Title: Winter Month
Pairing(s)
: Mio/Ritsu, inevitably
Rating
: T (Just a mention of sex really shouldn't make this T into an M, right? 'cause I'm not making this M and then turn it back to T—that's just plain empty. *gets shot for bad pun(s)*)
Summary
: She goes to university and, unlike her classmates, she's not looking for a relationship at the moment. That's what Mio tells herself every day.
Notes
: I kinda told myself I wouldn't attempt in writing a one-shot like this…but damnit, Mitsu angst is quite delicious. So here's the result.

ooooo

"Hey, do you think those two are, like, together?"

"What! Really? Are they seriously?"

"Yeah, seriously—no, of course I don't know! That's why I'm asking you."

Mio feels two pairs of eyes stare at the back of her head and she doesn't turn around to clarify.

"…I don't think so … Don't you think she'd have a boyfriend already? I mean, look at her!"

"I never see her hang around with any guys, though."

"Great! Lemme talk to her then."

Mio quickly finishes her cup of tea and leaves the café with as much dignity and elegance as possible.

She goes to university and, unlike her classmates, she's not looking for a relationship at the moment.

That's what she tells herself every day.

ooo

Ritsu slithers into her room and flops onto her bed. "So how was your day, Mio?" she asks to the pillow.

Mio checks the time and leans back, stressing the backrest of her chair, to see what Ritsu is actually doing. She's eying the TV. "It's only 10 a.m.," Mio remarks as she leaves her seat. "And you skipped the morning lecture, didn't you?"

"Uh huh. It's so boring."

Mio pulls out a DVD and opens its case. "Don't tell me you made Shizuka say 'here' for you again," she says, rolling her eyes.

Ritsu lifts her head up and supports herself with her arms. "She doesn't mind though!"

Mio starts up the TV and sits back, next to Ritsu, and picks up a pillow to snuggle with. "Did you bribe her?"

Ritsu throws her a dark look. "No!"

"Really?"

"Yeah! She loves that class. I think she has a thing for the lecturer."

"Did you tell her that?"

"Yeah, I did. And…" Ritsu goes pink and wretches her eyes towards the TV.

Mio blinks. "And?" she prompts.

"Nothing! It's nothing!"

Mio raises an eyebrow but doesn't pursue further. She reaches for the remote and chooses the episode they left off.

"Hey," Ritsu says.

"Hm?"

"There's another mixer tonight. Wanna come?"

Mio sighs. "Was that the condition for letting you skip today?"

"Of course not!"

Mio stares at Ritsu.

"Maybe a bit," Ritsu adds.

The stare continues.

"Okay, it was!" Ritsu relents. "Now c'mon, come along and keep me company."

Mio sighs again but smiles. "Alright."

ooo

This is the seventh mixer they're going to. As Mio predicted, it starts off awkwardly and ends—well, Mio doesn't know how it officially ended, because she and Ritsu left early, having decided it's just going to end as a disaster.

After explaining to Shizuka about Mio's sudden, terrible headache—"You should really check that out, Mio-san, has there ever been a time I met you headache-free?"—Ritsu leads Mio outside and mutters apologies over her shoulder.

Mio cringes when the boy she's been chatting to for the previous several minutes calls out. Mio and Ritsu turn around and watch him sprint up to them.

"Hey—Akiyama-san, was it?—do you mind if we shared emails?"

Mio manages an apologetic smile but doesn't answer. Ritsu does it for her. "She's not interested."

The boy frowns. "I'd like to hear the words come from Akiyama-san herself."

"…Sorry," Mio says, wishing the earth would swallow her whole right there, "I only came here to keep her company."

The boy's eyebrows rise. "Oh," he says.

Before Mio can explain further, Ritsu swings her around and walks her out of the establishment.

Mio ignores Shizuka's yell.

"I heard sex gets rid of headaches, Mio-san!"

ooo

Mio ignores but knows what people think. She and Ritsu go to mixers together, they sit next to each other, drink together, and they leave early—without a boy attached to their hip—together. Whilst she doesn't blame them for the (wrong) assumption, she wishes they'd figure it out themselves that it's incorrect.

