In honor of 1,000 twitter followers, I'm sharing this YachiFumi fic I wrote a few months ago. Never written for this pairing before, but I've just heard around the fandom that it's a big head canon that they used to date when Fumi was at Siegfeld, but then when she left things got ugly. So let's pretend this takes place a while after Fumi left (even if canon/game events have gone past that now).

I've actually never written about this kind of estranged relationship before, so it was a good experience for me.

Disclaimer: I do not own Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight.


What We Had

There are a lot of different ways Yachiyo tends to spend her time on her days off.

When she's not practicing with her fellow Edels in the studio, then she's typically sewing, mending, or designing costumes.

And when she isn't doing any of that, she's usually taking care of everyday chores like laundry and grocery shopping. While those are the more essential things on her list, she always puts them at the bottom, because that's what she enjoys doing the least; mainly because she often has to go alone.

She'd much rather be idly listening to Akira bark orders about the upcoming play, or helping Shiori stretch, or making Michiru an outfit, or lounging on the couch reading about baby boars with Mei Fan.

But today is simply one of those days where she'll have to tear herself away from the other Edels and take care of her chores on her own for a little while.

If she has to be alone, at the very least, Yachiyo feels better when she dresses up a little from time to time. It isn't often she'll bother with much more than just a casual blouse and skirt with a sweatshirt tied around her waist, but every now and then inspiration strikes her.

Today she chooses an off-white cuff-sleeved sweater, a blossom-pink ankle-length skirt, and a pair of white open-toed shoes with a slight heel. Probably a bit overdone for an afternoon of grocery shopping, but she has no other special occasions to look nice for outside of school functions, so she figures she might as well.

After slipping the strap of her small brown purse over her shoulder, Yachiyo exits her bedroom and starts down the hall. Her heels make a bit of a louder sound on the carpet than her uniform shoes do, and it makes her wonder when the last time she'd worn these was.

When was the last time I even dressed up like this…?

Something in the back of her mind seems to tense up, like an animal raising its hackles in warning. Some part of her remembers the answer, but her subconscious is blocking it away for her own good.

Yachiyo quickly shakes her head, fingers gripping the strap of her purse a little tighter as she forces another train of thought into her mind.

Once I get back I'll get started on designing the outfits for our next play. Oh, maybe I should pick up some materials too while I'm out. Probably need some fabric…

Perhaps she's gotten a little too lost in thought, because she isn't fully paying attention as she rounds the corner.

And it's probably because her mind had already been treading on the edge of the dangerous memories, but for a split second as Yachiyo bumps straight into Shiori, it isn't Shiroi she sees.

She sees the same white skin, the same pale blonde hair, the same accents of green clothing and red hair clips, and the name just falls from her lips like the prayer of a madwoman.

"Fumi-san-"

Luckily for her, what she'd said is drowned out by Shiori's yelp of surprise as she staggers backward at the impact. Yachiyo snaps herself out of the slight trance in a second, diving forward to wrap an arm around her waist.

"Shiori! Sorry. Are you okay?"

Shiori slowly opens her eyes again, and once she realizes she's still on her feet, she smiles brightly up at her - and if she'd heard the name Yachiyo had called her initially, there's surely no way she'd be smiling right now, so Yachiyo is at least relieved to know she hadn't heard.

"Yes! I'm sorry too, Yachiyo-senpai. I was spacing out a little."

"It's okay. So was I."

Shiori smoothes out her blouse, still holding onto Yachiyo's wrist out of reflex.

"What about you, Yachiyo-senpai? Are you all right? You look a little…" She trails off, unsure of how to put it.

But even so, Yachiyo feels that she knows exactly what Shiori means, though of course she isn't about to confess she'd been thinking about Shiori's older sister.

"I'm fine, I'm fine~" Yachiyo says dismissively in her usual sing-songy voice. "Sorry again."

"It's all right! Are you going out somewhere?"

"Yeah. Just shopping a little." Yachiyo hesitates on what she says next. "Do you… wanna come with me...?"

Ultimately she offers in the end, mainly because now she knows that since she'd said Fumi's name, her mind won't be able to tear itself free, and she doesn't want to be alone with that. If Shiori comes with her, hopefully they can talk about other things, as Yachiyo knows Shiori will also do her utmost best to try and avoid mentioning her older sister at all.

But to her dismay, Shiori shakes her head.

"Sorry. I'm helping Michiru-senpai and Yukishiro-senpai with something today."

Yachiyo smiles softly, patting a hand on her shoulder.

"That's all right."

Shiori's smile falters a little bit when she meets Yachiyo's eyes again.

"Yachiyo-senpai…? Are you sure you're all right?"

Yachiyo curses to herself; she must be a shoddy actress if she can't even conceal her emotions now.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just have a lot on my mind."

She knows that was a risky thing to say, especially to Shiori, who probably has an inkling about Yachiyo and her sister. But thankfully, even if she does understand, she keeps it to herself.

"Okay. Well then, I hope you find everything you're looking for today, Yachiyo-senpai."

Yachiyo tries not to read into the words; of course Shiori is only talking about food and materials in the store.

"Right. Thanks. See you later, Shiroi."

"See you later, Yachiyo-senpai."

And just for a split second, both of them seem to linger, as if thinking of whether or not to say more. But ultimately they both decide against it and go their separate ways.

As Yachiyo continues down the empty hallway, her stomach begins to toss. Now that Fumi is in her mind she'll never get her out of it for the rest of the day.

The whole truth is that the last time she'd dressed up this much on a weekend for something non-school related had been for another very important reason; the last time she'd dressed up, it had been for a date. With Fumi.

They hadn't told anyone, of course, but the other Edels probably knew to some degree, or had at least suspected it. But the timing of when Yachiyo and Fumi had begun to recognize their feelings had been set in tragedy from the very beginning.

The last time Yachiyo had dressed up like this - the last time she'd gone on a date with Fumi - had been just days before the accident.

She still remembers that Fumi hadn't been the same that day on their date. She'd seemed skittish, as though the upcoming play and the pressure Akira had put on her was constantly weighing on her mind.

Yachiyo had done all she could to help her relax, but no matter what she tried, Fumi's thoughts had seemed to be anywhere else but on her.

As expected, it hadn't been the best date.

Yachiyo still remembers that feeling of helplessness that had drowned her at the end of the night, the feeling of barely keeping her head above the surface as all of Fumi's troubles found their way to her, the burning sting of dejection when she hadn't kissed her goodnight…

And then it had ended.

The accident had occurred a few days later, and before Yachiyo could even get a word in to her, Fumi was gone. She'd withdrawn and transferred to Rinmeikan overnight, as if to get away from Yachiyo and the others as quickly as possible.

They'd all been hurting that night, probably Shiori the most.

But Yachiyo had to bear that pain in secrecy, because Fumi had meant something to her that she hadn't meant to any of the others.

They say that time heals all wounds, and little by little, she came to believe that might be true.

The first week had been hell for all of them, but after a few months the pain had started to numb. It wasn't that anyone was filling in the gap Fumi had left behind, but it was starting to get smaller.

At least, that's how it seemed for everyone else.

But to Yachiyo, every day that passed without Fumi by her side only seemed to tear that gap deeper and more raggedly.

A short while after that was when the revues had began. Yachiyo had been equal parts relieved and dismayed to see Fumi there in fleeting glimpses between battles. It hurt that she wasn't with her any longer, but it was nice to know she hadn't given up on theatre completely.

And since then, Yachiyo has even gotten to speak with Fumi here or there, though it was always when someone else was around.

And while Shiori and the other Edels had accepted her choice, perhaps a bit bitterly in some cases, Yachiyo's words of acceptance had always been rather hollow. Not because she didn't support Fumi herself, but because she didn't support her being gone.

And yet, no matter how pleading a look she'd send her way, Fumi never seemed to respond the way Yachiyo needed her to.

And so, things had lead to here.

It's been half a year since Fumi had left Siegfeld as a student, and Yachiyo as a girlfriend. But even so Yachiyo didn't like to think of her as an ex. After all, they'd never officially broken up, but rather they'd drifted apart.

So did that mean they were just on a break? Were they still together? Or was it the opposite, and they'd never really been together at all to begin with…?

The thoughts and memories carry Yachiyo all the way to the market on this overcast afternoon. She shops with mechanical movements, picking up this or that without really thinking it through all the way.

As always, whenever an inkling of a thought about Fumi wriggles into her mind, it explodes, and then she can't think clearly about anything else.

The longer she thinks of Fumi, the harder it becomes to breathe. There's always some unexplained pressure in her chest that feels like it's pushing down on her insides, trying to make her bones collapse.

And yet, in spite of all this, some part of her still longs to see her again. And not just in-passing onstage while fighting Korosu, not just briefly here or there when the schools merge for some event or another…

She hasn't realized that she's come to a complete stop in the middle of the store, spacing out while not looking at anything in particular. She draws herself as far out of her distracted thoughts as possible, looking over the contents of her basket without really seeing them.

