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Sunset Cruise

Chapter Text

“Oh man!” Lisa huffed, dumping down the last suitcase. “That was intense.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Yukina said.

Lisa rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah. You would say that, seeing as you only took the lightest bags.”

“It’s not my fault our families felt the need to ridiculously overpack. According to my mother, the fact that we’re here for fourteen days means I need at least twenty t-shirts.” Yukina said.

“She’s just worried about you. You do have a habit of spilling food down yourself.” Lisa said.

Yukina shot her a glare. “That’s irrelevant.”

They had just arrived in Italy with their parents. Both families had figured their daughters needed a break from their last year of high school, and when they discovered they were both planning to go to Europe, they had decided to travel as one.

Yukina wasn’t complaining. Lisa was more or less her only friend, as sad as that sounded. And although their personalities were wildly different, Lisa was still the same old Lisa she had been when they were kids, and Yukina appreciated that.

Nonetheless, Lisa was much more enthusiastic about the trip than Yukina. They were staying by a lake, and Lisa had spent hours researching things to do, food to eat, and of course, she had even bought an Italian phrasebook. While the point of the trip was to distract them from their studies, Yukina was worried that Lisa might have neglected her work a bit too much in the weeks leading up to the summer holidays.

But they were here now, and Lisa seemed… surprisingly reserved. She was probably just tired and jetlagged from the flight. Yukina knew she herself was.

“It is pretty cool that we get our own room though, right?” Lisa said, stepping out onto the balcony. “And just look at this view!”

“What were we going to do, share with both sets of our parents?” Yukina asked. They had booked three two-person rooms in total. “And… what view?”

Lisa could be over-sentimental at the best of times, but surely the other girl didn’t believe that the hotel car park was an amazing view? Surely?

“Oh come on, it’s nice! And you can kind of see the lake in the distance.” Lisa said.

“Yeah. Kind of.” Yukina muttered.

“Don’t be like that!” Lisa whined. “Oh and by the way - because we’re all tired, we’re just gonna hang out by the pool today. But tomorrow will be much more exciting, don’t worry!”

“I can’t wait,” Yukina said sarcastically, although she was secretly pleased. She honestly wouldn’t put it past Lisa to suggest they go jetski-ing or something equally ridiculous straight after a twelve hour flight.

“So just unpack your swimsuit and the rest of the essentials. We can worry about the other stuff later. For now…” Lisa said, grabbing her hand, “It’s fun time!”

“Yay.”

 


 

An hour later, Yukina was relaxing by the pool. The area around it was rather appealing - there was a drinks bar, elegant white stairs curling into the pool, and there was a much better view of the lake here. Lisa was on the sunlounger next to her. The sun was blazing overhead, so Yukina had found the shadiest spot she could, put on her sunglasses and tried to lose herself in her book. On the contrary, Lisa had chosen to bake in the sun, and she was either eagerly looking around or pestering Yukina.

“Hey Yukina, why are you in the shade? You should get some sun!”

“Why are you in the sun?” Yukina asked back.

“Because everybody loves the sun! Plus, I need Vitamin D. And so do you. Much more than me.” Lisa said.

“I’m perfectly comfortable here.” Yukina said, tapping her book.

“Whatever you say. You are coming in the pool later though, right?” Lisa asked.

Yukina sat up at the speed of lightning. “Do you think I’m mad?”

“Hey, hey, no need to be like that.” Lisa pouted. “It’s like, thirty-five degrees Celcius. And the pool looks so refreshing…”

“Well, thank you for the offer, but hell no.” Yukina said, lying back down and turning up her music. She wasn’t really reading her book; she was just keeping it in front of her face to please her parents, who claimed she didn’t read enough. She read plenty. Plenty of rock magazines, that was. Hmmm. Well, they probably did have a point, but Yukina had downloaded a bunch of new songs for the holiday, and she intended to listen to every single one at least three times.

More time passed in relative peace. Lisa seemed to be interested enough in her Italian phrasebook that she wasn’t bothering Yukina anymore. Yukina almost felt herself drifting off to sleep. However, the universe had clearly decided that was not going to happen.

She heard them before she saw them.

“Hey sis, watch this!!!”

A figure ran straight past Yukina and cannonballed into the pool, causing a terrific splash that went all over not only Yukina’s legs, but Lisa’s too. And judging by the disgruntled expressions on some of the guest’s faces, they weren’t the only ones.

“Hina!!”

The cannonballer’s face bobbed above the water, smiling straight up at the other girl. “Yes?” she said innocently.

“You can’t just do that! There are other people in, and around the pool. You need to be respectful of them.” the other girl huffed (in Japanese, Yukina noted with curiosity). “Besides, running by the pool is an extreme safety hazard in any situation.”

“Oops, sor-ree~!” the girl in the water said, not sounding the least bit sorry.

The longer-haired girl standing by the side of the pool turned to them and said something in English. That was strange. She had just loudly yelled at whoever the girl in the pool was in Japanese.

“She’s apologising, Yukina,” Lisa said. Of course Lisa would understand - she was much better at English than Yukina. Which wasn’t really much of an achievement, given Yukina’s complete disregard for school.

“Ah. Please don’t worry about it,” Yukina replied in Japanese. She had a right mind to tell the girl she should take more care of whoever the girl in the pool was - probably her sister, judging by their similar appearances - but she didn’t really have the heart. She was curious at the prospect that there might be another Japanese family visiting, plus the girl seemed exhausted. Yukina couldn’t help but take pity on her.

Said girl raised her eyebrows. “You’re Japanese too?”

Yukina and Lisa both nodded.

“Wow. That’s interesting. Me too, of course, but I’ve been living in London with my family since I was eleven.” the girl said.

“Oh my god, really?” Lisa gasped. “What’s it like there?”

The girl grimaced, pushing back a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. Yukina found it endearing. “Cold. And wet. And everyone there is obsessed with weird things such as queuing and being overly polite. But it’s not all bad. What about you? Are you coming straight from Japan?”

Lisa nodded. “Yeah. I am soooo jet-lagged.”

“I feel your pain. We fly back to Japan often to visit my family, and it never gets better. Anyway…” The girl bowed her head. “I really am sorry about you two getting wet. Over there is my twin sister Hina, and she’s very… to put it politely, energetic.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it!” Lisa said, waving her hands. “So that’s Hina, and you’re…”

“Oh. Um, Sayo. Sayo Hikawa. Pleased to meet you, uh…”

“Oh, we’re-” Lisa began.

“I’m Yukina, and this is Lisa,” Yukina said, figuring that she should probably say something, or else Sayo would forget she was there. Why she was so worried about that, she wasn’t quite sure. In any case, it seemed rude to stare at Sayo without saying anything. She was being more than polite and considerate enough. Yukina didn’t just want to ignore her.

“Yukina and Lisa? Got it,” Sayo opened her mouth to say something else, but she was interrupted by a dripping wet Hina stumbling out of the pool and hooking an arm around her.

“Mm, the pool is so good, sis! You should come in later! Wait, who are these people?”

“This is Yukina-san and Lisa-san,” Sayo said, gently removing Hina’s arm and gesturing to each of them in turn. “They’re from Japan too.”

“Really?!” Hina said, louder than she needed to. “That’s so boppin’!”

“Boppin’...?” Yukina repeated to herself.

“How about you just get back in the pool?” Sayo said, rubbing her temples.

“Aw, but it’s so boring when I have no one to play with,” Hina said. “You’ll come in, won’t you, sis?”

“Perhaps,” Sayo said in a resigned tone.

“I was thinking of getting in later, too,” Lisa said.

“That’s great!! You’re the best, Lisa-chi!” Hina said, going in for a high five that Lisa awkwardly reprociated.

Lisa-chi…? A nickname, already? Well, Hina did seem the type of person to do that. Yukina just hoped she wouldn’t start calling her Yukina-chan, or something equally ridiculous.

“Yukina-chan, you’ll join us, right?” Hina asked.

Never mind, then.

“I think I’ll stay dry, thank you,” Yukina said. There was no way she was getting in that pool. Especially with Hina around.

“Aww, too bad~” Hina said. “Well, I guess I’ll get back in, then! See you guys later!”

She turned around to jump in, but Sayo grabbed her wrist, giving her a stern look. “Hina.” she said. “Please don’t jump in. Just use the stairs.”

“Aw, but that’s so boring,” Hina whined.

“Do you want everyone at this hotel to hate us?” Sayo asked. Hina stuck out her tongue at her, but moved to the stairs nonetheless.

“I’ll be going to my parents, then. I suppose I’ll see you around the hotel,” Sayo said, her hands folded behind her back.

“Ah, yeah! See ya!” Lisa called as the girl walked to the other side of the pool. Once she was out of earshot, Lisa leaned over to Yukina. “Well. They seem nice enough, don’t they?”

“They seem very strange,” Yukina said.

Lisa sighed.“Oh, come on! They’re an interesting pair, but they’re not mean or anything. Plus, the whole time Sayo was talking to us you were staring at her body,”

“I was not!”

Lisa gave her a doubting look. “I’m not gonna judge you! She is pretty.”

“Well you go over there and kiss her, then,”

“Yukina! All I’m saying is that she’s… Well, nice. You shouldn’t be so embarrassed. She could even help you with your English,” Lisa said.

“What are you talking about? We only just met her. And why would I need help with English?” Yukina asked.

Lisa frowned. “You kinda suck at it.”

“Excuse me? There’s nothing wrong with my English. It’s one of my favourite subjects.” Yukina said.

“If only your report card reflected that.”

“You know what? I think it might be a good idea for you to go into the pool right now,” Yukina said. “You know, before I push you in.”

“Meanie~ I was only teasing. But seriously, aren’t you happy? There’s other Japanese people here! All the other tourists are either German or British,” Lisa said, rolling onto her back and squinting at the sun. “We can just talk to them all the time. They look about our age too.”

“Correction: you can talk to them all the time. I think I’m alright on my own. Especially when it comes to the shorter one.”

“Hina.”

“Oh yes, that was her name.”

“Well, suit yourself,” Lisa said. “But how many other Japanese people are we gonna meet in Italy? I mean, we’re not in a city or anything, so this is super cool.”

“Hey sis, watch me again!” Hina yelled. She then proceeded to belly flop into the pool, once more covering Yukina and Lisa in water.

“Hina!! Hikawa!!!" Sayo shouted from the other side of the pool.

Yukina eyed Lisa. “Yes, Lisa, this is ‘super cool’.”

Yukina firmly disagreed with Lisa, but she couldn’t deny that the holiday was certainly shaping up to be interesting. But whether it would be a ‘the best holiday of my life’ type of interesting or a ‘I’m going to spend my parents' life savings on headache tablets at this rate’ type of interesting was still up for debate.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the twins were there again. 

It was breakfast, and Lisa and Yukina’s families had been some of the last people to come downstairs. They were exhausted from their flight, and had welcomed the hotel’s policy of keeping breakfast available until 11am with open and eager arms. Despite their long sleep, Yukina couldn’t stop yawning, and she saw that Lisa wasn’t in much of a better state. 

That was when she saw them. Hina, bouncing her feet along the white tiled floor, and Sayo trailing behind her. 

“Hina! You can’t do this!”  

“It’s no biggie! They’re not gonna get mad or anything, are they?”  

“You’re-” Sayo lowered her voice, but Yukina could still hear her. “You’re stealing!”   

Yukina didn’t want to spy on them, but the conversation had certainly caught her interest. She watched as discreetly as possible as the twins moved towards the large wooden counter that held the toast and jam section of the contiental breakfast offering.   

“You sure no one’s looking?” Hina asked. 

Sayo quickly scanned the room. Yukina averted her eyes. 

“It’s all clear,” Sayo said.  

Hina bit her lip, then quickly shoved her hands into one of the bowls, pulling out something Yukina wasn’t able to see before she quickly stuffed it into her pocket. Then she reached again, and retrieved more of the mystery item. 

“Are you done yet?” Sayo asked in a voice that was halfway between bored and panicked. 

“Oh, look over there!” Hina said suddenly. “It’s our besties!” 

Sayo’s eyes met hers, and Yukina quickly stared as hard as humanly possible at the tablecloth. It was very… white. And plain. But also beautiful. And- 

“Lisa-chi! Yukina-chan!” Hina said, slamming her hands on their table. “It’s so good to see you guys again! It feels like forever since I last saw you.” 

“Hello again,” Sayo said. 

Yukina’s father looked totally bewildered, as did the rest of their parents. Yesterday, at the pool, they had seen Yukina and Lisa talk to the twins, but they hadn’t actually properly met them yet. 

“Ah! Hina! Sayo! Morning!” Lisa said. “Are you guys eating breakfast too?” 

“Nahhh, we finished ages ago. I just had to come back for something important,” Hina said, drumming her fingers on the table. 

Lisa nodded slowly. “Right! Well! Good for you. Uh… will you be by the pool again today?”

“Yeah! Totally! We just lost our sun cream, though.”

“She threw it off the roof,” Sayo said.

“Oh. Um. Lovely.” Lisa said.

Yukina couldn’t help but smirk. Lisa, sociable, popular Lisa, who could get on with anyone, was utterly stumped by the Hikawa twins, and it was incredibly funny to see.

“It’s a long story,” Sayo said, sensing their confusion. “Anyway! Hina, let’s just… let’s just go. Goodbye, Lisa-san, Yukina-san.”

“Ciao~!” Lisa said. Yukina raised a hand, as she sighed mentally at Lisa’s use of Italian already. The Hikawa twins were Japanese and living in England. She wouldn’t be impressing them. Or anyone else, for that matter.

“Who were they, dear?” Lisa’s mother asked once the twins were gone.

“They’re Sayo and Hina. And they’re, um… They’re lovely people, really.”

Lisa’s mum raised an eyebrow. Yukina couldn’t blame her.

“I’m going to get more jam,” she said, getting up from the table. She walked over to where Sayo and Hina had been standing before they came to talk to them.

Yukina looked over all the gleaming white bowls containing mini packets of different kinds of jam, butter, and…

Well, one of them was supposed to contain Nutella, but it was totally empty.

How strange.

 


 

 

“Lisa-chi! Yukina-chan! Over here!” Hina called, the minute Lisa and Yukina stepped out into the pool area. Holding their towels under their arms, the two of them walked over.

“I saved some sun loungers for you!” Hina said proudly. Both of them were directly in the sun, Yukina noted with distaste.

“And… what about our parents?” she asked.

Hina faltered. “Oh. I didn’t think of that.” she said. “I mean, does it matter if you get separated from them? They’ll just be on the other side of the pool!”

Yukina looked at Lisa. Lisa looked at Yukina.

“Well, it’s fine by me~” Lisa said, dumping her towel down. “Plus, it means we can have a good old girl’s chat without our parents overhearing, right?”

Yukina did not approve of this idea. Lisa was always trying to get her to have ‘a good old girls chat’. Apparently, she had missed the memo that not once in her life had Yukina ever wanted to have a ‘girl’s chat.’

“Yeah! That sounds cool!!” Hina said. Yukina was glad someone was enthusiastic about the idea, because she certainly wasn’t.

“Where’s Sayo?” Yukina asked. The other twin was nowhere in sight.

“Oh she’s just down there.” Hina said, pointing at the pool.

Yukina didn’t understand. The only thing in the pool was a strange black blob underwater. However, said blob chose that exact moment to reappear above the surface, shaking its long hair about and gasping for breath. It was Sayo.

Yukina was amazed. She had just swam the entire length of the pool underwater. It wasn’t massive, but Sayo had been submerged for at least twenty seconds. Plus, the pool was freezing. Yukina had dipped her toes into it yesterday and hastily concluded that there was no way she was getting in there, even if she was paid. Not that she would want to, even if it was bath temperature.

“Hey!! Sis!!!” Hina called. Sayo turned to look at her, before swimming to the near edge.

“Everything alright?” Sayo asked.

“Yeah, yeah. Yukina-chan just wanted to see you.”

Yukina winced. Did Hina have to phrase it like that? (Even if she was totally correct?)

“Is that so?” Sayo said, pushing her goggles up, which caused Yukina to come to a striking realisation.

Sayo was still attractive, even with goggle marks on her face. How utterly unfair.

 


  

“Are you sure you don’t want to join them, Yukina-san?” Sayo asked. Lisa and Hina seemed to be playing a wild game of who could splash each other the most in the pool.

Yukina sighed. “Please, drop the ‘san’. It is unnecessary,” Was she avoiding Sayo’s question? Pfft. Never.

“It is already hard enough for me to not call you by your family name, seeing as I don’t know it.”

Seeing as Sayo wasn’t going to budge, Yukina changed the topic. “You seem to be quite the swimmer.”

“Well, I took lessons while I still lived in Japan. When I moved to England, I thought about continuing, but I already knew much of the basics. So I decided to just continue in my free time. There’s a leisure centre near where we live, so…” Sayo explained. Yukina was thankful she was going along with the subject change.

“I see. I’ve never been good at too much myself. Swimming included.”

Sayo frowned. “It is a bit of a sweeping statement to say you aren’t good at anything. Have you ever taken swimming lessons?”

Yukina nodded. “A long time ago, yes. But it wasn’t really my thing. I could barely front crawl.”

Truthfully, she could do more than front crawl, but she wasn’t much good at it. She didn’t need to swim, but she still sometimes regretted quitting lessons. Even if the other kids had laughed at her and called her slow. She shouldn’t have allowed it to get to her. They were just stupid kids, and learning to swim had been her second dream right after making a band just like her father’s one day. Yet she had quit. Given up. Not because she was a bad swimmer, necessarily. Because she was sensitive. 

If Sayo had caught onto any of this, she certainly didn’t show it. “I could… teach you a little if you want. But only if you’re okay with it.” 

Yukina shook her head. “The pool is too cold.” 

“But it’s refreshing,” Sayo said. “We are in Southern Europe in the middle of August. We need a bit of freezing.” 

“Maybe you do, but I am perfectly fine. Besides, I don’t want to get my hair wet. It takes forever to dry,” She wasn’t just saying this to get out of it. It had always baffled her as to why swimming took so much effort, even when she had enjoyed it as a child. 

“Well, suit yourself, I suppose,” Sayo said. “But the offer is still open, should you choose to take it.” 

“Thank you,” Yukina said, before frowning. There had been something she had meant to ask Sayo about. “At breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice… all the Nutella was gone?”

Sayo chuckled nervously. “So you saw us, then.” 

“Yes.” 

“Well...Hina is sort of obsessed with Nutella. Our mother hates it, however, because she’s always trying to make us eat as little sugar as possible. So whenever she has the chance, Hina eats all the Nutella she can She always begs me to take her to dessert places after school just so she can get the Nutella-covered waffle,” Sayo explained. 

“Really?” Yukina asked.  

“It’s stupid, I know. But our mother is sort of a health freak. I can’t blame her. She was thirty-eight when she had us after years of trying, when everyone had told her it was impossible. When Hina and I were born, I guess she became a little protective.” Sayo paused. “She really was not ready for Hina’s personality.” 

“Wow,” Yukina said. 

Sayo let out a small laugh. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to dump our whole family history on you.” 

“Don’t apologise,” Yukina said. “It’s interesting.” 

“I mean, it all started with Hina’s weird Nutella obsession, and that’s not interesting.” Sayo said. 

“I can’t blame her for getting attached to something. I’ve been collecting fridge magnets on holiday since I was ten and I can’t even remember why I started.” Yukina said, scrunching her nose. “I think it’s because we don’t go on holidays all too often, so I like to have a memento of each one.” 

“But at least you can keep those! And the reason is nice,” Sayo said. “Hina simply inhales Nutella like it’s her life support or something.” 

“Well, it is pretty good.” Yukina said. 

Sayo frowned, as if in deep thought. Then her face cleared up again. “Okay, you have me there. It is delicious.”

There was silence between them, not entirely peaceful but not totally awkward either. Sayo seemed content to listen to whatever was going on in her earbuds, and Yukina was too, but she couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that she should say something.  

“I know you have sort of already been asked this by Lisa…” Yukina began slowly. Sayo looked up at her. “But what was it like, moving to England? Did you have to leave anyone behind?” 

Sayo seemed nonplussed by the sudden questions. “My grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and the lot,” she said. “But as for friends… not really. Ask my parents and they’d tell you I was very popular, but they were all Hina’s friends, not mine. They were just obligated to invite me to their birthday parties.” 

Yukina nodded. “I relate to that a little too well,” she said. “You know, with Lisa - she’s a lot more sociable than me. If it wasn’t for her befriending me one day, I probably would have been a total loner.” 

Sayo looked at her, and Yukina realised it was her turn to apologise. “Sorry. Too dark. You continue.” 

