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Gee, Akira, Why'd Your Girlfriends Let You Get TWO Dogs?

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Michiru’s new ward was surprisingly well-behaved. She shouldn’t have been surprised, but he was just that good. He moved with poise and grace, following her direction nearly before she gave it. He had graduated with honors, risen with distinction to the top of the pack. Not to mention his height, perfectly manicured hair, and beautiful coat… He was perfect. 

He didn’t even bark at the station pigeons, something Mei Fan struggled with some days.

The two of them came to a stop at the road, waiting for the train to unload and clear through. She reached down and scratched his ears. “That’s a good boy, Beast.” 

She glanced up at the station; it looked like the last of the passengers were offloading now. As she turned back, though, she caught a flash of cream-colored hair whipping in the wind. She looked again, but there was nobody familiar. She must have imagined it. She didn’t dwell on it. This was a secret operation; secrets breed paranoia, and she wasn’t about to feed into that fear for something so mundane. 

She waited for the train to pass, pulling her coat closer to fight off the December chill. Her breath curled in puffs of mist, and she wondered when the first snow would fall.

Twenty-five years. A quarter-century. Much could change over such a long time; Akira certainly had. But after all that time, she’d never known the love of a pet. From strict parents, to high school and college dorms, to a life of travel and apartment-hopping, early mornings and late nights: none had made a home for such a simple, human comfort as a dog. It had always been a dream of Michiru’s, to get her a dog. Now she was going to; to celebrate Akira’s birthday in a week and to celebrate moving in together.

She could have given her one a little earlier had she been here with her. But it seemed fate had a funny way of pulling people apart, just to bring them back together. And, Michiru relished to remember, she was bound to more than just Akira now.

“Michiru?” A voice smooth and sweet as vanilla rang, loosing a peal of butterflies in Michiru’s chest.

She snapped back to reality. The train was gone, the station nearly empty again. For the first time since she’d met him, Beast growled quietly in his throat. 

She turned again. Shiori stood, always taller and prouder than she was used to now, but she looked as surprised as Michiru felt. Shiori clutched her chest, and it… wriggled? She hadn’t been reacquainted with her in person for that long, but Michiru was pretty sure her chest had never wriggled.

Michiru waved. “Hi.”

Shiori laughed nervously, her cheeks red. She wrestled with her coat as it fought against her with increasing zeal. “Oh! Why, hello there, Michiru, it’s nice to— Oh! No!” She shouted as her combatant’s head burst from her chest. 

A scraggly brown chihuahua peeked from Shiori’s coat. It stared blearily for a moment, and then it turned and started yapping at Beast.

Beast stood and barked back, and Michiru had to restrain him. Thank goodness he was still a puppy. “Down, Beast!”

Opposite her, Shiori gave up the ghost and pulled the other pup out, cradling it on her shoulder. She petted its little head soothingly. “Shh… It’s alright, baby.”

After a few tense moments, both their animals stood down. Michiru and Shiori both sighed in relief.

Michiru reached into her pocket and threw Beast a treat. “Good boy.” 

Trapped in an awkward silence, she stared at Shiori, and she stared at the dog in her arms, and she knew exactly where she went wrong.


“Why not?” Akira demanded, her arms folded over her chest. Michiru’s pale kitchen lights didn’t do her the justice she deserved, but she was still beautiful.

“Where do I start?” Michiru responded, a familiar furrow in her forehead, reviewing the arguments she’d practiced in her head. “Do you even have any time to take care of a dog, with how stage-crazy you are?”

“I can make time,” Akira said, closing the distance. “I made it for you and the others.”

Michiru folded her laptop, calmly hiding her browser full of Akita breeders. “Even with how much you travel? If we hired a dog-sitter, it’d miss you all the time.” Mei Fan whined about missing her enough as it was.

Akira’s shoulders tensed. Her eyes pleaded. “I can adapt. I’d find a way.”

