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kiss her like you want to

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Touka doesn't know when she had first caught herself looking. At the curve of Yoriko's neck, at the shape of her mouth – looking and pressing her hand to her own mouth and feeling her heart stir in her chest. It might have been all along. Certainly, from their very first meeting, Touka had been entranced by her. Yoriko was so positive, so positive it was catching. Touka might not know how long she’s loved her, but she does – love her, that is, and it isn’t stopping.

But of course she knows well she won't be doing anything about it – about her crush. What could she do? What could she do, when she's a ghoul?

“Hand me that cup measure,” Yoriko directs, and Touka uncrosses her arms and takes her feet off the table to comply. They’re cooking together at Yoriko’s, as they often do on Fridays – well, Yoriko is cooking, and Touka is following orders.

“Here,” she says, holding out the cup, and Yoriko flashes her a grin.

She’s content like this, she supposes, watching the back of Yoriko’s apron with a small smile curving her mouth. So long as they can continue to be together like this, she’ll be okay. A relationship would be too much – they’d be too close, and she can’t have that – but this is fine. This makes her happy.

Yoriko's parents have obligations at this time, generally, and Yoriko had never liked to be home alone, so Touka keeps her company. It's a larger apartment than Touka's own, and the lights always seem somehow brighter here than at Touka's place, the atmosphere less heavy.

“Touka, can you hold the book open?” Yoriko asks cheerfully, pointing a wooden spoon in the direction of the aging recipe book. She doesn’t wait to see if Touka obeys – she spins around, and sticks the spoon into the pot. Touka sighs, but without irritation, and reaches over to smack back down the slowly lifting yellowed pages.

“Yoriko, this is literally just pasta with stuff in it,” she says, reading the recipe over. “I don't see why you need to look at this. I've seen you make way more complicated things before without any directions.”

“Bring it over,” Yoriko instructs, ignoring her. Touka again complies. The kitchen is Yoriko's domain, Yoriko's empire, and Touka knows better than to disobey her here. “I haven't made this in ages,” Yoriko explains, giving the still-stiff noodles a stir as she examines the ingredients. “I don't want to mess it up.”

“I don't think you could mess up anything,” Touka says, with a laugh.

Saying stuff like that … it always makes her cringe, on the inside. Touka has seen enough reactions to Yoriko's food to know what she says is technically true, but she ... still can't taste firsthand how good Yoriko's food must be. She doesn't know if her compliments are genuine. There's no way she could be anything but insincere.

“Aw, thanks, Touka,” Yoriko is saying sweetly, and Touka bites her tongue. “But! I still want to look at it. Ohhh, celery ...” She trails off, squinting.

Touka puts on an annoyed expression, but holds out the book for Yoriko to glance at while she tends to the pot.

“Hey, can you get out some spices?” Yoriko asks a few minutes later, dumping some pulverized garlic into the mix.

“Can I put the book down, or do you want me to stand here holding it and get the spices with my feet?” Touka asks dryly.

“Oh, put it down, you sassy child!” Yoriko admonishes her, laughing. “Grab me the basil and the oregano.”

Touka obediently kneels down to the shelf upon which Yoriko's family keeps their spices. “The recipe only said salt, you know,” she calls.

“Mmm, I know,” Yoriko says mysteriously. “Get the spices, Touka.”

Touka gets the spices.

“You're not following the recipe at all,” Touka realizes some time later, her chin hooked over Yoriko's shoulder as she stares into the pot. “What the fuck was the point of making me hold that book?”

“I had to know where to screw it up,” Yoriko explains, smiling privately down into the bowl. The food smells horrible, Touka thinks, but a bit of Yoriko's hair is right next to her nose and it smells way better, strong enough to block out the stink. “I’m experimenting. But I have to draw inspiration from somewhere.”

“Okay, genius,” Touka says. She'd quite like to slide her arms around Yoriko's middle and hold her as she cooks, but that's out of the question. “Do whatever you want. You're the star.”

“That's so sweet, Touka,” Yoriko says, tipping her head to press against Touka's cheek affectionately.

