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the kind of love with which i speak

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"Seisho's weird."

 

Hisame looks up from her book and sees Suzu half-hanging off the bed, staring at some spot on the ceiling.

 

If Hisame straightens her legs, she'd be able to kick Suzu off her bed entirely. It's tempting. She pokes her on the side instead.

 

"That's bad for your posture," Hisame tells her.

 

Suzu grabs her leg and uses it to leverage herself upright, causing Hisame to quickly adjust her grip on her book, ready to throw the moment to Suzu thinks to tickle her foot.

 

Suzu gives no notice to the threat -- doesn't even bother to remove her hold as she continues her thoughts aloud. "Seisho's weird, right? They have murder puppets. Like, a lot of murder puppets. Do you think I should go ask Mahiru-chan if they need help out?”

 

Bright, pale-green eyes look at her expectantly and, at that very moment, Hisame knows that she's not going to be able to finish her book tonight. 

 

(Not that she's been making much progress in it anyway.)

 

A glance at the clock only serves to confirm it. Less than an hour before midnight. No wonder. It's gotten late without notice. The kind of late where thoughts come by more freely, unchecked and off-tangent, latching towards the merest spark of an idea.

 

It's more surprising that Suzu's kept quiet for this long, really. 

 

"What brought this about?" Hisame asks, raising an eyebrow. "Weren't you fine with it earlier? When we left? And they didn't seem too bothered with it anyway."

 

"I was caught in the moment," Suzu mutters, squeezing down on her ankle. Hisame lightly kicks her for it. Suzu pouts and nope that doesn't appeal to Hisame to take her concerns more seriously. Mhm, no.

 

"Just what kind of stuff is at their school do you think? Their teacher called them inhuman, right? And there's the white mask ones and the stronger black mask ones, and Mahiru-chan and the others weren't even really surprised when they came out and- oh no-" Suzu's eyes widen and she starts an urgent tap tap tap on her leg. "What if there's more kinds of murder puppets that we just didn't see?"

 

Hisame pulls her legs away entirely, frowning at the way Suzu pouts harder at her, and wonders how she's even going to talk her through this.

 

Everyone in this room knows Suzu will run all the way back to Seisho if she thinks she has to.

 

Glancing at Koharu's direction, Hisame finds her working still on her desk, seemingly ignoring the conversation in favor of perusing the program they’ve gotten of Seisho’s Starlight.

 

(Already, taking notes and thinking through the story, of changing the script to make a stage where all three of them could stand as equals, of creating a Starlight purely of their own. There's an emotion too heavy in her ribs for that and Hisame thinks to buy Koharu a cornet or two for tomorrow.)

 

"Hisame," Suzu whines, calling attention.

 

Hisame sighs. "Well… Yes, maybe they do. But - " she holds up a finger, stopping Suzu before she interrupts her "-Nijiiro proved to us that they can all handle themselves well against the Chorus, remember?"

 

"And besides, they have Aijo-san." Hisame thinks about that loud, red girl, calling her so easily a comrade even though they've been fighting against each other just mere minutes before. "I'm pretty certain she won't let anything bad happen to her friends."

 

"I don't know..." Suzu chews on her lip as she thinks about it and now Hisame's the one confused because how is Aijo Karen not reassuring enough for safety?

 

...Actually, now that Hisame thinks about it, did Aijo and Suzu really interact during the exchange? She doesn't remember ever seeing the two of them together. Huh.

 

"Karen-chan's strong, sure." Suzu fiddles with her hands, concern and uncertainty fighting in her expression. "but… if there's even more powerful puppets in Seisho and their school's prodigy easily lost to Koharu, then maybe Karen-chan's just really special...?"

 

"Maya-san threw the fight," Koharu comments from her corner.

 

There’s a blank pause before the words register. 

 

Hisame and Suzu jerk towards Koharu in unison, unable to believe they heard that right.

 

"Ehh??" "Tendou-san did what?"

 

"She wanted to test Claudine-san's skills so she approached me before the Revues began. She's not as weak as she made it look." Koharu turns another page as she tells them this, as if she’s talking about something as simple as the weather rather than Tendou Maya.

 

(Tall, proud, and darkly resplendent; Hisame recalls the curl of Tendou’s lips as she lunged and took down a pair of Chorus with a single move, pride and hunger etched upon every line.)