“It’s alright,” Sayo said. She cleared her throat. “Anyway, despite being mostly friendless, I still missed Japan. And England is a big adjustment. I had to learn the language, and get used to all the weird British phrases and mannerisms on top of that. It’s like there’s tons of unwritten rules and you’re just supposed to figure them out all by yourself.” 

“Why would you move anyway?” Yukina asked. 

“My father’s job. My parents spent a lot of time in Europe before Hina and I were born anyway, so it wasn’t seen as a big deal at first. It was only supposed to be for a few months, maybe a year, but his old firm back in Japan collapsed so we’ve stayed in England ever since,” Sayo said. “Because I was eleven, everyone else was joining the school I was going to for the first time, too, but I was the only one who could barely speak basic English. At the beginning, it felt like life in England was one big inside joke I was never in on. But things are much better now. I still haven’t made up my mind on where to go when I’m an adult, though.” 

Yukina nodded. “I suppose it would be a big decision…” Sayo talked about moving to England so casually, like it was no big deal. She didn’t shy away from the hard parts, but she spoke about them almost matter-of-factly.  

“You must be a strong person, then,” Yukina said. 

Sayo looked surprised. “I… not really,” She pushed her hair out of her eyes. “It is kind of you to say that, but I just got on with life as much as I could. There was no use in whining about my problems.” 

“I would have been scared,” Yukina said. 

Sayo raised her eyebrows skeptically. “What, you think I wasn’t?” 

“Well…” Yukina thought about it. “Sorry. That was a naïve thing for me to say.” 

“It’s fine,” Sayo said. “Besides, I’ve always had Hina.” 

“I suppose that’s true,” Yukina said. “It must be nice, having a sister.” 

“It is. As crazy as she is, she’s never once stopped following me,” Sayo chuckled. “We’ve had our bad parts of our relationship, but I like to think that we’ve mostly moved past them.” 

Yukina was curious about the ‘bad parts’, but Sayo stood up, walking to the edge of the pool. “I think I might get back in. Would you care to join me?” 

“Thanks, but I’m fine,” Yukina said. “You know - my hair.” 

Sayo smiled a little at that. Yukina liked it. She decided that she wanted to see Sayo smile more.

 


 

“Lisa.” 

Lisa looked at her from across the table. “What’s up?” 

“I…” It was awfully embarrassing to admit, even to Lisa. Or maybe it was because it was Lisa. “I can’t read the menu. In English or Italian.” 

“Ohhh,” Lisa said. Then she smirked. “Come on, Yukina, that’s nothing to be shy about! Here, let me read it for you.” 

They were eating at the hotel tonight, just as they had previously. Similarly to last night, the Hikawa family wasn’t around. This made Yukina’s heart fall just the tiniest bit. 

Lisa frowned at the words, occasionally checking her phrasebook, which was irritatingly on the table. “Uh, there’s pork, with potatoes. Hm. I might have that.” 

“Very Italian.” 

“Haha, you’re hilarious,” Lisa said dryly. Then she frowned at Yukina. “Wait, how did you order last night if you couldn’t see anything?” 

“I saw the word pizza, so I picked that. I wasn’t disappointed,” Yukina said. 

“I mean, fair. Anyway, there’s also… spaghetti with pesto sauce and… I think mushrooms?” Lisa said, holding the menu closer to her face. 

“What is pesto?” 

“You know! The green stuff.” 

“No, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you, Lisa.” 

Lisa sighed. “It’s this green sauce. It’s really nice. You’ll probably like it.” 

Yukina thought about it. It was spaghetti, so what could go wrong? Plus, she liked mushrooms. 

“I’ll go with that, then.” 

Lisa smiled. Which was fine. What was not fine, however, was that that smile quickly turned into a smirk. A smirk that Yukina recognised as the ‘I’m about to say something absolutely horrible, like the horrible friend that I am’ smirk. 

“You know…” she began, trying to seem casual. Yukina was not fooled. “If you’re struggling that much with your English, you could ask Sayo.” 

“What? No! Why?” Yukina said, louder than she expected to. She sighed. “What is it with you and trying to get me with Sayo?” 

“Oh, come on, Yukina~” Lisa said. “You’ve been staring at her non-stop the whole time we’ve here. And you two had a lovely chat by the pool today. What was it about, anyway?” 

“Is it any of your business?” Yukina asked. 

“Well, I guess not,” Lisa said, her smile disappearing slightly. “But I do mean what I said. She could help you with your English.”  

“So, do I just go up to her and say ‘Hi. I’m dumb. Please teach me the English language’ or something? Yeah. Sounds great, Lisa. Especially considering, as I’ve said before, we only just met her.” 

“You can’t be as blunt as that!” Lisa said. “Just - I don’t know. She’s nice, right? And when you were talking to her, you looked really chilled out and happy. I haven’t seen you like that in a while.” 

“What do you mean?” Yukina asked, scrunching her eyebrows. “I’m perfectly fine.” 

“Ahaha… well, if you think so, that’s okay. It’s just… Sayo seems really good for you. I don’t know. You can forget I said anything.” 

Lisa looked shy and withdrawn for once. That was a sure sign Yukina had something wrong. But to be fair, she hadn’t really known what Lisa was on about either. She had talked about her and Sayo like they were an item, which was ridiculous. She had only met Sayo two days ago. But she couldn’t ask Lisa about it, as the other girl had chosen the moment to start up a passionate conversation with her mother. Probably because she didn’t want to talk to Yukina anymore. 

As the waiter came round to order their food, Lisa still continued to ignore her, leaving her alone with her thoughts. And still, Sayo wasn’t anywhere in sight. 

Despite the heat of the summer, Yukina fell asleep later that night cold and confused.

Chapter Text

Yukina woke up to the sound of a running shower and an alarm clock blaring. She sat up, glancing around the room. Lisa wasn’t in the other bed. She looked around in panic for a moment, before remembering the shower. Lisa was still avoiding her, so she had probably woken up earlier than Yukina.

She looked towards the phone. It was Lisa’s. Had she set up a separate alarm for her? She was prone to sleeping in a lot, but that was normally at home after she pulled impulsive all nighters watching videos of bands and cats into the small hours. But now they were on holiday, why had Lisa set an alarm for her?

She’s probably just worried about you.

That was something Lisa had always been very good at. After dinner last night, when they had come up to the room and gotten ready for bed in relative silence, Yukina had worked out what it was she had said that made Lisa upset. It was her telling Lisa that she was fine. That she didn’t need Sayo to help her mental state, or whatever else she was suggesting.

It wasn’t a lie. She certainly felt fine. She might have been lacking in things such as cooking or academic skills, but she was happy, on the whole. But Yukina knew Lisa still worried. She wondered, sometimes, if she had it in her to stop fussing (probably not). But she had her reasons.

Her father’s band was huge in Japan, and worldwide. Ever since Yukina was small, he had always been playing guitar, or singing. He would create songs for her and Lisa to enjoy after they came back from school. When Yukina grew a bit older, his band was offered the chance to play at Future World Fes, one of the biggest festivals in Japan. It was a wild success, and tons people bought their records. He spent more time away from home at interviews, meetings, and of course, at the studio. But never once did he forget Yukina. He would always show parts of his songs to her first, and always make it home to kiss her goodnight, no matter how busy his day had been. Her father was one of the best people she’d ever met.

But still, Lisa worried. How does all this make you feel, Yukina? It was like she was an aspiring therapist. Lisa thought that maybe Yukina envied her father. From a young age, Yukina had decided she’d wanted to create a band just like his, with people she could depend on and make the perfect songs with. 

Lisa had gotten the idea that Yukina felt intimidated by her father’s wild success. But that wasn’t necessarily true. He inspired her, made her believe that one day, she would be just as good as him. Perhaps even better.

Sometimes, though, Lisa was right. She loved singing. She wanted to be in a band, and she couldn’t imagine anything else in her future. But even so, sometimes she scrolled through old social media posts about her father, all of them screaming about his band’s songs and how blessed the fans felt to see them in concert, and she felt a tugging feeling in her chest she couldn’t get rid of.

She wasn’t good at talking about these things, though. She couldn’t say anything to her parents, obviously, and the only other person she could really confide in was Lisa. But she felt too embarrassed to say anything to her. Yet somehow Lisa saw right through her anyway.

There was also the slight issue of how Lisa knew exactly why Yukina had stopped having swimming lessons, and was determind to get her to take them up again.

The shower turned off. Yukina waited for a couple of minutes for Lisa to emerge. When she did, she immediately looked at her.

“Ah, you’re awake.” Lisa said.

Yukina said nothing. She wasn’t quite sure what to say. Why was solving conflict so hard?

“Listen, about last night…” Lisa continued, sitting down on the bed next to Yukina. “I’m really sorry. I was being overreactive.”

“Don’t apologise,” Yukina said. “I know you can’t stop worrying.”

“Yeah,” Lisa said. “But even so, I shouldn’t doubt you either, you know? If you’re happy, then you’re happy, and I’m happy too.”

“Mm.” Lisa seemed to thrive off of other people’s happiness. Yukina had never understood it herself, but she was just glad they were on good terms again.

“So… makeup hug?”

Yukina turned to stare at Lisa. “Seriously?”

“Oh, come on!” Lisa said. “You know you want to.”

Yukina sighed. “Very well. If it’ll make you quiet, then sure.”

“Meanie,” Lisa replied as she leaned in, resting her head on Yukina’s shoulder. They stayed like that for a few moments. Yukina hated to admit it, but Lisa was a good hugger. 

But then Lisa sprang up, pulling back the doors of their wardrobe. “I need to figure out what to wear for today. And so do you.” she said, tossing out a few clothes before turning to face Yukina. “After that, we can talk about you and Sayo!”

Yukina almost choked. “Again? What is there to talk about?”

“Oh, there’s plenty to discuss~” Lisa said with a smirk. “You seemed so sad when she wasn’t at dinner.”

“Well, I did wonder where she was,”

“You do realise that there are like, a billion restaurants down at the lakefront that are all delicious because we’re in Italy?” Lisa asked. “And that her and her family could have been at any one of them?”

“Well, yes, but…” Yukina couldn’t think of anything else to say, so she just pouted and stared at the bedsheets.

“Aww, you’re so cute~” Lisa said, trying to reach for Yukina’s cheeks to squeeze them. Yukina was having none of that, thank you very much,  and swatted her away. Lisa only giggled, with annoyed Yukina even more. Did the girl have no shame?

“Anyway, I’m just gonna change so…” Lisa said, beginning to slip off her towel.

“Oh no you don’t,” Yukina said immediately, causing Lisa to stop. “Go in the bathroom.”

“What? Why? We’ve known each other forever!” Lisa protested.

“I don’t care. Get in the bathroom.”

“Fine,” Lisa said, not without sticking out her tongue at Yukina as she went. Yukina sighed. 

Yep. She really did have no shame.

 


 

Sayo was at breakfast, much to Yukina’s relief. In fact, her and Hina were at the table next to theirs. Yukina felt incredibly blessed. She also tried to ignore the stupid waggly eyebrows Lisa kept on giving her.

“Lisa-chi! Yukina-chan! I missed you two last night,” Hina said the minute she laid eyes on them. “Ah, but me and sis went to this boppin’ restaurant! You should come next time!”

“We totally will!” Lisa said, clearly deciding that their parents had absolutely no input in the discussion. She also looked at Yukina as if to say, I told you so. Yukina avoided her by looking to the left and was met with none other than Sayo.

“Good morning, Yukina-san,” Sayo said. Yukina couldn’t help but stare at her plate. Sayo’s selection of food was very unhealthy, consisting of bacon, sausages, salami, fried egg, ham, and generally every other meat in existence. No vegetables or fruit in sight, either. Yukina couldn’t judge her, though. If you couldn’t eat what you wanted while you were on holiday, when could you?

“Good morning,” Yukina said, wanting to say something else but not sure what. However, the dilemma was wrenched out of her hands by Hina.

“In fact, me and sis can show you it later! Right?” Hina said, turning to Sayo with enthusiasm written all over her face. 

Sayo sighed. “I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with it. The food was nice, but…”

“Ahaha, well, I think we need a break from the hotel, right, Yukina?” Lisa asked her. Yukina suddenly felt both Hina and Sayo’s eyes on her. She wanted to curse Lisa.

“I don’t mind,” she said after a pause, grabbing a piece of toast to shove into her mouth so she wouldn’t have to say anything else.

“It’s so amazing, Lisa-chi! I had the pepperoni pizza and it was the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. Because back in England there’s tons of pizza chains, right? But none of them were as boppin’ as the one I had last night!” Hina said, her eyes glittering.

“Probably because we’re in Italy, and pizzas are Italian food?” Sayo muttered.

“Please can we go, sis? I wanna show Lisa-chi and Yukina-chan all the cool things we saw yesterday! Plus you need to get your postcards, right?” Hina said.

Sayo sighed. “I never said I had a problem with it.”

“Yes!!” Hina said, pumping a fist in the air. “I’m so excited! This is the best day ever!”

“Every day is the best day ever in your opinion,” Sayo muttered.

 


 

Two hours later, and Yukina and Lisa were meeting Sayo and Hina down by the lakeside. They had left their parents behind at the hotel, telling them they would be back after lunch. Hina was bouncing on her feet when they saw her, with Sayo next to her in a blue dress. Yukina didn’t miss the tiny surge of something she got upon seeing Sayo, but she fought it down. There was nothing going on with her and Sayo. They had met barely three days ago.

“Hey guys!” Hina said. “I missed you.”

“Missed you too~” Lisa said, while Sayo merely smiled at Yukina. The something was back again far too quickly. She still smiled back, though.

“The restaurant and shops are just up here,” Hina said, continuing to babble as her and Lisa took the lead. 

Sayo glanced at Yukina. “Anything you’re interested in seeing?”

Yukina thought about it. “Not really.” Unlike Lisa, she hadn’t done much research into the town they were visiting beforehand.

“Well, there is a lot to check out. We spent most of the afternoon and evening down here yesterday. There's tons of places to eat, you can hire a boat, go shopping…” Sayo paused. “It’s amazing, really.”

“I see,” Yukina said. Sayo had spoken so unabashedly, not backing down in showing her interest in the town. Yukina wished she could be more like that. Sayo seemed so perfect and cool without even trying. Although, at second glance, she did seem quite embarrassed.

“Forgive me. I got carried away,” Sayo said. “Anyway, I don’t know if you heard Hina mention it, but I need to go and buy some postcards.”

“Why?” Yukina asked.

“I find it nice to stay in touch with family. Well, our parents used to force me and Hina to write to them often once we moved. Being eleven year-olds we both complained, but now I like it. Hina doesn’t. She just lets me do everything, being eternally kind as she is.” Sayo smiled again, and once again, Yukina found herself returning it. “So I need to buy some postcards. There’s a small shop we can get them from.”

“Fine by me,” Yukina said. “Is there anything else you need?”

“Ah, well, I was hoping we could buy some swimming goggles,” Sayo was looking to the side, refusing to meet Yukina’s eyes.

Yukina was confused. “For who?”

Sayo scratched the back of her neck. “Uhm… for you.”

“Me?” Yukina pointed at herself. Sayo nodded. “I thought we already established that there was no way I was going into the pool.”

“Ah, well, I don’t know…” Sayo was now staring off to the side. “It’s probably silly, and it’s one hundred percent up to you, but I think you would be a good swimmer.”

Sayo’s words had caught her interest. She remembered the first time she had seen swimmers at the Olympics on TV, totally mesmerised by what they were doing. How she had decided she wanted to swim too. “I… I’ll think about it. We’ll see when we get to the shop.” Did Sayo magically know all of this? Yukina knew it was impossible, but she couldn’t get the thought of her head.

“Alright,” Sayo said, grinning slightly. Yukina couldn’t believe it. First of all she had kept smiling, now she was grinning. (Which was an entirely different thing, at least according to Lisa.) All because Yukina had said she might want to buy a pair of swimming goggles. What was going on?

Not long after, they reached the shop Sayo wanted to go to. It was a beach supplies store, clearly aimed towards tourists seeing as all the signs were translated into both German and English. Hina immediately started picking up every item in sight, pretending to fire the water guns at Lisa and trying to drag a surfboard to the counter until Sayo very firmly told her ‘no’.

“Hina, you can’t even surf. And you haven’t brought any euros with you to pay for it, and there’s no way I’m getting it for you.” 

“Aw… fine.” Hina said, dejectedly putting the board back down.

Sayo had walked back over to the postcard display, seemingly deep in thought. Yukina stood next to her, not sure what else to do. Well. There was something she could do, but she was desperately trying to avoid it.

Besides, it was more interesting to watch Sayo examine the postcards. She would pick one up, stare at it for a few seconds while having some sort of internal debate, before either setting it back down or giving it to Yukina. (She had very politely asked Yukina to hold the ones she liked, and who was Yukina to deny her?)

Eventually, after placing a sixth postcard in her hands, Sayo looked at her questioningly.

“What?” Yukina asked.

“Goggles?”

Yukina sighed, but she made up her mind. “I suppose so.”

They walked over to where the goggles were on display. There were all sorts of different colours, and some were even themed around popular franchises. Other than their aesthetics, there wasn’t much other variety.

“Don’t think too hard about which one to get,” Sayo said. “You just want one that will cover your eyes properly.”

“That’s the point of them,” Yukina said, only managing to grin for one second before her face collapsed again. Why was this so hard for her? She wanted to swim, but at the same time, she remembered the humiliation she had felt all those years ago.

In a split-second decision, she grabbed the pair she liked the look of best, deciding that it wouldn’t do to hesitate any longer. She could worry about the swimming part later. All she was doing right now was buying them.

“Ready to pay?” Sayo asked. Yukina nodded. She clutched her choice in her palm. They were turquoise. A bit like Sayo’s hair, she couldn’t help but think.

Yukina walked up to the counter, before suddenly stopping halfway. “Oh no,” she said. “I have no money.” How could she have been so stupid? All that internal buildup to getting the goggles and she had totally forgotten to even bring a single cent.

“Don’t worry,” Sayo said, not missing a beat. “I’ll pay for them.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Yukina said. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I don’t mind. Honestly.”

Yukina huffed. “At least let me pay you back.”

Sayo thought about it. “Deal.”

Yukina watched her at the counter, talking to the cashier in English but still not forgetting to say thank you and goodbye in Italian as she left. She had such perfect manners, even in a language she didn’t speak.

And then they were back on the street, and she was clutching a bag with her goggles in, and Sayo was smiling at her, yet again.

“Where to now?” Yukina asked, partly to distract herself from the attractive face next to hers.

Sayo opened her mouth as if she was about to say something, but Hina interrupted them.

“Hey, can we go get lunch at that restaurant now? I know it’s early, but I’m sooo hungry. Please?”

Sayo looked at Hina. “Fine. It’ll give me a chance to write these anyway.”

“Yes! You’re the best, sis!”

 


 

If Yukina had thought watching Sayo pick out the postcards was a good experience, she was not ready to see her write them.

Her handwriting was perfect. Literally perfect. Every stroke of her pen was exactly precise. It was like something out of a textbook, or a font on the computer. It made Yukina think about her own scribbly handwriting. How was everything Sayo did so graceful?

She still couldn’t help but feel bad, merely watching Sayo write. “Do you need help with anything?” she asked.

Sayo looked up. “It’s alright,” she said. “Like I said, I do enjoy doing this.”

“Aw, Yukina, you’re so sweet~” Lisa teased. Yukina glared at her for longer than she needed to.

“I don’t get it. Why do you spend so much time on this stuff? We can just tell Horrible Grandma and all the others about our trip on the phone when we get back,” Hina said, tapping her fingers on the table.

Sayo looked up sharply. “Don’t call her that.”

“But she is horrible!” Hina whined. “She’s so old-fashioned. She always tells me off for wearing clothes that are too boyish whenever we go back to Japan. It’s not my fault I don’t wanna dress up like some 18th century fossil like she does.”

“She might be slightly backwards thinking, but she’s our grandma. She loves us. And you never seem to have a problem with her when she’s making us homemade food.” Sayo said.

Hina merely pouted, before turning back to Lisa. Clearly, the conversation was over. But Yukina, curious as ever, wanted to probe Sayo further.

“I do understand why you want to stay in touch with family, but Hina is right. Wouldn’t it be easier to phone them?”

Sayo looked up again, but this time her gaze was much softer than the one she had directed towards Hina. “That is true, but… I suppose you could say I simply prefer more traditional methods. I also like to make myself write at least a little over the summer, so my handwriting isn’t a mess when I go back to school.”

Yukina looked at the postcard again. She wasn’t quite sure if it was possible for Sayo to have bad handwriting. She must have impossibly high standards.

