"Didn't I tell you no!? I believe I said--quite clearly--that I wasn't going to make you support me!”
"But, Hir--" Sae started, turning her chair around and standing up.
"Why do you have to be so stubborn!? Why are you being so thick-headed about this!? It was my stupid choice to tell them, it's not your responsibility!" The force of Hiro's voice sat Sae back down.
"That's not fair, Sae, why did you have to go behind my back like that?" She was right up to Sae, and towered over the wincing girl. Yuno and Miyako could only stand there, wondering if they should say anything, or do anything, or maybe just try to slip out unnoticed; Hiro didn't seem to acknowledge that they were there. As they watched and considered, though, Hiro seemed to deflate. Suddenly, two big, shining tears welled up in the corner of her eyes.
"That's just mean, Sae. Why do you have to be so insufferably... why did my parents have to... oh! Why do I have to love you so much?" She threw her arms around the thoroughly surprised tomboy and plopped down onto her lap, burying her face in her shoulder. Yuno and Miyako couldn't tell if the muffled words spoken into Sae's shoulder were apologies or insults, but whichever they were Sae didn't seem to mind. All three girls breathed a sigh of relief, especially Sae. Miyako smiled at Yuno, as if to say she knew everything would be fine right from the beginning, and took a step towards their friends. She stopped in mid-stride when Hiro looked up, however. She gazed into Sae's face with a peculiar half-lidded gaze, and Sae turned a little red--again--glasses slipping down the bridge of her nose. Then before Yuno or Miyako could even begin to speculate what was going on, Hiro moved forward and they were kissing, long and deep and urgently. Hiro's hand raised to tangle it in Sae's short, dark hair, while Sae's hands... managed to go down to somewhere somewhat less appropriate.
"Wow! Light pink panties for Hiro-san? Miyako observed, as usual nothing shaking her for too long. Yuno, meanwhile, blushed and covered her eyes with her hands.
"Kyaaaaaaaaaaa!" Yuno yelped. Hiro seemed to finally realize they were there, and Sae seemed to remember they were there. The two froze and turned their faces to the two witnesses, Miyako looking on somewhat curiously, and Yuno with scrunched eyes covered by hands still.
"Oh... um, sorry, Yuno-san."
Yuno thought that was a sign that it was safe enough to look again. She quickly changed her mind., whimpering and pointing towards Sae's lap. Sae quickly realized she still had Hiro's skirt pushed up, and more embarrassingly, her fingers had slipped under the hem of Hiro's panties. She withdrew them swiftly, and both girls parted with sheepish chuckles, standing up.
"Okay, Yuno-san, I promise it's decent now,"Hiro said softly. She peeked again, and confirmed that the two were now standing side-by-side and were not engaged in anything she shouldn't be seeing. Hiro and Sae didn't look as though they really knew what to say now, and Yuno had a rather strong suspicion that this is not how they wanted their friends to find out about their relationship. Yuno's mind was similarly blank of suggestions. Miyako, though she didn't know what might be good to say either, said something anyway.
"Oh! So Sae-san really is a--”
"No!" The two older girls shouted simultaneously, Sae looked as though she had less polite things to follow that up with, but Hiro placed a calming hand on her shoulder and talked instead.
"No, Miya-san, not at all. I can guarantee you that Sae is a girl through and through, and so am I. We just happen to love each other anyway.”
"But that's not as fun..." Miyako pouted, "There's no deep dark secrets and hidden histories involved there," But Miyako's eyes smiled past her pasted-on frown.
"No, none at all," Hiro said happily, "Just me and the most wonderful girl in the whole world," She looked towards Sae, and they shared one of the most tender looks Yuno could recall seeing from people in high school, and she was almost afraid they had forgotten everything else in the room again.
"Now, Yuno," Sae said, letting her know that wasn't the case, "I know this has to be a little bit of a shock, but this isn't really that unusual, you know, I mean, there are lots of girls who--”
"No, no, Sae-san, it's not that," Yuno interjected, "I'm just surprised, is all, and I didn't think, you know, that you should be doing all of those sorts of things with people watching.”
"Well I guess that's true,"Sae admitted.
"I do wonder a little bit why you thought you had to keep it a secret that you were girlfriend and, um, girlfriend. And... and... what's going on!? You were just so mad, and then you were kissing, and now... I don't understand at all!”
