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Mishaps And Comforts

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"Oy, Kaoruko!"


In one swift and childish motion, Kaoruko pulls the covers up over her head and curls tightly in on herself beneath them, as if trying to fuse with her mattress. Futaba - who's already dressed in her uniform for the day - puts her hands on her hips and sigh-groans.

"Geez, Kaoruko. You can't be doin' this kinda crap just 'cuz you don't like the dance lesson for today."

From beneath the blankets comes a muffled reply.

"I'm sorry. I can't seem to hear you, Futaba-han. My ears aren't working."

"If only it was your mouth that wasn't workin'…"

"H-Hey!" All at once Kaoruko sits up and throws the blankets off herself to glare indignantly at her roommate, puffing her cheeks out in a pout. "That was rather cruel, Futaba-han."

"Maybe, but it got you up, didn't it? Your ears seem to be working just fine to me." Futaba reaches out to pinch one and gives it a pull.

"Kyaa!" With a shriek, Kaoruko swats her away. "Okay, okay, fine! I'm getting up…"

"That's more like it."

"Ah, but my stomach sort of hurts~" she whines innocently. "I might not make it to dance lessons today."

Futaba heaves another sigh.

"Listen, you can't be faking stuff to get out of a lesson just 'cuz you don't like it. You should be using your acting skills on the stage, not in tryin' to keep yourself off of it."

"You don't have to tell me that…" Kaoruko mutters. "Ugh, it's just… I hate ballet! It's too difficult! It's such a major contrast to Japanese dance…"

Futaba tries for a more compassionate approach.

"I know it's not the easiest form of dance out there, but that's exactly why we gotta do these lessons. You can't make it as a proper actor just by doin' one kind of dance only, unless you're in a specialized field for it. But FYI, you're not, Kaoruko. You gotta expand your horizons and try 'em all out, 'cuz you never know what kinda role you might land and what kinda stuff you'll have to do for it-"

"All right, all right!" Kaoruko throws her hands up in defeat. "You're starting to sound like Hoshimi-han…"

Futaba grins and ruffles her hair.

"C'mon, then. Let's get to breakfast."

But Kaoruko sure does take her sweet time in getting dressed and ready for the day, clearly trying to demonstrate just how passionately she doesn't want to have ballet lessons in dance class today. Futaba crosses her arms and taps her foot as she waits at the door. When Kaoruko is finally ready, she limps over with a sigh.

"Carry my bag for me, Futaba-han?"

"Nope. I have enough stuff in mine."

"Fine… then we should at least take the bike so we're not late."

"Nice try, but we're walking. It's a beautiful day."

"Ehhh?! So cruel, indeed…"

"Quit whinin'. You're gonna have to do the ballet at one point or another."


They head down to the dorm's cafeteria for breakfast where Futaba greets their friends, while Kaoruko merely pouts. As they take their seats, Claudine tilts her head curiously.

"What's gotten into Kaoruko?"

Futaba waves her hand dismissively.

"Don't mind her. She just doesn't wanna do the ballet today."

"Oh!" Karen blurts around a mouthful of pancakes. "That's right! I totally forgot about that!"

"K-Karen-chan! Don't talk with your mouth full!"

"Ballet…" Hikari mumbles. "It's tough, but I like it."

"I agree!" Nana claps. She leans across the table to try and catch Kaoruko's eye. "Kaoruko-chan, ballet can be really fun if you let it!"

"And also," Junna adds in. "You can't just specialize in Japanese dance if you're at Seishou. You've gotta expand your horizons and try out all different kinds of dance, because you never know what kind of role you might land-"

"Ahgh, okay, I get it!" Kaoruko wails. "I already had this conversation first thing in the morning!" Grumbling, she pours some syrup on her pancakes and begins cutting into them like a pouting child. Futaba just shrugs and sighs again. Beside her, Claudine hides a chuckle.

"She really is a handful, huh?"

"You're tellin' me…"

Next to Claudine, Maya pads her napkin across her lips in a distinguished manner before joining in on the conversation.

"I can see Hanayagi-san's point. Ballet can very well be considered one of, if not the, most difficult form of dance."

"Ah!" Kaoruko cries. "Finally! Someone who understands my plight-"

"However," Maya continues. "It is also one of the most rewarding types to master, and mastering it can only come from practicing."

"Ugh, traitor. I thought you were on my side, Tendo-han…"

"Kaoruko-chan, you'll be fine!" Mahiru smiles. And even Kaoruko can't complain at that, but she does continue to pout throughout breakfast.

When they've all finished and get up to make the walk to school, Futaba feels another tug on her sleeve.

"Fu-ta-ba-haaaan…" Kaoruko whines. "My shoulder hurts. Carry my bag for me?"

"Nice try, but we already had this conversation," Futaba reminds her. "And no, we're still not takin' the bike."


"Allons," Claudine says. "Come on, Kaoruko, you can walk to school. I believe in you."

Kaoruko just mutters something else under her breath, but follows along with the rest of them regardless. But all the way to school, she continues to make complaints.

"Say, Futaba-han. If I tell the instructor I have a stomachache, do you think she'll let me skip?"

"No lying allowed," Futaba denies her.

"And besides," Claudine puts in. "Even if you did get to skip for today, you'd have to make it up eventually, right?"

"Saijou-san is right," Maya agrees. "If you're that unenthusiastic about it, is it not best to just get it over with sooner?"

"See?" Futaba pats Kaoruko's head. "Logic."

Kaoruko grumbles some more.

And all throughout the morning, Futaba is forced to keep her roommate in line. After history class, Kaoruko refuses to get up from her seat.

"Futaba-han… I have a terrible headache. Please tell our dance instructor I won't be able to do ballet today."

"Look, if you really wanna pull that, I guess you can," Futaba sighs. "But don't drag me into it. And besides, you'll just have to do it again some other time, and you'll have to do it alone without the rest of the class. Is that what you want?"

"Uweh… No, I suppose not…"

"Then tough it out." Futaba grabs her by the wrist and pulls her to her feet before slinging an arm across her shoulders. "You can do this, Kaoruko. Don't sell yourself short."

"Hm~? And you would know about that, wouldn't you, Futaba-han? Being 'short' I mean."

"H-Hey! I'm tryna help you out here!"

"Right, sorry~"


But again, after math class, Kaoruko is back to complaining.

"Futaba-han, my foot fell asleep and I don't know if it'll be better by dance class…"

"You're really layin' it on thick, y'know?"

"I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about. My whole leg is numb!"

"That sucks. Well, good luck gettin' to your next class then."

With a flippant wave, Futaba heads off toward the door. Kaoruko whimpers and hastily stands to follow her.

"W-Wait! You weren't really gonna leave me behind, were you?"


"Futaba-han, you meanie!"

"But it worked, didn't it?"

More grumbling.

At lunchtime, Kaoruko keeps up her antics now that dance class is only an hour away. As she picks at her dumplings and soup, she keeps rubbing her eyes.

"Ahh, the steam is making my eyes water. I might not be able to see properly for dance class."

Futaba rolls her eyes. "Good grief…"

"You know, Kaoruko," Claudine cuts in. "If you keep crying wolf like this all the time, no one's going to believe you if something really does happen."

"I'm not crying wolf!" she snaps.

"Really?" Maya says. "And here I was about to praise your acting skills, Hanayagi-san."

Kaoruko can't help but smirk a little at that.

"Well, perhaps I was acting just a bit…"

"Hah." Futaba pokes her roommate's cheek with her chopstick. "So you admit it."

"O-Only a little!"

"Yeah, yeah. Either way, enough complainin' now. You're doing ballet whether you wanna or not."

Kaoruko looks to all three of them, and to the other five smiling from across the table before heaving a massive, dramatic sigh.

"Very well…"

Futaba gives her shoulder a pat.

"Atta girl."

"But honestly, what role will I ever had where I'll need to use ballet?"


