A/N: (Litle trivia: For anybody who hasn't known yet, uhh which I doubt, Mio's birthday is on 15th January.)
Summary: She had made sacrifices so big just to be with her, but at the same time, she despised everything about her. MioxRitsu.
Sometimes, you wonder if you have made the right choice in your life.
A young woman with long, smooth black hair was walking down the aisles of the local mini market. Her search for forty minutes had been fruitless, and as she pulled her small trolley to a halt, she tried to make a quick, cool-headed assessment of the situation. She had a hungry girlfriend waiting for her at home, she thought she could easily buy the ingredients she had promised to bring her and now the contrary was true, and a disappointed face was not something she expected to see when she arrived back home.
As she stood there contemplating on whether she should search the mini market again, she heard a voice that almost made her jump.
"Mio-senpai, long time no see!"
The voice was more familiar than she thought.
She turned around to see a cute shorter girl with a strong hint of excitement radiating from her face.
"It really has been awhile! How have you been?"
Azusa Nakano was once one of the two guitarists in her band Houkago Tea Time. After finishing university, Azusa moved to her hometown Saitama and seemed to be helping her parents in the jazz music business. A few weeks ago, Ritsu and Mio received a phone call from an excited Yui who couldn't stop repeating "Cop a lot of this!" as she played a CD Azusa had sent to her from her tape for them. Yui then told them Azusa had helped providing the guitar part for some fairly famous indie singers' new songs.
She didn't quite change now, still with her usual twin tails and her friendly and slightly courteous attitude she usually displayed in front of Mio and her other seniors, even Yui and Ritsu.
"Why are you here, Azusa?" Mio asked as she raised an eyebrow. She thought her little friend who was rising to fame would be more than busy to visit a mini market in the town where she spent her silly old days with the former members of the K-on club.
"Oh, I'm just having a break, so I decided to visit... everyone here," she explained, her face turned into a light shade of pink, "I've just arrived an hour ago."
"Wow, why didn't you tell us you're coming?"
It really was a surprise to see Azusa in that town again. The younger girl might be able to keep her return a secret from them all, but she would never be able to keep it a secret from Yui, who would definitely tell them the news at any cost. Uh, or more like scream it to their ears.
"I've called your house, Mio-senpai, and Ritsu-senpai said you are going shopping, I didn't expect you would be shopping in this mini market, though," she said, giggling a bit, "The others have known, too, except Yui-senpai. She seems to be busy, she didn't answer the phone..."
That was a bit strange. Mio heard Yui was at home all day today, and she hadn't heard of anything to the contrary. "Yui's busy...? Hmm, would you like me to...?"
"Ah, there's no need...! I can call her later," Azusa broke in, "So...how's everything between you and Ritsu-senpai...?"
Spotting the slight urgency in her tone, Mio became hesitant. "Well..." she answered, "...the usual."
"I see..." she replied, "...You've gotten over your fight...?"
Mio's eyes found her trolley handle.
There were some topics in this world that Mio Akiyama would just rather avoid at all costs.
This was one of them.
"We've done that too many times," she replied briefly.
She saw Azusa's reaction out of the corner of her eye. Dissatisfaction.
However, Azusa seemed to have already cottoned on to what she was thinking. "Well...okay..." Azusa said, "I still can't believe you two are dating. I mean, my friends who were your fans always said..."
"I know, I can understand their opinion...even my parents don't believe me," Mio sighed, "Lately, I've been thinking about that, too..."
Awkwardness, coupled with confusion, seemed to pool inside Azusa's mind. Taking her courage with both hands, she decided to continue.
"Y-yes, Jun thought you are dating someone more... uhh at that time I couldn't help myself to tell her that on the contrary..."
"It's fine, I'm used to it," Mio said, "Listen, Ritsu might be lazy and do mistakes a lot, but she's been improving lately. And...she said we would eat dinner in a French restaurant on my birthday on the 15th."
Yes...their relationship should be back on track now. Being off course once in a while should be normal in the course of time, right..? Last year Ritsu even bought her a couture evening dress and they had sex in the hotel room right after the dinner. Or was it two years ago...?
"Really? Wow, that's really good to hear!" Azusa said, "Mugi-senpai told me you came to her crying a few days ago...so I was worried that you and Ritsu-senpai..."
