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Tri-Arame

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Ughn… Ayumu felt her nose wrinkle and her brow furrow as a dull ache in her head filled her slowly waking consciousness. Is this what a hangover feels like? Karin and Emma had described the sensations to her a while back after a bunch of former school idol club members had gathered for a celebration of something. For some reason, Ayumu had feared it would be worse, but then again, she hadn’t had all that much to drink last night. At least not as much as the other two…

Last night hadn’t been the first time any of them had consumed alcohol during a celebration, but Ayumu was pretty sure it was the first time they had actually gotten drunk. Just what kind of beer had Yuu brought last night?

The three friends had gathered last night to celebrate Setsuna’s first single as a professional idol reaching Gold status in sales and the top of the Oricon charts for a week. Ayumu had cooked, Yuu had brought drinks and Setsuna was told just to bring herself as she was the one being celebrated. Not surprisingly, she still ended up bringing something anyway, signed CDs for her favorite fans. It all had been a fun night, not all that different from many other nights except the lack of studying and a particular focus on Setsuna and her accomplishment.

Ayumu’s vision was blurry as she opened her eyes, but the pink she saw indicated the duvet was hers so this was her bed. That made sense, as they had gathered in her room, which again, was fairly normal these days as it was typically the cleanest of the three.

Black. And green. Wait… was that…? Ayumu blinked a couple times in an attempt to focus. Sure enough, Yuu was asleep beside her. It wasn’t the first time her childhood friend had shared a bed with her, but Ayumu still felt a bit of heat gather in her cheeks from the proxim… wait… Yuu was closer than normal. A lot closer. So close, in fact, that…

Oh gods…

Ayumu repressed a gasp as she realized that what she was hugging in her arms was not one of her favorite stuffed animals, but instead, Yuu’s arm. Geez, now she would have to figure out how to let go without waking the other girl, lest she be teased about it. Slowly, and ever so gently, Ayumu began the process of detaching herself from Yuu. However, as she did so, she became aware of another sens…

Oh gods…

Why were neither of them wearing pajamas?!

The temperature of Ayumu’s cheeks reached a boiling point. What the…

Breathing. Senses still kicking in, Ayumu realized it wasn’t just Yuu’s and her own breathing she could hear. There was a third. All but forgetting the fact that she was still attached to Yuu, Ayumu pushed up on her shoulder and craned her neck just enough to…

Oh gods…

Setsuna was lying on her side, mirroring Ayumu’s position such that she assumed the part time idol was hugging Yuu’s other arm. And of course, she didn’t appear to be wearing pajamas either.

Heat was now spreading down Ayumu’s neck. What the heck happened last night?!

Ayumu squeezed her eyes shut as she focused her energy toward piercing the veil of fog in her mind and recalling any sort of details from the prior night.

After dinner, the three girls gathered together to watch a recording of one of Setsuna’s performances. Ayumu and Setsuna had leaned against Yuu in the middle to get a better view of Ayumu’s laptop screen. It hadn’t been the first time the three had squeezed together to watch something, usually anime or idol related videos. It was so common, in fact, that the three had developed an unspoken routine to rotate who got to be in the middle.

What was unusual last night was the alcohol and a heightened sense of… something… Ayumu still couldn’t quite put a finger on the exact emotion, though it had probably been a mix. There was the all too familiar feeling she got when Yuu and Setsuna became lost in their own world while she was stuck watching. Throughout the concert, Yuu bounced back and forth between giddy fangirl and keen-eyed but friendly critic while Setsuna lapped up both the praise and insight like a happy puppy.

Thankfully, Ayumu had at least been able to get in a compliment or two of her own and had received in return several of Setsuna’s signature smiles, the kind that could ignite any heart with line of sight. Ayumu often wondered if the idol had any idea as to the effect of those smiles and if she invoked them intentionally or if they were just a natural part of her charm; Ayumu suspected the latter.

