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Hello, Happy World!’s meeting had devolved into a fun party, which was the least surprising thing that could have happened. Normally, Misaki would have said something by this point, but she had showed up to the meeting with a pale face and half-open eyes, interrupting practically everything Kokoro said with loud and lengthy coughing fits, and Kaoru noted that she appeared to be the unfortunate combination of tired and sick.

Her illness didn’t seem to bother Kanon, though. As Kokoro and Hagumi doodled on the whiteboard, laughing together and holding hands, Kanon had moved her chair closer to Misaki’s, trying to comfort her.

“Have you taken any medicine, Misaki-chan?”

Misaki groaned as she shook her head. “Didn’t have time. I was already running way late this morning, so... I kind of just grabbed my stuff and ran. And then I had to come straight here...”

“Oh, no! Um, I’d give you something if I had it... wait, I think I have some painkillers in here.” Kanon started going through her backpack. “You mentioned you had a headache earlier, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. The light’s kind of making it worse, I think. Maybe I just need to sleep, though.”

“Still, it might help.” Kanon handed Misaki the small bottle, sliding her water a bit closer to her. “Sorry if I’m being overbearing. I just, um... it’s my job to worry about you, you know? I’m your senior, and you’re one of my best friends.” A small blush appeared on Kanon’s face as she apologized. Misaki smiled up at her, albeit a bit weakly.

“Hey, don’t apologize for that. I really, uh, you know... it’s cool when you take care of me like that.” The first part of her sentence sounded sweet and genuine, trailing off into embarrassment by the end. She took a large sip of her water, shoving the small white pill in with it. “Not to be weird, I just think you’re pretty great.”

“It’s embarrassing when you say it like that.” Still, Kanon smiled. “Sleep well tonight, okay? I’ll help with your homework so you can go to bed at a decent hour.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Kaoru found herself accidentally listening in on them, and as she did, she realized she shared much the same sentiment with Chisato. Chisato, who she had been in love with since she was a child—who she had recently started dating, albeit in secret, but who she knew she cared for deeply in a way that was much different than simple friendship.

“I’m just glad I’m helping. Still, you help me too, don’t you? I couldn’t handle all of this without you.”

“Hey, now you’re making me blush. I just-“

Misaki’s sentence was interrupted by another terrible coughing fit. She reached for the tissues, suffering.

“-just, uh, really like having you around,” she said with her strained, congested voice.

“You shouldn’t be talking,” Kanon said. “I mean... I’m really happy you feel that way! But you also sound like you’re dying.”

“I feel like I’m dying.”

Kanon rested a hand on Misaki’s shoulder, patting her gently. “You probably need rest. I’ll let Kokoro know we’re leaving.”

“Both of us?”

“Oh! Um, I was thinking I could walk you home, if that’s okay?”

Even Kaoru knew that Kanon had no sense of direction, but it was a sweet offer regardless.

“Sure. Thanks, Kanon-san.”

Kanon walked over to Kokoro to let her know she was bringing Misaki home to get her homework done—which didn’t quite seem like a lie—and Kaoru began thinking.

Some of those words and sentiments had practically come straight out of Kaoru’s thoughts about and conversations with Chisato. She had suspected that Misaki and Kanon harbored some sort of feelings for each other for a long time—since the band first formed, in fact, as anyone could tell from her dramatic act as the Phantom Thief—but even after that, Kaoru had never really conceptualized their words in that way, and simply taken them as they came.

But this seemed different. Kaoru had realized that if she left them to their own devices, all they would do is burn and pine and perish as they danced around the subject, not making a single bit of progress on their relationship. This wasn’t ideal, of course—Misaki and Kanon were her friends, and she wanted them to be happy. At the same time, there wasn’t much to do about it...

Misaki and Kanon left the room, Misaki sniffling on the way out, and Kaoru continued thinking.

More information seemed to be the key. Chisato was Kanon’s friend, and often talked about their café exploits, so perhaps Kanon had talked to her about Misaki. She almost certainly had, even.

The next time they had free time together, Kaoru was sure that she would bring the topic up briefly, just to see what Chisato thought about it all—and perhaps to seek her help for any somewhat related elaborate stunt she might end up pulling in their favor.

Kaoru didn’t know how it would go. Maybe Chisato didn’t have any ideas at all, but one thing was for sure: at some point in the near future, those two would get together, and she was going to become their greatest wingman.

Chapter Text

Kaoru smiled bashfully as Chisato snuggled into her side. This was what they loved about being alone together—sitting on Kaoru’s couch, holding onto each other for dear life under a soft blanket. They had been, at one point, watching a movie, but it was all but ignored at this point as they turned the volume down to simply exist together.

“I love you,” Kaoru murmured, putting an arm around her girlfriend. “I’m so glad we found each other again.”

“I love you too. I’ve wanted to be with you since we were kids,” Chisato said. The slight vibration of her voice tickled Kaoru’s side.

“Have you ever thought about telling your bandmates?” Kaoru asked. “I know Kanon is already well aware, but I think that Hello, Happy World! and Pastel Palettes both deserve to know.”

“As you said, I told Kanon. That’s enough for now,” Chisato said, before sighing somewhat regretfully. “She keeps telling me about Misaki, and I hoped that letting her know about the two of us would help her gain confidence.” Chisato giggled softly. “I suppose it didn’t help.”

“Ah, so you see it, too?” Kaoru questioned.

“Of course. Kanon simply doesn’t understand that she could just up and say it.” Chisato sighed, readjusting her position to lie more comfortably on Kaoru. “I can’t force her, though. All that would do is humiliate her.”

Kaoru nodded. “Misaki is the very same. She always speaks of how Kanon inspires her, Kanon allows her to stay in the band, Kanon makes her happy and always wants to make things smooth sailing for her... and yet, she hasn’t said a word. Why, even during our meeting yesterday, they were smiling and blushing together despite Misaki’s illness... I try not to force their relationship, but it gets irritating, doesn’t it?”

Chisato nodded. “Well, perhaps we can still help. Even if we aren’t exactly shoving them into each other’s arms, a small push may be good for them. Tell me, Kaoru, have you tried?”

“Of course. Since the very beginning. When Kokoro put us on the cruise of a lifetime, I became the handsome phantom thief and created challenges for all of them. In those challenges, Misaki was to confess her love for the princess Kanon to save her from the thief’s clutches... and yet, it failed.” Kaoru shook her head. “How does one even get more clear than that?”

Chisato smiled up at Kaoru, her gaze challenging her. “Perhaps you’re not the matchmaker I thought you were.”

Kaoru looked down with some surprise, before her face shifted to a similar challenge. “Is that so? I promise you, I can help them, just as I helped us.”

Chisato reached up to rest her hand on Kaoru’s cheek. “You’re such a fool,” she said, her tone filled with joy. “I love you, no matter how poor of a matchmaker you are.”

Kaoru moved her hands to touch Chisato’s waist. “I love you, too, despite how you are so often mean to me.” Her tone was clearly joking, and Chisato lifted herself up from the couch to kiss her.

Their lips met, and Chisato was soft and warm and it felt like Kaoru’s home was here at last, that she belonged in Chisato’s arms. Every kiss they shared felt like that, and they truly couldn’t be happier even as their lips parted.

“You are angelic,” Kaoru told her, her voice heavy and her knees weak.

“Kao-chan, why don’t we team up?” Chisato asked, mind still airy from their kiss. “If we can coax Misaki and Kanon together, they could be much happier than if they continue being unwilling to just confess to each other. All it will take is a push.”

Kaoru smiled. “I think that, with your help, I could proceed. But maybe we could recruit a few others... we don’t need to tell them about us, of course, but I believe Kokoro and Hagumi could make wonderful allies to our cause.”

Chisato giggled. “Our ‘cause’?”

Flushing red, Kaoru responded with “You know what I mean!”, and Chisato laughed even more.

“Kokoro and Hagumi, hm...? I see. Perhaps Rimi could help, too. She and Misaki happen to be close friends. And if we’re asking her, then Arisa might be willing to join us.”

“Marvelous. It should be easy to convince them, especially since I’m sure Misaki has been far from subtle.” Kaoru laughed. “Perhaps Himari could help as well? She may not be as close to either of them, but I know her well enough to know she is absolutely in love with love.”

Chisato nodded. “No objections here. Might I ask that you seek them out?”

“You most certainly might. I know your schedule is busier than mine, my love. But for now, let’s not worry about it.” Kaoru leaned down to give Chisato another kiss—this one quick and chaste. “I’d like to focus on you today.”

Chisato giggled. “Is that so?”

She readjusted herself to lean on Kaoru once more, avoiding the awkwardness of the we-just-kissed pose, and turned up the volume of the movie. Talking was wonderful, but even now, Chisato enjoyed simply existing with her girlfriend.

And if their plan succeeded, they could give that perfect feeling to Misaki and Kanon. All they had to do was find some allies to their cause.

Chapter Text

The next day, as Kaoru was at school, she made a special commitment to stopping outside of Himari’s classroom door at the beginning of lunch. She felt somewhat bad about using her charms to convince Himari, but she likely would have joined even if it had been Chisato asking her.

So when Himari walked out, chatting with her bandmates excitedly, and noticed Kaoru standing there and posing dramatically—well, her mood perked up even more.

“Oh! Kaoru-senpai!” She stood at attention, smiling at her. Moca snickered from behind her.

“Ah, my little kitten... would it trouble you to chat with me briefly, in private? It will only take a moment.”

Himari nodded like a bobblehead in a hurricane. “No, no trouble at all!” She turned back to her bandmates with an apologetic smile. “Sorry, sorry! I’ll meet up with you guys!”

She followed Kaoru, skipping to a hallway that was reasonably quiet. “So, what is it?” she asked, almost too enthusiastically.

“Himari, I consider myself... a sentimental woman,” Kaoru stated, mostly for the pure drama of it all. “I suppose you might be acquainted with my bandmates, Misaki and Kanon.”

Himari put a finger to her chin in slight confusion. “...yes? Misaki-chan and I have had matches together! Kanon-san and I don’t talk as much, but she always seems sweet! But, um, what’s the problem here?” She seemed to really want to help Kaoru out. How sweet of her, Kaoru noted.

“They have been having trouble in the department of love,” Kaoru said. “If you speak to either of them regularly, you would notice their pure infatuation for the other... nay, more than infatuation. They are in love of the truest form, something I know well for I am quite well acquainted with it. And they are also... for lack of a better phrase, awful at it.”

Sympathy spread through Himari’s face. “So they’re in love without even realizing it... that must be hard! Imagine the love story that could be, if only... hey, wait, why are you talking to me about this?”

“Simple,” Kaoru announced. “You are a lover as well, are you not? Someone with passionate, undeclared love. I could use a perspective such as yours.”

Himari froze. How could Kaoru even know about that? “Passionate... undeclared, love?”

“Of course. Do not think I’ve failed to notice you and Rimi-chan holding hands and holding each other like you’ll never see each other again.” Kaoru spoke like this was a simple observation, and Himari decided not to let her know that this was mostly something that they did in Kaoru’s presence—it was an opportunity to work more closely with her, after all. “I plan to ask Rimi’s aid as well, so if you would like a taste of my masterful matchmaking skills, simply ask.” Kaoru winked, and Himari was momentarily blinded.

“Of course! But, um, you never explained what exactly I’d be helping Kanon-san and Misaki-chan with...?”

“Sweet, romantic scenarios. We shall create a world in which they can more freely love each other, to give them the happiness they so richly deserve... it was Chii-chan’s idea, and of course, I will help her with it.”

Himari still looked vaguely confused, both at the plan and at Kaoru’s choice of nickname for Chisato. “You mean, we’re setting them up?”

“Precisely. I knew you were a smart little kitten. So, shall I add you to the group chat?”

Himari nodded. “Yes, definitely! I think I have to go now, but... thank you, Kaoru-senpai!”

“Any time, Himari-chan.”

Himari rushed back to Afterglow, checking her phone on the way. She covered her mouth to muffle her squeal upon realizing it was just her, Kaoru, and Chisato.

Next, Kaoru needed to talk to Kokoro and Hagumi. Messaging the Hello, Happy group chat would certainly draw Kanon and Misaki’s attention, so Kaoru simply created a new one for the three of them. She told the two of them to meet her at Haneoka after school, that she would be waiting.

And she certainly was, as Kokoro arrived backflipping and Hagumi arrived sprinting at roughly the same time.

“Kaoru! What’s up?” Kokoro asked, beaming from ear to ear.

“Now, little kittens... can you name one thing better than a smile?”

Hagumi frowned. “How are we supposed to do that? I don’t think anything’s better than making people happy!”

Kokoro shook her head, resting a hand on her girlfriend’s shoulder. “No, no! I think Kaoru means two smiles! Even three!”

Hagumi gasped. “Oh! Kokoron’s so smart!”

Kokoro found herself blushing, smiling even wider. “Haha, thanks! But Kaoru, what did you mean?”

“Well, I’m afraid this particular plan will stop at two smiles. But, ah, our dear bandmates, Kanon and Misaki... are in love.”

“They are?”

“They are! ‘Cause Kaoru said it, and Kaoru’s smart!”

“Ohh! Hagumi, you’re so smart!”

Kaoru raised a hand. “Now, now. I understand you both may not have noticed the signs, but I believe they would be very happy together. In fact, Himari-chan, Chisato, and myself have established a plan...”

Kaoru continued explaining to her bandmates as if she was a mother bird feeding them worm chunks, and the two devoured the explanation eagerly.

“And, for you to join me—nay, join us—would be quite... effervescent.”

Kokoro’s eyes sparkled and Hagumi’s eyes shone as they stared up at their much taller bandmate.

“This is how I pay Misaki back! Remember when I called her and she said ‘Kokoro go back to bed it’s midnight’ but then I told her that I was dating you? She sounded like she was smiling even though she yelled at me for calling her at midnight!” Kokoro grinned brightly as she talked excitedly. “She was so happy! I need to make her and Kanon smile, too!”

“Kokoron, that’s so cute!” Hagumi grinned as well, shining brighter than the sun. “but ...what’s effervescent?”

“It’s gotta mean good! Kaoru just uses big words because they make her feel better, and she’s smart so she knows them!”

“Oh! You’re smart too, Kokoron!”

“Yay, yay! Let’s join Kaoru’s team!”

And so, the two fools were added to the group chat. The title was simply a penguin and a blossom, reflecting the meaning of Misaki’s name, but Kokoro was displeased with the title-less group chat.

[Kokoro 5:30 P.M.] lets be spies!!!(≧∇≦)
[Hagumi 5:31 P.M.] :o !!! yes! spies! how???
[Kokoro 5:31 P.M.] secret code name!!!!!!
[Hagumi 5:32 P.M.] yes yes yes! for this?
[Kokoro 5:33 P.M.] absolutely! a secret spy name for our project so we can be super cool secret spies!
[Chisato 5:36 P.M.] Please don’t go too far with this.
[Kokoro 5:36 P.M.] chisato! you’re smart! help!
[Chisato 5:38 P.M.] What
[Kokoro 5:39 P.M.] help us with a name please!!! something cool! like project... project project!
[Chisato 5:45 P.M.] I’m afraid I can’t help much with that.
[Kokoro 5:45 P.M.] please
[Hagumi 5:46 P.M.] please?
[Kokoro 5:46 P.M.] please??
[Hagumi 5:46 P.M.] please???
[Kokoro 5:46 P.M.] please???
[Hagumi 5:46 P.M.] please????
[Kokoro 5:47 P.M.] please????
[Hagumi 5:47 P.M.] please?????
[Chisato 5:47 P.M.] Why don’t you just use their initials?
[Hagumi 5:48 P.M.] :o !!! lets do it in english too it sounds cooler!!
[Kokoro 5:48 P.M.] yay!! project mk!! that’s our secret spy name!!
[Himari 5:50 P.M.] that’s so cool! (´∀`) nobody tell misaki or kanon!

And so they settled on a name, as Kaoru recruited their final two.

Arisa and Rimi were with the rest of Poppin’ Party, hanging out on a bench after school, when Kaoru’s foot suddenly appeared on the armrest. Arisa had to move her elbow to allow for her, and she looked up, finally noticing that Kaoru was there.

“Ah—wh-why are you here?!” she asked, clearly flustered.

“Ah, I see I’ve embarrassed you, little kitten...”

“No, I just want to know why you’re putting your leg up on th-“

“Kaoru-san!” Rimi waved with a slight smile and a blush spread across her face. “Is something the matter?”

“You’re much too kind, Rimi-chan.” Kaoru tossed her ponytail dramatically. “My aim is simply to speak to you and Arisa-chan. Alone, if that is all right.”

“Of course!” Kasumi said. “Rimirin, it’s okay with us if you get a fifth girlfriend today!”

Rimi’s face turned a hot shade of red. “O-Okay!”

“You too, Arisa!” Saaya added on. “But don’t forget, I’m the one who married her.”

“Shut up!”

“Don’t worry, my dearest kittens. It is nothing of the sort. In fact, I would like to ask for your...” She paused, simply for the drama of it all. “Assistance. Now, come with me.”

Arisa and Rimi followed—Arisa somewhat reluctantly—until Kaoru reached a sufficiently dark and empty spot.

She explained the plight of Misaki and Kanon similarly to the way she had spoken to the others.

With no hesitation, Rimi agreed to help. Aries’s face flushed as she refused.

“Hell no! We should just let things pan out naturally. Besides, how can you even be sure about a thing like that?”

“Ah, don’t worry about a thing, Arisa-chan,” Kaoru assured her. “I’ll add you to the group chat and you can help if you change your mind.”

“Hmph... fine. I want Misaki to be happy too, y’know?”

