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Puzzle Pieces

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The crack of the gun sent Miki flying, the adrenaline racing through her veins as her feet raced around the track. The cheers of the crowd sounded muted to her ears, her attention focused solely on pumping her legs just a bit faster, lengthening her strides just a bit more.

Yet no matter how hard she pushed, the other Miki was still ahead of her. Makimura Miki. The Miki she both strived to be and strived to beat.

When they crossed the finish, Miki was still staring at her back.

Makimura set her gaze on the scoreboard, the light dazzling off her hair and a thin sheen of sweat clinging to her bare skin, before she turned with a wide smile. “You beat your personal best, Miko!”

Miki stared wide eyed at her before averting her gaze with a scowl. “Miko.” The nickname that had started as a typo used by a tabloid reporter and had since grown to be something akin to a “stage name” when she was running, a way for her to be differentiated from the more important Miki who shared the same track for practice. She hated it. She hated Makimura. She hated that girl who could act so innocent, congratulating her on her time as if it wasn’t a backhanded way of saying “even at your best, I’m still faster.”

But instead of voicing her frustrations, Miki nodded, letting out a small “Good job today” before she walked towards the bench where she had left her water bottle.

Overhead, the loudspeaker announced that the men’s first heat was about to begin. Miki watched as, rather than returning to her own bench, Makimura made her way to one of the men’s, conversing with a dark haired man who was smiling too wide as he bounced on the balls of his feet, swinging his arms to limber up as he said something in greeting too far away for Miki to hear. If she remembered correctly, he was Fudou Akira. His name had cropped up in a couple interviews Makimura had done, mentioned as an old friend or some such. As the announcer called for the racers to take their places, Fudou took a quick swig from a water bottle, high fived Makimura, then rushed away with a wave. Still not returning to her own bench, Makimura sat down next to a boy in white who was tapping away on a tablet. As Miki watched, she took the water bottle Fudou had drank from and casually took a long draw from it, listening to something the boy said.

Miki got up, hastily grabbing her stuff and pulling her phone from her bag as she strode towards the exit.

[bar on 31st street, meet me in an hour] she texted to Mayuta.

She gave no regard to the swarm of reporters who hounded her as she left, thoughts only on that damned Makimura.

“She pisses me off!” Miki practically yelled, slamming down her pint glass hard enough that a bit sloshed out and onto her hand. “Ugh!” Too-loud bass boosted pop music drummed around her. It was still early, the first scantily clad barely-legals just filing in and glancing around unsure of what they should be doing. One of them shot a nervous look in her direction at her outburst. “‘Miko, Miko, Miko,’ it’s all I fucking hear when I’m at the track nowadays! I get it! She’s better than me in every damn way!”

“Pretty sure you’re better at getting angry,” Mayuta said with a shit-eating grin, chin resting in one hand with a beer in the other across the table from her.

“Oh, shut it.”

“Nah, I’m pretty sure you have everyone beat when it comes to being pissy.” Miki turned to see Wamu approaching from behind, his gang in tow. “Yo,” he said, raising a hand.

“The fuck are you doing here?” she asked shortly.

“Kukun invited us,” he said, plopping down heavily beside her in the booth and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. Gabi and Babo slid in beside Mayuta and Hie pulled over a bar stool.

Pinching Wamu’s hand hard enough that he removed his arm, Miki glared at Mayuta who simply shrugged. “Figured more people would be funner.”

She glared harder for a moment before letting out a huff. “Fine. But in exchange, each of you has to buy me a drink.”


“I broke my personal best, consider it your way of congratulating me.”

“Bro, that’s fucking-”

“I am not spending my hard earned cash on you.”

“What’s the cheapest drink they have here?”

“Dude, can you spot me?”

Miki leaned back, taking a long gulp of her beer with a grin on her face as she watched them bicker. Leaving them to their own devices, she swept her eyes around the dimly lit bar. A few people had moved awkwardly to the dance floor, a couple in the corner was already feeling each other up in a way that wasn’t entirely suitable for a public space, Makimura was handing her ID to the bouncer, the bartender was making some fancy cocktail for a girl wearing way too much makeup and way too little clothing-

Wait. Back up.

Makimura was handing her ID to the bouncer.

“Fuck off,” Miki said to herself.

“Well sorry, I didn’t realize you had such strong feelings about highballs,” Wamu feigned hurt beside her, dramatically pressing a hand to his chest as if physically wounded.

“What? No, I wasn’t listening to whatever you were saying. Makimura’s here.”

All five boys’ heads whipped around as Miki pointed towards the door, Mayuta half standing to see around the others.

“Very discreet,” Miki said, adversely trying to hide herself behind her beer.

“Damn, I didn’t know she was that pretty,” Gabi said.

“That’s your rival, right?” Babo asked.

“Hey, yo!” Wamu yelled, waving his hand above his head to get her attention only for Miki to immediately tackle him back down.

“What are you doing?!”

“Uhhh, inviting her over?”

“Why? No. Do not or I will shove this glass down your throat.”

“Jeez, fine. Get off’a me, will ya?”

She let go, sitting back up and quickly downing the remainder of her beer. “Alright. Alteration to the congratulatory drinks: All of you buy me a shot.”

“You realize shots are way overpriced at these prices,” Mayuta commented, pulling his own beer closer to himself as if to protect it from her. “Can’t we just buy you a two six later?”

“Good idea, you can do that too. Now come on boys, the booze isn’t buying itself. Up.” She pushed Wamu out of the booth, yanking Hie and Gabi up by their collars, and Babo and Mayuta came along of their own discretion once they realized she was serious.

They approached the counter just as Makimura was leaving it, Miki careful to make sure she was out of direct view. She hadn’t noticed before that Fudou and the boy in white were there too, following Makimura to a high table. Makimura was laughing about something. Miki sneered.

“What’s your poison?” asked the bartender, a platinum blonde wearing a dress that plunged so low Miki wondered how her boobs didn’t fall out of the neckline. She had to consciously remind herself not to stare.

“Six shots of vodka,” she practically demanded, pulling a thousand yen note out of her bra. “I’m paying for one, they’re covering the rest,” she indicated with her thumb to the boys behind her who looked less than pleased.

The bartender smiled knowingly at the boys before moving to pull out the requested shot glasses and Miki immediately felt a kinship with her.

She was going to make this a good night, regardless of Makimura.

The blur of lights and sound enveloped Miki lovingly as she moved and twisted along with the other bodies on the dance floor. Off to the side, she could see Mayuta and Gabi surrounded by a small group of swaying bodies that watched their dancing, enthralled. Hie had sat back down, pulling out his phone, while Babo had disappeared with a girl at some point. Wamu had somehow convinced the dj to let him take over and had immediately transformed the music from standard boppy dance songs to something wilder and more untamed; the crowd of drunks loved it.

A pair of hands came to rest on her hips from behind and she turned to see a stranger smirking down at her. Normally she would twist his arm for having the gall to touch her, but beneath the haze of alcohol, well.... He wasn’t bad looking.

