There were a lot more boxes waiting at their apartment than expected, but it was a blessing that they’d moved over early. Classes were a week away at least, so there was plenty of time to get settled. An excess of it, really.
Kaguya stood over a literal small pyramid of stacked cardboard boxes that had been sent over by her family, each one of them deep and heavy. She was digging through the uppermost one for some cutlery, among other small things for the kitchen. With Miyuki’s relative lack of possessions, he’d simply packed up his wardrobe and other small items into his suitcase and carry-on for the plane ride over—but this was not the case for someone like Kaguya Shinomiya.
Everything from clothes to basic household needs were packed up days ago by her servants and shipped over by freight before the two of them had even arrived in California. Though they’d had a driver to take them to the apartment from the airport, she’d requested to handle the unpacking on her own.
It was probably seen as an inconvenient thing by most people—who, no doubt, would lust after the thought of maids and butlers doing it for them—but to Kaguya, putting such care into this activity was enjoyable. This is what normal couples did when they moved out on their own, and that thought in itself made a fuzzy happiness bubble within her.
Miyuki was out buying a late dinner for them at the moment (something American of course), so she was left to her own devices for now. It was sort of calming, though, to sort through her things, slowly filling their apartment. The beautiful sunset just outside their tall windows, and hiding behind the skyline of the city, was an added bonus.
Now Kaguya had grabbed the silverware, placing them one-by-one inside a drawer in the kitchen, sorting them by chopsticks, soup spoons, knives, forks, and miscellaneous other tools. For now, she'd focus on the living room, kitchen, and downstairs bathroom; when Miyuki got back he could help with lifting the cardboard boxes up the stairs and into the loft area. There was no particular rush, anyhow, aside from hanging up clothes and lining up textbooks on the shelves.
The only downside to being alone for this long was that she only had her thoughts, and certain feelings were beginning to creep up in her mind. Guilt and sadness and then anger choked her by the throat as she folded up striped and tartan dishrags. It wasn't like her to let her emotions get the best of her, but beneath the calmness of her exterior she was a tad bit stressed.
(That might be a bit of an understatement.)
But Kaguya Shinomiya would not cry so easily, even if at present she was alone and in a foreign country. She trusted Miyuki and she didn't regret at all coming with him here, but part of her wished things had ended better with her family. Her parents could be strict at times, though she knew they only wanted the best for her. In the end, if they had allowed her to go despite their qualms, that must've meant they truly loved and cared for her wishes, didn't it?
She could muster to bottle everything down for now. It would do no good to get Miyuki stressed out too right before the first week of the term. They would adjust and hopefully things would resolve themselves naturally.
That would be the ideal result, anyhow.
Kaguya pushed the thoughts away while she stacked expensive-looking plates and glasses into the modern cabinets that were dark gray with a sleek finish. One-by-one, each plate went on top of the last, the largest on the bottom and the smallest on top. The cups and mugs were a bit more of a task, arranged on different shelves according to what type of glass they were. With only two of them, they hadn't brought too many—enough to host several guests, however.
At least organizing things was an easy distraction for her, but soon enough there was nothing left to put away in the kitchen or dining area.
On her way back to the boxes in the living room, she passed the stainless steel fridge, remembering momentarily that they would get groceries delivered the following day. Again, they didn't need too much food, especially considering whatever they didn't finish would probably go bad easier, but it was more helpful to have a plentiful stock for cooking. Kaguya, at the very least, was keen to practice her cooking while Miyuki went to class. That, and she would have a lot of variety to work with for different dishes.
She was about to kneel down in front of a box containing books and other academic supplies when the sharp clicking of a key turning came from the door's lock, causing her to pause and tilt her head in that direction slightly.
Miyuki pushed the unlocked door open, of course, and stepped inside with a white paperbag gripped in one hand. It had grease stains collected at the bottom and was ripped in some spots.
