Author's note: I changed my mind about where I wanted to go with this and made the main focus the developing yuri relationship between Rin and Shouko. It didn't come out quite as good as I had hoped but I did the best I can with it. I hope at least a few people can enjoy this.
Rideback: Fire and Water
Practice Makes Perfect
It's spring and the cherry blossoms are blooming again as Shouko approached the rideback club's garage thinking "Seems like I've gotta come here if I want to get to spend any time with her at all any more. I'm glad she's found a new passion but..."
"Oh, Hey Shouko. If you're looking for Rin she oughta be by aaaaany second now." said Haruki sitting with Dota watching the laptop's screen monitoring the progress of Rin and Tamayo.
Just then the green RB-Z carrying Tamayo zipped by with Rin close behind on Balon.
"Are they racing again? Why didn't she tell me?" said Shouko.
"No they're just practicing. The All-Japan Championship Race is in a few weeks and Tamayo wants to make sure they're both ready." said Dota.
"Wow, she's been working really hard hasn't she." said Shouko.
"Her and Tamayo both. Rin having come so close to finishing third in that race last year has kind of lit a fire under Tamayo. Tamayo does not like to lose." said Haruki.
Shouko moved closer to get a better view of the screen to watch their progress around the makeshift campus course.
"Hey Rin just took the lead." said Dota.
"Man, Tamayo must be fuming." chuckled Haruki.
Shouko looked around to find Fuego sitting motionless in the garage behind them.
"Would it be alright if I just sit on Fuego while I watch?"
"Yeah sure. Go right ahead. If you want, later when they're done practicing I'll explain the basics if you want to give riding a try."
"Thanks, I'll think about it." said Shouko climbing on Fuego.
"Fuego Come." said Haruki causing Fuego to gently roll closer to the garage doors where Shouko could get a better view.
"Here they come again." said Dota.
The two riders came zooming by again in the same order they past the previous time.
"HI RIN!" yelled Shouko from Fuego's back waving frantically hoping to get Rin's attention. "Oh Tamayo got the lead back." she added sadly.
"Yeah, there's no way Tamayo would have let her hang on to the lead for very long. Actually I think their competitiveness is causing them both to improve. Man, the rest of the riders aren't gonna know what hit 'em this year." said Haruki.
Shouko's gaze was fixed on the orange rideback as it raced out of sight with Rin's long black hair flowing out from underneath the helmet whipping in the wind and she thought, "Wow, She looks so cool. She's so awesome no matter what she does and she's so beautiful. My heart even starts racing when I watch her. Maybe I should start learning how to ride these. I know I'll never be as good as Rin but maybe I'd at least get to spend more time with her."
Rin's determined eyes were fixed on her target, the green RB-Z just in front of her as she thought "I gotta remember to take it easy in this chicane coming up. I can't just dance my way through it like I could on Fuego."
Both riders eased off their throttles a bit as they leaned into the tight turns with their rideback's hands scraping the pavement.
Coming out of the chicane Tamayo looked in her rearview mirror to see Rin still right behind her. "Not bad ballerina. You're making progress." Rin heard through the helmet radio.
Tamayo looked up from her rearview just in time to notice a deer with a couple fawns crossing the road ahead and locked up her brakes to avoid hitting them.
Rin squeezed her front break just long enough for her back wheel to come off the ground and once the back wheel was directly over the front wheel she used that front leg to launch Balon into the air resulting in balon doing a flip over the family of deer on the road and while she was upside down over the deer she looked up (which is now down) at the deer and thought "Wow, I guess Balon can dance. A little at least."
After landing safely on the other side of the deer Rin opened up the throttle and continued on now with a commanding lead what with Tamayo having lost so much momentum coming to a complete stop for the deer's sake.
She could hear a furious Tamayo in her helmet radio screaming "HOW THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT! Damn it!"
"Tamayo, What's wrong? Why did you stop?" said Haruki's voice over the radio.
"There were a few deer in the road. I almost wrecked my RB-Z." said Tamayo.
"How did Rin get by then? said Haruki.
"Same way she always does. By pulling out some incredible maneuver that only she can do." said a rather grumpy Tamayo. "Okay, you win this one ballerina but don't get used to it." she added.
Back at the garage Rin was the first to arrive and after gently coming to a stop right outside removed her helmet.
Shouko couldn't contain her excitement and ran up and gave her a big hug.
"Oh my god! Rin, you won!" said Shouko before letting go of Rin and adding "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I was just so excited."
"No, It's okay." said Rin who then thought "That was weird. Why did she just apologize?"
"And it wasn't really a race. It was just practice so I wouldn't really call it a win." said Rin.
Tamayo pulled up a moment later and without saying a word just parked her RB-Z and grabbed a can of Ikki beer out of the fridge and stormed off to the small office in the back.
"I told ya. She does not like losing." said Haruki.
Without realizing it Shouko found herself admiring Rin's rear and the way the borrowed racing suit fit it as Rin dismounted Balon and found herself thinking, "Oh my god, She's so hot even in racing gear. Oh no, I did not just think that. What is wrong with me?"
"Shouko, I know it's sunday and all but I have some studying to catch up on before tomorrow morning. Would you mind helping me study tonight?" pleaded Rin.
"Of course. It's a wonder you're passing any of your classes with as much time as you spend down here." replied Shouko.
"Oh thank you so much Shouko. I really appreciate this." said Rin wrapping up Shouko in a big hug.
Shouko, trying in vain not to blush said "Yeah, sure. No problem. Let's stop for something to eat on our way back to the dorm. Okay?"
Tamayo leaned against the wall in the small office in the back of the rideback clubs garage and took a swig of her Ikki beer looking at Okakura who was siting at his desk staring blankly at the laptop.