Fuck it , she thought wrapping her arms around his neck and moving her hips sensually beneath his grip. He smiled, dancing in time with her. After a few minutes, he slid his hands up slowly, riding her shirt up until he slipped them underneath, cupping her breasts over her bra. Leaning forward, he kissed her heatedly and she was quick to return it in kind.

His lips moved to her neck and she gasped, twisting in his arms so that she was faced away from him again, head lolling back and her eyes closing as she ground her ass against him. His hands slipped beneath her bra and she smiled, eyes opening slightly only to meet a brilliant green that she knew too well.

Makimura was only a few meters from her, paused with her hands still in the air as she watched Miki. Realizing she had been seen, she resumed dancing, turning to face away from the couple that were mid-foreplay on the dancefloor.

“Wanna get out of here?” the man asked in Miki’s ear and she found herself nodding quickly, swallowing down bile.

“Yeah,” she said, eyes not leaving the retreating girl. “Let’s go.”

The morning sun assaulted her eyes when she peeled them open, crust practically holding them shut. Her mouth tasted like alcohol and cum and her stomach churned. When she looked beside her, she saw the man from last night still fast asleep with drool pooling on the pillow from his open mouth.

He had looked better when she was drunk.

Christ, she had never even gotten his name.

Quietly, she slipped from the bed, trying to ignore the pounding of her head as she searched for her clothes. Her shirt was all the way by the front door and somehow her panties had ended up in the shower. At least they were dry.

Borrowing his toothbrush, she gazed at her reflection in disgust as she scrubbed any and all remnants of the previous night from her mouth the way she wished she could with her mind. There were hickies all the way down her neck. Her hair was a mess that she tried to comb through with her fingers with only partial success.

Thankfully, Drunk Miki had had the forethought to leave her phone on the nightstand and she found a string of texts from the gang drunkenly wishing her a good lay, Wamu apparently having seen her little display on the dancefloor and alerting the rest to the fact that she had left to get some. The most recent messages were from her to Mayuta, complaining about the guy being awful in bed. She was suddenly even more glad that she barely remembered it.

To her dismay, she discovered that she had somehow lost her train pass the previous night and, in her desire to lose herself in alcohol, she hadn’t left herself enough money for any sort of ride home. Google laughed in her face as it revealed it would take her just short of a full hour to walk home. With a hangover. Great. Awesome.

Jesus fuck she needed coffee, but she sure as well wasn’t going to loiter around her one night stand’s apartment to get it.

Leaving a “thanks for last night” note would probably be courteous. Instead, she stole his hoodie that smelled the least of BO and walked straight out the door and in the direction of the nearest Starbucks.

Less than ten minutes later, she was walking into the warm shop that smelled of espresso and baked goods and her headache felt slightly more bearable. Slightly. It was early enough that there were few other patrons, only two suit-clad salarymen in line ahead of her before she could attain her sweet, beautiful bean water.

“One tall drip coffee please,” she said once she reached the front, barely giving the cashier time to great her.

“Coming right up. That’ll be ¥320.”

Pulling out her few meager coins, she realized with horror that she was just short. She should have thought to take some money from that guy as well… “Um, better make that a short coffee, sorry.”

“She’ll have a grande,” a voice behind her suddenly said and Miki’s blood ran cold. “Also add on a tall white mocha.”

“Alright. Could I have a name for your drinks?”

“Miki,” the voice that was now beside her said. She refused to look. “For both of them, please.”

Miki really wished she wasn’t in the middle of a walk of shame wearing a stolen hoodie. When she finally had to turn to walk away from the till, she laid eyes on Makimura, who was smiling widely at her and showing exactly zero signs of a hangover.

Great. Makimura was even better than her at getting drunk.

“Thanks for the drink,” she grumbled, glaring at the barista who was somehow too busy making the salarymen’s americanos to pour her a simple drip.

“Don’t mention it,” Makimura said brightly. She was always so bright, always so bursting with radiance that Miki wondered if the sun ever envied her. “I didn’t know you lived around here! I never got a chance to talk to you properly after the race yesterday, or at the bar for that matter.”

Finally her coffee was placed on the counter and Miki grabbed it with such hurry that one would think she would die without it. She nodded, turning to leave with only a mumble of “See you around.”

“Wait!” A hand grasped her wrist that wasn’t directly connected to the cup and, when Miki turned, Makimura’s eyes looked almost pleading. She opened her mouth to say something only to close it a moment later, retracting her hand. “I was just, um. Wondering if you’d like to stay and chat for a bit? Since we’re both here anyway.”

Miki was about to say no, but there was a hint of red dusting Makimura’s cheeks. Really, she was too endearing to turn down, hangover after a one night stand or not. Bitter rival or not. “...Fine. But just because you bought me coffee.”

Makimura smiled again and Miki had to look away. Brighter than the sun. “I’ll go grab us a table.”

She tactically chose the table in the darkest corner, her head still pounding and the light streaming through the windows and that from the lamps overhead only worsening the situation. Sitting, she grasped the paper cup snuggly between her hands, appreciating the warmth. Really, who needed men when coffee existed? She would have to remember that the next time she even considered going home with a guy. Coffee was better than bad sex with a guy who refused to go down on her even after she had managed to stomach sucking him off.

“Sorry for the wait,” Makimura said as she approached the table with her own drink. “Um, you okay? You look like you just ate a bug.”

Miki shook her head, trying to shake out the memories of the previous night. It was the kind of thing that was best forgotten, and quickly. “Fine. Just thinking about something.” She took a hesitant sip of the coffee, relieved to find that it was cool enough to drink. Yeah, coffee was definitely better than men. “What did you want to talk about?”

Makimura looked down at her cup and smiled with… was that nervousness? No, it couldn’t be. Makimura didn’t get nervous. “I was… um. I guess I wanted to congratulate you again on beating your personal best.”

Miki leaned back, folding her arms across her chest. “That’s it?”

“Well, I guess I’ve wanted to get to know you better for a while. We only really talk during meets, y’know? I was thinking it might be nice to... be friends,” she said, raising her gaze to meet Miki’s and again there was that light, though more diluted this time. “Or, at least someone who you’d want to hang out with at the bar.”

Sudden unexpected guilt took hold of her and she found herself looking away. What the hell? She hated Makimura. They were rivals. They weren’t supposed to be friends. “So… What do you propose?” she said, her common sense yelling at her for even humoring this possibility. As if Makimura would ever be friends with her. This had to be some elaborate ruse.

“Well…! There’s, um,” Makimura sounded almost breathless, as if relieved, and something in Miki stirred. She squashed it back down. “Some friends and I were planning to hang out tomorrow at a park near here since we all have the day off work. Well kind of, Ryo is working on writing a… Anyway! If you’re free, maybe you could come...?”

Miki really considered saying no, she really did and she would fight anyone who said otherwise, but when she saw that hopeful look on Makimura’s face, well… “Is it okay if I bring someone along?”

