Another YukarixNyamo! Thanks to everyone who reviewed First Aid; I probably wouldn't have written this without your comments and encouragement. This is a completely separate fic, still in Nyamo's POV but longer and hopefully better – I think it is, anyway. Enjoy!
Force of Habit
I looked up from my desk to see Yukari saunter over to me and sling an arm around my shoulder. Crap. I just needed to finish filling out one form and I could sneak off without her seeing me.
"What is it?" I asked, hoping she wouldn't suggest going out with me this evening.
"Wanna go out tonight?" she asked, grinning. "It's Friday; payday, no less!"
I winced. There was no way she was going to take this well. The language teacher threw temper tantrums similar to a three-year-old when she was refused something she wanted; and being denied night of drinking with me undoubtedly picking up the tab would be a huge disappointment for her.
"I can't." I said, bracing myself for impact.
"What? Why the hell not?" she yelled, attracting a few stares from other staff members, though most of them were used to Yukari's slightly strange antics.
I toyed with the idea of making up an excuse, but I knew it would never work. Yukari could always tell when I lied.
"I'm going on a date."
"You're WHAT?" Yukari screamed, clearly outraged. "With who? Why? Since when?"
"He's called Haru and my mother introduced him to me a while ago. We've been planning this for a while."
"So why the hell didn't you tell me?" she shouted.
"Because I knew you'd react like this!"
"I am NOT reacting like this!" Yukari yelled, waving her arms around. I chose not to even try and understand her and instead grabbed her wrists to stop her flailing her arms about and stared her straight in the eyes. She calmed down a little.
"Yukari, look. I'm sorry for not telling you sooner, and I'm sorry to disappoint you about tonight. But we can go out later in the week, okay? I promise."
"…Fine" she pouted, looking annoyed. "I bet you won't last five minutes with this guy. You're terrible with men."
"So are you!" I shot back without thinking. The fact I'd just admitted it made Yukari's pout split into a wide grin. "See? You won't last a week!"
I was looking apprehensively in the mirror at myself in the fourth set of clothes I'd tried on when I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door to see Haru standing there dressed up and holding a bunch of flowers.
He was fairly tall, a little taller than Yukari, and had dark hair and eyes. He was friendly enough, though I hadn't really spoken to him, and my mother had told me (many times, actually) that he was the son of the president of a large manufacturing firm.
"Um, hi!" I said, hoping I didn't look as nervous as I felt.
"How have you been?" he asked, handing me the flowers.
I took them and stared at them. What on earth was I supposed to do with them? It had been months, possibly years since I had been on a date and nobody had ever given me flowers before… I didn't have a clue what to do with them.
"Pretty good, thanks." I mumbled, dumping them in a spare vase by my dresser and hoping he wasn't offended. "Should we go now?" I asked, heavily aware of the fact that my apartment was still in a bit of a state after Yukari and I had had another argument about something – I can't even remember what – but it had ended in using pillows as missiles. And I'd been so worried about what to wear and how Yukari would react to my abandoning her for the evening that I had completely forgotten to tidy it up.
"Sure." he said, and we left the apartment and walked down to where his car was waiting.
He held the passenger door open for me and I sat inside. The car was comfy and spacious, but due to heavy mental trauma from a certain best friend's driving abilities, I was not remotely comfortable being a passenger in a car. I clicked on the seatbelt with lighting speed, earning a slightly odd look from Haru.
"I've booked us a place at that restaurant by the river." he said by way of a conversation starter. I was too busy clutching the seatbelt to reply.
"What's the matter?" he asked. I looked over at him, saw that the speedometer gave a speed that was actually lower than the legal speed limit and relaxed slightly.
"I'm sorry. I'm just not very comfortable riding in cars." I admitted.
"Why not?" he asked, looking slightly confused, especially as he knew I had my own car.
I didn't want to sound like an idiot, but I couldn't think of a better explanation as to why I was terrified of anyone's driving but my own. "My best friend Yukari… she's a bit of a reckless driver."
