Hi everyone. Somehow I came up with this while drafting 'Metropolis'. I'm quite pleased with the result, but this does contain shoujo-ai, so if it's not your cup of tea, don't read it. Otherwise, enjoy!
Disclaimer : The story uses the characters created and owned by Sam Register, not the actual Puffy Ami Yumi.
Also, the lyrics used are from 'Boom, Like That' by Mark Knopfler.
I love her…but how do I tell her that? Why can't I tell her that?...
The same questions floated around in Yumi's mind, the ones she'd been asking herself for the past couple of weeks. At first, she thought she simply had a crush on Ami. However, crushes faded over time – this one didn't. For a long while she'd thought she had everything – the accolades of rock star life were something she'd always dreamed of, making music was her way of life, and she was sharing it with the best partner she could have hoped for. But the feeling of unrequited love made all these things seem so hollow, and it didn't help that some personal inhibition was preventing her from telling Ami how she really felt about her. Normally she was the very epitome of self-confidence, whether on stage or on the tour bus, but this was almost a barrier she couldn't quite overcome.
She sighed quietly as she gazed out of the window. They were travelling down a seemingly endless stretch of highway, where everything outside looked exactly the same as it did six miles ago, on the next leg of their tour. For some reason that was completely beyond them, she and Ami had both agreed to Kaz's mad idea for a "trans-American" tour, New York to San Francisco. Right now they were headed westwards out of Casa Grande, AZ, towards San Benardino, CA, then up to Frisco via Los Angeles and Monterey. Before they got out of Arizona, though, they had a little gig to play in Yuma, a town tucked just inside the state line. Yuma, she thought, ironic.
A bank of tall rock cliffs drifted past, baked a deep shade of red by the Sun's merciless glare. Leaning her arm on the windowsill, Yumi's gaze shifted to where Ami sat directly across from her. She was still asleep, her head resting on a pillow against the side of the bus. Yumi smiled at the memory of the night before. It was about 9:00 once the gig finished, so after they'd packed the gear in the back of the bus, the two of them had decided to stay out a little longer in Casa Grande. Despite encouraging Kaz to come along as well, he'd chosen to stay behind.
"Are you sure?" Ami asked, "Casa Grande will be fun!"
"Yeah, come on, Kaz," Yumi coaxed him. "A couple of hours won't hurt."
"Easy for you to say," their manager said. "Sorry, girls, but it's a long drive tomorrow – I gotta get some rest. You go on, have a good time. Just don't make too much noise when you get back."
Yumi shrugged. "Suit yourself."
"Oh, that reminds me," Kaz thought instantly, "you'll be needing these." He threw a spare set of keys to Ami, who caught it neatly. "See you in the morning."
"OK. Goodnight, Kaz!" Ami called. Yumi waved as the two of them ambled towards the town. There was a flickering, hypnotic aura from the few street lights up ahead, an almost nuclear glow that descended over the community like an orb. "I wonder why he's been so nice to us lately?" Ami asked. "Maybe he thinks he owes us for this tour?"
"Maybe he's trying to flatter us into doing another one," Yumi replied dryly, and Ami laughed.
Casa Grande itself was a modestly-sized town with an equally modest nightlife; not nearly as chaotic as New York or New Orleans, but hardly a ghost town either. The streets were quiet, but some still had a shop or bar open along them.
The bar they ended up in was a lively one, its wooden walls decorated with whisky bottles, bull's horns and posters of moustachioed, sombrero-wearing bandits offering bottles of tequila with a reassuring grin. For whatever reason, Yumi half expected Clint Eastwood to come through the doors, clad in a poncho and with a smouldering cigarette between his teeth. Yeah, she thought, the Man with No Name would've felt right at home in a place like this. They each got themselves a drink and sat down at a table, allowing their eyes to wander freely around the décor as they talked, literally, about life, the universe and everything. A couple of hours and another round later, they bid the bar farewell and headed back towards the tour bus.
As they walked back the way they came, Ami suddenly felt very cold. Even with her sweater on and her arms folded, she couldn't stop herself from shivering. Yumi noticed and asked, "You freezing?"
"Mhm," Ami murmured unhappily.
Smiling compassionately, Yumi slipped her jacket off and placed it over Ami's shoulders. The shivers subsided a little, and Ami looked back up at her and said, "Thanks…" Then she realised that her purple T-shirt was all Yumi had to protect her from the cold. "But what about you?" she asked with concern as Yumi braced herself against the wind, "You'll freeze, too!"
"It's OK," Yumi replied with a brave smile, "we'll be back at the bus soon, anyway –"
"No," Ami said, handing Yumi's coat back to her, "I don't want you to get cold…"
Yumi reached for it reluctantly and put it on again. Ami was too kind-hearted sometimes, always looking out for other people…always looking out for her. "Here," she offered, slowly putting an arm around Ami's shoulders and drawing them a little closer together. "That better?"
