“Come on, Jazz, don’t be that way. Tell me where we’re going, please?” Emmett wheedled.
I shook my head. “Sorry, babe. It’s a surprise. You’re just going to have to be patient and wait. It’s only for another day.”
He harrumphed, crossing his arms over his chest as he sat back against the couch. Biting my lip to stop myself from giving in, I playfully tugged at his arm.
He scowled at me. “You know I’m not fond of surprises, Jasper.”
Sighing, I ran my fingers through his hair. “I know, Em. Trust me, though, you’ll love this one. I promise.”
At least, I hoped he would. Life had been rough for Emmett. Up until fairly recently, he’d been closeted, and hadn’t ever even kissed a guy before, let alone had a boyfriend. He’d been too busy taking care of his ailing mother.
Emmett had put his entire life on hold in order to make her last years on earth as comfortable as he could, and I greatly admired him for it. He didn’t see it as a big deal, just his duty as a son to his mother, but I knew it for what it was. A sacrifice, and a worthy one at that. It showed me his heart, and in my opinion, it made it all the more important that he be shown how special he was.
And I knew just the way to do it. Not that I didn’t tell him often enough, but this Valentine’s Day would be special. We’d been dating for a few months now, since just before Halloween, as a matter of fact, and this would be our first Valentine’s Day as a couple. It would be Emmett’s first, period – with a significant other, at least.
Crawling onto his lap, I tried to distract him by kissing him languidly. Emmett complied easily enough, always so quick to show his affection and hardly ever able to stay mad at anyone for any length of time. Another reason I loved him so much.
Emmett’s arms went around my waist and I hummed against his lips, chuckling when he huffed and mumbled, “Fine. I’ll be patient,” before claiming my lips again.
It was much later than I’d planned before I managed to go home. Emmett tried to convince me to stay, and I’d wanted to, but I had things to do before tomorrow. Not to mention, Emmett’s gifts were waiting for him at my place, so I’d have to go home at some point. I told him to be ready for me bright and early, because I’d planned out the entire day. Emmett tried again to figure out what I had up my sleeve, but I persisted.
On my way home, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was certain Emmett’d love what I had in store for him. Emmett loved sharks. Well, all sea-life, really, but sharks held a special interest for him. Since his mother passed away just before Christmas, he was finally free to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a marine-biologist. He’d be starting school next term, having decided to take a little time for himself first. A novelty for him, to be sure.
I’d met Emmett at the hospital where I volunteered. We’d hit it off one day when he was waiting for the doctor to be done examining his mother and it didn’t take us long to start hanging out regularly. It took Emmett a while to allow himself to go out on an actual date with me. I understood, and never pushed him for more than he was ready to give. He explained that his mother was the only family he had left, and that he couldn’t bring himself to burden her with the knowledge her son was gay. Not that he believed for a moment she wouldn’t accept him, not really. It was more that he knew how much she already worried about him, and she was too keenly aware of how life could be for us, having read about several attacks on the LGBT community. Not to mention, knowing he’d have fewer rights than straight people.
So when we finally became boyfriends, we kept everything very low-key. It was difficult for me to do so because I was out already, but I also realized that Emmett was too important to me and I couldn’t bring myself to not give him this chance.
Now, several months later, I was glad I hung in there. When Emmett’s mother finally passed away, it broke his heart. I was there for him every step of the way, though, helping him as best I could. And he leaned on me, something I was proud to know he felt he could do when he hadn’t ever truly accepted help from anyone else before.
After the funeral, it took surprisingly little time for Emmett to decide to come out of the closet. There were no big announcements or anything, but he stopped hiding who he was, and if asked, would tell anyone that he was with me and proud of it.
Even before all of that, though, I’d started planning for Valentine’s Day in the hopes that we’d still be going strong. I knew that Emmett loved going to the Zoo and the Aquarium, but that he never really had much time to go so he couldn’t justify the expense of a pass.
So that became the first part of my gift for him. A few weeks ago, I’d received a leaflet in the mail about going behind the scenes and getting a tour of the Aquarium of the Bay. They even had some on Valentine’s Day itself, which was just perfect, in my eyes. I’d immediately ordered tickets, since space was very limited, and lucked out. I just knew Emmett’d get a kick out of being able to feed the sharks.
After checking I had everything ready, I went to bed with a smile on my face.
