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"I'm not being weird or nothing. I just figure Anzu probably has cute toesies?"

Rin has never wanted to leave a conversation more than she does now.

"Oh, I know exactly what you mean! Her feet are sooooo small."

Okay, scratch that. She's never wanted to leave a conversation more than she does now.

She doesn't have that option, but she wants to. The basement of Chieri's new house isn't bad, at least. Spacious, a comfortable temperature. Thank god the heating is down here, too. Frankly, she'd live down here if she could spruce the place up and the rent was decent.

Just--

It's just that they're stuck, you see. Uzuki's bouncing back and forth on her knees, two bottles of some light alcopop sitting in front of her, a third in her hand. Her and Mio had sacrificed the drinks they'd been nursing basically as soon as they'd gotten stuck down here.

Better her and Mio be a little thirsty than Uzuki get too nervous. Even if, uh, she's pretty sure she's still having some kind of episode.

"Her feet are sooooooooooo small... does she shop for shoes in the kids' section? Little trainers for our little Anzu..." Uzuki trails off, giggles, then sets her drink aside so she can reach down to touch her own toes, poke at the edges of her shoes. She's about to take them off, for whatever reason, when Mio reaches out.

"Uh, might step on some glass or something, Shimamu. I don't think Chierin's cleaned down here," Mio warns, gently stroking the back of Uzuki's hand as Uzuki pouts.

"Ehhh... Mio, why'd Chieri get a nickname but not Anzu..." Uzuki pouts further, leaning in closer to Mio, flopping, and winding up with her face buried against Mio's shoulder.

"'Cause Anzu scares me?" Mio offers, cuddling into Uzuki as she does, stroking the back of her hair. Uzuki nods slowly.

"You're going to have a hangover if you doze off now," Rin finally chimes in, chin in her hand. Uzuki blinks up from Mio's shoulder, glancing around the room - including the ceiling - before finally settling her gaze on Rin. With a gasp, she crawls over to Rin on her knees, wrapping her arms around her waist.

"Rin! You're here! Woooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...." Uzuki gawps, squeaks, then trails off into a tiny murmur. Her eyes drift shut, and for a moment Rin thinks she's actually asleep.

"... She kind of becomes, like, a weird rabbit when she's drinksies?" Mio comments, leaning back against whatever random shelf she's using as a half-chair. Rin can't really disagree.

"Does that mean she'll die if we ignore her?"

"... I think we'd be the ones dying if we did that, Shiburin? Like, from grief."

"We're needy, huh."

"You guys are suuuuper needy..." Uzuki finally murmurs in agreement, breaking the illusion of her sleep. Rin strokes her hair, and Mio leans over to give her cowlick a little smoosh with the palm of her hand. Just because it's the easiest part to reach.

With a sigh, Rin glances up at the ceiling, then over at Mio. "Could you two run me through how we got stuck down here, again?" She asks, still not exactly clear on that. Maybe Breezers do more of a number on her than she thought. Or she'd just gotten swept up in this without realizing.

"I lost my phooooneeee..." Uzuki whines, cuddling further up into Rin, burying her face in the collar of her shirt. Rin sighs and pats the base of her neck, such a soothing gesture that Uzuki immediately hums and curls up.

"Oh, you found her switch."

"Focus, Mio."

Grinning, Mio crosses her arms behind her head, tapping her foot. "So Shimamu lost her phone? And I was showing Anzu something on my phone -"

"Yes, we're all very proud you spent eight-thousand yen getting a lesbian in Granblue."

"Hashtag representation, baby."

Uzuki sniffles into Rin's chest, buries herself so face into the nape of her neck that Rin feels like she's going to start biting at the skin. Instead she just fake-cries. "Granblue's baaaad, Mio... I couldn't give Cordelia choco..."

"Okay," Rin cuts her off, crossing her wrists in an x-symbol. "You aren't nearly as drunk as you're pretending if you could actually pronounce 'Cordelia.'"

"Hey, don't call our Dooky a faker. Dooky's legit."

Rin can't help but feel like they're going wildly off-topic, but with a sigh, Uzuki pushes herself up from flopping onto Rin. She reaches for the last bottle, swirls the little liquor in it left around, then sets it aside. "You guys just seem worried?" Uzuki finally offers, grin a little lopsided. Okay, she's a bit drunk.

