AN: This story was requested by FF user rppuzzle, and so I dedicate this story to her. She's going through somewhat of a rough time right now. She's a good friend of mine and has helped me out a number of times, even if I haven't been able to do a damn thing for her. I still can't, to my dismay, and for that I hope she can forgive me. I post this story hoping that it will make her even the slightest bit happier, or that it will for one second make her forget about the million and one things wrong with the world, about thoughtless idiots and harsh truths.
I know she will push past it. I know she will come out on the other side a better person, even if it might not seem like it right now. Until that happens, I'll write her a story every now and again. Until that happens, I'll be by her side to the best of my ability, just like all of her other friends. Even when she doesn't want me to be.
Please enjoy the story.
Why had she agreed to meet up with Tooru at her place before going to Run's? It had seemed like the most convenient solution at the time, but Yuuko had somehow forgotten that it meant that she and Tooru would be alone in the same room for over an hour. That was a little less than 3600 seconds of awkward silence, not to mention a whole lot of stares. It had taken around ten minutes for Yuuko to realize the terrifying situation she was in, and she was now nervously sitting rooted to the floor while Tooru was playing with Carbonation. The kitten had been her only hope of something to occupy herself with, but the animal had betrayed her and had sauntered over to rub up against its owner's leg.
Strange as it may sound, Yuuko hadn't talked to Tooru alone before. The freshman scared her a little bit, even if she knew that Tooru weren't half as cold as she seemed. She would probably have cuddled happily with Carbonation instead of just sitting there petting him if Yuuko hadn't been around. Still, Yuuko just couldn't make contact with her friend. Tooru didn't seem fazed by the silence in the slightest, maybe she even kept quiet on purpose because she knew it made Yuuko uncomfortable.
"You're fun to tease," Nagi had once said to her. Tooru apparently agreed, as Yuuko was frequently a victim of the short girl's frustrations. Tooru just had this way of making people feel like they were doing something wrong, whether it was someone making fun of her or an unfortunate boy chatting with Run. Come to think of it, Tooru didn't act as coldly when Run was around. She smiled more, talked more, laughed more, and was an all-around happier person with the blonde at her side. Understandable, seeing as they had been friends for so long. Yuuko figured that Tooru felt a little left behind sometimes, but so did Run, luckily.
They were very cute together, those two, and they had an interesting dynamic going. Run was ditzy and irresponsible, Tooru was cool and independent. They were the perfect match of differences, and so it was only naturally they got along together. Yuuko thankfully drifted off with her fluffy and analytical thoughts, and the two girls might as well have been in different rooms. The white cat meowed impatiently, practically climbing on Tooru for attention. The tiny high schooler sighed and took Carbonation, put him in front of her, and proceeded to let him swat at the cat toy she'd bought for him. She smiled softly at the energetic kitten, envying his simplistic happiness.
Indeed, Run and Tooru was the perfect couple. But the notion made a prickly thought pop up in Yuuko's head. On more than one occasion, she had wondered if Tooru's attachment to Run was solely a friendly one. It might sound strange, but the way the girl began to fidget and blush whenever Run praised or hugged her wasn't quite the rare and adorable bashfulness Yuuko caught a glimpse sometimes. It wasn't only embarrassment in that smile of hers, there was something else too.
Yuuko shook her head, mentally scolding herself for the thought. She was just overanalyzing everything, and should be ashamed for thinking things like that about her friends. But like usual, the thought had buried its sharp barbs in her mind and refused to let go. It made sense, and it would explain why Tooru was always waving a bat around Run's male friends, as well as the reaction to the misunderstanding when Tooru and Yuuko first met. Was it so unlikely then, that when Tooru looked at Run, she saw something more than a friend?