In the morning, I woke up to a text from Emmett. Happy Valentine’s Day, Jazz. ♥
Grinning, I quickly typed him back. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, sugar. Don’t forget: casual dress. Be ready in 1 hour. I’m bringing breakfast. ♥
I rushed through my morning routine, wanting to just get the day started. All in all I was out the door with time to spare as I headed out with a huge bear in my arms. It had reminded me of Emmett a little and I hoped it’d make him smile. I stopped by the florist to pick up the single red rose I’d ordered, wanting to get it as fresh as possible, and then made my way to my favorite bakery to pick up two cherry mochas, as well as the chocolate croissants and chocolate-cherry muffins that I knew Emmett loved.
Laden with my burdens, I arrived at Emmett’s door, and gently kicked it as my hands were full. Emmett grinned as he opened the door, and then his eyes widened as he took everything in. “Jesus, Jasper, you didn’t have to-” he started.
I rolled my eyes, holding out the bear to him. “I wanted to.”
He took the bear, hiding his face in it briefly as he chuckled. When he looked up again, he was blushing, a goofy grin on his lips as he reached for me. “C’mere, you. I love it, thank you.”
Kissing him, I hummed. “Don’t think that’s the only thing you’re getting today,” I murmured, offering him the rose, which he took with a slight shake of his head.
He blushed again and whispered, “I don’t need all this, Jasper. You’re all I need. I love you.”
“Love you, too, babe. C’mon. Our coffee’s getting cold. Are you ready to head out?”
He nodded, then looked down at his bear. “What about-?”
“Take them with you. It’s Valentine’s, after all.”
I grinned. I knew it would be cumbersome, and it was a little silly to tote along the bear and rose, but I wanted Emmett to have them as tangible reminders throughout the day. He rolled his eyes, grabbed his keys and held the door open for me.
It took us a few minutes to reach the park near his house where we found a seat and enjoyed a quiet breakfast, sitting on opposite ends of a picnic table. Emmett had his bear tucked into his side, looking oddly pleased, rather than embarrassed. As we finished our coffees, he hummed and reached for my hand. “Thanks for this. So what’s next? You said you had the whole day planned out.”
“Next, we head to the bay area,” I said, careful to not say too much.
Emmett had apparently decided to just go with it, as he merely smiled. After taking care of the trash, we took the bus out to the Aquarium. Emmett didn’t quite get where exactly we were headed until we went to the line for pass-holders, rather than the ticket booth.
Pulling me to a stop, he said, “Jazz, what are you doing? We need to go over there.” He pointed to the ticket booth with a frown.
Grinning, I tugged him along to get in line before kissing him on the cheek. “Trust me, Em.”
When it was our turn, I showed the pass and the tickets to feed the sharks to the lady at the counter who smiled, wishing us a nice day. Emmett looked confused when I turned to him and handed him the packet. “Happy Valentine’s, baby.”
Emmett stared hard and long at both the year-pass and the tickets, his throat working as he processed everything. Finally, he looked up with shimmering eyes, his voice hoarse with emotion as he said, “Jasper… this is… this is too much. I-”
He shook his head, blinking rapidly. Stepping up to him, I slid one arm around his back, cupping his cheek with my free hand. “Emmett, babe, you deserve this, and so much more. I love you, and I wanted to show you how much you mean to me.”
Kissing him gently, he nodded, murmuring, “Yeah, okay… I love you, too, Jazz. I can’t even…” He shook his head again, then smiled. “I can’t even imagine my life without you anymore.”
I grinned at that. “Good, because you’re not getting rid of me any time soon,” I quipped, winking.
Emmett rolled his eyes, snorting. “You’re something else, you know that?” he said fondly.
“It might have been brought to my attention once or twice,” I said with a grin, making Emmett laugh. “Now come on, before they start without us. You wouldn’t want to miss out on feeding the sharks, would you?”
At this, Emmett’s eyes bulged, flickering from mine to the packet in his hand and back. “Are you serious? Really?”
The excitement in his voice cemented the fact I’d done the right thing. I nodded, but before I could say anything else, Emmett grabbed my hand and dragged me inside at a clipped pace. It didn’t take us long to find where we had to go, even if we ended up having to wait a few minutes for the rest of the small group to arrive. Emmett took the time to study the papers he’d been given while I watched countless expressions cross his face.
When our tour guide – Heidi, as she introduced herself – announced she was ready, Emmett carefully tucked the packet into his back pocket before taking my hand. He clutched his bear to him as we walked, his attention riveted on Heidi. While I was interested enough to hear about the workings of the Aquarium behind the scenes, I couldn’t help but be more invested in how Emmett was enjoying himself. To see his face come to life when we were shown the baby jellies nursery, or the sheer joy radiating off him when he was handed a bucket of seafood and given leave to feed the sharks… It was priceless, and by far the best gift Emmett could give me.