Rimi smiled at Arisa and patted her on the back. “Kaoru-san, is that all?”

“It certainly is. Now, go back to your bandmates, for I fear I have interrupted something quite important.”

Neither Arisa nor Rimi felt like mentioning that they were mostly just chilling out together and flirting.

At the end of the day, Kaoru texted her girlfriend.

[Kaoru 8:22 P.M.] I’m truly sorry for my recruitment methods. You know how pleasing fans is.
[Chisato 8:24 P.M.] Of course. I’m just glad to have you all to myself 💖💖💖
[Kaoru 8:27 P.M.] Still; now that we have that chat set up, this project should be smooth sailing.
[Chisato 8:27 P.M.] We have so much work to do for those two, really. (ー ー;)
[Chisato 8:29 P.M.] I have a meeting in one minute, so I’ll text you later. I love you 💗
[Kaoru 8:30 P.M.] Love you too💘💝💕

And each member—well, each member besides Arisa, who had definitely muted the group chat by this point—was ready with their own scheme, one which could inherently be described as both ‘special’ and ‘stupid’ for the value of the alliteration.

Chapter Text

Thankfully, there was no need to stalk either of them to figure out their routines. After all, Hagumi, Kokoro, Chisato, and Rimi all went to their schools, and Kanon was usually either with her band, at the tea ceremony club, at home, or hanging out with Misaki or Chisato. Misaki, too, was either chilling, rehearsing, or at the tennis club.

Of course, they couldn’t just allow these two oblivious morons to continue on their daily routines. No, no, the spy team of Project MK was here to change things for them!

So it started simple. Chisato had a plan first—while Misaki was still sick, Kanon could bring her some tea and bread. They would spend some alone time together, perhaps share a few moments, and kickstart their path to love.

Chisato chose to share this plan with the group chat.

There was just one problem.

[Himari 4:34 P.M.] how do we get kanon to deliver stuff to misaki???

Fuck.

[Chisato 4:37 P.M.] Well, that’s a tough one, isn’t it? ( ^ω^ ) I have my ways, don’t worry~
[Himari 4:41 P.M.] you’re so cool! we’ll let you handle it!

Well, she could certainly figure something out. She simply had to wait until the opportunity came, and that opportunity was the next time her schedule was free so they could go café-hopping.

When that time finally came, she and Kanon stopped by a pretty new café. Nothing too special, but the decor was nice.

“Kanon, how is Misaki-chan doing?”

“Misaki-chan? Ah, well, she’s pretty sick right now... I’ve been coming over to her house when I’m free, so I can help her feel better! She seems to appreciate the company, though.”

Chisato smiled, laughing softly. “That’s sweet. Ah! Why don’t you bring her something? Perhaps some bread and tea. I’m sure Saaya-chan would be more than happy to help you with the former.”

Kanon smiled, her eyes sparkling at the idea. Chisato knew she deserved someone like Misaki—she didn’t even have to go through the obligatory best friend motions of threatening her. “That sounds great! Ah, and maybe some soup, too? Hm... Tsugumi-san is a good cook, so I could try asking if she knows any recipes! Just a simple noodle soup would be best for something like that, right?”

Chisato seemed glad that she was enthusiastic. “I believe it would.”

“Oh, Chisato-chan, could you help me pick out some tea she would like? Normally, I think she likes green tea, but there’s so many varieties of it...”

“Of course I can. Once we finish our tea, then?”

Kanon nodded, but looked a bit hesitant. “Are you sure you have time?”

“It’s my day off,” Chisato reassured her. “I was going to stop by Kaoru’s house, but I’m sure she’ll understand if I stay out with a friend for a bit longer. Especially for a noble cause.”

“Oh! That’s great, then!” Kanon was smiling again. “I really appreciate your help.”

“It’s what friends do. Still, I’m glad to be making a difference.” Chisato took a sip of her tea—a black watermelon tea, something she was not entirely convinced of at first but had taken to enjoying. “How is yours?”

“It’s wonderful! You already know I like gingerbread, though.” Kanon wrapped her fingers around the teacup, sipping it herself. “If we come here again, we should try their macarons! They sold out so fast, though...”

“We most certainly should. They’re nearly too cute to eat.”

After they finished their tea and picked out some to bring back to Misaki—Kanon chose a peach green tea, which Chisato was certain Misaki would love simply due to how confident Kanon seemed in her decision—Chisato headed over to Kaoru’s house, and Kanon went over to Yamabuki Bakery. It should still be open, right...?

She decided to text Hagumi for help in her search for it. She was certain she’d get lost otherwise, after all.

[Kanon 5:37 P.M.] Hagumi-chan, could you help me find my way to Yamabuki bakery?
[Hagumi 5:38 P.M.] huh?? you’re not far from it are you??
[Kanon 5:40 P.M.] I’m at Hummingbird Tea right now, actually!!
[Hagumi 5:41 P.M.] cool!!!! hagumi is with kokoron right now so she’s coming too okay?
[Kanon 5:42 P.M.] Sounds great! ( ´∀`) Thank you sm!

About ten minutes later, Kokoro and Hagumi popped up to the tea house, holding hands, laughing and smiling as they always did. Kanon almost felt jealous for a moment, not having a girlfriend herself, but she knew from the beginning that they deserved to be happy together.

“Kano-chan-senpai! Let’s go!” Hagumi cheered. Kokoro grabbed her hand as well, linking arms more closely with Hagumi.

“So what’re you doing at Yamabuki Bakery?” Kokoro asked. “Oh, I should get some bread’ Hmm-hmm-hm... who else should I buy some for?”

“I’m actually just getting something for Misaki-chan! She’s been stuck at home sick all week, so I, um, was going to bring her some bread, soup, and tea...”

Kokoro gasped. “Kanon! That’s so sweet!”

Hagumi nodded. “Yeah! Mii-kun’s super lucky to have you!”

“Huh? What do you mean by have-“

“You’re such a good friend!”

“We all love you so much!”

“You care about her a lot!”

“Go Kanon! Support her and love her!”

Kanon smiled, laughing a bit. “I thought you guys would insist on coming...”

Kokoro shook her head. “Nope! We’ll see her at the next Hello, Happy meeting, anyway! Plus you’re doing something super special for her, so it’s your super special time!”

Kanon blushed. Kokoro had a tendency to go off on loving her friends, and Hagumi only encouraged her. “U-Um... yeah, I guess so, isn’t it?”

“Yeah! You’re the best, Kano-chan-senpai!” Hagumi couldn’t reach her back, but if she could, Kanon was sure she would be patting it supportively right now.

Eventually, they made it to the bakery.

“Well, I should be fine from here... thank you both!” Kanon smiled, waving as she let go of Kokoro’s hand and walked in. Kokoro and Hagumi waved back before walking off. Kanon felt bad for a moment at the idea that she might have interrupted a date, but they probably enjoyed the surprise.

“Oh, Kanon-senpai! Chisato-senpai told me you might be stopping by,” Saaya greeted her. “Do you know what kind of bread you’re thinking of getting?”

“Ah? Chisato-chan knew...?” Kanon thought about it for a moment but brushed her off, figuring Chisato could have texted her after their tea date. “Hm, um... I didn’t think about it, really! Maybe Misaki-chan would like sourdough? She tends to like anything at, um, family restaurants... but all of your bread has that home-cooked feel, so I think she would like anything!”

“How about I just make you a basket?” Saaya said, seeing Kanon’s worry. “I’ve done things like this before, so don’t worry about it being too much work. And I’ll make sure it’s something Misaki will love without breaking your wallet.”

Kanon smiled. “Really? Thank you so much!”

“No problem, Kanon-senpai. Go ahead and sit down and I’ll call you up in about five minutes, okay?”

Kanon nodded, going to sit down somewhere, and realized—oh yeah, she should probably text Tsugumi. She did need a recipe from her, after all.

[Kanon 6:57 P.M.] Tsugumi-san, do you know any good soup recipes? Misaki is sick so I’d like to bring some to her.

It took a minute, but eventually, the “...” of Tsugumi’s typing appeared.

[Tsugumi 7:00 P.M.] Of course! Let me send you the link!
[Tsugumi 7:01 P.M.] Just normal noodle soup, right?

Before Kanon could answer, Saaya called her up.

“Kanon-senpai, do you think this will work?”

Kanon walked up to the front counter, looking in the small basket. There were a few loaves, and she didn’t recognize what all of them were, but they all looked and smelled amazing.

“Ah, this is perfect! Misaki-chan will love it. Thank you, Saaya-chan.”

Saaya smiled. “Tell me how it goes, okay? I know she’s getting better, but Hagumi keeps telling me how hard it is when she’s miserable like that.”

“That sounds like Hagumi-chan, doesn’t it?” Kanon smiled, laughing a bit. “I’ll tell you everything, don’t worry. So, what do I owe you?”

“Oh! Well, let’s see...”

Once she had paid and headed home, bread in hand, Kanon finally got the chance to text Tsugumi back.

[Kanon 7:14 P.M.] Yep that’s fine! Sorry for taking so long (>_<)
[Tsugumi 7:42 P.M.] It’s okay! Here you go <3

A link appeared on Kanon’s screen, which she clicked. It was a simple enough soup, something she had the ingredients for already, but she was certain Misaki would like it.

[Kanon 7:46 P.M.] Thank you so much!
[Tsugumi 7:49 P.M.] No problem! I hope it works for you!

Now all Kanon had to do was text her.

[Kanon 7:57 P.M.] Misaki-chan, I know you’ve been feeling sick, but would you like some company tomorrow?
[Kanon 7:58 P.M.] I’m off tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking about seeing you all week. I don’t think we should go out, but I’d like to check on you!
[Misaki 8:12 P.M.] yeah is like that actually
[Misaki 8:12 P.M.] id
[Misaki 8:13 P.M.] NO rights for my fucking phone
[Misaki 8:14 P.M.] anyway how about like 7? if that works
[Kanon 8:16 P.M.] That sounds great!!
[Misaki 8:19 P.M.] great ill be ready
[Misaki 8:20 P.M.] want me to walk you to my house??
[Kanon 8:21 P.M.] Misaki-chan, I would like to preface this by saying you are a very loved and important member of Hello Happy and we all care about you very much, including me,
[Misaki 8:21 P.M.] ajfjshfjdjfk
[Kanon 8:22 P.M.] But you are absolutely not walking around town when you’re that sick, especially for my sake, and I know where your house it
[Misaki 8:23 P.M.] it
[Misaki 8:25 P.M.] seriously tho not to be emotionally vulnerable but i appreciate you doing this for me. don’t get me wrong i lov the three dummies but none of them have tried to visit me or anything
[Misaki 8:26 P.M.] im not even that sick so i get it but
[Misaki 8:28 P.M.] wait that came out weird oop. im just glad you wanna spend time w me,
[Misaki 8:29 P.M.] u know. like. hjfjsjgkkdkd

Kanon didn’t quite get it, but she got it.

[Kanon 8:30 P.M.] I’m glad ♡
[Kanon 8:31 P.M.] See you tomorrow, Misaki-chan!
[Misaki 8:32 P.M.] hell yea

Kanon set her phone down, listening to love songs in the background as she finally got started on her homework. She was excited for the next day—she could make Misaki her soup as soon as she got home, go over to her house, spend some quality time with her...

As soon as her thoughts moved into kissing, she turned her brain cell off and focused on her global warming essay planning instead. She couldn’t even kiss Misaki while she was sick, she’d get sick too and that would be miserable, so she didn’t know why her mind kept wandering back to it.

She expertly shoved that thought from her mind and made it to sleep, calm and comfortable, mind buzzing with excitement.

Chapter Text

Kanon was trying her absolute hardest to cook. She understood noodles, and she understood broth, so logically, this should be easy.

Except Tsugumi had gone all fancy in sending her the recipe followed by about ten texts of extra ingredient recommendations, and now Kanon was suffering.

She had to heat some olive oil, which she could do, even though it sizzled a lot and that was not a noise that she liked. Then she had to add vegetables in—Tsugumi had recommended a few extras, alongside some garlic and onion. She had also said to add a bit of extra garlic since Misaki’s sense of smell was probably worse with her illness and it would help the flavor to add a bit more, which sounded kind of right, and Kanon wasn’t a good enough cook to contest it.

Next, she added the pasta. That part was easy enough—but she managed to burn her hand on the pan when she accidentally rested her hand on it. She got up for a minute, sprinting to the bathroom to bandage it and nearly tripping over her own feet in the process.

“Fuee...”

She put some burn cream on the injury and wrapped some bandages gently around it, hoping that would be enough. Then she went right back to cooking—which wasn’t smart, but she did it regardless.

Thankfully, the rest went smoothly enough—it was mostly just pouring broth in and waiting. Well, pouring lemon juice and sprinkling in pepper in as well (thanks, Tsugumi!).

Finally, it was done—a bit later than she expected, but she could still make it to Misaki’s house even as she waited for it to cool. While she was waiting, she packed the tea and bread into a cute basket (which then went into a bag because she didn’t trust herself), and went on her phone. Maybe tweeting would kill her anxiety.

About half an hour later, Kanon walked up to Misaki’s door, bag-basket thing in one hand and soup container tucked under her other arm, and knocked. Misaki’s little sister answered, a wide, gap-toothed smile on her face.

“Hi, Kanon!”

Kanon shouldn’t have been surprised that she was recognized, really. She’d been over plenty of times.

“Big sis is in her room if you wanna talk to her!” Suddenly, the kid’s eyes were drawn to her bag. “Oh, did you bring her stuff? That’s really nice! I bet she’ll like it! Okay, have fun!”

Kanon smiled. “Thanks. I hope she will.”

She walked past her, into Misaki’s room, taking the basket out of the bag in the process. The bread somehow smelled even better with the tea bags next to it.

Misaki noticed her door opening from where she was laying down, and looked up to see Kanon, who she definitely considered her savior at this point.

“Good to see you,” she said. Her voice sounded somewhat hoarse, but Kanon showed no signs of minding.

“You too! Um, I hope you don’t mind... I brought you some things.” Kanon set the basket down. There wasn’t a lot of bread, considering that she was working a minimum wage job, but it was a good amount. “I know you like green tea, and I thought this peach kind would be a good flavor, so I hope you like it! It was actually Chisato-chan’s idea to get you all of this.”

Misaki was about to say something about all of that, but then Kanon set down the soup, too.

“I can bring you a bowl if you’d like, or you can save it for later! I thought it would be nice, though-“

“Kanon-san, you can slow down. It’s just me.” Misaki laughed, but she had on a smile that shined like the sun. That’s what Kanon thought, anyway. “But... wow, I mean, um, thank you! I didn’t expect... um, you didn’t have to...” Her face heated up. “You’re an actual angel. Seriously, you’re the best. C’mon, sit down.” Misaki shifted over slightly, moving the basket and soup to the other side so there was room for Kanon to sit beside her.

Kanon sat down, resting her hand on the bed, and Misaki noticed her bandages. Immediately, her expression turned concerned.

“Ah, Kanon-san, did something happen? You didn’t have those last time I saw you.”

“Oh, um...” Kanon laughed nervously. “I actually burnt my hand making the soup. It’s, um, a long story, but I’m okay now.”

Misaki’s eyes widened. “You made this? Seriously?” Her surprise turned into another smile, and then an awkward glance away and blush. “Um. Wow. You really didn’t... um, you should be more careful.”

Misaki reached over to the basket, pulling out a loaf of sourdough. Kanon wasn’t surprised that she liked that kind. “Why don’t we share some?” she asked, breaking off a piece for Kanon before she could even protest. “Uh, sorry. Germs. Here, you can do it.”

She handed the bread to Kanon, who hesitantly broke off a piece for herself. “But—um—are you sure? I mean, I got this for you...”

“We’re friends, Kanon-san. Really. You did all of this for me, and you’re expecting me not to thank you however I can?” Misaki smiled. “If you really want to, you can grab a couple of bowls. It’s better if you dip it, anyway.”

Kanon seemed even more surprised. “You don’t have to share the soup too, you know.”

“I wouldn’t if I didn’t want to.” Misaki looked a bit embarrassed as she spoke.

Kanon kept eye contact with her for another couple of seconds, making sure she wasn’t bluffing, before getting some bowls, spoons, and hot water.

“I figured we could have some tea, too!” Kanon said, smiling as she sat down. She set a mug and bowl beside Misaki, and one beside herself. “If it’s too hot, I can get some ice.”

“No, it’s fine. You need to relax too, you know.” Misaki put a tea bag in her water and poured some soup into her bowl. “The band’s antics get pretty wild. It’s gotta be hard without us being a team, huh?”

Kanon nodded. “We haven’t done much, but I think I’d get overwhelmed if we did without you there... Hagumi-chan especially misses you, though. She doesn’t get why Michelle can’t be there. I tried to explain it, but...”

Misaki sighed. “I’m not surprised. I’m getting better, though, so Michelle’s coming back soon.”

Kanon took a small bite of her bread, chewing before she answered. “We all miss Misaki too, you know?”

Misaki blushed—maybe it was at the implied affection from her band, maybe it was Kanon briefly shedding the honorific from her name, and maybe it was her fever, but either way, hearing that made her happy. “Y... yeah, I guess.”

Kanon ran out of things to say, but she and Misaki both seemed perfectly content to sit there, occasionally making comments and nodding along with each other.

Kanon always appreciated how Misaki never needed to fill space. They liked small talk occasionally, but when it got awkward, they knew when to quit—and the space got calmer because of it. They knew how to appreciate each other without words, how to just exist together without words, and Kanon really liked that.

There was nothing wrong with two high school girls just sitting there, drinking tea, enjoying each other’s presence.