Her voice trailed off and Mio clutched her trolley handle as a response.
"Azusa, for the last time, we are not breaking up," she said with a stern voice.
"But the last time you called me, you said you were unsure that you have made the right choice," she explained, "I mean, Mio-senpai, it's better to stop now than being hurt even more. I don't mean you have to break up with Ritsu-senpai...it's just...how many times has she made you cry...?"
Mio knew Azusa did not just accidentally contradicted herself.
"We often fight because we have a lot of differences in mind, but like I said, Azusa, you don't need to worry," she said, "I'm sure she can change."
Her eyes wandered to the aisles.
"But Mio-senpai..." she heard Azusa said, "I guess you're taking it wrong."
She can change.
Ritsu can change.
She had been assuring herself about that for so long that she had forgotten since when. Probably from the day her mother looked so shaken to the core as she leaned on her father, who stared at her in an unforgivable mixture of disbelief and disgust. Or from the day her former fan club president Megumi Sokabe asked her if Mio could introduce her to her 'boyfriend', whom she assumed to be a "smart, famous, hard-working" rock star or music producer...
Hm, quite the contrary.
Ritsu was not even anywhere near Azusa.
Since Ritsu and Mio started living together, they had moved from one apartment to another at least three times at the last count. In the ordinary course of things, Mio would deal with her life without much problem at all. However, the latest course of events had been putting her under a lot of stress.
And there was still the whole issue to overcome their differences. Never had Mio expected living together to be this difficult. Their personalities had clashed ever since they first met, but they clashed even harder as Mio's carefully controlled, orderly lifestyle was forced to cope with Ritsu's carefree, disorganized one. Sometimes they clashed too hard, and love definitely counted for nothing with Mio during those moments.
But Ritsu understood her wishes after one fight, and she knew Mio too well to find out that deep in her heart, Mio wanted Ritsu to become someone she could always be proud of. She knew Mio expected more of her to become the bride of a successful woman who owned a firm of theatrical costumers.
It might be a bit corny...but her sudden promise to work harder and be promoted was something Mio could not unsee.
However, contrary to the impression she seemed to give Azusa, that promise was already ages ago. Ritsu's lack of determination would definitely count against her, and in her dusty mind, that promise might have already been long forgotten...
Well, at least the dinner promise was real, she thought as she opened the front door into her apartment. The thought gave her a small tinge of excitement. Although she wouldn't admit it, her heart was beating with anticipation as she counted down to the big day, she had always wanted to visit that new French restaurant. She couldn't wait to enjoy a great time there with her beloved girl. At least this was one particular thing she could count on to cheer her up.
And of course, it is the thought that counts..! Being loved by Ritsu was the most beautiful thing in the world...so she should count herself lucky and stop thinking about other people's opinion. Fighting is a normal thing every couple does, so it's fine as long as they still love each other.
Now she just needed to find a way to tell Ritsu about the missing ingredients and escape from her whining.
It shouldn't be too hard when she's in a good mood. And then they could do with some lunch out.
With that thought in mind, Mio carefully peeked into the house.
"...Really? ? You're not lying, are you? ?"
A voice was heard from the living room. An excited voice.
Feeling grateful of her luck, she carefully opened the door and went inside. She could see Ritsu's back as she was standing in the middle of the living room while speaking to her cell. Ritsu seemed to be making an important phone call. Was she finally promoted?
"So... I'm really promoted...? !"
Yes...! Mio almost screamed that out loud. Oh wait, she shouldn't show herself to Ritsu. She should keep silent and appear at the right time. Then she could surprise her and enjoy a romantic lunch wherever she pleased to celebrate!
"Wow...you, you should tell me sooner...I...I don't know what to say!"
You deserve it, Ritsu... oh gosh, where should we celebrate this? That new restaurant across the street will cost us a bit, but I guess it's per- -
"Eh? Tokyo?" Ritsu said, "I have to move to Tokyo?"
The constant rambling in Mio's mind stopped in a halt.
"In two days...? ? Wait, that's just...Well, not that I mind...but...I have a girl who's living with me and I...Eh? That sure costs money, we can't afford such...!" she paused, "...I see...she can't come with me, huh..."
Mio honestly never saw this coming...
