New fic from me; sorry it's taking me so long to churn these out... I can only hope it's worth the wait.
Massive thanks to Caroline for checking this one through for me. You're awesome.
"Ha!" Tomo shouted victoriously, all but exploding into class 3-D's homeroom. "I beat her again!"
Yomi – and half the class – stared at her friend. "What are you talking about?"
"I beat Yukari in again. Second time this week!" She happily gave the victory sign to the people standing around her; her trademark group of five friends.
"But Miss Yukari is normally at least five minutes late for class anyway." Chiyo pointed out.
"Chiyo-chan's right." Kagura agreed, shaking her head. "That's not really something to be proud of."
"Well what've you done today to make you feel like you've accomplished something?"
"Durin' breakfast I managed ta-" Osaka's thrilling tale of cereal was cut off by Yomi.
"Just because beating the teacher into school one morning a week is a huge achievement for you, Tomo, it doesn't mean that-"
"Can you all sit in your seats and quiet down, please?" came a new voice from the sliding door. As a non-screaming authority voice was almost unheard of during their homeroom classes, every head turned to face a small woman with glasses and blonde hair holding the class register. The woman walked over to Yukari's desk, introduced herself as Miss Shinonome and commenced roll call.
"Where's Yukari?" Tomo hissed across to Yomi.
Her bespectacled friend glared. "How do you expect me to know?"
"Feh. You think you know everything." She paused for a moment to let her friend contemplate hitting her and then shouted out to the substitute teacher, "Where's Yukari?"
The teacher paused in the middle of Chihiro's name and looked up. Tomo was sitting in the middle of the classroom; hand in the air, cheeky grin plastered on her face.
"Um," she paused, not sure how to react to the outburst. "Miss Tanizaki is unwell today. I'll be taking over her English classes as well as homeroom."
Miss Shinonome managed to get a "here!" from Chihiro and call the name of a miscellaneous guy Tomo never interacted with before the wildcat interrupted her again.
"What's she sick with? When's she gonna be back?"
The teacher looked less annoyed and more unsure of herself. Yomi imagined that the poor teacher was going to have a difficult day ahead of her.
"I-I wasn't told. She's just ill and can't be here today."
"Fine, fine." Tomo said, waving a hand dismissively and leaning back in her chair.
The teacher finished with roll call, with more stutterings than before.
"Gym! I tell ya, I've got energy to burn this morning!" Tomo shouted happily as the six girls changed into their shirts and gym shorts in the changing room of the school's large gymnasium.
"Me too!" Chiyo cheered. "I'm going to do really well this lesson! Even if it's dodgeball!"
"Ah, I'd love it if it was dodgeball…" Tomo sighed, staring wistfully at the back of the younger girl's head as they entered the gym.
"I hope it's basketball." Kagura said, "That or tennis."
Yomi never finished her sentence because the six girls came to an absolute dead stop when they saw who was teaching the lesson.
In the place of their normal teacher, Miss Minamo "Nyamo" Kurosawa, stood a man with hollow cheeks, small, round reflective glasses and a wide-open mouth.
"What are you doing here?" Tomo and Kagura shouted at the same time. Yomi looked around the gym to see similar expressions of distaste from their classmates – or in Kaorin's case, a look of horror while she hid behind Chihiro.
"I'm teaching you girls gym!" Mr Kimura said, sounding delighted in his voice, but his facial expression not changing.
"Why? Where's Coach?" Kagura demanded.
"Miss Kurosawa is absent today. I don't have a lesson first period, so I volunteered to teach you all!"
"I'll bet you did." Yomi muttered as Tomo yelled something about "You sick freak!"
Unperturbed - perhaps encouraged - by Tomo's comment, the creepy classics teacher proceeded to walk around the class, telling the girls to tuck their shirts into their shorts. Some did, others refused; Kaorin squeaked.
"I think it's best to start with some stretches. Pull those muscles as tight as you can… be sure to build up some sweat…"
"I'm gonna kill Nyamo when she gets back." Tomo swore. Her taller best friend silently agreed.
"But sir! I ain't no good at strechin'!" Osaka protested softly, demonstrating her inflexibility by bending down and just reaching her knees.
"Don't encourage him, Osaka." Yomi warned. It was going to be a long lesson.
By the time lunch rolled around, all the girls were exhausted. Two hours of putting up with gym taught by the lecherous classics teacher was bad enough, but it was followed by a double period of English – which was always 'interesting'; whether this was good or bad depended largely on Yukari's mood at the time – but was the dullest lesson imaginable with the shy, slightly incompetent teacher that had done roll call with them that morning.