“Glad to have, you know, company,” Misaki said out of the blue after about five minutes of comfortable silence. “I’m getting kind of tired, so I might have to kick you out before I fall asleep on you, but, uh... really appreciate it. Especially with you bringing all of this stuff.”

Kanon stood, her heart soaring. “Yeah! I’m glad you liked it. I was a little bit worried you wouldn’t.”

“Of course I did. Um, I’d give you a goodbye hug, but, you know, germs. So...” Misaki reached her hand up for a high five. “To making the world smile?”

Kanon high fived her. “Starting with you, Misaki-chan.”

Misaki laughed, which devolved quickly into a coughing fit. “Let the others know that Michelle and I will get back to them in no time, okay?”

“Mhm!” Kanon smiled back at her as she walked out, practically elated. Misaki had been so sweet to her that whole time, so of course she would be.

She went back home, flopped down onto her bed, and immediately started texting Chisato.

[Kanon 10:12 P.M.] MISAKI-CHAN
[Kanon 10:12 P.M.] AJFJDHJFDJKF
[Kanon 10:13 P.M.] I GAVE HER THE BREAD AND
[Kanon 10:14 P.M.] SHE FOFERED TO SHARE IT
[Kanon 10:14 P.M.] SHESBSO CUTE MY HEART
[Chisato 10:19 P.M.] That’s adorable, Kanon!
[Chisato 10:20 P.M.] I’m glad my suggestion helped you ^-^
[Kanon 10:23 P.M.] You have no idea! I was just happy to see her :)

Chisato laughed as she read her messages. She had gone from keysmashing to normal messaging in about ten minutes.

Although she had long gotten over their past relationship, she also knew Kanon deserved someone who would make her happy in that way for a long time. Misaki seemed like the one; she was someone who understood her, cared for her, and Kanon was able to give just as much care back. Even though this plan hadn’t worked yet—and she knew it wouldn’t immediately, really—she was attached to it now. There would be more, sometime—sometime soon, even. For Kaoru’s sake and for Kanon’s.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take long for Misaki to start showing up to band practice again.

Everyone was overjoyed to see her, of course—Kokoro and Hagumi’s shared brain cell decided it was best to tackle her in a hug at the same time, knocking her to the ground as Kaoru monologued over her.

“Ah, everyone! Be careful! I’m happy to see her too, but she still might need to take it a little easy, okay?” Kanon said, definitely freaking out a bit.

Misaki smiled, patting Kokoro and Hagumi on the back. “Thank you, Kanon-san... um, please get off of me, you two.”

She said that, but she was still blushing, appreciating the affection.

Kokoro and Hagumi reluctantly stood up. Kanon reached out a hand to Misaki. She gladly took it, and Kanon pulled her into a gentle hug.

“It’s good to see you back, Misaki-chan.”

“Y...yeah.”

Misaki was still blushing, but her smile grew wider as Kanon hugged her, and stayed that way even as she let go.

”Welcome back!” they all cheered, and then Kokoro began talking.

“Now, let’s get to practicing! Misaki, you’ll fill in for Michelle, right?”

Misaki nodded. “Sure. She told me she won’t be able to be here until next week, but, um, she loves you all very much anyway.”

Hagumi smiled, as widely as she could. “Yay!”

“We love Michelle, too!”

“What a kind girl...”

Kanon only smiled, thankful that Hello, Happy World! was back to normal again.

Misaki’s return was key, of course, for Kaoru’s plan.

[Kaoru 11:39 A.M.] Do you all, perhaps, remember the actions of the mysterious and lovely phantom thief on the cruise ship?
[Kaoru 11:42 A.M.] The gorgeously engineered confession of love—for she must have known before any of us that Misaki was already thrust into the perils of love?
[Kaoru 11:43 A.M.] My plan is simple. We shall bring her back, but we also must...
[Kaoru 11:43 A.M.] Shall we say...
[Kaoru 11:44 A.M.] “Kick it up a notch”? ♡

Himari and Rimi were both physically dying at the idea of seeing the phantom thief make her long-awaited return, Chisato was mostly amused, and Kokoro and Hagumi were excited.

[Himari 11:56 A.M.] the phantom thief is so cool!
[Rimi 11:58 A.M.] I can’t wait to see her back!
[Kokoro 12:01 P.M.] ill bet we’re gonna do all sorts of fun challenges again!
[Hagumi 12:17 P.M.] the thief is always super fun! i love her!
[Chisato 12:21 P.M.] I think this will be interesting. ( ◠‿◠ )

Kaoru decided to go all out and contacted Maya.

[Kaoru 12:27 P.M.] Maya, could you help me with a soundtrack and a set? The phantom thief is making her return on Haneoka’s stage, with two stars from another school!
[Maya 12:34 P.M.] sure!
[Maya 12:34 P.M.] what stars? are you bringing chisato back here?
[Maya 12:35 P.M.] because last time you both disappeared during circle, and i’m not about to throw out accusations i’m just letting you know what the rumors are,
[Kaoru 12:36 P.M.] Ah, I know full well what people thought of us. Nevertheless, she will not be the grand star of our stage on that day—instead, it will be Misaki and Kanon.
[Kaoru 12:37 P.M.] The last time the phantom thief arrived for their performance, Misaki was told to confess her love for Kanon, acting as a prince confessing his love for a princess.
[Kaoru 12:38 P.M.] Now, I shall reverse the roles, and bring her role up to greater heights! The phantom thief returns to kidnap the princess with the dark hair, and to free her...

Kaoru didn’t text back for a few minutes, likely for dramatic effect.

[Maya 12:44 P.M.] kaoru-san?
[Kaoru 12:44 P.M.] The lovely blue-haired princess must act out a marriage proposal to her.
[Maya 12:46 P.M.] oh! well i don’t think you would need much of a set for that but i’m happy to be in the booth!
[Maya 12:47 P.M.] i’ll get akina-san to do lights and i’ll handle sound!
[Kaoru 12:48 P.M.] I am grateful for your help, Maya.

Kaoru then needed to climb the greatest hurdle—talking to Misaki.

“You want me to what?”

“It is simple, Misaki. I shall perform as the phantom thief, and you shall be my captive... and of course, the audience must play to return you. It shall be a lovely, impassioned show on Haneoka’s stage,” Kaoru said with a flourish. “With you and I as the stars.”

Misaki sighed. “Listen, just because I performed in that musical with you...”

“This performance will not be the same without you, little kitten.”

“You don’t have to call me a kitten. You know my name and you’re literally just trying to flatter me into performing.”

“Misaki, then. You will not have to learn a single line.”

Misaki knew that this should scare her, but she was intrigued at the idea of not having to do any work. “Oh?”

“Indeed. You will not even have to be good at acting, as it will all be improvised. Your personality may endear the audience.”

Misaki sighed once more, although she genuinely appreciated the compliment(?). “...fine, I’ll do it.”

Soon enough, it was time for the performance. It was only Kaoru and Misaki on stage, with Maya and the lighting technician in the booth... and an audience packed full of thirsty high school girls, including all of the members of the project in the front row. Lovely.

Misaki was the first on stage, in a surprisingly well-constructed princess dress. It was dark blue, with accents in silver as well as white lace, and flared out at the waist. She still had some trouble with the petticoat she had been stuck in—although she had vetoed the corset and hoop skirt. Upon her head was a flower crown, with roses in pale blue and smaller accent flowers in white. Although she looked awkward, almost a bit embarrassed, she was gorgeous in it.

She had walked out with no script in hand or in head, and before she could say something vaguely princess-y, the phantom thief walked out on stage.

Kaoru grasped Misaki’s wrist. Misaki mostly just stared up at her in disbelief.

“Now, my lovely princess, consider yourself my captive...”

That was a bit underdramatic, compared to what Kaoru usually did.

“And if you are not saved, consider that situation permanent. But beware when trying to save her, my little kittens...”

Misaki tried to make her cringing stay internal. How did Kokoro and Hagumi not realize who this was?

“...for my challenges are for the bold, the brave, the powerful. Those such as...”

Kaoru scanned the audience. A few girls screamed, putting their hands up excitedly, hoping to be called up.

“...you!”

Kaoru was gesturing to Kanon. Definitely gesturing to Kanon, her finger pointed at her seat in the front row.

“...eh?”

Misaki wasn’t sure whether that came from her or Kanon, but Kanon looked shocked regardless.

“The lovely princess with the blue hair. You are quite familiar, are you not?”

“U—um-“

“Come, join me on this stage. It will be a grand repeat of the events of the past.”

“Yay!”

“Go, Kano-chan-senpai!”

Kokoro and Hagumi seemed excited enough that Kanon couldn’t resist walking up there.

Misaki, meanwhile, had a bad feeling about this.

Kaoru ran off of the stage, returning with a chair lifted onto her shoulder. Extra.

She tossed the chair down, gesturing for Misaki to sit down. She did, glancing somewhat worriedly up at Kanon.

“Now, lovely, what might be your name?”

Kanon knew that Kaoru knew, and Misaki knew that Kaoru knew, but this had been her second favorite role after Romeo—so Kanon basically had to oblige.

“Kanon! Kanon Matsubara.”

“Ah, Kanon. A gorgeous name for a gorgeous little kitten. Now, this is your first challenge.”

Kaoru leaned in towards Kanon while still cheating out, making it seem just a bit more personal.

“I’m sure you are fully aware of this first challenge, no? Allow me to spell it out for you. You shall play the role of a princess, Kanon.” Kaoru smiled, reaching out to take her hand. Kanon nervously set it in hers, and Kaoru spun away, placing her next to Misaki’s chair. “And Misaki shall be the princess you have sworn your heart to. And now...”

Kaoru pulled out a small box—velvety, but the theatre club didn’t have enough of a budget for real velvet, so it was rough.

“Open this up to her. Perform as a princess prepared to sign her heart away to the woman she loves, and if your performance satisfies my heart, dear Misaki shall be freed.”

The whole theatre went silent. Then...

“Go, Kano-chan-senpai! Tell Mii-kun you love her!”

...why was this looking so similar to the events of the past?

“U-um... fuee...”

Kanon knelt down, taking the box and opening it. Misaki tensed up as she looked at her.

Inside was, as she had kind of expected by that point, a ring. It didn’t look expensive or anything close up, but it must have from a distance. Misaki turned bright red.

“Um... Misaki-chan...”

Kanon’s voice was adorable. This was unfair.

“I’m so glad we’ve spent so much time together, as... um... as lovers, and... I want you, for the rest of our lives, to be with me so we can support each other. You have taken my heart and I don’t want it back. But... if you’ll love me through thick and thin, help me when I’m anxious and let me do the same for you, stay by my side no matter what... then...”

Kanon glanced away, her head now facing the audience, and it was clear that her face was hot red.

“...I would love to be your wife, and for you to be mine. So, Misaki-chan, will you marry me?”

Kanon looked back up at her for the last sentence, hopefully, and Misaki didn’t know how or if she was supposed to respond.

“I... uh... yes? Yes, of course I will!”

Misaki opened her arms, and Kanon collapsed onto her in a hug, burying her head in her shoulder to hide her embarrassment.

Kaoru stepped forward, addressing the audience. “What a fleeting performance... however. Kanon, you must know that the audience could not hear you, yes?”

Kanon looked up from Misaki’s shoulder. “...eh?”

She chuckled. “Ah, Misaki, my princess. It seems these words were for you and for you alone, something you must take to the grave.”

Misaki turned away, blushing furiously, every muscle screaming to cross her arms to cover herself but realizing that Kanon was still on top of her.

“In any case, that performance truly came from the heart... but we must continue forth, for the lovely kittens in the audience could hear none of it!”

The audience cheered. Misaki didn’t know how she would ever recover from that one.

After the performance, Kanon was the first to approach Misaki as all of Kaoru’s fans crowded around her instead.

“That was a great performance, Misaki-chan!”

“Ah... um... thanks.” Misaki found herself turning red again. “And thanks for, you know... doing... the thing Kaoru made you do. Um, it actually meant a lot to me that you were okay with it...”

“Well, you did it for me a year ago, didn’t you?” Kanon smiled, reaching out to take both of her hands. “It wasn’t that hard, you know. I’m just... embarrassed that I was too quiet...”

Misaki accepted, deciding not to question her further about why exactly it wasn’t hard. “It’s fine. I know I was right there, but, you know... I could hear you just fine. It was actually kind of nice that, uh, I was special enough to be the only one to hear something so... personal? I’m usually kind of average, so...”

Kanon giggled. “You’ll always be special to me, Misaki-chan. No matter what.”

Misaki released their hands and crossed her arms, turning brighter red than before. “Hey, cut it out...”

“Sorry if that was a little much. You’re important to me, is all.”

Misaki shook her head. “No, no, it’s okay. Thanks, though. For this, um... for everything...”

She had said the last part a bit more quietly, but the blush on Kanon’s face made it clear that she had heard.

“You’re welcome.” She paused for a moment. “...for everything.”

Chapter Text

Kaoru didn’t need to inform anyone that the performance had gone wonderfully. Everyone in the group chat had been there for it, and a few of them had even seen Misaki and Kanon holding hands after the show.

But, as they still weren’t together, Himari came up with their next scheme. She had pondered briefly, and realized the perfect idea—she knew all about romcom tropes, but she couldn’t do this one alone.

So she solicited help in the group chat.

[Himari 11:30 A.M.] anyone want to come to my sleepover tomorrow?
[Chisato 11:43 A.M.] As much as I would like to, please keep this chat to matters related to the project.
[Himari 11:47 A.M.] nonono this is! i just need a partner to help me!
[Rimi 11:48 A.M.] I can help!
[Himari 11:49 A.M.] ok!! ill text you the details ✨✨✨

And Himari did, indeed, text Rimi the details. Her plan was simple, yet genius—she would invite Rimi over for a sleepover, as well as Misaki and Kanon. Rimi would ‘forget’ her sleeping bag, before guilting Misaki and Kanon into sharing one. Only one bed—a classic approach, that would surely be just as good manufactured.

Rimi texted Misaki, excited about the potential of Himari’s plan. She told her that Himari was hosting a sleepover, and hey, maybe she should ask Kanon as well, because Himari was totally excited to do cute girly stuff and Kanon would probably be into that, right?

And then she prayed that it would work. Kanon and Misaki really did deserve happiness, and if setting up classic literary cliches didn’t get them there, Rimi wasn’t sure what would.

At 4:30 P.M., Rimi gathered her things. Cute pajamas, a felt choco cornet Misaki had given her—she knew her band members always treasured such things, and she always felt inclined to as well—her toothbrush and some toothpaste, a hairbrush... everything one could need for a sleepover.

Except a sleeping bag, of course. She didn’t need a sleeping bag where they were going.

At 5:58, she arrived at Himari’s house. A couple of minutes early, but she was welcomed in regardless. Misaki arrived just a couple of minutes after, and Kanon much later—about ten minutes after six.

“Fuee, I’m so sorry!” she said, apologizing over and over again. “I made it to the train station, but I, um, got lost on the way here... I’m sorry I’m late!”

Misaki gently patted her back. “It’s all good. I can walk you home.”

Rimi never recalled Misaki being so physically affectionate around her friends. That is, until she recounted her stories of having to drag Kokoro around by the hand or arm several times to keep her from doing something stupid and having Hagumi fall asleep on her after doing something stupid and having to deal with Kaoru’s normal life having no personal space so she never noticed when she was in Misaki’s. Maybe this was just a thing with her now.

“Ah, thank you so much, Misaki-chan.” Kanon smiled, calming down a bit. “Anyway, um, should we... get ready to go to bed, or...?”

She looked down at her bags before realizing. “Oh, oh no, I’m sorry, I-“

“Kanon-san, it’s all right,” Misaki reassured her, touching her shoulders to comfort her. “Breathe. It’s just anxiety. What’s wrong?”

Kanon smiled weakly, but she still looked upset. “But I... I forgot it, so I’ll have to go all the way back.”

“Slow down. Forgot what?”

“Um... my sleeping bag...”

“Kanon-senpai...! Actually...”

Rimi gestured down to her things. There was—completely unpredictably, one might add—no sleeping bag there.

“We could just share, couldn’t we?” Rimi asked, smiling gently at Kanon. “It’s a little embarrassing, but I’d like to have a lot of fun tonight... especially since I sent Himari-chan a link to a great movie!” She clasped her hands together in excitement.

“I’m down with that. So, uh... how are we splitting the sleeping bags up?” Misaki asked, releasing Kanon’s shoulders and glancing between the three of them.

“I’ll share with Rimi!” Himari offered, a bit too enthusiastically. “So if you’re okay with sharing with Kanon-san, that’s a-ok!”

Misaki shared an awkward glance with Kanon, a slight blush arising on both of their faces—which they both proceeded to ignore.

“If it’s okay with Misaki-chan!” Kanon agreed, smiling slightly. Misaki nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, that’s fine.” Misaki slung her bag over her shoulder. “So, let’s roll our sleeping bags out, and... we can start that movie you mentioned, Rimi?”

Rimi’s eyes lit up, and she nodded. “Mhm! That sounds great! Oh, we can change into pajamas first, though!”

A few minutes later, the sleeping bags were rolled out, the pajamas were changed into, and the couch was overcrowded by four teenagers all trying to get comfortable at the same time.

Misaki had bigger problems than being squished slightly by Kanon and Rimi, especially when Rimi was also being squished by Himari.

The title of the movie came on, and everyone watched with anticipation—Rimi had insisted it should be a surprise.

Then, in big, dripping, blood-red text, it appeared:

“VAMPIRE’S NIGHT: EVIL LIVES ON”

“...Rimi-chan, is this a horror movie?” Kanon asked.

