“Do you mind?”
The voice startled Momo. She hadn’t been expecting anyone out here, and thought she’d finally have a little peace and quiet from Tzuyu’s constant nagging to have her smoke. She was gonna quit. Really, she was. Just...when things weren’t so stressful.
Except they had been more stressful than usual lately, and visiting Chaeyoung- the only honest to God lighthouse keeper (or auxiliary keeper, as Chaeyoung reminded her that her title was) that Momo had ever met- was one of the few things that calmed her down. Chaeyoung’s view from the lighthouse was pleasant and tranquil, enough to convince Momo to make the tiresome trip every week even if it cost her quite a bit in the gas department. She could either sit outside, by the little cottage Chaeyoung was paid to give tours of, and look out over the waves, or she could come inside and admire the different floors, the spiral interior and the rooms Chaeyoung kept meticulously clean.
And, every so often, Momo came up to the balcony, just to clear her head. And smoke. But mostly clear her head.
Except now, there was a girl sitting against the lighthouse wall, with a sketchpad open on her lap and colored pencils loose between her fingers as she glared up at Momo.
Momo was startled into almost silence, shaking a cigarette out of her pack and sliding it into her jacket pocket as she scratched the back of her neck.
“Um....what did I do?”
The girl rolled her eyes, huffing and muttering something that sounded obscene under her breath as she set her pencils down. Momo was at a loss for words.
“This is my drawing space. It has been for months. It’s one of the only places quiet enough for me to really concentrate, and now, out of the unwelcome blue, you’re here. Smoking, of all things!”
Momo’s lips parted. She’d been automatically raising her lighter to her mouth, thumb poised over the button, but something about the way the girl’s pretty face was twisted with irritation made her feel more shamed than any of Tzuyu’s lectures had in months.
“Uh, I come up here a lot, actually...”
The girl snorted. “I really need to talk to Chaeyoung about her lax visitation policy.”
Momo’s nose scrunched in indignation. She’d never had anyone take such a direct dislike to her. Certainly not someone who was that pretty. But even if she was pretty, Momo hadn’t even started smoking yet! Who was she to judge?
“Well, sorry I intruded on your thinking time.” Momo said, a little annoyed as she glanced at the sketch pad again. She couldn’t really tell from the distance, but it looked pretty good from here. “What are you making there, anyway?”
“Oh no, no, no. You don’t get to try and sweet talk me like that when you’re polluting the air around me.” The girl wagged her finger, closing the top of her sketch book with a definite thud and crossing her arms over her chest. “There’s a perfectly good bench down there for you to use.”
Momo raised her eyebrows, letting the end of the cigarette catch and purposefully inhaling appreciatively as she slid down the wall behind her.
“That applies to you too, gorgeous.”
The girl scoffed loudly, leaning her head on her hand as Momo casually took another drag.
“You’re the fucking worst.”
“Actually, my name’s Momo.” Momo told her pleasantly. Something about the way this girl reacted so easily to Momo’s mere presence amused her. She was curious to see just how far she could push her. “What’s yours?”
“If I tell you, will you leave?” the girl countered.
Momo tapped a finger against her knee consideringly. “I guess you won’t know until you tell me, huh?”
Another exaggerated groan. Momo couldn’t help grinning.
“I’m Mina. Now...I believe I am owed something?”
Momo let her head loll against the wall, meeting Mina’s eyes with arched eyebrows.
“I said I’d leave. I didn’t say when.” Momo said simply.
Mina looked incredulous for a moment, and then shook her head violently, jumping to her feet while Momo watched with mild interest, and a dash of disappointment. She liked having a space to herself, of course, but there was something intriguing about this girl, even with her annoyance and spitfire attitude. Momo liked to analyze people, check their real demeanor against the images she created in her head.
Mina seemed like a fascinating prospect.
“I can see why you and Chaeyoung get along. You’re both stubborn as hell.” Mina growled. She disappeared inside the room behind them, but left behind her sketchpad and pencils. Momo considered that while she kept smoking, watching lazy curls spiral above her and dissipate.
