AN: As always, sorry this took forever. More importantly, this chapter is written a little differently than past ones. Setsuna's pov dominates it. Tsukuyomi's pov should dominate the next one. Also, due to the mention of a certain holiday, the timeline has pretty much locked itself now. Which... probably doesn't really matter.
Please don't kill me.
She wasn't avoiding Konoka. Not in the slightest. They just seemed to keep missing each other. That was all it was. And if Setsuna was constantly checking to make sure that her bandaged arm was covered—that was just being intelligent, wasn't it? No one she knew would be pleased to know she'd allowed Tsukuyomi the opportunity to attack her.
Setsuna wasn't exactly pleased with it herself, but at the moment that was the least of her concerns. Concerns that she really didn't involve Konoka with. So it wasn't exactly avoidance. She just wasn't going out of her way to meet up with her partner like she usually would.
And Konoka wasn't trying to talk to her.
She leaned against the wall she was sitting in front of. One of the few things about her current problems that wasn't a complete mystery, and she was too much of a coward to do anything about it. She'd tried to muster up some degree of hatred for Tsukuyomi for pointing the mess out to her, but at this point she thought it was best to spend as little time thinking about Tsukuyomi as humanly possible.
That was proving uncomfortably difficult. It helped that Tsukuyomi was spending an unusual amount of time daydreaming about something (another worrying thing—how did this keep happening to her?) and was being incredibly considerate about leaving Setsuna alone, but…
It was confusing. No matter how she tried to distract herself, no matter how much she threw herself into training with her friends, her thoughts kept straying back to Tsukuyomi. Even worse, her eyes were constantly betraying her and she found herself staring at her roommate much more than was appropriate.
Setsuna couldn't hold back a flinch at that thought. She thought… she thought she might know why. But for now, she could do without examining that too closely. It wasn't something she wanted, and with something like that, want was important, wasn't it?
If she had the courage to ask, Konoka and Asuna would probably tell her that her desires had been all over the place since Kyoto, and perhaps she wasn't the best person to be making decisions for herself. With this, though, they'd at least agree with her conclusion, even if the concept of it being a question at all in the first place would disturb them.
She really wished she could talk to one of them about this. She'd considered asking Mana, but the mocking she'd have to endure before she got any actual advice wasn't worth it. And Tsukuyomi was friends with Mana now, so any attempts to have a private conversation would probably blow up in her face to begin with.
She sighed and briefly considered what, exactly, Evangeline would do to her if she bashed her head repeatedly into parts of the resort, and if the wrath she'd incur would be worth the relief the pain would provide.
Then she realized she was starting to think about pain in precisely the wrong sort of way, and her thoughts went straight back to Tsukuyomi.
…Maybe she was a masochist?
That would at least explain while she was sitting outside instead of resting in a soft bed like everyone else. She had tried to sleep, but the room felt too quiet, and the bed was too cold, and it just felt very strange not to have a body curled up against hers.
She was in so much trouble.
"Set-chan? What are you doing up so late?"
Setsuna bolted up from her spot on the ground. "Kono—Ojou-sama!"
Konoka smiled at her. Normally, she probably would have laughed, but Setsuna would take a smile over unhappy looks any day. She sat down by Setsuna's feet. After a moment or two, she tugged on Setsuna's sleeve until they were sitting side by side.
"Are you having trouble sleeping?"
Setsuna nodded uncertainly. When Konoka looked expectantly at her, she gave up and just let the honest truth spill out of her mouth. "I've gotten used to having a roommate, so it feels… strange, sleeping alone."
This time, Konoka did laugh. It sounded a little off for some reason, but when she rested her head on Setsuna's shoulder, Setsuna convinced herself that she was imagining things. It had just been a while since she'd heard Konoka laugh.
"You're just getting used to it now, Set-chan? You've been sharing your room for ages."
Embarrassment burned Setsuna's cheeks. "It's… different now. I don't really know why," she said, laughing uncomfortably. "It just feels strange."
They sat silently next to each other for a long minute. Konoka let out a barely-audible sigh that Setsuna almost missed and wrapped her arms around Setsuna's waist.
"That's a good thing, isn't it? If you're feeling that comfortable around her, you must be starting to trust her a little, so you should be able to relax a bit."
