A/N-- This was written by request for Kryssa's Flute, who's choice couldn't have been more fun to write out. To my readers, do please review. I love reviews. This is rated T to be safe, though I have my doubts about whether it needs to be.
To Sayosi, I hope you can find time to beta this too. I probably should have told you I planned to write it tonight, but the thing is, I didn't know I'd choose this time to do it. -rubs head- So.
To Kryssa's Flute- It's been fifteen days since you asked for it, and I've done my best. I hope you enjoy what I've done with your request, and that you find it at least mildly satisfying. This is post-HiME, or else I doubt it would have worked as well.
Disclaimer- I don't own Mai HiME.
It was a perfectly normal day on the campus of Fuuka Gakuen. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, Natsuki had left campus to eat lunch with Shizuru at the University again (which was enough to make everyone suspect lunch wasn't the only thing happening), Nao had just finished traumatizing yet another person who'd come to the church, and Chie had gleefully taken enough pictures to make a story out of it. Akira, blissfully unaware of the latter two, was eating her lunch peacefully enough in a relatively secluded spot, trying very hard to convince herself she wasn't annoyed that Takumi hadn't joined her yet.
She knew he had to talk with his teachers to be sure he'd done all the work he'd missed during his operation and the recuperation following it, but she still didn't like not knowing where he was at all times. The only thing keeping her from following him around campus was that the girl's uniform was not at all suited for jumping from tree to tree in, and she had no wish to bring mortification upon herself. So, she was stuck eating the lunch he'd made her and wishing he'd come back soon.
She grumbled, took another bite of her food –it really was good–, and cast around for something to distract her. That something came in the form of Harada Chie, who came sprinting out of the grove of trees to her left. Startled, Akira almost jumped, then settled down and lifted her chopsticks to her mouth again before being interrupted again by Senou Aoi appearing the same way, apparently hot on Chie's heels. They looked excited about something, and she was barely able to register the fact that they'd come before they disappeared again, through a pair of bushes and a flower bed. Briefly wondering if the afro-man would be mad, she allowed herself to be vaguely curious about the scoop the two gossip-hounds had picked up this time.
Just when she thought it would be safe to return to her lunch, Nao shot after them, destroying all hope for the poor, mauled flower bed, and barreled across the path in front of her with a scowl on her face. This was enough to make Akira think something was definitely up, and she was right. Not thirty seconds later, which gave her enough time to take another bite of her food, Takumi's sister ran through the now unrecognizable flowers and showed no signs of stopping. That did it for Akira.
Almost seeming to skid to a stop, Mai turned around with an utterly confused look before recognizing Akira.
"Oh, Akira! I'm in a bit of a hurry right now…"
"I noticed," Akira said dryly. "What's the occasion?"
The other girl paused, apparently wondering whether or not to tell her, before relenting. "Takumi was talking with Ishigami-sensei before lunch break, and Chie says she heard from a reliable source that they're going back to the art room."
Well, that wasn't anything new. Takumi was always discussing things with teachers these days. "What's so exciting about that?"
At this, Mai's face changed into a determined grimace. "Another source heard from another source that Ishigami-sensei wants Takumi to model for him. Again."
Akira's next bite of food, which had been making its way languorously towards her mouth, dropped into her lap with a plot. At any other time this would have caused her a certain amount of annoyance, but…
Alarm bells were ringing in her head, and she stared blankly before blinking and stating matter-of-factly, "He can't do that."
"Well," said Mai with a sort of resigned but annoyed feel to her voice, "he thinks he can, and he is. At least, we think he is. So we're going to find out." She took off again after that, leaving Akira with some very confused thoughts. It was only a few seconds, though, before the ninja was racing after her.
This was wrong. Very, very wrong. Takumi was not allowed to be doing this, because…because… She felt there were several reasons why, and that she'd think of them soon. Thinking was taking some effort though, and she stopped that train of thought altogether when she heard a triumphant shout from up ahead. Running faster, she caught up to the small group, who were examining an open window that led into the room adjacent to the art classroom.
"It'll be faster through here," Chie was saying.
"But it looks like a tight fit…," Mai whined.
"We want to get there before they do, right?" Aoi reasoned.
There was no arguing with that, so, after some debating, it was decided that Nao, as the smallest, would go first. Akira would have volunteered if she weren't so busy trying not to look as though she cared what was happening.
After groaning, snapping, and several pushes in the back from Chie and Aoi, Nao made it through. She was then appointed as the one who would pull people through to make things easier. The effectiveness of that could be debated, since that very possibly made it harder. It might not have if it had been anyone else, but Nao was Nao. As was made evident from the remarks Chie was making as she disappeared bit by bit through the window.
