Part Five: For You
While you occupy me I command my dreams each day
To bring you in me even thinly as the morning chases you away
I half believe if I just picture us we will come true
Wishful thinking or my dreams sinking half depends on you
Why don't we both agree we're both afraid and too afraid to say
If I count to three and move toward me would you meet me half the way?
After that strange encounter by the fountain, things slowly start to get a little better. I made the fencing team, and Jury regularly kicks my ass, and I don't care. I'm actually starting to have fun. I do want to prove myself to her, in so many ways, but... I finally realized that she only expects me to do my best. And maybe my best can be good enough for me, too.
And we have conversations. Actual, civil, friendly conversations, from time to time. None as long or in-depth as the one we had the night by the fountain, but not so strained and fakeor tumultuousas they often were before that night. She even initiates conversations with me from time to time, and I no longer have the urge to turn her away before she might actually make me care again.
Because I already do. And that doesn't seem to bother me much.
And it's not just about our old friendship. It's the feelings from that that made me want to try again (that's why I came back to Ohtori, after all), but it's more, too. It's something new, because we've both changed a little.
But it's growing really slowly.
And the "something new" doesn't always help.
She's still holding onto something.
And I'm getting tired of waiting for her to let go so we can move on.
"Next!" Captain Arisugawa shouts. My cue.
"Yes!" I answer her, stepping forward for the twice-weekly test of shame.
Parry riposte parry feint lunge.
"Touché!" I announce after what seems to be only a few seconds.
"Next!" She calls out. I join the ranks of the defeated and go through a few bouts with them.
A second before I strike true against Hikaru-kun, Jury places her hand on my shoulder. I pull off my mask so I can see her better.
"Shiori, your center of balance is lower than that. Let me show you." I nod, and she places her hands on my hips. "You should feel it in between here... so you can shift your weight like this." She gently but firmly guides my lower torso forward and back. "See?"
I feel it, but I'm watching her face, eyelids lowered, concentrating on what she's doing. Faint beads of sweat are on her face, exertion from practice. Her eyes flicker upward and meet mine. She holds my gaze for a minute, and she suddenly doesn't look like the Captain.
She steps backward suddenly, and then she frowns, "Do you understand?"
"Yes," I tell her, trying not to smirk. She dons the Mask of the Captain, which works well except it can't hide the fact that she's...
"What was that about?" Hikaru-kun asks me.
I put my fencing mask back on before my face does something stupid. "About losing your balance, I think. En garde."
"Miki-san, I'll help clean up. I think your sister's waiting for you."
"But she's-" the blue-haired boy starts to protest, and I give him a glare. It's not the Arisugawa Icy Glare of Death, but it will do. He gets the picture. "Oh, right," he nods, eyeing me suspiciously, but adds, much to my relief, "I forgot." He gathers his things and mutters a quick excuse and goodbye to Jury.
I help Jury put spare foils away in the storage locker. We're the only ones left in the room. She's not looking at me, and it starts to feel tense, like it used to.
"Dammit, Jury, what the hell is with you?"
She looks at me, her eyes dancing between frustration and something else... regret? "I-" She sighs. "I'm sorry, Shiori. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable earlier today."
I shake my head. "I wasn't. You're the one who seems uncomfortable, Jury." The ghost of Ruka smirks at me in my mind's eye: Liar liar liar. Okay, so I am uncomfortable. But I'm tired of this.
Something has to change. Now.
She shuts the storage locker and stares at the latch. "Shiori..."
"Yes?" I prompt her after a few moments of silence.
"We can never be what we were in the past."
"I don't want to be what we were in the past. I'm not twelve anymore, Jury! Things have changed. We can change..." I trail off as she looks at the floor and rubs her eyes so I can't see them.
"Shiori..." she says again. She's acting weird and closed off, and I don't know what I've done wrong this time.
"That is my name," I agree. "What is it, Jury?"
She drops her hand and looks at me, eyes glittering with a strange mix of frustration and amusement. "Ruka was right. You are pushy."
When did he call me that? No, don't get distracted. I cross my arms. "Don't avoid the subject."
She shakes her head and closes her eyes, wearing a strange smile. "Pushy, egotistical, and... something else. Selfish, I think."
What the hell is she doing? Has she just been playing with me? Condescending to that kind of level seems... The fire builds. I throw my arms out and push her against the storage locker door. "What are you getting at, Jury?" I thrust my chin upward, close to her face, so she has to face me.
Her eyes are wide in shock, and then they slowly soften... and sadden.
"I'm sorry, Jury, I didn't mean to hurt you," I ramble off. I mean it; she pissed me off but I didn't mean to get literally pushy. "I just want to know what you feel..." I trail off, looking at her eyes, turbulent like the ocean.
That strange smile she was wearing a minute ago comes back. She tilts her head downward slightly, so as to look me in the eyes even better. It almost looks like she's about to-
Oh my god, is she going to kiss me?
Don't you dare, Jury.
Oh, what am I thinking anyway? Even if she was still attracted to me, Jury would never-
Oh. My. God.
Soft, warm, gentle lips brush against mine in a pure, slow gesture.
Jury is kissing me.
What? I push myself away, startled by the reality of the situation. Perhaps I shouldn't be, but I never actually expected it to really happen. I never thought I would ever actually have to deal with this.
I guess I was merely hoping not to have to deal with how I would feel in return.
But if we have to change... if we have to move past where we've been... if we're ever to move forward, break the walls, the chains that are trapping us...
But... this is... not... normal...
