When Chikusa had first handed it to her she hadn't quite known what to make of it. She knew what it was of course. Even though Chrome had never owned one before, you'd have to live under a rock somewhere not to know what a cell phone was.
"What is this?" Chrome had asked him after turning it over in her hand a few times. It was blindingly pink, ridiculously tiny, and clearly used.
"It's a cell phone, stupid." Ken had sneered at her. Chrome pouted as she ducked her head.
"No, I meant, why are you giving me this, Chikusa?" She flipped it open and the screen came to life, a picture of a lotus blossom taking up the background.
"I thought it would be better for you to have one, so we can keep track of you." Chikusa told her mildly. "Mine and Ken's numbers are already programmed into it."
"Oh, I see. Thank you." Chrome smiled at the two but Chikusa merely shrugged and Ken just scoffed. Still she was careful to put the phone away where it wouldn't get damaged and she vowed to take it wherever she went.
It had been three weeks after the gift of the phone when she ran into her Boss one day on the way to the convenience mart, and that was meant literally. She'd been walking into the store when Tsuna had come running out, a can of expensive foreign coffee beans in his hand. Chrome had stumbled back a couple of steps from the impact and Tsuna had reached automatically to grab her elbow so she wouldn't fall. A clatter drew both of their attentions to the ground where Chrome's embarrassingly pink phone had fallen from the pocket of her skirt.
"Sorry! Sorry! I wasn't watching... ah? Chrome-chan?" Tsuna had bent to pick the phone off the ground and as he straightened he got his first good look at the person he'd nearly run over. Chrome flushed just a little at the honorific, still unused to it being added to her name months after it began slowly popping up. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm just picking up some things for Chikusa, Ken, and I, Boss." Chrome answered feeling a little ruffled. She hadn't expected to run into Tsuna today and felt unprepared for some reason.
"Oh, right, right. Are you guys..." Here Tsuna bit his lip for a moment, looking unsure of himself, like he doesn't quite know what he wants to say but feels the need to say something. "You guys are eating alright, right?" He eventually settled for.
"Oh, yes Boss! Thank you for the food a couple days ago." Ever since Tsuna's mom had found out that three of Tsuna's friends lived on their own (although luckily she did not know that it was in an abandoned amusement park) she periodically sent Tsuna over with dishes of food stating that everyone deserved a home-cooked meal.
"No problem. Is this your phone?" Tsuna glanced down at the phone in his hand, a small charm in the shape of an owl dangled off one end.
"Ah, yes. Chikusa gave it to me a couple weeks ago." Chrome said, confused when Tsuna seemed to frown.
Her confusion grew when Tsuna, after setting the can of beans on the ground, took out his own orange cell phone before punching a series of numbers into hers. Chrome jumped when Tsuna's phone rang out, the infectiously bouncy sound of the theme to a popular anime filling the air. Tsuna pressed a button and the sound stopped, his thumb then raced over a few more buttons before the sound of Chrome's simple ringtone filled the air.
Chrome reached to take her phone when that happened, thinking that Chikusa or Ken were trying to get a hold of her but Tsuna pulled it out of her reach and once again set his thumb to work pressing buttons. He closed the phone with a snap before handing it back to her.
"Now you have my number, and I have yours." He told her with a smile. Chrome felt her mouth drop open slightly in surprise before she opened her phone and pressed the key to access the phonebook. There after Chikusa and Ken was Tsuna. She was so engrossed that she didn't notice when Tsuna had bent over to retrieve his beans and moved a few feet from her. "I'll see you later Chrome-chan!" He called in farewell. Chrome spun around to look at him with wide eyes as he jogged away.
"Ah! Good-bye Boss!" She replied belatedly.
She returned her attention to her phone when he was out of sight. After a moment she opened the edit feature on her phone and changed the entry from Tsuna to Boss. She smiled afterward, feeling oddly light hearted as she looked at the new addition to her phonebook.
