A/N: Sometimes I write very serious Kannazuki no Miko fics that look into the hearts of the characters and explore the depths of their flaws and strengths from what I hope are new perspectives, like "Madness of the Sun" and "Sins in the Moonlight," or like my friend deathcurse's wonderfully tragic "Quisling."
And then other times I feel like writing a complete ball of fluff!
(This story can take place in an AU, or you can treat it as a sequel to the anime, whichever you, the reader, feel more comfortable imagining. Either way, it's a prequel to my recent entry in The Omake of the Godless Month, "The Morning-After Blues.")
~X X X~
Kurusugawa Himeko had never felt like this before. Her stomach was fluttering so badly it felt like the butterflies were practicing for their own air show. It was all she could do to keep her hands from trembling and spilling her drink. She was, in a word, in love.
Himeko had never really had a crush before. She'd gone all through junior high and high school without falling into infatuation the way most of her friends had, to say nothing of true love. It wasn't that she didn't believe in love—it was just that for whatever reason, she'd never felt her own heart race, her mouth go dry, her imagination cascade off into waves of hearts-and-flowers visions (and some of the other kind, too—hey, she was a university student, now!).
She'd been attracted to Himemiya Chikane the instant they'd met, running into each other on the street and caught by the coincidence of their identical pink seashell necklaces. Beautiful, elegant, graceful, princess-like, all these things described the lovely girl with midnight-black hair. On the surface, she couldn't have seemed more different than Himeko, but they'd hit it off right away, spending nearly three hours chatting easily over coffee as if they'd known each other all their lives. Himeko had been so star-struck by her new friend that she hadn't even realized that it was more than just friendship she was feeling, not until a week or so later.
Himeko had never really given much thought to her own sexuality before. It had been a bit of a surprise to realize that her first serious infatuation was for a woman, but it was what it was. She supposed, upon thinking about it, that she'd always thought actors, musicians, and the like of both genders were attractive, and her favorite manga was Girls' Love, so maybe her being bisexual was something long established. It certainly hadn't surprised her best friend.
"So, at last Himeko falls in love!" Saotome Makoto had caroled. "It's about time, late bloomer. I figured something was up, the way you've been raving over this Chikane girl the past week."
It had been Mako-chan who'd suggested the idea of a group date. They could hang out as friends, and if things took a romantic turn...well, who knew? That was how she, Makoto, and Makoto's boyfriend Ohgami Souma had ended up at the movies with Chikane and Chikane's roommate, theater major Haneda Satomi.
"Haneda-san is hoping to join a Takarazuka troupe some day," Chikane finished introducing the tall girl. Himeko could see it easily; her slender build and angular features that resembled Souma's older brother's more than they did the rounder faces of Makoto and Chikane had immediately made it possible to imagine her as, say, Oscar, sword in hand on the dueling ground.
"Let me guess," Makoto had said upon being introduced. "When you were in high school, all the girls called you the Prince."
Haneda had just grinned, pushing the bangs of her short hair back into place.
"Yep! Mind you, they all changed that to Casanova after the second date, so it's not perfect." She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, making Makoto laugh, Himeko giggle, and Souma bite his lip in that I-want-to-laugh-but-I'm-not-sure-if-a-guy-should way.
The truth was, Haneda helped a lot towards putting Himeko at ease. She had a similar sense of humor to Makoto, though more sarcastic and less silly, but more than that she was so unabashed about her sexuality that if Chikane was the least bit homophobic then there was no way the two of them could have been friends.
So at least she won't be insulted or offended by my feelings, Himeko thought. That awareness, however, did not make it any easier to sit next to Chikane through the movie. Worse, the film was a science-fiction action flick, as Souma and Haneda had won at rock-paper-scissors. That meant that the high-speed air chases and dueling cyborgs with miniguns did nothing to capture any of Himeko's attention. Thus she was left entirely to focus on how to her left, Makoto was snuggled up to Souma with her head on his shoulder, and how to her right Chikane's shoulder looked very comfy for snuggling purposes.
Chikane herself looked almost as ill at ease as Himeko felt. She obviously had no more interest in the film than Himeko did, and her entire posture was tense and guarded. She stared straight ahead, almost scowling, occasionally nibbling on a piece of popcorn. I hope I didn't make her angry somehow, Himeko thought nervously. But what could I have done wrong? I got along with her friend Haneda-san, and Mako-chan was nice and didn't say anything weird or embarrassing...
Her train of thought kept on ahead on that track for the rest of the movie, and wasn't helped at all when Chikane excused herself about ten minutes before the movie's end. When the post-credits scene finished at last and they left the theater, Souma and Haneda set right in discussing the film with the enthusiasm of long-time series fans, but Himeko ignored them completely, scanning the lobby for Chikane and not seeing her anywhere.