The sound of a soft, distant hissing reaches her past the regular sounds of the store, and she looks up to the doors to find it's started raining.

She hadn't known it was going to rain today. She hadn't even thought to check.

And here she is in a fancy skirt and sandals, which she'd put on because of a whim, for her own self-satisfaction, to delude herself into thinking that maybe by some chance-

"Yachiyo…?"

Everything stops.

The hum of the store ventilation, the chatter of the other customers, and even the thumping in her chest. She feels sick, with dread and joy and agony and relief.

Did this mean her prayers had been answered? Or was it meant as a punishment?

Either way, as she tightens her grip on her grocery basket, her whole body begins to tremble.

No way. It can't be real. It's got to just be a manifestation of her imagination, of what she wants to happen, her senses are playing tricks on her-

"Yachiyo?"

The painfully-familiar voice sounds again from behind her, a little louder this time. The curiosity that had been in its tone the first time is now replaced with a hint of concern.

Yachiyo feels a little happy for a second; happy that she'd still be concerned about her after everything that had - and hadn't - happened between them.

But that fleeting happiness is consumed by all of the other things in an instant, by the sorrow and confusion and the agony that have piled higher and higher with each passing day, each passing second-

"Hey…"

The voice is much softer this time, and now Yachiyo feels a hand on her shoulder. It's a touch so gentle that it hurts.

For whatever reason, her reflex is to jerk away, finally left with no choice but to round on her and turn to face her properly. The name flies to her lips hopefully, but when it's spoken her voice is meek and broken.

"Fumi-san-"

It's really her. Somehow, Fumi is actually standing before her now, wearing an outfit much more sensible for the weather today. Brown boots, black leggings, and green shorts that match the cardigan over her white shirt, her light blonde hair all down and loose and looking as silken and soft as ever.

When their eyes meet it's as though meteors collide, only without the impact and sounds of the explosion. There's so much debris, so much happening, so much flashing between them all in a split second before they're forced to remember they are in a public setting.

Fumi breaks away from the collision first, taking a step back and sheepishly hiding the hand she'd touched her with.

"Finally you responded."

Her voice is steady, and it irks Yachiyo a little. It's the first time in all this she's felt annoyed; usually it was just upset or puzzled or an array of other things.

Why isn't Fumi's voice choked and wobbling like hers is? Why is she so unaffected? Does that mean she hadn't spent every day toiling in silent anguish over their relationship like Yachiyo had? Does that mean Yachiyo hadn't meant half as much to Fumi as Fumi had to her? Does that mean she'd really just been living in a daydream from the very beginning...?

Still, Yachiyo trembles, unable to make her body or mind function. Part of her wants to run, and it might've if not for the fact that she still had to pay for her goods, and also that it's pouring rain outside now and she has no umbrella to speak of.

But there's a part of her that wants to stay too; if not to fight, then just to keep looking at Fumi for one second longer, to keep breathing in the faint whiffs of her scent every now and then-

"Sorry-" Finally, her voice comes again, but it isn't the word she'd wanted. She fights to keep it steady. "I was spacing out. Just thinking about my shopping list."

"That much was obvious." Fumi replies right away, as if it's just a normal conversation between people with a normal relationship. "You were standing there for a few minutes not doing anything. That's why I came over. I was worried something was wrong. Are you all right?"

Stop.

Yachiyo wants to say it out loud, but she can't. She wants her to stop saying such things; that she'd been worried about her. So if she hadn't been worried, she wouldn't have approached her? Did that make Yachiyo relieved or not? A little piece of her is happy that Fumi had been here at the same time as her, which was fate enough. And the fact that she'd approached her out of concern for her makes Yachiyo's heart shiver with hope.

So why was the first thought in her mind that she wanted Fumi to stop?

It's all so confusing. It doesn't make sense.

"Yes," she manages after a heavy pause. "I'm fine. Please don't concern yourself, Fumi-san."

This is it. She can just turn away right now and leave the situation behind, tell her she has to get back quickly. She wants to leave, to turn away and never look back.

So then why had she been unable to stop thinking about her all morning? For the past two, three weeks…? Just so she can meet her again and then leave? It doesn't make sense. Her chest hurts.

"Hold on a second." Fumi lifts her chin and crosses her arms, and her eyes get that stern big-sister sort of look Yachiyo often saw her give to Shiori. "Don't tell me you came out to run errands dressed like that without knowing it was supposed to rain."

Yachiyo flinches, not so much at the comments, but more at the knowledge that Fumi is looking her up and down now. Does she recognize these clothes? The last time Yachiyo had worn them? If she does, she sure isn't letting on that it fazes her in any way.

Yachiyo's heart sinks a little, and she feels even worse for wishing Fumi might've been as miserable as she's been all this time. She'd probably been fine without her. Perhaps they hadn't had anything special after all.

Yachiyo draws in another breath, trying to speak normally.

"I didn't have the chance to check," she lies. "I was in a hurry. It's fine, I can wait it out inside." She makes an attempt at the first step away from her, but Fumi hardly gives her the chance.

"Well, that doesn't make any sense. If you were in a hurry, then why would you rather wait the rain out in here? Just come with me."

The last three words seem to stick onto the air itself, and Yachiyo can't let go of them. She watches as Fumi reaches for an umbrella she'd leaned against the shelf before approaching her. The implications of her offer are clear: if you're in such a hurry, I'll walk you back now.

Yachiyo processes it all quickly enough, but she can't think of a response. Not one that refuses the offer, anyway.

"…What about you?" she says weakly. "You don't have anything to buy."

Fumi shrugs. "They didn't have what I wanted. But it's a good thing I came, or else you'd be stuck in here until the storm passed. At least now I can walk you back."

Please stop. Please don't…

But again, Yachiyo can't say the words that are pushing right behind her lips. All she'd have to do is open her mouth and let them out. But instead, she keeps her lips pursed tightly.

She should know better. She should know that accepting Fumi's offer and going with her now will only let Yachiyo fool herself further.

This isn't anything romantic. She's just trying to help me out…

In a lot of ways, it would probably be more beneficial for Yachiyo to just run out into the rain on her own. But some naive part of her stays put in Fumi's presence.

Tell her no. Tell her you're fine.

Yachiyo inhales another deep breath.

"That's all right-"

"No way." Just like that, Fumi shoots down her only pathetic attempt at protest. "If you wait in here until the storm's over, you'll waste time. And if you go out there now without an umbrella you're going to get soaked. What if you get sick? You'll just make trouble for Shiori and the others."

For whatever reason, hearing Fumi mention the other Edels hurts Yachiyo in an entirely different way. It reminds her that everything that had happened in the past had been real. It solidifies that Fumi had, in fact, once gone to Siegfeld with them, had once known and trained and been friends with them. And now it's all ruined-

"Hey, Yachiyo-?" Fumi takes a step closer, and Yachiyo takes one back. Fumi doesn't move again, but her voice is still a bit high. "Seriously, are you all right? You look a little pale."

Whose fault do you think that is? Finding me here and acting like nothing ever happened…

"I'm okay," she lies again. "I just have a lot on my mind right now…"

That part is the truth.

Maybe now it finally snaps for Fumi, because the look in her eyes shifts to something more delicate, but still unreadable. And still, somehow she thinks of something to say.

"Well, running out into the rain by yourself sure isn't going to help anything."

She says it in a way that could be interpreted as 'don't be an idiot' but also as 'I don't want anything to happen to you.'

Yachiyo swallows, and her throat is so arid it just feels like she'd choked down sand. She doesn't know how much time has passed since Fumi had first called her name. Her eyes just keep shifting in and out of focus, still tracing the soft blonde strands of her hair…

She must take too long to respond - not that she knew how to respond anyway - because Fumi comes to a decision on her own.

"All right, enough. I'll take you back. You're acting too weird for me to let you go by yourself, rain or shine." Putting her umbrella under her arm, she reaches out to take the basket of groceries from Yachiyo.

As she does so, their fingers brush for half a second, and it's enough to have Yachiyo letting go of the handle instantly, more out of shock than anything. She can't be sure if she sees Fumi flinch just then, but it's gone in an instant.

"Is this all you needed?" she asks.

Yachiyo blinks, looking down into the basket.

"Yes."

"Then come on."

Fumi struts past her without looking back, and Yachiyo can't tell if it's because she's upset or just determined to get going. She hadn't tried to touch her again after the first time. Their fingers brushing just now had been an accident, but the reflexive way Yachiyo had pulled away from her must've hurt Fumi; if not as an estranged lover, than at least as a friend or colleague.

For a split second, Yachiyo is almost glad to have made her feel an ounce of the same pain that's been causing her to suffer all this time. But instantly afterward, she just feels even more awful than before to even think that way.

She'd never want any of her friends to suffer, least of all Fumi. If anything, she just wants her to be happy.

Even if that means cutting Yachiyo out of her life entirely.

But… if Fumi wanted that, she never would've approached her here today... right?

