Noel dropped her pen at Makoto's albeit not-so-carefully chosen words, mouth agape just barely, as the situation wormed into her brain, hopefully with the mental image Makoto wanted conveyed to the three sitting around the study table. Carl, the youngest and most impressionable, only looked up from his work, definitely not as much as Tsubaki, red-faced next to him, seemed to have. That probably counted as a failure on Makoto's part if she wanted to see him bug-eyed. Tsubaki's reaction, or maybe her lack of one, might have made Makoto the most amused.
"C-could you care to repeat that, Makoto?" Noel squeaked, green eyes wide and staring at her while her hand feebly, blindly tried to reclaim the pen. She was waving it around the wrong side of the table—the pen wold never be found at that rate. Carl seemed to come to the same conclusion and wordlessly placed the utensil back into Noel's slackened hand. It almost fell again.
"Certainly," Makoto said, sitting straight-backed in her chair. She wondered, briefly, if she should also repeat it louder to all in the vicinity of the library, but she decided against it due to the fact that the crotchety librarian had already kicked her out several times in the past month, and that Tsubaki might dish out her own special brand of punishment. "I think our very own student council president might actually be a woman. I can't seem to come up with a reason why she'd have to hide herself away as a man, though."
If possible, Tsubaki's haughty expression burned as brightly as her hair.
"That's what I thought you said," Noel uttered on a breath before averting her eyes back to her work. It was history stuff, the kind of history stuff Noel was shamefully bad at, and Makoto didn't pest her to pay more attention to her brilliant hypothesis. They were here to study, really, and she'd feel just awful if Noel started flunking because she was monopolizing the girl's time. Carl and Tsubaki, however, were always top of their classes and could easily put away a study session to hear her out.
"That's preposterous," grumbled Tsubaki, straightening her neater-than-neat work. It was probably some files for the student council, probably for the president of all people, rather than homework. Tsubaki Yayoi was definitely too good to have simple schoolwork left over. Makoto might've been a little jealous. "Jin's not a girl, Makoto, and you should throw that fantasy back to wherever it came from."
"What makes you think he's a girl?" Carl piped up. His glasses were huge, and they magnified his eyes to the size of small planets. Makoto always wanted to burst into fits of giggles when he looked at her. She couldn't, though, not right now when she desperately needed him to take her seriously. "He's always seemed masculine to me."
"Too masculine, maybe?" Makoto started, leaning into the table conspiratorially. "The guy's either a woman or gay. However, for Tsubaki's sake, I'm gonna go with woman in disguise, because lesbians are awesome. Not that there's anything wrong with gay men, though, they're pretty hot, too. Anyway, Jin's meticulously clean all the time—and don't start talking now, Carl, I know you're clean so this can all apply to you, too—and he acts like Aunt Flow visits him regularly."
With a huff, Tsubaki slapped her papers onto the table. "This is all you're basing this on? Makoto!"
"Call it my squirrelly senses, but something's definitely weird about that guy!"
"I might be gay or a woman...?" Carl trailed off quietly in the background. Makoto knew she was headed for recruitment in intelligence, even if she was green as could be, and wouldn't let Carl's tiny voice slip her hearing.
"Don't worry too much, my squirrelly senses don't seem to care much about you, Carl."
"So!" Here her voice rose and the librarian at the front desk sent her a withering look. Makoto ignored her just as often as she usually ignored the old bat. Tsubaki and Noel would scold her later, but in the mean time, she had much more important things say. "I'm recruiting all of you into helping me uncover Jin's feminine wiles!" Already plots to investigate the boy's dorm and the showers had taken roost in her mind. And after that, plots to coerce her friends into maybe snatching a few pairs of Jin's underwear—male or female, they would surely be a prize to be won.
Noel, bless the girl, let out another painfully adorable cry. This time the pen clattered to the floor. "You can't be serious!"
"Since when am I not serious?"
"All the time," Tsubaki replied without humor. She leaned over the table, tapped Makoto's own stack of forgotten assignments. "Please drop your plans and do your work."