"Eh? Of course, of course I accept! I don't care about that, really! You can copy me in on the documents now!" she said quickly, "Don't worry! I'll leave immediately! I can cancel my plans for the week! I guarantee you see my face in Tokyo in two..."
She stopped abruptly when she heard a slam from the front door.
Before she could speak, her girlfriend Mio Akiyama had walked past her and disappeared into their bedroom as she left small trails of tear on the clean carpet...
No words were said, but something in Ritsu's mind told her they were girlfriends no more.
She never knew loving someone would cost her so dear.
That night, a cell phone vibrated inside a Kotobuki's bedroom. Tsumugi picked up the phone and viewed the screen. She felt a bad omen.
She could directly notice the faint sobs from the other side. She knew something had happened again, and the wisest course of action was to wait until the girl calmed herself down enough to speak. After a few seconds, a few audible words finally came.
"Mi...o-chan..? Are you crying..?" she asked hesitantly. Even if she was not crying, when Mio was talking like this to Mugi, Mugi knew Ritsu would need more than simply covering her back…
"Count me out of the party..." she said, "Remember what I said to you a few days ago? I've proven that...I was right, I was right...and you were wrong.."
Mio could still be a bit coy about what she wanted to say although Mugi was already speaking to her ear. She had to be nice and careful…
"You shouldn't get...a girlfriend...You shouldn't get any...before you have to count the cost of it..."
Her speech became more unclear and slurred by each second, and Mugi tried her best to understand what she said. That Mio had spoken to her like this a few times gave her a bit of an advantage, though it didn't make her happy in the slightest...
"Believe me...Mugi, I've learned that to my cost...You were wrong...See, you were.."
"Alright...It's alright...I stand corrected...but...please tell me why you..."
"She always disagrees with me... so much that I can't remember how many times we've been arguing… from food, to work, to clothing… everything…"
Mugi could never forget that look on Mio's face when she came staggering into Mugi's room, utterly powerless to control her tears. It was the look she never saw during high school, the look that showed her whole life had fallen to calamitous torture.
"I know…I understand you two are so different…"
"She keeps breaking her promises...she's such an irresponsible...idiot...and she..."
"And now she leaves me...I won't believe her anymore...she doesn't care about me...we should just..." she choked, "Mugi…why can't we be happy…like everyone else…? Why is it…so hard…?"
Mugi knew the problems Mio faced were not much different from other couples. However, it might be solely the fact that it involved Ritsu Tainaka that it had destroyed every bit of her heart, and she had an extremely vulnerable heart to begin with.
"Mio-chan...did Ricchan say something to you? Tell me."
"She said..." she sobbed, "She said she'll come home to celebrate my birthday... but she doesn't know when...but I...I don't believe her...I'll never believe her..."
"Maybe you should give her a chance..."
"No...I've given her...enough...she won't change...I want...I want..."
Her voice became completely drowned in uncontrollable sobs now.
The moment she spoke again, her voice was unexpectedly calmer than it had been during the whole phone call.
"I want her to change. I want her to try to understand me, to be a responsible person who always thinks of me, someone whom I can be proud of. I want us to live happily...no fights...nothing...not like this...I want...I want..."
I can bear it no more.
"...I want everything to disappear."
What exactly had she done wrong...?
She had spent countless moments with her childhood friend, who then became her best friend, and then her lover, and soon, her fiancée. Over the course of those years, she had learned about who Ritsu Tainaka really was, and at the same time, she learnt that the more she stayed by her side, the more she got hurt.
And that was why she stood by the door of the Kotobukis five days before her twenty-fifth birthday, completely soaked with rain that disguised her tears and grief, as her blond friend rushed to her and pulled her into a hug that couldn't fill the hollowness in her heart.
If only she could wake up and everything would be just as she wished them to be...
Her dream was crawling with people whose faces she mostly couldn't recognize. There were pieces of memories, one when her father first taught her how to do crawl when she was four, replaced by the memory of him throwing her out of their house as he shouted he had no daughter who married a girl. Then she saw Sawako teasing her about her being crazy about Ritsu, replaced by the face of a worried Mugi as she dabbed a handkerchief on Mio's cheeks over and over. Then she saw Ritsu's flushed face above her and her own hand pulling her hair band off before she heard her own voice...
