Checking the hang of her skirt one more time, Lucia frowned at the mirror; it seemed a bit off that her own usual taste in clothing should be more modest than an official school uniform, but she had seen skirts even shorter on other high school girls so this was well within the range of normal. Still, it was strange to be wearing such a thing herself.
Lucia would never be more ready than she was now, so she left the mirror behind and went out to the living room for the final inspection. Sumire walked around her slowly, making soft little 'hmmm' noises but not saying anything, until finally she came back around to face Lucia and sighed dramatically. "It's not fair, you know. Everything looks good on you."
Smiling, Lucia shook her head. "I think it suits you so much better than it does me." And it did--Sumire looked entirely at home in her new uniform, while Lucia still felt a bit like an imposter wearing hers. The entrance exams had been no great difficulty--she had no complaints of the education Nahashi had given her--but just interacting with Sumire's friends was poor practice for attending school. Still. These two years were her last chance at that "normal" life her eye had so long denied her, her last chance to share this part of life with Sumire. Some discomfort was a fair price to pay.
Sumire, meanwhile, was twisting to look down at herself, her expression pensive. "Do you think so? It's not so different from my old uniform, but it feels totally different, just knowing it's a high school uniform."
Lucia leaned in to straighten Sumire's collar just a bit. "It looks great." The differences from Sumire's junior high uniform really were fairly subtle--a different cut on the jacket, a v-neck top instead of the round-collared one she'd worn before--but it looked perfect on her, as far as Lucia was concerned. Temptingly so. But being late on the first day would only make things even harder, so Lucia restrained herself.
"You aren't bringing any cigarettes, right?" Sumire's expression shifted into a worried frown for a moment, and Lucia shook her head.
"I promised, didn't I?" It was a lot harder to quit completely than Sumire seemed to realise, and times of stress brought back the urge more than anything else. But Lucia did know that, aside from their other downfalls, cigarettes would mark her as a delinquent in the eyes of the school. So, however much she wanted to smoke to ease the tension of her first day, her cigarettes and even her lighter were locked away in the same drawer as her guns and her knife.
Sumire looked a little abashed, saying, "You're right, you did. I just want things to go well."
Lucia couldn't promise that they would--she was transferring into a school where most everyone else had been together since junior high, she was foreign in looks for all that she'd been raised in Japan, and she had little experience dealing with more than a few people at a time. She was going to stand out no matter what she did, but she'd prepared as well as she thought was possible. "We'll be late if we don't leave soon."
"Oh! Oh, no, you're right!" Sumire was halfway up the stairs in what seemed like an instant, before Lucia could say another word.
Nahashi was in the shop, getting it ready for the day. Lola and Layla would handle any actual customers who came by, and Nahashi would keep everything running smoothly. It was hard to leave the shop entirely in other hands, but she trusted them all and in her more rational moments she knew everything would be fine. Nahashi smiled down at them and brought out two cloth-wrapped boxes. "I made you both lunch and, just this once, there's a bit of breakfast to go in there as well."
Physical displays of affection were still a new thing for Lucia and they made Nahashi a bit uncomfortable as well, so Lucia gave him only a very quick kiss on the cheek as she took her bento. "Thank you. We'll be sure to be more organised tomorrow, so we can sit down for a proper breakfast." The warm smile Nahashi gave Lucia in return was more than enough proof that he returned her love in equal measure.
Then Sumire all but dragged Lucia out the door, shouting her enthusiastic thanks to Nahashi over her shoulder on the way out.
A bit of breakfast turned out to be a croissant, fresh and flaky and filled with chocolate. Lucia suspected Lola or Layla or both had something to do with that, their way of sending Lucia and Sumire off without having to get up early to do it.
The rest of the morning, sadly, did not live up to the promise of warm pain au chocolat. The entrance ceremony yesterday was crowded and boring, but required very little of Lucia except sitting, standing or bowing when everyone else did. Today was a real day of classes. The coursework itself was straightforward enough, though Lucia had to all but literally bite her tongue at times to keep from asking questions out of turn or raising points of discussion--the teachers at school were not Nahashi, and they were not here to cater to her alone. But at every break, she was swarmed with curious students wanting to know where she was born (she told them), what it had been like living in a foreign country (she'd been too young to remember), and exclaiming over her looks, her hair, and especially her eyes. It was, just as she'd feared, like meeting Sumire's friends five times over. They didn't seem to mean any harm, but she felt like a zoo animal.
Lunchtime meant dodging several requests that she join this group or that, and she hoped that she'd made her excuses without offending anyone too badly (and what a thing to be worrying about!) with her hasty retreat. By the time she made her way up to the roof Sumire had already claimed a spot and was waiting for her. There were other people scattered around, some small groups and a few lone individuals, but the open sky and the view through the railings made the space feel bigger and emptier, and that was all to the good.
Sumire smiled, when she saw Lucia, and smoothed Lucia's hair a bit when she sat down. "Did you have to shoot your way out?"
"I didn't have my gun," she reminded Sumire wryly, though the mental image made her smile, a little of the tension leaving her body. She'd been through infinitely worse than this--they both had--and it was good to remember that any situation she didn't need her gun for was already far ahead of what her life had been like a year ago.
Laughing and bumping Lucia's shoulder with her own, Sumire asked, "Can we dig into these bento now? They look amazing. I didn't know Nahashi could cook like this."
