It was an afternoon after practice and Raise A Suilen had been sat around a snack-covered table in Chu2's lounge. They had been chatting vaguely about their music for a while until the conversation drifted into light teasing about Layer's little "connection" with her "dear friend Hana-chan". It was then when Lock had spoken up about something quite surprising. Well, what she had to say wasn't surprising at all.
"A-Ah, well, on the topic of girls..." Lock had began, instantly catching Masking's attention. She adjusted her glasses with a small awkward laugh. "I thought now would be a good time to... um... just let you all know I think I'm most definitely a lesbian! I even recently let my folks know!"
"Oh that's nice to hear, Lock." Was Layer's only response, along with a nod and a smile.
Masking just gave the girl a big pat on the back with a chuckle. "Why'd ya need to tell us? Thinkin' we were havin' any doubts?" She'd joked.
Before Lock could respond or Chu2 could chime in, a very sudden and very vigorous applause had cut them both off. Attention suddenly switched to the tall girl sat close by her. "Oh! Oh Lock-san that's so lovely to hear~!" Pareo cheered, looking unexpectedly thrilled at the announcement. "Pareo's so so happy for you, I could cry~! The way you told your parents too..! You're so brave!" And Pareo practically almost was crying joyous tears as she leaned across the sofa to pull Lock into an unexpected hug.
"P-P-Pareo-san...!" Lock almost lost her breath at the sudden, brief embrace from her friend. "I-It's really not that big of a deal! Even mom n' dad weren't phased but... they instantly began asking me about g-girlfriends... it was so embarrassing...!"
"Oh but that's so lovely~!" Pareo clapped her hands together, looking delighted at the concept as she let out a dreamy sigh. "Pareo would love to go on and on and on about Chu2-sama at home! Pareo's super jealous that Chu2-sama gets to chat to Miu-san all the time about-"
"I don't talk about you to mom all the time!" Chu2 was quick to defend herself before Pareo had even finished her sentence. "S-She just... asks a lot! Gees... let's just get back on topic now, alright?"
Masking, however, still had one last question. "Oi, Pareo. What's stoppin' ya from gushin' about your tiny girlfriend over here to your folks? Nothin' usually stops yer from doin' that." Her question was only a lighthearted jab, but there was an incredibly brief drop in Pareo's expression for a moment. She looked taken off guard, quite panicked, but quickly appeared to recover and shake her head with a nervous sounding laugh.
"Aha, oh you see... Pareo... just doesn't get much time to! My parents are just much too busy with work~ I just have so much to say about Chu2-sama that they simply don't have the time to listen!" Was her eventual response.
Thankfully for Pareo, Chu2 seemed desperate to move on. "Alright alright, can we now get back to the topic of our next live? That was the reason why I called this gathering, if you all remember."
And that was probably the most eventful conversation of that day. Chu2 didn't really think about the interaction that much at first, but since then Pareo had been acting the slightest bit off for the entire afternoon whilst the rest of RAS were there. She still kept up her bubbly cheerful demeanor though, of course, but by now Chu2 found it painfully easy to tell when Pareo wasn't exactly putting her heart into what she was saying or doing. When the other band members eventually left that day, Chu2 noticed the forlorn expression upon Pareo's face as she finally gave into the emotions that had been nagging at her all afternoon once the door was closed. Alright, that was it. Chu2 wanted to know what was up.
There were a lot of things about Pareo that Chu2 didn't quite get. Most of these things were just adorably dumb such as how she would always give Chu2 her pinkest, most glittery fluffy gel pens to write with because she believed that her girlfriend needed to write with something "as cute as Chu2-sama!" or how her overly-polite nature would sometimes lead to her thanking Chu2 for kisses no matter how often she told Pareo that it just made it awkward. All these little things Pareo did just made Pareo, well, Pareo. Chu2 would never have her any other way.
However, some things Pareo used to do had made Chu2 quite... worried about her.
