Their second meeting is accidental. Instead of heading for his classroom as he’s supposed to, Tamaki wanders the school, specifically avoiding people until he finds himself alone in a hallway. He decides to sit down against a wall, huddling into himself: legs pressed to his chest, face resting on his knees, his arms hugging his head as if reassuring it that he isn’t really there. He’s been in this school for two days and already he believes that the only way he can survive is by hiding.
Mirio is so energetic in class that his teacher has to ask him to step outside and go for a little walk before returning. She does this whenever Mirio is rocking too hard in his chair or talking over everyone else. Mirio hates missing a moment of his education, enamored with the prospect of soaking up new information and sharing his own with his peers, but he’s also restless and enjoys being allowed to move around. He can’t go a whole day without being excused at least once, since too long sitting down leads to him to abandon his seat and just start pacing around it.
Mirio sticks to a circuit he designed that goes through the whole building. Usually he walks but as his thoughts accelerate so does his body and he ends up sprinting for several minutes before remembering that he’s not supposed to run in the hallways and slowing down. He’s in the middle of one such dash when he spots Tamaki.
Tamaki hears footsteps approaching and goes rigid, his breathing decelerating in the vain hope that if he can’t be heard he won’t be paid attention to. His eyes are sealed shut and he’s biting his tongue.
Since the footsteps pass Tamaki, the boy allows himself to relax, relief flooding in so fast that he coughs. A bitter taste is left in his mouth.
“Hey, I know you!” Mirio says, a voice that booms with friendliness but as far as Tamaki is concerned every scream is a bad scream. Mirio also places his hand on Tamaki’s arm, reflexively squeezing it, and this freaks Tamaki out.
Tamaki shrieks, unfurling his arms like the wings of a bird and flapping. However, he can not fly away, so he merely bangs his limbs against the wall behind him, and then against Mirio, too.
“Ouch!” Mirio exclaims, closing one eye but making no move to retreat.
Tamaki’s eyes are huge and horrified, unable to concentrate or digest what’s actually happening. He has experienced a single emotion, static and eternal, and it is overwhelming his senses. He does not know how to break free.
The panic spreads to Mirio, capsizing his smile and knitting his eyebrows together. Concern throbs in his heart, so sudden and intense that it pushes against his ribs, attempting to reach out emotionally to the upset boy in front of him. Mirio can only do it physically, so he remembers what he was told he should do in a situation like this and kneels, arms wrapping around Tamaki.
“You’re going to be all right,” Mirio says, his tone trembling with uncertainty. This is just something he’s been told will work, but he’s never actually tried it himself.
Tamaki reacts by yelling again, hands balling into fists and coming down on Mirio’s back. Tears are pushing through the corners of his eyes, blurring his vision.
Mirio realizes that this technique has failed him. Wasting no time, he releases Tamaki and grabs his wrists instead.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. How can I help?” Mirio says, looking really hurt now. There’s nothing he hates more than upsetting others.
Tamaki emits a whimper and recedes back into himself, trying to erase Mirio’s presence so he can escape the threat it represents.
“How can I help?” Mirio repeats, unwilling to give up.
Tamaki is crying but his mouth makes no sound.
Unfamiliar footfalls reach their ears. Mirio turns to see who it is while Tamaki starts to shiver.
Thinking fast, Mirio lets go of Tamaki and places his hands on the wall above him, using his larger body to cover Tamaki. Tamaki reacts to the shadow cast over him, looking up at Mirio. Mirio offers him an apologetic smile.
“Shouldn’t you be in class?” a voice asks, close enough to make Tamaki uncomfortable but he feels oddly protected by Mirio’s body.
“Oh, yeah, I’m on my way. I just, just dropped something and I’m picking it up,” Mirio answers, lowering one arm to try to make his story credible. Fortunately Tamaki still goes unnoticed.
“Well, don’t get distracted now,” the stranger says. Tamaki listens to them walk away.
Exhaling a relieved sigh, Mirio moves away from Tamaki. His grin has swelled to its usual size, emanating such a bright aura that Tamaki can’t help feelings his own heartstrings being tugged.
“Whew, that was close!” exclaims Mirio. He sets his hands on his hips and stands up.
“I’ve no idea what you’re doing here, but I can tell you don’t want to be found. I should probably leave you alone, too. Sorry about earlier.”
