Story: A Song and a Sketch (all chapters)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 1

[Author's notes:

PREFACE: I wrote this story as an unrelated "sequel" to my other Strawberry Panic fanfiction Blue-Haired Gray Eyes, Blue-Haired Brown Ones. Similar to that first story, this fiction was intended to provide romantic closure to another pair of unrequited characters. I actually had a lot more fun writing this particular piece - possibly because of the nature of the personalities involved and the fact that I could take more liberties with character development given the timeline I chose. In any case, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

WARNINGS: The story takes place five years after the events of the anime series, so there are likely to be spoilers.

NOTES: The honorifics and forms of address used in the story are largely based on the anime series.  

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Strawberry Panic are the creations of Sakurako Kimino and various associated publishers and producers and are therefore not my property.


Nanto Yaya signed her final autograph of the evening with a private sigh of relief. To the woman whose notebook she was signing, however, she gave nothing but a warm smile. Having fans could often be inconvenient, but she could never bear turning any of hers away. Nanto Yaya knew more intimately than most what it felt like to have one's adoration rejected.

Not that anyone would have believed it. At twenty years of age, Yaya was, in a word, stunning. She was tall and willowy, with ebony hair and hazel eyes - and a voice so sultry that her fans swore that just listening to her sing qualified as foreplay. Not that Yaya believed everything her fans said about her either. Romantic rejection had a way of permanently crippling the ego.

"I'll see you guys tomorrow then, same time."

She waved her goodbye at the four men on the stage. Only one waved back, the rest too preoccupied with packing up their instruments. Yaya threaded her way through mostly empty tables towards the bar's exit. Just as she was about to leave, a slender figure detached itself from the nearby shadows and called her name softly.



Under the bar's incandescent lights, Yaya observed three things about her visitor. The first was that she looked rather young for a jazz aficionado. The second was that she was ethereally lovely. The third was that she somehow seemed familiar. The figure smiled slightly at her before speaking.

"I didn't suppose you'd recognize me. It's been five years after all; that, and the fact that you weren't terribly fond of me when we were both still in Spica."

Yaya's mouth dropped open.

"Tsubomi-chan? Is that really you?"


Under the brighter lights of a corner café, Yaya was able to afford a much better look at a surprisingly grown-up Tsubomi. And, she had to admit, she liked what she saw.

The light pink hair had darkened to a dusty rose; the bangs had given way to shoulder-length locks. All traces of baby fat had disappeared, revealing delicate cheekbones and elfin features. But the biggest change lay in the girl's demeanor. The Tsubomi Yaya had known had been loud, obnoxious and unruly. The woman before her was practically elegant in her calm composure. And, Yaya quickly found out, apparently perceptive.

"I'm not that different from before, you know."

Yaya looked away in embarrassment; she hadn't intended for her surprise to be so obvious. In any case, Tsubomi seemed to enjoy her discomfort - that much at least, hadn't changed. She glanced back towards the younger woman.

"Like you pointed out, Tsubomi-chan, five years is a long time. Though I must say, the years have treated you very well."

This time, it was Tsubomi's turn to blush. Yaya smiled at the younger woman's reaction, then finally gave in to her curiosity.

"What brought you to the Blues Locker tonight? Were you just passing through and found me by accident...?"

"Actually, Yaya-senpai, I came just to see you perform. I found out about your gig through a flyer posted at one of the university campus boards."

Yaya looked startled.

"I've only posted flyers at my university. I don't know how they could have gotten into yours..."

Realization dawned. Yaya knew Tsubomi was two years her junior, and therefore, just a freshman in university. And, the spring term had just started. Tsubomi nodded before Yaya could ask.

"We're in the same school, Yaya-senpai. It's a bit extraordinary actually. Few graduates from Astraea Hill come here. But then again, very few Astraean graduates pursue careers in music or fine arts."

Yaya nodded. "The only other Astraean I've met in school has been Chikaru-san. She majored in Theater Arts and graduated last year. How about you, Tsubomi-chan? What major are you pursuing?"

Tsubomi's smile managed to look both proud and shy at the same time.

"Fashion Design. It was a bit of a late blooming interest, I suppose. But I discovered that designing was an excellent outlet for my...excessive energies. On paper, l could be as loud and expressive as I needed to be, and people would actually like the end result."

Yaya laughed at the younger woman's self-deprecating honesty.

"You've really grown up, Tsubomi-chan. I never thought the day would come when you'd admit to having been an obnoxious brat."

The younger woman grinned back.

"Well, I never thought the day would come when you'd admit that I'd grown up."

They smiled at each other then, chuckling at the memory of half-forgotten selves. Tsubomi drained the rest of her coffee and tilted her wrist watch towards Yaya.

