Coming off of finishing the third novel, I wouldn't rest until I could write something for Sayaka and Haru. I started off writing Yagakimi fics with Yuu/Touko, then progressed into denial with Touko/Sayaka, but now I can very happily be disillusioned and write Sayaka with Haru, who will make her happy for the rest of her life, as she deserves.

The final novel was wonderful, and I was so relieved to finally see her get rewarded for all the pain she had to endure, but I'd be lying if I said it satisfied me 100%. I know Japan isn't a very physically-affectionate culture, but gosh darn it I need Sayaka to be cuddled, so here I am. I hope you agree with me.

I didn't want to write first-person, but shy of that I tried to mimic the novel style as best as possible.

Disclaimer: I do not own Yagate Kimi ni Naru.


Running Through Spring

Ever since she had become a second-year in college, Saeki Sayaka has come to the realization that she's been doing a lot more running.

Rather, it was less due to the fact that she was attending university now, and more so because she'd met a certain someone. A person who was always charging forward, oftentimes without looking first to consider her surroundings, but rather than being reckless about it, it was more endearing than anything.

Sayaka can't deny that some of that energy has likely rubbed off on her over the past several months, and she doesn't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Although, the running has begun to require a bit of effort now that the weather's getting colder.

What had gotten her started running today had been a text conversation with Haru:

Sayaka-senpai, I haven't seen you at all since yesterday! Can we meet up right now?

That's fine. I'm in the Students' Center.

Ah. Don't you think it'd be a bit more romantic if we met up at our usual spot?

That's outside. And isn't it a bit cold?

Is it?

It's November, so yes.

I don't think it's that cold. But that's fine, then I'll come to you!

Sayaka pauses before her next reply. It always seems to be that way, with Haru running to come to her. Though it does suit her personality more to be the one running, it still seems a bit unfair.

Idly, Sayaka raises her head to the window she'd sat beside. It's an overcast day, with grey sky and dim sunlight. She'd finished her final lecture for the afternoon and had gotten here about twenty minutes ago. She still very much recalls the chill of the wind outside today and makes a mental note that from now on she really needs to start wearing a jacket to campus.

She can't say for sure what it is that causes the spark of inspiration to ignite within her chest, but that's also probably got something to do with the fact that she'd met Edamoto Haru.

On second thought, I'll come to you. Please wait for me at the usual spot.

As she stands and gathers her bag, she receives a response.

What? Are you sure? It's totally fine, I can run all the way there! I don't mind!

It's fine. I could use some air. I'll see you soon.

She slips her phone into her bag and adjusts her cardigan to cover as much of her collar as possible before heading for the doors. A blast of chilled, dry air greets her, and she winces. She still fails to fathom how some people prefer this kind of biting weather.

Though I suppose it's got its own charm as opposed to a sweltering summer.

As the temperature seeps straight through her clothes and into her skin, she shudders, and her breath comes out faintly white.

She starts off at a brisk walk, with the stride of someone trying to get to a lecture on time. But as she traverses the paths of the campus she gradually starts to quicken her pace until her hair begins to bounce at her back. With the colder weather, she'd let it free from the new ponytail style she'd adopted, just so it could help keep her neck warm.

At a walk, it would have taken her about five minutes to reach the bench behind the building where Haru is waiting for her, but Sayaka soon increases her pace to a light jog. She's been doing this sort of thing more and more often recently thanks to her girlfriend, either to meet her sooner or to keep pace with her. But this is the first time she's done it in such cold weather.

The harsh air stings through her nose, scrapes at the back of her tongue, and makes her throat constrict a little.

She'd heard there was such a thing as a runner's high, a rush of adrenaline one would experience after already jogging for a substantial amount of time.

She doesn't think she'll ever reach a point where she'll voluntarily run for long enough to experience such a thing.

She'd ran the relay for the sports festival with Koito Yuu back in high school, but she'd never felt a rush of enjoyment then, even when it had been serious, competitive running.

So it seems a bit odd how she's almost enjoying herself now, when the air is so stinging and a cold sweat is already breaking out on her forehead. Back then, the reward for the run had been bragging rights for the Student Council, and maybe seeing a certain person's smile.

But now the reward is a very different smile, and one she's much more excited to see.

She rounds the building, the ends of her skirt brushing repeatedly against her legs as she pushes through a gust of wind. Most other people on campus are heading home now with evening coming, so she quickly realizes she's the only person around. At least until she comes to the bench.

Just like the first time, Haru is standing beside the building, also dressed rather lightly for the season. She always seems to be standing. Sitting and being still doesn't really suit her, after all.

The moment she spots Sayaka she snaps her head up, and a grin spreads across her face.

Sayaka feels the run was definitely worth it. But the air is really bothering her throat now, so she slows herself to a stop, hunching slightly to put her hands on her knees. Haru hurries the rest of the way to meet her.

"Whoa! Senpai, you really ran all the way here!"

Now that she's stopped moving, the physical exertion catches up with her. Sayaka takes in big gulps of dry air, and when she exhales there's much more white mist than there had been earlier.

She can't respond right away, so Haru continues.

"I know you said you needed some air, but I didn't think you meant that much."

It was an attempt at a joke, but with how hard Sayaka is panting now she can't be either amused or offended. Haru fidgets, awkwardly reaching out to put a hand on her shoulder.

"You could've walked normally, Senpai."

The hand on her shoulder is warm. Sayaka finds that each time she inhales, her body seems to rise up closer to that touch.

When she finally straightens out her posture enough to look into Haru's face, she's nearly blinded, even though the sun is covered today.

"You'd said…" She pauses, swallowing a particularly distasteful mouthful of air and saliva. "You would run… so why shouldn't I…?"

Haru blinks, then bursts out laughing. This time, Sayaka has the breath to be offended.

"What's so funny…?"

"Sayaka-senpai, I know I always say you're so grown-up, but you can be really childish too."

"I never said I couldn't be."

"That's true, you didn't!"

Though her skin still feels clammy and feverish beneath her clothes, Sayaka cracks a smile. Haru withdraws her hand, and for a moment Sayaka is disappointed until she watches her open her arms wide.

"Senpai, you must've been freezing to run all the way here in this weather. Come here."

Sayaka frowns and narrows her eyes slightly.

"You were prepared to do the same."

"Right, but you were the one who ended up running this time, so that's rare! You deserve a reward!"

"Are you sure it's a reward for me? Are you sure you don't just want a hug because you haven't seen me all day?"

"Okay, it's both!"

When Haru confesses that so easily, Sayaka laughs lightly.

"Very well."

After all, of course she'd missed Haru today, too.

For once, she doesn't even pause to check if there's anyone else around before she moves close to her. Firstly, she's confident they're alone here, as they often always are. And secondly, she truthfully doesn't care much at the moment if anyone were to see them.

For her conscientiousness to have sunk so far down, she understands she's really rather exhausted from that sprint.

The moment Haru's arms are around her, Sayaka has to hold back a whimper; she knows if she'd let it slip, she'd never hear the end of it. She lays her arms over Haru's shoulders, letting their weight rest against her. In turn, Haru folds her arms around her sides, pressing them firmly across her back.

By now, Sayaka has mostly caught her breath, but she tries her best not to be panting so frantically with her so close. If she'd walked here, she would've gotten used to the chilled air and been able to bear it just fine. But since she'd ran, gotten heated up, and now has come to a stop again, her body temperature is fluctuating and frazzled. She can't help but embrace Haru a little tighter, seeking more warmth as she softly heaves a few more breaths.