"I'm joking! …Mostly."


After lunch, they have their language class, where Kaoruko makes one last lazy attempt at an excuse to weasel her way out of dance.

"Ahh, English is so confusing… My throat hurts, I don't think I can dance."

Futaba gives her a deadpanned stare.

"Those two things aren't even related, Kaoruko."

"Oh, you're no fun…"

"Come on." Futaba stands from her chair and offers her hand to her. "It won't be that bad. I promise."

Kaoruko pouts some more, but eventually accepts her hand.

"Very well…"

They head to the changing rooms with the others to get dressed in their leotards, then enter the dance studio to begin stretching as they wait for their instructor. Kaoruko sits on the floor and extends one leg in front of herself before reaching down to her shoe. Futaba kneels behind her and gently pushes on her lower back.

"You've gotta loosen up, Kaoruko. You didn't stretch over the weekend, did you?"

"It may have slipped my mind…"

"Geez… All right then, I'm gonna push a little harder."

Futaba does as she says and leans a bit more weight onto her. Kaoruko reaches her arms out further toward her toes, panting with effort. At just the slightest strain of her muscles, she lets out another whine.

"Owww, Futaba-haaann…"

"S-Sorry! Was that too much?" Futaba eases off of her, helping her sit up straight again. Kaoruko snickers a little.

"Oh, were you that worried, Futaba-han~?"

"Hey, Kaoruko." Claudine gives her a disapproving look from where she's stretching with Maya nearby. "What did I tell you about crying wolf?"

"I wasn't!" Kaoruko huffs. "It did hurt a little…"

"She's just bein' a big baby," Futaba mumbles. "All cuz she doesn't wanna do ballet." She gives a firm pat to Kaoruko's back, one that makes a good thud, and Kaoruko whines again.

"But it's so hard!"

"You'll never improve with that attitude." Futaba turns and begins stretching out on her own. "Enough messin' around, Kaoruko. Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do it."

"Very well…"

"You keep sayin' that and then complainin' more anyway."

"Fine, I mean it this time." Kaoruko slumps forward onto Futaba's back to help push her down more. Futaba scoffs.

"Are you helpin' me stretch or fallin' asleep?"

"Mmm, both?"

"You're hopeless."

"Maybe. But only when it comes to ballet. In everything else, I'm superior."


"Do you doubt me?" Kaoruko reaches around to pinch her roommate's cheeks. Futaba sputters.

"H-Hey! Kaoruko!"

From beside them, Maya puts a hand to her lips in amusement.

"My, my."

"Why don't you two get a room?" Claudine says.

At that, both Kaoruko and Futaba sit up in unison.

"Oh, please-"

"I don't wanna hear that comin' from you two, of all people."

Claudine huffs and turns away, and Maya says nothing.

At last their instructor arrives and begins explaining today's ballet lesson. She gives a brief overview and history of the style before having everyone get into formation to start the lesson.

Futaba keeps a close eye on her pouting roommate, but Kaoruko finally seems resigned to her fate to go through with this. Futaba's proud of her for that, so she sticks close to her side and gives her an encouraging pat on the back.

The lesson begins, and their instructor coaches them all through exercises to enhance their balance and equilibrium while still remaining poised. Futaba follows along fairly easily, with only a few minor slip-ups here or there, but she fixes them all quickly. It's the same for everyone in the class - save for Maya who is excellent as always - but Karen especially makes a fuss and almost falls over a few times. When that happens, Futaba mutters a comment to her roommate.

"See, Kaoruko? We're all finding this one a little tough. It's not just you."

And she can tell Kaoruko is trying to hide her smirk at Karen's misfortune, but she's doing a poor job of it.

"Oh yes. I suppose you're right."

Futaba grins.

"See? It's not so bad."

"All right. You've made your point, Futaba-han."

Futaba ruffles her hair, and in turn Kaoruko pokes her cheek.

They continue on through the lesson, and Futaba's able to enjoy it and engage much more now in knowing Kaoruko isn't having a terrible time.

They go through a few leaps and twirls, practicing the poise and elegance this style calls for. Futaba keeps an eye on Claudine, Maya, or Hikari, whom all seem to be particularly well-versed in it. But she makes sure to also keep stealing glances at her roommate.

Now that Kaoruko's actually in the middle of the lesson, she's trying surprisingly hard, to the point where she's worked up a sweat. Futaba's glad she's opted to take this seriously after the day of complaining.

The class practices as a whole for about twenty more minutes before they break up into groups and begin going through different parts of the routine to music. Their instructor saunters around the room to observe everyone's progress, and only when she has her back turned does Kaoruko slump onto Futaba with a groan.

"Isn't this enough? I'm tired."

"Not yet." Futaba shrugs her off. "We still got fifteen minutes of class."


"C'mon, I'll do it with you."

So with a sigh, Kaoruko accepts and begins going through the routine together with her. Futaba wears a smile the entire time, and it works like a charm, because eventually Kaoruko can't help but smile back.

"It's not so bad, right?" Futaba grins.

"Japanese dance is still better," Kaoruko says snobbishly. "But yes, I suppose you're not wrong…"

"Just admit you kinda like it."

"I do not!"

"Heh heh." Futaba stretches forward in her dance, extending her arm in a fluent motion. Kaoruko copies her and does the same.

And for a moment, they're in their own little world, and the rest of the class fades away around them. It reminds Futaba of the times when they'd dance together as kids when no one else was looking. Kaoruko would complain back then too, even if it was Japanese dance they were doing. But in the end, she always went through with it, and though she wouldn't always admit it, Futaba knew she had fun.

With a sigh, Futaba closes her eyes as she gives a spin, hearing the squeak of Kaoruko's shoes on the floor as she does the same.

For a moment, the entire studio is just quiet; full of music and a soft, easygoing chatter.

And then a yelp.


Futaba can't finish her turn and open her eyes quickly enough to do anything about it. She can only watch as Kaoruko stumbles over herself and crashes to the floor with a loud thud. Futaba winces at the impact.


Everyone gasps and stops what they're doing to look at the source of the noise. A few of their friends call out.


"What happened?"

"Is she all right?"

"Kaoruko?" Claudine says. "She better not just be faking it again to try and get out of this..."

Futaba grimaces as she crouches down beside her roommate who's lying on her side. While she hates to admit it, she can't deny Claudine's theory might've been correct; Kaoruko could be horribly petty at times, and it wasn't unheard of for her to play tricks.

But Futaba knows that isn't the case this time. Not when she'd actually started having fun with the lessons.

When she turns her over and rests Kaoruko's head in her lap, Futaba feels a knot of dismay twist in her gut.

"O-Oy! Kaoruko?" She can tell right away her friend isn't faking. Kaoruko's face has gone pale in a matter of seconds, and her brow is knit tightly in pain. She's gasping out little whimpers, and Futaba can feel her shaking.

"Kaoruko!" Panicked now, Futaba pulls her a little closer, cradling her face. "What's the matter? Talk to me!"

With a moan, Kaoruko winces and cracks her eyes open a bit.

"My ankle…" she rasps. "I think I twisted it pretty bad… And now my head hurts too…"

A small crowd has gathered around them, but Futaba doesn't really pay them any mind. She just sighs, relieved at least that Kaoruko is still conscious and that it was just a common sort of injury. The sprained ankle might not have been so debilitating on its own, but to fall and hit her head on the hardwood floor like she had is what had made it so much worse. She can see tears clinging to the corners of Kaoruko's eyes, and that's what breaks her. Futaba cradles her head gently, trying not to let her move around too much.

"Kaoruko… just take it easy."

By now their teacher has made her way over and Futaba explains what happened.

"I can take her to the nurse's office," she offers.

"All right," the teacher nods. "Do you need someone to help you?"

"Nah. I've been carrying this girl my whole life."

"All right." Her instructor straightens up again and addresses the rest of the class. "Everyone else, back to practice."