When her phone sent out its simple melody while she, Chikusa, and Ken were having dinner Chrome nearly leapt to get it. As only three people even had this number and she was currently with two of them she knew who it must be.
Tsuna had called a couple times previously in the two weeks since they'd exchanged numbers. Each time the conversation had started off awkwardly. From what Chrome gathered he was calling on the orders of his mother to make sure they were okay but she didn't care. It was just nice to have someone calling.
"Hello Boss!" Chrome said as she answered, having confirmed that it was indeed him with a glance at the screen.
"Ah, hello Chrome-chan!" A female voice answered her. Chrome couldn't name the dark feeling that flashed through her momentarily but she didn't like it. The voice continued. "It's Haru, Miura Haru, remember?"
Chrome wasn't quite sure why she wouldn't remember Haru-san. After all they had spent quite a bit of time together in the future (that hopefully no longer was) and they had of course seen each other off and on in the year that had passed since. It was true that she, Haru, and Kyoko were no longer as close as they had seemed to grown in the dismal time, but it wasn't like Chrome would forget her.
"Of course you do, silly me!" Haru laughed, cutting Chrome off before she could say anything. "I'm calling because I noticed your number in Tsuna-san's phone and wanted to ask you something."
For a moment Chrome thought about asking her just what she was doing snooping through the Boss's phone, but she didn't have the courage, so instead she just said "Sure."
"Well, I was wondering if you would like to spend this Saturday with me, Kyoko-chan, and Kyoko-chan's friend Hana-san. We're going to go to this new cafe that just opened up and then we'll do some shopping and then catch a movie at the theatre at Namimori Mall. Kinda like a Girl's Night Out, except during the afternoon. It'll be a lot of fun, you have to come!" Haru explained.
Chrome didn't know what a Girl's Night Out was but she couldn't quite believe she was being invited to go on one. What if she did it wrong? What if she messed up somehow and Haru and Kyoko hated her? And who was Hana? Was she that sarcastic girl that sometimes hung around the Family?
There was a noise on the other end of the phone of rustling fabric before a new voice came on the line.
"Chrome-chan? It's Tsuna." Tsuna sounded hesitant. "Look, you don't have to go or anything but, uh, it might be, nice, you know, if you did."
"Oh, okay." Chrome found herself saying, despite her doubts. After all what could she say? That she had never done anything like this? That she didn't know how she was supposed to act? That she'd never had friends before to spend time with? "I bet it will be... fun."
"Really? That's good." Tsuna got out before the sounds of a small scuffle came through the earpiece and Haru was back on.
"You'll go? Great! Give me your cell number and I'll message you the time and place, okay?" Haru's voice was just a little too loud in her excitement. Chrome quickly gave her number to the enthusiastic teen and said goodbye.
Just what had she agreed to?
A couple days later Chrome worked up the courage to tell Chikusa and Ken her plans for Saturday. She didn't know just what kind of reaction she was expecting but it wasn't the one she got.
"Whatever." Said Ken, clearly uninterested in the affairs of teenaged girls.
"Where are you going to get the money?" Asked Chikusa rather reasonably.
Chrome gasped. She had completely forgotten about money! Movies were expensive, right? Chrome was unsure as she hadn't been to one in years, not since before she was Chrome. And of course there was the cafe they were going to as well. Shopping she could get through without spending anything but not the movie or the cafe.
Chrome didn't have any money. She, Chikusa, and Ken always pooled money (that was obtained in one of two ways; either they sold scrap metal and parts from around the park or Ken picked the pockets of affluent looking people at the train station) for things like food and trips to the public bath and other necessities.
A moment of panic came over her then and she whipped out her phone without thinking about it. Her thumb jabbed the one button, holding it down until she heard ringing.
Boss would know what to do. Boss could fix this. Boss could fix anything. She thought rather desperately.
