the aroma of bliss.

The sweet scent of blooming flowers frolicked in the air, sending creatures walking down the path into dazed, spiraling dreams. Vibrant pink, orange, and purple blossoms lined the way, their gentle petals swirling and playing tag. It was, truly, a beautiful spring day. For a lone little time traveler, it was one of the loveliest things she'd seen since she entered the time plane.

"Oh…" Mikuru made a little pleased noise as a falling pink blossom landed on her lap. She picked it up with delicate fingers, gazing at the star-shaped flower with sparkling eyes. She allowed herself to smile and sniff the aroma. The floral freshness was much better than any type of manmade perfume – they couldn't even be compared.

She placed the flower on her yellow skirt, watching the colors compliment each other. It had been a long time since she got a chance to relax… with Haruhi dragging her and the SOS Brigade around and the constant messages from her superiors, she hadn't had free time in months. She giggled softly, recalling the adventures Haruhi had put her through. Even though she didn't enjoy being forced into arrays of colorful and frilly costumes, at certain times she did have fun, she had to admit. It was a bit tiring after a while, however – all great things had to stop sometime or another.

This was one of the most beautiful places in the town, as she learned from exploring. It was quiet, too – not a lot of people managed to find the small, off-beaten path. But, if you did, it was quite a sight. The bench Mikuru was sitting on was old, and vines in full bloom were beginning to crawl up its legs. Perhaps this used to be a public park, but had since been long forgotten.

"Mikuru? That you?" The perky voice rang throughout the cove of flowers, unsettling the leaves. For a split second, she thought it was Haruhi's booming voice, and she was about to run. But as she turned her head, she realized it was not. It was Tsuruya, bounding towards her, surprised but smiling.

Mikuru sighed in relief – Tsuruya was her friend… a real one she made without the consent of her superiors. Tsuruya didn't know about her secret, although she could be quite nosy. If she cared about the SOS Brigade's secrets, the three "unique" members would be found out immediately. Despite her loud demeanor, she was smart.

"Hello, Tsuruya," Mikuru greeted, smiling like a lost angel. She stood up, brushing the blossom off of her skirt. She bowed, letting her brown hair falling in front of her face. "It's nice to see you. What are you doing here today?"

Tsuruya skidded to a stop and let out a hearty laugh that seemed to shake the earth. "Why are you bowing? We're friends, no need to be so formal!" Mikuru blushed and quickly stood up straight. Tsuruya's dark, yellow eyes gleamed in amusement. "You here to sightsee too? I always come here – it's just so pretty, ya know? Totally tranquil or whatev." A tranquility that, Mikuru couldn't help but think, was being disturbed. Just a bit.

Mikuru laughed awkwardly, tilting her head to the side. "I guess I am," she admitted softly, "I always come here when I need to relax. It's so beautiful in the springtime, when the flowers are in full bloom." For some reason, she liked Tsuruya much more than Haruhi. Haruhi was a good person on the inside, but she was rough and prying and always yelling. Tsuruya, on the other hand, was equally loud… but she spent it laughing. She could be admired for always keeping such a bright and happy face. It made Mikuru feel safe, and for some reason, infinitely happy.

Tsuruya nodded her head. "You betcha~," she all-but-sang. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide, and she cupped her chin. "I should probably be quiet, huh? Kinda disturbs the peace." With every word she grew quieter, until her voice was only a hoarse whisper. Her eyebrows creased in concentration, trying so desperately to remain quiet. Mikuru giggled at this – a peaceful little laugh, like the sound of bells.

"You don't have to force yourself to do anything," Mikuru said after she finally stopped giggling. "I don't think the flowers mind, and I certainly don't. I like it when you're bubbly." She paused for a moment, and cast her gaze down to the gravelly road. Someday, she'd have to say good-bye to her friend. When Haruhi was stable and when Kyon figured everything out, she was to go back to the future. For some reason, she felt a pang of jealousy towards Nagato and Koizumi; they'd probably get to stay. Perhaps Nagato would have to report back to her alien people, but Koizumi… there was no doubt in her mind that he'd get to forever watch over Haruhi and Kyon. How she'd love to switch places with him.

She felt her chest clench and contract in worried dismay. Why, all of a sudden, was she feeling so… depressed? She knew she had to return to the future – she knew it since the beginning. Had she never sat down and analyzed the consequences of leaving before?