Yachiyo's thoughts run away for the umpteenth time today, and only now does she realize Fumi has strode off almost to the opposite end of the aisle. For the first time in what feels like hours, Yachiyo forces her legs to move. She walks quickly, not enough to run, but she needs to make sure not to lose sight of her. Fumi seems so far away, always out of reach…

But at least she can still see her. And maybe just that is good enough.

Fumi gets a spot on line at a register and finally stops moving long enough for Yachiyo to join her. Fumi gives her a 'what took you so long?' glance before grunting and holding up the basket, reminding Yachiyo that the contents are hers to pay for.

Yachiyo awkwardly begins taking things from the basket and placing them on the conveyer belt, mumbling a breathless 'thanks' to Fumi for holding the basket. After laying everything out, Fumi goes to the end of the register to begin bagging things while Yachiyo opens her purse for her wallet. By the time she's finished paying, Fumi has already arranged everything into a plastic bag and is waiting for her with her umbrella half-open.

"Come on," she says. "You're in a hurry, right?"

Yachiyo can't tell if she's being smug right now or not, but nonetheless her shoes carry her toward her, so much so that it makes her think every time she ever walks it's probably in Fumi's direction, no matter how far apart they might be.

Yachiyo crouches a little to take the bag from her, and their hands touch again. The contact sends another pang through her chest, as though knocking the air from her lungs.

But Fumi seems unfazed as she heads to the exit area and opens her umbrella fully. She motions for Yachiyo to come close.

And there'd been a time when Yachiyo would already be on her arm before Fumi could even have the chance to wave her over. But as things are now, it takes her a moment to get there.

When she does finally get as close as she can, Yachiyo makes sure to put the grocery bag between them as Fumi positions the umbrella over them both. But before the automatic doors open, she glances down and notices.

"Yachiyo, move closer to me. You're going to get wet."

It's just the normal thing anyone would say to someone standing too far out of the range of an umbrella. But to Yachiyo, it feels like so much more, and she hates to know it isn't.

"Right…"

She switches the bag to her other hand and takes a tiny step closer. Fumi sighs in exasperation.

"Jeez, just do it like this!" Fumi switches the umbrella to her other hand and takes Yachiyo's instead.

All at once, both of them freeze up, but it isn't because the automatic doors open to send in a gust of wet air.

Yachiyo's heart thuds so hard against her ribs it makes her chest physically ache. She wants to wrench her hand away and just take off running. But then she feels Fumi's grip slacken, as though she'd remembered from earlier that Yachiyo didn't want to be touched, so now she's letting go.

But for some reason, Yachiyo stops her before she can.

She holds Fumi's hand back, probably too tightly, because her nails dig into the back of Fumi's hand a little. She doesn't even think - it just happens. Her body moves on impulse, to keep Fumi close no matter what.

Yachiyo hears a soft intake of breath, but she doesn't know if it's from Fumi or herself.

After a moment of standing in the open doorway, both girls seem to silently agree not to address their hands; it had happened out of necessity, out of shock when the doors had opened suddenly.

They don't say a word as they step outside into the rain now, but their hands don't come apart either.

The rainfall is steady and loud all around them, and the occasional gust of wind keeps blowing water into them in spite of the umbrella.

As they walk, Yachiyo's feet become wet within seconds, the white sandals doing little to shield her skin, and every once in a while there's a splash that soaks the ends of her skirt. Her right shoulder outside the umbrella is a bit wet as well, but she doesn't dare move any closer to Fumi than she already is.

Yachiyo walks beside her at a slower pace, so neither of them can accidentally glance sideways and catch each other's eye.

They exit the market area without saying a word.

At one point, the hands they're holding together become wet and their fingers begin to slip away.

And Yachiyo is willing to let them come apart.

But to her surprise, Fumi isn't.

Fumi tightens her grip on Yachiyo's hand, even going so far as to reposition her fingers to better spots to find purchase.

It takes a lot of self-control for Yachiyo not to let herself read into it.

They stay on the sidewalk, with only the sounds of rain, passing cars, and the rustle of the grocery bag between them.

Where Yachiyo's mind had been overflowing with swarming thoughts all morning, now it is utterly blank. She has no idea how to feel about any of this, or if she feels anything at all, for that matter. Her senses shift from being cold from the rain, to warm at the palm where Fumi is holding her, to numb all over. Her chest still aches, but it almost feels nice at times, like her heart is happy.

"Yachiyo." Fumi's voice suddenly cuts through the hiss of rain, startling her. "Are you spacing out again or what?"

Before Yachiyo can think enough to reply, Fumi halts. When she turns to look at her again, her eyes are stern to begin with. But as they drop lower, her expression softens in apology.

"Oh, sorry," she murmurs. "I forgot you were wearing sandals. You should've told me to slow down."

Yachiyo opens her mouth and feels a droplet dribble down her chin. It's probably rain.

"Sorry."

"Dummy. You don't have to apologize."

Fumi gives a little tug to her wrist, and Yachiyo gives in without resisting. Now she bumps softly into Fumi's side, being pulled closer to her than she's been in months. Fumi's citrus-like scent wraps around her. Combined with the tang of the rain, it makes Yachiyo's nose prickle and her eyes water. She feels like she's about to cry.

"I'll walk slower," Fumi says, looking ahead again.

Yachiyo's only response is an inaudible sniffle.

Her ears are ringing as they begin walking again, much slower this time. The rush of the rain and the wind join her already-buzzing thoughts and create a swirling tumult in her head. And there's an entirely different storm raging inside her heart as well.

She'd expected the rain to continue, but oddly enough, it begins to slow only a moment later, and then it stops altogether.

And before she knows it, she has no real excuse to be pressed up so closely beside Fumi anymore, but she still doesn't move away.

Fumi doesn't either.

As the rain stops, so do they, pausing quietly on the sidewalk that borders the local park. It's only about a five-minute walk back to Siegfeld from here.

For a moment, neither of them speak or move or breathe. Above them, the clouds begin to part, and a bit of sunshine peeks through. The moment lingers, and Yachiyo lets it. She clings to Fumi for as long as she can, unable to tell if she's the only one shaking-

"Well," Fumi says pointedly. "The rain's stopped." She turns to look at her directly now, and her eyes are knowing. "And you're in a hurry, right?"

Yachiyo knows when she's beat. She sighs.

"Sorry. That was a lie."

Fumi snorts, but not in an angry way.

"All right. Then what do you say to taking a little detour?"

The sun breaks through a little more now, and Yachiyo almost feels as though it's shining directly onto her heart. Her chest fills with a sudden warmth in spite of her wet feet, and just for a moment she feels it might be okay to get her hopes up. She gives a nod, and Fumi reflects it.

Then, Fumi suddenly pulls her arm away, her hand slipping gently from Yachiyo's grasp. Yachiyo feels her breath hitch for a split second before she realizes Fumi is only closing the umbrella and tucking it under her arm. As soon as she's finished, she puts her hand back in Yachiyo's without a word.

Yachiyo holds it more tightly than before.

They follow the sidewalk when it veers off toward the park. There aren't any other people here right now, since the rain had only just finished. All of the plants and bushes are sparkling with raindrops, and the colors of the flowers seem more vibrant than usual.

Maybe it's because of the way the sunlight is reflecting off the droplets, or maybe it's just because she's with Fumi, but the world seems a lot more beautiful to Yachiyo right now.

The sidewalk leads to the center of the park, where a large, circular stone wall encompasses a lush garden and a bubbling fountain. Puddles on the cobblestone shimmer, and birds begin singing again.

It can't be real. It just can't be. Yachiyo's convinced she's still fast asleep in bed right now, dreaming of something that could never be. She'll wake in a little while and find herself still in a world where thoughts of Fumi torment her, make her want to skip breakfast, distract her during practice, trick her whenever Shiori is around…

But as more and more moments pass, she doesn't wake up.

Fumi keeps hold of her hand as they walk around the park. It seems neither of them are willing to speak; be it because they don't want to shatter this dream or because they can't find the courage or the words to use, it's unclear.

But as Yachiyo comes to understand it is real, she also understands this could be her last chance. Her last chance for answers. Her last chance to tell her-

With her thoughts as such, her next breath comes out in a gasp, and it draws Fumi's attention.

"Yachiyo?"

"It's nothing," she says a little too quickly. "Rather, Fumi-san…?" She inhales again, more deeply this time. Now, she finally lifts her face to meet her eyes. "Can we talk…?"

Fumi's eyes widen for a second, but then she closes them with a sigh.

"I thought you'd never ask."

So Fumi's been wanting to talk to her, too. Yachiyo doesn't know why, but she can't tell if that might be a good thing or a bad thing. But they both come to the agreement that they'd rather keep moving, so Fumi begins leading them toward the children's playground area.

Even though the air is crisp and cool now, Yachiyo feels it's getting harder and harder to breathe again as the silence drags on. Every breath feels thick and heavy, like each one gets stuck in her throat or the top of her chest.

She follows Fumi, keeping a grip on her hand, a grip either of them could easily pull away from if they wanted to. Then, Fumi speaks without warning.

"I'm sorry."

Yachiyo stops walking, and Fumi almost keeps going and slips out of her grasp. But at the last second she stops and moves a pace back, waiting.