Nononononono, that's silly. Stop it, Yuuko. There is no way that Tooru is... She glanced over at her friend, who was giving a squirming ball of furry white her undivided attention. The thought was impossible to get rid of, every attempt only lodged it further into her weak mind. It was all she would think about now; an expression going from sour to content when the blonde girl showed up, a halfhearted reprimanding tone, a subtle possessiveness. Was she anxious now, eager to meet with her best friend?
Yuuko had to ask. She had to, even if the mere thought made her stomach churn with nervousness. Otherwise, the idea would be stuck in her head for weeks. Plus, it would break the silence. And it was Tooru for crying out loud, it's not like she'd laugh. Worst case scenario she'd say nothing at all, in which case nothing would've changed. Even with all of these sensible arguments, Yuuko just sat there in silent anguish for another five minutes. But in the end, the atmosphere became too much for her.
"Hm?" While still keeping Carbonation busy, the girl turned her head to pierce Yuuko with her eyes. Those unnatural, dark red eyes, the ones that made the long-haired girl's heart skip one, sometimes two beats for good measure. It's a perfectly legitimate question, Yuuko tried to convince herself. A little private, sure, but since when did Tooru care about others' privacy?
"How d-do...how do you feel about Run-chan?"
Tooru raised a surprised eyebrow at the question. She looked back at her playful kitten, who had triumphed over that elusive fuzzy whatever-it-was and currently nibbling proudly on it.
"We've been friends since elementary school. She's my best friend." came the unsatisfactory answer, the default. Yuuko gulped. She wasn't very good at being insistent.
"...that's all?" She said, her words almost inaudible. But the freshman had heard them, and she realized that Yuuko was fishing for something else. A dusty alarm was now ringing in the back of her head, but was promptly ignored.
"Unless I keep an eye on her, she gets hurt or into trouble." Tooru said tonelessly after another excruciating minute had passed. She was looking up at nothing in particular, lost in thoughts. "I want to protect her."
"I've noticed!" Yuuko exclaimed, grasping at the conversational straw. Her mouth felt dry, and even she had to laugh at her own nervousness now. "You really do a lot for her. Even if Run is a bit of an airhead, she knows that. You two seem so close and...a-and I was j-just wondering, if you...maybe, I d-don't know...sometimes, think of Run-chan as...more than just a friend?"
The aforementioned alarm started blaring, and Tooru's entire body tensed up into a protective shell. Her eyes darkened, and she was just about ready to use them to torture Yuuko into never mentioning such a stupid idea in the future, when a thought struck her. She could show Yuuko what a stupid idea it was, and that would be harder on the second-year than any stare of hers. A tiny, malicious smile creep up on her lips, but she hurried to get rid of it before turning to her friend.
Yuuko was being tortured plenty by her own mind as it was. She was having an intense staring contest with the floor, and at this rate, she would win. There was only loud, loud silence, now and then interrupted by even louder heartbeats, and the girl didn't even want to try to imagine Tooru's reaction. Why did I have to go and ask? What kind of question is that even!'? Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid...
Then it hit Yuuko that Tooru could be making her way over this very moment, and her head snapped back up within the millisecond. However, the threat was still sitting reassuringly still. This was supposed to calm Yuuko, but what she saw made her more uncomfortable than anything had up to this point. Carbonation sounded disappointed when he wandered off, since Tooru was now sitting facing Yuuko, hugging her legs and with the lower half of her face hidden behind her knees. She wasn't wearing her usual distant expression, nor had she changed into the dead stare she used when mad.
No, Tooru Ichii was embarrassed. She was glancing off to the side, arms wrapped so tightly around herself that it looked like she was trying to curl up into an actual ball. Yuuko had seen her friend like this before; when they had come to Tooru's classroom and discovered that she was actually a well-behaved girl sometimes. The reaction made Yuuko's heart beat even faster. Had she been right? Did Tooru really have those kind of feelings for Run?