"Hello? Chrome-chan?" Tsuna's voice came over the line and Chrome froze. What was she doing? She couldn't tell him she was panicking because she had no money to go out on Saturday with his friends. "Chrome-chan? Are you okay?" There was a hint of worry now. "What's wrong?"
"I, uh..." Chrome searched through her mind desperately for something to say.
"Chrome-chan, is something wrong? You, uh, you know you could tell me, right?" There was awkwardness in his tone, but it was the earnestness in it that undid her.
"I, I don't have any money to go out with your friends on Saturday. I guess, I'll have to cancel..." Chrome's voice was so soft that Tsuna had to strain to catch it.
"Did, did you really want to go?" Tsuna asked her hesitantly.
"Yes." Chrome sniffed into the phone, trying not to cry, berating herself for acting so silly.
"Please don't cry!" Tsuna said wildly. "I can lend you the money!" By that point he would have promised her anything, up to and including his left kidney, so long as she didn't cry.
"What? No! No, I couldn't take your money Boss!" Chrome had been shocked out of her almost tears.
"Don't worry, I get an allowance each week, besides my mom would be really upset if I didn't offer." Tsuna told her. "Just come by the house before you go meet Haru and I'll give you the money." There was a small explosion and Chrome heard Tsuna sigh. "I have to go now, Lambo just blew himself up again." He hung up before Chrome could offer anymore protests.
Chrome bit her lip as she looked at her now silent phone, wondering if she should feel happy or guilty.
On Saturday, two hours before she was supposed to meet Haru in front of the strange abstract statue at Namimori Park, Chrome knocked nervously at the door to the Sawada house.
She almost bolted when she heard light footsteps racing towards the door, her nerves reaching up from the pit of her stomach to choke her around her throat.
She forced herself to take a deep calming breath as the door was opened. Sawada Nana stood with a bright smile on her face and an apron in her hand.
"Oh, Chrome-chan! Come in, we were expecting you." Nana smiled brightly at the girl.
"Good afternoon Sawada-san." Chrome bowed to Tsuna's mother after pulling off her shoes in the foyer.
"Oh just call me Maman. Everyone does." If it was possible Nana's smile got even brighter. "Well, come on, come on into the living room." Nana ushered the slight girl into the main part of the house. "Are you looking forward to today? It sounds like you'll have a great time, I," Nana broke off as she took a close look at Chrome. "Is that what you're wearing? Isn't that your school uniform?"
"Ah, yes, it is." Chrome ducked her head close to her chest and fiddled nervously with the hem of her skirt.
"Oh my." Nana said in dismay, hand pressed to her cheek. "That won't do at all. A young girl shouldn't wear her school uniform for a day spent with friends."
"Oh, I know, I just don't..." Chrome wasn't sure if she should say that she didn't have anything else to wear, well nothing decent anyway, but it turned out she didn't have to.
"You don't have anything do you dear?" Nana's voice was kind, not accusing or pitying in any way. "Well, don't worry, I still have some things from my younger days that aren't doing me any good now and I bet Bianchi-chan might have some things."
"You don't have to do that, really!" But Chrome's words went unheeded as Nana called for Bianchi as she dragged Chrome up the stairs.
"What are you doing?" Tsuna stuck his head out of his door when he heard them. "Chrome-chan?" He hadn't realized she was here yet.
"I'm just getting Chrome into some more appropriate clothes. You just ignore us, Tsu-kun." Nana told her son. Tsuna looked from the pleading look on Chrome's face to the determined look on his mother's and instantly ducked back into his room with a 'Have fun!'. He felt bad for abandoning Chrome but a man never went up against his mother. Never.
"This way." Nana told Chrome as she pulled the girl into the master bedroom. Bianchi stuck her head through the door a moment later.
"Did you need me for something, Maman?" She asked, eyes flicking over to Chrome briefly.
"Yes." Nana turned one of her brilliant smiles on Bianchi. "Would you mind seeing if you had anything that Chrome-chan could maybe wear?"
