SOS Onboard the Maid Star

Seventeenth FML

'Miku's Smile'


Neru slammed the door of the café behind her when her shift came to an end. That night's work had been an unqualified disaster from start to finish; the comedy of errors (though Neru didn't find it all that comedic) culminating when Neru tripped over her feet just like one of those stupid clumsy maids from a shojo manga cliché and spilt a cup of tea over somebody's head.

Whatever.

The man she'd given third degree burns was probably a pervert anyway, so it was fine. It wasn't like Neru had actually done anything wrong; that old guy shouldn't have been sat in such a disgustingly adorable café served by likewise disgustingly adorable girls (sans Neru).

It was all about karma.

If you were a terrible human being, you got tea poured on your head.

Neru wasn't a klutz- she was more like... some divine heavenly agent reigning punishment down upon those who were unworthy to walk the earth! That was it! First, she was going to purge the universe of old men who had bizarre fascinations with young schoolgirls dressed as maids who had to call them 'm-m-master!'

Fortunately, Miku had been there to bail Neru out of that tight situation. The teal-haired girl had bowed her head to tea-splattered man profusely, apologizing over and over again on Neru's behalf with a flushed face; 'W-we're sorry, we're really sorry! You can have a free cup tea to make up for it- here, let me clean all that off you...'

Everything had been fine after that, so really, there was no point crying over spilt tea.

Neru didn't know why Miku had moved in to defend her like that, though; not after she had shouted at her. When Neru remembered what she had said (her and her stupid mouth; why didn't she think before she spoke?) she felt a painful, twisting sensation in her stomach, as somebody had jabbed a knife in her intestines and was coiling them round and round like spaghetti. It... was a little painful.

Not to mention embarrassing.

W-why did Miku help her out? Was it because Miku wanted to make Neru feel bad? If that was the case, she'd done a friggin good job of it, because Neru felt absolutely terrible; limp and lifeless, like an old newspaper that was being rolled around on the ground, in the dirt. Just like that newspaper that was bouncing past her feet right now, pushed by the breeze.

Or, was Miku being nice... simply because she was being Miku?

Miku had done so many nice things for Neru before; things nobody else ever would have done. She got her a job, she made her that dress (even though it was awful), she forced Neru to accept her friendship when she wasn't sure how to go about taking it herself, and now she was trying to cover for Neru when she made any stupid mistakes so she wouldn't get fired. It would be a lie to say Neru hadn't thought about it before, because she had- a lot, as well, until her head felt all fuzzy and twisted and she couldn't get to sleep without burying her face in her pillow and trying to suffocate herself. Being with Miku was just... confusing.

Thinking about her was even worse.

It made her head hurt.

Her body trembled, though it had nothing to do with the cold.

Stupid.

She was being stupid, as usual. What did it matter if Miku was a nice person or not? Miku had such a simple, easy life she would never understand the pain of being rejected- not that Neru had been rejected yet (you generally needed to confess first so the other person had a chance to say 'no thank you'), but she knew she would get rejected when she asked, so it was virtually the same thing. Miku just couldn't understand, so why was she trying to pry into Neru's business? Why did she think it concerned her?

It's because she cares about you.

But why did she care so much? Nobody else did; nobody save Gumi, and that was only because Neru and Gumi had been friends for years and years, ever since Gumi used to charge around the swing sets at playschool with her goggles over her eyes pretending to be a superhero with laser vision. That was a different kind of friendship; a simple one that didn't make Neru's brain explode into little, bit-sized, popcorn-shaped pieces every time she pondered it.

Gumi and Neru had been childhood friends, it was only natural they cared about each other.

Neru hadn't known Miku for much more than a few weeks.

Why did Miku care about her so much?

And... why had she shouted at her like that?

Neru winced, rubbing her temple. Miku didn't deserve to be treated like that, not at all; not because Neru had some... some stupid inferiority complex, and it wasn't even Miku's fault- it wasn't Miku's fault she was so perfect and pretty and wonderful at everything and she made Neru feel like a bug, a stupid creature about this big, when she spent time with her.