"Not Run-chan." Tooru answered the flustered girl's question as well as her thought with those two words, and it took a good five seconds for them to make sense in Yuuko's jumbled mind. When they did, her heart decided that it didn't feel like beating any faster and simply stopped instead. As if to distract Yuuko from the unfortunate heart failure, her brain just flooded her with more thoughts, a chain gun barrage of coordinated electricity.
Tooru sheepishly shook her head and uncurled from her compressed state, raising a sleeve to point at the terrified girl with.
"You." With that, Tooru seemed to overcome a little of her bashfulness and looked straight at Yuuko. That crimson gaze froze every single speeding thought in Yuuko's head and kickstarted her heart, just in time for her to see Tooru crawling towards her on all fours. The white kitten looked on curiously from a corner of the room, still feeling a bit sore about being abandoned like that.
"T-Tooru, I d-didn't, I wasn't..." The long-haired girl stuttered helplessly, like she usually did when Tooru approached her with that worrisome stare. Though this was somehow much, much worse. There was no way she felt that way about Yuuko. No way. Though despite this firm belief, Tooru kept coming closer.
What it is they say about teasing someone you like?
It was at this point that Yuuko had to scoot backwards to avoid the girl who had more or less confessed to her. Tooru even looked a little upset at this, but that didn't discourage her much. There was only so much floor at their disposal, and Yuuko soon found herself with her back literally against the wall. She couldn't put a coherent thought together, much less a sentence, and was powerless to stop Tooru as the girl placed herself in front of Yuuko, one sleeve-covered hand on either side of the trembling girl's hips.
"Do you think it's wrong?"
"H-Huh?" was the best the student could do as Tooru positioned her face three inches from her Yuuko's, which was at this point the color of any healthy tomato. The red reflected as a hint of scarlet on Tooru's cheeks as she repeated her question.
"Do you think it's wrong, me feeling like this?" As if the situation wasn't unusual enough, some clueless part of Yuuko noted that Tooru was talking to her more than she normally did.
"Not at a-all." She answered truthfully, probably out of pure instinct. Tooru smiled ever so slightly, her look softening.
"So then...you wouldn't mind, if I..." Letting the sentence escape unfinished, the girl reduced the three inches to two, to one... Yuuko was frozen still, unable to even blink as Tooru gently gave her a k-
"What were you thinking just now?"
Red. So much red. Dark, endless pools of the lovely color.
"Don't ask idiotic questions."
Yuuko tried to reply, but found that there weren't any words that could describe the nuclear meltdown that she was experiencing. In a flash, the red disappeared and there was only a ceiling and this writhing, thorny feeling left.
Tooru sat in between Yuuko's legs with her own crossed, looking sourly at her friend. She had overdone it bit, granted, but the girl only had herself to blame. Though it seemed like Yuuko's brain was still processing everything, since the second-year was only blankly staring into nothingness. It reminded Tooru of the look Run often had. She sat like that for a while, expecting at least some kind of reaction. When she eventually got bored of waiting, she sighed and poked Yuuko in her stomach. Still nothing.
"Broken." Concluded Tooru, and went to play with Carbonation some more.
The suffocating, sharp feeling remained with Yuuko, even after her initial embarrassment had subsided. And while the four girls hung out together on that day, it took another two for Yuuko to notice what that feeling was. Probably because she didn't feel comfortable even looking in Tooru's direction after what had happened. The overwhelming nausea she carried was guilt, and the reason for that became obvious on a cloudy school day at lunchtime. Tooru had as usual made her way upstairs, and was greeted by an ecstatic Run. Well, the blonde was almost always in a happy mood, but the 92 she had gotten on an unexpected pop quiz had shot her good spirits through the roof, and Tooru was welcomed with a sudden embrace.
"Too-ru! Look look look!" The aloof girl chirped, waving a piece of paper that Tooru had no way of seeing. Yuuko noticed, against her better judgment, how Tooru's initial surprise melted away into relaxation. But she then noticed the tall girl's curious look, and immediately pried herself away from her captor. Run looked taken aback for a split second, before once again waving the paper up and down.