"Now, why would I—oh wow. Look what Aunt Flow just dragged in." Makoto halted her own diatribe as the library doors closed behind Jin Kisaragi, the student council president himself. The president was just the same as ever, spine ramrod (would wrapping one's upper assets hurt, and was Jin in constant pain?) and expression frostily stern. Makoto tried to imagine Jin's hair at Tsubaki's length, blond like Noel's, and could almost see it crystal clear. "My detective senses, squirrelly or not, are definitely going off, you guys. It's like I'm in an episode of transgendered Scooby Doo."
Jin shared a quick conversation with the librarian before he seemed to realize that four pairs of eyes were transfixed upon him. With a nod and a step forward, Makoto heard the others at the table scramble for their possessions (butterfingers Noel only, of course) and dignity (the remaining two). His strides were light, balanced, and Makoto was having an easy enough time picturing him in a pair of shimmering red pumps.
"Tsubaki," Jin greeted when he (she? Makoto was going to have a problem with pronouns until this whole issue was resolved) reached them. "Carl. Makoto. Noel. What's happening here?"
"Nothin' much," drawled Makoto, sprawling across the tabletop. Papers once organized were shoved around haphazardly. She smirked a little more devilishly when she heard the unhappy sound Tsubaki had valiantly tried to keep locked in her throat. Perfectionists were really too much fun, sometimes. "Just working so hard. It's like...it's like there's this glass ceiling, you know? That no matter how much we ladies work...except for Carl...we just can't catch a break. Don't you agree?"
Jin rose an eyebrow before he turned his attention back on Tsubaki. "Do you need help righting those papers?"
"No! I mean...no thank you, Jin. It's kind of you to offer," Tsubaki responded elegantly. Makoto felt the need to ambush their conversation, but held her tongue just this once. Tsubaki was already going to have a field day in describing every little line Makoto was toeing, a rant she'd only half-listen to because Tsubaki was always right, even when she was boring.
"I see. If that's all, I guess I'll leave you to it, then," Jin had just began to turn around when Makoto reached out to grab him by the cuff of his sleeve.
"Hold on a bit," she told him. "I'm almost done here, but there's this thing needlin' at me and I gotta ask ya. You don't mind waiting, do you?"
Jin looked like he minded very much, but he only grunted and pulled up a chair to the table. There was a notable difference amongst her original study buddies. Carl, quiet and unobtrusive, seemed downright mute and ghostly. He kept glancing up at Jin, warnings in his eyes, but Jin was ignoring him in favor of watching Noel's suddenly shaking hands trying to sort out the mess Makoto had made on the table. Tsubaki's body language was the same as though Makoto hadn't done anything to try her nerves at all, but there was an underlying grimace beneath the professional mask that was almost always on her face.
She'd have to nix her plans to obtain any of Jin's unmentionables. If all went well, she could put the final piece of this puzzle in its spot by the end of the day.
Makoto was quick to dot her i's and cross her t's, a swiftness in her work that may have surprised her friends. She wouldn't admit that she'd been mostly done by the time everyone had gathered, but would insist that she was just a genius on extraordinary levels. Tsubaki wouldn't believe her, but Noel and Carl would surely dance in the palm of her hand.
She'd have to make sure neither of them got too angry with her fooling around. Noel had excellent scores for marksmanship, and Carl was a tactical forecaster in the making. Tsubaki could be awfully cold, too, and she didn't seem to have any real disadvantages. After this, she'd have to tone it down for a while. Maybe a month, perhaps a week if she was feeling ballsy.
Eventually, the work dwindled down to Noel's struggling history work. Jin, impatient and short with her as always (and really, was their a stick in his rear, or sand in his lady parts?), decided that she'd wasted enough of his time and brought it upon himself to instruct her with a tongue as sharp as a blade. Makoto cocked her head a little; hadn't Jin entered the academy with prior knowledge of swordsmanship? And to come from one of the twelve houses of the Duodecim, he'd probably be an opponent that could not be easily matched. She'd have to hide from him, too, when this all blew over, because she was not going to lose her tail over something like identifying one's proper sex.