 

"And you just let her...?" Suzu asks the question Hisame has in her mind out loud.

 

Koharu sets her pen down and looks at them. 

 

"Yakumo-sensei told us the goal was to take Starlight for our own, along with having Seisho's top students transfer to Seiran," Koharu explains easily. ( Strangely too easily -- Hisame isn't sure what about this calmness that Koharu has bothers her, but something was off -- but it's gone in a blink and she's left wondering if she imagined it in the first place.) "It didn't turn out to be, but I didn't find enough reason to reject the idea then." Koharu shrugs.

 

"Oh. That makes sense." Suzu flops down on the bed, placated, but Hisame doesn't feel the same.

 

"You mean Tendou-san was willing to transfer entirely to our school just for that?" She asks, because - as much as she pretends otherwise - there's a lot of things she doesn't truly understand and Tendou Maya is quickly turning out to be one of them.

 

Koharu's silent for a moment, seemingly contemplating her words. "She likes Claudine-san," is the answer she settles with.

 

"She likes Saijou-san so she wanted to fight her?" Hisame repeats incredulously. "Despite their Starlight being on the line?"

 

"She really likes Claudine-san."

 

Hisame stares at Koharu. Koharu stares back. There's only blunt honesty in the evenness of her expression and it's… it's ridiculous. and stupid. unbelievably, ridiculously stupid, and if it was anyone but Koharu telling her this she'd think they're pulling her leg-

 

but Koharu turns to look back at the program and softly admits, "It's about trust, I think," before Hisame could say so.

 

"Trust?" She echoes in confusion. If it was anyone but Koharu telling her this, she'd actually say bullshit .

 

(Isn't a betrayal the exact opposite of trust?)

 

"Maya-san considers Claudine-san as her rival, I don't think the place really mattered to her," Koharu says, slow, running a light hand over the program on the desk. 

 

"I don't know if she expected to have won or if Claudine-san would have in the end, but if things had gone on without Karen-san interfering... it would have either been that Claudine-san wins and takes her back to Seisho, or Maya-san would have gotten Claudine-san over to Seiran."

 

"Together, still, no matter the place," Koharu finishes quietly, turning her gaze back to Hisame and she isn't sure of what to do with that, then.

 

Suzu saves her from having to reply. "That's so complicated, though." She rolls onto her stomach and props her chin on her arms. "Couldn't she just have asked Saijou-chan for a fight if she wanted one?”

 

Her voice is easy, wondering, but Hisame hears the unspoken weight in the question all the same.

 

Couldn’t she just have said so instead of lying to her?

 

It’s not directed at her, Hisame knows that--Suzu’s too kind for it --but it strikes a chord in her all the same.

 

(It’s so strange, almost, that the dream of being together had haunted them both. What were the chances that their pasts were the opposite of each other’s? Suzu was left behind, ever chasing after an answer; while Hisame simply left, running away from everything.)

 

The memory of steel is still painfully clear in her hands, the heft and weight of her hammer as she fought against Nana and lost. She still doesn't fully understand what had happened there -- when Nana held out her hand and said no.

 

Another rejection, she thought at that time, when she heard her name alongside Suzu and Tsuyuzaki's, the refusal clear in the way Hisame and Nana ended standing apart from each other.

 

And it was fair. It was only fair, with the cold past between her and Nana, with the way Hisame always warps the truth with lies to save face -- except. Nana saves her.

 

(Nana saves her. And claims that Hisame had saved her too. More than once, twice, too many times to count, but Hisame doesn't know a single instance of it. What else doesn't she know?)

 

I’ve always been waiting to stand on the same stage as you, Nana had cried.

 

It didn’t seem like a rejection anymore. It couldn't be. Was it another mistake, then? Another miscommunication?

 

It doesn’t matter now, with the bridges between them mending, but. still. 

 

Hisame regrets so many things.

 

“--nggghhnghhh-!”

 

She jolts back to the present to catch Suzu mid-yawn, stretching loudly before making to rub the tears out of her eyes. 

 

Koharu blinks at them, pauses, and lets out a smaller, much quieter yawn that she covers behind a hand.

 

Oh , come on--the urge to yawn hits Hisame too, but she grits her teeth until it passes, then takes a long breath.