Chu2 had always found it weird how Pareo would ask to keep the most expensive things Chu2 had bought her at the penthouse such as bags or, more predominantly, items of clothing that the average person living in Tokyo probably couldn't afford. It'd obviously puzzled her at first, but Chu2 just assumed maybe she didn't want things broken or stolen on the way back home to Kamogawa since the journey was so long and she'd be travelling by herself. She knew what Pareo was like when handling "expensive" items and how she would always overdramatically coddle them or scold Chu2 "recklessness" with them. But when Pareo had begun half-heartedly assuring Chu2 she didn't want any more expensive shoes or pretty yume-kawaii-themed dresses, she just had to ask. Pareo's response, however, just left her with more questions than answers.
"Oh... I just... don't want my mother to be suspicious! That's all!"
Of course, Chu2 asked her to elaborate but it was conveniently time for Pareo to head home. So alas, all she responded with was forcefully cheerful "oh, you know!" before saying her farewells and disappearing. Upon hearing the word "suspicious", Chu2 first thought Pareo must have meant her mother somehow didn't trust where her daughter was getting these sorts of things? Maybe? But Pareo never at all seemed like a distrustful sort of person, and her own mother must have known that.
It was when she spent the night over at Pareo's home when Chu2 learned Pareo's mother and the way in which she had raised her daughter had quite a lot to do with the girl's behavior. Perhaps the subject matter of being unable to speak about her relationship at home was what had upset her today.
"C-Chu2-sama!" Pareo wasn't expecting Chu2 to be standing right behind her once she'd turned around. After taking a moment to try and regain her composure, she looked down at her, and the much smaller girl had her arms folded and stern blue eyes were staring back up at her. As stern as Chu2 tried to look, Pareo could immediately tell she was just concerned about something. "... Is something the matter?" She asked, tilting her head like a puzzled puppy as per usual.
"I was about to ask you the same thing."
Chu2 let out a small sigh, her demeanor softening. "You're acting weird again, Pareo." The statement sounded incredibly blunt, but there was no ill intent with her words and Pareo knew that it came from a place of concern. The taller girl's instinct was to mentally kick herself for worrying her girlfriend despite how she tried to remind herself not to be too self-deprecating. Despite being the one to tell Chu2 that talking about her feelings is good and healthy, Pareo still kept unintentionally finding herself bottling up her own negative emotions around others to ensure she didn't cause any "unnecessary" fuss. She was probably just used to it, she had been doing it for the majority of her life after all.
"I... I'm..." Pareo wasn't quite sure what to say first as she begun to fidget with her hands. Eventually, she asked a simple question. "Um... Chu2-sama... can we sit down?"
"Pareo... told a lie today." Pareo admitted guiltily. The two of them were sitting upon the sofa in the lounge now just as the sun was beginning to set, Pareo sitting cross-legged with her gaze in her lap as Chu2 sat across from her, leaning a little more casually against the backrest but still giving her girlfriend her undivided attention.
“You mean the thing about why you don’t talk about me at home?” Chu2 raised a brow. She didn't look convinced. “Don’t beat yourself up about it, I don’t expect you to tell the others about your mom being weird. It wasn’t even a real lie. Your parents are always away.”
“Mhm...” Pareo only responded with a small, half-hearted hum of agreement. Her gaze was still fallen in her lap and she was quiet for a long moment after Chu2 had finished speaking, something evidently on her mind. Chu2 was certainly correct with her assumption, Pareo would always feel a weird, bad feeling whenever she lied about quite literally anything despite doing it so often in her home city in order to keep up her appearance. Perhaps that was where the sad pang in her chest came from. But still, there was a more prominent thing that had been nagging her from the back of her mind that she felt was honestly just the teensiest bit embarrassed to bring up. Well, there was no harm in mentioning it, it would at least ease Chu2's worries of something potentially being the matter with her. "There's... another thing, Chu2-sama, but it's... probably a little silly..."