“Of course!” Makimura shot up in her seat, almost knocking over her cup in her excitement. “Here, give me your number. I can text you the details!” Makimura dug in her purse for a moment before extracting her phone, unlocking it and passing it across the table to Miki who took it with a moment’s hesitation.

Once her information was inputted and saved, she passed it back. A few taps later, her own phone pinged with a message.

[Hey!!! O(≧∇≦)O]

She stared at the text for a moment before sending back a simple emoji of a hand throwing a peace sign.

Makimura’s smile grew impossibly wider when her screen lit up with the response, but Miki herself felt a tightening in her chest when she saw that Makimura’s lock screen was a picture of her and Fudou.

“Great!” Makimura said, only to suddenly jolt up as she looked at the phone. “SHOOT. Sorry, I lost track of time, I have to get to work. Thanks for talking to me!” she said, quickly gathering her things and rushing towards the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” she called back.

Miki waved, smiling to herself. Makimura was cute when she was clumsy. With how perfect she always acted at the track, who’d have known?

Her hand froze.

No. Rivals. They were rivals. “Cute” was the last word she should be using to describe her in any context that wasn’t sarcastic.

Chugging the rest of her coffee, Miki crushed the cup in her hands and threw it carelessly into the bin as she left.

The phone on the bed pinged only to be completely ignored, Miki too fixated on staring into her closet. Should she wear her black jeans or blue? Or was it too hot for pants? Maybe shorts would be a better option…

The phone pinged again.

And what about her shirt? She’d gotten a really cute crop top recently, in which case she should probably go with the jeans.

The phone erupted into the loud rap song Wamu had set as her ringtone. Pulling the crop top over her head, she snatched it up. “What?”

“Dude, where are you? We agreed to meet here like ten minutes ago,” Mayuta said in her ear, the sound of an intercom announcing the next train audible in the background.

She glanced at her bedside clock. “Shit. Sorry, lost track of time. I’ll be there in five.”

Crop top and distressed blue jeans it was.

Yanking on a black windbreaker just to be safe, she quickly tied her sneakers and left her apartment at a run. The train station was a fifteen minute walk away for most people, but for a track star? The five minutes she had told Mayuta was generous.

“Four minutes, twenty-two seconds,” Mayuta read out as she screeched to a halt beside him. “You were slow today.”

“Got stuck behind a group of high schoolers,” she huffed, catching her breath.

“What had you so distracted? It’s unusual for you to be late.”

“Couldn’t decide what to wear.”

He looked her up and down, raising his eyebrows that were just visible above his sunglasses. “You look the same as normal.”

“No! The shirt is new!”

“Don’t you have one that looks exactly like it?”

“Not at all, the back on this one is mesh. You just can’t see it because of the jacket.”

Conceding, he shrugged as the train pulled in. “Anyway, what are we even doing? You realize you haven’t given me any information other than telling me to make lunches,” he said as they got on.

“And did you?”

He hiked the strap of his backpack further up his shoulder. “Even organized the food look like spiders. Just like you like it, weirdo.”

“Sick.” She looked away, pretending to be interested in an ad for running shoes as she answered his earlier question. “We’re going to chill in a park with Makimura.”

“Uhhh why? What happened to the whole sworn rivals deal?”

“Still a thing, obviously. I’m acting nice to see if I can figure out what her weaknesses are. ...Also she bought me a coffee.”

Mayuta gazed thoughtfully out the window. “Must’ve been a really good coffee.”

[just got to the park, where u at?]

Sending the text, Miki glanced around once again to see if she could see any signs of Makimura. She hadn’t expected the park to be quite so big. Off to her right was a large pond where a child accompanied by their parents was throwing food into the water to ducks that quickly pecked it up and fought over it and past that was a hill largely obscured by trees, ahead of her was a path cutting through a more shaded area with benches dotting it every few meters, and to her left was a more fielded area where a few couples and small groups were seated on brightly coloured blankets. She had no idea where to start looking.

Her phoned dinged. [Hold on, I see you!]

Despite the bright sun that scorched down on them enough that she had already removed her jacket, now tied around her hips, Miki felt ice freeze her veins. Was it too late to turn around and go back home? Probably, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try.

“Sorry Mayuta, I-”


The ice turned into dry ice at the sound of Makimura’s voice. Maybe she could fake being suddenly ill?

But all thoughts of escape flew from her mind when she turned her head to see Makimura running towards them, one arm extended over her head that featured a backwards snapback, the black and white striped sundress she wore billowing as she ran. And there was that same smile that instantly made the ice melt.

“Hey,” Miki breathed, realizing with confusion that she was smiling. “Sorry we’re late; we missed the train.”

You missed the train,” Mayuta corrected from beside her. “I only missed it ‘cause I was waiting for you.”

Miki gave him a look, but introduced him nonetheless. “This is Ushio Mayuta. He follows me around like a lost puppy sometimes.”

“Nice try but I’m pretty much your best friend,” he jabbed back.

“It’s nice to meet you!” Makimura said, paying no mind to their banter. “I’m-”

“Oh, I know who you are,” Mayuta interrupted. “Trust me, Miki’s told me plenty about the famed Witch of the Track.”

Both girls blushed, Miki shooting him an expression of betrayal while Makimura looked down at her feet in embarrassment.

“Anyway,” Miki said, scratching her head as she turned to look back at the other girl, “Enough standing around; where are you sitting?”

“Oh, right. We got a really good spot under a tree over there,” she pointed towards the hill on the other side of the pond. “C’mon!”

The two followed as she lead them, and as they drew close enough, Miki realized that the darker humanoid shape on the blanket was Fudou. She grimaced automatically. Great. Makimura had brought her boyfriend. She really should have expected such. Next to him sat the boy who was once again dressed in white, glancing down at an equally pale laptop set in front of him. He glanced up as they approached, saying something too quietly for Miki to hear and receiving a loud laugh from Fudou.

She hadn’t spoken a word to either of these boys and she already didn’t like them. It was almost impressive.

“Miko, Ushio-kun, this is Fudou Akira and Asuka Ryo,” Makimura said, indicating the two boys in turn. Fudou raised a hand with a broad smile. Asuka simply nodded. Miki grimaced at the nickname. “Guys, this is Ushio Mayuta-san and-”

“Kuroda Miko-san!” Fudou exclaimed, getting to his feet and taking her hand, shaking it roughly. “I’m glad I finally get the chance to meet you, I’m a big fan!”

Where normally she would be annoyed, Miki found herself staring wide eyed at his earnestness. “Thanks…”

Makimura laughed, taking a seat on the blanket. “He’s been begging me to introduce you to him. He only made it to the national level in track this year, so he’s still a bit starstruck by it all.”

“I see…”

“Ah-” Fudou pulled his hand back, attempting to regain his composure. “Sorry. Sit, sit. Ryo-chan brought us a ton of food!”