"Run-chan." Tooru acknowledged her with a soft smile, just like always, and listened intently to her friend's story about how the well the pop quiz had gone. But every now and then, she'd give Yuuko a cold glare, looking almost suspicious. And Yuuko understood why she was feeling so bad all of a sudden. Tooru had probably always been really close to Run, and it was perfectly natural to her. But Yuuko's careless question had made Tooru self-conscious about it, and now the short girl didn't want to do anything that could be misinterpreted.
The second-year felt awful, truly awful, having hurt her friend like that. Yuuko cursed herself and her stupidity, promising herself to talk to Tooru in private when an opportunity came along. She would have to apologize properly and explain herself, or she would never to able to live with herself. Knowing about the source of her sorrows should've made them easier to carry, but the razor-sharp vines only wrapped themselves tighter around her heart.
"Are you okay, Yuuko?" Nagi asked worriedly, having spotted her friend's pained expression. But the black-haired girl shook her head and claimed that everything was fine, Run was done telling Tooru about her feat and resumed showering the other two girls with her enthusiasm. It wasn't that big of a deal, some might think, but it was to Run.
Yuuko wouldn't have to wait long, luckily. Her chance at redemption would come the very next day, when the skies opened wide and unleashed a torrent of watery needles upon the earthlings. It was a downpour to say the least, and all four girls had conveniently enough forgotten to bring an umbrella.
Run of course got herself drenched, and Nagi offered to borrow her a change of clothes at her house, which was closest to the school. While Nagi wanted to call a taxi, they all ended up sprinting through the gushing rain, effectively making the other three just as wet and cold as Run. This did however provide a excuse for all of them to hang out some more, and while their clothes were hung up to dry, they would all take a nice, reinvigorating bath. They could only go two at a time, and Yuuko thanked her lucky stars when she and Tooru ended up in the same group. Nagi and Run left the room, and the other two girls quickly discarded their wet uniforms for some dry clothes.
Even with Yuuko's strong will to make things right, the same awkward silence from before immediately built up a wall between the two of them. Tooru just sat there, as still and distant as always, while Yuuko squirmed and fidgeted trying to compose a good apology in her head.
"Hey, Tooru?" The frail voice broke the silence. The short girl looked at her friend emptily, but Yuuko thought herself spot a certain warning glint in those red eyes. Don't ask idiotic questions, she had said.
"It's about what I asked a few days ago...about you and Run?"
"I remember." Tooru confirmed, a thin coat of steel lining her voice. Yuuko felt like she should've been more nervous, but she was more eager to get rid of the crushing guilt. It was still weird how she could feel so bad when all she had to go on was assumptions, but Yuuko was the kind of person who worries a lot.
"I wanted to apologize. What I asked was none of my business, it was was a very private question, and you have every right to be mad at me. I never wanted to hurt your relationship with Run, and I don't want you to feel like I'm judging you in any way...because I'm not." Yuuko said all of this very quickly, her head lowered in shame. Tooru didn't say a word at first, and the silence tormented the tall girl as dutifully as ever. It took a minute and an eternity before any kind of reply was heard.
"Okay." Not much a reply, but it was a gentle 'okay'. When Yuuko raised her head, Tooru had gone back to staring at the blank TV screen in front of her.
"Okay? S-So, no hard feelings?"
Tooru shook her head ever so lightly, but it was enough for Yuuko to take a mental breath of relief. The lack of words between the two suddenly didn't seem as harsh, and the situation could almost have been nicely resolved right then and there. Except for one small detail.
It still hurt.
The rope of thorns around Yuuko's heart, the heavy chain that had weighed down her mood was still there, more painful than ever. It only became apparent now, after the anxiety from the apology had settled. It stung, it physically hurt. But why? Tooru had without a doubt forgiven her. So why did she still feel guilty? Unless...unless she wasn't.