They establish eye contact for a moment, which frightens Tamaki into burying his face in his knees again, but he’s also been awed. Most people leave a terrifying impression on Tamaki but Mirio has gone, in the span of a few minutes, from another stranger to a safe space, someone Tamaki can imagine hiding behind when being seen by everyone else is unbearable. Being protected like that really surprised him, in a positive way.
Right then, Tamaki doesn’t have the mental strength to say anything, so he’s forced to watch Mirio leave, waving the whole time. Once he’s out of sight, Tamaki lifts his own hand and tries to imitate the gesture. It won’t be long now before he starts pushing through his anxiety so he can ask Mirio to stay instead.
While Tamaki shuts everyone out, Mirio lets everyone in, including those he shouldn’t.
“You gotta meet my friends, Tamaki. Come, I’ll introduce you,” Mirio says, pulling Tamaki by the hand. Tamaki is okay with Mirio touching him now. Their palms connected for the first time last week and Tamaki wasn’t scared. He thought Mirio had the gentlest touch he’d ever come upon. Mirio still makes an effort to ask before touching Tamaki, though.
The room they’re approaching is unfamiliar to Tamaki. The label on the wall indicates that this is a classroom for kids two years their seniors.
Surprised, Tamaki asks, “your friends are older?”
Mirio nods. “You’re like the only kid in our class that ever asks to hang out with me, but the kids here are different! They invite me to play all the time!”
Chatter fills the room. It’s early, before first period has started, but there are already several students gathered. Most of them have formed small groups to talk amongst themselves. Mirio walks up to the one of them.
The nearest sixth grader immediately acknowledges MIrio by grinning, not quite a sneer but Tamaki detects the snide underlining it. He freezes up, his hand slipping out of Mirio’s.
“Hey, Mirio, pal, how ya been?” the older kid says. His friends have all assumed similar expressions, one of them cupping her face to keep from laughing.
“Well, yesterday -” Mirio begins but is interrupted by the same kid.
“That’s great to hear.”
“So who’s the new guy?” the eighth grader asks.
Tamaki is uncomfortable with this spotlight. He wants to warn Mirio that they should leave but his throat feels jammed and the words he’s attempting to push through cut like fragments of glass. Dread twirls his brain into a migraine.
“This is Amajiki Tamaki, age nine, he’s in my fourth grade class, and recently transferred from another school!” Mirio answers. He’s oblivious to both the hostility in front of him and the panic developing behind.
“Is he mute?” snickers another one of the eight graders.
Tamaki wants desperately to back up into a wall and curl into himself, to ask Mirio to shield him like that time in the hallway, so Tamaki can’t be acknowledged by such a demeaning gaze.
Screwing up his face, Mirio ponders for a moment.
“Sometimes Tamaki gets so anxious he can’t speak, but I don’t know why that would be happening right now.”
The girl in the back finally splutters into laughter.
“Oh, jeez, this one can’t even talk,” she sneers, “I’m amazed they let him into the school.”
Tamaki has been in this scenario before and tries to draw help from such experiences, but all he can remember is getting so upset he smashed his head into a desk, then blacked out. But he can’t afford to do that now. He doesn’t want to be transferred again. He wants to stay here, where Mirio is.
“Of course Mirio’s his only friend.”
“You think we can make him like us, too?”
“What’s the point if he can’t talk?”
“Well, if he’s as funny as Mirio…”
“Yeah, it’ll be fun to mess with him!”
Tamaki finds his voice but it springs out like a fish being reeled out of the water, violent and sad and refusing to die.
“Stay away from us!” he screams, grabbing Mirio’s hand and rushing out of the room.
He’s still running five minutes later, tears pouring from his eyes and every bone in his body shivering. He doesn’t stop until he’s exited the building, the change of scenery snapping him out of the flight reflex that had overcome him. He drops Mirio’s hand.
Tamaki’s too ashamed to face Mirio. He’s sure he’s done something that’s scared Mirio away, but he needs the answer to something before that barrier is erected between them.
“Why… why do you like them?” asks Tamaki. His syllables wobble. Combined with his slouching posture, he looks like he’s cowering.
Mirio’s perplexed expression hasn’t changed much since Tamaki shouted. He’s torn between the terror emanating from Tamaki and the shock he saw in the eighth graders’ faces before he was forced out of the room. He wants everyone to be fine.