"I love you..."
...And then something unexpected happened...
"...Wake up...wake up, Mio..."
"Un...Mugi?" she said in a small disgruntled voice.
She felt like her mind had been running the whole night. She wanted to close her eyes and get back to- -
"How the hell can you mistake me for Mugi...?" came the laugh, "Wake up, you little dreamer."
Mio almost backed away in surprise.
'How could...how could...what is that idiot doing here? ?'
Before she crashed out she had read a text from Ritsu that she would be gone by the morning because her boss had suddenly requested her to do so.
So how could Ritsu be here...? Mio wasn't even inside her apartment before.
But she was now.
For a split second she was confused, but then she realized this was one of those rare instances when she was conscious in her dreams.
"Wake up, I've prepared breakfast!" Ritsu said loudly as she opened the window, "It's going to be a busy day for both of us, so let's get cracking!"
And if this dream reflected what she really wished for, the Ritsu here should be everything the Ritsu she knew in real life was not. This Ritsu wouldn't be the crass idiot who crawled to her boss and left her to celebrate her birthday alone. Or maybe even better than that...
"Today's a surprise! I found a new recipe. Don't worry, I know you always keep count of your daily calorie intake…" she smiled, "And I know you always cough up money although you hardly ever admit it. So I've modified the recipe to make it satisfying for you."
Mio blinked. This was still a bit strange for her albeit she knew it was just all a dream.
They were always arguing about the food Ritsu made for her every time it was her turn to cook for breakfast. The real Ritsu would always manage to find an excuse to cover herself every time Mio blamed her of wasting a particular ingredient or making other mistakes.
Still in a bit of a dazed state, she followed Ritsu out of the bedroom.
When she finally saw the dining table herself, she realized that Ritsu had cooked some omelet. Two plates of deliciously-looking omelet rice served with mushroom, spinach, and cream cheese. She even made her something she called banana coffee smoothie.
Ritsu was apparently not lying.
She must have awoken earlier than Mio to prepare the whole thing...
"What, don't like it? I read from a book that green vegetables counteract the effects of stress, you know…" Ritsu grinned.
Oh wow, what's with this dream of mine…? Mio thought, amazed, Ritsu wouldn't read something like that…
But this was a dream.
Anything could happen.
However, for a dream she had in a moment of depression, this was an unexpectedly normal dream. Her apartment didn't change, the usual old apartment whose superiority could never counterbalance its weaknesses. But everything felt different. Was it all because of Ritsu's counter-intuitive actions in this dream…?
They sat on the table and when Mio was about to try out the meal, Ritsu had spoken again.
"Oh, by the way, Mio, I also read that the Japanese economy is on course of higher inflation…" Ritsu said, "Maybe you should beware of that."
Mio raised an eyebrow.
This was new.
When was the last time they talked about economy during breakfast? Oh right, when Mio scolded her for spoiling the last bunch of asparagus they ever bought.
"Yeah it seems to be like it… but Shigure-san keeps telling me that everything will surely take its course…"
"You know, despite so many things that Shigure can unbelievably cram into a single day…I still think everything that comes out of his mouth is rubbish after Onita told me he cheated in a crap game..." Ritsu said as she continued to munch on the omelet.
Lately they hadn't been speaking much during breakfast too, so having a decent conversation like this lifted Mio's mood a bit.
"You always tell me you like Shigure-san …"
"Nah, no way, I fully agree with you, Mio…" she said, "He's not nearly such a good person as he's cracked up to be. Honestly, I think he's kind of a jerk."
Her statement induced a chuckle from Mio.
Usually, if anything about Shigure Mochizuki, their wealthy neighbor who loved shooting craps more than anything, was mentioned, their discussion would always end up with Mio cracking Ritsu on the head with kitchen cutlery, and in rare instances, the stove.
But she had the feeling that the Ritsu in this dream would always, always agree with her no matter what she said...
"Since you're going to be home late today, I'll prepare nice dinner for you when you come home..."
The Ritsu in this dream would never leave her alone at night...when Mio climbed onto the bed and found her uncaringly fast asleep...
"...And ahem, maybe we can have a little something...but of course that's if you want to..."