"Wait, she's not drinksies? Does that mean sober Uzuki licks toes?" Mio marvels. Uzuki picks up one of the bottles and tilts it back in her hand, as if she's about to throw it.

"Uh, Shimamu, those bottles aren't plastic."

"Oh nooo... I'm so drinksies... what's a plastic..." Uzuki fake-drawls, then bursts into giggles. Rin's pretty sure she's actually *very* drunk, she's just drunk in a much different direction than she was putting on.

Regardless, she plucks the bottle from Uzuki's hand, sets it aside. "Uzuki, when we're worried about you, you can just tell us you noticed."

"I'unno. It feels kinda weird making you all have to be my therapists," Uzuki sighs, curling up a little on the basement floor. Mio grins and spreads her arms wide in response.

"Shimamu, we're broke Japanese twenty-somethings. This is what therapy is."

Rin has to crawl forward, scratching up her skinny jeans on the rough basement floor, and wave her hand between them. Good lord, she just wants to get this back on topic. "Mio, focus. Please. Anzu had your phone, Uzuki grabbed you to help her find hers. Right?"

"Right," Uzuki answers for Mio, tilting her head with a finger to her chin. Her earrings jangle a bit with the motion. She'd gotten dressed up for this. No matter how much Chieri had said the word 'casual' over the phone. Rin had heard it seven times. Mio had reported twice, probably because Mio was always casual.

"'n then Anzu still had my phone, and we went to grab you when we couldn't find it in the kitchen. Which -" Mio pauses midsentence, then waves her hand over to Rin, palm flat. "Contestant Shibuya, where's *your* phone?" She chirps, Uzuki clapping her hands in response to the showmanship.

"In my coat." Rin deadpans.

"... booooriiing."

"You could lie and say you were showing Karen your favorite sexy instagram models!" Uzuki suggests, pumping her fists.

Rin blanks at her, shifting to the side with her chin in her hand again. "Uzuki, that's what you did. To me. For three hours. Two days ago."

Mio's hand shoots up. "Question, Mrs. Shimamura!"

"Yes, Ms. Honda?" Uzuki singsongs.

"How do I get in on that?"

"Seem vaguely put off by it," Rin suggests, to the mock offense of Uzuki.

"Rin, I'm not a bully! You liked it! 'Wow, she's very pretty.' 'That sure is a woman.'"

"*Anyway,*" Rin clears her throat, waving her hand as if physically sliding the conversation along. "We went down here to check for Uzuki's phone... Why?"

"Because Chierin gave everyone an individual tour of the place as they came in. You know there's a hot tub? She showed you guys the hot tub, right?"

"She did!"

"She did not show me the hot tub."

"Wow, Shiburin's not getting an invite to hot tub parties."

"Is this story going to end with you saying 'the aristocrats,' Mio? Get to the point."

"What's the aristocrats?" Uzuki blinks.

Mio clears her throat. "Uh, well, we went down here and I kinda sorta shut the door behind us, and apparently the old-ass latchlock didn't like that? Sooo. So."

"So we're stuck."

Uzuki and Mio both nod. Rin flumps backwards, smoothing out her hair with her fingers. Honestly, there are worse places to be stuck - the basement's warm enough, for how cold it is outside. And despite Mio's protests, it's not like the floor is covered in broken glass.

It's just. Concerning. Because there's about seventeen people upstairs. And Mio's usually the light of any party, but this is *Chieri's* party - none of them are exactly part of Chieri's friend circle. Even if someone realized they were missing, they might just assume they stepped out early.

Uzuki must have seen how serious Rin looked for a second there, because she's suddenly thrusting that third bottle of alcopop in her face. "Rin, want it?" She offers, tilting her head.

"You drink it. You're already nearly bottomed out, anyway," Rin waves the offer off, but Mio leans in.

"Hey, if Shiburin doesn't want it, I'll take it, Shimamu," Mio says, even with Rin glaring more and more at her as the sentence goes on.

"Get your own, Mio," Rin snipes, to the point that Mio pulls back like she's been physically attacked, playing at clutching at her heart.

