My first (but maybe not last?) Hamefura story! I've only seen the anime (I've heard of the light novels' contents, but I'm only going off the anime for this). I love Katarina paired with damn near all of them, but Maria is absolutely my favorite.

Disclaimer: I do not own Hamefura.


Beneath The Bright Blue Sky

It's been exactly one week since Katarina had officially (at least, as far as she knows) avoided her doom flags and 'beaten' the game portion of her new life as a supposed villainess. And even though it's quite literally the reality she's been living, she still can't believe it.

The past few mornings she's woken in bed expecting to find some remnants of the storyline that might still find some way to doom her. But as she continues her everyday routine of going to classes, tending to her gardens, and seeing her friends, nothing sparks her memory from the old gameplay. Nothing is implying future possible doom flags.

Rather, everything is brand new. Everything is unexpected. Which proves she'd officially passed the end point of the main game and conquered it victoriously, without getting doomed and forced to become a hermit, or killed.

Now, all that awaits her is a life she has no knowledge of, but that makes it all the more exciting.

Every day seems brighter and more colorful now, and she's been so giddy and carefree during her summer classes that she's spaced out a bit, but her circle of friends do wonders to catch her up.

But today in particular, Katarina is even happier than all the other days since her flags had been cleared combined.

Because today, Maria and I are having a picnic!

She reminds herself of it now, just as the final bell has rung to signify the end of the school day. Maria isn't in her last class, otherwise Katarina would've gone to her right away to walk to their intended picnic area together.

But as things are, she has to politely decline her other friends who are present and pining for her attention (though, of course, Katarina doesn't see it that way).

"Katarina-sama!" Mary says to her. "Would you care to accompany me to the library for a while this afternoon?"

And of course, the competition refuses to be outdone.

"Actually," Geordo intercepts. "I thought it would be nice if you were to take a walk with me around the gardens, Katarina."

Alan grunts and gives his older brother a light shove.

"If you've got time to spare," he says to Katarina. "Why not come to the music room with me? I've been working on a new song."

"Nee-san?" Keith says, trying not to appear too irked. "Might I remind you that you still have chores to do at home? Mother will get upset if you don't see to them, so we should head back."

"Katarina-sama…?" Sophia murmurs. "My brother and I were actually wondering if you might want to come over to our house. Since he's graduated and is taking different summer courses, he hasn't gotten to see you much. And I recently got a new volume of that series you like so much..."

The five of them send jealous warning glares all around at the others, while Katarina - as oblivious as ever - puts a finger to her chin and tilts her head innocently.

"Hmm… I would love to do all of those things with everyone. But I've actually already got plans with Maria this afternoon!"

Her bright and cheerful announcement is met with mutters and groans.

"Maria-san… She was one step ahead this time…"

"Damn…"

"Well, I'd rather she be with Maria-san than my stupid older brother."

"I agree, Alan-sama."

"Hey! I'm her fiancé, remember?"

As the rest of them start off with some mild bickering, Katarina easily thinks up a solution to pacify everyone.

"As far as I know, I'm free tomorrow," she says. "I could start the day tending to my chores with Keith so Mother won't get mad, then I'll meet Mary in the library. After that, I'll take a walk with Geordo in the gardens, visit Alan in the music room, then I'll go to Maria's for a snack, and finish the afternoon by visiting Sophia and Nicol! How does that sound?"

The others all stop their minor arguments to share glances all around them.

"That seems like a good idea," Keith says at last.

"And," Mary adds. "You'll be spending equal time with each of us! Not a second longer with one over the other, yes?"

"Though we still lose, don't we?" Alan mutters. "Cuz Maria-san's got her all this afternoon..."

Everyone heaves a sigh, but there's no helping it this time.

Their plight goes completely over Katarina's head as usual, but with the genuine, good-natured smile she presents them with, no one can stay upset for long.

"All right then," Geordo says, accepting the fact that he'll have to wait until tomorrow for his own turn. "Enjoy your picnic today, Katarina."

"Have fun," Alan says. "But not too much fun."

