Nobara grits her teeth as her fingers barely skim the box of cereal she wants. She lets out an annoyed huff as she drops back onto her heels. This is it. This has gone on long enough. Nobara is going to kill those two idiots. How hard is it to put things on the lower shelves?
They have been living together long enough that it should be common sense, not to mention courtesy, to put food of all things somewhere where everyone can reach it. Not just stupidly tall people. It’s not fair. There isn’t anywhere Nobara can put food that Yuuji and Megumi can’t reach. Sure, she can probably buy a lock and hide stuff that way, but that doesn’t exactly solve her current problem.
Nobara isn’t sure how long she has been standing there, glaring at the box of cereal, when she sees Maki walk by out of the corner of her eye.
“Maki-san!” Nobara calls out without thinking.
There’s a brief pause before Maki pokes her head into the doorway with a curious look.
Nobara hesitates to say anything, realizing her mistake too late. It’s true that Maki is tall enough to reach the cereal, but at what cost? If there’s anything Nobara has learned about Maki so far, it’s that she’s not one to pass up the opportunity to be a little shit about something. This is too good of a chance to pass up too.
Casting her gaze down to her feet, Nobara twists her lips before she decides she’ll deal with the teasing if it means she can have her damn cereal already. Nobara looks back up and firmly asks, “Will you help me grab cereal from the top shelf?”
There’s another pause as Maki stares at her with an unreadable expression. Here it comes, Nobara thinks. Maki is just gearing up to taunt her about this for the rest of the week. Nobara will have to be on the receiving end of short jokes until her ears bleed.
But then, Maki just nods and says, “Sure.”
Nobara almost blurts out, “What?” She manages to keep her mouth shut though, just staring with wide eyes as Maki walks into the kitchen. Where’s the teasing? The taunting? The little shit grin? Just yesterday Maki had teased Yuuji for almost two hours straight because he accidentally put his shirt on inside out. That Maki is nowhere to be seen here.
Maki doesn’t even ask her to move out of the way. She just brushes up against Nobara as she reaches for the box, not even straining, fuck her. Maki hands her the cereal box and smiles slightly. “Was that it?” Maki asks.
“Yeah,” Nobara says, because what else is she supposed to say? She sure as hell isn’t going to invite Maki to make fun of her height. “Thanks,” Nobara remembers to add.
Maki just hums, already on her way out. When she’s in the doorway, she glances over her shoulder and says, “By the way, we need to go get more groceries. Want to come with me later?”
“With you?” Nobara says dumbly. Her words catch up with her, and she shakes her head a little. “I mean, yeah, I’ll go. It’ll be better than going shopping with the boys.”
Maki flashes her a crooked smile and says, “See you later then.”
. . .
Nobara has never been one for reading. She’s always been more of a hands-on learner. She’d rather have Maki show her how to do a move than read how to do it in a book. Gojo is a sadist though, so here she is, looking for a book that will help her figure out new ways to use her technique. Nobara just knows that Gojo probably already has a few ideas, but he just refuses to tell her.
Sighing, Nobara leans up against the table behind her. Being stuck in the library sucks, especially when she knows Yuuji and Megumi are outside training. She’d much rather be with them and kick their sorry asses. Nobara makes a face just thinking about having to read. There’s no way this book can help her that much, can it?
As she debates whether to give up on the book, Maki walks into the small library the school has. Nobara tilts her head curiously. She wonders if Maki is here for a book too.
“Hey,” Nobara says as Maki walks up to her. She tries not to smile when Maki leans up against the table next to her, almost like that’s what she came here for.
“Hey,” Maki replies. She nods her head at the bookshelves and says, “You know you have to pick up a book and open it to actually get anything out of this place.”
Nobara feels her cheeks heat up. She turns her face away and crosses her arms over her chest, saying, “I know how reading works! I just… don’t want to.”
“Gojo sent you here,” Maki says. A statement, not a question.
“How did you know?” Nobara says. “I could have come here on my own.”
Maki peers at her over the rim of her glasses and says, “I’ve never seen you in here before.”
“Maybe I was trying something new,” Nobara replies, even as she feels her cheeks flush even darker. She replays Maki’s words in her mind then asks, “Come here often?” As soon as the words leave her mouth, Nobara feels her entire face go red.
Maki is either blind or oblivious because all she says is, “Yeah, sometimes.” She pushes herself off the table then asks, “What book did Gojo send you here for?”
