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" Achoo!" 

Deuce grimaced at the sound of Yuu sneezing, his eyes trained on Yuu who sluggishly wiped her stuffy nose. Her eyes were watery, and her breath was uneven due to the fact that she was inhaling with her mouth. 

He felt very sorry— no, he's very guilty. 

He couldn't help but blame himself for the state she was currently in; both of them sat comfortably in the infirmary as Deuce held Yuu's hand to comfort her.

It was his doing that became the reason as to why they were where they are at now. 

 


Three days ago - Heartslabyul Dormitory


Deuce Spade was easily known as anything but deliberate. He, after all, was the mastermind behind the idea that destroyed a hundred-year-old chandelier, almost costing him his place in one of the most prestigious schools in Twisted Wonderland! But, he’s also someone who learns from his past mistakes and then tries his best afterward. 

That’s why, with the knowledge of how his original ideas don’t tend to end with the best results, he came up with a back-up: ask his vice-dorm leader for advice on the personal crisis he’s currently experiencing.

That’s how he found himself standing in front of the door of Trey’s room (that he shared with other third years) in the Heartslabyul dormitory— right after ensuring that he’s done enough of his homework and that his dorm head’s out of sight. He did not want to be caught by dorm leader Rosehearts, after all.

He took in an intake of breath as he lifted his shaky fist before knocking on the wooden door. His nerves were getting the best of him. Perhaps if it takes too long for someone to respond, he’ll find himself running away and just sulk to himself on his bed. But luckily for him, not even a minute later, the door opened, revealing the green-haired male, his senior, wiping his glasses.

“Deuce?” he asked, blinking a couple of times to clear his eyesight. His eyes met the first-year’s determination-filled eyes intensely planted on him. Trey tried to recall a similar event when he’s seen the same magnitude of intensity was present in Deuce’s eyes…

Deuce cleared his throat before speaking, “Sorry to disturb you, Clover-senpai, but I was wondering if you can help me with something.”

“Uh, sure,” Trey opened his door wider, beckoning the first-year to enter, Deuce obliged as he walked inside Trey’s room. His eyes gazed around the room, admiring the larger size of the dorm room and how neatly organized his belongings are. Although it wasn’t completely free of scattered things, they were present here and there, it’s far more refreshing to the eyes in comparison to the room he shared with Ace. 

“So, how can I help you?” Trey asked, walking towards the direction of his bed before taking a seat on the soft mattress. Deuce watched him, still standing near the doorway, unsure of what to say and do next. He didn’t actually think he’d get this far. Should he remain standing and simply tell his vice dorm leader his queries? Or was he allowed to take a seat on the wooden chair beside where his desk stood?

“Senpai, it’s uh, um…” Trey raised his brow at the nervous first year, “It’s about Yuu…”

"Oh? Did she need help, or - ?" 

"I want to tell her how I feel about her!" Deuce's voice boomed as he interrupted his senior— his eyes widening when he realized what he had just done. So, he began to ramble with a much whiter voice, "She– before I met her and got to know her, I didn't know I could hold such a level of admiration for a person and wish to be as close as I can be with them. Maybe as more than a friend! I want to be able to be there for her as she was with me, I wish to –" 

"Woah, Deuce, slow down," Trey chuckled, "Why don't you just tell her what you told me then? A direct confession is something that's greatly appreciated."

Deuce sighed, "That's what my mother also told me. But after what happened with Eliza, talking with girls has been a billion times more difficult. The moment I think I'm ready to confess, I always end up saying something else! Or with my horrible luck, someone interrupts."

"Maybe it's just a sign that I shouldn't." he added, quietly muttering to himself — quiet enough for Trey not to hear.

"I see you're at that part of your life," joked Trey as he got up from where he sat to tousle Deuce's dark hair.

"Well, what if you gift her something that holds the words you fail to say?"

"..."

Brief silence was what met Trey's advice; Deuce was still trying to process his words, and as well as brainstorming for possible ideas.

And something finally clicked.

"You're right! What if I bake her some sweets? She is as sweet as those pastries— sweeter even!" Deuce says this with determination and hope dripping with every word. His eyes had the brightest and most thankful smile etched on his lips as he looked at Trey.

"Thanks, senpai!" he exclaims before quite literally running out of his vice dorm leader's room and back to his so he can discuss his plans with his friend and ask for his help. The possibility of Riddle catching him running through the hallways at the late hour slipping his excited-filled mind.

"A– wait– and he's gone." Trey tried to stop him, tried to tell him something important, but Deuce was already gone before he could mutter out a full word.

 


[ Attempt #1 ]

The next day (Two days ago) - Cafeteria


Deuce didn’t mean to slam the large basket he carried with him during lunch on the table, but it weighed too much so he did. He hoped the contents inside the basket weren’t ruined, else all his (and a bit of Ace’s) efforts earlier that morning would be completely ruined.