It only took a few moments for Mina to return, now holding a bottle of water and a package of cookies. Momo bit her lip as Mina sat back down. She wasn’t sure if she really should leave. Hell, she’d made the trip, and she didn’t want to be driven away, even by someone as cute as Mina.
Plus, she kind of liked looking at Mina a little more than the view.
“Are you just going to keep staring at me, or are you going to say something?” Mina asked without looking up from her art.
Momo’s ears burned as Mina kept drawing, maybe a little more fiercely than she had been when Momo walked out onto the balcony.
“Sorry.” Momo mumbled. She took a last drag of her cigarette and stubbed it out beside her, tucking the remnant into her pocket to toss later. “It’s just...”
“You like to bother me?” Mina suggested dryly.
“I don’t want to bother you. If Chaeyoung likes you, you must be cool.” Momo said quietly. The breeze was picking up, fluttering through her hair and brushing strands off of Mina’s neck, and Momo’s gut tightened. “And from the glimpse I got, you seem very talented.”
Mina paused in her sketching, sparing Momo an indecipherable glance, and picked up the package of cookies. She took out two for herself and set it down again, downing one with a sip of water before returning to the art. Momo’s lips parted at how aesthetic it seemed.
“Flattery won’t get you far with me, Momo.” Mina finally said. “But it’s better off than you were five minutes ago.”
Momo chuckled, resting her head against the wall and drumming her fingers on her knees.
“Can I have a cookie?”
Mina glanced at her, pulling her legs a little closer to her body.
“Your friend Mina...”
Chaeyoung whistled tunelessly as she dragged her mop over the floor, leaving behind gleaming trails of water wherever she went. Momo was leaning against the door frame. It’d been a couple of days since her last visit, and there was specific reason for that, but it felt kind of ridiculous to admit to.
“What about her?” Chaeyoung replied. She was concentrating on not spilling any of the water, with her clunky blue bucket on wheels and the wringer she liked to brag about for no particular reason.
Momo smiled a little as Chaeyoung held her tongue between her teeth, pushing up the sleeves of her splattered shirt before dunking the mop again. It probably would’ve been easier on Chaeyoung to hire more than two other people for maintenance, but she always shrugged and said “I run a tight ship and not everyone wants to deal with me. Plus, it’s just easier to make sure myself. Somebody else might get it wrong.”
“She’s a little...”
Chaeyoung glanced at her, snorting as she flashed a dimply smile. “Temperamental? Intimidating? Hard to read?”
“Well, yes.” Momo admitted. She rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly, looking around the room as to avoid Chaeyoung’s knowing eyes. It was small and warm in here, with sunlight pouring in from the windows and sparking off the glass display cases along the walls. Chaeyoung’s workers, Jihyo and Jeongyeon, did their damnedest to keep the historical room looking perfect, and Momo had never seen it look anything less.
“That’s because she doesn’t know you.” Chaeyoung shook a sponge at her. Fluffy suds floated off of the material and fell with a certain grace to the floor. Momo wondered if Mina would’ve liked to sketch them.
“I don’t think she’d want to.” Momo sighed. “I left nothing but a bad impression, I guess.”
Chaeyoung studied her for an everlasting second, seeming to find something in Momo’s expression and laughing under her breath as she dropped to her knees.
“Well, maybe you need to change that, hmm? Mina’s pretty forgiving. And first impressions can be wrong.”
Momo let out a huffing breath, mind drifting back to that balcony and the way Mina had quietly drawn next to her for almost 15 minutes. It had been peaceful.
She hoped her first impression of Mina wasn’t entirely wrong.
“Oh, you’re back.”
It was more than Momo had been expecting, and yet still somehow disappointed her. The weather was borderline stormy today, with the clouds rolling in being a tasteful mixture of grey-black, the frothy waves tossing a steel grey to match, and the wind persistent enough to nip at the tips of Momo’s ears. She shivered, pulling the lapels of her jacket closer around her, and looked down at Mina.