With worried mumbles and sighs, the other girls do as they're told and continue with the lesson. In the meantime, Futaba slowly props Kaoruko up in her lap.

"Easy," she murmurs. "Do you feel sick or anything?"

"Uu… No… but my head is ringing…"

"I'll bet. That was a nasty fall. Here, I gotcha." Futaba slips her other arm beneath her friend's knees and readies herself into a crouch. She tucks Kaoruko close to her, then slowly gets to her feet. Kaoruko whimpers.

"Futaba-han… aren't I too heavy? I've been eating too many sweets lately…"

"You kiddin'?" she laughs. "This is nothin'. I may be short but I'm stronger than you, that's for sure."

"Hmph. I suppose you're not wrong…"

"Again with the double-negatives, huh?"

"Ufufu… ow."

"Easy does it. Just close your eyes."

Futaba makes her way across the room, and everyone clears a path for her. All of their friends look on worriedly, and Nana quickly hurries over to slide open the studio door for them.

"Thanks," Futaba says. "Don't worry, you guys. I'm gonna take good care of her."

"Of course!" Mahiru says.

"Feel better, Kaoruko-chan!" Karen wails.

Kaoruko just blushes, moans, and hides her face in Futaba's shoulder.

"How embarrassing…" she sighs. "To have such a mishap in the middle of class…"

"Hey, it happens to the best of us," Futaba says. "Remember that time Karen turned the wrong way and knocked into Kuroko and she hurt her foot?"

"Yes… And Hoshimi-han also stumbled once if I recall, as did Mahiru-han…"

"And I've had my fair share of falls too. It's just part of being a Stage Girl, really."

"Even so…" Kaoruko tapers off, burying her face once again into her roommate's shoulder. Futaba smiles sympathetically as she continues her way down the hall.

When she reaches the infirmary, she has Kaoruko knock on the door. As the nurse lets them in, Futaba explains what had happened. She carries Kaoruko into the small bathroom and helps her change out of her leotard and tights in exchange for a clean t-shirt and shorts provided by the nurse.

She then guides Kaoruko to one of the beds and helps her lie down, taking a seat in a chair beside her. The nurse gives her an ice pack, which Futaba presses to the back of Kaoruko's head, while the nurse herself tends to her ankle. All the while, Kaoruko covers her face with both arms to hide how embarrassed she is, and Futaba just smiles hopelessly.

The nurse diagnoses a swollen and slightly-sprained ankle and recommends at least three days without dancing, on top of keeping it elevated and iced properly. Futaba is glad to find out Kaoruko doesn't have a concussion either, but she's going to have a headache for the rest of the day for sure.

When she's finished with Kaoruko's treatment, the nurse heads back to her desk to get started on paperwork, leaving the two girls alone for the time being. Only now does Kaoruko finally lower her arms from her face, heaving a massive sigh.

"What a fine mess…"

"You're tellin' me." Futaba reaches out to card her fingers through her friend's bangs. "And you weren't doin' half bad with the ballet, either."

"You really think so?"

"Yeah! You were doin' great, Kaoruko."

"Oh? You flatter me."

"Just shut up and take the compliment, would ya?" Futaba pokes her cheek, and Kaoruko whines.


"You poked me before!"

"That was different."

"You're not makin' any sense, dummy." Futaba pokes her in the side this time, and Kaoruko shrieks.

"Kyaaa! F-Futaba-han! That tickles!"

"I know. That's why I did it."

"Why you-"

"Psst, hey keep your voice down. We're in the nurse's office."

"You're the one who's tickling me!"

They banter back and forth for a few good minutes. Futaba's just relieved Kaoruko isn't moaning in pain anymore and is acting as lively as she normally does. Futaba continues to poke her just to make her giggle.

"F-Futaba-han!" she cries. "No fair! Attacking an injured person!"

"Survival of the fittest!"

"You tyrant!"

Futaba sticks her tongue out at her as Kaoruko makes a weak attempt to swat her away. It's then when another set of voices sounds from behind her.

"My, and here we'd been worried."

"Guess everything's all right then."

"Oh, Tendo, Kuroko." Futaba sits back and withdraws her hands from her tickle victim as Kaoruko wheezes to catch her breath.

"Why… you…"

"Easy, girl."

"I'm not a dog!"

As they start squabbling again, both Maya and Claudine smile.

"So then, I take it's nothing serious?" Maya wonders.

"Nah, thank goodness," Futaba says. "She'll just have to skip dance for the next few days."

"I see. That is rather unfortunate, but this kind of injury is quite common in our department."

"Everyone is worried," Claudine says. "We just came by to see how you were. We should head back to tell them you're all right. But first…" She trails off for a moment and glances down at the floor. Futaba tilts her head.

"What's up, Kuro?"

Claudine flashes a guilty-looking glance up at her, then to the occupant of the bed.

"Kaoruko… I owe you an apology for thinking you were just faking it. I'm sorry."

"Oh, think nothing of it," Kaoruko says with a dismissive flick of her hand. "You were right, Kuro-han. All those times of crying wolf got me what I deserved in the end, I suppose. Now as punishment I'll have to do the ballet lesson all over again next week, and by myself…" She heaves a huge dramatic sigh and grimaces. "I'm not looking forward to it…"

"Aw c'mon," Futaba grins, ruffling her hair again gently. "It won't be that bad. I'll do it with you. I don't mind."

"Neither do I," Claudine agrees. "I could always do with some more practice."

"Oh," Maya smiles. "Then I suppose I'll do it as well."

Claudine crosses her arms and flashes her a glare. Futaba rolls her eyes.

"You two never quit it, do you?"

"You're one to talk," Claudine retorts with a smirk. "In any case, we'll head back to tell the others the good news."

"Yes," Maya agrees. "Aijou-san was so distracted by the ordeal she still probably isn't paying attention as we speak. We must ease their minds."


Both Maya and Claudine dip their heads before taking their leave. Futaba waves them off and turns back to her roommate.

"See? Even if you have to make up the ballet lesson, you don't have to do it alone, Kaoruko."

"I suppose." She shifts a little, adjusting how her head is positioned on the ice pack. She heaves another sigh. "Futaba-han…"

"What's up?"

Kaoruko looks away and puffs her cheeks up a little.

"I need to apologize as well."

"Huh? For what?"

"For always crying wolf," she admits. "And for causing you trouble like this…" Her voice wavers at the end, and Futaba nearly chokes when she sees a tear slip down her cheek.

"O-Oy, Kaoruko-?" She nervously reaches out to rest one hand on her shoulder and the other over the hand on her stomach. Kaoruko sniffles a little and shakes her head.

"I'm sorry… and now to be showing such a disgraceful side of myself like this…"

Futaba's eyes and voice alike soften.

"Please. As if you haven't cried in front of me a million times before." But even if she's used to it, it doesn't mean she likes it. Tentatively, she rubs her hand in slow, comforting circles over Kaoruko's stomach, and brings her other hand to the side of her face. Futaba cradles her cheek, gingerly brushing her thumb across her skin to wipe away her tears.

"Geez…" she mutters. "You always were such a crybaby, Kaoruko… You know that… when you start cryin', then I- crap…" Futaba has to withdraw one hand in order to wipe away her own tears. Kaoruko sniffles again and chuckles softly, resting her hand over Futaba's.

"Heh… And you're calling me a crybaby..."

"Shut up…"

They both lightly paw and swipe at one another for a few moments until the sniffles turn into giggles. And eventually, Kaoruko lets out a catlike yawn. Futaba ruffles her hair again.

"I bet you're tired, huh? You had a hectic day."

"I'll say," she mutters. "I wouldn't mind a nap now that classes are over. And besides, it's proven that sleeping heals the body, no?"

"All right, you don't gotta make excuses." Futaba flicks her nose. "Just get some rest."