Still, something had continued to bother Ayumi. She hated to admit it, but it was likely the fact that Yuu had been completely focused on Setsuna to the point it felt like she had all but forgotten Ayumu was even there. Not that this should have come as any surprise, that was just how Yuu was when she was hyper-focused on one of her interests. Quite frankly, Setsuna wasn’t all that different, and when the two shared a given interest, a geeky feedback loop consumed them and it was often tough to get them back to reality. And idols were one of those shared interests. Not that Ayumu could blame them as she herself remained a fan, particularly of Setsuna.

Ayumu couldn’t deny her jealousy when Setsuna thanked Yuu for her help with composing the single that just charted, particularly because Yuu had responded by pondering the possibility of getting an internship at the same production company, which Setsuna had thought would be a good idea. This of course would mean the two would be working together and likely grow closer, which had reminded Ayumu of the decision she had made and that she still needed to tell the other two.

But then something had changed. The concert came to an end and Yuu had sighed. Then, saying something about nostalgia, she had opened a new tab and pulled up a different idol video. Ayumu had been surprised when she was suddenly watching herself on screen. A younger, school idol version of herself, but still.

Immediately, Setsuna had cooed something about adorableness which Yuu followed up with something about cuteness, or had it been the other way around? Not that it mattered as Ayumu had already lost the battle in keeping down a blush by the time the other two came to an agreement about her being even cuter now. Ayumu had sworn, years ago, that someday she would react better to such compliments, but that day yet to come. Thus, as always, she had found herself a flustered mess as the other two showered her with adoration.

Perhaps it had been the booze. Perhaps it been the desire to react differently. Perhaps it had been just giving in to a long-repressed desire. Perhaps all three… or probably… no, most certainly all three. In any case, the next memory that came to her was that of leaning in and pressing her lips gently against Yuu’s cheek.

Yuu had giggled her name in response and looked like she was going to return the favor when Setsuna had leaned in to plant a kiss on her other cheek. Ayumu’s jealousy flared again, but instead of pushing Setsuna away, she had pulled… and kissed her fully on the lips.

Oh gods… it really had been her that initiated all… that… Ayumu held down an embarrassed whine as memories continued to bubble up from the hazy depths of her mind.

Ayumu had realized what she had done and tried to retreat, but Setsuna had grabbed her shoulders and pulled them both deeper into the kiss. At that point, Yuu said something Ayumu couldn’t fully recall, but it had caught the attention of the other two girls. They broke off their kiss, turned and descended upon her.

At that point, Ayumu had no idea whose hands or lips went where, but she remembered the sensations. And the passion. Yuu’s gasps. Setsuna’s whimpers. And both of their moans. And by the gods she remembered how much she had wanted more.

Ayumu opened her eyes to see her two closest friends still sleeping soundly beside her. More… she still wanted more. Of course she wanted more. Yuu and Setsuna were more than just her best friends, they were the two she loved more than anyone, or anything else. Yuu, her childhood friend, on whom she’d had a crush for years. And Setsuna, who ignited something within both of them and changed the course of their lives before joining them for the ride as if she had always been there.

The three of them were practically inseparable through their second and third years of high school. And now in college, they’d gone so far as finding a dormitory with three available rooms next door to each other to make it that much easier to be together outside of class.

But now things were more complicated. Why did she have to do that? Ayumu chastised herself for her behavior the previous night. She knew better. Love triangles don’t last. They can’t. And they never ended well for the childhood friend.

Ayumu sighed. She thought she had steeled herself to step away and allow Yuu and Setsuna to be a couple. And she was going to do it last night, but Setsuna made her announcement at breakfast and Yuu immediately suggested a celebration that night. There was no way Ayumu was going to be the one to ruin the mood. Even if she wanted them to be happy, she knew her friends would want to console her and that would just bring everyone down.

“Nnn…”

A quite voice dragged Ayumu from her thoughts.

“Ayu… mu?” Yuu murmured, turning unfocused emeralds toward her.

