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Summer

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It was a very lazy afternoon, the sort where Susukihotaru found her eyes drifting from the pages she was trying to read. She’d pull herself back every time she began to nod off, trying to make sure her companion didn’t notice. Riken had been the one to suggest taking this time to sit together and read, and she couldn’t deny him that.

 

She folded a finger into the pages to keep her place, taking a moment to close her eyes and refocus herself. It wasn’t that the book she was reading was difficult or anything, but she did want to know how it ended, and she felt slightly guilty for drifting while reading it. Besides, it was so quiet it was difficult to stay awake. Everyone had either gone out, or was using the hour to rest quietly in their rooms.

 

“Are you alright?” Riken asked.

 

The sound of his voice startled her, and she nearly dropped her book. She looked over at him, and blushed when she saw how intently his eyes were focused on her.

 

“I’m – fine,” she stammered. Why was her heart beating so hard? Perhaps it was the book she had been reading, or the weather. Their place on the veranda was shaded by the roof, but it was still hot.

 

Riken tilted his head. It was just by a fraction, but she noticed it all the same as his gaze intensified.

 

“If you’re uncomfortable…”

 

“Ah, no,” she said quickly. “I’m fine, I promise. It’s just this book – I needed to take a break.”

 

He was frowning. It was rather unnerving. “If it’s bothering you, then you should stop reading it.”

 

She shook her head, feeling her cheeks grow even hotter. He must not have noticed that she was reading a romance novel, hidden from his view as it was by a paper cover.

 

“It’s not that at all,” she said, looking away. “The summer is making me tired, that’s all.” Then, because he was sure to get the wrong idea if she didn’t assure him otherwise, she moved so she was sitting a little bit closer to him. It was a bold move, and her ears twisted back when she realised it.

 

She risked a glance back. Riken was smiling softly, and he reached a hand over and put it against her cheek.

 

“If you say so,” he said.

 

She could barely hear him over the pounding of her heart. No matter how many times he touched her, the feel of his strong, calloused hands, his fingers and wide palms, made her heartbeat faster. His thumb brushed against her cheek and she swallowed, unable to meet his eye.

 

It was hardly proper, but she wanted him to kiss her. She hoped Riken knew this, because she was well aware that she wouldn’t be able to even begin to say it. She forced her eyes back to him. He had leaned in, and was now very close to her. Close enough that she could feel his warmth, in addition to the summer heat.

 

He moved his hand, so he was cradling her jaw, and ran his thumb across her lower lip. She closed her eyes, leaning into his touch, and he pressed his lips to hers.

 

This time, she let the book fall from her hand onto her lap.

 

The contact lasted only a few heartbeats, and Riken pulled away. His lips had been surprisingly cool – but maybe that had been an illusion caused by the summer’s heat.

 

“You can sit closer to me, if you want,” he offered. His tone was even, but the blush that crept across his cheeks betrayed him.

 

“Yes, Riken-sama,” Susukihotaru replied.

 

She did so and, almost without meaning to, leaned against Riken’s arm. The summer still beat down on them and her eyes drifted from the words on the page, but this time it was different, as the rhythm of their breaths matched and Riken neither pulled away nor told her to move. When the book slipped from her fingers to her lap, Susukihotaru wasn’t awake enough to mind it.

 

As Susukihotaru fell asleep, Riken found himself leaning in to her as well, careful not to make his weight overbearing for her or to wake her. To tell the truth, he was just as tired, and if he wasn’t careful he could fall asleep just as easily as she had. If he did, he would doubtlessly be awakened by one of the others storming in, boisterous as anything, and he’d have to deal with it.

 

But he would do so when it happened. For now, he put his book down and placed hers on top of it. He tilted his head so he could feel her hair against his cheek, the line of her scalp overly warm from the sun, and let himself fall asleep as well.