Michiru stood and exhaled through her nose. She steeled herself. “Whose budget is it coming out of? Who’s cleaning up after it? Where's the space? Do you even know if the new place accepts pets?” The barrage of— not unreasonable— questions chipped away at Akira’s armor until her fists shook in frustration. She turned and stalked out of the kitchen.

She wasn’t the only one. Shiori glared at her and stormed out. Mei Fan’s face drooped in disappointment, and she shook her head before walking out, undoubtedly to comfort Akira. Michiru could always trust Mei Fan to care.

Michiru rubbed her brow, trying to work out the stress. She didn’t want to hurt anyone, but a queen was never reborn without sacrificing a few pawns. Wait— bad analogy. Ugh.

“Don’t you think that was a little too harsh?” Yachiyo asked. 

Michiru sighed and laid her head on the table. “As long as she bought it. I can smooth things over later.”

Yachiyo held her chin in one hand and walked the other up Michiru’s arm. “All this just for a surprise?”

“For the greatest surprise of all time! Besides, she does need to be thinking about these things. It’s easier to make those kinds of accommodations before rather than after.” She sat back up and sipped her coffee. “Bad luck that she asked for one now of all times, but I’ll make the best of it.”

“Hey, you thought that now was the time, too. So there must be some kind of logic to it.” Yachiyo’s wandering hand rubbed Michiru’s shoulder soothingly.

“Mhm. She can be a bit of an idiot, but she’s always known when to act.”


Michiru stepped closer, calculatedly, her face neutral. “I made a mistake, it seems.”

“A mistake? Michiru! You said—!” Shiori stamped her foot. “UGH.”

“In order to maintain the surprise! I was acting, Shiori! We’re actresses! We bend the truth all the time!” 

“You’re upsetting the dogs,” Shiori warned. She cradled her own adoptee closer, keeping her calm.

Michiru looked down. Sure enough, Beast’s hackles were raised again. He clearly wasn’t used to arguments like this. She crouched and stroked his back, speaking soothingly, “It’s alright, Beast. We’re just having an adult conversation.”

Shiori looked on with clement approval, and she continued, “We don’t act in our personal lives… Yachiyo notwithstanding. Or at least, we shouldn’t.” 

“Yachiyo was in on it, actually,” Michiru said with a shrug. She stood back up, groaning at the back strain. “She’s the best for planning surprises.”

“Well, did either of you plan on this?” Shiori said, gesturing with her pup.

Michiru grimaced. “I took a risk. My gambit failed, but not how I would’ve expected. I thought that the worst-case scenario was that you’d resent me for a while, which was something I could put up with.”

Shiori deflated slightly, the wind knocked out of her self-righteous sails. “You were prepared to sleep on the couch for a week if it meant you could get Akira a birthday surprise dog?”

“Well, Miss Puppy Smuggler? Weren’t you also?”

Shiori opened and closed her mouth for a minute. “... Fair.” She took a deep breath, gathering herself. “You really hurt her, you know. And you upset me and Mei Fan.”

“I know, and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” Michiru stroked Shiori’s arm. “I had been planning this for a while, so when she brought it up, I felt I had to cover for it. I didn’t want to hurt you all.”

“Ah…” Shiori murmured, “You put all that effort in, and you didn’t want it to go to waste.”

Michiru nodded, her lips pursed. “She does need to consider the practicality of pets, but I knew we could work around the challenges if we worked together. She forgets that she doesn’t have to do everything alone.” Michiru sighed and rubbed the back of her neck, troubled. “I thought I could deflect with that weakness, but it was a step too far.”

“Well,” Shiori said, a soft smile dawning on her face, “Now that we’re here, where do we go?”

Shiori wouldn’t stand for returning hers, and it wasn’t an option for Michiru. “There’s only one way to go, isn’t there? We have the budget and the space, so we take them both. Home.”