"Well what is it?"
"Um... Well..." Pareo began, her entire demeanor similar to that nervous puppy as she fiddled with her sleeve. "Pareo's been... thinking about this thing with Lock-san this afternoon, when she properly came out to us. And... I myself have just been thinking..." A soft, defeated sigh escaped her as she leaned into the back of the sofa. "Oh I would just simply love to come out to the others! But there just.... seems to be no need. They know I'm in love with you, Chu2-sama. They just wouldn't see it as... as a big deal."
Chu2's first response to this was just.... much more confusion. At first, she'd never understood Pareo's fuss about her sexuality or why she would make big deals out of things like this. But then again, Chu2 had found herself growing up in an environment that pretty much didn't care about that sort of thing. Even though she could also relate to Pareo's experiences of the pressure of expectations, Chu2 found herself trying to live up to standards she has mostly subconsciously set for herself, feeling like she must live up to her mother' reputation of a talented musician and prove her self worth whereas Pareo... Pareo was expected to be a completely different person. And according to Pareo, her mother certainly didn't expect her to be gay. Eventually, everything was starting to make a little more sense.
"I... see. I think." Chu2 was trying her best to understand. "I mean, I see see where you're coming from but... why make it a big deal?"
Pareo finally looked up, meeting Chu2's gaze with an apologetic smile. "I think it's a little selfish of me, but... I've just been hiding that part of me for so long. I think... I think it's just reassurance I want. Reassurance I'm not broken or anything like that... and I do feel reassured by the rest of RAS and so many of girls in the other bands we've met but... I don't know, I just used to sometimes find myself watching videos of others' experiences and... and sort of wish that was me."
Ah. Chu2 was beginning to understand now. Pareo really was quite the dreamer, and she always longed for fairytale outcomes. It was probably the product of the feeling of hopelessness she felt from being trapped in a world she felt like she didn't fit into, so dreaming of things like a celebration of acceptance of who she made perfect sense. So that was it, Chu2 thought. She always wanted to make her girlfriend happy, and the thought of letting Pareo live out her gay little dreams made her heart flutter ever so slightly.
Chu2 blinked, looking back up at Pareo when she heard her name. She didn't realize she'd been caught up in her own thoughts just then and probably looked like she wasn't paying attention. Anyways, she'd come to a conclusion about what she was going to do next.
"You're coming out to RAS tomorrow."
Chu2 tilted her head, not quite getting Pareo's shocked reaction. The taller girl was staring at her like she'd just commanded her to climb Tokyo Tower or something. But then again, the way she phrased her declaration did sound more like a command than a... prompt, or whatever Chu2 was going with. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
"W-Well, yes! Yes but... Chu2-sama, Pareo did just explain that-"
"I know, but trust me." Chu2 swung her legs over the side of the sofa, stretching them them out before moving onto stretching her arms. "I'll call a meeting tomorrow to discuss our next solo live further since we hardly got anywhere with it today. You can do it then."
Pareo wasn't exactly too sure how to process this news. She looked mostly startled, but then it appeared as if panic started to set in. "B-But Chu2-sama! How does Pareo go about it? Do I... Do I just do what Lock-san did? Oh my gosh, how do I get brave enough to say I'm... I-I'm..."
Chu2 glanced back at her, her brow raised but stifling a look of amusement. "A lesbian?"
"Yes! Oh but Chu2-samaaa... they're not going to care and it will just be so awkward!" It didn't look like Pareo's little episode of stressing-over-absolutely-nothing was going to end any time soon, so alas Chu2 gave a light-hearted roll of her eyes and shuffled back over to be a little closer to her fretting girlfriend.
"Pareo, you're worrying about nothing. Here." And then, Chu2 faced her with small, open arms.