Maybe it wasn't guilt. Maybe it had never been guilt. You could almost hear the gears spinning and clicking as Yuuko's mind reassembled her feelings during the last few days. Her jitteriness when alone with Tooru, her pounding heart when the girl had tried to teach her a lesson for being nosy, that sting of nausea she'd felt when she had seen how close Run and Tooru were. When you thought about it, it certainly seemed like that last emotion was jealousy. Putting that piece of information together with the rest, there was one very unsettling conclusion:
I think of Tooru as more than just a friend.
The thought was swatted away like a loud, trivial fly, and came back just a quickly as one.
I think I like Tooru.
No matter how Yuuko tried to chase away the unwelcome revelation, it returned. It made perfect sense and she didn't even question it, she just wanted to deny it. She wanted to take the ridiculous yet very plausible idea and lock it deep inside of her. She had just met Tooru, she feared the girl and her shameless punishments, she couldn't even talk to her like a normal person. And yet...
"I-I mean, even if you had thought of Run-chan like that..." Yuuko's brain jumped into a five minute old context, because she had to say something, anything to take her mind off her recent realization. "There...there isn't anything wrong with it. N-Nothing at all. Even if you were joking before, I just felt I should say...I think, you know..."
"Yuuko..." Tooru said with a sigh, interrupting her friend's ramblings. The short girl got up and walked over to Yuuko, and quite simply put a hand on her head. It wasn't much, but it was a calming gesture. Somehow.
"Huh?" Yuuko found herself staring into those familiar crimson pools once again, and she could feel the light pat Tooru gave her along with a faint smirk.
I like Tooru.
"It's fine. Nothing's wrong."
Voices were heard from outside the room as the other two girls returned, clean as a couple of whistles and with Nagi looking awfully exasperated. Yuuko and Tooru just looked at each other in wordless understanding. While Run was the kindest person on the planet, being around her could be a little exhausting. They switched out, and the two black-haired girls trudged quietly towards the bathroom, both of them lost in their own messy thoughts.
If there was a worse time to find out that you might have a crush on your scary yet adorable friend of the same gender, Yuuko couldn't for the life of her think of one. This became apparent as Tooru quickly removed her borrowed clothes and went to wash off. Yuuko involuntarily blushed, as there was suddenly something very embarrassing about being naked in the same room as a just as naked Tooru. Even so, the tall girl followed her friend's example and stepped into the humid bathroom. She waited patiently and nervously for Tooru, who became done rather quickly, almost as if she was in a hurry. The freshman stepped into the steaming bathtub, and Yuuko felt a bit better now that she didn't have to try avoid looking at the other girl. Tooru was staring at her however, but that didn't bother Yuuko half as much as it used to. Her basis for comparison had been shifted a little, one could say.
Allowing herself to relax, the long-haired girl meticulously washed every inch of herself. The stream of water seemed to take her worries with it, and she tried to think about her emotions in a collected manner. She had projected, wasn't that what it was called? She had thought that there was something between Run and Tooru, when it was actually her who harbored the unusual feelings.
So now what? Would she tell Tooru? The mere thought gave the girl a minor heart attack, but what else could she do? The pain was still very present, and it obviously wouldn't go away by itself. Perhaps if she could get her new-found secret off her chest, it wouldn't hurt so much. Maybe.
Yuuko compromised with herself, knowing that she could hardly tell Tooru in this kind of situation. But she promised to do it soon, as soon as possible, despite the possible consequences. A person like Tooru, would she even care? Yuuko couldn't imagine the kind of reaction she'd receive, found she didn't really want to, and instead pushed the bundle of thoughts into the 'to-do' pile. She got done cleaning her body, and moved on to the time-consuming pain that was her hair. Sure, her long raven locks were silky and beautiful and all that, but they required care. While shampooing, she realized that she hadn't talked to Tooru since the apology. And really, was there anything worse she could say at this point?