A grateful sound welled in Shiori’s throat, and she wrapped an arm around Michiru, balancing her dog in the other. “I’m still mad at you, but you’re amazing, and I love you. But also fuck you.”

“Fuck me later; we have a long weekend.”

Shiori blushed with a snort but didn’t offer a retort. Instead, she just offered her hand to Michiru, smiling a little wider when she accepted. She pulled her into another hug, and Shiori’s pup took the chance to lick her face— and not stop licking her face.

Michiru sputtered and laughed— the first real laugh she’d had in days. “So,” she said, fending off her fluffy attacker, “what's her name?”

“I wanted to go with something that paid homage to Belle— you remember Belle, the chihuahua?” 

“How could I not?”

“So I called her Nettchen. It’s from an old variation of the story.”

“Oh.” Michiru couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed. She recalled the variations from her research, but she hadn’t thought that much about it in years. I should go back and read it. Haven’t had much time to read for pleasure, have I?

“You thought longer about a name than I did, then. But we had a similar theme.”

“Mhm,” Shiori hummed, stroking the back of her hand with her thumb. “I love it, though. ‘Our little Beast.’”

They walk in several long minutes of silence, stretching from pleasant into awkward. The roulette of emotions that crossed Shiori’s face didn’t help. Finally, it settled on hurt.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier.” 

“Yes?” Michiru said, leaving herself open to whatever criticism was coming her way. She probably deserved it.

“You said that you didn’t mind us resenting you if it meant keeping it a surprise.” Shiori drew herself up to her full queenly height. “I didn’t like that. Emotions aren’t something that can be treated like commerce. Love isn’t something to be bought, and in the same way, incidents like this, which might breed resentments, they’re not an opportunity cost.”

“Oh.”

“You treated it like something that you were saddling yourself with, but that’s not all it was.” She stroked her hand again, this time with a nervous tension. “Did you think we wanted to resent you, our girlfriend who we love? It hurt us too, to feel that way about you.”

To be honest, Michiru was caught off guard— again. “Oh, I’m sorry. It seems like I haven’t been putting enough thought into how you’d react—”

“That’s!” Shiori interjected, “That’s part of what I’m talking about, broadly. I don’t want you to examine and analyze every interaction and motive and reaction and feeling. As much as you can, I just want you to do right by us.”

Michiru nodded, stunned by Shiori’s piercing blow. She knew what Shiori was saying, asking of her, but it went against how she’d lived her entire life. But Michiru couldn’t say she was wrong, or being unfair. She was their girlfriend, and they deserved earnestness. “Like Mei Fan?”

“No, not— I just want you to be here with us instead of in your own head all the time.” 

Shiori stopped her and let Nettchen down, looping her leash around her wrist. While their pups sniffed each other, Shiori wrapped Michiru in one of those warm, gentle hugs that wore at Michiru’s walls like a tidal wave. “We love you, Michiru. You don’t have to play three steps ahead with people who love you.”

Michiru didn’t exactly know what to say— what with what was being asked of her— so she just hugged back, gripping Shiori with a desperation that surprised herself. She nodded.

“Having conversations like this, being honest with each other, that’s a good step to take. It would be nice if we could have these conversations more, treating each other as equals, as partners. We’re in this together. If we’re trying to build a future together, it should be collaborative.” 

“To quote,” Shiori said with an air of teasing finality, raising a finger to boop Michiru’s nose, “‘She forgets that she doesn’t have to do everything alone.’”

Michiru snorted. She tried to quip back, but was surprised to find her throat tight and her eyes misty. “Okay. I… I’ll try.”

Shiori caressed her cheek and tipped her chin up to look Michiru in the eye. “Thank you,” she soothed, her voice finding shape in a wisp of vapor.  She leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. “I love you.” 

“I… I love you too.”

Michiru walked the rest of the way home under Shiori’s arm. This… was nice. It wasn’t so bad to be the one watched over, once in a while.