“Oh, we brought some as well,” Mayuta said as he sat, opening up his backpack to pull out the small box he had made. “It’s not much, but Miki suggested making something.”

“He’s a shockingly good cook,” Miki backed him up.

Asuka, however, was giving the two of them an odd look. “Miki?” he asked, glancing at Makimura.

Makimura clapped her hands. “Sorry, I should have explained! Miko’s name is actually Miki too! Miko is like a nickname we use at meets!”

Asuka hummed thoughtfully, moving his gaze to meet Miki’s in a way that felt a bit too calculating.

“Nevermind that. Ryo-chan, can we get to the food?” Fudou asked, practically salivating.

“Well, I suppose there’s no reason not to now that everyone’s here,” Asuka said fondly. Closing his laptop, he stowed it away in a backpack from which he then extracted a multi-tiered bento so large Miki was shocked it had even fit. “I wasn’t sure what the two of you liked,” he said to Miki and Mayuta, “so I asked Jenny to make a variety.” Saying this, he set out the different layers on the blanket, each looking even more mouth watering than the last, containing a mixture of Japanese and western foods. The final one, which seemed to consist entirely of meat, he passed to Fudou.

“Wait, why does he get his own?” Mayuta asked.

Fudou swallowed down a mouthful of a turkey leg that he had already started on. “I’m a growing boy!” he explained simply, giving a wide smile.

“The idea that you even can grow anymore is kind of terrifying,” Makimura joked. “What happened to the little boy who would get winded just walking up the hill to school?”

This time Asuka answered for him, ruffling the other boy’s hair. “Puberty.”

“I’m still not convinced he wasn’t replaced by a double.”

“Damn, same with Miki,” Mayuta commented, causing Miki to look up from the food she had also started on. Whoever this Jenny person was, she was a ridiculously good cook. “She was this delicate little thing when I met her, no one would have imagined she’d turn into such an Amazon. Actually, I think I still have pictures on my phone…”

“Don’t you dare!” Miki lunged at him as he pulled his phone from his pocket, quickly resulting in the two wrestling for the device.

“Oh, I wanna see!”

Miki froze for a moment at the sound of Makimura’s voice, giving Mayuta just enough time to find the photo he was looking for and toss the phone to the others.

Makimura caught it effortlessly, Fudou leaning over to get a better look while Asuka looked mostly uninterested. “Aw, you were so cute!” she commented and Miki immediately felt her face heat.

“Not as big of a transformation as Akira’s though,” Asuka added on.

“‘Kay, that’s enough.” Righting herself into a sitting position again, Miki grabbed the phone and looked down at it. The picture was of her standing in front of the snapdragons she had grown in high school, caught as she had been turning with a look of surprise on her face. Out of curiosity, she swiped to find that the next photo was an old selfie of her and Mayuta, both smiling widely. Somehow, it hurt to look at. “Alright, fair’s fair. Let’s see some pictures of Fudou.”

“What- No, we don’t have to-” he protested, but Asuka was already pulling his laptop back out with a devilish smile on his face.

“Here you go.” He turned the computer and there was an entire folder open of old photos, some including himself, others including Makimura, but all of them including Fudou.

“Holy shit, dude.” Miki leaned forward, selecting one dated during the time they would have all been in high school. “Wow, you really were a beanpole.”

“Didn’t I tell you? And then he just suddenly sprouted up in the span of like a week. Coach thought he was doping,” Makimura said, clicking ahead through the pictures until suddenly the boy in them seemed to speedrun through puberty.

“Jesus, you weren’t kidding. That’s kinda freaky, man.”

“Alright, fine! My body did some weird shit, we get the idea!” Fudou crossed his arms, twisting and leaning backwards so that his head landed in Asuka’s lap. Miki blinked in surprise, both at the fact that Asuka apparently found this completely normal and at the fact that Fudou’s lunch had disappeared already. Had he inhaled it when she hadn’t been looking?

“Don’t be embarrassed, hon. You were a cute kid,” Asuka said gently, running a hand through Fudou’s shaggy hair. Fudou’s expression twisted into a goofy smile, and he gazed up at the other boy with a look that could only be described as love.

Oh, they were… Oh. Miki looked between the two boys and Makimura, who was still laughing at Fudou’s reaction.

Miki had assumed the two of them had been dating, but if it was actually Asuka that Fudou was with, then… “So do you have a boyfriend?” Miki asked without thinking, trying to act casual about it the moment she realized the words had left her mouth.

“Huh?” Makimura blinked at her in a surprise, only to then smirk playfully. “Why? Do you have a thing for me, Miko?”

Her face went a deep red. “What?! No, I-”

“Wow Miko, I had no idea,” Mayuta said teasingly, receiving a harsh glare.

“But to answer your question,” Makimura continued, leaning back and smiling at Miki. “No, I’m completely single. You?” She winked and Miki suddenly felt ashamed.

Was she single? Yes, very much so. And had Miki seen her getting down and dirty at a bar only to then be a hungover mess the next day? Also very much so.

“...I’m gonna go take a piss,” she said abruptly, standing and shoving her hands into her pockets as she walked in what she could only assume was the direction of the washrooms.

“Did I say something I shouldn’t have?” she barely heard Makimura ask before she was out of earshot.

Thankfully, the direction she’d chosen turned out to be the right one. As soon as she was in the bathroom, she let out a yell of frustration, punching the side of the end stall hard enough to dent it. A mother who was by the sinks quickly ushered her daughter out, glancing nervously at Miki.

“Do you have a boyfriend,” why the hell had she asked that?! It didn’t matter what Makimura’s answer was, she obviously would end up returning the question. And then that fucking wink. That knowing wink of “at least I’m not having sleeping around.” Makimura was better than Miki in every way and she knew it. Makimura was faster, more popular, more beautiful, more… everything! Everything Miki wanted, everything Miki couldn’t have.

She kicked the stall, putting another dent in it.

She shouldn’t have come. Why did she even think it was a good idea. What reason would Makimura have for inviting her other than to show off how much better she was, to find more reasons why she was superior.

And that fucking picture of her Mayuta had shown the others, that damn picture of when she was in high school, still so weak and unsure of herself. Before she had won her first medal. Before she had gotten her first interview. Before she had gotten out of that damn house where her mother was always yelling at her. Before Mayuta had become the first friend she had had in years. “Cute,” Makimura had said. There was nothing cute about it.

She shouldn’t have come. Shouldn’t have even entertained the idea.

After taking a few deep breaths, willing her nerves to relax, she finally walked back out.

As she drew nearer to the blanket again, she saw Makimura, Fudou, and Mayuta standing, each wearing a baseball glove as a ball flew between them. Makimura paused mid-throw when she noticed the other girl returning. “Miko!” Rushing forward, she tossed the ball to Miki once they were only a few meters apart, Miki catching the light toss easily. “Wanna play?”

She looked down at the ball in her hands for a moment, some part of her considering throwing it as hard as she could, before tossing it back. “Maybe in a bit. Thanks.”