“Indeed I am.” Momo said. Her fingers itched within her pockets, tapping restlessly against her leg, but it would be too hard to try and get a cigarette lit with this kind of draft. She’d just wait until she went back downstairs, and furthermore away from Mina’s disapproval. It didn’t suit her, really.
Mina had what looked like a different set of pencils today: made up of greys and whites and blacks, with a few navy tones in between. Whatever she was sketching, and she still slightly angled her body away from Momo to make it difficult to see, seemed to match the vibe of the storm billowing around them. Momo wondered if Mina was just in a brooding mood, or maybe it was something else. The scrunch in her forehead looked a little....different from before.
Ridiculous. You don’t know her.
Determined to not make a bother out of herself, Momo took her usual place on the other side of the door from Mina, sliding down against the wall. It felt odd not to have her usual buffer- not just towards Mina, but for everyone- and she dug her nails into the side of her leg, half closing her eyes as she took a deep breath and tried to force down the temptation. She’d stay up here for, what, ten minutes? Just enough to really take in the view, and then she’d leave.
“No twenty questions today?”
Momo looked away from the increasingly churning water to peer at Mina. She was focused as ever, seeming not to even notice the agitation of the atmosphere as she drew, peeking up at the shore every few seconds. Her hood was pulled up over her head, a few strands of dark hair spilling out and fluttering in the breeze. Momo wondered if it was soft as it looked, and if she brushed her thumb against Mina’s cheek while tucking them back-
“Uh. No.” Momo shrugged. “It seemed to bother you last time, so...”
That got Mina to glance up at her. She seemed to be searching for something- Momo's sincerity, perhaps- and the hint of a smile flashed across her face.
“Is that why you’re not poisoning the air, as well?” Mina asked, pointing a pencil at her.
Momo chuckled, rubbing the back of her head. “Ah, no. I was just going to wait until I got out of the lighthouse, actually.”
Mina made a noise under her breath. It sounded not quite scathing, but still disappointed, which made Momo feel lower. She didn’t want to keep disappointing Mina. She was curious about her.
“You’re pretty dedicated to come up here even with all this going on.” Momo tried. She waved a hand at the sea.
Mina didn’t answer for a moment. Momo kind of liked that. With other people, she would’ve taken it as a kiss off, but with Mina it felt like she was genuinely trying to think of the best fitting answer. Even if Momo didn’t want to hear it.
“Not everything in life is always as picturesque as art makes it seems.” Mina said quietly. “I like to capture the moments where there’s a loss of control, or an explosion of emotion. It’s rawer. More realistic.”
Pit, pat. Momo blinked against the first few raindrops splashing onto her cheeks, and scooted hastily to the side to move under the roof. “You mean a loss of control in the world?”
“Of course. Just like us, the earth has sensations too. Feelings. The logical answer for all this-” Mina pointed at the sky. “is that the water within the clouds got too heavy to remain inside, and had to be released. But, if you think about it, we pump so much toxicity into the world. Pollution, burning forests, garbage in the oceans. It makes sense to me that sometimes the world would need to expel all its fury at that kind of treatment.”
Almost as soon as she finished speaking, Mina stopped sketching, rubbing a hand over her face in what looked nearly awkward. Something about it endeared her to Momo.
“I usually love to talk about art, but not to that degree to a stranger.” Mina muttered. She shook her head, nose scrunching as she shot Momo an annoyed look. “You’re confusing me, Momo.”
Momo grinned, pulling her hands back into her sleeves to warm her fingers. “All I did was state an observation. But it was nice to hear.”
Mina rolled her eyes, turning back to her art without further comment, but that didn’t bother Momo as much anymore. She closed her eyes, listening to the groaning wind around them with contentment, and didn’t register the sound of a crinkling package at first.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she sighed as she fished it out. A text from Chaeyoung letting her know that they had about 15 minutes before they closed blinked up at her. Momo typed a quick reply before tucking it away.