"Oi, not the hair. Not the hair! Don't pull so hard, Nao-chan, you'll- Owww…"
When Chie finally made it through, she helped Aoi, telling Nao to 'stand back and try not to pull Aoi's hair out.' Watching Aoi's feet slide through the window, Akira wondered if it might not have been faster to take the usual route after all. But no, it would be crowded with students it this time of day. It was too hot for normal students to be outside. Still, Takumi liked the heat, so she did too.
As Mai finally made it through, Akira strode up and slipped into the building with an ease borne of having a lot of practice getting into tight places. The others looked on with undisguised envy, and she was very, very grateful her skirt had stayed in place.
The procession made their way into the hall, looking both ways before scurrying into the next room over and gathering in the middle. There was no one there yet, and they looked around aimlessly for a few moments before the sound of voices came through under the door, one very enthusiastic, the other nervous. Mai panicked, whirling around before trying to rush out the door. Grabbing her by the edge of her shirt, Chie hauled her into the supply closet, Aoi, Nao, and herself following them.
Her face jammed against the smooth wood of the door, Akira heard a squeak as something, probably an elbow, hit Mai. There was a rustling as people shifted, their clothes rubbing against all sorts of surfaces before setting down. Given the relatively small size of the closet, their positions were like something out of a very odd game of Twister. If Akira had been able to turn her head around, and if there had been enough light in the closet, the first thing she would have noticed would be Nao, pressed against the wall where the brushes sat, hands keeping herself from getting the air knocked out of her by the wooden rows.
The one keeping her against the wall was Aoi, or more accurately Aoi's back, as she'd fallen backwards as a result of running into a closet without looking, and had kept her position thanks to Nao. Not to mention Chie, who was quite happily being smothered by Aoi's chest. Mai had been forced into the corner opposite of Akira, and was listening at the door with a look of intense concentration of her face.
Meanwhile, the door to the art classroom had opened, and there was a creaking noise Akira recognized as a door that desperately needed oiling. Her eyes adjusting to the darkness, Akira realised there were several thin bars on the door that she assumed were for ventilation, which allowed her a view, however distorted, of the room. Mai, noticing the same thing, maneuvered herself as close to Akira as possible, straining to gaze through the small bars.
The view they got was of Ishigami arranging the sheets on the bed around Takumi, who sat down with a worried smile and a glance at the door that told Akira he was having second thoughts about agreeing to this. Frowning, she leaned as close as she was able without forever damaging her nose in time to hear, "Just relax; it won't be all that bad. I don't bite."
"Is he sure about that?" Chie muttered, drawing a muffled laugh from Aoi. The vibrations forced a responding groan from Nao, who was still struggling to support Aoi's weight.
"Senou, you idiot… You're heavier when you move…"
"Are you calling me fat?"
"What if I am?"
Mai wriggled a hand free to slap whoever was closest, which happened to be Chie. Silenced for the time being, the group listened attentively as Ishigami set his canvas up, humming in short bursts as he did so. He motioned to Takumi, who hesitated before slipping his shirt off. Mai and Akira gasped in unison, which set off another chain reaction
"Wait, what's happening now?" That eager voice could only be Chie, though still muffled.
"Did he bite after all?" Who else could that be but Nao?
Aoi just waited with baited breath, perhaps because she didn't want Nao to snap at her again. It was Mai who answered, in a tone that demanded no further comments, "He just…just took his shirt off."
Tone or no tone, there was no stopping the flow of exclamations, quietly uttered as they were.
"I can't believe I can't take pictures of this…"
"The nun's going to be heartbroken when she finds out her fiancée's into this sort of thing."
Akira felt that if Mai could have slapped a hand over Aoi's mouth, kicked Chie in the shin, and glared at Nao, she would have. Luckily for them, there was nowhere near enough space for the irate girl to do any of those. Still, if Akira had had the opportunity, she would have done it for Mai's sake. No other reason.
Her thoughts were abruptly cut off when she heard, "Alright, your motivation is this. The love of your life has just accepted your offer to marry you. You're overjoyed, overwhelmed, and there's a sparkle in your eye. Yes, that's it! A bit more sparkle."
"What the hell is he on about?" Nao asked no one in particular. Akira thought that summed it up rather nicely. In fact, she was of the opinion she'd like to gag the man, tie him up, and leave him in the corner. Much the way Nao does, part of her brain reminded her cheerfully. She told it to shut up, only to take it back only seconds later when that infuriating man –she liked him less and less every minute– suggested Takumi remove his pants as well, but that he was welcome to keep his boxers on.