"Yes!" Mary chimes in, not to be outdone. "I will be eagerly awaiting our library date tomorrow, Katarina-sama!"

"And I'll see you when you get home," Keith adds slyly. "I'll even help you get started on some of your chores."

"And I'll let my brother know you'll be paying us a visit tomorrow!" Sophia says.

Katarina gives them all a big grin.

"Thanks, everyone!" And with this, she whirls around and begins bounding for the doors.

Thoughts of her picnic with Maria have been filling her head all day long, and now that it's finally time, she gets a little skip in her step. As soon as she's outside the building, she takes in a deep breath of fresh warm air.

"Ahhh~ This is the best! Not having to worry about dark magic or any more doom flags! Speaking of which, I wonder how the President is doing with his new work… I should go visit him tomorrow, too…" She thinks she could make time for that in between walking with Geordo and listening to Alan's music.

Once she's satisfied with her schedule for tomorrow, Katarina recalls she has something she's supposed to be doing right now.

"Ah! I've gotta get to Maria!" She starts to hurry off toward the gardens where the two of them had decided to meet, but then stops abruptly. "She probably made me all these delicious sweets… I can't just go to her empty-handed!"

So Katarina whirls around and charges off in the opposite direction, bound for the section of campus where she'd started her own personal farm. She smiles just to see how well everything seems to be growing.

"So many tomatoes already! Oh, and the peas! And even those stubborn carrots have started to come along nicely. You guys are really enjoying the nice weather, aren't you? And now that your caretaker doesn't have to worry about meeting a dreadful end, I can take care of you even better!"

But she isn't here for plotting soil or sewing seeds today. She only crouches down to pick a few tomatoes, a handful of peas, and a couple of carrots - just enough that she can carry easily. She brings them to a nearby fountain to wash and dry them off, inspecting them until she's satisfied.

"There!" But of course, the sight and smell of the food - even if it isn't sweets - causes her stomach to grumble now. "Ah, okay! It's finally time to be with my savior, Maria!"

Katarina turns back the way she'd come and hurries along the pathway, bound once again for the gardens. After a moment, she veers off the path and into the grass, heading for hers and Maria's favorite new spot they'd recently discovered.

It's past a thin line of small trees and bushes, which allows them to remain hidden from the eyes of passerby while still being a part of the campus. Most people stick to the paths, so it's very possible Katarina and Maria may be the only students who even know of this little spot.

Katarina weaves between the trees, leaving the school building behind for the time being. She can already see the little open field on the other side, lined on the perimeter by various blossoming bushes and wildflowers.

There's a single bench off to one side, allowing whoever sits there to enjoy the beautiful view. Katarina's eyes go there instinctively as she steps out into the field. When she spots exactly the person she's been wanting to see there, a big smile breaks out across her face.

"Mariaaa!" She lifts one arm up to wave, not fully realizing she'd been holding onto half of the vegetables with it, so she ends up dropping her carrots in the process. "Ah! Oh no, I just washed them…"

As she crouches down to pick them back up and dust them off, the occupant of the bench looks up to her now. The small smile that had already been present on Maria's lips from admiring the scenic view becomes twice as big and bright now.

"Katarina-sama!"

As Katarina gathers her carrots and makes her way over, she sits down beside her with a sheepish chuckle.

"Sorry I'm late! Did you wait long?"

"Not at all." Maria tilts her head, puzzled at the food in her classmate's arms. "What's all that?"

"Oh! These are for you!"

Maria blinks.

"For me? Y-You didn't have to-"

"I don't mind," Katarina smiles. "I feel like it isn't right of me to keep coming to see you just so you can feed me, and I'm giving you nothing in return."

Maria's face begins to turn pink.

"J-Just you spending time with me is more than enough…"

"Aw, c'mon, you can take them! Cook something yummy tonight with your mom!"

Maria dips her head shyly.

"Yes. Of course I'll accept them. Thank you very much."

"I should be the one thanking you."

Another loud grumble rises up from Katarina's stomach. Maria giggles softly.