Ami nodded gratefully. "Yeah…much better." She took a deep breath of fresh air and rested her head on Yumi's shoulder, leaning a little against her. To feel her soft, delicate hair beneath her cheek made something flutter in Yumi's stomach. She hoped the road they were treading wouldn't ever stop, that they could never get tired and that they could just keep walking together into the distance…
Eventually, however, they arrived back at the bus. Ami fished the keys out of her pocket and unlocked the door. Yumi pushed it open and the two of them stepped inside, shutting it behind them. Then, to Yumi's complete surprise, Ami kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you, Yumi," she said, "for everything."
Still a little stunned from the kiss, Yumi laughed softly and said, "You don't have to thank me for anything…"
"Yes, I do," Ami smiled. "All these places we've been, everything we've done…I couldn't have done it without you." She paused. "I love you…" she added quietly, so quietly that Yumi almost didn't hear. A voice inside her head told her that this was the opportunity she'd been waiting for, to tell Ami that same thing, maybe even kiss her back…
But for whatever reason, she couldn't make that next step. The next thing she knew, she and Ami were saying goodnight to each other in the doorway to Ami's room before she went to her own and fell asleep.
Ami muttered something in her sleep and nuzzled a little closer against her pillow. Yumi smiled fondly at her; she looked so peaceful and innocent when she was asleep. As she turned her gaze back to the rural route landscape they were speeding through, Yumi caught sight of a truck stop through the window and could just make out the letters on the large billboard it had out the front: 'San Benardino 304'. The sign reminded her of a song she'd heard once, and without realising it, she started singing it under her breath. "I'm going to San Benardino, ring-a-ding-ding. Milkshake mixers, that's my thing now…"
Ami stirred as the soft sound of her voice reached her ears. She opened her eyes to see Yumi staring pensively through the glass at the wide expanse of desert. She yawned. Yumi noticed and said, "Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you."
"It's OK," Ami responded, cheerful as always. "I thought you'd be asleep too."
Yumi smiled thinly. "I tried – just couldn't nod off."
Ami couldn't help but notice that Yumi looked a little withdrawn, as if the cares of the world rested on her shoulders. "Everything all right?" she asked, "You look troubled."
If you only knew, Yumi thought. "I'm probably just tired. But I'm fine, really."
Visibly glad to hear it, Ami stood up and stretched upwards towards the ceiling, then relaxed. She shot Yumi a smile, one that said, 'Just keeping an eye out for you'. Yumi gave her one back, with the hidden message 'I know you always do'.
All of a sudden, Kaz yelped as something darted across the road in front of them, and he slammed on the brakes. Ami was caught completely off guard and thrown forward. Yumi caught her, and Ami instinctively threw her arms around her neck. For a brief moment, they were so close together that each could hear the other's breathing, a gentle noise that sounded like waves on the sea. They looked at each other and realised that they were both blushing. Yumi's mind cast itself back to last night again. Could she… she thought, does she feel the same way?...
Quickly Ami apologised and got up again, heading carefully towards the front of the bus. Fortunately there was no-one else on the road, so no-one had collided with them. "What was that, Kaz?" she asked.
"I don't know," their manager replied. "Looked like a coyote or something. You girls OK?"
"Yeah," Ami said, briefly glancing over at Yumi.
"Good. We should be in Yuma in a little while." Kaz laughed quietly to himself. "Yuma – what are the odds?"
Finding it hard to even summon enough energy, Yumi got to her feet and said, "I think I'll go catch some shuteye before we get there." She headed into her room, closed the door and let out a heavy sigh.
As she trudged over to the window and pulled the curtains across, she was suddenly seized by qualms of regret. Last night…why hadn't she done anything when Ami told her, 'I love you'? Maybe it was because she was trying to convince herself that Ami's words were heartfelt and truthful, that yes, she did love her as much as she loved Ami, and by the time she'd managed it, the moment had passed. Did that mean it was gone for good? Had Ami woken up that morning and seen things in a different perspective? Yumi wondered if that was true, and she was afraid that if she told Ami now what she should have said last night, their current relationship would be irreversibly altered, and she couldn't bear for that to happen.
But the kiss, she told herself, she kissed me…why would she have done that if she didn't love me?... She stared at the wall in search of some answers, but it offered nothing. She couldn't understand it; Ami was her best friend, and she knew her so well – why did it feel so hard for her? All she had to do was say three words…
Yumi pounded the mattress in frustration, venting her anger at her own timidity. Why do you have to be so beautiful?, she thought forlornly, Why can't I stop thinking about you? Why can't I tell you how much I love you –
"Yumi?" a voice said from behind her, startling her from her thoughts. She quickly turned to see whose it was, but already knew it was Ami, the person she wanted to talk to least and most at that given moment. What could she say? How could she… "Are you crying?" Ami asked, pushing back a strand of Yumi's hair to see a tear drying on her cheek. Yumi wiped it off hurriedly.