"Wow," Haru mutters. "Your heart's kind of pounding, Sayaka-senpai. Are you okay?"

Sayaka makes sure the last breath she heaves out loud is a sigh.

"You don't have to say things like that, you know…"

"Why? Is it embarrassing? Even though we've become so much closer and done all sorts of things-?"

"Like I'm telling you, please stop disclosing such personal information in public."

"But we're the only ones here! Ah, did your heart just skip a beat? It kinda feels like it's going faster now. Ow-!"

Sayaka lightly steps on Haru's shoe.

"You've got some nerve."

"Sorry! I'll stop running my mouth."

"Honestly, what am I to do with you…?"

Silence ensues for a moment as they focus on the contact and the warmth. Sayaka had never been one for such intimate and long-lasting instances of physical touch, but that's another thing that's changed since she'd met Edamoto Haru.

And she'd realized a few months ago that the bit of height she'd had on Haru had mostly disappeared. It's still something that hurts her pride just a little, but now that she's come to accept it, it really isn't so bad.

Haru hums and sighs happily over her shoulder.

"I really haven't seen you all day… This is kind of bad. I think I'm getting to the point where I can't live without you, Senpai."

"That would be inconvenient. Please find a way to bear with it, especially if it's only for a day."

"Ehh? Does that mean you didn't miss me?"

"I didn't say that."

"Sayaka-senpai, you're kind of a tease sometimes, you know."

"Isn't that fine if it's with my own girlfriend?"

She exacts her revenge subtly, slipping the word into the conversation without warning. Haru squeaks in delight.

"Honestly," Sayaka purrs. "We've been this way for over half a year now and you're still getting embarrassed by that word?"

"A-Aren't you? No fair, Senpai."

Sayaka bursts into laughter. With this, she's satisfied with her revenge.

They ease apart from the embrace, sliding their hands down one another's arms until they can entwine their fingers together. Haru is still blushing slightly, but the moment Sayaka leans toward her lips, she responds instantly.

Even though she'd just teased Haru seconds earlier about still getting flustered at the word 'girlfriend,' Sayaka herself still feels a trill of mirth when they kiss, as if it were the first.

When they've finished, Haru's face is pleasantly pink, and Sayaka feels a similar warmth in her own cheeks.

"So…" Haru begins. "I know it was only for a day, but did you miss me too, Sayaka-senpai?"

"That's a secret."

"Eh? No fair…"

With all of that now settled, Sayaka is struck with a realization.

"Haru."

"Yes?"

"Since it's the end of the day, couldn't we have just met at the gate?"

"Huh? Oh yeah, I guess so… I didn't think about that."

"Clearly."

"I just figured here would hold more meaning and stuff."

"I suppose you're not wrong. But goodness…"

"I'm really sorry for making you run all the way here!" Haru clasps her hands together. "Lemme make it up to you! Come to my place for dinner!"

"I think I'll take you up on that."

"All right!" Rather than playing the repenting kouhai, Haru immediately switches to the excited girlfriend. Sayaka lets it slide.

Being they're some of the last ones on campus now and there's no one else in sight, they take each other's hands as they begin to follow the path around the building.

Sayaka isn't sure if Haru is being mindful of her longer stride to compensate for hers, or if she herself has naturally increased her stride over time to be able to walk beside her. But either way, they both remain side-by-side.

With so few trees on campus, the winds cut over the buildings and swirl down into the walkways below. Sayaka can't help but shiver. Haru must notice, because she casts her a curious glance.

"Sayaka-senpai, are you not good with the cold?"

"I'm not particularly bothered by it," she replies. "At least, not any more than I'm bothered by the heat. But if I had to choose autumn or spring, it would be spring."

"Oh? Is that because of my name?"

"Because it's warmer."

"Haha, I get it. So you'd prefer the heat if you had to choose."

"Wouldn't most people?"

"I guess so."

"And what would you choose?" Sayaka asks her seriously. Based on the fact that Haru's in only a loose t-shirt, shorts, and leggings on such a day, she wonders if she'll have a different answer.

Haru ponders for a moment as they continue along the path.

"Hmm, I think I like both the same for the most part. I like running in the cold because you don't get as hot right away."

"When did we start talking about running again?"

"That just naturally came to my mind."

"Of course."

It was no surprise, really.

They reach the gates before long, then begin the short continuation of the walk to Haru's apartment. Sayaka tries to fend off the shivers, but inevitably another one gets to her. Haru steps in a little closer and presses up to her side.

"Sayaka-senpai, you should probably wear a coat from now on."

"I don't want to hear that coming from you."

"Eh? But I'm not cold."

"You really have no respect for your elders, do you?"

"Whaaat? No, I totally do!"

By the time they make it to the building, Sayaka has become just a little breathless again, which she once again blames on the temperature.

She follows Haru inside and excuses herself, grateful for the four walls to block the wind. Haru lets go of her hand as they begin removing their shoes.

"I left the heat off when I wasn't here. I'll go turn it on now. Make yourself comfortable, as always."

"Thank you for having me."

As Haru goes to turn on the heat, Sayaka proceeds into her room out of habit. She puts her bag down and kneels on her usual floor cushion at the table.

"I take it you'd like some tea?" Haru calls in.

"Please don't mind me."

"Just get cozy. I'll warm you up in a jiffy!"

"You mean the tea will, right?"

As she waits, Sayaka pulls out her planner from her bag and looks over her schedule. Today is Friday, and she has no assignments for the weekend. Haru peeks her head around the corner from the kitchen.

"What's up? Do you have somewhere to be tonight?"

"No. Just the opposite, in fact."

"Then you should stay over!"

"Didn't I just do that last weekend?"

"So? If you can, I wish you'd do it every weekend. Or every night."

"That might be a bit excessive. At that point, wouldn't we just be living together?"

"That's the goal."

"My, you really are quite brazen."

"Tea's ready!"

Haru walks in a moment later with two steaming cups and places them both on the table. Sayaka dips her head as she picks hers up with both hands.

The instant contact of the heat fills her palms and fingers, then travels halfway up her arms to her elbows. She takes a few sips, enjoying the sensation of the liquid warming up her throat and stomach. It spreads through her chest like gradually-expanding sunshine.

"Warming up?" Haru asks with a grin.

"Yes. What about you?"

"Like I said, I wasn't really cold to begin with."

"Then why did you make tea for yourself?"

"So you wouldn't feel lonely."

Sayaka's brow twitches.

"If you think I feel flattered, then you're wrong."

"Aww."

They drink for a moment as the heat begins kicking in. But even then, Sayaka still feels prickles on her skin. She smoothes out her skirt and cardigan, trying to generate a bit of heat with her hands. Haru watches her curiously.

"Are you still cold? Should I get you a blanket?"

"Please don't patronize me."

"But I don't want you to be cold."

"I'll be fine."

But as Sayaka has come to know very well over these past several months, once Haru has her focus on something, she won't let go. Putting down her cup, she crawls over to Sayaka's side of the table. Sayaka blinks.

"Haru?"

Haru picks up one of her hands and hums.

"Just like I thought. Your hands are still pretty cold, Sayaka-senpai. Even though we're inside now and you just had tea. Do you have a naturally lower body temperature or something? Or are you just sensitive to the cold?"

"Like I've said, I don't think either of those things are true. Isn't it just that your natural body temperature is higher, so I feel colder to you?"

"Maybe…" Haru seems to think seriously about it for a moment, putting on a pensive expression that draws up a chuckle from Sayaka's chest.

