Ayumu was a lot more intuitive than people gave her credit for. Oh, she really was as spacey as people told her she was, no doubt about that, but all too often they drew a direct line between 'spacey' and 'stupid'. She was not stupid. So on the Monday morning after the dance, she knew something was askew. The energy from the class was different. Different from any other Monday, that is.

She surveyed the classroom. On the surface of it, things appeared to be normal.

"Hey, Chiyo, do you feel that?"

"Feel what, Miss Osaka?" asked her friend, wondering what she was thinking about now.

"That feelin'. Somethin's off. Somethin' big."

Chiyo looked around, then back to Ayumu. "Yeah, I do, but it's really hard to describe. It's like an instrument just barely out of tune."

"Yeah, an instrument," Ayumu mused. "An instrument...needs players...and if the players haven't tuned the instrument..." Chiyo turned around and prepared for class to begin, not really wanting to concern herself with whatever she was up to now. Fine by Ayumu, she'd gotten the hint she needed. She soon zeroed in on three people: Tomo, Yomi, Sakaki.

Sakaki's energy was not too different from normal. The only way Ayumu was able to really tell was that she was extremely guarded, much more so than her usual taciturn demeanor. This expression was deliberately kept unreadable, as if Sakaki knew that she could sense feelings in others. Had something happened with Kaorin? she thought to herself. She looked at Kaorin, who was, per usual, trying to act as if nothing was happening while a bubbling cauldron of anxiety and...something else lurked just beneath the surface. She couldn't tell if this was anything abnormal, since Kaorin was usually like this; the poor girl had the nerves of a small dog. But the 'something else' factor made her think it could be something abnormal. Was it...lust? No, Kaorin wasn't really capable of that. Maybe. Anyways, it definitely wasn't that.

Her attentions soon focused to the other two girls giving off strange vibes. Tomo and Yomi were absolutely throwing off the energy of the entire room. On the surface, they were barely containing some extremely passionate emotions. Tomo was uncharacteristically quiet, avoiding all eye contact, and Yomi was doing the same. Something had definitely happened that weekend between them. Neither of them had gone to the dance. Did they have a fight? No, that wasn't the energy here. This is was something...something...Ayumu smiled to herself. Hah! she thought. All this time, right under my nose... She got her book out, just as Yukari entered the room.


Don't look at Tomo, don't look at Tomo, don't look at Tomo... Yomi thought as she sat there, waiting for the five excruciatingly long minutes before class started. Whatever you do, Yomi, do *not* look at Tomo!

She lasted five seconds before peeping a look at Tomo. The wildcat looked at her blankly, blushed a lot, then gave her a weak smile.

DAMMIT! Yomi groaned to herself. Why can't I be mature for once? All the shit I've given Tomo for acting out like a pubescent teenager is starting to bite me back! Wait a minute. I *am* a pubescent teenager! But why haven't I had this problem before?

Maybe because Tomo's different? came the voice of her conscience, who sounded oddly like Patrick Warburton.

How is she different, though?

Um...are you *really* gonna ask me that question after last weekend? Yomi blushed furiously, which she didn't know was possible when arguing with herself. Well, um, uh, that doesn't count! she sputtered.

Doesn't count? Why? It seemed to count plenty to Tomo. And it's not like it just *happened*, you two had had an emotional few days in regards to your relationship.

I mean, yeah, but that still doesn't explain how–

–how that ended with you and Tomo having sex last weekend? Sure it does. You're two horny teenagers who were–are–madly in love with each other and one thing led to another. Nothing to be ashamed of. You didn't do anything illegal. Technically. Maybe.

Ughhh, this isn't helping!

She couldn't see her conscience, but she imagined it shrugging. I think it is. You were displaying this problem last week too, remember? You ravished Tomo in the bathroom, then went immediately into denial about it, even after being confronted by Tomo, who genuinely loves you and took your feelings as genuine, too.

They were genuine! I just–UGH!

