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Practice Break

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Kaede, Yukari, and Maho were currently at Yukari's house, practicing the song they agreed would be the first song they'd learn. They'd been working on the same chord progression for nearly an hour now and they were still making the same mistakes they made when they started that afternoon. Improvement was slow and the grind was patience-testing.

Kaede leaned back on Yukari's bed, fingers struggling to contort correctly to play the right notes. Next to her, Yukari was rhythmically tapping her pillow with drum sticks, creating a muffled, mostly-consistent beat for the other two to follow. Seated at the table nearby, Maho tried to keep pace with Yukari's beat and match Kaede's bassline, brows furrowed in concentration.

None of them were in sync.

"Alright, guys, we need to take a break," Yukari announced after failing their third attempt in so many minutes. "My arms are tired and I can tell your fingers are starting to cramp. Let's give it fifteen minutes?"

Kaede sighed, relaxing her shoulders and letting her bass hang off its strap. Across the room, Maho glared at her own hands before setting her guitar down against the wall. As she began to stretch, Yukari stood and made for the door.

"I'll get us some snacks. You all fine with cookies and hot chocolate?"

Kaede grinned and replied with an enthusiastic yes, while Maho gave an absentminded grunt and nod. The blonde left the room in silence, her muffled footsteps fading into the distance.

Kaede lolled her head to the side, moving her gaze from the door to Maho. Said brunette was still in the middle of a back stretch, shirt raising just enough to show a surprisingly toned midriff. Then Maho noticed her staring and immediately stiffened.

Maho's eyes started darting every which way. "What is it?" she asked cautiously, taking a seat at the table once more.

Kaede lolled her head to the other side. "Nothing really, I guess," she mumbled, shifting her gaze toward the far wall.

There was a short pause as the two simply stared into space.

"You know," Kaede began, tipping to the side and letting herself fall into Yukari's bed. "I used to really like this song but now I'm starting to dislike it—or at least just this opening bit."

Maho shifted on her seat and pulled her knees up to her chest. "I mean, we've been playing the same four bars for a while now. It's natural that you'd get tired of it."

"Yeah, I guess."

There was another pause.

"Wonder what's taking Yukari so long. I'm starting to get hungry."

"Want me to go down and check?"

Kaede sat up and unslung her bass. "Let's both go down on her together."

Maho made a double-take, nearly falling off the chair. "Let's what ?"

Kaede raised an eyebrow. What did she say something wrong? Ah, whatever. Not important. She stood and made for the door. "I'm already going stir crazy being stuck in this room. C'mon!" Maho reluctantly followed behind her.

Upon crossing the threshold into the kitchen, Kaede noticed Yukari staring at the kettle on the stove, seemingly lost in thought. A grin found its way to Kaede's face as she began tip-toeing towards the blonde.

"Yu- Ka- Riiiii~! "

At the last syllable, Kaede threw her arms around Yukari's waist, hoisting her up with a hug. This earned a surprised yelp and moment of arm flailing from Yukari, at least until she realized who it was that hugged her.

"Wha—Kae!? I thought you were gonna wait in my room!"

With a chuckle, Kaede put Yukari down and shrugged. "Well… I got bored."

Yukari stared flatly at Kaede for a moment before looking past her. Kaede followed her gaze to Maho, who was leaning on the door frame, smiling at them. Yukari smiled too. "Did Maho also get bored or did you decide to leave and she just followed?"

Kaede glanced at Maho who tilted her head slightly. She then turned back to Yukari and shrugged again. "A little of both. Anyway, where are those cookies. You baking any or is it store-bought."

"Store-bought. Check the fridge."

Kaede hummed in delight as she opened the refrigerator. "Second row from the top?"

"Yup. Get me the hot chocolate while you're at it."

"Got it." She took the box of cookies and three packs of chocolate mix.

As she closed the fridge and tossed the packets onto the kitchen counter, Yukari turned off the stove and set three mugs next to the packets. "Open the packets first," Yukari scolded when Kaede began scratching at the plastic wrap around the cookie box.

"I can do that," Maho said helpfully, moving to open the packets and pouring each into their own mug before Yukari poured hot water into said mugs.

"Stirring is self-service," Yukari then said, handing the Kaede and Maho a spoon each.

In just a few minutes, the three were sitting around the kitchen table with hot drinks and snacks.

Kaede let out a breath on top of mug, causing a small cloud of vapor to erupt from its surface. She giggled amusedly before taking a sip.

"Say, Yukari, Kaede… Do you think we're getting better…?"

Kaede looked up from her drink and raised an eyebrow. Maho's mug was still on the table, untouched. She was just staring at it poutily.

"I mean, it's not like we're getting worse," Kaede said with the third shrug in as many minutes.

"I get you, though," Yukari said with a chuckle. "Getting better is really annoying, isn't it?"

Kaede groaned, leaning back on her chair. "Oh god. Yes, it is! My fingers started going numb when we started practicing and it keeps messing me up."

Maho's eyes didn't leave her mug as she rested her chin on her palm. "Riko-senpai and Shinano-senpai said that they'd stop feeling sore if we just practice some more…"

"Oh yeah. They've got those squishy-fingers, don't they? Wonder how long until we get those. Mine aren't nearly as squishy."

"But aren't your fingers already squishy, Kae?"

"Nuh-uh. Feel them. Our senpai's are way squishier." With that Kaede presented her hand to Yukari who then began feeling her fingers. "See?"

"Huh. You're right. What about yours, Maho?"

They both turned to Maho who jumped her her seat at the sudden attention. She slowly pulled her mug up to her lips and averted her eyes. "I'm pretty much in the same boat as Kaede," she said nervously.

"Well, let's make sure. What's the harm." Kaede said, setting down her mug and extending her other hand to Maho.

Maho fidgeted in her seat but didn't protest. She offered her hand for examination.

"Ooh. Yours is actually a lot squishier. I guess you practice a lot more, huh, Maho? No offence, Kae."

"Nah. Don't worry about it. You're right. She is squishier." Kaede giggled as she kept squeezing Maho's fingers. "Squish~ squish~"

"Uh… guys…? This is starting to get embarrassing…" Kaede and Yukari looked up and found Maho blushing rather uncomfortably. "May I have my hand back…?"

Kaede tilted her head slightly. "Can we have an extension?""

"Kae, you can't just—"

"Sure," Maho replied, cutting Yukari off. "One minute… Not a second longer."

Yukari's voice died in her throat. "O-oh…"

"Fifty-six seconds."

"C'mon Yukari. Limited time offer. Squish~"

"Oh, what the hell. Fine."

Maho refused to look either of them in the eye for the entire minute they played with her hand. She clenched it tightly against her chest when the minute was up.

"This never happened. Understood?"

The two nodded their heads, both making a zipping motion on their lips.

"Good. Now hurry up and finish your chocolate. We still have the rest of the afternoon to practice."

And so practice continued like normal that afternoon.