As the days went on Ringo found herself spending more and more time with Himari. They would sometimes venture out into public places like the aquarium or various stores around the city but they would more often than not meet at Himari's house. Ringo was always glad to spend whatever time she could with Himari, but there was something inexplicably comforting about being in her home. She couldn't for the life of her explain what it was, this vague sense of warmth and familiarity she felt whenever she'd pass through the doorway into the hall, and she finally chalked it up to being a side effect of occupying a space that Himari inhabited.

She just had that kind of presence about her, Ringo thought; she was the kind of person who would put you at ease with a word or smile and just make you feel right at home.

Perhaps that was why she had grown as fond of the other girl as quick as she did. Her presence just had a way of relaxing her, especially in the chaotic confusion she felt in the aftermath of her sudden hospitalization. Later, Himari told her she was experiencing much of the same so maybe that helped account for why they immediately connected with each other.

Whatever the reason, they hit it off in such a way that it felt to Ringo almost like they were old friends meeting for the first time in a long while, trying to catch up on the hallmarks of each other's lives and fill in the gaps brought on by distance and memory.

It wasn't long before she came to consider Himari one of her closest, dearest friends and it took even less time than that for her to develop something of a crush. Really, it was almost embarrassing how quickly she fell for the other girl.

But how could anyone not fall for Himari?

She was pretty in a way that would be unfair if she weren't so sweet and was just a remarkably good-natured, fun-loving, impossibly cute person. Whenever she'd do those little head tilts of hers that Ringo found so endearing and grin, Ringo's stomach automatically fluttered in response.

But most importantly, Ringo relished the ease with which they talked with one another, the way they didn't hesitate to share everything in their hearts and minds. She never felt more like herself then when she was with Himari.

Well, not quite everything, Ringo amended after a moment, thinking of how carefully she was trying to suppress her feelings for the other girl. Unfortunately, she found she wasn't doing as good of a job as she would have liked.

She was currently standing outside Himari's door holding a pot full of her family's special curry for a reason, after all.

Ringo cursed her life.

Since she had her gaze trained on the doormat while she was muttering under her breath about yet another one of her poor life decisions, she missed Himari peering curiously at her from the door and only looked up when she heard her gasp.

"Ringo-chan! Oh, come in, come in! I didn't mean to make you wait!"

"Ah, no problem, Himari-chan. Could you...?"

She nodded down to the pot in her hands.

"Of course!" Himari said, taking the pot from her. She called over her shoulder as she moved in the direction of the kitchen, Ringo trailing her steps as soon she toed off her shoes in the hall. "Ringo-chan, you didn't have to go to the trouble, really! I could have made something for us to eat."

"It's no trouble!" Ringo reassured her. "My family always makes too much anyway so it's not like we don't have plenty extra. Besides, going one day without cooking won't kill you."

"You're right, you're right. Mhmm, it smells really good!" Himari exclaimed after removing the lid and taking a sniff.

Ringo grinned from where she was leaning against the counter while waiting for Himari to fish out some bowls from the cabinet.

"It should! It's a secret family recipe, after all," she said proudly.

"Well, if it tastes half as good as it smells then I might just retire from cooking for good," Himari teased.

"I'm sure you'd get tired of eating curry eventually."

"Not yours," Himari proclaimed with a happy smile. Ringo laughed and made a face, although she found herself warmed by the sincerity that populated Himari's every word and action. She stubbornly refused to examine the reasons as to why.

"How about you try it first?" she suggested and Himari nodded happily.

They moved to sit down and eat and Ringo found herself tracking every flicker in facial expression as Himari devoured her food. Himari, never one to be silent in expressing her pleasure, kept telling Ringo how good it was between spoonfuls or would merely exaggeratedly moan in delight.

Ringo shook her head and grinned at her antics, resolutely ignoring how warm her cheeks suddenly were.

"It was really good, Ringo-chan!" Himari praised yet again and Ringo was going to tell her that she didn't need to keep saying so when the music coming from the radio stopped her in her tracks. The sounds of Double H suddenly filled the room; they had turned the radio on as they ate and nothing particularly noteworthy had come on until this moment.