“G-Good morning, Yuu-chan.” Ayumu managed to get out with minimal stuttering.

After Yuu yawned, Ayumu felt movement on her chest. Oh no! She was still holding Yuu’s arm! Yuu was moving it probably with the intent of rubbing her eyes or scratching an itch or stretching or…

“Ayumu?”

Oh gods! What to do? If she let go now, the movement would likely cause the duvet to slide away and reveal… But if she held on, Yuu would probably be able to feel… Oh gods…

“Why are you…”

“Kyaaa!”

A sudden scream came from the other side of Yuu and the duvet was pulled away. Setsuna, in her surprise, had apparently rolled backward off the bed. And taken the covers with her.

The next few minutes were chaos as the three girls scrambled to find covering while avoiding looking at each other.

“Ughnnn…” Yuu was the first to break the silence, which didn’t come as a surprise to Ayumu. “Anyone else have a splitting headache?” She let her head fall back onto the mattress from her position sitting against Ayumu’s bed.

“Mmm…” Came a meek reply from Setsuna who had backed herself into the corner between the wall and the desk. She clutched her knees to her chin as though to make herself as small as possible while not seeming to care what her position was revealing. Not that finding the skirt she had worn last night would have made much difference.

“Mine isn’t all that bad.” Ayumu admitted. “Do either of you want some water?”

“Yes, please.”

“Mmm…”

“Alright.” Ayumu got up to retrieve several bottles of water.

Upon her return, she couldn’t help noticing how cute Yuu looked in her pink shirt. Somehow, in their haste, they had ended up with the other’s top. It wasn’t the first time they had swapped clothing, but it was still rare to see Yuu in pink. Also, it had been a while, so doing so again felt… no, now wasn’t the time for that.

“Here.” She held a bottle out.

“Thanks, Ayumu.” Yuu replied with a tired smile. “You’re the best.”

Geez… she’s not making it any easier, is she…

Ayumu shook that thought away before making her delivery to Setsuna. “Here.”

After a moment, Setsuna looked up, then away, then down, and away again. The blush spreading across her cheeks was hard to miss. Wait, was she… Geez… Yuu-chan’s shirt is short on me…

“A-anyway, drink up, Setsuna-chan.” Ayumu managed to get out as she pulled down the hem. “It should help a little.” That said, she made her way back to where she had been sitting.

Once again, silence descended upon the room.

Not good. Ayumu thought feeling a tension start to rise. Somebody say something. Please. Yuu-chan! You’re better at this! … … Geez…

“So…” Ayumu ventured.

“Mm?” Yuu turned her head toward her.

“Uhm…” Ayumu couldn’t help fidgeting with the hem of her… Yuu’s shirt. “What do we do now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… last night…”

“What about it?”

“Well, we…”

“The drinking, or…”

Yuu-chan, you can’t possibly be that dense! “Not the drinking.” Though I am still curious about that beer you brought.

“Oh, well…” Yuu rubbed the back of her neck. “I mean I wish I remembered it in more detail. But I remember feeling really good. And that makes me happy.”

Yuu was happy about it? That’s good right? Or does it further complicate things?

Yuu furrowed her brow. “You two felt good too, right? I hope I wasn’t the only one.”

“Y-Yes.” Oh gods, did it feel good.

“Setsuna-chan?”

The raven-haired girl nodded weakly.

“But honestly, who would have thought Ayumu would be the one to make the first move.”

“Y-Y-Yuu-chan?” Ayumu sputtered, feeling heat explode across her cheeks. Yuu was right, of course, but did she really need to say it out loud?

“And all this time I’d been holding back because I thought you weren’t ready.”

What.

“You were holding back?” Ayumu’s mind reeled at the implications.

“Well, yeah, I mean that kind of stuff is normal, right? Of course I’d want to do that with the ones I love.”

