“If you keep wearing skirts without anything other than leg warmers, you're going to catch a cold.”
Fresh snow crunches beneath their footsteps. Spring is still far, far enough that the chilliness is comforting, almost.
Chie laughs, “Yeah, right. I'm totally good with the cold, Yukiko. I get where you're coming from, but I can handle it.”
Yukiko doesn't answer, but when Chie has to miss school with a sore throat and a stuffy nose a few days later, Yukiko is at her side with Inn-made soup and no shortage of I told you so’s.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really taken time to look at the trees here. They’re really pretty.”
Yukiko nods. “They are. You’re nervous, aren’t you?”
“No! Why would I be?! I mean…” Chie squeezes Yukiko’s hand a little harder. “...okay. So I’m a little nervous about the future, but that’s normal, right?”
“Absolutely.” It’s March, Graduation Day, and the trees are blossoming along the usual walk Yukiko shares with Chie into school. “But you’re strong. I know you can handle it.”
The grip on Yukiko’s hand stays firm. “Right. You’re right, Yukiko.”
For a second, she thinks it’s all bravado, but the look on Chie’s face is one of determination and gravity. It’s a familiar one, but it’s familiarity that Yukiko enjoys. More stability and less static, less doubt and more assuredness.
“I know.” Yukiko’s staring, and she doesn’t try to hide it. “It really is pretty, isn’t it?”
She’s not looking at the trees, and that’s just fine.
The air conditioning in the apartment is out, and it’s basically an oven. But it’s even more humid and blistering outside, so the options are pretty limited.
“We could go out and get topsicles-”
Yukiko’s suggestion is met with a groan from Chie, who’s currently laying on the floor of the apartment in nothing but a sports bra and spandex.
“We could go swimming?”
That causes Chie to stir, but she stays face down on the floor, and mumbles “There’s nowhere to go swimming around here.”
“Hm.” They are in the middle of the city, so that was maybe not the best suggestion.
Yukiko runs a couple more ideas by Chie, all being declined. She’s a little baffled at her girlfriend’s reluctance to go outside at all, but then again, she’s always been better at dealing with the heat.
She’s about out of options before it comes to her, and she blurts out, “We could run a cold shower!”
That gets Chie’s attention, and she practically jumps off the floor.
“You’re a genius! I’m dating a genius!”
It’s only after they actually try to step into the shower that it dawns on them both that Yukiko is very much not a genius, and that ice cold water pouring over bare skin is painful regardless of the temperature outside.
But it is fun, and it gets Chie to stop moping, and that’s all Yukiko really wanted, anyway.
“Maybe I should start wearing warmer clothes for our dates.”
“Are you cold? Here-” Chie’s offering her her jacket, leaving Chie in nothing but her nice dress shirt and skirt, which sort of defeats the purpose.
Still, Yukiko accepts it. It doesn’t match with her dress, but that’s alright. No one will see them, not this late at night.
They’re holding hands on the walk back to their apartment. The date had gone well, the food was good, and it was a nice break from the stress they were both under. Classes were a big contributor to that, but not the only cause. The future itself seemed to bear down, and there were spurts where the pressure became almost too much, but they would manage, because they always did.
“Are you...happy with me?”
Yukiko stops in her tracks. “Of course. Why do you ask?”
Chie is looking away, at some rock on the sidewalk and scratching at the back of her head. “I dunno. Sometimes I just think about… I don’t know. You look beautiful tonight, by the way.”
It’s a poor attempt to steer the conversation off-topic. “I know, you’ve told me that a few times. Chie, what’s wrong?”
“There’s nothing wrong! Sometimes I just think…” She finds the rock she was staring at, and kicks it. It bounces a few times before settling, and before Chie replies. “Sometimes I think you deserve more than me. Someone who can dress nice more than once per month, or who doesn’t spill grease all over the carpet. You know, someone who can be elegant or- or mature, and doesn’t have to trip over themselves trying to be.”
Yukiko squeezes Chie’s hand. She can see her breath, matching with the stars and the moon in the late autumn night sky. The city, for once, is mostly still.
“I don’t know. I’m stupid. Forget it.”
“No, you had more to say. I want to hear it. What’s bringing this up?”
Chie sighs, “We’re getting old, you know? We’re almost done with school, and then you’ll be going back to the Inn, and I don’t even know- I might get a job in the Inaba police department, but they might find someone better, and it’s not like I- I don’t know. I don’t fit in the Inn. I don’t match anything.”
Yukiko takes a step closer to her, but doesn’t try to go for a hug, or anything else that might seem forced rather than genuine. “You match me.”
Chie brushes her hair out of her eyes, “Do I? Shouldn’t you be with someone...better, I guess?”
Now Yukiko does move, putting a hand on each of Chie’s shoulders. “Chie, look at me. Please.”
She does, with only a little reluctance.
“I love you, even if you don’t believe it. I don’t need anyone else. I don’t want anyone else. When it comes to the future, I don’t want to face it with someone I don’t know. If the Inn is different, it’s because I want it to be. If I didn’t, I would have done something about it. You know that.”
Chie’s rolling her eyes, but she’s blushing. “You’re a sap.”
“I’m serious. I don’t know how I can get you to believe me, but I’m going to keep repeating myself until you do, okay?”
A small smile spreads, one Chie doesn’t bother to hide. “Yeesh, I got it, I got it! Okay? I comprehend.”
Yukiko kisses her cheek, and it’s warm against her, and whispers another I love you just because.
“Now, can we get going? It’s a little chilly.” Chie’s flustered, and pulling on her hand, and Yukiko makes a mental note to wear something warmer, next time.
If only so she can tell Chie she loves her, again and again and again.