"I see." he nodded, giving me a slightly strange look. I cursed Yukari; why was she ruining my date when she wasn't even here?
After a couple more lame conversation attempts on Haru's part that I was a little too distracted by the whole car thing by to reply properly to, we arrived at the restaurant.
Once we had left the dreaded vehicle we entered the restaurant while I hoped that I could pull off something resembling a normal date before I messed everything up and had to deal with Yukari's smugness for the rest of my life.
The restaurant was relatively small, but the waiters were all friendly and the food was delicious. It was in a beautiful location, too; overlooking the river where, at night, the streetlights created illumination patterns on the water's surface.
"Where would you like to sit?" he asked. I froze slightly. Were couples supposed to sit somewhere special? I looked around the restaurant and pointed to a table for two where Yukari and I had sat- and gotten completely drunk - on many occasions.
Haru nodded and we went and sat down at the table.
I had been here enough with Yukari to know the menu practically by heart, but to be polite I picked it up and looked down through it. Yukari and I normally shared the sushi dish for two and then had a bottle of sake between us, but Haru was busy choosing his own meal. I looked down at the single meals and picked one at random. Crab. Why not? I was feeling hungry and if I remembered not to tell Yukari that I'd eaten her favourite food, she might not hit me.
"Are you ready to order?" the waiter's voice made me jump a little; I was very unaccustomed to silence while at a restaurant; Yukari would normally be making enough noise to ensure that nobody sat within a five-foot radius of us, but I'd grown so used to it I'd become to accept it as normal.
"I am." I said, while Haru nodded. He indicated that I should order first, so I did. The waiter gave me a slightly odd look, one eyebrow raised. I was confused for a moment and then realized that he must have thought it was odd that I was here with someone who wasn't Yukari. He took Haru's order, bowed and left us.
"Minamo," Haru said. It took me a moment to realize that he was talking to me; I had become so used to being called Ms Kurosawa or Nyamo that being referred to as Minamo felt slightly odd. I suppose I should be happy that someone actually used my real name, but no matter how much I claimed to hate Yukari's nickname for me, it had grown on me.
"Yes?" I said, looking up.
"Are you all right? You look distracted." I suddenly felt really bad. Here I was on a date with a really nice guy who seemed to genuinely like me, and I was making him feel uncomfortable.
"I'm not; I'm really enjoying myself." I told him, exaggerating slightly. I glanced around desperately, hoping for a conversation topic. "So, um, what's it like to work at a big firm?"
I could have kicked myself for asking such a stupid question, but he didn't seem to mind and started talking about profits, losses, machinery and things that would make Yukari fall straight to sleep, were she here.
Yukari… I wondered what she was doing. We spent virtually every evening in each other's company, either going out and getting drunk or staying in and watching a movie together. I suddenly felt really guilty; she never abandoned me to go out on dates with men her mother thought would bring money to the family.
'Stop it Nyamo,' I told myself, 'You can't mess this up. It's been, what? A year since your last date? So get it together and pay attention!'
"…So what about you?" Haru asked, turning his attention to me. I suddenly felt very happy that I had started paying attention, otherwise I'd have made a complete idiot out of myself. "What's it like teaching children?"
"It's mostly okay." I said, "I coach the swim team, and they're among the best in the region. It's a very rewarding job and since it's mostly practical, there's not too much written work."
I shut up suddenly. Where had that come from? I didn't mind doing work; slacking off and refusing to do anything requiring effort was Yukari's forte. Great. Now I was channelling Yukari and my date thought I was lazy.
I was intensely grateful when the food arrived as it probably saved me from making a fool out of myself a couple more times. I reminded myself to slow my eating pace down, as I was so used to eating with Yukari that I had trained myself to eat quickly- if I didn't, all the food would be gone before I got a look-in.
I suddenly noticed Haru watching me. I thought it was slightly odd and tried to think why he would do so; Yukari would often stare at me for long periods of time when she got drunk. I'm not quite sure why, but it's something she did occasionally. There was no way Haru could be drunk though; he'd only had half a glass of sake… I brushed it off and tried not to notice.