“As well as that, when you’re on the phone it’s easy to lose track of what you are saying, and go off on a tangent. Writing it out allows you to plan what you want to say.” Sayo continued. Yukina nodded. It all made perfect sense to her. Or perhaps her brain was programmed to agree with everything Sayo said after only three days of knowing her. Gah! Maybe Lisa was right.

“But if you don’t mind me asking, why write them so early on?” Yukina asked. “Wouldn’t it be better to wait until you’ve had more experiences?”

“It takes a long time for them to get to Japan,” Sayo explained. “If I wrote them later, they would only arrive by the time we got back home, and by then Hina would have told them everything over the phone. I want to at least get a word in edgeways.”

Yukina smiled a little at that, and to her delight, Sayo did too.

She continued to watch Sayo as they waited for their food to come. As she put down the fifth of the six postcards (One for Horrible Grandma and their grandpa, one each for both sets of her aunts and uncles, and another one each for the two cousins her and Hina were closest to), Sayo picked up the last remaining one. What was unique about this one, however, was that Sayo was writing in English.

Yukina stared, curious, for a few moments as Sayo wrote down what she assumed the initial greeting was. She couldn’t understand it, though. (Once again, Lisa was right. Damn it!) Then she snapped out of it and found herself asking: “Who is that one for?”

“Ah, this is for one of the cousins I just wrote to,” Sayo said. 

“Why?” Yukina asked.

“He’s younger than Hina and I, and he struggles a little with English at school. Every time we go on holiday somewhere that isn’t Japan, I write him a copy of the original postcard in English. It helps him practise. And if he gets really stuck, he can use the Japanese one to help himself.” Sayo explained.

Yukina felt her heartstrings being tugged at. To hell with only knowing Sayo for a few days. She was just too sweet! The vision of her helping her younger cousin study popped into her head immediately, and she welcomed it happily.

“Is something the matter?” Sayo asked.

“Ah! No, no, nothing.” Yukina said. She was not being a lovesick idiot. At all. Definitely not. 

Sayo nodded and continued to write. Halfway through, Yukina got a horrible idea.

“Sayo.”

Sayo looked up.

“I’m not very good with my English at all, and… well…”

God. Lisa was staring at her, she could feel it. Hina probably was too. She wanted to die. Why had she opened her big mouth? She should only use it for singing, and nothing else, because she always seemed to say something disastrous-

“You want me to help you?” Sayo asked, with such gentle eyes Yukina felt her embarrassment fade away. 

She nodded. “Just a couple of basic phrases. If it isn’t too much trouble. My English grades aren’t the greatest.”

“Not at all,” Sayo said. She picked up the postcard. “So, right here it starts with Dear Takeshi, and then I start talking about the weather. So that means warm, and…”

Yukina was being carried away by Sayo’s words. They were so entrancing, so soothing, that she found herself not really caring that Lisa was giggling with the knowledge that her suggestion of Sayo helping Yukina with her English had actually come true. It didn’t seem to matter, somehow. All she could focus on was Sayo’s words. They made her happy. In fact, being around Sayo made her happy. Sayo in general made her happy. Yukina could, at the very least, admit that to herself. It felt wonderful. Sayo was wonderful. Even if she had only known her for a couple of days.

And as she continued to listen to Sayo’s words, she couldn’t hold back her smile.

Chapter Text

Water. Water was beautiful. It sparkled in the sun, it always seemed impossibly blue, and it was the basis of all life on Earth. Totally beautiful.

However, at this current moment, it was not beautiful. At least, not in Yukina’s opinion. The water of the hotel pool was staring at her, taunting her. Come in, it was saying. Take a dip inside me. Unless you’re scared. You’re not scared, are you?

She was not! She just preferred to sit on her sun lounger. Was that really such a crime?

A couple of days had passed since she had bought the goggles with Sayo. Since then, she had spent most of her time travelling to some of the other nearby towns on the lake with her and Lisa’s families, and eating out at new places. Therefore, she hadn’t had much time to see Sayo around the hotel, which was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because she was still avoiding swimming, and a curse because - well, she liked spending time around Sayo.

Now she was back spending another lazy day at the hotel, Sayo still was nowhere to be seen. Yukina wished she knew what her room number was, or something. But it would be pretty creepy to go knocking for her. Actually, scratch that - super creepy. Idea vetoed.

She sighed, tapping her toes against her lounger. She was becoming just like Hina - all fidgety and impatient. All over one person! Disgusting.

“Something the matter?” Lisa asked, peering over in concern.

“Nothing,” Yukina said. “Just thinking.”

“About what? Sayo?” Lisa said, not waiting for Yukina to answer.

Yukina glared at her. “And so what if I am?”

“Aww, do you miss her? That’s so cute. You have the biggest cru-”

Yukina hastily picked up her goggles and hurled them at Lisa to shut her up. “I don’t want to hear anything else from you.”

“Pfft! Suit yourself.” Lisa said, before staring down at the goggles. Her voice turned softer. “Hey… so you really wanna start swimming again?”

“Thinking about it,” Yukina said. The one downside to knowing a person all your life was that they knew your whole history - even the ugly parts. When they were younger, Lisa had pestered her constantly to ask why she had quit swimming. Eventually, Yukina had started crying on the spot and told her all about it. Lisa had threatened to beat up every single one of them. Yukina had reassured her that it wouldn’t be necessary, but she appreciated the sentiment. Even if it had been a bit violent. Then she had tried to get Yukina to start swimming again, but Yukina was so aversed to that idea Lisa had given up eventually. Which, in a grim way, was impressive, given how hard it was to get Lisa to change her mind. Not that she had really changed her mind, per se, (Lisa still thought she should start swimming again) but she had gotten her to shut up about it.

Lisa was the only one who knew. She had never told her parents for… various reasons. And Yukina wanted it to stay that way. The whole thing was incredibly embarrassing too her. She had quit the thing she had enjoyed most in her childhood (other than singing) just because of some whiny kids who had called her names. Nobody needed to know about that part of her. Especially not the people who had raised her.

Sayo didn’t need to know, either.

“Well, if it means anything, I hope you start swimming again. It would make me really happy.” Lisa said.

“Yes, yes, because when I’m happy, you’re happy. I know.” Yukina said with a sigh. Lisa was so overly sentimental at times. It was just part of her nature.

Lisa looked like she was about to grouch at her again, but then she pointed over Yukina’s shoulder. “Look!” she said. “It’s Sayo and Hina!”

Yukina wasn’t sure she’d ever turned around so quickly in her life. Because Lisa was right. Sayo and Hina were moving in their general direction. She awkwardly tried to hide her smile as Lisa waved them over. Why couldn’t she stop smiling in Sayo’s presence?

“Lisa-chi! Yukina-chan! Morning!” Hina said.

“Good morning,” Sayo said.

“We’ve been separated for so long,” Hina said in a mock crying voice as she jumped onto Lisa for an embrace. Lisa awkwardly returned it.

“Certainly feels like it~” Lisa laughed. “How are you guys?”

“Super duper good!” Hina said. “You know that big rock thingy that overlooks the whole town? Well, me and sis went all the way up it yesterday! Oh, with our parents too, obviously.”

“Correction: halfway up it,” Sayo said, seeing Yukina and Lisa’s shocked faces.

“Oh yeah. I wanted to go right to the top, but our parents got tired. How boring is that?” Hina said, her shoulders drooping. “But somehow they found they energy to stay up until eleven at night drinking aperol spritz . I felt so betrayed…”

“Hina, it wasn’t that bad. Sorry, you two.” Sayo said. 

“Ahaha, don’t worry! Hina’s always interesting to listen to.” Lisa replied.

“Yes, interesting. You could call her that.” Sayo said with a sigh, as Hina plonked herself down on the lounger next to Lisa’s.

“I’m gonna get straight in the pool,” Hina said. Sayo gave her a sharp look. “Via the stairs, of course!” she added quickly.

To Yukina’s surprise, Sayo didn’t place her towel on the sunlounger next to Hina’s. Instead she put it on the one right by her own. Yukina didn’t have a problem with this, however. In fact, it was completely the opposite. She was elated.

“Will you be getting in today?” Sayo asked. Yukina stared at the floor. She wasn’t ready for this question, not even after two days apart from Sayo.

“I’ll… sit on the side.” she said, after a while.

She was expecting Sayo to chide her, but the other girl looked happy. “Very well. I’ll see you in there, then.”

 


 

Sadly, the pool was just as cold as she had remembered. But it wasn’t so bad with just her legs in. She was sure that she looked like an idiot, but she couldn’t care less, for once. Not when Sayo would occasionally swim up to her and talk to her for a couple of minutes, before getting back to doing her lengths.

Yukina had been certain that she would be bored without her music to listen to (as much as she loved rock, she did not want to risk having her phone by the water’s edge), but watching Sayo was more than enough entertainment.

Sayo’s swimming was flawless. Every stroke was practiced and perfect, yet it carried its own flash of beauty. Yukina couldn’t believe she only swam in her free time. She was practically a swan, effortlessly gliding through the water. She was spell-bounding.

And, well, she was also in a bikini. Yukina didn’t care if that was an extremely inappropriate thought. It was the truth. Sayo was tall, and slender, and her limbs were lovely and toned.

...She could never tell Lisa this.

Lisa was at the far end of the pool with Hina, playing some sort of throw and catch game with a ball Hina had said she had just found lying around the hotel. (Which definitely meant it was someone else’s, and if they saw her with it they would be fairly annoyed, but Yukina couldn’t care less. It wasn’t her problem.)

“Yukina-san,” Sayo said, snapping Yukna out of her thoughts. Yukina looked down at her. “Are you sure I can’t convince you to come in?”

“Why are you asking now?” Yukina said.

“Well, I’m going to get out to have lunch soon, and after that I won’t get in the pool again, so now’s your chance. I mean, if you want to be in at the same time as me. If it’s of any importance to you…” Sayo’s voice had grown quieter as she spoke, and she was looking to the side. Was she embarrassed, by any chance? Either way, it was very endearing.

“I think I will,” Yukina said quickly, before she could regret it.

“Ehh?!” Sayo looked amazed. “Are you serious?”

“Yes. Do I really seem that boring to you?” Yukina asked.

“No! Of course not!” Sayo said quickly, the tiniest hint of a blush forming on her cheeks. “I’ll, um, go and wait for you by the stairs.”

“Alright,” Yukina said, lifting her legs and standing up. It felt good to stand on solid ground again. She had been certain her legs were going to break off and drift to the bottom of the pool.

She went to the stairs. It was easy to get in all the way up to her knees on the third stair, because that had been how far her legs were in the moment before. But going in any further proved to be a challenge. Now she remembered why she had been so hesitant to get in. All that stuff about being put off swimming by bad childhood memories must have been made up. All she could focus on as she stepped onto the fourth stair was how cold she was.

Sayo obviously noticed her discomfort, and called out to her. “Yukina-san, it is easier to get in as quickly as possible. The longer you spend shivering on the stairs, the more painful it will be.”

“Oh, I don’t care,” Yukina replied, more aggressively than she needed to. “I am not a woman to be rushed.” She wasn’t like Hina, who still jumped in whenever Sayo wasn’t looking. Hell, even Sayo quickly slipped in and immediately started swimming. How did they do it? They must be psychopaths.

She shakily stepped onto the fifth stair. Big mistake. All of her legs were now submerged, and the water was now lapping at her bare stomach. “What is this?” she yelled. She was probably being even more annoying than Hina, but she didn’t care. All she could focus on was the iciness she was surrounded by.

“Yukina-san,” A hand was stretched out to her. She gulped. It was Sayo’s. Her statement from two seconds ago was false - she could definitely focus on Sayo, too.

“I’m going to pull you in,” Sayo said. Yukina did not like that idea. It obviously showed on her face, because Sayo sighed the same way she did at Hina. 

“Absolutely not.”

“So you’re just going to stand on the stairs forever? Well then, I’ll just go.” Sayo said, beginning to swim away.

“Piggyback.”

“What?” Sayo said, turning back towards her.

“Let me get on your back.”

“What?” Sayo repeated. She had definitely heard her that time.

“Give me a piggyback, or I’m not getting in.” She was acting like such a brat, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. She didn’t even know why she was participating in this madness.

Sayo remained in shock for another couple of seconds, before softening. “Fine.” 

“Really?” Yukina said.

“Yes. It’s painful seeing you try to get in yourself. And as you said, you are not a woman to be rushed.” Sayo said, with the tiniest hint of a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.

Was Sayo… teasing her? “Rude,” Yukina said, but she didn’t complain further, seeing as Sayo had already moved so that her back was to her. Taking a deep breath in, she climbed on, immediately feeling the impact of the water rising. That was bad enough, but then Sayo decided to bend her knees.

“S-Sayo!” she yelped, as the water rose to her chest. 

“Sorry. It had to be done.”

“Ahaha, look at you two! You’re being carried like a real princess, Yukina!” Lisa said. Yukina couldn’t see her, which was probably good, because if she could, she would definitely be resisting the urge to strangle her right now. To hell with all their years together. And she was wrong anyway, because princesses definitely didn’t get piggybacks.

“Ignore her,” Yukina muttered. Despite wanting to murder Lisa, she was honestly too tired to even turn around and glare at her. Plus, Sayo felt nice. Very nice.

Now that the initial shock of the cold faded, she applauded her past self for asking Sayo to carry her. It had been a wonderful decision. She could feel Sayo’s hands strongly gripping her thighs, and she was clutching Sayo’s sides to hang on, and if she was brave enough, she could lean forward and bury her face in Sayo’s neck. Sadly, she was not brave.

“Are you intent on hanging onto me forever?” Sayo asked, bringing Yukina out of her pleasant thoughts.

“Yes.”

“You said you would swim if I carried you in.”

“I did not,” Yukina said. “I said I would get in. I am in.”

Yukina thought she had won with that argument, as childish and petty as it was. However, Sayo wasn’t ready to give in to Yukina. “You do realise I could just throw you off at any time, right?”

“Oh, no no no no! Don’t do that, don’t do that!” Yukina shrieked.

“Then get off yourself.”

“...Fine.”

Easier said than done. Sayo was so warm, and it was hard to let go and surrender herself to the cruel mercy of the icy water. But she was in now. She couldn’t just give up and get back out again. That would be cowardly. She was not a coward.

Sayo relaxed her hands, and Yukina felt her legs drift down and touch the bottom. That was fine. She missed Sayo’s hands, but that couldn’t be helped. Then she reluctantly let go of Sayo’s waist, totally separating herself from the other girl.

“So… now what?” she asked.

Sayo looked at her like she was stupid. “You said you were going to swim.”

“Ah. I did, did I?”

Sayo nodded. “Yes. I thought that was the point of you getting in the pool?”

“Oh, yes, that’s right.” Yukina said, hoping her nerves weren’t obvious. “I’ll just, you know, go and get my goggles.”

She paddled over to the side, where she had left the wretched goggles in the middle of the sun. Bad idea. She could almost feel them sizzle as she touched them, and they were even worse when she put them over her eyes.

“How do they feel?” Sayo asked, when she made her way back over to her. “Good?”

“I guess,” Yukina said. “A bit warm, though.”

Sayo smirked. “Well, a good way to help that would be to put your face underwater.”

Yukina was horrified. “What? No! Already?”

Sayo nodded. “Already. It’s kind of hard to swim properly without getting your face wet.”

Yukina stared her down. “I can’t believe this.”

To her surprise, Sayo’s gaze softened. “You know… if you are nervous, we can just stop. I don’t want to force you to do anything.”

That caught her off guard. Sayo had been firm the whole day, trying to get Yukina to come in. Now, she was saying she could stop?

No way was she going to let Sayo down like that.

She plunged her head underwater.

...and immediately lifted it again, because by god, it was still ridiculously cold.

“Horrible. Horrible!” she said. But Sayo was smiling. And to her surprise, so was she.

“Well, it’s a start,” Sayo said, laughing. “It feels good in a way, right?”

Yukina shot her a glare. “Now you’re talking nonsense.”

“Sure,” Sayo said, the remnants of a smile still on her lips. “But anyway. How much can you actually swim?”

“Like I said, I can front crawl a bit.”

“Hm. Alright.” Sayo said. “Tell you what, I’ll go to the other end, and then you can follow me after, okay?”

“Okay,” Yukina said, despite her doubts about the idea. She watched Sayo’s strong arms cut through the water as she sped to the other end. She was brilliant. 

She was also looking at her expectantly. Yukina composed herself for a few seconds, breathing in, dipping her face under again and kicking off from the wall.

Yukina had forgotten what swimming was like, only vaguely recalling a negative feeling, but now she remembered everything . The water clogging her nose, the unpleasant rush in her ears, but most importantly, the embarrassment. She was probably kicking too hard. Wasn’t she causing a disturbance? And she seemed to be moving so slowly. She tried to push herself to go faster, but all she could feel was her arms slapping the water and her legs dragging her down. Her limbs felt like lead, and she wanted to stop. She wanted to submerge herself in the water and sit at the bottom forever, avoiding all human contact.

But then an arm touched hers, and she looked up with a gasp. She had made it. She was at the other end. It was over!

She laughed, mostly out of sheer relief. “I’m so glad that’s done,” she said. “I’m never swimming again.”

Sayo looked at her in utter confusion. “What are you talking about? That was amazing!”

What? Perhaps her and Sayo were living in two alternate dimensions. Or she was just lying to make Yukina feel better. That was much more likely.

“Seriously, Yukina, you aced it~!” Lisa said, making her way over. But of course she would say that. She was Lisa.

“Mm! You swim kinda different to sis, but it’s a good kind of different!” Hina added. Her too? Had everyone on the planet been watching her?

“You don’t need to say these things to me, everyone.” she said. “It’s okay. You can be honest.”

“I am being honest,” Sayo said. “‘I can barely front crawl’? You looked almost professional.”

Now Yukina knew for sure Sayo was lying. That was impossible. She was barely an amateur, and she had wanted to scream the whole way through. But a tiny part of her was relishing in the way she had kicked off, cut through the water again. She wasn’t normally one for physical activity, but swimming felt different. Maybe it was because it didn’t involve a team, or a ball. It was simple. Or perhaps there was a part of her brain that had suddenly decided at birth that she would fall in love with swimming, and she couldn’t do anything to change that. Plus, she hadn’t been in a pool at all since she was nine. Getting back into one was scary, but also a tiny bit amazing.

And with the others looking at her like she was some sort of Olympic medallist, she couldn’t unload all her negative thoughts on them, could she? Especially not Sayo. Because Sayo believed in her. For some unknown reason, Sayo had a faith in her Yukina was sure she had lost within herself.

“Do you want to go again?” Sayo asked.

Yukina shook her head. “Not really, no.” That was too much to ask. She wasn’t quite sure she could try another length right off the bat, even with all the encouragement in the world.

But she would. Whether it was tomorrow, or in months to come, she wanted to swim again. She always had. But now she had been able to face it head on, it didn’t feel so bad. And it was all thanks to Sayo.

“I wouldn’t mind another piggyback, though.” she said.

Sayo rolled her eyes. “Not happening.”

“Mean.”

There was no edge to her words, though. Because if there was one thing the day had taught her, it was that Sayo was not a mean person.

Chapter Text

“Yukina-chan!!”

One thing Yukina had learnt about Hina was that you always heard her before you saw her. Which was a good thing, she supposed. It gave you a moment to mentally prepare for a conversation with her.

“Do you know where Lisa-chi is?”

“She’s gone to her parents’ room.”

“Right. Okay.” Hina said, a thoughtful look crossing her face. Yukina had noticed that they had separated off into pairs; Hina and Lisa, and her and Sayo. It didn’t really surprise her that Lisa was friends with Hina. While Hina was mad, Lisa could get on with anyone, and as well as that, despite being known back home in Japan for being ‘eternally kind’, Yukina knew that Lisa was crazy, too. It was probably a result of all the time she spent working part-time with that strange sleepy girl.

Yukina didn’t mind them hanging out together. It meant that she had to deal with Hina less (not that there was anything wrong with her, just that she was very full on), and it also meant that she could spend more alone time with Sayo. That was a part she rather liked.

“So,” Hina said, clapping her hands together. “I was gonna wait for Lisa-chi, but I’m too excited, so I’ll tell you now. You know the restaurant we went to the other day?”

“Yes,” Yukina said. How could she forget that day?

“Right! But you and Lisa-chi only had lunch there. And what I was thinking was…” Hina reached out to grab Yukina’s hand, pulling her closer. Yukina shrunk back, not ready for this development. “You could get all your family to come with our parents and we could all eat there together! Wouldn’t that be so boppin’?”

“Our families?” Did the Hikawa parents know about this? Had they just accepted this as a good idea? Were they as mad as the girl standing in front of her right now? Come to think of it, Yukina wasn’t even sure if she’d ever talked to Sayo and Hina’s parents, let alone seen her own parents interacting with them.