Finally, oh, finally, Noel could say that she was done and probably prepared for any of the professors' pop quizzes. As they packed up, she heard the blond girl beg, "Please, Makoto, don't do anything. Let's just apologize to the president and scram."
Poor, bashful Noel. Makoto had dug her claws into this, dug them in deep, and was not going to let go of her claim now. She only offered her a cheeky grin and saw Noel's heart rise up into her throat.
"No, really, Jin," Tsubaki was suddenly saying and Makoto faced her with alarm. She was walking beside Jin, but her eyes had fixed on Makoto. No, no, Tsubaki was not going to ruin this! "Makoto really doesn't need you to stick around, we can handle this ourselves."
The library doors closed behind the group. "Is that so?"
Makoto pounced, hands grasping onto Jin's shoulders tightly. "That is so totally not so! Come on!"
Jin had tensed at the contact, but when she began to pull he felt like he was made a concrete. His heels planted into the walkway, but his boots slid easily. Makoto directed him off the path and into the grass, and that was when he decided that burying his heels into the dirt was much easier and had the effect he desired on her progress. She tried not to get frustrated just as much as she tried not to laugh at his indignant spluttering.
If her friends were going to intervene, now would be perfect. Passing a quick glance over to them, she saw Carl bow a farewell to Noel, who caught up with Tsubaki, and the other girl was stomping her way after them. "Where are you taking him, Makoto?"
"Just around the building," Makoto huffed as one of Jin's heels came loose with an aggravated swear before it burrowed into the dirt again. He was making such a mess of the library's lawn. "Where there's no windows."
"Windows? What do windows have to do with anything?" barked Jin. He looked about ready to display some of the skills he had honed during his life, restraining himself only because he felt like he wouldn't get away with murder.
"Makoto, no!" Both girls behind her practically screamed when the implications hit. Makoto would have none of their interference, not when they were almost there, her goal just around the literal corner. She'd gotten into this academy on skill and scholarship, and those smarts and skills would not go to waste, so she used the strength harnessed in her arms, drilled to impeccable from years of kickboxing and breaking sandbags, and hoisted Jin straight into the air.
Jin was well known across the academy for his aloofness, but the way he crowed proved that there were definitely things that could make him lose that cool. "No, no, no, no! This is not happening! Makoto Nanaya, I demand you put me back down now!"
"Is this kidnapping?" Noel wondered aloud. Makoto didn't answer, balancing Jin's struggling body on her shoulder, and completed the last stretch to put them in the blindside of the campus. It was only then did Makoto relinquish her hold on Jin, pushing him against the bricks of the library's back wall.
"Alright, Jin, time to come clean!" Makoto announced, pointing an accusatory finger at his face. It only stared there for a moment before Jin looked like he was going to bite the digit off, so she redirected her finger to point at his nether regions. "Admit it now, you are a woman!"
Whatever angry storm cloud had rained on Jin's parade dispersed, rays of bafflement filtering onto his face. "What." It wasn't a question, just a flat sound that rumbled from his lips.
"Take it off and prove to me that I should really be referring to you as a 'she' in my mind!"
That terribly affronted look returned and Jin braced his hands on the leather of his belt and the knot of his tie, as if Makoto couldn't worm him out of them if she really put forth the effort. "You're out of your mind, squirrel. Back off and we can both forget this excursion into the bowels of blatant idiocy never happened."
Noel and Tsubaki rounded the corner, Tsubaki's face flushed again with embarrassment while Noel just looked like she wanted to wake up from a naked-in-class nightmare. "Makoto, stop this nonsense!" Tsubaki pleaded. It was enough to give Makoto pause. Tsubaki Yayoi was a proud girl, one that demanded respect and, if you were unlucky enough to not be her friend, brooked absolutely no nonsense. Really, she and Jin had to be compatible if they had so much in common. "I...I have evidence that throws your...theory of sorts out the window. So...Please, leave the president alone."