Despite slowing myself down, I finished before Haru, possibly because he kept pausing to look at me. I tried to ignore it and amused myself by watching how he used his chopsticks; he held them perfectly, like he had been trained to do so. I wondered if he'd thought I was a little clumsy with the way I held them, or if my table manners were strange. Maybe that's why he was looking at me… I suddenly wished I was eating with Yukari, where I could eat with my fingers and she wouldn't mind.
Eventually it grew too much to ignore. "Am I doing something wrong?" I asked nervously.
"You keep looking at me. If I'm doing something wrong, please tell me, I don't want to embarrass-"
"No, you're not doing anything wrong at all. I apologize for making you uncomfortable. I was only thinking how pretty you look."
"You-" was all I managed to squeak out, my eyes wide in disbelief.
"It's a compliment. You look beautiful." He smiled at how wide my eyes had gone and returned to his meal.
After Haru had finished his food, put down his chopsticks and finished his wine, a waiter came along and took all the plates and things away. He gave me a slightly disappointed look, like he missed Yukari dining with me. I wasn't very surprised; Yukari's antics greatly amused the waiters at many of the restaurants we dined at - even if it annoyed the owner of the place and the other patrons.
After we declined further food, wine or a dessert, he brought us the bill for the meal. I instinctively reached for my bag and took my purse out, but then noticed Haru staring at me.
"I'll pay." he said, sounding slightly shocked and even a little insulted that I'd thought that I'd have to pay for the meal.
I winced, feeling very uncomfortable again. "I'm sorry; it's just that I'm used to paying… force of habit, I guess."
He gave me an odd look. "You often pay the bill?" he asked, looking appalled.
"No, not like that… Yukari and I go out a lot and I'm always the one who ends up paying."
"She's your friend and yet you pay for everything?" he asked.
I blinked. It did sound slightly odd, the way he'd put it. "Well, yeah."
"And this is the same friend with the dangerous driving?"
Damn you, Yukari… why must you ruin dates when you're not even here? I had made the fatal mistake of letting Yukari come along on a date once a few years ago; I'm pretty sure the poor guy was still in therapy. The few guys who I had managed to get a second date with had been scared off by Yukari as well. I didn't hate her for it; after all, she was just being herself, and if I had to choose between my lifelong best friend and some guy who got freaked out by a language teacher throwing dried fruit at his head because he was sitting on her bit of the couch, I'd pick Yukari.
We left the restaurant and began walking down the long road beside the river. It had grown dark and, as expected, the reflections of the light shone beautifully in the river. I thought about the number of times I'd walked up and down this road with Yukari… practically every evening since we moved into our apartments years ago. The number of times Yukari had gotten completely drunk and I would have to practically give her a piggy-back home… The number of times she'd be practically dancing with excitement over her newest computer game... The number of times she'd be complaining bitterly about something completely trivial that normal people wouldn't even think about. Though I'd never really thought about it, this street held a lot of memories for me. And, oddly enough, every single one of them involved Yukari.
"It's pretty weird to be able to appreciate the river like this." I commented, more to myself than Haru.
"Why?" he asked.
"Well, normally by this time Yukari'll be drunk so I have to guide her home and stop her falling in the river… it's quite nice to be able to just look at the river… it's very pretty"
Haru's eyebrows furrowed. "Does your friend get drunk often?"
I nearly burst out laughing. "When does she not get drunk!"
"And she expects you to take her home after she gets intoxicated?"
All humor gone, I suddenly felt like a kid at school, with a teacher looming over me, demanding to know why I'd done something.
"Well yeah; I mean, I always do, and I don't really mind…"
"Fair enough." Haru said, deliberately ending the conversation.
After a little while to looking at the river, Haru looked at his very expensive watch. I'm pretty sure Yukari would kill me if I ever spent the amount of money needed to get one on a timepiece, though; that one watch could pay for about a month of us going out drinking every night.
"It's still rather early." he said, looking at me. "We could go and watch a movie if you'd like."