“What do you mean? They’re my friends,” is Mirio’s answer. The anguish in it draws a fresh wave of tears from Tamaki’s eyes.
“They were making fun of us!” screams Tamaki, furious again, “And it seemed like they’ve always been making fun of you!”
Tamaki takes a deep breath. He’s hysteric now and in danger of hyperventilating.
“Is that… is that... what friendship means to you?” he asks.
Mirio regards this question seriously. Tamaki’s outburst has opened an old wound in Mirio’s psych but he is not yet able to understand what about this arrangement could be making him miserable, so he opts to repress it.
“It’s all right,” he says, the melancholy now purely because he has upset Tamaki but is not sure how. “As long as I can make people happy. That’s all I want.”
Tamaki doesn’t understand, either.
Mirio shows Tamaki his graded exam. His usual excitement has been replaced by a deadpan face.
Tamaki’s shocked to see that Mirio has done poorly. Tamaki’s always struggling to keep up with what’s covered in class and Mirio does an excellent job of explaining anything he can’t understand. At the very least, Mirio should’ve scored higher than Tamaki.
“You’re… you’re so smart, though,” Tamaki says, watching Mirio with concern, “how’d this happen?”
Mirio puts on a smile but it only lasts for a second, devoured by the unpleasantness growing in his head. He heaves a defeated sigh.
“Thanks, but I just can’t concentrate during exams. I can visualize everything I need to know right before, but the moment I’m forced to sit down, to sit still for an hour and a half without even being able to go for a walk, I forget all of it.”
Mirio is fidgeting with his own hands. He’s the sort of person that can’t help sympathizing with complete strangers and yet rarely gets upset over something personal. This rare instance of suffering is giving Tamaki a heartache.
“I guess it makes me a little sad. Everyone already thinks I’m an airhead. Kind of cute but kind of dumb. No one takes what I say seriously because they assume it can’t be important. I always want to use these exams to prove that’s not true, but it never works out.”
Tamaki ponders this response for a while.
“I hadn’t thought about it that way. I got used to sitting still. I try not to talk. That at least gives me the benefit of the doubt. People don’t know what I’m capable of.”
Unable to contain himself, Mirio exclaims, “how do you do it?”
It appears that he’s been a bit jealous of his friend’s calm and quiet demeanor.
Tamaki’s shocked by the sudden question but tries his best to answer. It triggers some nasty memories.
“In my last school…” Tamaki begins, crinkling his face with a mixture of resentment, regret, and embarrassment. “Our teacher was very particular about how we behaved. If I fidgeted at all, she’d. She’d.”
Mirio, who can not yet fathom cruelty, prods: “she what?”
Tamaki spits it out.
“She’d hit me.”
Mirio’s so appalled he can’t answer. To comprehend what Tamaki has said, he has to imagine it and this makes him wince.
The thunder rumbling in Tamaki’s psych doesn’t stop there.
“Sh, she wouldn’t let me lower my head while she was talking, or, or look away from the board, or say, say anything m, more than what she asked.”
Tamaki takes a deep breath, forcing the urge to cry back into his tear ducts. His voice hardens.
“I had to talk in front of the class a lot. She knew it was impossible for me but she still insisted. I could get some words out, but then I got scared, I got so scared, and I stopped. And I knew that when I stopped she’d be angry and hit me. S, she said it’d teach me to talk, because otherwise I’d keep getting hit. I saw it work with other kids, but I. I just. Stopped talking altogether. I stopped talking. For days at a time. Even when she hit me. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t - I really couldn’t.”
There’s a difficult pause. Tamaki’s sorrow is overflowing, clawing its way out from where he concealed it, but he’s incapable of going any further. Sharing has liberated him from something, but also made it vivid again, one last blow before it can begin to dissolve. This is simultaneously the best and worst he’s ever felt.
Mirio opens his mouth to speak but Tamaki has a final thing to add.
“It wasn’t all that bad, though. I am still now. I don’t say unnecessary things. Saying nothing is better than saying the wrong thing. So it worked somewhat.”
He’s saying that for himself, to convince himself of it.
But then he looks at Mirio, seeking confirmation, and Mirio’s composure falls apart. Forgetting that he should ask first, Mirio grabs Tamaki’s shoulders and ferries him into a rather brusque embrace, Mirio holding too tight while his face buries into Tamaki’s shoulder.