Rimi nodded, eyes fixated on the screen.

Misaki tried not to audibly sigh, but... this was going to be a long night.

The plot started out incomprehensible, but the special effects were great. Pretty early on, the lead vampiress dug into another woman’s chest and tore out her heart to drink all of her blood straight from the source, and the vampiress was as hot as the scene was gory so it was okay with Misaki.

“Kyaa!” Himari shouted out, clinging to Rimi as soon as the woman’s hand plunged into her heart. Misaki also heard a soft “you didn’t tell me it’d be this scary!”, and saw Rimi wrapping her arm around Himari to comfort her.

Well. That was kind of sweet—oh god, the vampiress‘s dad/uncle/adult male figure(?) just leapt onto the screen, and Misaki gasped and instinctively hugged Kanon as well. Kanon mostly just stared at the screen, wide-eyed, but not as scared as one would expect.

Eventually, Himari was taking up half of the couch, practically straddling Rimi as she held onto her from fear—which, coincidentally, pushed Misaki closer to Kanon.

Misaki realized that she had never felt truly embarrassed until this moment, with the back of her head pressed into Kanon’s chest and half of her legs on Kanon’s lap.

But the next time she jumped at a scare, covering her mouth to avoid making a visible noise, Kanon put an arm around her as comfort, so...

...maybe this wasn’t bad after all.

The movie eventually ended, but Misaki didn’t really notice much. Maybe she was distracted by her head being in Kanon’s chest, because that was definitely one of the most embarrassing experiences she had ever been through.

Or maybe it just had an incoherent plot. Who knows?

“There were, um... lots of vampire titties,” Kanon commented, not really sure of an eloquent way to phrase that.

“Well, I hadn’t seen this movie before now...” Rimi said. “I wanted it to be a surprise. I guess it came out kind of weird, though...”

“That lead vampire was like... thick, though,” Misaki said, half-jokingly. “I’m trying to tear this man’s throat out, but I’m dummy thicc, and the clap-“

Himari turned red. “You guys! Stop talking about vampire titties!”

Rimi giggled. “This is a safe space, Himari-chan.”

Himari groaned, finally getting off of Rimi and giving her the opportunity to sit up—which also allowed Misaki to awkwardly slide off of Kanon’s lap, mumbling a soft apology as she did.

“So, um, now that we watched our movie, let’s play board games!” Himari said, her normal excitement back. “I’ve got some fun ones, so let’s see...”

After they had all successfully tired themselves out with board games, they finally laid down to sleep at around 1:00 A.M.

Misaki was practically asleep by the time she had pulled out the last Jenga block. Actually, she had knocked the tower over by almost falling asleep on it, something that Rimi had definitely not laughed at her for before she and Kanon helped get her back to Himari’s room.

Kanon laid her down in the sleeping bag, awkwardly snuggling in beside her. There wasn’t room to do much besides that, and they were pretty close, so Kanon figured she wouldn’t mind. If she had, she would have said something by now.

She turned her back to Misaki, hoping it would be less uncomfortable for her that way, and tried to sleep in the cramped sleeping bag. Surprisingly, Misaki’s warmth actually helped her with that—though it wasn’t the sort of thing she would ever say out loud.

Himari definitely did not expect that the night would go the way it was going.

She was currently in a sleeping bag with Rimi that they could hardly fit into, an arm around her out of necessity, and she couldn’t sleep. The way Rimi was shifting around in the bed made her believe that she wasn’t asleep either.

Glancing over at Misaki and Kanon, they were neither cuddling nor kissing—Kanon had flipped over in her sleep to face Misaki, and Misaki’s head was kind of close to being nuzzled into Kanon’s neck, but it was not what romcoms made Himari believe it would be.

It was kind of cramped, definitely a little uncomfortable, and more than a little awkward. It definitely didn’t help that she thought Rimi was sort of cute—she didn’t have a crush on her or anything; besides, Rimi already had a girlfriend so she wouldn’t have a chance anyway, even though she was actually dating her whole band and Rimi had told her once that they were perfectly fine with it if she ever worked up the nerve to ask Kaoru out so that would mean she could easily have a fifth partner... but it wasn’t something Himari should worry about anyway, because she wasn’t interested in her.

Rimi turned around to face Himari. Yep, she was definitely still awake.

(And definitely still kind of cute, but Himari shouldn’t be worried about that.)

“Sorry about this,” Rimi whispered, almost sheepishly. “I didn’t think Kanon would forget hers... guess this didn’t work.”

Himari had felt bad about this a moment before, but now Rimi was sad, and that simply couldn’t do.

“No, no, it’s okay!” Himari whispered back, trying to sound cheerful. “It worked, see? Even if it didn’t go exactly how we wanted.”

Rimi smiled. “It’ll be okay, I think. And, um, this isn’t the worst possible outcome.”

She put her own arm around Himari, who was all of a sudden blushing fiercely for reasons completely unrelated to that.

“Right, yeah... um, let’s get some sleep! Now that we know it’s going better.” She grinned, before attempting to sleep by focusing way too hard on plunging her head into the pillow—which eventually allowed her to fall asleep.

After a night of soft gay dreams by all four parties involved, Misaki was the first to wake up—“wake up” in the absolute loosest sense, given that she definitely needed a cup of coffee, but she was awake enough to realize that she was currently laying next to Kanon, their faces just a bit too close together, and the zipped sleeping bag keeping it that way.

There were ways to describe what Misaki was feeling in that moment, but none more accurate than “afjshfdjkfdl”.

She also realized that she would have to reach over Kanon to reach the zipper for the sleeping bag, a thought that left her blushing.

She waited, then, for Kanon to wake up as well—and eventually, she did.

“Morning, Kanon-san,” Misaki whispered. She was so caught up in the excitement she felt from that, she completely forgot to mention ‘oh yeah, could you open the zipper’, which seemed kind of important.

“Good morning, Misaki-chan.”

They laid there for a moment, definitely awkwardly, until Kanon spoke.

“Um, I should get the zipper, right...?”

Misaki had forgotten. Oops.

“...uh, yeah, probably. I would’ve, but, you know...” She blushed again, a bit brighter this time, and felt lucky that Kanon hadn’t noticed.

“No, I understand.” Kanon turned around, pulling her arm out of the sleeping bag and undoing the zipper. She and Misaki both spilled out, as there was definitely not enough room for two, despite how well they had made it work.

Kanon rolled onto the floor, taking a brief moment to look distressed. Misaki laughed. “We make a good team, Kanon-san.”

Kanon responded with a laugh of her own. “We always have.”

They glanced over at Himari and Rimi, who seemed to still be asleep. Well, it was rude to just leave before their host even woke up, but it was also kind of weird to just sit there. Luckily, it didn’t take too long for Himari to wake up and pop open the zipper, removing her arm from around Rimi in the process. Misaki hadn’t even realized her arm had been there, but made note of it just in case she wanted to make fun of her for being oblivious.

Everyone ended up going on their way, and Himari’s way just happened to be towards Hazawa Coffee.

Chapter Text

When Himari got to the café, Tomoe was already there, drinking coffee. Perfect. Himari plopped down in the seat across from her.

“Tomoe!”

“Yo, Himari! What’s up!”

“I just had a sleepover with Rimi, Misaki, and Kanon, but Rimi and Kanon both forgot their sleeping bags, and we planned for Rimi to do that but not Kanon! So then it just turned into a mess, and-“

Tomoe held up both hands. “Whoa, whoa, okay, slow down. You were at this sleepover. Why was Rimi supposed to forget her sleeping bag?”

Himari took a deep breath. “You know that thing Kaoru-senpai told me about? Um, and the group chat I’m in now?”

Tomoe nodded. “Yeah, but you’ve hardly said anything about it. It’s something about Hello, Happy World!, right?”

“Mhm! We’re trying to get Misaki and Kanon together.” Himari started rambling again. “So I thought it’d be cute if I invited them over and if I could get them to share a sleeping bag, but I thought it’d be weird being the third wheel and I can’t forget my own sleeping bag at my own house, so I decided to invite other people who were in the group to come along! And Rimi was like ‘yeah, i can’, and that was great because she’s one of my friends and also kind of cute, and we planned for her to forget her sleeping bag so that we could get Misaki and Kanon to share one but then Kanon forgot hers too so I had to share one with Rimi-“

“Okay, Himari, you’re one of my best friends and I love you but please slow down.”

Himari took another deep breath. Tomoe was pretty sure she was about to start hyperventilating.

“Rimi and I ended up in the same sleeping bag, kind of cuddling, and I, um, haven’t been able to stop thinking about it!” She buried her head in her hands as she said that, as if she was flustered or ashamed—Tomoe was pretty sure it was both. She rested a hand on her shoulder.

“Hey, Rimi’s a cutie. You’re lucky.”

“It’s not about being lucky! I, I mean, I’ve had feelings like this before, but... Rimi is... it’s different than when it’s Kaoru-senpai!”

Tomoe smiled at her. “It’s all good. Go get her.”

Himari groaned, laying her head on the table, but Tomoe kept talking.

“Anyway, I’m kind of curious about this setting up thing you’re doing. I guess I’m pretty okay at that kind of stuff, so it’d be fun to listen in.”

As soon as Tomoe said that, Himari’s eyes lit up.

“You want to join?”

“Uh... yeah, sure, why not?” Tomoe grinned, taking out her phone. “Yeah, ask if you can add me!”

Himari took out hers as well. Tomoe noted that her phone charm was super cute.

[Himari 11:24 A.M.] guys, can i add tomoe?

She waited a few minutes, staring at her screen, until...

[Chisato 11:28 A.M.] I don’t see why not.
[Kaoru 11:29 A.M.] She is a welcome addition.
[Kokoro 11:37 A.M.] yeah add her!!
[Himari 11:38 A.M.] ok!

Himari smiled at Tomoe, adding her to the chat. “You’re in!”

“Cool!”

[Tomoe 11:41 A.M.] whats good
[Hagumi 11:43 A.M.] tomo-chin!!!!! do you have any ideas we can do?
[Tomoe 11:43 A.M.] uhhhh
[Hagumi 11:44 A.M.] it’s ok! hagumi has one!
[Kokoro 11:45 A.M.] ohhhh!!!!!! share share share!!!!!!!!! 💓💝💗💖💞💕💘
[Hagumi 11:45 A.M.] okay!
[Hagumi 11:46 A.M.] kokoron likes stars right?
[Kokoro 11:46 A.M.] mhm!
[Hagumi 11:47 A.M.] what if we all went stargazing together? after a hike!!
[Arisa 11:48 A.M.] count me the hell out
[Rimi 11:49 A.M.] Arisa-chan, you still check this group chat?
[Arisa 11:51 A.M.] absolutely not. bye
[Hagumi 11:53 A.M.] kokoron! kaoru-kun! come camping with me!
[Kaoru 11:57 A.M.] What a fine idea. Chisato has expressed interest in going as well.
[Chisato 11:58 A.M.] If you’ll have me, of course. Perhaps I’ll invite some of my bandmates.
[Hagumi 11:59 A.M.] maya!!!
[Kokoro 11:59 A.M.] aya and hina!!!!!!
[Himari 11:59 A.M.] eve!!!!
[Chisato 12:01 P.M.] Okay, all of them, then.
[Hagumi 12:02 P.M.] yaaaay!! ill send you all the info!!

Hagumi found a small, cute hiking trail with a good camping spot and a gorgeous waterfall—and also found one of the perks of having a rich girlfriend, which is that Kokoro bought them a whole bus and hired a driver so they could all ride there without relying on public transportation. Which was, to be fair, ridiculously reliable since it was Japan, but they did get a whole bus to themselves.

Misaki stepped onto the bus last, and briefly looked around. She wanted at least a decent amount of babysitters for this.

Maya was definitely reliable. Chisato seemed that way, too. Kanon would be, but she might need a bit of extra support from Misaki—but Misaki had never complained about giving her support. Kaoru and Aya could probably go either way. As for Kokoro, Hagumi, Eve, and Hina... well, she mostly just hoped they wouldn’t destroy the mountain.

She took a seat in the spot behind Kanon, with Kokoro in the seat beside her, Maya and Eve behind her, and Aya, Hina, and Hagumi in the diagonals. Not the worst possible setup, she supposed.

The bus started moving. Kokoro excitedly hopped up and down in her seat.

“Hagu! Hagu! Aren’t you excited for the trip?”

Hagumi nodded like a bobblehead. “Yeah, yeah! We’re gonna have so much fun! I’ve never been here before, but I’ll bet we can do so many fun things! I wanna go on a hike, and play in the lake, and look at the stars!”

Kokoro and Hina both gasped at the same time.

“The stars!”

“Yay!”

Misaki began looking more and more nervous as they got further from civilization and the Wi-Fi began to flicker. Kanon looked over at her, concerned.

“What’s wrong, Misaki-chan?” she asked, quietly enough that she wouldn’t get dogpiled by the others.

“Nothing much.” Misaki smiled in an attempt to calm her down. “I’m just worried about, you know, if we get offered any gigs and I’m not able to discuss them, or if my siblings need something...”

“It’s okay. We’re out here to relax, aren’t we? The others might not be, but we are.” Kanon gingerly patted her shoulder, only holding her hand there for a moment. Misaki considered asking her to keep it there longer. “I’ll take care of everyone, and help you catch up when we get back.”

Misaki turned red. “I can’t ask you to do that.” The smile on her face even as she looked away betrayed her, though.

“Of course you can. It’s the least I can do.”

“We should all sing!” Kokoro suddenly declared. Aya nodded in agreement, and Hagumi smiled.

“Yeah! Let’s do... oh, I know!” Hagumi started singing. “Ninety nine bottles of juice on the wall, ninety nine bottles of juice!”

Misaki sighed, glancing at Kanon helplessly as Kaoru and Kokoro joined in. Then Eve, then Hina, then Aya and Maya...

Eventually, Misaki, Kanon, and Chisato individually gave up and joined in as well. This was going to be a long bus ride.

They made it to the trail after singing about 99 bottles of every nonalcoholic beverage the combined brains (and that term is used loosely) of Kokoro, Hagumi, and Hina could think of and suffering through the amount of syllables in some of them. Misaki had nearly fallen asleep, with Kanon helping to keep her upright as she mumbled the lyrics.

And once they were there, Hagumi and Kokoro grabbed their bags and began sprinting, Hina linked arms with Aya and skipped along, Maya and Eve began steadily hiking... meanwhile, Kaoru, Chisato, Misaki, and Kanon suffered.

Chisato sighed. “I detest this sort of thing, but I suppose the stars and waterfall will be worth it.”

“Indeed. Chisato, would you like to climb with me to the very top of the waterfall? We could have the view of a lifetime.”

Chisato giggled. “I think I could enjoy that much.”

They took a leisurely pace, which Misaki and Kanon were able to match without too much work.

“So, Kanon-san, are you excited?”

“I think so. Are you?”

Misaki blushed at the idea that she would be loving one of her bandmates’ ideas, but she was kind of having fun already. “...yeah, I think so, too. I mean, it’ll be fun to go camping with you. Good thing we both remembered our sleeping bags this time, huh?”

Kanon gasped, looking down at her bags. “Oh no!”

Misaki froze, her eyes widening. “You didn’t.”

Kanon smiled, covering her hand with her mouth as she giggled. “Just kidding! I wouldn’t have minded, though.”

Kanon did not elaborate more on that, leaving Misaki to overanalyze it. She really was learning from Chisato.

Misaki and Kanon were the last two to haul their bags up to the campground. It was nice—a cabin. No air conditioning, and the bunk beds were the kind that you needed to have sleeping bags on because otherwise they hated you, but the toilets flushed so it was very high class for camping.

Hagumi had still brought a big carpet, which she planned to weigh down with rocks she found, so they could all lay out together and look at the stars. She had gone on and on about how pretty they were at night, and Kokoro had readily agreed with her.

“Let’s go to the waterfall!” Eve suggested. She grabbed Maya’s hand with a smile. “Maya-san, you should train with me!”

“Sounds good!” Maya agreed with a smile. “Anyone else in?”

“Ooh! Me! Aya-chan, you should come too!”

Aya hadn’t even opened her mouth to agree before Hina dragged her and their bags into the cabin to change. Maya and Eve seemed like they were going off fully dressed.

“Why don’t we join them?” Kaoru asked Chisato, offering her hand on instinct.

“Hm, why don’t we look over the cabin first? I would love to be the first to claim a bunk bed.”

Chisato smiled at her, and Kaoru immediately understood. “Oh, yes, of course! I’ll escort you in, then.”

That was at least one place that Misaki couldn’t join in on. And with Kanon’s phobia of water, she wasn’t about to drag her to the waterfall, either.

“Let’s go into the forest,” Misaki suggested. “It’s probably filled with bugs, but, well...” She sighed. She didn’t want Kanon to have an anxiety attack and she also didn’t want to walk in on her friends making out, and hanging out in the open on the carpet was way too vulnerable for her, so that limited their options. “Or, uh, I know. Let’s start a fire.”

“Oh, right! I’m sure everyone will really appreciate that when we have to cook.”

“Oh god, we have to cook.”

They looked at each other, having the simultaneous realization that neither of them had built a fire before—but hey, they had a lighter, how hard could it be?

The answer is they had to get kindling first. Right, that.

After picking up a healthy amount of twigs and decently-sized sticks, staring at the fire for significantly too long as it repeatedly fizzled out, Misaki and Kanon both coughing up their lungs individually as smoke suddenly blew into both of their faces because campfires hate everyone who touch them, and Misaki having to tug Kanon’s hand away from the fire when she got too careless, they finally got a decent blaze going.

And then proceeded to fall back, exhausted.