"Hmm, I might have some things." Bianchi disappeared down the hall, presumably into her room.
Nana placed Chrome in the middle of the room and told her to stay before moving towards her closet. She dug through shoeboxes and plastic containers of winter clothes until she found a beat up old cardboard box and drug it out towards Chrome
"I've had these things since before Tsu-kun was born." She laughed as she kneeled by the box. "I'm not sure why I bothered keeping them, I'll never fit in to them again." She opened the flaps of the box, revealing neatly folded clothing lying inside. "For the nostalgia I suppose."
Nana sighed as she lifted the first article of clothing out. It was a buttercup-yellow sun dress with white lace at the hem.
"I wore this for my first date with Iemitsu." Nana sighed again as she briefly lost herself to happy memories.
"Maman, I found some things." Bianchi interrupted Nana's trip down memory lane as she walked into the room, a small pile of brightly colored clothing over one arm. "I don't wear these very often, so I suppose Chrome can keep anything she likes."
"Oh, I couldn't do that!" Chrome objected, shaking her head. "Really, I, I don't need anything, I mean, I appreciate this but..." Chrome trailed off at the disappointed look Nana was giving her.
"Chrome-chan, when people offer to do something for you, you should let them, because they wouldn't offer if they really didn't want to, right?" Nana waited from Chrome to nod at her before continuing. "Sometimes doing things for other people makes you happy too. Would you deny me this happiness?"
Chrome closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was beaten, completely and totally defeated. It wasn't hard to realize just why no one ever wanted to disappoint Maman.
"I'm sorry." Chrome said.
"Not 'I'm sorry'." Nana chided gently. "Try 'thank you' instead."
"Thank you." Chrome worked up a smile to give her with those words.
"You're welcome." Nana told her before turning to Bianchi. "Bianchi-chan, would you like to stay and help?"
"I suppose so." Bianchi agreed in a bored manner, but she sat the clothes in her arms on the floor gently and looked into the box of Nana's old things with interest.
The next twenty minutes were spent going through Nana's clothes and her memories. Every piece seemed to have a story attached to it and Chrome wondered how she could accept anything when it obviously meant so much.
Eventually they came close to the bottom of the box and Nana pulled out a pair of black leggings.
"Oh my!" Nana cried, laughter spilling out as she unfolded the item. "I remember these. That would have been... the early nineties?"
"Are you sure it wasn't the late eighties?" Bianchi asked, raising a brow at the leggings made from some type of shiny unnatural material. Nana laughed merrily at her.
"But, you know, haven't these come back into style?" Nana asked the two younger girls, assuming they would know.
Chrome just looked at her in bewilderment, having never been considered anything close to fashionable. Bianchi however nodded at her.
"They have, especially when paired with a tunic top." Chrome was completely lost, having no honest idea of what a tunic was, surely they didn't mean the things men wore in all those medieval English movies?
"Hmm." Nana looked thoughtful as she held the leggings up. "They may be a bit long on you Chrome-chan, but it shouldn't matter with your boots."
"I have a top that would work well with them too." Bianchi said, sifting through the things she had brought to pull out a charcoal gray t-shirt. The front had a white ribcage plastered across it and the back had a spinal column running down. Chrome fell in love with it instantly.
"Are you sure you don't want this?" Chrome said as she reached for it.
"No, I bought it a few weeks ago, but it turns out it's not really my style." Bianchi placed the shirt in Chrome's arms.
"Well, go try it on." Nana shooed Chrome towards the bathroom. She came back a couple minutes later in the leggings (which were just a little too long) and the shirt that fell a couple inches short of her finger tips. Her belt she had slung around her hips as she carried her school uniform. "You look wonderful, Chrome-chan."
"Something's missing though." Bianchi said thoughtfully as she examined a nervous looking Chrome.
"I think I know just the thing!" Nana leapt to her feet and headed towards the hallway. "I'll be right back!"