Nobara tries to remember then rattles off the complicated title. To her surprise, Maki just nods and reaches to the top shelf. Of course, it’s the top shelf, Nobara thinks scornfully. These shelves are so tall that even Maki has to lift onto her toes a little. How the hell had Gojo expected her to find that?
“This one is a little boring, but it’s got some interesting theories,” Maki tells her. She holds out the book to her, and Nobara just stares at it. “What?” Maki asks.
Nobara bites her lip. This is the second time Maki has helped her with minimal teasing. That still counts as a coincidence, doesn’t it? It would be embarrassing to ask if it was just Maki being nice.
“Nothing, just thinking about how awful it’ll be to have to sit through this,” Nobara says, taking the book. “Thanks for finding it though. Just having it will keep Gojo off my ass for a little while.”
Maki looks like she wants to say something, but then she just shrugs and says, “Suit yourself.”
. . .
Nobara holds a sweater up to her chest and asks, “What do you think?”
“Meh,” is Maki’s reply. As monotone and monosyllabic as the answer is, Maki’s eyes are focused and attentive on where Nobara is standing in front of a clothing rack.
It’s a rare day off from training, and Nobara and Maki are out shopping. Actually, Nobara had been planning on going alone, but Maki had seen her on her way out and asked where she was going. When Nobara told her, she expected Maki to make a face and tell her to have a good time like everyone else. Instead, Maki had sort of just tilted her head a little before nodding and saying, “Do you mind waiting a minute? I’ll come too.”
So, here they are now in their fifth clothing store so far. Nobara doubts this is how Maki wants to be spending her day off, but the older girl has been nothing but patient and compliant. They did stop inside a bookstore Maki wanted to visit, but besides that, Nobara has been taking them to places she wants to go to. Maybe Maki just wanted to go out for a bit. Nobara can understand that.
“Are you looking for anything in particular?” Maki asks from where she’s leaning against a free space on the wall.
It’s a strange question to ask five stores in, but Nobara answers nonetheless, “Nope. Just wanted some new clothes.”
Maki makes a noise of acknowledgement, and Nobara turns back to the clothes. She flips through the hangers. She pauses on a button-down. It’s black and silky and nothing Nobara would wear. She takes a moment to imagine it on Maki though, with the sleeves rolled up and the first few buttons undone. As soon as the image pops into her head, Nobara chokes on her own spit and almost breaks the hanger with how fast she pushes the shirt out of her sight.
Nobara doesn’t dare look over her shoulder to see if Maki noticed her odd behavior. She doesn’t want to have to explain herself if she did. Nobara just plays it cool and keeps looking through the clothes. She makes it through the rack with nothing catching her eye though. Frowning, Nobara glances around the store to see if anything catches her eye.
There, hanging high on the wall, is an olive bomber jacket. It looks cute, and it’ll be perfect for the colder weather soon. Nobara walks over to it, but up close, it’s even more obvious how high the damn thing is hanging. Why do stores do this? Who the hell can reach this? Not the average customer, that’s for sure. It’s such a hassle to ask the workers to grab her something too. They probably have better things to do than help people grab freakishly high clothes. Actually, how do the clothes even get up here?
Shaking her head, Nobara stops her straying thoughts. Whatever. She just needs to grab this jacket. It’s unzipped, so maybe she can just grab the edge and tug it off. Nobara presses her lips together as she forces herself onto the tips of her toes, but even then, her fingers waver. They can’t quite grab the jacket. Nobara mutters a curse under her breath and drops back down to her flat feet. Maybe she should just go hunt down a worker.
Suddenly, Nobara feels someone right behind her. She almost flips them over her shoulder when Maki’s face is there, leaning over her. Their bodies press against each other ever so slightly as Maki reaches up and grabs the jacket. Nobara rolls her eyes, but her cheeks are red. Maki is too damn tall.
“You wanted this, right?” Maki asks, but her tone isn’t teasing at all; it’s completely genuine. She doesn’t move from where she stood to grab the jacket either, so it’s Nobara who steps back to make some space between them.
Nobara eyes Maki for a moment before she nods and says, “Yeah, thanks. I don’t get why stores put stuff in places like that.”
“To give their employees something to do,” Maki replies with an amused half-smile. “Either that, or they’re sadists.”
Nobara tilts her head and says, “Maybe a little bit of both.”