Honestly, I think you're worrying too much about whether Tomo loves you or not when *she's* the one having intense doubts that *you* love *her*. You need to step up to the plate emotionally. She's made her feelings very clear, and she's not one to hide things she's passionate about, especially not from you. Bend the truth, maybe. But outright hide? Not likely.

So you're saying I need to take the lead in this relationship?

I'm saying it's like a dance. Sure, you have to lead, but it ultimately hinges on the ability to communicate how you feel about each other in an honest way. And I'm saying you're not doing enough in that department.

Great, she muttered. Chastised by my own conscience.

Won't be the last time, it said. Oh, I better get going. Your teacher is looking rather mad.

"MIZUHARA!" Yukari yelled, snapping Yomi back to Earth. "Don't you turn into Osaka 2.0!"

She dutifully paid attention for the rest of class, but the voice of her conscience kept echoing back at her, about how this relationship was like a dance. She resolved to talk to Tomo about it the next time she popped through Yomi's window.


Later that day, as Yomi was wrestling with her conscience as well as internalized homophobia, Sakaki was having a crisis of her own. Not necessarily an emotional one, but a crisis nonetheless that risked reaching a flash point.

Her tuck was coming undone.

Use scotch tape, she said. It'll be fine, she said, Sakaki thought angrily to herself as she could feel the tape peeling. It was only a matter of seconds before everything fell apart. Not that that would be the biggest catastrophe, they'd already had PE, but it'd still be incredibly awkward. It also meant she'd have to go right home after class, and pray that something didn't happen. I really, *really* should've just bought a stronger tape yesterday, what was I thinking?

Luckily, she had scotch tape on her in case of emergencies, but getting from her desk to the bathroom without facing anyone with her front would require some slick dance moves. Or maybe she should just wait until class let out? It was the end of the day, after all. Yeah, honestly, it couldn't be the worst thing if she had to wai-

SNAP.

And with that, the tape came undone, and she felt everything flop out. This is why she wore a gaff underneath her panties, but even that could only do so much on it's own. Things were getting worse. If she was going to go to the bathroom, she needed to do it now, while she would still have some privacy before class let out. She stood up and, facing the back wall, began to shimmy herself along, making sure to avoid facing people.

"Ahem," came Yukari's voice. Sakaki stopped.

"Sakaki? What are you doing?"

"Going to the bathroom, sensei."

"What are you hiding in your hand?"

She held up her hand with the tape dispenser. "Tape."

"Why are you going to the bathroom with...? You know what, nevermind, you probably have the notes for the rest of class anyway." Sakaki closed her eyes and released her breath that she'd been holding. Thank God Yukari doesn't pry. She shuffled along the edge of the class, and running out when she eventually had to face towards the other students.

Reapplying the tuck was an extraordinarily arduous effort considering she didn't have the full space and range of motion she usually had when doing this, not to mention the correct tape. She could tell class let out a few minutes later, and by the time she was done and completely secured again, the crowds had completely died down. She went back to class and sure enough, everyone was gone. Her stuff sat at her desk.

It had started raining a few minutes before she went to the bathroom, and by the time she left the school, it was coming down extremely hard. Because of that most students had booked it, whereas a few would maybe still be lingering around if the weather was better. Today, only one small, lonely figure was sitting on the edge of a raised bed.

Kaorin.

She walked briskly over to her. "Kaorin?" she called out. The girl looked up for who was calling her name, and even in the pouring rain her face lit up when she saw her. "Sakaki! I didn't know you were still here!"

"Had a...wardrobe malfunction. What are you doing out here, in the rain?"

"Chihiro and I were supposed to walk home together, but I think she forgot," Kaorin said sadly.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Sakaki apologized. "I could take you home."

"We live in opposite directions."

"Come to my house for a bit? At least until the rain lets up. I might be able to convince my mom. We live closer, after all."