Bianchi began carefully packing everything back into the cardboard box as they waited for Nana, Chrome sitting back on the floor to help. They had finished by the time Nana came running into the room, a jacket held in her hands.
"Ta-da!" Nana cheered as she held the jacket out for Chrome's inspection. It was black with a mandarin style collar and square shoulders. Two rows of silver buttons with an insignia of a rearing horse molded on them ran down the front of the jacket, and were located again at the cuffs. The jacket was short and not very heavy, clearly meant to be worn in early fall. It looked like it was part of some foreign country's military uniform, and like it had never been worn.
"It's very nice." Chrome said, standing to take it from Nana. "Really nice." She shrugged the jacket on at Nana's urging and discovered that it was cut for a male. "Whose is this?"
"I bought it a couple years ago for Tsu-kun, but he didn't like it and so he never wore it." Nana sighed, hand pressed to her cheek. "Now it's too small for him, but it looks wonderful on you, I'm so glad I thought of it."
Well, after that there was no way Chrome could refuse, so she thanked both Nana and Bianchi profusely for their gifts.
"You're very welcome." Nana smiled at her. "Now, I think Tsu-kun is waiting for you in the living room."
Chrome bowed awkwardly with her hands full of her school uniform before hurrying downstairs.
"Boss." Chrome called softly as she stepped into the living room.
"Chrome-chan." Tsuna paused the videogame he was playing, to the loud protests of Lambo, to turn towards her. "I'm sorry about my mom, she tends to mother everyone."
"No, it's okay, I don't really mind." Chrome felt a blush spread over her cheeks. She didn't mind at all, it felt nice to have someone treat her so warmly.
"Ah, good." There was a pause that stretched too long. "Um, you look, I mean the clothes they, err... What I'm trying to say, uh, you look good?" The compliment was awkward and unsure but Chrome felt that perhaps it meant more because of that.
"Thank you." Chrome bent down to press her lips briefly to Tsuna's cheek in appreciation.
"Yeah." Tsuna turned his face away quickly but Chrome could see the tips of his ears turning red. "Um, here's some money for you." Tsuna pulled a small envelop out of his pocket and held it out to her.
Chrome took it and held it close to her chest. "Thank you very much Boss." Chrome bowed, hair sweeping into her eyes. "I'll be sure to bring whatever's left over back."
"Don't worry about it." Tsuna told her. "You can keep it."
Chrome opened her mouth to insist that she bring it back but Nana's words from earlier came back to her and so all she said was "Thank you." again. It felt like she had been saying it a lot lately.
Waiting for Haru at the base of the statue in Namimori Park felt strange. She felt self-conscious as people would turn to stare at her. As she had gotten there early she had been left waiting for a while now. She was sure everyone thought she was being stood up or something. Chrome hugged her uniform, carefully wrapped in a paper bag, to her chest, trying to remember that the opinions of strangers didn't matter.
"Chrome-chan!" A cheery voice called out to her. Chrome turned on her heel to see Haru waving at her wildly as the brunette jogged up to join her. "You made it! Have you been waiting long?"
"No." Chrome lied. "I just got here." The lie fell easily from her lips. It was the type of polite conversation expected in all social interactions, whether between close friends or strangers. Chrome might not know much about friendship but she knew how to be distantly polite.
"Good, good!" Haru smiled at her brightly. It was warm and genuine and when Chrome tried to return it she felt that she fell short. "We should get going, I bet Kyoko-chan and Hana-san are already at the cafe." Chrome nodded her agreement and followed as Haru led.
On the way Haru chatted on about seemingly everything; school, her parents, Tsuna, shopping, cake, music, the mafia. Luckily she required only the most basic of replies to continue so Chrome did not have to be an active participant in the conversation. Chrome was too busy having a small mental breakdown to give much more than grunts in reply.
