Tooru rolled over and stared at the clock on the table by the door. She rubbed her eyes and looked at it again. No change. She heaved the blankets off her. Kaname, to her left, and Takashi, to her right, moaned and groped for them.
"No time, no time," she told them. "I'm sorry, but we're all very late. It's almost 9:30."
Kaname knuckled his eyes. "Really?" He repeated the same clock-staring ritual as Tooru rushed to the bathroom.
Tooru hurried through her shower. Toweling off, she could hear Kaname in the kitchen: the fridge door opening and closing, the click of the toaster as bread popped back up, and the coffeemaker being filled with water. It didn't matter how late they were running, he made sure they had breakfast. He couldn't, he always said, stand to start the day without any himself; it left him cranky and weak. She grabbed a slice of toast, gulping it down in three bites and nodding her thanks.
"Takashi," Tooru said as she bustled back into the bedroom, flinging open the closet and dragging clothes off hangers. He'd already fallen back into deep sleep. She knelt on the edge of the futon and dropped a kiss on his cheek as she gently shook his shoulder. "Takashi," she repeated. Then she bit her lip and leaned in closer and whispered into his ear: nonsense words, little endearments, things she couldn't say if she knew he was listening.
The three of them loved each other and didn't hesitate to say so. It was a marvel to her, how that simple phrase had become something they could say, no matter what. She would never tire of it: saying it or hearing it. And there were other moments, where Tooru's world contracted down to skin sliding against skin, Takashi or Kaname's hair brushing against her -- a space where the touch of breath could send her exploding, spinning, dissolving until there was nothing but the three of them, nothing else at all. Amid that kind of tide, every thought became words that slipped out of their mouths without hesitation.
Outside of those times, though, there was more; there was always more. There were always words that she couldn't say. That year of near-silence might have broken something in her. Or perhaps it was always difficult, to say the things that nestled closest to the heart, to give and give and never stop giving.
She'd never felt anything remotely close to this before, the way love widened the world while leaving her stripped bare. Everything was brighter, but everything also hurt more. Even the good things. Sometimes she thought she'd die, of how much she loved them, how much she wanted to tell them.
Six months ago they'd moved in together; it hadn't been much longer than that since they became lovers. It was possible that they'd been hasty. But every day they spent together felt like the obvious conclusion; along with the delight and the newness came a sense of inevitability, that they had always been waiting for each other.
That newness made itself felt some days more than others: they were still learning each other, learning how to love. How could they not be? They were strange, all of them, made frightened and suspicious by the harshness of the world. Shedding those constraints took time. They would have time. They just hadn't had much yet.
Takashi, the heaviest sleeper of the three of them by far, would swim his way up to consciousness in slow stages. So she always felt safe murmuring all the silly, tender things she could think of to him. But today he stirred abruptly, face turning towards her lips. She froze.
He gave her a muzzy smile. "Tooru, what were you calling me?"
She flushed. "I didn't -- I mean -- nothing... !"
He took her hand and squeezed it. With his other hand he tilted up her chin to get her to look at him. "Please don't stop doing that," he said.
Tooru found herself trembling. Takashi didn't often allow himself to ask for anything, even now. "I'll try. I just feel a little stupid, you know?" Her eyes traced the frame of the window, skipped to the floor, went anywhere but to his face.
"Please don't feel stupid," Takashi said. "I'm really happy that you would say those things."
"What things?" Kaname said from the door, where he stood with a plate of toast. He looked at his watch. "Are you getting up, Takashi?"
Takashi sat up, petting Tooru's hair, and said, "Tooru's got little nicknames for us."
Her face was going to explode from the heat rushing to it. "I didn't say anything about Kaname!"
One corner of Takashi's mouth quirked up. "You didn't have to. I know if you've got one for me then you've got one for him too." He was right, of course, but Kaname slept much more lightly than Takashi did, so she'd only ever used his nicknames in her own mind.
"What's this?" Kaname said, leaning against the doorframe, eyebrow raised.
"No! No, it's embarrassing." Tooru covered her face. "Just... just nicknames, you know?" She flung her hands away from her eyes and looked at him a little wildly. "Just... sometimes I call you both little things. In my head."
A grin spread across Kaname's face. "Like 'darling' or 'sweetheart'? I like that."
"Something like that," she said, waving in protest. Those were a lot more ordinary and less embarrassing than the names in her mind, but she wasn't going to explain that. Her hands flew to cover her face for a moment until she felt like the blush might be receding. "I have to go to work."
She stood up and would've fled, except Kaname grabbed her awkwardly -- she could feel the edge of the plate he held digging into her back. She squeaked as his arms went around her; the sound turned into a surprised sigh as his lips found hers. It wasn't a whisper of a kiss, not soft, not patient; it was the jagged edge of desire, greedy and desperate, the kind of thing that Tooru would gladly lose herself in, again and again.
"I love you," he said, voice rough. "You can call me whatever you want, as long as you're here."
Tooru leaned in, needing to feel his mouth on hers again. She could spare a few minutes; she'd just have to pedal her bike really fast on her way to work. She had just started to wish that both Kaname's hands were free when she felt the plate tip up against her back; an instant later she heard the toast hit the floor. She giggled, reaching a hand around to grab the plate before it met the same fate.
"Oops," Kaname said, stooping to rescue the toast. "I'll make you some more, Takashi."
"I really do have to go," she said with regret, stepping away.
"Practice those nicknames while you're at work," Kaname said. "I want to hear them."
"Me too," Takashi added, still on the futon.
They beamed at her. Her breath caught, at how their smiles were more like home to her than anything else she'd ever known. At how helpless, gloriously helpless, she was in the face of it.
Inevitable. New and familiar at the same time. Everything, here, was brighter.
"I'll try," she said. "But you too. Both of you. I want a nickname too." She flashed them her own smile, feeling more than a little giddy as she went to put on her shoes.