"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.
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.