"That reporter told me you fought alongside that Romanov guy years ago. I don't suppose you wanna talk about that?" said Tamayo remembering the scars she saw on his back.
Okakura just kept staring at his laptop as if he wasn't even aware of her presence.
"Is there really a need for secrecy anymore? I mean, He's dead now. Right?"
"Look, I get where you're coming from. I do. But you should understand, My psyche's got so many layers of firewalls and and armor built up over the years... I wouldn't know how to open up even if I wanted to. I'm sorry. That's just how it is." said Okakura without taking his eyes off the laptop.
"Well, you spoke. That's a start. I suppose." Tamayo thought for a moment and then said "Well, I won't push. I'm gonna go ride for a while." before turning to leave the office.
"Wait." said Okakura
Tamayo's eye's widened in shock as she froze in her tracks.
"You once asked me why Fuego handled like crap for you but not for Rin." said Okakura still not taking his eyes off the laptop.
"Yeah?" said Tamayo.
"The OS and software mods I installed in fuego give it some unique abilities. Among them is the ability to learn it's rider's habits so it can anticipate the riders moves which is why riding it is as natural as walking for Rin. Or rather as natural as dancing."
"Okay but what does it handle so crappy for me."
"That brings us to another of it's abilities. Fuego's programming allows it to choose it's master so to speak. That first ability requires a confident and fearless rider. Any hesitation would be a danger to the rider and the machine. After the first time I saw you race I was sure you would be that rider. I built Fuego for you. I never expected an innocent ballet dancer like Rin to come along and be able to ride it."
Okakura paused remembering the conversation he had with Rin that night.
"When Fuego malfunctioned that day, Why did you go for the jump instead of hitting the brakes?"
"When I saw the end of the road coming up I got scared but somehow I just knew I could trust Fuego with my life."
"It's probably my fault. Rin trusted Feugo implicitly without knowing anything about it or me. You certainly have the skill and confidence but how could you ever trust Fuego if you can't trust the guy that built it and how could you trust me when I met every question with silence."
"Oh... wow." Tamayo took a moment to let all this sink in before adding "For what it's worth, after everything that's happened, I can say without hesitation that I trust you with my life."
Okakura's face almost cracked in half under the strain of finally changing it's expression for the first time in years as his eyes widened remembering Rin using those exact words. His attention was finally drawn away from the laptop as he looked toward the door just in time to see it slowly closing after Tamayo had left the room.
Okakura turned his gaze back to the laptop and rubbing his chin he quietly mumbled "hmmmm... Maybe it's time."
It's Sunday evening in the dorm and Rin is in the shower while Shouko is putting away all their books and getting ready for her turn in the shower when Rin came out wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around her.
"Shouko, Showers free. And thanks again for helping me study."
"Oh don't mention it." said Shouko while noticing the trail of puddles Rin's long and dripping hair was leaving behind her. "Rin Your hair is dripping all over the place. Didn't you dry it before you got it?"
"I'm sorry. I thought I towel dried it well enough." said Rin as she took the towel wrapped around her body and used it to dry her hair more exposing her fully naked body in all it's glory.
"Holy Crap! Rin!" exclaimed a shocked Shouko as she blushed beet red and turned to face the wall thinking, "Oh my god her body is so perfect. I even saw her..."
"What? I'm drying it. I said I'm sorry."
"Rin you're naked!", said Shouko still talking to the wall.
"Yeah, so? We've seen each other naked thousands of times. What's the big deal?"
"Well, yeah that's true but..." Shouko struggled in vain to find a valid reason why Rin being naked wasn't okay that didn't involve her being hot.
"What's gotten into you lately Shouko? You've been acting kind of strange."
"Really? Me? Strange?"
"Yeah, like apologizing for hugging me? What's that about? And what's with all the blushing lately? Are you feeling okay? Are you coming down with something?"
Of course! That's it. Coming down with something. Why didn't I think of that. "Yeah I think I may be coming down with something. I think I need some fresh air. I'm gonna go for a walk. Don't wait up. Okay girly?" said Shouko trying to sound as normal as possible while making her way to the door holding a hand up to the side of her head like a race horse's blinder to make sure she didn't see anything.
"Okay but don't take too long. Are you gonna be okay for classes tomorrow?" said Rin a little to late as Shouko was long gone by the time she finished that question. "I hope she knows what she's doing. I'm really starting to worry about her." she added.
Shouko had no particular destination in mind. She just knew she needed to get away from Rin for a while. She needed time to think and just wandered aimlessly around campus.
Shit, this is really getting out of hand. What is going on with me? I'm not gay, am I?
Wait... Just calm down and think. Gotta think about this rationally. think think think...
Come to think of it there never has been any guy I was really attracted to. I mean... I remember when I used to watch Rin dance I would think 'Oh my god she's so beautiful.' but that's normal right? I mean everybody admired her grace and beauty.
Lets ask a simpler question. How do I really feel about Rin? That's easy, I love her. I always have but like a sister right?
So why, lately have these feelings been growing so strong? Why am I so attracted to her now? Seems like ever since she rescued me from those terr... Oh my god, Of course! I can't believe I didn't realize this sooner. It's the classic damsel in distress falls for her hero scenario. So that means it's just a phase right. It'll pass. I just have to wait it out.
Yeah, that's it. Wait it out. Sounds easy but how the hell am I gonna get through this being roommates with her. And just how long is it gonna take for this phase to pass? Man this is gonna be so hard. I've gotta try harder to act normal around her. Maybe I can keep up the sick excuse to cover for blushing for a little while anyway but that's not gonna work for long.
Well, I guess I should get back. I do have classes tomorrow and I haven't had my shower yet.