"Well then, that must be our cue to begin our picnic, no?" She gets up, revealing a picnic basket and a folded peach-colored blanket on the bench next to her.

Katarina deposits her vegetables on the bench for the moment and helps Maria with the blanket first. The each take two corners and step apart to spread it out over the grass at the center of the little field. After laying the blanket down, Maria and Katarina return to the bench to fetch their basket and vegetables respectively and bring them over.

The two girls kneel down on the blanket facing one another and get comfortable. Katarina puts the vegetables aside for now, straightening up like an excited puppy as Maria begins going through the contents of her basket.

"Let's see," Maria says pleasantly. "I've made some of your favorites, but I've also tried making some new things. I hope you'll like them, Katarina-sama."

"Mm, Maria~! If it's something you made, I'm sure I'll love it no matter what!"

Maria's blush deepens a little as she begins removing the wrapped sweets from the basket.

"I-I'm very happy to hear you say that."

Katarina has already begun to admire the chocolate-covered cookies, and cakes topped with fresh fruit slices Maria is laying out. There are muffins and pastries and all kinds of treats, perfectly-made and sending up a heavenly aroma.

Ahhhh~! If I ever did meet a doom flag or die again, I'd wanna be reincarnated and sent to an afterlife of Maria's sweets…

It's truly a miracle Katarina manages to contain herself and not dive right in just yet. She waits until Maria has reached into the basket for the final little chocolate-drizzled cake slice with a strawberry on top, wrapped in pink paper.

"And this one..." Maria smiles, holding it out to her as her cheeks turn as pink as the wrapping paper. "I tried a new recipe for this one. I hope you'll like it…"

It takes all of Katarina's self control not to start drooling.

"Maria~! You're an angel! Truly an angel!" She reaches out to accept the cake from her classmate.

But as Maria is transferring it over to her, Katarina notices something for the first time today.

It's mostly hidden beneath the cuff of Maria's sleeve, so much so that not Katarina - nor probably anyone else - had even noticed it all throughout the school day. But she can see for certain now that there are bandages wrapped around Maria's wrist.

Katarina's smile fades as she puts the cake aside for the moment.

"Maria!" she gasps. "What happened?"

"Eh-?" Maria's already-present blush only deepens as Katarina reaches out to gently take her hand now. Katarina holds her hand in both of hers, running her fingers over Maria's knuckles softly.

"You're injured! Your wrist is all bandaged up!" A sense of dread grips her from the inside. "Don't tell me it was those bullies again. Did they hurt you, Maria?"

Maria is taken aback by Katarina's determined, protective gaze. Her heart starts to flutter rapidly, as she's both flattered to have Katarina be so concerned for her, but also nervous to have her holding her hand so tenderly and leaning in so close.

"K-Katarina-sama-"

"I thought those girls had turned over a new leaf," Katarina grunts. "But if they're still bullying you, just tell me, Maria! I'll have a word with them myself!"

Maria quickly shakes her head.

"N-No! That isn't it, Katarina-sama. No one is bullying me anymore." She looks down to her bandaged wrist that Katarina is still holding. "I merely burnt myself while I was baking. That's all."

It takes Katarina's brain a moment to register Maria's explanation, as she'd been so convinced it had been those bullies again. But as Maria reassures her, Katarina finally exhales.

"Oh… So it happened while you were cooking?"

"Yes."

"So no one is bothering you, Maria?"

Maria shakes her head.

"Not at all," she smiles. "In fact, ever since I met you, Katarina-sama, and ever since you set those girls straight, all of my classmates have been so kind to me. I truly am grateful to you." She bows to express as much.

Katarina gives her hand a squeeze.

"Ah, th-there's no need for you to do that, Maria! Please, lift your head! If you burnt yourself while baking… then isn't it because you were making all of these for me…? Technically I'm the reason you got hurt, then…"

"N-Not at all!" Maria is so adamant that her friend not blame herself for her injury that she doesn't even think now as she reaches up with her other hand to hold onto both of Katarina's. "Katarina-sama! Please don't look so upset! I made these sweets for you because I wanted to see you smile!"

