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one step forward, two steps back, someone to help you again

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Chie knew deep down that she wouldn't ever stand a chance of winning. Per usual she acted on impulse, seeing red and lunging before outweighing the consequences. It felt like either an eternity or only a few seconds; she couldn't tell. Each person taking turns hitting while she tried to counter and defend herself. They just wouldn't give, and so she found herself submitting due to nothing else other than being tired and wanting the exchange and humiliation to be over.

It began how most fights she ended up in began. The group was harassing young girls! Chie had to stand in. Her composure broke when they mentioned Yukiko. Luckily, the distraction still allowed the victims to get away, but now on the concrete, Chie waits for them to get bored. It comes fast but not until her torso is bruised and legs are as sore as they'd been when they'd enter the TV world. She lifts her head and brings a hand to it. Blood, great. Tomorrow morning was going to feel like hell- scratch that, Hell 2 Electric Boogaloo. She lifts herself up trying not to bleed on her favorite jacket and begins to recover. Taking a few steps, Chie immediately falls back to the wall.

"Shit..." she breathes sharply.

Unable to keep the strength to hold herself upright even with the wall supporting her, she crumbles. How embarrassing. Hot tears from frustration build up and fall down her cheeks. She barely comprehends the sound of rustling as someone drops their bags nearby.

"Chie...?" A voice Chie has heard a thousand times saying her name, she winces at the identity of the person. Meekly her head peeks from her slouched position to look at Yukiko.

Her face is terrified and Chie feels so shameful. If she tried to talk right now, she's positive she'd start sobbing. Instead she just gives her friend a tired wave.

Yukiko scrunches her nose, "What happened? Can you stand? You need first aid." She helps her up without her reply and Chie thinks to herself about making a joke of how if she bleeds Yukiko's sweater, it wouldn't matter since it's red. She doesn't and instead stays quiet as Yukiko practically drags Chie to the Amagi Inn. Chie doesn't even have energy to feel anxious for coming over so suddenly (yeah, sorry Mr. and Mrs. Amagi for being all injured in the lobby of your prestigious traditional inn). She's dragged through the hallways as staff members continue asking if Chie is alright to Yukiko. Chie couldn't tell if she was even conscious right now. How humiliating.

It takes the familiar sting of hydrogen peroxide on her scraped knees to truly make any of it feel real.

Yukiko presses on with the true thing Chie was afraid of. "Please, tell me what happened."

"Promise you won't get mad?" the short haired girl smirks.

"Now I'm extremely worried, just tell me already. I can't promise that I won't get mad given that I told you repeatedly to stop running recklessly into things like this."

"I'm sorry, it's just... this group of guys were harassing some middle school girls and I obviously just can't let that go. It's disgusting."

Yukiko looked at her doubtfully, "There's something else, isn't there?"

Her face contorted to that semi thoughtful, semi irritated expression she always get when this happens. "They," Chie huffed, "Brought up your name, seems everyone in Inaba knows about my protective streak. I lost it and just got angry and rushed in headfirst."

"Chie, how many times do I have to tell you, I don't need protected." She took her hands within Chie's, "Especially if it means you getting hurt. You're so injured, this is what I've been afraid of. You've run out of luck when taking on people twice your size and if I didn't find you, you probably would've just acted like it was nothing. This is real life, Chie, I can't just use Dia and everything be magically better. You probably have a concussion."

"I'm sorry."

"You've told me before that I was one of the strongest people you know. I was touched that you had so much respect for me. Where is that respect? Because, right now I feel like you think I'm weak."

Her eyes shot wide. "Yukiko, yes you're so strong!"

"Then let me fight my own battles."

Yukiko continued to dress her head wound as Chie just kept her eyes on her now bandaged knees. The guilt seeped into her wounds and caused her whole body to increase in soreness. She was right. And now the only thing that came from the whole ordeal was that Yukiko was (rightfully) mad at her. Losing was humiliating, but the disappointment was insufferable. She bit her lip to try not to cry. Closed her eyes just to see that yellow gaze; familiar, her face stolen and contorted, but still her all the same. Had she not grown at all? The flood gates open unwillingly.

The yellow fades with the feeling of a palm against her cheek. Her face is centimeters from Yukiko's, she can see each individual eyelash, the way her lids crease ever so slightly. She doesn't deserve her. The taller girl wipes away her tears. Chie chokes out another "I'm sorry."

"You mean so much to me, Chie." Her voice is smooth and soothing. "I don't want you to put yourself in danger because of me. I appreciate it, I really do. You're still my Prince, but we do better together. I don't want to be reliant on you, but to stand with you. Let me do some of the protecting, okay?"

She nods and the two embrace while time passes and the earth turns.