"Oh, Kaguya…" His voice drifted while he looked around, seemingly realizing that a lot of the cardboard was empty and stacked in the discard section. "Sorry if I took so long, it was hard to find a nice place open on Sunday night…"
Miyuki Shirogane was nothing if not a gentleman, especially to somebody as dear to him as she was, and he always had the right thing to say.
"You got us a nice dinner in the end, so that's all that matters." Kaguya followed him to the kitchen with a warm smile, where he placed the bag on the island counter. "We have all the time in the world, remember? We can take our time with simple things like eating and unpacking…"
When she looked up again, Miyuki was shuffling back toward the living room, saying, "Even still, you shouldn't be unpacking all of this on your own. I'll take some of these upstairs and—"
But Kaguya swiftly grabbed him by the arm before he could get very far. "No! Let's...eat together first." And if she blushed a little while turning her head away, nobody had to know.
If Miyuki blushed, too, while Kaguya wasn’t looking, then so what? “You’re right, I’m getting ahead of myself. Wouldn’t want the food to go cold.”
This would be their first time eating as a couple, and together in their own apartment no less.
The thought just made Kaguya stare more intently on the way Miyuki was taking each item out of the bag. If she focused on that, instead of meeting his eyes, she wouldn’t get so internally embarrassed.
First some napkins came out, then two cans of soda, then...two burgers were wrapped up, right at the bottom; evidently that's why the bag had gotten stained. They weren't flat and thin like something you would see at a fastfood place, but tall and with a fluffy bun.
Miyuki handed one to her and she looked at it thoughtfully, carefully beginning to unwrap it. "Oh, my… I don't think I've ever had anything like this before."
"Well, we agreed on something American to celebrate, right? Tonight is a special occasion." It was only appropriate, after all. "It's a local place, so it should taste better than the processed stuff."
"Authentic American cuisine...right from the source…" The way she was entranced seemed a bit cute.
Miyuki sat down next to her, passing over the soda can as well, and Kaguya smiled to herself.
With packing done, they had used the rest of the week to relax on their own.
Groceries had been sorted through, some forgotten items of Kaguya’s came in when she requested they be sent, and Miyuki walked through Stanford’s campus on a few of their tours, memorizing the halls and various buildings.
One week flew by like nothing.
"You're sure you have everything packed?" Kaguya buttered toast at the countertop, but was still distracted by the way Miyuki scrambled to find the right materials—no doubt he was nervous. She had turned her head over her shoulder several times to eye him in the process.
"I shouldn't need too much for the first day…" Even as he said it, she could see his bag stuffed to the brim with notebooks and textbooks, probably 'just in case.' And Kaguya had specially bought him a large backpack, too—black and made of leather, with fashionable straps. For him to have filled that entire thing up…
"I think you're overpacking just a bit , Miyuki," she scoffed slightly, clanging the plate with the toast onto the counter as she sauntered over to him. "Let me check over everything—"
"—It's alright, you've already made breakfast and all." He swung the bag over his arms before she could take a look, and Kaguya pouted at him, her arms crossed. "Don't worry so much."
"If it's too heavy, you'll mess up your back! Not to mention all the walking you have to do!" But her scolding cries were fruitless, as Miyuki was already halfway toward the kitchen. She followed closely, anyway.
"I promise I'll be fine," he said haphazardly, and she couldn't help but notice the franticness in his steps despite how cool his tone was. "Thank you for the toast."
"It's nothing, really." Earlier, they'd had coffee and fried eggs, back when there had been ample time before Miyuki's first class. They lost track of time for a short while, and then it was time to pack up and go—so the toast was convenient enough for the road. “When will you be back, again?"
Miyuki grabbed a slice and headed toward the door, saying, "Around two. We can go get lunch."
"I was thinking the same." Again, Kaguya followed. "I'll see you then. You have your key, right?"
He stopped in the doorway, and looked back at her—Kaguya, who was still in her white nightgown, her charcoal hair brushed smoothly but still cascading down her back.
"Mm-hmm." Those scarlet irises stared up at him expectantly. "...Love you. Bye."
