A/N: As noted in the summary, this piece of unmitigated, shameless fluff takes place in the same continuity as "Sometimes Courage Needs a Hand" and its associated omake. Exactly two weeks after "Courage," in fact! You know, I think I burn through my entire month's allotment of ellipses whenever I write Himeko and Chikane!
~X X X~
"Okay, I think that's everything," Kurusugawa Himeko murmured to the empty kitchenette. She bumped her hip against the refrigerator door to swing it shut since her hands were full, then made her way around the counter island towards the living room area while balancing a heaping bowl of freshly-popped popcorn, a second bowl of snack mix, a stack of smaller bowls for filling from the larger ones, a pile of napkins, and two flavored sparkling waters (one melon, one blueberry-pomegranate).
Then, because that was the way life worked for her, the doorbell rang.
Himeko jumped a bit at the surprise. That wasn't the problem; it wasn't a big jump and she kept hold of everything. The trouble came because she'd been rounding the counter at exactly that moment and the sudden flinch, together with the effort to keep hold of everything, made her lose track of where her right foot was going. It hit the corner of the island and, as feet tend to do when trying to pass through solid objects, stopped cold.
The rest of her body kept going.
Save the snacks! shot through her mind even as she was falling. She let the bottled waters drop so she could grab the popcorn bowl with her right hand, while her left kept a grip on the snack mix. The bottles hit the floor, bouncing rather than breaking open thanks to the quality of modern plastics. The empty bowls hit just after, thankfully also being plastic rather than expensive glass ones, so they just rattled everywhere without shattering.
Himeko, keeping her arms outstretched with the food, had nothing to break her fall and faceplanted, knees hitting the tiled kitchen floor while her upper body landed on the living room carpet.
A frantic knocking came from the apartment door.
"Himeko! Himeko, are you all right? Himeko!"
As napkins fluttered down around her like snowflakes, Himeko looked up towards the snack bowls that her outstretched arms had somehow kept level and realized that the total loss was two kernels of popcorn that had fallen out onto the rug.
"Safe!" Himeko cried.
"I'm coming!" she called out, and scrambled to her feet. She hurried to the door, setting the bowls down on the coffee table as she passed it. Himeko turned the lock and opened the door. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Chikane-chan."
"Never mind that, Himeko; are you all right? I heard you cry out and then a crash and clatter..."
The brilliant blue eyes of her girlfriend of two weeks were filled with concern, and Himeko immediately felt bad for worrying her.
"I just tripped and fell," she said sheepishly. "I'm not hurt or anything, honestly! I'm...um, I'm kind of used to it, really."
Himemiya Chikane blinked.
Himeko felt herself blushing. Almost by reflex, she pushed her index fingers together in a nervous little gesture.
"Um...falling down, I mean. I'm kind of a klutz, if you hadn't guessed that already. Like when I slipped last week when you met us at the library and all my books and papers went everywhere?"
"And...this kind of thing happens often?" Chikane asked, trying to hide a smile and not really succeeding.
"Mako-chan says I've gotten so much experience at falling down that I've learned how to do it without getting hurt, like a martial artist."
"Well, that's a valuable skill, at least." Himeko's blush grew even deeper, and Chikane added, "Were you going to invite me in?"
"Oh! Oh, I'm sorry!" Himeko stepped back and out of the way. "I got so distracted that—" She cut herself off with a heavy sigh. "I must sound like a complete airhead."
"...Maybe a little?" Chikane said. The smile was all the way out now, but it was one of gentle amusement rather than mockery. "It's very cute, though."
"I hope you still think that a month or two from now."
It had been meant as a rhetorical comment, but Chikane answered anyway, "I'm sure that I will. I'm certain of it."
"Oh, I..." Himeko stammered, then finished softly, "That's really sweet, Chikane-chan." She then realized that she'd been keeping her guest waiting. "Ah! You can hang your purse up on the coatrack if you like. I'll get everything else ready in just a second."