Maki tilts her head back and laughs, and the sound makes Nobara’s heart do something funny. Like it’s twisting itself into knots. Maki grins at Nobara then and says, “I think you’re onto something there. Now, let’s pay for that and find some food. I’m starving.”
. . .
“Has Maki-san been… acting strange at all lately?”
Nobara gets twin stares of confusion that make her sigh and roll her eyes up to the sky, asking what she did to deserve such idiots as her best friends. The three of them are out on the field after some light training after dinner. The sun is setting now, casting an orangish glow on all of them. Yuuji is sprawled out in the grass, Megumi is sitting beside him, and Nobara is pacing in front of them.
“Strange how?” Megumi asks.
Yuuji suddenly bolts up and asks, “Do you think she’s been replaced by an alien?”
“What?” Nobara says, for lack of anything better to say. “Why the fuck would I think that?”
“Ignore him,” Megumi rolls his eyes. He half-heartedly kicks Yuuji’s shin and explains, “We watched a movie last night. He thinks aliens are gonna take us out one by one and replace us wearing our skins.”
Nobara sighs, fighting the urge to rub her temples as she says, “I thought we agreed not to let him watch those kinds of movies anymore.”
“He insisted,” is all Megumi says, which means he probably folded like a sad souffle as soon as Yuuji gave him his puppy dog eyes. Ugh, he’s such a softie. As if reading her thoughts, Megumi gives her a cold stare then asks, “Why are you asking about Zenin-senpai?”
“She’s just been acting weird,” Nobara says.
“Weird how?” Megumi presses. Beside him, Yuuji opens his mouth, and Megumi quickly says, “No, she is not an alien imposter.”
“How do you know?” Yuuji grumbles. He flops back onto the ground and stares up at Nobara. “So,” he prompts. “Weird how?”
It sounds so stupid. The reason why is Nobara all messed up. It’s been bugging her for almost two months though. She needs to know if she’s crazy or not. Nobara blurts out, “She keeps grabbing things I can’t reach!”
For a long moment, there’s only silence.
Then, Yuuji blinks at her. “That sounds like a good thing.”
“She does it without teasing me or anything,” Nobara says desperately, trying to explain why this is bugging her so much. “She just… does it! You know Maki-san. She loves joking and teasing us. Why is she not taking the chance with me when I can’t reach stuff?”
“It’s not like you could kick her ass if you got mad either,” Megumi notes.
Nobara points at him and exclaims, “Exactly!”
The three of them lapse into silence as they think. A few minutes pass until Yuuji leaps onto his feet, grinning. “I got it!” Yuuji shouts. “I know why Maki-senpai is so nice to you!” He’s practically bouncing in place as he says, “Maki-senpai likes you!”
His words are met with dead silence. Megumi looks baffled while Nobara feels creeping realization. No, not about Maki’s feelings, but her own. Nobara knows why she’s so worked up about this now. She thinks back on all the times Maki helped her. She remembers how nervous and surprised and flattered she felt. Nobara remembers her thought of Maki in that shirt while shopping and then Maki right up against her to grab that jacket. The way Nobara memorized the way Maki had laughed and smiled that day. Holy shit.
Nobara likes Maki.
“Oh my god, I like Maki-san,” Nobara gasps.
“Yeah, that’s what I just–” Yuuji stops, frowning. “Wait, no, I said Maki-senpai likes you. Not the other way around.”
“I like Maki-san,” Nobara repeats hysterically. “Oh no, this is so bad.”
“Bad?” Yuuji repeats. “Why is this bad? You like Maki-senpai, and Maki-senpai likes you.”
“We don’t know for sure if she does!” Nobara points out, and she knows she’s practically screeching at this point, but she can’t help it. “What if I do something stupid like confess and she doesn’t like me back?”
“Zenin-senpai won’t be weird about it,” Megumi says. He’s trying to be reassuring, but the effort is lost with how unsure he sounds. Nobara guesses she appreciates him anyways.
“Then we make her like you,” Yuuji says insistently, like that makes any sense at all. “Should we keep putting things too high for you?” Yuuji looks thoughtful for a moment before he nods excitedly to himself and says, “Oh, like your phone!” Without hesitating, he reaches out to where Nobara left her phone in the grass and scoops it into his hands. Yuuji hops back to his feet, beaming like he’s done something genius.