"Mm…" Kaoruko closes her eyes, but as Futaba makes a move to ease away, she feels soft fingers wrap around her hand.

"Stay with me, Futaba-han?"

She sighs.

"Guess I got no choice, huh? I can't just leave you alone when you're like this." Futaba slides her chair closer to the bed and gets comfortable. "I'll stay. Rest up now, cuz you're gonna have a lot to catch up on after missing three days of dance."

"Ugh, don't remind me…"

Futaba laughs softly before leaning down over her. She leaves a small kiss on Kaoruko's forehead, then one on her nose, and finally one on her lips. Kaoruko peeks one eye open.

"My, my, Futaba-han~," she whispers. "In the nurse's office? How risqué~"

"Oh, shut it and go to sleep."

Kaoruko giggles mischievously before closing her eyes once more, though her hand squeezes Futaba's with tenderness.

Futaba sits beside her, lacing their fingers together and returning the contact. She brings Kaoruko's hand to her lips and kisses her knuckles before bringing it back down to the bed.

Without really thinking about it, she begins to hum a random tune, and slowly traces circles over Kaoruko's stomach. Within minutes, she can tell by her breathing that she's fallen asleep.

Futaba decides to close her eyes and relax a bit as well.

And all the while she never lets go of the hand in hers.



A/N: Just a very basic, generic hurt/comfort/fluff fic, but yeah I never really did this for Futaba and Kaoruko before, so here it is! Kaoruko was actually the first character who really spoke to me in Starlight, so I feel I should write her and express my love of her more. Even if she is a handful~

Sprinkled in some Gang Stars as well hehe

Please leave comments or kudos!!

Chapter Text

Chapter 2. Accident



About a week after Kaoruko's ankle had gotten better and she'd retaken her ballet class together with Futaba, Maya, and Claudine, she's currently relaxing in the lounge with those same three classmates.

Maya and Claudine are seated opposite one another across the table, reading character lines back and forth, while Kaoruko is stretched out on the couch with her head in Futaba's lap. Her roommate is reading a book she'd tried to get Kaoruko interested in to no avail.

Kaoruko just dozes for the time being, laying on her back with her hands folded on her stomach and a contented smirk on her lips as Futaba idly cards through her bangs in between turning pages. She listens to Maya and Claudine for a while as they read their lines, and for the most part just lets her mind wander aimlessly.

It's about an hour into the lazy Saturday afternoon when Kaoruko starts to get hungry, and it isn't long after that when her stomach lets out a rather loud growl. The others pause in what they're doing to look at her bemusedly as Kaoruko opens her eyes with a blush.

"Gee, Kaoruko," Claudine teases. "Leave the sound effects to the stage crew, would you?"

"Oh, quiet," she huffs back before blinking innocently up at her roommate. "Futaba-han~? Do we have any of those candies left in our room?"

"Huh? I think you ate the last of 'em the other night."

"How unfortunate," she pouts. "I was really craving some…"

"How about you eat something healthier instead?" Futaba suggests. "We got plenty of fruits in the kitchen over there."

"But I'm not in the mood for fruit!" she whines. "Is Banana-han really that busy with Class B right now? Doesn't she have any leftover treats lying around?"

"Nana doesn't exist just to make you snacks, Kaoruko." Futaba flicks her forehead and makes her yelp. "We have a cafeteria. Or if you want something that bad, why don't you go out and buy it yourself?"

"Hmm I suppose… But I'm just too comfortable right now."

"Then starve."


"Calm down, I'm joking."

Kaoruko pouts as Claudine and Maya hide their soft laughter behind their hands.

"You're all so cruel," she mumbles.

"All right, all right." Futaba closes her book and puts it aside. "If you want 'em that badly, I'll go buy some candies." She lifts Kaoruko off her lap, stands up, then drops her onto the couch.


"Futaba?" Claudine says. "Should you really be going out of your way to spoil her like that? Her ankle's fine, you know. She can go herself."

Kaoruko turns to stick her tongue out at her, and Claudine leers back. Futaba scratches the back of her head.

"It's fine. I kinda had to grab some stuff anyways. You comin' with me or what, Kaoruko?"

"Mmm, I think I'll stay here," she yawns.

"All right. I'll be back in an hour." Futaba gives them all a wave, to which Kaoruko curls the tips of her fingers in a tinier one.

"Be safe, Futaba-han!"

"I know."

Maya and Claudine dip their heads to Futaba as she exits the lounge, then turn back to Kaoruko.

"That's odd," Claudine says. "You normally go with her."

"Is your ankle perhaps still bothering you?" Maya guesses.

Kaoruko twirls her hand dismissively.

"Oh, please. I knew she had things she wanted to get anyway, so I just prompted her to go by asking for some candy. I figured she could use some fresh air and some alone time to do as she pleases, so I decided to stay here." She says all of this as if she's some kind of hero for letting Futaba run her errands on her own, but then adds on more quietly. "And also… perhaps my ankle is still bothering me just a little…"

Claudine sighs.

"Kaoruko. You should be more honest."

"Saijou-san?" Maya smiles. "You're sounding rather hypocritical right now."

"What?! How so?"

"Oh, never mind. Please forget I mentioned it."

"Wh-Why you..."

"Shall we continue practicing over some lunch?"

"Don't try to change the subject!"

As the two of them start bickering, they collect their scripts and stand up before taking their leave from the lounge. Kaoruko smirks and waves after them, then stretches out fully on the couch.

"Hmmn, guess I'll just have to continue my nap, then…"

She gets comfortable, folding her hands over her stomach like a princess before closing her eyes with a sigh, imagining how wonderful those candies are going to taste when Futaba gets back.





She isn't sure how long she's asleep for before she's subconsciously aware of a commotion out in the halls. There's a clammer, and just as Kaoruko is regaining consciousness, there's a cry of her name.


Kaoruko wakes fully with a start, gasping as she sits herself up and looks to the threshold where Claudine is panting after clearly having just run all the way here. Her voice had been taut, and now Kaoruko can plainly see panic all over her face. Kaoruko blinks and rubs her eyes.

"Kuro-han? What-?"

Claudine rushes straight in, and Maya appears just a second behind her. Kaoruko stares at them in confusion as their panic begins rubbing off on her.


"It's Futaba!" Claudine grabs her by the wrist and pulls her off the couch, slinging Kaoruko's arm across her shoulders to support her for her ankle. Kaoruko clings onto her classmate's shirt. She can feel Claudine trembling, which causes a horrible, nauseating feeling to sink throughout her chest.

"Kuro-han…? Wh-What about Futaba-han-?"

"There was an accident-"

The words almost don't make sense for a moment in Kaoruko's mind. She sways, and if not for Claudine's grip on her, she knows she would've hit the floor. She feels like she's going to be sick.

"An… accident…?"

"We don't know all the details-" Claudine says meekly. "But she's in the hospital."

"A teacher just informed us," Maya says, hurrying over to help support Kaoruko from her other side. She's equally as shaken as Claudine is from hearing the news. "We'll take the bus and go to her right away."

Kaoruko blinks, but she doesn't wake up from some nightmare. It's all still happening. She swallows, but it doesn't go down. She can't believe what she's hearing.

"Futaba-han… an accident…? She's… in the hospital…"

"Come on…" On her left side, Claudine is biting her lip and fighting back tears. And on her right, Maya is terribly pale.

Kaoruko can't feel her legs as they begin guiding her out of the lounge and down the hallway. She can't feel much of anything, actually. Just a painful, sickening dread gnarling tightly in her stomach.

This can't be… It simply can't be… Not my Futaba-han…

She's waiting for someone to just come out and say it was all a hoax. But as the three of them begin passing by other classmates, Kaoruko hears worried murmurs all around.

"Did you hear? There was an accident-"

"Really? Oh my god!"

"Is Isurugi-san all right?"