"Ah...?" The gesture took Pareo completely off guard; Chu2 was never usually the one to initiate something like this, and even though she was getting more confident with asking for hugs and things like that, it still always came as a surprise to Pareo. A very, very pleasant and welcome surprise. But still, the small pause Pareo had created gave Chu2 time to think about what she was doing. The smaller girl glanced away, a pretty pink blush finding its way upon her face.
"G-Gees, c'mon then..." Chu2's voice was a small mumble. "Do you want a hug or not?"
Luckily for her, she didn't need to wait any longer for a reply when arms with a strength that was always a little jarring scooped her up in an embrace. She always hugged Chu2 like she was squeezing a plushie, always holding her as close as possible as if she was trying to hug all the comfort she could get out of her whilst trying her very best not to squeeze the poor girl too tightly. "Chu2-samaaa... I love youuu...!"
God, whenever she said anything like that Chu2 felt her heart feel like it was full of butterflies. "P-Pareo! You're so... sappy..."
"Awww~" Pareo whined, but there was a happy playful smile upon her face as she leaned out of the hug. There was nothing better than seeing the adorable blushy look on her girlfriend's face, she thought to herself as she gazed expectantly at her.
"...Love you, too." Of course Chu2 eventually gave into those big red puppy eyes.
And so, it was the start of another day. Masking was always the earliest to arrive, greeted by Pareo in the lounge before being followed by Layer and later Lock who was just on time like always and showed up only about 10 minutes after Chu2 had woken up properly. Pareo was originally planning to do her little "reveal" at the end of the day after they'd gone through everything her Chu2-sama wanted to discuss and perhaps after some rehearsal, but..
"Pareo? Is something the matter?" Layer's question was a little surprising, but soon even Masking chimed in with her concerns
"Yeah, yer being kinda quiet. Somethin' up?" She asked.
Pareo stood there a little dumbfounded for a moment. Once they'd pointed it out, she did realize she had been uncharacteristically fidgety and fumbly as she'd fetched the others drinks from the kitchen, almost spilling one of the cups that she'd set down on the table. Oh gosh, maybe her nerves were showing.
"Oh! Aha, it's... nothing, really!" Pareo tried to assure them with a flash of a sorry smile and a nervous laugh. "It's just, ah.... uhm..." Out of instinct, she glanced down at Chu2 who was sat on end of the sofa, swinging her legs to and fro as her feet barely reached the ground. The small girl was already looking back at her, and once their eyes met she gave Pareo a sideward nod. Pareo just stared back at her.
Chu2 rolled her eyes. "Go on then." She prompted, repeating the gesture but with a little more emphasis.
"E-Eh? Now?" Pareo panicked momentarily. Oh gosh, she wanted her to do it now. The rest of RAS were staring at her expectantly. Oh no, oh gosh... "Ah, well, uhm... P-Pareo just... had something to say!" She began. Everything suddenly felt completely surreal. She was incredibly aware that the other girls knew she was gay, heck probably everybody who's ever seen her around in Tokyo knew. But there she was, standing in front of three of her closest friends who were surprisingly all looking at her warmly. There was nothing for her to be nervous about here, it wasn't like she was facing the possibility of rejection like she would be if she was saying this to her parents or her classmates so... what was there to lose? The likely hood of the others just brushing off her little "announcement" didn't even bother her at that moment. Just saying she was The L Word out loud felt like it would be a huge weight off her shoulders, like she was finally really accepting herself.
"Well go on then, Pareo." Layer prompted gently. "We're all ears." Her tone was always reassuring to Pareo. She'd been supporting Pareo from the start, ever since she asked her for help with writing her first real declaration of love to Chu2. Pareo thought of her as some kind of older sister figure, or "wise lesbian mentor" as Masking liked to put it.