Tomo had done everyone (the teacher especially) a favor by sending herself out of the classroom when she couldn't take any more, but in doing so, removed the only thing stopping the whole class becoming mind-numbingly bored.
"Where the hell," Tomo took a bite of Yomi's lunch, "are they?"
Kagura gobbled down her food while Sakaki was silently amazed she didn't have digestion problems, "I don't know, but I wish they'd come back!"
Chiyo nodded in agreement. "Miss Yukari's lessons are much more interesting. And I didn't understand the purpose of some of those techniques Mr Kimura taught us."
"You don't want to." Yomi inwardly shuddered.
"They can't both be ill!" Tomo exclaimed.
Yomi shrugged. "Sure they can. Remember when you had the chicken pox and came straight over to my house to complain? And then I got them a week later?"
Tomo laughed at the memory. "Yeah. You have no idea how satisfying it was telling you not to scratch."
Yomi resisted the urge to smack her friend and said "It's probably just a coincidence."
"But aren't Miss Kurosawa an' Miss Yukari normally ill on exactly tha same days?" Osaka asked.
"Ya know… when one's off sick, tha otha' one's normally off, too."
"They are?" Kagura asked, flicking her mind back.
"You're right!" Tomo exclaimed. "Whenever Yukari's not in for homeroom, we always have a sub for gym, too!"
"So what?" Yomi asked, startled by Tomo's outburst.
"It means… it means that…" frustrated that she couldn't think of anything, she rounded on the girl next to her. "Kagura, what does it mean?"
"Um…" the athlete racked her brains, knowing the insults Tomo would throw her way if she couldn't come up with a reason. "Maybe Yukari's ill with something and Coach is just taking care of her?"
"But she wouldn't need to miss all day for that; she'd only need to visit her at lunch or something." Yomi reasoned. "Miss Kurosawa wouldn't make her students suffer Kimura unless it was something really serious."
"You don't think that Miss Yukari is in hospital or something?" Chiyo looked panicked.
"Nah." Tomo said, waving a hand that was far too indifferent to ease the younger girl's fears.
"If she was, that substitute teacher we had earlier would have told us, I'm sure" Sakaki told her gently.
"Maybe they're both drunk from… last night or something?" Kagura suggested. Yukari's love of all things alcoholic was no big secret, and since the 'incident' at Chiyo's summer house, the students were all more than aware of how poorly Minamo could hold her liquor.
"Miss Kurosawa is responsible enough not to go drinking on a schoolnight, though." Chiyo pointed out.
"I know!" Tomo exclaimed. Yomi groaned. "Maybe they've run off together!"
"Or they're out on a date!"
Yomi sighed, lightly massaging her temples. "Look. Firstly, people go on dates in the evening, not during school hours, and secondly, our teachers aren't dating!"
"What makes ya say that?" Osaka asked, curiously. Kagura and Tomo were staring expectantly, too.
"The she-beast here used to practice tying neckties using me as her guinea pig!"
"You sure weren't alone last summer."
"Was it a date?" "…Well, kinda."
"…I just don't think they are, okay?" Yomi answered, blushing perhaps a bit too much for her answer to be wholly believable.
"Mmm..." Yukari shifted in the bed, her head on Minamo's expensive import pillow.
"I still can't believe you talked me into this." Minamo sighed, turning to face the other teacher.
Yukari chuckled. "I didn't hear you complaining earlier."
"Yes you did; it took a good forty minutes for you to talk me into calling in sick."
"But wasn't it totally worth it?"
Minamo let out a sigh. "It is right now… but I'm sure when I have to deal with catching up with all the marking I missed today I'll be cursing you."
Yukari hadn't come down enough to come up with a decent response and just laughed.
"Don't you think that someone at school must have noticed that practically the only time we have days off, we have them off together?" Minamo asked.
Yukari turned over a little more to face her. "Why would anyone notice that? They must have no life if all they can worry about is which teachers have time off at the same time as other teachers."
"I guess you're right." The gym teacher sighed, relaxing a little.
"We should do this more often." Yukari had a happy-sleepy smile that was too adorable for Minamo to resist and she was about to agree before she was struck by a sudden thought.
"Oh God." She sat up in bed, making Yukari frown because she was letting cold air in. "What if they let Kimura teach my gym class again?"
"So what? It meant you didn't have to."
"No, I'm serious; my class will hate me forever."
"Tell 'em you had a very good reason for being off." The English teacher mumbled into the pillow, slinging an arm around Minamo's bare waist and pulling her back down, kissing her briefly. "The best reason in the world."