Tamaki inhales, and for a moment he is on the brink of a breakdown, but Mirio presses his palm into Tamaki’s, both spread out and soft, gentle. The gentlest touch.
Tamaki calms down. He remembers Mirio’s scent.
After a pause, Mirio says, “I’m not sure about that logic.”
Lacking the conviction to either challenge or accept Mirio’s statement, Tamaki remains quiet.
He was wrong about before: it was the worst, but now’s the best he’s ever felt.
Tamaki prefers to avoid holidays. He doesn’t understand half of them, and fails to experience the emotions universally associated with them. Since he’s never memorized the rituals enacted throughout them, he only wind up confused when attempting to join in. People can be quite shocked when he messes up the protocol. Doing nothing always seems safer than doing the wrong thing. So unless someone engages him in relation to it, Tamaki can go about as if the holiday isn’t occurring.
For the last eight years, however, Tamaki has found himself repeatedly roped into all sorts of celebrations. He’s a natural at turning people’s offers down and removing himself from undesired situations, often without even being noticed. Some can be insistent, but Tamaki makes himself clear, or discourages them with his sullen demeanor, whichever happens first.
The same can not be said about Mirio. Everything sounds better to Tamaki when Mirio is saying it. He has atrocious ideas sometimes, ideas that can and occasionally have resulted in regret for Tamaki. But Mirio’s intentions are always pure: he wants Tamaki to be happy, to have fun, to grow by widening the radius of his comfort zone. Besides, Tamaki enjoys Mirio’s antiques, his determination to succeed, and the absolute delight that graces his features when Tamaki agrees. Even a bad time can be redeemed by Mirio’s earnest and passionate heart-to-heart afterwards.
“We should go to the cherry blossom festival,” Mirio says.
Tamaki is surprised to hear this. He didn’t check the date before telling Mirio he could come over. Mirio probably realized that when Tamaki didn’t make a fuss. The cheeky grin on his face confirms it.
“Mmm,” Tamaki muses. Mirio always leans in when he’s waiting for a response from Tamaki, which usually brings their faces quite close. Tamaki feels nice when that happens. He has to make the moment last.
“You know I’m not really fond of festivals like that,” says Tamaki. A bit of his happiness slips into his tone, which Mirio interprets as a desire to say yes.
“So it’ll be a chance to change your mind! If you never go, you can never like it,” Mirio retorts.
“I could dislike it, too. I could get overwhelmed and have a breakdown. Then people will see me and be like, ‘oh, there’s Amajiki Tamaki, who keeps having breakdowns in public.’”
Tamaki means this as a joke - self-belittling in design, but a joke nonetheless. He’s criticizing himself constantly, alone and in company of others, but only around Mirio can he gain that humorous edge. Mirio, however, never laughs.
“Tamaki,” he says, sounding hurt. Tamaki realizes what’s coming and attempts to stop it, but he can’t articulate words fast enough.
“I’m really, really sorry that had to happen. I missed all the warning signs and had you out too long. You wouldn’t have gone through that if I’d just -”
Tamaki interrupts by grabbing the side of Mirio’s head and pressing their cheeks together. That’s a thing they do: touching cheeks. Mirio did it once and Tamaki copied, made sure it became a habit. It feels even nicer.
“That was one time. It was a bad time. I’d rather not repeat it, but it’s not like I blame you. I just gotta be careful,” says Tamaki.
“I promise to be careful,” Mirio answers.
A sliver of a sheepish smile appears on Tamaki’s face.
“Why do you bother doing this anyway? We can hang out whenever. Do you just really love holidays?” he asks.
Mirio’s expression becomes serious and self-conscious.
“I do love holidays, but it is more than that. And I can hang out with you whenever, but sometimes I’m thinking, ‘didn’t I just hang out with Tamaki yesterday? I need an excuse this time,’” he explains.
Tamaki snorts. “So you are just looking for an excuse. Well, we don’t have to go to the cherry blossom festival.”
He’s nonchalant, but Mirio’s statement really had an effect on him. When did Tamaki learn to keep his cool around the coolest person he knows?
“We should go anyway,” says Mirio.
While thinking about how well he’s doing, Tamaki inevitably invites embarrassment, which drives him into a corner. He blunders.