"I'm fine, Haru. Really."

"Okay." Haru lets go of her hand, then moves to sit herself up on the bed. She sidles back all the way until her back is leaning against the wall and her legs are stretched out horizontally across the mattress. Sayaka tilts her head, but receives an invitation a moment later.

"Come join me, Sayaka-senpai."

Five, four, or even three months earlier, Sayaka would have resisted. But at this point there's really no reason to.

She vacates her cushion and moves up onto the bed until she feels the press of the wall against her back. Haru lifts her arm, but Sayaka doesn't move closer to her just yet.

"I feel like sometimes you forget you're the kouhai here."

"But you're the one who's cold."

Sayaka nearly lashes out to pinch her cheek this time. Haru must see the intent in her eyes because she grimaces.

"Sorry. Uh, then if you'd rather not-"

"I didn't say that." Sayaka heaves another sigh. "I just wish you didn't beat me to it so often."

"But you do senpai-like things for me all the time! It's fine to switch every once in a while, right?"

"I suppose there's no harm in it…"

"Right? And besides, if you do this, it'll make me super happy anyway."

"Oh? Then perhaps I should move back to the floor."

"What? No, please don't!"

Once Sayaka has healed a bit of her pride by gently bullying her girlfriend, she concedes to the partial embrace. Resting her head on Haru's shoulder, she folds her hands in her lap and leans against her. Haru lays her arm across her shoulders and back. Sayaka feels her weaving her fingers up and down through her hair.

"You even kept your hair down today," Haru notes. "It's grown back a little bit, I think. I haven't seen it down for a while."

"I wore it down last weekend," Sayaka reminds her. "I always wear it down when I sleep."

"Well, yeah! I mean I know you keep it down when you're here sometimes. But I meant you haven't worn it down in public for a while."

"That's because I often feel the need to start running," Sayaka murmurs. "Keeping it in a ponytail is more convenient for that. As I'm sure you're aware." She closes her eyes for a moment, trying to focus on her sense of touch to recognize the warmth slowly flowing into her body. Haru leans her head sideways, brushing it against hers. She's quiet for a minute too, but only for a minute.

"Hey, Sayaka-senpai?"

"Yes?"

"Do you like stuff like this?"

"Stuff like what?"

Haru wiggles a little bit, moving her hand slowly up her arm.

"Stuff like cuddling. Physical stuff."

Sayaka hums. She already knows her answer to that question, but she's curious about her girlfriend's interpretation.

"What do you think?"

"Me? Uh…" Haru takes a moment to think it over seriously. "I dunno. When I first met you, I got the sense you weren't really into that kinda stuff. Like, you weren't the type for physical affection."

"Oh? And what do you think now?"

She hears Haru chewing on her lip a little.

"I mean, we've been together for a while now. I think eight months."

"And sixteen days."

"Right. And in that time, we've only done stuff like this every now and then."

"And why do you think that is?"

"I guess because I wasn't sure how you felt about doing it. I didn't wanna be too clingy or push you if it made you uncomfortable."

"That's very considerate of you. And how do you feel about physical affection?"

"Me? I love it. Especially if it's with someone as pretty as you."

"So then just any pretty girl would suffice?"

"No, wait, that came out wrong. I only wanna do this kind of stuff with you, Sayaka-senpai."

"I'm glad to hear it. It's the same for me."

"Eh? So then, do you like this kind of stuff after all?"

"Haru."

"Yeah?"

"Have you noticed the position we've been in for the past several minutes?"

"Um…"

"If I didn't doing enjoy this sort of thing with you, do you think I would still be here right now?"

Haru doesn't respond right away. Her fingers start playing nervously through Sayaka's hair.

"S-So can you give me a straight answer, Senpai? Do you like it or not?"

Sayaka supposes she's teased her enough. She doesn't want to be too cruel to her kouhai, after all. She straightens herself up a bit, lifting her head from Haru's shoulder to kiss her cheek.

"I like it."

"Oh…" Haru exhales thinly, and her lips break out into a childish smile. "That's a relief."

"Honestly. We've slept in the same bed several times now, haven't we?"

"Well yeah, and I was freaking out every time. But I thought that was just because I don't have a floor futon."

"If I didn't like you or the physical affection, I simply wouldn't have stayed over in the first place."

"So you do like it, then."

"That's what I've been saying this entire time, yes."

"Okay." Haru exhales slowly. Sayaka fears perhaps she had been a bit too cruel with the teasing this time around, because Haru starts to slouch her posture. Taking up her responsibility as the senpai, Sayaka straightens up and pulls her in instead now, letting Haru rest against her shoulder. Haru encircles her arms around her waist in a loose hug.

"It's great that you like it."

"Why, pray tell, did you assume I wouldn't? Simply because I don't look the type?"

"Well yeah, kind of. Like I thought maybe you were too good for it-"

"Too arrogant, am I?"

"No, sorry, that came out wrong again. What I meant was, like… I thought maybe you didn't need that sort of thing as much? Like you'd rather express affection with just words or letters or-"

"Letters?" Sayaka shakes her head. "Goodness, just how old-fashioned do you take me for? I am living in the same era as you are, you know."

"Right. Yeah."

Sayaka leans her head back against the wall, then gradually rests her cheek on top of Haru's head.

"Jokes aside, I do appreciate that you tried to consider my preferences. But you assumed them from the start, and you assumed wrong."

"So… if I'd asked sooner, could we have done stuff like this months ago?"

"I don't see why not."

"Aw man… I should've asked!"

"Better late than never. Though I can't blame you for making that assumption about me. I suppose I do give off those kinds of vibes."

"How come?"

"It isn't that I dislike physical affection. Rather, I've never really had any rhyme or reason to engage in it until now."

"Really? Even though you've been in relationships before?"

"I believe I've mentioned how none of those bore any fruit. We never got to the point of visiting each other's houses or sitting in bed together."

"So then…" Haru hugs her a little tighter around her stomach. "Does that mean I'm the first person who's ever gotten to cuddle you, Sayaka-senpai?"

"I suppose you are."

"All right. That's a victory."

"Is it, now?"

"Absolutely." Haru sits herself up again now with a determined look in her eyes. "Sayaka-senpai, do you know what kind of positions you like best?"

"Positions?"

"For cuddling and stuff…"

Sayaka ponders the odd question, letting it drift around in her mind.

"I don't think I've ever considered anything like that before. When I sleep over, we just sleep on our sides together, yes?"

"Well yeah, but there are so many other positions."

"Really now…" She wonders if Yuu and Touko have ever tried such things, or Manaka and Midori.

Rather, now that I think about it, all of them probably have…

Haru is still waiting for an answer. Sayaka shakes her head.

"Then... I suppose I'm not very well-versed in that department."

Haru's eyes light up.

"Then- should we try some out?"

"Pardon?"

"I mean, since you said you're not opposed to stuff like this, right? And since it's kind of cold. I just figured I'd give it a shot and see what you thought about it…"

"So then I take it that means you've been wanting to try this sort of thing with me for some time now."

"Y-Yeah…"

"How long, pray tell?"

"Uh… since I first saw you?"

"Were you really that smitten?"

"Kinda…"

Sayaka shakes her head, presenting her with a hopeless smile.

"Then I suppose I've kept you waiting long enough. Why don't we try a few?"

It's almost surprising Haru doesn't sprout two perked-up ears and a rapidly-wagging tail.

"Really?!"

"Really."

Haru's mouth hangs open in shock, and it's like an ocean of thoughts and emotions starts swirling around in her eyes. Sayaka holds up a hand to pacify her a bit.

