp at the adorable display.

     A batch of cupcakes sat prettily on the table, the old baker smiling warmly and with obvious pride at the impressed couple in front of him. The desserts were carefully constructed to create little corgi puppy faces atop the cupcakes with icing and miniature candies. No wonder Kiro acted so much more excited with these sweets: the superstar was a lover of small dogs, and corgis were definitely at the top of that list.

     Swiveling his body toward hers, Kiro's face was alight with delight yet contrasted in absolute despair. "I can't believe this! The universe must really have it out for me: these are the most adorable cupcakes I've ever seen! I don't know how many kisses could possibly match their sweetness!"

     After the words left him, she felt oddly challenged; and so, spurred on by how utterly cute Kiro was being, the girl found herself tugging him close by his open jacket and kissing him squarely on the lips.

     Her friend had frozen still in shock from the unexpected move, but seemingly took no time to rapidly adjust and return the favor, hands resting above her hips as though they belonged there. It felt like they didn't part until hours later, the two barely taking notice of the world around them— she was flushed a pretty, bright red and he was grinning stupidly wide. After a sort of shocked-still silence at their shared moment, Kiro began laughing and it was full of so much joy, the producer found it contagious and launched into her own fit of giggles.

     It took them minutes to recover, and when they finally did— leaning on each other and still smiling in the afterglow of their sniggering— her best friend spoke up with the amusement in his tone clear as the sunny sky above them.

     "I think it'll take another couple hundred of those kisses to match these cupcakes."