"Um, Haneda-san," she cut in, barely aware that she'd rudely interrupted a rousing debate about the performance specifics of power reactors, "is Chikane-chan feeling all right? I feel bad about making her come with us if she's sick or upset about something."
Haneda shook her head.
"She was all right when we left the dorm."
"Is...is it me, then? She's usually so open and friendly, talking about anything and everything and making me feel like I'm an interesting person even though I think I'm kind of boring, but she's been really quiet all evening and she left the theater twenty minutes ago. Did she get mad at me and go home?"
Chikane's friend blinked.
"Wow, you're a really honest person, aren't you, Kurusugawa-san?"
"I...I just wanted to apologize if it was my fault."
"It can't be your fault, Himeko," Mikoto spoke up. "You didn't do anything. And if Miss Prissy-Pants is too stuck up to see what's in front of her—"
"That's enough, Mako-chan," Himeko protested. "I'm sure Chikane-chan has a good reason for whatever is happening."
Haneda broke up the serious mood by chuckling.
"Not if you ask me."
She looked closely at Himeko, then, apparently deciding that she liked what she saw, nodded sharply.
"Frankly, I think the girl's managed to lock herself in the closet. You want to go let her out, Kurusugawa-san?"
"She has? You mean, like where they keep the mops and brooms?" Himeko looked around the lobby, trying to see what Haneda meant, while wondering how Chikane would have managed to do that. Had she gone to the restroom and taken the wrong door? But if so, why not just bang on it and have one of the staff unlock it for her?
By that time Haneda and Mikoto were both killing themselves laughing.
"What's so funny?"
"I don't think she meant a literal closet," Souma explained, gallantly trying to hold back his own laughter.
"Not a literal...huh?" Himeko did not get it at first, before the light finally dawned. "Oh. Oh!"
"Yeah. Oh," Haneda said between gasps. "She's probably outside by the car, if she didn't chicken all the way out and go home."
"Thanks! I'll go and...but you don't mind waiting?"
"What are friends for? Go. Text us if you're going to go off somewhere together and don't need us to wait."
"It might be a while."
"That'll give me a chance to clear up some of this knucklehead's misconceptions about the way they butchered the scene with the XG-7," Haneda said.
"In your dreams," Souma shot back. "All that stuff about the auxiliary power source you're citing is pure fanon. You just don't want to admit two years of online chatter was full of it."
"Then how do you justify what happened in the third novel? This new answer's just a pure ass-pull and that's all there is to it."
Makoto looked at Himeko with a plaintive, trapped expression.
"Are you sure you don't want me to go with you and play wingwoman?"
~X X X~
I'm such a coward.
Himemiya Chikane sagged against the steering wheel.
She'd never believed in the idea of love at first sight, but she'd fallen like a ton of bricks for giggly, sunny, ditzy, earnest Kurusugawa Himeko. When Himeko walked into the room, it was like everything was suddenly brighter and more cheerful; there was something, not innocent, but so pure about her that just made life better for her presence. She'd had fun meeting with her, talking, spending time together, only to steadily realize that her feelings weren't at all platonic or merely friendly.
It wasn't that she didn't want to spend time talking with her or doing things together. Chikane wanted all that, but she wanted more as well. She wanted to whisper sweet nothings in her ear while smelling the subtle perfume of her hair. She wanted to close Himeko in her arms and feel her warmth pressed up against her. She wanted to shower kisses on Himeko's honey-sweet lips and drink in her taste. And she wanted to do more, things she'd only imagined in the past and yet which came to her with frightening clarity.
It wasn't as if those feelings for another girl were a revelation. Chikane had come to terms with her sexuality when she was fourteen, and although she had kept the fact to herself until she'd gotten out of high school she knew very well that she was only interested in women. Rather, it was the fact that this was the first time she'd been interested in a specific woman, as if somehow she'd been waiting her whole life for Himeko to come into it. The feeling had utterly overwhelmed her, reducing her normal confidence to knee-shaking nerves.
But it's easy to be confident when there's nothing at stake.
That was the lesson here. The way she felt about Himeko was so strange and overwhelming that she could scarcely comprehend it. Does everyone in love feel this way? she asked herself, failing to find an answer.
The idea of being rejected by Himeko terrified her. To have Himeko look at her with the scorn and revulsion she'd seen directed at gay people before would be horrible. But perhaps even worse would be a look of sorrow, of violet eyes afraid to meet hers and see the hurt a rejection caused. Being rejected out of hate and bigotry, well, at least there was the cold comfort of knowing it was a flaw in Himeko that would be responsible (although, finding that kind of ugliness would itself be a bitter pill to swallow, like seeing a beautiful flower wither and rot). But if Himeko was merely straight—or worst of all, if she was open to a same-sex relationship and it was Chikane personally that didn't meet her standards...
...Yes, she felt like that would destroy her utterly.