Lucia nodded, her smile turning wistful. "He used to do all the cooking when I was a child. It was that or subsist entirely on takeout, and that just wouldn't do. I guess I took over gradually, as I got older. Until you and Lola came." She'd had plenty of food cooked by other hands in the last year, but it felt like a terribly long time since she'd eaten Nahashi's cooking. It was just as good as she remembered.
"Oh, this is great!" Sumire looked like she was about to cry with joy. "There's nothing like a home-cooked lunch."
"There really isn't, is there?" Lucia picked up a sausage octopus with her chopsticks, trying to imagine serious, gentlemanly Nahashi making such a silly thing, just to make her smile.
Lunch was over all too quickly, but Lucia found that the short time with Sumire recharged her enough to make it through afternoon classes. By the end of the day she began to feel a little steadier, though it helped that the first burst of curiosity from her classmates was over and done. They still tried to get her to join their cliques, or their clubs, but she very truthfully explained that she had work after school. If even half of her female classmates were to be believed, Venus Vanguard would see a major uptick in clients in the next few days... though how many of them could actually afford to buy anything was another matter. Still, if the store was to survive as purely a clothing and jewellery store, word of mouth was going to be important.
Sumire was waiting for her at the gate, and the walk home together was filled with Sumire's quiet voice. Her day had been as eventful as Lucia's, apparently, even though she knew most of her classmates already. Though with those friends of hers, it wasn't surprising she got pulled in a dozen different directions at once. At least they'd all had clubs or other activities to go to after school, leaving the walk home for Sumire and Lucia alone.
As soon as they walked into Venus Vanguard they were greeted enthusiastically by Lola, Layla's and Nahashi's quieter greetings almost lost under her cheerfulness. But Lucia barely heard her, because another thing that had happened as soon as the door closed behind them was Sumire brushing her fingertips over Lucia's palm before twining their fingers together. Lucia gave Sumire's hand a squeeze in return, and smiled absently at the others. "We'll tell you all about our days as soon as we've changed clothes."
Lola's boisterous questions trailed off into a wicked smile and a significant look at their clasped hands "Oh ho. Well, take your time. Changing." Lucia felt the blood rush to her face, and she choked out a garbled attempt at a retort. Nahashi coughed delicately and looked away, uncomfortable but too much the gentleman to say anything. Sumire was blushing, too, and she practically dragged Lucia down the stairs in her hurry to get out from under prying eyes.
Even once they were in their own room, with the door locked firmly behind them, Lucia's cheeks still felt uncomfortably warm, and Sumire was doing that flustered thing where she seemed like she might bolt, or maybe faint, any second. "Did you know they knew?"
Lucia sat down on their bed, pulling Sumire with her. "I assumed Nahashi did. But Lola caught me off guard." That last came out a little defensive and Lucia knew it, but she'd hoped that she would do better than that at handling this situation. "I guess I thought she was too young."
Sumire shook her head and leaned against Lucia. "Apparently not." She was quiet for a moment, then added sheepishly, "Nene knows."
Of course she did. That woman had protective instincts like a mama bear. "I'm amazed she hasn't threatened to murder me if I hurt you."
Sumire laughed nervously and scratched the side of her nose. "I'm not sure how much longer I can hold her off, actually."
"Well, that's fine, then. I can handle her." Probably. Maybe. "And the rest of your friends?"
"Mika includes you in her wild assumptions every now and then, but she goes in cycles. I have no idea if she really believes half of what she says." Sumire was starting to calm down and find the humour in the situation, thankfully. Lucia was a little surprised, though, to find that she was, too. She probably wouldn't feel the same way when they had to go back upstairs and face Nahashi and Lola again, but for now the smell of Sumire's hair and the touch of her skin was providing ample motivation to get over the embarrassment.
Lucia brought Sumire's hand to her lips and kissed the back of it. "She did tell us to take our time."
Blushing again, this time just the light flush over her cheekbones that spoke of eagerness rather than shame, Sumire smiled at Lucia and leaned in for a kiss.
There was definitely one thing to be said for these short skirts Sumire loved so much, in or out of uniform--it was no work at all to slip a hand up under it and hook a finger into the waistband of Sumire's panties; Sumire laid back to make it easier for Lucia to pull them down and off. Lucia sat back on her heels, looking down at Sumire, and felt a sneaky little blush creeping back to her cheeks as well. "I feel like a perverted old man saying this, but maybe we leave the uniforms on?"
Sumire covered her face with her hands and made an embarrassed little squeak, but she nodded. Lucia didn't need any more encouragement than that. She slid down Sumire's body, hands and lips finding that little gap between the top of the long stockings and the bottom edge of that tiny little skirt. Kissing her way along the inside of Sumire's thigh, she pushed the skirt up just enough to go to work. Every little sound, every little arch of the back, every little curl of the toes that she won from Sumire made her heart stutter and spurred her on. When Sumire was done, shivering and spent, Lucia curled up against her and kissed her neck softly.
Once Sumire recovered she repaid the attention twice over, and Lucia wondered once again at how her life had become so full of joy in such a short time. If meeting Sumire--Key to her Gate--was her destiny, then it was worth all the pain and suffering that had come before.
For a while they just lay together, Sumire wrapped in Lucia's arms. The rest of their little family could wait for them a bit longer.