After some amount of time, Yoriko appears to determine the cooking is finished. It's still a mystery to Touka, what magical thing signals humans that the food is done, even after so long helping out Yoriko in the kitchen. Well, at least she knows which food is which now. When she'd first befriended Yoriko, she hadn’t known the difference between parsley and mango. Yoriko was horrified — Have you never been in a kitchen before?!

“Okay, Touka, it's ready!” Yoriko announces, setting two bowls on the kitchen table. Touka has migrated to the couch, from where she's watching TV.

Oh Heinz,” the woman onscreen is sighing, holding a rose to her chest.

“What are you watching?” Yoriko wants to know, wrinkling her nose.

Touka clicks the TV quickly off. “Nothing.”

“Okay, whatever. Come into the kitchen! Food’s here.”

Touka scoots off the couch and stands up, stretching her back, and when she glances up Yoriko is looking at her. She turns away quickly when Touka lifts an eyebrow, her cheeks turning pink. Touka shrugs to herself and heads to the kitchen to take a seat across from Yoriko.

Yoriko sits, too. “Hey,” she says, giving Touka a little wave.

“Hello,” Touka responds. There’s an air of expectancy in Yoriko’s demeanor. Touka reaches for her chopsticks, raising her eyebrows. She waits for Yoriko to do the same, but she just sits there, her hands in her lap. “Um, aren't you going to eat?” Touka asks.

“I want you to eat first!” Yoriko blurts. “If – if that’s okay.”

“Before you?” Touka asks, her mouth opening. “Are you sure?” She’s … a little dumbfounded. Yoriko is so insecure about her cooking. Letting Touka eat first is a huge sign of trust, coming from her.

“Mhmm! I mean ... I kind of made this meal for you.” Yoriko looks down, blushing. “I wanted to make something new, and you were coming over anyway – i-it’s not really a big deal …!” She waves her hands, dismissing the significance of the gesture, but Touka knows Yoriko well enough to see through that. It is a big deal. Cooking is important to Yoriko, perhaps the most important thing, and letting Touka in on it means, of course, that Touka is important to her too.

“Yoriko ... um, thank you,” she says. She's touched. She really is. But at the same time, lead is gathering in the pit of her stomach. She feels so … dishonest. She knows, in her head, that there’s nothing she can do except lie, but –

It’s another reason why she can never act on her feelings for Yoriko. Whenever they’re together, she always has something to hide. They can never trust each other completely.

But there’s no time to brood now. Touka lifts her chopsticks, watching Yoriko’s face out of the corner of her eye. This is such a nice gesture. Touka is honored. She focuses on that feeling as she dips her chopsticks into the bowl and lifts out a few noodles.

They feel slimy and taste awful, but Touka closes her eyes, pretending to love them. “Wow, Yoriko,” she says, when she swallows. “Really good.”

“Really?!” Yoriko's eyes are shining. “You think so?”

Touka laughs at her surprise. “Of course,” she says. “It’s your cooking, after all. Try it for yourself. You'll see.”

“Okay!” Yoriko says.

They eat together at the table, the conversation going quiet for a moment. Yoriko casts glances at Touka all the while. Touka feels guilt gnawing dully at her. Of course she can't enjoy even this, this most simple of interactions. It's not like Touka isn't used to it, but she resents it all the same. Stuff like this is just another reminder — that she and humans are ultimately incompatible, that tragedy is sure to strike one day and send her from Yoriko far, far away.



 

 

The next Monday is an overcast day, rain threatening but not impending. Touka hates days like that. They make her feel melancholy. School that day had dragged on. At the end of it, Touka is more than ready to go home, and she bounces impatiently on her heels as she waits outside the building for Yoriko.

“Sorry I'm late, Touka, I —”

Yoriko looks ... pale. Nervous. She keeps fiddling with the strap on her bag. It's a bit odd, but Touka doesn't dwell on it for long. She takes Yoriko's excuse with a nod and falls into step beside her, yawning slightly. She just wants to get home. She outlines a vague plan in her head to go to bed early as she walks.

