Actions

Work Header

Moiré

Chapter Text

The first thing Rin notices as soon as she wakes up is that she can't feel her legs.

Well, she can sorta feel them. If she wiggles a bit, she can just make out the sensation of her little toe brushing against the material of the sleeping bag. So she didn't suddenly turn into a paraplegic overnight, which is a good sign.

What she did turn into, was a makeshift teddy bear.

"Sweetie," she mumbles, eyes still closed. "Get offa me."

Her girlfriend says something in her sleep. It sounds like '~munyaa~' whatever that means, but she complies, extracting her legs back to her side of the sleeping bag. She doesn't let go of her grip around Rin's waist though.

Rin sighs through her nose. "All of me, please."

"~Mun-yaa~" Rin has no idea how Nadeshiko can convey so much reluctance in just one sleepy noise, but she does it, somehow. Maybe it's some sort of secret talent of hers.

With another reluctant sigh herself, Rin sits up, brushing the sleep from her eyes. Yawning, she picks up her phone and checks the time. 5:35 AM. Excellent. She gives a small fist pump. There's time yet to start on breakfast. She wriggles out of their sleeping bag, shivering as the cold bites into her skin. Quickly, she puts on her coat, hat and scarf before picking up her toiletries.

"Get up soon," she calls back to her girlfriend as she unzips the tent flap.

"~Munyaaaaaa…~" Translation: 'kay, see you soon.

Hmm. Maybe Rin's the one with the secret talent.

Outside, the sky is just the barest hint of orange and pink. Mt. Fuji stands proudly as the backdrop, a silent guardian to the grassy plains below. Rin takes a moment to drink in the sight before reluctantly tearing herself away. She'll have time to bask, literally, in all of its glory in about… she checks her phone. 20 minutes.

The first sunrise of the new year. She can hardly wait.

Several other campers call out sleepy greetings to her as she makes her way to the bathroom. She returns their hellos with a polite nod before continuing. The cold, coupled with the early hour makes interacting with other people short and sweet, something that the introvert in her can appreciate greatly.

After brushing her teeth and taking care of her business, Rin quickly makes her way back to the tent, breathing into her chilled hands. Outside, she can hear her girlfriend snoring lightly, and she debates for a few seconds whether to call out to her again before deciding against it. Despite her flighty personality, Nadeshiko is surprisingly punctual when it comes to waking up on time for important events, like the first sunrise of the new year. And if her biological clock fails her, Rin is sure that the smell of coffee and food will do the trick.

Rin pauses as she takes out the portable stove from the backpack. Kinda makes it sound like she's some sort of hibernating bear, now that I think about it. An image of a grizzly bear pops up into her mind, but it's missing something.

Oh yeah.

The grizzly bear in her mind turns a bright bubblegum pink. "~Munyaa~" it roars, and Rin has to snicker at that.

The coffee pot whistles, and right on cue, the tent flap unzips. Her girlfriend stumbles out, bundled up in layers upon layers of jackets to ward against the early morning chill. She's also wearing the horrible knitted cap that Rin bought for her as a joke. The tail pomp is a hideous rainbow of colors that make her eyes water if she stares for too long.

With eyes still closed, she somehow manages to find her way into her foldable chair and settles in. She's still for a full minute before she gets up and brushes the seat.

"Wet," she grumbles, a grave injustice done to her.

Rin cracks a smile before standing, slipping her hand warmers out from inside her gloves. She stands behind her girlfriend and lifts up the curtain of her hair. "Lean forward," she says, and slips the handwarmer snugly against her girlfriend's neck, letting the hair fall back into place.

Her girlfriend lets out a long self-satisfied sigh and a delighted shiver, having found true nirvana. "Thanks."

"Mm." Rin places a kiss on the top of her head. "Coffee?"

"Please 'n thank yeee…"

Rin sits back in her seat and fills up their mugs, measuring one cream and one sugar for her own cup. For her girlfriend, she eyes the remainder of the sugar left in the jar, shrugs, and dumps all of it into the mug and hands it over.

Without opening her eyes, Nadeshiko accepts the mug and takes a generous sip. "Ahhh," she sighs. "That's the gooooooooood stuff…"

"Mm."

The two fall into a comfortable silence, content to nurse their mugs and warm their spirits with the drink. Rin rechecks the time. Less than ten minutes before sunrise. Still sitting down, she stretches out her arm to her backpack and takes out her camera, handling it with the utmost care. The camera is a recent purchase, bought especially for the occasion and Rin'll be damned if she puts even so much as a scratch on her new baby.

"Need any help with that?" Her girlfriend drowsily asks as she takes out ingredients for her toast. "I can set up the tripod if you want."

"I'm good. Thinking of just taking the shot as is. Mind making me some toast?"

"You got it."

"And no mayo-butter-and-jelly combos either, please."

"Booooooo."

Her girlfriend begins humming softly, setting off on her task with quiet cheer. Rin checks the settings on her lens one last time, testing the shutter. Two minutes.

She stands up, focusing the view on Mt. Fuji. She only has one chance to get the perfect shot of the first ray of sunlight peeking beyond the mountain, and she doesn't want to mess it up. Her photo blog and to some extent, her paycheck, depend on it.

As if sensing the gravity, her girlfriend's humming gradually peters out. Rin hardly pays it any mind; her attention focused entirely on the progressively brightening horizon. One, perfect shot. She holds her breath. There! She can see it! She lifts up her camera and…

"We should get married!"

Click!

Rin stumbles. The image goes wildly off center. But that's not important right now because what.

Slowly, she turns around. Nadeshiko is studiously avoiding her eyes, looking remarkably awake all of a sudden as she chews furiously on her toast.

Rin wonders if she somehow misheard her. Or if she suffered a one-second stroke that turned into some sort of freak auditory hallucination. That has to be it. "I'm sorry, say what?"

Her girlfriend looks around as if noticing her for the first time. "Hm? Wha'f 'ou sha'?" Crumbs fly everywhere. "'N din' sha' nufin."

Rin slowly places the camera down in her seat. "Nadeshiko." She crosses her arms. "What did you say?"

Her girlfriend swallows thickly before taking another inhumanly large bite out of her toast. "Umm, ah, ya know," she mumbles around a mouthful of melted cheese, bacon-bits, peanut butter and jelly toast, a monster of her own creation, "we should get married."

Rin just stares. Her brain has decided to short-circuit, pull the plug, and toss itself into the water just to short-circuit again.

"I-I just thought, now's a good time, see?" Her girlfriend picks at her food, a sure sign of her anxiety. "I mean, we've been dating for a couple of years now and now that I'm starting work as a nutritionist and your photo blog is really starting to take off, it's good timing to- to… tie the knot. I think."

'I think' are hardly the appropriate words to start any sort of lifelong commitment. Rin narrows her eyes. "Are you making a joke?"

She furiously shakes her head, hard enough that she practically falls out of her seat, hair whipping her in the face and Rin has to admit, her girlfriend can't tell a joke correctly to save her life, not without giggling before the punchline. And she doesn't have a deceitful bone in her body, so her proposal being an elaborate prank of some sort is out of the question.

Which can only mean that she's serious. 100% completely and utterly serious.

Huh.

Rin thinks for a moment longer. And then she shrugs. "Sure."

Her girlfriend, who's in the middle of taking a distracted sip of her too sweet coffee, chokes, sputters and wheezes. "W-wait, what?"

Rin pats her on the back. "I said sure. Let's get hitched."

This time, it's her girlfriend who's staring at her, eyes boggling out of their sockets. She looks caught between awe and disbelief, like the time Inuyama told her that Mt. Fuji was an active volcano and not just a mountain.

Rin squirms, unused to and not entirely comfortable with the scrutiny. "You can stop staring any time now."

Her girlfriend blinks, then starts, as if seeing the world for the first time. "S-sorry! I didn't mean to." She averts her gaze, choosing to stare intently at the coffee pot."I'm just… an itty bit surprised, I guess."

Rin raises an amused eyebrow. "Shouldn't that be my line?" she asks with a small smile.

"Well, I didn't think you'd agree just like that. N-not that it's a bad thing!" she adds quickly. "I mean, I even made a list of reasons to convince you that marrying me would be super cool."

"Oh?" Rin sits down, crossing her legs and props her chin in her hand. "Let's hear 'em then. Convince me not to leave you at the altar."

She's joking, of course, but her girlfriend seems to take her words to heart and turns paler than snow. She leaps up and begins frantically searching her pockets, muttering "list, list, list, where's the list?" underneath her breath. A steady pile of random knick-knacks begins growing at her feet and Rin watches, amused, as her frantic girlfriend pulls out from her pockets a deck of cards, two packs of gum, her phone, various candy wrappers, another hideous wool cap, and a mini-keychain of Mt. Fuji before letting out a triumphant crow.

"Gotcha! Ahem!" She clears her throat, standing up straight. "Here we go, Nadeshiko's List of Reasons Why She'd Make the Best Wife in the Whole World for Rin-chan!" she declares, before adding under her breath, "with the subtitle, Please Don't Leave Me at the Altar."

"Number one! Nadeshiko will make Rin-chan lots of yummy foods every time she goes camping! Now that Nadeshiko is a certified nutritionist, Rin-chan deserves only the best food that makes her go poka poka tto!"

Rin has to hide her encroaching smile behind her coffee mug so that her girlfriend won't see. Watching her act so earnest is honestly the cutest thing in the entire world, and she'll fight anyone who says otherwise. The smile quickly slips when she moves on to the next item on the list.

"Number two! Whenever Rin-chan wants, Nadeshiko will do that thing that Rin-chan likes so much. You know, the thing Nadeshiko does with her mouth and-!"

"I think I get it!" Rin cuts in, feeling her ears heat up. She takes back what she thought earlier about her girlfriend. She takes it all back.

"It's okay!" Her girlfriend sticks out a thumbs up and gives her a winning smile. "Nadeshiko likes doing the thing with her mouth too, so it's a win-win!"

"Moving on!"

"You got it! Number three!" She clears her throat. "Whenever Rin-chan is feeling down or sad, Nadeshiko will always be by her side, for better or worse. Nadeshiko isn't as smart as her amazing girlfriend, so can't promise that she'll always understand why Rin-chan is sad sometimes, but she can promise Rin-chan hugs for whenever she needs them."

"Number four! Nadeshiko isn't as rich as other girlfriends, so she can't always buy Rin-chan all the pretty things she wants. But she promises to give all her love plus extra to Rin-chan. And an IOU so that Rin-chan can buy the pretty things later when Nadeshiko makes it big, which is pretty much the same thing."