Jury's eyes widen in horror as she's staring at me and she backs away from me. "Oh my god," she says, clapping her hand to her mouth and abruptly turning. Leaning against the wall, she starts to walk away.
I don't understand. Then I realize I must have looked pretty freaked.
She's walking away from me again. No. My pounding heart says I can't let this happen. Not after all this...
I will not lose her.
"Jury!" I lunge for her and try to grab her arm, but she pulls away.
"Leave me alone!" she pleads. She's trying to keep her head turned away from me, although I can tell her face is red.
"Please," she says, or more whimpers, and then she seems to lose her legs, crumbling to the floor, covering her face with her hand, still leaning against the wall for support. The strength that usually seems to constantly flow through her has just run out. Her whole body is quaking.
She's crying. At one point I think I would have paid to see this. Now I just want her to stop, and be... and be Jury again.
I kneel down beside her.
"I'm sorry, Shiori..." she whispers.
"Why?" I ask softly.
She pulls her hand halfway down her face so she can look at me sideways. Her face has gone from red to pale, and her eyes are shimmering with tears.
"Dammit, Jury." I put my hand on her shoulder to keep her from replying. "You're even beautiful when you cry. How do you do that? Every time I cry I get all puffy and look like I'm all drugged out."
She drops her hand. Now she's just looking at me like I'm insane, and she may well be right.
I move my hand from her shoulder to her cheek, gently wiping tears away with my thumb. Her skin is smooth. "I'm sorry, Jury... you just... scaredstartled me. But I guess... I scared you, too. But Jury, why should I be afraid of you? After all this? It's silly."
She's just staring at me now, wide eyed, setting herself for whatever insult or praise, feint or lunge I may use to attack her with.
I wipe another tear and look at those wide, helpless, strong eyes. "So pretty..."
My heart is so loud I can barely hear myself speak, so I stop talking.
On impulse, I lean forward and kiss another tear off her cheek. She doesn't move, though this close I can feel her breath, feel its warmth against my hair. In fact, I feel warmth everywhere, inside myself and coming from her, I'm so close to her.
Don't you dare, Shiori! The voice of fear puts in one last protest. And I finally can ignore it. Because I know if I don't do this now, I will never get the chance again. And I do not want to live the next few years of my life in regret. I've had enough of that.
Believe in miracles, and they will know your true feelings.
I lower my face, already so close to her, and I touch my lips to hers. I start tentatively, and I feel like I might fall apart at any moment. She's still frozen at first, but then the gaze of the gorgon reduces. She relaxes, relents, and then I feel her put one arm around me, pulling me in close. Her fingers glide through my hair as she kisses me back. It's warmer and more passionate than anything I've felt in my life. Her skin, her lips, so soft and delicate and determined.
I wonder what kind of sick freak could ever think contact like this could be wrong?
I am such a fool.
After a few moments lighted by a warmth I have not felt in forever, we come up for air, and her eyes move over my face. She shakes her head. "Damn you, Shiori." Her eyes are still glassy, and she looks halfway between laughing and crying.
"Do you know how many times I've convinced myself I'm over you? And then, just as I think I can move on without you, you look at me, and smile, and say something wonderful like 'believe in miracles' or 'friendship makes you strong,' or... or 'dammit Jury, what the hell is with you,' and I fall in love with you all over again." She sighs. "And now... it's going to take forever for me to get over this."
I smile. "Good," I whisper and kiss her cheek, and let my face linger just a millimeter above hers. Her eyelashes tickle my face.
"What do you want from me, Shiori?" she whispers in my ear, in a different kind of desperation than before. It sounds the way she looked at me when I grabbed her hand a few months ago during lunch.
"Nothing," I answer her, honestly and truly. Be proud of me, Sempai. I shift my weight a little so I can crawl in close to her more comfortably, snuggling into her shoulder.
My heart's still beating fast, but I feel warmer, fuller than I have before. Even being so close to her, I feel much more myself.
I am still frightened, and I have no idea what I'm doing. But I guess... that's what change is about.
She is waiting for more of an answer than what I have given her. I close my eyes, digging inside for a deeper answer.
"I want to... to love you, Jury." I shift my head back to look at her face again.
"Really?" Her eyes widen, and for a minute, she looks like a... a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl.
"Yeah. So show me." I lift my lips to hers.
She kisses me back briefly but then gently pushes my shoulders back to look at me. With one hand she gently smoothes my hair. "I don't know if I can, but..." Her eyes shimmer with uncertainty and then soften slightly as she looks into my eyes. "I love you."
I think I hear bells outside. Or maybe my ears are just ringing, I'm not sure.
"It's taken you what, three years to say that, hasn't it?"
"Probably closer to four years." She leans forward and continues the kiss. She pulls me closer, fingers still caressing my hair, her other hand clasped almost protectively against my shoulder.
I squeeze her tight, letting the last of my fear melt into the tender radiance of her lips. She pulls me in more deeply, and I taste her, feel her like I never imagined I would. It is something entirely new, and it is more right than what I've felt in what seems like forever.
There really are bells ringing outside.
Finally, we are free.
[Part V Notes: And they lived happily ever after until the end of time, or at least until more teen angst threatened to screw them up or the forces of darkness threatened to separate them, whichever comes first. Wow! This was really long! I don't know if it was too detailed (or not enough?), but I found writing this a hell of a lot of fun. Constructive comments and criticism are always welcome: please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh yeah, and this chapter's header comes from the song "You've Got to Show" written by Emily Saliers (of the Indigo Girls), copyright 2002 by Sony Music.]
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