When she voiced her doubts to Hina, she just shook it off with an easy wave. “Don’t worry, my parents said it’s cool! They wanna bond with the other Japanese people here, you know? Just ask them! And Lisa-chi, of course.”

“Right,” Yukina said, finally detaching herself from Hina. “Is there anything else you need from me?” She hoped the answer would be negative.

“Oh, there is, actually!” Hina said. Yukina cursed inwardly. “You and sis get along pretty well, right?”

Wow. Not what she had been expecting. “Do you have a problem with that?” she asked.

Hina looked positively dumbfounded by this question. “What? Why would I?” she said. “You’re so funny, Yukina-chan!”

“Well then, why did you bring it up?” Yukina said, trying to ignore Hina’s remark. It wasn’t her intention to be a comedian.

That seemed to catch Hina off guard even more. “I don’t know,” she said eventually. “I guess it’s just… you and her are similar, you know?”

“Similar?” Yukina asked. Now she was intrigued.

Hina nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah! You’re both kinda closed off and neither of you smile much. You always look really sad or grumpy when I see you at dinner at breakfast. But when you’re around sis, you smile way more! And so does she. It makes me so happy.”

Yukina was confused. “Why would that make you happy?”

“Because I’m happy when she’s happy, of course!”

Yukina was taken aback. An exact copy of Lisa’s words…

“Eh? Why are you looking like that?” Hina asked, waving a hand in front of her face. Yukina blinked. “Is it really so weird for me to care about my own twin sister?”

“No, of course not,” Yukina said. “Sorry. I was just lost in thought.”

“It’s okay!” Hina said in a sing-song voice. “But it’s true. She always looks like some sort of lit-up Christmas tree when she’s around you. And that’s good.” Hina’s voice softened. “She hasn’t had the easiest time, you know?”

“What?” Yukina asked sharply. What did Hina mean, she hadn’t had the easiest time? Of course, Sayo had been forced to move away from most of her family in Japan, but she had said herself that her life was much better now. Perhaps that was what Hina was referring to - simply their move, nothing more, nothing less. But if that was true, why would Hina be so happy to see Sayo smile, six years after they had settled in England? Maybe it was to do with the way she had also described Sayo as closed off - that could just be a personality trait, but…

She was thinking too deeply about this. Really, she should just ask Hina what she meant. But for some reason it felt wrong. Like it wasn’t her place. And Hina had already moved on.

“Anyway, ask your family.” Hina said, before smiling. “I hope they say yes!”

“Hold on, when exactly do your parents want to have this dinner?” Yukina said quickly, figuring it was an important detail.

“Oh, tonight!”

“Tonight?”

“Yeah! The sooner the better, right?”

“Well-” Yukina was about to argue, but found that she couldn’t. Neither her nor Lisa’s family had wanted to go anywhere in particular later that night, and the hotel menu for today looked fairly lackluster, so…

“I’ll ask them,” Yukina said with a small sigh. “But I can’t promise anything.”

“Oh, I know that!” Hina said. “But it would be great if you came.” Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she pulled it out, peering down at the screen. “Ah! My mum wants me. Gotta go! Bye, Yukina-chan!”

She then proceeded to turn and run up the flight of stairs behind them. Currently, they were on the second floor, which meant that Hina was going to the third and final floor. Which meant that Sayo also stayed on that floor.

Yukina allowed the something to overtake her for a second, before shaking her head. She was being ridiculous. And a stalker! Why was she so desperate to know what Sayo’s room number was? It definitely did not matter. At all. Definitely.

She made her way back to the room Lisa’s parents shared, knocking once before the door was opened by Lisa herself. “Hey, Yukina!” she said. “What took you so long?”

Lisa had asked her to get her hairbrush from their room. She spent a lot of time in her parents’ room, mainly because it had a big mirror at the desk she could sit in front of to adjust her appearance. However, she was prone to leaving all her belongings in their own room, and she often sent Yukina to get them for her. Her excuse was that she was in the middle of her very elaborate makeup routine, which couldn’t be disturbed. Yukina didn’t believe this for a second, especially considering how Lisa didn’t even wear that much makeup anyway, but she did it regardless. She always made sure to death stare Lisa, though. One day, she would get revenge.

“Intercepted by Hina,” she said, as she shut the door behind her. Lisa’s mother, who was in the middle of dumping three gigantic bottles of water into her backpack, gave her a wave. Her dad was sitting on the balcony.

“Ah, I see,” Lisa laughed, as she began to comb out her locks. “She is an odd one, isn’t she?”

“Lisa,” her mother tutted.

“Sorry!” Lisa said. “She’s nice, though. Really! Just a little crazy.”

“You can say that again,” Yukina muttered. “And apparently her parents are as crazy as her.”

“Really? Why?” Lisa asked, frowning into the mirror.

“They’ve invited us to dinner.”

“What’s crazy about that?” 

“Tonight! They want us to come tonight.”

“Who's saying this?” Lisa’s mother asked, walking over to them.

“Hina. And her parents.”

“Well, I don’t have a problem with it,” Lisa said, as she violently attacked a certain tangle in her hair. “Can we go, Mum?”

Lisa’s mother shrugged. “I’m sure it’s not a problem.” She was a very… laid-back parent, that was for sure. This benefitted Lisa, as it meant that she could generally do or get away with whatever she wanted. Yukina wished she could say the same of her own mother. “I’ll have to ask your father.”

She padded out onto the balcony. Lisa watched her for a moment, before turning back to Yukina. “That was all Hina said?”

She hasn’t had the easiest time. “Yes. That was all. She was asking after you, though.”

“Oh, really?” Lisa finally put down her hairbrush, standing up to face Yukina. “That’s nice of her.” She smirked. “So no sign of Sayo, then?”

“I am going to murder you in your sleep,” Yukina hissed.

Lisa threw up her hands defensively. “What? It was just an innocent question.” But she was still grinning like a monster.

“Sure, whatever you say,” Yukina said, about to shoot back with some other snarky comment, but she was interrupted by Lisa’s mother. 

“Your father says it’s okay. Tell the Hikawa family that, yeah?”

Lisa grinned at Yukina. “Dinner with Hina and the love of your life? This will be so much fun!”

Yukina whacked her with the hairbrush.

 


 

There were many thoughts swirling around Yukina’s head that day. They’d spent a lot of time in town, which had mainly consisted of Lisa dragging her around whatever shops she wanted to visit. Yukina didn’t mind, however, mainly because she was used to Lisa’s antics, and also because it distracted her from her own thoughts. But even Lisa’s enthusiastic chatter couldn’t totally get rid of her nerves at having Sayo watch her eat. Sure, it was a group affair too, and they had simultaneously eaten breakfast and dinner at the hotel before, but this felt different. More personal. Even if Hina had been the one to invite her.

God. She was probably overthinking this, wasn’t she?

To match her mood, it had been cloudy all day. and the clouds only got darker as they headed back to the hotel to shower and change. Technically, Yukina could just show up to dinner in her regular shorts and t-shirt (a break from her usual fashion style, but goth and Italian summer did not walk hand in hand), but she wanted to impress Sayo. For some reason. Or at least look nice for her.

Yukina did not want to tell Lisa any of this. She knew Lisa would just bully her, like the horrible friend she was. So it was only when (once they were back at the hotel) Lisa stepped into the shower that Yukina put down the hairdryer she had half-heartedly been using and walked straight over to the wardrobe.

She had bought two dresses with her, both because her mother had forced her. One of them was red. One of them was black. They had no fancy designs on them, no puffed sleeves, no lace, no nothing. They were essentially just pieces of fabric cut into the shape of a dress. Yukina had had no problem with this before, but now it seemed like a major issue. Somehow, neither of them felt acceptable for Sayo.

She spent so long frowning in front of the wardrobe that Lisa finished in the shower. And Lisa spent a long time in the shower. Which meant that Yukina should’ve probably just stopped worrying, shoved on something respectable and tried not to think about Sayo too much. However, that was a lot easier said than done.

“Thinking about something?” Lisa asked, and Yukina swore she jumped so high she touched the ceiling. Lisa only raised her eyebrow at this. (She could lift one perfectly, all by itself. Yukina could not. She was very jealous.)

“Not really,” she said, still reluctant to confide in Lisa about her issues with a certain girl being way too pretty for her own good.

But Lisa always knew. “Look at you, your hair’s barely dry! Come on, let me do it for you.”

Yukina wanted to say no; in recent years, she had tried to prove her ‘big girl’ status by letting Lisa coddle her less, but right now, she really wanted to be coddled.

Lisa didn’t say anything as she weaved her hands through Yukina’s long strands, focusing on getting them perfectly dry, but Yukina could tell she was thinking. Lisa could always read her like a book, which was extremely frustrating. So it wasn’t surprising that when Lisa was done, she turned off the dryer, looked Yukina dead in the eyes and said: “Tell me what’s on your mind about tonight.”

Yukina decided to play dumb. She didn’t need Lisa’s advice, anyway. “Why would I be thinking about anything? It’s just a dinner.”

Lisa snorted, a rare gesture she only did in front of Yukina when Yukina was (as Lisa so often put it) ‘being herself’. Yukina supposed this counted as one of those times. She was being quite ridiculous, but still. She was not going to allow herself to suddenly start freaking out over her appearance just because Sayo was there, even though that was exactly what was happening. “Yukina. Just admit you wanna impress Sayo.”

“You have the strangest ideas.”

“Oh come on! I give great fashion advice, you know I do. It’s my one area of expertise.” This was, annoyingly enough, true. The fact that Lisa had given up the bass to paint her nails and plan out everything she wore down to the last detail bothered Yukina, but she was good at painting her nails and planning everything she wore down to the last detail.

So Yukina relented. “Okay, maybe I like Sayo. She’s very… nice. So I should wear something nice. Because that’s nice.”

Lisa looked like she was about to snort again, but she instead chose to put a comforting hand on Yukina’s shoulder. “Yukina, so new to the world of romance… You have a lot to learn. But it’ll be okay. I’m here for you.”

Yukina chose to ignore the word ‘romance’, but other than that, she sighed and took Lisa’s advice.

Half an hour later, and they were waiting in the lobby for Sayo and Hina’s family to arrive. Yukina had gone with the black dress in the end, but Lisa had lent her one of her necklaces. She stroked her hand along the jewellery, anxiously awaiting Sayo’s arrival. She wanted to impress Sayo, but she didn’t want her to think she was too over the top.

“Ah! There they are!” 

Yukina’s head whipped around so quickly some of her hair flicked into her mouth and made her gag slightly. She was so busy trying to sort it out she barely noticed Sayo until she was standing right in front of her.

“You look wonderful.”

Yukina’s eyes snapped up, feeling her stomach leap in a mixture of embarrassment and happiness. Tugging the last strand of her out of her mouth, she quickly said: “You too.”

And then she properly took Sayo in, and her mouth fell open.

Sayo looked stunning. Like some sort of divine being who had for some reason decided to come down to Earth and be friends with her. (Were they even friends? Yukina hoped they were.) She was in a neat blue dress that matched her hair, which Yukina was fairly certain in a half up, half down style. She had secretly been obsessed with that hairstyle when she was thirteen, until she realised she couldn’t be bothered to do it every day before school. But seeing Sayo in it was… breathtaking.

“No, really. You too. ” she repeated, her words meaning much more now. Sayo only smiled back.

Introductions were made all around, and from the brief impression Yukina got of Sayo’s parents, Hina definitely took after her father personality personality wise. Sayo’s mother seemed much more rational. Then, they moved out of the hotel, Yukina falling into step next to Sayo.

“I don’t know why Hina was so hellbent on going to this restaurant again.” Sayo sighed. “Seriously. Yes, the food is nice, but it’s nothing special.”

“Well, I’m not going to complain.” Yukina said. “But I am a bit worried…”

“Why?”

“The sky. It’s dark. There could be a storm.”

Sayo looked up, taking in the many black clouds above them. “So it is. But the restaurant has an inside part, so we’ll be fine. Probably.”

“How bad can storms be in Italy, anyway? Can’t be much worse than they are back home.” Yukina said. Considering that there were typhoons in Japan, she wasn’t going to be intimidated by a slightly dark sky.

Once they were at the restaurant, they sat down inside at the table for ten they had reserved. Table for ten. Yukina could almost feel the dirty looks from the waitress as she moved together a group of tables for them to sit at. Annoyingly enough, she ended up being at the opposite end from Sayo, who sat with Hina and their father. And for some strange reason, she was opposite Sayo’s mother, with her own father on her left and Lisa opposite him. The table arrangement made almost no sense, but they were sat down now and already being thrusted menus by the annoyed-looking waitress.

“So, what are you having, Yukina?” Sayo’s mum asked. Yukina looked up. She was sure that Sayo’s mum was a lovely person (after all, she had given birth to Sayo) but she had never talked to the woman in her life until ten minutes ago. What was she supposed to say to her? Small talk had never been her forte, and it never would be.

“I don’t know. Maybe… lasagna?” She had eaten it at the hotel before and it was delicious, but she didn’t know how it would size up here. Then and again, there wasn’t much else she recognised. Everything was written in Italian, English and German, but there wasn’t a single word of Japanese in sight. Had they even considered the possibility that someone from outside Europe would want to visit?

“Lasagna is good, but this place has amazing pizza.” Sayo’s mum turned to the three whole pages of pizza combinations. There’s salamino, prosciutto, capricciosa…”

“Hold on,” Yukina said. “I don’t know what any of those mean. And besides, if you don’t mind me asking, of course, how is your pronunciation so good?”

Sayo’s mother smiled. “Ah. You see, I’m a chef. In my younger days I spent a lot of time in Europe. I can speak Italian, French and German, as well as English and Japanese, of course.”

Yukina’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t help but feel jealous, especially considering she had to swot for hours just to barely pass most of her English tests.

Sayo’s mother nervously chuckled. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to boast. But even though we moved to England for Ryo’s sake, my knowledge of the language helped the girls fit in a little better. I could teach them. And Ryo, even though he already knew a lot.”

Yukina nodded. She liked Sayo’s mum already. She was impressive. Much more down to earth than her husband, too. She really was a lot like Sayo.

“Anyway, feel free to choose anything you like.” Sayo’s mum continued. “But I do recommend the pizzas they have on offer here.”

Yukina stared at the menu for a few more minutes, before deciding to go with the margarita. She knew what that meant, at least. And it was very unlikely she would find something to dislike with such a classic (basic) pizza.

The waitress came to take their orders as it started raining outside. People were staring now, faces pressed up against the glass. Yukina scoffed. They were probably all stupid British tourists. Why were they so transfixed? Wasn’t rain supposed to be common in the UK?

Yukina looked at the twins, and was surprised. Sayo seemed to be fairly interested in the events going on outside too, which was not what Yukina had expected, but meanwhile, Hina was one hundred percent focused on the waitress, staring deeply into her eyes as she mumbled her order. How strange. Hina was acting weird, and Sayo was behaving the way Yukina had expected Hina to. Perhaps the rain had corrupted their minds, somehow.

Once the waitress left, conversation turned to careers. Sayo’s dad worked as a banker, and just like Sayo’s mother, he had worked in Europe before. That was how they had met - in Italy itself. 

“We were next to each other on the bus ride to work one day, and he was calling someone on the phone and speaking Japanese. When he hung up, I asked him about it. Turns out it was his mother. He had barely just moved to Italy, but when I asked him something in Italian, I found out he already spoke the language so well. After that, we kept talking for the whole ride. I was sad when he had to go, but he was there the next day. Eventually, he asked me out.” Sayo’s mum said, smiling slightly. “Ever since we moved back to Japan together, we’ve still visited Italy every year. It really is a beautiful country.”

Yukina was impressed. Even if Sayo’s dad was a bit… odd, (similarly to Hina, he seemed to have invented his own vocabulary) Sayo’s parents were rather pleasant on the whole. 

“And what of you? What’s your area of expertise?” Sayo’s dad asked her father. 

Yukina’s stomach dropped.

Oh no.

“Me? Well, it’s a little embarrassing, but…” Her dad paused. “I was in a band.”

No, no, no.

“Wow, really?” Yukina heard Hina’s voice from the other end of the table. “Which one?”

Curse Hina and her endless curiosity! 

“Electric Blue.”

Now all of the Hikawas were in a state of shock. “No way,” Sayo’s father said. “They’re - I mean, you - you’re massive!”

“People still listen to you, even back in England! You get on the radio sometimes! A lot, actually!” Hina said, swinging back and forth on her chair, her eyes as big as saucers.

Yukina’s dad awkwardly chuckled. “I suppose so. We got our big break, I guess. At the FWF. After that, things got a bit crazy.”

“I bet your house is soooo huge,” Hina continued. “How many floors do you have?”

“Only two.” Yukina’s dad answered.

“Eh, really?"

“We decided we wanted to still live a relatively normal life.” Yukina’s mum said. “It’s true that we could afford somewhere bigger, but our house is our home, you know? And we were next door to the Imai family, and Yukina and Lisa are so close. We didn’t want to disrupt that.”

“Of course,” Sayo’s mum said. “It’s lovely that you girls have been friends for so long.”

“Ahaha, I guess~” Lisa said. “I would have been pretty sad if Yukina moved away.”

Yukina said nothing, merely nodding where it was appropriate. She was too focused on Sayo - or rather, avoiding Sayo. Sayo was staring right at her, and for the first time that night, Yukina felt grateful that they were on opposite ends of the table.

“Drinks are here,” the waitress said, passing many beverages around the table. Yukina was still having coffee. She couldn’t care less if it was considered a morning thing. As she put multiple sugar packets into her cup, she stared deep into the depths of the drink, trying to avoid Sayo’s eyes.

She hadn’t told Sayo what her family name was because she was sure Sayo would instantly recognise and know she was the daughter of the famous Keiji Minato. She didn’t want to be seen as that. As much as she respected and loved her father, and even if it felt like a betrayal to him, in a way, she wanted to be just Yukina. At least right now, in these two weeks, halfway around the world. Or maybe she just wanted Sayo to see her for herself.

She knew Sayo would want to talk about it, however, and the last thing she wanted to do was talk about it. Maybe if she didn’t look at Sayo she wouldn’t have to.

The storm picked up, catching the awe of Sayo (and Hina, now the waitress had left) once again, letting Yukina be free of Sayo’s gaze. Even Yukina turned to look, now - some of the trees were bending over backwards and the waiters were dashing out to retrieve all the outdoor chairs before they went flying.

Eventually, starters came, and not long after, their main meals. The storm passed, although all the annoying British tourists wouldn’t shut up about it. The food was as good as it had been the other time Yukina had gone there. Especially her pizza - it was crispy thin and baked to perfection. Yukina could see why Hina was so hooked on this place, other than the fact that she seemed to have some sort of feelings for the waitress who was taking their orders, judging by the way she kept craning her neck to look for her.

They chose to opt out on dessert. It was already getting late, and the adults, while not drunk, had had their fair share of alcohol for the night.

They left the restaurant to be greeted by wet pavement and the distinct smell of rain. Not really the image one would have of Italy. She turned to Sayo, ready to make a joke about how Italian storms were pretty big after all, but she stopped herself. Sayo was at the back of the group, near her father. Yukina made an extra effort to scoot closer to Lisa.

As she walked the rest of the way back to the hotel, Yukina scraped her shoes against the pavement, not caring if she was acting like a child. Because for the first time in the whole holiday, she felt alone. And it was her own doing.

Chapter Text

The next day, Yukina was down at breakfast, as usual. But she was not eagerly craning her neck for any sight of Sayo, which was what she usually did. She had already spotted Sayo, on the table irritatingly right next to theirs, and had therefore decided to avoid her as much as possible.

She was probably being stupid. Lisa had tried to tell her so as they climbed into their beds the night before, but Yukina had grumbled that she didn’t want to talk about it.

She knew she was being unreasonable for brushing off Sayo, but the look of surprise and wonder on her face when her father had revealed his band had been enough to convince her. Sayo would probably want to know all the details. Maybe ask her to get her father’s autograph, or something else like that.

Yet her heart still twisted when she had seen Sayo at her own table, looking like a sad and lost puppy. She wanted to say sorry. To explain herself. But somehow her feet couldn’t move over to the table Sayo was sitting at, barely five metres away.

“I think it’s another pool day,” Lisa said, as they went back up to their room. She had filled the whole morning with as much idle chatter and small talk as possible, which was Lisa-code for ‘I’m dying to talk to you about exactly what you don’t want to talk about’. It happened a lot, especially considering how little Yukina spoke about things that were bothering her. 

“We’ve been pretty lazy this holiday,” Yukina noted. They had spent a few days going out, but mostly, they had sat by the pool.