Emmett had handed me the bear so he could feed the sharks without worrying about dropping it into the water or it getting dirty. I, on the other hand, had told him he could go through my bucket of seafood as well. I was more than content to watch him as I hugged the bear to me. Heidi, who’d noticed Emmett’s enthusiasm and rapture, came up to me and said quietly, “He’s having a blast, isn’t he?”
Grinning, I nodded, glancing at her. “Yeah. He wants to be a marine-biologist, and sharks have always been a favorite of his, so I’d say he’s pretty much in Heaven right about now.”
Heidi nodded, smiling. “Well, if that’s the case, he should find the next bit of interest, too. We’ll be testing pH and oxygen levels of the Bay water in a few minutes.”
We watched the others for a couple of minutes before she added, “Your friend might want to look into volunteering at the Aquarium. There’s a few positions open, and it might give him an in later if he’s serious about marine-biology.”
Turning to her, I nodded. “Thanks, I’ll pass it on.”
Heidi nodded, then called for attention as she guided us on to the next part of our tour. Emmett came up to me, practically bouncing with every step. “Oh my God, Jazz, did you see them? I’ve never been so close to one before. I’d never thought I’d get to feed them!”
Chuckling, I hooked my arm around his waist and grinned as we followed the group. As promised, Heidi had each of us test the pH and oxygen levels as she explained why they were taken on a daily basis and what other things they did to keep marine life thriving in the Aquarium. Emmett took it all very seriously and meticulously took the readings, discussing the varying levels with Heidi.
When we finally came to the end of the tour, we headed into the Aquarium proper to walk around and take in the exhibits. After a while, he turned to me with awe and said quietly, “No one has ever done anything like this for me before. This is amazing, Jasper. I don’t even know how to thank you for all of this.”
Wrapping my arms around him – with the bear squished between us – I smiled. “You don’t have to, sugar. Just seeing you like this is thanks enough. I’m glad I was able to do this for you. Like I said, you deserve it. I love you.”
Emmett hummed as he kissed me tenderly, then murmured, “Love you, Jazz. So much.”
His stomach grumbled, ruining the moment but causing us both to laugh. “Alright, Em, you want to grab some food?”
Another rumble was all the answer I needed, so I led him out to the Fog Harbor Fish House. Surprisingly, we didn’t have too long of a wait before getting a table. We ended up sharing a plate of calamari first, which was one of Emmett’s favorites – and mine, too, though it had taken Emmett talking me into trying it when we first got together.
Emmett kept talking about everything we’d seen, so enthusiastic and happy that I could have sat there all day, listening to him. When the waitress brought us our entrees – the seafood platter for him and the crab cake for me – Emmett paused to thank her. After she left, he speared a shrimp on his fork and held it to my lips in silent offering, knowing how much I loved them. Smiling, I accepted the offer as he asked, “So you got anything else in store for today, Jazz?”
I shook my head, swallowing the shrimp and taking a drink of water before answering, “Other than going back to the Aquarium if you want to, no. I figured we could go back to your place after that.”
Emmett’s eyes lit up, his lips quirking into a grin. “Sounds like a plan. I can think of a few ways I wanna thank you for all of this,” he said mischievously, his foot rubbing teasingly against my calf so I wasn’t left with any doubts as to what his intentions were.
I purposely took a bite of crab cake and took my time, feigning having to think about what he was saying while Emmett kept tantalizing me. Trying to ignore how my body was responding to him, I put my utensils down and leaned forward, my voice pitched low so we wouldn’t be overheard. “You know, I might just let you, too,” I teased.
Emmett laughed, popping a shrimp into his mouth and said, “No doubt.”
We stared at each other, both of us grinning like loons, I was sure. After a minute or so, Emmett cleared his throat and nodded toward my plate. “Better finish eating first, if nothing else. Would be a shame to ruin a fine meal.”
Smiling, I agreed, and just like that conversation went back to safer waters. I told Emmett what Heidi had said, and the rest of lunch we spoke about what his options were. As I’d known he would, Emmett wanted to go sign up right away, so after lunch we headed back to the Aquarium and spent several more hours there after he’d gotten the info packet for volunteering.
As we waited for the bus to head home, he pulled me in his arms, the bear behind my back so I was between it and Emmett. I could only imagine how we looked, but neither of us really cared. “Hey, Jasper,” he murmured quietly as he stared into my eyes. “Seriously, thank you for today. I can’t believe you did all of this and I can’t even begin to tell you how much it’s meant to me that you did. I love you.”
Brushing my lips to his, I smiled. “Love you, too, Em. Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.”
He kissed me sweetly. “Happy Valentine’s, Jazz.”