Beast and Nettchen seemed to have ceased their hostilities, sniffing and chasing and bouncing at each other as they walked, though they’d retreat back to their owners once in a while for warmth. They seemed to be getting along well, which was a significant relief.

Once they were on their street, Michiru pulled out her phone, and was surprised when Shiori did the same.

“Hm?” Shiori questioned.

“Oh, I was… just gonna check in with Yachiyo. I asked her to run interference, and it’d be a shame to lose the surprise now, of all times.”

Shiori nodded.

“What about you?” Michiru asked.

Shiori’s cheeks dusted with blush. “I asked Mei Fan to do the same thing for me.”

“We. We both asked them to distract Akira. Oh no.”

“Well, what’s the worst that could’ve happened?”

“What was your last update?”

“You know how Mei Fan can be when she’s busy.”

“Mhm.” Back in university, when it had just been the two of them, Mei Fan’s single-minded focus had caused… several lapses in phone-based communication. “Even if it was a while ago, what was it?”

“Well, her last text was... Chess emoji, bikini emoji, thumbs up emoji.” 

Michiru squinted. “That sounds like a Code Pink. Did you put any limitations on the type of distraction?”

“N-no? What’s a Code Pink?”

Michiru raised her eyebrows in a sort of… suggestive concern, and Shiori blushed again.

“Oh.”

“It might be fine! But the last thing Yachiyo sent was ‘winky three face with paw,’ so I guess we’ll just have to see if they managed to keep their clothes on.” 

Just in case Yachiyo managed to see, she shot her a text requesting a status update. Both she and Yachiyo kept ‘text seen’ markers off, though, so she couldn’t rely on any forthcoming updates.

Beast was growing tired now, and Nettchen had retired to Shiori’s arms five minutes ago. They’d be relieved to see their new home and to get some food and water. Michiru had smuggled kibble and other amenities into her office during the move, but they might need to get a second dog bed. 

Outside the front door, they stopped. Michiru met Shiori’s eye, and she pulled her into one last hug. “We can… talk later if you want.”

“I’d like that.” Shiori faced the door again. “I’m so excited, but I’m nervous. Like right before opening night.”

“Me too.” Michiru felt the weight of twenty-five years bearing down again, and the renewed weight of their argument before. She hoped it wouldn’t taint this dream— one of many she shared with Akira.

Michiru’s phone buzzed as she reached for the doorknob. She checked it, in spite of the mounting anticipation. Caution never hurt anybody. 

“Mei Fan butted in,” it read, “but it ended up working out.” No winky face, so presumably they were decent enough. A second text arrived: “I was just gonna improvise, maybe flirt with Akira until we made out, but now we’re playing a game. By the way, those two FINALLY kissed properly. Mei Fan’s down her shirt, though. I give her ten minutes before she’s in her birthday suit.”

“We’re here,” Michiru replied, giving Yachiyo only a second before she stepped forward and opened the door.

Warm air and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy floated through the house, warming them and covering the clatter of shoes and paws— clever Yachiyo. After changing into their house slippers, Michiru handed her leash to Shiori, raising a finger to her lips for silence. ”Wait for my signal,” she whispered. She skulked through the hall and kitchen, peeking around each corner as she went. Finally, she found her quarry in the living room.

Yachiyo and Akira were sitting at the low table, playing with her speed chess set. Mei Fan sat at their side, her shirt stripped off and laid on the couch.

Cheerily, Michiru barged in. “Hey, everyone!”

“Michiru!” Mei Fan blundered, falling over as she half-leaped for her shirt. She leaped to her feet and scrambled to put it back on. “We were just— I lost the first game and my shirt— You’re uh! You’re home early.”

“And with hardly any warning,” Yachiyo added snidely, side-eyeing Michiru. She moved a pawn on the board and clicked the timer, signaling Akira’s turn.