Katarina blinks. She's never seen Maria so fired-up before with such a genuine spark in those sky-blue eyes. Katarina shakes herself off and straightens up now.

"You're right. And I wanted to have a picnic with you so I could see you smile too, Maria!" She presents her with another beaming smile now, causing Maria's heart to flutter even harder.

"Katarina-sama…"

"Sorry to be such a downer," Katarina says. "So long as you're all right and no one is harassing you, that's all that matters!" She gives Maria's hands another squeeze. Maria smiles and returns the gesture.

"Yes! As a matter of fact… I didn't really mind even getting this minor burn… It shows I'm making mistakes, which means I can make progress and improve. I want to make the best sweets you've ever eaten, Katarina-sama."

"You're already doing that!" Katarina assures her. "Though I understand what you mean. I've nicked myself a few times when gardening and planting things, but that's what helped me improve and remember what not to do the next time!"

"Yes!"

Both girls smile at each other for a moment, their hands all still entwined.

"But even so…" Katarina moves a bit closer to her now. Carefully taking Maria's injured hand and lifting it a little, she slowly turns it over and presses a soft kiss to the bandages on her wrist.

Maria's face turns from pink to red in a split second, like a flower blossoming in bright, warm sunlight.

"K-Katarina-sama-?"

"Ah, s-sorry!" Katarina quickly releases her friend's hands. "That's just something I always kinda did whenever Keith or Sophia or Mary were injured when we were little! I just did it on reflex without thinking." She claps her hands together and throws herself forward into a bow. "I'm sorry, Maria! I should've asked you first!"

"E-Eh? Katarina-sama, please raise your head!" Maria fretfully takes her (unknowing) crush's hands and helps her sit back up. "It's all right! I… I didn't mind it at all, actually…"

"Really? Ah, that's a relief…"

"Yes," Maria smiles. "In fact, I think it's working, Katarina-sama. It was still stinging a little bit before, but now it doesn't hurt at all!"

"R-Really?"

"Yes!"

Katarina's face lights up in a mixture of glee and relief. Maria just continues smiling pleasantly back at her.

Now that the misunderstanding has passed, both girls finally seem to recall the reason for their meeting together today.

"Ah, now then," Maria offers. "Why don't we get started with our picnic?"

"Yes! Gladly!"

Katarina begins with the pink-wrapped cake slice Maria had made specially for her. She tries not to drool as she unwraps it and finally takes the first bite. Instantly, a rush of sweet and sugary flavors floods her mouth, mixed with a cool refreshing hint of fruits. She squeals, wiggling excitedly in place and bringing a hand to her cheek in adoration as she swallows.

Maria waits nervously for a verdict.

"So… what do you think…?"

Katarina takes a moment to sigh and make happy little sounds before she can remember how to speak.

"Ahhh, this is bliss~ This is really heaven! Maria, don't be surprised if I ask you to marry me one day!"

"E-Eh? I-I mean, if you did, th-then I would surely-"

"It's delicious!" Katarina cries. "The best thing I've ever eaten! Ah! But I'm sure everything else you've made is super yummy, too!"

Maria smiles more brightly than the sun itself.

"I'm very glad you think so!"

"Yeah! Here, you should eat some, too! You worked so hard after all!"

"A-All right."

Both Katarina and Maria enjoy the assortment of sweets together now while chatting casually about their classes and things. Katarina is sure to eat at least one of everything Maria has prepared for her today, both out of respect for Maria herself, and out of respect for her own stomach which has been waiting all day for this.

They spend close to half an hour chatting and eating. Maria leans forward with a handkerchief a few times to clean Katarina's lips for her. But when Katarina spots a crumb on Maria's face too, she doesn't have her own handkerchief to use. So Katarina waves her to come a little closer, and Maria curiously obeys.

"Hold still." Katarina reaches out and brushes her thumb lightly along her classmate's chin. Maria squeaks and stiffens under her touch.