"Anyway, Yaya-senpai, it's getting late and I've kept you unnecessarily. You must be tired having to perform after school like that."

Yaya shook her head, but made ready to leave anyway.

"I've gotten used to it, and performing has an adrenaline rush of its own. Besides, it was really good to see you." She emphasized the latter point by putting a hand on Tsubomi's arm.

Tsubomi blushed. "I'll be seeing you around then, Yaya-senpai."

The older woman smiled. "Of course. I'm looking forward to it already."

[End notes:

Just out of curiosity, I did some research on universities in Japan specializing in music and fine arts, and easily found one based in Tokyo. Yaya's major would likely be called Vocal Music; I took the liberty of inventing Tsubomi's and Chikaru's specific majors. For the sake of simplicity, I also assumed their bachelor's degrees would take four years to complete.


Chapter 2

It was only much later, after she had relaxed into the warmth of her hot tub, that the full impact of seeing Tsubomi again hit Yaya.  Seeing Tsubomi again had almost been like seeing Hikari again. Both women were too closely associated in Yaya's memories.

After Hikari had become Etoile along with Amane, Yaya had fallen into a deep depression. It was bad enough having to see the girl she loved carry on openly with someone else; what made it worse was that she couldn't even afford to indulge her grief.  Showing her pain would have only detracted from Hikari's happiness. 

In the end, the only one who had understood her had been Tsubomi. Tsubomi, who despite having been a loud, obnoxious and unruly child then, had stubbornly stayed by Yaya's side day after day. She hadn't said anything, hadn't asked anything, just sat quietly next to Yaya while Yaya had suffered. Yaya had never acknowledged Tsubomi's presence at the time; had been quite beyond acknowledging anything apart from her grief actually. But some distant, still-functional part of her wounded psyche had derived comfort from the pink-haired girl's quiet companionship.

The comfort hadn't been enough though. By the end of the winter term, Yaya had decided to transfer to another school. Hikari had been extremely distressed, but hardly devastated (she had had Amane to comfort her, after all). And that was all Yaya had needed to see to know that she had made the right decision. She had never bothered to check then how Tsubomi had felt.

And now, after five years of virtually zero contact, the younger girl was back in Yaya's life. Yaya wasn't sure yet how she ultimately felt about that fact. But then again, she mused, what better way to find out if I've really managed to move on after all these years? With a troubled sigh, she sank deeper into the tub's comforting warmth.


Okuwaka Tsubomi lay on her bed, mind too restless to sleep. Seeing Yaya again after five years (on a stage of all things! - as if her mere presence hadn't been overwhelming enough) had knocked the breath out of her. Wild, rebellious Yaya, with her flowing hair and mocking eyes. And, dear God, when she'd opened her mouth - Tsubomi had realized then how inadequate a vehicle a choir had been for that voice - the voice of a fallen angel had come out, singing of love and loss and lust, and Tsubomi had nearly fled from it, hearing the raw emotion still coming through after five long years.

But she'd managed to stay, and maintain her composure, and not look like a total idiot. At least having been the Spica Student Council President in her final year had trained her for some things. That, and having had to fill Yaya's role as Hikari's best friend and protector in the black-haired girl's absence.

Yaya's departure had been a deeply painful time for Tsubomi, for many reasons. Although Hikari had mourned the loss of her best friend for a good while, Tsubomi had discovered that a large part of Hikari's dependence on Yaya had been impersonal - and therefore transferable. In the absence of Yaya, Hikari had simply and automatically turned to Tsubomi. Tsubomi had been greatly depressed by this, had initially felt outraged on Yaya's behalf, but had quickly and sadly resigned herself to the fact that it was simply Hikari's nature. She had accepted her role as co-protector of Hikari after that, although she had only carried out the role in allegiance to Yaya. It was then that she had "grown up" - between herself and Hikari, only one of them could have afforded to remain a child.

And then there was the fact that she had missed Yaya terribly. She couldn't have articulated it at the time, what she'd felt for the older woman, who had acted more like a taunting, bullying older sister towards her. She only knew that hearing Yaya's voice in song opened a floodgate of inchoate yearning in her that was as beautiful as it was terrible, and that seeing the flash in Yaya's eyes made her think of open seas and open skies and everything else that reminded her of freedom. The only reason Tsubomi had ever been able to forgive Yaya for leaving Spica was the memory of those eyes without their sparkle. She had never wanted to see that haunted look on Yaya's face again, and so had let the older woman leave without rebuke, without restraint, without...goodbye.

And now, five years had passed, and although Yaya no longer looked haunted, neither did she appear carefree. The aura of defiance had gone, had been replaced by an air of cautious restraint, like one afraid to touch and afraid of touch. The only time she'd let go of that restraint, Tsubomi had observed, had been when she had been singing. It was only then that she looked free.