The Ritsu in this dream would neither ask her for sex when she didn't feel like it, nor refuse her when she was becoming too hot at times less expected.
"And...oh yeah! I've refused the promotion..." she added, "I don't care even if Mugi's dad fires me or burns me, I'd rather light the candles on your birthday cake..."
The Ritsu in this dream would say what she really wanted to hear from the real Ritsu despite every consequence she had to face: to stay...
...To stay and light her candles and sing 'Happy Birthday' for her.
...She needed no French restaurants or couture evening dresses or other expensive gifts.
She just needed Ritsu.
"Mio...are you okay?" she asked, realizing her strange silence, "Is there something bothering you? You can tell me, you know, and I'll listen...We can discuss anything you want..."
The Ritsu in this dream would never disagree with her.
Would never fight with her, would never disappoint her.
Would keep her promises, and do whatever it took to make her happy.
They would lead a happy life equal to the sacrifices Mio had made in order to forever stay by Ritsu's side.
She would neither need to worry that their relationship could falter, nor that she would ever cry her heart out in front of Mugi. She would love this Ritsu forever. The Ritsu who was the perfect girl of her dreams, everything she could wish for.
Not the girl whom she feared as a bully when they first met...
Not the girl who kept teasing her only to get a bump on her head...
Not the girl who kept coming late to their dates, and delivered her apology with a grin Mio loved so much...
Not the girl who bought Mio an expensive bass she wanted so badly, although Mio scolded her after that for wasting money...
Not the girl...whom she had madly fallen in love with.
"Mio...?" she heard Ritsu's soft voice.
That pair of worried caramel eyes locked themselves on Mio's.
"...You're taking it wrong."
It was Ritsu...the same Ritsu whose hair and eyes possess the unequaled beauty of an amber stone, the same Ritsu who had always been fond of drums and music ever since they first met...
...But at the same time, she was not.
"Please..." Mio said, small pool of tears began to gather in her eyes, "Please come back."
She felt so guilty...
She wondered why it took so long for her to understand what Azusa meant...
Ritsu gave her a slightly questioning look. "...Excuse me...?"
"...Please give Ritsu... back..."
For the first time that whole morning, Ritsu evaded her eyes.
After a few minutes, Ritsu seemed to have no words at all, but then after she finished wiping her mouth, her smile returned.
"What are you talking about? I'm Ritsu," she said.
"No..." Mio immediately said, "Please give Ritsu I love back..."
For Mio never knew how long, Ritsu simply watched her cry without a word as time slowly passed by. Then when their eyes finally met once more, Mio's eyes found a disappointed smile.
"...Very well then... I understand," Ritsu said, "It's such a shame..."
Mio nodded. She couldn't think of anything else to say, but she noticed the sadness in Ritsu's voice when she spoke.
"...I will never be Ritsu."
They were only separated by a single wooden table...but Mio saw how distant they were.
"Yes..." Mio replied, "You are right."
This girl in front of her was perfect beyond her dreams, but her heart could never accept her no matter how perfect she was. Because, since the very beginning, it had realized that the whole point was...
...not that Ritsu will never be you, but...
"You will never be Ritsu."
Mio felt some of the pressure in her chest lightened at her own words.
Ritsu seemed to have already known what she was going to say.
"...So I guess you understand now."
They exchanged a small smile before she slowly rose and walked past Mio toward the front door of their apartment. As she turned the door handle, she coughed to clear her throat.
"I hope..." she said, as the bright sunlight from the outside began to cover her whole body, blinding Mio, "...I will never come back."
Knowing it was the last time she could see her, Mio tried to catch her eyes beneath the streaming sunlight. Then she spoke, clearly and confidently, to assure both Ritsu and herself...
"I will remember that."
"On the count of three..."
"HAPPY...BIRTHDAY MIO! ! !"
"Uhm, thank you."
"Here's your present!"
"Wait, why do you..."
"And here's the cake...!"
"Now blow the candles!"
"Will you listen to me a bit?"
"Ritsu... my birthday is already two weeks ago."
Three weeks after Ritsu left for Tokyo, after everything that was left from Mio's weepy and evasive mood had vaporized into thin air, Mugi, Yui, and Azusa suddenly barged in into her bedroom, along with an unexpected guest.
"So...? You said you've forgiven me..." the brunette said.
