In the next morning, Setsuna's brief doubts that the happiness she had witnessed between Haruka and Michiru had just been a dream on her part, some wishful thinking which had trickled into her subconscious after she had fallen asleep on the couch, was shattered when the couple entered the kitchen together, still dressed in their nightwear; and for the first time since the accident, Haruka was letting Michiru help her move along, not leaning on the cane as heavily as she usually did in the early mornings, thanks to the aqua haired girl's support.
"There are our lovebirds", she immediately teased, "I thought you'd never get up."
"Quiet", Haruka grumbled at her, sitting down at the kitchen table and yawning heartily before she went on, "I'd still be asleep if this smaller lovebird here hadn't woken me up."
"Not my fault", Michiru protested, already moving to the coffee machine to prepare the stuff her partner would need now, "you moved like crazy in your sleep and kicked me."
"So tired?" Setsuna kept it up with the teasing when Haruka just let out another yawn in reply, a mischief glint in her eyes, "had a long night yesterday?"
"Setsuna-chan", Michiru scolded, to the time Senshi's amusement blushing brightly, "I told you, I was tired. We just went to bed."
"I know you did", Setsuna dryly gave back, unperturbed by her friend's obvious discomfort; deciding that ignoring her was the wisest thing to do, Michiru just shook her head, then focused on the coffee machine, Haruka's eyes lighting up when she got done and the black liquid started to run through with the tell-tale blubbering and gurgling noises.
"You, my dear", she then told Michiru, not even acknowledging what Setsuna had said moments ago with a look in her direction, "are awesome."
"Why thank you", Michiru smiled in reply, moving over to the table and bending down for a kiss; briefly, she almost sat down on the taller woman's lap, something she had done quite a lot before the accident, then remembered the fact that her partner's right leg was practically ruined and that perhaps, sitting on it wasn't such a good idea.
If Haruka had noticed what she nearly had done, she didn't comment on it, merely looking at her for a moment longer after the tender kiss – before her gaze moved to the coffee machine, filled with so much longing that it made the aqua haired girl laugh.
"Patience, my dear", she then said, using the endearment without thinking about it twice, noticing though how it made the blonde's eyes briefly light up again while Setsuna merely rolled her eyes this time, "coffee's almost done."
"Thank God", Haruka sighed in reply, then got distracted by Hotaru entering the kitchen and rubbing her eyes sleepily; despite her still rather drowsy state though, the girl picked up on the good mood and the relaxed atmosphere in the kitchen, a smile forming on her face while she sat down next to Haruka and nodded when Setsuna asked her if she wanted cereal for breakfast.
"Make sure to brush your teeth after that", Haruka advised while she reached over to ruffle Hotaru's hair, ever the caring Haruka-papa, "you don't wanna get cavities and go to the dentist, right?"
"No", Hotaru shuddered at once, making the three adults smile, "I'd rather not. We can brush our teeth together after breakfast Haruka-papa!"
"Sure", the blonde smiled, and then, finally, to her delight, the coffee was done; not wanting her partner to put too much strain on her leg, Michiru prepared a cup for her just the way she liked it, putting it down in front of her and prompting her to thank her with another tender kiss before the aqua haired girl focused on preparing her own breakfast, unable to keep the smile off her face as she did so, glad that everything had worked so well since Haruka had asked her out for the date.
An hour later, Haruka had retreated to her office, explaining that she needed to get some work done, even though it was obvious that she rather would have spent the time with Michiru, not even necessarily with kissing or cuddling, but simply being in her general vicinity; since, despite their newfound love though, the couple still needed money, she had no other choice than getting to work, grumbling to herself as she sat in front of her laptop and tried to focus on the schedule for the day.
Unbeknownst to her, Michiru was having similar troubles downstairs; since she was busy with doing the dishes, she didn't need to focus as much as Haruka had to upstairs, but still her daydreaming and longing nearly resulted in an accident as she almost dropped a plate, to Setsuna's exasperation.
"Jeez, Michiru-chan", the elder woman scolded, rolling her eyes, "you're acting as if you're a school girl with a crush! In fact, I don't believe you were as bad when you still were a school girl and had a crush on Haruka-chan."
"Actually, I think I was", Michiru gave back, smiling slightly, not the least bit perturbed by her friend's annoyance, "I distinctly remember drawing little doodles of her into my notebooks at school whenever classes were boring."
"Don't let Hime-chan hear that", Setsuna replied with another roll of her eyes, "and now get away from that sink and let me finish this, before you break something after all. Go to your art room or something."