She turned her head to the side to mention it to Mina, but paused. Between them sat another package of cookies, the foil pulled back and revealing about half gone, and on Momo’s side of the pack sat three cookies in a neat pile.
“Are those for me?” Momo asked uncertainly.
“Well, I don’t see anybody else around.” Mina replied.
A little spark of delight lit in Momo’s chest. She reached for the cookies, absently nibbling on one as she allowed herself to really take in Mina, the way she’d wanted to since she came up here.
“Thank you.” Momo murmured. She brushed crumbs off the front of her jacket, hesitant of pushing any further lest Mina withdraw again.
Mina closed her sketchpad, taking a cloth out of her pocket and wrapping her colored pencils in them before putting them away and reaching for the cookies. As she got to her feet, her eyes met Momo’s, and Momo looked back up at her patiently, resting her hands on her legs and mind clear of anything but Mina.
For a moment, it looked as if Mina were going to say something more substantial, but she merely held out a half full bottle of water.
“Your mouth is probably dry now. You can have the rest.”
Before Momo could reply, or thank her, or react in any other way, Mina had already walked through the door. Momo listened for the clomp of her footsteps on the janky black staircase that spiraled through the lighthouse, but there was nothing.
Momo closed her eyes, taking a long sip of water.
She hadn’t thought about cigarettes for the past 15 minutes now.
Her mind kept turning over that hint of the real Mina, again and again and again.
They fell into a routine, Momo and Mina.
Rountines for Momo weren’t the most natural thing in the world. She liked bouts of spontaneity, liked when something bumped her usual motions off track, and had never seen any reason to change that. Chaeyoung took it in stride after years of friendship, but not everyone could get used to Momo’s mentality. That was why she preferred to keep to herself, thoughts and actions alike.
However, with Mina, it was different.
On her weekly visits, Momo could expect the same thing every time. Mina was always there before she was, either already curled up on the balcony floor and sketching or selecting different art tools from her endless source of materials. She never failed to bring water and snacks with her- usually cookies, but occasionally she shook a few chips out onto a napkin and pushed it silently to Momo’s side- and for the first ten minutes or so, conversation was nonexistent.
Momo wasn’t a fan of deafening silences. They made her nervous with most other people, but with Mina, again, it was different. She’d grown to learn that it wasn’t Mina being standoffish or indignant anymore. She just worked better in the quiet. And, as Chaeyoung had explained to her one night, to really understand Myoui Mina, one had to adapt themselves to that quiet as well.
Momo still brought her cigarettes with her to the lighthouse, but smoking them around Mina- at least, in her direct eyesight- sounded less and less appealing as the days went on. She’d leave Mina to her sketching and walk around the side of the balcony, becoming lost in the serenity. Or she used to. Nowadays, she only got about halfway done before her curiosity, and an odd sense of longing, overtook her and she’d need to return to her spot.
And, as Chaeyoung had told her, Mina’s first impression of her seemed to be improving little by little with each of their encounters.
“Do you ever draw people? Or just nature?” Momo wondered one day. The sun was beginning to go down earlier, and even though Momo wouldn’t mind visiting more than once a week, she knew Mina liked to stick to her routine. If Momo wanted to keep enjoying being a part of that routine...well.
Mina hummed. She reminded Momo of that little music guy from Peanuts whenever they were like this. Schroeder. Completely absorbed in her craft, rarely- if ever- looking up from her work, and almost always a hint of sarcasm in her tone. Did that make Momo the lovesick, annoying Lucy to her musing Schroeder? Momo hoped not.
“I used to draw people. Just as a little exercise. But then it became....pressuring. Not just from them, but from myself. I felt like I had to get it absolutely perfect, because they’d be able to observe and critique my finished product, and maybe they didn’t want my interpretation of what I saw them as. Maybe they just wanted themselves to a T. And I didn’t like those restrictions.” Mina shrugged. “So I stuck to solely nature.”