Tsubomi sighed. After five years, she had grown more than capable of articulating what she had felt - and still felt - for Yaya. The problem lay in determining what it was that Yaya felt - towards Hikari, towards Tsubomi, or perhaps even towards someone else. Yaya was a magnetic woman after all; Tsubomi couldn't very well assume the older woman was still available.

[End notes:

The reader may wonder where I got the idea of making Tsubomi the President of Spica's Student Council. According to Wikipedia, Tsubomi was the Secretary of Spica's Student Council in her first year.  (This latter fact is based on the manga of the series, by the way, which I actually haven't read. Yet.)


Chapter 3

Yaya didn't notice it at first, until the bartender pointed it out to her one night. Then having been told where to look, she eventually learned to identify Tsubomi's profile. At every performance, the younger girl sat at the same table near the exit. By the time Yaya would finish signing her autographs though, the pink-haired girl would be gone.

Yaya brought it up when she and Tsubomi had coffee again two weeks later.

"You attend all of my performances."

Tsubomi looked carefully at the older woman, but Yaya's expression was neutral.

"Do you mind? Or does it seem...stalker-ish?"

Yaya smiled.

"Not at all. At least, not coming from you. I just wondered why you do it. School can't leave you that much free time."

Tsubomi took a sip from her coffee, then looked at Yaya.

"I love listening to you sing. I always have. Only now, it's better because you're solo all the time. Besides..." She looked away. "All artists need a muse."

Yaya laughed, embarrassed but touched by the younger woman's candid admission.

"How come you always leave before I'm completely free then?"

Tsubomi smiled.

"Come on, Yaya-senpai. Staying until the end would really qualify as stalker-ish."

Both women laughed.

"Seriously, Tsubomi-chan, we could walk home least part of the way or something." Yaya added, suddenly remembering that she didn't know where Tsubomi actually lived.

"You walk home? Every night?" Tsubomi raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "That can't be safe."

"The people in the area know me, so it's not that dangerous. Besides, the bar's only a 15 minute walk to my apartment."

"In that case, I'll definitely stay until your gig's over. I can give you a ride home on my scooter."

"Oooh. As if that doesn't qualify as stalker-ish."  

The look of glee on Yaya's face then made Tsubomi's heart skip a beat; the older woman had looked so much like her younger self. Never mind if she was back to teasing Tsubomi.

Chapter 4

"You know something?"

Yaya was yelling in Tsubomi's ear, over the whine of the scooter's engine.

"What?" Tsubomi yelled back.

"You've been watching me sing for weeks, and I haven't even seen a single one of your sketches!"

"Well, what about it?"

"You ninny! It's not fair! I want to see your work!"

"Why, so you can pick out free designs for your singing outfits?"

"Don't be a presumptuous brat. I don't even know if any of your designs would do justice to my figure."

Tsubomi let out a yelp of outrage. She wanted to turn around to punch the older woman in the arm, but decided the maneuver was too risky on a scooter. More importantly, she didn't want to loosen Yaya's decidedly tight grip around her waist. Tsubomi would have gladly agreed to ferry Yaya around all of Japan if only to prolong the older woman's embrace.

"Seriously, Tsubomi."

They had arrived at Yaya's apartment. The older woman had removed her helmet and was frowning intently at the younger girl.

"Fine, fine." Tsubomi sighed. "I'll show you some of my finished sketches when I see you this weekend."

Yaya flashed another of her devil-may-care grins; Tsubomi reminded herself to breathe.

"Great!" Then narrowing her eyes at the younger woman, she warned. "They'd better be good, Tsubomi. I'm not letting any second-rate designer mooch off my vibes." With that, the older woman disappeared into her apartment building, leaving a mildly irate Tsubomi with her helmet.


In truth, Tsubomi was more than a little apprehensive about showing her work to Yaya. Never mind the fact that her talent had been consistently praised by her instructors and classmates. Tsubomi wasn't sure if she'd be able to handle "constructive" criticism if it came from the older woman.

The sketchbook she'd brought with her contained a set of her more daring ideas. Her professors had been rather reserved about that particular set, although she had personally loved it. She figured that if Yaya hated the designs, she could at least console herself with the thought that even her instructors hadn't raved about them.

The sight of Yaya approaching made Tsubomi smile despite her anxiety. Lately, they had begun spending more and more of their free time together. Tsubomi had been extremely surprised - and extremely gratified - to find out that Yaya hardly spent time with other people outside of her music classes, practice sessions and performances. At the very least, it meant Yaya wasn't officially attached to anyone at the moment.

