Disclaimer: I don't own any Azumanga Daioh characters.

Note: I'd forgotten that I'd written this one. It was done a long time ago. Other than that, I have no excuses.

Like a Glove

Ayumu stood in front of Yukari's desk. The classroom was empty and the lights were turned off. Her right hand was lifted in front of her with the palm facing down. Rhythmically she moved the hand back and forth, occasionally doing the same with her left.

Today had been a most distressing day for her. Everything had gone fine until PE when a volley ball had descended from the sky and smacked her right in the middle of her face. She had hit the ground hard, and though the pain had been sharp and immediate, the impact seemed to have knocked the reaction out of her. She had laid there focusing on the discomfort in her face and back, and for the first time in a life filled with painful moments, she had wondered if what she was experiencing was actually pain. She then began to wonder why it had to be pain that she felt, and if she had even felt it in the first place.

For the rest of the day she had pondered this matter. In Yukari's class she had dug the tip of her pencil into the back of her hand just hard enough to draw blood. Then, instead of bringing the pencil back, she had let it sit there in her skin and contemplated the uncomfortable sensation that emanated from it. Would someone else have felt the pain differently? Some time ago she had read a comic in which the characters seemed to derive intense pleasure from acts that she had considered to be rather cruel.

Now moving her hands through the air, she focused on the feel of the wind through her fingers. The space in which she moved her body was not a tangible substance, unlike her body itself which held a physical mass. Presently she knew that there was nothing in the air that she could see, smell, taste, or hear, but she could feel it. She needed only to be able to detect air with one sense in order to know that it existed on the same empirical level that she did, but it was the space, not the air, that concerned her. No two objects could occupy the same space at the same time, but what of sensations?

The classroom door opened and Nyamo peered inside. She was still dressed in her usual track suit and she carried a duffle bag over her shoulder. She scanned the room and then settled her gaze on Ayumu. When Ayumu didn't acknowledge her, she frowned and came inside.

"Hey," she said.

Ayumu stopped and looked at the woman. Her expression was one of such frustration and upset that Nyamo immediately dropped her bag and rushed to her.

"What's wrong?" Nyamo gripped Ayumu by the arms and checked her over for injuries. She had seen what had happened earlier with the volley ball, and though she had checked Ayumu then, she feared that she might have missed something or that something might have happened since then. Ayumu was a strange girl who was fresh fodder for local bullies, namely her own homeroom teacher.

Ayumu dropped her hands and replied, "It just occurred to me."

"What's that?"

"I can't confirm my own existence."

Nyamo stopped, but the concern didn't vanish from her face as it did from her mind. Her grip relaxed and she straightened. Maybe it had been silly to assume that Ayumu's problem had been a consequential one, but it was obvious that Ayumu was troubled by it. If the trouble was real then Nyamo knew better than to treat it as though it wasn't. One of the things that made Nyamo an excellent teacher was that she was willing to listen to just about anything, even if she didn't entirely understand.

"All right," she said and nodded slowly. "We can fix this. Tell me a little more."

"Come here a second."

Ayumu took the Coach by the hands and motioned for her to sit at one of the desks. Nyamo did so, seating herself sideways in the chair.

"See?" Ayumu said and ran her hands up along Nyamo's arms. "My eyes are telling me what you look like. My fingers are telling me what you feel like. But how do I really know? What if they're lying?"

Nyamo glanced at the hands as they came to her shoulders. "Umm…Because I'm right here?"

"But I don't know that. I'm a prisoner in my own head, and so are you. My only windows to the world are my five senses. How can I be sure that they're giving me accurate information? How do I know that your hair is black as I see it? How do I know that what I perceive to be black is also what you perceive to be black? Is my black your red?"

Nyamo blinked and tried hard to keep her expression passive. She had never been much of an intellectual, and talk of reality situations was as far over her head as that of quantum physics. "I don't really know."

"And supposing that I really am touching you, just who or what am I touching anyway? How do I know that you're Couch Kurosawa? If I was faced with a hundred other women like you, how would I be able to pin point who you are? Who are you that no one else can be?"

"What do you mean by that? There's only one of me, and no one else can be me."

Ayumu straightened. "But why is that? Who are you? Who is Ms. Kurosawa? Is she a medium-build woman with short dark hair and dark eyes? Isn't that most Japanese women? Is that to say that all medium-build women with short hair who are good at sports are Nyamo?"

"Well...What about this?"

Nyamo lifted her shirt an inch and pushed down the top edge of her pants. Revealed just below the curve of her hip bone was a small tattoo of an orange cat with the name 'Michiko' underneath.

Ayumu looked at the tattoo and shook her head.

"It wouldn't be impossible for someone else to go out and get that same tattoo in the exact location."

"I guess, but I doubt that anyone would," Nyamo muttered bitterly.

Ayumu sighed and placed her hands to the sides of Nyamo's face. She touched their foreheads together and looked at the teacher with utmost sincerity. Nyamo went wide-eyed and froze in her seat. Her body went rigid and her hands tightened against the desk and the back of the chair.

