Why is Nao suddenly finding it so hard to be around Natsuki? Is it because she was shown some actual kindness?
We ride back in silence, me hunkering down behind her back as the wind whips around us. I feel completely and utterly fucking humiliated, betrayed by myself, especially now as I cling even harder to her body. I'm just glad the rush of air around us prevents me from speaking, because I know I'd be babbling right now. I can't really explain it, it's like I'm not in control of my body. I don't want to be acting like this, being needy and clingy, upset and fragile. I think back on what I said in your hospital room and I'm furious. That's twice now I've looked weak in front of her, twice she's seen me cry, and there I am being, what, thankful?
I pull away from Kuga's back, leaning back slightly as my hands release her and take hold of the grip bar at the back of the seat. I don't want to touch or be touched by her, I don't want any of this. I was doing fine on my own before any of this HiME crap started and I'll be fine by myself again. If Tokiha wants to keep tabs on Kuga she can do it herself, I'm keeping well away.
Pulling up at the dorms, I quickly hop off the bike, putting distance in-between me and her as I head for the door. I can feel her eyes upon my back as I smoothly open the door. Act calm, cool, distant, don't let her know how shaken up I feel, how weak I am. She doesn't say anything as she follows me inside and up the stairs, nor as we enter our apartment, but she's still watching me. Slipping into the kitchen, I pilfer a beer from the fridge, noting there's yet another pack in there before I head to the bedroom. She's there getting changed, and she pauses, looking up at me, her t-shirt pulled up to her neck, exposing her upper body to me. I can feel the heat rising to my face as it does her, but after a second or two, she shrugs, pulling it off the rest of the way. I turn to the side, tearing my eyes off her as I dig out some clothes of my own to change into. What the hell's up with me? She's supposed to be the prudish, uptight one, not me. I disrobe and redress quickly before stalking out to the balcony, knocking back big gulps of the beer. I don't actually like it that much, but such is the price we pay for looking cool. It's hard being me.
I'm relatively calm by the time Kuga joins me out on the balcony. She fishes out one of her cigarettes, and pauses, looking at me. It takes me a while to realise she's offering me one. Why not I figure, so I nod, maintaining the silence between us, and take the proffered cigarette. I take a pull on it nonchalantly, dispelling the smoke. Now she's bloody grinning at me. "What?"
"You're supposed to inhale it into your lungs Nao."
"Pah, whatever you say," I spit out. I take a second pull, this time taking it down into my lungs. All of ten seconds later I finish coughing whilst Kuga is still laughing at me. I scowl at her until she finally abates, but a large smirk covers her face.
"I shouldn't laugh, I know. I was exactly the same when I started. Stupid habit really. I guess it's just that, well, it's doing something, leaving me no time to get wrapped up in my thoughts. Escapism, that's all it is. Gah, now I'm getting all melancholy."
I don't really know why she's telling me things. I guess it's just I'm here at the moment so I'll do. If it had been Tokiha here, she'd be saying the same things. I take another drag, and barely manage to keep myself from spluttering this time. Can't say I really see the attraction in these things. Besides, I'm underage for this as well. Sometimes even I forget I'm only fifteen, and yet, here I am, smoking and drinking. Hardly the poster child for teenage life, but it's not like I care. Try living my life and see if they can still judge me. How am I supposed to be normal without you, mama? Take a look at Kuga, you could hardly call her normal, and her childhood was as traumatic as mine. We're both broken, but she kept on trying. Me, I just lash out at everyone around, driving them further and further away. In a crazy way, the whole HiME deal might be the best thing that's happened to me in a long while. We're all freaks, we're all scarred, and we're all still hurting. We have a common tie, something that pulls us together. And I don't want to be alone anymore. It hurts too much. I just wish you were with me mama.
It's silent as we're both lost to our own thoughts until Kuga finishes her cigarette. I've not got much interest in finishing mine off, so I follow her lead in flicking it over the side before we both head in. The silence drags on as she sits in the chair and I on the sofa, both reading magazines we've not really got any interest in. Actually, I've no idea where they came from; neither seem like anything she'd be interested in. One picture grabs me, a full-page image of whoever the latest male idol is. "This stuff makes me sick, they're all the same."
"What?" She looks up from whatever inane article she was reading. I hold up mine. "Feh, not my type," she says, grimacing.
"Oh, so you have a type do you? What is it, psychotic lesbians?"
Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said that. Her face hardens, her eyes shifting away from me.
"Guess not," I mutter. "What a shame."
Her eyes shoot back to meet one. She looks shocked, but my grin gives it away. She gives a little smile before turning back to her magazine. I toss mine onto the table and pout a bit. This is so incredibly boring. Seriously though, what the hell is Kuga doing with these magazines? As I look at the ones lying there, they all seem like typical teen girl crap.
"They're Mai's," she says, as if she can read my mind.
"Ah! Now there's an idea, let's go pounce her for food. Besides, you should talk to her. She's been worried about you. Sunk so low she even asked me to help, and that's really scraping the bottom of the barrel."
She stares at me for a long moment, before finally speaking. "You shouldn't talk about yourself that way Nao. Keep saying it often enough and you'll start to believe it, but you're worth more than that. A lot more." She blushes a bit, as if she's unused to saying such things; I guess she is, as I am as well. "Now let's go extort some grub."
