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Despite everything, its still you

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The breaths coming out of their mouth were just too short and fast for what they were used to, even though it was only by a split second; it being an imperceptibly small difference that would escape anyone's attention. But their partner wasn't just anyone, and her sharp yet gentle red eyes noticed the cause of Chisato's uneasiness as she joined them in bed.

The lights were dimly lit, as was routine ever since the tall woman disclosed her even bigger fear of the dark, illuminating her handsome face, the sight of which inspired even more love and, especially jealousy, in them recently. It hadn't been too long since they made that discovery, yet their whole world and perception had changed enormously since then.

"Is anything the matter, dear?"

Her words, careful and well spoken, never failed to calm a certain part of their heart, even if only just from the familiar sound of the voice. But they couldn't answer her truthfully now.

It was something that bugged them, a silent whisper echoing on the deepest corners and crevices of their mind, at first discredited and ignored for its importance seemed insignificant, but now had grown to a deafening scream that shook their very core whenever they got time to think in between work and more work. It was cruel, how such insecurities had taken hostage in the only moments of the day Chisato looked forward to, those moments being now.

"Mhm,,"

They didn't know when it had become hard to look straight into Kaoru's eyes, the very same woman who had given half of her life to them. When did their eyes start to focus on the shape of her body, her chest, her hips, not with admiration but ugly jealousy?

"Oh sorry, was Dear inappropriate? I admit I do not know yet which names you might like or-"

"No that's not it,”

She really paid attention to their feelings and reactions. It must be hard for her to adjust too. How selfish of them to have to make her feel bad.

“…but thank you for asking"

Kaoru's arm extended, the warm and familiar touch of her fingers, callous and hard on the tips from years of guitar, caressed their cheek with understanding affection.

"Do you know what it is but can't quite put a name on it?"

"Mmm,, more or less"

They knew what it was, how couldn't they not with how much it bothered them. But putting it into words felt embarrassing, being not the kind that made you blush, but the one that made you want to disappear. It probably was small, stupid and barely an issue, but to Chisato it felt so much more important.

"Is it about gender, mayhaps?"

"... Related"

Adjusting her body to rest more comfortably on her arm, Kaoru held her chin while looking at their face, attempting to decipher the enigma that was having a relationship with The Shirasagi Chisato. They knew she'd figure it out eventually, better than they knew themselves, most of the time. They could almost ignore how dumb she looked, even if it brought something that looked like a smile to their face.

Seeing at last the lit lightbulb over her head, Kaoru looked back into their eyes as the thought tumbled into words.

"Words are cruel masters, are they not Chisato?"
"Kaoru, it's almost 1 am, i'd rather you save allegory for later"

Smile growing on her face from the more usual tease, Kaoru kept on pressing with less refined but more precise language, knowing she had poked the center of the beehive.

"Something about words or maybe things to call yourself bothers you, is what I meant"

Unable to hide the surprise from their face, Chisato scratched the back of their recently trimmed hair, still embarrassed after so many years about how easily Kaoru could see through them.

"I think so, yeah ... how did you know?"

Chuckling, the purple haired woman rubbed her thumb on chisato's face, moving closer like their hearts and minds.
"It's been like this for a while, and it was for Kanon-chan also when she went through her own similar situation, so I made an educated guess~”

They had tried to ask the soft blue haired girl for advice before, but despite appearing similar, their situations were wholly different. Chisato hadn't considered however, that being on the outside of both Kanon and themself could have given Kaoru valuable insight, so they let her talk more.

"We've covered names, nicknames, words and compliments you like better and those you'd rather not hear again… Could I get a hint, my beloved?"

She really had thought about it all, supporting them through everything they could need in the past month since they came out. It filled them with security to know they were in good hands, but also with guilt that she had to deal with it all.

"It's just,, it bothers me but I don't know if it should"

It was true, to an extent. Chisato didn't lie, only choosing at times to cleverly move around the truth, but it had become a bad habit that stayed whenever they did seek it out.

"You're too kind with others yet rarely with yourself dear, I'm sure you're allowed to feel that way"

Kaoru's eyes really were the kindest. She never felt a hint of pity from them, no sign that indicated they didn't really care, nothing but pure desire of seeing them for all they are, even the parts they hid, consciously or otherwise.

They felt like a fool, questioning something that would alter their feelings so greatly.

"Maybe but,, it's about you too and I do not know if I'm allowed to change that"

Knowing exactly what they needed and how to give it, Kaoru cupped their face as she had done so many times before, when emotions overwhelmed them, when they needed to cry but didn't want to be seen, or when they just needed to know she was there. Her touch had always been all they had needed, and despite their world changing so recently, that stayed the same.

"Chisato, if it bothers you, then nothing you could do would ever matter to me as long as it helped, I simply want to see your sweet smile draw itself effortlessly on your face again"

It was all but without effort as of late, and they so badly wanted it to change.

"You promise me it won't be dumb if I ask you about it then?"

Making promises, like they did as kids, to find reassurance in words structured like contracts, just as they did with work as an adult. Some things really didn't change.

"Ask away, I've got a thousand and one nights"

Chisato took a deep breath. It couldn't be harder than it had been the first time, so many years ago. Accepting it in the beginning had been the hardest part. That was what they had believed, and that word had given them security and confidence to love freely as they wanted.

They liked it, it had accompanied them for many years and had been woven deeply within their Identity, their sense of self. They didn't want to part ways with that word, but they were confused. Now, they just had to ask.

"It was just that,, I don't know or- If me or you-

Kaoru's hand squeezed their own, nodding with encouragement.

-just,,, would we- you- still be- lesbians, if, you love me and,,, I'm no longer a woman?"

Chisato should be used to, by now, to the deeply gentle and understanding gleam of Kaoru's eyes as she listened to and understood the source of their worries, but it always was too much.

The cold sweat that had been running down their neck dissipated as if it had never been there when Kaoru's arms embraced them, a wordless hug that attempted (and succeeded) to calm her partner.

"Of course Chisato, how couldn't it be?"

It was a confusing, strange feeling, to doubt that such a core part of themselves could change because of technicisms, nebulous meanings and general semantics, but Chisato had worried deeply about it.

"Just,, I wouldn't want you or me to change- not just because of me,"

Kaoru's chest was too comfortable a place to not lean their head into, to avoid the sight that would make their voice crack and tremble more than it needed, to hide until the storm passed.

"But you're not a man either now, are you Chisato?"

"Well, yeah"

"So, I am a woman who loves not a man, you're neither man nor woman and I hope you love me as I do"

"...of course I love you.."

Hiding a chuckle, Kaoru's gentle fingers lifted their face, eyes looking into their own on an equal level despite it all.

"Then I do not see a problem with Chisato Shirasagi, who isn’t a woman, remaining a lesbian"

It really was a comfortable word.

Taking a deep breath, they parted away from the briefly intense embrace, going back to the mundane yet still endlessly comfortable distance between them, one they knew and trusted that could be crossed whenever they wanted.

"Thank you, Kaoru,"

The taste of her lips on their own stayed the same, no matter how words or genders and expressions changed, and it always was enough to spin their head into the comfortable realm of love (And hopefully sleep).

“No thanks needed Chisato”