Makimura looked disappointed but gave a nod, and Miki walked over to plunk herself back down on the blanket where Asuka once again had eyes only for his laptop. She gazed at him for a second before turning to watch the other three. Fudou kept throwing the ball too hard, making Mayuta fumble for it. “So what’re you working on?” she asked.

From the corner of her eye, she saw him give her a quick glance before looking back down. “I have a test coming up,” he said simply.

“Hm. So you’re studying?”

“Don’t be foolish, I’m writing the test.”

With perfect timing, the ball hit Mayuta in the stomach. “Wait, what?”

“I work as a professor.”

Miki stared at him, analyzing the sharp angles of his face and the complete lack of wrinkles. Or any blemishes at all, for that matter. Actually, it was kind of creepy now that she looked properly. “ How old are you exactly?”

“Twenty-three, the same as you I believe. I just graduated early.”

“...If you say so.”

As she watched, he leaned over and reached a hand into what she was pretty sure was Fudou’s backpack, extracting a can of beer. “...Want one?” he asked, evidently noticing her eyes fixate on it.

“Fuck, yes please.”

Eagerly taking a second can he offered her, she turned back to where Fudou had started backing up. By the looks of it, he was trying to test how far he could throw. Opening the tab on the can, she hesitated a moment before asking, “So you and Fudou are going out?”

Asuka didn’t look up from his work, but his face softened. “Yes. We’ve been together for a while now.”

Miki hummed, taking a long draw of the beer.

“How long have you had a thing for Miki?”

Sputtering at the sudden question, she choked on the drink. “What-” she coughed, trying to clear her throat, “What are you talking about?!”

“Am I mistaken?”

“Yes, you sure as fuck are! What made you even think that?!”

He was quiet for a moment, fingers pausing on the keyboard. “I suppose it’s just what it looked like to me.”

“Well maybe you need glasses.”

He looked up at her, then over towards where Fudou was once again throwing long, now with Makimura crouching in a starting position from beside him, trying to race the ball. As the ball was shot through the air, she ran, making it only around fifty meters before she slowed, watching in defeat as the ball fell to the ground in front of her. Picking it back up, she turned to walk back to Fudou and noticed she was being watched, smiling widely as she waved. Resting her beer beside her, Miki waved back.

“...I don’t think my eyes are the problem,” Asuka said quietly, and Miki just looked at him in question.

She couldn’t sleep.

Opening her eyes belligerently, she looked at the clock and saw that she had been laying there for a solid four hours. And nothing. All her brain could focus on was Makimura and Asuka’s damn question about her.

She scanned her eyes around her bedroom, running them over the trophies that lined a shelf above her dresser, the articles about herself she had clipped from sporting magazines, and the posters of athletes she had looked up to. One small one, too far away to see in the dark but familiar enough that she didn’t have to, was a mini poster of Makimura taken from an editorial a couple years earlier.

She didn’t “have a thing for her.” Obviously not.

Ridiculous. It was ridiculous.

But now that that seed was planted in her mind, she was having a hard time killing it.

Makimura was her rival, her goal, her… well, her idol, if she was being honest. Idolization wasn’t the same as romantic love, not by any stretch. She just wanted to be on the same track as Makimura, to race against her and feel the victory of beating her, of turning around and seeing her running towards her instead of away. She wanted those beautiful green eyes marred by defeat.

Except, Makimura would probably congratulate her on winning. She wouldn’t be bitter and hateful like Miki, she was too good for that. She would commend Miki, give her a high five. Maybe even a hug.

What would it be like to hug her? Would it be a tight hug? Miki was taller, so would Makimura wrap her arms around underneath hers? Would they fold up around her shoulders, fitting her head neatly into the crook of Miki’s neck? And maybe, just maybe, as she pulled away, would there be something in her eyes asking Miki to lean forward, asking her to press her lips against-

No. No no no, that wasn’t right. Miki would win and then she would rub it in Makimura’s face.

That soft face with it’s round cheeks and it’s pink lips that so often pulled into those dazzling smiles. How nice it would feel to run her own calloused fingers against those cheeks, to be able to feel the pull of the smile. How nice it would feel to let her hand wander down, tracing the lines of her neck, her breasts, her hips. To slip down just a bit lower and feel the warmth of her-

Miki shot up in bed, switching on the light and throwing a hoodie on over her sweats. Barely a minute later, she was out the door and into the darkness of night, accompanied only by her running shoes.

“Kuroda, what are you doing?!”

Miki’s neck snapped up at her coach’s shout, realizing belatedly that she hadn’t been paying attention. The other racers were already nearing the first bend while she was still crouched at the start. Shit . Shit shit shit. She shot off too fast, hoping to catch up but knowing the burst of speed would likely come back to bite her. They were doing endurance training, sprinting was not something she should be doing.

As she reached the group, settling herself nicely near the front and slowing her pace, she heard a “You okay?” from the last person she wanted to see right now. Of course Makimura was there, a piece of prowrap keeping her hair out of those wide green eyes and a smear of sunscreen visible on her bare shoulder.

Miki nearly tripped.

“Fine,” she puffed out, noticing with annoyance that she was indeed more tired than she should be at this point. “‘M fine.”

She pushed herself harder for a few steps, getting ahead of Makimura. No distractions. No thinking about Makimura in any context. She just needed to focus on moving her body.

Rounding the second turn, she spotted Fudou lounging on a bench with Asuka smiling at his side, chatting about something she couldn’t hear until Asuka looked up and unmistakably made eye contact with her.

“How long have you had a thing for Miki?”

Enough was enough.

Slowing her pace to a brisk walk, she stormed off the track and straight in the direction of the bench. Behind her, she could hear the sound of several people calling her name, but she ignored it. “You,” she hissed at Asuka once she was close enough, grabbing his wrist and pulling him to his feet. “Come with me. Now.”

“Wait- What are you-” Fudou started, holding onto Asuka’s other hand only to be shaken off.

“It’s fine, Akira,” he assured, then turning his gaze steadily on Miko. “I’m sure she just wants to talk to me.”

She spat out a bitter laugh. “Of course I just want to talk. What, you seriously think I’m gonna beat up your boyfriend, Fudou? Come on.”

Pulling him into the tunnel that lead to the locker rooms, she checked to make sure no one was around to hear before asking in a hushed tone, “How do I know if I like Makimura?”

“I thought that’s what this might be about,” Asuka said, crossing his arms across his chest and looking back in the direction they had come.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

Clicking his tongue, he set his gaze on her cooly. “I don’t think I can answer that for you.”

“Oh, do not give me that soul searching crap.”

Raising a hand to cover his eyes, he sighed deeply before explaining. “No, I don’t mean- I mean it would be helpful , but- Look. It took me eighteen years of knowing Akira to realize I was in love with him. Does that help explain what I’m saying?”

She gave him an incredulous look. “And yet you’re the one telling me that I’m into someone?”

“Let’s just say I know the signs. Hold on, let me just…” Turning, he started walking back out.