The cafe they eventually stopped at was a plain concrete storefront wedged between a small used bookstore and a family-run grocery. Two large windows were obstructed by gauzy curtains, and a large, striped canopy hung over the door. A sandwich-board blackboard sat to the side of the entrance, the only sign the place had, announcing that this was Le Petit Gateau and the Special of the Day was Raspberry Chocolate Ganache Cake. The store had been painted pink.
"Isn't it cute?" Haru asked from her elbow, clasping her hands under her chin. "This place just opened up a month ago."
"It's very...pink." Chrome managed eventually when it became clear that Haru was actually expecting an answer this time. It was the only thing she could think to say.
"I know, right!" Haru cheered, clearly not put off at all by Chrome's unenthusiastic response, before linking her elbow with Chrome's and guiding them both into the shop.
The inside of the shop was fortunately much less pink. It had been designed to emulate the interior of a turn of the century European bakery. Black and white tile criss-crossed across the floor and the walls had been painted gold. The furnishings were Victorian in form and the atmosphere was welcoming. Chrome liked it instantly.
"There they are!" Chrome was beginning to think that Haru regularly talked in exclamation points.
Nervous, Chrome allowed herself to be dragged over to a small iron-wrought table at which sat Sasagawa Kyoko and Kurokawa Hana. They greeted Haru brightly as the two sat before turning to Chrome.
"I'm glad you could come, Chrome-chan." Kyoko smiled gently, trying to ease the other girl, sensing perhaps the small terror Chrome felt in their presence. "You've met Kurokawa Hana before, right?"
"We've met. You're one of Sawada's weird friends, right?" Hana's voice wasn't rude or sneering, just pragmatic and to the point. Chrome got the impression that, while she might not by unwelcome exactly she wasn't quite welcome either.
"Hana-chan, that was rude!" Kyoko admonished as Chrome shrank away a little from being called weird. She knew that she wasn't what anyone would call normal, but to come right out and say that she was weird?
"I didn't mean it like that." Hana insisted. "It's just, well, you have to admit that some of Dame-Tsuna's friends are, not normal." Hana shrugged her shoulders in a dismissive fashion.
"Don't call Boss that." The words were the most decisive she'd spoken all day and had been more reflex than anything else.
"What?" Hana said looking startled, the others too were looking at her as if Chrome had suddenly sprouted a second nose.
"Don't call Boss that." Chrome repeated, voice softer this time but the words as strong and steady as before. "He's not, Boss isn't..." Chrome had trouble deciding what she wanted to say.
"It's okay." Kyoko told her. "Hana-chan, Chrome-chan is right, you shouldn't call Tsuna-kun names." Haru nodded her vehement agreement.
"Everyone calls him that. It's just a stupid name." Hana argued, crossing her arms and looking annoyed. She didn't like being made into the bad guy.
"Please Hana-chan. Tsuna-kun is your friend too, you shouldn't..." Kyoko trailed off, not wanting to fight with her friend.
"Okay, okay." Hana mumbled, knowing when she was defeated. "Although just when did he become my friend?"
The other three girls didn't answer her, unsure how to without mentioning things like Mafia and Family. Because Hana wasn't just Tsuna's friend, she was his Family, because the Family of Tsuna's Family was his Family too, and Hana was Kyoko's Family.
Luckily they were saved from any more awkwardness by the arrival of their waiter. As the others rattled off their orders Chrome flipped quickly through the menu. At a total loss for what to order she ended up getting the special of the day along with the Raspberry Green Tea suggested by the waiter.
"Good choice!" Haru commented as their waiter headed back to the kitchen. "You'll have to let me try some! You can have some of mine too." Haru had ordered something called a Chocolata Torte. Hana and Kyoko spoke up with agreement to this plan.
"Ah, okay." Chrome agreed, wondering if it was normal to order something with the intention of giving it away.
It took them over an hour to finish eating. Over an hour to consume four pieces of cake. It felt like a ridiculous amount of time to spend eating, but Chrome supposed she could let it pass as the hour had been spent mostly in conversation (although Chrome found she had little to say).