Ayumu spoke softly. "Even if there were another woman who looked exactly like you and did everything like you, you said so yourself that she couldn't be you. You're in there somewhere, Ms. Kurosawa. I believe in you. Maybe some day we'll be able to find each other."

At that moment, the door to the classroom slid open and Yukari, lesson book in one hand and purse in the other, stood on the other side. She caught sight of the two and her grin faded into a blank expression.

Nyamo and Ayumu looked at Yukari and silence fell into the area.

The bag dropped from Yukari's hand as something began to build inside of her. It started small and unseen, nothing but a tickling sensation at the back of her neck. From there it crept around her throat and down into the dark pit of her chest where it slowly began to explode. The resulting energy of the blast went directly to her brain and attacked the center of muscle control, causing her hands to roll her lesson book into a tight cylinder. The temperature in the room dropped as everything happy and good in the area took refuge in the lives of others far away.

Nyamo shot up from her seat.

"Yukari," she exclaimed and held her hands away from her body as though to prove that she hadn't touched anything. "I was just-"

Yukari materialized before the other woman, her eyes white and glaring. "I know what you were doing, you pervert!"

"This isn't what it-"

Yukari's left eye twitched. The lesson book burst into flames and she slapped Nyamo over the head with it. "I should kill you where you stand! I always knew you were up to something, but with Osaka?"

Nyamo rubbed her head and reached for the book. "Would you just-"

"And you!" Yukari pointed the book at Ayumu who backed away slowly. "You little trollop! What ever made you think that Nyamo would be even slightly interested in you when she-"

"That's enough!" Nyamo clamped a hand over Yukari's mouth and grabbed her around the waist. The book dropped and Yukari fought the grip, trying to grasp Nyamo's hands and free her mouth. In the midst of it, Nyamo returned her attention Ayumu.

"I'm sorry," she said over Yukari's shoulder. "I wish I could help, but I don't know. Maybe there's no answer at all."

Ayumu had backed against the window. Her previous thoughts were set aside for the moment as her concern now turned to her own wellbeing. Even if pain didn't exist in the reality she sought to view, it still existed in the one she had to live in.

At last Nyamo hoisted Yukari up over her shoulder and carried her from the room. Yukari kicked her legs and grabbed one hand at Nyamo's jacket while reaching her other towards Ayumu.

"This isn't over," she shouted. "Tomorrow's Thursday, and you know what that means? Death for Osaka day, that's what! I'm gonna skin you and make your meat into jerky and sell it at the culture festival! And then I'm going to buy a sympathy card with the money and send to it your mom to tell her what a delicious daughter she had! And then I'm going to market your name as its own brand of meat with a motto about how everyone gets a piece, even people who already have perfectly good meat at home! And then when those people find out that your meat isn't as good as the meat they already have, I'm going to laugh and tell them that's what they get for trusting Osaka!" Nyamo left the room but Yukari grabbed onto the doorframe and held on. "They'll all want to go back to the meat that they had, but they won't deserve their meat! They should have known quality when they saw it and not been fooled by some cheap byproduct floozy!"

Nyamo yanked Yukari away and the door slid shut. Ayumu listened as the sound of cursing got fainter and fainter. It wasn't until the sound faded completely that she straightened and brushed her hands against the front of her skirt. She turned and gazed out the window, watching the setting sun as her heart rate returned to normal.

At that moment, she was sure that she was feeling something that she identified as relief. She couldn't detect the sensation with any of her senses, but she was sure that it was there just as the fear had been there minutes before.

She grinned. She couldn't prove the existence of the physical world, but perhaps Nyamo was right. Maybe there was no answer that she could reach, and maybe it wasn't all that important anyways. She experienced all sorts of things and her experience of them was reality enough. That she experienced them made them into reality.

Her grin disappeared and she leaned her forehead to the glass. The reality that she experienced wasn't the one she was looking for. That wasn't reality at all. It was only what her mind was telling her, and her mind was no better than any of her senses. Her mind was the thing that controlled the senses in the first place. The only way that she would be able to experience true reality was to somehow escape from her mind.

She straightened. In the school yard below, she could see Nyamo just emerging from the building. Nyamo was dragging Yukari by the hand before Yukari tore herself free. Nyamo turned and shouted something, and Yukari shouted back. Nyamo waved her arms and shouted again, and Yukari again shouted back. This continued for several minutes until Nyamo pointed at Yukari and said something, and Yukari responded by slapping her hard across the face. Nyamo stopped and touched her hand to her cheek. Yukari started back towards the building, but Nyamo rushed after her and grabbed her by the arm. Yukari yanked away. Nyamo grabbed her again, this time by both arms. At last Yukari relented, and together the two teachers made their way from the yard.

Ayumu frowned. Was it really possible for two sensations to occupy the same emotional space? Being as she was in her current state, it was something that she would never be able to understand. There was nothing wrong with that, but then again there was something inherently wrong with it.

Pausing, she gently unlatched the window and eased it open.

Note: Blah. The glove theory.