Because earlier that day, before sunlight could peak from the horizon, he was already fully awake, ever so determined to go through with his plan for the day. But before he could actually start with the day, he had to drag a half-asleep and frustrated Ace with him to the kitchen. The latter kept on thrashing and trying to force himself out of his grip, but to no avail; the determination Deuce felt fueled more of him than he initially thought.

Once they reached the empty kitchen, to say that Ace was annoyed would be a complete understatement. Hushed complaints and constant yawns filled the silence in the kitchen (all from Ace), but they faltered a bit thirty minutes later when Deuce offered him a couple of the cherry cookies he baked.

Ace questioned why he even got something, not that he was complaining, and Deuce only answered after Ace took his first bite, "Because you'll be helping me with my confession to Yuu."  

Ace nearly choked on the cookie he didn't mean to swallow. Whatever plan Deuce had in mind, Ace was doubting (not that his plans were any better, but he wouldn’t tell him that). But no other complaints left his lips any further after being promised that Deuce would give him his cherry pie for the whole month.

It was two hours later that early morning when they finally finished what they were doing in the kitchen – all with little to no help from Ace, much to Deuce’s dismay.

Speaking of Ace— he, along with Grim and Yuu, were still in line for their lunch. Deuce already had his, and so he was assigned to get them a table. 

Fortunately for him, the usual place where they sat remained unoccupied. 

After accidentally slamming the basket onto the table, he began taking out the baked goods with the hopes of neatly arranging them — for it to be at least presentable when Yuu's eyes land on them (perhaps this will earn him bonus points for extra effort?).

If he remembers correctly based on their almost everyday sitting arrangements, Ace will be sitting beside him while Yuu will be sat across from him. And that's where he decided to perfectly place the sweet pastries.

He nods to himself before going through with his work.

When they finally arrived with food trays on hand, Deuce's eyes first landed on Ace — who wore one of the biggest grins Deuce had never seen on his face as he jokingly gagged in disgust. Deuce merely rolled his eyes at him. 

Yuu and Grim remained oblivious to their exchange as they proceeded to where Deuce anticipated them.

Upon seeing the array of sweet pastries on the table, to say that Yuu was surprised would be true. Grim on the other hand had stars in his eyes.

"What's with all these?" Yuu asked, throwing a nervous-looking Deuce a questioning look.

"Oh, um, it's for – "

"GYAAA---!!! So many food!"

Grim didn't wait for Deuce to finish what he was saying as he leaps from Yuu's head directly towards the table, stuffing his face with as much food as he could. He starts munching on the sweets Deuce baked, feeling as though he had just ascended to cloud nine. Incomprehensible words left Grim's lips with every bite. 

Ace merely laughed at the scenario in front of him, patting Deuce on the back before digging in to his own lunch. 

"Wait, Grim – "

"Come on, Grim. I'm sure it's for everyone. Share," Yuu's voice cut him off. He watched as her eyes scanned the sweets-filled table before focusing on her tray again.

"Hmph, fine." Grim swallowed, paws no longer swiping every pastry he could get his paws on.

This is the perfect time for you to tell her what you think!

"A-uh, why don't you take a bite Yuu?" he smiled, feeling nervous as he grabbed tge cookie nearest to him and tried to hand it to Yuu, "The sweetness – "

"Is something I'm not a fan of. I don't really engage with sweets as much because it makes me feel nauseous, so you guys can go ahead," Yuu waves off the male's offer as she says this with a bright and encouraging smile on her face. Meanwhile Deuce can feel his drop.

Ace nudges his shoulder, stifling his laughter. He reached over, attempting to snatch the cookie on Deuce's hand but Deuce merely swatted him away.

He reluctantly ate the sweets that lunch, all while he tried to rephrase what was supposed to be his compliment to her. He failed. He didn't get anywhere other than Ace flicking an icing to his forehead.

A food fight almost happened, but the Heartslabyul dorm leader just conveniently passed by their table before things could escalate.

After a short scolding from Riddle, then from Yuu, Deuce sank back to his seat, feeling a bit disappointed when his attempt at confessing failed.

But he didn't let his first failure deter his determination.

When the subject after lunch came to a finish, Deuce found himself surrounded by his notes as he tried to do his work in the courtyard — he had a free period and decided that doing school work early would be the best idea. 

As he sat there, he noticed a number of students (especially ones from Pomefiore) start to gather at one corner. They seem to be listening to someone — and when he squinted his eyes to see who they had their eyes on, there he saw Pomefiore's dorm and vice dorm leaders, Vil Schoenheit and Rook Hunt.

Vil was simply standing and listening, nodding his head with whatever Rook was saying as if he was judging him (though he did catch a quick glimpse of the very subtle smile on his face).