She closed the door while Chikane was accepting her invitation and removing her shoes, then scurried back into the kitchen. Figuring that no one wanted to eat out of something that had fallen on the floor (okay, Mako-chan wouldn't care, but Chikane-chan is a real lady!), she scooped up the dropped bowls and put them in the sink, then grabbed the napkins and set them aside, not sure if they should just go into recycling since they'd been on the floor or if that would be a waste. She got fresh ones, then picked up the drink bottles and went over to where Chikane had made herself at home on the couch.
"Here you go. Is blueberry-pomegranate okay? We've got orange and strawberry, too, or there's Coke—it's a little flat, though, I think—or did you want a beer?" She was definitely babbling like an idiot, Himeko thought, but wasn't quite sure how to stop herself.
"This will be fine." Chikane tipped her head to one side and asked, "Why are you so nervous, Himeko?"
Himeko blinked at her.
"Are you kidding? This is your first time coming over here! Well, not your first time ever, but the first time when it's just been you and me alone together. What if—"
"Himeko, relax," Chikane said, reaching out and taking one of Himeko's hands in her own. "Everything's going to be fine. It's not like I'm going to be grading you on your housekeeping or something."
"I just want you to have fun. I mean, last time you took me out to that fancy restaurant for dinner and then the concert, and then when you asked me out again for tonight I said I wanted to just stay in and watch a movie with you! I just don't want you to be bored or think I don't have any class or something like that."
"Himeko, I told you that I'd love to stay in and watch movies with you, and I meant it. I hope you don't think that I need fancy, expensive things to be happy."
"No, but—it's just that, well...you're used to that kind of thing and..."
"Now it's my turn to apologize, I think."
"I...well, the reason I made the plans I did for our last date was that I wanted to impress you."
Chikane nodded solemnly. The pale pink coming into her cheeks said that it was apparently her turn to be embarrassed as well as to apologize.
"I wanted you to think I was a really special girlfriend, someone who could swoop in and offer you amazing wonders."
"But that's silly, Chikane-chan. I know you're an amazing person already."
"I meant, I wanted to be someone who could show you things you've never seen or done before. Only, apparently I came off like a pampered princess who thinks she's too good for popcorn and DVDs. And honestly, Himeko, there's nothing I'd like more than snuggling on your couch. It...feels special."
"Like it's the kind of thing that a couple that's been together a long while would do. Most couples when they start dating go out to do things, unless they're..."
She broke off, and this time both girls were blushing, as even Himeko realized what the one reason a new couple would go back to one of their homes would be.
But Chikane had a good point, too. And she was right, now that Himeko thought about it. There really was that feeling like she'd known Chikane for a long time. Even though they'd just met three weeks ago, she felt comfortable being with her, the way Makoto and Souma were with each other since they'd been friends since they were first-years in high school (actually having been introduced by Himeko since they'd each been friends with her first), two years before they'd started dating. She trusted Chikane that way, to let her past some of her outer boundaries almost as a matter of course.
Which makes it even more silly that I was so nervous about having her coming over! Or wait, maybe being nervous is the normal feeling and being so at ease with her is the weird part? Himeko's babble wasn't just a public speaking problem; that actually was the way her mind worked.
"Um," Chikane was the first to speak up, "anyway, this is for you." She held out a shopping bag decorated in festive colors that Himeko had been so frazzled that she hadn't even noticed Chikane had brought with her. "It's a thank-you-for-inviting-me-over gift."
"Chikane-chan, you didn't have to get me anything," Himeko said. "This was my night to treat you, sort of...well, to popcorn and drinks, I mean..."
"I know, but I wanted to see you smile when you saw it."
It was hard to respond to an argument like that, so Himeko didn't try, even though the present made her feel a little self-conscious. She plopped down on the couch and dug into the bag, drawing out a soft, cushiony plushie of a roly-poly Emperor penguin chick.