"I…" Why did her eyes widen like those words had caught her off-guard? Kaguya shook her head, a slow smile forming on her lips. "...love you, too."
The door shut, and she was alone again, but not without a few things she could do. She wouldn't get bored so easily. Her feet turned toward the kitchen, to finish the rest of the toast first.
Her mind raced with possibilities of what to do: There were some dishes to clean, and the bedroom could use some sprucing up, maybe she could put some of the dirty towels in the wash. Her classes would start next week, so for now she needn't worry about academic obligations. The main focus right now would be to make sure their living space didn't get unmanageably messy.
But, again, it was almost... fun for someone like her. It was cute to play housewife for a little while and learn how to clean things, something she had never done in her life. (Jobs 'too low' for someone of her status.) Something like feeling...therapeutic.
Afterwards, she could probably watch some TV, or maybe message Hayasaka on her laptop—
—Her phone started ringing, startling her so much that she yelped.
The nightgown didn't have pockets, so she'd left her phone near the toaster; Kaguya pattered over the tile on her bare feet, trying her best to hurry.
Who could it be? She didn't have many other contacts on her phone besides the other student council members, and Miyuki just left, so if he needed something he could've easily turned around and walked back in. It was hardly even 9am, so who...
...The contact showed her house phone, the number below flashing in a bright, white light. Reading it over and even blinking a few times proved that it was a real call, and that the number wasn't magically going to switch to someone else's.
She let the phone ring out instead of declining, silently letting the guilt bubble within her.
Kaguya tended to her own studies online, opting to stay inside of their apartment during the daytime. Coursework was just as rigorous in terms of the amount, but a cakewalk regardless for someone like her. It was much more convenient than regular in-person classes, since the schedule was laid out beforehand and she simply had to complete the allotted work by the end of the semester for finals.
Just like Miyuki’s college courses, she had midterms as well. They were both roughly around the same time, with hers just a week before to accommodate the different break schedules.
There was no point in worrying about that just yet.
Things had settled down after a month or so, when they had found a nice groove. Tonight was the end of another grueling day, for the both of them.
Kaguya had taken a shower quite a while ago, feeling fresh and with her stomach pleasantly full from dinner. Now, she sat at her vanity in the loft bedroom, turning around every so often to get a nice view of the skyline and full moon out the wall of windows.
Her hair still long and down, she smoothened a soft brush over her locks, first down one side several times and then moving to the other. In the mirror, she could see Miyuki on their shared bed, reading a book in English, the tableside lamp providing ample light.
She wore a light pink nightgown that flowed to her knees, and it was secured at her chest by a loosely-tied ribbon. For a while, she hummed to herself, Miyuki still focused intently on his book as she combed her sleek sheet of hair. The quiet near-silence was comfortable between them, having already shared the events of their day at dinner hours ago.
The night was peaceful. Focusing on one simple task as they each prepared for bed was the best way to unwind.
...And even still, Kaguya still felt a burning, permanent unease as of late, because she'd gotten a few more calls from her family that she had promptly ignored over and over. A few times she had spoken to Hayasaka on the phone, but she didn't ask about it, and the latter never brought it up with her, as if there were a mutual, unspoken understanding about the situation.
Things were tense, and Kaguya sometimes dwelled on this failure when she was alone, and at times like this when the darkness of night depressed her, and she was only with her thoughts.
But she could shove those thoughts aside, as always, bottling the emotions up for another day.
Soon, she finished with her hair, and climbed onto the king-sized bed. There was only one in the apartment, but it was so big that they didn't mind sharing. It made them feel... closer , in a way. It was nice.
Kaguya curled up near the left-middle, tucking her knees underneath her chin. Perhaps on cue, Miyuki tucked a bookmark into the pages of his book and set it down on the nightstand.
"Mm, you're ready?" She nodded at him. "Me too. Let's see what's on for background noise."
Miyuki, ever the finicky sleeper, needed the TV playing or a fan running at a low volume to sleep. He grabbed the remote and the television flicked to life. Kaguya watched intently—maybe too intently. Her gaze seemed distant.