“Are you fucking running away?”

“I’m getting someone who’s better at this,” he shot back, disappearing around the corner.


With a huff, she leaned back against the cold concrete wall and waited until, a minute later, Asuka reappeared with a confused looking Fudou in tow. Reaching her, he presented him like an award. “Here you go.”

She looked back and forth between them, eyebrows furrowed. “I am not having this conversation with him.”

“You asked for advice, he’s the one who has it. Your choice.”

Akira looked no more willing than she. “Could someone explain to me what’s going on?”


“Kuroda has a crush on Miki.”


She wanted to scream. “I do not.”

“Fine,” Asuka leveled. “You think you might have a crush on Miki but you’re so far in the closet that you can’t even see you’re in it.”

“Would you stop making assumptions- Wait, is Fudou crying?” Their bickering was paused as Miki realized with horror that tears were flowing freely down Fudou’s cheeks. How had he even managed to do that so fast? “Dude.”

“Sorry, he does this a lot,” Asuka explained, turning to cup his boyfriend’s cheeks in his hands. “What’s wrong, babe?”

“It’s just…” he sniffed, “Miki’s been alone for so long and she used to tell me how lonely she was…” another sniff, “but she hasn’t recently so I was starting to think she had given up on finding anyone.”

“Wait, how long has it been since she dated anyone?” Miki asked.

Asuka explained, “The only people who’ve approached her since she got popular in track were only after her for the reputation.”

“Wasn’t that when she was fifteen ?”

Fudou nodded.

What the fuck.

“What the fuck ? How could no one have ever seen how amazing she is?” Miki said in exasperation. “She’s so kind and beautiful and talented, what the fuck is wrong with men that they’ve never seen that?”

“Maybe it’s not a man she needs,” Asuka said thoughtfully.

“Oh, fuck off .”

“From what you just said, it sounds like you do in fact like her.”

Fudou nodded again.

“But I- I can’t-” she sputtered, grasping for words. “It doesn’t matter! She doesn’t even like me! She’s always looking down on me!”

The two boys exchanged a look. “Miko-san,” Fudou said, confusion creasing his brow, “Miki admires you. She’s told me herself.”


The mental leaps her mind was making was apparently visible on her face as he continued, “She talks about you all the time; I’ve never heard her say anything negative. She admires how dedicated you are.”

“And how cool you are,” Asuka added.

“And how nice your butt-”

“Okay, stop,” she interrupted them, holding out her hands. It felt like there was a block in her brain as she tried to process this information, refusing to let her think about it in any context of honesty. “Either way, I- I’ve never been with a girl. I don’t even know if I’m into girls...”

Asuka gave her a long look.

“Okay, I’ve- I’ve thought about the possibility. A few times. But not like, not seriously, there’s no way that I- I’m not a- I like boys, I’ve only ever been with boys, I wouldn’t know how to-”

A hand was placed on her shoulder and she looked up from her spiral to see Fudou giving her a serious look. He sniffed. “Look, I know what you’re going through. Don’t feel like you have to rush into anything, but if you decide you want to be with Miki, don’t hold yourself back just because you’re both girls.”

Miki stared open-mouthed at him for a minute before snapping her jaw shut, looking again at Asuka. “I told you I didn’t want soul searching crap.”

“You didn’t tell him that.”

“So what’s your plan?” Fudou asked.

“I don’t know… Maybe I could ask her to hang out or-”

“Guys?” Miki’s body went rigid, her mouth clamping shut around her words at the sound of Makimura’s voice at the entrance to the tunnel. “Is everything alright?” she asked, drawing closer. “Miko, is something wrong? I’ve never seen you walk out of practice like that…”

“I- Um-” She floundered, mouth flapping as she searched for what the say.

“Actually,” Asuka stepped in, “she was asking us if we wanted to go to... Oh what was it again, Kuroda?”

This fucking asshole… she thought, quickly racking her brain for anything she could think of. “My, uh. A couple of my friends do this dumb rap thing together. Mayuta’s a part of it, actually, but- Anyway, they’re having a show next weekend. It’s nothing big, but they’re worried not a lot of people will show up so I thought… maybe I could invite you guys.” Smooth. Okay. That went decently.

“Yes, and Akira and I were apologizing for the fact that we won’t be able to make it,” Asuka continued. “We had already made plans to go see a movie together that night, but maybe you’d still be interested, Miki?”


“Yeah, totally! I don’t think I’ve been to something like that before!”

Well shit.

“Oh. Okay.” She glanced at Asuka, knowing she was wearing an expression of both confusion and surprise, and he returned one of smugness. Asshole. “I’ll… text you the details about it, then.”

“Cool! I’ll look forward to it!” Makimura beamed. “Oh, we better get back though. Your coach looked like he was ready to rip your head off, Miko…”

“Great,” she said flatly. “Guess I should have expected that.”


“Why are you apologizing?” Miki said with a slight smirk of amusement, striding past the other girl and snapping the makeshift headband as she did so. “You’re not the one who got too worked up over shit.”

Makimura gave a nervous giggle, hanging behind as Miki returned back to the sunlight.

Night had already fallen by the time Miki saw Makimura coming out of the train station a good five minutes before their agreed upon time. Silently, she thanked her decision to take an earlier train than was strictly necessary. She hadn’t wanted to make Makimura wait for her again, even if it was only because the girl was early.

When Makimura spotted her, she began to smile only for it to fade, eye’s widening.

Anxiety gripped her chest. Was her skirt catching weirdly? Had something gotten on her shirt? Had a bird crapped on her face without her noticing? “What’s up?” she asked when they were close enough, managing to keep the worry out of her voice.

“Oh, um, nothing sorry,” Makimura said, looking down abashedly. “It’s just that I’ve never seen you with your hair down before…. It looks nice.”

Miki felt herself blush and inwardly cussed herself out for it. “...Thanks. So, the live house is just a little ways from here. It’s a bit hidden, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple  minutes to get to.”

She smiled at her and, for the first time, Miki allowed herself to smile back. “Cool. Lead the way.”

And so she did, walking beside Makimura for a few blocks before directing them down a narrow side street where a neon sign flickered above a nondescript black door. “This looks like the kind of place people get stabbed,” Makimura commented, her voice a mixture of joking and worry as they walked in, the doorman greeting them and requesting their IDs.

“I’ve only seen it happen once,” he said lightly, apparently having heard her, as he handed them back the cards.

Makimura laughed nervously, then asking Miki in a hushed voice as they walked away, “That was a joke, right?”

Miki just shrugged. “Probably.”

The opening act had already begun as the two made their way into the throng of bodies. Around them, some people mingled and some bobbed along to the music, some sat in the small supply of worn leather couches and table seating while many stood. “You want anything?” Miki asked, indicating towards the bar counter that advertised overpriced and likely watered down alcohol.

Seeming to consider it for a moment, Makimura shook her head. “I’m alright for now.”