 

"It's getting really late." Hisame breathes out, trying to steady her heart, pretending like she's been present for the entirety of the conversation. 

 

(Like there isn't anything like a scream aching in her throat.)

 

She snaps her book shut and moves to place it on her drawer. "I'm going to sleep," she says -- lies, really, it's unlikely an easy rest would come to her with the thoughts clinging to her mind.

 

As if taking her words as cue, Suzu tackles her down to bed. All her thoughts are shot out, along with the air in her lungs. "Wh-" Hisame wheezes. "Suzu-san!"

 

"Sleepover!" Suzu declares cheerfully, the perfect image of an over-enthusiastic, too big puppy and outright ignoring Hisame's shriek of indignation as she tries to push her off. It's rather futile, considering how Suzu's the strongest of their group, but Hisame's the most stubborn anyway so, of course, she refuses to give in.

 

"Get off- Suzu-san, ugh- go back to your own-" Hisame freezes as a shadow falls on them. She looks up. It's Koharu. Fuck .

 

There's got to be a god laughing at her, somewhere, in this very moment. 

 

"Sleepover," Koharu parrots, pillow from her own bed tucked under her arm and the faintest twinkle in her eyes as she stares down at their pile. Suzu grins even wider and pulls Koharu down with them. There's no resistance; she just flops right over. Hisame is going to die.

 

"Our beds aren't made to fit three people! How many times do I have to tell you that?" she whines, cheeks red, ears burning -- though, with Suzu's laughter and the delight that definitely rests now within Koharu's eyes, it's more mortification than actual annoyance.

 

"Well, it can fit three people," Suzu says brightly as Hisame tries to wiggle out of the way of whatever's currently poking her in the kidney. "Proven and tested."

 

"Just because it's possible doesn't mean you should."

 

"Hisameeeee-"

 

"No! And let me breathe!"

 

"Voices." Koharu interrupts. Hisame and Suzu both immediately clam up. "It's late. You're loud," she tells them and rolls right into the free space beside the wall.

 

"Suzu-san started it," Hisame grumbles under her breath, causing Suzu to giggle. But she turns to her side and doesn't complain when Suzu makes like a limpet and plasters herself against her back. 

 

It's embarrassing, of course. But the notion of ruining personal space doesn't ever seem to bother Suzu the slightest, and if Hisame keeps her mouth shut and focuses on telling her heart to stop beating an allegro, nobody ever calls her out on her imitation of an awkward baguette while she adjusts. It's for the greater good, anyway, if anyone does ever say. Without the issue of flailing limbs, there's a lot less danger of Suzu tumbling off to the floor and likely taking Hisame down with her. (How much she personally believes this excuse is a whole other different thing.) And so it goes.

 

It takes four whole beats for them to realize a problem.

 

 

Hisame sighs. "The lights are still on."

 

"Please." Koharu pats blindly at Suzu, being the closest off the bed.

 

Suzu groans, and Hisame feels Suzu pull away. 

 

There's shifting behind her - except Suzu's weight doesn't disappear. Which... can only mean one thing, really.

 

"Don't throw my slipper," Hisame manages to get out just before she hears something thud and click against the wall. Everything goes black.

 

Hisame buries her face into her hands and sighs again, long and loud and tired. "Suzu-san." 

 

"Ehh." Suzu wraps herself again on Hisame's back, nuzzling into her hair. Unapologetic and terrible and the heated flush on Hisame's face is definitely just because of frustration. "I used Koharu's." 

 

"Suzu-san ."

 

Koharu makes a low sound north of disapproving. "Stop throwing things on light switches," she says even as she moves to fill the space left and more, tugging the blanket over them all.

 

Suzu only answers with a non-committal hum. Koharu doesn’t reply, but Hisame can feel her staring past into Suzu’s direction.

 

Hisame gives up. It’s fine. The lights are off, it’s late, and it’s Koharu’s slipper, not hers. She doesn’t care.

 

Not tonight, at least.

 

Despite how they're crammed, Suzu's immediately out like a light, faint snoring rumbling on her ears. 