"So... you don't have a problem with us, with two...?" Hiro left the question hanging.
"Of course not! You two are happy, and that's all that matters. I'm just hurt that you two thought you had to keep secrets and worried me and Miya-chan so much, and we still don't know all about what everybody was so angry and upset about," this seemed to remind Hiro that she had, in fact, been quite upset a minute ago. She frowned a little, though with none of the hot anger she had displayed previously, and turned to Sae.
"That still wasn't fair, Sae-san. I told you that you shouldn't.”
"What's fair?" Sae blushed, and her voice dropped to a quiet level, "I can't think of anybody fairer than you, Hiro, so you're wrong. Don't tell me you think it's better for us to be separated than--”
"Don't be ridiculous, Sae,"Hiro admonished, "But I don't want you to spend so much money on just me. I mean, rent is a lot of money.”
"Don't forget about the tuition." Miyako supplied helpfully.
"Tuition?" Hiro exclaimed, voice rising an octave and a few decibels. Sae shot Miyako a look of pure venom, which went entirely unnoticed or uncared for by the blond smiling girl.
"Well, I kind of did them both before I knew you weren't going to be thrilled with the idea, it was supposed to be like a gift...”
"A... a gift?" Hiro looked as though she were struggling to stay upset, but just couldn't manage it any longer, not against her lover, not for that kind of reason.
"Yep. I couldn't bear the thought of a year without you here, and I thought you would be happy...”
"Oh, but I am happy, really!" Hiro hastily assured her, turning one-hundred eighty degrees in the blink of an eye, "I mean... I guess there's nothing I can do to reverse it, and if you really, really wanted me with you so much... then I am happy, Sae. Thank you," Sae glowed, and became suddenly more agreeable to Hiro's point of view.
"I guess I really should have talked to you about it first and all, though.”
"I would have just said no. But yes, you're right. Don't do it again." Yuno didn't think that such a soft, cheery voice could have such a hard edge, but she had been wrong. It looked like everything was okay between those two again in any case, so Yuno felt much better. Struck with the realization that they were all still standing, and Hiro and Sae weren't making any moves to invite them in or become more comfortable as they usually did, Yuno flushed again.
"Ah, ahem. Well then, I think that Miya-chan and I need to go unpack now, right Miya-chan?" Miya looked at her perplexedly.
"No, I don't think so Yuno-chi. I only have my bac-omph!" Yuno's elbow had a little more force behind it than she had really meant, a nervous energy adding a touch more power.
"Then I need your help, Miya-chan. I think we need to go ahead and take our leave from Sae-san and Hiro-san for just a little while. I hope you don't mind our running out so soon," Yuno bowed jerkily to them both. Sae, linking her hands behind her head, laughed a little, and Hiro chuckled as well.
"No, that's very all right, Yuno," Hiro answered, "We understand that you still need time to make yourself at home. I think I'll try to prepare something so that we can all have supper together later, though.”
"That sounds great, Hiro-san, I've been thinking about having one of your meals ever since we left!" Miyako firmly spoke her approval of this plan.
"Oh? Don't your parents cook?”
"Mm-hmm, and they make great food, but I like yours too."
"Uh... no problem, Hiro-san." Miyako said, moving across the floor under a flushing Yuno's desperate pulling, "I guess I'll be back later, although I don't seem to be operating under my own power right now.”
"Let's go, Miya-chan!”
Miyako let herself be guided out the door, still densely unaware of exactly why Yuno found it so important to go right this very second. Hiro and Sae watched the girls leave in amusement, turning back to one another after the door had clicked shut. After a long silence, Hiro offered first speech.
"I think that I maybe overreacted a little bit."
"A little bit," Sae agreed, "Still, we're okay now, right?”
"We'll always be okay, Sae.”
"I guess this turned out pretty good anyway, then. Um... how much did the Landlady end up finding out?" Sae inquired, and Hiro looked embarrassed.
"Most of everything. It's really hard to hide anything from her. I think she just directly and specifically asked me more things than I actually had to tell her.”