We troop over to Tokiha's after Kuga grabs one of the numerous bottles of mayo in the fridge. I slink into the background as she opens the door. For a moment she's stunned in surprise, but she quickly throws her arms around Kuga, who looks pretty embarrassed by the whole thing, but hugs her back after a few seconds. I feel kinda awkward just standing here on the sidelines, but that's alright if it means I can avoid being crushed to death by those two.
"It's good to have you back, Natsuki," Tokiha says as she pushes away from their embrace, her hands resting upon Kuga's shoulders.
"I, uh... it's good to be back Mai."
Neither say anything to me as we go inside, though Tokiha flashes me a quick smile before closing the door behind us. It feels... nice I guess, to have someone thank me, even non-verbally. I'm still no good at this crap though. We talk amiably enough, Tokiha and me cracking jokes at Kuga's expense, most of which the midget doesn't understand, but she's happy as well. It all seems somewhat surreal; even after the Carnival ended, I wasn't really this close to the others, but now it's like I'm somehow fitting in. What's more surprising though is how much I'm enjoying myself. I've always thought of myself as a loner, able to get by on my own, but is this what I was missing out on all along? I feel, I don't know, kind of warm I guess. It's been a long time since I've felt this way, since before... the attack. Thoughts of that drive away any feelings of happiness I had.
"I'm feeling pretty tired," I say, faking a yawn as I rise to my feet. "I'm gonna head back to our room."
"Are you alright?" Tokiha asks, as Kuga stares at me, a weird look in her eyes as if she can see right through me.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I reply, putting a brave face on it. "Just tired from work and the hospital today. A couple extra hours of sleep will do me good."
"Okay, good night Nao."
I'm out of there and back in our bedroom as fast as I can. I hate this, I hate this, I hate this. Just thinking about it makes me feel ill, and I will not allow myself to look weak in front of them. I sink onto my bed, curling up tight into a ball. I don't want to remember this; their hands, their fetid breath, their words and the pain. I know that I'm crying as I shake, but I can't stop. I'm reliving every horrible moment and it just won't end.
I don't know when I fell asleep, but I stir as I feel something moving against my skin. For a moment I'm horrified, still half caught in my nightmare and I flail out with my arms, trying to get away from my attacker, but arms quickly wrap around me, pulling me into a soft chest.
"It's alright Nao, it's alright," a tender voice says, a hand stroking my hair in a bid to calm me.
"Mama," I pant out, but I know that's not right. It can't be her, she's still in the hospital.
"I'm sorry Nao, I'm not her."
I feel embarrassed, knowing it is Kuga whose arms are holding me, but right now, I just need some kind of contact, anything will do. Slowly I raise my head and meet her eyes with my own. I need something to take the pain away, and then I'm pressing my lips to her, my arms snaking around her head as I let out a soft moan. Hands push me away and suddenly I feel sick as I look at the shocked expression on Kuga's face. What the hell am I doing? I can feel my heart thundering away in my chest, and I know my face is flushed as red, if not redder than hers.
"Oh gods, I... shit! Fuck!"
"I can't be there for you like that Nao," she says, a harsh tone in her voice.
I can't pull back the sneer or the laugh. "Don't flatter yourself Kuga. Anyone would have done in the circumstances." Liar.
"I'm not a whore for anyone," she snaps back, shifting her weight off the bed. As she turns around, I reach out, grabbing her hand in mine. She whirls back, anger on her face but it crumbles as I start shaking again.
"Don't... please, don't leave me alone. I can't take this on my own anymore." I can hear the wheedling tone in my voice and it sickens me, but I need someone, anyone to be beside me tonight. Her.
She's torn for a few moments, the conflict evident on her face, but she relents, her hand giving mine a quick squeeze. "My bed or yours?" She must have seen the look on my face, because she quickly hurried that up with "Just for sleeping, nothing more."
"Whichever, I don't care," I mumble, looking away from her as I release her hand.
"Mine then," she says as she turns away, picking up a long, baggy t-shirt off the floor, the one she sleeps in every night. She changes quickly, her back to me and I can't help but stare as she disrobes, my eyes travelling down her bare back to the swell of her hips. I flick my gaze back up as she turns around, a frown on her face, and for a moment I fear I was caught, but she quickly dispels that notion. "You can't sleep in your clothes, you change as well."
I'm up off my bed in a flash, literally throwing my clothes about the room as I grab my sleeping shirt as well. She at least turns her eyes away and I almost feel guilty at that. She pulls back the sheets of her bed and slips in; after a few moments hesitation, I slip in after her, turning so our backs are to each other. I can't get comfortable though, as I lie there awake, listening to Kuga's breathing. At least she doesn't snore. I feel the mattress move as she shifts her weight and almost flinch as an arm comes to rest across my shoulder. I pause, and then turn over as well, my arm slipping around her waist as I mould my body to hers, my head coming to rest on her chest. Soft lips plant a kiss on the top of my head as arms shield me from the outside world. I don't know if she's still awake or not, but I don't care as I snuggle against her, basking in her warmth. Only for tonight. Only tonight.