"No, I'm not," she lied, "I think a bug flew in my eye…" She closed her eyes and leaned forwards.
Ami sighed sympathetically. "It's OK, Yumi," she said, sitting down next to her on the bed. "You know you can talk to me about anything, right? I'm here for you."
Yumi's eyes opened as she glanced quickly at her and managed a thin smile in gratitude. They were brimming with tears, Ami noticed with concern, and as Yumi faced the floor, they closed again, allowing a few to escape and roll down her cheek. Her teeth clenched and her shoulders shuddered as she sobbed quietly into her hands.
Instinctively Ami put a supportive arm around her waist. She was a little taken aback – in all the time they'd been recording and touring together, she'd never seen or even heard Yumi crying. For her this was a complete role reversal; whenever she felt a little tearful, if she needed a shoulder to lean on, she would always be there to ride it out with her and make her feel better. Of course Yumi had those down moments occasionally, crises of confidence, but never like this. But whatever her suffering, she would help to ease it. She waited for a minute until Yumi had calmed down. "Feeling better?" Ami asked quietly into her ear.
Yumi nodded. "A little." Her voice was subdued, almost timid. With a smile, she added, "Thanks for the support."
"Any time," Ami said, and gently wiped some of the tears away. "Do you want to talk to me about what you're going through?"
Yumi took a deep breath. "I guess," she conceded. "I've been thinking about a lot of things recently…it'd be good to shake some of 'em off."
"OK." Ami began to gently massage Yumi's shoulder with her thumb. "So what's on your mind?"
Yumi paused again. She couldn't think of how to phrase it properly, but she needed something to come up, and now... "I think…" she said furtively, "I think I'm in love."
Ami's eyes lit up. "Yumi, that's great!" she exclaimed, although softly enough that Kaz couldn't overhear. "Who's the lucky Valentine?"
"Actually…" Yumi's gaze fell away from Ami's again, and she forced herself to bring it back up again. "…it's you."
It was Ami's turn to stay silent. "Me?" she asked eventually, and Yumi responded with a nod. She didn't sound confused or worried at all; if anything, Yumi thought, she sounded a little relieved. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Because…" Yumi trailed off. Her train of thought was slowing down. "Because…we've just got such a good thing going, for both of us, and…I didn't want to say anything that might mess that up, you know? I was afraid you wouldn't think of me in the same way, that you wouldn't want to be near me, let alone stay with the band…"
"Yumi…" Ami said, calmly stroking her hair. "After everything we've accomplished together, I don't think I could leave. You're so special to me, Yumi...you're the single most thoughtful, supportive, caring person I know. I would never do something like that to you."
They paused while Yumi plucked up her courage. This is it, she told herself, the moment of truth…
"Ami…" she swallowed, praying for the answer she hoped for, "will you be my girlfriend?"
Ami gave her a warm smile, the same one that had made Yumi fall in love with her in the first place. "Yes, Yumi," she whispered, resting her hands on her shoulders, "…I will." With that, she gently pulled her in close and pressed her lips to hers, tenderly caressing her hair as Yumi returned the kiss. They sat on the bed for a few blissful moments, content to revel in their love for each other, not wanting to push it any further than that.
All of a sudden, there appeared a bright shaft of light as the door opened. Faces flushed, the two of them broke away in surprise when they noticed Kaz standing in it, mouth agape.
"Kaz!" Yumi yelled, glowering at him.
"Oh, my goodness!" Kaz quickly backed out of the room, his blush extending as far back as his receding hairline, and closed the door behind him.
"Oh, the nerve of that guy!" Yumi fumed through gritted teeth, but her rage began to subside when Ami stroked her shoulder.
"It's no big deal," she said soothingly. "Besides, he would have had to find out sooner or later."
"I guess," Yumi admitted with an embarrassed smile. "Just wish he didn't have to find out like that."
Ami laughed in agreement and stole a look at the clock. It was 5:15 – forty-five minutes before sound-check. "Yumi?" she asked as she lay down on the duvet, "We've still got some time left before the gig."
Yumi took the hint and curled up next to her, resting her head on Ami's shoulder. She felt happy and at peace with herself for the first time in a fortnight as she felt Ami run her fingers through her hair. Now after all those sleepless nights, she could finally see things in perspective. Everything was so different now. She glanced at Ami again; her skin was aglow with tinctures of sunlight that stole in through the drawn curtains. "God, you're so beautiful," she thought out loud. Ami smiled, and they shared another kiss before she lay down her head and closed her eyes. Yumi did the same thing, and just before she fell asleep, another lyric from the song wandered through her mind:
'And I'm gonna see a good thing, sure enough now…'