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Friends and Lovers

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Part Three

Natsumi pushed her short brown hair back nervously, then she smiled as her eyes met Miyuki's own warm glance. She felt a bit better almost instantly, no matter how strange she might find their present surroundings to be.

And it was a pretty strange place Aoi had insisted on taking them all. Arisugawa's Locket was a club owned by an old friend of Aoi's, so after receiving an invitation she insisted they all go. So she grabbed Yoriko, ordered them all to dress up, and then they arranged to meet at Natsumi and Miyuki's new apartment before leaving for the club.

Miyuki had noticed the odd girl in the school fuku by the door almost immediately, but thankfully she wasn't actually underage. Looking around, she saw a massive dance floor, a generously stocked bar, karaoke stage, and even a library to one side. A set of stairs led to an upper level and to who knows what.

"Aren't we a little new at being a couple for a place like this?' Miyuki finally asked Aoi, her long braid swinging behind her as they made their way over to a table.

Aoi chuckled softly, "You'll be fine."

Miyuki had to smile at all the admiring gazes Aoi got from the different ladies. Yoriko sure noticed it too, holding Aoi's arm while keeping close to her, all nonverbally crying out, 'Mine!'

They got to the table, and Yoriko smiled broadly as Aoi held out the chair for her. She pushed it I gently, and Yoriko smiled up at her, "Thank you." Natsumi quickly pulled out Miyuki's chair, and blushed at the gentle kiss on the cheek she received in return.

After a few moments Natsumi got tired of waiting to be served, so she waved her hand until a waitress arrived. She smiled up at the woman dressed in a maid's outfit from her seat and asked her, "What would you recommend tonight?"

The girl with a name-tag discreetly reading 'May' rattled off a few options from memory before cheerfully finishing with, "And the house special is also very good tonight."

Natsumi and Miyuki exchanged a glance, and then Miyuki said "Two of the house special then, please." Aoi and Yoriko seconded that, adding a few drinks to the order.

May tucked her notebook away and bowed, "Coming right up!"

Two young ladies danced by the table, both of them dressed in skin tight costumes colored red and white. Oddly, the suits went well with their orange and blue hair colors.

"Wow," Natsumi softly murmured, watching the bottoms sway on by. A sudden slap upside the head made her cry out, "Ow!"

Miyuki rolled her eyes, "I can't believe you."

Natsumi smiled at her as she pledged, "I may look, but I'd never stray."

"So how are the new living arrangements going?" Yoriko asked, ever the eternal gossip. She leaned forward slightly, her glasses catching the light as she waited to hear a answer.

Miyuki laughed softly, "Except for her tendency to sleep in, it's great."

Natsumi blushed. "I wouldn't sleep in so much if you weren't helping me stay up late," she pointed out, and Miyuki blushed, too.

Both Aoi and Yoriko laughed at that. "Trust me," Aoi smiled, "I know how that feels." She looked sideways at Yoriko, "Still do, too."

May arrived at the table, followed right behind by another young woman dressed in a form fitting suit. They both began setting down plates and drinks, all the while exchanging glances that nearly screamed that they were a couple. "I hope you enjoy your meal," May smiled, then she took her girlfriend's arm and left.

"You two have been a couple for awhile, right?" Natsumi asked. Both Aoi and Yoriko nodded, so she continued "When did you two get together, then?"

Aoi and Yoriko exchanged glances, then Aoi made a 'ladies first' gesture. "I was sort of interested from the start," Yoriko admitted to them quietly. "I mean, from what I had researched about Aoi, I was curious, then when I was telling everyone all about him and finally gave the name..." she trailed off.

Miyuki chuckled softly as she recalled, "And then this feminine voice pipes up, 'Yes?' and everything got really quiet."

Natsumi smiled over at Aoi, "All the while we were trying to get you to act like a boy, you single handedly proved yourself the most feminine officer in the precinct."

"I wouldn't say that," Aoi blushed.

"I would," Yoriko smiled, reaching over to put her hand on Aoi's. "But I couldn't believe how jealous I felt when that girl came to you for help," she said quietly, "it just came right out of nowhere, and caught me off guard."

"So that's how it started with you," Miyuki noted. She looked thoughtfully over at Aoi, "How about you?"

"It wasn't quite as fast as that for me," Aoi admitted, "but I noticed her right from the start. Her smile, and her sunny personality." She took a sip from her drink, "But it wasn't until her rival from the police academy showed up that I began to realize something else was going on."

"I remember," Natsumi said quietly, "you were really worried for Yoriko's sake." A slight smile appeared on her face, "I seem to remember that you were the only one willing to let her do things her own way, too."

"Oh, really?" Yoriko noted, giving Aoi a look.

Aoi blushed slightly, "Yes, well. Anyway, we kept being put on the same shifts together, and I found that I liked her. Then I realized that I really, really liked her, but I was a bit too scared to risk the new friendship."

She paused for a moment, reflecting, then Aoi continued, "It was on a Christmas night a few months later that I finally got up the nerve to do something. I saved up my money and booked a table for two at one of the better restaurants in town."

"We were both on shift together," Yoriko noted, "and Aoi seemed awfully nervous for some reason. Now you both know her almost as well as I do, and when is Aoi ever really nervous? So I just knew that something was up."

"We went off duty, I changed out of uniform first, then Yoriko took her turn. We walked out together, and the snow began to gently fall all around us," Aoi said softly. Another small drink, and then, "I asked her if she was going out on a Christmas date, and she said no. So I mustered up all my courage, and asked her out."

"I thought it was a pity dinner at first," Yoriko admitted. "Aoi just taking her poor single friend out or something like that," she shrugged comically.

Aoi chuckled softly, while Natsumi and Miyuki waited eagerly for more.

"Eventually, thought, Aoi did get her point across," and Yoriko blushed faintly at the memory.

"I think it was the after dinner dancing that finally did it," Aoi smiled, "I made it pretty clear that I wasn't taking her out based just on friendship." She stopped then, looking down into Yoriko's eyes and seeming to be lost in them.

"And?" Miyuki asked, waiting to hear more.

"And that's all I'm telling your innocent ears for tonight," Aoi said firmly. She stood and offered her hand to Yoriko, "Would you care to dance?"

Yoriko smiled, "Of course." She was swept into Aoi's arms as they swayed off together across the dance floor.

Miyuki sighed softly. "If you can't beat them," she smiled at Natsumi, "join them. Should we trip the light fantastic?"

"As long as no real tripping's involved," Natsumi laughed as she was pulled to her feet. They seemed to fit together, their bodies moving as one to the music.

A few moments of silence, then Miyuki said softly, "I love you, you know."

"I love you, too," Natsumi smiled, and drew her down into a gentle kiss.