"…Mikuru? You all right?" Tsuruya's voice was buzzing off in the distance, a wall of confused and foggy emotions blocking her from Mikuru. Tsuruya… why did she have to get attached to somebody in this time plane? She should've kept things strictly business. Haruhi's whim had decided to make her a main character in a crazed plot, but… before that, there was Tsuruya. There had always been Tsuruya.

Why, all of a sudden, was the loud, long-haired girl invading her mind? Oh, she would've rather had Haruhi there, it wouldn't have caused much stress…

Mikuru felt a hand on her shoulder, and a few shakes brought her back to hazy reality. "Mikuru? Mikuru, are you… crying?" Tsuruya sounded dreadfully worried – with those pursed lips and leveled stare, Mikuru found it hard to believe that it was the same girl who would laugh for hours on end.

Mikuru squeaked, shaking her head back and forth, trying to clear her mind. She felt tears slither down her face – Tsuruya had been right. "N-no…" she said anyway, although it was futile. She closed her eyes and shivered, letting the tears roll.

For a while, there was just silence, save for the sound of Mikuru's pathetic breathing and the rustle of the trees. After a while of wiping away tears, Mikuru felt a hand take her own. She blinked rapidly, looking up to see Tsuruya's face.

"Don't cry anymore," she said gently, eyes upturned in worry. "Please don't… I hate seeing people cry… hate it, hate it, hate it…" She trailed off, but maintained her gaze.

Mikuru sniffed, still shocked by the tiny gesture. She recalled reading this type of thing in books, only between a girl and a boy. On a lonely path, cherry blossoms dancing all around them… in fact, she remembered having to pose like this with Koizumi when the SOS Brigade was making their humble movie. Haruhi thought it was romantic. Mikuru hadn't really understood what she meant by that – she didn't feel a thing. And, by the looks of it, the esper didn't either.

But now

Mikuru felt her face start to heat, and she was sure she was blushing furiously. "O-o-okay, I-I-I'm done," she stuttered, not very reassuringly. "Th-th-thank you, but you don't have to fret over me…"

Tsuruya's grip on her hand loosened a bit, but she didn't let go. "Why are you sad?" she asked, tilting her head the way a curious cat would.

Mikuru smiled, one small and sorrowful. That's classified information. "It's nothing," she said, her voice cracking. "I just remembered something sad, that's all. Umm… this place reminds me of a sad scene in a movie I, umm, saw once." She nodded her head, as if assuring herself that that was all it was. "That's all…"

Tsuruya didn't believe it for one second, but it was obvious if she were to press the poor girl, she'd break. "I understand," she lied, eyes darkening. "I can leave, if you want me to. Then it'll be less awkward—"

"N-no!" Mikuru was startled by her own outburst, and even put her free hand to her lips, wondering what came over her. Tsuruya also gave her a bemused look. "Umm, what I mean is, ah… umm… do you want to walk with me?" She gestured to the scenery around them. "It only goes on for a little bit, and… umm… I really have nothing better to do…"

There was a pause that seemed to span a century. "…Okay!" Tsuruya exclaimed, already smiling like her old self. Mikuru felt relieved – she didn't want Tsuruya to stress, especially not over her. "That sounds great! Let's go!" In an instant she started skipping, dragging Mikuru along behind her. The little girl was surprised for a second, but didn't let that stop her. She followed after her friend, laughing and smiling along with her, hand in hand.

She still knew that she'd have to leave Tsuruya and the SOS Brigade behind someday. She'd have to say good-bye to the raging girl, the stoic alien, the snarky boy, and the coy esper. But, as she skipped along, she didn't mind her far-from-forgotten fate.

The only thing she could do, she knew, was to cling to that hand. Cling to these blissful moments where the future did not matter or even exist, only the present.

A/N: desert heat what desert heat

I love this pairing - it's my yuri OTP for TMoHS. I like Ryoko and Yuki, too, but I don't even want to attempt to write that. Though, I guess, there isn't much yuri/shojo-ai in this story - more like friendship and a glimpse into Mikuru's thoughts on her predicament.

Annnnnd now I want to write a story where Itsuki and Mikuru are gay buddehz, angsting over how they can never be with the one they love. 'Cuz, if you write anything revolving around those two, they're either BFF's or raping one another. Huzzah.

Hope you enjoyed, either way~.