"Number five! How much does Nadeshiko love Rin-chan? Easy! Nadeshiko loves Rin-chan more than she loves sleep!"

"Number six! More than she loves the phrases "free unlimited samples," and "your mortgage has been paid off," and "puppy petting zoo on the right!"

"Number seven! More than she likes Mt. Fuji-san, hot-pot, and camping in the winter!"

"Number eight! More than Nadeshiko knows how to put into words."

"Number nine! This is hard, what does Nadeshiko like more than hot-pot?

"Number ten! Mmmmm, hot-pot… Eheheh…"

Her girlfriend wipes her lips and sheepishly lowers the paper. "There's more, but uh, they're all kinda food related." She scuffs her shoe on the dirt. "I got hungry."

Any more reasons and Rin thinks her heart may actually burst with so much affection she has for the silly girl in front of her. A physically solid warmth fills her chest, a block of overwhelming, concentrated fondness that Rin has to clear her throat before she can speak.

"Not bad." She sets her mug down and motions her girlfriend closer. "But I think you're forgetting the most important reason on your list."

Her girlfriend frowns, eyebrows furrowing in consternation at her list as she squats down. "I knew it was missing something! What is it?"

Rin carefully takes the list from her hands and sets it down. She links their hands together and leans close to whisper.

"Eleven. Everything that Nadeshiko promises, Rin promises as well, because there's nobody else in the world that Rin wants to spend the rest of her life and love with."

Her girlfriend is uncharacteristically quiet, staring dumbfounded at her, eyes sparkling on the edge of tears. "You," she begins. "You really mean it? You want to spend the rest of your life with me?"

"And nobody else."

A small sniffle escapes her lips. That's her girlfriends only teary-eyed moment before her expression turns unexpectedly serious. "Rin-chan." She sidles up right into her face. "Can I kiss you?"

Rin feels her face heat up, despite the winter air. Every time. She's starting to suspect that her girlfriend only asks just so that she can see her blush every, damn, time. "Y-you really don't have to keep asking."

Her girlfriend nods distractedly, " 'Kay," she mutters, before closing the distance between them.

She tastes like coffee, coffee that is much too sweet to actually be called coffee anymore, and Rin can't help but smile into the kiss. She feels her girlfriend doing the same, and the two end up giggling before her girlfriend suddenly backs off.

"Oh wait! I forgot!" She rushes back to her backpack, tossing things aside pell-mell as Rin watches on bemused. "Aha!" she cries once she finds what she's looking for. Hands behind her back, she hunches over and begins to putter back slowly. "Oh, helloooo there, lil' missy!" she warbles in a terrible Kansai dialect. "You wouldn't happen to have any nibblings for granny now, would'ya?"

Rin has no idea why her girlfriend loves the old granny act so much, but she's willing to play along with whatever she has planned. "I do," she nods seriously, pulling out her extra cup ramen from her backpack.

"Oooh, my favorite! Thank ye kindly, missy!"

"1500 yen."

Her girlfriend pulls back, stricken. "Oh, the humanity!" She places a hand over her heart before breaking out into a nostalgic smile. "Why, I remember the days, grumble, grumble."

"You literally just said the words, grumble, grumble, out loud."

"But fine!" Her girlfriend brings her arms forward. Lying in her hand is a small box. When she opens it, the most beautiful ring Rin has ever seen shines brilliantly back at her. "Here! Will this do for payment, missy?"

And Rin can't help the smile that blossoms on her face as Nadeshiko carefully slides the ring onto her finger.

"I think we can work something out," she whispers, and this time, her girlfriend doesn't bother asking when she moves in for the kiss.

When they finally separate, her girlfriend's face is adorably pink. Coupled with her hair and the puffiness of her clothes, she looks more like a walking ball of cotton candy than a human being. It makes Rin want to just reach out and pull all that concentrated love and joy straight into her chest and never let go.

God, but if that isn't the sappiest thought she's ever had.

She reaches out with her hand instead, the one with the ring, and gently cups her cheek. Her girlfriend places a hand over hers and leans into the touch, the radiant smile never once slipping from her face.

"Not that I'm complaining," Rin mutters, not wanting to break the moment, "but what brought all of this on in the first place?"

At the question, her girlfriend lets out a sigh and her hand drops. "Aww, I was hoping you wouldn't ask that."

"Nadeshiko."

She squirms. "The sleeping bag."

Well. That makes sense. Not. "Excuse me?"

"Because you know… it's a double." She tugs at a lock of her hair. "I thought you were trying to tell me something when you bought it! It's a two person bag!"

Rin has to bite the inside of her cheek from laughing. "I got a double bag because someone rolls worse than a roly-poly in her sleep and somehow, that same someone always ends up in my sleeping bag in the end."

"So… you just got it for convenience?"

"Not entirely." Her girlfriend perks up. "It was on sale too."

Her girlfriend pouts, and Rin finally lets out the laugh she's been holding back. After a second, her girlfriend's lips wobble before she joins in too. It's only when a fellow camper passing by gently shushes them do they subside.

"Well…" Her girlfriend leans back on her haunches. Now that the adrenaline and caffeine fueling her is spent, she looks about ready to power down. "Now what?"

Rin thinks it over. "We need to tell our family. Friends too. And then we need to do some planning and research, and a bunch of other stuff, I think."

Her girlfriend nods, letting out a cavernous yawn. " 'Kay. But you think… we could take a nap before we do all… that?"

Rin looks over at her girlfriend, eyes already slipping closed, and smiles indulgently. "Sure. A nap sounds good too."

"Yaaaaaaaaaay…"

As her girlfriend makes her way back into the warmth of the tent, Rin lingers outside for a second longer and takes out her phone, opening up the camera app. She puts up her hand and positions Mt. Fuji in the background and snaps a quick shot, adding a description before posting it on her blog. She smirks a little as she pockets her phone and steps back into the tent. Her followers are in for a surprise when they check their feed later today. The thought alone keeps the smile on her face as she snuggles comfortably into her girlfriend's arms, who is already snoring lightly.

She may not have gotten the shot she wanted, but it's still a perfect shot.

Chapter Text

Rin has a problem. It's a small, infinitesimally, insignificant problem, not even worth mentioning if she's being entirely truthful. But it's still a problem nonetheless. What kind of problem is it? Simple.

Her girlfriend is too cute.

Granted, as far as problems go, it's as first world as you can get and in any other case, it's more of a nice bonus that comes along with dating the literal personification of cotton candy. Really, it only becomes an issue for Rin when her girlfriend uses (inadvertently) that same cotton candy personality to drag them into going along with whatever whim has caught her fancy.

Rin-chan, let's go get ice cream! It's the middle of January but why not? Hey, Rin-chan, did you know they opened a puppy cafe all the way on the other side of town can we go check it out, can we, pleeeease? Sure thing. Rin-chan, do you wanna go camping in Nagano a week before finals? Absolutely.

That last one is the reason Rin finds herself after school dragging two foldable chairs, a portable burner and an outdoor blanket to the dirt courtyard behind the school. Because while Nagano is out of the question, her girlfriend still somehow manages to convince her that the next best way to get some R&R in before the finals is to go backyard camping. Backyard. Camping.

The outdoor purist in her shudders with no small amount of self-loathing, but her girlfriend had been insistent. And then she did that pouting thing with her entire face and cheeks, the one that made her look like like some upset pink chipmunk and well, Rin pretty much had to say yes at that point.

It wasn't always this way, Rin thinks, a tad hopelessly as she plods ever forward. I used to be able to say no to her. Used to. What happened?

"Riiiiiiiiiiiiiin-chan!"

Right. Dating happened.

"Hey," Rin pants in way of greeting, not even noticing the smile creeping its way on her face at the sight of her girlfriend rushing over to her like an overeager terrier high on sugar. She lets the chairs fall into an unceremonious pile at her feet, savoring the feeling of sweet release in her liberated shoulders. "I brought the stuff."

Her girlfriend positively beams. "I brought the snacks!" she says in a way that means she brought the snacks and only the snacks and absolutely nothing else.

Rin glances at Nadeshiko's junk food laden arms just to make sure because making coffee with just the grounds and the burner seems pretty impossible by her standards. "What about the kettle?"

Her girlfriend pauses, glances down at her arms sans hot water kettle. Her expression turns into one big horrified 'O' of despair.

"Oh no!" It's like watching a child whose ice cream scoop has just fallen to the ground. "I forgot it back in the club room!"

She looks so comically disheartened that Rin opens her mouth before she can stop herself. "It's okay. I'll go get it."

Instantly, her girlfriend perks up, her earlier dejection forgotten in a flash. "Oh, would you? Thanks a bunch, Rin-chan!" She moves forward and gives her a peck on the cheek before darting back with a shy giggle. "You're the best!"

Rin is still trying to get used to the whole physical affection part of dating, so she thinks she keeps her cool reasonably well. Exceptionally well, in fact. She just nods once, twice, turns around and begins walking robotically back to the school. So cool. Cool as ice.

It's only when she's back in the privacy of the school building does she bury her face in her hands.

くぁ w drftgy ふじこ lp!

Too cute. Too. Cute. It's legitimately dangerous how cute her girlfriend is, and it's getting to the point that Rin's starting to feel bad for Nadeshiko. Because while Nadeshiko is vibrant, outgoing and exciting, Rin is… not. Nadeshiko wears her feelings on her sleeve. Rin wears the emotionally expressive equivalent of a wet fish on hers.

At this rate, I'm going to be dumped for being the world's most unexciting girlfriend. The thought sends shivers down her spine before she resolves herself. She lifts her head, a determined fire in her eyes. When Rin gets back, she's going to be the most charming, most engaging girlfriend for Nadeshiko because that's what she deserves. A charming, engaging girlfriend. With a decisive nod, she sets off to the club room, eager to put her plan into action.

"That was quick!" Her girlfriend remarks when Rin comes back. She's finishing putting the finishing touches on their backyard camp, and she takes the kettle with a grateful smile, fingers dancing just for a second on the back of Rin's hand. "One cream and one sugar, right?"

Rin opens her mouth, ready to spew out the charm and effortless charisma, and then stops. "I never told you how I take my coffee," she says, feeling ridiculously touched at the small gesture. And then she mentally kicks herself because, hello, charm and charisma, remember what that was like?

Her girlfriend grins cheekily. "Secret talent." She taps the side of her head. "Limitless capacity for all things Rin-chan likes."

More like the powers of attentive observation. Rin doesn't even know how Nadeshiko likes her own coffee! Disgruntled, she sits down in her chair and wraps the blanket around her. After a second, she takes out the book she'd been reading earlier from her backpack and begins flipping through it. Maybe some inspiration will pop up somewhere between the lines.