Michiru giggled warmly and stuck her hands in Mei Fan’s pockets. Then, she leaned up on her tiptoes and pecked Mei Fan’s cheek. “Yeah, the meeting with the stage crew didn’t run quite as long as I’d expected.” Her last untruth, she hoped. 

“Welcome home, Michiru,” Akira said simply, her eyes focused on the board. Games between Yachiyo and Akira were always some of the more interesting, especially speed chess; Chess favored Yachiyo, but the clock tipped things back towards Akira. Overall, a good match.

But now wasn’t the time to get sucked into games. Michiru walked forward and plucked both kings from the board, claiming Akira’s lap before she could look up in indignation. “I— We have a surprise for you. Two, actually.”

Akira wore a mix of fond, confused annoyance on her face. Mei Fan still looked flustered, and Yachiyo just bemused.

“What’s that?” Akira asked, playing along enough.

Michiru brought her fingers to her lips and whistled. 

She heard Shiori yelp, and seconds later, Beast charged into the room, Shiori and her pup just a second behind. He skidded to a stop in front of Michiru and passed his gaze between the new faces. Mei Fan and Yachiyo exchanged looks of surprise.

“Whose dogs are these?” Akira asked, stunned, though she had already offered her hand for Beast to sniff. As he did, Shiori bent down and sat on her other side. Akira offered a hand to Nettchen as well.

“Yours.”

“W— Hold on.” Akira sat in silence for a moment. “Explain.” Her second utterance was quieter, less steady.

“They’re your dogs,” Michiru said. “It’s a bit of a story, but we got them for you.”

Akira blinked back tears. “But you said—”

“I made subterfuge— and we’ll talk later about how much of a dick move that was— because I wanted to maintain the surprise.” Michiru took Akira’s hand by the wrist, leading it to Beast. “This is the truth now. They’re yours. Ours.”

Shiori leaned in, brushing the wetness from Akira’s eyes before leading her hand to Nettchen. “Happy birthday, darling.”

Akira sat, stunned, but she didn’t have to do much more before Beast lumbered into her lap and started lapping at her cheeks. Akira laughed— peals of beautiful, genuine laughter; pure music to Michiru’s ears— and her tears ran freely down her cheeks.

Michiru fought back tears of her own as she nestled closer. “He’s a trained pedigree Akita, but it seems he’s got a personality to him. His name’s Beast.”

“He’s beautiful,” Akira said in awe. She rubbed her hand all up and down his back until his leg kicked in appreciation. “I’ll care for you, little one.”

Michiru scratched alongside her, sending their pup into another wave of bliss. She motioned to Mei Fan and Yachiyo, who were leaning against each other and carrying on their own whispered conversation. “Come on, you two. Get in here.”

Mei Fan scrambled at the opportunity, crawling to sandwich Michiru between herself and Akira. Her eyes were just as wet as Michiru’s. “I thought you were serious before.”

“Mm. I’m sorry.” Michiru leaned back into Mei Fan’s embrace. “If it’s any consolation, my mistake resulted in twice as many bundles of fluffy joy.”

Beside her, Akira was getting familiar with Nettchen, oblivious to their conversation. In moments, she had her cradled in her arm, continuing to pet Beast with the other. She was off in her own little world right now. Good for her.

Yachiyo settled on Shiori’s other side, smirking at Michiru. “So, when are we getting a cat?”

Michiru smirked back. “Your birthday’s in eleven months, sweetheart.”

Yachiyo shrugged. “Plenty of time for you to adjust to the idea.” She tapped Shiori on the shoulder, stealing her attention away from Akira. She blinked, and her eyes were wide and pleading. “Shiori, honey, can we get a cat for your birthday?”

“Michiru,” Akira said, and that was enough to tear her attention back. “Thank you.” She leaned down, and Michiru knew to meet her in a kiss. The chili burn of her lips, and then her tongue, was easy enough to ignore, in a moment filled with so much love.

God, she was so in love.