“...Me too, actually.” When she thought about it, the last two times she had seen this girl outside the track had involved her ingesting some degree of alcohol. Warranted as it may have been in those and this situation, it seemed like it might be worth it to try to do this sober now that she had a better idea of things. “Wanna see if we can find some open- woah!”

Miki stumbled slightly as an arm was thrown around her shoulders, pulling her down slightly due to the other person’s slouched stature. “‘Sup!” Wamu greeted too loudly from too close to her ear.

“Ugh, get off man,” she complained, smiling despite her words. “Shouldn’t you be backstage getting ready or shit?”

He took a deep swig of his beer while still not relinquishing his hold on her. “Nah, being back there was just makin’ me nervous. Plus you can practically smell how many people have boned in there.”


“Exactly. So you want a drink? On me.”

“Nah, we decided to sober this one out until we get the chance to see how much booze we’ll need to stomach your set.”


Rolling her eyes, she finally shook him off, indicating Makimura standing bemused beside her. “I told you I was bringing someone, dude.”

Finally noticing her, Wamu tilted his head quizzically.

“What’s that look for?” Makimura asked with the hint of a laugh.

“Tryna figure out where I’ve seen you before.”

“Dude,” Miki deadpanned. “This is Makimura.”

His eyes went almost comically wide, likely aided by the alcohol swimming through his system, as his mouth formed an O. “Rival girl! Yeah, woah, whatchu doing here with Miki?!”

“I invited her,” Miki repeated.

“Yeah, I got that, but why?”

“Oh, fuck off. I can invite who I want to,” Miki said, noticing nervously that Makimura was looking between them curiously. Oh god, loudly hating this girl in front of her friends for all that time was finally biting her in the ass.

“Alright, fuck. Hey, so you heard our stuff before?” he asked Makimura.

“Not that I know of,” she said, looking to Miki as if she would know the answer. “I have to admit, I don’t really listen to a lot of rap.”

“Well, maybe that’ll change tonight, eh?”

She gave him a smarmy look that Miki found irritatingly attractive. “We’ll see about that.”

“Dang, alright. Church girl’s got at least a bit of attitude.” He winked and Miki rolled her eyes again. “You sure you don’t want that free drink?”

Makimura looked up at Miki who shrugged. “You’re a legal adult. Your choice.”

“...Fine,” Makimura said. “Only because you’re paying.”

“Who says I’m paying?” he said, wrapping an arm around each of their shoulders and steering them towards the bar. “I’m the main act, it’s on the house. Hey!” he called to the bored looking bartender. “Give these lovely ladies anything they want tonight, aight?” The bartender opened her mouth to likely protest, but Wamu followed up with, “If your boss gets on your ass about it, tell them to talk to me, cool?”

After another moment’s hesitation, their order was taken. With a fair amount of self-restraint, Miki asked for a coke.

“Really though,” Wamu continued, “I’m surprised to see the two of you together. I was under the impression that you hated each other.”

Miki just about poured her coke on his head before Makimura spoke up, voice laced with concern. “Of course I don’t hate her.”

“But Miki-”

“Wamu, shouldn’t you really be getting ready?” Miki cut in. “It looks like the openers are finishing up.”

“Oh,” he looked to the stage where the vocalist was prattling off about being glad to be able to perform, slipping in a mention of their next venue. “Shit, you’re right. I’ll see you girls after the show, yeah?”

“Sure thing.”

They watched as he slipped through the crowd, heading in the direction of a door towards the back that presumably lead to the green room, before Makimura turned to Miki. “Did I do something to make you think I hated you?” she asked, genuinely concerned.

A moment too late, Miki let out a forced laugh. “Of course not. Wamu was probably just misunderstanding things. Come on, let’s get closer to the stage.” Ending the conversation as quickly as possible, she grabbed Makimura by the wrist and tried to hide the jolt of exhilaration just that tiny amount of contact caused her as she pulled her forward. Makimura following easily behind.

Damn, she really did have a thing for this girl. How had she ever mistaken this feeling for something negative? Now that she looked at her own actions, aware of the possibility, it was almost painful how obvious it was.

Somehow, she managed to keep the chatter between them to more lighthearted topics during the lull between the bands switching, Makimura taking thoughtful sips of her cider as she let Miki do most of the talking.

When Wamu, Mayuta, and the rest of their group finally came out, it was too a chorus of cheers with enough intensity to surprise Miki. “I wasn’t aware they had gotten so popular,” she commented lightly.

She hadn’t realized their sound had gotten so much better either. Granted, much of her focus over the course of the previous few years had gone into her own career, but hearing them as they made their way through their set, she realized just how much she had been missing about even the people she considered close friends. Oftimes, Mayuta would invite her out to practices or acts but, more and more, she had been rejecting them, choosing instead to spend nights at home. When they were all in high school, she had constantly been with them, considering herself their biggest fan as they often called themselves hers. At what point had that changed?

She looked over at Makimura, bobbing her head in time with the music, a smile on her face and her second drink of the night in hand. Asuka and Fudou had seemed so shocked by her assumption of this girl hating her, and now, only days later, here they were interacting as though they were friends.

Just how much had she closed her eyes to without realizing it?

“Right!” Wamu said into the microphone in a pause between songs. “This next one is to our girl Miki, right down there near the front. We’ve missed seeing you here, asshole!”

Laughing fully, Miki raised her drink in the air as if making a toast, Makimura letting out a whoop beside her, and the band launched into what could’ve only been a freestyle rap about her, picking lightheartedly at her.

She could only laugh more.

When the next song started, Makimura yelled, just loud enough for her to hear her over the music, “I’m glad you have such great friends!”

“Yeah... “ she replied, smiling up at the people she had loved for years. “Me too.”

A few more songs later, the two girls had trickled back to a further corner of the room, deciding to get another round of drinks. This time, Miki decided on something a little less virgin, asking for a beer after deciding she had been good enough for the night.

Leaning against the wall, she noticed Makimura giving her an odd look. “What’s up?”

“Huh? Oh, nothing. My mind was just wandering,” Makimura said quickly, setting her gaze back in the direction of the stage. Miki had almost forgotten about it when the other girl finally said, “I’m sorry for making you think I hated you.”

Pausing with her the lip of her bottle on her mouth, Miki lowered it, keeping her eyes on her hands rather than her companion. She felt more sober than she had in a long time. “...Don’t apologize. It was never anything you did, I was just… I don’t know. I was thinking weird things.”

“Still, I… I guess I knew.”

Now she looked up, seeing that Makimura was still staring at the stage.

“I never did anything because I just… thought I would make it worse, I suppose.”

Miki looked down again, shaking her head. “Honestly, I don’t think I ever really hated you. I just…” Asuka’s words came back to her once again and, this time, she hated them a bit less. “I just didn’t understand my own feelings.”

When she looked up again, Makimura was looking at her again with an odd look, but this time, there was something more intense behind it. Suddenly, this girl in front of her felt incredibly ephemeral. Like a moment of stillness when the sun sets and everything turns a golden pink and, for just a while, the world seems perfect. Like if she looked away, even for just a moment, she would lose something irreplaceable.