"I'm not sure…"

In spite of Claudine and Maya's support, Kaoruko nearly collapses anyway, and it takes the both of them to keep her up.


"Kaoruko, come on. We have to go to the hospital-"

Only now does it really seem to click for her. Kaoruko struggles between the two of them and digs her slippers into the carpet.

"W-Wait-" She clings to them as they turn anxious eyes on her. "What… What is all this…? H-How could there have been an accident? That's impossible-"

"Kaoruko…" Claudine gives her a tug, pulling Kaoruko into a shaking hug. Kaoruko starts to sniffle and hiccup as she clings back to her. She starts to cry, feeling as though she might drop to the floor.

After a moment Maya puts and arm around them each, then encourages them to keep going.

One of their teachers is at the main office and lets them exit the building without asking questions. They hurry down the sidewalk to the bus stop in nothing but their casual clothes and their dorm slippers. The three girls sit on the bench together, doing their best to provide comfort and support until the bus finally arrives.

Claudine pays the fair for the three of them as Maya guides Kaoruko to a seat and sits beside her, rubbing her back. Kaoruko flings herself at her and cries into her shoulder, trying to stifle herself so she won't draw too much attention. Claudine joins them, sending out warning glares to anyone who looks like they might start asking questions.

They reach their stop at the hospital in about ten minutes, by which point Kaoruko thought she'd composed herself enough. But as soon as they step off the bus she starts whimpering all over again.

"Wh-What if it's serious-?" she whimpers. "Wh-What if… my Futaba-han can never stand onstage again…?"

Maya and Claudine share a frightened glance over her head.

"I'm sure that is not the case," Maya says softly.

"Right," Claudine agrees. "This is Futaba we're talking about, after all. She'll be fine."

They hurry inside to the lobby, where Maya asks the receptionist about Futaba's information. Claudine stays back with Kaoruko, trying to reassure her further.

"I'm sure she's fine. I'm sure…"

Kaoruko clings to her tightly, trembling as she hides her face in her classmate's shoulder.

Maya returns a moment later to tell them Futaba's room number, grateful that visitors are allowed for her. She and Claudine help Kaoruko down the hallway, but as soon as Futaba's room is in sight, Kaoruko breaks away from them and takes off running, limping slightly at the small ache in her ankle. But she hardly even feels that or anything else other than this horrible gripping fear.

"Futaba-han-" She chokes on her name, stumbling into the doorway, heart pounding as she forces herself to look inside. "Futaba-han-!"

"Whoa! Kaoruko?!"

"…Eh…?" Kaoruko's voice comes out as a thin little gasp as she finally lifts her head and peers into the room.

Futaba is there, sitting up on the single bed inside. Her eyes are wide in shock, but other than that and a small cast on her left hand…

She's completely fine.

No blood. No screaming. No crying.

She's just totally surprised to see Kaoruko there.

The rush of relief that overwhelms her finally brings Kaoruko to her knees as she sinks to the floor.

"Oh, thank goodness…"


There's a flurry of quiet but panicked footsteps as Maya and Claudine hurry to the doorway.

"Kaoruko-? Futaba!"


"Kuroko?! Tendo, too?!"

All three of them freeze as they finally make eye contact. Claudine and Maya are on the verge of tears until they finally see for themselves that Futaba is completely fine. Futaba is dumbfounded by everyone's arrival, but quickly understands how worried they must have been.

"Ah, geez… Someone must've recognized me cuz of my bike and notified the school or somethin'. Gimme a break… I'd wanted to call you guys and explain things properly myself."

Now that the others can see for themselves that Futaba isn't seriously hurt at all, they also let out weighted sighs of relief.

"Thank goodness…"

"We were so worried…"

Maya and Claudine both help Kaoruko to her feet and limp across the room to Futaba's bedside. The second Kaoruko is near enough to her, she eases away from them and throws herself at her roommate.

"Futaba-han! You idiot!"

"W-Whoa! Kaoruko!" Futaba hastily catches her with her good arm. Kaoruko slumps against her, sobbing and wailing. Futaba can feel her shaking, and her heart's pounding really hard. She frowns, rubbing her good hand up and down her friend's back.

"Crap… I'm sorry you guys found out like this. You must've been really scared, huh?"

"'Scared' is an understatement." Claudine breathes another long sigh, leaning slightly against Maya for support. Maya wipes a hand across her own forehead, then coaxes her partner closer for comfort's sake.

"We heard from a teacher. All we'd been told was that you'd been in an accident. Nothing more."

"Aw, geez," Futaba groans. "That's so vague! It makes it sound a hell of a lot worse than what it was! Listen…" She gives Kaoruko's back a soft little pat, urging her to listen to what she's about to tell her.

"I was riding my bike to town to pick some stuff up, and this cat suddenly ran across the road. I swerved so I wouldn't hit it and I ended up wiping out. I just skidded a bit, but my bike hit a post and made a loud noise that probably made it sound like a bigger deal than it was. Someone called an ambulance and then it was a whole fiasco…" She lifts up her hand that's covered in a cast. "I only sprained my wrist though. That's all. Cat's fine, bike's fine, I'm fine. It's all good."

When she's finished telling of the events that had happened, it feels as though a pressure is removed from the room, and everyone can breathe a little more easily.

"So that's all…" Claudine murmurs. "Thank goodness."

"Indeed," Maya nods. "We should get back to school and ease everyone's minds."

But first, both of them take turns easing around Kaoruko to give Futaba a small hug. Futaba grins and uses her good fingers to give a peace sign.

"Thanks for worryin', guys. Though I wish you weren't misinformed to the point where you were so scared you ran here without even changin' outta your slippers."

"So long as you're all right," Claudine says. "That's all that matters."

With this, both she and Maya take their leave for now and slowly head out of the room.

Futaba waves them off as best she can while still keeping an arm around her roommate. Kaoruko has mostly quieted down by now, though she's still trembling a little. Futaba gives her a few more minutes, but when Kaoruko still doesn't lift her head or move, Futaba starts to pat her back to get her attention.

"Oy, Kaoruko. I'm fine, y'know. And I got the candies you wanted. They're on the table over there," she says, nodding to a little baggie. She hears a shaky exhale in response.



"Futaba-han, you dummy!" Kaoruko squeezes her torso a little harder and buries her face deeper into her shoulder. "I don't care about candies…" Her voice cracks, and the tears start up again. "What if… something bad happened? What would I… do without you, Futaba-han…?"

Futaba flinches as Kaoruko tapers off into more breathless sobbing. By this point she doesn't feel any pain in her sprained wrist, so she even uses that to hold her.

"Kaoruko… geez, you really are a crybaby…" She smiles a little, resting her chin on her friend's shoulder. "I'm not goin' anywhere, dummy. You don't have to worry about that kinda thing. Cuz there's no way you'd last a day without me, right? You wouldn't know how to handle cooking or chores, and you'd get so sore without my massages you wouldn't be able to move, right?"

As Kaoruko blubbers softly, she nods to everything Futaba says.

"Wh-Who… Who would cuddle with me on those cold nights…? And practice my roles with me… in our room…?"

"Right?" Futaba hugs her tighter. "Only I can do that stuff. So I'm not goin' anywhere, kay?"


Kaoruko cries for a few more minutes, her little hiccups jolting through her chest and filling the room. Futaba continues rubbing both hands up and down her back until Kaoruko finally manages to ease away. Her faces is a tear-stained, puffy mess, but Futaba still thinks she looks really cute.

"Futaba-han…" Kaoruko wipes her eyes, but more tears come, so Futaba reaches up to help her catch them.

"Easy," she murmurs. "It's all right, Kaoruko."

"No… it isn't." Kaoruko shakes her head, exhales, and finally looks back up at her. "I'm sorry for making you go into town to buy candies for me… If I hadn't-"

"Okay, stop right there," Futaba says, poking her mouth to quiet her. "This ain't your fault, Kaoruko. No way. You knew I had stuff I wanted to get anyway, so you just said you wanted candies to motivate me to go, right? Don't think I didn't realize. You may act a certain way, but you're actually really observant. You were bein' thoughtful of me, Kaoruko. I know that."