“I don’t think this campfire should have human rights,” Misaki proclaimed, before coughing again as the wind decided to blow more smoke at her and Kanon. “That’s my thesis, there’s my—fuck—there’s my evidence.”

Kanon laughed. “It’s pretty, though, isn’t it? A little too warm for now, but we’ll probably appreciate it when night comes.”

Misaki smiled at her. “I guess we will, yeah.” For some reason, hearing that made her happy.

And night did come. The crowd that had come to the waterfall had returned, soaked with water and their hair disheveled, plopping down immediately in front of the fire.

Misaki and Kanon then became the first to settle on the carpet for stargazing as Kaoru and Chisato stealthily crept up towards the waterfall to get their own view.

The stars were gorgeous, making constellations that Misaki and Kanon absolutely did not recognize, but they twinkled and shone and lit up the night sky. There was almost no light pollution—only them, the stars, and their stupid friends freezing their asses off around the fire.

“That one looks like a guy with a mustache,” Misaki commented. “See? He’s got a hat, too.”

Kanon smiled, pointing up at another. “That one’s a bear.” She leaned over, her shoulder touching Misaki’s. “Like you. Like Michelle. I know you’re Michelle, but you aren’t really the same anymore, are you?”

Misaki looked down, smiling to herself as she did. “...maybe we aren’t.”

Michelle was Misaki’s love for Hello, Happy World. She hated suffering in that suit, hated bearing the heat, hated nearly collapsing if it wasn’t for Kanon caring for her... but she had come to love the band, and Michelle could love them more openly than she could.

Michelle was real, then. Sure, Misaki was the one inside the suit, but there was a part of Michelle that was her own person.

“That one’s a blob. But if you look at it, it’s a jellyfish.” Misaki thought about the times when she had gone with her and the band to Pen-chan’s aquarium exhibit. Kanon would get so excited seeing Pen-chan, and so relaxed when she saw the jellyfish, and Misaki would stand beside her—and the jellyfish were fascinating, but nothing was as gorgeous as the sparkle in Kanon’s eyes as she looked at them, the way her hands clasped together in front of her in excitement, the look of the blue light shining onto her... Misaki had found herself looking at her as much as she looked at the fish, positively smitten by it all.

“It does look like a jellyfish!” Kanon said, nodding along.

“I always like looking at the jellyfish with you in the aquarium. Remember when we touched the stingrays?”

Kanon winced. “No... no, that was scary...”

“You still did it, though. Um, I think... Kokoro was right when she said you were brave, you know. You plunged your hand right in there before I worked up the nerve to and pet the stingray... and it was smooth, right? You were afraid, but you did it.” Misaki quickly realized she had said too much, gone too far, gotten too vulnerable. “I... I guess I, um, admire that about you. You know, it’s, uh, a little thing, but I know you like jellyfish.”

Kanon blushed a bit. “Mhm. I do.” She let herself gaze around the stars, looking for something else. “That’s... a bird, right?”

Misaki looked up, only taking a moment to connect it. “Oh, yeah.”

Kanon glanced down at the ground as she spoke, smiling as her face reddened. “A bird is free, but it’s grounded. It’ll fly away, find what it needs outside, and come back to its nest in the end. It’s happy to rest and happy to fly, and sometimes it just needs one or the other, a home to return to... if you think about it, it’s kind of like you.”

Misaki’s eyes widened. She couldn’t quite bring herself to disagree, but she was surprised Kanon thought about her that much. It felt like a layer of her had been peeled back, and for once, she wasn’t objecting to it.

“Yeah, I guess. Maybe.” She took a deep breath in. She knew she had to say something, but the words were escaping her. “You’re a really good friend, Kanon-san.”

Misaki only took a moment to realize that was the wrong thing to say.

Kanon thought about it for a moment. She didn’t want to just be Misaki’s friend, did she? She had her doubts earlier, but with her daydreaming about kissing her and how much attention she was paying to her, she was definitely sure it was love.

But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she liked being Misaki’s friend, too. She liked sitting here at night, having long chats, laughing amongst themselves. She liked caring for her when she was sick and she liked having the favor returned, she liked going to Misaki’s house and saying hello to her siblings, she liked texting her and seeing her finally able to pour just a bit of her heart out. None of those things would change, lovers or not.

Kanon was in love with her, without a doubt. She loved the idea of kissing her, holding her, swearing themselves to each other... but she also loved being Misaki’s friend, and one of the things that caused her to love Misaki so much was that she didn’t need to change for her.

“Let’s do something special for our friendship, then!” Kanon finally said, smiling. “We can make friendship bracelets together, maybe?”

“That... actually sounds kinda fun. Just the two of us.” Misaki glanced at her, a nervous smile on her face, before looking back up at the stars.

Kanon reached her hand over the slightest bit, touching her fingertips to Misaki’s. Misaki seemed to reciprocate the gesture, if only slightly, as she rested her pointer finger atop Kanon’s.

Kanon’s heart fluttered. Whatever this kind of love was, she needed it in her life.

Chapter Text

The rest of the night was mostly uneventful. Hagumi managed to cook up a storm on the campfire (which Kokoro praised her for until she blushed bright red), everyone ended up neatly paired up in bunk beds, and Misaki had to whack a few spiders and mosquitoes off of her because campgrounds are terrible.

The idea of apologizing to Kanon for treating her as just a friend when she was so much more than that to Misaki kept rushing through her head, but that ended up not happening. Misaki was pretty sure Kanon didn’t feel that way about her, anyway—and if she did (a thought that made Misaki’s heart skip a beat), they’d come together on their own time. Misaki didn’t need a grand romantic gesture. In fact, she didn’t want one, and she didn’t think Kanon would either.

So instead, she met up with her at a local craft store. They were absolutely going to make friendship bracelets, and it’d be great.

“Kanon-san, do you want matching colors on ours?”

“I think that’s how these usually work, isn’t it?” Kanon asked, looking through various thread colors. “Hm... what colors do you like, Misaki-chan?”

“Ah, maybe...” Misaki took a moment to examine the brand Kanon was staring at. “...light blue and navy blue?”

“We can add pink for Michelle, too,” Kanon suggested, glancing at Misaki to see if she was okay with it.

“Yeah. I still don’t think that’ll make the dummies get it, but... this is our bracelet, so it’s okay.” She smiled at her, taking a few thread colors down. “Hm, maybe black would be good, too? If we need a fourth color.”

“Four colors would be cute!” Kanon agreed, nodding. “Let’s check out, then! Do you want to do it at my house or yours?”

“Do you mind yours?” Misaki asked. “You know how my parents can get sometimes.”

“Mhm, I understand.” She took the thread off of the shelf and started walking over. “So I’m paying,” she proclaimed, and Misaki immediately felt the need to protest.

“No, no, I’m making you make room for me in your house. Let me cover it.”

“There’s always room for you, Misaki-chan.” Kanon smiled. “I get to pay, since it was my idea.”

Misaki groaned. “Ugh, fine. Let’s at least split it... we’re getting four colors so it should be easier, right?”

“Oh, right! We could have just... done that.” Kanon blushed, squishing one of the thread rolls in her hand. “Anyway, now that we’ve decided, let’s check out!”

And they did, and Kanon walked with Misaki back to her house—making wrong turns every so often, but it was all right, because Misaki was there to help. Kanon appreciated her willingness to help without judging.

They sat down in front of the coffee table, where Misaki had so often helped Kanon with felting, and took out the thread. Misaki smiled endearingly at Kanon’s little box of felt that she kept around there.

“So, what kind of pattern do you want to do?” Misaki asked, tracing over the black thread with her finger.

“I saw this one cute zigzag pattern online once!” Kanon said after a moment of thinking. “It had each color blocked in by black and made a little braid shape! I’ll find the pattern for it.”

“Yeah, that sounds cute. Go ahead and look it up.”

Kanon pulled out her phone and began searching through Google Images for the elusive pattern, and Misaki took out the thread in its entirety. She had never made a friendship bracelet before, but how hard could it be?

“Misaki-chan, I found it!”

Kanon proudly displayed the pattern she found, and Misaki smiled.

“Cool. Uh, we cut out a length of string from fingertip to shoulder, right?”

“I think so! We’re almost the same height, so I can get pins to hold the strings up if you cut them out.”

Misaki nodded, picking up a string and bringing it up to her arm. “Yeah, sure. We need two of each color, right?”

“Mhm! I’ll be right back.” Kanon walked into the kitchen, leaving Misaki with the thread until she returned.

She poked two pins into the wood, just far apart enough that she and Misaki only occasionally bumped arms as they worked, set her phone down between them with the screen on the pattern, and tied her strings around the pin beside hers.

“Misaki-chan, do you need any help?” Kanon asked. Misaki shook her head.

“I think I’ve got it. Thanks, though.”

Misaki started knotting her strings together, careful to follow the pattern. It was stupidly complicated, but she didn’t mind the idea of making something that nice for her friendship with Kanon.

“So, uh... those stars last night, huh?”

Misaki blushed thinking about it, and how they had almost-but-not-quite held hands—and then she remembered her horrific fuck up when she had accidentally called Kanon just a friend. Yikes.

Regardless, Kanon didn’t mention it, smiling gently. “They were really gorgeous. I liked looking at them with you, Misaki-chan.”

Misaki laughed awkwardly. “Yeah. I’d like to do that again, I think.”

“Hm...” Kanon continued knotting her bracelet before stopping suddenly. “I know!”

“You know?”

“We should do it again tonight!” Kanon had spoken passionately, but suddenly realized she had gotten too excited and chilled herself out, getting back to work as she continued speaking. “I mean, um... maybe once we’re done with this, we could spend the day together. Go out, get ice cream... and then, if you’re not tired by the end of the day, we can stargaze some more!”

Misaki laughed once more, genuine joy in her voice. “I’d like that, Kanon-san. I might be a little tired, but if we kind of just chill, it’s okay.”

“I’m okay with chilling.” Kanon smiled down at her bracelet, which was already coming together quite nicely. “Just spending the day together sounds nice.”

“Glad you think so.” Misaki said that a bit too quickly, embarrassed at Kanon being so excited about that, but continued regardless.

It took a while, with a bit of conversation scattered throughout—but eventually, Misaki proudly held up her completed bracelet, grinning.

“I, uh... finished it.”

Kanon held hers up as well, looking over it. “Same here! It’s, um...” She looked at it nervously. “Oh, no... I messed that part up.”

Misaki looked at it—and yeah, it was definitely kind of fucked up. It was a small tangle, a few off colors, and not really noticeable unless someone mentioned it first, but Kanon was definitely a bit upset about it.

“Hey, it’s okay. It gives it character,” Misaki assured her. “It’ll still look cute when we go out today. Want me to put yours on you?”

Kanon nodded. “Okay! I can put yours on you, too.”

Kanon held out her wrist, and Misaki picked up her bracelet to wrap it around it. She laid it gently on her wrist, tying it closed.

“There. It isn’t too tight, is it?”

“No, it’s okay.” Kanon smiled, picking up Misaki’s bracelet to put it around her wrist. “You did a good job with this, Misaki-chan. And I really appreciate how you made me feel better about mine, too. I know it’s not as good, but being with you always makes me feel reassured.”

“Oh. Thanks. And, uh, don’t worry about it.”

“You’re welcome.” Kanon tied Misaki’s bracelet off, keeping her hand rested on hers for a moment. “Do you want to head out now?”

Misaki found herself smiling, an impulse which was practically uncontrollable around Kanon at this point. “Sure. I know a place that has decent ice cream, if you’re still down for that.”

Kanon nodded. “That sounds good! It’s already 6:00, so it shouldn’t be too long until we can see the stars again, either.”

“Neat.” Misaki slipped her hand out from under Kanon’s—something she didn’t really want to do, honestly. “Okay, let’s walk down to the ice cream place, then.“

They headed out and started walking together. Misaki almost reached out to take her hand again.

Almost.

“So, do you want to just... walk around? Is that the plan?” Misaki asked.

“Mhm! I’m just glad that we have a day to hang out together.”

“I mean, we’ve been doing that a lot lately.”

Kanon smiled, her eyes flickering to everywhere but Misaki. “There’s always other people there. I like spending time alone with you, too.”

Misaki blushed. Kanon was just trying to kill her little gay heart. “I, uh. Cool.”

Kanon seemed almost disappointed as she said that. Misaki wanted to tell her that she just hadn’t known how to respond, but that was okay.

They made it to the ice cream shop, a cute and small place, and walked in.

“Hi! Um, could I get vanilla?”

“Could I just get chocolate?”

They got their ice cream, paid, and walked out. The day was hot, and some dripped onto Kanon’s hand as she ate.

“Oh, Kanon-san, look out.”

Kanon gasped. “Thanks, Misaki-chan!” She leaned forwards, licking the drop from her hand, and Misaki smiled as a bit of hers fell on her own hand.

Her eyes narrowed at her ice cream. “This is war.”

Kanon laughed, lifting her hand to her mouth. Misaki looked confused.

“What is it?”

“Oh, I just... I’m not used to seeing you joke around like that. It’s a good change, though!”

Misaki smiled. “I guess so.”

“It really is! I’ve always felt close to you, but every day, we all get closer. So I really appreciate it.”

Now Misaki was blushing. It was just a compliment before, but now she was extra gay.

“...oh, um, Kanon-san... um, your ice cream is still dripping.”

Kanon looked down at her hand, which was covered in little drops at this point. “Um, yours, too!”

Misaki glanced down. Fuck, it sure was.

“Great. Cool.”

They both hurriedly licked the dripping parts off of the ice cream and their own hands until they finally made it back to the natural, not-drippy part.

“How about we walk down to a park somewhere?” Misaki suggested. “We don’t have towels or blankets or anything, but we can lay on the grass.”

“That sounds nice,” Kanon agreed. “Finish our ice cream, wait it out so we can see the stars... it’ll be great, I think.”

“I’ll show you the way, then.” Misaki reached down, taking Kanon’s hand to avoid her getting lost, and Kanon smiled.

“Sure! I appreciate it, Misaki-chan.”

Kanon never let a moment pass without letting Misaki feel appreciated. That was something Misaki liked about her, she supposed.

She felt a warmth on her face from the touch of Kanon’s hand, but reminded herself that it was no big deal, and she held her friend’s hands all the time.

...okay, so maybe it was a bit different to walk with a friend at school than to go out for ice cream and stargazing, but it was similar enough that Misaki’s brain could shove it down after her massive verbal fuck up. That was all that mattered at this point.

Misaki sat down on the nearest park bench as soon as she got there, leaning back and finishing off the rest of her ice cream.

Kanon sat down beside her.

The sun was sinking rapidly in the sky, painting a picture of reds, oranges, golds, and purples. Kanon and Misaki both stared at it in awe—it was more beautiful than usual.

“This is... the golden hour, isn’t it?” Misaki asked. “It’s pretty.”

Kanon nodded. “I think so! I’m not a photographer or anything, but...” she put the last bit of ice cream cone into her mouth, leaned into Misaki’s shoulder, and pulled out her phone. “Why don’t we take a selfie? So we remember a day we had fun together.”

Misaki smiled awkwardly into the camera.

“Sure.”

Kanon took her hand, interlocking their fingers and holding it up so that both of their friendship bracelets were visible. Misaki turned red at the sudden contact, and Kanon used that opportunity to take the picture.

Misaki’s face looked kind of dumb with her red blush and her mouth half-open in surprise, but it was endearing in its own way.

“Kanon-san, please delete that. From your memory, too...”

“I think you look cute,” Kanon said, smiling at her screen. “But if you really want me to delete it, I will.”

Misaki smiled, staring down into her lap out of embarrassment. “It’s... um, it’s okay, actually. Let’s take a few more, though.”

She took Kanon’s hand again, smiling just a bit more genuinely than before into the camera.

They spent the golden hour taking pictures together. Misaki laughed and smiled and held onto her, and Kanon found all of that to be the most endearing thing she had ever seen. She didn’t plan to post most of them, but she liked this side of Misaki—the side that was willing to let go of her inhibitions to have some fun with the people she cared about.

Kanon’s insecurities thought that was wrong, though. They had her wondering again, about whether or not Misaki really did care about her, and even whether or not she loved her in the way she wanted her to love her.

“Kanon, how about we put this one on the Hello, Happy Instagram?”

The picture she gestured to was one where Misaki was leaning into Kanon’s shoulder, laughing openly, and Kanon was winking and doing a peace sign into the camera. It wasn’t a part of either of them that was normally shown to outsiders, but it felt right.

“Sure! It’s cute, so I think everyone will really like it!”

And up the photo went, along with the ads for lives and pictures of their other fun adventures.

85 likes
[hello.happy] Misaki-chan and I hung out at the park today! We hope seeing us here makes you all smile! ♡ ・w・
- Kanon

Misaki was certainly smiling as she used her personal account to like the photo herself.

A bit later, the stars were finally out. They weren’t as bright as they were on the campsite, but they twinkled just the same.

“Cool,” Misaki said, looking up. “...we, uh, really just spent the day together, didn’t we? I can’t say I mind, though.”

“Mhm. I always feel happy with you, Misaki-chan. It’s not that I just have fun with you, either. I do, but... I feel like you really get me.”

Misaki didn’t respond. She just blushed, slipping her phone back into her pocket, taking glances up at the stars and over at Kanon.

She liked seeing Kanon like that, excited to gaze upon something she loved. Whether it was the stars, or the animals at the aquarium... Misaki hated to admit it, but she wanted that gaze on her.

She didn’t know how to say it, but she knew she had to do something about it.