Yachiyo feels every beat of the heart in her chest, and yet it feels distant, like it isn't even hers. She finds her voice - somewhere between hurt and terrified - and looks up at her.

"So does that mean you regret it…?"

She knows it's vague, but she also knows Fumi is aware of exactly what she means. For the first time all day since she'd run into her, Fumi becomes suddenly animated.

"No-!" she cries. "Of course I don't-" She stops, breathes, and tries again, a little more softly. "I mean, of course there are plenty of things I regret. I regret leaving you guys like I did. I regret leaving Shiori and disappointing everyone…" She sighs, and when she next looks to her, Yachiyo thinks she sees tears brimming in her eyes. "But we aren't here to talk about them, are we…?"

Yachiyo says nothing. It's like she's forgotten how to speak. Fumi is enveloped by the sunlight, her clothes and hair being carried by a gentle breeze.

Yachiyo had lost her once. She doesn't want to lose her again. If only Fumi felt the same way about her…

She tries to step back, but the function never reaches her brain to make it happen.

"So then…" Her voice gets lodged and she has to look away. "What about me? About us…?"

"No-" Fumi steps closer in desperation, then seems to remember she can't get too close. So she just tightens her grip on Yachiyo's hand instead. "Yachiyo, I don't regret that at all. Not for a second. The only part of our relationship I regret is how it ended."

That stings. Yachiyo actually looks down at herself because it really feels like a wasp had just injected her chest with poison.

"So then it is over…"

It's the confirmation and closure she's been needing for so long. But it still hurts. It hurts like nothing she's ever known before.

"H-Hold on." Fumi reaches out her other hand now to cover hers, clasping Yachiyo's hand in both of hers. "That didn't come out how I wanted it to. I didn't mean it like that. What I should've said is I regret… how I left you, Yachiyo. I… I mean… we're only over if you want us to be…"

That feeling of nausea comes back now, burning and festering like acid in her stomach. Yachiyo closes her eyes, both to hold back the tears and to block out the world for a moment. She can't look at her right now. Her heart can't take it.

"I…"

"Wait." Fumi's hands loosen a little around hers, her thumbs brushing gently across Yachiyo's knuckles. "Yachiyo, wait. I'm sorry. I shouldn't place all of that on you. I just… I want to know your answer. I want to know… what you want…"

Slowly, Yachiyo opens her eyes again, but she keeps them on Fumi's shadow. A puddle there reflects the greens and whites of her clothes.

"Then… why didn't you call me?" she asks. "Why didn't you ever come to see me? Why didn't you ever-"

"Because I was scared-!" Fumi blurts it out like a confession, and suddenly it all make sense.

Yachiyo finally understands that she hasn't been the only one suffering with this all the while. She'd known Fumi better than anyone, better than even Shiori knew her.

Because Yachiyo had loved her as a girl, not just as a sister or a friend. And because she'd loved her, she'd known that Fumi would never be the kind of person to hurt others intentionally. Yachiyo had only wanted to think that way in order to use her as a scapegoat, in order to have someone to blame for the mess.

She'd been so hurt, so tormented by the way things had happened, she'd failed to look at the obvious answer she already knew; which was, of course, that Fumi missed her too.

She's missed Yachiyo every day. She's been scared and nervous every day. She's been at war with herself every day. Yachiyo knows Fumi better than anyone because she'd loved her.

And she still loves her. Right here, right now.

The next thing she knows, Yachiyo is watching more droplets fall into the puddle at Fumi's boots. She chokes, and her body starts to shudder.

And then Fumi's arms are around her, stiff and shaking as though she'd really been trying her hardest all this time to hold back, but she just couldn't anymore.

Yachiyo concedes so easily and melts against her. Her heart wails deep inside her chest, and she isn't sure if it's crying out in pain or in love. Somehow it feels like both at the same time.

Yachiyo doesn't even realize it when Fumi brings them to a nearby bench and has them sit. She feels like she's been asleep for hours when she suddenly opens her eyes again to find herself still cradled against Fumi's chest, her chin on her shoulder, her vision blurred and glimpsing blonde off to one side.

She stays here. She wants to stay here. Like this. With her.

Even if it hurts, she just wants to be with Fumi. Even though she knows it's messed up, she doesn't care.

The tears keep hold of her for a little while longer, and she lets them slip quietly down her chin and into Fumi's cardigan. Her hands maintain a weak but unrelenting grip around Fumi's waist, and Fumi's hold around her shoulders and back remain defiant. Her voice comes unexpectedly, weighted with concern.

"Yachiyo…" She squeezes her more tightly, bringing her closer. "Yachiyo, you're shaking…"

Yachiyo doesn't know what to say. The words that come out on reflex are some of the ones she hates the most.

"I'm sorry…"

Not because she's in love with her. Not because she regrets being in love with her. But because she just wishes none of the painful things had ever happened.

She'd blamed Fumi for not calling her or coming to see her, and yet Yachiyo had never done any of those things either. If Fumi has felt just as wretched and agonized as Yachiyo has all this time, then the blame is just as much hers. She'd hurt Fumi as much as Fumi had hurt her. All when they'd never even meant or wanted to.

Now Yachiyo realizes that Fumi is crying too.

The wind dances around them for a while, and the sun overhead begins to sink. People come outside and begin walking to enjoy the evening. Only then do Yachiyo and Fumi finally ease apart.

Fumi's cheeks are flushed and puffy, and given by how her own face aches, Yachiyo knows she must look the same way. There's something unsaid between them still, something in their eyes they can't form into words yet. After what must have been an hour, Fumi finally speaks again.

"Wanna walk with me?"

It's an invitation that implies she knows there's still much more that needs to be said and done between them. Yachiyo breathes in shakily and accepts.

"Where to?"

"Dunno. But you're in no hurry, right?"

For the first time since Fumi had left her, Yachiyo smiles.

And so they leave the grocery bag and the umbrella on the bench as they get up. There's no real plan of where to go - not far, just around the fountain perhaps. As long as Fumi is still holding her hand, Yachiyo doesn't care where they go.

And though she knows whatever they're about to talk about is going to be no doubt painful and long-overdue, she isn't scared about it anymore.

Because she knows Fumi has been on the same page, in the same boat. It's nice to know that, even if it's painful, she won't be alone this time.

Another breeze passes, and it feels like it goes right through her. A pace ahead, Fumi speaks up.

"Yachiyo… the only mistake I made was not talking to you properly after I left. I don't regret leaving; just how I left."

Yachiyo is quiet. She looks to her, but can't see Fumi's face past the screen of hair billowing in the wind.

"I really am sorry about that."

"You were scared," Yachiyo reminds her. "So was I. We can just share the blame, right?"

Now, Fumi turns to her and smiles like sunlight.

"Sure."

And somehow, it feels like that's the end of it. That everything they've wanted to express has been expressed. Or at least, most of it. But it feels as though most of the ugly feelings that have been gnawing away at them for weeks on end have all just disappeared.

Just in seeing each other again. Just in hearing each other's voices. Just in holding hands.

As she glances down at their entwined fingers, Fumi brings them near the playground to a long metal balance beam that sits about one foot off the ground. She gives Yachiyo an inviting look, then steps up. Keeping hold of her hand, she helps Yachiyo up onto the beam behind her, while Fumi navigates it sideways.

"Heh. This is something I'd expect from Ichie-chan."

Fumi grimaces.

"Why are you bringing that girl up right now?"

"Sorry. I totally forgot you had a cute childish side to you too, Fumi-san."

"Oh, please…"

They shuffle along the length of the beam side-by-side, still holding hands.

And naturally, such a simple child's plaything would be easily mastered by such poised and proper stage girls.

But it's a bit of a different story when they've got each other's weight to consider, as well as wet shoes.

Yachiyo feels her foot slip slightly within her sandal where a bit of water still resides. She gasps, feeling the dangerous way her ankle twists just as her weight begins to shift.

It's all so quick.

At first, she squeezes Fumi's hand tighter out of reflex.

But then her brain makes the snap decision to let go, so Fumi won't fall as well and risk getting hurt. But even though Yachiyo lets her go, she still can't help but whimper her name.

"Fumi-"

Her foot slips off, and the prickling sensation of missing a step down the stairs shoots up her spine. Her ankle twists and collides with the metal, sending pain shooting up her shin. She closes her eyes, bracing herself to hit the ground.

"Yachiyo-!"

Suddenly Fumi's hand is grasping for hers again in midair, and then there's a tilting of weight and a collision. They both hit the ground, sending wood chips flying as their bodies crash together.

Fumi's arms are around her, trying to protect her from the impact, but in the end they both feel it just as hard. Yachiyo's hands fall limply onto Fumi's back as she's crushed beneath her for a moment. The dull pain in her back thuds in time with her pulse, which has started to race, not only from the fear of the fall, but also because of the realization that Fumi is here with her, clinging to her. There's a burning numbness in her right ankle, but she tries to focus on Fumi's weight instead.