"Shiburin's a devil... she's picking sides between her two favorite girls in the world."

"I like Uzuki and Karen equally, Mio."

Uzuki giggles as Mio gasps in further mock-offense. "Woah. Me and Nao should form a resistance group. The Anti-Rin Organization. ARO for short."

Rin rolls her eyes when Uzuki finally hands the bottle over to Mio, and again when Mio takes a chug of it. Of all of it that was left, really. "Invite her on your podcast?" Rin finally suggests, drumming her fingers against her chin.

"Girls und Panzer Dragoon is a roundtable for highly qualified video game industry experts. One time we had a sock puppet on it that we called Hideki Sockamiya."

"And one time you had Uzuki on it," Rin reminds her, with a jerk of her head towards Uzuki.

"I voiced a girl in that one dating sim!" Uzuki chimes in. "I'm an industry leader!"

"Purchase the rights to Shadow Hearts, Shimamu!"

"I don't know what that is but I'll do it because I love you, Mio!"

Rin stands up with a grunt of exertion, rolls her shoulders before she starts tapping the very bottom of the walls with her foot.

"Uh," Mio blinks. "Whatcha doin' there, Shiburin?" She asks, glancing away from Uzuki.

"Checking for gas leaks. There is something wrong with you two."

"We're drunk on love, Rin!"

Rin's foot doesn't find any kind of busted pipe, but when she gets near one of the shelves, her foot brushes against the shelf, which in turn. Knocks off some ancient wicker something or other? She doesn't know the exact order of events, she just looks over to see Mio with a handicraft looking basket in her lap.

Mio peers the lid off of it, curiously, then slams it back shut as soon as Uzuki and Rin lean over to see what's inside.

"Miioooo..."

"Mio."

"This is called entrapment and it's illegal."

Uzuki and Rin share a glance, and then, on the count of three, move in, Uzuki leaping forward to wrap her arms around Mio, hands slipping under her hoodie. Mio's giggling from the sensation of cold palms against warm skin, even before Uzuki starts tickling her.

Rin, in contrast, just raps her knuckles lightly against Mio's head.

"Alright, alright - hehe - jeez, fine, I giiive, I give. You two are too strong. Heaven and Hell combination," Mio waves her hands, wriggling out of their grip, the basket still coming with her. Slowly, she pulls open the basket, the basement lights shining down to reveal...

An old bottle of whiskey.

"This looks like it saw combat in the pacific theater," Mio blinks, raising it up in her hand. It's a very old, somewhat dusty bottle. Rin pulls it lightly out of her hand, turns it over.

"It looks like it's sealed."

"Wait, Shiburin, are you gonna chance it?"

"Rin's so brave!"

Rin sighs as she sits back down, setting the bottle between the three of them. They look at it as one ex (slash part time) idol, drumming their fingers against their cheeks in unison.

Finally, Rin rolls up her sleeves. "I'm going for it."

Uzuki gawps. "Rin, no! You have to resist its ancient powers!"

"It'll turn you into something beyond a Shibu or a Rin!" Mio adds, voice dropping so low that Rin's pretty sure she's doing some kind of impression. She wishes she was on the kind of wavelength where she'd actually get it.

"Okay, so we can just sit here and stare at it," Rin grumbles, leaning back from it. Uzuki and Mio share a Look, which Rin doesn't really like. When her and Mio share a Look, it's charming and warm. When her and Uzuki share a Look, it's comforting and sweet.

When Mio and Uzuki share a Look - she doesn't know what it is. Their relationship's pretty - trigamous? - on the whole, so she isn't jealous. It just makes her wonder how the whole thing fits together. What their connection is like in comparison to how she feels about each of them, individually.

"We could play rock paper scissors!" Uzuki chirps.

Okay, when Mio and Uzuki share a Look, it's like the two broken cogs bumping together to form one extra broken cog. "What?" Rin can't help but ask. At both that metaphor and Uzuki's suggestion.

"I mean, someone's gotta try it first. Then we can just split it," Mio clarifies, pointing down at the bottle.

Okay, Rin doesn't really hate that plan, but - "Why can't I just try it first?"