It was as if to stare through the screen—Miyuki looked back and forth between them.
Then clicked the television off like he was testing her reaction, the screen flickering off to black and making Kaguya flinch a little while blinking.
Before she could say anything, Miyuki shifted closer, putting a hand on hers. "Something bothering you?"
"It's not that. I'm just really tired."
" Kaguya ." His eyes were knowing, digging into her soul like he knew exactly what her mind was ruminating on—and he probably did.
But Kaguya turned her head, the look on her face cold and unwavering. "Let's go to sleep, okay? It's been a long day."
"Alright, but we have to deal with that eventually."
We . Such a simple word, but it made her heart bounce. They would handle the situation together, it wasn't just her on her own.
"I promise," she said, content as she slipped down under the blankets, hand squeezing Miyuki's as she let herself relax.
She knew his schedule off the top of her head by now.
Except this was the week before midterms, so things were changed a bit, but otherwise it was the same as every other Tuesday: Class at 9am, class at 11am, lunch together, class at 3pm, and then Miyuki would come home for the day.
Usually they would eat dinner together, too, but Miyuki had holed himself up at his desk ever since he got home.
Kaguya kept casual conversation sometimes, while she sat on the couch or sometimes laid herself across it's length with her legs spread outward, her laptop with schoolwork in her lap. When his responses got rarer, she made sure to not bother him—she would expect the same treatment were she studying and giving hints like that. But she still watched him carefully, to make sure his hair didn't get too messy and the bags under his eyes didn't get too dark.
This such day had Miyuki skipping dinner again, obviously very stressed with midterms quickly upon him. The evening was young, but surely he would be staying in his seat for hours on-end anyways, only getting up to go to the bathroom and make more ungodly amounts of coffee to fuel his anxious insomnia.
This was the third night in a row he'd done this, and where she had gone to sleep alone. More than anything, it concerned her, because these were deep-seeded habits that she'd talked to him about breaking before.
Kaguya had just finished and uploaded her final essay before tests would start tomorrow, and she clacked her laptop shut, laying it on the coffee table. Miyuki didn't budge at all at the sound, just kept scribbling notes.
She headed for the kitchen to fish out the leftovers from tonight that he hadn't eaten, and warmed them up in a pan briefly.
"Don't overwork yourself, Miyuki," Kaguya had scolded, bringing over a bowl of white sticky rice and rolled eggs, and a pair of chopsticks.
"I'm not, really." His tone was thoroughly unconvincing. His eyes flashed between his laptop screen and his textbooks, then his notes, and then he finally noticed the meal she'd placed on his desk.
Kaguya rolled her eyes. But Miyuki took the chopsticks, and scooted the bowl closer...and yet, still didn't eat from it. The food sat firmly on a world history textbook cover while Miyuki typed away, and then copied something down into his notebook.
And still, the food sat, steam coming from the rice and wavering as it threatened to get cold.
Kaguya cleared her throat, but he was too absorbed to utter anything more than a grunt.
"Please, take a little break." Acting boldly, she wrapped her slim arms around his neck, and leaned down to press her face against his. He could definitely feel the heat in her cheeks. She felt him tense up at the contact, before finally relaxing with a sigh. "It's not healthy. Sit on the couch for a while and eat up, otherwise you won't have any energy."
He seemed to weigh his options, or perhaps he was too embarrassed, but eventually he shifted and stammered out, "A-Alright. Give me a moment."
"Good." That was one victory.
Kaguya sat on the couch cushions, waiting just a few moments before Miyuki joined her, the bowl held tightly in his hands. He sat next to her, his cheeks pink, but said nothing as he ate. That was always a good sign, and Kaguya giggled a bit.
Since he was in no position to protest given that his mouth was full, she took the opportunity to gently ruffle his blond hair, before letting her hand linger on top of his head. "Remember that you have me, okay? You don't have to do so many hard things on your own."