She's a bit daunted by the fact that her own friends are also a part of the assuming crowd, and would often leave the two alone with flimsy excuses such as "Oh, my sister's calling me," or, "Oh, I just remembered what I'm supposed to do, please excuse me".

After Mio pulls each to the side and corrects them that it isn't like that—"We're just best friends"—and it doesn't change a thing. She passes it off as another inside joke they share. It's not as if the joke's lined with derogatory tones—Yui often calls Azusa her "wife" and vice versa and they obviously had—or have—boyfriends. Yes, Mio decides after she corrects Yui for the umpteenth time that she and Ritsu were not playing footsies under the table, Mio shouldn't worry about them at all. They know the truth. They're just teasing as friends do.

On the other hand, Mio ponders, it really does help in keeping the boys away. She's already having trouble with the incessant essays her lecturers produce on a weekly basis, the nerve-wracking sessions she suffers before each gig, and Ritsu's constant badgering, "There's always a downside to a friendship". Having boy problems on her already full plate would not do. Seeing how Azusa has to deal with them every other month sends her the red flag—and like the good, rule-obedient girl she is, she's following it.

But really, she's in university and she's not looking for a relationship. Ritsu, she assumes, is enjoying her single life. And Mio's enjoying hers, too.

The reason's quite simple.

ooo

Please don't say "You are lazy"
'cause it's seriously crazy

There are thirty semi-familiar faces tonight.

They're at the bar that they frequent. They're performing, Mio thinks in her subconscious as she belts out the lyrics, and it's a good night.

She grins easily to the guitarists at her sides. She looks over her shoulder to the keyboardist and the grin stays. She stares at the drummer and is proud on how she's keeping the beat and still looks as if she's having the time of her life.

No. All five of them are having the time of their lives, and from the way their audience is jumping and screaming and encouraging them, they're not alone.

The song finishes a bit sooner than Mio likes but she would never admit it. She climbs down from the platform and gets engulfed instantly by several dedicated fans. After she tells them her appreciation many times, Mio makes her way to Ritsu—who is also crowded with her respective fans—and shares a sympathetic smile with her. Tsumugi and Yui join them. Yui hugs her and compliments on her singing before she turns to Ritsu. Tsumugi touches her arm and compliments on her singing and bass playing. Azusa joins after with an apologetic smile and says she'll catch up with them later—she needs to talk to someone. Ritsu comes over and swings her arm over Mio's shoulders and grins. Mio smiles, compliments her on her drumming and soon there's cooing around them.

The surreal feeling that followed Mio all night breaks. She looks around her and she sees Ritsu's doing the same.

A girl—that unintentionally tripped her the week before, Mio recognises—steps forward and squeals, "I could never ask you this before: but are you two going out?"

A boy who has his arms around the girl's waist finally appears in Mio's vision. "What?" he starts, shock evident on his face as he searches the two musicians, "You two are like that? … Wow."

It's then that Mio registers what's happening. She blinks again, steps back and trips over her own feet but doesn't fall.

"D'aww, how cute! Hey," the girl nudges the boy, "aren't they cute?"

"…Pretty hot, actually."

"You perv!"

The boy's grinning and the girl's giggling and slapping his arm as they disperse into the crowd. The cooing dies and it takes a moment for Mio to realise Tsumugi and Yui are in front of her.

"Hey, let's go, let's go," Yui urges, pulling her and Ritsu's hands—Mio turns and sees that Ritsu's right hand is wrapped around her. She gapes. Just as she comprehends why she didn't fall, Tsumugi takes her other hand.

"Let's go now before the next band arrives," the keyboardist says, reminding her about the time they were almost squashed by overzealous fans that weren't theirs.

Mio nods and ignores the weird feeling in her stomach as they leave the bar.

They spend the rest of the night drinking and celebrating at Yui's place. Yui's holding a can of beer with two hands and takes a sip of it every several minutes or so. Most of the time she's laughing at everything and nothing. Ritsu also laughs along with her, sloshing beer everywhere, but every moment or so her eyes catches Mio's and she smiles.

Mio tries, each time, to not smile too awkwardly back and focuses more on her drink. She looks over at her other two band members.