But Kaoruko shakes her head again.

"No! I was being selfish! Just like always-"

"Hey…" As Kaoruko breaks down crying again, Futaba coaxes her back into another hug, stroking down through her hair. "We both know that's not true. You're bein' too hard on yourself, Kaoruko. You never could've known something like this would happen."


"No 'buts'. Thinkin' about the 'what if's and all that isn't gonna do us any good. Don't make yourself even more upset, okay? I'm fine, Kaoruko. Everything's fine."

Kaoruko starts wailing softly again, so Futaba gets to patting her back and hugging her more. Kaoruko may seem and sound selfish at times, but she always shows her love and gratitude for others in little ways. So for her to be bawling like this is unusual, but it's still really touching in a way.

Futaba doesn't like that she'd had to be so scared in thinking she'd gotten badly injured, but now that Kaoruko knows she's all right, it's kind of heartwarming that she'd cry this much for her sake.

Futaba stays quiet as she lets it all out, until the sounds of Kaoruko's crying really starts to make her feel guilty.

"Oy, Kaoruko, take it easy," she mutters. "Your face is gonna be all puffy for days."

Kaoruko whimpers a few more times, wiping her eyes more and more until she finally feels like she's mostly done crying. When she can, she eases herself back again, blinking tearfully as she finds Futaba's eyes.

"Next time…" she sniffles. "I'm coming with you. No matter what. I'm coming with you every single time from now on. Even if you want to get away from me and go for a ride by yourself, I'm coming anyway."

"Kaoruko…" Futaba can't help but smile a little. "To be honest, I'm glad you weren't with me this time. What if you'd gotten hurt?"

"Then so be it," she mutters. "At least we'd be hurt together. I'm coming with you every time from now on, Futaba-han."

"You don't hafta-"

"It's decided," Kaoruko declares. "Even if you're going for a ride at 3am, you'll have to pull me out of bed and take me with you. Understood?"

"Yes, ma'am." Futaba grins up at her, and Kaoruko looks partially like she's irked at her for getting hurt and partially like she's about to start crying all over again.

But before she can, Futaba opens her arms. Kaoruko heaves a long sigh and slowly sinks back into her.

"You don't have to give me any massages," she mumbles. "In fact, I'll give you some until your hand gets better."

"Aw, shucks. Thanks, Kaoruko."

"And I'll carry your bag for you…"


"Oh, hush…"

With a chuckle, Futaba hugs her again, and it's only a few moments later when she realizes Kaoruko has fallen asleep on her. She knows she must have been completely exhausted from the scare, so Futaba just holds her close for a long time.

Eventually, Maya and Claudine return with the rest of their friends to visit, offering Futaba hugs and words of relief and little presents.

She's able to leave the hospital with them that evening, and they all help carry her things back, and luckily for Kaoruko, Claudine had brought her a change of shoes to walk back to school in.

All of Futaba's friends help her out while her wrist is still in its cast, and Kaoruko keeps to her word of giving her massages and carrying her bag for her. Futaba always shows her appreciation with a kiss to her cheek.

And even after Futaba's wrist has healed and she's able to ride her bike again, Kaoruko continues her efforts in trying to reciprocate as much as she's given, in her own little ways.

And just as she'd promised, she rides with Futaba every time from then on, no matter what.



Chapter Text

Chapter 3. Midnight Comforts



It's never been easy to tell how they ever got to the underground stage, or for what purpose. Kaoruko doesn't even remember hearing the tone of the jingle coming from here phone this time around, but she's here nonetheless, already slashing away at the hoard of Korosu swarming the stage.

"Heavens-" She grunts, twisting sharply to avoid another screeching shadow and cleave it into dust. "Just for one night, couldn't we be spared the trouble of all this?!"

Around her, she catches a glimpse of several of her other friends fighting as well. Karen, Maya, Junna…

And even though she hasn't seen her yet, she instinctually knows Futaba is here as well. Though, she does find it a bit odd that she hasn't ended up at her side by this point.

As Kaoruko continues swinging her naginata, she casts her gaze around the battlefield of a stage for her roommate. She can hear her making grunts of effort and shouting at the Korosu.

But it's odd. Every time Kaoruko turns her head, she just misses her. All she ever sees of Futaba is her shadow.

At first, she simply continues fighting, because she thinks nothing of it.

But after it's happened again, and again, and again, she starts to get this churning feeling in her stomach, as though all of her insides are being squeezed and pulled the wrong ways.

As she slices through another Korosu, Kaoruko once again attempts to turn and follow the leap of her best friend's shadow.

"Futaba-han?" She calls for her, expecting an answer. But all she receives is another yell from her roommate as she kills the next monster. Kaoruko pouts. "You know-" she says loudly. "You haven't come to cover my back for me once, tonight, Futaba-han! The least you could do is answer me properly!"

The next swing of her blade is more forceful, but she can't discern if it's more out of anger, frustration, or fear.

She continues trying to look for Futaba throughout the fray, but it becomes impossible with the amount of Korosu filling her vision now. Kaoruko staggers, gritting her teeth as they clamber toward her.

"Hey, Futaba-han-?"

A Korosu charges at her, and she blocks its blade and pushes it back, but another replaces it in seconds. Kaoruko can no longer see nor hear any of her friends. The fear begins to trickle through her, chilling her blood.

"Don't mess around with me-"

Gripping her naginata tightly, she rushes into the swarm of blackness at full-force, spinning and leaping and lashing out. Each one she makes contact with disintegrates in turn. She lets out a battle cry, slicing them apart in whatever way she can.

They are obstacles. Parasites. Ruining her beloved plays and preventing her from standing in that spotlight with her friends.

The clattering of their armor and the hissing of their voices rattles in her ears. With one final war cry, she finishes off the last slew of them with one surefire cut.

At last, the echoes of the fight begin to fade. Kaoruko stands hunched over the remains of the last Korosu, panting for breath as she slowly straightens herself up. As the blackness dissipates, she begins searching for her fellow Stage Girls.

"Where is everyone-?"

Using her blade for support, she turns to gaze at the farthest corner of the stage. Karen and Junna are standing side by side with their backs facing her, pressed together and clearly looking down at something. Kaoruko breathes a sigh of relief to have finally found them. Wiping the sweat from her forehead and smoothing back her hair a little, she begins making her way toward the others.

"What was all that about?" she calls to them. "Karen-han, Hoshimi-han, do either of you recall what play it is we were saving? I feel like I can hardly even remember what we're putting on this week."

She begins striking up casual conversation. But Karen and Junna don't budge. They just continue looking at whatever is in front of them on the stage.

Tilting her head, Kaoruko struts closer.

"Karen-han? Hoshimi-han? Are you listening to me? What is it you're looking at that's so engrossing?"

As Kaoruko approaches, she glances downward at their boots. She can see something colorful on the stage there, white and purple and-


Kaoruko freezes.


She shakes her head, then takes another step closer. It isn't what she thinks.

"H-Hey. What exactly are you two-?"

But as she draws nearer, Karen suddenly steps back and turns to face her, her eyes wide and distressed.

"K-Kaoruko-chan! It was an accident! We didn't mean to!"

"That's right," Junna mutters. "It was an accident…"

Kaoruko comes to a dead stop, clutching her naginata until her fingers go numb.

"What on earth are you two talking about…? Where is-?"

But then, Karen and Junna each step aside.

Lying there behind them is Futaba, crumpled and motionless, run through by a sword and multiple arrows. Dark crimson pools from all around her and stains deep into the stage.

Kaoruko screams, dropping her weapon with a loud clatter.


"We're sorry," Karen hums. "It was just an accident."