"Now, now, please go easy on me. I am a first-timer, after all."

"Y-Yeah, of course! Um…" Haru looks around the bed as if she's searching for something, then looks back to her. "So then we'll just try the most common things I guess."

"That sounds fair."

Sayaka waits patiently. Normally, she would insist on trying to be the one to take the lead for things because of her age. But her cruel side is really getting the better of her today, because it's just too amusing to watch Haru flounder to try and figure herself out in this situation.

Haru is quiet for a moment, first running a hand through her bangs and then fiddling with her ponytail, then reaching for Sayaka's hand.

"Okay. S-So maybe you should start by lying down."

"All right. How so?"

"Um… on your side?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?"

"I-I'm not sure…"

Sayaka chuckles, returning the grip on her hand as she slowly leans back onto her elbows. She tugs Haru forward and down with her, slowly settling onto her side. Haru follows a beat later. When she rests her head on the pillow in front of Sayaka, her face is flushed pink. Sayaka reaches out to card fingers through her bangs.

"Haven't we done this a dozen times before?"

"Well, yeah… but we'd just be sleeping then. Plus, it was always dark so I couldn't see you so clearly…"

"Is seeing me clearly troublesome now?"

"Well, kind of. You're so beautiful, Senpai."

Sayaka had set herself up for that one. No matter how many times Haru tells her something so honestly like that - even if she sees it coming a mille away - she still can't handle it without feeling a flutter in her heart. She tries not to let it show, though; right now, she's enjoying Haru being flustered, not the other way around.

"And you're quite pretty too, Haru." Sayaka takes both of her hands, pulling them in against her chest. She bows her head and closes her eyes, pressing her lips softly to the backs of her girlfriend's hands. Haru makes a sound she can't quite describe, and her grip on Sayaka's fingers tightens.

"On second thought, please turn the other way, Sayaka-senpai."

"Why? Are you too shy to let me see your blush?"

"No! Not just that."

'Just'? Sayaka muses to herself, but keeps quiet.

Haru continues.

"But when it comes to this kind of thing, I'm the senpai, aren't I?"

Sayaka raises her head again, putting her eyes level with Haru's on the pillow.

"You mean to say you have more experience than me."

"That's right. At least I've cuddled before, but you haven't. So I'm the senpai."

"That's a rather bold statement. But I suppose you're right."

"See?" Haru smirks a tiny bit. "So please turn around and face the other way, Senpai."

Sayaka pouts slightly.

"Why don't you?"

"Because for what I want to do, you need to be facing away from me, not the other way around."

"To be pushed around by my kouhai…" Feigning distress, Sayaka does as instructed and slowly rolls over to face away from her. She waits for a moment, feeling the shift in weight behind her as Haru starts to move into whatever position this is supposed to be.

Before long, Sayaka feels two arms curling around her - one sliding underneath her and the other slipping across her upturned side. Both of Haru's hands meet loosely at the center of her stomach, settling just below her ribs. Haru presses softly against her back, nuzzling the nape of her neck through her hair.

Sayaka remains a bit rigid to start, unsure of what exactly she's expected to do in this situation. Haru lets out a small hum behind her.

"Sayaka-senpai, is this uncomfortable for you? Like, am I crushing your ribs or anything? Can you breathe okay?"

"My ribs are fine," she replies. "I'm just… not sure what you'd like me to do."

"Do? You don't have to do anything! We're cuddling, Senpai, so just relax. U-Unless you don't like it?"

"It's perfectly fine," she says. "So I don't need to do anything?"

"Nope. Just relax. I'm the one spooning you."

"Spooning?"

"Yeah! You've never heard of spooning, Senpai?"

"I suppose the pose is somewhat familiar, but I don't think I've ever heard a name to it."

"Well now you know, thanks to your sensei."

"Odd how you somehow go from 'senpai' to 'sensei' so quickly."

"Haha." Haru's hold around her waist tightens a little, making for a snug embrace. Sayaka exhales slowly, trying to let her body adjust to the new sensation of being touched like this.

Cuddling. It's something she's never really done before, not even with Haru. When she'd sleep over in this very same bed with her, they'd often just curl up while holding hands and that would be the extent of it.

But she's glad they've decided to try things like this today.

Though it feels a bit strange at first, she finds her body is naturally getting used to Haru's touch with little effort. She feels Haru nuzzling her neck and shoulder, and the warmth of her naturally-higher body heat is beginning to spread across Sayaka's back.

Sayaka stares across the room from this angle, eventually closing her eyes. She isn't sure what to do with her own hands, so she places them over Haru's. Taking it as an invitation to go a bit farther, Haru squeezes her a little tighter and inches a little closer.

"Senpai… you smell so nice."

"Thank you. Haru?"

"Yeah?"

"Now it's getting a little difficult to breathe."

"Huh? Oh! I'm sorry! I got a bit carried away." Haru loosens her hold a little. "I just love you so much, Sayaka-senpai."

Sayaka had been more aware of her pulse now in knowing Haru could probably feel it as well, and now it skips a beat before bouncing around a bit more quickly.

"You're still able to say that sort of thing so effortlessly…"

"But I mean it."

"I know you do. Thank you."

"You don't have to thank me."

Silence blankets them, until the only sounds are of the heater finally kicking in, and their own breathing. Sayaka keeps her eyes closed, trying to focus on the feeling of Haru's body against hers. In other instances where they've touched each other, it's typically in public or only briefly with hugs or kisses. But this is the first time she's been so physically close to her for an extended period of time.

She's really quite soft.

Behind her, she can hear Haru making little hums and other noises. Occasionally, her hands shift on Sayaka's stomach, which always sends a tingle through her. Opening her eyes, Sayaka tilts her head back over her shoulder a bit.

"Someone seems to be having fun back there."

"Seriously, this might be the happiest I've ever been, Sayaka-senpai."

"Good for you. How's your arm? I'm not crushing it, am I?"

Haru shakes her head.

"It's fine. Even if it is being crushed, then there's no other way I'd want it to happen."

"So I am crushing it."

"That's the sacrifice for the big spoon."

"The what?"

"The big spoon. That's what you call the person doing the spooning."

"And what would that make me?"

"You're the little spoon, Senpai."

Sayaka huffs.

"Even though I'm older… And taller." She tries not to recall that Haru had gained most of that height on her recently.

"But you're the inexperienced one when it comes to cuddling," Haru reminds her. "So it's fine if you start out as the little spoon."

"Even so, I think I've learned all there is to learn about this position."

"Aw, you don't like it?"

"I didn't say that. But I think it's time we switch."

"Switch? So you wanna-"

"Even if your height can still change, your age can't," she declares. "By all rights, I should be the big spoon."

Haru chortles, then bursts out laughing behind her. Sayaka rolls back a little, purposefully crushing her arm a little more against the mattress.

"And just what is so funny this time?"

"Sorry! I just never thought I'd hear anyone say the words 'big spoon' so seriously."

Chagrined as such, Sayaka waits for Haru to release her and flip onto her other side to face away from her. Sayaka turns over more slowly, pausing when she's faced with Haru's back. With her eyes, she traces over the rise of her figure from her hip to her shoulder, then travels down the back of her neck to the cute ponytail.

Only now when she's faced with actually doing what she'd said she would do does she hesitate. She's never done anything like this before. She'd only just been on the receiving end, but to be the one initiating now is a bit harrowing.

Is there a wrong way to do this? If she laughs at me I'll never live it down.