Tsumugi and Azusa are drinking glasses of orange juice now. Tsumugi prefers it over any other and Azusa is forced to because she has very low inhibitions when drunk. The rest of the group doesn't want a repeat of New Year and, five days later, Azusa is still oblivious of what actually happened on said event.

Mio breathes in and out slowly. She glances over to Ritsu and their eyes meet again. She turns away and feels warm. Pushing the glass she's holding onto the table, she decides not to drink for the rest of the night.

ooo

Mio becomes conscious of the days that follow.

It's either that or her mind isn't really playing tricks on her and Ritsu's actually doing what she thinks she's doing.

They're sitting in Mio's room and watching countless DVDs as usual. Ritsu commentates on every part that sends her into a fit of laughter and Mio can't help but catch the infectious emotion.

But Mio notices how Ritsu's shifting closer and closer to her each time she recovers from a fit. Soon their shoulders are touching and moulding together and, because of the running heater, Mio speaks up, "Um, Ritsu?"

"Hn?"

Mio stares at their intertwined arms. "You're, umm … a bit too close."

"Huh?" Ritsu looks at their position and blinks. She pulls her arm back and moves away with a grimace Mio takes note of.

The weird feeling in her stomach returns and Mio tries to ignore it as she stares at Ritsu, who's fidgeting and scratching the back of her head. "Ritsu?"

"Uh … yeah?"

"Is something…"

Ritsu shrugs and continues to fidget. Mio reaches a hand out and nudges her shoulder. "Ritsu?"

"You just didn't seem bothered with what…"

"What…?" Mio asks gently.

"You know what other people think, right?" Ritsu asks, turning around and managing to miss Mio's eyes.

The weird feeling intensifies and Mio nods.

Ritsu turns back to the TV. "Uh, so you're not, like, bothered … right?" she asks, and then rushes, "Or I'm really wrong?"

"Um," Mio starts, and hopes they're talking about the same topic, "when you say what other people think, do you mean…"

Ritsu turns around, lowers her head and grins, but it's wobbly and she doesn't look as if she's going to prompt Mio any time soon so Mio elaborates, "…about us?"

Ritsu lifts her head and manages to miss Mio's eyes again. "Yeah. Us. Uh, together, you know?"

"Ah," Mio says.

"…You're not bothered about it, right?"

Mio sees that Ritsu doesn't seem bothered with it, so she shakes her head.

"Ah, okay. Cool. Uh, so you're not bothered right? Sorry—I can't tell from that," Ritsu shakes her own head and messes with her hair.

Mio smiles and says, "No, I'm not bothered." She refrains from detailing how not bothered she is and instead adds, "It's convenient this way."

Ritsu finally meets Mio's eyes. "Yeah."

Mio blinks, and wonders for the second time if they're reading the same page. She's about to clarify again but finds that she can't. Because Ritsu leans close again—unbelievably close—and there's something soft and dry on her lips.

Mio blinks again. Ritsu has pulled back and is grinning crookedly at her. Mio stares and gapes. "You're really like that?" she finds herself saying. The weird feeling in her stomach turns into something heavy and she realises how she should have thought before she spoke. Ritsu's grin falls and she's gaping back.

"I," Mio starts, her lips cracking but she doesn't dare lick them, "thought you were just talking about…"

Ritsu stares at the floor and doesn't respond. She doesn't seem capable of anything but averting her eyes.

"Ritsu," Mio tries again, and the called girl jumps to her feet and turns to the direction of the door.

"Ritsu!" Mio says again, stopping her from making an immediate exit. Ritsu half turns to her and lends her an ear.

"Yeah?"

Mio blinks at the rare one-worded splutter and swallows before she continues, "I'm sorry, Ritsu. I didn't know—"

"What? No, no, I'm sorry. Uhh … hey, practice at Mugi's place is still on, right?"

"Yeah."

"Good. I'll see ya then," Ritsu says, striding towards the door. Mio doesn't try to stop her this time because Ritsu stops at the door and speaks again, "Uh, Mio? Don't worry about me, 'kay? I wouldn't, like, do something weird or anything. Like … uh…"

"…Kissing me?" Mio prompts, and she wonders why her voice sounds so harsh to her ears.

The way Ritsu freezes shows she's not alone.