Her girlfriend busies herself with making the coffee, humming a cheery little tune under her breath. She pauses and then sneezes three times in rapid succession into the crook of her arm. "Brrrr!"

Rin shoots her a sympathetic look. Even under the blanket, she can feel the chill all the way down to her bones and her girlfriend is wearing just a thermal coat and a scarf. Maybe the backyard camp wasn't such a good idea.

Suddenly, Rin sits up straight. What is she thinking? The backyard camp is actually a brilliant idea! With the cold comes the perfect opportunity, if not to be suave and sophisticated, then to at least be a thoughtful girlfriend.

And to maybe... cuddle… a bit. Just a bit.

Rin clears her throat. "Kinda chilly today, isn't it?" she asks and then winces at her very-subtle-not-obvious-at-all approach. Nice.

Her girlfriend nods vigorously, sniffling again. "It really is!" she says before her eyes suddenly light up in realization. "Oh, are you cold, Rin-chan? Hang on!" Before Rin can say anything, her girlfriend unwinds her puffy scarf and throws it around Rin's neck. "There! How about now?"

...Ooooookay, so maybe not obvious enough. It's a sweet gesture and all but the outcome is the complete opposite of what Rin's aiming for. "Er… yeah. Thanks. But I kinda thought…we could… instead." She holds open her blanket, hoping that her girlfriend will take the hint.

Nadeshiko tilts her head before her eyes light up again. "Oh, duh! You can't read like that with your fingers all cold." She takes off one of her gloves and slips it over Rin's hand. "Here you go!"

How? How? The plan was foolproof and yet somehow, her girlfriend managed to foil it just by being sweet and attentive. How is that even possible? There's a higher power out laughing at Rin right now, she's sure of it.

"N-no, that's not what I- what about your other hand?" she settles on asking instead. A glove on the one hand isn't going to be much use to either of them if the other hand just freezes instead.

With a grin, her girlfriend reaches out with her gloveless hand and wraps it around Rin's own. "I got you covered!" She gives their entwined hands a wiggle and giggles. "Get it? Got you covered? Eheheh."

All Rin can do is stare. And stare. And stare some more. Her free hand slowly reaches up and she gives herself the most discouraged facepalm of her entire life. That's it. She gives up.

"Rin-chan?"

"くぁwdrftgyふじこlp"

"Um, w-what?"

Rin just sighs and lifts her head up. It was a stupid plan anyway. "Do you wanna cuddle, maybe?" she asks bluntly.

Her girlfriend has one comical second of confusion before her eyes widen in realization. "Oh. Oh! That's what you meant!" She turns away, but Rin can still plainly see the smile on her face, a cross between being flustered and pleased. "So bold, so forward!" she says, playing coy as she covers her mouth, mock-scandalized. "I never expected that from you, Rin-chan!"

"Forget it, changed my mind," Rin deadpans, closing the blanket.

"No, wait, I wanna cuddle!" she cries and nearly bowls Rin over as she all but leaps into her arms. It takes some maneuvering but after a brief struggle, Nadeshiko pops her head out of the blanket, just underneath Rin's. "Ahhhhh," she sighs, content. They look like some bizarre two-headed totem pole covered by a blanket, but her girlfriend doesn't seem to care in the slightest. "Comfy at last…"

Rin wishes she can say the same. There's an elbow jammed right into her stomach and that's definitely a cramp developing in her neck. But she keeps quiet and smiles faintly instead and pulls Nadeshiko just a bit closer. "Welcome back to the Secret Society, private."

"Good to be back in the fold, cap'n!"

"Okay, two puns in one day is pushing it."

"Mueheheheh," she chuckles smugly and snuggles deeper into her arms. The cover of the book catches her attention and she asks "Whatcha reading?"' She scans the cover, noting the picture of the UFO on the front and her expression turns wary. "It… it's not a scary story, is it?"

"Not really. It's mostly just stories about crop circles and farmer's losing their cows in them." She reassuringly rubs her thumb over her girlfriend's hand and feels her relax. "Do you want to read it together?"

Her girlfriend thinks it over for a second and shakes her head. "Could you read it out loud instead?" At Rin's quizzical glance, she elaborates. "I like listening to the sound of your voice. It's nice. And soft. And you make everything sound really cool because you're just… really cool, Rin-chan. Like… super cool." She buries her face in the blanket, having said too much. The only thing visible is the embarrassed pink of her ears. "I'm going to stop talking so you can read now, 'kay."

Funnily enough, Rin doesn't feel very cool at the moment. In fact, all she feels is very warm, warm enough that the cold wind biting against her cheeks doesn't even register in her mind.

My girlfriend is too cute.

And I'm super cool.

"Well, when you put it like that…" she mutters, trying to keep back the silly, wobbly smile threatening to spill over her mouth. She has an image to keep up after all. Her girlfriend pokes an eye out and smiles for her as Rin clears her throat and begins.

"Chapter Three: Questionable Encounters of the Third Kind. So you think aliens may be the cause of your cows tipping over, what do you do? Step one, let them. If an extraterrestrial being traveled light years from a galaxy or two away just to tip your cow over, the very least you can do is humor them. Step two…"

Chapter Text

"Oi, Shimarin." Chiaki's voice calls out from across the kotatsu. Rin looks up from her phone, pausing the game she's playing. Chiaki gestures sloppily at the TV with her beer can, her fifth one of the night, the n-th one of the day. "I dun wanna alarm yoou," she slurs out, long past the stage of actual coherence, "but innit that Fujiko on the TV?"

Fujiko who? Rin turns her attention to the TV, confused, wondering if Chiaki really is that far gone before she remembers Fujiko is her stupid nickname for Nadeshiko. Annoyed, she opens her mouth to say it's Nadeshiko, not Fujiko on TV, and holy crap Nadeshiko's is on TV, that's her wife on national television, how did she even get there what?

There, in the left-hand corner of the screen, bundled up in layers of coats, scarves, and gloves and with her signature open-mouthed grin, is Nadeshiko. She's waving so frantically at the camera that it's a small miracle her arm hasn't fallen off yet.

Rin blinks. Hard. She takes off her glasses, rubs her eyes and looks again.

Yep, definitely Nadeshiko; She's the only person in the world who would wear that hideous knitted cap with the eye-watering tail pomp.

Chiaki burps and lets out an inebriated chuckle. "Das Fuji- Fujiko! When did she *hic* get in the TVeeheehee *hic*!"

"Who's on TV?" From the kitchen, Aoi enters the living room, carrying a tray of mandarins. Halfway, she sees the TV and simply stops and stares, eyebrows disappearing into her hair. Slowly, she sets the tray down on the kotatsu.

"Oh my," she remarks softly, her tone of voice making it sound like seeing a close friend appear on national TV is a regular occurrence. "Now, how did Nadeshiko get herself all the way over there?"

Isn't that the million dollar question? Rin drops her phone onto the table and grabs the remote, not caring in the slightest that she basically has to shove the remains of their New Year's Eve hot pot to the side as well as a literal graveyard of empty beer cans. Some things are more important (like having your wife appear on national TV of all things.)

She smashes the volume button, and the anchor's voice quickly fills Rin's shared apartment.

"...concludes the Kirigamine New Year Festival! We hope the viewers at home enjoyed the show performed by the locals and maybe we'll see you again next year! Local time is 19:45. Now switching to a live feed of the area."

Chiaki adjusts her glasses, blinking blearily. From her seat at the kotatsu, she inches closer to the TV and squints with all the concentration afforded in her current state. "Waaaaait a minute. I know where this is! It's zat street cam from tha' place you went to Shimarin!" For some reason, she finds that statement to be unbelievably funny and breaks down into a fresh round of drunken giggles. "Is- is that the *hic* reason why she couldn't come to the *hic* New Year party?"

Rin can only nod dumbly. Suddenly all of her wife's odd behavior, the strange excuses and erratic absences the week before the party make sense. Just how on earth did she manage to keep it a secret for so long without Rin finding out?

Working overtime my foot. I can't believe I fell for that. Rin thinks, torn between disbelief and solid amazement. Whoever heard of a school nutritionist having to work overtime on New Year's Eve?

The camera suddenly focuses on Nadeshiko and Rin hears the anchor go, "Oh, it looks like we have one viewer who has something to say! Let's say hello!"

The camera zooms in, and as if sensing the attention, Nadeshiko's face lights up even further. She picks up the placard propped next to her and holds it up directly to the street cam.

XOXOXOXOXXOXO Happy Anniversary Rin-chan! I love you! XOXOXOXOXXOXO

Chiaki claps, or attempts to and ends up missing her hand and patting air like an idiot. "D'awwww that's adora- adorda- adorbab- das cute."

Cute, sure. Sweet even. But also very, very, very public, much too public for Rin's taste. She feels her cheeks light on fire just imagining the curious people currently watching and wondering just who in Japan is Rin-chan. On the one hand, this has to be the sweetest, most endearing gesture Nadeshiko or anyone for that matter, has ever done for Rin, period. But on the other hand, this is a live stream and oh, god, how many people are watching this right now, how many people know?

"Wow, the viewer count just spiked!" Aoi remarks, reading her mind as she checks the website on her phone. "There's close to 5,000 people watching right now."

Rin chokes. That's 5,000 people too many. 5,000 people who now know of a specific Rin-chan that previously didn't know of her before. A Rin-chan who at the very moment is debating legally changing her last name to Kagamihara and hopping onto the next flight outside of Japan. Do they even do international flights on New Year's Eve just before midnight?

As if sensing her discomfort, Aoi puts down her phone and moves over to Rin's side of the kotatsu to place a reassuring hand on her arm. "Don't be too upset. You have to admit, it's a very..." she pauses, racking her brain for a word, "very… Nadeshiko sort of thing to do. Why not enjoy the sentiment behind it?" she finishes with a disarming smile.

Rin glances back at her wife, who's still waving the placard and beaming like a spotlight at the camera, and a small smile cracks through the anxiety. "True." Because isn't it exactly like Nadeshiko to drive 100 plus kilometers to Kirigamine, a day before New Years just so that she can shout out to the world just how in love she is? Aoi's right. Once all's said and done, what's there to be anxious about?

And besides, the audience only knows her first name. Rin is as com as a household name you can get in Japan. There have to be at least a billion other people in the country who share the same first name as- oh my god.

SHIMA RIN, WILL YOU MARRY ME AGAIN?

