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“Please excuse my intrusion.”

Asagiri Aya’s parents looked over from their place sitting at the table to see their daughter and a new — but not unfamiliar — face. Aya’s mother smiled at them.

“Oh, it’s you, Yatsumura-san. How was school, you two?”

“Um, i-it was…”

Seeing her girlfriend fumble over her words, Yatsumura smiled politely.

“It was quite productive. Thank you for asking, Asagiri-san.”

Aya blinked for a second, confused, until she realized Yatsumura was referring to her mother, not her. Aya’s mother chuckled at the response.

“That’s good. Are you staying the night?”

“Only if you’ll have me, but I’d like to, of course.”

Smiling wide, Aya’s mother nodded at Yatsumura. “Of course, Yatsumura-san. We’re always glad to have you.”

Aya looked awkwardly from Yatsumura to her mother. The latter laughed, looking back to Aya’s father.

“You two have fun tonight, okay?”

Yatsumura bowed. “Thank you for your hospitality, Asagiri-san.”

And with that, the two of them went upstairs to Aya’s room. Yatsumura frowned the second the door was shut and locked, sighing breathily.

“So exhausting.”

Aya laughed. “I’m grateful. You’re always so polite to my family, Yatsumura-san.”

Gently grabbing Aya’s hand, Yatsumura sat down on the bed.

“I do it for your sake, Asagiri-san. I don’t like the look in your father’s eyes. Let alone your brother’s — it’s so obvious how fake he is while I’m around. It disgusts me.”

Seeing Aya’s haunted expression at the mention of her brother, Yatsumura squeezed her girlfriend’s hand. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“N-no! It’s alright! You don’t have to worry about me like that…”

“But I want to. You deserve something like that, you know?” Yatsumura punctuated her statement by starting to trace circles into Aya’s hand with her thumb (the girl blushed in response).

“I don’t know about th—“

“Aya. You do. Really.”

Aya smiled weakly. “Thank you.” There was a peaceful silence for a moment.

Wait.

Aya?

Aya’s eyes shot back up to Yatsumura, and the blonde’s eyes widened.

“W-wait, I-I mean Ay—no, shit—Asagiri-san. That’s what I…”

Burning bright red, Yatsumura turned her head to stare at the wall as she trailed off. Aya smiled brightly.

“Aw, you’re embarrassed!”

If it were even possible, Yatsumura turned an even brighter shade of red, head shooting back to Aya to shout her denial.

“N—“

She froze in the middle of it, transfixed by Aya’s smile. Despite herself, Yatsumura’s lips curled upward, and she smiled softly.

“Fine. Maybe.” Aya’s smile only grew at that.

But then, suddenly, Aya looked away from Yatsumura, flushed red and fiddling with the closest thing to her — in that case, the hem of her shirt.

“Um… Ts—tsu…” Aya’s blush deepened. Yatsumura grinned, recovering quickly from her earlier embarrassment. Aya put her face in her hands. “…Tsuyu…” Aya was just too cute — Yatsumura was feeling thoroughly unembarrassed now.

“Tsuyuno.”

Oh. Maybe not.

Yatsumura felt like the sun itself was beneath her skin.

“Wh-wha…!”

“Tsuyuno,” Aya repeated, more confident this time.

“A-Aya…”

Giggling at her girlfriend’s blushing face, Aya swooped in, kissing Yatsumura. The blonde’s eyes went wide for a second, but she relaxed into the kiss, deepening it. They broke apart after a little while, panting.

“W-wow…” Yatsumura breathed, momentarily rendered speechless. After a few seconds of awe, she adopted a teasing grin. “You’re quite good at kissing, you know, Aya?”

“Eeeeh?!” Now, Aya was the one with the dark flush on her face. Yatsumura stroked Aya’s hair fondly, a soft smile on her face. Aya leaned into the touch, finally relaxing out of her tense in-school state and into her calm and happy Yatsumura-state, as it were. She let out a soft sigh.

“Thank you, Tsuyu…”

A light flush dusted Yatsumura’s feature’s at another use of her given name, but she smiled nonetheless.

“Of course. Anything for you.”

Aya sat down on the bed beside Yatsumura. They looked into each other’s eyes for a brief second, until a banging resonated throughout the entire room, coming from the door.

“Aya!” The voice of Asagiri Kaname snarled. “I heard you just got home from school. Open up.”

The effect was instantaneous. Aya’s pupils were like pinpricks, and the girl grabbed both of Yatsumura’s hands with a grip like iron. Sweaty, panicked, terrified iron.

Yatsumura looked to the door, scowling. “I’ll handle this,” she whispered into her girlfriend’s ear. “It’s going to be okay. Please don’t be afraid.”

