A shock shot through Mako as the doorbell rang. Looking up at the door, she almost swore. She wasn’t expecting anyone this late, it had been dark for a while already and had been snowing for longer. Who could be out in this blizzard? She expected if it was one of the usual crew they would use the communicator, or at least the phone. Mako stood up, and stopped her cassette player as she walked to the front of her apartment. With a quick glance out the peephole, Mako smiled and threw open the door.
“Ami! What are you doing here? Isn’t it a little late for you to be out and about?” Ami had bundled up against the cold and only her eyes showed under her cap and above her scarf. The spitting image of a fluffed-up penguin, Mako thought to herself. Ami shrugged her shoulders before making her excuse.
“I’m all done with my coursework for the holiday, and I figured I’ve spent too much time alone recently. Would you mind if we hung out for a while?” There was no way Mako would turn her away, but she appreciated that it was a question all the same. It was true that Mako had been trying to get Ami out of her shell recently, so she apprecited the honesty too. Moving aside, she motioned for Ami to step inside.
As usual Ami made herself at home. Careful as always, she hung her coat and other things on the hooks near the door. Placing her snow-covered boots in a tray, she transfered to a pair of slippers. She had claimed them as her own from Mako years ago; Mako never said a word so they remained hers. Last but not least, she took her bag and made her way to the living room. Having been to Mako's a million times, she knew where they were likely to spend their time. And with the blizzard outside it was extra clear.
After a moment Ami settled herself under the kotatsu Mako had been under a few moments before. Mako went straight to the kitchen to make some tea, turning the stereo back on as she passed it. She had seen Ami shivering from the cold, and guardian of water or not, the winter wind had cut into her like a knife. Ami sat at the warming table, pulled a book from her bag, and began humming along to the music as she opened it. Seeing this from the kitchen, Mako smiled and shook her head. Ami was never too intrusive as a guest, more than happy to share space with a friend close at hand. As it was, Mako enjoyed their quiet moments together, free from the usual group's wild energy.
After a short time, Mako brought out two cups of tea. She placed one in front of Ami and another on an adjacent side of the kotatsu but not too close. Taking a seat and relishing the heat as she slipped her legs underneath it, Mako smiled at Ami. Her head was in a book already, intent on existing in this space but not taking more than she needed. Sometimes Mako liked to look at her, if only for a moment, and let her heart beat a little faster. It was hard not to, but she hoped Ami didn't notice. Mako doubted she did. With a head full of ambition, Ami was often in her own world anyways. It was for the best, Mako couldn't imagine telling her friend how she felt no matter how hard her soul sang.
Looking away again, Mako took a sip of her tea and sat back to look out the window. Outside everything was dark, only lit by streetlights and the fresh fallen snow. Inside was warm enough, and at least under the blanket it was comfortable. Ami curled up ever further into the warm embrace of the table, and her leg pressed against Mako's. It was small, something that wouldn't usually catch her attention, but Mako felt her heart ache a little more at the touch. The feeling came and went, but it always stayed in the back of her mind.
They sat in silence for a while, Ami with her book and Mako with her music. Taking a sip of tea, Ami replaced her bookmark. She hadn't been reading more than ten or so minutes, but she was already putting the book down. She turned to look out the window too, following Mako's gaze. They stayed there in silence a while longer. It wasn't always this quiet between the two of them, but tonight it felt alright. Mako wished it could be more, but her heart couldn't stand to ruin this moment. As one song changed into another, Ami giggled.
"Hey, isn't this that tape I made for you? I guess you do like it." She said it with a smile and Mako could feel her face get warmer in the cool room. The truth was she listened to it all the time, ever since Ami gave it to her. It was like a little piece of Ami, something special she had made only for her. Mako hadn't even thought about it when she let Ami in, but it was too late now.
"Of course I like it, it sounds like you." Mako pretended that was a normal thing to say, and hoped Ami didn't read into it. Mako took a sip of her tea again so the hot drink would excuse the heat rising to her face, but it wouldn't fool Ami. If she noticed. She didn't seem to, taking a slow sip of her own tea. Ami relished it, and closed her eyes with a happy smile. Mako knew she was staring but didn't care, for a moment.
If Ami noticed she didn't say anything. Without warning she stood up, and walked over to the only lamp in the room. Flicking it off, she returned to the table and turned to look outside again. Ami snuggled up right where she had been, and spoke in a low whisper.
"Now we can see outside better. Only us, the music, and the snow." It was wistful, dreamy. Pale light from outside illuminated Ami's face and Mako found herself staring again. How many times would she stare at her friend before she said something? Forever? She had always told herself she would never say a word, but how could she? Something in the back of her head screamed and for the first time Mako listened.
She leaned over and placed her hand on Ami's, and waited a moment for a response. Ami almost didn't move, but after a second her thumb moved an inch and rested on Mako's. It was all Mako needed. Confidence flaring, Mako leaned towards Ami so their faces were inches apart. Feeling the sudden closeness, Ami turned to face Mako and she took a quick inhale.
Mako took her chance and closed her eyes. Closing the distance, she felt her lips press against Ami's and after a moment her heart caught in her chest. Had she been too forward? Had the signs not been there when she thought they were? Mako could only feel Ami's soft skin against her own.
But the tense moment passed. Ami moved her free hand behind Mako's head, winding delicate fingers in her long brown hair. Pressing back against Mako with gusto, it was obvious Ami didn't want to let go. When they finally pulled apart, there was another tense moment, with a different feeling in it.
"How long?" Ami whispered it, a secret she had to know. Mako could only look with surprise for a moment before responding, breathless.