Kaorin had never walked home with Sakaki. She'd never gotten to spend almost any time with her, period, save for their stargazing venture the past weekend. For someone she found so captivating, she'd probably spent the least amount of time around her. Her heart was racing a million miles an hour. Not only was she being walked home by Sakaki, she was going to Sakaki's house, the vaunted First Base. What Second and Third Base were, she didn't know. She was just repeating in her head what Tomo had told her once at lunch.

Sakaki whipped out her umbrella. "Hey, come in under," she said, taking her arm and gently pulling Kaorin in towards her. Kaorin very nearly lost control right then and there. She was being touched. Sakaki's arm was around her. And not only was it around her, it wasn't lazily sitting there. She felt Sakaki's hand gently gripping her around the back of the shoulders, with a protective confidence, with a purpose.

"Oh my, you're all wet," she said. It took all of Kaorin's power not to make a joke. "When we get home, I'll dry our clothes and get you something warm."

"Th-thank you," she stammered. "You're very kind." Sakaki looked at her bemusedly. "And why wouldn't I be? Especially to someone as gorgeous and stunning as you?"

"H-hey, that's what I said to y-"

"-to me on Saturday night, yes," Sakaki finished. "I haven't forgotten. I'm not sure I could."

"I-I'm not gorgeous, or stunning," Kaorin said. "I'm just...just average, I guess. I don't know. My family's always said I'm pretty, but I think they're just being polite, nobody outside of my family has really told me that I'm anything remarkable."

"I am. I think you're very pretty."

Kaorin could feel her heart pound. "I, I didn't even know you liked me..."

"Of course I like you, dummy, you're the one who asked me to dance and I said yes in the first place, remember?" She was smiling. Kaorin wasn't sure if she'd ever seen Sakaki smile. Her voice was slightly different, too. Not much, but noticeably. A little louder, a little deeper, starting to fall out of the alto register. Sakaki seemed to notice, too, because what she said next sounded a little softer, but not quieter. "I think you're wonderful, Kaorin."

"Oh, yeah, I guess you're right."

"You can tell me anything, okay? I promise." Her hand started to migrate from Kaorin's shoulder, down Kaorin's back, leaving a trail of electricity wherever it had been, until finally taking Kaorin's own hand. OH MY GOD! Kaorin screamed internally.

"S-Sakaki?"

"Oh, sorry, is that not okay? I thought you might like it."

"No, no! It's okay, it's...it's very okay. Just...not in public. For now."

"I understand." Sakaki put her arm around Kaorin's waist instead, which was far less suggestive, yet no less electrifying. "I just want to do whatever I can to make you happy."

You existing makes me happy, Kaorin thought. "Why are you so good to me?"

"I'll answer that some other time. For now, let's get us home, huh? I need to get home pretty quickly myself."

The rain didn't let up at all the entire way there. Sakaki was a pro at keeping the rain out of their faces, wielding her umbrella like she was fighting off demons. Kaorin didn't know she could be more in love with her than she already was.

Eventually they made it to Sakaki's house. "Home!" she called out. "Kaorin's with me! We're waiting out the storm together."

No response.

"Mom?"

No response again. "Ah, Sakaki," Kaorin said, handing her a piece of paper that had been on the table.

"Oh, she's out for the night," Sakaki said. "Guess we don't have anything to worry about now. At least we can have the house to ourselves, instead of hiding you in my room."

"Yeah, that'll be nice." Kaorin's heart raced at the idea of being in Sakaki's house, with Sakaki, alone, for an entire night.

"We'll make an evening out of it," Sakaki smiled.

Yomi came back to her room to find Tomo already there, having made herself at home. Yomi was too tired to fight it, plus she wasn't actually doing anything particularly bothersome. If anything, she seemed uncannily pensieve. Her eyes, normally alight with a roaring fire of excitement and enthusiasm, were now just mere embers, if not out. Something was up.

"I don't really have time to hang, I was just about to go to bed," she said.

"I know," Tomo said quietly. "I just need to be here right now."

"Why? Did something with your dad happen again?"

Tomo shook her head slightly. "No, I just want to be with you."