She simply tries to mimic what Haru had done to her, starting off by sliding closer to her. When she does finally dare to reach out, she touches Haru's back perhaps a bit too softly, because she doesn't miss the jolt that runs through her and the squeak she makes.

"Senpai, you're killing me."

"That's too bad. Please try to survive until I've finished."

She slips one arm beneath Haru and rests the other on top of her side, then moves herself forward into the embrace. Haru wiggles with delight as Sayaka pulls her in.

Immediately, Haru's scent floods her senses, and she can't help but be drawn right to it at the back of her neck. Haru slides herself back, closing the bit of distance Sayaka had hesitantly left between them.

"The whole point of cuddling," she says. "Is to get close to each other. So don't be shy, Senpai!"

"I wasn't…"

Muttering as much, Sayaka closes her eyes as she presses her face into Haru's hair. She's already starting to feel the prickle of discomfort as her arm is softly crushed by Haru's weight, but it's a refreshing kind of pressure in the sense that it allows her to recognize the reality of the moment.

She circles her arms around Haru's stomach, and she's able to feel her breathing. Haru lies her hands over hers and inches back further against her chest. Sayaka hugs her a little more, finding a bit more confidence.

"Haru? Are you comfortable?"

Haru doesn't respond right away. She does some more wiggling and makes a few more noises first.

"Sayaka-senpai, I've never been more comfortable in my entire life. This is the best."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"How's your arm? Am I crushing you now?"

"A bit. But I don't mind."

"Okay. But when it really becomes unbearable, just tell me and I'll move."

If that's the case, then I won't ever mention it.

With the awkwardness fading, Sayaka hugs her closer, finding a more comfortable way to rest her head on the pillow.

"Sayaka-senpai," Haru murmurs. "I can feel your heartbeat. And you're so warm."

"I think that's just your own body heat. You've got so much of it that it's spread to me and gone back to you."

"You think so?"

"I think you've got plenty to go around."

"Are you warm enough too?"

"Yes. I'm perfectly fine."

"That's good." Haru cups her hands over the back of Sayaka's, rubbing gently. "So what do you think you like more? Being hugged or doing the hugging?"

"Hmm…" Sayaka considers the question seriously. "I think each has its own charm, wouldn't you agree? Do you have a preference, Haru?"

"I think I agree; I love both! Never in a million years did I think I'd get to be hugged by such a beautiful senpai. And I also never thought I'd get to hug such a beautiful senpai, either."

"You're really not filtering anything today, are you?"

Haru chuckles, then begins to roll over. Sayaka loosens her hold to let her move. Haru turns to face her again and hugs her like before, only now she nestles against her collar instead of her back.

"But if I really had to choose," she mumbles. "I think I'd say I like hugging you best, Sayaka-senpai."

Sayaka slowly folds her arms around Haru's shoulders, passing her fingers through her ponytail.

"Really? Is there any particular reason why?"

"Hmm…" Haru tucks herself beneath Sayaka's chin, resting against the soft pulse in her neck. "Okay, please don't get mad at me for saying this."

"Oh? Then I'll try to react accordingly."

"Right, so…" Haru thinks over what she wants to say first, so Sayaka can tell it must be important if she isn't just saying what's on her mind right away. Sayaka waits patiently, encircling Haru's back and shoulders and moving her fingers slowly. Haru finally decides to continue.

"Don't take offense or anything… but when I first met you, and even after I got to know you better… I felt like you were the kind of person who always needed a hug, Sayaka-senpai."

Sayaka opens her eyes slowly. That had certainly been a different response than she'd anticipated.

She doesn't know how to reply to that, hence her continued silence. But she presumes that only makes Haru nervous, so she continues babbling.

"I mean… You gave off those sophisticated vibes, and you're a serious student. I never saw you hanging around with big crowds or being buddy-buddy with anyone. I know you have plenty of friends, but I feel like you probably don't get hugs that often, do you? And I dunno, I just thought maybe it'd be nice for you to have some every once in a while."

Sayaka inhales slowly, then lets it out, her breath ruffling Haru's hair.

"I see…"

Haru squeezes her a bit tighter.

"Senpai? Are you mad?"

"Why would I be? You've just told me your honest answer." She blinks, gazing at the wall beside the bed. "I can definitely understand why you made those assumptions about me. I suppose everyone does look to embody a certain 'type' of person in some fashion or another."

"Sorry to have assumed."

"But you weren't necessarily wrong regarding that case." Sayaka closes her eyes again briefly, trying not to let the past memories resurface. "Physical affection was never a major aspect of my life. Not with my family, my friends, or the people I was dating. It wasn't really involved in any of my relationships of any kind. But as I've said, I don't mind it at all. I suppose it just needs to be with the right person."

Haru wiggles again.

"And… is that me right now?"

"Right now," Sayaka muses. "Yes, right now it's just you, Haru. I don't plan on making any changes about that, do you?"

"No! No way! Never!"

"Calm down. It was a joke." Sayaka runs her fingers through Haru's hair until she reaches the hair tie, then withdraws before continuing down her ponytail. "But I think I'm a bit thankful no one else has ever done these sorts of things with me before. Truth be told, I don't think any of them would have been any good at hugging."

"Huh?" Haru perks up a bit, bumping her head lightly against the underside of Sayaka's chin. "Does that mean I'm a good hugger?"

"Yours are the only hugs I've got to base my judgment off of," Sayaka clarifies.

"Senpai, that's a little depressing…"

"Hush. Do you want my verdict or not?"

"Yes, please!"

"Very well." Sayaka clears her throat importantly. "Haru."

"Yes?"

"You're a very good hugger. The best I've ever known."

"The only-"

"Don't ruin it."

"Right, sorry." Haru giggles to herself. "Well then, I hope you don't mind if I keep doing this sort of thing, Sayaka-senpai."

Sayaka tries to sound indifferent.

"I suppose I wouldn't mind."

Silence befalls them once more for a brief while. At first, they remain at the distance they'd established, with their upper bodies wrapped in an embrace. But before long, Sayaka feels the gentle prodding of a knee on her own.

At first she fails to understand the message, so Haru acts on her own, slipping her knee between both of Sayaka's. The fabric of the long skirt hinders her a bit, but Haru manages to slip her leg between hers. With this, it allows them to move much closer than before. They press together at their midsections as well as their torsos now.

Haru's warmth really is something else. It blooms across Sayaka's collar as it had before, then branches out its roots across her chest, down to her stomach, and all the way through her.

This really is the feeling of spring.

Thinking as much, she holds a small kiss to Haru's head.

The moments pass by leisurely. Sayaka continues listening to the pattern of Haru's breathing, but with her pressed so close now she has to wonder if her own breathing isn't a bit too loud to her.

"Haru?"

"Hm?"

"I'm not being too loud, am I?"

"What?" Haru eases back a little and looks up into her eyes. "What do you mean?"

Sayaka gets lost for a moment in the earthy brown of her gaze. Her face begins to warm up and she turns her eyes away.

"Never mind. You seemed fine, so I shouldn't have said anything."

But now that she'd gone and mentioned it, of course Haru won't simply let it go. Sayaka can practically feel her curiosity wafting into the atmosphere.

"How did you think you might've been being loud, exactly? You mean your breathing?"

Sayaka heaves a sigh.

"I was just wondering, since you were so close."

Haru grins, then leans in to kiss her cheek.

"You're fine, Senpai. It's actually really nice to listen to you breathe. Sorry if that's weird."

"No… I can understand that."

With this small compromise reached, Haru returns to her previous position cuddled against her neck.