Setsuna’s head snapped up, causing her to wince, but she gritted her teeth through whatever her hangover had just dealt her before opening her eyes again to stare at Yuu.

“Love?” Ayumu ended up being the one to put a voice to what she assumed to be the shared thought of both Setsuna and herself.

“Of course, love.” Yuu’s expression seemed one of either confusion or annoyance, though perhaps a mix of both. “I love you two. I… thought that much was obvious?”

Oh… Oh no… No. No, that’s not fair!

“Ayumu? What’s wrong?”

Of course, now she decides to be perceptive.

Ayumu swallowed hard.

“I’m… sorry…”

Yuu blinked. “Sorry? What are you apologizing for, Ayumu? Because you started…”

“No! The truth is…”

“The truth is…?”

Oh gods, why did it have to be so hard to say? Would it have been easier to say it last night? Before they did… that?

“I’m… planning to move out.”

“What?!” Yuu practically shouted, pushing herself up to stand on her knees, before realizing it was a bad idea. Her face contorted and she fell back down to sit on her feet, but she leaned forward again anyway to continue. “Moving? Ayumu? Why? I thought you liked it here?”

“I do, but…” Say it. Just say it and get it over with. “I’ve decided that you and Setsuna-chan need your space to be a happy couple. I’m just getting in your way.”

Yuu moved her mouth but no sound came out as she stared.

“You’re not in the way, Ayumu-san.”

Both Yuu and Ayumu turned their attention to the girl huddled in the corner who looked to be on the verge of tears.

“You’re not in the way.” Setsuna repeated. “Even someone like me can tell that the two of you have pretty much been a couple since longer than I’ve known you. If anyone is in the way…” she took an uneasy breath “it’s me…”

“Setsuna-chan…” Yuu whined, collapsing back against the side of the bed. Her shoulders slumped with the weight of what her two friends had just revealed.

“I saw it right away, when I first met you.” Setsuna continued. “I saw it, and yet… I still fell for you. Both of you.” She tightened her arms around her legs. “While I was hiding my love of idols and anime from my parents, you two gave me a safe haven to truly be myself. And even when I could be more open at home, I realized how much more fun it was to share my hobbies with friends in person than with faceless avatars on random forums. And somewhere, amid all the time we spent together, I realized I couldn’t get enough, because I had fallen for you. But you two were already together.”

Setsuna paused as though still choosing the best words. “You know, I tried to walk away several times.” She made eye contact with Ayumu. “But you two just kept pulling me back in. And I kept letting you. And now… I guess I just wanted to hope that maybe my triangle would be different.” Her gaze fell back to the floor. “I’m sorry, I should just…” She let go of her knees and seemed to get ready to stand up.

“Wait.” Yuu stated. “Both of you, wait. Please.”

The other two girls turned toward her.

“I think…” She shook her head. “No, I know, I owe the two of you an apology.” She looked back and forth between them a couple times to make sure she had their full attention. “All this time, I’ve been thinking everything was great between us, that we were all happy together. I mean, I thought the main reason we got these dorm rooms, despite them being an extra station away from where we all need to go every day, was so we could live next door to each other and make seeing each other all the time that much easier.

“But I had no idea that either of you felt this way. I didn’t see it at all. So, I’m sorry. I really am. And I don’t care if it sounds selfish, but I don’t want either of you to go. I can tell you right now, losing either of you will not make me happier… Wait, now I’m confused. And maybe it’s just the hangover, but… You both wanted to leave because you loved me and wanted me to be happy with the other… Do you two not love each other?”

“What?” Setsuna seemed taken aback and pushed herself up onto her hands and knees to crawl a meter toward the others. “It’s because I also love Ayumu-san that I wanted her to be happy with Yuu-san! And I didn’t want to get in the way of that.”

Ayumu stared at Setsuna. The same. They really did feel the same. Why hadn’t she noticed it sooner?