"Don't worry about it. I just wanted to know. We don't have to keep 'us' a secret any more, you know. I mean, your parents know, I don't think that too many people could do worse than that--oh, wait, I'm sorry," Sae bit her lip, immediately regretting her words. Hiro looked troubled again, but only for a few moments.
"Now, don't worry about it, Sae. It's not like we were planning on keeping our relationship a secret forever. They were going to find out, and it was my choice to tell them when I did, remember?”
"If you say you're okay with that for now, okay then. At least we have Yuno and Miyako. They seemed to take everything in stride. They probably would have been less shocked if, you know, we had just told them before, instead of getting into a fight and then, um, making up from a fight in front of them.”
"Probably. Yuno is such a good girl, and Miya-chan.... is Miya-chan. I suspected they wouldn't be that disturbed by anything," Hiro tapped her chin, "In fact, hmm... you think they might have worked it out for themselves last year? Like when I got that love letter, and you were just soooo jealous? That, and I don't think you were ever really able to convince anybody about all the boyfriends you'd had before, either. But that's okay, I like that my Sae isn't a good liar. It lets me know that she really, really means it when she says--”
"I love you."
Hiro smiled, then turned around and grabbed Sae by the shoulders. In a display of forcefulness that she rarely, if ever, displayed in public, Hiro san pushed Sae back down onto her chair and climbed into her lap.
"Yuno-san is a good kid. Do you think she really knew that we preferred to be alone right now, and why?”
"I think so. We weren't exactly discreet, and she looked fairly desperate when she was pushing Miya-san out the door."
"Good. I would hate to think that she went through all of that for no good reason. Now where were we?" Hiro purred, nuzzling Sae's neck. Sae reached up and placed her hand on Hiro's cheek, picking the girl's face up and drawing it close.
"I remember being somewhere over here,"she said, bringing their lips together again, "And here,"she spoke out of the side of her busy lips, moving her hands back into their previous position. Sae felt Hiro's lips tighten under her own in a smile, and Hiro moved her hands down and slid them under Sae's shirt. Sae encouraged this move, kissing more fervently as they started to tangle themselves in that passionate way only lovers could.
"So what's the hurry, Yuno-chi?" Miyako asked Yuno once they were safely in Yuno's apartment.
"Well, er, Miya-chan, I think that they really would like some time alone to themselves now. They probably have plenty to talk about, you know.”
"Oh, they needed to talk? I thought that as soon as we left they were just going to--" Miyako began earnestly.
"What? I mean, they are--”
"Well, yes! But it's not nice to go out and say it like that. And if you knew, why were you playing dumb and taking so long to get out of there?”
"Because it was fun to watch them shuffle their feet and look so cute. Well, that and I wondered if they might lose it and start up again before we left."
"Miya-chan, don't you have any shame?”
"I don't think so, what fun is that?" Yuno sighed, sitting down at her table in defeat.
"Hey, Yuno-chi, you know we still didn't get any answers about why Sae-san even had to go and pay for Hiro-san you know." Miyako observed.
"You're right! But, um, we can ask them later. Hiro-san said we would be invited over later," Yuno spied her luggage still sitting by the door, and got back up. She took a box off the top--a small one, that just contained her smaller or more fragile things--and carried it back to the table. Miyako looked on, and came curiously to the table to see what she was up to. Yuno pulled out her little brass alarm clock and set it back on it's customary spot on her bedside table, then moved to the bathroom and emptied out her rubber duck, bath salts, and a few soaps and creams and shampoos. She walked back to the table, then, and set the box down, peering intensely around the room.
"What's up, Yuno-chi?”
"I'm trying to decide if I want the rest of this stuff like I had it before," Yuno pulled out several little bottles of makeup items, lipsticks and nail polishes and mascaras, which Miyako found odd considering that Yuno hardly seemed to ever wear any of it, along with a medium-sized square bottle of perfume, imprinted with a large red heart.
"Hey, I remember this stuff. I never did get to ask you, why do you have it all? I've never seen you use any. I think I remember that nice perfume from the festival last year, but I know I've never seen you with any makeup," Yuno smiled a cute little smile.
"I don't, but the set was a gift from Grandma when I started high school, so I keep it around to remind me of her. The perfume was a Christmas present from Mom a couple of years ago, I just don't use much of it. Hmm... I think there works,"she started arranging the little bottles onto a table to the side of the room.