 

It’s warm. Almost too warm with the two extra bodies and small pile of pillows on her too small bed, but it’s… nice. and, as much as she wouldn’t admit out loud, it’s familiar. Steadying. Koharu and Suzu both feel like that to her, keeping her feet on present ground. Affection comes easier in the dark. The embarrassment is gone, only leaving behind the comfort.

 

All too quickly Hisame can feel herself getting sleepier and sleepier, lulled by the quiet rhythm of their breaths, eyes drooping close. If she thought she would have spent all night up thinking about everything that happened in the exchange, then she’s proven wrong.

 

She almost misses Koharu’s voice saying her name.

 

“Hisame?”

 

“Hm?”

 

There’s no reply, not for a long moment, and Hisame wonders if Koharu had fallen asleep when Koharu finally speaks again.

 

"Your revue."

 

Hisame goes ever so still.

 

"It was named First Snow." Koharu's voice comes softly, even softer than it normally is, in the dark of the room. "Was that why you cried during Starlight?"

 

It should have felt underhanded, Koharu bringing this up when she’s sandwiched between them like this, with no place for her to hide in. Part of her wants to, of course it does, practically second nature for her to run and keep running .

 

But there was something about the way Koharu speaks -- a language that Hisame almost can't comprehend, even if Koharu lays out all the cards for her, strange and new and distinctly Koharu -- that only ever asks for her to listen. Listen, it says as Koharu waits too for her decide on what to do, with a patience that somehow doesn't grate on her.

(Nana was ever so patient and accepting too, but still she ran.)

 

"You don't have to talk about it yet, if you don't want to," she says. And there was always something more protective, more caring, from the two, appearing every first fall of snow. Knowing without knowing -- but everything should have clicked earlier for someone as smart as Koharu.

 

(The stage was a performance unto itself, reality bleeding over. It takes and takes and takes, from the actors who stand upon it. And it had taken enough from Hisame that she had moved the Chorus themselves, her volatile emotions fuel enough to drag Nana back to a facsimile of the past. There’s no secrets left about it, not from anyone who’s seen it.)

 

“But.”

 

But?

Hisame opens her eyes and looks up just in time to see Koharu lean closer, gently pressing her forehead against hers. "Thank you."

 

How does one manage to feel so caught off-guard and yet never more grounded at the same time?

 

"What for?" she whispers, barely louder than a breath, the surprise finally giving her voice back.

 

"For giving the stage a second chance,” Koharu says simply and, oh , her breath catches. “I’m glad to have met you, Hisame.”

 

Emotions rise up deep from her chest, choking her throat. It isn’t fair. It’s Koharu that she should be offering her gratitude to; for owning the tug and pull of a star, a dazzling brightness that one can't look away from. Suzu may be the one to have dragged her over to the clubroom that fateful day, but Koharu was what made her stay.

 

It's terrifying. That she's found these two people who want to keep around her despite all her sharp edges and awkward angles. Or it would be, but there isn't space for terror when they’re pressed together in this too tiny bed like this, where Suzu’s nose is buried in her shoulder and her legs are tangled with Koharu’s. Not when she can so clearly feel Koharu’s breath against her, and Suzu’s, the three of them breathing in each other’s space -- and maybe it’s space that they’ve made their own too, three turned into one.

 

(They don't so much as break down her walls rather than stand on just the edges of it--waiting, loitering, poking with questioning hands--until Hisame gives up and steps past them herself. Curiosity and confusion in unequal amounts. She wants a sheet of them, of bars and staffs and something that she finally knows how to read, to find out what notes make them up.)

 

Her throat is filled with things that she can't breathe out, too strong, too heavy, too wordless of a feeling.

 

Yanagi Koharu and Minase Suzu; they’re ridiculous. and strange. and somehow utterly perfect and they’re hers and Hisame loves them.

 

So she laughs.

 

Hisame laughs, breathlessly, helplessly, the honesty raw in her voice. "Yeah, I’m- I'm glad too."

 

And then there’s arms squeezing around her, a grumbling noise as Suzu wakes to shush them, and the feeling of Koharu’s own quiet laughter rumbling through her chest as she’s hugged even tighter. And it’s there, surrounded by that warmth, that Hisame falls asleep.

 

-

 

Snow awaits her, in her dreams. But so does a song, strong and steady and sang from the kindest voice she's ever known, and when she looks up, the sky is awash with color.