"Ahh! He's so cute!" Himeko squealed, crushing the penguin to her chest in a giant hug. "He's all big and fluffy and snuggly!" she caroled, rubbing her face against the stuffed animal's side. "Thank you so much, Chikane-chan!" she added, then let go of the plushie with one hand so she could reach out and scoop Chikane into the hug.
"You're a surprisingly strong hugger," Chikane murmured, her face pressed up against Himeko's collarbone.
"Oh!" She let her girlfriend go at once. "I'm so sorry! I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"No, no, you just caught me a little by surprise." She reached up and straightened the headband that held her long, midnight-black hair off her face, then grinned at Himeko. "I guess you like him, huh?"
"Uh-huh!" Himeko did, after all, shamelessly follow the stereotype of a girl who loved cute things. "I guess I sound kind of silly for saying 'you shouldn't have' earlier, don't I?"
Chikane's grin did not go away.
"Well, maybe just a little."
"Well, here's a kiss for honesty, at least," she said, and leaned forward to press her lips to Chikane's.
"Mm, strawberry," the dark-haired girl said, tasting Himeko's lip balm.
"Maybe I should see if they have blueberry-pomegranate instead, since you like that more than strawberry."
Chikane traced a fingertip over Himeko's mouth.
"It's these lips that I like, not the flavor."
"But I still think I should try! After all, the better you like it, the more you'll want to kiss me." She stopped suddenly, surprised at herself, and looked down.
"Himeko? Is something wrong?"
"I just...I mean, I don't usually flirt like that. It's not like me at all. Mako-chan even makes fun of me sometimes, because I've never really shown any interest in anyone until now. I didn't want to give you the wrong idea."
"Himeko, look at me."
She raised her head, a bit reluctantly, so she could look into Chikane's eyes.
"It's not a bad thing, you know. I want you to like being kissed by me. And I thought your flirting was cute, too."
"You say everything about me is cute."
"Well, it's not my fault that it is. You're the cute one; I'm just telling the plain truth."
Her guest giggled.
"There you go, Himeko, at least you can tell Saotome-san that you're a better flirt than I am."
"I can't believe that."
"You don't think I'm a flirt, do you?" Chikane said, surprise evident.
"No! It's just that you're always so poised whenever you talk to people and you know exactly what to say in any situation. So I was sure you'd be able to be witty and charming at parties and stuff. I'm mostly just a wallflower."
"Well, yes, I have been taught about how to conduct myself in social situations, but that's not the same as flirting. Truthfully, Himeko, until I met you, I had never met anyone that I'd want to flirt with."
Himeko's eyes widened.
"But you're such an amazing person! You must have had all kinds of people ask you out!"
"It's true that I have been asked out before," Chikane told her. Himeko had the feeling that she was being deliberately unspecific about the number of confessions and date requests she'd received so not to seem like she was bragging. "But, I never accepted any of them. Of course, the boys were out right from the start, since I was aware of my preferences from a relatively young age. Even among the girls, though, there wasn't anyone who appealed to me as more than a friend. Perhaps I was just waiting until I could meet you."
"Ah! That's what I said when I turned down Souma-kun. I liked him a lot—he's my precious childhood friend, after all—but I was certain that there was someone special out there who was waiting just for me, and I knew it wasn't him. And I was right, because here you are!"
"Ohgami-kun asked you out?"
"Uh-huh, back when we were first-years in high school. I felt kind of bad about turning him down, because he must have worked really hard to get the courage to confess, but he took it really well and we stayed friends so that was good, and now he and Mako-chan are happy together. You know, Mako-chan gave me a lot of grief for turning down our school's prince, so maybe she liked him even back then?" She held up her plushie. "What do you think about that, Pen-kun?"
Himeko, it will be noted, was not the world's most imaginative person at naming things.
"But anyway, they became friends when I introduced them, and then they fell in love once they got to know each other, and then I got to meet you, so it worked out perfectly for everybody!"
"I suppose it did, at that."
"But it's still really surprising that you've never had a girlfriend, Chikane-chan. I mean, you're a really wonderful kisser!"