"That's right," Junna smiles. "An accident."

Before Kaoruko's eyes, the two of them suddenly crackle with blackness, warping into deformed shapes with burning red eyes.

She screams again, tears blurring her vision as she collapses to her knees. The blood has pooled out to reach her, staining her clothes and skin.


Kaoruko throws herself up out of bed with the gruesome image still burned behind her eyes. She moves so quickly and so suddenly it's too much for her body, which has been dormant with slumber until now.

As she pitches her weight forward, throwing the blankets off herself, her legs get tangled. With the panic and confusion still gripping every inch of her, she can't react quickly enough to prevent herself from tumbling over the edge.

With a thud, she crashes to the floor and lets out a whimpering sob, taking half the covers with her. Pain registers in her shoulder, arm, and head from landing hard on her side. But though the ache of her fall is jarring enough to make her realize what is reality, the nightmare still grips her with icy talons.


She blurts the name, trying to push herself up off from the floor and onto her aching elbows. With her body temporarily stunned from the impact, every inch of her feels numb and burning at the same time. Tears and sobs and pain and panic prevent her from moving, so she only trembles there.

Of course, Futaba had woken in an instant from her own bed the second she'd heard Kaoruko wake with a short cry of her name. But she hadn't been able to make sense of what was going on in time to get up and help her before she'd crashed to the floor.

Now, eyes wide with alarm, Futaba throws the covers off herself and jumps out of bed.


It's the middle of the night, and the room is dark, but even though she can't see her right away, the rest of Futaba's senses hone in on her immediately. She drops to the floor between their beds and crawls to her partner's side, placing one hand over hers.

"O-Oy, Kaoruko? What the hell happened-?" Futaba doesn't even know where to begin, but as the shock of the moment finally begins to settle, her brain kicks into action and logic resurfaces.

Kaoruko is clearly too distraught and in pain to make sense of anything at the moment, so Futaba crouches forward to lie down beside her, draping one arm across her back and curling the other across her collar. Kaoruko continues sobbing uncontrollably, unable to fathom any of it just yet. Futaba rubs her back firmly, trying to untangle her and wrap the blankets around her more comfortably.

"Oy, oy, oy…" She still has no idea what's going on, and not knowing is killing her. Futaba can already feel tears welling up in her own eyes, but she tries to keep them down and stay focused. "Kaoruko, Kaoruko! Just take it easy, okay? Hey… I'm here, okay? I'm right here."

Kaoruko continues to wail, choking out gasps in between as more tears drip onto the carpet.

Futaba's known and been with Kaoruko all her life. But she's never seen her like this before. She's seen her cry before, heard all of her most pitiful sobs when she was scared and upset and dejected.

But this is different. It's as though Kaoruko has lost all control over herself. Whatever had frightened her tonight has shaken her to her core, to the point where she still can't comprehend reality yet. Her voice that is usually so haughty and refined, or playful and cutesy, is now in shambles.

Futaba can't bear it. Slowly, she sits herself up, holding Kaoruko in her arms as she tries to right her as well. Kaoruko is shaking so much, and the tears just keep coming. Futaba barely has her up for a second before Kaoruko slumps against her chest, limp all except for how roughly she's crying. Futaba is startled as she catches her, locking both arms around her tightly.

"Kaoruko- oy, oy-" Now she can feel just how badly she's shaking. Though her sobs have becomes stifled as she buries her face into Futaba's shoulder, Kaoruko still weeps with her whole body. Her heart is pounding so hard Futaba can feel it through her back, and it beats wildly against the front of her chest, like a drum being relentlessly bashed. Futaba is at a loss.

"Oy, oy, Kaoruko! Seriously! C'mon, you gotta tell me what's wrong-" She chokes a little, still trying to fight back her own tears. She knows for a fact Kaoruko doesn't have any medical conditions that could've been the cause of this, so her safest bet is an awful nightmare that spooked her really badly.

Futaba rubs up and down her back and her sides, hugging her close so her heart won't burst clean out of her chest.

"Take it easy, okay? It wasn't real, Kaoruko. None of it was real. Promise."

Of course, Kaoruko had suffered nightmares just like anyone else. But they've never had such a strong after-effect on her before. If anything, she would catch her breath, shed a few tears, and then call for Futaba until she woke and plead until she came to sleep with her, or she would climb out of her bed and into Futaba's without a word and just hug her for the remainder of the night.

More often than not they slept together in the same bed anyway. Tonight had been a fluke where they'd each flopped onto their own mattresses just to have some space for a moment, but had ended up falling asleep before one or the other could get up to move together.

When Futaba remembers that Kaoruko had fallen clean off the bed, she grits her teeth and hugs her tighter.

"Sorry. I should've been with you… Damn it…"

It was rare for either of them to suffer such bad night terrors, but Kaoruko was a bit more prone than Futaba herself was. Whenever Futaba had nightmares, she'd try to keep it to herself. But Kaoruko always woke some way, somehow and offered to let her talk about them. In spite of how she whined about getting her beauty sleep, Kaoruko was always serious in listening to Futaba rid her mind of the bad thoughts. She would always hum and cradle her close afterward, and let Futaba fall asleep to the soothing sound of her heartbeat.

That was the Kaoruko other people rarely - if ever - got to see.

Futaba is ridden with guilt that she hadn't been able to help her sooner through this tonight.

As the minutes pass, Kaoruko continues sobbing, but eventually her voice begins to dwindle. Her choked breathing soon eases into deeper, but slower gasps, ones that fill her lungs a bit better. Her pulse is still racing, though, so Futaba is sure to keep her close as she continues rubbing her sides and her back.

"Easy," she murmurs. "Breathe, Kaoruko. I'm right here. I've gotcha."

And then, the first attempt at words from her since all of this had started.

"F-Futaba-haaan-" Kaoruko's voice trails off in a genuine whine, scared and hurt and disbelieving.

Futaba squeezes her tighter, but remembers she'd fallen out of bed. She doesn't want to hurt her anymore than she already might be, but she fears anything less secure and Kaoruko will begin falling to pieces.

"Easy-" she says, trying to keep her voice steady. "Just take it easy, Kaoruko. It's all right."

Though she's been saying such things all this time, Kaoruko only actually seems to hear her now. She lets out a low, moaning sort of sob and finally manages to clutch at her in return.

Futaba holds her up as best she can like this. She reaches for the blanket that Kaoruko had taken with her to the floor and yanks it the rest of the way off the bed, then proceeds to wrap it around her partner's shoulders before resuming the embrace.

"Easy," she murmurs. "Just breathe. You're okay, Kaoruko. I'm here and I'm not goin' anywhere. I promise." She makes the vow again, hoping to get through enough to help her calm down.

Kaoruko nods against her shoulder, trying to get ahold of herself. The images that had stuck to the back of her mind are finally fading away as Futaba fills her senses. She's right here with her now, talking to her, holding her. Futaba is alive and well, and she's with her.

Kaoruko blurts out another sob, one more of relief this time, and hugs her as much as she can. Futaba pats the back of her head and continues rubbing her back soothingly.

"Easy," she repeats. "Easy. Breathe."

Finally, a few moments later, she can feel Kaoruko starting to reel herself in. The sobs quiet down a little, the tears slow, and though her pulse is still fast and flustered, it isn't slamming quite so hard anymore. Futaba finally cracks a little smile.

"Atta girl. Just take it easy. I'm stayin' right here with you, Kaoruko."

Kaoruko whimpers again, nodding into her shoulder. Her side and shoulder and head still hurt from the fall, and her jaw is heavy with ache from all the crying. But the fear and the panic have subsided, and she'd much rather have aches and pains over those any day.

She swallows a few times, gulping down all the wet grossness dripping down the back of her throat as she dips her face into the fabric of Futaba's night shirt to dry her eyes.


"Right here," she answers readily. "I'm not going anywhere, Kaoruko."