Setsuna double-checked that her bandaged arm was still very well concealed and shrugged guiltily. "I don't think I trust her that much, really… I've just gotten used to her."
She thought she could feel Konoka smile into her shoulder. "Still, that's one less thing to worry about. And ever since you started watching her, you've been doing nothing but worrying. It's not good for you. This is better, even if it means sleeping here is a little strange."
Setsuna wasn't sure if she could agree with that. Everything was strange now, not just sleeping arrangements. "Were you having trouble sleeping too, Kono-chan?"
"Well," she said lightly, "I wasn't trying to sleep to begin with."
Setsuna looked down at her in confusion. "Why not?"
A very strange expression that Setsuna couldn't identify flitted across Konoka's face. She was still smiling, but for a split second it had almost felt like she was going to start crying. Then she reached one of her hands up and held it to her cheek.
"I had a tricky decision to make, and I wanted to be able to think about it properly before I did anything."
Concern rocketed its way to Setsuna's brain and she turned to face her partner properly. "Is something wrong?"
"No, not really." Konoka laughed awkwardly. "I'm being silly about it. I know what I want to do, but for some reason, making myself do it is really hard."
"Is there any way I can—" Setsuna started, but she was cut off by Konoka's finger pressing against her lips.
Her partner laughed again. "Set-chan. We just got you to stop worrying so much. Don't try to start again. Besides, one part is easy. It's just everything else that's tricky."
Setsuna didn't think Konoka realized how worrying the words that were coming out of her mouth were, but before she had the chance to tell the girl that, Konoka was standing up and turning away from her. Then, very quickly, she spun around again. She was smiling brightly.
"Set-chan, would you like to go out with me?"
"I don't think I've seen you look upset before."
Tsukuyomi leaned back against the pillow on her bunk and stuck her tongue out at Mana. Mana, predictably, rolled her eyes and continued adjusting the scope on the gun of the day. Clearly, she had no appreciation for how cruel her Senpai was being.
After lunch, looking even paler than the ghost that hung around the reporter girl, Setsuna had stumbled back into their room and announced that Mana's services would be required after the school day ended. Because she had something to do with her Ojou-sama.
The whole thing struck Tsukuyomi as incredibly unfair. When she first came to this school, Setsuna never would have let her out of her sight for so long. She'd thought that maybe injuring her Senpai with the scissors would convince Setsuna that her first position (minus the adorable chilliness) was the correct one.
She had already settled it many times in her head, but the support for murdering Konoka the second she was free seemed to be growing every second.
"You know it's not a real date, right? She wouldn't have made it back out the door if Konoe asked her out seriously."
Tsukuyomi sighed. "That's a horrible way of looking at it, Onee-san."
"I did tell you not to try seducing her."
"I haven't been!" Outside of kissing her and attacking her with the scissors, which Mana probably wouldn't count as seduction no matter how her relationship with Setsuna worked, she'd barely done anything.
Tsukuyomi sighed mournfully and looked up at the bottom of the top bunk.
So Setsuna was still in love with Konoka.
She could have sworn she knew that. It made perfect sense, after all, and she did like to pay her Senpai extra attention whenever possible. Just because Setsuna was starting to give her looks that made her shiver delightfully didn't mean that she was over her little bodyguard-crush. Setsuna had been in love with Konoka for pretty much forever, so it only made sense that her feelings hadn't faded yet. And being in denial couldn't have helped her.
It still hurt. Tsukuyomi hated the feeling, but seeing her Senpai (hers) so shaken up about an outing with the ojou-sama that she didn't even have the nerve to call a date in the first place… Yes, it hurt.
She didn't like it one bit.
And knowing that Konoka had bothered to ask Setsuna out was not helping anything, since Konoka actually knew what was going on in both of their complicated relationships with Setsuna, and since she knew all it would take from her to defuse things was to ask Setsuna, she asked, which meant no matter what Setsuna was currently feeling, she'd be forever wrapped around her beloved Ojou-sama.
There was nothing Tsukuyomi liked about this, and if she weren't tied down to this school without complete access to her varied capabilities, she would be running around looking for a weapon. Killing out of emotional frustration instead of physical need was still a relatively new concept to her, but killing usually made everything better.
Unfortunately, Setsuna had taken Yūnagi out of the room with her.