At the same time, Kanon knew her insecurities had been wrong. Misaki wouldn’t have taken all of this time for someone she didn’t care about, and she certainly wouldn’t have been nearly as sweet and vulnerable as she had been throughout the day.

But for now, they just sat there, letting the starlight create new memories for them.

Chapter Text

Hagumi figured that the camping trip had been too hot to make any real progress. She hadn’t noticed any, after all. That was okay, though! Everyone still had lots of fun together, and she was glad that people enjoyed the food she had made.

The summer time was amazing for one thing, though—beach parties. Fun in the sun, the whole gang is here, et cetera.

Of course, for the amazing spy team of Project MK, it meant both that and a chance to get Misaki and Kanon together in swimsuits. What an opportunity!

Kaoru was the first to point out the glaring flaw in this plan.

[Kaoru 4:36 P.M.] They’ve seen each other’s swimsuits before.
[Kaoru 4:37 P.M.] Although they may be in love, they are friends before even that.
[Kokoro 4:39 P.M.] ill buy them new ones!(╹◡╹)

Kokoro, of course, was absurdly rich. Buying things seemed to be her answer to everything... though in this case, it didn’t seem unwarranted.

[Himari 4:47 P.M.] no but remember that time i had to wear that gross swimsuit for that summer photoshoot?? never want to do that again so let’s not make them!
[Kokoro 4:48 P.M.] but what if we let them help buy them? then it would be less bad!
[Chisato 4:51 P.M.] And how would we do that?
[Rimi 4:52 P.M.] What if the two of us went out with them separately? Then we can avoid running into each other!
[Rimi 4:52 P.M.] I’ll bring Arisa with me!
[Chisato 4:56 P.M.] What a wonderful idea. I think I’ll invite Kaoru, too ♡
[Kokoro 4:58 P.M.] ill give you money so you don’t have to spend yours! ¥☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆¥

That’s how the whole thing started—Rimi, Arisa, Kaoru, and Chisato, the first two with Misaki and the other two with Kanon, hanging out at separate expensive department stores.

“Ah, Chisato-chan, Kaoru-san... I’m not sure I can afford something like this,” Kanon protested.

“Don’t worry about it. I know your budget is much tighter than mine, so I can handle this much.” Chisato smiled, knowing she wasn’t technically lying—she was indeed richer than Kanon from all of her acting work, and she could indeed buy expensive swimsuits for both of them with Kokoro’s money. She had simply omitted that last part. “Besides, I need a new one myself, if Kokoro-chan is inviting us all to this party.”

“Indeed. Consider this a slight expense on our part for the wonderful experiences we shall have on Kokoro’s private beach.” Kaoru smiled down at her.

“Well... if you’re really sure, I’ll look,” Kanon said with some reluctance.

In a different but surprisingly similar expensive department store, Misaki stood with Rimi and Arisa.

“Seriously, you don’t have to go through the trouble of buying me stuff,” Misaki mumbled, somewhat embarrassed by the expression of kindness.

“It’s okay, Misaki-chan! I told Kokoro-chan we both needed new swimsuits, so she gave us plenty of money. I would have refused, but, um...”

“She’s a Tsurumaki,” Arisa finished.

“Yeah, okay, I get it now,” Misaki said. “Great, let’s start looking around. My old one doesn’t really look as good now that my muscles are bigger, anyway.”

Rimi came immensely and unfortunately close to making a comment about how Kanon would appreciate them regardless, but that would definitely blow their whole cover. Arisa would probably get mad at her for making a comment like that in public anyway.

Chisato, Kaoru, and Kanon shopped around, looking primarily for something for Kanon—though Chisato would easily admit she was searching for something that might suit herself as well, and Kaoru was also sort of looking for something that would suit Chisato, as she was more than content with what she currently had. It would have to wait due to their size difference, though.

After a long time of searching, because the plus-sized section is a hellscape at the best of times, Chisato noticed something that would definitely look good on Kanon. It was two-piece, dark blue, off-shoulder, was adorned with ruffles and had a slight dip in the neckline. If her goal was to kill Misaki where she stood, which it vaguely was, this was it.

She glanced at Kaoru, who nodded. It seemed they both had the same idea.

“Kanon, why don’t you try this on?”

Misaki, Arisa, and Rimi found themselves wandering in the same way. Arisa had found herself a cute white swimsuit at Rimi’s insistence, and the goal was now for Misaki to find a cute probably-not-white swimsuit.

Rimi happened upon something first. Another white swimsuit, with a skirt around the legs. “Ah! I know that we’re looking mostly for you, Misaki-chan, but...”

“I know. It’s hard to find stuff that works for you, right?”

Rimi nodded. “I know we’ll be with friends, and I’m out, but, um...”

“I get it. Whatever makes you comfortable.” Misaki smiled, hoping it was cheering her up, and Rimi took the swimsuit.

After a bit more searching, Misaki happened upon a pair of swim trunks that were a pretty light blue, and a bikini top that just about matched in color. Rimi pondered for a moment about how Misaki would look in swim trunks, before she realized it was extremely good and Misaki should absolutely wear them.

“You’d look great in that!” Rimi said, a smile on her face.

“Yeah. I mean, you’re kind of ripped, so...” Arisa covered her mouth, but it was true. Misaki was fucking ripped. Misaki looked at them, somewhat confused but mostly judging them.

“Uh, whatever you say. I guess I can go for it,” she said, holding the pieces up before walking them to the dressing room.

A few days later, they all met up at Kokoro’s private beach. She really had a whole private beach.

“Welcome to the fifth beach! I thought this one would be the best for our little group!” Kokoro said, smiling as wide as ever.

...it seemed she had at least five private beaches, then. Sounded about right.

Their whole super spy group was there—but Tomoe had brought Tsugumi along, and Arisa and Rimi had brought their girlfriends along as well—and of course, Kasumi in particular was quite excited.

Well, it was a party, after all. Even if it had been arranged for nefarious reasons, there was a beach and they were going to play in it. Kasumi, Kokoro, and Hagumi practically raced to see who could cannonball in first, with Himari not far behind.

Chisato was laying on her towel, on her phone, and Kaoru lay beside her, reading over a script—some American farce about actors in New York. Their free hands were holding, although that was released quite often so Kaoru could turn a page.

...wait, Kaoru could read?

Tsugumi, Kanon, and Tomoe had gotten into the watermelon. The fruit disappeared in about five minutes, but they were smiling and having fun together. Misaki, meanwhile, was just chilling by herself—and Tomoe immediately realized that the fact that she was standing the closest to Kanon made this her responsibility.

“Yo, uh, Kanon-san! Think we should go chill with Misaki?” Tomoe asked, trying very hard to act natural. “I mean, you guys are friends, so I figured, uh...”

“Oh! Yes, absolutely! I’ll go talk to her now!” Kanon smiled, feeling a slight heat rise to her face—creating a redness that did not go unnoticed by Tomoe—as she walked off, a slight bounce in her step.

This was it. Step one.

The rest of Poppin’ Party quickly joined their girlfriend in the water, although Rimi’s eyes kept shifting back to Misaki and Kanon. Arisa would have whacked her with a rolled up newspaper if anyone read paper newspapers anymore and also if she wasn’t in the water.

Himari quickly realized they were being way too blatant. Sure, Misaki and Kanon were just talking, but they definitely weren’t going to say anything juicy if they realized everyone was staring at them!

So she did what she had to and splashed Rimi directly in the face.

Rimi gasped as though she had just been shot. With all of the dramatic flair she had definitely learned from watching all of Kaoru’s performances, she put a hand on her forehead, gasping in shock.

“You... Himari-chan, I can’t believe you would do this to me...” She collapsed back into the water, and her face was completely soaked regardless, but Himari still felt as though a single tear had run down her face.

Rimi was a surprisingly good actor, but Himari didn’t know that. From that perspective, considering the drama of it all, Himari had decided that this was the absolute hottest thing she had ever done.

Himari had barely taken a moment to thirst over her before Rimi shot up from the water like a bullet, slamming a wave of water into her face. Himari stood there in shock for a moment before she realized... this was war.

Hagumi was the second to join in. She aimed a splash at Kasumi, who laughed, flicking water back at her—and then at Arisa, who grumbled as she was attacked, which caused Tae to join in on the fun of it. Eventually, Saaya was dragged in when Tae climbed on top of her shoulders.

“I’m the queen of the castle,” Tae triumphantly declared. “And the tallest.”

“Otae! You were already the tallest!” Kasumi whined. She attempted to splash her, but ended up getting Saaya in the face. She realized she needed the height advantage.

“Arisa, let me get on your back!” she called to her, taking both of her shoulders.

“Fine... just... don’t expect me to get involved in this, okay?” she said, blushing as Kasumi climbed on her. Kasumi grabbed a fistful of water and chucked the drops that remained into Tae’s face.

Pretty soon, Rimi was on Himari’s shoulders and Hagumi was on Kokoro’s—and as soon as Chisato noticed that everyone was paired up and Kokoro and Hagumi were about to fling all of the water in the ocean at someone, she decided they were in need of some help.

She sent a frantic group text.

[Chisato 2:43 P.M.] Let’s all go shopping for some more food :)
[Chisato 2:44 P.M.] And leave Misaki and Kanon alone :)

Kaoru heard her phone buzz beside her, glancing at it quickly. She got the picture.

She walked over to the group on the beach. “Everyone, Chisato has just told us all something quite important. I believe you should, perhaps, check your phones.”

Chisato quickly sent texts to Kanon and Misaki so they wouldn’t be suspicious.

[Chisato 2:46 P.M.] Kanon, has Misaki-chan told you about the new café that opened? Perhaps the three of us should go there sometime. Kaoru could come too, if there’s room.

[Chisato 2:47 P.M.] Misaki-chan, how would you feel about a tea date with Kanon, Kaoru, and myself sometime soon? ^ ^

Meanwhile, Kaoru was getting splashed relentlessly by Kokoro and Hagumi’s duo, even as Poppin’ Party and Himari had left.

“Kokoro, Hagumi, I beg for your forgiveness, little kittens...”

“Not ‘til you admit we’re the cutest couple in the whole world!” Hagumi cheered.

Kokoro flicked another few droplets into Kaoru’s leg. “Yay, yay!”

Kaoru turned helplessly to Chisato, who only laughed at her as her shirt and swimsuit became soaked.

“You’ve got a wonderful figure, Kaoru,” she said, still giggling.

“Chisato! Help me!”

Chisato smiled, taking in the view for a moment before eventually walking up to the pair. “Kokoro, Hagumi, don’t you trust Misaki and Kanon to watch the beach for a minute? After all, I do not believe we can replenish the snacks at this party without your help, and they seem quite responsible...”

Hagumi thought for a minute. “Yeah! Mii-kun always takes care of our stuff!”

With that, Kokoro and Hagumi finally got out of the water—Kaoru bullying notwithstanding—as Chisato sympathetically patted her back.

“I’ve been a fool...” Kaoru lamented, as the mass exodus from the fifth private beach began.

Chapter Text

“Um, excuse us? Why’s everyone leaving?” Misaki asked, looking around the beach. Indeed, everyone was pretty much gone.

Kokoro scampered over to the two of them to explain the situation.

“I think some people are leaving, but I’m just gonna go pick up extra food with Hagumi and Kaoru and Chisato and Himari and Rimi! You guys super beat that watermelon, yay yay! Okay, so feel free to stay and hang out and have fun, ‘cause I trust you and we’ll be back in ten minutes, tops!”

Before Misaki or Kanon could even ask any questions, Kokoro backflipped away, following the rest of the group out to the car.

“...wow. Want to stay and, uh, make sure nobody breaks in?” Misaki asked. Kanon nodded, a slight smile appearing on her face.

“Of course. I’m glad we came here,” she said, not quite sure what to say. “I mean, it was fun seeing how much more comfortable Hagumi-chan’s gotten, and how much fun Kokoro-chan was having, and it was really cute to see how Chisato-chan still thinks nobody knows that she and Kaoru-san are a couple—“ She said that in such a tone that a more sarcastic narrator might have commented on the irony of her, of all people, saying that to Misaki, of all people. “—and it was great hanging out with you the whole time, of course! I’m glad you managed to get out into the water.”

Misaki laughed nervously. “Yeah, I’ve never really been much of a swimmer. I mean, swimsuits are kinda tough. Not as tough as they must be for some of the others, but I’m, uh... you know.” Misaki didn’t really want to say she was plain—the way she saw it, she was even somewhat unattractive—but Kanon shook her head.

“No, you look great! I mean, I’m a little heavier than a lot of the other girls, so I worry about that sometimes. But you always look really tough!” Kanon giggled. “It’s kind of cool.”

“I mean, I, uh... you’re just kind of gorgeous, though. And you look amazing in that swimsuit.” Misaki didn’t quite want to comment on her best friend’s curves and how supremely hot she was, so that was probably the safest compliment she could give. “Those ruffles suit you.”

“Oh! Thank you, Misaki-chan,” Kanon said. “You look great, too. Like... you know.”

Misaki did not know.

Kanon laid back onto the towel, spreading her arms out slightly to relax. Misaki followed suit, laying on her side and facing towards Kanon.

“It’s funny. All of the things the group’s been dragging us into lately... I love them a lot, but it feels nice to just take a moment alone with you. You’re a lot more chill.” Misaki smiled at Kanon, and there was definitely more to that comment than on a surface level, but Kanon was left guessing.

“Right. It’s... yeah.” Kanon looked back at Misaki, migrating onto her side as well. She opened her mouth to speak again, but the words just weren’t there. Misaki didn’t seem to have words, either.

Neither of them could say who initiated it first, but suddenly, they were kissing. It was soft and chaste and tender and everything Misaki could have wanted for a first kiss, and everything Kanon could have wanted for her first kiss with her.

For a moment, it was perfect.

“I.. I didn’t think you really...” Kanon thought back to that night below the stars, where Misaki had called her a friend, and realized that she had started to believe that kissing her was a goal she would never reach. “I, um, I’m glad, but! It’s surprising.” She turned red. “I... really am happy right now, Misaki-chan.”

She looked into Misaki’s eyes and found her glancing away, seemingly just as flustered as Kanon was.

“Can I... kiss you again?” Misaki asked bashfully, eyes flickering towards everything but Kanon.

Kanon’s response was to put one hand on each side of Misaki’s face, to pull her in and let their lips crash together. Her eyes slammed shut, her lip gloss smeared onto Misaki’s lips, and Misaki’s eyes went wide before going twinkling and half-lidded. Kanon’s arms moved to a place around her neck, pulling Misaki in tighter, and Misaki’s hands migrated down her body to her waist. Kanon bit Misaki’s lip as gently as she could manage, and Misaki let out a soft sound against her lips—and Kanon felt herself getting warmer as her tongue slipped into her friend’s mouth, pressing against Misaki’s.

If it wasn’t for air, Kanon was certain she never would have let go—and when the need to breathe came, she broke apart slowly. Misaki’s hands stayed on her waist as Kanon’s migrated to her shoulders.

Kanon’s heart beat fast as she realized how beautiful she felt in Misaki’s arms, her face flushed and the bits of her makeup that hadn’t been washed away by the water smudged across her face.

“...wow,” she breathed out, unable to form anything else coherent. Misaki was similarly rendered unable to think.

“...yeah. I... wow.”

That was what they both needed. It had been too long, and Kanon was so glad that Misaki reacted well to it.

Kissing was super weird, actually, but Misaki found herself not minding when it was her lips against Kanon’s.

Suddenly, Arisa’s voice.

“Uh, are you guys...”

Misaki glanced up. Was everyone already back? Wait, Arisa wasn’t even part of the group that was coming back. What the hell?

“Hey... Arisa...” Misaki could barely speak. This was the worst possible situation. How long had she been there?

“Yeah. I wasn’t, uh, watching you guys make out or anything. I thought I left my bag here, so... yeah, I decided to check to see if I did.” Arisa took one last glance around. “One of my bandmates must have picked it up on the way out. I’ll ask the group chat. Yeah.”

The painful awkwardness of this situation hung in the air as Arisa awkwardly backed away.

“And don’t worry. I won’t mention... uh, that. To the others, I mean.”

Misaki did a thumbs-up gesture at her. “Cool.”

Arisa returned with awkward finger guns. “Great.”

She then proceeded to leave as quickly as possible, not saying another word. Misaki really felt like laying down in the dirt and letting the earth reclaim her.

“Kanon-san, I am... so sorry,” Misaki said, sighing. “I should have been paying more attention. But... you know, I really do...”

“It’s fine,” Kanon said, a small smile on her face. “It would still be nice to keep quiet to the others for a bit, I think. To test the waters. You know, if you actually want to be together.”

Maybe that part was kind of obvious, but Kanon wanted to make sure.

Misaki nodded. “Yeah, totally. We should keep quiet at first, though. I, uh... kind of don’t want to deal with the three dummies bothering us about it all the time.”

“You really do care about them, though, don’t you?”

“I, uh...” Misaki flushed red. “...they’re good friends. Weirdos, yeah, but...”

The soft hum of Kokoro’s limo could be heard, and the couple quickly separated from each other’s arms.

“Man, that watermelon must have been really good, huh?”

“Y-Yes! It was... all sorts of watery, and melony!”

“Cool!”

“Mhm!”

The two erupted into giggles as the awkwardness seemed to dissipate, and the crowd that had left all entered again.

“Misaki! Kanon! Did you miss us?” Kokoro called, waving as she marched in.

“I’ll bet anyone would! But they probably liked having the beach to themselves, too!” Hagumi said, a great wide grin on her face.

“Ah, a fine observation... Hagumi, you truly are a beacon of intelligence.”

“Kaoru, would you like to go into the water together? Perhaps it’s just me, but I think you’d look cute with your hair wet.”