"Ritsu—it's okay, really," Mio says, feeling awfully hollow, and she sees Ritsu's looking up to the ceiling, "Um, we're friends, right? It's okay."

Ritsu nods shallowly, doesn't look over her shoulder and leaves the room.

After choking back a belated 'see you later', Mio swallows past the lump in her throat and really tries not to lick her cracked lips and spare herself the constant, stinging pain.

She goes back to watching the TV. She wonders who's who and what the story's about and why on earth she's even sitting there, wasting her time when there's a bunch of textbook pages she needs to peruse before the week ends.

It's four in the morning when she manages to sleep that night.

ooo

Unlike their high school days, their practices are straight to the point and lack many sweets and tea. They've all agreed that they will practise for an hour or two, there'll be another hour for dinner, and then there's karaoke for four hours straight.

Mio feels as if she's sending out a clone of herself throughout the day, and the real her is just watching at the sidelines—wondering how she can be so happy when in actuality she's feeling nothing.

Azusa and Yui are shouting out the lyrics of a classic Hamasaki Ayumi song, Tsumugi's clapping along with the beat, and Ritsu's glugging down drink after drink. She has high tolerance so Mio doesn't try to stop her. It's only when Ritsu's at her fifth glass and looking quite woozy that Tsumugi makes a move.

Mio stays in her seat and tries not to feel guilty for being immensely relieved.

ooo

"Mio-chan," Tsumugi asks as Mio ushers her into her house, "what's wrong?"

Mio swallows and leads the keyboardist to the living room where they can sit. "It's … about Ritsu," she says finally.

Tsumugi nods and waits for her to continue.

"I found out that she," Mio pauses and takes a deep breath, "…likes me."

Tsumugi nods again.

"More than a friend," Mio adds feebly.

Tsumugi starts to look uncomfortable.

Mio blinks and pieces it together. She plays with her thumbs and doesn't meet her friend's eyes. "You already know…?" she asks.

There's a long pause before Tsumugi replies, "Ricchan came to me after."

Mio wrestles her thumbs and stares at the floor. "What should I do, Mugi?"

"Do you like her?"

Mio half shrugs. "I'm not … like that, Mugi."

"Are you still her friend?"

"Ye—" she stops when she receives a flashback of a knocked out Ritsu and swallows. She licks her lips and goes for another question, "I'm clumsy, aren't I?"

Mio knows that Tsumugi will never speak ill of anyone and will always have a positive answer. So, when she doesn't receive an answer, she knows how cruel she has been.

ooo

It's Coming of Age Day and Azusa's finally turned 20, so the rest of the band accompanies her to the city office and sits through speech after speech. Mio's feeling self-conscious on how four of them are not in formal wear—never mind that several other women in the building are also not donned in kimono—and distracts herself by immersing her mind in the many speeches.

She finds herself nodding off at one point and she jerks up, aghast. She looks around to see if anyone caught her. Azusa's too busy listening with grand concentration, Tsumugi's wearing sunglasses and Yui's sleeping against her shoulder.

Surprisingly, Ritsu's still awake, and unsurprisingly, she's not paying attention to the speaking official on stage. She's staring at the DSi in her hands with her tongue sticking out and she seems to be enjoying the repeated proceedings.

Mio would've left her alone if she hadn't been cursing loudly at the white toy, but she is so she reaches a hand out and nudges Ritsu's shoulder.

Ritsu jumps and flicks her head up. She freezes. She stands up, glances around, and sits back down as if she's just realised where she's at.

"What is it?" Ritsu asks, eyeing Tsumugi and Yui between them.

"Eh? Oh, um, nothing," Mio says. "Just play your game."

"…Okay."

She doesn't though, she pockets the toy into her bag and leans back to nap.

ooo

Ritsu's stopped visiting.

Mio calls Shizuka during one of Ritsu's days off and finds out that Ritsu's still skipping the morning lectures as usual. She frowns and presses the pen harder than she should against the notebook.

Mio's really trying to clear the thick tension between them, and the other party's not giving her a chance. So what if the other considers her more than a friend? She clenches her jaw and decides. Decides that she'll visit the Tainaka residence today.