"Maybe we could go out and follow them. Your class does things like that all the time and no one complains."
"It's our class, not just mine. Besides," Mana smirked at her, "you haven't seen what Setsuna's paying me to look after you. You aren't stepping one foot outside this room."
Tsukuyomi sat up on the bed and cast a longing look at the door. If she had access to her power, she could have easily outrun the gunslinger to it and escaped to stalk her Senpai. "How long do you think it will take them to get back?"
"That depends entirely on them. Normally the cheerleaders deal with ordering the Halloween supplies, and it takes them the whole week before because they always end up doing something else instead."
"But this time Setsuna-senpai's Ojou-sama is doing it? Is she being punished for something?" Tsukuyomi enjoyed a moment of unholy glee at the idea.
"Do you and Setsuna just not pay any attention during class?"
"Senpai's been a model student lately," Tsukuyomi pointed out. Under normal circumstances, she would find Setsuna throwing herself so thoroughly into schoolwork amusing, but processing her own recent concerns had eliminated some of the enjoyment.
Mana chuckled. "That's a 'yes' then."
"Why?" Tsukuyomi prodded.
Mana turned fully to look at her. "This time around, Konoe specifically asked to be in charge of going out and fetching everything. If the two of you ever bothered paying attention, you'd know that."
Setsuna felt her face go slack. "L-like a—"
Konoka laughed and clasped her hands together behind her back, turning away from Setsuna once again. "No, I put that the wrong way. What I meant was… well you know Halloween's coming up, right?"
Setsuna didn't even nod. She just continued to stare blankly at her partner.
"I ended up with the job of going out and getting everything for this year's haunted house. I was hoping you'd like to join me."
"Do you think Eva-chan would be annoyed if we gave everyone vampire fangs?"
"She didn't mind Negi-sensei wearing them for the school festival."
"That's Negi-kun though. And I'm not sure she knew about that."
"Oh. Well if we gave them to everyone she'd probably tell us—"
Was this really happening?
Was it a dream?
Setsuna didn't know what to make of any of this, but no matter how solid the feeling of Konoka's hand in hers was, none of it felt real. She felt like her mind had completely detached itself from her body, and now it was drifting around, watching as she somehow functioned like a sane, relaxed human being.
This wasn't actually a date, she reminded herself for the twelfth time. The way Konoka had asked for her help was just a little unusual. She hadn't meant for it to sound like she was asking her out for real. She'd just gotten ahead of herself.
This wasn't a…
Then what is it?
Setsuna was hopelessly confused. It should have been a very basic thing to understand. Konoka had asked for her help in retrieving Halloween supplies along with looking for some new toys they could use. She had agreed because Konoka shouldn't be doing work like that by herself. That was how it was supposed to be.
Instead, every time Konoka left to talk to the person in charge of whatever shop they were exploring at the time, Setsuna couldn't help but notice that there was something very different about the way Konoka had been behaving. The last time they'd done something like this together, they'd come away from it as partners.
What would happen this time?
Setsuna wasn't sure.
She didn't even know if she cared when Konoka was standing next to her. With Konoka by her side, it was easy to smile and laugh and offer suggestions about whether or not certain things would be a good idea. In fact, it was easier than ever to talk to her partner. Her face had stayed mercifully pale the entire time. Everything felt… fine.
But then she remembered the way Konoka had asked her to do this, and how after at least a week of awkwardness between them they were both acting like nothing had ever happened—and in her case, she almost felt like nothing had happened.
She had no idea what was going on.
Should she be asking about what had been bothering Konoka in the resort? Should she just be doing what she was doing, and enjoy the time with her partner?
Should she ask if the way Konoka first phrased her request was really a mistake?
She was still mulling it over when Konoka grabbed her arm excitedly and said they should take a break and grab something to eat.
"She asked you out on a date?"
"No! Yes—I don't know!"
She avoided looking directly at Tsukuyomi's eyes. Somehow, after hours of all of the blood in her body being sapped out of her head, it was flowing back at an alarming rate. Mana was standing in a corner, doing her best to stay out of the discussion.
If this was a discussion.
Setsuna glanced at her open closet. If Tsukuyomi hadn't asked why she was changing clothes in the middle of the day, none of this would have come up, and she could have left without feeling guilty about it.
