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Ibuki Mioda, as a general rule, is not allowed to be sad.

This isn't a technical rule, per se, but it is a rule she adheres to with her entire heart. This is a rule she'll pour her heart and soul into, a rule she will stick to because if Ibuki is sad, then whoever was stupid enough to stick around will leave.

This is a rule she will keep.

This is a rule she will keep as she watches Mahiru kiss her best friend, that she'll keep as she watches Mikan blush and laugh, and she'll bury that coil of self-loathing deep down (pressing down those questions why isn't it her) and fucking smile.

Because if she told Mikan, Mikan would leave her.

If she told Mikan, this one, faint tether to sanity would slip, and she'd be left to sob her heart out alone, just like she's always been afraid of, because everyone leaves.

(Nobody ever asks what happened to her old band. Which is good, 'cause she doesn't want to tell them)

Fuck, though, she'd follow Mikan anywhere. She'd follow Mikan off a bridge or into a volcano or into a pair of nooses, because she loves her, and a life without Mikan isn't one worth living.

(God, she loves her)

And when Mikan asks her to be one of her bridesmaids at the wedding, she sucks it up and fucking smiles because she has to.

(She loves her too much to see her angry. Too much to see her anything but happy)

And she smiles, she smiles and congratulates the pair and fucking smiles because she loves her.