But essays got in the way and she figures she'll visit tomorrow, after the afternoon lecture. They can discuss what new songs they can perform at the gig slotted on Sunday night. They can laugh. They can complain. They can be good, best friends again.

The visit never comes.

ooo

Even the swans
Hide their thrashing legs

Tonight's performance is horrible. Disastrous. Ritsu's drumming is weak and off-beat. Azusa's grown used to following Ritsu's rhythm and is playing on a different phrase that Mio and Yui are playing. Tsumugi tries to hit notes at suitable places, improvising, but failing because soon Mio's patience is waning and she stops playing the bass altogether and just sings.

It's good fortune that her anger didn't truly ruin her tone, and she ignores how some of their audience are looking weirdly at them and pays attention to the ones that are still cheering them on.

The live finishes way too slow for Mio's tastes, and she jumps off the stage and forces a smile to the few people that walk up to her. After she's done with them, she stomps off to find Ritsu.

Ritsu's already out of the bar.

Mio curses how they all politely denied Tsumugi's offer to live in an apartment she'd pay for and angrily walks out without an explanation to the remaining three and heads home via train—alone and lucky.

ooo

The next morning, Mio stomps over to the Tainaka residence and rings Ritsu's phone so she can come down and get screamed at. Maybe a screaming match will settle this.

The third time she receives "The number you have called is either off or out of range, sorry for the inconvenience", she feels like throwing the gadget at Ritsu's window. But she knows the repercussions so she doesn't. She paces along Ritsu's street until she's calmed down enough so she could knock the door and not scream at the wrong Tainaka.

Ritsu's little brother opens the door. Mio smiles and asks, "Is Ritsu home?"

Satoshi blinks groggily at her. "Isn't Nee-chan at Uni?" he mumbles after he coughs into his fist.

Mio blinks back. "She is?"

Satoshi nods.

After she blesses Satoshi a fast recovery and farewell, she turns around and walks out to the street in a daze. She considers visiting Ritsu's university—she's been there before and has a feeling she still knows where the appointed lecture room is—but mentally shrugs it off and ambles back home to gather the needed items for the afternoon lecture.

Screaming never solved any of their past fights before, so why did she think it would solve this one? It dawns on her that she doesn't know what's happening between them. Almost getting run over on the way home doesn't help her thoughts any.

ooo

"Mugi. Hey."

"Oh, Mio-chan. How are you?"

Mio considers whether or not she should lie as expected or tell the truth. "I feel like an idiot," she admits, surprising herself with how easy it is to say.

There's silence on the other line for several moments.

"…Well, that's not good. Do you want to talk?"

Mio brushes a hand through her hair. She feels tears on her cheeks and she chokes out, "I … I don't know where to start."

"You can start anywhere. I'll be waiting."

Mio sniffs and wipes her eyes. "It's just…" She takes a few deep breaths and continues, "I don't know…"

There's a hush and Mio imagines Tsumugi's attentive face and kind ear.

"Sometimes," she starts again, "…I do know. But I'm … scared to see it…"

"Why are you scared?"

"That's obvious, Mugi. I don't want to be like that."

"…Do you want to lose her?"

Mio's shocked by Tsumugi's bluntness. She gapes and wipes her eyes again and thinks.

"No," Mio manages to say, "No. I don't want that at all."

ooo

"She has a boyfriend already? Aww, we just need one more girl to even it out. Just one!"

"I don't think it'd really matter—"

"How would you feel if there're more girls than guys at a mixer?"

"…Okay, you have a point."

Mio looks up from her textbook and stares at the two girls at the table next to hers. She realises she knows them, and that they're speaking a little too loud in a library. She searches around for any librarians and moves tentatively over to them.

"Excuse me," she starts, "I know it's not really my place to say this, but I think you need to keep it down a little."

The two girls look up, and their faces brighten up. Mio steps back.

"Oh, hey! Uhh … sorry, but I'm bad with names. What was your name again?"

Mio ponders if she should leave and not answer, but it's been a while since she's spoken to someone using such casual speech, so she sits down and replies, "It's Akiyama Mio."

"I'm Sonada Yoshie," the girl says, then points to the girl across from her. "She's Honda Nagae. Anyway, would you like to join a mixer? It'd be pretty awesome."