Akira wanted to shout, but all that came out was a high-pitched squeak, immediately followed by a face that she felt could have easily melted the Polar Ice Caps. Suddenly, she was regretting her decision to be next to the window-of-sorts. She could tell Mai felt that way too, from her angrily bit out, "I can't believe this," accompanied by an attempt to fling herself from the supply closet. She was stopped in the nick of time by Aoi, who had the most space for her hands, grabbing her arm and digging her nails in. None of them were especially keen on being caught snooping in a supply closet, of all places.
"What now?" Nao asked with a rare note of excitement in her voice.
Thinking it best not to let Mai answer this one, Akira tried to. 'He took his pants off,' was what she'd planned to say, sounding perfectly composed. What came out was another squeak, then a kind of croak.
"Hey, are you guys alright?" That was Chie, who actually sounded worried. It was Mai who squeaked this time, before making a low noise in her throat that Akira would have said was a growl if she hadn't known better and making another bid for the door handle. Chie stopped her, with an outstretched hand that just brushed the back of Mai's neck. That was enough though, and the redhead settled down.
With silence being the only answer the ones without the luck to be watching received, mild concern was replaced by wild speculation.
"Did he kiss him?"
And here she'd thought Aoi had a relatively level head.
"Don't be silly Aoi, he's probably just attempting to seduce him."
Chie again. Thinking that was the worst of it, she was sorely mistaken. Nao chimed in with, "That boy's not leaving this room with his virginity intact. It's almost a pity."
For Akira and Mai, that was the last straw. Both of them leapt for the doorknob at the same time, their hands scrambling to turn it. Akira got there first, and the next few moments were squeaks and hits that would surely cause bruising, then blinding light and several groans as people fell in various positions on the floor. And just when she thought things couldn't possibly be worse…
Oh hell. "Uh, Takumi, we were…"
Several incoherent explanations later, Akira, Mai, Chie, Aoi, and Nao were out of the room and in the hallway.
"Well," said Nao, "that could have gone better."
"Why were you here anyway?" Mai wanted to know.
"We were taking pictures of her in the church, and when my source gave me the news she said she'd give anything to leave before the nun came back and saw what she'd done to the poor kid," was Chie's reply. Akira wanted to ask, then changed her mind. Some things were best left unsaid.
The group looked everywhere but at each other for a bit, then all mumbled reasons for leaving at the same time and sped in different directions. Akira retreated to her abandoned lunch, which had, surprisingly, been left untouched by the hordes of ants patrolling the grounds. Resuming her methodical chopsticks-to-food-to-mouth routine, she was so distracted she didn't notice Takumi's presense until he sat beside her, peering into her face.
She yelped, annoyed at being caught off guard. Immediately after, she looked away, feeling embarrassed for several very good reasons.
"Why'd you do it?"
Bluntly put, no mucking around first. The problem was, she knew exactly why she'd done it. "I…wanted to make sure you'd be alright."
He seemed almost disappointed by her answer. "Akira… You know, with this operation, I can look after myself now. I don't need you to look out for me all the time."
She knew that, and that was the problem. "That's… But what if something happened? What if you were in trouble and I couldn't…"
His gaze softened, but there was still a steel undertone in his voice as he said, "Honestly, I can take care of myself. I don't want to depend on you so much. So…let me do things by myself, okay?"
But she didn't like that, not at all. "But then…you'll…"
"I won't do anything stupid, I promise."
That wasn't why, but it would do for now. Maybe…maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Adopting a gruff tone, she offered a hand solemnly. "Shake on it."
Amused but willing, he took her hand and squeezed it. "Happy now?" he asked, lightly teasing. She refused to answer that, but a smile snuck past her somehow and took up residence on her face. If he noticed, he didn't say anything, save for, "You know, they say 'What goes around, comes around'."
She didn't believe in that stuff, and she lost no time in letting him know. And so they sat in companionable silence for the last few minutes of their break before getting up and starting back towards the building. They'd made it to the entrance before Ishigami came running out, stopping just in front of them. Making to move past him, she was appalled to see him keeping pace with her.
"Ah, Akira-san, if I could have a word…?"
She turned and stared at him, wasting no time with formalities. "Yes?"
"In my room, I couldn't help noticing, your skirt…"
Was this some kind of joke? Beginning to edge away, she was halted by a certain morbid curiousity at the glint in his eye.
"You have wonderful legs… Would you consent to having a portrait done?"
Resisting the urge to bang her head repeatedly against the wall and scream, Akira wondered if there wasn't some stock in what Takumi had said after all.