This was something she reminded him of time and time again. She knew old habits were tough to break, but he was progressing well nonetheless. He was making an effort, at least. Baby steps.
Miyuki could only mumble in agreement through his bites of rice and egg rolls, which he ate rather ravenously.
For now, Kaguya felt content with snuggling up against his side, comforted in the fact that he was truly winding down.
"I think this slide will be important to know."
"Really? It didn't stand out to me too much."
"The professor mentioned it a few other times in the presentation I was looking through… So you should write it down."
This kind of banter was normal for them in high school, so it made sense for it to carry over. Having two people review all the details of a class was more beneficial anyhow. Having Kaguya to look over things and double-check the materials Miyuki had gone through already helped catch any lingering ideas that would surely come up on the exam.
Several hours passed without either of them realizing—Miyuki's final midterm was tomorrow, so Kaguya insisted he would have to go to sleep earlier than normal, even at the cost of less cramming time during the early hours of the morning.
"We should finish up soon," she'd said dutifully, closing a textbook shut. She stood up, adjusting her hair that was in its usual bow. The back of her neck was still sticky from the intensity of their work. "It's almost ten by now, and you should—"
—Her phone rang out again, as if pleading with her to answer.
The shock made her freeze up, and she considered whether or not she should answer. Her gut twisted in knots as she passed over notebooks for Miyuki to put back away.
Obviously, he noticed the sound that pierced through their quiet apartment (made the rattling of the air conditioner seem silent by comparison). He looked up at her, waiting for her to answer, but she never did, nor did she meet his gaze.
The phone's incessant buzzing ceased after what felt like an eternity and then some. Kaguya looked half-relieved, but half-on-edge.
Miyuki quirked a brow. "Who was it calling at this hour?"
"No one." Her response was far too quick. Kaguya pushed the desk chair in and walked toward the living room area.
But Miyuki was quick to follow with a, "Kaguya, please." It made her stop in her tracks, and she spun around, palm clasping her other arm. "You can rely on me too, you know. It isn't just the other way around."
"I'm aware." Even the coldness of that comment just came out sad.
"Be honest with me, they've been calling you, haven't they? Is that why you've been so upset?"
"N-No, I…" What was the point in lying, really? And to the one she loved most? Kaguya fought the hot tears threatening to form and shook her head 'yes.' "It is, it is…"
"Do you care about what they think?"
"I…" It was such a difficult subject to talk about—she had to dredge up those feelings, feelings that she would prefer to lock away. "It's not as simple as that. I don't want their approval, but...I don't want any bad blood if I can help it."
"I understand that it's hard, but don't let them control you. You can be free to make your own choices now."
Free . It was a concept that felt so foreign on her lips. She didn't really have to abide by her family's will now—she was away from them, she was her own person. Even this whole time, living well on her own without being tied down, had been the happiest moments of her life, though the slight guilt chained her down.
Ignoring them had been her silent act of defiance, whether she treated it as such or not.
As if reading her mind, Miyuki continued, "You don't have to feel guilty. If you're doing something that makes you happy, you shouldn't feel bad about it. Don't let them have so much power over you, Kaguya."
And just like that, her fingers found the silver, crescent moon charm hanging from the necklace at her chest, first rubbing over the smooth metal and then clutching it in her palm lightly.
He pulled her into a deep embrace, and she wrapped her free arm around his back. She hadn't even realized until now that a light stream of tears had fallen from the corners of her eyes, wet and silent.
When Miyuki pulled back, she looked up into his eyes—still holding the charm like it was her lifeline, and wiping at her stained cheeks with the other.. His hands fell to her shoulders, cupping them tightly as if to ground her. And he smiled at her warmly, making everything else melt around them.
She knew what she had to do.
Miyuki's palms slipped down her arms until they eventually fell to his sides again, and silently she stepped away, bringing her phone into view.
It flipped open. 'Missed Call' flashed in red on the little screen.
Kaguya took a breath, finding the correct contact in the digital address-book application.
She clicked the number, and held the phone up to her ear.