"I just said I was going to be-" she began, but Tomo had already fallen asleep, tucked into a ball facing the wall. Yomi sighed, took off her glasses, and set them on her desk before turning off the light and getting into bed herself. Not ten seconds later, she heard small weeping noises. Tomo's body was trembling, meaning she was holding back so as not to disturb Yomi too much.

Yomi groaned. "Look, if you came here just to cry, then-"

"I'm here because I love you, you piece of shit!" Tomo yelled into a pillow. "Why can't I just be? Why is it that I'm always up to something, or have some ulterior motive, or am trying to manipulate you somehow? That's not who I am, you know that's not who I am, so why do you constantly put this weight around me? Do you know what that does to me? Do you know what constantly second-guessing myself to make sure everything I say is watertight against the inevitable accusation that you're being had does to me? Did any of the things we said to each other last week mean anything to you? At all? Or do you just want all the benefits of a girlfriend without putting in any of the emotional work to actually show that you fucking care? Because it doesn't feel like you do. I don't even know if you love me!" She started crying again, the pillow becoming wetter and wetter. "I need to blow my nose, I can't breathe out of it..."

Yomi listlessly handed her a tissue, and she blew out what sounded like a year's worth of mucus, then continued. "You made me feel things I didn't even know I could feel. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven because never in my life have I ever felt so happy and at peace. It felt right to have our limbs wrapped up in each other, like the culmination of a great love story, sharing this divine moment with someone who I've loved for so long. All of the pet names you called me, the way you said you liked how I laughed, you made me feel more loved than anyone ever has. All my life I've been this runt people could push around, do anything to and not feel anything, but every time someone pushed me down I always had you. And if you've never felt that way for me, if this has just all been my fantasy, then maybe...maybe we're not meant to be. But if that's true, just tell me and break my heart right now, instead of not telling me while cowardly hiding behind whatever excuses you've come up with. It's not fair to me." She was still huddled facing away from her.

Tomo felt so cold and alone despite being literally right next to her this whole time, but then she felt a creeping warmth. It was Yomi's arm, slowly wrapping around Tomo's abdomen and holding her tightly against her body. The feeling of being held helped banish some of the darkness clouding her brain, but what Yomi said did more than what any amount of physical love ever could.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Tomo. I realized today I needed to talk to you about how I felt about you, I just didn't know when that talk was going to happen, and, well, I guess it happened now. I haven't been good to you, at least in the ways I need to be good to you. I'm sorry for treating you like a crime suspect all the time. The idea that someone loves me so completely and wholly is very alien to me still and I don't really know how to handle it, and because of that I've mistreated you. I'm sorry. I really do love you."

Tomo turned around to face her for the first time this whole conversation. She whispered, "I love you so much, Yomi. If I could possibly express just how much, I would have by now, but I don't know if that's possible." She wrapped her arms and legs around her, their foreheads touching gently. "Light of my life." She brushed her lips gently against Yomi's, then closed her eyes and was asleep not half a flash later. Yomi soon followed, embracing how Tomo felt against her body, and welcoming the warmth and comfort into her heart.

"See? You're getting better!" Kaorin laughed. "Especially for someone who hasn't played fighting games before." Sakaki blushed. "Stop teasing me, I only said I did because I was afraid of what you would say if-"

"Your entire room is bedecked in pink, purple, and stuffed animals, I think I would've found out that you have a thing for cute sooner or later." Sakaki laughed a little. "Mrow!" she said in a faux-upset voice before playfully punching her in the arm. "Stop bullying me!"

"It's getting late, we should probably head to bed soon," Kaorin said. "I'll run our clothes through the dryer one more time for luck and wrinkles, if that's okay? Then, by the time they're done, we can sleep." Sakaki tapped her temple. "Good thinking. What can we do in an hour?" Kaorin shrugged. "We could watch something?"

"That sounds fun. Sure."