"K-Katarina-sama-"

"There, got it! Hm? Maria? Are you feeling all right? Your face is a little red."

"I-I'm fine! Please don't concern yourself!"

"If you're sure, then okay."

The two of them finish eating, at which point Maria packs away Katarina's vegetables into her basket to take home. Katarina puts her arms up above her head in a big stretch.

"Ahhh, that was so delicious! Thank you, Maria! I owe you!"

"Don't mention it. It was my pleasure."

"Ahh~ After a good meal like that, I just wanna sleep…" Katarina flops down onto her back now, stretching out across the blanket as if it were a proper bed. She blinks an eye open and waves to Maria who is still sitting up. "Maria~ You should lie down and take a nap with me~"

"E-Eh?" Maria blushes all over again, even more than before. "I-I'm not sure that would be proper of me-"

"Why not? It's a beautiful day! We should enjoy it and digest together!" Although it isn't the most romantic of lines, Maria still thinks it's the most enticing offer she's ever received.

"Well then… if you're all right with it, Katarina-sama…"

"I am! I definitely am!"

"O-Okay…" With a determined expression now, Maria moves her basket aside to make room for herself. Slowly, she lies down on her back beside a bubbly Katarina.

"See? Isn't this so nice?"

"Yes…" Maria keeps herself at least half a foot away from her, just to be safe. But Katarina frowns at the distance between them.

"Maria, you should move over a little or else you'll be off the blanket and your dress will get grass stains."

"A-Are you certain?"

"Of course!"

There's no resisting Katarina's inviting smile, not even if she wanted to. So Maria tentatively moves herself closer, folding her hands rather nervously over her chest. Her heart has started to pound again, much faster than before.

But as usual, Katarina is oblivious to her troubles and lifts her arm up, draping it around Maria's shoulders unabashedly to pull her closer.

"Ahhh, this is so relaxing…"

Meanwhile, Maria has forgotten how to breathe. Her only response is a tiny little nod.

"Oh!" Katarina sits up suddenly, and Maria finds herself instantly disappointed at the loss of contact. She peers curiously up at her.

"Katarina-sama?"

"I just thought of something!" Katarina closes her eyes now, holding her hands out in front of her and looking to the ground. "Earth Bump!"

She casts the simple spell, and in seconds a small bump has appeared beneath the blanket, supporting Maria's head from underneath. Satisfied, Katarina lies back down with her head resting on her own little Earth Bump.

"There! Now we have pillows!"

Maria blinks, and then begins to giggle.

"Katarina-sama, you're so clever!"

"Aw, shucks…"

She ends up putting her arm around Maria once again, and this time Maria isn't quite as bashful about it.

Maria turns her gaze to the sky for a moment, but finds she isn't nearly as interested in that as she is in the sight beside her. She admires Katarina's profile instead, feeling a fond warmth spreading across her chest all the while.

Katarina yawns as she gazes up at the blue sky, dappled with a few white fluffy clouds.

"Heh. They look like marshmallows… Ah, but I actually like the sky itself even better than the clouds!"

"Really?" Maria wonders. "Why might that be?"

Katarina turns her face to present Maria with a radiant smile.

"Because it reminds me of your eyes!"

Maria truly feels she's going to overheat this time. She's eternally grateful for the fact that Katarina has started to yawn more and close her eyes so she won't see her in such a disheveled state.

"Ahh… It's nap time for sure…" Katarina gets her head comfortable on her odd little pillow.

And seeing her so calm about all this helps Maria to relax as well. She gets comfortable too, though she has to admit she might be resting her head a little more on Katarina's arm than she is on her 'pillow'.

Maria gazes at the sky for a moment longer. Her heart is still racing happily as she considers Katarina's words.

The sky is very similar to the color of her eyes as well…

She watches some of the clouds drift by, and the next time she glances to Katarina, she finds her deeply asleep and snoring softly.

With a giggle, Maria finally closes her eyes as well and allows herself the comfort of a small afternoon nap.

. . .

Katarina wakes a short while later.