Aya only squeezed tighter. “P-please…”

Carefully, Yatsumura brought each of Aya’s hands up to her face, and kissed them gently.

“It’s going to be okay. I’ll be quick.”

Aya’s grip slacked, though she did not exactly look calmed, and Yatsumura rose, walking over to the door. She gave one last smile to Aya before adopting a steely mask and unlocking the door, pulling it open just a little. There stood Asagiri Kaname, a crazed, enraged look on his face, and a coiled rope in his hands. The man’s eyes widened as he saw who it was who had opened the door, and he hid the rope behind his back, smiling charmingly.

“Oh. Yatsumura-san, right? Is Aya in there? I just wanted to talk to her a little bit in private.”

The icy tone of Yatsumura’s voice caught both Aya and Kaname off guard.

“I’ll relay the message to her. What is it.”

Kaname blinked. “Oh, no, no. That’s fine, really. Can I come in?”

“There’s no need.” Yatsumura was unrelenting.

“It’ll only take a minute or two — just let me in—“ Kaname tried to forced the door open, his craftily-masked rage bleeding back into his eyes. Yatsumura held her ground, keeping the door open just a crack with her firm grip.

“Go away. Go away and never trouble Aya again, you disgusting bastard.”

Before Kaname could react, Yatsumura swiftly shut the door in his face and locked it. She turned back to Aya, a dark scowl on her face.

“He makes me sick.”

Aya was in shock. “Ts-tsuyu… he’s going to tell my parents…”

Yatsumura quickly wrapped her girlfriend up in a warm hug. Aya snuggled into it, shivering.

“He won’t. He didn’t come with any snacks, so he doesn’t have an alibi for trying to beat you senseless. And any story he might tell would be out of character for the polite, respectful Yatsumura-san your parents know, don’t you think?”

Aya didn’t stop shaking.

“H-he’ll say something to them… he can lie… they’ll b-believe him…”

Yatsumura could feel the shoulder of her shirt getting wet. Her heart shattered with every drop.

“I’m sorry… I scared you. I shouldn’t have done that — but. I’m going to protect you no matter what, Aya. We were in the right, so if he tries to go to your parents, I’ll convince them. He has to hide that rope somewhere, after all, and it’s not exactly something he should normally have. Your mother will listen. I promise.”

“A-are you sure?”

Yatsumura squeezed Aya just a little tighter in their hug. “Yes.”

They stayed together like that for what seemed like ages as Aya’s shaking slowly subsided. The dark-haired girl buried herself in Yatsumura’s arms, the only sound out of her mouth quiet breathing.

“I-I’m sorry, Tsuyu… it was dumb of me to panic like that.”

Yatsumura frowned. “No. You were right. I shouldn’t have confronted him like that. I probably made the problem worse. I’m sorry.”

“N-no! You were just trying to help…”

“Nonetheless, I’m sorry.”

Aya looked at her girlfriend, frowning. “It’s okay, then…”

“Are you sure?”

Giggling just a little at the genuine earnest concern in Yatsumura’s voice, Aya nodded.

“Yeah! You’re so sweet, Tsuyu.”

Disarmed by the compliment, Yatsumura flushed. “D-don’t be weird…”

Aya could only smile brighter and hug Yatsumura harder. “You are.”

“Y-you’re sweeter. You’re the sweetest, kindest person I’ve ever met.”

And then Aya was blushing too. “Ts-tsuyu…” Yatsumura could feel Aya smile up against her — it made her extremely happy — “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Yatsumura responded, grinning. She added one last word to her statement. “Aya.”

Kissing the top of Aya’s head, Yatsumura wrapped her arms around Aya even more protectively than she had been. “And I’ll always protect you.”

When Aya looked up, her eyes were sparkling.

“And I-I’ll always be here for you, Tsuyu. So you never have to be alone.”

Their wide smiles at each other melted into another kiss. Then another. And another. Soon, the two were lying down on Aya’s bed, hands interlocked, staring up at the ceiling.

“Can we go to sleep for a little while?” Aya asked.

Yatsumura pulled the sheets open without another word, crawling into the bed with a grin on her face.

“Of course.”

Aya smiled gratefully, and got under the covers as well. They could feel each other’s warmth, trapped beneath the thick comforter. Aya grasped her girlfriend’s hand like it was a lifeline, or perhaps a precious treasure.

“G-goodnight, then, Tsuyuno.”

Yatsumura blushed a little at hearing her full name — she couldn’t help it, okay — but smiled nonetheless.

“Goodnight, Aya.”

Yatsumura almost didn’t hear Aya’s final words to her that night.

“Thank you…”

She responded by squeezing her girlfriend’s hand just a little tighter. She knew that Aya knew she heard.

They fell asleep there to the soft rising and falling of each other’s breaths.