About fifteen minutes in, Kaorin gently snuggled into Sakaki's arm. To her very pleasant surprise, Sakaki wrapped her own arm around her, and soon they were comfortably cuddling. Sakaki looked down at Kaorin. She was extremely happy, elated even, to be sharing such a special moment with her, and she thought to herself, There's not another person on Earth I'd rather be with right now. She took her hand, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Kaorin's brain fried, her heart stammering, from the overload. Gently, nervously, she looked into Sakaki's mysteriously dark eyes and attempted to kiss her back.

"Silly girl," Sakaki giggled. "Here, let me show you." She held Kaorin close, and slowly their lips touched together. Kaorin got the idea very quickly, feeling her confidence grow as she closed her eyes and committed to the kiss more, breaking off to look at her face again, then going back again, this time for real. Sakaki's hands roved across her back before finding a good holding spot and sticking to it, while Kaorin nuzzled against her like a very happy and very loving cat.

"I, uh," Sakaki said softly, deeply, in a tone that Kaorin found extremely hot, "I've never felt this way before. You're so sweet."

"It's hard not to be, I've been in love with you ever since I first laid eyes on you."

Sakaki stuttered. "Y-yeah."

"What's wrong?"

"I'm so scared right now."

That caught Kaorin off-kilter. "Scared? Why? Why scared? Is it, is it something I said? Or did?"

"Well...no, not technically, nothing you specifically said or did, just, closeness. In general. Is scary."

"Why's that?" Kaorin's face was full of deep concern. Could she be trusted? The question raced through Sakaki's head. If she was going to be this close to Kaorin, if they were really going to commit to each other this way, she needed to tell her at some point. Her heart was racing, she started to sweat a little. "Well, there's, there's two ways I can...I can reveal this to you. Showing, or telling."

Kaorin thought for a minute. Sakaki was clearly not doing well with her words, and whatever she was scared about she was going to have a lot of trouble saying. She decided to go the easy route. "Why...why don't you show me?"

"Please, promise me, you won't tell anyone about this. I need this. Please. Promise me, Kaorin. This is gonna be really weird and maybe uncomfortable."

Kaorin nodded, and gingerly Sakaki took her hand and placed it on her crotch. Kaorin withdrew her hand immediately, and Sakaki caught her breath, fearing the worst kind of response. Instead, Kaorin looked at her and said, "So that's why you hate being called cool," before throwing her arms around her.

"I'm so sorry, I must've made you feel so uncomfortable, oh my God, I'm so sorry," she said. "I love you, I love you for who you are, this changes nothing about how I feel about you. And I absolutely promise not to tell anyone. Ever. That's your call." Sakaki started to cry as she held Kaorin tightly. "I was so scared you'd call me something awful, that I'd ruined our relationship, that-"

Kaorin silenced her with another kiss. "Why would I end my love for you over something so petty as that? I wasn't staring at you in class and thinking, 'I bet that Sakaki has a bomb-ass pussy'. I love you for who you are as a girl, so beautiful, and elegant, and smart, and kind. And you are a girl. I will fight anyone who says different."

"Can I, can I make a request, then?" Sakaki said quietly.

"Of course, anything."

"Can we...can we not have a super physical relationship? I'm fine with the cuddling, and kissing, and all those things, but anything more than that...not now, I mean. Not like, permanently, just, like, uh, not now."

"Absolutely," she responded without hesitation. "Anything to make you happy."

"Because this is my first, like, real relationship and I don't know what I'm doing and-"

"Sh, sh, sh, it's okay," Kaorin murmured. "It's my first relationship, too, really. We'll go at your pace. I'm happy to. I want to make sure you're happy."

"Hey, uh, Kaorin?"

"Yes, Sakaki?"

"I, uh, I think the clothes are done."

"Yeah."

And so Kaorin hung up their clothes for the next day, and soon they were snuggling tightly in bed, like two cats who'd found out they couldn't live without the other. Kaorin sprawled out, her arm lazily draped over Sakaki's front as her head rested on her chest, and Sakaki holding Kaorin like she was one of her plushies, their hearts beating as one.