That wasn't Miku's fault.

Neru didn't know what to do. Should she apologize? But when she though about Miku her stomach hurt and felt all fluttery, and at the same time she was a little queasy and sick, and she knew if she saw the other girl again she just end up shouting at her because... b-because...

Because that's when you do when you like people and you don't know how to express your feelings properly.

You shout at them so they'll leave you alone, and then you won't be confused by feeling so much stuff all the time.

W-wasn't that just a little bit pathetic and hopeless?

Wasn't that-

"Neru-chan! Neru-chan, wait up!"

Neru turned around as she felt a familiar hand rest upon her shoulder. The familiar hand was attached to a familiar arm which, in turn, belonged to a very familiar girl.

It was Miku.

Miku was smiling a little nervously, her teal hair blowing about in the breeze. She was no longer dressed in her maid's uniform. Instead, she wore her sailor suit, heavy coat thrown on top, scarf wound round her neck.

Neru felt cold just looking at Miku.

She'd forgotten to bring her coat and scarf to school that day and now, in the darkening evening (made darker and colder still given winter was fast approaching), she felt freezing cold; a Nerusicle.

Neru didn't have the energy to be angry. She didn't have the heart, either. Miku's smile was tentative, as though she was afraid she would be shouted at any time. It made Neru drop her eyes to the ground in shame.

I wonder if she thinks I'm some kind of monster.

I can't say I blame her...

"Neru-chan?" Miku repeated softly, trying to peer up at Neru's face. It was a fruitless task. Neru's facial features were completely hidden by her bangs (the main reason Neru didn't cut her hair even though it was beginning to get annoying; it doubled as a shield so she could hide from inquisitive creatures like Miku). "Neru-chan, are you okay?"

Neru didn't trust herself to speak. She'd only say something nasty and offensive she didn't really mean; something she couldn't take back.

She nodded instead.

Miku frowned. "Well, you don't look okay! Um... Is it the weather? Are you cold?"

"... ...Little bit."

"Do you want my coat?"

Neru was about to say 'no, of course not'- but as the words formed on her lips, her mind was instantly cast back to the last time Miku had asked that oh-so-innocent question. When Neru refused Miku's hospitality the teal-haired girl had forced it upon her, dragging Neru into a hug to ensure she didn't get frostbite. Neru still flushed slightly at the memory; Miku's arms wrapped around her, the smell of her perfume clinging to her skin. Miku didn't seem to understand personal boundaries at all- but Neru hadn't complained because... it had felt... kind of nice.

Sort of.

A bit.

It was 'nice' (although that was a horribly inadequate word; urgh, using it made Neru feel sick) being cared for by somebody else; especially when Neru spent such a great portion of her life trying to push everybody away. Even people she was probably-definitely in love with, like Len. She just couldn't control herself, and she said stupid things, and then nobody wanted to talk to her anymore-

But Miku still did.

Even after what she'd said, Miku was still here, still smiling blithely as though it had never even happened.

To her great horror, Neru found tears were beginning to well up in the corners of her eyes.

Maybe Miku hadn't noticed-

"Hey, N-neru? What's wrong?"

Well, screw that. She'd definitely noticed.

Neru sniffed, shaking her head. She felt just a little girl again; that wide-eyed kid who'd been pushed around by the others because she didn't talk very much and was kind of shy, kind of awkward. She hated feeling hopeless like that- but she'd been feeling it more and more lately.

Damn it. Miku was way, way too perceptive.

"Nothing's wrong, really," said Neru, her voice harsher than she intended, as she glared at Miku. "I'm fine. I-I'm not even that cold, so I-"

"But this isn't about being cold, is it?"

Neru froze.

Miku's voice had lost its cheery tones. No longer did she look bright and sunny, able to thaw ice simply with her smile. Instead, she looked worried, concerned- and determined. Miku's fingers brushed against Neru's cheek gently, unsure and faltering, but she did not remove her fingers; did not pull back as, gently, she wiped Neru's tears away.