“So? We didn’t book a two week stay for nothing,” Lisa said. “We can be as lazy as we want. Plus, I feel like our parents kinda need a pool day. They’re totally drunk.”

“Totally drunk?” Yukina said in disbelief as Lisa unlocked their door. “They had two glasses of wine each, max.”

“Yeah, but it was strong wine. And they had large glasses.”

“You’re still exaggerating.”

“I know, I know~” Lisa said with a grin, making Yukina sigh. “By the way, the legal drinking age in Italy is like, sixteen, I think? So we’ve been able to order alcohol this whole time and we’ve never taken advantage of it.”

“I wouldn’t want to anyway,” Yukina said, wrinkling her nose. She had tried alcohol before, but her general impression of it was less than impressive. “And you don’t need to take advantage of it. You regularly get wasted with that gremlin you work with.”

“Moca isn’t a gremlin!” Lisa protested. “And we’ve never gotten drunk.”

“Whatever you say,” Yukina said, rolling her eyes.

“Don’t be like that,” Lisa said. “We can drink aperol spritz! You know, that orange stuff everyone keeps on downing way too much of.”

You can,” Yukina said. “I think I’m alright.”

“Boring,” Lisa sighed. She paused a moment, before speaking again. “Hey, I know you said not to mention it, but I was texting Hina, and she said they’re probably not going to go out today, either.”

“Okay,” Yukina said.

“So Sayo will be at the pool.”

“I know that, Lisa. I’m not stupid.” Yukina said, probably more harshly than she had meant to.

“Just talk to her, Yukina~” Lisa whined. “I can understand why you didn’t wanna tell her about your dad. But you can’t ignore her forever. All you have to do is be honest with her.”

Yukina sighed. “I’ll try my best.”

Lisa giggled, but Yukina ignored her, too caught up in her own thoughts. Then, she suddenly realised something.

Lisa had been texting Hina. Which meant she had her phone number. Which meant Lisa and Hina had exchanged numbers, but her and Sayo hadn’t.

Something about that made her insides clench slightly.

 


 

Soon enough, they were back at the pool within less than an hour. And right there, in the spot they had all been collectively claiming recently, was Sayo and Hina.

Yukina felt the strong desire to run away, but Lisa clearly wasn’t having any of that. “Hey guys!” she said, grabbing Yukina’s wrist and pulling her along with her.

“Lisa-chi! Yukina-chan!” Hina said, immediately bouncing up to do some sort of complicated high-five/handshake pattern she had developed with Lisa in the past couple of days. Which left Yukina to sneak a glance at Sayo, only to find out she was staring right at her.

Yukina tried to gather courage. “Can I talk to you?”

Sayo nodded. They walked away from the other two a little, until they were standing right by the pool. Not the safest place, but Yukina didn’t care. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about my dad’s band before.”

Sayo sighed. “Please don’t worry about it. I was just surprised, I suppose.”

“But I shouldn’t have ignored you,” Yukina pressed on.

Sayo looked her fully in the eyes. “Yukina-san. It is alright. Honestly. I think I may have even acted the same way if I was in your position.”

Yukina smiled, despite herself.

“So…”Sayo said. “I could call you Minato-san now, theoretically, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t like that very much.”

“You’d better not,” Yukina said in a way that could be seen as aggressive, but for some reason they were both laughing, and Yukina shot a glance in Lisa’s direction only to see her give her a thumbs up, and everything was alright again.

Yukina had a feeling that perhaps Sayo wanted to probe further but she was holding back; on the whole, she was awful at reading people, but she couldn’t help but think that Sayo was secretly desperate to ask about her father’s band. If that was true, it meant that she was holding back for Yukina’s sake, which was actually very thoughtful of her, but at the same time, the fact that Sayo was probably a massive fan of her father’s filled her with that same negative feeling she’d had the night before. She was not very fond of this feeling, so she decided to distract both herself and Sayo by changing the topic.

“Can you take me swimming again today?” Yukina asked, once they were back at their sunloungers. Sayo peered over at her, eyebrows raised, and Yukina drummed her fingers against the sunlounger nervously. “Only if you want to, of course.”

“I don’t think I can decline. Especially seeing as you’ve asked so kindly.” Sayo said, a teasing lilt to her voice that almost reminded her of Lisa, except that she found that just like before, she didn’t mind Sayo teasing her.

This time, it was a lot easier to get into the pool. Sayo held her hands, slowly easing her in, and Yukina found that if she focused on those instead of the cold of the water, the whole experience became a lot easier.

“What do you want to do now?” Sayo asked, once they were fully in the pool. 

“I’m not sure. You decide.”

“Well, you look cold, and I know I’ve said it before, but the best way to warm up is to swim.” Sayo said. “At some point, Hina will probably splash you anyway, so it’s best to get used to the cold before that happens.”

Yukina thought about it. “Fine. I’ll swim to the other end again, but you have to be waiting for me there too.” She wasn’t quite sure she’d be able to do it without Sayo’s gentle gaze watching over her.

Sayo nodded. “Whatever you say.”

Yukina watched as Sayo eased herself over to the other side of the pool, in the same position she had been in only a couple of days ago. She turned to Lisa, who was sitting on the steps with Hina, both of them watching her. Lisa gave her a friendly wave.

She was distinctly aware of all three of them looking at her as she prepared to push off. Something told her that they were judging her, watching her performance only to criticise her. But then she banished that thought. The more she worried, the harder this would become.

She kicked off, feeling the water rush through her ears. Once again, her limbs felt like lead. Her technique was awful, she was going too slowly -

But she was doing it. She was swimming. Wasn’t that enough?

She kicked harder, willing herself to reach the far edge as soon as possible. Where Sayo was waiting for her. She turned her head to the side, gasping for breath before pushing on. She had this.

And then her hand hit the wall.

She stood up, clinging to the side and panting. She had done it again! She had actually swam a length. 

“Are you alright?” Sayo asked, and Yukina could only weakly nod, still out of breath. She really was getting unfit.

“It wasn’t as bad as last time,” she said eventually.

“That’s good, then. Do you think you could do it again?” Sayo asked.

Yukina thought about it. She didn’t want to face the sinking feeling, or deal with how everyone was definitely staring at her. But at the same time, the fact that she had swam twice now and still been generally okay afterwards was a massive achievement. One she hadn’t even known she was capable of.

“Just a couple more lengths.”

Sayo smiled back at her. “Just a couple.”

 


 

An hour later, and Yukina was shivering on her lounger, desperately trying to get dry. She had swum for a little while more, but after that she had mostly messed around with Hina, Lisa, Sayo and the ball Hina had sort of stolen. She had tried to play Hina’s suggestion of some sort of satanic game where you jumped as you threw the ball, and then the next person had to jump up, catch it mid-air and then throw it back all before touching the ground again, but two minutes in, Yukina had discovered that the game was definitely not made for her. After that, Hina had tried to drag her underneath the shower overlooking the pool, which was basically just a metal tube that spurted out water of a volume and pressure far too great whenever you pressed a button underwater. Yukina wouldn’t have even realised Hina’s devilish plan had Sayo not seen what she was up to and swam over to save her from her cruel fate. Hina objected to this greatly (but sis, she almost fell for it! It would have been super rururun~!) but Yukina was immensely grateful to Sayo.

Sayo herself appeared that moment, sitting herself down on her own sunlounger. For some reason, Yukina wished Sayo had sat on hers.

“So…” Sayo began. “You are not going to believe this, but Hina has not one, but two ideas for us all to do this holiday.”

“Right…” Yukina said, mentally preparing for the worst. She felt that even though she had only known Hina for a week, she had a pretty good idea of what Hina enjoyed doing. Funnily enough, their tastes didn’t particularly match up.

“The first is… Wait, do you remember when Hina said that her and I had gone up half of that big hill together?”

“Yes…” Yukina said, a pit of dread already setting in her stomach. She could tell what was coming, and she didn’t like it.

“She wants the four of us to go to the top of it. Together.”

Yukina groaned.

“You don’t have to,” Sayo said quickly. “It’s a long way. It’ll probably take about forty-five minutes of consistently walking up steep ground. It doesn’t sound very pleasant, but the views will be amazing.”

Yukina wanted to reply with something sarcastic, but she couldn’t find the heart to. Normally, she didn’t understand what the big deal about views were. You spent hours trekking somewhere, getting sweaty, tired and exhausted, and the thing people used to justify it was that there was some nice landscape for you to look at. But this was Sayo, so she held back from vocalising her thoughts, and instead just sighed.

Sayo paused. “You can think about it. But I think the more important suggestion is the second one she came up with… at least for you, anyway.”

That caught Yukina’s attention. “What is it?” 

“Well, on the walk back yesterday, Hina found this advertisement for a boat cruise kind of thing? Here’s the flyer for it.”

Yukina gazed at it with curiosity. At the top, in big, yellow letters, were the words ‘Sunset Cruise’. She couldn’t understand much beyond that, however, so she asked Sayo to translate the rest.

“It says that the boat is small, it can carry a maximum of ten people, plus the captain. It sets out at seven, and comes back at around half past eight. So we get to watch the sunset, essentially. Hence the name. And, uh… There will be food and drinks provided on board, and…” Sayo seemed to carefully consider her next words - “the option to go swimming in the lake.”

“Oh.” Yukina said, an involuntary action. Then it hit her. “Ohhh.”

“It sounds like it will be a pleasantly relaxing experience.” Sayo said. “And I think Hina would have already told Lisa-san by now. She seems on board with it. But I’d like to know how you feel. You still seem very apprehensive about swimming.”

“I don’t have to go in the lake, do I?” Yukina asked.

Sayo shook her head. “Obviously not.” 

“Then…” Yukina paused. She wanted to say Then I won’t, but there was still a tiny part of her that was excited about it. If she hadn’t quit swimming, all those years ago, she probably would have been elated at the chance to plunge into the lake. Now, though, the prospect hung over her like a cloud of anxiety and doubt.

“I’ll think about it,” she said, after a while. It was the easiest answer. Sayo still didn’t know the true reasons behind why she was still so nervous about swimming. She probably just thought Yukina was a bit soft. But she didn’t quite feel ready to unload it all onto Sayo - it was all still so terribly embarrassing.

“Okay. We’re probably going to book it for the last day, so you’ll have plenty of time to think about it.” Sayo said. “And the hill?”

“More like a mountain,” Yukina muttered. “Do the other two want to go?”

“Yes.”

“...I feel like I’m not going to have much of a choice in this.” Yukina sighed.

“I hate to say it, but you’re probably right.”

 


 

Later on in the day, as the sun was beginning to set, both Sayo and Yukina were having dinner at the hotel. Although their tables were separate, Lisa didn’t miss the way Yukina always went up to get more food from the buffet at the exact same time as Sayo did.

Yukina shot her a glare as she smirked when Yukina came back from her third helping of salad.

“Don’t even say a word.”

“You’re so cute, Yukina. And definitely not obvious. You are the subtlest of the subtle.” 

“I will pay you twenty euros to close your mouth immediately.”

Lisa perked up at that. “Really?”

“No.”

“Fine, then that means I can keep teasing you.”

“Or,” Yukina said, “you could be a good friend and shut up.”

“You’re so mean.” Lisa sighed. “But hey - things are good between you two now, right?”

Yukina was confused. “Of course they are. Why wouldn’t they be?”

Lisa sighed in a world-weary way. “You know what? Forget I even asked.”

Yukina didn’t answer that, because she felt Lisa would just tease her again. She knew what Lisa was talking about, though. But there was no way she was risking her relationship with Sayo over her own family problems.

That being said, it was fairly difficult to hide from the overbearing shadow of your father when said father was coming on holiday with you. Yukina didn’t miss the way people at the hotel recognised him and asked for pictures and autographs, even though Electric Blue had disbanded a couple of years ago and they were on a totally different continent, and while the band was active her dad’s hair had been almost every colour of the rainbow and he’d had a beard. It said a lot that he was still recognisable even now, clean shaven and his hair a natural colour.

“I heard something cool from Hina, though,” Lisa said. “Apparently both of them play guitar.”

Yukina sat up at that. “Really?”

Lisa nodded. “Hina said she plays more casually, but Sayo takes it super seriously. She’s even looking for a band.”

Before she could bat it away, the sudden vision of her playing in a band with Sayo popped into her mind. Herself on vocals, Sayo’s guitar backing her up to her left. Their sounds blending together seamlessly. And then she stopped, because it was a ridiculous fantasy. She had barely known Sayo for a week. She lived in England, halfway around the world. But then, why would Lisa suggest it? Probably because she thought it could happen. But Lisa had always been an overly sentimental optimist.

“Oh. That’s nice.” she said.

Lisa was looking at her in a way that suggested she was bursting to say something, but was just about holding back. Yukina didn’t care. If Lisa was even thinking of suggesting they should play in a band together, she was being stupid. There was no way it would happen, even if Yukina wanted it to.

Thankfully, Sayo got up to get more buffet food at that precise moment, saving Yukina from her woes. She immediately jumped up and grabbed her plate, ignoring Lisa’s protests at the fact that she had barely touched her last helping of food.

“Hello again,” she said to Sayo, hoping to appear casual. Definitely not obvious. Even if Lisa said she was. What did her pesky childhood friend know, anyway?

“Hello,” Sayo said. Yukina could have sworn she was smirking ever so slightly, but she chose to ignore it.

“So.” Yukina began awkwardly, as she dumped more tomatoes and mozzarella that she didn’t need and wasn’t going to eat onto her plate. “I heard you played guitar.”

“That’s right.” Sayo said. “Do you?”

“I’m capable. But mostly I sing.”

Telling each other about their instruments, somehow it all felt so personal. But mostly I sing. Please join my band. No! She was being so stupid.

“I bet you’re an amazing singer,” Sayo said in a small voice, as she put a big clump of lettuce onto her plate. She said it so quietly Yukina almost missed it. And her head was still bent down, even though she wasn’t scooping up food anymore.

“I like to think that I’m alright,” Yukina said, before watching Sayo’s head jerk up so quickly it almost slammed against the top of the buffet counter.

“Well, maybe I could see you perform one day.”

Yukina was about to reply with something like, That’s not possible, I can’t just start belting out a song in the hotel or public! , but Sayo was already walking away. She stood there like a dummy for a few seconds, analysing Sayo’s words.

Sayo had said that she hoped she could listen to her perform one day. Which meant she believed in her ability to become professional. Wait. She had never actually told Sayo that. Maybe Sayo had just assumed that she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. But then why would she do that, seeing as Yukina was so reluctant to reveal her family name? She probably thought she had some sort of inferiority complex towards her father. So what was she actually trying to say?

She needed help. Help, annoyingly enough, came in the form of Lisa Imai.

And Lisa was very frustrated with her.

“Yukina, you idiot. She was totally flirting.”

“Flirting?” Yukina said. “How do you know?”

“Because she’s suggesting that she’ll see you again! After this holiday!” Lisa said, a little louder than she needed to.

“I don’t quite follow.”

Lisa sighed. “Right. So. In a week, we go home. Back to Japan. And Sayo and Hina go back to England. They were lovely, but we never see them again. That’s the way things would normally work, right?”

“...Yes.” Yukina said slowly. She was already thinking about the day of their departure, the day she would have to part with Sayo, looming only a mere week away. It was unfair how half of her time with Sayo had passed already.

“Exactly. But Sayo means when she says she thinks she’ll see you perform one day, is that she wants to see you again. It doesn’t matter when this ‘one day’ is, what matters is that it’s in the future. Yukina, Sayo literally just told you that she doesn’t our last day to be the last time she sees you.” Lisa said.

Yukina paused, taking it all in for a moment. “Well, that’s good. I don’t want to leave her forever either.”

Lisa banged her head against the table, letting out a sigh that was long and painful. “God help me. You should just kiss her already.”

“Excuse me?”

“She really likes you, Yukina. I know I’ve been teasing you about going up to the buffet so much, but as I was watching you two just now I realised something. She’s gone up for food four times as well. The first and second times are acceptable, but third and fourth helpings? She totally noticed you were following, and so she kept going up. She wanted to talk to you just as much as you wanted to talk to her.”

Yukina took a while to process all of this. “But… why? How can she be so sure I was going to follow her?”

“Because she’s the top.”Yukina reached out to whack Lisa across the table. “I was just about to say thanks for helping me, but I take it all back now.”

Lisa, infuriating as ever, only giggled.

Later that night, as they both laid in their beds, Yukina was thinking. Lisa was fast asleep next to her, but Yukina’s brain wouldn’t shut down, no matter how badly she wanted it to.

Was Lisa right? Was Sayo actually flirting with her? The thought simultaneously made her want to jump with happiness and throw herself off the balcony and die.

She had never been the romantic type. That was Lisa’s job, and it always would be. But Sayo was everything - patient, kind, pretty, and maybe flirty. Maybe. She really had no idea. Lisa had always been one to jump to conclusions that were unrealistic.

But she’d only known Sayo for a week. Was that really enough time to develop feelings for someone?

And then there was all that business about Sayo being a guitarist. Yukina had tried, but she still couldn’t banish the vision of them in a band together. Maybe she should just embrace the idea. It wasn’t going away, and it was too good to not indulge in. Her and Sayo in a band together, creating songs and reaching the top together? It was perfect. 

But it would also never happen.

Right?

She turned over, groaning. She could think about it more in the morning. Right now, however, all she needed was sleep.

Reluctantly, Yukina closed her eyes.

Chapter Text

Annoyingly enough, Sayo had been right when she said Yukina wouldn’t have much of a choice in whether she wanted to climb the hill or not. Although she was quite reluctant to call it a hill - that made it sound small and cute. It was more of a big, ugly tall rock, overlooking the whole town. And it was steep.

If she was only here with Lisa, there would be no way in hell she was climbing up the rock. But for some reason, today she was inside the local supermarket, buying bottles of water (which made sense) and giant chocolate bars (which didn’t really make sense, seeing as they would melt in the sun, but Hina said that they were all ‘comrades’ who needed sugar to aid them on their ‘perilous quest’).

She probably did have a choice. She could stay back at the hotel with her parents, listening to music and avoiding the pool all day. But she would spend the whole time knowing the other three were off without her, and then they would come back and try not to talk over each other as they babbled about what a great time they had. And then she would feel that twist in her gut she always got when she was missing out on something.

Not pleasant at all. So, she had decided to climb the rock in the end. It was probably also because she wouldn’t want to miss the chance to spend more time with Sayo, especially because the day they left was approaching soon and time didn’t slow down for anyone. She now had only four full days left with Sayo (and Hina, she supposed) including today. And she intended to take full advantage of every single one.

“Are you alright?” Sayo asked once they were done paying. Yukina squashed her two litre bottle of water to her face - it wasn’t even a particularly hot day, but she had never liked summer. 

She sighed. “I think I’ll survive.”

“Well, if you do pass out, I think Hina will be strong enough drag you the rest of the way,” Sayo remarked, looking over at Hina, who was currently playing throw and catch with Lisa, using the previously mentioned two litre bottles. Lisa was desperately trying not to fall over every time she caught one.

“That’s nice of her. Give her my thanks.”

Sayo laughed, before muttering: “Although she may not be kind enough to do so.”

The start of their walk? Trek? (Hina called it a gentle stroll) up the rock was fairly easy. The starting point was a regular back street, except for the way it curved upwards menacingly. Every time it got steeper, Yukina died a little more. She was already half-panting and they were only starting! She wasn’t sure she would actually be capable of reaching the top.

Things didn’t get easier. Yukina wanted to talk to Sayo, who was patient enough to stay at the back with her, but it was enough effort putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to fall over while doing so.

They took a short break on a bench, Yukina practically collapsing into it. She breathed out.

Sayo raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you going to drink your water?”

Yukina looked down. “Ah. Yes. Yes, I am.”

She then proceeded to try and wrench off the cap, but it was to no avail. She even used the fabric of her shirt to try and pull it, but clearly, she simply didn’t have enough strength.Sayo watched her, pity in her eyes. After a good ten or more seconds of trying, Yukina looked up at her, an unspoken message in her gaze as she held out the bottle.

Sayo grabbed it without a word, opening it with one swift hand movement. She handed it back to Yukina, who mumbled a ‘thank you’.

She heard laughter behind her. Lisa and Hina were having a field day watching them. “That was soo cute~” Lisa said, her voice high and mocking. Behind her, Hina’s mouth was trembling with the effort it took not to laugh.

“Nobody asked for your opinion,” Yukina said, glaring at Lisa as she folded her hands in her lap. Could Lisa not be fully intent on embarrassing the living hell out of her for two seconds of her life?

“I have to ask,” Sayo began slowly. “Can you not open the water because you’re tired from walking, or do you just lack the strength in general?”

