you've all been very, very patient with me. i frequently asked you to continue being patient, and frequently you did just that. you all are good people (GREAT PEOPLE!!!), and i hate having to ask you to be patient a little more--this is the first part of four of "best kept secret," and i'll be posting the subsequent parts for the next few weekends--i have beta'ing to finish up with cagalli-chan for the last two. due to a sudden influx of real life surprises, i unfortunately had to push back the application for a 2nd beta; obviously, getting this fic out was more important. so i hope it was worth the wait!

here it is: the epilogue to "a skirt for sunday evening."

Best Kept Secret

This is just not right.

None of it, not one damn bit of it is right.

It is not right that I'm God knows how high above the clouds right now, safety-buckled in because turbulence is such a problem. Not right that I'm holding the hand of the girl sleeping next to me when the girl that I want is some 200 odd miles back there. It is not right that I left, not right that I touched her, and definitely not right that I'm missing her THIS MUCH—

"Shit," I hiss, and slip my hand from Kendall's, twisting it into my knee.

"Shit," again.

God. . . DAMMIT.

I am not thinking of Buttercup. I do not miss her. She told me to leave, she said it, she doesn't want me there, so fine, I'm here, and I don't care, I don't give a shit, I don't care if she cried or if she hates me so it doesn't make a difference and it is not right that I am missing her so Goddamn much right now!

I sigh through clenched teeth and pass my hand rather ineffectively over my eyes. Ineffective because with every heartbeat flickers of last night pierce my memory. Every slip of the hand, every throaty whisper, every pleadingdesperateurgent kiss blurred my mind, and it was torture. Brushes and sighs and fumblings that I'd wanted for so long, so long that it wasn't healthy, and definitely wasn't right.

Not one bit.


"Kiss her," Mitch said.

I blinked. Many, many times. ". . . What?"

"Ya know. . . give her a smooch. Pucker up. That sorta thing."

I slowly shook my head, my eyes drifting from face to face. "You. . . you can't be serious. I mean. . . that. . . it doesn't make any SENSE—"

"Well, you asked us what would keep us from bugging you about it, and that's it." Mitch crossed his arms & shrugged. "Of course, since you don't seem up to it, I guess the deal's off—"

"But I don't get it!" I protested. "I mean, why would you tell me to kiss her to prove that I don't like her. . . I'm. . . I'm confused." As if that made any sense whatsoever—

"Ok, look at it this way." Mike jumped in now, too, the little traitor. "Buttercup's the most un-girliest girl ever. Depending on her reaction, we'll be able to tell if you guys have something going for each other or if you really ARE 'just friends.'"

If I was confused before, I was baffled beyond all comprehensible reason at that point. The logistics of their reasoning were completely eluding me. Maybe the confusion explained why the next time I opened my mouth, I spoke very slowly and very deliberately.

"You. . . want me. . . to KISS Buttercup." Just saying it made me cringe. How could I kiss her? She was my best friend! And (with no offense to her) she was a girl, though I suppose that wasn't as bad as having to kiss another guy. I didn't like girls that way, not yet. I was still a kid, for crying out loud! I didn't even know how to kiss. . . did anybody our age know how?

That thought alone unleashed a whole slew of mental images on an attack against my brain, and I winced.

"That's right," Mitch acknowledged. "Kiss her."

"I—I don't. . . HOW?"

It irritated me when he slapped his hand to his face like that. "Duh! Don't you ever watch TV? Ya put yer mouth on hers, open it, and shove yer tongue—"

"That's DISGUSTING!" I gagged, curling my lip and backing away. It felt like I was developing a peptic ulcer in the pit of my stomach right at that moment.

"Well, the tongue thing might be going a little far. . ." Harry mused.

Mitch rolled his eyes. "Fine, fine, if you don't wanna do it the right way. . ." He turned toward me and raised an eyebrow. "That is, of course, assuming you even do it in the first place."

I stared at him a moment and turned away, rubbing at the back of my neck.

For me. . . to kiss Buttercup?

And if I did. . .

The whispering, the pointing, the stupid juvenile giggles when she and I turned our backs on them. . .

'Butch ♥'s Buttercup' had been scrawled all over the chalkboards before school began since the 5th grade.

Was one kiss all it would take?

"If I kiss her," I said quietly, and a hush fell over the group, "it would all stop?"


I had this implacable discomfort in the pit of my gut as I led the way to the bus canopy. My legs didn't feel quite there, though they were functioning perfectly, and there was this weird lump in my throat that really wouldn't go away.