At first she assumes it's because she's snored herself awake again, as Anne had told her that happens very frequently. As she blinks up at the sky overhead now, she recalls she's out in the field with Maria, enjoying a nap.

That's right. We had a wonderful picnic…

But then, she hears a tiny little sound, and she realizes this is probably the noise that had woken her. Katarina turns her face to where Maria is lying beside her.

Maria has turned onto her side to face her now, and though she still appears to be asleep, something is clearly wrong. Her hands are clutched together at her chest, her brow is tight-knit and troubled, and Katarina can feel her shaking. There are scared little whimpers tumbling from her lips too, sounds that make it evident she's in pain.

Katarina sits up promptly and reaches out to gently brush her fingers over the girl's cheek.

"Maria-?" She keeps her voice soft, not wanting to startle her awake. "Maria? Maria, wake up." She touches her shoulder and shakes her softly. A second later, Maria's eyes fly open wide, and she gasps out loud.

"Ah-!" A drop of sweat runs down the side of her forehead as her senses come back to her.

Katarina looks worriedly down over her.

"Maria! Are you all right?" She rests her hands over Maria's shaking ones and lies back down facing her so she doesn't appear so intimidating sitting up. Katarina brushes the knuckles of her other hand lightly over Maria's temple and through her hair. "Did you have a nightmare?"

Maria catches her breath for a moment, and her eyes gradually fill with relief instead of fear, so much so that tears begin to overflow.

"Yes…"

"M-Maria!" Katarina is filled with dismay at the sight of her tears. She can't think of anything else to do other than gather Maria into her arms and hug her close now. But then she freezes. "Ah, I-I'm sorry. I acted without thinking again-"

"N…No…" Maria gasps, uncurling her fingers now to clutch onto Katarina's dress instead. "Please… Katarina-sama… please let me stay like this… just for a moment…"

Katarina is relieved she hadn't overstepped a boundary, so she gladly pulls Maria a little closer again.

"Of course." She pets one hand through Maria's soft blonde hair and rests the other on her side, rubbing in soft, soothing circles. She waits for a moment with concern for her friend gripping her chest.

She's shaking all over, and her heart's pounding… And seeing her cry like this makes me want to rip my hair out if I can't do anything to help her!

Katarina stays close to her, trying to let her feel safe. Maria continues to whimper in her arms for another moment or so, until Katarina can't bear to stay quiet any longer.

"Maria…?"

At last, Maria draws in one last shaking breath and exhales slowly. Sniffling, she eases away now and looks up at Katarina with tearful blue eyes.

"Katarina-sama… I'm sorry…"

"Why are you sorry?" she yelps. "Maria, you're crying!"

"I'm all right…" Maria wipes her eyes now and takes in another breath. "It's as you said, Katarina-sama. It was only a nightmare."

Katarina continues patting her head worriedly.

"Do you want to tell me about it? Sometimes it makes you feel better to talk. If you want to, I'll listen."

Maria dips her head, steeling herself. But there's no one else on the planet she'd rather open up to about such things than Katarina Claes.

"It was just… old memories," she confesses. "Like when those girls had bullied me and tried to burn me, and when Sirius Dieke tried to use dark magic on me… It didn't work when he tried it for real, but in my dream…" Her voice hitches in her throat, and the tears begin to flow anew. "In my dream… his magic took control of my mind… and erased all my memories of you, Katarina-sama…"

"That's horrible!" Katarina pulls her close again. "I'll never let anything like that happen to you, Maria! Well, not that you even needed my help before, right? You're super strong and smart - not only your mind, but your spirit, too! The dark magic didn't have any effect on you because it only affects people who harbor hatred and envy in their hearts. But you don't have any of those things, Maria!"

Maria hiccups into Katarina's collar, but she blinks her eyes open slowly.

She… She'd never thought about that. She'd wondered why the dark magic hadn't had any affect on her, as it couldn't just have been because she wields light magic. Now it makes sense.

And the only reason I don't harbor any hatred or envy in my heart… is because it's full of love for Katarina-sama…

Maria sobs again, only this time they've turned into tears of joy. But Katarina doesn't know that, and she only continues to panic.