Somebody- Rin's not sure if it's Aoi or the TV anchor, let's out a high pitched squeal, dropping all pretenses of composure. Chiaki stares dumbfounded at the TV, and then promptly falls straight on her back and begins howling with laughter. "D'you- d'you think she forgot or-or," she gasps for breath, tears streaming down her face.

Rin kicks her in the side, but the mad cackling doesn't stop. She buries her face in her hands and lets out a high pitched noise that's somewhere between a whimper and a low scream. 5,000 people. 5,000.

"The viewer count just tripled! No. Quadrupled!" cries Aoi. "It keeps going up!"

20,000 people and counting. Her grandfather watches this channel for crying out loud. Oh god.

Rin snatches her phone off the table, opens her message app. Her fingers fly across the keyboard as she furiously types out her message and hits the send button.

R: YWhy are you on nationjal tv and whyy are you aasking me to marry you?

R: AGAIN?

On screen, her wife pauses in her waving to pull out her cell phone. Her eyes light up, and she quickly begins typing back her reply. Seconds later, Rin's phone beeps.

N: Because it's more exciting this way!

R: Whjat? For who?

N: Everyone else! Also, it's an unspoken rule that if you end up on national TV in front of cameras, you have to propose to someone.

R: You made that up right now didn't you.

N: (<.<)

N: (>.>)

R: Sweetie…

R: You can't see it right now, but I'm making the face.

N: The one where you're smiling nicely on the outside but on the inside you're doing the opposite of smiling nicely?

N: The scary smiley one?

R:  (^v^)

N: Σ(Д)

R:  (    ^    v    ^    )

N:  Σ Σ( Д ;)

N: Okay, I surrender, I surrender!

N: Honestly? I just wanted to show up on TV.

N: And for everyone watching to know how I have the best wife in the whole wide world.

N: And that I love her so much that I'd ask her to marry me twice.

N: <3

As mortified as she is, Rin's body betrays her by making her heart skip at least ten beats as she reads the message. It takes all her composure not to hug her phone close to her chest and to not break out in a big, dumb smile. She can't believe she fell in love with this dork. She can't believe she married this dork.

Well, I guess that just makes two of us then.

"Awwww!" goes Aoi, who's reading their exchange over Rin's shoulder. Chiaki mimes a stupid kissing face, but she's so far gone that she ends up looking like a fish out of water, so no one pays her any mind. "Well, don't keep her waiting!"

Rin runs a hand over her face, trying to pull her cheeks down. She lets out a long sigh, more for appearance's sake than anything, and types back a reply.

R: Fine, I believe you. You're off the hook.

N: ゝ◡╹)

N: And?

R: Are you really going to make me say it, again?

N: Pleeeeeeease?

N: If not for me, then for the audience at home, waiting on the edge of their seats

R: Fiiiiiiiiiine.

R: Yes, yes a thousand times yes.

R: I, Shima Rin, will marry you, Kagamihara Nadeshiko.

R: Again.

Rin puts down her phone and looks back at the TV. The smile on Nadeshiko's face grows to astronomical proportions. Rin see's her shoulders shake up and down, can practically hear the delighted giggles rolling off of her in waves.

Nadeshiko picks up the last placard (and the only placard left, Rin notes with some amusement, that cheeky puffball) and shows it to the camera.

SHE SAID YES!

The announcer breaks out into loud applause with shouts of "Congratulations!" from the background studio. Aoi shrieks in delight. Chiaki manages to slur out, "I'm s-sooooo happy fer you two," before taking a swig from her empty can and promptly bursting into tears. "BANZAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!"

Rin just shakes her head, covering her smile with her phone as the people and world around her celebrate as though New Year's has come three hours early.

Through all the noise and celebration, Rin's the only one who notices Nadeshiko mouth something to the camera before grinning brighter than the sun.

Rin just shakes her head again. Love you too, she mouths back.


R: So are you coming back before midnight?

R: Nadeshiko?

R: Are you there?

N: Yep, yep! I'm here. Just figuring something out!

N: So, hey, Rin-chan, did you know that I took the bus to get here?

R: ?

R: I thought you took the scooter.

N: I would've, but the glitter on the poster board kept getting blown off by the wind.

N: And it got everywhere. Everywhere!

N: In my shoes, in my hair, in my socks. You know what's worse than wet socks?

N: Glittery socks.

N:  (⋟﹏⋞)

N: You know what's worse than glittery socks?

R: No idea.

N: Finding out that you looked at the wrong date for the bus schedule and that the last bus for the day left two hours ago.

R: …

R: You're stuck there aren't you.

N: Eheheheheh

N:  (^。^;)

N: Do you think they'll let me hitchhike on the freeway?

R: No and don't do that.

N:  ( ⁰д⁰)!

R: What? What is it?

N: They just turned off all the lights! I can't see anything it's so dark!

N: What do I do Rin-chan?  (T~T)

R: Try not to get eaten by a bear

N:  Σ(T□T)

N: Nooooooo, I've only been married for an hour, I don't wanna be a snack for a bear!

R: I'm kidding.

R: Hang on a second.

R: ...

R: Chiaki gave you the old outdoor club tent as a graduation present, right? Where did we put it?

N:  (? w ?)

N: It should be in the closet, behind the blankets. Why?

N: !

N: Wait. Are you?

N: Is it?

N: Are we going camping!

R: When have we not?

R: Be there in five, hang tight.

N: Best. Anniversary. Ever!

Chapter Text

When Nadeshiko invites Rin home for an impromptu study session, Rin hesitates. She knows full well that Nadeshiko's attention span is about as long as a goldfish's memory, so the actual amount of studying they'll get done? Probably zero. But she accepts anyways because she is nothing if not a supportive girlfriend (and a pushover, how could she ever say no to Nadeshiko's sad face, it'd be inhumane.)

So imagine her surprise when they get to Nadeshiko's house, settle down at the kotatsu, take out their books and begin actually to study. Honest to god studying. Praise Afro.

There's a catch of course. With each question Nadeshiko gets right, she demands kisses in return. After some initial spluttering and hand-wringing on Rin's part (because PDA, even without the prying eye of the P, is still new and embarrassing for her) she obliges and with a quick look left and right, places a brief peck on her girlfriend's cheek. Her girlfriend giggles, kisses her back on the cheek and goes back to her questions with a content hum. That should've been the end of that.

As it turns out, her girlfriend is craftier than Rin gives her credit for. With each problem solved, the kisses get just a second longer and just a little closer to the lips. It's a sneaky ploy, and by the time Rin realizes what's happening, it's already too late. At that point, she's pretty much giving kisses out like Halloween candy, regardless if Nadeshiko gets the problem right or not.

Not that she minds really.

Somewhere down the line, she ends up half-straddling Nadeshiko's lap, her girlfriend's arms wrapped around her waist. The problems lie on the table, long forgotten. She only has a hazy idea how she got there, and now that she's there, she really doesn't want to leave.

As she pulls back to breathe, her girlfriend lets out an adorable whining noise and tightens her hug. She nuzzles into Rin's cheek like a puppy begging for more pats. "Just one more, Rin-chan, please? For good luck?" she asks, eyes glistening beseechingly at her and there's just something in that glassy-eyed, flushed expression of hers that lights a low fire in the pit of Rin's stomach. She can't put a word to the feeling; it's impossible to think with the warm buzzing in her head.

But one more can't hurt, right? Rin glances over at her phone. After all, they've been studying hard for… less than half an hour. Really? She glares at the time, feeling cheated. Well, whatever. An hour in regular time is like three in Nadeshiko years. Rin shrugs and leans in for another, smiling into the kiss as her girlfriend eagerly reciprocates.

It's a little rough, a little clumsy, very Nadeshiko.

It's because of that, they don't hear the door closing until it's too late.

"I'm home! Mom and Dad said they were going to be working late, so I brought home take- Oh!"

Something falls to the ground with a clatter. Rin looks up.

Standing in the hallway, one hand hanging awkwardly in the air and with a look of pure astonishment on her face, is Nadeshiko's older sister.

There's a pregnant pause, the silence deafening. And then…

Rin leaps out of Nadeshiko's lap. Oh god. This is it; this is where her life ends. Caught in the act red-handed by her girlfriend's older sister. Embarrassing doesn't even cover half of it. Oh god.

"S-sis!" Her girlfriend bolts up, bangs her knee against the kotatsu, falls face first, and eats floor, all in the span of seconds. She bounces back up just as quickly, no worse for wear.

"Hey, hi, yo, wassup, how's it going?" she asks, smoothing down her shirt and patting down her hair. As if the swollen lips and the red cheeks weren't conspicuous enough. "I thought you-" her voice cracks and Rin winces. She clears her throat. "I thought you had night class today?"

Sakura Kagamihara nods just once. Slowly. She bends down to pick up her cell phone, the source of the earlier clatter, all while keeping her laser stare solely on Rin. Smart decision. As soon as she takes her eyes off her, Rin's melting through the floor and letting the earth's molten core burn her to a crisp.

"They got canceled," she says, switching the plastic takeout bag to her other hand. "It's nice to see you again, Shima-san," she says, her tone perfectly bland.

Rin just nods at the floor. Verbal communication, what is that even?

Her girlfriend leaps in to speak for her. "Rin-chan was helping me study. For the mid-terms!"

Her sister just turns her exceptionally neutral gaze onto her sister. "Ah," is all she says and Nadeshiko squirms in place.

Well, if the earth won't rise and swallow Rin whole, then it's time to do the next best thing.

"Bathroom," she mutters and makes a mad dash down the hall. Thankfully, she remembers the house layout from the last visit, so she finds the bathroom without any trouble. Inside, she locks the door and sits down on the edge of the tub. She grabs a towel from the rack, puts it over her face, and screams.

Once she's spent, she puts the towel back and just groans, covering her face with her hands. Getting caught making out by anyone is embarrassing. Getting caught making out by your girlfriend's older sister? Face-meltingly mortifying. Not to mention potentially life-threatening. Nadeshiko's sister doesn't seem like the type to murder Rin in her sleep, but then again, you never can be too sure with the quiet ones.

A shudder runs down Rin spine, and she gulps. Just her luck that her girlfriend's family owns a backyard along with the necessary camping equipment to bury her body without a trace. Never before has Rin been quite so regretful to introducing her girlfriend to the joys of camping.

Goodbye life. It was fun while it lasted.

Just as Rin debates whether she can squeeze her body through the pinhole of a window above the tub, there's a knock at the door.

"Rin-chan, are you okay? You've been in there for a while." Her girlfriend's worried voice is muffled by the door. There's a short pause, then, "please don't try to climb out the window. I tried it once, and they had to call the fire department to get me out."