"I have so much homework," she complains, stretching her arms behind her head. "I hate this time of year."

"Mm," is all Yoriko says, looking distant.

"Fuck, that paper is due next week, isn't it?" Touka sighs. "I'm really behind ... What about you?"

"Yeah, me too."

Touka peers at her. Yoriko is looking at her hands, winding her fingers together over and over again. "Hey, what's with you?" she prods, giving Yoriko a concerned smile. "You seem really beat."

"Yeah ..." Yoriko says, glancing quickly up at Touka, and then looking away again, shifting on her feet. "Actually, Touka, I, uh –” She takes a deep breath, clearly trying to lighten her tone of voice, but failing. "I need to talk to you. Just for a bit."

"You can talk to me any time," Touka says, shrugging. "But okay. What?"

"... Not here," Yoriko says, and Touka gets the first inkling. "Walk with me a moment?" Her face is pleading.

They've almost reached the point where their routes home split from each other, and at the fork Yoriko pulls Touka aside. They make their way under the shade of a tree behind a small building, a place where no one from the street could conceivably pass by.

Touka stops. She eyes Yoriko warily, noting the way she bites her bottom lip. “What's up?” she asks, when Yoriko doesn't speak.

Yoriko tugs at a strand of her hair, a nervous habit Touka has always found endearing. She doesn't speak. She reaches out, halfway, maybe to touch Touka's shoulder, but then appears to think better of it. “Touka ...” she says.

“What is it?” Touka asks with a nervous laugh. “God, Yoriko, if you keep this up any longer it'll start feeling like a love confession.”

She expects this comment to relieve the tension, for Yoriko to laugh — but Yoriko just swallows, sets her shoulders, and raises her face to Touka's.

“That's because it is.”

Touka feels like the breath has been knocked out of her. Take it back, her mind insists, take it back!

Yoriko doesn't take it back. She takes a deep breath, and holds Touka's eyes. “You're really important to me,” she says. “You know that. And I ... I really, really like you. I know it's too much to hope for, that you'd feel the same, but ...”

Touka still can't breathe. She stands there frozen, staring, mind racing – this changes everything, she hadn't counted on this, hadn't even considered what would happen if Yoriko returned her feelings –

Yoriko has stepped closer, staring searchingly into Touka's eyes. Touka ... All of a sudden, Touka wants to kiss her. She aches to, needs to, all her feelings for Yoriko rising up with her tantalizing closeness and gripping her with violent desire — and maybe some of that gets through despite her resolve to keep her feelings from Yoriko no matter what, because Yoriko makes a tiny movement forward and they're so close Touka can feel Yoriko's breath on her lips and her fists clench and later she'll never know, truly, if she would have let Yoriko kiss her in that moment, whether she would have kissed back –

But Yoriko must see something else, too, in Touka's eyes, because she lowers her own. "I'm sorry," she says. Her shoulders hunch and her hand comes across her chest to grip her other arm above the elbow in a small, sad gesture. “I thought this would happen,” she says. "You don't ... feel like that. I'm sorry for bringing it up. I don't want things to be weird now, but –”

She backs away, raising her hands to cover her face. And Touka can only stand there, dumbstruck, her words caught in her mouth – wanting to tell her, knowing she can't. "Yoriko –” she blurts, as Yoriko crosses the edge of the shade of the tree. "Yoriko, I still – I still want to be friends with you!"

It’s all she can say.

And then the pain breaks out, clear pain on Yoriko's face, just as she smiles. "I'm glad," she says. She turns away, but looks over her shoulder at Touka. "I'm glad," she repeats, and begins to walk away, slowly at first, and then she breaks into a run.

She hadn't sounded glad in the slightest.



 

 

Later that night, Kaneki calls. Touka hasn't gotten anywhere with her homework, and the ringing of the phone is a welcome distraction. Kaneki sounds messed up, something Touka finds strangely comforting. Even if she feels like shit, at least she isn't alone. She meets Kaneki at Itori's and makes all sorts of bad decisions and for a while, she feels better, and then she doesn't feel anything at all.