“So…” Yuu scratched her head. “Ayumu, you love Setsuna-chan and me.” She pointed at her childhood friend but didn’t wait for an answer before moving on. “Setsuna-chan, you love Ayumu and me. And I love the both of you. We don’t want Ayumu to leave. We don’t want Setsuna to leave… What about if I left?”

“No!” Ayumu and Setsuna said in unison.

Yuu grinned. “Then I guess the only solution is for us all to stay together.”

Was it really that simple? “Can we really do that?” Ayumu couldn’t help asking.

“Why not?” Yuu asked in return. “We’ve pretty much been doing it already up until now; we’re always together, we go on dates constantly, we share cooking responsibilities, we stay over in each other’s rooms. Heck the only things we didn’t do we just did last night. Sure, we just uncovered a snag where you two each thought you needed to leave for the sake of the other two, but now that we’re all on the same page and know that the other two both want us to stay, we should be good, right?”

“It won’t be easy…” Setsuna said quietly.

“Relationships aren’t supposed to be easy.” Yuu countered. “They’re about working together for the common goal of being happy together. Sometimes it feels easy because the rewards are just that great, but other times you have to slog through and remember that the effort is worth it.”

Ayumu blinked. As romantically dense as Yuu often was, it was not completely uncommon for her to catch Ayumu off guard with some poignant bit of insight.

“And I believe you two are worth all the effort I can give.” Yuu flashed a smile. It was the smile Ayumu had loved since childhood, naturally confident and casually reassuring, and it never failed to make her heartrate spike for a moment or two.

As the other two remained quiet, Yuu decided to continue. “And you know, triangles are the strongest shape. That’s why they’re used so often in construction. Graphene is the strongest substance we know because of the triple bonds formed among the carbon atoms. Triangles are also the most stable shape. That’s why they’re used for tripods for cameras and stuff. And…”

Setsuna had started giggling about halfway through Yuu’s geeky rant, but now held up a hand. “Alright, alright, we get it.”

“But I’m serious.” Yuu insisted. “Just think about it, how much we behave like a triangle, how the sides are always supporting each other. Setsuna-chan, your passion keeps Ayumu and I motivated to do our best. And Ayumu, your reliability helps keep Setsuna-chan and I grounded so we don’t lose ourselves to our hobbies.”

“And Yuu-san’s support helps Ayumu-san and I keep our confidence throughout the day.” Setsuna concluded.

“Yeah, something like that.” Yuu nodded.

“Wait…” Ayumu spoke up. “Why do I get the negative one?”

“Negative?” Yuu tilted her head to the side questioningly.

“You two are positives with passion and support, but it sounds like I’m somehow keeping you from having fun?”

“That’s not what I meant at all, Ayumu.” Yuu shook her head. “By reliable and grounded, I meant that you’re kinda like a guide or a navigator or… Oh, I know, it’s like we’re a boat out on the ocean. Setsuna-chan is the engine or propeller that drives us forward and you’re the steering wheel or rudder that keeps us on an even keel. Can’t get to your destination all that well if you’re just drifting aimlessly without power or navigation. I know I’d still be drifting aimlessly through general studies if you two hadn’t been around to help power and navigate my journey through my music course.”

Ayumu smiled as the newer analogy resonated with her. However, “You left yourself out again, Yuu-chan.”

“I did? Oh… uhm, I’m… hrm…”

“Yuu-san is the hull that keeps us afloat.” Setsuna offered.

“The hull?” Yuu scrunched her nose.

“You’re definitely our hull, Yuu-chan.” Ayumu agreed.

“Alright, I suppose maybe I am the hull.” Yuu conceded with a sigh. “Although,” her gaze landed on Ayumu for a moment before settling on Setsuna “I don’t think I’m quite as buoyant as either of you.”

What did she mean by… Ayumu realized where Yuu was looking. “Yuu-chan!” She scolded, feeling herself blush.

Yuu burst out laughing. However, the bout only lasted a moment before setting off lingering hangover effects.