Yukina was about to respond that it was because she was tired, even though that was a giant lie, but then Lisa unhelpfully barged in. “Nah, she’s just weak.”

Sayo was smiling at her in a lecherous way similar to the expression Lisa constantly had on. Yukina looked at them both, before huffing. Betrayal from both sides. Unbelievable.

“I would be pretty worried if you were worn out, though,” Hina said. “We’re barely a quarter of the way up! Look, there’s still houses around this part and everything.”

Yukina mentally thanked Hina for the wonderful ego boost.

“But we’re so much farther up than everyone else already!” Lisa exclaimed. And she was right. They were stood above the whole town now, looking at the rooftops of the picturesque Italian houses. The view they were seeing right now came straight out of a postcard.

They gazed out at it for a few more seconds, until Hina clapped her hands and said they were moving again (‘the longer you rest, the worse it gets!’) and Yukina was dragging her feet along the ground once more.

The walk only got harder as the smooth road slowly got less smooth until they were walking in a woodland. Strangely enough, Yukina found herself preferring this. Even though the trees weren’t particularly tall or thick, they still cut them off from the outer world well enough. Yukina still felt like she was dying, but she found herself loving the privacy.

However, the woodland wasn’t without its challenges. When they were almost halfway up, they discovered that one of the trees had fallen on the path they were supposed to take.

“Woah,” Hina said, eagerly running up to the cluttered branches. “Look at this!” Clearly, the long walk hadn’t had any effect on her. Yukina was jealous. 

“Maybe it fell over in the storm,” Lisa said, with a frown. “Either way, it’s an issue.”

“We could go around it,” Hina said, tapping her chin.

“No!” Sayo half-shouted. “There’s a path for a reason. We have to stick to it. The rest is too near to the edge and it’s uneven ground.”

“Okay, okay. I get it,” Hina replied, throwing Sayo an easy grin. Sayo merely rolled her eyes. “But how are we actually supposed to get past?”

“Hey, guys?” Lisa said. “There’s a small gap here. Might be a bit of a squeeze, but I think we can all fit through.”

“You’re right!” Hina gasped. “I’ll go first.” Before anyone could stop her, she scrambled through the hole, definitely getting scratched by a couple of the branches as she went. But she popped back out on the other side, giving a thumbs up as she laughed. 

Lisa was next. She took considerably more care than Hina, but her clothes still got slightly dirty. As she looked down at them in dismay, Sayo turned to Yukina. “Should I go first, or you?”

“You,” Yukina said, wanting to stave off having to crawl through a dirty mess of wood for as long as possible.

Sayo quickly climbed through, barely being touched by the branches. She then turned to look at Yukina, who realised all three of them were watching her expectantly.

She sighed and began to crawl through. But she got stuck halfway, of course. She knew this would happen. She wasn’t so much stuck as too scared to lift her foot onto the next stair, which was for some reason twice the size of all the other ones.

A hand reached out to her. She grabbed it desperately without even bothering to check who it belonged to. The strong grip lifted her up and past one particularly nasty-looking branch hanging near her eye. Then she was clear.

Yukina breathed a sigh of relief, before realising the hand she was holding was Sayo’s. Oh.

Now would probably be the time she said thank you and let go of said hand, but she only did the first part and still continued clinging onto Sayo’s hand as they continued to walk.

It was not the most romantic thing in the world. Both of their palms were sweaty (Yukina’s especially), and she felt like she was dragging Sayo backwards with her slower pace, but she was still holding. Sayo’s. Hand. And Sayo hadn’t let go.

If Lisa and Hina noticed, which they definitely did, they didn’t say anything, for once. Yukina was glad. It allowed her to bask in the warmth of the girl next to her, and their joined palms, and all of a sudden the walk didn’t seem nearly so bad after all.

But there was still something bugging her. Namely, her feelings towards Sayo.

The problem was not that Sayo was a girl. No, she had accepted the fact that she would probably never want to be with a man quite easily; that was what happened when you had Lisa as a best friend. Lisa had came out when she was eleven, leaving Yukina totally unsurprised, but her own realisation hadn’t come until she was fourteen. The female guitarist in a rock band she liked had just gotten on her nerves. Constantly. The way her hands so delicately played the frets? Infuriating. Those gorgeous, tight-fitting clothes she wore? Disgusting. The easy grin she always had during concerts? Horrible! She was absolutely awful, in every way possible, and she had no shame in telling Lisa that, very loudly, all the time. Eventually, Lisa had gotten tired of it and not-so-gently asked: If you hate her so much, why can’t you shut up about her?

At that moment Yukina had realised she probably had a crush.

Now, it seemed that she liked another guitarist, too. Except that she couldn’t help but feel conflicted about it. Love at first sight wasn’t possible, she knew that. But she had definitely felt something when she’d first seen Sayo. ‘Oh no, she’s hot’ at first sight? Something like that. And her feelings had only grown over the past week (and a bit). But at the same time, no matter how many hours of the day they spent together, a week was such a short time. And in even less time, she would be going back to Japan, where she would probably never encounter Sayo again.

Yukina definitely had a crush on Sayo. That wasn’t the issue. The question was: was it even worth pursuing?

Such thoughts were depressing. She probably shouldn’t be dwelling on them while she was holding Sayo’s hand. It was better to focus on that. 

…And not dying from exhaustion and she walked up this stupid hill.

 


 

“Oh my god,” Lisa said.

They had finally made it. Yukina’s legs were killing her, and her t-shirt was clinging to her back with sweat, but it was over. She could relax. She could sit down.

She didn’t really want to do anything that wasn’t plonking herself down on the grass and letting out a pained scream, but Lisa and Hina had other ideas. They had already dashed to the edge to see their beloved view, and judging by their reactions, they liked what they saw.

“Sis, come look at this!” Hina yelled, waving her hands to beckon them over.

“Well then, shall we?” Sayo asked. Their hands were still joined together, Yukina noticed. The way she had constantly noticed for the past twenty minutes or so.

“I suppose so,” Yukina said, in the most unenthusiastic voice she could muster, and Sayo only laughed. 

They joined Lisa and Hina where they stood at the edge.. And, well, she hated to admit it, especially considering how unenthusiastic she had been about this whole experience, but the view really was stunning.

She could see the whole lake. The water was spread out like a blanket underneath them, solid in colour yet as soft-looking as fabric. In the distance, she could see the mountains that sat on the outer stretches of the lake. It looked like she was at the same height as them - even though that was impossible. And then, there was obviously the town, which now only looked like a toy set. Every building was so tiny. Maybe she could kind of understand why people climbed up these ridiculous heights now. Looking down on it all made her feel powerful, in a way. Why should she be so scared of swimming in the lake in a couple of days when she had stood far above it, looking down on it?

After all, climbing up here had taken a lot of effort, hadn’t it? Her legs had felt like they were about to fall off for most of the journey, (unfortunately, holding Sayo’s hand couldn’t change that), but she had still made it. Maybe it could be called determination, or just pure stubbornness, but either way, she had just trekked up a rock for forty-five minutes straight. That was something she had never done before, and didn’t even want to do. So what was stopping her from swimming again? Properly?

Well, probably still quite a lot, but now she felt slightly better about it. Perhaps this whole ridiculous exercise had been useful after all. Maybe she should go along with more of Hina’s whimsical ideas if this was what they led to.

“Are you alright?” Sayo asked, and Yukina realised she had completely spaced out. Even Hina was looking at her with concern.

“Yes,” Yukina said, as she felt the beginning of a laugh tug at her lips. “I’m fine.”

“Well, you do look quite happy.”

“I just realised something, that’s all,” she said.

Sayo offered no reply, instead choosing to merely squeeze her hand, and Yukina’s heart leapt to heights she hadn’t known possible.

They then spent the next half hour taking as many pictures as possible. Hina dumped her phone down in the grass and had to keep running back to rejoin the group before the automatic timer for the picture went off, which made half of their pictures turn out blurry, but no one seemed to really mind. At some point, Yukina let go of Sayo’s hand, which was a tragic loss, but they still remained at each other’s sides. They even took a picture of just the two of them at the edge (their photographer was Lisa; Hina couldn’t hold the phone still) and for the first time ever Yukina debated changing her phone wallpaper from the picture of her dad in one of his earliest concerts to the one of her standing so close to Sayo.

One of the best moments was when a couple of fellow tourists made their way to the top as well, with their dog eagerly trying to bound towards them, despite the leash it was on. Yukina witnessed first hand Sayo utterly melting when the dog put its paws on her leg. Yukina had always preferred cats, never really being able to see what so many other people saw in dogs, but watching Sayo pet the dog with such an unabashed grin on her face was beautiful.

Soon enough, they would have to go back down to the town and rejoin other human beings again. But right now, Yukina wasn’t thinking about that. Her legs were going to kill her later (they were killing her right now) but coming up here had been worth everything she had. She couldn’t believe she had considered staying at the hotel.

They would be leaving at the end of the week. That was an undeniable fact. And soon enough, she would be faced with the decision on whether she would go in the lake or not. She wasn’t prepared for those things yet, but she would be. That was her goal, anyway. However, right now, she was content. She could deal with all the painful stuff later - in this moment, it was just her and Sayo (and Lisa and Hina, she remembered) standing above the rest of the world.

Chapter Text

No matter what she was doing, or who she was with, Yukina seemed to have a constant mental timer. The end of the holiday was so close, and despite how badly she tried to forget about it, it was always at the front of her mind.

She didn’t want to leave Sayo. That was a simple truth, one she was fully certain of. But they would be dragged apart soon enough. She only had two full days left of the holiday, and the day after was the day of their flight. That left at midday. After that, there would be no more Sayo.

Lisa’s words echoed in her mind - of how Sayo had hinted at seeing her again after the holiday was over - but they seemed hollow. Yukina desperately wanted to believe in them, but Sayo would be a whole two continents away. And they both still had to finish their last years of high school. How would she be able to see Sayo again?

The reality was that she probably wouldn’t. The thought made her want to lie down and not do anything, but it was true. So she tried to distract herself by throwing everything she had into the short time she had left with Sayo.

There was also the issue of the Sunset Cruise, only a day away. She still hadn’t made her mind up on whether she wanted to go into the lake or not. She spent most of her time with Sayo in the pool, but the insecurity and doubt hadn’t left her and she still wasn’t quite sure how to deal with them. She was so confident in other departments - such as her singing - so the embarrassment she felt every time she swam was hard to get rid of. Especially seeing as she didn’t even know how to get rid of it.

But despite it all, Sayo stayed right behind her side, guiding her, never once doubting her abilities. Yukina hadn’t even told her of the real reasons behind her long hiatus from swimming - but it would be hard opening up to Sayo now. She didn’t want her to know how pathetic she was. Not when Sayo seemed to be so effortless in everything she did.

It wasn’t even just swimming. Sayo did everything with such grace it sometimes felt like living in the presence of a goddess. Why would she want to hear about Yukina’s woes she definitely should have gotten over by now, considering she hadn’t swam in about eight years, if not more?

So she kept her worries to herself, continuing to swim while she pondered her dilemma. Swimming in the lake was scary, for reasons that she couldn’t quite put into words, but she also wanted to do it. But at the same time, she didn’t. And wouldn’t be too much effort to dry her hair after? They would probably have to go back to the hotel before dinner, and that would be a bother.

She didn’t even care if she was making excuses. Not when she was at a total loss at what to do.

“Yukina-san?”

Sayo’s voice snapped her out of her thoughts. She hadn’t even realised how spaced out she’d been. “My apologies,” she said hastily. “I was lost in my own world.”

“Thinking about something?” Sayo asked. Yukina nodded.

“I don’t want to go back home,” she said eventually. It wasn’t the whole truth, but it was a part of it, so it had to count for something. 

“I can’t say I don’t feel the same,” Sayo said. “I’ve enjoyed myself a lot. The weather and food are both a lot better than England. And I’ve had a lot of great experiences.”

“Me too,” Yukina said. She would miss the weather and food, sure, but there were other reasons she didn’t want to leave, mainly relating to the girl next to her, which was exactly why she couldn’t tell them to the girl next to each her.

Sayo wrinkled her nose. “It will be a relief to get back to my guitar, at least. I’m probably out of practice.”

Yukina related to that too. It felt so strange to not be constantly thinking about her throat, and whether or not it was protected, and when her next practice was. In a way, it was freeing, but it also put her on edge a little.

They sat in silence at the edge of the pool for a little while more, until Yukina started to feel the cold from the droplets of water on her seep into her skin. She could tell Sayo felt it too, judging by the way she kept rubbing her arms. Yukina held a hand out.

“Shall we swim again?”

Sayo raised her eyebrows, but took her hand nonetheless. “You seem much more enthusiastic about swimming now.”

“Is it a problem?”

“The complete opposite.”

Another thing Yukina loved was that ever since that day on the hill (rock), holding Sayo’s hand had become completely normalised. They did it as they walked back up to their rooms after breakfast and dinner together, when they made their way to the pool, and every other opportunity in between. Neither of them had spoken a word about it, but did they really need to? It just was.

As they made their way into the pool, Yukina thought about what Sayo had said. You seem much more enthusiastic about swimming now. Was that really true? To Sayo, her situation probably just looked like: ‘Spoilt girl is too scared to be cold and get her hair wet, but she is working past these incredible hardships. Wow. We are so proud.’ Which made her seem pretty stupid, but she couldn’t blame Sayo for getting that impression of her. And that also meant that Sayo probably did think she was an idiot, but was still being so kind.

Yukina’s heart started to beat a little faster.

It still didn’t make her any more interested in telling Sayo the real reasons behind her aversion to swimming. She hadn’t really properly talked about it to anyone in years. Not even Lisa. And in reality, she wasn’t sure if she was even warming up to the water. Her body was only just beginning to realise that Sayo was a genuinely sweet person, who wouldn’t endlessly taunt her like the kids from her past had, and therefore she was free to swim to her heart’s content, without judgement. Even if she still sucked.

But it was worth trying. She had almost nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Because once upon a time, so long ago Yukina was surprised she could still remember, she had enjoyed swimming. It was a simple, perhaps childish, love, and it had been taken from her in a way that was partly her own doing and also out of her control. Now, she was finally starting to get that feeling back, and so why wouldn’t she want to try and grasp it with both hands?

So she continued swimming with Sayo.

They had been practising treading water, just in case for if Yukina did choose to go in the lake. Yukina had been taught that too - but she hadn’t practised in a long time, obviously. Sayo took her to the middle of the pool, the deepest part, and watched as she kept her head over the water as her legs pumped beneath her. She remembered the words of her instructor from all those years ago - she should pretend she was riding a bike, and turn her feet like she was pushing at the pedals.

Sayo was impressed, and Yukina couldn’t help but surge with pride a little. She had  been good at treading water back in the day - it felt less vulnerable than actually swimming. Maybe because she could actually see and hear the kids around her, instead of her brain coming up with worse and worse visions of what they could be saying behind her back. She liked hearing the truth, even if was painful and cold at times. Her mind would always produce much worse scenarios.

Soon enough, they were once again resting on their loungers outside the pool. They gazed out across the railing, towards the lake below them. Sayo wasn’t saying anything. She didn’t need to. For Yukina, sitting next to Sayo was enough. It was peace, simple and pure.

Peace that was about to be totally shattered.

“Yukina-chan!!”

Yukina whipped her head around to see Hina sprinting towards her, clutching something in her hand, with Lisa following not far behind. Hina unfolded her palm and Yukina saw the cookie inside it. She took it without saying a word.

“Not even gonna say thank you?” Hina whined, as she plopped down next to her.

“Thank you,” Yukina said, as she tore off a piece to hand to Sayo, who quietly mumbled her gratitude. The cookies the hotel made were delicious, the perfect flavour and texture. Yukina would go as far as to say they rivalled the ones Lisa baked back home. One day they had even made ones in the shape of cats, and Yukina had been one step away from dying of happiness. Sadly, they had never repeated it.

Hina only continued to stare out at the view. She was being oddly quiet. It made Yukina nervous.

“Sooo…” Hina said after a while.

Sayo sighed. “Hina. If you have something to say, please just come out with it.”

“Alright, alright!” Hina said. She paused for a few more moments, before speaking. “I was just thinking, I wanted Lisa-chi to sleep with me tonight. In our room.”

“What?!” Sayo said immediately, her eyes bulging.

Yukina, however, didn’t say anything. Her brain was still processing the fact that if Lisa was going to sleep in Hina’s room, that meant Sayo would be kicked out, and the only other place she could sleep was Lisa’s bed…

No. She was being ridiculous. This whole thing was ridiculous. Why had Hina suggested it?

“It just seems fun, you know? Plus, your room has a sofa bed and I’ve never been on one before. I wanna try it!” Lisa said. Yukina rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe Lisa was in on this too, but at the same time, she could totally believe it.

“But that would mean I have nowhere to sleep,” Sayo said indignantly. Ah. So she had caught on too. Yukina purposefully looked away from her.

“That’s not true! You can just sleep with Yukina-chan,” Hina said, and it was Yukina’s turn to yelp. Did she have to say it like that?

“I suppose so,” Sayo said. “But I have to consider your feelings too, Yukina-san. Would you be alright with it?”

To tell the truth, Yukina would be absolutely elated, but there was no way she was saying that out loud. So she simply nodded and said: “I don’t mind.”

“Great! That settles it.” Hina said, clapping her hands together. “It can be a super special sleepover! It’ll be fun!”

 


 

Having Sayo in her room was daunting, but not quite as bad she'd thought it would be.

For the most part, things were normal. They went about their night time routines separately. And there was a gap between her and Lisa’s bed, so it wasn’t like she was actually sharing a bed with Sayo. Which was a good thing. Yukina would have died if they were.

Sayo climbed into her temporary bed a little while after her. Yukina wanted to talk to her, to take advantage of the opportunity Hina had given her, but she was also exhausted. And all of a sudden, shy. What was she supposed to say to Sayo? Even if she had known her for the whole holiday, it was still difficult for Yukina to start a conversation with, well, anyone, really.

A rustling of bedsheets. Sayo had rolled over to face her. “I’m going to sleep now, okay?”

“Me too. Good night.” Clearly, fate had made the decision for her.

“Good night.”

Sayo turned out the light. Yukina slowly drifted off to sleep, and all was peaceful in the room, until a few hours later.

Yukina was rudely awoken by light spreading across her face. At first, she thought it was the morning sun, but the rest of the room was still pitch black. She then realised it was the bathroom light.

Sayo was climbing back into bed next to her. “I’m sorry - did I wake you?”

“You did, but please don’t worry about it. I can get back to sleep easily.”

Except she couldn’t. Normally, due to her horrible sleep schedule, she could drop off pretty quickly thanks to good old exhaustion, but right now, there was a gargutan barrier between her and the sweet release of sleep. Namely, her bladder.

Reluctantly, she got and dragged her feet towards the bathroom, trying to shield her eyes against the piercing light. Annoyingly enough, with every second she spent in the bathroom, she could feel herself waking up more and more. 

By the time she collapsed back into bed, she couldn’t even close her eyes. But there was a silver lining.

The awkwardness between her and Sayo she had felt before they had slept was gone. In its place was an energy between them that radiated with warmth. At least for Yukina.

“Sayo,” she whispered. Sayo looked over, groaning. “Are you awake?”

“Can’t get back to sleep,” Sayo muttered.

“Do you have a video of yourself playing guitar?”

The question seemed to totally throw Sayo. Nonetheless, she responded a couple of seconds later. “...I do, yes.”

“Could I see it?” Yukina asked. Lisa might have been interested in how Sayo had hinted at wanting to hear her sing, but Yukina had also been dying to hear the sound of Sayo’s guitar, ever since she had discovered she could play.

“Give me a moment. I’m going to turn on the light.” Sayo said, fumbling with the switch. The room became bathed in light once more, and Sayo produced her phone, and a pair of earbuds. To Yukina’s delight, this meant that she got to snuggle up to Sayo closely to make sure they each had a bud.

“I don’t have many. I only got this phone recently.” Sayo said, as she scrolled through her camera roll. “Here.” she said eventually. “It’s only really me warming up a bit, but hopefully it should be enough.”

Yukina watched, totally enraptured, as the digital Sayo sat down in front of the camera, guitar in her lap. She took note of everything: the blue colours in the background of what she assumed was Sayo’s room, the simple t-shirt she was wearing, and the deep, rich blue of Sayo’s guitar.

Sayo tuned up, adjusting and tightening her strings, a totally focused expression on her face. She played a few basic chords, before launching into what was somehow halfway a piece and halfway not. Sayo was improvising. It was beautiful.

All too soon though, the video was over, having been abruptly ended when Hina barged into the room and Sayo jabbed the stop button. Yukina wondered what that was about. She wondered what else Sayo had been about to play. 