Momo peeled the top off of her Oreo, munching thoughtfully. Mina had taken to bringing two bottles of water with her, even though she didn’t need to and Momo never asked her to. The one time Momo mentioned anything about the snacks, Mina had given her a scornful look and remarked that Chaeyoung would probably appreciate a fine snack like these if they were too much for Momo.
She couldn’t help it sometimes. Momo knew that she was no good at concealing her emotions, especially not the passionate ones like her growing feelings for one Myoui Mina, and anyone who wasn’t Mina could see how she was falling, bit by bit. Chaeyoung never let a day go by without referencing it in some manner, taking gleeful delight in Momo’s stuttering and flushing.
But Mina was so hard to read. Try as Momo might, she could never quite tell exactly where she stood with Mina, and as much as that intrigued her, it also saddened her to think that all of her efforts were going to waste.
“Special?” Mina echoed vaguely. She wasn’t wearing a jacket this time, the hair on her arms lightening under the dying rays from the sun, and Momo’s breath hitched. How could something as simple as glinting hair look so artistic to her?
“I really don’t.”
A traitorous flush swept over Momo’s skin, creeping along her cheeks and heating the tips of her ears. She was probably lucky that Mina didn’t spend half as much time staring at her as Momo did. Sighing deeply, Momo rubbed a hand over her face. Moments like these were when her urge for a smoke flared the hardest, but she’d already smoked once today and she didn’t want to take any time away from the view. And Mina.
Okay, mostly Mina.
“Feelings wise.” Momo trailed off in embarrassment.
There was a beat of silence, and then the tiniest snort of laughter. Momo could count on one hand the amount of times she’d heard Mina laugh, and on even less fingers at something Momo had said. Flickers of warm, tingly pleasure awoke in her gut.
“Are you asking me if I’ve ever been in love, Hirai Momo?”
Mina’s voice was soft. Softer in a different way than usual, lacking any undertone of mockery or disbelief. Truly just soft, with a trace of warmth that Momo prayed and hoped that she wasn’t imagining.
“I guess I am.” Momo chuckled. “But you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
Mina shivered as the breeze swept up, and Momo could see the goosebumps raising along her skin even from here. Forgetting to be cautious, Momo pulled her jacket off, folding up neatly and placing it between them, just behind the empty Oreo package.
Mina glanced at it, eyes flickering with questioning to Momo’s.
“You’re cold. Don’t be silly, gorgeous, put it on.” Momo gestured with her chin to the jacket.
“What about you?”
“I came prepared.” Momo tapped the cuff of her sweater with a smile. She hadn’t been planning for it to turn cold and Mina to forget her own jacket, but sometimes circumstances did work out in her favor. She wasn’t complaining.
Mina bit her lip and then set down her art materials. Momo unabashedly watched as she slipped Momo’s jacket on, adjusting the sleeves a little and sighing.
“Thank you.” Mina said quietly.
Momo smiled again, much more widely. “You’re welcome.”
When Mina’s eyes met hers, she looked away quickly, tapping one of her pencils nervously against the sketchpad. Momo frowned. Maybe her jacket smelled like too much smoke. She’d actually been tampering down a little more because of these weekly visits.
“So, how about it?” Momo tried. She casually pushed the Oreo package away, taking her bottle of water so there were no longer any barriers between them. At least, not any physical ones.
“How about what?”
“Have you ever loved and lost? Or just loved?”
Mina started to draw again, much more carefully this time. Momo could practically see the gears turning in her head.
“I thought I was. I’m really not sure. The relationship wasn’t bitter or broken or anything like that. We had a good run. It was just...”
Momo gradually became aware of the fact that she hadn’t stopped staring at Mina since she’d put the jacket on. All these little details about her just kept pulsing in Momo’s brain: the way a lock of hair kept swinging loose from behind her ear, how Momo’s jacket was a little too big for her and the sleeves slipped down past her wrists, how there was a tiny crumb of Oreo clinging to her lip. It was endearing.