It's all over in a matter of seconds as both girls lie there in a mess of clothes and hair, panting. And the second Fumi pushes herself up off of her, Yachiyo wishes she'd stayed.

"Yachiyo! Are you okay?" Fumi sits back, easing an arm around Yachiyo's back and taking one of her hands to help her up. Yachiyo finds purchase on her cardigan.

"Yeah…" She doesn't know how convincing it sounds, but it can't be that good, because she's already blinking past the blur of tears. Fumi is fretfully picking wood chips from off her back and combing fingers through Yachiyo's curls.

Yachiyo isn't sure what's making her want to cry more; the pain in her foot or Fumi's soft touch. She fights it as best she can, and as her eyes travel down Fumi's arm she spots a long red scratch up her wrist.

"Fumi-"

"Did you hit your head?" Fumi is rubbing her back gently, making it all the more difficult for Yachiyo to hold back the tears.

"No… I-"

"You dummy! Why did you let go of me?"

Yachiyo still hasn't looked up at her.

"I didn't want you to fall and get hurt, too."

"Idiot. Don't you think I'd rather fall with you and take half the pain than stand by helplessly and watch you get hurt?"

Yachiyo flinches. Her heart aches harder as the memories resurface. She'd seen it with her own eyes when Fumi had fallen from the stage. Yachiyo had jumped up from her seat in terror, and yet she'd been unable to do anything to help her.

But to this day she still wishes she could've been the one to take that fall for her.

She doesn't know what to say. She still can't lift her face.

"Fumi… your arm."

"What, this?" Fumi inspects the scratch dismissively. "It's nothing. What I'm worried about is your ankle…"

Yachiyo looks down past her skirt to her feet. Her right sandal is hanging half off to one side beneath her heel, and there's a swelling redness already forming around her ankle. When she tries to move her toes it sends a pang through her shin. There's mud streaking both her feet as well.

"Can you stand?" Fumi's voice is calmer now, but still tight with concern. Yachiyo finally looks up to meet her gaze, determined to try. Fumi puts an arm around her side and holds her waist while Yachiyo drapes an arm across her shoulders.

"Easy…" Fumi instructs her. "If it hurts just tell me right away and we'll stop."

"Right."

Fumi gets into a crouch beside her, the slowly begins to stand. Yachiyo presses her weight onto her left foot, leaning against Fumi's support as much as she needs to. But putting even an ounce of weight on her right sends a dizzying pain straight through her head. Her vision blurs to black almost instantly, and her sharp intake of breath alerts Fumi as she begins to sag backward.

"Okay- okay-!" Fumi tightens her hold on her, making sure Yachiyo doesn't hit the ground hard. She makes absolutely certain to sit her back down as gently as possible. "Just take it easy, Yachiyo."

"Sorry-"

"Why are you apologizing? I should be the one doing that. I should've known better than to try and make you get up when you're like this."

"Huh…?" Perhaps Yachiyo can't recognize it herself past the pain in her leg, but her face has become rather flushed. Puzzled, she closes her eyes briefly as Fumi rests the back of her hand against her forehead.

"No wonder," she sighs. "You've been spacing out since the store, you got your feet all wet in the rain, and now you're shaking again. Plus, now you can't even stand, Yachiyo. You've got a fever."

Fumi's words reach her ears, but they don't make sense for a moment. Yachiyo keeps her eyes closed, but finally it starts to make register. No wonder she's felt so warm, even in the driving rain, and no wonder her chest has been hurting so badly.

A fever. Well, perhaps it had started out as something else, but that's what it's turned into now.

She doesn't have much of a response to give. Her head feels light and fuzzy, like it's stuffed with too much cotton, yet the weight of it still makes her shoulders ache. She leans against Fumi, and Fumi shifts her arm higher around her.

"Geez, you're a mess. I can't bring you back to Siegfeld like this… Now that we've taken my little detour it's too far away…"

Yachiyo listens to her voice, and it's as if Fumi is speaking to her while Yachiyo is underwater…

"All right, it's decided. Yachiyo?" Fumi gives her a gentle nudge to rouse her a little. And if it'd been anyone else in the world, Yachiyo would've just let herself succumb to the blackness clouding her vision. But since it's Fumi…

"Hm…?" She tries to open her eyes as best she can, though her voice is long gone. She feels Fumi holding onto both of her forearms, lifting them up and guiding them around her shoulders and neck as she turns around, giving Yachiyo her back.

"Just hold onto me," she instructs. "Hold on as tight as you can. Got it?"

Yachiyo tries to reply but no sound comes out. So she just does as Fumi tells her and grabs onto her opposite wrist around Fumi's neck, pouring all her strength into her grip.

"Good. Now just hold on, Yachiyo."

She feels Fumi shifting beneath her, reaching back to grab her legs and pull them around her sides. Fumi's scent wreathes around her, filling her lungs with every breath made awkward by the fever.

After a little more shifting and grunting, she finds herself being lifted up slowly. Fumi is so warm and surprisingly strong beneath her. Yachiyo tries to nuzzle into her shoulder, like she'd used to back when they'd have sleepovers together at Siegfeld, when it was just the two of them…

Finally the darkness overtakes her, but at least it's warm and smells of citrus.


Fumi feels the exact moment when Yachiyo loses consciousness.

Truth be told, she's impressed the poor girl had made it this far in her condition. At the very least her arms are still around Fumi's neck, but she still takes great care in standing very slowly so she won't fall off. She has to lean forward a lot to keep Yachiyo balanced.

She'd put Yachiyo's handbag on her own shoulder to carry it before she'd picked her up, and now it swings at her knees. Fumi grunts, trying to knock it out of her way without jostling the girl on her back.

Yachiyo is limp before Fumi gets up off the ground. Her breath is hot and labored against Fumi's neck, and there's an unnatural heat wafting off of every inch of her body.

She's burning up. And her pulse is kinda fast.

She can feel Yachiyo's heartbeat more clearly than she can feel her own. It's thudding against her back like a gong, and reverberating just as much. She hates to think what might've happened to her if Fumi hadn't met her in town today.

Actually, she might be better off, she realizes. If it weren't for me, she would've just waited in the store until the rain stopped. She never would've gotten soaked. And she never would've fallen off that balance beam and hurt herself. Some girlfriend I am…

She hesitates to even think of herself as such, but after their conversation earlier, she dares to believe it's what Yachiyo still wants, too. But she can think about that more later.

For now, Fumi staggers back to the bench where they'd left their things. It's no easy feat to let go of Yachiyo with one hand for a moment to quickly grab the umbrella and tuck it under her arm, and then reach out again to slip the grocery bag's handles around her wrist. But somehow she manages it and then quickly secures her grip on Yachiyo once again.

The added weight of all their belongings is an inconvenience for sure, and she'll gladly let any of them go if it means keeping Yachiyo safe.

Fumi stands still for a moment, looking up in the direction they'd come, toward Siegfeld. It's probably a ten-minute walk from here, and with an unconscious person on her back, even longer.

Not only would it be foolish to risk the journey with Yachiyo in this condition, but she also doesn't really fancy the idea of showing up there again right now to see Shiori and the others. Her apartment is closer, anyway.

So with everything as secure on or around her as it can get, Fumi starts off toward her apartment complex.

It's a slow and awkward journey, and several people out and about catch sight of her in shock. A woman walking her dog offers to at least carry the bag and umbrella, and Fumi graciously accepts.

It's only a few minutes until she reaches her building. The woman leaves her things on the sidewalk and Fumi thanks her again before heading up the small flight of stairs. She takes her time getting to her door, then in rotating her hand around Yachiyo's thigh to fish out the key in her shorts pocket. Once she manages to get it into the knob and turn it, she finally exhales for what feels like the first time in a while.

She kicks the door open and steps in before it can bump Yachiyo or herself, then heads straight for the bedroom. Her bed is small and humble, but at least it's a mattress and not just a floor futon.

Fumi sits down on the edge, gently leaning sideways until Yachiyo's weight slouches onto the mattress with her. Fumi lets go of her legs and slips easily away from her arms, then sits back up promptly. She turns Yachiyo onto her back fully and grimaces at the sight of her. Her head is still lolled to one side, and her entire face is flushed and sweaty. Her lips are parted, and her chest is heaving with every breath, which trembles in her throat.

"Geez, Yachiyo…"

Fumi worriedly runs a hand through her bangs, clearing them aside a little. She gathers Yachiyo's hair out from under her and lays it over the front of her shoulder as she prefers to keep it. She reaches out a hand to touch her, but catches herself and stops.

Standing from the bed, she hurries back outside and down the stairs to collect what she'd left on the sidewalk. Once she's back inside again, she locks the door and lets everything onto the floor, kicking off her boots now before hurrying back to the bedroom.

She isn't sure why she almost expects Yachiyo's condition to have improved in that short time, but it hasn't. She's still lying on her back on the mattress with her legs off the side as Fumi had left her. Fumi crouches on the floor to carefully remove Yachiyo's white sandals that are now streaked with mud. She brings them to the bathroom and rinses them off in the bath. She then wets two wash clothes and pulls out a towel, bringing it all back into the bedroom.