Throughout the entire walk I tried frantically to think of ways "around" the whole kissing thing. I imagined the guys wouldn't be satisfied with just a peck on the cheek, but I definitely didn't want to do anything that involved spit, or teeth, or tongue. . .

I shuddered just thinking about it. I settled on a quick, 5-second max my-lips-on-hers, and then done. Completely. I'd explain to her later, that is, if I could keep her from killing me before I would have the chance to.

"There she is," Mitch whispered ominously behind me, snapping me back to reality, and I spotted her through the glass doors and swallowed. Why couldn't the walk have been longer?

I almost stopped, turned around, and said, "No." God knows it would've saved me a decade of grief and complications.

But I thought of the chalkboards, the fake love notes some joker had written us on Vday, the smooching sounds people made no effort to mute when we walked by. . .

And I'd had it.

And she probably had had it too.

So I told myself, 'You're doing yourselves a favor. One kiss is all it'll take.

'What harm could one little kiss do?' I asked myself just as I pushed the door open and let the warmth of the sun wash over me.

It was at that moment that God decided to screw around with all five—count 'em, five—of my senses. My vision went grey. My nerves lost all feeling. My mouth was sucked dry, the air didn't smell right, and as Buttercup bounded up to me and spoke it didn't even sound like English.

Nervous? No, not me.

Not to mention all of our siblings and the guys were there. No pressure.

I watched her mouth intently, avoiding her eyes, waiting for her to shut up so I could get it done and over with, but she kept talking and talking and talking—

Mitch interrupted, and though I didn't quite hear him my eyes flickered over to him and back. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what he was saying.

It had apparently confused Buttercup too, and now she was talking again, and I knew if I waited any longer I'd lose the guts to do this—

So I squeezed my eyes shut, grabbed her by the shoulders, and pulled her close, praying that my lips would land on hers, so at least I wouldn't look like an incompetent moron. . .

. . . To this day I am infinitely surprised at how soft her lips felt pressed to mine.

Not that I had any predisposed idea how they would feel anyway, but it just. . . wasn't what I'd expected. I guess I was expecting it to be more representative of HER, you know: hard, rough, sharp-as-nails, callused, something like that. This was the girl I sparred with, roughhoused with, the girl whose face I shoved in the dirt! She punched, she kicked, she bit back! She wasn't supposed to feel. . . feel soft, or. . . or something. . .

She wasn't supposed to feel like a GIRL.

. . . And I wasn't supposed to be enjoying kissing my best friend this much.

A good amount of time had passed before I realized I hadn't adhered to the five-second limit I'd set for myself.

And then she punched me.


I wasn't sure what it was I wanted to say to her later that afternoon as we flew home. I know for sure, though, that it wasn't what I really said to her, that nothing should change.

Anyone would know better. Everyone should know better.

But we didn't.

She looked different then. Smaller, a little bit.


Maybe she was scared.

Of me?

She felt different, too. When I slid my arms around her and pulled her close, she felt so soft and warm and fragile that I almost pulled away.

And I wondered why I'd never noticed that before.

I wondered where it all came from; her scent, her touch, the rough, innocent scratch of her voice. . . they hadn't always been there, had they?

She. . . hadn't always been this. . . been like this. . .

. . . Had she?

I would've liked to have trailed my hand along the length of her arm when I pried myself away and said good-bye, but I only dropped my arms rather unenthusiastically and took off after some incoherent mumbling.

I had to struggle not to think of her too much on my way home.


Brick asked me questions, lots of them, and none of which I can remember my answers for. Well, one, and that was the last one, when he asked if I wanted pizza or Mexican or Chinese for dinner and I just shook my head.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Boomer had asked, and I just started for the back door, murmuring, "It means it doesn't matter," and it didn't.

They didn't stop me when I stepped out into the backyard, a little dazed and lost in the torrent of thoughts flooding my brain. I walked a little ways before depositing myself Indian-style on a patch of soft green.

It doesn't change anything.

"It doesn't change anything," I whispered to myself, absent-mindedly ripping out tufts of grass around me.

'It doesn't change anything.'

The smell of her hair briefly crossed my mind.

. . . doesn't change anything.

I unfolded myself and dropped, spread-eagled, onto the ground, hands twitching as I thought of her smile.

It doesn't change anything.

"Nothing has changed."

I lifted a hand to trace my lips very lightly as they formed the words and blushed, unable to push the sweet softness of her mouth from my memory.