"Sure," I said, feeling it impolite to refuse, though I would have liked to get back to Yukari… she must be bored out of her mind. "What would you like to see?"
"It's my treat," he said, as we walked down the road leading to the theatre, "you can pick."
I froze again. I had a very small idea of what movies were on besides the ones that Yukari would spend hours telling me about and spoiling the plot for me before we went to see it. And most of the aforementioned movies were full of blood and gore, and as appealing as making my date think I was a blood-driven psycho was, I quite often had to grab Yukari's arm in fear during her gore-fest movies, something which I was perfectly comfortable doing with Yukari, but I didn't want to think about how Haru would react were I to do the same to him.
"I don't really know what's on." I admitted.
"I thought you said you went to the movies a lot?" he asked, giving me his puzzled look for the millionth time in one evening.
"I do, but I don't normally get any say in what we go to see, so I'm not sure what non-horror movies are showing at the moment."
"Does your friend not let you choose what movies you see?"
I paused. I hadn't really thought about it before. Going to the movies always consisted of just going to the theatre, Yukari telling me what we were going to see, and me paying for tickets. And, more often than not, popcorn. I hadn't really questioned the system before… I'd never thought about suggesting a different movie or telling her to pay for once, because it just wasn't the way things worked.
"I guess not." I said finally.
"Your friend doesn't sound like a nice person, and she certainly isn't deserving of a friendship with aperson like you." He commented as we reached the theatre. Despite the fact that it was intended as a compliment, I had to resist the sudden urge to hit him. Repeatedly. How dare he insult my best friend like that!
Sure, she could be violent, unappreciative, loud, bossy, self-centred, embarrassing, brash, reckless, socially unacceptable… but that all came with her being Yukari and I loved her for it.
And then I hit a realization that was so big I was amazed I stayed standing. I swayed on the spot and Haru grabbed me, obviously thinking I was about to pass out.
"Oh my God…" I said to myself, leaning into Haru to stop myself from keeling over. My heart was racing, pumping adrenaline though my blood and my eyes were wide in shock. "I can't believe this… I love her… I love her…"
It was then that Haru gave me a very weird look and I remembered where I was. Hoping my legs could support me, I pushed him away roughly and glared at him. "How dare you…" was all I got out before my need to see Yukari outweighed the need to kill my date.
I ran off up the road, adding another memory to the list – the time I realised I was completely in love with Yukari.
Yukari's apartment door opened after I'd hammered on it for the third time. It was her mother who answered it. "Is Yukari there?" I asked breathlessly - running about half a mile in a couple of minutes will do that to you, P.E. teacher or not.
She gave me an odd look. "I thought she was with you. That's what she told me."
"Okay then." I said, feeling very confused. "Thanks."
Trying to let my heartbeat return to normal and desperately trying to contain the thoughts swirling around in my head I unlocked my apartment door and went to flick on the light before I realized the light was already on. I blinked in confusion and then noticed that all the bedding that had previously been strewn all over the floor was put away neatly. Feeling completely confused, I sat down on the couch and massaged my temple. Was I dreaming?
"Nyamo!" came a shout from the kitchen. Yukari's head appeared in the doorway, looking delighted to see me. I suddenly recognized the feeling that I had always thought was happiness at seeing my best friend for what it really was.
"Y-Yukari? What are you doing here?" I asked weakly, trying to rationalize my thoughts and not pass out in the process.
"Um, well, I wasn't expecting you back this early, so I figured, y'know, it was partly my fault your apartment got in this state and I didn't have anything better to do than come over and clean it up for you."
'Not a nice person, my ass, Haru' I inwardly thought. "Yukari..."
"Hey, I can be nice every so often. Even to so-called best friends who abandon me to go on a date that their mom hopes will make the family rich."
"Watch it." I warned, "I don't want to have to undo all your hard work by throwing this cushion at your head."
Yukari laughed and came to sit on the couch with me. "So how'd it go? You're back really early…"
It was at times like this that Yukari's ability to tell when I was lying spelled my doom. How on earth was I going to get out of this alive?