“Eventually,” Mina said slowly. “I think we just fell out of balance. Out of sync. Our dreams didn’t align, and I could’ve worked past that, but then we started arguments over little and pointless things, and I started to feel...romanticized. Idealized. I am not perfect. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. I’m just someone who loves art more than life, and who can think too much, and...”
Momo’s head was beginning to swim, and it was only when she practically gasped for a breath that she realized she’d been holding it for the entire time Mina was speaking. It was so rare for Mina to be the one to go on a tangent, any kind of tangent, unless it was about art.
“And?” Momo whispered.
She rested her hand in the space where the cookie package usually went. The sun was touching the waves now, brilliant red and orange streaks coloring the sky and dyeing the water almost scarlet.
Mina didn’t speak.
Her own hand lay beside her, looking soft and tempting and warm. Momo wanted desperately to touch her.
Instead, she stayed in place.
“Have you ever been in love, Momoring?”
Momo started at the nickname. Chaeyoung called her that occasionally, but hearing it in Mina’s inquisitive and quiet tone brought an entire new appreciation for the name to her mind.
“I am not sure.” Momo answered honestly. “I haven’t had many genuine relationships. A lot of situations with intense feelings, but we were never really together. And the few that I have had, I always end up being the one giving 100% when the other person is giving me nothing. I guess it’s my way of compensating. But you can’t force someone to return your feelings, no matter how much you care about them. It’s one of the toughest lessons I’ve had to learn, and even now, I still struggle...”
God. She wasn’t used to being this open, not out loud.
Mina remained silent, but Momo could feel something smooth and warm and barely there graze the side of her hand. Her heart throbbed almost to the point of pain, the nerves tingling as she glanced over.
Mina’s pinky hooked around hers.
“The sunset is amazing tonight.” Momo whispered. She hoped Mina didn’t hear a crack in her voice.
“It is.” Mina agreed.
Mina’s fingers weaved between hers.
Momo could hardly breathe, between the grandeur dying before her, making room for a new splendor from the night, and the electricity sparking between their palms.
She hoped Mina was feeling the current just like she was.
Sometimes things got hard for Momo.
It was no one else’s fault, but she tended to put things off until the very last minute, wanting to enjoy her peace as long as she could. Unfortunately, that created mountains of stress that all piled at once, and usually she could handle it. These weren’t the healthiest methods, but Momo went with what worked, and it worked.
“God, why is everything happening at fucking once?” Momo snarled into the phone. She was pacing in her apartment, very close to wearing a hole in the floor, and resisting the impulse to punch her cabinet, or kick something. It would just result in sore knuckles and an even worse temper, but it was so tempting.
“What happened?” Chaeyoung asked.
“It’s just...my car’s having problems, and I’ve been trying to cut back on cigarettes but I really needed a cigarette this morning and I was all out, and rent’s due tomorrow and I’m half short, and I just....the universe just seems to be shitting on me right now. I know these are all minor things but it’s like one after the other and I’m...”
She closed her eyes tight and curled her free hand into a fist. “Can I visit the lighthouse?”
Normally Chaeyoung would say no on her day off, but she must’ve heard something in Momo’s voice, because she was quiet for only a second before saying, “Yeah. Yeah, do you still have that spare set of keys I gave you?”
“For emergencies. Yep.” Momo chuckled, a little bitterly.
“Don’t turn the light on, of course, but I’ll be there in a couple hours to do the weekend cleaning. Jihyo and Jeongyeon might show up early, but I’ll let them know you’ll be there. Just....be careful, okay?”
She meant it in more ways than one.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The chant kept repeating itself over and over in her head as Momo clung onto the railing. It was still pretty early, the sun just barely up and weak, cold beams touching the waves. Everything about the view was still beautiful, but it was a shallow kind of beauty.