She'd barely been able to speak when Himeko had proposed going out together with their friends. Chikane had already been caught on the cusp, existing at that place where acting like a friend without revealing her feelings was a double-edged blade, savoring Himeko's presence and affection even while the constant lies of omission and the ache of unfulfilled hopes pricked at her heart. To go out like this, on something that was so close to a date (indeed, for Himeko's two friends was a date), had all but paralyzed her.
Ask her! Confess your feelings! screamed one side of her.
No! Save yourself! Don't risk it! the other had shouted.
And now she was sitting in a car, bent over a steering wheel, because she was such a coward that she not only couldn't find the courage to face Himeko, she couldn't even find the guts to actually make a choice!
It was amazing, really, just how much of her surface was a complete sham, a veneer she was able to dress herself in for the simple reason that she never did anything that truly mattered. Where, now, was the girl who'd pushed herself to the limits in sports or in academics, unwilling to accept anything less than the utmost she was capable of?
How could she be brought so low by a simple, sunlit smile?
A dull tapping sound shocked her out of her self-pity, making her head snap sharply around towards the driver's-side window.
"Chikane-chan?" It was almost impossible to hear her through the car's soundproofing. "Chikane-chan?"
For one moment, the ridiculous thought of starting the engine and driving off into the night seized her. Only the plain truth that if she did that, she'd still have to face the same situation in the morning (plus explain her stupidity to Haneda, Himeko, and Himeko's friends while apologizing for abandoning them at the theater) led her hand to the window control instead of the key.
The strawberry blonde bit her lip nervously. God, she looks adorable doing that.
"I...I got worried when you didn't come back to meet us. I thought you might be sick."
How do I answer that? Chikane thought, but as it turned out, she didn't have to. Instead, Himeko went right on talking.
"Haneda-san said you might be out here. She...um...thought you might be nervous about something."
"That doesn't sound very much like Haneda-san."
"Well...er...she didn't phrase it quite like that."
"I can guess." Haneda did not lack for courage. Or maybe she just had a different kind of fear; her in-your-face attitude about her lesbianism might be a way to save on worry and suspense. But whatever the cause, she did not have a subtle bone in her body.
Himeko took a deep breath.
"Don't be mad at her, though. I was really worried that I'd done something to offend or upset you."
"I'm sorry for that," Chikane thought. Of course she'd take it that way. How stupid can I be, to start hurting her out of my own fear?
"And...I don't think I'd ever have found the guts to say this if she hadn't given me the nudge."
She took another deep breath.
"Chikane-chan...I really, really like you. I-I mean," she rushed on at once, "you're such an amazing person and you're so beautiful and you're fun to talk to and hang out with and you always make me feel like you're really interested in the things I say and..." She broke off. "I'm not really good with words," she admitted. "I want to tell you all about how you make me feel, but I can't say it right."
"Himeko..." Chikane was having trouble finding any words in the face of what the blonde was saying. Her eloquence had completely deserted her; her tongue felt swollen, like it was choking her.
Himeko swallowed nervously.
"Chikane-chan, would you...go out with me? I mean, as my girlfriend?"
She sighed, looking down.
"That was awful. I sounded like a little kid."
"Not to me, you didn't."
"But you must have had dozens of people confess their feelings to you before."
Chikane smiled at her, and for some reason she found the words coming easily once more.
"Well, yes, I have. And there were some that were eloquent and flowery, some that were beautifully poetic, and some that were poignant and heartfelt, that's true."
She reached out a hand and gently cupped the side of Himeko's face.
"But this was the only one I've ever wanted to hear."
Himeko's eyes widened, and her face lit up in that sun-bright smile Chikane was already sure she could never see often enough no matter how long she lived.
"Woohoo!" Cheers rang out, and Himeko spun to her left. Chikane leaned out the window to see their three friends standing there. Applauding.
"Mako-chan!" Himeko exclaimed, face flaming.
"What?" she said shamelessly. "We wanted to see how the show turned out. This is a theater date, after all."
Chikane could have gotten annoyed at them for prying into a private moment, but the truth was, she was too busy being happy to care. She smiled slyly at them.
"It's too bad you spoke up. There might have been a kiss scene."
"Argh!" Saotome winced as the realization hit home.
But they'd both forgotten to take Himeko into account. Urged on by Haneda or not, she'd worked up the courage to confess her feelings, and she was apparently not going to be cheated out of her kiss just because of a little thing like an audience. Before Chikane even knew what was happening, Himeko's hands were on her shoulders and the blonde's face was coming down towards hers.
It was not a skilled kiss. It was very obviously the kiss of a girl who was extremely inexperienced at such things, quite probably her very first kiss. Himeko's mouth was clumsy, her lips didn't quite know what they were supposed to be doing, and she even bumped their noses on the first approach.
To Chikane, it was absolutely perfect.