“Itadori Yuuji, give me my phone back right now!” Nobara growls. She tries to swipe it from him, but that asshole just lifts it over his head. “I’m going to kill you,” Nobara says, and she really will. She’s finally going to get him back for that damn cereal.
Just as she’s about to lunge at him, Maki is there, right behind Yuuji. She smacks him upside the head, hard enough that it makes a noise and makes Nobara and Megumi wince in sympathy. Nobara’s phone drops from Yuuji’s grip and right into Maki’s waiting palm.
While Megumi walks over to check on Yuuji, Maki makes her way to Nobara.
“I believe this is yours?” Maki says.
Nobara takes her phone from her, feels the brush of their hands, and realizes she’s in big trouble. She lets her breath leave her in a rush and forces a smile onto her lips. “Thanks!”
. . .
Nobara isn’t above admitting she has been avoiding Maki.
Ever since she realized she likes her, she’s been avoiding her as much as she can without being obvious. It’s easier than Nobara expected, but then again, it’s not like they were joined at the hip before anyways.
If Maki notices, she doesn’t say anything, and that makes Nobara feel all sorts of conflicted. She’s relieved she doesn’t say anything, but does that mean she doesn’t notice at all? Nobara feels the lost little moments between them like an annoyingly huge gap in her day. It’s like she never realized how those brief conversations between them made her day. It’s embarrassing, really.
So, yeah, Nobara has been avoiding Maki, rather successfully too, until Gojo catches her one afternoon and asks, “Kugisaki-san, perfect! Can you go to the store with Zenin-san?”
Nobara wants to say no, but she can’t, not with Maki just behind Gojo. If Nobara didn’t know any better, she’d say Gojo is doing this on purpose. However, with him, there’s really no telling. It may be pure coincidence or thorough plotting.
“Yeah, sure,” Nobara says.
A part of Nobara wishes she had just said no. It would beat the torture she’s going through now, walking in silence with Maki to the store. It’s not the silence that’s the problem. There’s always been a comfortable silence between them. No, the problem is they keep touching. They walk close enough that their arms bump occasionally, and every time they do, Nobara has to fight the urge to blush.
“Do you have the list?” Maki asks her as they walk into the store. Nobara holds up the paper that Gojo gave her, but the handwriting is atrocious and she says so. Maki chuckles, “Yeah, that’s Gojo for you. Here, I’ll read out half the list to you. You can grab that while I get the other half.”
“Sounds good,” Nobara says. She listens to Maki call out a handful of items and nods. “Got it.” She walks off to grab the things, and it isn’t until she’s halfway through the store that she freezes in place. Nobara is grocery shopping with Maki. They’ve done it plenty of times before, but this is the first time they’ve done it since Nobara realized her feelings for Maki. Suddenly, grocery shopping with her feels painfully domestic.
Gulping, Nobara forces herself to keep walking. She moves on autopilot as she grabs each of the items recited to her. She needs to do something about this stupid crush. It’s getting ridiculous. Nobara is getting mushy about buying groceries. Groceries. Who the hell gets mushy over groceries?
Nobara pauses at the end of an aisle as she runs over her mental list. Okay, just one last thing. Nobara walks to the coffee aisle, but to her annoyance, the coffee brand everyone likes is on the top shelf. There’s no way she can grab that, especially with all the other crap in her arms. Forget being annoyed. Nobara is pissed off now. Why the hell is the coffee all the way up there? Every other time she’s been in this goddamn store it’s been on the bottom shelf. If she didn’t know any better, Nobara would blame Yuuji, but there’s no way he could have orchestrated this whole thing.
Nobara is glaring daggers at the coffee when Maki finds her. She follows Nobara’s line of sight and wordlessly grabs the coffee off the shelf. It takes every ounce of Nobara’s willpower not to throw a tantrum like a little kid. She’s so sick of Maki having to grab things for her. She still doesn’t understand why Maki does it without any sort of taunt either. It makes her want to scream.
Her rage and frustration must show on her face because Maki glances at her and asks, “Did something happen?”
“No,” Nobara says curtly. “Let’s just go.”
Maki gives her a look but nods.
Nobara watches her walk away and barely refrains from kicking over a display of canned tuna. Crushes suck.
. . .
Nobara finally snaps on a weekend morning.
It’s early. She hasn’t had her coffee. She’s pretty sure the boys are still asleep. Nobara starts a pot of coffee for herself, because priorities, then searches for a mug. This sounds like a simple task, except for the fact that she apparently lives with a bunch of heathens. The sink is full of dirty mugs, and the only clean one is one of a farting unicorn that sits on the highest shelf.