She uses one cloth to clean the dried mud off of Yachiyo's feet and shins, then the towel to dry her off. There's a dark redness around her right ankle, and she can only hope the bone isn't fractured.

The other cloth is used to wipe across her burning forehead, along her cheeks, and down her neck. Fumi gathers Yachiyo's legs and moves them onto the bed now, laying her down properly. She sits at the top of the bed, lifting Yachiyo's torso up a little before lying her head down in her lap.

Fumi's heart trembles with worry to see her like this, breathless and in pain, even in her sleep. Even when they'd been dating she'd never seen Yachiyo this bad. Sometimes she'd have the sniffles or she'd be extremely tired from staying up too late sewing, but never such an intense fever. Every strained breath she takes sends another wave of concern through Fumi. She picks up the cloth again and wipes her down, letting the fabric soak in some of the heat.

And just like before, Fumi has tried her best not to touch Yachiyo without her permission. But also just like before, she's gotten so worried and feels so helpless that she caves, reaching out to rest her hand on her stomach.

Gently, she traces her palm in circles over her sweater, which Fumi realizes probably is the worst shirt she could be wearing right now when she has a fever. She rolls Yachiyo's sleeves up as far as her elbows, then presses the wet cloth against the insides of her wrists in turn.

Yachiyo's breathing is still uneven, and little whimpers work their way in every now and again, but Fumi thinks it's become a bit lighter at the very least. She brings her hand back to Yachiyo's stomach, rubbing circles up to her chest, trying to soothe her. When she stops moving, she can feel her pulse beating a mile a minute.

Fumi's done her best all this time to keep control of her emotions, but now the tears start dripping.

"Yachiyo… I'm sorry. This is all my fault…"

Not just the fever and her injury. But all of this.

It's because Fumi had left without properly explaining her feelings for her. It's because she'd been too scared and embarrassed, and failed to consider Yachiyo's feelings in all this. After initiating their relationship, keeping to it in childish secrecy, and then leaving Siegfeld without even saying goodbye, it feels like she'd done nothing but trick Yachiyo and lead her on.

"No…" she gasps. "It wasn't a trick… it wasn't just for fun… I really… Yachiyo…"

She hunches forward, and a few tears fall onto Yachiyo's cheek.

Yachiyo wakes just in time to feel them; something warm and wet other than her own sweat.

She can't open her eyes right away, but she recognizes Fumi's scent and the familiar softness of her hands on her collar. She can tell she's in bed somewhere and that Fumi's with her, and that's the greatest relief of all for her.

But then she hears the hiccups in her voice, and that's what forces Yachiyo to open her heavy eyelids.

Fumi is hovering above her, sobbing quietly, using one hand to wipe her face and the other to cling to Yachiyo's sweater.

And though the sight of her tears isn't the first thing Yachiyo had wanted to see upon regaining consciousness, it certainly is far from the last. She twitches her fingers, then lifts one hand to bring it up to cover the one Fumi has on her chest. Gasping softly, Fumi opens her eyes and meets her tired gaze.

"Yachiyo-"

"Fumi-san…" Yachiyo exhales, but then feels the need to inhale again right away, and her breathing becomes choked. "I'm… sorry for causing you… all this trouble…"

"Stop it." Fumi takes her hand and squeezes, carding the other through Yachiyo's bangs. "You're no trouble, Yachiyo."

"But you… must've carried me here… this is your apartment, right…? I'm sorry-"

"I told you to stop." Fumi feels more tears coming on to listen to her desperately try to apologize to the point where she's already made herself breathless. "It's fine, Yachiyo. It's not like I was about to just leave you there."

"Still, I-"

"Stop." She says it more gently this time, more of a plea than anything. "Please. Just breathe for a second, Yachiyo."

To her, it seems like Yachiyo couldn't say any more even if she wanted to with how thick and choked her breath has become. Yachiyo blinks slowly in agreement and then closes her eyes to concentrate on her breath.

Fumi massages her collar softly, trying to diffuse some of the pressure in her chest. Yachiyo sighs shakily beneath her touch, shifting her head a little in Fumi's lap, wanting to be as close to her as possible. Fumi takes up the cloth again and cleans the sweat from her face.

After a few minutes, Yachiyo lets out a long sigh, one that's uninterrupted this time. Her chest doesn't feel quite so stifled anymore, and even though her throat aches, it's not as bad as before. Her fingers tremble a little as she seeks Fumi's hand, touching her gently.

"Fumi-san… thank you…"

"You don't need to thank me." Fumi doesn't feel like she deserves the gratitude anyway after she'd hurt her so badly. "How are you feeling? Can you breathe all right?"

Yachiyo gives a tiny nod.

"Yeah."

"Good." Fumi plays through her hair for a second, and Yachiyo's lips twitch into a tiny smile.

"I definitely feel much better than I did back at the park."

"What about your ankle?"

Yachiyo blinks. She'd almost forgotten about that. She looks to the foot of the bed now past her knees and skirt to see the swollen bruising on her right ankle. She makes a foolish attempt to move it and instantly regrets it when a bolt of pain shoots around her foot.

"Th-That might be a different story…"

"Dummy! Don't try to move! Of course it's going to hurt!"

And though Fumi is chiding her seriously, something about hearing her that way makes Yachiyo smile again. And she even chuckles softly, for the first time around Fumi since she'd left.

Fumi hears her and narrows her eyes.

"What the heck is so funny?"

"Sorry."

"What the heck are you apologizing for?"

"Sorry."

"Geez…" Fumi puts a hand to her forehead and sighs. But if Yachiyo is feeling well enough to smile, all things considered, she must be all right.

Or at least, Fumi assumes as much until she feels a sudden shiver run through her.

Yachiyo moans, curling up a tiny bit.

Again, Fumi fails to control herself. She leans over Yachiyo, wrapping both arms around her as best she can, covering her in a soft embrace. Yachiyo reaches up to hold onto her waist a little.

They stay there for a moment, finding that given the angle of their positions, their lips have come very close. Fumi can feel Yachiyo's warm breath on her chin, and it takes a lot of self-control not to lean towards it.

She can't. Not now. Not when she's sick and in pain.

After a moment, Fumi slowly sits herself up again, reaching for the blankets. She pulls them up from the bottom and covers Yachiyo up to her stomach.

"How's this?" she asks. "Are you hot or cold?"

"I'm not really sure…" Yachiyo admits. Her skin and blood feel hot, but her body keeps shivering.

Fumi purses her lips for a moment.

"Well, either way you've gotta drink something." She leans over the bed to her nightstand to grab a half-full bottle of water, then stops. "This is mine from this morning. Do you mind? I can get you a new one from the fridge if you want."

Yachiyo hadn't realized how parched she really was until the thought of water is placed into her head. Her throat suddenly feels hot and sandy again, and she gives her answer without really thinking about it.

"I don't mind…"

She thinks Fumi looks a little bit happy about that for a second.

"All right. Let me help you sit up. Lean against me."

Yachiyo does as she's told, hardly doing anything herself with how adamant Fumi is about helping her. Once she's up, Fumi keeps a hand at the small of her back as she hands Yachiyo the water bottle.

"Take your time," she murmurs. "Drink slowly, okay?"

Yachiyo dips her head. She doesn't even open the bottle for a long moment, because she's so lost in the feeling of Fumi's hand on her back. They'd used to sit like this before, snuggled up on a couch in Siegfeld's common area or in private in one of their bedrooms, watching a movie or rehearsing lines or just resting after a long day…

She doesn't realize tears have begun to slip free again until she's started drinking, trying not to think about how Fumi's lips had kissed the rim earlier today.

The water is cool and soothing to her throat, and once it travels down to her stomach it sends a pleasant sensation through her whole body. She drinks it all, finishing with a soft sob.

Fumi takes the empty bottle and puts it aside as she pulls her into another hug.

"I'm sorry," she sighs. "I'm such a lousy girlfriend, making you cry so much…"

Yachiyo gasps softly, fingers clinging more tightly to Fumi's cardigan.

"Fumi-san… you-"

"Ahh..."

"…Huh?"

They ease apart a little as Fumi explains.

"Back at the park, you'd stopped addressing me formally. You just called me 'Fumi,' like you used to…"

Yachiyo is quiet for a heartbeat, realizing that Fumi's cheeks have turned light pink. She'd only dropped the honorifics when they'd been dating. Her heart flutters faster.

"Fumi-sa… Fumi… you…"

"Yachiyo." Fumi takes both of her hands, squeezing them as she meets her eyes. "I never wanted things to end between us. I mean it. I still- m-my feelings for you are still-" She lowers her head, trying to get her bearings.

Yachiyo starts to tremble again, but not from the fever.

"Fumi…"

As if given the rest of her resolve by Yachiyo's call of her name, Fumi snaps her head up again, her eyes and cheeks burning.

"Yachiyo! I… I never wanted us to lose what we had. I don't want us to be over. I don't want to lose you again. I… I want you to keep being my girlfriend-!"