“Ah, Chii-chan...”

“Yeah! You’d look super cute!” Himari agreed, as Rimi nodded along.

Kaoru turned a shade of red as her girlfriend led her into the water, closely followed by Himari and Rimi. Kokoro plopped herself down onto a towel, inviting her girlfriend to sit beside her, which Hagumi happily did.

Misaki found herself looking away from Kanon awkwardly as she lifted her hand slightly from the towel, moving it over a bit until it was just above Kanon’s. It shook as she contemplated lowering it or not. Kanon glanced down at their hands, almost connected, and moved her hand over Misaki’s. She looked over at her girlfriend(?), a slight smile on her face. Misaki blushed as she smiled back.

Chapter Text

The rest of the group went home, everything of worthy memory at that party stuck in the minds of Misaki and Kanon—and therefore, they had no knowledge of any of it.

Himari certainly remembered that splash fight, though. Rimi riding on her shoulders (a thought that made her blush every time it returned to her mind), as well as that display of theatricality... she couldn’t have forgotten any of that.

She didn’t want to disappoint Kaoru or Chisato either, but what else was there to do? Everything they had done so far had ended in failure. She had expected a grand romance, and yet, there was no such thing.

Well, Kaoru had seemed a bit invested in her relationship with Rimi as well, but that was an issue for another day. For now, she just needed ideas! Plans! Something she could help with, so she didn’t feel like she was leaving Kaoru and Chisato’s plan in the dust!

[Himari 9:31 P.M.] tomoe you’re the only one in the group who hasn’t done something yet! help!
[Tomoe 9:46 P.M.] wait really? huh.
[Tomoe 9:47 P.M.] i don’t know, why don’t we go to an amusement park or something?
[Himari 9:48 P.M.] what would that do???
[Tomoe 9:50 P.M.] idk there’s lots of partner rides. plus the others would at least have fun

Himari didn’t want to agree to this. This seemed like a bad plan. But, well, nothing else had worked yet... and Kokoro might have some ideas for how that could work better, right? She might be able to pay enough people to clear out a whole amusement park.

[Himari 9:56 P.M.] sounds great!!! let’s tell the whole gc now!

So Tomoe did.

[Kokoro 10:03 P.M.] MICHELLE LAND!!!
[Kokoro 10:04 P.M.] lets take them all to michelle land!! it’ll be so fun!! it’s where michelle lives and all of her bear friends are there and there’s fun rides too!!

Everyone wholeheartedly agreed. Himari did too, of course. Spending the day at the amusement park sounded fun! Riding rides, watching Kaoru brave the tall roller coasters, watching Chisato bravely take a seat in the dropper, hanging out with Rimi...

But then she looked at the forecast. It was supposed to be 33° on the day that Kokoro had planned out, and Himari felt her stomach tighten.

What was wrong with her today? Everything just felt wrong.

There were other mascots in Michelle Land, weren’t there? Crowding the park, everywhere...

It took her a moment to realize that she was just tired of having eyes on her. She wouldn’t even be able to tell with the workers having mascot suits on, but that almost made it worse.

She didn’t want to spend the day at Michelle Land if she would feel more humiliation than enjoyment. She didn’t even know if she could turn to Afterglow in times like these.

Himari acted on impulse. What else was there to do?

[Himari 10:24 P.M.] rimi-chan, are you still awake?
[Rimi 10:29 P.M.] I am! What’s going on?
[Himari 10:30 P.M.] can i come over to your place?? not now obviously but... when we go to michelle land? if you’re not planning on going

Rimi looked down at her phone. She took a few minutes to think, wondering why on earth Himari would want to avoid Michelle Land.

It wasn’t her problem, though. If Himari needed help, she needed help, and Rimi wanted to help her feel better more than she wanted to ride the swings at the park.

[Rimi 10:38 P.M.] Sure. I was going to stay home anyway!
[Himari 10:39 P.M.] tysm!!!! ・:*+.\(( °ω° ))/.:+

Misaki and Kanon, meanwhile, were a bit more excited to receive the texts that Kokoro sent in the Hello, Happy group chat.

[Kanon 8:38 A.M.] It’s almost like our first date, isn’t it?
[Misaki 8:40 A.M.] haha yeah. besides the ragtag gang of morons, but we can still have fun
[Misaki 8:41 A.M.] we’re gonna eat so much cotton candy and im going to win you prizes
[Kanon 8:42 A.M.] I’ll have to kiss you if you do.
[Misaki 8:44 A.M.] id say we should cuddle but thats a bit much while we’re in public so lets just go on rides where we can sit together <3

Kanon smiled when Misaki sent her that heart emoji. She was a little disappointed about not being able to cuddle her girlfriend, but she knew Misaki would be all right with plenty of that soon, and her boundaries were the most important thing in Kanon’s eyes.

Besides, Misaki being excited about sitting together was cute in its own way.

Misaki and Kokoro had ended up on the same train, and as usual, Kokoro was being her very cool and chilled out self.

“Misaki, you haven’t met the other Michelles before, have you? You weren’t able to come last time, so we’ll have to go around and introduce you to everyone! They’re all so nice and fluffy, you’ll love them!”

“Uh-huh.”

“And the roller coasters! They’re so tall and fun! You and Kanon should come with Hagu and me and we’ll go extra fast!”

“Okay.”

“And the Ferris wheel, and the games and prizes... we should have a cotton candy eating contest! Let’s eat until our stomachs burst!”

“Mhm.”

“We can try all types of fun carnival treats... ohh, we should all try one of everything!”

“Sounds good.”

Misaki wasn’t really listening. She was just looking at her phone. Plus, she wasn’t in the Michelle suit, so as far as she was concerned, she was basically invincible regardless of what Kokoro decided to try.

“We should turn up the speed on some of the roller coasters! I hope they’re even more fun and extra fast when we get there!”

“Yep.”

In the nearly empty car beside them, three women in black suits were making a few phone calls.

The train eventually pulled up to their stop by the amusement park. Kanon was at the stop as well, looking very confused and disoriented—had she not gotten any help on the way there? Misaki suddenly felt bad about not coordinating better transport plans, but she immediately made a beeline towards her, Kokoro following closely behind.

“Kanon-san, are you lost?”

“Ah... Misaki-chan, Kokoro-chan! I am; thank you.”

Misaki reached out to take her hand—and if Kokoro noticed, she didn’t say anything.

“We’ll help you find Michelle Land, okay?” She leaned in closer to Kanon, reaching her other hand out to Kokoro so she wouldn’t run off and do something stupid.

When they got to the park, Misaki dropped Kokoro’s hand and approached the group that seemed to already be there—Tomoe, Kaoru, Chisato, and Hagumi.

“I thought Rimirin and Hii-chan were gonna be here!” Hagumi commented. She seemed almost disappointed.

Himari was currently on Rimi’s couch, snuggled into her shoulder as she lost at Mario Kart, so they were definitely not there.

“Oh, yeah! Himari told me to tell you guys she couldn’t make it. I don’t know about Rimi, though.”

“I suppose it would be best to message her, then. It is only us and the crowd of Michelles here, so it should not be too hard for her to find us if we go now,” Kaoru said. “I will handle that much. The rest of you, enjoy yourselves.”

She quickly fired off a text to Rimi and slid her phone back in her pocket, before following the rest of the group into the actual park.

Misaki sighed. Michelles were everywhere. This could only get more stressful if she was in one of those suits, and she instinctively shifted closer to Kanon.

“Is something wrong?”

“Don’t worry about me, Kanon-san. I’m just a little tired.”

Kanon squeezed her hand. “I can’t stop myself from worrying about you.”

Misaki laughed, smiling affectionately at her. “So, is there anything you’d like to try first?”

“Um... well, we could try out one of the roller coasters! I think there’s one over there that’s a hanging one, if you’d like.”

“That sounds fine. It’s, uh... that pink one, right?”

“Mhm!”

“All right. I’ll lead you there.”

Misaki wasn’t about to let Kanon get lost on her way to the roller coaster. She’d panic and that would be bad, especially since they were supposed to be having fun.

And Misaki actually was having fun just being there with Kanon. She didn’t know how to say it, but she was.

They both climbed into two seats that were both next to each other not currently occupied by people in Michelle suits. Two others came sprinting in as well—Kokoro and Hagumi, tightly clutching each other’s hands as they hopped fences and jumped into the front seat. They both pulled down their shoulder bars and buckled their seatbelts practically in unison, as Misaki and Kanon did the same.

Kanon was a little scared, but hanging coasters were easier. They were fun and she didn’t feel like she was going to fall out.

The voice at the beginning of the ride that everyone ignores started playing as a Michelle-suited worker walked around to check everyone’s harnesses were safe. Misaki pretty much tuned it out until one line caught her attention.

“This coaster will reach the top speed of 115 miles per hour.”

...did she just say 115? One hundred and fifteen?

Regardless, it was off, taking the slow incline up the first hill. Misaki decided it was better to just sit back and see what happened.

It went up, up, up, then... the top of the hill! And then it took the sharp shift downwards, speeding up to its promised speed, and Misaki felt ill. Extremely ill.

Kokoro and Hagumi were screaming with excitement, Kanon was just screaming, and Misaki couldn’t even get any words out.

It couldn’t have lasted more than thirty seconds, but when Misaki got out, she felt like she was near passing out. Her hands shook as she went to undo her seatbelt, and Kanon hurriedly reached over to help her.

“Misaki-chan? What’s wrong?”

Misaki responded with the verbal equivalent of a keysmash. Kanon hurriedly lifted her from her restraints, newfound determination filling her eyes.

“I’ll carry you to a park bench, okay?”

“Be careful.”

Misaki only managed to get that much out before she was carefully lifted out of her seat in a bridal carry—and wow, Kanon was soft. She was more focused on the fact that she currently felt like a ghost was kicking her in the head, and the bright sunlight shining in her eyes didn’t help matters, but it was something her subconscious registered regardless.

Kanon set her down gently on the park bench.

“I’ll help you tie your hair back, okay, Misaki-chan?” Kanon tugged out her own ponytail holder, pulling Misaki’s hair back into a loose ponytail so she didn’t have to worry about holding it back for her if worst came to worst.

Misaki leaned into her, sliding down to rest upon her lap. “Thanks... Kanon-san...”

Kanon smiled, glancing around to make sure nobody but the Michelles were around before leaning down to kiss her forehead.

“You’re welcome, Misaki-chan. Rest as long as you need to.”

At that same moment, Himari and Rimi were still on Rimi’s couch, cuddling.

“Um, Himari-chan... is it okay if I ask why you wanted to come over today?”

Himari paused, before snuggling more into her shoulder. “No reason! I’ve been busy with the band lately and I wanted to chill out.” She laughed, but there was no humor in it.

“Okay. Um, but... I’ll understand no matter what it is, you know.”

Himari wanted to tell her that she knew that full well. Her fear was that Rimi would understand too well.

“I know. I’m really glad you care so much, Rimi!” Her smile seemed a bit more genuine this time. “Let’s go see a show together sometime, okay?”

That much seemed to reassure Rimi, who put her arm around her. “Okay! I’ll buy us tickets to the next Haneoka show, then! They’re doing Taming of the Shrew, I think.”

Himari frowned at that name, because she had taste, but she moved her hand up to touch Rimi’s anyway. “That sounds fun!” She let her excitement come back, before her tone took on a quality that was a bit more solemn. “Thanks. Really.”

“No problem.”

Back at the park, Kaoru had somehow gotten to the top of the Ferris wheel. Well, that wasn’t quite true—she had gotten up there with Chisato after insisting, and was currently holding onto her, terrified.

“Kaoru, you can let go of me. You’re safe,” Chisato murmured, attempting to reassure her as she gently rubbed her back. “I’m here for you. I love you.”

“I love you as well, my dearest friend.” Kaoru’s voice shook as she held Chisato, and yet, she remained strong. “I thank you for believing in me, but I fear I have overestimated my own capabilities.”

“You have not. I know now that you have grown so much stronger.” Chisato slid onto the floor of the car, bringing Kaoru with her, and moving her legs apart so Kaoru could rest comfortably in her lap. “But I have no objection to holding you, if that is what you prefer.”

Being on the floor was safe. The seats covered them, and Chisato felt her much-missed privacy return to her.

She leaned in, kissing her girlfriend softly and tenderly, and Kaoru blushed as she kissed her back. They were truly alone, the garish sun creating the safety of the shadows.

And they returned to the ground eventually. They hurriedly separated from each other a few moments before that happened.

“I truly do apologize, Chisato. I suppose I am not the brave prince I thought myself to be.”

“The luckier I am. You know well that I don’t want a prince. I want you, Kao-chan.”

Kaoru smiled bashfully at the nickname, reaching down and allowing their fingers to briefly touch.

They couldn’t say ‘I love you’ on the solid ground, but they knew.

Misaki had fallen asleep on Kanon’s lap—the thoughts rushing through her mind about how soft she was must have been true, then—and when she woke up, Kanon looked like she was about to fall asleep as well.

“Ah, Kanon-san.”

Kanon immediately started awake. “Misaki-chan! Do you feel any better?”

Misaki nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Um... thanks for taking care of me.”

She sat up, putting her hand in Kanon’s, smiling lovingly at her.

“It’s okay, really. I’m just glad you’re okay.”

She reached around to the back of Misaki’s head, gently sliding the hair tie off and letting her hair fall back around her face. Misaki blushed—the gesture felt strangely intimate.

“Let’s just take it easy for the rest of today, okay?”

Kanon finished putting the hair tie back in her own hair, and as soon as she did, Misaki offered her hand. Kanon gladly took it.

“That sounds good.”

Tomoe noticed the pair of them walking along, smiling gently at each other with no need to really talk—and she wasn’t sure if this was a good reason to send a message to the group chat, so she decided that it was better to just... not.

She kind of regretted not bringing Tsugumi along. She was a little bit of a third wheel—well, ninth wheel, really. It was wild.

She was still winning games like a madwoman, though. Turns out that her drumming gave her a pretty good throwing arm for the bottle toss games—she would have challenged Kanon to test that theory if she wasn’t currently making heart eyes at Misaki. Those heart eyes were kind of what they were there for.

Everyone found their own way to spend the rest of the day. Kokoro and Hagumi nearly made themselves sick from the roller coasters, Kaoru and Chisato rode the smaller rides and had some of the (terrible) carnival food, Tomoe won an armload of prizes for Afterglow, Himari continued letting Rimi kick her ass in various video games, and Misaki and Kanon wandered from park bench to park bench, exchanging subtle kisses and taking it easy.

At the end of the day, they made it home—and with pretty much everyone having gotten distracted, they only noticed them acting a bit closer than last time.

Chapter Text

Afterglow was chilling out post-rehearsal, getting some food together at a nearby restaurant.

“How’s your scheme going?” Moca asked, though it was muffled by the garlic bread she was shoving in her mouth.

Ran rolled her eyes. “Oh, god.”

“It’s okay, Ran-chan! Himari and Tomoe always tell us cute stories.”

Tomoe laughed. “It’s going pretty good, I think! Those two are totally into each other.”

“Yep!” Himari agreed, but her face fell. “None of our plans are really working, though... but Kaoru-senpai and Chisato-san are so invested in seeing them happy that I wanna see them happy, too!” Her voice had turned into a pained groan as she spoke.

“Ooh, Hii-chan, you’ve got a crush on Chisato-san, too?”

Himari whined. “Stop teasing me! She and Kaoru-senpai are just really cool!”

“Pretty much everyone knows they’re a thing, so I don’t think you’d have much of a chance,” Ran commented offhandedly as she dipped a fry into some ketchup.

Tsugumi nodded. “Mhm! They came by the café the other day, and they were holding hands under the table. Eve-san said that Chisato-san was laughing and Seta-senpai was bright red!”

Himari gasped at the very idea of Kaoru losing her cool. “Aw, man, no way!” She sighed. “Kaoru-senpai thinks I like Rimi, anyway...”

“Weren’t you rambling for hours about you guys cuddling at that sleepover?” Tomoe asked. “Even after we left the café. Even though you just let me into the group chat. And then you texted me about how she was on your shoulders at the pool. And how you spent the day at her place when I was at the park.”

“Well, it—it wasn’t like that!” Himari insisted, blushing bright red. Moca whistled.

“Ooh, Hii-chan’s got another crush. The numbers just keep going up and up!”

Himari pouted. “You guys are mean. Bullies.”

“We love you,” Tomoe said, patting her back.

“And you’re all gossiping about Kaoru-senpai and Chisato-san.”

“Do you want to hear more gossip?” Tsugumi asked, leaning on Tomoe as she spoke.

Himari paused for a second.

“...yeah. But that’s not the point.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s not bully poor Hii-chan.” Himari huffed as she said that. “I’m gonna come up with an amazing Moca-chan plan.” Moca paused for the sheer drama of it all before continuing. “Let’s put up mistletoe.”

“Oh! What a great idea!” Tomoe said, before suddenly utilizing her brain cell. “...hey, wait, it’s summer. That doesn’t even make sense. And where are we gonna find mistletoe in summer?”

“It can be fake mistletoe!” Tsugumi pointed out. “We’ll buy it online!”

“Oh, another tsugurific plan! I bow to your holy wisdom, Tsugu... oh, and we should put sunglasses on it.”

Ran stared at her in mild disbelief. “...sunglasses.”

“It’s festive.”

“It’s July!” Himari said, seeming wholly unconvinced.

“Moca. I know you don’t smoke. But I think you’re high.”

Moca frowned. “Boo hoo... my friends are bullying me... but I think it’ll work. You should try it at the café, Tsugu.”

