Notes: This was written before Yuki/Machi was canon. It was intended as a somewhat sad take on the ship, not to bash it. There is no need to come crusading to the ship's defense. I know it's canon now. I really do, I swear. And I'm cool with that.

She could never really see herself as his girlfriend or his lover—not seriously, anyway. Almost morbidly, she would imagine their encounters; his cliched platitudes and her cliched gratitudes; until stripped of personality, self-awareness and by necessity, clothing, they might even fuck. That word, even unuttered in her mind, excites her, but she could never really imagine the semantics of it happening in the real world. Would she spread her legs for him upon a marital bed, and have him mount her, all caresses and tenderness she is too far gone to appreciate? Or would they heave against each other like animals in some cramped and semi-public space, like so many others their age? Would she like it? Would she get pregnant? Would she like to get pregnant?

Forward thinking, she knows, for someone who has not received so much as a kiss or an "I like you" from the object of her exploratory fantasies. But this, this, this thing that they are doing, where she stumbles on her words, and he says he would like to see her again—isn't this just a prelude to that? And isn't it irresponsible to walk down a path without even considering what might lie just a little bit down the road?

Irresponsible. That's a better word than fuck, and one she finds herself having a harder time seeing herself partaking of.

If she'd been a different sort of girl to begin with, she might consider competing. After all, that's what a girl must do to land a prince like him, right? To win the boy that is every girl in the school's desire, one must go about the art of seduction ruthlessly. Maybe she ought to do something with her hair. Buy a better bra, be more fastidious, be charming and clever and attractive and—

But she's done all that. And she knows she isn't cut out for it. All her noble attempts to win her father's love (and money) have bought her no more than a little bit of privacy to make her life a mess in.

So she pictures it. Not to debase him. She has no prurient interest in Souma Yuki, as she has no prurient interest in anyone. To her, it is as shocking and base an image as the drawing of apes standing up and becoming men must have been to the Fundamentalists it challenged. What lies beneath the clothes we so dutifully mask ourselves in every day? What do we look like naked? What lies beneath the facade of our personas we project in polite society? Though the Yuki in her mind's eye has fucked her in every position known to man, would she even like him once that thin veneer was gone? She examines their fictitious copulations with clinical scrutiny.

What would she think of herself, laying herself bare to hurt and penetration, allowing unnatural things in like laughter and silliness and foolish, foolish hope, there on that marital bed or in that broom closet, or in the backseat of a Camero? Is it even possible to hate herself more than she already does, or does the danger lie in caring for herself, and actually being affected by her own fate?

Things will stay as they are, that she knows. Their love is more appropriate that way. She can't really see them walking hand in hand, discussing trite things in loud, oblivious voices. She tries but fails to imagine their sex life, their platonic life, and how they would relate to their mutual friends. They are other people in those visions, people she has no interest in becoming one of. She would do it all wrong anyway.

Theirs is a romance of a leaf caught in the wind, the dust of a broken stick of chalk, and footsteps made in snow that never actually fell.