Not that she had anything to feel guilty about, it was just awkward leaving their room when Tsukuyomi looked… hurt.
"Let's see…" Konoka tapped her spoon against her lips, sipping up the melted ice cream from it. "I think after we check on the fake blood, we should be just about done."
Setsuna's stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch. "Um, how much like real blood does it look like?"
Konoka looked up in surprise from the scrap of paper she was examining. Then her eyes softened, and her lips mouthed an, "oh."
"I'm not sure. Do you think Tsukuyomi-san might have a problem with it?"
The part of Setsuna's brain that wasn't perfectly content traipsing around with Konoka on a beautiful autumn day twitched. They had gotten away with not mentioning her roommate since they stepped outside of Evangeline's resort.
"I'm not sure," she answered honestly. With how keyed up Tsukuyomi had been lately, even the idea of blood could be enough to get her overly excited, but at the same time, she didn't care much for fake violence.
"I don't think we can get away with not having it…"
"It's fine," Setsuna hurried to say. "If it causes any trouble… I can manage it, Kono-chan. Don't worry."
Konoka smiled at her.
"You really go above and beyond for your charges, Set-chan."
Something about the way she said that didn't feel right. Before Setsuna could ask about it, though, her partner was standing up and holding out her hand.
"Come on. Let's finish this up."
They walked in silence for a few minutes, Setsuna sneaking glances at Konoka's peaceful expression in concern. Was she saying… Did she miss Setsuna being by her side constantly? Was that it? Or… Did she think something was different now that Setsuna was watching Tsukuyomi?
That… that part might be true. Everything was different, but—
Setsuna stopped walking. Konoka, attached to her very securely, stopped as well and turned a curious eye on her partner.
"I didn't protect you because I was ordered to. It—it was never about that. I just… I wanted you to be safe. I wanted to protect you. I still want that, Kono-chan. More than anything."
"But Tsukuyomi-san's the one you have to look after right now," Konoka supplied, smiling. Her eyes were shining far too brightly, but she didn't look sad.
She felt like she had just stumbled onto something important. Something serious that would explain all of this confusing day to her. She didn't know what that could possibly be, but… looking into Konoka's eyes, she felt like she was seeing everything that she was missing.
"Kono-chan…" she started, "that decision of yours…"
"I wanted to make a new promise with you," Konoka said softly. "One even more important than us staying by each other's sides as partners."
"Nothing's more important than that," Setsuna said emphatically.
Konoka giggled. "Not to you, maybe. But for me, there's only one thing I've really wanted. And that matters to me more than anything." She took a deep breath and grinned at Setsuna. "I want you to be happy."
Setsuna stared at her partner in confusion. Her heart was thumping painfully in her chest, and an unnamed fear was accompanying it. Konoka wouldn't… she couldn't be saying that. "Kono-chan… being with you always makes me happy. Just because I have another responsibility at the moment—it's temporary. It won't last forever."
Saying that made a brief shot of pain go through her chest, but she forced herself not to care. Ojou-sama, Kono-chan, Konoka… That was the person she cared about, right? Not…
Konoka laughed. "Set-chan… see, you're worrying again. I keep telling you not to, and you keep doing it." She brought up her hands and cupped Setsuna's face. "Stop it. For real, this time. Promise me you'll stop worrying about whether or not what you're feeling is right. Just relax, Set-chan. For me?"
Something about the way she said that felt more horrifying than anything Setsuna had ever experienced before. She stared at her partner, falling into her eyes and wondering just how much of her Konoka had been seeing all along.
Konoka shook her head and tapped Setsuna on the nose affectionately. "If you really need it to be, consider it an order, okay?"
Tsukuyomi had been considerate enough to not latch onto her the second they went to bed tonight. Setsuna didn't know if that meant the girl was still hurt and irritated with her or not, but she was grateful for it. She wanted some time alone with her thoughts to absorb all of this mess that she had somehow created and figure out just how much damage she had done and she still didn't really know what had started this all in the first place—
A comforting warm body snuggled up against hers.
Setsuna struggled to ignore it. Now was not the time to—
"Just relax, Set-chan."
She rested her head against Tsukuyomi's soft hair.
Damn it, damn it, damn it.
She'd made it an order, right?
Following orders wasn't…
Setsuna's eyes drifted shut.