Yachiyo can't stop the flood of tears now. She can't remember how long it's been exactly since they'd become estranged. But every single second since then, Yachiyo's wanted to hear those words.

And now that she's hearing them, she just bursts into tears.

"Fumi… Fumi-"

She throws her arms around her with enough force to knock Fumi back onto the bed with her. Fumi catches her, locking both arms around her and making sure she doesn't fall off. They bounce onto the mattress together, sobbing and shaking, letting their fingers run through each other's hair. Yachiyo fumbles with her voice, desperate to give her answer, just in case this wasn't clear enough.

"Fumi…" she gasps. "Me too… I want to keep being your girlfriend… and I want you to keep being mine…"

"Yachiyo-" Fumi hugs her tighter.

They both shudder, going almost limp with relief that it's finally been said and done and conveyed.

Finally; though it had taken far too long and caused far too much pain and been far too messy, it was better late than never. Through the sobs and the weighted breaths, hiccups of their voices come through.

"Fumi…"

"Yachiyo…"

After all this time, only now does it feel as though their hearts can finally beat without pain or regret. Now all that is erased, washed away by this renewed and gleeful affection.

All those weeks and months of agony, ended in just a few moments. It really had been this simple, somehow.

They feel foolish for having let it drag on for so long, for being so scared all for nothing. To compensate, all they can think to do is hold each other with as much tenderness and care as possible now.

They lie there together for a while, crying softly into each other's shoulders, running hands down their backs and sides. Yachiyo's heart is still pounding, but it's not from the fever anymore. All the warmth in her body is definitely because of Fumi now.

Fumi pets through her hair like she'd used to, keeping Yachiyo as close to herself as possible.

"Yachiyo… I've missed you so much…"

"Me too," she sobs. "Fumi… I-"

But before she can finish, both girls tense at the sudden sound of a ringtone. They sit up quickly, almost like children caught doing something they shouldn't be. Flushed and bashful, they look away from one another for a moment.

"Th-That's mine," Yachiyo says, looking to her purse which Fumi had dropped at the doorway. She makes a move to get up, but Fumi immediately grabs her wrist to keep her in place.

"What do you think you're doing?" She flashes her gaze to Yachiyo's swollen ankle. "I'll get it. You stay put."

Yachiyo does as she's told, waiting patiently as Fumi retrieves her purse. Yachiyo fishes out her phone to see who's calling her. She realizes this is the first she's seeing of the time as well. It's already 5PM.

"Ah, I'm gonna be in for it…"

"Is it Akira?" Fumi grimaces.

"No. Just Mei Fan. But still…" Yachiyo draws in a deep breath before answering. "Hello? Mei F-"

"Yachiyo!" Mei Fan shrieks so loudly Yachiyo has to pull the phone away from her ear. "Thank goodness you answered! You've been gone for so long! Where are you? Is everything all right?"

Before Yachiyo can get a word in, she hears the panicked voices of the other Edels.

"Yachiyo!" Michiru says. "You'd better come back soon. Akira is worried about you!"

"She should know better than to be out this late on her own," comes Akira's grunt. "Even if it's a weekend, if she isn't back by curfew, she'll be punished."

"Y-Yachiyo-senpai!" Shiori's higher voice trills. "A-Are you all right? I'd thought you looked a little unwell when I ran into you this morning, but-"

"W-Wait everyone!" Mei Fan says. "Let her talk! Yachiyo, are you still there?"

Yachiyo doesn't know what it is exactly that makes her start to cry again. Maybe it's the fever. Maybe it's hearing all their voices and knowing they were worried about her. Maybe it's that sweet, bemused look in Fumi's eyes. But either way she begins to sniffle again as she replies.

"Sorry… A lot happened…"

"Y-Yachiyo-?!" Mei Fan shrieks. "A-Are you crying? Are you all right?"

"Oh my gosh, you're all hopeless!" Fumi interjects, taking the phone from Yachiyo and holding it between them now. The girls on the other end are clearly shocked to hear her.

"E-Eh?"

"Is that-?"

"Onee-chan?"

As everyone shrieks some more, Fumi rolls her eyes.

"They're still a bunch of idiots, I see."

Yachiyo wipes her eyes and nods.

"Yeah. I fit right in."

Fumi nudges her side playfully.

After a brief moment of confusion, the deeper of the four other voices speaks much more calmly.

"Fumi."

Yachiyo doesn't miss the way Fumi stiffens a little at the sound of Akira's voice. Yachiyo squeezes her hand to let her know it's all right. Akira continues.

"Would you mind explaining the situation?"

Fumi gives a nod, seeming to forget that Akira can't see her.

"Yes. I met Yachiyo at the store when it started to rain, and since she didn't have an umbrella I started walking back with her. But then… well, some things happened and she ended up hurting her ankle-"

"She what?"

"Y-Yachiyo-senpai is hurt?"

"Is she okay?"

"Girls," Akira snaps. "Let her finish. Go on, Fumi."

"Right. Well I brought her back to my place to take care of her, but well… it's already gotten so late. There's no way I'm letting her go back now in her condition. So I'm having her stay here with me for the night."

Of course that had been clear enough, but hearing Fumi say it out loud and confirming it now makes Yachiyo's heart skip a beat. She and Fumi make eye contact, and both of them are equally flushed, but content with the idea. Once everyone has calmed down on the other end of the line, Akira speaks again.

"Yachiyo."

"Yes?"

"How's your injury?"

Yachiyo looks back down at her foot.

"I don't think anything's broken. It's just swollen, is all."

"All right. Be sure to ice it properly and don't strain yourself. The four of us will come tomorrow to get you."

"Okay."

"Yachiyo!" Mei Fan squeaks again. "Just take it easy, all right?"

"That's right!" Michiru says. "Just rest up and feel better soon!"

"Onee-chan!" Shiori's voice sounds a little strained, but it's from relief if anything. "Please take care of her!"

Fumi smirks.

"Who do you think you're talking to, Shiori? Of course I will."

With that, Yachiyo takes her phone back.

"Everyone, thank you for worrying about me."

"Of course we would!"

"We'll come get you tomorrow!"

"Please take care until then!"

"Get some rest, Yachiyo."

Yachiyo smiles.

"I will. Thank you, everyone."

At last she hangs up, and immediately after the tears come again. Fumi sighs, pulling her into another hug.

"Since when did you become such a crybaby?"

"Heh… I'm really not sure…"

Fumi sighs, resting her chin on her shoulder.

"I guess it's fine… I've sorta become that way too…"

Yachiyo hugs her back, sniffling softly. It's true that she's only like this around, and because of, Fumi. The girl who is normally laid-back and enjoys teasing her friends a little from time to time seems so far a way now. Being with Fumi makes her a completely different person; or rather, being with her is when Yachiyo shows a side of herself she's never revealed to anyone else before. She's never cried so much - for better or for worse - in all her life before she'd met Fumi.

They hold onto one another for a few more minutes there on the bed until Fumi slowly begins easing herself back.

"Well," she says. "Since you're staying here for the night, I'll start making us some dinner."

"I can-"

"No way, missy. Not in your condition." Fumi puts both hands on her shoulders and gently pushes her back down onto the bed. "You're resting. End of discussion."

Yachiyo sighs, but it's a relieved sound if anything. Fumi readjusts the blankets for her, pulling them up over Yachiyo's waist so she can use them however much or little she wants, then she heads for the kitchen.

Yachiyo closes her eyes and listens to the sounds of movement from the kitchen, the slight clatter of plates and bowls. Her consciousness drifts for about ten minutes or so until she begins to smell the scents of rice and various meats, making her realize she hasn't eaten since breakfast. Fumi reappears a moment later with a small bag of ice and brings it to her.

"Sorry. I should've done this from the beginning." She helps Yachiyo move her injured foot onto a pillow, then presses the ice onto it. Yachiyo shudders at the chill, but it does its job to stifle the throbbing heat.

"Thanks, Fumi."

"Don't mention it."

Fumi starts heading for the door, then pauses and goes back to the bed. Yachiyo tilts her head curiously. A blush comes across Fumi's cheeks as she tucks a lock of blonde behind her ear, then quickly leans down to leave a kiss on top of Yachiyo's head before quickly exiting. Yachiyo blinks after her, heart bouncing.

A little while later, Fumi returns with two bowls of rice and several dumplings for them to share. She sits on her bed with Yachiyo as they eat.

"So?" she prompts her guest. "Is it okay?"

Yachiyo bites into a dumpling, and her mouth tingles at the sensation of flavor as she swallows.

"Yeah. It's really good. I guess it only makes sense you're a great cook since you live here alone."

"Thanks." Fumi scoops a bit of rice into her mouth and looks down into her bowl. "You know… if you ever have time or wanna stop by, you're always welcome to."

Yachiyo blinks, then smiles as she watches Fumi fidget from making the offer.

"Sure."

Fumi smiles too, quickly hiding it with a napkin.