Slowly, as if afraid Miki would run away if she did it too fast, Makimura raised one hand to her cheek, the skin cold and slightly damp from the cider bottle. “...Can I try something?” she asked, as softly as she could in the loud thunder of noise around them.

Mind going blank, Miki found she could do nothing but nod.

And then she was leaning down as Makimura leaned up, a hesitant pair of lips finding her own, and her own hand raising to rest on Makimura’s hip, noting with a hint of smugness that the other girl was on her tiptoes.

Makimura pulled away, a “was that okay?” visible in her eyes, and then Miki was leaning down further.

There was no hesitance when they kissed this time, their mouths instead curving together as both found themselves smiling. From the direction of the stage, Miki heard Wamu make a surprised remark, saying something about her that she didn’t care enough to listen to, more intent on pulling this girl in her arms closer.

“We’re gonna head over to Mad Dog for an after party. You in?” Mayuta asked, the combined scents of weed and cigarettes floating around them. With the show done, the boys had found their way back down from the stage, mingling with the dispersing audience members before, as they were now, finding their way out into the refreshing night air.

From around her borrowed joint, Miki looked down at Makimura who gave a tired shrug. “...I think we’re both done for the night,” she said, looking back up. “You guys have extra fun for us.”

“Will do!” Gabi said, already turning and walking away.

“Dude, wrong way,” Wamu stopped him. “You girls have a good night too, aight?” he said with a wink. “It was nice seeing you.”

“You too. I’ll be sure to make the next concert,” Miki promised, fully meaning it.

“Awesome! You too, Other Miki?”

“Yeah! I had a great time!” Makimura smiled brightly up at Miki who found herself looking away, taking a shy drag of the joint before Mayuta snatched it out of her fingers.

“God, leave some for me. Anyway, we’re gonna jet. It was nice seeing you again, Makimura,” Mayuta said, raising a hand in a wave before rushing after Gabi who had already drunkenly stumbled halfway down the block.

Saying equally quick farewells, the others left as well, leaving the two girls to themselves.

“Thank you for inviting me out tonight,” Makimura said, walking at Miki’s side as they found their way towards the train station. “I really enjoyed it.”

Miki hoped the darkness hid her blush. “Don’t mention it.”

A silence passed between them as they entered the island of light that was the small station, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable one. It felt thoughtful, as if a thousand possible futures laid before them and all she had to do was choose.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you at practice,” Makimura said, pausing as she walked towards the gate to her platform, a nervous hand toying at the beanie she wore.

All she had to do was choose. “...Do you want to come to my apartment?” Miki asked before she could stop herself.

Makimura looked at her in surprise, her cheeks colouring.

“I don’t mean to like… We don’t have to… I just,” she took a deep breath, “I don’t wanna say goodbye just yet. I guess.”

Turning her eyes down abashedly, she gave a shallow nod. “Alright.”

The train ride passed in mostly silence. It was late enough in the night that few others were still wandering and those who were passed in quiet, save for a small group of drunken businessmen who laughed boisterously from the other end of the train car. Two stops away from their destination, Miki hesitantly took Makimura’s hand in her own, the gesture accepted without question.

“Wait,” Miki said suddenly, her key about to turn in the lock to her apartment. “Can you close your eyes for like, two minutes? I just remembered how gross my place looks right now.”

Makimura laughed but did as she was told, Miki dashing in and scooping up the wide collection of dirty laundry that had gathered on her floor all the way from the living room to the bedroom, threw out the pile of energy bar wrappers that had manifested in her kitchen, flung the blanket on the bed into something that vaguely resembled being made, and, after a moment’s deliberation, took down and hid the poster of Makimura.

“Okay,” she said, slightly winded, as she returned to the door where Makimura was still waiting patiently with her eyes closed.

“Can I open my eyes?” she asked teasingly.

“Yes, you can open your eyes. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Some hot milk would be nice,” Makimura said, glancing around curiously as she properly entered the apartment.

Miki nodded. She was fairly sure she still had some milk left…

When she turned back around from popping a cup in the microwave, she found Makimura gazing at a shelf covered in photos and trinkets she had collected over the years. Polaroids of her and the boys, small presents they had given her, random interesting things she had simply found on the ground… Makimura picked up a pair of yellow sunglasses, turning them curiously for a moment before putting them on.

Miki found herself laughing again. When had she last laughed this much?

“Do they not look good on me?” Makimura joked.

“No, they actually suit you,” she said, sidling up so that she was standing next to the girl. “Mayuta gave me those when we first met. This was from Wamu for my twentieth birthday,” she said, pointing to a wonky eyed figure of an anime character she still couldn’t identify, “and this one was a celebratory ‘crown’ the boys made me the first time I won a race at the national level,” she indicated a circlet made from an old bike tire and bottle caps. “It got stuck in my hair when they insisted I put it on.”

Makimura laughed. “...I’m glad you have such good friends.”

“Seems like you’ve got some good ones yourself,” Miki responded, thinking of Asuka and Fudou as she walked back to where the microwave was beeping.

Before she could turn back around, a pair of arms found their way around her waist. “...Thank you,” Makimura said against her back, just loud enough to be heard.

Miki was still for a moment, hand still paused in the process of taking the cup from the microwave. “What for?”

Makimura’s only reply was silence, but somehow that was the only answer that was needed. Carefully, as if Makimura would disappear like a soap bubble if jostled, Miki turned around in her arms to return the embrace.

They stood like that, a conversation without words, for an immeasurable amount of time until Miki finally whispered, “It’s late. We should get some sleep.”

The embrace was finally let go, but the warmth from it remained.

Some time in the night, Miki opened her eyes to darkness to find another body entwined with her own. Her legs were curled in the curves of another pair, an arm resting across her chest as warm, steady breaths brushed against her neck.

The sounds of passing cars below and the gentle sigh of the girl holding her lulled her easily back to a land only ever so slightly more dreamlike than reality.

The crack of the gun sent Miki flying, the adrenaline racing through her veins as her feet raced around the track. The cheers of the crowds rushed through her, powering her to more her legs a bit faster, to push herself as far as she could go.

And when she looked ahead of her, there was Makimura Miki. The girl she had loved for longer than she could say. The girl who, by some miracle, loved her back.

And when Makimura crossed the finish line, slowing to a jog to look up at her time, Miki kept running, calling her girlfriend’s name with just enough warning that the girl had time to turn and catch her in her arms, the momentum leading them into a spin accompanied by their conjoined laughter.

“You beat the national record, Miki!” she said, beaming up at the scoreboard with wonder. Makimura Miki in first, Kuroda Miki only seconds behind.

Her goal. Her rival. The person who always pushed her to continue to surpass her limits. The person who helped to bring her back down to earth when the pressures became to high.

The person who dazzled her brighter than the sun.

Her Miki.