That at least gets a strangled sort of snort out of Rin. With a reluctant sigh, she gets up and unlocks the door.

Her girlfriend stands in the doorway, hands behind her back, worrying her lip nervously and looking contrite. As soon as she sees Rin, her eyes light up. Wordlessly, she holds out her hands. Rin takes them in hers and comes in close. Her girlfriend leans in and brushes their foreheads together. Rin lets her eyes close.

For once, Nadeshiko is silent, offering her warm presence instead as a quiet comfort. Rin soaks it in like a sponge. She breathes in slowly, feeling the tension gradually seep out of her shoulders as her girlfriend holds her close.

After a second, Nadeshiko pulls back, still keeping their hands linked. She has a reassuring smile on her face, but there's a hint of nervousness in it.

"Sis is in the kitchen. She wants to talk with you," she whispers. The 'alone' is all but implied.

The anxiety shoots back into Rin's veins, but she puts on a weak smile for Nadeshiko's sake. "Okay."

"Hey. It'll be alright. Promise." Nadeshiko raises Rin's hand to her lips. "Love you."

Despite everything, Rin feels herself cracking a small smile. "Love you too."

Nadeshiko's sister has her back turned to her as she enters the kitchen, and for one morbid moment, Rin can't help but wonder if she's standing like that so that Rin can't see the knives she's sharpening.

At the sound of footsteps, Nadeshiko's sister turns around and Rin's lets out a silent sigh of relief to see a coffee pot in her hands. If I survive, I am never picking up another slasher-mystery fic ever again, I swear.

"Good timing. Coffee's just about done." Nadeshiko's sister heads over to a cabinet and pulls it open. "Care for a cup?"

Rin nods before realizing that it maaaay be better if she starts using actual words lest Nadeshiko's sister thinks she's being rude. "Y-yes, please," she stammers, taking a seat at the table.

She nods and takes out two mugs and pours the coffee out. She places the cup in front of Rin. No sugar or cream is offered. The implications of that are worrisome, but Rin's distracted at the moment by the mug Nadeshiko's sister is using.

It's just so...pink, so eye-watering pink. Like somebody took a blob of cotton candy and spun it into the shape of a mug. Cute chibi animals circle the side and Best Sister Ever! is written on the front in an excited scrawl that can only be Nadeshiko's handwriting.

"Tacky, isn't it?" Rin's head snaps up. Nadeshiko's sister takes the seat across from her. She has a dry smile on her face, yet the look in her eyes is fond as she nurses the mug in her hand. "Nadeshiko made it for me when I got accepted into uni. It hurt my eyes at first," she gestures to the general pinkness of the thing and Rin is torn between wanting to laugh and staying absolutely silent, "but for some reason, I can't bring myself to use any other mug." She takes a quiet sip. "Coffee just tastes better in this one."

She takes another sip. Rin leaves hers untouched.

The silence stretches on.

Nadeshiko's sister puts down her cup. She puts her hands down on the table and laces her fingers together.

"How long have you been seeing my little sister?"

Her voice is soft, with absolutely no inflection. Rin swallows. "A little more than two months."

Her eyebrows rise. "Huh. I'm surprised Nadeshiko managed to keep quiet for so long."

Rin just nods, not trusting herself to speak.

Nadeshiko's sister begins lightly drumming her fingers on the table. Rin keeps her hands in her lap, balled into tight, anxious fists.

Tap, tap, tap.

"Out of curiosity, when were you two planning on telling anybody?" she asks quietly. There's no accusation in her tone, yet Rin can't help but flinch at the question. "Don't get me wrong; everyone deserves their personal privacy. I can respect that. But at the same time, that same personal privacy gets a little harder to respect when you come home to see your baby sister with her best friend's hand up her shirt."

Rin flushes red. In her defense, her hands were freezing. And the surprised squeak Nadeshiko makes whenever something cold makes contact with her side? Super cute. And that's it. Honest. They've both talked and agreed that they're not ready for anything else just yet. Maybe when they're older but not now, that's for sure.

"I-it's not what i-it looked like." Rin fumbles though she's coming up with a big, fat blank how to explain it otherwise. "I-I swear."

To her surprise, Nadeshiko's sister lets out a faint chuckle. "Relax. From what Nadeshiko has told me about you and what I remember, you don't seem the type to do anything that rash."

That sounds like a compliment but Rin's not entirely sure. "Thank… you?"

Nadeshiko's sister nods agreeably. "I actually quite like you, Shima-san. You keep Nadeshiko out of trouble and you humor whatever she has to say, which is something every older sister likes to hear when it comes to their siblings. So, cheers for that," she says, saluting Rin with her mug.

Rin hesitates. "...But?"

She puts down her mug. "But she's also my little sister," she says softly, gazing at her mug.

Another beat. Rin sits on the edge of her seat and tries not to sweat bullets.

Nadeshiko's sister takes off her glasses and begins cleaning them with her sleeve. "You probably know this, but my sister's the kind of person who thinks of others before herself and asks for nothing in return. A lot of people take her for granted because of it. People who act like they've forgotten about her. People that she still calls friends to this day, even though they've never once called her to ask how she's been ever since we've moved." She holds her glasses up to the light and frowns. "People that made her cry."

Rin blinks. That's just so… wrong. Nadeshiko never talks about her time in middle school and now Rin knows why and it's just... wrong. Who in their right mind would even treat her like that? Who?

Whoever they are, they don't deserve to call themselves her friend, that's for sure.

Nadeshiko's sister slips the glasses back onto her face and stares Rin dead in the eye. There's a hint of something in her eyes, something strong and fiercely protective.

"My sister will bend over backward just to make sure other people are happy. It's just who she is and I love her for it. What I want to know is, what makes you think you deserve that same kindness?" She leans forward and puts both hands on the table. "Better yet, just what can you even offer her in return?"

Not once does she raise her voice, but there's no mistaking the steel in her tone. Rin feels sweat on the back of her neck. She starts to say something and then stops.

Starts.

Stops.

It's no good. Her mind is blank. Nothing seems like the right thing to say.

Nadeshiko's sister picks up her pink mug. One of the chibi animals, a small terrier, grins reassuringly back at her and suddenly, Rin finds herself talking.

"That's not fair," she says. Nadeshiko's sister's eyebrows shoot up in surprise and Rin quickly amends her statement. "It's not- you can't define a relationship as give and take because if you do, then you'll just be spending all your time trying to one-up each other. And I never really thought of us like that." She pauses, then adds, "I guess I never really put a lot of thought into our relationship as a whole but…"

She trails off. Nadeshiko's sister watches her intently.

"Nadeshiko… she makes me happy," Rin admits softly. "And I just want to make her happy in return."

"Maybe it's just me being selfish," she continues. The words are coming out faster now, surer. "But every time she smiles because I tell her something silly or invite her to go camping, I feel...lucky, I guess is what you'd call it."

Is lucky even the right word? It feels too soft for what Rin's trying to say, like it's not enough for what Nadeshiko has done for her.

"Lucky that she wanted to be my friend, lucky that she is my friend. If I can just make her smile every day, then that's all I want out of our relationship." Rin nods and looks Nadeshiko's sister directly in the eyes. "She deserves it and more for wanting to be my friend."

Rin's not sure where the sentiment came from, only knows that it's how she honestly feels and nothing will change her mind. It's strange. The fear from earlier is gone. Now all she feels is just a warm glow in her chest, a little ember burning bright and filling her entire being.

Nadeshiko's sister stares back at her. Rin meets her gaze head-on.

The silence stretches for a beat, then two.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, the older Kagamihara opens her mouth.

"Some cream and sugar?"

The question throws Rin off. It takes a second for her to remember the coffee in front of her. "Oh, um, y-yes. Please, i-if you don't mind."

Nadeshiko's sister nods and picks up the mug. Halfway through, she pauses and then frowns. "Ugh, cold coffee is the worst. Let me brew you another cup."

"O-oh, you don't have to trouble yourself, Kagamihara-san."

Nadeshiko's sister just waves her off. "It's no trouble." She looks over to Rin and graces her with a wry smile. "And don't worry about the formalities. It's just Sakura."

Maybe it's Rin's imagination, but she likes to think that it's approval she hears in the older Kagamihara's voice. Maybe. But she'll keep that to herself.

"In that case, thank you very much, Sakura-san,"

There's a loud sniffle that comes from somewhere behind Rin. Nadeshiko's sister casts an amused glance over her shoulder. "You can come in now."

A brief patter of footsteps is the only warning Rin gets before she's suddenly bowled over from behind by a bawling storm of pink.

"Rin-chaaaaaaan!" Her girlfriend sobs into her neck. "Y-you make me happy t-too! I- I just want you to k-know that b-because what y-you said was the n-nicest thing e-ever and j-just everything you do m-makes me happy and I just love you sooo muuu-muuu-uahhhhhh!"

Rin can only pat her bewilderedly on the back. This is too much emotional whiplash in one day for her. "L-love you too."

Nadeshiko's sister chuckles sympathetically before coming over to gently pry her off of Rin.

"I told you, I just wanted to talk with her." She affectionately ruffles Nadeshiko's head. "Stop overreacting."

"S-sorryyyyy." Nadeshiko hiccups. "A-are you g-going to t-tell Mom and-and Dad about this?"

She thinks for a second before shaking her head. "No. I'll leave that up to when you two feel comfortable. Sooner is better than later, but both of you are mature enough to make your own decisions and I trust both of you, so that's for another time." She reaches forward and gently thumbs the tears away from Nadeshiko's eyes. "Now go wash up and let's have dinner. I got Kung Pao."

Nadeshiko sniffles again and wipes her eyes with a sleeve. "S-spicy?"

"Extra spicy."

Nadeshiko sniffles again. "C-can Rin-chan stay?"

"If she wants to." Nadeshiko's sister turns to her. "Shima-san?"

Common sense would dictate she get out of the house as fast as she can, after that interrogation. But instead...

"I'd love to," she says with a small smile, and she means it. "And call me Rin."

The take-out is spicy, too spicy for her and she ends up giving most of her portion to Nadeshiko. Nadeshiko talks a mile a minute, shoveling food down at an impressive speed while the older Kagamihara occasionally interjects with a dry comment. When Nadeshiko grabs Rin's hand to hold, her older sister doesn't comment. She just smiles her wry smile at Rin's flushed expression, shakes her head and takes another sip of her beer.

"So, wait." Rin holds up her hand and Nadeshiko pauses in her storytelling. "Let me get this straight. The reason you got your head stuck in the bathroom window was because you saw your neighbor's dog and wanted to go pet it." She's struggling not to laugh at the scandalized pout on her girlfriend's face. "And just why couldn't you go out the front door?"