"You've already cried on the phone before I said anything."
"I thought you would never forgive me! I've prepared for the worst."
"Oh? Maybe I shouldn't have forgiven you."
"Uhm, Mio-senpai..." Azusa piped in, "Maybe you should give Ritsu-senpai a chance... And Yui-senpai, can you please put your phone back into your pocket...?"
"But Mugi-chan said I have to record every second!"
"But Mugi-senpai's right behind you with two video cameras on her hand."
A sigh escaped Mio's lips. Although her ego successfully hid her true feelings, she was truly joyful to see Ritsu in her apartment again.
Not the Ritsu that she met in her dream days ago, but the Ritsu that she truly admired and loved.
"Anyway, Ritsu... why did you choose this wrapping paper?" she asked, staring at the pink hearts and cupids and an awfully huge 'Happy Valentine' printed on the paper, "This's not for birthdays, this is for Valentines."
From the looks on her face, she knew Ritsu used that wrapping paper because she didn't have time to look for the one used for the correct occasion. It wouldn't be Ritsu if she hadn't prepared an excuse to retaliate, though.
"Well, of course I know it's not for birthdays, it's just when I was preparing it I thought, 'Oh right, it's almost February already' so I decided to give you both your birthday present and your Valentine's day present today, since I might not be able to come home next month, and today's right in the middle of your birthday and Valentine's day! I'm such a genius, right!"
In the best of times, Ritsu would suffer from one of Mio's artistic hits for saying this. She seemed to expect it, too, since she eyed Mio curiously when she didn't received it after some time and said, "Hey, Mio...?"
Mio kept staring at the present on her hands.
Giving a gift for someone's birthday and Valentine's Day at the same time?
Nobody in this whole world would do something that silly except for Ritsu.
That stupid Ritsu.
Ritsu with all her imperfections that she had come to love.
"Hey, Mio..." Ritsu waved her hands in front of Mio's face, "Barnacles...mmfh!"
What Mio did next was beyond Mugi's wildest dreams to be recorded life.
Yui and Azusa's jaws dropped as Mugi's fingers were soon busy blocking her nosebleed.
"Guys..." Mio panted heavily, as Ritsu seemed to be too speechless to say anything, "I'm sorry...can you please leave us alone...?"
"R...right, let's go, Senpai!" said a flustered Azusa.
Yui closed the door behind her.
A second later, Azusa came back.
"Mugi-senpai!" she called, and pulled the blonde out of the room.
After the coast was clear, Ritsu spoke in a small voice, "That...was hot."
"I'll show you hot."
Before Ritsu knew what was happening she had already been thrown onto the bed with her girlfriend's body leaning above her.
"No, wait, where are you touching...!"
"You shouldn't be saying that..." Mio hissed, "You should be screaming my name..."
"You look happy..."
The sudden question caught Mio off guard.
"Yes..." she said, "Yes, you don't know how much I miss you."
"You seem to hate whatever I'm doing, though..."
"Are you an idiot?" she laughed, "I'm helplessly in love with everything... about you..."
The girl below her blinked.
"But you always complain..."
"...about those things I love," she said, "I know."
Mio almost laughed as she enjoyed how confused Ritsu was.
"And I always will!"
Without explaining even further, she playfully jumped onto her bemused girlfriend, triggering a small cute shriek from her.
She didn't care even if Ritsu didn't understand what she meant.
It could never possibly matter.
I will never repeat the same mistake.
I won't give a damn even if you neither have money nor fame.
As long as I love you, even if nobody understands...
...Just the way you are...
A/N: Finally I posted something after awhile! I apologize if this turns out to be unsatisfying for you, I'm getting really busy lately x_x
This is made as a late Mio birthday dedication fic, happy belated birthday, Mio!
The present from Ritsu was not revealed in the story, but it was actually a new apartment key. Yes, Ritsu was asking Mio to move with her to Tokyo, so all the "I might not be able to come home next month" stuff was only something she made up as an excuse. XD
Also, I challenge you all if you can come up with a perfect OMAKE for this fic (especially some really perverted people(TM) ... yes you know who you are). Do you believe Yui, Mugi, and Azusa actually went home like cute innocent girls as they are...? 8DDD
Thanks for reading and R&R!