Yaya had initially had misgivings about their constant companionship, however. She had worried that Tsubomi wasn't spending enough time making new friends or preparing for her classes. What the older woman hadn't realized was that simply knowing the Nanto Yaya was enough to guarantee Tsubomi's instant acceptance to any circle, or that Tsubomi always found it infinitely easier to sketch after spending some time with the older woman.

Yaya threw herself into the chair opposite Tsubomi and grinned at the pink-haired woman. Nodding at the sketchbook on the table, she asked.

"Is that it?"

Tsubomi nodded, and pushed the sketchbook towards Yaya.

Yaya flipped open the sketchbook and pored through the pages. She didn't know much about design, but knew enough to know what she liked and didn't like. And what she saw she more than liked.

Tsubomi's designs were...different. The lines were clean and bold; simple without being stark, straightforward without being severe. They looked the way Yaya thought clothes should always look: intended to set their wearer off to best advantage, rather than reducing their wearer to a walking billboard. After several minutes, she closed the pad with a slight feeling of awe. She hadn't realized the extent of Tsubomi's talent. She looked at the younger woman.

"Tsubomi, they're absolutely wonderful. I love them."

Tsubomi was floored. "You do??"

Her wide-eyed shock made Yaya laugh. "Yes, I really, really do. I'd love to wear any of these at any time."

"Thanks." Yaya noticed the shyness in the younger girl's voice and the mist in her eyes. Tsubomi observed the glance and decided to explain.

"These are my favorite designs out of all the ones I've done you see, but my instructors think they're too daring. Today's the first time someone's told me they love them as much as I do."

Yaya smiled fondly at the other woman. "You'll be a world-famous designer someday, Tsubomi." She paused, a mischievous glint in her eye. "At least after this I can honestly tell the guys at the club that you've got a respectable hobby besides stalking me."

Tsubomi was trying to swat the older woman when something Yaya had said earlier finally registered.  She grabbed the older woman's wrist and started dragging her towards the scooter.

"I was just teasing!" Yaya laughed, half-stumbling after Tsubomi. "There's no need to get...physical!"

"Tape measure," was all Tsubomi said. "I need my tape measure."


For a long while after leaving Spica, Yaya had shied away from close friendships and intimacies because of her memories of Hikari. Eventually, solitude had become an ingrained habit, and one that she had felt comfortable maintaining. (She felt much safer that way.) By the time her feelings for Hikari had begun to fade in their intensity, she had gained a reputation for being a lone wolf. It had only added to her allure. When people referred to the talented Nanto Yaya, they talked about the dark beauty who always walked alone. Many of her fans approached her at the end of a gig clutching pads and pens and vague hopes of rescuing her from her enigmatic solitude. But Yaya never did anything except sign and smile back. It drove them crazy to the point of adoration.

And right now, the object of their idolatrous affections was laughing in a decidedly un-mysterious fashion.

"Stop giggling. You're throwing my measurements off shaking like that!"

Yaya tried suppressing a chuckle and ended up laughing harder.

"Sorry, but I really am ticklish."

Tsubomi frowned. It was hard enough restraining herself from trying anything stupid while standing so close to the older woman; Yaya wasn't making it easier by giggling into Tsubomi's ear. It was all too...intimate.

Tsubomi shifted the measuring tape and wound it higher around Yaya's torso. Her hand brushed accidentally across Yaya's chest. The soft gasp that came from the older woman told her the contact had been noticed. Through the thin fabric of Yaya's blouse, she could see the black-haired beauty's nipples hardening. Tsubomi swallowed and stepped back quickly, using the need to jot down the measurements to momentarily avoid Yaya's gaze.

By the time she finished writing the figures, she had recovered her composure.

"Done!" She looked back at the older woman. For a moment, Yaya had looked preoccupied; but at the sound of Tsubomi's voice she smiled and nodded.

"Does this mean that I get to model your designs?" She teased the younger woman.

"No," Tsubomi replied archly. "It just means that I get to save money on your birthday and Christmas presents."

Yaya sighed. "That's no way to talk to your muse."

"It's called quid pro quo. What's a little inspiration in exchange for countless free rides?"

"You have an answer for everything, don't you? I don't know why I thought you'd grown up at all. You're still the same sassy-mouthed punk I knew back in high school..."

They bickered all the way back to the scooter waiting outside.

Chapter 5

They were at Yaya's apartment; Tsubomi on the floor sketching, Yaya at the corner strumming a guitar.

"I told them that you were my little sister, you know. The people at the club."

Tsubomi paused. It's funny, she thought past the lump in her throat, how an innocent phrase like "little sister" can hurt like the devil. All she said aloud was, "Oh?"

Yaya hadn't failed to see the hurt flash across Tsubomi's face. Lately, she and Tsubomi had been having odd little moments; episodes where the younger woman would fall strangely quiet or look away or change some unnamed subject. Yaya briefly recalled the incident with the measuring tape and blushed.