“Setsuna-chan, you should finish buttoning up.” Ayumu said, moving toward the other girl.

“Huh?” Setsuna looked down to find that in her haste to get dressed earlier, she had only secured two buttons on her shirt. Thus, from her position on her hands and knees, she had apparently been providing Yuu with a rather voluptuous view. “Eeeehhh?” She rocked back to sit on her legs and began fumbling with the fasteners.

“Here, let me get that.” Ayumu offered, reaching over the secure the buttons with a dexterity unhindered by a hangover. However, despite the action having begun in good faith, Ayumu found it difficult to resist stealing her own glimpse. Well… maybe if she wasn’t as blatant as Yuu…

“T-Thank you, Ayumu-san.”

“Sorry, Setsuna-chan.” Yuu offered. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you that much.”

“It’s fine…” Setsuna decided after a moment. “It’s not like you didn’t already see it all last night…”

“We’ve also visited hot springs together like a dozen or so times.” Yuu pointed out. “Anyway, still have any doubts, Ayumu?”

Did she still have doubts? She knew Yuu was right when she said that relationships were not easy, and whatever difficulties two might have, three would have to face that much more. But also, as Yuu had said, she was willing to do that work. And there was no doubt in her mind that Yuu and Setsuna would put forth the same effort. Because they all wanted the same thing, to be happy together.

Ayumu shook her head. “No. I’m just… really happy right now.”

“Good. And I’m happy as…” Yuu was interrupted by a yawn. “Ughn… either of you two remember what time we went to sleep last night? It feels like we woke up too early or something.” She yawned again. “Well, good thing it’s the weekend so I can take a nap.” She turned and started climbing onto Ayumu’s bed. “Either of you want to join me?”

“Do you think another hour will help with my headache?” Setsuna asked, crawling toward the bed.

“It should.” Ayumu replied, following the others. “Huh? Yuu-chan?” She found herself blocked from taking her former position as Yuu had already made it to the wall side of the bed.

With only a smile and a gentle touch on the arm, Yuu guided Ayumu down between herself and Setsuna. Oh, so sleeping arrangements were going to rotate like when they watched anime and idol videos together. She dismissed a thought that such a thing may not be best for one’s sleep cycle as she decided the three of them could discuss it if it became an issue, or they may just figure it out intuitively, like they did with their anime viewing.

Emerald eyes entered her field of vision. “I love you, Ayumu.” Yuu said quietly before pressing her lips gently against hers. Then as quickly as she appeared, she retreated.

Her mind barely had time to register the event before eyes of cendrée appeared. “I love you too, Ayumu-san.” Setsuna said in a similar volume before also pressing her lips to hers.

Ayumu stared upward in a surprisingly satisfying stupor as the other two exchanged affections above her. No flare of jealousy or laments of being left out disturbed her as she watched contently. She basked in the warmth as Yuu and Setsuna settled down on either side of her, taking her arms into theirs. She was happy. Very happy. And she realized she should probably tell them that.

“I love you two, Yuu-chan, Setsuna-chan.” Ayumu murmured.

Two pairs of eyes snapped open to stare at her. Was it really that surprising? Oh… wait… was that the first time she had said that to them? Certainly, it wasn’t the first time she had thought it, but… oh dear… Perhaps she should apolo…

Two smiles creased two sets of lips. Likely since they had already given voice to their feelings, the other two remained quiet. Setsuna tightened her embrace for a moment before nuzzling into Ayumu’s shoulder. For her part, Yuu shifted her hold so she could slide her hand down into Ayumu’s and intertwined their fingers.

No. No apology was necessary. They knew. And they accepted and loved Ayumu for who she was, even if this was the first time she had said as such in return for all the times they had told her.

Ayumu closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it slowly. There would be plenty of time for her to give more voice to her feelings later. For now, it was time to relax and enjoy a peaceful slumber, snuggled between the two girls she loved.

This triangle would definitely be different.