“T, there’ll be so many people, though. I really don’t think I can manage.”
Mirio stands up in front of Tamaki. Tamaki mourns the loss of physical contact but the affection in Mirio’s face while looking down at him is a whole other feeling in of itself. Tamaki wouldn’t label it as simply as ‘nice,’ though he’s resisted analyzing it to its fullest extent.
“Then only look at me. Pretend I’m the only person there,” Mirio says. He has the confidence of someone that believes and follows their own advice. He doesn’t consider for a second that what he’s saying is tremendously embarrassing.
Tamaki follows suit by straightening himself, too, but only so he has an excuse to walk past Mirio, hiding his face, which is equal parts smitten and defeated. The rush of blood to his face feels warm.
“I always do that, Mirio. I don’t even have to pretend,” he says, as smoothly as if he’d planned it, but they’re both surprised by it. Only Tamaki grasps the implications of it, however.
“Then you shouldn’t have any trouble!” exclaims Mirio, ecstatic, grateful, oblivious. Most of all oblivious.
At the park, Tamaki claims shelter in Mirio’s body, practically laying on him the whole time. Since Tamaki is significantly less anxious when he can’t see the people around him, this behavior fails to surprise Mirio. He just beams and runs his mouth, giving Tamaki every reason to not look away.
Tamaki finds Mirio on the school roof. He seems to be staring at nothing in particular, his mind most likely captured by some faraway contemplation, but there’s an unsteadiness in his gaze that raises a red flag. Behind his rigid posture, there’s the sense that he’s trying desperately to reach something.
“Hey, Mirio, you okay?” Tamaki says, approaching his friend. He leans into the fence with him.
“Huh?” is Mirio’s response, his head jolting up. He’s only now registering Tamaki’s presence.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m fine.”
No attempt to dispel Tamaki’s worry, which makes Tamaki worry all the more.
While Tamaki is figuring out what to say, Mirio’s left side starts to sink. Tamaki realizes that it’s because Mirio’s foot has phased through the floor.
“Mirio, your quirk,” Tamaki says, sharp with alarm.
Mirio catches it and gets shot back up, stumbling into Tamaki. Tamaki grabs him so he won’t fall.
“Maybe we should sit down,” suggests Tamaki, already guiding Mirio to the ground. Mirio sits with his legs sprawled in front of him, still looking pretty out of it.
Tamaki tries touching Mirio’s hand but it takes a while for Mirio to even notice, let alone reciprocate. Mirio’s gaze shifts to their hands, knitting his eyebrows as if he’s deciding whether what he’s seeing is real or not.
“Are you dissociating?” asks Tamaki.
Mirio attempts to nod but his head gets stuck once it lowers.
“It used to happen a lot,” he says in a neutral tone, “when I was little and didn’t know how to control my quirk. I’d activate it but once I was done I didn’t go back to feeling my body. It was gone.”
Tamaki knows this already but politely listens.
“It became less frequent as I got better, and even stopped for a while, but it comes back every now and then. I guess it really surprised me because I’d forgotten what it feels like.”
“It’s probably because you’re stressed. Maybe you should take a break from the internship,” says Tamaki.
There’s a distinct shift in Mirio’s composure, as if a switch has been flipped, focus lighting up in his face. He turns to look at Tamaki.
“I can’t afford to take a break. I can’t be the kid with extraordinary potential but that doesn’t know how to use it forever,” Mirio says.
Tamaki finds the irony amusing and grins. He shoves Mirio with his elbow.
“Hah, you’re telling me.”
Mirio’s silent for a minute, then realizes what he’s said.
“No, no, that’s not you,” he says, “you could do anything if only you were a little more confident.”
Tamaki shrugs his shoulders. “And you can do anything when you concentrate enough.”
This makes Mirio laugh a little, leaving a smile in its wake.
“I guess we’re like each other’s number one fans,” he says.
Tamaki forces himself to relax so his next words don’t come out slurred.
“And we’re going to do anything. Together.”
Mirio looks at him curiously. Tamaki panics.
“A, at least that’s how I feel. When you say I can do anything… we, well you’re the coolest person I know, so how can I not believe you?”
Mirio appears satisfied by this explanation.
Mirio always expresses what’s on his mind. He doesn’t keep secrets unless he’s been asked not to tell or believes it could hurt someone. When it’s just Tamaki and him, he practically lacks filters.