"I had to tell them that to make them back off..." She told the younger woman, feeling apologetic for some reason. "You...You look so young and so pretty and so vulnerable, sitting there night after night. I knew they were planning to ask you out eventually..."

A realization dawned on Yaya then, one she found that she didn't like.

"Or...did you actually want one of them to take you out?"

"No!" Tsubomi shook her head violently. "Not at all." Then afraid that she had revealed too much to the older woman, she added. "I guess I was just worried about how people would react if they thought I was your sister. What with me being the delicate, proper beauty that I am, and you being the coarse, uncouth boor that you are..."

It took ten minutes of yelling and begging before Yaya stopped smothering her with a pillow.


It happened one night, during Yaya's summer vacation road tour. For months, the more unhinged members of Yaya's fan base had been watching Tsubomi through narrowed eyes. At first, they had cheered her from the sidelines (if that slip of a girl can get past the lone wolf's defenses, then we can do it too!), but when it became obvious that the younger woman had succeeded rather too well, the sense of comradeship had turned into unbridled jealousy. 

As usual, Tsubomi had been waiting outside the club for Yaya, when the five female (she presumed they were female) forms converged on her.  Tsubomi took one look at their faces and decided that abject cowardice was the best approach.

"We're not dating. I'm her sister. We were adopted. You can have her. I can give you her number."

A fingernail extended from the shadows and traced Tsubomi's cheek with just the slightest pressure.

"You know, a fast mouth is really unbecoming on a young lady..."

"That's funny. I keep telling her that myself." All five figures spun around at the sound of the steely voice behind them. An icily calm Yaya made her way to a relieved Tsubomi. "That's the problem with these young ones, they're so hard to train..." Before Tsubomi could react, Yaya had tipped her chin up and covered her mouth with a kiss.

Lips, teeth, tongue, stars...Those were Tsubomi's last coherent thoughts before Yaya let go of her. From somewhere inside a vast constellation, Tsubomi could hear Yaya's final words to her admirers.

"I'm sure you ladies understand..." Then there was the sound of reluctantly fading footsteps and then Yaya's concerned face swam into view.

"Tsubomi? Are you okay?" Tsubomi realized with a start that she was clinging to Yaya's collar with a death grip and let go.  

"Thank you...for kissing me," she stammered, then winced. "To rescue me, that is." And then she added somewhat lamely. "I could have handled them myself, you know. I've had my fair share of brushing off ardent admirers."

The cheeky grin on Yaya's face was not helping Tsubomi recover her composure. If anything, the older woman's smile kept calling Tsubomi's attention to her lips.

"Besides," Tsubomi chided the older woman, "that was a stupid stunt to pull you know. There are going to be all sorts of rumors after this. What are your fans going to think?"

Yaya shrugged. "If they really like my singing, then they'll still come. Although," she added, her grin returning, "it would have been fun to see if you could have talked your way out of that."

"That, or I could have dropped them like a rock." Tsubomi looked wryly at the skeptical expression on Yaya's face. "You don't know this because I joined after you left, but I was a member of Spica's varsity judo team. You're looking at a twelfth degree brown belter and three-time participant to the Judo Inter-High School Competition."

Yaya stared at her open-mouthed. Tsubomi asked irritatedly, "What? Are you going to stand there all night or what?"

"Brown belt? Brown belt?? And you just stood there and let me rescue you?? Of all the scheming, conniving..."

They squabbled all the way back to their hotel.


"Hey, Tsubomi."


They were sitting under the shade of a tree, surrounded by the campus' autumn foliage. Tsubomi was trying to complete a set of fall season sketches. Yaya was lying down, her guitar neglected at her side.

"Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the person you are now was the person you were before?"

Tsubomi raised an eyebrow at the older woman's convoluted line of questioning.

Yaya explained, "I mean, what if all the skills and talents you have now were skills and talents you had when you were younger? How would your life have turned out?"

Tsubomi stopped drawing altogether; it was very rare for Yaya to get into introspective moments like these.

The older woman was lost in her own reverie. "I'd sometimes wonder you know...What if I'd been the lead singer of an up-and-coming jazz band then with lots of screaming fans and a reputation for über-coolness? Would that have given me a better chance against her fairy-tale prince? But then again," Yaya gave a short laugh, "maybe not. It's hard to compete against the full package after all. She even had a white horse and everything."

Tsubomi barely heard Yaya's final lines; the ache in her chest was so painful it was hard to breathe. There's something wrong with that sketch I made over there, she thought, tracing a finger over a section of her last drawing. For some reason, the lines on the pad seemed blurry. Five years later, and it's still Hikari.

"What do you think, Tsubomi?"

