Warning: This story contains some girl/girl romance, in case you didn't notice the pairing in the summary. Last chance to leave if this bothers you!
Many thanks to my friend RK for introducing me to this series. I've enjoyed it so much, and I'm happy to be writing three of my favorite characters!
This fic takes place right after Maki's first battle with the League of Black-Suited Gentlemen.
"Are you alright, Mina-chan?"
Just those words, and then the warm weight of Maki's head as it fell against her shoulder, and there was no way Mina could have kept the tears from streaming down her face. She couldn't even raise her arms to return Maki's embrace at first.
There was noise all around her, but none of it seemed to come through clearly. There was just the sound of her own heart hammering in her ears. She had been so frightened, so completely terrified, that it hadn't fully registered until now. She felt as if her heart might burst from it.
"Maki-chan," Mina finally realized she had been crying her friend's name again and again, that Yuu's voice and Michiru's voice and Renge's voice were all calling that same name over and over again.
Maki didn't even raise her head. Her fingers twitched against Mina's back, but she made no move to let go. It seemed like forever before she responded.
"'M tired. . . ."
Mina threw herself into hugging Maki back. Shock and fear could only hold her for so long. She felt Maki's head lift from her shoulder from the force of her hug, and if she could have gotten words out around the lump in her throat she might had told Maki to stay, please stay and rest on her as long as she needed.
"Okay, okay. Let's get her home."
She wasn't sure if it was Michiru or Yuu pulling at her, but someone was making her move. They made their way step by slow step, with Maki's arm still solid around her. It went on until Mina wasn't sure if she was supporting Maki or being supported by her or both.
Maki's face had lifted from her shoulder so that she could see the drying blood that painted it. It was so hard to think of where they were or where they were going when she saw that.
"Here! It's definitely here!"
Renge's voice broke through, enough to announce that they had arrived. Mina felt her heart jump with something more than surprise. Was she supposed to let Maki go now? They both needed to rest after everything that had happened, but. . . .
Arms wound around her once again, almost strong enough to squeeze the breath out of her. Mina couldn't have moved away from Maki if she wanted to.
"Maki-chan. . . I'm. . . We're right here. Just a little more and you can rest, okay?"
"Why don't you just stay over with her, then?" Yuu suggested.
"You can put her to bed too, ne?"
Mina would have honestly wanted to, if they hadn't been laughing about it. She could feel her face growing hot, and not just because of the warm feeling from Maki breathing open-mouthed against her neck.
"I-it's not like that! I'm just supporting Maki-chan because we're friends! I wasn't trying to get her to invite me in or anything!"
"Right, right." Michiru clapped one hand on Mina's free shoulder, looking suddenly serious. "But you know, she ran all over the city trying to find you today. So look after her for a little while, okay?"
Mina's heart jumped, because she knew Michiru wasn't just teasing her this time. Maki had run all around just trying to find her? Just the reminder that Maki had worked so hard to save her made Mina stand up a little straighter, even with Maki still leaning on her.
Mina felt light-headed as she helped Maki into her apartment. It might have been exhaustion and fear, but she knew it wasn't fear making her heart pound anymore. It was Maki, leaning right against her, so solid and close.
Maki still had that daze about her that she seemed to get after a particularly difficult street fight. She hardly even responded to Mina apologizing for intruding in her apartment, and let herself be led into the narrow space of the bathroom without complaint.
Trying to wash the blood from Maki's face suddenly reminded Mina just how tall the other girl was. She couldn't even see the wound on Maki's head clearly from this angle.
"Try sitting down," Mina coaxed.
She had to guide Maki by the hand and help her sit on the bed in the next room. Standing over the taller girl, she was able to gently clean the narrow gash between Maki's bangs. It had thankfully stopped bleeding, though a little tendril of blood did trickle from Maki's nose when Mina wiped the dried blood from the rest of her face.
Holding a tissue to Maki's nose, since she didn't seem to notice or care if her nose was bleeding, Mina sat beside Maki on the bed. She gathered Maki against her, just a little, so that she had the warm weight of Maki's head on her shoulder once more.
It was a selfish action, but Mina didn't want to care. Loving Maki, wanting to be so close to her that the rest of the world couldn't get in between them, it couldn't be a bad thing right now. She couldn't stay paralyzed by shyness when Maki needed her, right?
"Does your head hurt?" Mina asked. When Maki didn't respond she tried again, crying, "Please tell me if it hurts."
"No." Maki's voice was still no more than a vague murmur. "I felt light. The wind was rushing in my ears."
With a painstaking gentleness, Mina moved Maki's head from her shoulder to rest on top of her breasts. She pressed her lips together in embarrassment at the pressure, but this was Maki. She only wanted Maki's head to be pillowed softly. It wasn't something she could have casually done for anyone else.
Maki made a startled noise in her throat, and a bit of fresh blood spurted from her nose to stain the tissue. Almost immediately Maki lifted her head from Mina's chest. Her face was as flushed as Mina's felt, but at least the dazed post-battle look had gone from her eyes.
"Maki-chan, please let me," Mina burst out without thinking. "Let me take care of you! You always do so much, and I want to. . . ."
Maki's hand was on her cheek, and Mina's face felt hotter than ever at the touch. The heat of Maki's hand melted away all of the awkward nervousness that had built up in her chest. Ignoring Mina's chest, Maki shifted and lay down so that her head was pillowed on Mina's lap.
Leaning back a bit so that she could see Maki's face more clearly, Mina carefully wiped the fresh blood from her upper lip before dropping the tissues in a small wastebasket near the bed.
"You're a very good nurse," Maki told her.