Throughout the remainder of the meal, they talk a little, mainly about the Edels. It feels just like old times again, when there were no injuries or transfers or awkward feelings. They laugh and tease and talk about their classmates, telling each other of upcoming plays or their most-recent performances.

When they're finished, Fumi brings all the dishes to the kitchen to clean later, then fetches Yachiyo a set of an extra pajama sweater and pants. Fumi runs her a bath, deciding that would be much less hazardous than having her stand in the shower, helps her up from the bed and brings her to the bathroom.

After Yachiyo insists she'll be find undressing by herself, Fumi retreats to the kitchen to clean up. She keeps an ear tuned in to the bathroom, but thankfully never hears any sounds of distress.

When Yachiyo's finished bathing and changing, Fumi returns to blow-dry her hair, then helps her hobble back to bed. As Fumi takes her turn in the bath, Yachiyo ices her ankle a bit more and drinks some of the water her host had brought for her.

Even though she's been with Fumi for half the day now, and even though they've already made their romantic feelings clear, her heart still hasn't calmed down much. But it's now less because of her fever, and more because of the fact that she's staying the night at her girlfriend's apartment after they'd spent months estranged and only just re-established their mutual feelings.

"It's a mess," she mutters, smiling faintly. "But it could be a whole lot worse, that's for sure."

She has Fumi back, and that's the biggest part of all this. Which means she'll be able to text her and call her again as more-than-friends, and she'll be able to hold her hand and snuggle up with her and kiss her.

Maybe not as frequently as before, considering they're in different schools now, but Fumi had made it clear that she's welcome at the apartment, and of course Yachiyo would invite her to her dorm at Siegfeld once Fumi felt ready to visit again.

In the past few weeks, Yachiyo had felt she'd just have to accept the notion that she'd had - and lost - Fumi. That was how these things tended to go, or so she'd heard. The possibility that they could realistically be together again had hardly crossed her mind, so it's proving to be a very welcome surprise.

She gets lost in thought for a moment, not realizing her fingers have gone numb from holding the ice in place for so long. She jolts at the sound of a door closing as Fumi re-enters, dressed in green pajamas similar to her sister's and running a towel through her hair.

"That felt nice," she sighs. Her eyes travel up to Yachiyo across the room. "Does your ankle feel any better?"

Yachiyo takes a moment to answer, because she'd forgotten how cute Fumi looked in her sleepwear.

"Ah, yeah. It doesn't hurt as much anymore."

"That's good. Hopefully it heals quickly so it won't bench you from the stage for too long."

There's a brief pause as they stare at one another from across the room. Yachiyo reaches for her water again to finish it slowly.

"So…" Fumi says, a bit more softly now. "Is there anything else you need?"

Yachiyo puts the now-empty bottle down and shakes her head.

"I don't think so."

"All right. I'll turn off the lights then." She does as she says, flicking the switch and filling the room with nighttime. A bit of shine from the moon makes its way in through the windows, soft and silver.

Yachiyo watches her as she crosses the room toward the bed now, noticing that no floor futon has been prepared. With this realization, she quickly begins shifting herself over to one side of the bed.

"Calm down." Fumi reaches her, putting a hand on hers. She sits down on the edge of her bed, carefully slipping her arms around Yachiyo's sides. With Fumi easing her over little by little, Yachiyo can focus on moving her injured foot at her own pace.

Once there's enough space for them both, Fumi removes the bag of ice and puts it on the night stand, then goes back to squint at Yachiyo's ankle.

"How does it feel?"

"I think it's all right."

"You might think that, but make sure once you get back to school tomorrow, you have the nurse check it out."

"Okay~"

Glad to hear Yachiyo sounding like her old self again, Fumi sits back beside her, pulling the blankets up and over the both of them. She gives her an imploring, inviting glance, and after drawing in a breath, Yachiyo begins lying herself down as well. She rests on her side, keeping her bad ankle on top while facing Fumi's direction.

Fumi is hesitant to touch her for a minute, but as she's moving the blankets around them, her arm eventually comes to drape itself across Yachiyo's side. Likewise, Yachiyo inches closer, tentatively reaching out to hug her stomach.

There's a moment of quiet where they remember to breathe and let themselves get comfortable. The bed might be soft and warm, but it's nothing compared to the softness and warmth they've missed in curling up with each other.

Fumi's other arm slips beneath her shoulders, coaxing Yachiyo closer. Yachiyo moves in to her almost magnetically, nuzzling into Fumi's collar. Her fingers find themselves threading softly through straight, silken hair, lush and smooth from her shower. The faint scent of citrus rushes into her lungs, and she almost wants to cry for joy all over again. Yachiyo squeezes her, letting out a long, soft sigh.

Likewise, Fumi begins running her hands up and down Yachiyo's back like she'd always used to.

She's missed this. They both have.

Some part of Fumi knows it's useless to keep regretting how she'd left things off with her, but she just can't help it. The guilt overwhelms her quietly as she buries her face into Yachiyo's shoulder and hiccups softly. Yachiyo eases back enough to cradle Fumi to her chest, and she burrows in.

Yachiyo's heart aches with Fumi pressed against it, but it's more from longing for this than anything else.

"Fumi…" She lets several strands of blonde slip through her fingers in the moonlight. Yachiyo closes her eyes, trying to prevent her own tears. By the time Fumi has recovered, Yachiyo has started to tremble. So Fumi hugs her close this time, petting through her spindly hair down her back.

"Yachiyo…"

It isn't just yet another daydream of thinking about doing this sort of thing together. This time it's real again, but it's still difficult to believe.

By the time they've both calmed down and accepted the reality, it's well into the night.

But although it's soft and warm and her ankle no longer hurts, and although Fumi is finally right back here in her arms like she's always wanted, there is still a tiny, fearful pulse in Yachiyo's heart. Even though they've confirmed their feelings multiple times today, she just needs a little more. Her voice comes out in a nervous mumble.

"Fumi…?"

Fumi knows her so well - better than anyone, of course. She knows exactly what Yachiyo is trying to ask just from hearing her say her name alone. Fumi eases back from her, caressing her cheek and brushing her bangs out of her eyes.

"Yachiyo."

Fumi smiles, and it makes Yachiyo feel like crying all over again. They're so close that Yachiyo can feel the vibrations of her voice in her chest. Fumi leans in close, holding a small, sweet kiss to the bridge of her nose.

"The answer is yes," she murmurs. "Yes, we're girlfriends. I want to be with you, Yachiyo. I want you to be my girlfriend."

She isn't sure why, but hearing Fumi say that word makes Yachiyo both unspeakably relieved and overjoyed and just a little scared. But scared in a good way, if that makes any sense.

"Yes-" she rasps. "Fumi… I want that, too. I want to be your girlfriend again."

She isn't sure if 'again' is a good word to use, if they'd ever stopped dating in the first place. Either way, Fumi doesn't seem conflicted by it. She just kisses her nose again.

"I'm sorry about everything," she murmurs. "About not saying anything to you properly. Especially when we were-"

"You've already told me all of this," Yachiyo chuckles. She takes the opportunity to kiss Fumi's cheek. When Fumi turns a light shade of pink in the darkness, Yachiyo feels her own face warming up as well.

"I know." Fumi squeezes her a little tighter. "I just need you to understand that I'm sorry, Yachiyo. I never wanted to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt any of the Edels, but especially not you."

"That's over now," Yachiyo sighs, returning the embrace a bit more tightly. "It's in the past. We're girlfriends now, aren't we? That's what matters."

Fumi sniffles a bit and rubs her cheek with hers.

"You're right. That's the most important thing now."

Their eyes meet properly now, after a while of glimpsing nothing but nightgowns and shoulders and hair. There's an unspoken question there - a need, a desire.

It reminds Yachiyo of the day they'd started dating, alone in the Edel's lounge, how Fumi had suddenly leaned in with those burning eyes of hers and said, "Yachiyo, can I kiss you?"

And in spite of her asking, Yachiyo had been the one to pull her in and kiss her first as an answer, in an 'I thought you'd never ask' sort of way.

But now, there's no need for words. The question is there in their eyes, and so is the answer.

Closing their eyes, they move close, their breath following the path to each other's lips.

It's been so long, and yet somehow it feels like they've never stopped at all.

The kiss is warm and just a little bit pushy, while still being very soft. It's tentative from having been a while, and yet eager with familiarity.

When they can no longer hold out and must part for breath, it's only for a second before they come back together. Their arms squeeze tightly, desperately, never wanting to let go again.

When at last their lips come apart, their eyes shimmer.

"Fumi."

"Yachiyo."

Then, the simple nuzzling of noses and a mutual chuckle.

All is said and done.

With one last small kiss, the two of them exhale together, feeling the warmth of each other's heartbeats resounding through their chests.

With their legs carefully tangled, their arms around one another, and their hearts pressed close, sleep comes to them both.

Better days lie ahead for them; better, softer, and warmer days.


A/N: I hope I wrote them all right. I'm not the best with the non-Seishou girls since I don't play the game, so they might've been out-of-character. But this was a lot of fun to write, this mix of angst and hurt/comfort.

Please review!