Mio hesitates.

"Or do you have a boyfriend already?" Yoshie asks.

"…Eh? No, no. It's not that. I'm just … not used to such events."

"Well that's okay! The guys don't bite. Some of them are pretty shy too."

"But…"

"C'mon! We're really desperate here! Please!"

Before she knows it, Mio's walking with her two new associates to a bar she's never been to.

Several heads turn and smile pleasantly at the three as they sit down and make small talk. Mio doesn't know anyone here, yet Yoshie and Nagae seem to have known the others since high school. She sips at her drink and casts her eyes down, trying not to think too much.

"You haven't spoken at all, Akiyama," Yoshie notices. "What's up?"

Mio looks up and attempts a smile. "It's … nothing," she mumbles. She glances around, blinks and stares at someone that looks familiar. The someone turns to face her and she realises it's a boy.

"Having fun?" he asks.

"Eh? Y-yeah."

"You're lying. You've been sitting there looking all sad since you entered."

Mio flushes in embarrassment and moves her glass in a circular motion, liking how the ice cube is twirling around. Around and around. Lonely and cold.

"What're your hobbies?" the boy asks.

"Um," Mio says to the drink, "My hobbies are … writing and music, I guess?"

"Music? What kind of music do you listen to?"

"Mostly of the rock variety," Mio mumbles.

"Sorry?"

"Rock."

"Really? That's great!"

Mio looks up. "…Really?"

"Yeah," he clarifies, nodding, "Do you know 'Endless Rain'?"

Mio blinks. "By X JAPAN?" she asks.

"Yeah!" the boy gives Mio his complete attention now. "I was kinda scared you'd say Ayumi."

Mio finds herself laughing. It's weak laughter, but she's laughing.

"For your information, Hayao-kun," Nagae grounds out, "Ayu doesn't have a song of that name."

Hayao turns to her. "Naw, I'm sure she has a song called Endless something."

"Yeah, 'Endless Sorrow', not Endless—whatever the crap you listen to."

"X JAPAN is not crap!"

Mio zones out as she recalls snippets of the promotional video for Endless Sorrow. She's feeling very much like the little boy that couldn't speak at the moment, and the sudden, mildly pleasant mood she's gained dies.

Hayao's voice is loud and close when he next speaks, "What's your name?"

Mio jumps and whips her head to her side. He has moved to the seat next to her without her realising and she's too busy calming herself down to reply. Yoshie answers for her, "She's Akiyama Mio. She's quite a shy thing so be gentle."

"When am I not gentle? !"

The yell and the way his brown hair brushes the back of his neck reminds Mio that she should receive a 'headache' by now, so she stands up—quite sluggishly—and bows.

"Sorry," she says hastily, "I need to go."

Before Hayao or Yoshie can call her back, Mio picks up her bag and runs.

When she reaches home, and inevitably her bed, she lies on her stomach—is reminded again—and turns over and rests the back of her hand over closed eyes.

She doesn't try to ignore how she gasps Ritsu's name when she wakes up.

ooo

We follow our instincts, we can take the flaws

Mio arrives earlier than usual for the next practice session at Tsumugi's. She's humming and singing and walks with a relatively lighter step to the studio door. She unlocks it with a spare key Tsumugi's given to her, swings the door open and she blinks when she sees something brown and awfully familiar pass her.

Before she knows it, she grabs out and manages to hold onto an arm.

"Ritsu," Mio breathes out.

Ritsu looks over her shoulder and Mio lets go of her immediately.

After Ritsu leaves, it's until Tsumugi calls out that Mio zaps out from the numbness and enters the studio.

Azusa and Yui are nowhere to be seen. Mio gives Tsumugi a questioning look.

The keyboardist returns a tired smile. "The gig on Saturday is cancelled," she explains.

Mio nods dully. "When's the next one?"

"16th of February."

Mio blanches. The date's awfully far away.

As she leaves for home, Mio's mind is filled with the image of her friend—best friend—loved one—about to cry.

ooo

Mio decides that since there's three, long weeks until their next gig, she needs to start writing up a new song.