"Nothing!" I hissed, and threw my hand back to the grass as I filled my lungs with air that I couldn't help but wish was saturated with her presence.

My muscles tensed, and I willed them to relax, only to have them tense up again almost immediately. I sighed and forced myself to sit up, thinking that this new. . . feeling, or illness, whatever it was. . . I couldn't let anyone know. Not my brothers, not my (soon to be former) friends, and definitely, definitely not Buttercup—

And the moment I thought her name there was this wretched twist in my chest, one that choked me and shallowed my breathing, and I fisted my hands in the grass again.

No. Definitely not Buttercup.

"This sort of thing," I found myself whispering, "is the sort of thing that's best kept secret."


The next morning I waited for her at the front of the school, paying no attention to the looks the other kids failed to make discreet, no matter how they tried. Amateurs.

I kept expecting someone to say something, because by now I was sure yesterday's occurrences had spread like wildfire in a grassy field, but nothing. People filtered by in absolute silence, and when one of them met my gaze and quickly looked away, I narrowed my eyes and followed her retreating figure with my head, twisting my body around a bit, and she 'eep'ed and started walking a little faster.

Gaze still narrowed, I turned back, and suddenly there she was.


My eyes immediately widened, and I fought a blush, at the same time trying to swallow the lump in my throat.

Her mouth quirked a little, and the slight movement completely shut down the speech section of my brain, leaving me there with my mouth hanging open and what I hoped wasn't drool beginning to pool under my tongue. Like it would be anything else.

Buttercup fared a lot better than me, managing a weak smile and a "Good morning," to which I promptly blinked and hastily responded (after swallowing) "Yeah, yeah, same to you."

We both kind of nodded and then simultaneously dropped our eyes from each other's, shuffling our feet and tugging at loose threads of our clothing.

I stole a glance at her and felt my mouth go dry, then looked away and repeated in my head, 'Best kept secret. Best kept secret. Nothing's changed, nothing doing. Nothing's changed.'

I took a deep breath, mentally squared my shoulders, then turned to her and said, "So what kept you? I've been waiting around for ages for you to get here." Smirk. Cross your arms. Good deal, Butch. "Don't tell me the bogeyman kept you up last night."

She looked at me, confusion flitting briefly over her face, and suddenly relief settled onto her features.

'See, I was right,' I wanted to say. 'I told you nothing would change, and here we go, talking like we always do, and it's the same old deal, good stuff, right?' But I kept it to myself and pretended not to feel a little disappointed.

She opened her mouth to reply, a smile already tweaking the corners of her mouth, when—


"Crap! Class has started!"

And we both took off and tore through the halls, me screaming, "This is your fault!"

"My fault?! I've got a test first block!!"

"If I get another tardy they're gonna give me another d-hall!"

"You shouldn't be getting tardies in the first place!!!"

". . . Um, well, you took too long to get here!"

"No one said you had to wait!"

I almost stopped dead in my tracks.

She was right. I never HAD to wait.

'But, well, we're best friends and all. . . that's why, right?

'. . . Right?'

"I waited because we're best friends," I almost whispered, but by that time she was already slipping through the door of her first period class, hissing a rushed "Bye!" at me.

I swallowed that offensive lump in my throat and landed on the tile as the door clicked shut. I lingered a moment longer, hearing, "Buttercup, you're late again—"

"Sorry, Miss McRae, I woke up around 8 and. . . "

"Bye," I mouthed once at the door.

I forced myself to take a step back and started walking to my class.

Guess I'd take the d-hall anyways.


By the end of the week I was well under the impression that yes, Hell had frozen over, and furthermore, Lucifer himself (Himself?) was meeting up with Ye Olde Big Kahuna every afternoon for tea and a good game of shuffleboard. How else could the complete and utter absence of jeers, taunts, and face-making concerning the infamous afternoon be explained? I had to keep reminding myself that the whole reason I'd done that in the first place was to make all of the above come to a screeching halt, yet even so you couldn't help but be completely thrown at the uncanny lack of response.

So over the course of approximately 24 hours it was now Christmas in Hell, the world was on mute, and I was undergoing a serious mental reevaluation of exactly what the hell it was I felt for Buttercup.

Talk about stress.

That Friday I bumped into the group—and by group I mean the snarky devils that put me up to the whole ordeal—by the fountain in front of the main entrance after school let out. One look at their nervous expressions pretty much solved the mystery of why I hadn't seen them all week.

I narrowed my gaze and kept walking.