"M-Maria-! Ah, gosh… Wh-What can I do? Seeing you cry is killing me!"

"I'm sorry," Maria sighs. "I'm all right, Katarina-sama."

Maria allows herself to be just a little selfish for a second. Slowly, she unfurls her hands from Katarina's dress now and instead timidly wraps them around her sides in a soft, light embrace. Katarina hugs her back a little tighter, trying to provide as much solidarity to this reality as possible for her.

"You're all right now, Maria. I'm here with you. And I'm always gonna be with you from now on! I promise!"

Maria exhales a long breath and finally remembers how to smile again.

"Thank you, Katarina-sama…"

Maria holds onto her for a moment longer before she feels she's being too greedy and finally eases back. Katarina moves back as well, but they still both keep their arms around one another.

"Maria? Are you sure you're okay now?"

"Yes!" she smiles. "Katarina-sama, you've helped me more than you know. Thank you so much."

"Really? What a relief…"

"I'm sorry if I ruined our picnic because of this…"

"What? No way!" It's Katarina's turn to smile at her now. "Listen, Maria. If you've ever got something on your mind, you can always come talk to me about it! I'll always listen, no matter what!"

Another tiny blush finds its way back across Maria's cheeks. She nods bashfully.

"Okay… A-And the same is true for me, Katarina-sama. If… If anything is ever troubling you… I would be more than happy to listen to you."

Katarina gives her a cheerful, honest grin.

"Thanks, Maria!"

Another moment passes, and by now Maria is no longer trembling and her tears have stopped. But even so, she doesn't want to leave yet. She wants her time with Katarina to last, just a little longer…

"Say, Maria?"

She jolts as Katarina suddenly addresses her.

"Y-Yes?"

Katarina wears a somewhat-pensive expression for a moment now.

"As I was falling asleep, I was thinking… I always feel like I get really excited to see you. I mean, I get excited to see Kieth and Mary and all the others too. But with you… I feel like I get a little more excited than I get with anyone else. And for the longest time, I figured I was thinking with my stomach, because you feed me such yummy treats like I'm some stray cat…"

She pauses now, turning kind honest blue eyes upon Maria.

"I didn't even think to consider until now that it wasn't your treats that made me so excited. What made me so excited… was getting to see you, Maria." Katarina smiles now, something so warm and different from her usual smile that it makes Maria's heart leap.

And as usual, Katarina has no idea of what the effects of her pure intentions are.

"What I mean," she goes on. "What I mean is… I really, really like you, Maria!"

Maria feels like she might cry all over again, but for entirely different reasons. Her face turns pink as a flower once again, and her heart dances in her chest.

"I… I am very fond of you as well… Katarina-sama…"

"Hee, I'm glad!"

A cool breeze drifts over them, and Katarina yawns again, which causes Maria to do the same.

"Wanna nap a little longer?" Katarina offers.

Maria smiles sweetly up at her.

"Yes… I would like that very much."

They don't bother to let each other go; they've gotten far too comfortable with their arms around each other like this now.

Katarina pulls her in closer, and Maria lets herself be selfish and hugs her back with a bit of vigor. Katarina pets through her soft hair again, the slow, stroking motions of which make them both sleepy.

Maria yawns again, and it's even cuter and more petite than the last one, in contrast to Katarina's gaping, lioness-like one. With a soft sigh, Maria nestles close and eventually feels herself slipping. But she won't let herself sleep until she's said it one last time.

"Thank you… Katarina-sama…"

Katarina hums happily and gives her a little squeeze.

"I should be the one saying that… Maria…"

Now, the two of them fall asleep comfortably, curled up warmly together beneath the bright blue sky.


A/N: I did my best to keep it still canon-like and not romantic or make Katarina OOC somehow, but I did still wanna have a bit of implications that she like-likes Maria. I tried to find a good balance of "keeping it canon-like" and "doing whatever the heck I want cuz it's my fic" haha

Let me know how I did!

Please review!