Tsubomi concentrated. If she focused hard enough, she could say what she had to say without curling up immediately afterward into a ball that the earth could swallow.

"It's the horse. You can't win against the horse."

Yaya laughed. Tsubomi laughed too, though tears fell down her cheeks unnoticed.

[End notes:

I decided to make Tsubomi a proficient jūdōka (or judo practitioner) in this story on a particularly inspired whim. In the first place, Tsubomi did agree in this story to become Hikari's protector - a role that likely required some proficiency in self-defense given the number of times Hikari was physically assaulted in the anime series. In the second place, of all the schools in Astraea Hill, Spica had the most rigorous sports program; so it made sense to assume that they would have an excellent judo varsity team as well. Of course, I'm not that entirely familiar with judo, so I may have ended up misstating or overstating Tsubomi's rank.

And, oh, if the reader is wondering why Tsubomi didn't just kick ass when Yaya's fans cornered her, it has to be noted that judo is a martial art that means the "gentle way". In other words, just because she can kick ass doesn't mean she'll resort to it every single time she gets into trouble. Character-wise, Tsubomi's the sort of girl who'd prefer to talk her way out of a mess.


Chapter 6

The first snows had just begun to blanket the school, when Tsubomi got the call. Beyond the occasional letter (letters she had wisely kept from Yaya), Tsubomi had not heard from Hikari at all in the last several months. But the sobs on the other side of the line were instantly recognizable. Even after having heard it countless times, the sound of Hikari in distress never failed to turn Tsubomi into a quivering mass of sympathetic mush. She nearly hated herself for it.

"Hikari-senpai...What's wrong?"

"It's Amane-san, Tsubomi-chan..." Tsubomi resisted the urge to tell the blonde woman that that fact was patently obvious. Only Amane ever got Hikari into this state. In between sobs, Hikari managed to tell Tsubomi that she had seen Amane kissing another woman from the National Equestrian Team.

Tsubomi listened in mild disbelief. She found it hard to believe that Amane (kind, gentle, if somewhat crashingly, boringly perfect, Amane) could be capable of infidelity. But from the story that she slowly pieced from Hikari, she could easily understand the blonde woman's insecurity. Amane's competitions often took her away for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Hikari's university schedule didn't always make it possible for her to accompany the blue-haired rider. And then, for the last several months, since Tsubomi had left for university in another city, Hikari had had no one to boost her confidence.

"Have you tried talking to Amane-sama about it, Hikari-senpai?" Tsubomi asked gently. "It's possible that it was all a misunderstanding..."

A flurry of fresh sobs on the other side of the phone told her to abandon her current line of inquiry.

"Yaya-chan...Yaya-chan would...never have done...anything like this..." Tsubomi's heart sank at the mention of Yaya's name. The blonde woman took a few moments to quiet down, then asked Tsubomi, "Tsubomi-chan...could you please...pick me up?"

Tsubomi froze. Somewhere inside her, she could feel the urge to break out into hysterical laughter. " didn't...?"

"I'm at the station," the blonde answered her softly. Tsubomi closed her eyes. If there was a God, he would send a bus crashing into her scooter before she arrived at her destination.


Hikari stared wide-eyed at the screen in front of her. In it, a hypnotically stunning Yaya was singing full-throated with eyes closed into a studio mike. Tsubomi couldn't blame Hikari for her reaction. No matter how many times she'd seen it herself, the video of Yaya's unplugged sessions never failed to reduce her to jelly.

As much as Tsubomi had tried to conceal the fact of Yaya's close-by existence from Hikari, there was no way she could hide it after Hikari had arrived at her apartment. Her flat was a veritable shrine to the black-haired singer, with music sheets, recordings and videos littering the few corners that weren't covered with her own sketches.

When Hikari had found out that Tsubomi had been Yaya's close friend for the past several months, she had pestered the younger woman for details. In her excitement, the blonde had forgotten to be indignant of the fact that Tsubomi hadn't mentioned Yaya at all in her letters. 

"So she's singing? Tonight?" The eagerness on Hikari's face caused a wrenching pain in Tsubomi's gut. Even as she hated herself for it, she knew what she would end up doing.

"Why don't we surprise her?" Tsubomi found herself saying. She even smiled. "I'm sure Yaya-senpai will be...floored to see you again after all these years."

Hikari nodded happily. "Oh, Tsubomi-chan, you really are the best!"


While Hikari showered and readied herself in Tsubomi's bathroom, the pink-haired woman walked over to her closet and pulled out a carefully wrapped box. She had been planning to give it to Yaya as a Christmas present, but decided that the current situation was actually the perfect opportunity. (Never mind that it was an opportunity that was despicably, appallingly cruel to her; not to mention ironic.)  She called out to Hikari over the sound of rushing water.