But before she could think about it too deeply, the Sayo next to her was talking again. “That’s all I have. The rest are just scraps. You wouldn’t want to see them.”

“I do.” Yukina said. Sayo turned to look at her.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.” The short clip hadn’t been enough. She still wanted to see what Sayo’s sound was like. What songs she liked to play. There was still so much she wanted to know.

“Well, then, alright…” Sayo flicked through a few more pictures and videos, all of her life back in England, before settling on another. “Here.”

It was another improvisation, but this time lasting much longer. Yukina was paying attention to the guitar too, but she couldn’t look away from Sayo’s face. Her eyes flicked across the guitar, her head bopped slightly in time with the chords she was playing, and the faintest smile tugged at her lips.

It was unlike anything Yukina had seen. It was also a huge plus that Sayo was good - really good. She played complicated chords and phrases with ease. Her fingers curled around the guitar perfectly, the way you would see in a textbook. Her playing was precise and strong. Yukina loved it. She could imagine this guitar behind her on stage. She wanted to play alongside this guitar.

“One more,” she said. She was probably being bratty, but she didn’t care. Sayo’s guitar was intoxicating.

“Okay,” Sayo said. She started looking through her library once more, but this time Yukina picked out the video.

“That one,” she said. It was Sayo with an acoustic guitar.

“No,” Sayo said immediately.

Yukina looked up at her. “Why not?”

“It’s… incredibly embarrassing. I should have deleted it.” Sayo said.

“Please.” Yukina said. “I promise not to judge, or laugh, or anything else.”

Sayo hesitated for a long while. “...Alright,” she said eventually, but she still looked apprehensive. Yukina, meanwhile, was totally glued to the screen.

Sayo began to play, and Yukina recognised the song instantly.

“Oh,” was all she could offer as a reaction. Sayo was looking down at her with cautious eyes. She stopped the video.

“This is why I didn’t want you to see it. I knew that you hid your dad’s band for a while, so why would you want to watch a cover of one of his songs? I can just delete it, it’s fine, I don’t mind, I’m sorry, it’s not even that good anyway, and I-”

“Sayo?”

“Yes?”

“Stop talking.”

And with that, Yukina pressed play again.

The video continued. Yukina had never heard this song played on an acoustic guitar, but she loved the change. (But it might just have been because it was Sayo.)

And then Sayo opened her mouth to start singing, and Yukina died.

The present Sayo beside her stiffened up and looked to the side. Yukina could see her blush, but she didn’t pay it too much attention. She was too absorbed in the video.

Sayo’s singing was gentle and shy, almost like she didn’t want anyone else to hear. It contrasted with the powerful song she was playing. This was a song Yukina must have heard a million times growing up, and yet this felt like she was listening to it for the first time ever. It was so wildly different to her father’s band’s version, the one she had been used to for so long, but she loved it.

When the video ended, Yukina looked straight at Sayo. She was gripping the phone tightly, still looking to the side. “There may have been another reason I didn’t want you to see it,” Sayo admitted.

“Don’t be stupid. Your singing is amazing.” Yukina said, and she meant it. Even without all the feelings for Sayo churning in her stomach, she would have still said it. Her voice was very obviously untrained, and a far cry from perfect, but it held the notes well, and more importantly, it sounded genuine. Like Sayo actually cared about what she was singing.

“It isn’t. I can’t bear to tell anyone that I sing at all. It’s hard even trying to listen. And coming from someone like you - how can you think that’s good?”

Sayo’s expression was a mix of emotions Yukina couldn’t quite place her finger on, but they were all ones she had never seen before. In the past two weeks or so, Sayo had always been so confident. So radiant. So strong. Now she seemed almost like a normal teenage girl, shy about her own abilities.

Yukina softly chuckled. “‘Someone like me’? You haven’t actually heard me sing yet.”

“Well, no, but-”

“Sayo. Let me show you something.”

Sayo only watched as Yukina reached over to the nightstand on her side, holding her own phone in her palm. She unlocked it, and scrolled through her own library until she found exactly what she was looking for. Then, she unplugged Sayo’s set of earphones they were both wearing and slid them into her own jack.

“Ready?” she asked Sayo, but she had already leaned over to press play.

Yukina watched in silence, unwillingly criticising her own performance. That note there had been a little off-key, and that line wasn’t as strong as she’d wanted it to be. This was an older video, and she had other, better videos of her singing, but she wanted Sayo to see this one. Because she was singing the same song Sayo had played.

When it paused, Yukina turned to Sayo, whose mouth was wide open. “That was…” She stopped, seemingly too overwhelmed to speak. “That was one of the best things I’ve heard in my life.”

Yukina felt herself heating up at the compliment. “Well… thank you.” Unlike when Sayo complimented her on her swimming, she didn’t have trouble believing it. She put hours of time and effort into her voice. She would have hoped people liked it. But even so, Sayo’s words still managed to have an effect on her. God! She was being so stupid.

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Sayo said.

Yukina looked at her in confusion. “What on earth are you talking about? You’ve done nothing to offend me.”

“You hid your father’s band from me. Surely there must be a reason for that, right? And then I go and shove a cover of one of their songs in your face.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Yukina said. “Sayo - if you had offended me, why would I want to watch the whole video? Why wouldn’t I just pause it and drop your phone off the balcony or something equally stupid?”

Sayo didn’t have an answer to that. She remained quiet, hugging her knees.

“I showed you the video of me singing that song because I want you to know how much it means to me.” Yukina said. And it was true. The song was one she had loved for the rich sound of guitar in it when she was younger, but as she’d grown up, she had felt a connection to the lyrics. (Although thanks to Sayo, she was falling in love with that guitar part all over again.) Not feeling worthy. ‘There’s no need to be embarrassed’. Somehow, a song written by her father when she was still a toddler had captured all of her emotions as a teenager perfectly. 

Sayo’s eyes widened. “So then… why hide the band?”

“At first, I thought that you had already recognised him. Plenty of other people have.” Yukina sighed. “I assumed that you just didn’t bring it up due to a lack of interest in music. But then when you mentioned how I wouldn’t tell you my family name, I realised you really did have no idea. And… I don’t know. For once, I guess I just liked the idea of not being attached to my father.”

Sayo said nothing, watching her with soft green eyes. Yukina continued talking.

“Do not mistake me. I love my father very dearly, and he is an inspiration to me. One day, I want to form a band like him. I want to reach the top like him. But sometimes, it feels like he’s crushing me. He’s been so successful, more than he could have ever imagined. And of course I’m happy for him! But…” Yukina paused. “It is a big shadow to live under. That’s why I kept it a secret from you. For once, I was just myself. You only saw me for me. People don’t tend to do that often.”

“What do you mean?” Sayo asked.

“I think you know.” Yukina said bitterly. Everyone wanted to be my friend at the start of middle school, when my dad’s band peaked. They knew who my dad was and thought I could get them tickets to concerts or give them autographs or whatever. Especially a lot of the girls. Others just wanted to say they were friends with the daughter of Keiji Minato. That was all people saw me as, really. And by the time middle school ended, I had almost no friends left. Except for Lisa.”

“Yukina-san…” Sayo said, her eyes wide. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that.”

“Don’t apologise. It’s not your fault, is it?” Yukina said with a small, sad smile.

Sayo was quiet for a long time, staring at the bed. When she spoke, her words seem practised, almost. “It’s a little embarrassing I didn’t recognise your father, seeing how much of his music I used to listen to.”

Now Yukina was interested. “Really?”

Sayo nodded. “When I first came to England, I was terrified. Everything was so different. Back in Japan, I had heard your father’s songs on the radio a lot. Then, when we were in the car once, barely a week into our time in England, I heard one of their songs again. It… had a big effect on me. Suddenly, I was back in Japan again. That’s why I learnt the cover on my guitar.”

Now it was Yukina’s turn to be silent. She allowed Sayo to continue telling her tale.

“After that, I couldn’t stop listening to them. They felt like a little part of home, even after I realised the only reason they were on the English radio was because of how big they were everywhere at that point. But it felt like the radio had put the songs on just for me. Especially that first time. I was in a country with a language I barely understood. Every day was a struggle. But I always had those songs to come back to. Their lyrics reminded me to keep on going.”

Yukina’s mouth was now open, just as Sayo’s had been. 

“They’re the reason why I started playing guitar, I suppose. At least partially. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what they had done for me. I thought - maybe if I played guitar myself, one day I could have that effect on people too.”

Yukina wanted to do something - anything. Reach out and hold Sayo’s hand in her own? Yet for some reason, despite their previous hand holding, it felt too bold. But she still wanted to show Sayo her support - especially after hearing a story like that.

“I almost feel a little guilty for complaining about my dad’s band now,” was what she opted to say instead. “If I had known what they had done for you…”

“Now you’re being ridiculous,” Sayo said with a small laugh. “Of course anyone would get jealous over something like that. I’ve had experience of it, too.”

“It’s not jealousy,” Yukina weakly protested. “It’s more, I don’t know, there’s this voice going; ‘you want to create your own band? Well, no pressure, but I’m here to remind you that your dad is literally world famous! It’s just… how am I supposed to live up to that?”

“Maybe… you don’t?” Sayo offered in a small voice.

“What do you mean?” Yukina asked.

“Well, is it your goal to be world famous?

Yukina thought about it. “I’m not sure. My dad wanted to make it, but he never aimed for worldwide success either. It’s quite a bold goal.”

“So why do you want to create a band, then?” Sayo asked. Her voice wasn’t accusatory. It was gentle, curious. More like the Sayo she had grown used to on this holiday, rather than the awkward, embarrassed version from five minutes ago. (Same levels of cute, though.)

“Well…” Yukina said, “Singing’s always been my passion. There’s nothing else I’d want to do. And growing up under my dad, I understand better than most how much music can mean to people. Like for you, it helped you when you first came to England, right?”

Sayo nodded.

“I’d want to do the same thing. Reach the top, and make music has an impact on people.”

“So you create a band because you want to. Create it because it’s what you’ve always wanted to do. I’m not saying that it will be easy, or that you should just totally forget your father. These kinds of things are never easy to forget. But if you make a band because it’s your dream, well, with a voice like that, I think you’ll have nothing to worry about.”

“Sayo…” Yukina said, before finding no more words would come out. Here was Sayo, casually complimenting her, offering her support, just as she had done before. Overcome with a sudden wave of emotion, Yukina had no idea what to say.

Instead, she opted to be brave and snuggled into Sayo’s side instead, appreciating her warmth. It was also because she vaguely thought she was going to cry, and she didn’t want Sayo to see that.

Sayo only put her arm around her, hugging her closer to herself. They didn’t say anything for a few minutes. Yukina thought she was going to fall asleep, considering how warm Sayo was and how her eyes were blocked from the light by what was, well, Sayo’s armpit.

But then she remembered something, and she sat upright immediately. “Sayo. The Sunset Cruise is tomorrow, isn’t it?” 

Sayo nodded.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” she said, trying not to think about the finality of her words as she said them. There was no backing out now.

“I was hesitant to go swimming, and I still am, to be honest, not because I didn’t want to get my hair wet or anything like that. The truth is… I guess I’m a little afraid of the water.” She hadn’t planned on telling Sayo any of this. Even now, she was scared about how this might change Sayo’s perspective of her. But the mood felt warm and open and honest and Yukina thought if she was ever going to tell Sayo, this was the time she would be able to do it.

“When I was younger, I saw people on TV swimming. I can’t remember where it was from. Probably the Olympics or something. But what I do know is that I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I begged my parents to let me swim myself. They agreed, and soon enough, I was in the local pool with a group of other six year olds.

“At first, I loved it. I wanted to be the best. I was determined to be the best. I’ve always been competitive, but I also loved that pool so much. I looked forward to every Saturday morning I spent there all week. But then, about a year in, it started to all go badly.”

She breathed in shakily. “What I’m about to say next is something I haven’t told anyone. Except Lisa, but only because it’s impossible to hide anything from her. So please don’t… I don’t know, really. Laugh, or anything like that.”  This was still such a vulnerable part of herself, and she was doubting showing Sayo it. But she had already started. She couldn’t just back out now.

But before she began, Sayo patted the space next to her. Yukina couldn’t help but smile as Sayo’s arm came around her again. Maybe she had sensed her discomfort. Either way, it gave Yukina the tiny push she needed to continue.

“There were some other kids. I joined one of the older groups a bit earlier than normal, because my instructor said I was good However, not everyone there was exactly nice. They would constantly criticise my swimming, asking Why are you so slow? and Why are your arms so floppy? Just small things like that. But some of them were worse. They would flick water into my face, barge me into the lockers and suddenly dunk me underwater when the instructor wasn’t looking.”

She paused again. She needed to. She was dragging up and speaking aloud feelings she had buried deep inside herself for almost a decade and it was taking a toll on her. Sayo rubbed a warm circle into her back. She responded by leaning into Sayo’s shoulder. Then, she spoke again.

“Slowly, but surely, the joy I once found in swimming started to fade. I started to get anxious every time I went to the pool. It became almost like a survival mission. Sometimes I would spend extra time getting ready in the morning to stave off having to go. And when I was swimming, I began to hate it. Every stroke I swam was agony. I felt so embarrassed and open . My technique was horrible, and I was slower than the other kids. That was one of the worst parts - the people who taunted me were right. I wasn’t a good swimmer. At all.” She felt her vision getting slightly blurry, but she blinked it away. There was no way she was going to cry over her own patheticness. Especially seeing as it had happened so long ago. 

“The worst part was when we started learning breaststroke. Everyone else seemed to grasp it so easily, but I just couldn’t. No matter how much I practised the technique, I always heard the words of the other kids and I had to stop and try not to cry in front of everyone. Then all the instructors thought I was trying to stop and mess around on purpose, so they blamed me.

“Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. One day, I told my parents I was quitting. I said I wasn’t interested anymore. It took a little while to convince them, especially considering the fact that I refused to tell them what was wrong, but eventually they agreed and stopped my lessons. I was free at last.” Yukina said this bitterly, punctuating the statement with a sniff. “The worst part was I still wanted to swim. But I just couldn’t bring myself to. Couldn’t go to another pool, couldn’t do it on the rare occasions we went on holiday, couldn’t even think about swimming anymore. When I did, it only brought up bad memories.”

“Yukina-san…” Sayo said, but Yukina shook her head.

“It’s pathetic when you think about it, really. I gave up the only thing I truly loved other than singing just because of some stupid comments other kids had made.” Yukina said. “And even now, it still affects me. I might be swimming again, but whenever I do, I still feel all those negative feelings all over again. And it’s my own fault. Because I was too sensitive.”

Sayo’s grip on her tightened. Yukina looked up at her in surprise. Sayo looked like she was collecting her thoughts, before she spoke. “First of all, those kids were wrong, because you can swim. Secondly, to me… it sounds like you were bullied.”

“What? No.”Yukina said immediately, almost on instinct. “All that happened was that I didn’t have a thick enough skin to deal with a couple of stupid comments. It was my own fault, really.”

“How can you say that?” Sayo asked. “Yukina-san. You had a hobby you genuinely loved ruined for you by other people who repeatedly harassed you and made you feel horrible. Tell me, did they ever make you cry?”

Slowly, Yukina nodded.

“There you go, then. They literally made you cry and you say it was your own fault?”

“Well, if I hadn’t been so sensitive-” Yukina began, but she was cut off by Sayo.

“It’s not your own fault. I know it can seem that way. But it never is.” Sayo’s eyebrows were furrowed and she looked tense. “Why should you be the one who should get a thick skin when the other kids could have just left you alone? They knew exactly what they were doing, and yet they still continued. So please don’t say it’s your fault. It’s horrible hearing you talk about yourself like that.”

Yukina was about to say something in reply, but then she paused. She thought about it. All this time she had blamed herself, told herself that if only she had stood up for herself more, or just brushed the kids off, she would have kept swimming. She hadn’t even considered for a second that it was actually bullying. After all, she was the one who had made the choice to quit. But even so… 

The name-calling. The taunting. The water flicked into her face, and the way some of the older kids had used to not so subtly push her into the locker. Over and over again. Those were things they had chosen to do.

“Oh,” Yukina said. “You- you might be right.”

“I am right,” Sayo said. “You were bullied. Have you really been forcing the blame onto yourself all this time?”

“...Yes,” Yukina said, her voice cracking slightly. Once again, her vision was going blurry, but this time, she couldn’t blink the tears away. She buried her face into Sayo’s shoulder, not wanting her to see what was happening. “I have…”

She was definitely crying now. Normally, she was very anti-crying. It gave you a headache, and a blocked nose, and it made it hard to breathe. Not only that, it just wasn’t something she did. Only in her lowest moments did she ever cry, and even then she tried not to let anyone see.

This could be considered one of her lowest moments, she supposed. Only this time she wasn’t alone. Sayo was there, holding Yukina close to her. She had definitely worked out she was crying. And normally Yukina wasn’t big on touch, but god , she really needed a hug right now.

She didn’t cry for long. She had her moment, and then it was over. She couldn’t help it. Bringing all those memories back up again was painful, especially seeing how long she’d buried them.

She pulled back from Sayo’s shoulder, wrinkling her nose when she saw the state of it. “Sayo. I’m sorry, but… Your shoulder is covered in my snot.”

Sayo looked down. “Ah. You’re right. Lovely. Very kind of you.”

Yukina laughed then, and so did Sayo. They weren’t really laughing over anything, they were just laughing for the sake of it. Which was kind of what she needed, in a way. What was the phrase Lisa always said? ‘After a good cry you need a good laugh’? Whatever it was, Yukina felt a lot better after giggling like an idiot for a couple of minutes.

Afterwards, they laid back down on Sayo’s, well, Lisa’s bed. Her own bed was cold and empty and Yukina didn’t particularly fancy going back to it.

“I have to say, this does explain a lot,” Sayo said after a while.

“Did you know?” Yukina asked.

Sayo hummed. “I suspected something was wrong. I’ve never met a girl so averse to getting her hair wet in my life.”

Yukina shuddered, thinking of Lisa’s loud gyaru friends. “I have.”

They remained in comfortable silence for a few more minutes, the lure of sleep beginning to draw Yukina in. That was, until Sayo spoke again.

“So you really never told your parents?” Sayo asked, soft and close.

Yukina shook her head. “Lisa wanted me to.” She paused. “Maybe I should’ve told them. But I felt too embarrassed. Even if I went swimming somewhere else, I wouldn’t be able to shake the feelings those kids left me with. They still bother me even now, after all.”

Sayo didn’t talk for a while. When she did, she said something totally unexpected. “I really respect you for all this, you know.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Yukina asked. Sayo respected her? Why?

“You’ve just spent all this time telling me about what those kids did to you, and how awful they make you feel, years later, but I was in that pool today with you just today,” Sayo said, smiling at her. Yukina’s heart did a leap. “Clearly, you’ve been nervous this whole time. I noticed it, and I think Hina and Lisa-san did too. Yet you still got in anyway. And you’re thinking about swimming in a lake tomorrow. You know you’re in pain, yet you face it head on anyway. I think that’s really brave of you.”

Yukina was in shock. How was she supposed to respond to that? Sayo, the girl she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about for the last two weeks, had just told her she thought she was brave. She should probably compliment her back, or something. Or at least say thank you.

She said neither of those things. “Well, I don’t actually know if I’m going in the lake yet…” Wow. Really? That was what she chose to say? She was acting like that annoying rebel in the year below her at Haneoka who had a complete inability to take compliments. Great job, brain and mouth. You really outdid yourselves this time. “I mean, it’s kinda scary. Like I’m making everything final, you know? If I go in the lake tomorrow, it’s almost as if I’m confirming that I am going to start swimming again. And I want to, but it’s just… difficult.”

“It is quite a challenge, but you’re thinking about it. Would you have even gotten in a pool, say, around a month ago?”

Yukina shook her head.

“There you go, then.”

“I…” Yukina’s heart was pounding. She couldn’t handle all these compliments from Sayo. She also wanted to say that she wouldn’t have been able to do it without her, but her tongue seemed to be holding her back. What she did manage to finally say, however, was “Thank you.”

Yukina said it for multiple reasons. Because if there was one thing Sayo deserved after helping her so much on this holiday, it was at least a thank you.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m just sp-“ Halfway through her sentence, Sayo broke into a massive yawn. “I’m just speaking the truth.”

Yukina giggled. “Tired, are you?”

“Well,” Sayo said, with a glance at the clock on the bedside, “it is literally 4AM.”

“So it is,” Yukina said, trying to stifle a yawn. She really felt exhausted now. Between watching the videos with Sayo and crying on her shoulder, time had passed in a blur. 