Himari suddenly perked up and they grinned in silent understanding at each other. Their mutual love of Double H had been one of the first things they had bonded over back when they met in the hospital.

"Ohhh, this is my favorite song by them too!" she exclaimed. She jumped up from her place on the floor and started dancing around, singing along all the while, while Ringo laughed and remained where she was, content to just sit and watch.

But it did not take long for Himari to dance her way back over to her; when she did, she held out her hand for the other girl to take.

Ringo looked at her in surprise but Himari just smiled. There was something in her eyes she hadn't seen before and Ringo tried to swallow down her hope, believing even now for it to be futile.

But it was hard, with Himari looking at her like that. So very, very hard.

"Dance with me, Ringo-chan," Himari said, and it was suddenly even harder.

Ringo hesitated for the barest of seconds, looking from Himari's upturned palm to her sweetly smiling face. She swallowed and wiped her hands against her skirt. She was sweating already, how embarrassing! And all at the thought of Himari's hand against her own. Her fingers twitched in anticipation and Ringo found she couldn't bear the wait any longer; she grabbed Himari's hand.

Himari grinned and pulled her to her feet. She let their clasped hands gently linger and Ringo desperately tried to ignore how right their hands fit together, how well they fit together.

Before she met Himari, Ringo had always felt as if something was missing. A certain yawning emptiness inside her that she couldn't explain or even begin to put a name to. But then, by some mysterious stroke of fate, Himari came into her life. And when she did Ringo felt as if something had perfectly slotted into place, like for the first time in her life everything was as it should be. Ringo still felt that ache sometimes, but nowhere near the same degree as before.

All because of Himari.

With that in mind it was easier to just forget her nervousness and lose herself in the moment, in Himari's flushed cheeks and delighted smile and how her hair danced around her head like a halo. They jumped on the couch and twirled each other around the room and, when they finally tired, sunk down to the floor in laughter.

They leaned against each other, panting for breath, only to break into more giggles whenever they caught each other's eye.

After a while they settled, although they still grinned at each other like fools.

They did not move apart, however, something that Ringo quickly took notice of; they were so close that their knees and shoulders were touching and Ringo felt dazed all over again with the realization that it wouldn't take much at all to kiss her, if she wanted. And she found that she wanted nothing more than to bridge the gap between them and press their mouths together gently.

Ringo flushed at the direction of her thoughts. She turned her head away to hide the sudden red in her cheeks, hoping that Himari would mistake it for a result of all the dancing they had been doing.

"We always have fun together, Ringo-chan," Himari said, bringing her attention back to her. "Don't we?"

"Yeah, we do. I never have more fun then when I'm with you," Ringo confessed, then cursed herself for the earnestness in her reply. She felt like her feelings were all too obvious then; if Himari couldn't hear it in her words then she could surely see it in her face.

She wished she could just snatch the words back from where they seemed to linger in the air between them, but then Himari turned to her with a wide, dazzling smile.

And like with everything whenever Himari so much as looked at her, Ringo suddenly found it hard to regret it. Rather, she found herself beaming back and they just sat there for a while, content to just look and smile at each other.

"I'm glad," Himari said simply. Her smile turned impossibly soft for a moment before disappearing entirely and Ringo watched as a struggle seemed to play out on her face. "Ringo-chan, I..."

She trailed off, bit her lip, and looked away in something like shame.

Something in this moment was telling Ringo to look down and, when she did, she saw that Himari's hands were clenched in tiny fists in her lap. And before her brain could process what was even happening or even start to tell her that this was a bad idea, Ringo found she had already placed her hand over Himari's own. She silently watched as Himari's fingers gently unfurled beneath her palm, feeling almost dumbstruck with awe when Himari tangled their fingers together.

The sight of their joined hands must have strengthened something in Himari because her eyes and face were determined when she finally lifted her gaze.

"Ringo-chan...I really like you," she confessed, her voice no higher than a whisper, and Ringo's heart raced. Her throat was suddenly all too dry so she cleared it with an awkward smile.