She’d promised herself she could start weaning off these things. And yet, here she was, shame and numbness washing over her even as she took drags.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Between her persistent pacing and heavy exhaling, Momo didn’t register the footsteps behind her for a moment. When she finally heard one, she sighed, dropping her head into her hands briefly.
“Look, I’m sorry I’m still here. I told Chaeyoung I only needed a little while but I guess not.”
“You’re smoking again?”
The question was subdued and concerned, and Momo almost dropped her cigarette over the side of the balcony at the voice. Swallowing hard, she turned to face Mina.
Mina, who was still wrapped in the jacket Momo never took back from her.
Mina, with her art supplies tucked under one arm and holding a paper grocery bag with the other.
Mina, with a look of worry that seemed so genuine that Momo’s throat tightened. Mina’s expression was never that open and raw.
“I don’t know.” Momo mumbled. She dropped the unlit stub, grinding it forcefully under her boot before picking it up and stuffing it in her back pocket. “I didn’t mean to. It was just....everything at once, you know? Everything seemed to happen at once today, and I couldn’t handle it.”
She sighed. “I can leave if you don’t feel like smelling the ash.”
Mina peered at her with those same impassive eyes that used to unnerve Momo, and set her bag down, sliding beside it and holding her hand out to Momo. Momo stared down at her, natural hesitancy and sheer, bright hopefulness swelling within her chest.
“Come here, Momoring.”
Even in her jumbled state of mind, that was an invitation Momo would never refuse. She joined Mina on the floor, hyper aware of how close their legs were to touching, but she couldn’t close the gap.
Mina began taking things out of the bag as Momo watched broodingly. The usual bottles of water, another package of cookies, but also napkin wrapped squares, and a small bag of chocolate.
“I like that candy.” Momo blurted.
Mina smiled. A full, warm smile that Momo’s heart flipped for.
“I know.” Mina said simply.
Unfolding the squares revealed simple sandwiches. For a while, nothing more was said between them, the only noise being the comforting rumble of the waves. Momo would’ve thought that the silence would be awkward, punctured by her irritation and frustration at herself, but it was damn near impossible to hang onto any of that negativity with Mina here.
They simply sat back and ate, little sparks flaring off of Momo’s skin when Mina’s leg brushed hers or she caught a whiff of Mina’s scent. She was grateful to Mina for somehow knowing exactly what Momo needed, but she was at a loss of how to explain herself. Was there anything to explain?
“Momoring.” Mina said softly.
“Yeah?” Momo answered. She wasn’t paying attention to Mina’s tone, focusing on breathing evenly and not thinking about her own weakness, sipping more of the water than she really wanted. She just needed something to do with her hands.
“Look at me.”
Momo slowly lowered the bottle.
While she wasn’t focused, too distracted in her own thoughts, the atmosphere had shifted between them. There was another layer now, a crackling and almost stifling layer that had Momo swallowing hard before she did as Mina asked.
Mina was looking at her with the most gentle expression Momo had ever seen her wear. It was so unlike her usual guarded demeanor that Momo wasn’t sure how to react.
“You have these poetic eyes.” Mina reached up and, fingers slightly trembling, rested her thumb on Momo’s cheekbone. Momo’s lips parted when the pad of Mina’s thumb brushed just so over her cheek.
So Mina could feel nervous too.
“What do you mean?” Momo whispered.
Mina smiled again, smaller this time, but just as sincere.
“It’s like you hold entire stories, or symphonies, or worlds in them. It’s unfair, you know. Some people spend their whole lives searching for the kind of art that you hold here.” Mina sighed, shaking her head a little and dropping her hand, to Momo’s immense disappointment.
Unwilling to stay apart this time, Momo grabbed Mina’s hand, keeping their fingers locked as she rested them on her lap. She delighted in the fact that Mina didn’t pull away, not even a little.