“I was talking to my therapist,” Mirio says.
Tamaki chuckles. “Yeah, that’s what you do with therapists, Mirio.”
Mirio looks embarrassed for a moment, then straightens his face again. He’s decided to say this as plainly as possible. Straight to the point.
“She said it sounds like I’m in love with you.”
Tamaki’s entire body shudders, or perhaps flutters is a better definition of it, as he feels lifted from reality for a moment, then slammed back down. He’s extremely scared and extremely happy. Like when you think something you really want might happen and you just want to believe it will but also don’t want to feel disappointed if it doesn’t, so you pretend it’s no big deal. But the whole time, you keep looking for signs, measuring your odds, trying to assert when it’s safe to give up, cut your loses while you’re ahead.
Yet Mirio said that. He really said “in love with you.”
“So what do you think?” Mirio continues, “am I in love with you, Tamaki? Because we’ve been discussing this for a while. Couple of months. On and off, I mean. I talk about you a lot naturally but it was only a few months ago that she suggested - well you get the idea.”
He’s rambling now, nervous and afraid of what’ll happen once he stops. His voice is less assured. He isn’t looking at Tamaki anymore.
“Why - how - how can you ask me that?” Tamaki shouts. His face is splendidly flushed and his fists are shaking, but he’s glaring straight at Mirio.
“I’m joking, sorry! I just thought that’d be an easy way of bringing it up,” Mirio says, attempting to reinstate a carefree demeanor.
In a softer voice, he adds, “I am totally in love with you, though.”
There it is again. A whole second “I am in love with you.” There is no wrong reaction to this except no reaction, because that’s far from Tamaki’s feelings on the subject, but he’s still got that pressure on his chest and the grip around his neck and the wobble in the ground, as if he’s about to topple over. He decides that someone like Mirio should come with a warning every time he opens his mouth, just so Tamaki can be prepared for it. Honestly, why’d he spring it on Tamaki like this?
“You don’t have to say anything right now,” Mirio assures.
He’s properly detected that Tamaki’s gone nonverbal. Instead of panicking, though, Tamaki focuses on his breathing, on not overreacting, and on what he can do. There’s a lot he’s capable of, when he has confidence.
Raising both of his hands, Tamaki completes a series of gestures, slow and careful, to ensure Mirio will be able to follow. He’s not great at sign language but he can read it. He’ll know what Tamaki’s saying.
What Tamaki says, obviously, is “I love you, too.”
Mirio grabs his own face. He proceeds to spend the remainder of their relationship being brazenly mushy.
“Ahh, now I really want to kiss you, but I don’t think you’d be fine with that!”
The introduction of this possibility strikes a chord in Tamaki’s heart, a volatile chord that accelerates its rhythm. He indeed does not feel like giving it a try while he’s so worked up. He’s already having sensory issues, just from how emotional he’s gotten.
However, there is a compromise he’s willing to make, just because, honestly, he wants to be kissed by Mirio, too.
With a truly abashed expression, Tamaki takes a step closer to Mirio and points at his cheek.
Mirio beams, then leans down to kiss it.
“I don’t think I can do this, Mirio. You should do the talking,” Tamaki says.
They’re about to be ushered into a classroom full of first years waiting to be impressed, and hopefully these three can manage to do just that.
“But you know I always end up rambling and getting off topic and missing the whole point of what I meant to say in the first place,” Mirio replies, “besides, you need to do this.”
Tamaki is wearing a pensive expression. The pressure of the situation has pushed some darker thoughts to the front of his mind.
“I’ve been thinking… that there are some things we just can’t overcome,” he says, quiet and solemn.
Mirio, quick thinker that he is, already has a counter planned for this.
“And if you heard your eight year old self saying that because he couldn’t hold my hand, would you believe him?”
When Tamaki looks up, Mirio’s winking at him, which almost makes Tamaki want to punch him, but Tamaki’s gratitude wins out. Half of his mouth stretches into a smile, having a lopsided effect.
Lifting his heels so he can crush the four centimeters between them, Tamaki kisses Mirio real quick but clearly on the mouth.
“Are you two done? We’re going in now,” Nejire calls, a teasing but affectionate smile on her lips.
“Yeah. Yeah, we’re ready.