"And it's not just that I can hear you breathe," she says. "But I can actually hear a lot of other stuff too."

Sayaka furrows her brow.

"Like what, pray tell?"

"Well, I can hear your pulse a little bit from here," she reports. "And when you talk I can feel the vibrations it makes in your throat. And even when you swallow-"

"Isn't that a bit much?"

"But it's nice! I like the thought of being the first person ever who gets to be so close to you like this."

Her saying all of those things has only made Sayaka more self-conscious about everything now. She recognizes every time she swallows and has to wonder what kind of sound it makes from Haru's position.

"I'm the first one~" Haru sighs. "I'm really too lucky."

Sayaka feels the soft press of a kiss against her neck. She reciprocates by leaving one in Haru's hair. Slowly, she continues her ministrations, tracing her hands gently across her shoulders.

"I'm happy for you," she mumbles with a bit of a pout.

Haru notices right away. Tentatively, she begins rubbing her hands across Sayaka's back as well.

"What's that? Are you upset about something, Senpai?"

Sayaka tries to think of the best way to word it. She'd never been one to make complaints very often. If she did have something she wasn't satisfied with, she would typically keep it to herself, or in the rare instance she couldn't, she would do everything within her power to make changes. But this will be her first time making a complaint to her girlfriend, regarding romantic matters.

"Well," she begins. "It's just as you've said. You've gotten quite a few of my firsts. But I'm not sure I have any of yours…"

She doesn't dare to say anymore than that. The hands on her back stop moving, and Haru suddenly pushes herself up, eyes wide.

"Sayaka-senpai-" Her mouth hangs open in shock. "Are you… jealous?"

Sayaka gives her an irked look.

"Close your mouth. It's rude."

Haru does as she's told, but it's with a grin.

"As I thought," Sayaka sighs. "I shouldn't have said anything."

"No, I'm glad you did. You're really cute when you're jealous, Sayaka-senpai."

"Are you making fun of me?"'

"Totally not! I mean it!"

Sayaka glares up at her and almost has half a mind to turn away and give Haru her back again. She would've if she wasn't so comfortable. Haru lies back down, hugging her a little tighter as she nuzzles close.

"There's a lot of stuff I've also never done, I swear!"

"I take it you've done this sort of thing before, though?" Sayaka twirls a finger through her ponytail, indicating their positions. Haru fidgets.

"A little. But never like this. I've never enjoyed it more than I'm enjoying it right now. I promise. Cuddling with you is the best."

"I'm flattered."

"Why do I feel like I'm in trouble…"

Sayaka can't even maintain her feigned indifference any longer. She bursts out laughing, folding her arms gingerly around her.

"It's fine. I'm glad I could at least share some of my firsts with you like this."

Haru hugs her again.

"Me, too. But there are still plenty of things I've never done with anyone else before. I really hope I can share them with you, Sayaka-senpai."

"I'm sure you will." Sayaka strokes through her hair once more, letting her hands continue down Haru's back. "Can you think of any we could accomplish right now?"

"Huh? Now? Like cuddling more positions?"

"I suppose."

"Huh… well there are a lot of ones we could do sitting up, but maybe we should save those for if we watch a movie or something." Haru falls silent and goes into deep thought. Her hands knead softly at Sayaka's back, her nails grazing very lightly. A tingle shoots up Sayaka's spine, causing her to chuckle softly. Haru freezes.

"Senpai- are you ticklish?"

"Eh?" That's another thing she'd never really had much rhyme or reason to consider until now. "I suppose I'm just as ticklish as anyone else would be. But I'm not sure it's something I would particularly enjoy."

"Yeah, I could see that…" Haru pulls away again, propping herself up onto her elbows. "But… would it be okay if I tried anyway? I won't overdue it, I swear."

"You want to tickle me…?"

Haru nods. Her face has gone pink.

"I wanna hear you laugh, Senpai. Like, really laugh. I wanna hear you laugh like no one else has ever heard it before. I think it'd be nice if that could be one of our 'firsts.'"

Sayaka considers the request. She's never been tickled before in her life, certainly not on purpose or with obvious intent.

But I suppose that is one thing that's exclusive to people who are very close.

She mulls it over, and Haru waits for her answer. Sayaka already knows how she's going to reply, but she makes her wait just a little bit.

"Very well."

"Huh?" Haru looks like she's nearly about to fall over. "Wait, really? You mean it?"

"We've already come this far, haven't we? I just ask that you please take it easy on me."

"Of course! If I go overboard just kick me or something!"

"I really will kick you."

"That's fine!"

Sayaka has already welcomed her fate, so she stays where she is and waits for Haru to initiate.

Now that she's actually been granted permission to go through with this, Haru hardly knows where to begin. She starts by lying down again and hugging her. Sayaka closes her eyes, then feels Haru moving her hands slowly down her back again.

I wonder if it will be as effective if I know it's coming.

Haru uses her nails again a little, and a similar tingle travels through her. Sayaka lets out a chuckle, and Haru mimics the sound. One of her hands then travels to Sayaka's hip. She runs her fingers up along her side and over her ribs. The ticklish sensation spreads wherever her nails graze, until Sayaka's entire side is prickling with warmth.

Haru keeps her touch light for a few moments, earning only softer breaths from her. But when she starts to move her fingers a bit more, Sayaka feels the effect right away. Her body tenses up, her hands curling into Haru's shirt as she loses some semblance of self-control. Her voice pops out past her lips, bubbly and light.

"Ahaha."

The sound seems to encourage Haru. She moves with a bit more vigor, pressing her nails with more force. Sayaka begins to lose control of her legs as they bend at the knees, tangling with Haru's.

The tingling sensation is lingering across her body now, and she feels the exact moment when her breathing begins to quicken. Her face aches from smiling, and her laughter bubbles up from the top of her chest.

Her impression of tickling had always been that it was a silly, childish antic with no real value in the adult world. She never knew it could be so warm, or make her feel quite so happy and loved.

She hears Haru laughing along with her, her own mirth becoming contagious even to the person who isn't being tickled at all. Haru kisses her cheek and her temple, unable to resist when her girlfriend is so ruffled and blushing.

Sayaka bears it for as long as she can, until she starts to feel she might actually kick her on reflex. At that point, when she tries to speak, she's a little surprised to hear her own voice sounding so feeble.

"Haru…"

Haru hears her loud and clear. She stops immediately, returning her hands and arms into the previous embrace around her sides. Sayaka is both impressed and a little frightened at how breathless she's become without even getting up from the bed.

Tickling sure is something else…

She'll be sure to never forget that.

"Sayaka-senpai…?" She doesn't miss the hint of concern in Haru's voice, and when Sayaka finally opens her eyes again, she understands why. When she blinks, she can feel the faint warmth of tears clinging to her eyelids.

Haru appears directly in front of her, her expression conflicted between being happy and worried.

"Are you okay? Did I go overboard after all? I'm sorry. You were just so pretty. Seeing you get all flustered and hearing you laugh like that- what's the word? Unhinged? I dunno, you're just really beautiful. I'm sorry if I got carried away." She sinks back down as if repenting, running her hands much more slowly up and down Sayaka's back to help her recover.

Sayaka shakes her head.

I wasn't trying to make you apologize.

When she can finally speak again, she eases Haru back just a little bit.

"Haru." She smiles, tilting Haru's chin upward a little. She kisses her, only for a moment, until she has to pull away for breath again. "I've never laughed like that before. It was nice. Thank you."

Haru's eyes light up.

