The morning after is always awkward. Especially if nothing actually happened the night before.
I can feel skin, not mine, touching me in places I'd rather they weren't. I open my eyes, my head still muggy, and all I can see is red. I blink a few times before realising its hair. Nao's hair. Oh boy. Her head is nuzzling at my breasts, and, yup, she's totally got a hand up my shirt. Of course, I also note that one of mine is palming her buttocks. Yikes. I let go pretty quickly, but now I've no idea where to stick it. I can just make out a serene little smile on her face, and I'm kinda touched by it. I guess not many people get to see this side of her. She's like a little girl all over again. And then I'm sad, since I know sooner or later she'll wake up and it won't be the mother in her dreams holding her safely, but me instead, and I'll get to see her heart breaking just that little bit more. My free hand comes to rest on her head, gently stroking her hair as I smile down at her. At least for a moment her mother can be there.
That all goes right out the window when she shifts a little, her leg coming up between mine. Her body rubs against me in a multitude of places, bringing surges of feelings I'm quite sure I shouldn't be having, and I just know that I'm blushing. If you were here you'd be laughing, that little gleam in your eyes at the facial expressions I'm pulling, like a deer in headlights. I'm definitely in a whole world of trouble.
My eyes drift over to the clock and I curse. "Nao," I whisper, still somewhat hesitant to wake her. "Nao, you need to get up. You're going to be late for work." She shifts again, making me even more uncomfortable as her thigh rubs between my legs, but I struggle to ignore it. "Nao," I say again, this time a little louder, but there's no sign she's really hearing me. Except for another bout of grinding. I think my face may well be comparable with a tomato by now.
This'll be easier if we're not wrapped up in each others arms I decide, so I roll her over onto her back, using my arms to lift my body above hers. My hair spill down around my shoulders and head, enveloping hers as well. I can just make out her features in the sudden gloom, her lips slightly parted as if inviting. I blink. Where did that come from? I pull half of my hair away, letting light into our little cocoon, and her eyes flit open upwards at me. Oh hell.
"Uh, good morning Nao."
A grin wraps her face as she leers up at me, eyes twinkling in remarkable wakefulness. She lifts her head a little and cranes it to look down the small gap between our bodies, before looking back up at me. The grin is even wider. "Oh my, do all the girls you invite to your bed get this treatment, or just me?"
I fight back the urge to snap at her, almost trembling from the effort. She just watches me, her eyes bright as her lips part just a little. There's something in her gaze and I don't really know what it is, and I just know it's going to irritate me all day trying to work it out.
"Trying to maintain your strong and silent image, Kuga, or do we all get so little witty repartee the morning after?"
"I find it's best not encouraging them to come back," I murmur in response. Two can play at this game.
"Ah, leaves you more time to winnow through the rest of the school's female population, eh?" She's enjoying this far too much, but I don't dare let her win, nor just let rip an insult and ruin the entire mood. For Nao, this is fairly nice, and I don't want to shatter the quasi-friendship we seem to have built up.
"Oh, I'm quite sure I don't have nearly enough stamina for all that, but I do try."
"Well, two down, only several hundred still to go."
I leer as I lean a bit further down. "Who says it's only two, Nao?" I purr, her eyes going wide for a moment. Hah! Try that one on for size!
But it seems the fight has gone out of her as she turns her head. Some of her hair flicks out, flying against my lips as she does so, the fragrance filling my nose. I'm amazed to see her blush until I realise she thought I was actually going to kiss her. And then I blush because I realise I might well have if this had continued. It wouldn't have meant anything, but still...
"You can get off me now, you know?" she mutters.
"Oh, uh, right." I say that, but yet I don't move for several long seconds. She turns her head back to look at me, a curious expression on her face.
"It's be easier for me to do that if you'd let go of me," I say. Her face turns a dark shade of crimson as she releases me from her arms from where they held me, low on my back. I half fall out of the bed as I struggle to unwrap myself from her legs, offering what I'm sure is a flattering view of my panties to Nao before I quickly right myself. I snap back to face her and she mouths the word 'pink' at me, which is the colour I turn. Honestly, I don't know where all the blood is being redirected from today.
"Anyway, uh, yeah. You need to get ready for work or you're going to be late."
She just smiles, kicking away the rest of the sheets before arching her back into a big stretch, her hips lifting up off the mattress.
"What?" she asks, falling back onto the mattress. She looks down her body to see her t-shirt riding up, displaying her own underwear. "Yeah yeah," she mumbles, swinging her legs off the bed as she rises to her feet. She frowns at me as we're getting dressed, presumably at the fact that I'm pulling on my leathers.
"I'm giving you a lift in to work, you won't make it otherwise."
"No, not that." She straightens up, hands on her hips as she leers at me. "Do you always wear nothing underneath it?"