"Well, we had dinner and it was really nice,"
"Where'd you go?"
"That one by the river, where we go all the time,"
"You went on a date with him there? That's our place!" Yukari said protectively. Then she quickly added, "So then what?"
"We had a walk down by the river… and then I came back here."
Yukari blinked. "You just randomly came back here?"
"He didn't drop you off or anything? No goodbye kiss, no escorting you to your apartment?"
"Well, I kinda ran off…"
I was dreading the reaction this would have, but Yukari did the predicable Yukari thing to do and burst out laughing. "You ran off? During a date? That's brilliant! You, my dear Nyamo, are the queen of stupid things to do while on a date!"
"I suppose you've been looking for someone to shift that title away from you for a while, haven't you?" I said somewhat bitterly, though it still felt like there were a great many butterflies in my stomach, mostly due to Yukari's close proximity to me. It wasn't helped when she put an arm around me.
"Aw, c'mon… why'd you run off? He didn't try anything, did he?" she asked, looking dangerous. "If he did, I'll kill the bastard-"
"No, nothing like that…"
"So what then?"
"Well, I didn't like him; not in that way, anyway."
"That's an excuse I'd give for running off in the middle of a date. You're way too polite to do that."
I looked all around the room for a means of escape. I couldn't think of any excuses, but I really didn't want to see Yukari's reaction if I told her the truth.
"I realized… that I like someone else." I mumbled under my breath.
There was a slight pause before the yell of "WHO?" invaded my ears.
Yukari was staring at me intently and I was strongly reminded of Haru in the restaurant. He said he'd been looking at me because he thought I was pretty. Yukari would often stare at me in a similar way when she was drunk… and, with her arm around me and her eyes fixed on mine, she was looking at me in a similar way now. I suddenly noticed how thick the air was.
"Yukari…" I started. This could end in a very, very, unimaginably horrible way.
"Can I ask why you're staring at me?"
There was a pause.
"Only if I can ask why you're staring at me."
I gasped slightly and felt my heart flutter. I moved, or she moved, or maybe we both moved, but somehow we ended up with our lips pressed together in a soft, gentle kiss.
It lasted only a few seconds and when we pulled apart my heart was racing and Yukari was grinning widely.
"I TOLD you you wouldn't last five minutes with that guy!"
"That's what you're concerned about?" I yelled. "You-"
I was cut off by another kiss, this one longer and with much more emotion; my eyes were closed in happiness and I put my hands on her back to draw her closer. I was gasping for breath when Yukari pulled away.
"Better?" she grinned.
"Much, thanks." I breathed, licking my lips.
"So come on… you can tell me; who was that 'someone else' you realized you liked?" Yukari said, the smile on her face so large it was surprising her face didn't split in half.
I sighed and stared into her eyes again, causing the expression on her face to become serious. Or as serious as Yukari could get. "Granted, a date with someone else wasn't the best time or place to realize it… but I love you, Yukari."
The smile returned with full force. "Took you long enough!" Yukari yelled, "I've been crazy about you for years!"
"Really?" I asked, feeling stupid.
"Of course! Why else would I become a teacher, if you hadn't?"
I paused, thinking about it. "…because you love children?" I grinned.
"Peh! And why else wouldn't I date, if I wasn't completely in love with you? And why would I purposely scare off anyone who tried hitting on you? And why else would I take you to see those dumb horror movies?"
"Eh?" I asked, confused. "I thought you loved them?"
Yukari very nearly blushed. Aside from when she was completely drunk, Yukari never blushed. "Sometimes, during the really scary, gory bits, you grab my arm, so-"
I burst out laughing. "Aw, you're such a hopeless romantic!"
"Shut it." Yukari glowered. She became less angry about it after another long kiss on the lips.
"Hm," I said thoughtfully. "It's still pretty early. Can I still change my mind about your invitation to go out with you tonight?"
"Sure!" Yukari said, grabbing me by the hand and leading me out of the apartment. "But only if I can completely rub it in that guy's face if we see him!"
-The (very fluffy)End