Initially, from where he was, he could only make out a few words from whatever Rook was reciting. But that was before the eccentric hunter's booming voice became louder and louder as the intensity of the words he spoke became more and more prominent.

He deduced that what Rook was saying were words of praises and flattery — a poem to be precise.

A poem...

...This just gave him an idea!

 


[ Attempt #2 ]

The next day (Yesterday) - Hallway


Deuce Spade barely slept a wink that evening (morning?) because he spent most of his hours writing that poem he was inspired to do. Spoiler alert: his idea didn't go as he'd originally planned. He underestimated the means of writing a poem too much.

The Pomefiore vice dorm leader made it look as if he was simply writing and reciting the alphabet— as if his words were plain and simple, when in reality it was far from that. The intricacy and degree of every word that Rook chooses to utter honestly made him admire his senior a lot more.

But after hours and hours of writing and crossing, erasing and brainstorming, mentally screaming and almost crying— he'd finally done it.

It may not be Rook Hunt-level, but it certainly wasn't something he'd be ashamed of, either. He's damn well proud of it, actually. 

In school, he could barely keep his eyes open the entire morning. In fact, he was even caught dozing off during History! The very reason as to why he was held back a few minutes longer  than the rest. He was to answer a few questions for Trein to see if he even learned anything in class— which he did decently.

He was actually able to answer the first few easily and correctly (much to his surprise), but as professor Trein went on, and with Lucius staring into his soul (maybe he was exaggerating, but it sure felt that way!), he started fumbling. He fumbled and stuttered out his answers until his focus completely wavered— disappeared; his mind no longer cooperated with providing needed answers. He swore he'd read the information somewhere but he just couldn't pinpoint what it was and where from!

Professor Trein — in Deuce's opinion — was quite lenient that day. Normally, he would have had to spend detention later today to clean the room or something, but instead all he was met was with some surprise verbal quizzing — his advance studying the previous day paid off.

He managed to answer a few of his professor's questions— assuring him that he was indeed, at the very least, trying.

After the short quizzing with his History professor, Deuce felt very fortunate when he bumped into Yuu on his way to his next class. She was holding onto a small stack of papers while she listened in on her small companion.

"My bad, I wasn't looking where I wa- oh, hey Deuce!" Yuu trailed off before greeting him. He waved and replied with a ' hey ' as he stared intently on what she was holding onto.

Should he offer to carry them for her?

"Sorry again. After everything that's happened, one would expect I'd be more attentive," she chuckled. His eyes remained on the papers— he looked as if he was having a stare down with them

Offering to carry someone's belongings is a great help…and it does serve as a subtle clue?

"Oi, Deuce! What's with you and those papers? Just take them." Grim demanded just as he spoke;

"I'll carry them."

Oh crap— that came out more demanding than I intended.

"Uh- f-for you! We can also head to our next class together."

Yuu beamed at the offer, "Well, if you insist," she said as she handed them to the dark-colored haired Heartslabyul first-year.

She thanked him and began walking ahead of him with Grim now curled up in her arms, the latter boasting about the recently received assignments from before and how he must have gotten high scores.

Unbeknownst to them, Deuce slipped the parchment (from his pocket) that contained his confession, in the middle, a smile making its way on his face. 

He inserted himself into their talk; they shared an animated conversation as the trio headed to their shared class.

Lunch time came around and Yuu informed Ace and Deuce that she and Grim will not be joining them in the cafeteria that day. She told them that she had to review the work she had just received in case there was anything to be highlighted; the cafeteria —.according to her — was too loud and distracting, plus food and drinks can spill anywhere, she didn't want that risk.

He thought about offering to join her, but Ace started dragging him to the cafeteria before he could even come to a decision.

That day's lunch was the fastest Deuce has ever eaten. He finished his lunch in less than fifteen minutes and immediately sprinted to where Yuu and Grim were, leaving Ace — who was savoring and enjoying every second of his food — behind. Maybe it wasn't the best idea, but his feet were already moving on their own.

There in the courtyard, underneath the shade of a tree, was where he caught sight of the Ramshackle prefect and her company. The papers he offered to carry earlier were divided into three as they stacked behind her. She was scanning a few on her hands, while Grim was still enjoying his food whilst his eyes also scanned the papers from beside him. 

Just as Yuu was about to grab the next pile of papers — where he can see his poem was tucked — he noticed Grim's eyes widening, trained on the red mark clearly scribbled on the paper at the top. The grey furball snatched them out of Yuu's grasp before she could have a proper look at them— conjuring blue flames that turned them to nothing but grey ashes.

A horrified gasp left Yuu as she watched the ashes follow the wind.

"Grim! Why– what were you thinking!?"

Yuu began scolding Grim, not bothering to hear his excuses (he heard something along the lines of " Just because you failed doesn't mean you need to burn them! "). All the while Deuce watched from afar — agony and anguish written all over his face.