"Hikari-senpai, I'm just going to go out for a while okay? I'll be back soon to take you to the bar."

She left the box at Yaya's dressing room, leaving the brunette specific instructions to wear the outfit at her performance later that night. If that doesn't beat that damned white horse, I don't know what will. With a fierce nod to herself, and a furious dab at her eyes, Tsubomi left the bar to fetch Hikari.


Yaya had been surprised to find the box waiting for her at the club. The note on the cover simply said, Christmas came early this year. Wear it tonight or I'll kill you. Yaya shook her head; perhaps Tsubomi had been having another of her weird moments.

When she took out the box's contents, however, she gasped in pure, surprised pleasure. There was a black tube dress of a velvety material; the skirt flared in an A-line ending at her upper thigh; the bodice was in the style of a corset, complete with lacings at the front. Then there was a sheer long-sleeved white tunic with billowing sleeves tapering into French cuffs and a turndown collar; the tunic was apparently meant to be worn underneath the tube dress. And at the very bottom of the pile was a pair of thigh-length, high-heeled black boots.  The style wasn't signature Tsubomi, but it was well-designed all the same.

Looking at it, Yaya couldn't help feeling that although the ensemble covered most of her skin, it nevertheless left little to the imagination - and what little was left remained purely for titillation. Actually, Yaya realized, Tsubomi had designed the dress to perfectly match her favorite jazz repertoire, which mostly contained songs that the younger woman had variously labeled "innocent seductions" or "the-no's-that-mean-yes". Yaya shook her head with a smile. Tsubomi's growing talent never failed to amaze her.

With anticipation, she began to change into her new outfit.

Chapter 7

At Tsubomi's insistence, Hikari had agreed to stay at a table located somewhere in the shadows, away from the exit. "It's easier to surprise her this way," the pink-haired girl had argued. Hikari had finally relented.

When Yaya finally stepped onto the stage, the entire bar quieted. No one had ever seen her dress up for a performance before (not that she had needed to) and the sight of her in Tsubomi's ensemble was...breathtaking to say the least.

Tsubomi felt her jaw drop. Yaya's appearance in the shirt and dress had exceeded even her most private fantasies. The material clung to every swell and curve. Through the sheer fabric of the shirt, she could glimpse the shadows under Yaya's delicate collarbone. Tsubomi looked at Hikari, and was gratified (and agonized) to find a similarly entranced expression.

And then, as if all that hadn't been provocation enough, Yaya began to sing.


Hours (days, weeks?) later, a dazed Tsubomi noted that the night's performance had ended and that Yaya was signing the last few autographs of the evening. Earlier, she had told Hikari to wait until Yaya had finished this nightly ritual before approaching her. ("Her fans can get pretty...hard-core. So you should just wait until they're all gone.") Unfortunately, the seat next to her was already vacant.

With a sense of impending doom, she watched the blonde woman make her way towards the unsuspecting brunette. When she saw Yaya turn around, eyes widening in stunned surprise at the sight of Hikari, Tsubomi stood up and fled. Even her capacity for emotional seppuku had its limits.



That voice, played and re-played in countless dreams, entered Yaya's ears like a bullet and exploded somewhere in the back of her mind. Turning around, she caught sight of a long unseen but never forgotten angel.



They talked, they walked, they held hands as if in a dream. It was as if a lifetime had passed; it was as if nothing had ever changed. Hikari smiled, laughed, frowned and cried in turns, gliding through the waves of five years. Yaya responded in a daze; it was all too...surreal. All too soon, they were at Yaya's apartment, and Yaya had locked the door, and turned around to find Hikari drawing close, putting her angelic little hands on Yaya's collar, and it was as if nothing had ever changed, although a lifetime had passed. And Hikari was looking at her with a faintly pleading, begging expression, wanting her love, wanting her affirmation. And Yaya had realized then that everything had changed, that a lifetime had passed, that although this (their standing close together, one begging, one retreating) had happened before, the roles had been reversed. And Yaya had realized then that it was Tsubomi she wanted - slender, pink-haired Tsubomi with the smart, sensuous mouth, who had given Yaya her Christmas present early so that she could defeat princes and their white horses; Tsubomi, who had acted so odd lately; Tsubomi, who had gone home earlier on her scooter, alone, without restraint, without rebuke, without...goodbye.  And then Yaya had realized what a fool she had been, had looked at Hikari with a look of infinite tenderness, had kissed her on the cheek, had breathed "I'm sorry" - and then had fled into the cold scooter-less night to look for an elfin figure with dusky pink hair. 


Yaya walked into the darkened apartment and found Tsubomi's moonlit silhouette nestled against the window. Pain-filled eyes looked at Yaya as she approached, but there was only quiet dignity in Tsubomi's voice when she asked, "Where's Hikari-senpai?"