"So that means- I'm the first person to tickle you and hear you laugh like that?"

"Indeed you are."

"Oh man… I'm so happy. B-But for real, are you okay? You were crying. Were they at least tears of joy?"

"They couldn't possibly have been anything else," Sayaka assures her. "I must admit, I'm glad this was a first I was able to share with you and no one else."

Even just imagining being tickled by the girl from elementary school makes her tense up, and thinking about doing it with Yuzuki-senpai makes her stomach churn with nausea. As for Touko, there's no way Sayaka ever would have been able to let down her guard enough for such a thing with her, or vice versa. It's simply not something they ever would have engaged in, even if anything had ever happened between them.

Haru is the only person she ever would have felt comfortable about showing her more vulnerable side to.

That's really what it boils down to in the end. Comfort. She hadn't felt that with any of the others.

It had been confusion in elementary school, then unease in junior high, and finally high school had faced her with a distance she could never overcome.

Comfort had taken her until college to find, but now that she's found it, she's convinced it had been worth waiting for.

As her body recovers from the experience of being tickled for the first time in her life, Haru continues petting through her hair. The moment Sayaka has her breath back, it hitches in a yawn. Haru rubs the small of her back.

"Are you sure you're okay, Senpai?"

"I'm fine. Just getting a little tired now."

"Are you gonna stay over tonight?"

"At this point, I don't see any other feasible option. Sorry for the trouble."

"It's no trouble at all! In fact, please stay."

"Then I'll have to take you up on that."

"I have some soba I'll make for dinner," Haru decides. "And maybe later we can watch a movie and try some of those other cuddling positions if you want."

"We'll see." Sayaka can feel herself beginning to fade. Being so comfortable lying together with her had been one thing, and then there had been the warmth of it all, but the exhaustion of the tickling had really taken it out of her. "Please just remind me later to call my family," she murmurs.

"I will! You wanna take a nap for now?"

"If you wouldn't mind."

"Not at all!"

Sayaka is about to close her eyes when Haru suddenly pulls away. Disappointed, and perhaps even a little upset, Sayaka lifts her head to watch her. But all Haru does is reach down to grab the blankets at the foot of the bed and pull them up over their legs and as far up as their stomachs. With an accomplished little grin, she glances back down at her.

"Don't worry, Senpai, I'm not leaving you."

Sayaka turns her face halfway into the pillow.

"Who said I was worried?"

"You didn't have to say it."

"You're awfully cheeky."

"My bad."

As Haru lies herself back down, Sayaka opens her arms again in preparation to hold her. But instead, Haru rests a hand on her shoulder and gently pushes her onto her back. Haru remains propped up on her elbows for a moment above her, her eyes darting around and not yet settling on her face. Sayaka can read her like a novel.

"Haru? What is it?"

Haru bites her lip a bit.

"Maybe I'm being a bit too selfish…"

"You're the host, and it's your bed. You should be able to be a bit selfish, so long as it's within reason."

Haru nods, her face dusting pink once more.

"So then… could I make one more request?"

"I'm not sure how much more I'll be able to handle right now," Sayaka admits. "But I'll do my best. Go ahead."

Haru's gaze lingers elsewhere for a moment, but then she seems to steel herself and finally meets her eyes directly.

"Sayaka-senpai, can I listen to your heartbeat?"

"…Pardon?"

Haru already seems to be regretting her request. She shakes her head quickly.

"O-On second thought, never mind. That might be a bit too much."

"I never said it was." Though, out of cuddling, tickling, and now this request, this will definitely be the one she's the least familiar with. Haru gives her a hopeful look.

"Then… is it okay? It'll be a first for me. I never got this far with anyone else before. And I'm kinda glad I didn't. I'd much rather share these firsts with you, Sayaka-senpai."

"As I've mentioned, it's the same for me." She offers a small, genuine smile. Haru reflects it.

So Sayaka opens her arms a little, and Haru slowly lowers herself down. She keeps the majority of her weight off to the side, slipping one arm beneath Sayaka's back and draping the other across her waist. But before she goes any further she pauses, hovering with their noses just inches apart.

Sayaka closes her eyes and lifts her chin. Haru leans in, and the kiss is warm.

It lasts a little longer than the ones prior had, and if Sayaka hadn't been so tired she might've encouraged it to continue on a while longer.

But Haru is mindful of her condition and pulls away after a moment, then moves up to kiss her forehead. As she does so, Sayaka kisses her neck, slowly reaching her arms up around her.

When Haru is finished, she moves back down a bit, settling her weight on top of her. She rests her head sideways on Sayaka's chest, right at the center. Sayaka adjusts her hold on her, trailing her hands in gentle circles over her back. Haru lets out a squeak.

"Ah, wow…"

Sayaka glances down at the top of her head.

"Is something the matter?"

Haru shakes her head a bit awkwardly, considering the angle.

"Not at all. Just the opposite." Her arms squeeze a little tighter. "Sayaka-senpai, you're so soft."

"Thank you, I think."

"I mean it. I might need to ask you to sleep over every night from now on. My pillow will never do the trick again now that I've known the softness of Sayaka-senpai."

"You really are making fun of me, aren't you?"

"I'm not. I swear."

Sayaka huffs lightly.

"Well, at least one of us is comfortable."

"Huh? Am I too heavy?"

"Calm down. That was a joke again."

"But for real, are you okay? It isn't stifling or anything? I don't wanna crush you."

"What is your head made out of that it would crush me? You're fine, Haru."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm very sure."

"Okay."

Haru seems to relax a bit more now, and she rests her head fully against Sayaka's collar.

And truth be told, the sudden weight is a bit stifling at first, but Sayaka wouldn't dare admit it to her. Once she's gotten accustomed to it, it becomes more of a favorable pressure. It makes her feel safe, somehow.

Haru is quiet for a moment as Sayaka contents herself with playing with her ponytail and rubbing her shoulders. She'd almost forgotten what the initial goal of this was until Haru speaks up again.

"Sayaka-senpai… your heartbeat is so nice."

"Is it?"

"Yeah. It really is. I love it."

"Really now. Isn't it just the same thing over and over?" She fails to see how that was such a big deal.

But Haru is adamant about her answer.

"It is, but that's the point. That's exactly why it's so beautiful." Though she lifts her chin a little, Sayaka still can't see her face, but the emotion in her voice is real. "Your heartbeat is proof that you're alive right now, Senpai. Even if it's just the same sound over and over again, it's the sound of you being alive. And no one else gets to hear it. Even if other people can see you and talk to you, this is something special in a completely different way. I can't really explain it any more than that."

Sayaka is quiet, absorbing all of her words. She's rarely heard Haru talk so extensively about anything before. But when she considers it now, she can definitely see her point.

"You're right," she agrees. "I suppose it is very special to be able to listen to someone else's heartbeat."

"Especially if I'm the first one ever to do it." Haru presses a bit closer to her chest.

"What a greedy kouhai."

"I totally am."

Sayaka continues running her hands across her back as Haru fidgets a bit more. She keeps moving her head slightly, as if trying to find the best spot to listen to her pulse. When she's finally found it, she listens for a long moment before saying something else.

"I love you, Sayaka-senpai."

The second she says it, Sayaka knows exactly what she'd been after. She feels the flutter in her own pulse, and at the same time Haru squeals.

"Senpai! Your heart skipped a beat! It really did!"

"Haru…"

"I didn't think that was something that actually happened. Wow."

If she wasn't already so tired, Sayaka might've rolled her clean off the bed and called it an accident. But as things are now she just sighs again.