Her girlfriend's pout deepens. "Rin-chan, you don't understand. It's a really cute dog!"

"In her defense, it really is." Her sister remarks, smirking slightly at Rin's disbelieving expression. "But that's not the best part. Did she tell you that she got hungry while we were waiting for the fire department to come?"

"You didn't."

"I did. Hand fed her potato chips in the cold until they came to get her out. What's worse was that she was so low to the ground that I had to kneel down and let her inhale the chips from my hand like a horse." Her smirk widens. "Firemen said it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen in their 20 years on the job."

The image in Rin's head of it all is the funniest thing she's seen all day and she can't help but break out into a laugh as Nadeshiko squirms with embarrassment. "You didn't have to tell her that part!" she gripes half-heartedly, struggling not to smile at Rin.

Her sister just laughs, not unkindly, and ruffles Nadeshiko's head. "Just welcoming her to the family, sis."

Chapter Text

The first thing Nadeshiko notices as soon as she wakes up, is the cold, empty space next to her.

With a cavernous yawn, she sits up and rubs at her eyes with a gnarled hand. She sneezes once, twice and sniffles. Ah, that's not a good sign. She shakes her head ruefully and winces at the crick in her neck. Should've added that extra layer of insulation before she went to bed last night. Already, she can hear Kagari's voice in her head, scolding her for her forgetfulness.

Geez, you know you're not as young as you used to be, Mom! You have to remember to take care of yourself when you're out solo camping. You know how easy it is to get the chills at your age?

Their daughter can be such a worrywart sometimes. Nadeshiko chuckles a bit and heaves herself out of the sleeping bag. She definitely gets that from Rin's side of the family, that's for sure.

She picks up her phone and swipes it on. She stares at the display for a good second before grumbling and taking out her glasses. Once they're perched reluctantly on her nose, she checks the time again.

5:35. Nice. She gives a small fist pump. Time yet to start breakfast before she calls Rin.

It takes a few minutes for her to shake the stiffness out of her joints, but once she's appropriately dressed, she unzips the tent flap and steps outside. She breathes in deep the chilled winter air. It cuts into her lungs, crystal and clear, like a mountain stream and a smile works its way onto her face. A breath of fresh air is the best way to wake up in the morning, a fact that she'll stand by until the end of time.

The smile quickly morphs into a frown when she notices the overcast clouds above her head. It doesn't look like it'll turn into a storm, just a small shower, which is unfortunate, this time of year. She shrugs and busies herself with making breakfast. Oh well. Not much she can do about it except enjoy what little time she has left before it starts to pour. She'll have to take her picture later when the clouds clear up, but she thinks Rin won't hold it against her for the delay. It's for her sake, after all.

Although, it is a bit odd that she hasn't called yet. Nadeshiko glances back at her phone. Probably sleeping in. Good for her! A few extra hours of shut-eye is just what the doctor recommended.

Nadeshiko opens up the dial pad and punches in a number. It takes a few tries, what with her eyesight being so shoddy, but as soon as the automated voice tells her to leave a message, she begins to talk.

"Good morning!" she chirps, then corrects herself. "Well, not so much where I am, but hopefully it's better for you back home! I haven't gotten your picture yet, but I'm expecting something bright and sunny back at home to make up for the weather here. Gonna wait until the clouds clear before I take mine, so hang on for just a little longer, kay?

Anyway, Mototsu is so cold this year! Remember when we first met here during our second year? It's even colder than then, can you believe it?" She chuckles a bit. "So, I'm counting on you to navigate me somewhere warm today! Preferably nearby, but if anything catches your eye, let me know!

She pauses here to imagine Rin agreeing with a quiet chuckle, and then continues. "Welp, that's all for now. We'll talk some more when you get up. And if Kagari asks, tell her yes, I'm keeping, warm. Kind of. Not really. Okay, maybe don't tell her that. Oh! Just tell her I'm having a lot of fun! And that you are too!

Can't wait to come back home to see you again. Love you. Love you lots!"


She decides to take a walk around and stretch out her joints a bit so that she can shake off the aching in her bones that the cold left in them.

Since it looks like it'll rain soon, she elects to stay near her camp and just walk the edge of Lake Motosu. Decades later and the lake looks the same as ever, serene and pristine. It's comforting, knowing that the place of their first encounter is mostly preserved from the passage of time. Comforting, and maybe… just a little bittersweet.

Slowly, she lowers herself down into a sitting position at the edge of the shore and props her arms on her knees. The waves lap gently at her boots, back and forth, back and forth. She glances behind her at the trees swaying listlessly in the breeze, at the sky above with its clouds of grey.

It's all so peaceful.

And quiet.

So very quiet.

Nadeshiko closes her eyes.

She remembers the moon sparkling like an incandescent pearl in the reflection of the lake. She remembers the sound of the crackling fire at her fingertips and the delicious warmth in her stomach after a full meal. She remembers a sky filled with stars, filled to the brim and overflowing like a memory.

Rin is holding Kagari close to her, balancing the toddler on her hip as she murmurs quiet comforts into Kagari's ear. The vastness of the night sky had frightened her. She was scared of getting lost in them, scared of losing her mothers in the immenseness and being alone

"You don't have to be afraid." Rin whispers softly to her. "Here, do you want to know a little secret? The sky may be big, really, really big, but the stars in the sky will always be the same. Always. So don't be scared of losing us. We'll always share the same sky, no matter where we are. Mama promises you.

Kagari sniffles. "P-Promise?"

"I promise." She holds her closer and smiles softly. "As long as we share the stars in the sky, you'll never be alone."

Nadeshiko opens her eyes.

The world is quiet, save for the sound of the waves lapping at the shore.


Rin still hasn't replied to her message.

She tries not to think too deeply about it. There are a slew of other things to worry about, like making sure everything stays dry from the impending rain, packing everything back into its proper place, and a stack of other small things that just pile up, up, and up and threaten to overwhelm her.

Sitting so long at the shore did no favors to her body. Every few minutes she has to pause to massage the ache in her fingers and will them back to warmth. Her back aches fiercely, and there's a steady throbbing in between her eyes that just won't go away no matter how much she massages her temples. But all that, she can deal with. It's been something she's been dealing with for the past decade, after all.

She just wishes it wasn't so cold.

Making a fire would be pointless though, what with the rain coming in. So instead, she sits down and imagines warm things.

Like fluffy scarves, cute mittens, the crackling of a campfire, a steaming mug in her hand.

A hand warmer placed against the back of her neck, followed by a feather-light kiss to the top of her head.

Cozy blankets pulled around their shoulders, sunlight dancing on their skin, the sound of hushed laughter, a warm body pressed against hers, slotting perfectly into her arms.

In the distance, she can hear the beginnings of rain.


An hour later, inside the shelter of her tent as the rain falls, she gets the message.

Her phone buzzes once, twice and then falls silent.

She makes no move to pick it up. Just stares at it, lying on the nightstand. She notices the pink coloring is coming off in places. The keychain attached on is starting to rust. It's definitely seen better days. How long ago was it when she first picked it up? How long? She can't remember.

Her hands are so cold.

She reaches out and picks up the phone. One new message blinks on the screen.

From: Kagari

Subject: Mama

Ah.

She puts the phone back down. There's no need to read the message. She knows what's inside.

She's known for a while now.

Suddenly, she feels so very tired. Exhausted with every fiber of her being. The decades suddenly leap onto her, all at once, sinking their age-old claws into her back. She rubs slowly at her brow. Every inch of her body is cold.

They talked about this sort of thing happening. Those talks were never pleasant; they always left her feeling upset and the weight of her age on the inside. But Rin had always insisted.

But what if I get lost?

You won't be, silly. I'll be the navigator this time, see?

But-

No buts, Nadeshiko. I don't want you spending all your time inside moping over me. Go out and see the world! For both of us. Okay?

...Fine. But it won't be for long! I'll be back before you know it!

Hm. I know you will… Love you.

Love you too. Love you lots.

She realizes that she's clenching onto her hands so hard that she can hear the bones creaking. She feels the dull ache intensify into a burning sear.

It's not fair.

She thought she'd have more time. Just a little more time.

It's not fair.

If she'd known how little of it was left, she wouldn't have gone.

It's not fair.

I don't want to be alone.

The sound of utter silence is what finally gets her to crane her neck up. The rain has finally stopped.

Her body moves on its own, and she finds herself standing up, grabbing her phone off the stand.

Outside the tent, there's a crisp scent to the air, fresh and new. In the bright moonlight, she can finally see proud Mt. Fuji. It looks the same as all those years ago, when she first rode her bike all the way from Nabu and met her best friend for life. Breathtaking and beautiful.

Her hands rise, phone still clutched in them.

Click!

She looks at her phone. It's a gorgeous shot. Rin would've been proud of her. A moment in time captured almost perfectly.

Almost.

She attaches it to her mail and sends it before taking a step forward and raising her arms again.

Click!

No. This one's better, but it's missing something, just like in the last one. She sends it regardless and begins walking the path down to the lake.

Click! Click, click, click.

Almost. Not quite. Still missing that perfect shot. Her pace quickens.

Click, click, click, click, click!

Her feet pick up speed. Her walk turns into a trot, then into a brisk jog, then to as close to a full-on sprint that her body will allow her.

Click!

Each breath drawn sears the inside of her lungs like fire.

But she doesn't slow down. Not when she's so close.

Click!

If she reaches her arm out now, can she touch the sky?

Click!

Love you.

Her foot catches on a rock, and suddenly, she's sent sprawling, head over heels. She grunts in pain as her hands and knees scrape the ground. A second later, she rolls to a stop on her back, facing the night sky. Her breath comes out in pants. In and out. In and out. It's the only noise in the silence of the night.

She raises her arm feebly to the sky. Just a little more. A little more and...

Her phone buzzes.

Nadeshiko stops.

What?

Her phone buzzes again, and she blinks. Who would even…? She lifts the phone to her face and squints.

From: Rin

Subject: None

Her heart stops in her chest. Quickly, she checks the time it was sent.

Yesterday at 10:53 PM.

Nadeshiko stares. That's the time when they finished talking on the phone. She remembers Rin sounding more tired than usual and they had wished each other an early good night. Rin must've scheduled the text to be delivered at the same time the day after. Which meant she knew.

She knew.

Nadeshiko unlocks her phone. There's no writing in the message, just a single jpg attachment. She doesn't even notice that her hands are trembling as she clicks open the image.