Chikane raised an eyebrow at that.
"If we're going to talk about surprisingly experienced-seeming kisses, then I think we should start with you," she replied, and had the satisfaction of having Himeko do her very best imitation of a tomato.
"It's perfectly true, you know. You're an absolutely marvelous kisser."
Himeko could have replied to that, but she was way to embarrassed to say that Chikane's kisses made her heart race, her toes curl up, and start up all those feelings that Makoto had told her she'd feel when she met Mr. or Ms. Right (or, for that matter, Right Now, as Mako-chan had put it).
"Maybe it just means that you were right," Chikane continued.
"I was? Um, how?"
"About the two of us. I think that we both were just waiting until one day when we could meet each other. That somehow, even when we had no idea that each other existed, our souls were still calling out to one another, letting us know that we were there and that we should wait until we could finally meet for things like dating or kisses."
"That's so romantic, Chikane-chan."
She leaned forward so that her forehead touched Himeko's and took the strawberry blonde's hands in hers.
"All I know is that from the moment you and I met at that crosswalk, I've felt things that I'd never felt before. It was as if all my life I'd been only half of a complete person without knowing it, until I suddenly found my other half. So...whether it's kisses or flirting or gifts or deciding what to do on a date, I don't think it matters if we have previous experience or not, because we'll find out together what feels right for us, and I think that's all that matters anyway."
She was so earnest about it that it made Himeko's heart melt on the spot. Tears stung wetly at the corners of her eyes, and she prayed that she wouldn't burst out crying because she was sure it would give Chikane the completely wrong idea about how she felt and then she'd have to get control of herself and stop crying before she could properly explain while leaving Chikane worried all the while until...
Sometimes, her tendency to babble did some good. This time, her thoughts were so busy tumbling over each other that they held back the tears.
"You're absolutely right, Chikane-chan," she said, nodding vigorously. "After all, it's you that I'm dating, so it's your opinion as to what makes you happy that matters. So I'll try my very best to stop being so nervous about whether you like stuff. Um...or at least I'll try. I'm not really the best at not getting nervous about things like that."
"Well, you can only be yourself," Chikane pointed out with a smile.
"Yeah, that's right, and...Hey!" she caught on belatedly. "Oooh, that's it! My champion will defend me against your teasing!" She thrust Pen-kun out at Chikane and began "pecking" the other girl with his beak, sending them both into laughter. Seeing Chikane's laughing face made Himeko feel really good for some reason. She had the weirdest feeling that Chikane hadn't had all that much to smile or laugh over in her past. The impression didn't really fit with what she knew about her girlfriend's life, and yet it hung with Himeko.
Well, then, I'll just have to make sure I give her as many happy memories as possible! I might not be an amazing person like her or rich or famous, but that's definitely something that I can do.
"Do you surrender?" she teased.
"All right, I give up!" Chikane giggled back. "We'd better watch the movie before I offend him any more—or before Saotome-san comes home and eats all the popcorn."
"Oh, she wouldn't do that; she's spending the night at Souma-kun's so we won't have to worry about her barging in. Ah! Not that I—" Her cheeks were flaming. Again. Just once I want to get through a date without blushing! "I mean that, I wasn't...that you...not that I don't want...Argh! Why can't I say what I mean!"
"It's all right," Chikane said with that little sly smile of hers again. "I think I know what Saotome-san was saying. Haneda-san said the same thing, more or less, when I told her what we were doing for our date. But like we just said, we don't need to worry about our friends' expectations, isn't that right?"
"Yeah," Himeko said with relief (and, perversely, a tiny twinge of disappointment). "Tonight I just want to curl up next to you and pretend for a few hours that it's just the two of us in all the world."
"Put like that, it sounds like absolute heaven, Himeko."
And with that, she slid up next to the strawberry blonde and put her arm around her even while Himeko reached for the remote.
Which landed in the popcorn when Chikane surprised her with another kiss.