Her heart pounding with a sort of startled joy that she could hardly understand, Mina tried to live up to the praise and be a good nurse for Maki's sake. She tenderly smoothed back Maki's short hair to check on the cut on her forehead. She held her legs absolutely, perfectly still so as not to jostle Maki's head in her lap.
Without being asked, she lovingly soothed and supported Maki until she saw Maki's eyes slide closed. She didn't want to disturb her patient, her friend, her. . .
Maki looked so elegant to her, even with one arm splayed out and her head crooked at an odd angle. Even when her mouth fell open as she dozed, breathing slow and deep. Mina couldn't tear her eyes away.
How could her heart be pounding so hard when Maki looked so calm? Just because Maki was resting in her lap. Just Maki. . . that thought had to shift around her head for a moment. They were together, alone. Just the two of them.
Mina touched one finger to Maki's upper lip, stroking her fingertip softly along the shape of it. Her finger only brushed the fuller curve of Maki's lower lip in passing. It didn't feel wrong that she had never wanted to kiss anyone before Maki. It couldn't feel wrong at all, wanting to kiss Maki.
Raising her fingers to her own mouth, Mina hesitated just shy of touching that hint of a stolen kiss to her own lips. Would Maki be unhappy, if she knew? Would she be embarrassed? Would she hate it?
Maki stirred suddenly, groaning in her sleep and rolling over with such strength that she knocked Mina backwards onto the bed.
With a guilty squeak, Mina tried to sit up and found that Maki's arm around her made that impossible. Maki hadn't just draped one arm over her chest and up around her shoulder, but was actively embracing her. Maki's hold was so firm, it was hard to believe that she was really asleep.
The only answer was a soft sigh from Maki, who had her cheek nestled against Mina's shoulder once again. Maki still looked so peaceful, she really could have been fast asleep. She had more than earned a little sleep, after all.
Mina moved to return the embrace, shyly resting one arm over Maki's shoulders. Her other arm was trapped under Maki's body, but she didn't mind. She snuggled a little closer, lips just shy of brushing Maki's forehead. She couldn't steal a kiss like this, when Maki was still asleep. . . .
The sound of the door to Maki's apartment banging open prompted another squeak of surprise from Mina. She couldn't even see who it was around Maki's shoulder.
Mina was relieved to realize that at least that voice was familiar. A moment later a younger girl with messy reddish-brown hair, the color just a tint duller than Maki's, was looking at her curiously over Maki's shoulder.
"G-good afternoon, Miori-chan," Mina nervously greeted Maki's little sister. She'd only met the girl very briefly.
"Hi. You're one of my sister's friends, right?" Miori answered. "What are you doing?"
"Oh, I. . . I just. . ."
Mina felt her face flush as she tried once again to sit up. Maki's arm was holding her as close as ever, making it impossible to move away. Even in her sleep, Maki's grip was too strong to break.
"You're going to have to wake her up," Miori said. "She never lets go. She got my pillow once."
The younger girl had her hands braced on the edge of bed, pushing her shoulders up to her ears as she leaned on them. She seemed more interested in Mina's predicament than anything.
"I don't want to wake her up. She worked so hard today."
Mina let her attention drift from Miori back to Maki's face as she spoke. It was true. She didn't care how long she was trapped, so long as Maki could rest peacefully. Besides, being close to Maki like this. . . She could have laid there for hours, as long as Maki's arm was around her.
"Sometimes she does wrestling holds in her sleep," Miori warned.
That could prove dangerous knowing how strong Maki was. At the same time Mina couldn't believe Maki would ever hurt her, even in her sleep.
"I'll be alright."
Miori bounced against the bed, jostling Mina so that she held on tighter to Maki in her surprise.
"You're just like she described you," Miori announced suddenly.
"Maki-chan. . . talks about me?" Mina felt a flutter of surprised happiness in her chest. Maki had talked about her, to her family? Or did Maki talk about all of her friends? "What did she say?"
"I'm not telling."
A sudden impish smile and Miori lunched herself off of the bed and bounded out of Mina's sight. Such a burst of mischievous energy seemed like the opposite of Maki's quiet intensity. Had her friend been like that too when she was a child?
"Not telling!" Miori called back. "You're still not getting up?"
"No." Mina shifted her arm from Maki's shoulders to stroke the short, soft hair at the back of her head. "I still. . . want to look after her a little."
"You could have a snack or something. I know where she hides the good stuff."
"Thank you, but I'm okay."
Somehow their calling back and fourth hadn't made Maki so much as stir in her sleep, though she did let out a hint of a sigh when Mina stroked the back of her head. For a moment Mina just watched Maki sleeping. She was so happy just to be this close, just to be held by Maki for a little while. There wasn't anything else she could have honestly asked for.
When Mina looked up again, Miori was leaning around the narrow wall that separated the bed from the little corner that served as a kitchen. She had a covered cup of instant ramen in one hand, steam curling out from under the foil lid.
"You really just want to lie there with her?" Miori asked.
"Yes," Mina whispered. Her voice caught in embarrassment on that simple word.
Miori gave her a long look, and Mina felt herself blush. She loved Maki as a friend. Wasn't that an appropriate reason stay by her side?
"Careful. My sister has a really hard head."
Mina didn't understand what that was supposed to mean. Miori didn't expand on the comment, but plopped down on the narrow bed, somehow finding room to lean against Maki's back without sliding off, and turned on the TV opposite.
It was a cozy feeling. Not just to be held by Maki, feeling her friend breathe slow and strong against her, but to hear the low noise of the television and Miori's annoyed little exclamations that she had apparently missed a really interesting scene earlier. It felt like a safe, hidden corner of the world. Nothing bad could happen to them anymore, not with Maki beside her.