At this very moment Haru, Kyoko, and Hana were talking about a band Chrome had never heard of, and quite frankly had little interest in. Haru and Kyoko seemed to like their music but Hana did not. The good natured argument was strange to Chrome. How could they take the insults and slights to their judgement without hurt?
She nearly fell out of her chair in shock when her phone gave off that little jingle that meant she had a text message.
How's it going?
That was the extent of the message. It had come from Boss. Chrome couldn't help the delighted smile that spread over her face as she wrote back a reply.
Well, I think.
"Who are you texting?" Haru asked suddenly. Chrome lifted her head swiftly in slight surprise, she hadn't realized the three had stopped talking and were watching her. She hunched her shoulders a little at their gaze, though there was nothing in it but kind curiosity.
"Um, Boss." Chrome answered right as her phone signalled another incoming text. Hana and Kyoko lost interest with this answer and signalled their waiter over to get the checks.
"Oooh, I want to text Tsuna-san too!" Haru cried as she whipped out her own phone so fast Chrome thought she felt wind coming off it. Chrome turned back to her own phone as Haru's thumbs reached near supersonic speeds in her own text.
That's good. Just remember, be yourself.
Chrome wasn't sure how much of that message was Tsuna and how much was Maman but it made her feel better all the same.
As they paid for their meals and began gathering their things to leave, Chrome carefully saved Tsuna's last message.
Shopping, Chrome came to learn, wasn't about buying anything. It was about moving through stores pulling out items to either ridicule or fawn over. It was about teasing and daring and trying on things you'd never wear, just to mock the results. It was gagging over perfume that was too strong and ooh-ing over jewellery that was far too expensive.
It was laughing so hard you nearly cried as your friend paraded around in a truly awful hat. It was not so subtly critiquing the outfit choices of passersby. It was discussions held on the practicality of shoes seven inches high.
Shopping, for Chrome, was realizing that maybe she wasn't so different from normal girls after all.
"I want to see this one!" Haru pointed to a poster of a vapid looking girl wrapped in the arms of an arrogant looking man. It was for the latest big-budget romance drama.
"Oh no!" Hana pulled a face. "That has terrible reviews! Let's see this one." Hana waved her and at the poster for a psychological thriller.
"I don't think I'd understand that one, Hana-chan." Kyoko told her with a laugh. "What would you like to see Chrome-chan?"
"How about this one?" Chrome suggested, putting her hand on the edge of the poster to Blood and Bile, the newest zombie horror film to come out from a famous horror-genre director. Turning to the three other girls she noticed faint looks of disgust and mild terror. "Or not."
"How about we try this one? I heard it takes place in Italy." Kyoko pointed to a poster that featured a handsome man and a beautiful woman driving in a car along the Italian coastline. The title was written in western writing and was something none of them could decipher.
"A foreign film?" Hana asked looking interested. She appreciated films that broadened horizons, plus it seemed classy and cultured.
"I think so." Kyoko replied. The couple on the poster distinctly did not look Asian.
"Ooooh! I want to see it!" Haru bounced lightly on her toes. Haru was interested in anything Italian.
"Alright, are we all in agreement to see this one?" Hana asked, taking charge as she was used to. They all nodded at her. "Good, let's go."
The movie was set in Italy, and it was a foreign film, complete with subtitles. Chrome appreciated the beautiful lilting words of the Italian language and she was thrilled every time she could pick out the meaning of one.
Famiglia, for example, was an easy one.
The movie turned out to be about the mafia. It also turned out to be largely inaccurate in most regards but startlingly correct in others. Chrome felt a little uncomfortable watching it. Haru however looked close to having convulsions of joy. Chrome was sure that, had she pen and paper, she'd have been taking notes on the Don's wife. The thought sent a dark feeling through Chrome's stomach for a moment before she pushed it back. Kyoko seemed to be enjoying the movie well enough but every now and then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, steadying herself. Hana looked to be totally engrossed in the plot, although she occasionally wrinkled her nose whenever a character did something she thought was foolish.