“It’s funny.” Mina continued. She squeezed Momo’s hand, just a bit, but it was more than enough for Momo. “When I first met you, I couldn’t help but notice that. Even through the clouds of smoke and the cocky smile, I saw those eyes and I was drawn to you. And that freaked me out. That’s part of why I didn’t want you to stick around.”
Momo was enjoying the refreshing change of Mina spilling her guts for once. She rested her head against the wall, letting her leg rest against Mina’s.
“So you don’t hate me.”
It wasn’t a real question, not a serious one. Momo was still surprised when Mina snorted and started to pull away. Panic flashed in Momo’s chest as she reached out again, palm up in surrender.
“Hey, I didn’t...I’m sorry if that was too much.” Momo mumbled. Mina being any kind of upset with her now hurt even worse than before. She knew what it was like to have Mina smile at her, be warm around her, look at her like she wanted her. Losing that was too difficult to think about.
“Momo, I never hated you. I just-” Mina let out a harsh sigh.
Slowly but surely, her head came to rest on Momo’s shoulder. Little puffs of breath wisped against the side of Momo’s neck, and every nerve in her body burned as Mina’s hand slipped back into hers.
“I was used to my solitude up here, and I liked it that way. And then one day, this beautiful and sunny and perky girl comes along and messes up all of my careful structure, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Particularly because it didn’t entirely bother me that you were here. It bothered me that you smoked, because I became worried for you.”
Momo’s breath shook when Mina’s lips brushed her throat.
“You bumped me out of my comfort zone, so much more quickly than I would’ve thought possible, and that unnerved me. I wasn’t trying to be aggressive, I just....I wanted to protect myself. I was afraid that you were going to put me on some kind of pedestal in your quest to decipher me, and I didn’t want that. Partly because I’m not perfect, and partly because....”
Momo reached over with her free hand to run her fingers under Mina’s chin, stroking her thumb lightly along her jawline before gently nudging Mina’s head up.
“Because what?” Momo asked quietly.
“Because I wanted you to want the real me. Flaws and uncertainties and all.” Mina murmured.
Momo couldn’t help chuckling a little, tightening her grip on Mina’s hand when her nose scrunched in indignation.
“I’ve always wanted the real you. First to learn about, and then to spend time with, and then to court.”
“Court?” Mina said incredulously.
“Court.” Momo repeated simply. “Is it working?”
Mina didn’t answer at once. Instead, she pulled her fingers out of a protesting Momo’s to trail them through her hair, studying Momo’s face with her most serious artist expression. The thought that Mina was looking at her with the same sincerity and admiration that she held for nature rose a lump in Momo’s throat.
As seconds ticked by, Momo opened her mouth to say something, but Mina interrupted her process. Her other hand was sliding up to cup her neck as she was leaning in, and Mina’s soft mouth was brushing hers, and her nails were still lightly grazing through Momo’s hair as Momo kissed her back, and it was wonderful.
Mina tasted like chocolate and a faint hint of salt, but beyond that, she was pure and fresh and vital, and Momo knew at once that she would never be able to satisfy this kind of craving.
“I would say it’s working so far.” Mina breathed into her ear. Shivers crept down Momo’s spine, but she merely kissed Mina’s forehead and wrapped her arm around Mina’s shoulders.
“You still taste like smoke.” Mina added as an afterthought.
“I’ll work on it.” Momo said softly.
The sunlight was growing brighter and stronger now, and Momo thought she could hear the faint chatter of the cleaning crew drifting in from the lighthouse, but moving was absolutely not an option.
“I love you, Momoring.” Mina whispered.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t ready to hear it. Hell, it wasn’t that she wasn’t ready to say it. But in all her idle daydreams of this exact scenario with Mina, she’d never imagined Mina telling her first.
Myoui Mina was just full of surprises.
She pressed a kiss to the top of Mina’s head. “I love you too.”
They’d have to come down from the balcony at some point. Momo’s problems from before would still be lingering, and the itch in her fingers would still be there, but she was prepared. She could handle it.
Because Mina thought she had poetry in her eyes and was full of sun.