"I'll get you back for this. I hope you're prepared."

"It's beating really fast now."

"Have you no respect for your elders?"

Haru laughs. Sayaka supposes the only small miracle in saving her pride is that Haru can't see the blush on her face, even if she is listening directly to the effect it's having on her heart.

"Oh," Haru murmurs. "But I didn't just say that to hear a reaction. Well, that was only part of the reason. But I really do love you, Sayaka-senpai."

"What kind of a fool do you take me for? Don't you think I know that?"

"Sorry~"

Haru snuggles up to her, and Sayaka believes she might really be able to start on that nap now. But just as she's about to close her eyes, Haru lifts her head and turns it the other way, resting her other ear over her pulse.

"Ahh, it's so nice…"

"I'm glad you're having fun, Edamoto-san."

"Ah, ouch. Senpai, that one hurt."

Sayaka gazes up at the ceiling and finally closes her eyes, letting her hands continue to roam lazily over Haru's back. Haru can't seem to press close enough to her, and she continues humming comments.

"Sayaka-senpai, your heart's slowing down now. It's cute when it's fast, but I think I prefer it this way."

"Why is that?"

"I like it when you're relaxed," she says. "From what you've told me, you've been constantly running around doing work and lessons and things your whole life. You were always on your guard or always thinking about something you had to do, right?"

Sayaka doesn't respond. Haru hugs her tighter.

"I know I'm right. So that's why I like it when you can finally take it easy, Senpai. You deserve it."

That had always been a difficult word for Sayaka. She'd never been in the mindset to believe she 'deserved' much of anything. To be deserving of something meant you had to put in sufficient effort and make sacrifices to earn it.

For all she'd done, in terms of anything and everything, she'd never really thought she'd worked hard enough for anything. She'd quit so many lessons as a child, had always settled for second place as a student, and overall had become a coward just like her grandmother had warned her about. She'd put a lot of effort into a lot of things, but it had never amounted to enough, it seemed.

For her girlfriend to be telling her this now, when she was warm and comfortable in bed, felt like an ambush.

She really has to consciously monitor herself to make sure she doesn't let her breath hiccup. If she starts crying now, Haru will be frantic.

Sayaka draws in several deep breaths, keeping her eyes closed. She struggles with herself for a moment, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to try and behave normally when Haru is at such an intimate proximity and can hear everything going on inside of her. She really does her best.

But in the end, Haru lifts her head, her voice laden with concern.

"Sayaka-senpai?"

Sayaka feels the hand that had previously been lying across her stomach now reaching up to touch her cheek. She opens her eyes slowly, already feeling them water. Haru is looking down at her in the beginning of a panic.

"Senpai? Are you all right? You suddenly started breathing really hard, and your heart was pounding. I thought maybe you fell asleep and started having a nightmare."

Sayaka gives her a tired smile, shaking her head in earnest.

"Nothing of the sort. I'm all right."

"Are you sure? Was I too heavy after all?"

"Not in the least."

She can see Haru is just going to keep fretting, so Sayaka spares her the worry and guides her down for another kiss. Haru accepts with a sigh of relief, curling her arm around Sayaka's head, threading her fingers through her hair. When they part from it, Haru is still a bit worried.

"So you're not hurt?"

Sayaka reaches up to caress her cheek, brushing the backs of her knuckles and nails against her skin.

"Not at all. I'm perfectly fine, Haru. In fact, I don't think I've ever been better."

"You mean it?"

"Yes. Absolutely."

"Thank goodness…" Letting out a long breath, Haru starts to slide off of her. "I'll move over a bit then if we're going to nap."

Sayaka is genuinely a bit disappointed to hear that.

"Are you sure? You were fine where you were."

"Really?"

"Really. You seemed to be enjoying yourself."

Once again, she can envision Haru with fluffy ears and a tail.

"Okay. Then if you're sure…"

"I am." Sayaka opens her arms again and coaxes her down. Haru tries not to be too eager about it and lies herself back down gently. She rests her head over Sayaka's heartbeat once more, hugging her a much as possible.

Sayaka pulls the blankets up over her back before continuing where she'd left off in her ministrations.

Now that she's gotten accustomed to it, she decides she rather likes the feeling of having Haru resting like this with her. While it is a bit embarrassing to know she's listening to everything intimately, it doesn't feel at all like an intrusion.

Rather, Sayaka trusts her. Not like she'd tried to trust others before her. This time, there is no uncertainty or reluctance to let her in.

She trusts Edamoto Haru with her heart.

Sayaka knows she will protect it, shield it, and one day reach it like no one else ever could. She already has, but it's exciting to know there will be even more things she can share with Haru in the future.

Now, she truly feels sleep coming on. With Haru's weight, scent, and warmth all around her, flooding her senses like sunlight, Sayaka closes her eyes. Her hands come to a stop at Haru's back, but she is certain to maintain the embrace at the very least. Haru must feel the change in her condition, because she shifts her head just a little bit higher up onto her chest.

"Senpai?"

"Hm?"

Sayaka feels a light kiss being pressed to her collar.

"Rest well. I'll make us soba later on."

"Please do…"

"Senpai?"

"Hm...?"

"Is it okay… if I keep listening to your heart even after you've fallen asleep?"

"I don't mind."

"Okay."

Sayaka can feel it now, her own heartbeat. It's never something she'd cared to be very aware of before. If anything, it was often a bit irksome, particularly if she was trying to fall asleep and couldn't help but recognize it, or when she was trying to keep her composure externally, but her heart would be a mess inside her.

But for once, it doesn't bother her now. If it's something Haru could love so easily and entirely, Sayaka decides it can't be that bad.

"Sayaka-senpai."

"Hm…?"

"I love you."

She isn't sure if her heart skips again or not, but if it does Haru doesn't tease her about it this time.

"I love you too, Haru."

Sayaka draws in a few more breaths of her comforting scent, savoring the feeling of her body heat for as long as she remains conscious. Haru rubs her hand up and down her side, matching the pace to Sayaka's breathing to help lull her to sleep.

Sayaka had never fallen asleep around anyone else like this before. Even on the Student Council trips back in high school, everyone had always been in separate beds. She'd certainly never had anyone who would pamper her or kiss her, or listen to her heartbeat and tell her they loved her.

So many firsts she'd shared with Edamoto Haru had felt too good to be true.

And yet, she knows she'll wake up sometime later this evening and it will all still be real.

Haru will still be cuddled up against her, dozing.

They'll get up eventually, have soba for dinner, then watch a movie while snuggling up again.

Then they'll lie back down here for the night and fall asleep together, but not without exchanging dozens of more hugs, kisses, and tender words in between.

Until then, Sayaka is more than content to drift off like this now, knowing that her heart is safe, nestled comfortably beneath the warm embrace of spring.


A/N: I hope you enjoyed reading half as much as I enjoyed writing this! I honestly had so much fun. Just knowing Sayaka finally has a canon girlfriend who loves her and calls her beautiful all the time like she deserves makes me so happy TvT

I wanted the title to embody the "spring" of Haru of course, and the "running" concept. Sayaka, who has always been moving at her own pace and often stuck or unable to surpass Touko in particular, has finally gotten the chance to break out into a run. And this time she's got someone holding onto her hand.

Please let me know how I did! I wrote this a few weeks after finishing the novels so I might've missed Haru's personality a bit at some points. And I doubt tickling would ever be something Sayaka allowed, but I simply had to...

And... I sort of want to write more for them, so there may be a chapter 2...?

Please review!