“Hm... Tomoe, you should see if you can get Chisato-san to convince them to come over!” Tsugumi said. “Then I can put it up when they’re about to get here!”

Tomoe took out her phone and messaged the group chat, and everyone else kept talking.

“Tsugu’s the best,” Moca said, and she was correct.

3-5 business days later, Moca gleefully sat at home with a sprig of fake mistletoe, a bulk order of 100 tiny sunglasses, and a hot glue gun. She had watched enough terrible crafting videos on YouTube with Kokoro to know how one of those worked.

She took one beautiful pair of tiny sunglasses, with dark frames and deep, soulful lenses, gently hot glued it onto the mistletoe, and burnt her finger. But it was on the mistletoe.

She called Tsugumi.

Tsugumi called Chisato.

Chisato texted the group chat, so that everyone would meet up at Hazawa Café—which hardly ever got huge groups like that, although Eve was more than thrilled to help serve them all—and Misaki and Kanon would be there in five minutes.

Tsugumi put up the fake mistletoe, and then they realized. Chisato was running a bit late. Likely due to the meeting she had mentioned she had to do—it must have been a bit longer than usual.

When she finally entered—luckily, before Misaki and Kanon made it—Kaoru made it her mission to greet her at the door. This decision was completely unintentional, merely an instinct of hers, until she noticed the sunglasses mistletoe.

Kokoro, however, noticed first. With a grand smile on her face, she began to chant. “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”

Hagumi joined in chanting. “Kiss! Kiss!”

Kaoru looked up. Chisato looked up.

Chisato grabbed Kaoru by the beads of her necklace, tugged her down, and planted a quick kiss on her lips, before walking back to their seats like nothing had happened. Kokoro and Hagumi cheered. Eve looked like she wanted to cheer too, but she was on the clock so she had to tell Kokoro and Hagumi to cheer a little bit more quietly.

Kaoru was still frozen there, bright red, until Eve stood up and helped her back to the table. Tomoe laughed under her breath. So this is what Ran and Tsugumi meant when she said that everyone knew.

A few minutes later, Misaki and Kanon came in, laughing and chatting among themselves.

The first thing they noticed was the whole crowd of their friends that was currently staring at them.

“H...huh? Oh no, did we come at a bad time?” Kanon asked, seeming mildly panicked.

“...seriously, what did you guys pull this time?” Misaki asked.

The second thing they noticed was the crowd’s eyes slowly moving up at the exact same time.

“Okay, now you guys are just being creepy—oh my god.”

Mistletoe.

“It’s July!” Misaki protested, flustered. Kokoro and Hagumi started chanting again.

“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”

They managed to carry out a whole conversation in the backdrop of that chanting.

“There’s sunglasses on it,” Chisato pointed out teasingly. “How festive.”

“Who put this up here?”

“I did,” Tsugumi helpfully volunteered. “I was asked to. Once you kiss, can I take your order?”

“Agh...”

“Fuee...”

Kanon blushed beet red, getting on her toes, leaning in, and gently placing a soft kiss onto Misaki’s forehead. It was tender and lasted a moment longer than it needed to, something that did not go unnoticed by Misaki.

The chanting stopped and the cheering began.

“Kanon-san...”

“It was just on the forehead, wasn’t it?”

Misaki blushed, thinking about their kiss on the beach. If Kanon had done that here, she may have actually dropped dead, but she can’t say she wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

“Ah, I’ll have, um... one black coffee,” Misaki finally managed to stutter out.

“Could I get the peach green tea?” Kanon asked, looking just as nervous.

They sat a few tables away from their friends, who eventually returned to conversing among themselves about something or another—Kokoro having tried gold-flaked donuts and asking the rest of the group if they had ever tried them, Hagumi talking about the Troom Troom style prank war she and Kokoro had started, Tomoe talking about the cute date Tsugumi took her on because she couldn’t get too embarrassed about it while she was working, and enough to get through the rest of the date without raising more suspicion.

“I... really didn’t think you would...” Misaki stuttered out, feeling painfully awkward.

“I thought it wasn’t too much of a gesture, was it?” Kanon giggled softly, and Misaki smiled. She really did love seeing her happy.

“I, uh... I guess not.”

Kanon smiled, reaching her hand out below the table and taking Misaki’s. “Stop me if you ever don’t want to... um, I know I’ve had trouble doing everything I want to do for you before, like when I got Kokoro to help you when we were struggling with the amusement park, but... I really care about your well-being, and now I feel more confident to handle it.”

Misaki laughed gently, and Kanon made heart eyes at her. “Kanon-san, you really think I never realized that? I’ve always just wanted to enjoy my time with you, and part of that is because I can really tell you care. I mean... you’ve always gone out of your way to care for me, and it doesn’t feel like something you’ll just do for anyone like the others will, you know? So it means a lot.”

“Ah, um... I like to think I’m a pretty nice person, but...”

“No, no, not like that!” Misaki realized she worded that wrong. “Um, I just mean... you’re really nice in general, always trying to help people out, really brave...” She found herself blushing slightly. “But you’re always the first to talk to me after concerts—even if it’s just to say ‘great job’. And you were really sweet to me even when Kaoru embarrassed me back on the cruise ship, when we didn’t even really know each other that well, and now... god, I just. Yeah.”

“You’ve always done the same for me!” Kanon clasped her hands together, excitedly and affectionately all at once. “When you recommended that new café to me and Chisato-chan... we had a lot of fun because of you! I didn’t even think you went to cafés, so I was surprised when you told me, but I liked it.”

“Oh, haha, it’s kind of a funny story.” Misaki awkwardly scratched her neck. “I started keeping up with that kind of stuff so I could help you enjoy yourself sometimes. I know we both have lots of fun with the band, but I also know you’re more comfortable just chilling out sometimes, right? So am I. So, I figured, um...” She paused, running out of things to say. “And when we were eating at the café at CIRCLE, and you wanted to help show me how nice they are, even when I didn’t ask... it’s kind of stupid, but that made me happy for a long time.” She grinned, almost nervously. Kanon felt the temptation to lean in and kiss her, were it not for the crowd of their friends sitting by them and Eve walking with their tea and coffee.

“Misaki-san, Kanon-san! Sorry it took so long!”

“No problem, Wakamiya-san. Thanks.”

“Thank you, Eve-chan! It’s okay, we were just talking.”

“Mhm!” Eve smiled at them, setting each drink down in front of them. She figured out which one was whose pretty quickly, but that wasn’t hard. “Enjoy your drinks!”

Kanon smiled at Misaki once more. “You realize why they’re so nice now, right?”

Misaki nodded, her face flushing again. “Especially... um, especially when it’s with someone important to you.”

As soon as Eve’s shift ended, Chisato received a text typed with her lightning fast fingers.

[Eve 8:01 P.M.] They were holding hands !!!! ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆

Clearly, something had gone right, Chisato thought, a slight smile on her face. But it wasn’t enough. Although she and Kanon had only held hands back when they briefly dated, Misaki had held hands with all of her band members at least once.

Maybe the fact that Kokoro and Hagumi couldn’t go five seconds without physical affection and still regularly held onto Misaki even though they were dating now, and Kaoru was just a naturally touchy person, and the fact that Kanon fit none of those descriptions meant that this time meant something, but Chisato couldn’t be sure. She informed the group chat as much.

[Chisato 8:16 P.M.] We’re getting quite close. Let’s keep it up~

Chapter Text

Chisato’s text inspired Kokoro. She was elated, newly motivated to come up with a whole new scheme that was certain to work! She stayed up late, thinking hard... how could she make Misaki and Kanon smile?

And by the next day, she found it.

[Kokoro 6:51 P.M.] let’s sing to them!!!!
[Hagumi 6:53 P.M.] :o what a great idea kokoron!! what are we singing?
[Kaoru 6:54 P.M.] Might I suggest we make it a full performance with all of us?
[Tomoe 6:56 P.M.] sounds good to me!
[Chisato 6:57 P.M.] Besides the fact that we have four bassists, one vocalist, one guitarist, one drummer, and our only pianist hasn’t checked the group chat in weeks.
[Tomoe 6:59 P.M.] no worries, i’ll ask tsugu to handle it
[Rimi 7:03 P.M.] That would help a lot!
[Arisa 7:09 P.M.] ill do it too. i guess
[Himari 7:14 P.M.] yay!
[Himari 7:15 P.M.] kokoro, what are we singing?
[Kokoro 7:16 P.M.] let’s do kiss the girl! from the mermaid movie!
[Kaoru 7:19 P.M.] How romantic. You are quite a genius, Kokoro.
[Kaoru 7:20 P.M.] We shall arrive on the river at sunset with a lovely small canoe, sized for them, lead them to it... and the others, hiding among the brush, shall begin to sing and play their instruments!
[Kaoru 7:22 P.M.] And if all goes well, we shall guide them into a small, private place, make the music just a bit quieter, allow them some peace... and finally, they shall kiss. A lovely ending to a lovely story, is’t not well done?
[Himari 7:23 P.M.] really lovely!!
[Rimi 7:23 P.M.] I hope it works!
[Kokoro 7:25 P.M.] it’ll all work out if we just smile!!!!!

Kokoro rented a cute little canoe, big enough to fit the two of them, and delegated herself and Hagumi to lead them to it—after all, she was one of Misaki’s best friends, and she didn’t have to play! Plus, with three other bassists, Hagumi was happy to volunteer to just let herself stand at the dock.

They wandered up, leading their somewhat confused friends to the pretty lake.

“Misaki! Are you excited?”

“I guess. You still haven’t told me why you’re dragging me and Kanon-san up here.”

Hagumi shook her head. “No worries! We’re gonna have fun!”

That just made her worry more, although Kanon’s smile made her a bit less nervous.

That is, until they reached the lake, and it was Misaki’s turn to worry.

Rimi reached out one hand to squeeze Aries’s and the other to squeeze Himari’s, almost as a good luck charm. Himari blushed, but readied her bass, as Arisa prepared to play her keyboard.

Kaoru stood hidden with her guitar, back to back with Chisato, who smiled up at her as she quickly adjusted her bass strap.

Tomoe and Tsugumi has hidden themselves in some underbrush, not too far from where Himari was.

This was it. The performance of a lifetime.

“U... um...”

“What’s wrong, Kanon? It’s just a boat!”

Kanon inched closer to Misaki, a bit further from the water. She didn’t like the idea of being on the dock in case it collapsed, she didn’t like the idea of their boat tipping over, she detested everything about this plan.

“Kano-chan-senpai, you need a life jacket! Kokoron and I are gonna grab them!”

Kanon mustered up all of her courage, but only a small “That’s not... yes, please.” came out. Misaki could tell something was seriously wrong.

She waited for Kokoro and Hagumi to run up the small hill before talking.

“Hey, something’s wrong. We can leave, you know.” Misaki reached down for her hands, taking a step closer to her and grasping them. “If you aren’t having fun, we should go.”

“No, I want to spend time with you! I just, um... it’s a lot scary when it’s up close and personal like that.”

“Kanon-san, it’s fine. We can spend time together without going in the canoe.” Misaki smiled.

Kanon smiled back, trying to signal that she was calm again. “I’d like that. I, um, I... I’m really happy to be here with you, at least.”

Misaki leaned in, giving her a quick, soft kiss, just as Kokoro and Hagumi came barreling down the hill.

“Whoa! Was that a kiss?”

“So romantic!”

And then Kokoro realized. And Hagumi realized. And everyone who had been hiding in the trees seemed to realize as well, as even the sounds of nature suddenly went quieter than the typical dull roar.

Misaki pulled back, bright red at the realization that she had been caught—as was Kanon, it seemed—and then she noticed that everything had gone completely quiet.

“...what’s going on here?”

Kokoro and Hagumi froze. Neither of them had an explanation. Misaki continued to look even more perplexed.

“Hey! It’s okay that you like Kanon! I like Hagumi, too!” Kokoro cheered, tossing the life jackets to the ground to give Hagumi and Misaki hugs at the same time.

Misaki was about to tell her that it wasn’t even remotely the same thing, but she realized that it was. She had been so excited for Kokoro when she had called her to tell her she was dating Hagumi now. Maybe this was just her way of returning the favor, in her own unique Kokoro way. Misaki supposed she liked that way, even if she had to fall back on Kanon when it got to be too much.

“...yeah, I guess it is.”

The silence grew heavy and awkward. Even the animals seemed to have quieted down.

“Get off of me, you dumb fucking mosquito!”

...okay, maybe the bugs were still doing their thing.

“Arisa?” Misaki turned to Hagumi. “What the hell’s going on?”

Hagumi proceeded to share a worried glance with Kokoro, who continued to smile.

Kaoru popped out of the tree, Chisato following behind her with a hand on her wrist—almost as if she had intended to stop her, but decided not to.

“You see, we were attempting to... create more smiles in the world.”

Himari hopped up from her spot in a bush. Finally, her time to shine. “Mhm! It was Kaoru-senpai’s idea—no, wait, you said it was Chisato-san’s?” Kaoru nodded at that, and Chisato smiled. She wasn’t sure she would have been given credit at all. Himari blushed at seeing both of their approving gazes on her. “Anyway, we were trying to get you two together!”

Arisa finally rose up from her own spot, and Rimi figured she might as well.

“I’d like to emphasize that I played no part in this. Well, I mean... almost no part, anyway...” Arisa blushed, and Rimi rushed in to clarify.

“Arisa-chan didn’t keep up with our group chat! She showed up sometimes, but she
thought it was more important to stay out of your private lives, even though she wanted to see you happy, too.”

“H-hey! I never said that!”

“So, all of you... were in on this?” Misaki asked, looking around to try and clarify.

“Well...” Chisato glanced to the side, looking amused—although she clearly would really rather be anywhere else regardless. “It’s not only us.”

Tomoe waved from where she was standing. Tsugumi stepped out in front of her.

“I helped a little. Tsugu wasn’t in on the group chat, though, she just helped us out a couple of times.”

“My bandmates weren’t quite in on it either. Everyone was just excited to invite them on the camping trip,” Chisato added.

Misaki buried her head in her hands. Kanon rested a hand on her shoulder.

“Oh my god.”

“Haha, well, um, we’re together now...” Kanon blushed. Misaki attempted to calm herself down.

“So when Kanon brought me bread...”

“That was my idea, yes.” Chisato smiled. “She was quite cute about it when she texted me.”

“Chisato-chan! All I did was, um...”

“Keysmash,” Chisato clarified, and Kanon’s blush grew brighter.

“The soup was my idea, though,” Kanon added. “I really wanted to see you feel better.”

For some reason, that was equally embarrassing to Misaki.

“The sleepover? Did you tell Kanon to forget her sleeping bag?”

Himari shook her head. “Nope, that was an accident! Rimi’s was on purpose, though.”

“...you know we just would’ve made you guys share if Kanon hadn’t forgotten hers, right?”

Himari and Rimi froze. They looked at each other.

“It’s okay. It was nice,” Misaki said, not quite smiling—although she looked like she was close.

“What about the camping? The stars were kind of... romantic, so... um, it was a good idea.” Kanon attempted to say that, her voice getting quieter on ‘romantic’.

“Oh, that was my idea!” Hagumi raised her hand, beaming. “I thought it’d be fun! I’m sorry for scaring you, though... I forgot you were scared of water!”

“Ah, it’s okay, Hagumi! We’re still friends.” Kanon smiled at her. “And I liked looking at the stars with Misaki-chan.”

“H...hey...” Misaki said, blushing and allowing her arms to instinctively cross. “So, the, um... that performance was part of it too?” She made direct eye contact with Kaoru. “...I don’t need to ask, do I?”

“No, I suppose you don’t.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Who the hell did the mistletoe?”

Tsugumi helpfully supplied the answer. “Moca.”

“Of course.” Misaki sighed. “Well, congratulations? We’re dating now. You won.“

She wanted to say something cheesy about how she was the one who really won, since she was so happy to be with Kanon after pining for her for so long. However, that seemed like too hard of a goal if she wanted to maintain her classic emotional invulnerability—and she’d never hear the end of it with Kokoro around.

“Anyway, we’re gonna... go now. You guys can still go on the canoe, I guess.” Misaki squeezed Kanon’s hand and they walked off. Both of their faces had grown red-hot, and Kanon was far from opposed to the idea of getting out of there.

Kaoru looked after them, definitely looking proud of herself. Chisato glanced up at her affectionately.

Misaki turned around, gesturing to them.

“And hey, if we’re talking about getting people together who are totally already fucking, how about you two next?”

“Misaki-chan!”

She laughed softly. “Sorry, Kanon-san.” Then she called back to the rest of the group. “Just so you know, that wasn’t any insight into whether or not we have a sex life. That’s private. I’m bullying Kaoru because she’s my friend and I’m legally allowed to do that.”

Kaoru groaned, burying her head in her hands. Chisato just laughed. “Hm, I suppose it might make sense to say that about us. Well, we’ll talk to you soon!” She waved them off, clearly done with that conversation, before turning to Kokoro and Hagumi. “Do you two need any help with putting away the boat? It seems that you won’t be needing it anymore.”

As soon as they were safely over the hill, Kanon spoke.

“That was...”

“Humiliating?” Misaki helpfully supplied. Kanon nodded.

She glanced down with a certain nervousness, not quite meeting Misaki’s eye.

“I’m sort of glad it happened, though. Aren’t you? I mean... if it hadn’t, we might not have...”

Misaki squeezed her hand. “I know. I’m glad.”

Kanon smiled, leaning into her and resting her head on her. “That’s good.”

Kanon wasn’t ready to say ‘I love you’ yet. Misaki wasn’t either, really. And they still walked to the train together, hand in hand, glad to finally be together and ready to create new memories—with their band and with each other.