Even though the words had been said with the intention to get rid of her, and thus weren't all too kind, Michiru's eyes lit up – she hadn't painted a single line in the last six months, but suddenly, she was sure that now, inspiration would come to her the moment she'd see the blank canvas, thus nodding enthusiastically before she thanked Setsuna for this great idea and rushed off, the elder woman looking after her with a mixture of exasperation and amusement in her gaze.
Making her way to the art room so fast that she nearly was running, Michiru entered the room in a hurry, realizing a second later that she had been right – the moment she looked at the empty canvas, she knew what she wanted to paint, already seeing the picture so clearly in front of her mind's eye as if she had finished it already.
Not even bothering to change into old clothing which wouldn't suffer, should she get paint on it, Michiru quickly started mixing colours, working so fast that she nearly spilled some of them; she briefly had troubles finding the right mix to achieve a certain sandy-blonde colour, then finally had her palette done, sitting down in front of the easel with her favourite paintbrush in hand, a tingle of excitement rushing through her as she slowly drew the first line.
As always when she felt really inspired, time soon lost all meaning as she painted, her gaze fixed on the canvas without flickering away for even a second; and soon, the image she had imagined started to show, her gaze softening as she drew the sharp lines of a face and added a wild lock of hair to the blonde mess of it she already had put on top of the head.
"This is gonna look great", she mumbled to herself as she went on painting, now focusing on the clothing she had put on the object of her piece of art; she briefly paused to add more paint on her brush, then moved it over the canvas again, her eyes sparkling as the image became clearer and clearer, by now so developed that anyone else would have recognized what her painting was showing as well.
She got so lost in her work that she didn't even hear the knocking on her door, especially since that she was getting close to the finishing touching; had she taken a look at the time, it would have astounded her how fast she had gotten done, only torn out of her work-induced trance though when the door opened and a familiar, low and husky voice reached her ears, breaking her concentration.
"Michiru, can't you hear me?" Haruka complained as she entered the room, "I've been knocking for the past… five minutes…"
She trailed off as her gaze fell on the easel, then just stood there, looking at the painting in silence; suddenly nervous, Michiru lowered her paintbrush, dimly and to her slight astonishment realizing that it was lunch time already and that she had been in her art room for four hours, something which was forgotten though the moment she looked at Haruka again and waited for her reaction.
Without saying a word, Haruka slowly moved closer to the painting, her eyes never leaving it, the only sound in the room being the breathing of the two women and the low thumps of the former racer's cane on the tiled floor; without even noticing fully, Michiru held her breath as she waited for a reaction, suddenly not so sure anymore if this had been a good idea.
To her dismay, Haruka remained quiet as she studied the painting from up close; even to someone who had only seen her once, it was obvious that it showed her, standing on an idyllic looking beach, with the wind tousling her hair and close enough to the sea so that the water was touching the soles of her shoes – and the cane Michiru had added to the picture, even having thought of painting the blonde in a way which it made obvious that she was leaning on said cane rather heavily.
And still, despite the cane and the way she stood in the painting, anyone could see the strength in her athletic build and the determination in her eyes and the way her jaw was set as she looked off into the distance; the initial disbelief and even slight anger she had felt when she had seen what Michiru had painted puffed away when she realized what the painting was focusing on, namely not her ruined leg or the cane she had to use, but on the fact that she still was strong despite all of this.
"…this is beautiful", she finally had to admit, tearing her gaze away from the picture and looking at her partner, "is this how you see me…?"
"Yes", Michiru gave back, so relieved that it nearly made her cry, "and not just that, this is how you are, Haruka…"
"I'm not so sure about that", Haruka mumbled in reply, her gaze now dropping down to the carpet, "and not because of my leg and the cane, if that's what you think now. Of course it's painful and annoying that I can't even walk without a damned stick, but… I wish I had handled it better. I wish I hadn't blamed you."
"I blamed myself, too", Michiru reminded her in reply, stepping closer to her and hugging her, glad when the embrace was returned with one arm moments later, "part of me still does. Even though you told me not to. And even though you blamed me, and hated what happened to you, you lived with it, and still do, every day, showing how brave and strong you are…"
"I couldn't do it without you", Haruka brought out in a voice even hoarser than usual; for a few moments, Michiru just looked her in the eyes as an answer, then responded by pulling her down for a tender, but deep kiss, once more making her forget all her pain and bitterness about what had happened as their lips met, until nothing else mattered but the smaller woman in her embrace.