She doesn't know what she's looking at first glance. It's a grainy image of what looks to be the lights of a small town, taken from a distance at a height. Billions upon billions of stars litter the night sky above the town. And then it hits her.

It's the picture from Takabochhi Plateau, the same picture that started their lifelong tradition together, the first picture Rin ever shared with her.

Nadeshiko lowers her phone. Above her is the same starry sky, unchanged by time, shining just a brightly as they did back then.

Oh.

So that was what she was missing.

As long as we share the stars in the sky, you'll never be alone.

And suddenly, Nadeshiko is sixteen and falling in love, all over again.

"Riiiiiiiiiin-chaaaaan..." The tears begin to flow freely now, unchecked and she makes no move to stop them. A sob is ripped out of her throat, along with an aching pain that manifests itself in her heart and fills the empty space in her chest with a soothing warmth that threatens to spill out of her. She can feel the warmth enveloping her form, like an embrace, and she cries even harder.

"I love you, Rin-chan." She cradles the memory close to her chest, right above her heart as the tears continue to soothe and fall. "I love you so, so, so, much. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you."

Above her, the stars shine knowingly and hold her close.


Nadeshiko dreams.

In her dreams, she is young again, cheeks full and eyes bright. No mysterious pain in her back, no aches in her joints, everything is perfect.

She glances around her. She's sitting in her favorite camping chair with a mug of something warm in her hand. In front of her, a pot sits cheerfully on a burner, a pleasant smell wafting off of it.

A grassy plain as far as the eye can see. The sun shines brightly in the sky, giving off a pleasant warmth. And of course, Mt. Fuji is serving as the backdrop. Nadeshiko laughs a bit at that. Mt. Fuji is an inescapable constant in their lives at this point.

Behind her, she hears the tent flap unzip and a few seconds later, someone steps into view.

"There you are," Rin-chan says, voice impossibly fond. There's a small knowing smile on her face, the same smile that's etched itself over Nadeshiko's heart over the years they've spent together, the one she absolutely adores. "I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to show up. What took you so long?"

Nadeshiko scratches the back of her head and laughs a bit sheepishly. "Eheheh, yeah sorry. I was feeling kinda mopey there for a while. But I'm all good now, see?" She jumps out of her seat to illustrate her point, but ends up overshooting her balance and nearly tripping herself. "Whoa! Kay, so maybe too good. But it's better than mopey, eh?"

"Sure is," Rin says, smile still in place. She sits down in the seat next to her and holds out her hand for Nadeshiko to take.

Nadeshiko returns the smile with her own and settles down as well. She takes Rin's hand in her own and marvels at just how perfectly it fits in her own. Even as they got older, Rin's hand was always the perfect fit for hers. It's like… fate? Destiny? Hmmm. Is that coming on too strong? Then again, they have spent most of their lives together.

On second thought, fate sounds pretty good!

They're silent for a moment, watching as the sun slowly crest over the top of Mount Fuji. To Nadeshiko, it's the second most beautiful thing she's ever seen in her life.

The first just so happens to be sitting next to her and holding her hand.

After a while, Rin turns in her seat to face her. The knowing smile is gone, replaced with an expression that is a bit apologetic, a bit wistful.

"You know you'll have to go back soon, right? Are you going to be okay?"

Nadeshiko thinks for a second. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so. It's going to be kinda lonely for a while," she admits, and she feels Rin squeeze her hand sympathetically. "But that's not so bad. I mean," she cranes her neck upward, "I just have to look up, and I'll see you there, right?"

"Well… sort of? I mean, indoor ceilings exist for a reason, you know?"

"Aww, you know what I mean!"

Rin laughs, and after a second, Nadeshiko's pout morphs into a smile and she joins in, just happy that she can hear that same laugh again.

One more time.

Once they're spent, Rin gestures back to the rising sun. "Well, while you're here, wanna catch a cool looking sunrise?"

As if she needed to even ask. Nadeshiko bobs her head up and down. "Definitely!"

With that, the two settle back into their chairs, keeping their hands linked between them. The two of them are silent, and Nadeshiko closes her eyes, letting the warm rays gently caress her form.

A soft breeze blows between them, ghosting her cheeks. The hand in hers is so warm.

"Nadeshiko."

"Hm?"

She feels Rin move to sit closer to her. A soft weight places itself on her collar. She feels Rin's hair tickle at the spot just below her chin and she giggles a bit at the feeling.

"Love you."

And Nadeshiko just beams.

"Love you too. Love you lots."

Chapter Text

Nadeshiko's already scarfed down half of the chocolate bar that Rin surprised her with, when Rin mutters something ever so quietly beneath her breath, so quietly that Nadeshiko has to stop chewing just to hear her.

"Happy Valentines Day."

Nadeshiko freezes.

Oh no.

Oh noooooooooooooooooooooo!

The content smile on her face melts off faster than butter in a hot frying pan as she realizes something horrible. Because while there is such a thing as free chocolate if you've got nice friends (or a super-duper-awesome-saucesome nice girlfriend), there's also a thing called Valentine's Day, a very important day that, oh yes, just so happens to be today. TO-DAY.

A piece gets lodged in her throat, and she chokes. Rin has to rush over to her and pat her on the back. Once that crisis is averted, she plasters on her best reassuring smile, the one that says 'everything-is-alright-and-I-didn't-forget-today-is-a-day-that-can-make-or-break-relationships-no-siree!'

Nadeshiko can only imagine how that kind of smile looks. Maybe a little constipated.

"Ahem! Um, yeah! H-Happy Valentines Day to you too, Rin-chan!" Internally, she's panicking. How could she forget? How? It's only the fourth most important holiday after Christmas, Halloween, and Arbor Day!

Rin leans in, face pinched with worry. "Are you okay?" she puts a hand to Nadeshiko's brow and tries to gauge her temperature. "You turned all white. Was there something in the chocolate?" She eyes the half-eaten bar with suspicion. "It is store bought, after all."

Nadeshiko opens her mouth, about to say no, but stops as an idea suddenly occurs to her. A brilliant idea that'll save herself from being the worst girlfriend ever in the history of the world.

All she needs is some time.

"U-um, maybe? I mean," she doubles over, holding her stomach and leans away. "Ow, wow, ow. My tummy feels all wobbly and murghhh." She waves her arms to illustrate her point.

Rin tilts her head bemusedly. "Really?"

Right. Faking sick probably works better when your not waving your arms around like a crazy inflatable tube-man. Quick, back to moaning! She wraps her arms back around her stomach. "Ooooooh, my poor, poor tummy."

Rin raises an eyebrow, but she doesn't seem to question it. "O-oookay? Do you want me to walk you to the nurse's office?"

"No! I mean…" Nadeshiko lets out a nervous trill. "I can get there by myself. You enjoy your lunch break, okay Rin-chan? I'll be back soon. But not too soon because I am very sick," cue miming a gagging motion here, "but I'll be back when I'm feeling better which should be before school ends!"

"That's…" her girlfriend seems at a loss for words, her arm raised awkwardly in the air, "an oddly specific time frame for recovery?"

More like it's the exact amount of time Nadeshiko needs to whip up a batch of handmade chocolates before Rin finds out. Maybe? She's never made chocolates before!

"It's one of those hourly bugs, I'm sure!" Nadeshiko already has one foot out of the door. She waves reassuringly back to Rin. "I'll be better in no time, just you wait. Okay, byeeeeeeeee!"


Chocolate truffles seem easy enough to do, based on the recipe Nadeshiko looks up on her phone. The main ingredient is cacao, but according to the recipe, she can use any other commercial chocolate bar as a substitute. Which seems backward to her. What's the point of melting down a chocolate bar if it's still going to be chocolate in the end? But she neither has the time to be nitpicky nor the proper ingredients to actually make chocolate from scratch, so melted down repurposed chocolate it is.

Thankfully for her, Chiaki keeps a giant stash hidden in the club room, underneath a fake bottom to one of the cupboards. Technically, the chocolate is supposed to be taken only in case of one, an emergency, two, a rainy day, or three, the coming of the apocalypse. But also technically, forgetting to get your girlfriend chocolate for Valentine's Day constitutes as all three disaster scenarios in Nadeshiko's opinion, so with a quick apology to the absent club leader, she grabs the sides of the shoe cubby and rips out the entire shelf.

Once that's done, she makes a straight beeline to the Home Ec classrooms and locks the door behind her. The classrooms are in a relatively quiet part of the school, so there's little chance of her getting caught by a teacher for skipping class.

Now for the hard part...

"Let's see…" Nadeshiko scrolls down on her phone to see the recipe. She has the main ingredient, obviously, but the recipe also calls for a cup of cream and a teaspoon of... vanilla extract? What's that?

She opens up a Google search window. "What...is...vanilla...extract?" and frowns at the results. "Vanilla extract is a solution made by smooshing vanilla beans and blah, blah, blah." She scrolls down. Apparently, it's just vanilla beans soaked in water until it becomes vanilla water. Which sounds just like melted ice cream soup to her. Gross. Why would you mix lukewarm ice cream soup with chocolate? Nadeshiko wrinkles her nose. Foreign recipes, ughhh.

Well, she doesn't have vanilla extract or melted ice cream for that matter, but syrup should work as a substitute. It's basically like melted ice cream, just stickier. And more maple-y. And nothing like vanilla extract if she's being totally honest, but beggars can't be choosers!

Still looking at her phone, she reaches over to the rack and pulls off the nearest pan. "Heat cream...pour over chocolate…" she flips the stove on, "wait until chocolate melts, but, hang on, why can't I just heat them together?" She closes the window with a huff. At the rate she's going, school will be over before she's even made a single truffle. Aghh, this would be so much easier if she could eyeball the ingredients instead of taking exact measurements. It's how she makes hotpot after all. And everyone loves her hotpot!

Aww heck, let's just wing it!

She selects the biggest, thickest chocolate bar from Chiaki's stash and minces it into small pieces with a knife before dumping it into the heated pan. Once it starts to melt, she adds in a healthy dollop of cream.

And because the scoop looks so lonely, she adds another one to be its friend.

And another one.

And another.

And another.

The recipe only calls for one cup, but like, there's not a huge amount of difference between one cup and six, right? It's that low-carb stuff anyways. Better sweet than sorry!

She begins stirring the mix, and a few minutes later, she's rewarded with the most heavenly aroma. She closes her eyes and inhales deeply. Ohhhhhhh, that smells soooooo goooooood. So. Good!

Nadeshiko swallows hard and eyes the pan with more than a little longing. She shouldn't, she really, really shouldn't! But it smells sooooooooooo good!