An eyebrow rises as her grin grows even wider. "Kinky."
For a moment I consider actually explaining why, but I can't be bothered. "Whatever," I respond brusquely, retreating into the kitchen. This is all starting to get to me; why am I acting like this around her? It's like I'm some kind of infatuated schoolgirl. It doesn't matter though, I guess, it'll wear off sooner or later. As the coffee finally finishes brewing or percolating or whatever the hell it is coffee does, I pour two mugs, one with milk and one without. Drinking mine, black of course, I carry Nao's back into the bedroom where she's brushing her hair. She practically chugs it before slamming it down onto the dresser. We have yet another of those awkward silences that always seems to dominate our time together as we make our way outdoors. It's funny really, we're most comfortable together when we're either slinging insults or... well, flirting.
I hand her the spare helmet before pulling my hair up and slipping my own on.
"Eww, this stinks," comes the petulant whine from Nao.
"It does a bit, yeah. I'll give 'em a wash when I get back, but until then," I reach out, slamming down the visor on her helmet, "deal with it."
She grumbles as she slips onto the bike behind me, hands coming to rest on my hips. I feel the same jolt as she touches me that I have every time we've been on this bike together. Thinking about it, apart from you, she's the only person I've ever ridden with. Shaking my head, I kick the bike into gear and tear through the streets of Fuuka, weaving in and out of the few vehicles that are making their own way to work. It's not long before we arrive.
I flick up my visor as she dismounts. "I'll pick you up when you get off, alright?" I say whilst she takes off the helmet. She offers it to me but I shake my head. "Hang onto it. It's not like I can carry it back as I ride."
She shrugs her shoulders, pulling the helmet against her body, wrapping it up in her arms. We stay like that for a few moments, me still straddling the bike whilst she stands there, our gazes unblinking. Finally, her eyes flick downwards before she looks back up at me. "I'll see you at five then," she says.
"Sure." I take this as when I should leave, so I start up the engine again and ride off. No sunsets though, just some traffic. Some arsehole in a van nearly sends me off the road as he cuts me up, but apart from that, not a whole lot happens. Thinking about it, my life has become incredibly boring really. For so long I'd been chasing after the First District and then they were just gone, your hands stained with their blood. What was I supposed to do then? All I had left was school and friends, so I threw myself into that. More the friends thing than school, but who's counting? Then Sakomizu threatens me with the whole staying back deal; not just one year but two! And so I get roped into even more extra classes during the end of year break. Not that I had anything else to do, but still, it's infuriating.
Most people would go home for the school break, but I don't have one anymore. The closest thing I have to family these days are the rest of the HiME's, but we're all broken in our own little ways. Hanging around with them isn't exactly conducive towards my mental health. But if not them, then who? I don't have anyone else left in this world. My mother is dead and, whoever my father was, he obviously didn't care enough to stick around. Pretty much all of the others have someone left to cling to; Mai has Mikoto and Tate, Midori has her sensei, Yukino has Haruka... Then there's me, all on my own. Even Nao has her mother, though it's hardly the most ideal of situations. It's more like she has the idea of her mother to cling to, in the hope that one day she'll wake up and fit that idea's personification. And that's still more than me.
As I pull up in the car park for the dorms, I'm pretty damn well pissed off. Mostly at myself for wallowing in self-pity like that, but also at everything else. Just because. Maybe when school starts up again I'll be alright, I'll have something to do, but it's all this inactivity right now that's driving me stir crazy. It'd certainly explain why I've been acting so weird around Nao. Yeah, that's what it is.
A few hours and one argument with Sakomizu later, I'm sat in the dorm room, doing nothing. Quite literally nothing. I'm just sitting on a chair, staring into space. Is this what my life has been reduced to? The only people that I've talked to during the holiday so far are Nao, Mai, Mikoto and Sakomizu; everyone else I've scrupulously avoided, though it doesn't help that there aren't many people left around to avoid. I need to make more human connections I guess, try and relate to others instead of always just pushing them away, or only conversing superficially. What it all really seems to come down to is I lost both my purpose in life, and you, in fairly quick succession, so what am I supposed to do now? Am I just supposed to become a normal seventeen-year-old girl all of a sudden? I don't know what normal is, my life ended when the car went over the cliff. At least the others had some semblance of normalcy before the Carnival screwed them, for me it was just the icing on the cake. But now it's over, I have nothing left.
The more I think about it though, the brighter it actually seems. It's crazy, but now I'm free. Truly and utterly free. I don't have to chase after ghosts anymore, and I can step out of your shadow. I can do whatever the hell I want. I'm smart, I'm young, I'm motivated. I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to. I just need to find out what exactly it is that I'm going to do with the rest of my life, maybe find some people to spend it with.
I'm free. I can live without anger. I can live without doubt. I can live without paranoia. I can live.
I can love.
...I can love.