It is rare, Mitsuru admits to herself, for Akihiko and Shinjiro to talk her into taking some time off—not only because there is simply so much to be done, but because she is aware that she has to work twice as hard to earn the board's approval as she would have if she had been born male. The inequity infuriates her, and she has taken steps to implement changes in the organization where she can, but at the end of the day, she is still responsible for the Group. Accordingly, she has her laptop and phone in the bag that Akihiko is currently carrying (because he got to it first—she has his bag), but she has arranged things as best she can to give her at least one day without having to make the myriad decisions that come with a company the size of the Group.
For today, she is comparatively free, and she intends to spend it with them.
The Amagi Inn is the kind of place that most people think Kirijo Mitsuru would never go, not when she can afford the best that Japan has to offer. In its own way, though, this is the best place for her: the quality is good and the town is quiet, and most importantly, it is familiar with only good memories. They have had only pleasant times here; no Shadows, no sacrifices, no lost friends.
Yukiko is at the front desk to greet them, smiling warmly and calling them by name. She has given them the largest suite at the Inn, and it is already stocked with the few small things they have requested on past visits; Yukiko has a good memory for that, and it is one reason why Mitsuru enjoys coming here.
It's late November, cold and grey and rainy outside, and Mitsuru can feel the cold sinking its claws deep into her bones. She notices it much more now; for years, Penthesilea and then Artemisia protected her from the worst of winter, but now that her Persona drowses deep in Mitsuru's mind, she cannot draw as easily on protection from cold. So she shivers despite her fine wool coat, and keeps her scarf wrapped snugly around her neck despite the warmth of the inn.
"We don't have many guests tonight," Yukiko says as she leads the way upstairs. "If you would like, I can arrange an hour for the three of you in the springs." Yukiko has never asked questions about their arrangements, which is another reason Mitsuru comes here.
"Thank you," Mitsuru says. "That would be appreciated."
Yukiko nods. "From nine to ten, then?" she suggests.
Akihiko shrugs and Shinjiro doesn't express an opinion, so Mitsuru accepts Yukiko's suggestion. It will be somewhat costly, she knows, but it will also be highly enjoyable. Yukiko bows and edges out, leaving the three of them alone.
Shinjiro and Akihiko are sharing some sort of private amusement—it's something that comes up every time they discuss hot springs, and once it caused Iori to flee the room when the subject arose. Mitsuru has never successfully gotten them to admit to why. Upon realizing she's looking at them, they busy themselves with organizing the luggage.
She leaves her shoes by the entrance of the suite and hangs up her blazer in the closet, and seats herself on the couch, still shivering a little. She is just wondering whether Akihiko and Shinjiro are distracted enough for her to get away with checking her email when they settle one to either side of her.
"I saw that," Shinjiro says as he unfastens the clip that holds her hair at her nape.
"We agreed," Akihiko says in a mock-stern tone. "No work today or tomorrow."
"In fact," Shinjiro says, gently fluffing her hair out so it falls loosely around her shoulders, "I think you could use a nap."
"A nap?" Mitsuru raises an eyebrow. "Shinjiro, it's half-past three in the afternoon."
"Exactly," he says. "Prime relaxing time. Come on, you too, Aki. A nap, and then we'll have dinner and go in the hot springs." He stands up and offers her his hand, and Mitsuru has to admit she's actually quite tired. She worked until three this morning trying to get her desk cleared, and she took care of the last few things on the train down.
"Besides, we can warm you up," Akihiko says.
"All right," she says, and suddenly Akihiko is standing behind her, clever fingers quick on the buttons of her blouse. Between the three of them, getting undressed is probably less elegant and quick than it would have been had they each handled their own garments, but it is admittedly more fun this way, when she can make Akihiko's breath catch when she "accidentally" scrapes her nails across his chest while undressing him, or hear Shinjiro's rumbling sound of satisfaction when helping him with his jeans requires leaning close enough for her breasts to brush against him.
They tumble into bed still mostly naked—three of them in bed is sufficient warmth to obviate the need for pajamas—and Mitsuru finds herself tucked between the two of them. She cuddles close to them, glad for the warmth and the quiet. They don't need to talk to each other to know they're all here. She can feel the reassuring steadiness of Shinjiro's heartbeat, and the way Akihiko is always coiled taut with energy even when he's tired. She hugs Akihiko tight and Shinjiro crushes them both in a big bear hug, and even if she can't breathe it's okay, because they're all here. It doesn't last very long before she has to dig her elbow into his ribs just to get some air, but he takes it in stride and settles down next to her. Akihiko's hand on her shoulder is kneading absentmindedly, and Mitsuru stretches and leans into it like a cat. She has been feeling drawn too tight, battered by too many decisions and needs like a ship in a storm. She sighs with pleasure and closes her eyes, savoring the rare moment of quiet when it is just them.
She must have fallen asleep, because she wakes to Shinjiro's voice just behind her. "Aki, your feet are freezing," he says, and Mitsuru yelps when one of those same very cold feet lands on her ankle. She shoves Akihiko, who makes a noise like a disgruntled puppy and burrows closer to her under the blankets. His hair is all mussed and his arm is wrapped tight around her waist.
"'m not getting up yet," he mumbles.
Mitsuru looks over his shoulder at the discreet alarm clock by the bed, and winces. "We need to get dressed if we want to eat," she says, and her stomach punctuates the sentiment by grumbling audibly.
That rouses him, a little, though the side of his face is marked with creases from the sheets. He yawns hugely and then snuggles a little closer, kissing the side of her neck where it meets her shoulder.
Shinjiro shoves Aki, not too hard, and says "Come on, Aki. Hot springs."
Mitsuru shivers when Shinjiro gets out of the bed and lets cool air in under the covers. The disadvantage to sleeping without clothes is the part when she has to get out of bed. She makes it fast, like diving into a cold pool, and hurries to the luggage to find something suitable. Akihiko is, as usual, the last one to leave the tangle of bedclothes, but once out, he moves just as fast as they do to get dressed.
Dinner at the Amagi Inn is always simple food, but prepared with care. The dining room is nearly empty; Yukiko had been serious when she said they had few other guests. This time of November is not a popular choice with travelers because of weather difficulties; that's what made it appealing to them.
When they arrive at the hot springs, clad in the hotel's bathrobes, it is echoingly empty but for the sound of burbling water. True to her word, Yukiko has cleared the hot springs and put a sign up that it is reserved for private bathing. She greets them at the door with a smile, and withdraws quietly once they are inside.
Mitsuru sinks into the water up to her chin with a sigh of pleasure, and then tips her head back and lets herself float. The heavy mineral scent of the water wafts up, and she can hear Akihiko and Shinjiro moving quietly nearby. After a moment, she feels Akihiko's narrow, calloused hand grasp hers, and then Shinji's large and differently-calloused hand on the other side.
She doesn't have the words to thank them, so she just squeezes their hands tightly. They squeeze back.
For a long time they just float there, and the easy silence unwinds more of the knots in her shoulders than the best back massage. Mitsuru laces her fingers with theirs, and smiles. They drift together on the heated water, and at least for now, she feels like everything is going to be all right.