Uzuki sits a little straighter, palms flat in her lap. "Because you'd just take a sip and then tell us you had enough and that we could have the rest."

"And then we'd be like 'nooo, Shiburin, you have some too' and then you'd tell us you don't care about alcohol anyway and then you'd look forlornly out the window and wonder if you handled it right while me and Shimamu kinda take sad sippies."

"Then you'd call us at five in the morning tomorrow to apologize and take us out for dinner."

"'n then you'd pay the bill yourself."

"There's no window down here and I don't have the money to pay for you two," Rin quibbles, to hide how incredibly called out she feels. Mio and Uzuki are already holding their fists out, so - well. There's no winning. If Rin even really wants to win at this point. Giving in, she shifts forward on her knees, bringing her hand into the circle.

"Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!"

Rin blinks down at their fingers - she's thrown paper, while the two of them have thrown scissors. "So, does the winner have to drink it, or is it the loser?" She asks, having suddenly realized that they haven't clarified that yet.

"Woohoo, take it off, Shiburin!" Mio responds with a whoop, pumping her fists into the air.

"We aren't playing strip rock paper scissors."

Mio waggles her eyebrows. "Aren't we?"

"No," Rin replies, "because we aren't about to have sex in a basement."

Mio and Uzuki stare blankly at her.

"Someone else's basement."

Mio and Uzuki continue to stare.

"Chieri's basement."

Uzuki's stare only abates when Mio pulls back first, flopping back with a sigh. "Fine, fine. Anzu'd bust our kneecaps anyway," Mio agrees. Uzuki's grabbing for the bottle, and Mio and Rin only really notice it when she's already poured an equal amount of it into the three empty alcopop bottles.

"Problem solved!"

Well, Rin can't really argue. Mio seems like she can't either, so she grabs at one of the bottles, Rin takes the other, and Uzuki happily lifts up the third.

"We'll go together," Uzuki offers, to nods from Rin and Mio.

"One, two..."

Rin tilts her head back and chugs, but it doesn't taste foul like she was expecting or incredible like she was hoping. It just tastes of nothing, whatever flavor it had at one point completely aged out of it. There's barely even a burn from the alcohol itself. It tastes like lightly flavored water, at most.

Mio frowns. "Man, I was kind of hoping it'd be some darkside stuff. Or like, so strong we pass out."

"Then we could wake up out of here!" Uzuki claps her hands together, impressed by Mio's logic.

"Or, you know, die?" Rin offers. The other two reluctantly nod.

"Oh, hey, speaking of death," Mio suddenly realizes, pointing her bottle towards Rin. "How's compsci going, college girl?"

Rin blinks at the sudden topic change. "... Fine, I guess? I mean, the work's fine, but it's not the most interesting field in the world. It'll pay well, though. It's a good university. People get hired right out of it."

Well enough that she can afford to have two whole housewives, maybe.

"What about you two?" Rin sips at the bottle of nothing as she asks it. "You'll have that kindergarten teaching license in another six months, right, Uzuki?"

Uzuki is sipping on her own nothing, so she can only nod wildly in response. Mio grins at the physicality of it, then leans back.

"I mean, Anzu's helping me out with programming games and stuff. Have you played her doujin stuff? It's actually pretty good. Especially that horror game," Mio offers, leaning further back until she's just laying flat on her back.

"And the podcast brings in like. Maybe 30k a month? Me and Ranko split it, natch, but."

"Fifteen thousand yen a month isn't nothing when you're broke."

"Mm."

Mio leans further back, so much so that Rin starts to think she might start doing some weird spider walk, but instead she just sighs.

"Remember when, like, we were the biggest idols in the universe?" Mio asks.

Rin tilts her head, then shakes it. "Honestly, I've started to think maybe we never were."

"Yeah, probably. It was cool, though."

"Six weeks!" Uzuki suddenly yelps. It takes Rin a second to doubleback in the conversation, and when she does she realizes that, wait, Uzuki's actually getting somewhere with her life in six weeks. It took her that whole sad bit to actually swallow down her alcohol, Rin realizes. Or she didn't want to interrupt.

