A/N: Someone PM'd me requesting for a short SouMegu oneshot fluff, so I threw all characterization care in the air and just wrote mush. :D Hope you like it!
"When one flesh is waiting, there is electricity in the merest contact."
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
Yukihira Souma slowly opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was an unfamiliar, washed-out ceiling lined by rows of harsh white fluorescent lamps. As the haze slowly disappeared from his vision, he started to notice more of his surroundings: the pale yellow curtains that hung off a steel frame, a large window that displayed the distinctive Totsuki Culinary Academy landscape, and a row of glass cabinets containing medicine boxes.
What am I doing here? The last thing he recalled was him sitting on a stool alone in one of the school kitchens, waiting for his beef to tenderize. He distinctly recalled wanting to get up and multi-task by chopping more onions and greens for the plating later, but for some reason, he couldn't fight away the strong urge to rest his heavy eyelids even for a brief time.
I guess I passed out, he thought ruefully as he realized he was presently laying atop one of the school clinic beds. I wonder how long I got knocked cold. His eyes swept the nearby walls for a clock, and in his peripheral vision, he caught a figure hunched over his side. In an instant, he recognized who it was.
Tadokoro. His face broke into a small, fond smile as he watched the peaceful rise and fall of her shoulders. Tadokoro Megumi was fast asleep on the bedside chair, her cheek rested against the crook of her arms. Looking out for your stupid, hard-headed friend, as always, huh?
Careful to not disturb her, he slowly sat up to assess his strength. He also inspected himself for signs of external injuries, and to his relief, found none. However, he felt nearly all his muscles complaining of soreness. Nothing that a quick nap cannot take care of, though, he decided offhandedly.
His eyes darted back to the still slumbering girl, unwittingly captivated by the utmost serenity on her face. He was used to seeing her nose scrunched up in curiosity, or her forehead creased in worry, or her lips stretched in a wide cheerful grin as she chatted with her friends.
But the way she looks now…
It was a rare sight to see the girl in her unguarded moment, he thought idly as he lightly tucked away a wayward strand of her bluish-black hair off her blissfully unaware face. Her countenance wore nothing but contented ease.
And despite having inadvertently seen her bare-naked during the start of the first semester, seeing her at that very moment looking vulnerable and completely undisguised, it strangely felt more… intimate.
His finger lingered lightly on her cheek, reveling in the silky smooth feel of her skin. It was softer than he thought, and far more pleasurable to his awed senses than his best platter of crème caramel.
DAMN IT! He quickly withdrew his hand, mortified by the sudden turn of his thoughts. The hell you just thought about Tadokoro, of all people, you idiot! He bowed repeatedly in apology before the still sleeping Megumi. Forgive me, Tadokoro! To think I even promised you that I'll kill anyone who'd touch you without your consent—
He nearly jumped at her soft, tentative call, while his mind raced for a plausible explanation for suddenly touching her face while she was unconscious. He reckoned "my fingers slipped" or "your face was in the way of my hand's range" wouldn't fly in this case.
But Tadokoro Megumi's eyes were still shut tight. It seemed she was calling out his name in her dream.
As expected, you still think of your friends even if you should already be resting, Tadokoro. He rubbed the back of his head, relieved that she remained blissfully unaware of his crime.
Then he saw her hand grope the space beside her blindly, as if searching for something. Hesitantly, he reached over and tapped her hand. "Tadokoro?"
Her face relaxed into a smile once more, as she gently clasped his hand in hers and guided it back to her cheek. At his touch, she let out a tiny, satisfied sigh—like a soft kitten's mew. And for some reason, it was enough to send nearly all his blood rushing uncontrollably to his face.
Deciding it was just his fatigue talking, he lay back down on the bed and pressed his arm over his eyes. He willed himself back to sleep, determinedly refusing to think of his friend in any further discomforting terms. Or how good it felt for his hand to be held by hers.
"S-Souma-kun? A-Are you awake?" Tadokoro Megumi looked crestfallen when she saw her red-haired friend still asleep. She worriedly hunched over him to check his forehead's temperature, but was surprised when she saw the fingers of his right hand entwined with hers.
Her eyes widened in shock when she realized that the dream she had a while ago—that one where she finally caught up with the person she loved the most by reaching for his hand—must have happened for real. Thank goodness Souma-kun wasn't awake, she thought, cheeks flushed, or I would have died of embarrassment!
Her eyes fell on their entwined hands again, and she couldn't help but smile ruefully. I'm so sorry for holding your hand while you're sick and unconscious, Souma-kun. This, after our talk about the importance of consent… She had asked him the previous night about dating, and to her surprise, he immediately launched into a sermon about being careful with guys because she was too kind, and how she should only do things she was comfortable with and only with people she truly trusted.
If he only knew that the reason she brought it up was to 'gauge Souma-kun's perception of you as a woman' (or so her female dorm mates at Polar Star put it).
The results felt 'inconclusive' for them when she was compelled to report back what happened, but she was just happy to know Souma cared for her in his own way.
She clasped his hand tighter. Someday, I'll finally muster the courage to ask for your permission properly… to walk by your side as your partner, and hold your hand…
At last, she tried to release her hand from his hold so she can check his temperature, but his grip remained uncannily locked. Odd. She decided to lean over him and touch his forehead with hers instead.
Souma-kun feels feverish. And I could feel his heartbeat pounding so fast—I have to tell the nurse!
Just then, Satoshi Isshiki arrived, holding a basket of food. His face broke into a teasing grin when he saw their position. "My, my! I couldn't have arrived in a more ill-timed manner, could I, Megumi-chan?"
"I-Isshiki-senpai!" cried Megumi, nearly leaping away from her sleeping friend. "I-It's not what you think!"
"Of course it's not, haha!" he cheerfully intoned as he placed the basket on the table. "I'm sure you're just checking his temperature with your forehead because his hands are preventing you from doing so normally, right?"
"R-Right," she said wanly, noting the indulgent tone of her senpai. "B-But Senpai, we have to call the nurse! Souma-kun's face is all red, and his heart is beating really fast! I think he has a fever!"
The Seventh Seat clicked his tongue in concern. "That's terrible! I thought I saw the school nurse in the hallway near the girl's restroom—can you please see if she's still in there, Megumi-chan?"
"I'm on it!" Megumi successfully tugged her hand from Souma's grip this time, and she hurried out of the room. Meanwhile, Isshiki calmly took Megumi's seat and opened the food basket.
"Once you've calmed your pesky hormones down, can you please let me know so you can eat, Souma-kun?" he asked chirpily. "You don't want to worry Megumi-chan too much, do you now?" He was met by the awkward air of silence that hung in the room.
"You're the worst, Senpai," finally muttered the disgruntled patient, turning his back on the chuckling brown-haired male.