Yaya ignored the question, and knelt in front of the younger woman. "Why did you send her to me, Tsubomi?"

Tsubomi hung her head in response; in her hand, she held out a sketchbook towards Yaya.

It was the first time Yaya had seen the drafts of Tsubomi's work.  They weren't the finished faceless sketches Tsubomi always showed her, but page upon page of full-bodied drawings; the lines of the clothes rough and endlessly revised, but the lines of her face and body - Yaya's face and body - always lovingly and flawlessly penciled in.

"I didn't want to scare you away." Tsubomi spoke softly. "I knew you'd been alone so long...I thought it was a miracle that I even managed to get so close. I didn't want to risk what we already had."

"Tsubomi." Yaya gently tipped the younger woman's chin up. "What gave you the idea that I still wanted Hikari after all this time?"

Confusion filled Tsubomi's face. "That afternoon by the tree...And the way you looked at her earlier tonight...Didn't you...Don't you want her?"

Yaya laughed softly, tenderness in her voice. "That afternoon by the tree was just a random thought, Tsubomi. And earlier tonight I was just so...shocked to see her after all this time. And even if, by some miracle, she really did want me tonight, the way I wanted her so many years ago, I would have said no. Because you're the one that I want, Tsubomi. And if I've held back from saying it or showing it for so long, it's because I was afraid too. You're the only one who's meant anything to me in such a long time...I didn't want to risk ruining what we had either."

Tears were running openly on Tsubomi's cheeks by then, but her eyes were smiling. "You...You blockhead," she whispered, throwing herself into Yaya's arms. "No wonder a stupid white horse with a prince on top beat you."

Yaya laughed. "One of these days, that mouth of yours is really going to get you into trouble."

"Then make it stop." Tsubomi said simply. Yaya obliged.

Chapter 8

They woke up the next morning, with nothing but Tsubomi's sketches covering their bodies. Tsubomi began peeling the drawings off Yaya's body - with her teeth. Looking down at the older woman lying trapped between her legs, Tsubomi grinned.

"You know something? Undressing you is so much more fun that dressing you."

Yaya had shut her up then by sitting up and nuzzling her breasts. Tsubomi gasped, reflexively locking her legs around the older woman's waist. Eventually, Yaya's wandering hands found themselves between's Tsubomi's thighs, followed quickly by the older woman's mouth. The pink-haired girl moaned and rocked in time with Yaya's thrusts, before arching and shuddering a final time. Tsubomi allowed her heartbeat to settle into a more life-sustaining pace, before using a judo move to flip a pleasantly surprised Yaya onto her back.

"And just what do you think you're doing?" The black-haired beauty asked Tsubomi, a smile on her slightly swollen lips.

"Showing you that my mouth's good for other things besides talking."

They passed the next several hours indulging in Tsubomi's demonstrations.


"I got a Valentine's Day letter from Hikari-senpai."

Yaya looked up distractedly from her music sheet.

"What's it say?"

"Lots of things..." Tsubomi skimmed rapidly through the page. After that first full day of lovemaking, both she and Yaya had suddenly remembered Hikari and had rushed back to Yaya's apartment. But the blonde woman had left without leaving a note. The letter was the first time Tsubomi had heard from her since.

"It says that she and Amane-sama patched things up when she got back. It was a misunderstanding after all. The other woman had attacked Amane-sama, so it wasn't a consensual kiss. There's a bunch of other stuff about her life at school and all." Tsubomi paused. "Oh, here, she told me to give you a message. ‘Tell Yaya-chan that I'm sorry...and that I'm happy for her. She's very lucky to have you.'"

Yaya looked faintly annoyed. "Lucky? Why am I the one who's lucky?"

Tsubomi laughed wickedly before insinuating herself into Yaya's lap. "Well, for starters," she whispered, while nibbling Yaya's ear, "I can't think of any other up-and-coming jazz band lead singers who'd have their own personal fashion consultant and sex slave."

Yaya began to unbutton Tsubomi's shirt. "Lest you get too sassy, let me remind you that there's a queue for that last post; and that you've already met five of the applicants."

Tsubomi gasped as a slender hand cupped her right breast. "Tell you what," the younger woman breathed into Yaya's ear, "Why don't I show you again what else I can do with my sassy tongue and then maybe you'll make mine a permanent position."

They spent the rest of the day (weeks, months, years?) agreeably arguing.

[End notes: I know, I know, the sex in the last chapter was gratuitous. But seeing as to how everyone else in the series had had their fun long before, I thought the two in this story deserved it. Anyway, thanks for reading this and hope you enjoyed it. And, of course, if you can spare the time and energy, reviews and feedback would be greatly appreciated.]

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