"Oh, God, no," Jin muttered from the wall.
"Go on," Makoto urged as she planted one hand on Jin's admittedly flat chest to keep him in place. Already her ramshackle hypothesis was crumbling around her, but word that Tsubaki could disprove her was more than simply interesting.
Tsubaki stuttered a little, and that might've been enough to satisfy Makoto on any other day. "It's not...physical evidence. But...ohthisissoembarrassing."
It was quiet for a moment as all eyes stayed on Tsubaki's crimson face. At the peak of the awkward silence, Jin's thin patience ran out and he groused, "I already know what you're gonna say, and yes it is hideously embarrassing, but just spit it out so I can go far away from here, Tsubaki."
Makoto wondered when everyone decided that she would let him go after this. She supposed it wouldn't hurt, and if this embarrassing secret between them was as juicy as she hoped, Tsubaki would be her new favorite toy for a while yet to come.
The resignation was almost visible as it passed over Tsubaki, who averted her eyes high to the sky to avoid recognizing her audience. "W-when we were kids...you see, Jin and I go back quite a while...there was this storm," she started slow.
"Good God," Jin mumbled.
"W-we had this...test of courage. We wanted to see who could stay out in it the longest without getting scared."
"So what happened?" Makoto prodded. She felt more than heard Jin's sigh.
Tsubaki's flush had faded just a little when she first began the tale, but it returned with a vengeance. "S-so we waited out in the storm, and I slid in some mud. We ended up having a mud fight, and forgot about the storm."
If that was what had them both so embarrassed, that as kids they got into a childish match to see who could muddy up the other the best, then Makoto was severely disappointed. "That's hardly proof of anything, Tsubaki."
"I'm not done!" defended Tsubaki. Then, breathing in deeply to reclaim any sort of face she thought she was displaying, she continued her story, "My mom called us in, and she got mad at us for all the mud. S-so, she...she demanded we take a bath."
Noel chose this time to say what Makoto desperately wanted to interrupt the story with, and somehow the effect was better than anything she could have orchestrated. "...Together?"
The shade of red that covered Tsubaki's face and traveled into her uniform was entirely new, probably not even recognized on a color wheel, and an innate love of chaos deemed it Makoto's favorite.
"Y-yes," Tsubaki admitted.
Makoto glanced at Jin, his face hidden in his hand. The grin on her face probably looked like it split her face into two halves. "So you've seen his dingaling?"
"Oh my God."
Makoto cackled and brought her hand back to hold her stomach. Finally, after her breathless laughter wore down, she stared Tsubaki straight in the face and asked, "How is that evidence?"
"E-excuse me?" Tsubaki almost shrieked, but it seemed she was quick to pull together the shattered pieces of her self-respect.
"This really cannot be happening," Jin grumbled as he pushed himself off the wall. He refused to look at any of them. "I'm leaving, and squirrel, you'd better not try and stop me."
She didn't. Instead, she waited until he turned the corner to round back on Tsubaki. "It's hardly evidence at all, Tsubaki. You could be lying."
"M-Makoto, you're going way too far with this!" Noel said. Still, Makoto could hardly take her seriously with the laughter dancing in the girl's eyes. Oh, formality really was driven into the girl's head.
"Oh, hush," Makoto ordered softly with a dismissing wave of the hand. She leaned back into the library wall, that grin still stretching her lips wide. "I didn't say I didn't believe her. If Tsubaki was gonna tell a lie, she'd tell one that didn't embarrass herself, or Jin, probably. Let this be a lesson to you, Tsubaki, Noel."
With a sigh, Makoto turned her smile to the sky. "Well, I can cross out that Jin's actually a lady. Now, when do you think I should ask him how deep he is in the closet?"
A/N: The thought occurred to me while writing: Makoto, at least academy-years!Makoto, would probably be the best internet troll.