Dozens of scrunched up balls of paper later, she sighs and lets her forehead hit heavily against her desk. She contemplates writing a letter instead—for Ritsu—instead of writing a song that's obvious in its meaning to the whole world. But her bin's already filled and the pen she's using suddenly decided it's a good time to take the long sleep. She chucks it into the bin and doesn't say sorry to it.

Sighing yet again, she picks herself up, drags the tissue box from the table and proceeds to re-watch a drama series that never fails to make her cry. Sometimes a good bawl helps.

She frowns at how stupid's she acting midway and wonders if there's any alcohol in the house—but that'd be even stupider. She settles for the drama and wallows in self-pity.

ooo

Mio manages to survive the next week. Now that she looks back at it, the exams were good at distracting her—and frustrating her—and she hopes the results are at least passable. She doesn't really care anymore.

She realises she's lying about something else now and she buries her head underneath her pillow and groans.

ooo

It's Ritsu's day off and Mio pushes herself to make the ten minute walk to her house.

The door slides open before she gets the chance to knock, and Ritsu's looking at her and Mio can't help but smile.

Ritsu's mouth twitches, but they eventually mirror Mio's and she lets her in.

"How're your exams? Wait—don't tell me, you're doing great. As usual."

Mio replies truthfully, "No, I might not actually pass this time." She doesn't hear Ritsu's reply as she stops and realises.

We don't talk for weeks and this is what happens?

"…Mio?"

Mio shakes her head to herself and enters Ritsu's room.

They talk about everything and nothing—with a little stuttering before the tension eases. Too soon it's time for Mio to attend her afternoon lecture.

Before Mio leaves, she looks over her shoulder and meets Ritsu's eyes. Ritsu looks away. Mio doesn't frown and asks, "Do you mind if I visit you next week?"

Ritsu looks back and blinks. "…Huh?"

"Next week. You know, the public holiday? We can finish, um, watching that drama. I'll bring it over."

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure. I don't mind," Ritsu says quietly, smiling. "You sure you don't mind?"

"Of course not."

Ritsu's smile finally grows into a grin. It's not the usual ones, but it's still a grin. "Great! I'll see ya then."

Mio nods, smiles and finds the following days a bit more bearable. She knows she needs to do something soon.

ooo

They've watched two episodes and Mio still hasn't said a thing she's meant to say. She picks on a patch of carpet with her fingers and she notes how she hasn't cut her nails. She bites her bottom lip and looks over at Ritsu who's staring at the TV. She sees amber eyes stray her way. Ritsu's aware she's staring at her but she's not going to say anything.

Mio clears her throat and Ritsu continues to stare at the TV.

Mio looks down, where Ritsu's hand is. She's tempted to twine her hand with hers, but upon thinking over the possible repercussions, reconsiders. She clears her throat and turns to the drummer, "The story's getting boring, isn't it?"

Ritsu glances at her. She shrugs and doesn't reply. Mio sees her swallow.

"Ritsu…"

"What're you doing?"

"Eh?"

Ritsu finally turns and looks at her. "You're acting weird."

"I…"

Ritsu's brow furrows. "I told you I'm not gonna do anything, didn't I?" she says, a hint of anger and hurt in her voice. "So stop fidgeting, damnit."

"But I want you to."

"I already said—wait, what?"

Mio's finding her ears are burning as she looks up and sees Ritsu's disbelieving face. "You heard me."

"I don't think I did." Ritsu shakes her head and pinches her arm before looking back at Mio. "Okay," she says, as if she's reached a decision, "this isn't the time to start telling jokes, Mio! You should've picked that up earlier. Waaay earlier."

Mio pulls her legs out and moves closer to Ritsu. Ritsu pales and scoots back. Mio stops.

"I'm not joking, Ritsu," Mio says, almost pleading.

Ritsu opens her mouth and then closes it.

Mio decides she has some explaining to do before Ritsu believes her. "I'm sorry. For being such an idiot … I…" She stops and blinks in horror when her eyes become blurry.

"…Mio?"

Mio harshly blinks, shakes her head and continues, "…I really want—um…"

"Want…?" Ritsu asks quietly.

Mio sees through a dissolving haze that Ritsu's crawling towards her. Slowly, but surely. A burst of courage flows through her. "You," she whispers.