Mio springs to her feet first, almost rolling forward with how flat on her back she was all of five seconds ago. She hugs into Uzuki, tight, reaching up to ruffle her hair. "Grats, Shimamu!"

"Congratulations, Uzuki."

Uzuki nods eagerly. "Mmhm! The last push is gonna be rough, but I'll do my best!"

Mio nods along with her, matching her motion for motion, nuzzling her cheek into hers. "My Shimamu's gonna be the best and nicest teacher ever! And the cutest! And the do her bestest!"

"Okay, you're laying it on thick, Mio," Rin rolls her eyes affectionately, scooting close enough that she can squeeze Uzuki's shoulder. Uzuki's starting to look a little overwhelmed. And nervous giggly. The most nervous giggly teacher ever.

"If you need any help, let us know," Mio says seriously, pulling back from the hug to look up into Uzuki's eyes. Uzuki nods again.

"You don't have to remind me, Mio."

"Dooooon't I?"

"... Okay, a little," Uzuki admits.

Rin's leaning further into the hug, wrapping her arms around both Mio and Uzuki, when she hears the sound of wood on wood, someone fumbling with a latch. At first, she's spooked, until she realizes that wait, they're stuck in a basement.

Wait, they're stuck in a basement.

Rin leaps to her feet, jolting both Uzuki and Mio. "Hey! We're down here!" She calls.

"Never fear, dwellers of the night!" Ranko calls back. "An angel has come to liberate you from your accursed hell!"

"Also Takumi's gonna dropkick the door down and it's gonna be rad," Riina adds.

"It's just the latch! Don't mess up Chieri's nice house! She paid a lot of whatever bitcoins are for it!" Uzuki yelps up at their ragtag group of liberators. There's a chorus of disappointed mumbles, so disappointed that Rin can actually hear them down in the basement, and then the door opens. The light's actually blinding, at first, but Rin blinks through it as she helps Uzuki and Mio to their feet.

The steps are as rickety on the way up as they were on the way down. Takumi grumbles as she leans against the wall, mumbling something to Riina along the lines of 'you called me all the way out here just to not dropkick a door?'

Rin hardly cares though. And Ranko still looks genuinely glad to see them, considering she's running up and clutching Mio's hands.

"There weren't any overwhelming servants of darkness down there, were there? My comrade in the skies."

"Uh, no, no mice," Mio answers back easily. "Oh, hey, did you hear? Shimamu's gonna have that teaching license or degree or whatever in like, four weeks."

"Oh, really? That's great!" Ranko replies back, entire act completely dropped. She gives Uzuki a genuine smile, then pulls a step back, sweeping her arms in. "Come along, soon to be ascended angel! We shall tell the congregation that you are destined to escape from the labyrinth known as secondary education!"

"Uhm, this is Chieri's party?" Uzuki murmurs, suddenly looking very put on the spot. Rin and Mio share a look, and then reach out, pushing her forward by the shoulders.

"Come on, Chierin's gonna be happy for you, too. 'n Ranran is. And Riina probably is. Ain't that right, Riina?"

Riina blinks, tries to catch back up with the conversation, then nods. "Graduation is, uh. Can I still say rock?"

"Ranko's still on her bullshit," Takumi shrugs.

"I am indeed fully immersed in my bullshit!"

"Then yeah, graduation's rock," Riina agrees, to a half-interested but sympathetic nod from Takumi.

Uzuki looks a little mollified. "W, well, not a big production. I'll just tell everyone and have some drinks."

"Sounds like a good time," Rin agrees, giving Uzuki one last push forward. Slowly, she takes Ranko's hand, sheepishly rubbing the back of her neck.

"You two catch up in a second, okay?" Uzuki asks. Mio and Rin nod so immediately that Rin wonders why she even had to ask.

She disappears around the corner, the basement connected to the kitchen connected to the living room, where everyone probably still is. Mio leans back against the wall, a satisfied smile on her face.

"Our little Shimamu's growin' up."

"We literally didn't do a single thing," Rin reminds her. Mio nods.

A moment of silence passes between them. Rin glances over her shoulder, considers rejoining the party already, then blinks.

"Hey, Mio."

"Yep?"

"Draw a face on an egg and call it Yolko Taro."

"Holy shit."