"Ah, I see. Yuno-chi is a good kid,"Miyako nodded approvingly, then looked down into the box, "Oh, and what are these?" Miyako pulled out three framed pictures, but these weren't photographs. The first was a painting of an orange vase, the second an unfocused and blurry--but interestingly dynamic--painting of three people, and the last, oddest of all, was a glossy sheet of paper decorated with... various warning labels. Yuno smiled fondly at them, taking up the last first.
"This one I got for my birthday a few years ago. It was the week before my birthday, and we had a really tough math test coming up. I had stayed up late to study, and fell asleep at my desk. I kinda forgot to set my alarm and overslept. I was late for school, and was trying to run there and study from my book at the same time." She winced at the memory, and Miyako started grinning, "I ran right past the warning sign and between the roadblocks, and almost fell into a manhole, but one of the workers caught me first. Then I got to school and rushed past a 'wet floor' sign, fell down, and broke my arm.”
"So I ended up telling the whole story to my mother and father when I was in the hospital later that day, and when my birthday came around they got me that, because they said if I saw them often enough, maybe I would be more careful and the wouldn't 'lose their precious daughter'. They were laughing the whole time, so I don't know how serious they were, but still," Yuno hugged the frame to her, then carefully put it up on the shelf where it was before. Thinking that it did look good up there, she took up the other two and placed them where they had resided last year as well.
"What about those other two?" Miyako asked.
"The vase is something I made in middle school for art class, and what made the teacher tell my parents that they should consider an art curriculum for me. The second one, with the fuzzy people, was from this 'aptitude test' that Mom and Dad wanted me to take. They told us to paint whatever we felt like, and I didn't know what to do, but I was sitting by the window. I looked outside from the third floor and saw three people a little ways down the road getting their picture taken. I couldn't really see them too well, but that image stayed in my mind and I tried to paint them. They said it was good for 'capturing the spirit and emotion without painstaking attention to detail.'" Yuno removed the picture from the frame and turned it around so Miyako could see the hasty script displaying that across the back.”
"Wow, that's great, Yuno-chi."
"I think they might say stuff like that about a lot of things, but it still made me feel good, so I kept it.”
"Most people have photographs and stuff to remind them of their family, but you have pretty unique things.”
"So do you, Miya-chan. Like your inflatable pool," Yuno giggled, and so did Miyako.
"Yeah, I guess that does remind me of my parents a little bit. Come to think of it... All the sketchbooks and art supplies I have now they got me as a present for getting accepted here and getting a little scholarship for being an honor student before, so every time I do school work and doodle I think of them a little bit.”
"I think it's good to be able to think of people you love whenever you're doing your work, Miya-chan, I'm sure it shows through.”
"You think? Hey, I wonder what comes through in Sae-san's and Hiro-san's work, then?" Yuno was about to admonish Miyako for saying something indecent and embarrassing, but this time Miyako didn't look as though she meant that teasingly or anything, but instead looked really genuinely curious, and that open display of curiosity wormed its way into Yuno's mind as well.
"Well, they say a lot of great art is inspired by love, don't they?" Yuno said, and Miyako nodded.
"Mm. I wonder if Sae-san is able to use any of it when she practices for illustrating her own stories, she sure has enough places for a little love to get displayed, eh, Yuno-chi?" Yuno laughed a little.
"I guess so, Miya-chan. Maybe she can use that a little bit, but I wonder about Hiro-san. You know, I don't think I've ever seen any of Hiro's projects. I think she takes an art class, though, why else would she be attending our school if she wasn't?”
"Oooh, oooh, maybe she got a special acceptance because she was so good at making 'special' art, you know, Yuno-chi.”
"'Special art', Miya-chan? What do you mean.”
"I mean, 'speeeecial' art, you know?" When Yuno still looked at her blankly, Miyako stood up and went to whisper in here ear.
"Miya-chan! I don't think Hiro-san would be drawing or painting those kinds of things!”
"Oh, you think she's a sculptor then? I wonder how long it takes to chisel out some of those details...”
"Miya-chan!" Yuno pounded her little fists on Miyako's shoulder in protest.