Another unsuccessful attempt and wasted efforts.

He found himself strolling through the rose maze in Heartslabyul later that afternoon. The day's tea party had just come to a conclusion.

Defeated was the state he was in. With his hands tucked in his pockets and eyes up in the sky, he tried his best to not think too much about his failure and instead motivate himself. Because yes, he was failing— but with failure comes success right? And besides, his grandmother used to tell him that if he fails his first two times, the third time's a charm.

When his eyes lowered, he was met by the color red. The roses in front of him seemed more beautiful than usual…

…what if he gifted her a simple bouquet of roses? And then just do as his mother and Trey advised him?

Perfect .

Thirty minutes in his rose picking, he was still lacking. He spent most of his time soothing his, now red, fingers because they always seemed to find themselves where the thorns rested. To add even more insult to his injury, Deuce was caught by his dorm leader trying to pick out the roses. All the defeat he felt earlier vanished as they were replaced by fear.

When he was met by Riddle's stern grey irises, he rushed out his excuse before closing his eyes. Waiting for Riddle to chant his unique magic and collar him for possibly breaking one of the 810 rules.

But time passed and there was nothing. No lectures, no raged mutters, and no incantations of unique magic — instead, what he heard were twigs breaking and leaves rustling. He opened his eyes to see his dorm leader, Riddle Rosehearts himself, carefully picking out roses and handling them with such care. 

Riddle began arranging them into a wonderful-looking bouquet before holding them out to him.

The roses– no, the bouquet looked perfect. No ounces of imperfection tracing them — not even the leaves and thorns.

"I asked Trey why you dashed out of his room the other day— take it as a thanks to Yuu. She's been a great help at keeping you and Ace in check," was what Riddle said before dusting his uniform from imaginary dust and walking away, as if he didn't just lend a hand in Deuce's gift-confession.

 


[ Attempt #3 ]

A few moments earlier (Present Day) - Hallway


Today was the day. He could feel it.

Classes for the day had just ended, and everything about today went smoothly. He was able to answer his professors questions when he was called, he managed to successfully finish his alchemy potion before anyone else, and he also received bonus points during PE.

His day had been nothing but great, so surely this was a sign.

With the bouquet of roses in his grasp, and with the overflowing determination pouring out of him, he began his search for Yuu— which didn't take that long when he spotted her in the hallway.

"Yuu, hey!" he called out, still making his way towards her. With every step, his courage seemed to sip out, but he refused to focus on that.

She heard his call, stopping in her tracks for him to catch up with her. The sight of the roses made her lips lose their color.

"Deuce –"

It's now or never.

"Yuu, I've spent the past two days trying to get your attention, to tell you something I've been feeling."

"Uh, yes, yes. I'd love to hear that but -"

Her words seemed to simply enter and immediately exit his ears. He was too focused to go through his speech that he failed to notice her state.

He breathed in and shoved the bouquet directly on her face, not really realizing what he just did.

"I never really made the best decisions in the past, but I've sworn to do better. But despite that want, there are times where I slip, and it's during those times that I start wondering whether I'm going to be able to or not— then I got to know you. You who has been nothing but kind and caring, patient and understanding, and cool and funny. You showed me that despite all the odds being against you, you're still able to get through them. You’re always ready to reassure me that I’m still learning and things will be better in the future. You manage through everything we’ve been through without losing everything positive and sweet about you…I tried telling you how sweet you were by baking you those sweets, but you didn't like sweets. Then I wrote a poem for you but Grim burnt it to ashes before you got the chance to read it…" Deuce trailed off when he felt others' eyes on him. Realizing that he's been rambling instead of being direct, he cleared his throat, "What I mean is, I like you. And I would appreciate it if you gave me a chance– Yuu?"

Instead of being met by a response of yes or no, a sneeze was what he received.

" Achoo! "

Flower petals scattered into the air.

Now stuffy reddish nose, watery eyes, puffed cheeks, and Yuu coughing met his gaze— his eyes widened in horror.

"I'm mildly allergic to flowers," she coughed out, sniffling.

Immediately, Deuce discarded the flowers and began pulling Yuu to the direction of the infirmary. She was still able to walk, just that she felt sick.

And that's how he found himself in the infirmary with his crush. His hand delicately holding hers as he rubbed circles to her hand. This was his silent apology.

"I'm sorry– I should've known." 

Yuu merely chuckled, "But you didn't because I didn't tell you. No need to apologize," she waved him off as she rested her head on his shoulder, "besides, I still owe you an answer to your question: of course I'll give you a chance! I'm sorry for not noticing your advances sooner…"

Deuce felt himself smile at their position. Yes there could be better circumstances, but at least his feelings are now finally in the open, right? And she also confessed to reciprocating them— everything's gone perfectly! Err, minus the accidentally triggering her mild allergies part