Ritsu stops moving. "Say again?"

The courage fades away. She picks on another patch of carpet and tries to drown out how hard her heart's beating. "Um," she tries again. Louder this time. "I said…"

"Yeah?" Ritsu prompts.

Mio takes a deep breath and looks up. Ritsu's moving again. Mio licks her lips and soldiers on.

"You, Ritsu. I want…" she stops, feeling how warm the room suddenly is. Ritsu slides up until she's an arm's length away and stops again. Mio stares. She sees how red the other girl's face is and she's glad she's not the only one burning up. "I want…"

She feels her hand being gently covered with another. Mio shivers, tries to hold Ritsu's eye and finish what she's supposed to say. Several seconds pass and not another word escapes her. She shifts and leans towards Ritsu quickly before she changes her mind.

The kiss is dry and awkward like the first one, and Mio pulls back when she realises Ritsu's not responding. But as soon as she parts, Ritsu leans forward and presses back.

Mio smiles and notes Ritsu's shaking hand.

ooo

For once in her life, Mio skips a day full of lectures and spends the day at home. With Ritsu.

Ritsu's arms are wrapped around Mio, and Mio's laying back against her. They're watching a foreign film Tsumugi recommended years ago but didn't bother until now.

It's warm and comfortable. Mio wonders why on earth she was so resistant on it. She snuggles closer and clutches Ritsu's arm.

Ritsu laughs when the characters meet each other at a grocery store and introduce themselves. "'I'm ecstatic!'," she quotes in her Japanese accent. "Ha! Good one!"

Mio grins and agrees.

The movie's a romantic comedy, but Mio finds guilt will slip in and out of her system each time one of the main characters appears. She feels as if she's watching the past month unfold before her eyes again. She wonders since when one of her clones managed to book a ticket to Britain, and she then remembers she's not married with the wrong person and stops comparing.

She feels Ritsu's mouth on her neck. "Hey," Mio calls out, laughing. "That tickles! Stop!"

The mouth turns into a grin and stays where it is. There's hot breath, making Mio's skin tingle.

"Ritsu!" she tries again. This time, Ritsu moves her mouth away.

"Love you, Mio."

The soft beating against the bassist's back calms her.

"I love you too," Mio says, blinking and blushing at how easy those words slipped out of her.

The mouth returns to her neck. "So when are you gonna eat those chocolates?"

"I said I'll eat them later," Mio replies, rolling her eyes and moving her neck away.

"Eat them now."

"Ritsu, it's winter. You know how I gain weight during this season."

"Who cares? You'd still look the same. Just eat it."

"I care! And are you implying I look—"

"Beautiful all the time?" Ritsu cuts in. She laughs when Mio swats her arm.

ooo

The gig date finally arrives.

Much to the band's relief, there's still thirty semi-familiar faces.

Mio picks up the bass guitar and slings its strap over her shoulder. Ritsu spins the drumsticks between her fingers and waits for everyone else to get ready. Azusa's smiling, Tsumugi's eyes are bright and Yui's giggling. After they give each other a nod, Ritsu does the countdown and their performance begins.

We've got a good future
So it's okay to take a break sometimes

ooooo

End

RtDK IS TEH BEST PERSON EVAH! =D

Yup, what the above message says. After my semicolon problem, you had to take care of my many hyphens and run-on sentences. So, thank you so much for taking the time to beta this. Really, thank you.

Bonus cookies to people who know what movie I'm referencing near the end. ;P

Actually, I'll just tell the title, it's Imagine Me & You. It's a pretty sweet and bitter-sweet movie. Not the best movie out there, but I personally think it's worth the time. (Yes, that does translate to: If you have the time, watch it!)

Oh, and have some sappy Mitsu to balance out the angst.

Arpeggio is not forgotten.

Notes (?):
— Hah, pure j-pop reference is finally made. Hi Ayu!
— I have no idea how long those Coming of Age speeches go for.
— Let's pretend if exam period is on during this timeframe, it's cut really short. =3
— BTW, have you noticed the title's generic and doesn't start with 'A' and that it's a rip-off of Mio's love song called 'Winter Day'? =D =D? Bonus points if you spotted another Mio song reference. =3