The more she hears Futaba say those words, the more easily Kaoruko finds her breath. She inhales just a few more times, deeply and slowly. Futaba hugs her softly, sharing her support and her body heat with her.

"You're all right, Kaoruko. Whatever nightmare it was, it wasn't real." Slowly, Futaba eases away, just so she can finally see her face again.

Kaoruko is a mess, her hair frazzled and her bangs sticking to her forehead which is smeared with sweat, and the rest of her face is still damp and dripping with tears. Her eyes are all puffy and her cheeks are paler than usual in the darkness.

Futaba reaches one hand up to cup her face. It just so happens to be the sore side Kaoruko had landed on. She leans her cheek against Futaba's hand, and the small aching pulse in her temple begins to dissipate. She closes her eyes for a moment and simply leans against her, letting it serve as proof that the nightmare was just that - a bad dream.

Futaba is relieved that she's calmed down from the height of her panic at last. She sits up on her knees a bit and presses a long kiss to her partner's forehead. Kaoruko hugs her in turn, biting back another little sob.

"Futaba-han-" She tries to say more than just her name, but the words cut off when more sniffles start up. Futaba curls one arm around her shoulders, then lets the other run gently up and down over her sore arm and shoulder.

"Take your time. There's no rush, Kaoruko. Just tell me about it when you're ready. But first-" Futaba inches back and looks up at her again. Kaoruko is clearly struggling against a fresh onslaught of tears. Futaba moves down to kiss the bridge of her nose. "That was a nasty fall. You okay? What hurts?"

Kaoruko can't answer. She just breaks down all over again and slumps against her.

It isn't fair. How can Futaba be so sweet? So supportive? So wonderful? It just makes her want to keep crying until morning. She feels so pitifully helpless. But as long as she's with Futaba, she doesn't care about anything else.

She cries a bit more softly now, but Futaba is still at a loss for what she can do to help her. So she just keeps petting her hair and all up and down her back and her sides, occasionally leaving a kiss here or there on her temple or her cheek.

"Geez, Kaoruko… C'mon, deep breaths."

Kaoruko does her best, breathing deeply until her chest doesn't feel quite so tight. By now, Futaba has assuaged away most of the pain from her fall, as well as most of the panic from the nightmare. Kaoruko wants to at least thank her properly.


"You good?" Futaba eases back again to seek her eyes. "You can tell me about it if you think it'll help. Whatever you need, Kaoruko. Ah, but first, let's get you back someplace comfy. Here, hold onto me. I've got ya."

Futaba slowly helps her to her feet. Kaoruko clings to her shoulders and tries to remember how to use her legs, while Futaba supports as much of her weight as possible.

Together, they ease back onto Kaoruko's bed. Futaba props up her pillows and helps her lean back against the headboard, draping the blanket over her back and shoulders and bundling it up at her chest to keep her warm. She kneels beside her, keeping one arm around her, and the other hand over hers in her lap.

By now a bit of moonlight has shone through, making the room less scary, chasing some of the shadows away. Futaba leans over to the night stand to pick up a bottle of water and hand it to her.

"Here. Take it slow."

Kaoruko even fumbles with the task of uncapping the bottle, which makes her feel horribly pathetic. But Futaba gently uncaps it for her, keeping her hand over hers to support her as she drinks.

Kaoruko downs a few sips, thankful for the cleansing sensation after so much thickness in her throat. When she's finished, Futaba takes a drink for herself and puts the bottle aside.

It isn't long before Kaoruko has slumped against her side again, resting her head on Futaba's shoulder. Futaba hugs her close, brushing her head against hers.

"You wanna tell me about it?" she offers. "If not, that's okay, too. Just know you're fine now, Kaoruko. None of it can hurt you."

Kaoruko sniffles again. She hadn't really felt all that inclined to speak on account of how pitiful she would probably sound if she did. But now she has no choice.

"Eh?" Even that much is a rasp. She sits up a bit and looks at Futaba, then shakes her head. "You've got it all wrong, Futaba-han…"

"Hah?" Puzzled, Futaba quirks an eyebrow. "Then what the heck had you all in a panic like that? I've never seen you like that before Kaoruko. You scared the hell outta me."

In spite of everything, Kaoruko is still happy that Futaba would be so concerned about her. But she can't even crack a smile for a second before the images of blood flash back into her mind.

"You've got it wrong…" Kaoruko lets out a shaky breath. "It wasn't me who got hurt, Futaba-han."

"Huh? Oh…" Futaba falls quiet. Somehow, that thought hadn't even crossed her mind - that it has been her that had been hurt in Kaoruko's nightmare. She'd only assumed otherwise because that was typically how her own nightmares went; she would wake just before something horrible happened to her, just before she should've died one way or another.

She'd assumed Kaoruko's nightmare had been similar, and she'd woken just before her dream self had met a certain doom.

But for it to have been Futaba as the one who had suffered an ill fate…

Suddenly Kaoruko's devastated reaction made perfect sense. After all, if she'd just dreamt of herself getting hurt, the dread would've faded shortly after she'd woken and realized she was fine.

But since she'd dreamt of Futaba, she'd had no way of knowing right away if she was really all right, hence her all-consuming panic.

With this realization, Futaba asks it quietly, with her eyes.

Kaoruko's lip wobbles, and she gives a tiny nod to confirm it.

"Futaba-han… you-"

"All right." Futaba pulls her in again as Kaoruko starts to cry once more. "I get it. You don't have to give me the details if you don't wanna."

Kaoruko shakes her head. She'd voiced enough of it. She doesn't want to say the rest or risk speaking it into reality somehow.

And even though this incident tonight had been far too stressful for the both of them, Futaba feels a warmth in her chest. What had thrown Kaoruko into such a state of upset had been the thought of losing her.

Even though Futaba would much prefer it if nothing like this ever happened again, and she never had to see or hear Kaoruko so hurt…

It still makes her glad to know just how deeply Kaoruko cares about her.

All of what Kaoruko had expressed tonight had been absolutely genuine. Only now that Futaba is sure she's all right can she let herself smile about it.

"Kao~ru~ko~" She sings her name softly, hugging her tight. In return, Kaoruko nuzzles into her shoulder.


"Don't worry. I'll sleep here now, 'kay?"

"Please do…"

For Kaoruko to just say that so honestly, without even pretending to huff or be stubborn about it, really says just how exhausted she is from all this. Futaba peppers a few more kisses across her face and through her hair, moving her hands in slow circles across her back. Kaoruko sighs, sinking against her.


"What's up?"

"My head hurts…"

"Oh, right! Crap, you should lie down. Here."

Futaba eases back and gathers Kaoruko into her arms, then gradually helps her lie down onto her back. Kaoruko winces a few times, already knowing that any workout and dance practice tomorrow is going to aggravate her soreness.

But knowing that she'll have Futaba through it all doesn't let it seem all that bad.

Once they've both settled, Futaba ensures the blankets are pulled snugly over her partner. Kaoruko cuddles close, then does the same for her, giving Futaba half the covers.

Futaba rests her head on the pillow beside her, easing her into another embrace.

"You all right now, Kaoruko?"

"Yes. Just fine." Kaoruko slips her hand up to cup her cheek, then kisses Futaba's lips softly. "Thank you, Futaba-han."

Futaba blushes and grins.

"Of course. I'm just glad you're okay."

"Only because I have you, I'm sure."

Kaoruko kisses her again to convey her appreciation. Futaba chuckles and returns it.

After a moment, they share a mutual sigh. Futaba clears away the final tear trails from Kaoruko's cheek, and in turn Kaoruko brushes her fingers through her bangs.

"Goodnight, Futaba-han."

"Night, Kaoruko. Sleep well."

"You as well."

They close their eyes together and curl up closely, wrapping themselves in each other's arms.

The aches and fears drift away in the warm softness of the night, and both girls sleep soundly together until dawn.