"I really like you too, Himari-chan. You're my best friend."

Himari's head was shaking from the moment the incredibly stilted words left Ringo's mouth, but she didn't reply right away. Just looked at her, the same way she had when she first asked Ringo to dance; hopeful in a way that managed to be sweet and shy and determined all at once, yes, but also containing a little something more, something that had always managed to elude Ringo before she could get a proper grasp of it.

Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that her fear had prevented her from recognizing it before. She had been so afraid of getting her hopes up, after all.

But the important thing was that now she did see. She saw the truth of that look with not just her eyes but with her heart and felt her breath catch at all the possibilities held within what she could finally admit was Himari's loving gaze.

Ringo's lips curved into the tiniest of smiles. She was still scared; terrified really, but also sort of exhilarated. There was a small chance she could be mistaken about all this, but Himari was still holding her hand. That meant something. She'd stake her life on it.

And really, she thought, you'll never get anywhere in life if you never take any chances.

"No," Ringo amended, finally, causing Himari to look at her in surprise. "That's not quite right. I mean, you are my best friend. I'd never lie about something like that, but I'd also be lying if I said you weren't also more. You sort of always have been; right from the moment we met. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I...I love you."

Ringo looked away the moment she said those words, heart in her throat.

But of all the possible reactions she could have gotten, she did not anticipate Himari throwing herself at her in a hug; the sudden weight of the other girl threw Ringo off balance and she toppled over with Himari landing on top of her, who grinned and continued to happily squeeze her.

Their current position made Ringo blush madly, but she returned the hug as best as she could.

"You're okay with that then?" Ringo asked, smiling tentatively. Himari playfully rolled her eyes.

"What, the tackle wasn't answer enough already? Really, Ringo-chan," she said in false exasperation. "It's obvious I love you too."

"Oh, well...that's good then," Ringo said, feeling dazed. She still couldn't quite believe any of this happening.

"It is," Himari agreed, then smiled in a way that could only be described as sly. Seeing an expression like that on Himari's face made her stomach flutter. "Especially now that it means I can do this."

Himari kissed her; lightly at first, but then her mouth began to slide against her own with an insistence that took Ringo off guard. She was quick to return it in an equal measure, however, grinning into Himari's mouth when she made a delighted noise in response.

Ringo just couldn't get over how nice it all was; being able to kiss and touch Himari and have Himari kiss and touch her in return. She delighted in the feel of their bodies pressed up so close together; the way she could feel Himari's breasts gently brush against her own, although the thought made her blush in a way their kissing hadn't been able to.

It was all so impossibly new and wonderful; Ringo found she wanted nothing more than to lay like this with Himari forever, just slowly familiarizing themselves with the feel of each other's mouths and hands, hands that she was quickly starting to discover refused to stay still.

Ringo herself was mostly guilty of this; she would trail her fingers across Himari's arm, up her back, over her neck. Feeling a sudden burst of mischief well up inside her, Ringo decided to lightly tickle Himari's neck and was rewarded when Himari gasped and broke apart from her mouth to giggle. Ringo grinned in triumph.

Himari leaned up on her elbow and scowled at her in a mock show of anger when she was done laughing.

"That wasn't very nice!" she tried to scold, but the effect was lessened by the fact that she was obviously trying to fight a smile.

"All's fair in love and war, right?" Ringo said, shrugging her shoulders and smirking. "I'm only using the weapons I have at my disposal."

"So confident," she teased, only for her smile to soften as she looked at her. "It's cute. You're cute. And I really, really like kissing you so we should keep doing that from now on, kay?"

"Okay," Ringo agreed with a laugh. "No complaints here."

"Good," Himari said, pretending to brush something off her hands. "That settles that then!"

"Not quite," Ringo said and cherished the look of confusion on Himari's face before leaning in to capture her lips for her own. Himari smiled, wrapping her arms around her neck, and they kissed, again and again.

Nothing will ever feel as right as this, Ringo thought, but soon stopped being able to think coherently altogether; there was just Himari's mouth moving against her own and love and joy unlike anything she had ever known.