"Hey Tooru, do you get scared when you have to close your eyes as you wash your hair?" Yuuko wondered, more or less blind while gently massaging her scalp. It was silly question, there weren't many things that scared Tooru, but it was something. A question between friends. Though Yuuko didn't get an answer, so she continued:
"When I was little, I couldn't stand shampoo at all." Still no reply. Yuuko concluded that Tooru probably didn't want to talk to her at the moment, and reached for the shower head to rinse out the shampoo. That was when a pair of thin arms was wrapped around her neck, and Yuuko yelped in surprise. Thankfully, she managed to remember to keep her eyes closed, and her hands fumbled around in front of her in panic.
"It's fine." came the low voice, right by Yuuko's left ear. The closeness sent a shiver through the confounded girl's body, and Yuuko's hands soon realized that there was no shower head in her vicinity. The brain had more urgent matters to attend to, like figuring you why Tooru was suddenly clinging to Yuuko. In addition to just her arms, the small girl was pressing her entire body against her friend's back. Usually, something like that would've constituted as a welcome if unexpected hug, but the situation made the gesture a tad more intimate. Yuuko's own body suddenly caught fire when she felt two distinct buds poking her in the back among all the hot skin, increasing her heart rate even more.
"W-W-What are you d-doing, Tooru? H-Hey, let me go!" Yuuko in her immobilized state couldn't do much, especially not with her brain functions melting down into basic life support.
"Don't worry." With the second whisper, Tooru's arms did loosen their hold, but for the sole purpose of sliding their hands down Yuuko's chest and cupping her envied breasts. The helpless girl gave a moan of pleasure-filled misery, with no clue what was happening or why. All she knew was that there was nothing she could do. Maybe she didn't want to do anything.
Tooru had a very neutral expression on her face as she was shamelessly fondling her friend. She felt sorry for Yuuko, she couldn't deny that, and what she was doing could just as easily be seen as punishment as it could a favor. It didn't mean anything to Tooru, but it was something she had to do. Just like Yuuko, the short girl didn't want her friends feeling bad because of her. So maybe it could be seen as an apology too.
"There's nothing wrong with it." Tooru mumbled sheepishly into Yuuko's neck, her fingers pinching and rubbing all the while. "Nothing at all."
As previously established, Yuuko's wasn't in any state to do much more than gasp and whimper, but no one can say she didn't do what she could. Some of the shampoo had somehow found its way into her right eye, but the slight sting it caused couldn't hold a candle to the searing drops of arousal that were splashing everywhere inside her body. They all trickled downwards, creating a rising heat between her legs. As if her tormentor could tell, a hand instantly flew up to cover Yuuko's mouth, muffling her increasingly loud noises.
Suddenly, water washed over Yuuko's face, ridding her of the wretched lather. Tooru had gotten her hands on the shower head, and was kind enough to save her friend from a fair bit of pain before lowering the water-spewing object, pressing it rather roughly against Yuuko's sex. The jets made the girl yelp in surprise, a sound that Tooru's hand of course held back. The surprise soon joined the other irrelevant reactions as the cold water somehow only served to increase the heat that had already started spilling over.
Tooru could feel her victim twitch and shudder against her, and there was something strangely satisfying about having so much control over another person. She rubbed the shower head up and down, making her hand hot with Yuuko's ragged, restricted breath.
Small stars exploded before Yuuko's eyes, and her body shook in a blissful spasm. Her body went from painfully tense to relaxingly limp, and she probably would've fallen backwards if it hadn't been for Tooru. The short girl abruptly dropped the shower head in Yuuko's lap and stood up, uttering a few words before going to dry herself off.
"Get clean. Nagi and Run-chan are probably waiting for us."
At the moment, Yuuko had no intention of starting to analyze what had just happened, and so mindlessly followed her friend's orders. The friend that was more than a friend. The friend she liked. A lot.