"Hey, hey, okay. I'll stop, Yuno-chi," Miyako caught Yuno's wrists with her hands. They held one another's eyes for a moment, and Yuno again felt her stomach do a somersault, going up to poke around in an airy mind then screaming down for a fiery landing that warmed her to her toes. It was just like when Miya was talking about reading her mind. Yuno blushed, she certainly hoped Miyako couldn't really do that, because Yuno had been thinking a little too much about what Hiro may or may not have been sculpting. Come to think of it, Miyako had said that Yuno was happy to see her and wanted to buy her lunch, and in the end, the first was true, and the second had come true...
"Um, Yuno-chi, did you want something, or can I have my hands back now?"
"Wha? But you..." Yuno stopped, looking curiously at her hands, fingers linked with Miyako.
"I let go of your hands about right after I grabbed them, but then you did this. Why is Yuno-chi holding my hands?" Miyako asked curiously, a bright smile on her face. Yuno blushed and let go.
"I, ah, I don't know, Miya-chan. I just, um... I don't know. I didn't mean to, sorry," Yuno finished a little lamely. Miyako raised an eyebrow.
"Um... for.... nothing.”
"You're sorry for nothing?”
"It's just, I didn't mean that I was 'sorry', it's just that..." Yuno wasn't sure why she had said that, but really, did Miyako have to focus on it so much?
"Okay, Yuno-chi, have your secret little thoughts. I thought you were a good kid, but I wonder if I would still think that if I really could read your mind," A smile and a wink told her that Miyako was only joking, but Yuno felt far more embarrassed about how close she thought Miyako had come to the truth, rather than because she was being teased.
"Never mind, Miya-chan!"Yuno scurried over to what remained of her things and started unpacking them as well. Out came her lamp and bath towels, clothes and uniforms were hung in the closet, and folders put in her bedside table. Miyako looked on as Yuno emptied most of what made the room hers from that little pile of boxes. Miyako thought that was kind of interesting, that most of everything in any of their rooms didn't really look like it was theirs until they parked their possessions on them. The shelf and bedside table and everything weren't really Yuno's, but when they had pictures and things on them, she immediately started thinking of them as "Yuno-chi's"shelf, and everything else. Miyako didn't know that it really mattered to anything, but she found the realization interesting. Yuno sat back down at the table when she was finished with a little puff of breath, pleased with herself at having the room back to looking like home. Miyako looked sidelong at her, recent experiences sparking a sudden curiosity.
"Say, Yuno-chi, you remember back at the end of the year when Hiro-san had gotten that love letter?" Miyako asked innocently enough.
"Mm-hmm. Yeah. Oh! Remember how grumpy Sae-san got then. I guess we know why now, I never would have thought that she would be the jealous type.”
"Yeah, that time." Miyako rushed along, with just a nod to acknowledge what Yuno had said, "Remember when we were all talking about various kinda romantic things or encounters--" Miyako stopped herself for a moment, "Hah! We knew Sae-san hadn't had all the boyfriends she said she had, but anyway--you had talked about your Dad?”
"Mm-hmm, I kind of remember that. What brought this up, Miya-chan?”
"So then, you've never had any kind of experience with boys?" Miyako asked bluntly. Yuno blinked.
"Um... no," she answered, embarrassed.
"I just thought that you'd never really said so, and nobody had really asked you before. I mean, I didn't think so, but..." Miyako shook her head, frowning, and Yuno suddenly took her usually silly friend very seriously
"Miya-chan, why are you being so serious all of a sudden?”
"No reason, Yuno-chi,"Miyako assured her, smiling as if in proof, "But I wanted to ask, then, if you had ever thoug--" Yuno's phone suddenly chimed loudly.
"Oh, hold on Miya-chan,"she looked at her phone, then typed out a message, sent it, and put it away, then she turned back to Miyako, "that was Hiro-san, she said she cooked early and invited us over to eat. We can go in a second, though, what was it you wanted to say?”
"Um... I forgot, Yuno-chi!" Miyako smiled with a high, chittering laugh that came out a little artificial, sounding unusual in Miyako's throat, "The thought of Hiro-san's cooking drove it right out of my mind!" She said, for the first time lying about an excuse that was often valid. Her question wasn't that important, why did she want to ask Yuno anyway?
"Oh, Miya-chan. Well, maybe you'll remember later, let's go ahead and go over.”