"Neru, what's wrong? I'm really worried about you, and I think... I think you're really upset! Can't you tell me? Please? I am your friend."

"Y-you wouldn't under-"

"I do understand! I know exactly what unrequited love feels like, Akita Neru! Don't pretend you're the only person in the world with those kinds of problems because you're not. Not at all."

Neru's eyes widened in surprise. "M-miku...?"

"Please tell me," said Miku, her voice soft, as she looked down (everybody was always looking down at Neru; she hated being so short) into Neru's eyes. "Please. If you tell me who you like... then I can tell you who I like. Is that a deal?"

"T-this isn't some stupid girly sleepover where we whine about feelings and paint our nails, you know."

"No, it's not. But we can make it one!" Miku smiled. "Do you want to come back to my house?"

"A-are you being serious?"

"Uh-huh!~ I like spending time with you. And that won't change no matter who you fall in love with! I'll be your number one supportive friend, guaranteed! O-oh, apart from Gumi-chan, who is also your very good friend and I certainly don't want to replace her... ehehe." Miku giggled sheepishly.

Neru looked at Miku's face; bright and warm once more. Neru wondered if Miku was honestly that happy, or if she was just trying to cheer her up by acting like the bright, bubbly ditz everybody else saw her as. Was Miku like her, hiding behind a mask of faked emotion to cope with everything else? Were they... a lot more similar than she first thought?

Miku was trying so hard to cheer her up, and she...

S-she'd said some terrible things to her-

And she was still here...

She... wasn't going anywhere.

Neru shuddered, more tears rolling down her cheeks. S-she must have looked pathetic, really pathetic- but, damn, damn, whatever; who cared?

Suddenly, moving quickly so she didn't have a chance to regret it (which she would, she definitely, unquestionably would), Neru pulled Miku into a hug, burying her head against her chest.

"N-neru-chan, y-you-"

"Shut up," Neru muttered, eyelids squeezing shut as more tears rolled down her cheeks. "S-shut up. I-I'm just cold..."

"Of course. Hehe~" A soft giggle. "You know... you're kind of cute, Neru-chan."

Neru's face turned red. She was glad Miku couldn't see it. Unfortunately, the small 'meep!' of surprise she made when Miku returned her hug was completely audible, making Miku giggle again.

Neru's heartbeat began to skip around erratically. She could hardly breathe.

But... it was still... warm...

And comforting.

And... she didn't want to let go.

"O-okay," said Neru softly, still talking into Miku's coat so she didn't have to look at her face (that would only have made her flush and stutter more). "I-I'll tell you... I'll tell you who I... like..."

Miku remained quiet, waiting for Neru to confess. It seemed even Miku, who usually spoke at one million words a minute with that bright grin plastered all over her face, knew when to be quiet, too.

Neru breathed in heavily. It was difficult to get enough air into her lungs, as if she had a vice round her windpipe, choking her.

Miku's slight touch against her back anchored to planet Earth; it was keeping her steady, and Neru was infinitely glad Miku was there, because if she wasn't, Neru was sure she'd collapse into a pile of humiliation and jelly-like ooze.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

T-try and keep it together...

Neru opened her mouth.

And then, she spoke.

"I-I'm in love with Len-kun."

There was a deathly silence; Miku's arms clasping round Neru's shoulders a little more tightly than before, as though she'd just been hit by an electric shock that had made all her muscles spasm and contract at once.

That wasn't the biggest surprise, though.

Not by a long shot.

"You... You're in love with Len? Well..." A cold laugh. "I figured that much out for myself, you bitch."


a/n: cliffhanger omg XD
Um, as always, thank you so much for the reviews and the like. I mean, this got more attention than I expected it would, and I know it's kind of not very good in places (I always write these chapters really, really quickly, in the space of like half an hour. With other stories I don't usually do that) but I'm happy you like it all the same ^_^'' I hope it's fluffy enough and the like... ^_^;;
Also, melodrama. This is one big pile of melodrama XDDD

~renahhchen xoxoxo