Mitch, brave soul that he was, attempted a salutation. "Hey, Butch, how's it going?"

"Fine," I said shortly, striding past them.

"Good!" A chorus of agreement from the rest of the choir boys echoed his reply. "So, Butch, you wanna grab Buttercup and head fowhat the FWA--!!"

It's a shame I never heard what the plans were before I shoved him in the well of the fountain.


For my detention due to the excessive amount of tardies I'd accumulated well over the course of the semester, I got to run menial chores for the entire math wing—rearranging framed geometric charts and figures on the walls (I started to doubt any of these old birds had real live families at home, and if they did, they must not have considered them worthy enough of photos in the first place), wiping off transparency rolls (after rolls after rolls after rolls), and, finally, the coup de grace: erasing the chalkboards. I mean, what a creative finish to an utterly brainless set of tasks.

I would've had the whole thing done in fifteen minutes had I been permitted to use my super powers, but those sneaky faculty members, they decided I needed a monitor to make sure I got the job done the "normal" way. By the end of my detention (and eight classrooms later) I'd concluded Ms. Tracy's favorite phrases were, "You missed a spot," "Tilt it to the left a little," (always the LEFT, never the RIGHT) and, my personal favorite, "You're doing it wrong. Start over."

That last phrase alone, repeated ad infinitum, shot her to the top of my shitlist in record time.

It was nearing the two and a half hour mark when I finally started wiping down the last blackboard, and she left right about then, probably under the impression that by that point it didn't matter whether I felt the urge to erase the board using my SUPER FAST POWERS(!!!!) or not.

The moment her steps had faded into silence I heard a knock on the open door. I turned, and Buttercup was peeking around the frame, head bobbing. "Almost done, I take it?"

My mouth dropped briefly, and I quickly clamped it shut. "You. . . you've been here for the whole time?"

The rest of her body followed her head into the classroom, weaving itself in between rows and rows of desks before she deposited herself on the surface of the closest one to me. "Well, I bummed around in the gym for awhile—shot some hoops and practiced my serves. Figured I'd work some practice in, seeing as how I'd like to do either volleyball or basketball come high school." She shrugged, and dangled her legs. "And, you know. . . it's not like I had anything better to do."

"Aren't you cooking dinner at home nowadays?" I asked, the invigorating thrill of erasing chalkboards long forgotten.

She faltered and hastily said, "Well, it isn't like we can't eat out every once in awhile." Her eyes flickered over to the second chalkboard on the wall to my right. "Want me to help?" she asked, nodding at the board.

"You don't have to," I protested, moving my arm mechanically up and down, up and down, prompting a chant of "Domo arigatou, Mr. Roboto" in my head.

"No big deal," she replied, kicking off the desk and floating over to the object in question, setting about procuring another eraser for herself. I didn't respond, just wiped off my share of the work and shot short, furtive glances at her back, and decided for a moment that I really liked how she stretched up to reach the top of the board even when flying, the sides of her t-shirt bunching up under her arms—

I coughed and directed my attention back to my job, only to realize I was done. Heaving a quiet, relieved sigh, I set the eraser back on the tray, and my eyes looked down and lingered on the white stub of chalk next to it. After picking it up and staring at it up close, I shot another look at Buttercup, still erasing. My gaze fell to the chalk again, and I wondered. . .

It was weird; I think my hand shook a little as I lifted it to the board. Probably due to sheer exhaustion, being overworked, that sort of thing. My hand formed familiar words in handwriting it'd never been written in before, and I'd just finished when Buttercup announced, "Done!" and chucked her eraser at my back.

"Hey!" I whirled around, twisting to see the back of my shirt. "This is brand new, you little snot! You're gonna pay!"

"Not if I get to The Creamery first!" she shot back, laughing as she streaked out the door in a flash of bright green. "Last one there pays for two double fudge sundaes with the works!"

I huffed and pounded my back, white dust puffing into the air behind me. Scowling, I turned back to the blackboard and paused, my scowl fading.

It'd been a week since either of us had seen "Butch ♥'s Buttercup" splayed across the chalkboards in huge, bold lettering, so it was a little weird seeing it now, small and subdued, in my own light, uncharacteristically meticulous print.

Butch ♥'s Buttercup.

I mouthed the words to myself, pointing at each part of the phrase as I said it.

'Keep it that way. Small Subdued.

'A secret.

'This is best kept secret.'

My lips set in a thin, determined line, and the writing was so faint that with the swipe of my hand you'd never have been able to tell it was written at all.

-end pt. 1