One day, Nobara really will kill Yuuji, and she won’t feel sorry about it.
Nobara stares blankly at the sink of mugs before looking back up at the mug in the cabinet. With a heavy sigh, Nobara heaves herself onto the counter. It’s not a very wide counter, and it’s not very sanitary to do this, which is why Nobara normally doesn’t do this, but fuck it, it’s Sunday morning and she just wants a clean mug for her coffee.
Plucking the mug off the ridiculously high shelf, Nobara squats down and goes to close the cabinet door when she hears something. She looks over her shoulder, expecting Megumi with his bed hair, but she freezes when she sees who’s standing in the doorway. Maki stares back at her blankly, hair down and glasses missing. Nobara would be charmed if it weren’t for the fact that she is freaking out because Maki is staring at Nobara squatting on the kitchen counter at eight in the morning.
Slowly, Maki saunters into the kitchen and all the way to the counter where Nobara is squatting. She holds her hand out to her and murmurs, “That’s not safe.”
After a moment of hesitation, Nobara takes her hand and maneuvers herself so she’s sitting and not squatting. Her legs dangle over the edge, bumping against the lower cabinets. She reluctantly lets go of Maki’s hand and sighs. “Tell that to the boys,” Nobara tells her. “They keep putting our stuff in the highest places.”
“I’ll be sure to kick their asses the next time I see them,” Maki snorts. The coffee machine beeps, and Maki looks at it. She grabs the fresh pot and fills up the mug in Nobara’s hands. “Smells good,” Maki comments as she puts the pot back without getting any for herself.
Nobara squints at her, and later she’ll blame her half-asleep brain, but then she asks, “Okay, what’s the catch?”
“The catch?” Maki replies with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, why the hell are you being so nice about grabbing stuff for me? Or just now, when you literally saw me squatting on the counter,” Nobara explains, half-heated and half-confused. Mostly, she just wants answers. “You haven’t made a single height joke. I’m sure you must be dying to make one.”
Maki shrugs, “Not particularly.”
“Why not?” Nobara asks.
Maki doesn’t say anything at first, and Nobara thinks she might not answer. Then, Maki ducks her head and mumbles something that is completely gibberish. Nobara stares at her, waiting for a repeat or explanation. Then, for a second, Nobara thinks her eyes are playing tricks on her, but no, Maki really is blushing. She glances up at her, only to break eye contact with Nobara as she mumbles, “It’s cute.”
“Cute?” Nobara repeats. It’s not just her face that flushes. It’s her entire body. It just goes red. The kitchen suddenly feels way too warm. “What’s cute?”
“You’re cute,” Maki says more confidently, meeting her gaze, and this only worsens Nobara’s blush. “When you can’t reach something and you go onto your toes to try and get it, you’re cute.”
“You’re nice to me because you think I’m cute,” Nobara says out loud because she needs to, or else it won’t feel real.
Maki is still blushing, but she nods.
“I think you’re cute too,” Nobara says in a rush, and it must come out kind of jumbled because it takes Maki a moment before she smiles.
“Just cute?” Maki asks, and there it is. That low, teasing voice. A playful look in her eye. Maki moves closer until she has her hands on either side of Nobara, resting on the counter.
Nobara swallows and carefully sets her coffee away. She turns back to Maki and says, “Maybe I think you’re hard-working and kind too.”
“Go on,” Maki grins, moving just a little closer.
“Well,” Nobara drags out the word.
“Well?” Maki repeats.
Nobara bats her eyelashes and says, “Well, you’re just so…” She waits until Maki and her are almost touching noses before she says, “You’re just so fucking tall.”
Maki blinks in surprise before laughing. It’s that full-bellied laugh that makes Nobara smile too. Maki looks back up at her and says, “Being tall has its perks.”
“I know,” Nobara replies with a roll of her eyes. She takes a shaky breath and places a hand on Maki’s shoulder. “Being short has its perks too, you know.”
Nobara tilts her head, pretending to think, “Well, if we wanted to kiss, you’d have to bend down, which is way worse for your back.”
“Yes, because we know my physical health is so fragile,” Maki laughs. She dramatically hunches over, and their noses brush. “Whatever will we do?”
Nobara smiles. “Here, let me help you reach.” Then she leans up and presses her lips to Maki’s.