“I suppose we’d better get to bed.” Sayo said, reaching for the lamp and clicking it off. The room was in darkness again. Yukina figured she should’ve probably moved back to her own bed by now, but she really didn’t want to.

But then Sayo’s arm was around her, pulling her closer, and Yukina forgot how to breathe. She snuggled a little more, moving as close to Sayo as she dared. It was so, so warm. 

However, Yukina couldn’t help but think that even after telling Sayo so much, there was still more she wanted to say, but couldn’t.

They lay there together for a few minutes. Yukina thought Sayo had gone to sleep, until she spoke. “Good night, Yukina-san.”

I think I want to kiss you right now.

Don’t you know how much I’m going to miss you when I leave?

And I’m scared we’ll never see each other again. Ever.

“Good night, Sayo.”

Chapter Text

Yukina woke up that morning with a warmth in her arms and the tickling of hair at her cheek.

It took her two seconds to realise the hair belonged to Sayo. It took another two for her to realise Sayo was the one she was holding. After that, she wasted very little time snuggling even closer.

This was like home, Yukina thought. Like comfort. Like sanctuary.

Then, Sayo opened her eyes and looked straight at Yukina.

“Feeling cuddly, are you?”

Yukina let out a small gasp, before blushing. “Am not.”

“It’s okay. I like it.” Sayo said, her voice only half-full of sleep, and then Yukina blushed even more furiously.

They stayed like that for a while, until Sayo mentioned that they should probably get up for breakfast. Yukina didn’t want to move, but she also found herself craving the hotel’s bacon and eggs. And, she noted bitterly, this was the second to last day she’d ever eat them.

So they got changed (Sayo in the bathroom, Yukina in the bedroom, thank you very much) and trotted downstairs, holding hands as they always did, and Yukina was forced to remember that there were other human beings on the planet that weren’t Sayo. Namely Hina, Lisa, and all of their parents. Hina in particular grabbed onto Sayo the minute she saw her, sobbing into her shoulder about how much she had missed her.

“If you were going to be this sad, why even ask to swap rooms?” Sayo said with a sigh as she slowly pried Hina off her.

Hina looked up, her eyes shimmering. “Oh, but it was so much fun with Lisa-chi, though! We waited until Mum and Dad fell asleep and then we had a midnight feast with all those weird Milka chocolate bars, and then-”

“Did you, now?” the twins’ mother asked, looking at Hina with her eyebrows raised. “How very interesting.”

Hina nervously chuckled. “Of course not! I was only joking. We were all good and responsible and fell asleep when you thought we did.” Then she turned back to look at Yukina and Sayo with a massive wink.

Once Hina had sat back down at the table, Sayo sighed. “She is mad. I don’t know what to do with her.”

“I’m sure she means well,” Yukina said with a laugh.

“Oh, I know she does,” Sayo said. “She’s just got a highly interesting way of going about - well, everything, really.”

Once they had gotten all of their food, they sat back down at their tables. Ever since their joint dinner together, their families had always endeavored to sit next to each other at breakfast

“So, what did you guys get up to last night?” Lisa asked. Her tone was friendly and innocent, but Yukina knew from experience that she was probably thinking not so friendly and innocent thoughts.

She decided to jump in before Sayo could. “Nothing much. We talked for a bit before falling asleep.” She wasn’t even technically lying, just not going into specifics. The moment she and Sayo had had was special to her, and she didn’t want to share it with anyone else. Not even Lisa.

“Wow, that sounds so boring,” Hina said before shoving a whole sausage into her mouth.

“Well, we’re the ones who don’t have bags under our eyes,” Sayo said. Yukina was glad she was backing her up, even if they had been awake in the small hours of the night, too.

“Big day today, right?” Lisa said, changing the subject. “Hey, Yukina, are you coming in the lake?”

Yukina stared at her plate. “I haven’t decided yet.”

“Ah, okay. You can just wear your swimsuit under your normal clothes and make your mind up when you get there, right?” Lisa said. “You should get in, though. It’ll be more fun.”

“Mm,” Yukina said, taking a big bite of toast so she wouldn’t have to reply.

 


 

When they were back in their rooms, and Sayo had moved all of her nightstuff out, Yukina got Lisa’s attention.

“Lisa.”

“Yeah, Yukina?” Lisa said, looking up from where she was starting to pack her suitcase.  

“I told Sayo. About… you know. The swimming.”

Lisa turned around sharply, before striding over and enveloping her in a massive hug. “Aw, really? I could tell something happened between you two.”

Yukina only held on. And then: “Lisa, you’re squeezing me.”

Lisa let go. “Right. Sorry. I’m just happy for you, you know?”

“Mm,” Yukina said. 

“But I still think you should tell your parents,” Lisa said.

Yukina sighed. “I don’t know. I keep a lot from them. It would be hard to suddenly spill it all out now. And I wouldn’t want to hurt them by dumping all my problems on them.”

“I get that,” Lisa said. “But maybe one day, yeah?”

“Maybe one day,” Yukina echoed.

Lisa walked around the room, gathering up all their general clutter and forcing it into her suitcase. Yukina did the same, taking all her largely unread books off her nightstand and putting them into her own bag. She had barely touched them, for she had spent so much time in the pool with Sayo. And when she wasn’t, she was still listening to her beloved rock music.

“Hey, Yukina?” Lisa said a few minutes later.

“What is it?”

Lisa was at her side again. “I think you’re really brave.”

“Sayo said that too,” Yukina told her.

“Well, she’s right!” Lisa said. “I always wanted you to start swimming again. It made you so happy. I guess I have a lot to thank Sayo for, huh?”

“I do too.” Yukina said.

“...I’m going to miss them,” Lisa said after a while.

Yukina raised an eyebrow. “Are you including Hina in that?”

“Of course I am! I know you’ve been too busy staring at Sayo’s chest to notice-”

“Lisa!”

“Sorry, sorry! But Hina is actually really nice. Just kinda crazy, you know?”

“You always end up hanging out with the crazy people, Lisa.” Yukina pointed out.

“Okay, maaaybe that’s true, but whatever. All I’m saying is that I will miss them both. I wonder where they live in Japan, though? Used to live, I mean. Maybe next time they visit their relatives we might have a chance at seeing them.” Lisa wondered.

Yukina brightened at that. “Really?” 

Lisa sighed. “Seriously, Yukina? You have the biggest crush on Sayo and you haven’t even thought of ways to see her after we leave?”

“Well… no,” Yukina said. “And stop accusing me of being some sort of lovesick idiot. That’s your role in life.”

“Whatever you say,” Lisa said. “But hey, all we can do for now is to enjoy our last full day with them.”

Yukina nodded solemnly. She certainly planned on doing that.

 


 

The evening came around all too quickly, and soon enough, it was time for the Sunset Cruise.

They had had a great day, running around town acting like idiotic tourists and eating way too much ice cream to be healthy. (Yukina had found out that there wasn’t a flavour that didn’t exist, not after she saw Hina lick up the Nutella flavour eagerly.) Yukina was grateful; she figured that at this point even looking at the hotel pool would give her a mental breakdown.

But the view of the lake wasn’t doing much to calm her nerves either.

Before she knew it, she was standing on a small pier jutting out from the walkway, anxiously waiting for the captain of the boat to come and collect them to start their tour.

And soon enough, he did. Yukina couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed - she was hoping that he would suddenly fall ill and that they would have to cancel the tour. But at the same time, she was excited to jump in. What was wrong with her? Why was she being so indecisive?

Sayo reached out to her, helping her onto the boat which was rocking a little. Yukina sincerely hoped she wouldn’t throw up before she got the chance to go in the lake. As nervous as she was, that would just be straight-up humiliating.

Luckily enough, the boat was small, and the maximum amount of people allowed on was ten, which was the exact number of their group. That meant they could all fit and on and they didn’t have to share with anyone - except for the captain, of course.

Soon enough, they were off. And for a while, Yukina was able to forget all her worries because when the leaflet for the tour had promised scenic and stunning views, it had not been lying.

Mostly, she enjoyed the sense of peace. The views were good too, but it was mostly things she could already see from the town, just at different angles. But the boat was slower than the speed boats or loud, rumbling ferries, and the water was soft and quiet beneath them, and soon enough, she found herself completely sitting back and relaxing.

Hina was the opposite, bounding all over the boat, excitedly chattering to the captain in English and the bits of Italian she had learnt, and taking hundreds of pictures on her phone. Sayo took a few too, and Yukina noticed with interest how much effort and precision she put into each one.

They could see the town moving away from them. Just like when she had been up the rock, Yukina was once again struck by how small it really was; but unlike the view from the top of the rock, the lake was huge and heaving and all around her.

All too soon, the boat had stopped. They were now what felt like miles away from everything else - the other boats, the land, the outside world in general - and the pounding pressure Yukina had felt earlier was back.

The captain brought out a small ladder and hooked it over the side of the boat, but Hina asked him if they could simply just jump in and he said yes. She wasted no time in taking off her overclothes, leaving her only in her swimsuit as she cannonballed in, totally soaking Yukina the way she had done on the very first day.

Lisa was next, opting to use the ladder because she still wasn’t the most confident swimmer, and she had never been the one to like getting in dramatically. Sayo followed her, glancing back at Yukina as she jumped in. She managed to create less of a splash than Hina, which Yukina silently thanked her for.

And then she was up. She had to make a choice. She put on her goggles and stood up.

The gravity of the situation hit her. She was standing on the edge of a boat, possibly about to jump into a lake. 

Two weeks ago, she couldn’t even find the courage to get into a pool. 

Maybe it was thanks to Sayo. Sayo, who she had met totally by chance. Sayo, who had gently chipped away at the doubts rooted within her. Sayo, who had eased her out of her comfort zone, one step at a time. Sayo was the one who had helped her face her fears head on. Sayo was the reason she was standing here now. 

Her eyes met Sayo’s. They were too far apart for them to hear each other without them raising their voices, but they didn’t need to speak. Sayo simply nodded her head and Yukina knew what that meant.

I believe in you.

Sayo had believed in her, right from the very start. She had listened to her deepest worries and fears and not looked at her any differently. So who was she to let her down now, by sitting down and backing out? Not only would she be letting Sayo down, but also herself. The version of herself who had strived so desperately to change throughout the past two weeks. The younger version of herself who had waited until she was alone in her room to cry because she didn’t even want her parents to see how much the other kids’ remarks had stung her.

Maybe the version of herself before she came to Italy, before she met Sayo, would have been okay with that. But now?

There was no way she would let herself down.

So she jumped.

And the first thing she was hit with was a painful pressure in her nose as she smashed into the water. The water itself was green and kind of murky and she should be swimming upwards, she definitely needed to be swimming upwards right now, so she pushed down with her arms and propelled her body towards the surface until her head cut above the surface and she could breathe again.

She had - she had done it. She had really, actually done it. She had just jumped into a lake, and it felt amazing. A rush of adrenaline filled her as she swam over to the others.

“Yukina-chan! You did it!” Hina said, trying to high five her but only succeeding in flicking water into her face. Lisa attempted to hug her, which didn’t really work either, because they were treading water in a lake and she kind of needed to focus all her energy on that.

As for Sayo? Well, she merely offered her a smile and a whispered, ‘I knew you could do it’ out of earshot of Hina and Lisa. They were both such simple gestures, and yet they still managed to warm Yukina’s heart.

Because Sayo and the others were right. 

She had actually done it. 

If only she could go back in time and tell her nine-year-old self this now.

 


 

The time afterwards seemed to pass by in a flash. They didn’t spend long swimming in the lake - it was a hot day, but the water was still freezing, as it always seemed to be, and it was hard to swim anyway with the water rising and falling. They clambered back onto the boat to get dry, tired but happy.

Afterwards, the captain passed around nibbles - tiny chunks of salami, mozzarella, peanuts, grapes, olives and other strange things Yukina couldn’t quite identify. She didn’t care anyway - the mozzarella was the only thing she liked. The other three seemed ravenous however, especially Hina, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. It didn’t take long for the whole plate to be totally clean.

To Lisa’s great delight, they were then offered free glasses of aperol spritz. Lisa eagerly took one and drank deeply, before quickly declaring it was the best alcohol she’d ever had and at the airport she was going to buy as many bottles as she could and take them all back to Japan to secretly taste with Moca, probably while they were on shift. Yukina only rolled her eyes. She tried the drink too - it was nice enough, but nothing to go crazy over. Alcohol had never really done much for her anyway.

Then, they were returning back to town. Yukina didn’t want to go back, because it would mean facing reality in a lot of ways, but she tried to live in the moment, as Lisa often said. And what a moment it was, quietly holding Sayo’s hand as they watched the sun trickle down the horizon together. It was a scene straight out of a cliché shoujo manga, Yukina noted - but she couldn’t bring herself to care. 

She was still buzzing from what she had just done. It was so strange how much had changed over the past two weeks. She had finally overcome a phobia that had been holding her back for so long. And she couldn’t have done it without Sayo.

Sayo, who she would be saying goodbye to tomorrow. Perhaps forever.

The thought made her chest turn.

However, there was one little thing she needed to do.

“Here,” Yukina said, passing Sayo five euros. “It’s what the goggles cost. You paid for them, and I’ve forgotten to give you the money back all this time.”

Sayo smiled, taking the coins. “Thank you. I’ve actually run out of money, so I appreciate it. And don’t worry, I forgot too.” She looked down at the money in her palm. “I suppose those goggles ended up being fairly valuable.”

“Yes. Probably worth more than five euros.” Yukina laughed. Sayo only smiled back at her.

“Yukina-san,” Sayo said quietly after a while. “I am proud of you.”

“What?” Yukina said suddenly, turning to face her. Suddenly the sunset didn’t seem quite so important.

“I didn’t ever doubt that you would go into the lake,” Sayo said. “You’re a strong person. But I’m still proud. I know what it’s like when you stop letting bullies get in the way of yourself.”

“What do you mean?” Yukina asked. “You were bullied too?”

Sayo smiled sadly, looking at the ground. “Let’s just say that when I said moving to England wasn’t easy, it really wasn’t easy.”

Yukina was curious now. “Why didn’t you tell me this before - last night?”

Sayo chuckled. “You were the one who needed support then. I didn’t want to rain on your parade. Besides, I’m doing a lot better now.”

“Well, you’re not raining on anything now. Can you tell me what happened?” Yukina asked. She probably sounded pushy, but she wasn’t the best at articulating herself. Yukina only hoped Sayo got the message.

Apparently she did. “Both Hina and I were targeted. We didn’t speak much English, and we both fell for things far too easily. But what made things worse for me was that Hina was - and still is - a genius. She was good at everything. People wanted to be friends with her for that. At the time, I was jealous, but now I realise that they didn’t want to be her friend for the purest of reasons.”

“Wow…” was all Yukina could think of to say. “That’s bad.”

Sayo nodded grimly. “Our parents found out early on, and, well - you should see our mother when she’s angry. She stormed into the school herself to complain. Kids backed off for a while, but soon enough, they came after me again, and I didn’t tell her. It was around this point I picked up guitar. The other reasons I told you weren’t lies, but I started playing for all the wrong reasons too. I thought maybe if I had something I was good at people would be my friend like they did with Hina. I wanted to prove that I could be skilled, too. I wanted to beat Hina.”

Yukina was listening intently, all the other noises of the world around her having disappeared.

“Then, in our fourth year, when our classes were switched around a lot and I got in most of the top sets with generally nicer people, when things were finally starting to look up-” Sayo paused. “Hina started to learn the guitar. Our relationship hit rock bottom. I had always been jealous of her ever since we had come to England, perhaps even before, but guitar was the only separate thing I had, and she was taking that from me, too. I ignored her whenever I could, and when I couldn’t, I yelled at her. I was… a horrible sister, really.”

Yukina could see Hina at the other end of the boat, leaning out and almost toppling over the edge as she craned her head to try and see everything on the horizon. She would never have guessed she and Sayo had problems - Sayo disciplined her, yes, but she was never directly mean to her.

“But never once did she leave my side. Even when I was so cruel to her, she kept trying to reach out. Eventually, I saw some sense and slowly began to try and rebuild things with her.” Sayo sighed. “It’s still hard. I know that what could take me months to master would probably take her an hour. I still don’t want to listen to her play, and I don’t want her to hear me. I’m still not too fond of the sound of my own guitar, to say the least. And I still feel like I should be perfect and responsible, a shining example, because I’m the older twin. But with all that considered - she is my one and only little sister.” Sayo smiled, before saying in a quieter voice: “When she’s happy, I’m happy, too.” 

Yukina blinked. Those were the exact words Lisa and Hina had said to her before. And at the time, she had scoffed at them, but now, the way Sayo said it sounded so genuine. It made Yukina realise what they had meant. She felt a bit bad for shrugging them off, now, actually.

“Me too,” she said quietly. “With Lisa. She’s always so sentimental, and I sometimes laugh at her for it, but…” She paused. “She’s my best friend. She’s the only one who’s stuck by me my whole life. I can’t help but go through all of her emotions too.”

Sayo was only smiling at her. She just got it. This whole holiday, she had gotten it. That was probably why Yukina couldn’t stay away from her. (Other than the fact that she was incredibly attractive, too.)

Lisa was next to Hina, desperately trying to hold her back from taking a second accidental swim. The whole scene was… strangely endearing? Yukina didn’t know how to describe it.

“I guess they’re our idiots,” Sayo said. “And we’re stuck with them, whether we like it or not.”

Ah. That was what she had been thinking, more or less. “Even if they can be incredibly annoying?”

“That’s just a necessary part of it,” Sayo said. “We probably annoy them a lot, too.”

Yukina laughed, thinking back to all the times Lisa had raised her eyebrows, or sighed at her. As always, Sayo was spot on.

“You’re brave too, then,” Yukina said, after a moment. 

Now it was Sayo’s turn to frown. “How am I?”

“You came to a totally foriegn country, got bullied, had to learn a whole new language, but you still got through it all. I probably would’ve tried to run away from home, or something ridiculous.” Yukina said.

Sayo shook her head. “I missed Japan so much. Now I don’t as much, but back then? There was nothing I wanted to do more than jump on the first flight back. I still wouldn’t call myself brave, however. The way I treated Hina was cowardly. I constantly ran away from her, even though she was so kind.”

“But you repaired your relationship again.” Yukina said. “That requires strength. I told you that you were strong on one of our first days here, remember? I wasn’t wrong.”

Sayo was looking to the side at the water, but there was a tiny smile on her face. “I remember that. And yes… I suppose you are right.”

The rest of the boat journey back was spent in a pleasant warmth, Sayo telling her stories of the awful food in England, and of the whole country’s strange obsession with football, and the one time Hina had accidentally kicked a ball onto the roof of the two-storey high arts block during their second year and then been given a detention for scrambling up the drainpipe to retrieve it. Yukina told her of how she and Lisa used to pretend they were performers in a band, of how no one in her family could cook except her mother, and of how she and Lisa had almost burned down Lisa’s house when they had put tinfoil in the microwave once.

Yukina couldn’t help but feel like her vision of Sayo always being so perfect and radiant had been altered. She wasn’t perfect - she had probably been stupid for assuming that. But now she knew the bad parts of Sayo, and she didn’t think any less of her for it. In fact, they probably improved her opinion of her. And it was only fair, seeing as she had essentially had a breakdown in front of Sayo just last night.

It was a selfish thought, but Yukina wondered if Sayo thought any better of her now too.

She didn’t have too long to think about it, however, because all too soon they were pulling into the town, and the sounds of a busy Saturday night were surrounding them once again. It was time to get off the boat. Hina, Lisa and all of their parents went first, until only Yukina and Sayo were left. Before Sayo could help her off, Yukina stepped onto the port and reached out her own hand to Sayo.

Sayo looked at it, smiling slightly, before grasping it tightly and pulling herself up.

The rest of the evening went by too quickly. Sayo quickly made a detour to the corner shop they had visited earlier in the holiday, and then they went back to the hotel, got changed, ate dinner while gazing out onto the lake, and afterwards drank more aperol spritz. (The adults and Lisa did, anyway.) It was almost midnight by the time they were saying their goodbyes and goodnights.

“See you tomorrow,” Sayo said with a smile, as she climbed the third floor stairs. Yukina watched her go, a phantom hand painfully squeezing at her heart. It had been an amazing final day, but it was still their final day.

By around one pm tomorrow, she would be on the flight back to Japan. A couple of days after, Sayo would be heading back to England. There, they would resume their normal lives. Days, weeks and months would pass, and sooner or later, the whole holiday would just be a fond memory. Details would slowly disappear from their minds. One day, they would probably entirely forget each other.

Yukina couldn’t let that happen. Tomorrow, before their flight left, she would tell Sayo she liked her. And after that? Hopefully, something would happen.