"That was so good!" Haru cried as the movie let out, stretching her arms back. She skipped her way out of the theatre, purse swinging at her side.
"It was interesting." Kyoko agreed, moving much more sedately. "And the love story was very sweet."
"It was so romantic!" Haru sighed, pressing a hand to her cheek, coming to a sudden halt in front of the exit doors. "Poor Julietta. She gave up her world for the man she loved, only to have him die."
"It was okay." Hana said, pushing her way past the starry-eyed Haru and out onto the sidewalk. "But so unrealistic. Really, I mean, everyone knows the mafia doesn't exist anymore."
There was another moment where Haru, Kyoko, and Chrome didn't know what to say so they didn't say anything at all, just looked at each other helplessly. It struck Chrome that if the strength of the friendship were measured in the size of the secrets you share, the friendship between her, Kyoko, and Haru would be as strong as steel.
"You might be right." Haru said eventually, and it was very carefully not a lie. Because Hana might be right, but she wasn't.
"Of course." Hana sniffed. "Aw man. It's this late already?" Hana stared at her watch in dismay, frown twisting her pretty features. "I told my mom I'd be home half an hour ago! It will take me another half hour to get back too!" She pulled out her phone to call her mother, trying to lesson any punishment she might receive.
"We should hurry then." Kyoko said, hefting her purse higher up her arm before turning to give Haru a hug and Chrome a wave. "It was nice seeing you both. We should do this again soon."
Haru gave loud agreement to this as the other two girls walked off, waving broadly as they dissapeared towards the station.
"Did you have a good time?" Haru asked as they too began making their way home. The words had an odd weight to them. Haru was being serious.
"Yes. I did." Chrome answered, surprised to find she was being honest. "I, I think I would like to do this again, sometime. That is if you want me too." She fiddled with the bag in her hand, not wanting to face Haru to see the answer.
"Of course!" Haru exclaimed, clasping a hand over Chrome's arm. "We're friends right?"
Later that night, as she laid on the beat-up old sofa that served as her bed, Chrome thought about her life when she was Nagi.
She thought about her parents, whose only real crime had been an inability to care enough, or at all. Too busy trying to be important to pay attention.
She thought about the cold, distant house they had lived in, that her parents still lived in. It had been full of things but empty of joy.
She thought about the school she had gone to, the expensive, private school. The halls she drifted through like a ghost, the cafeteria she avoided at all costs, the classrooms where she sat, shrinking away from any contact.
She thought about all the friends she didn't have in that life. The people she didn't dare try to talk to, knowing as she did just how disappointing a human being she was. The girls who looked at her and saw only a strange, introverted person.
And then she thought about her life now, as Chrome.
She thought about Mukuro-sama who was her saviour and her inspiration.
She thought about Ken and Chikusa, who cared in the only ways they were able.
She thought about Boss, who accepted her as she was and unconditionally.
She thought about Maman, whose heart seemed large enough to encompass all.
She thought about the rest of the Famiglia, who may not have always been kind but who never implied she was not one of them.
And she thought about Kyoko, Haru, and Hana. About how they didn't have to associate with her. They didn't need her in any way, shape, or form, but instead wanted her company just for what it was. Company.
And no matter how nice it felt to be needed, to be wanted was even better.
Author's Note: Thank you Katie (katierox342) for beta-ing this. This story was written about a month ago, but between getting it beta-ed and my vacation to the Cape it's taken this long to get it out. That is not at all unusual for me, most of my stories only get published after sitting around on my laptop for a month or more so I have time to read through them obsessively. I only post things when I get sick of looking at them, haha.
I tried to make this a 2796, but I utterly fail at anything resembling romance. Jeez.