Feeling reassured, Pareo took in an ever-so-slightly shaky breath, holding her hands together. "Pareo would..." She began, but then shook her head with a smile. "I would just like to say that... that I'm a lesbian and it's just been so hard to say out loud until now!" And then she let out a tiny gasp, as if she didn’t quite believe what came out of her mouth. Calling herself a lesbian seemed impossible before meeting Chu2. At first she didn’t want to accept it and tried to grasp at straws in her mind that maybe, just maybe, she was “normal”. That she could be like everybody else, no matter how much the concept of being with a boy terrified her. The two halves of her brain really were in turmoil; she longed she could just be whatever normal was and go along with her life just like how everyone around her expected her to, but at the same time she didn’t. She had dreams of a fairytale romance with a girl she would adore, wearing the clothes and expressing her sexuality however she wanted to. She just loved girls, she adored her Chu2-sama with her entire heart. And as the words left her mouth, so did a weight off her shoulders. She’d finally accepted who she was, in this unplanned and rushed little moment with her closest friends.
Masking was the first to react. “Aha, Hi a lesbian and it’s just been so hard to say that out loud until now, I’m dad!”
Initially, the others shot the drummer a look of pure horror until Masking realised that probably wasn’t the best thing to start with. But still, she laughed it off and swung an arm around Pareo’s shoulders, ruffling her bangs with her free hand. “Y’know I’m just messin’, Pareo! I’m proper proud of ya.”
“P-P-Proud?” Pareo didn’t know how to respond, standing stiff with surprise as even Lock began a polite but happy round of applause.
“Congrats, Pareo-san!” She cheered happily, making her way over so she was stood beside Masking. “That probably took a lot of guts!”
“Chu2 told us you were feeling quite down the other day. Don’t worry, she didn’t spill any details.” Layer added with a smile, joining Lock in giving the youngest member a little round of applause. “We’re all very proud of how far you’ve come, Pareo.”
Pareo felt like she couldn’t contain the surge of happy feelings that were swirling around her chest at that moment. She was completely overwhelmed with joy she had no idea how she could even begin to put into words. For so long she dreamed of others reassuring her that she wasn’t broken and that she was accepted and loved for just being herself. Oh gosh, she couldn’t process this at all. She’d been dreaming of this for years, ever since she first began to figure out she liked girls.
Pareo’s attention immediately focused on her girlfriend. “C-Chu2-sama...?” Chu2 had left the sofa and come forward, her arms folded and smile a little cocky and proud but those big blue eyes were as happy as anything.
“I’m proud of you.”
All the happy feelings that had threatened to explode for the past few moments finally burst their banks. Pareo couldn’t tell if Chu2 had more to say or not because the girl instantly burst into tears, at first alarming the others as she wiped at her eyes with her hands but quickly the smile on her face was as clear as day. “C-Chu2-sama... E-Every— E-Everyone...!” She hated crying in front of the others, but years of self repression kept flowing out through tears of pure joy and relief.
“I-I’m so super sorry I... I...” Pareo took one big sniffle, unable to get the words out through relieved little sobs. She had so much to say, but she couldn’t say any of it at that moment. “I-I-I’m so happy...!”
“Alright, c’mere! Group hug!” Masking cheered as she pulled the others together in a big embrace around Pareo, trying her best not to end up with Chu2 getting squished.
They stayed like that for a wonderful few moments until parting, mostly to give Pareo a chance to catch her breath properly from all the sniffling and crying, but as soon as she was free the first thing she did was scoop Chu2 up in her arms in a big hug and give her a happy spin. “Chu2-samaaa~~! I-I’m so happy! I’m so happy that I love you!”
“P-Pareo...!” Chu2 didn’t want to whine too much about how suddenly she had been yoinked up or how embarrassing being cuddled and having lovey-dovey things being said to her in front of others was but... who cared right now. Pareo was happy. She’d succeeded in the little mission of hers. Chu2 returned the hug, embracing Pareo tightly. Of course she too couldn’t help but smile brightly. “I’m... I’m happy I love you, too.”
Who cared if Masking overheard and teased her about it later. The most important thing to her right now and always was her Pareo.