Mikoto, high school junior, was standing in the sunshine, smiling for all she was worth. She had enjoyed the past month very much. School was going good, she was having a blast being on the kendo team (and kicking a lot of ass- while not actually hurting anyone), and she was spending lots of time with the people she cared about. The only downside (well, okay, there were parts of school that were boring, but that was just something to be lived with) was a certain, small feeling of discomfort. It was odd, because in a way, even that discomfort was part of another good thing. And the thing that had her in such a good mood was that today, things were going to move.

Her friends would not expect her to recognize her feelings. Mikoto supposed that a few years back she had given them reason to doubt. Even now she knew that she really didn't have the words for it. Words weren't everything though, and she had felt a glimmer of recognition that day in the rain. Nao'd had a look in her eye that Mikoto half recognized. Mikoto recognized it with the part of her that others found animalistic- predatory. Nao, she thought, was a hunter too. That day there had been a sense of challenge. The hunt was on. The quarry was fierce. The rewards were undefined, but that had not been important– not then.

The door to Nao's dorm was pulled open. The redhead in question was in the doorway, looking up at Mikoto with an expression so sly it almost didn't qualify as friendly. Yes, it was time to consider the rewards…

"You're early." The real greeting had been Nao's expression, not her words.

"Mm," Mikoto agreed, knowing that today she would have to work on focusing. Sometimes it was so easy to slip into that quiet place where everything was simplest- was best, she secretly believed. And so she ran through mental exercises to focus as she followed Nao to the little kitchen. She continued as she leaned against the wall and watched the red head finish preparing their meal.

It was so different, Mikoto thought, than another redhead cooking other meals. She knew that Nao got no pleasure from the process of cooking, and it didn't come naturally as it did for Mai. And yet, there was love there. Nao, asking her mother to teach her to cook on weekends, had given the two something to do together, something normal. It was a bandage on the wound of too many missed years. Nao only cooked as something to do with her mother or when it was for her. And that made it different from Mai's food. Mai cooked for everyone. Something that was for her alone… Mikoto thought it was probably selfish, but this was something she wanted to keep for herself. She would probably fight for it.

Golden eyes had grown intense with Mikoto's thoughts and when Nao turned, she was visibly startled. The redhead faltered and came close to dropping the tray she'd prepared. Mikoto moved without thought, protecting what was hers. The tray was taken and carried solemnly to the little table. After a moment Nao released a sound that was mostly a laugh. "Ah, so that's what you were so concentrated on. You must be hungry."

Mikoto agreed. She was still hungry more often than she was not. Then again, she knew that the physical reason was simple and incomplete. She didn't have words yet though, so it would do for now. "Nao's food is best," she grinned encouragingly.

Nao rolled her eyes. "You suck at flattery, and lying in general. You live with Mai," the words were spoken slowly to emphasize the dig. "I've had her food. Your story was blown before you told it."

The insult only made Mikoto grin wider. Many people in this 'civilized', brutal world fought with words. Nao would never be a victim to them. "Mai's a better cook," she admitted bluntly, then watched in amusement as Nao's features flickered between victory and insult. "But still…" she considered, "even so, I like Nao's best." Mikoto caught the other with what she knew was a pinning gaze.

Nao lowered her eyes and took a calming breath, failing to keep a very light blush from her cheeks. "Ah, right..." Nao seemed to steady herself by jabbing at the food with her chopsticks. It was simple fare, stir fried vegetables over rice, but tasty enough. "So what's the plan today? Wander the town realizing how much it sucks to not have money?"

Mikoto thought about grabbing those expressive hands and forcing them still.

"I don't have any new movies but I guess we could watch something. Maybe the library has..." the redhead trailed off and glared at Mikoto, making swirling, almost-thoughts concentrate on green eyes. "Is this 'stare silently at Nao' thing supposed to be a joke? Is this clever and funny in your world?"

Impatience and irritation were common occurrences when it came to Nao, Mikoto knew. She wouldn't be amused if the other girl was actually upset. "Nope," her grin was feral as she gently made fun of Nao's irritation and also her own simple speech. She waited, watching a twitch at the corner of Nao's mouth that was ultimately stifled. The glare remained, making Mikoto's smile grow again. Another strike was in order, "I like looking at you."

Nao's face blanked and she let her hands fall, clapping noisily against the table. "Who the hell says that?" She raised her hands above her head, forestalling an answer, "You obviously, but why the hell do you say things like that? No," again she stopped Mikoto from speaking - which the other girl hadn't planned on doing anyway. "Obviously you do things like that because you're a crazy, socially inept, crazy, sadistic, crazy, weirdo!"

Oh, she loved seeing Nao worked up like this. And she knew that this would be most effective if she kept calm. Her voice was carefully even when she finally answered. "I'm not crazy, Nao." Despite her best efforts though, the next statement did hold emotion: a little seriousness, maybe a little sorrow, and just the slightest bit of bitterness, "and I'm not confused."

The irritation had faded and thoughtfulness had taken over Nao's expression, "Oh, really?" She stood from the table and walked over to sit on the couch. Then the redhead leaned back and gestured in both welcome and challenge, "We're going to do this, huh?" Mikoto moved to join her. "Fine, but there are rules."

"Tell me." Mikoto's voice and tone were soft, but it was still a demand.

Nao didn't hesitate, but she looked as if she wanted to. "I'm not her."

"I don't want her," -not like that, Mikoto reassured. Then, she moved to the other person that they didn't talk about, "I'm not her, either."

"I don't want her." Confusion, then a happy smile came to Nao's face at that statement as she realized it was true, "not anymore."

"Fine," Mikoto mimicked Nao's earlier word choice. "So, do I get to kiss you now?"

"You'd better."

Mikoto wondered how someone could be cocky and desperate at the same time, but she didn't worry about it for very long. Soon she was too busy to bother with either words or thoughts.

Notes:

This was brought to you by weeks of frustration, and Crossy's speedy and awesome editing service. I hope that this was enjoyable for everyone who wanted to see a sequel to that rainy day scene I wrote a while back. Cheers and best wishes!