"Just a small taste," she mutters, dipping a pinky into the gooey mix. "Just a teensy test. Gotta make sure it all tastes gooBLEAGHHH!"

Oh god, that tastes awful! She quickly spits it out and furiously rubs her tongue on a napkin to try and get that horrible, nasty, greasy taste out of her mouth. Greasy chocolate. Why? Why does the chocolate taste greasy, of all flavors? Nadeshiko shudders in disgust before turning a betrayed glare on to the pan…

...That isn't actually a pan, now that she takes a closer look at it.

Hang on. Nadeshiko peers closer. There's a dark tint to the metal, almost like soot and for some reason, it looks really, really familiar to her.

Waaaaaaait. Isn't this... the cast iron skillet Chiaki was seasoning for future camping trips?

The same skillet she just dumped six full cups of cream into?

The same skillet she just melted a chocolate bar in?

"Oh noooooooooooooo!" Already, she can smell the chocolate burning, the delicious aroma from earlier morphing into a thick, oily stench that makes her gag. Coughing, she grabs the handle of the skillet- and immediately lets it go with a yelp as it scalds her hand.

"YEOUCH! Okay, that's just unfair!"

Using the end of her school blazer, she lifts the skillet and rushes over to the sink and wrenches open the faucet. As soon as the water hits the skillet, there's a loud hiss! Steam immediately fills her vision, and she has to back away, spluttering and hacking at the greasy assault on her sense of smell.

Once the smoke clears and she can breathe again, Nadeshiko cautiously peers over the lip of the sink.

Welp. Judging by the volcanic looking crust circling the rim of the skillet, the chocolate is probably ruined. And the skillet doesn't look much better. Guilt weighs down heavily on her, and she claps her hands together and bows her head.

"Rest in peace, skillet-san."

Skillet-san lets out one last pathetic belch.

And with that last act of defiance, sets off the fire alarm.

"YEEEK!" Nadeshiko jumps as icy, cold water begins spraying out of the ceiling sprinklers. Oh, no, no, nooooooo! Why? She tries futilely to shield herself from the freezing spray, but it's hopeless. She just wanted to make some chocolates for her girlfriend for Valentine's Day! Why were things (literally) going up in smoke?

The door slides open with a bang. "Nadeshiko, are you alright?! I heard a scream from out- oh."

Rin stops, foot halfway into the classroom. Her eyes boggle out of their sockets as she takes in the scene before her, darting from the soaked Nadeshiko, to the still smoking skillet, to the sprinklers. There's a flash of understanding in her eyes.

"Ah."

Ah. That's a pretty good summary of the situation.

Before Nadeshiko can say anything, she hears another pair of footsteps. A second later, Toba-sensei dashes into view, huffing and puffing and looking winded.

"What's all this commo- WHAT THE CRAP!" she screeches, breaking from her usual dignified character. Her jaw drops at the carnage before her. "Kagamihara, you get out here this instant!"

Usually, Toba-sensei is a super laid-back teacher, but when she uses the Miss Chug voice, Nadeshiko knows better than to question it.

Especially when she uses the Miss Chug voice sober.

With a squeak, she dashes out into the hallway, her sneakers making a squelching noise as she skids to a stop. "Yes ma'am, Toba-sensei, ma'am yes!"

The flattery goes over Toba-sensei's head. She looks furious. "Before you say anything else, know that your response will determine whether if I let use a mop or a toothbrush to clean this mess up," she says ominously, crossing her arms, "so start talking, squirt. And fast."

Nadeshiko glances behind her to the classroom. At this point, the Home Ec room looks like it could belong on the set of the Titanic. Cleaning the room with a toothbrush? Very bad. Not as bad as forgetting to get your girlfriend something for Valentine's Day, of course.

But it's a clooooose second. Very close.

She opens her mouth, but before she can say anything, Rin suddenly speaks up.

"It's my fault, Toba-sensei."

For the second time in seconds, Toba-sensei's jaw drops. "What."

"Wait, what?" Nadeshiko parrots her. "Rin-chan, what are you- yeep!" she cuts off, feeling Rin pinch her in the back.

Rin continues. "I was trying to make some Valentine's chocolate for Nadeshiko before school let out, but the chocolate ended up catching fire and setting off the sprinkler system. Nadeshiko just saw me skipping class and tried to stop me. She didn't have anything to do with the mess," she gestures at the room.

Toba-sensei follows the movement with a dazed gaze. "I- that's…How can chocolate catch..." Her eyes suddenly narrow as she notices something. "If that's the case, then why is Kagamihara-san sopping wet and why are you completely dry?"

Rin replies without missing a beat. "I got out as soon as possible, but Nadeshiko went back in to try to put it out and salvage what was left of my chocolate."

"How very… noble." Toba-sensei's eyes are basically distrusting slits at this point.

"It's one of her best qualities." Rin agrees with a completely straight face

The two stare at each other for a few seconds, as Nadeshiko glances between the two and drips nervously on the floor. Toba-sensei is the one to break away first, with a sigh.

"Right. Well, if that's the story your sticking with-"

"It is."

Toba-sensei frowns but doesn't pursue it. "Then it's detention for you, Shima-san. After we sort this out," she admits with a groan that's accompanied by a pinch to her brow. "Come on; you two can stay in the teacher's lounge until we can find somebody to do something about… all of this." She eyes the room with a look of utter despair. "And here I thought substitute teaching would be easy…"


"I'm so, so, so, so, so sorry!"

The teacher's lounge is actually much too small for any sort of grand movements or gestures, especially when she's only half-dry from her earlier unexpected shower, yet Nadeshiko still somehow manages to contort herself into her best kowtow with the limited space available. There's a cramp starting in her back, but she figures it's a small price to pay considering how badly she's screwed up the fourth most important holiday, right after Christmas, Halloween and Arbor Day.

Rin, who's sitting on the only available sofa in front of her, looks a cross between amused and slightly worried for her back. "Nadeshiko, sweetie, I told you, it's okay. Really, I'm just glad you're not hurt. I'm not that upset that you forgot to get me chocolate. "

"But I am!" Nadeshiko wails despondently. She splays her right hand out on the ground in front of her and takes out a straight edge ruler from her pockets. "Lemme make it up to you, boss! I'll do whatever it takes for forgiveness! What do you want? A pinky? An index? Both? I can do both!"

"How about we don't do that?" Rin interjects gently as she reaches over and gingerly removes the ruler from her grasp. "And no more yakuza flicks the next time we go camping. Next time, we'll stick to anime." She lets out a sigh as Nadeshiko continues to wail, even louder. "Okay, how about this? Until they let us out of here, I'll give you a chance to make it up to me. Does that sound good?"

Instantly, Nadeshiko stops crying. "Rin-chan…" she says breathlessly, eyes shining. Her girlfriend is an angel, an angel come from the top of Mount Fuji. "Of course! Anything you want!" She sits up and eagerly leans forward. "What do you want me to do?"

"Stand up." Rin's lips twitch as she watches Nadeshiko scramble upright to attention. "Sit here," she indicates, patting the space next to her on the sofa.

"Right here?"

"Mhm. Keep your knees locked."

A little bewildered, Nadeshiko does as she's told. Once she's settled in, Rin lets her hair out of its customary bun.

And then promptly lays her head down on Nadeshiko's lap.

"Eh?!" The sudden movement catches her off guard. She feels the early signs of a blush forming on her face as her arms move this way and that, unsure what to do with them. "Uh, Rin-chan, what do you want me to...?"

"Play with my hair."

"Eh?"

"Play with my hair." Rin looks up at her. She's aiming for a casual tone, but the pink around her earlobes says otherwise. Which is honestly way too cute. "You know, pet it."

Still unsure, Nadeshiko begins hesitantly weaving her hands through her girlfriend's hair. Despite being in the bun earlier, the locks flow smoothly in her hand, and she makes special care not to get them caught in any hidden tangles. Soon after, she feels Rin relaxing, a small, pleased smile peeking out from behind her lips.

"I-is… is that all you wanted?"

"Hm? For my girlfriend to hold me close and run her fingers through my hair as I enjoy the feeling?" Rin pretends to think it over for a second. "Yep. Pretty much."

"I… okay." Well, if that's all she wants, then Nadeshiko won't question it. Still, though, she can't help but feel that she got the better side of the deal. Especially now that she gets to see Rin's trying-to-fend-off-sleepiness-but-failing-terribly-face up close.

A quiet moment passes between the two as Nadeshiko continues her ministrations. It's a comfortable silence, but there's still a burning question on her mind that she has to ask.

"Ne, Rin-chan?"

"Hm?" Rin cracks an eye open. "What is it?"

Nadeshiko hesitates. "Why… did you take the blame for me earlier? I mean, it was totally my fault that today was ruined so why-owie!"

Rin lowers the hand she used to flick her in the forehead. "Stop saying that you ruined today. Sure, things didn't go the way I thought they would, but when have they ever? And besides," she turns her head to face away from Nadeshiko. "Even if I have to do detention, it's worth it if I get to spend the rest of Valentine's Day with my girlfriend."

...Oh.

Nadeshiko leans back into the sofa. So that's why she did it. That's...

Huh.

くぁ drftgy  ふじこ lp!

"Riiiiiiiin-channnnnnn!" Without warning, Nadeshiko leans down and begins smothering the red part of her girlfriend's ear with kisses, which elicits an adorable, surprised squeak from her.

Too cute. Her girlfriend is just too. Darn. Cute!

She switches to peppering Rin's face with her onslaught of kisses, ignoring her girlfriend's laughed protests to stop.

"You're the-" *chu!* "bestest-" *chu!* "cutest-" *chu!* "girlfriend-" *chu, chu!* "in the whole-" *chu, chu, chu, chu!* "world!"

"H-haha, s-stop, Nadeshiko! T-tha-haha, t-tickles!" Finally, Rin reaches out and clamps her hand over Nadeshiko's mouth. "Down girl," she says with a breathless laugh.

Nadeshiko grabs her arm instead and places a kiss on the inside of her palm and beams back at her. "Happy Valentines Day, Rin-chan."

"Hmm." Rin hums in agreement. Still smiling, she lifts her head up and kisses her softly on the lips. When she pulls back, her face is an adorable red that makes the inside of Nadeshiko's chest feel like rays of sunshine, flickering and bouncing all over the place.

"Love you," Rin murmurs. The soft look in her eyes says it all.

Nadeshiko's smile is threatening to split her face in two, she just knows it. She leans in for one more kiss, feels Rin's smile on her lips as her own heart flies straight into the sky.

"Love you too," she whispers back. "Love you lots."