Sometimes Moca wonders when Ran is finally going to ask her out.
Well— technically, they’re already engaged, she guesses. But the engagement party wasn’t exactly official. It was just five seven year olds in the playground, with a cake made out of damp second-layer sand lovingly clumped together and rings woven out of dandelions with stems that were slightly sticky from all the bending and squeezing. That’s the thing about childhood promises— they’re so warm with the sweetness of hazy remembrance that they taste just like dreams. They have the same ephemeral verisimilitude as well as the plausible deniability that comes with it.
So, yeah, they’re not officially dating— yet. It’s really just a formality at this point. They’re soulmates, after all— they probably did something real nice in their past life so this time around they get to meet early and have a lifelong fairy tale romance.
(The kind that Moca knows Ran secretly dreams about, even though she’d die before she’d ever admit it.)
Yeah, she knows it all sounds awful and cliche, but that’s just how she feels. And not to toot her own horn too much, but she’s got a pretty great gut instinct for this kind of stuff. Besides, how else would anyone explain the way that she feels when Ran looks at her? In those split-second moments— when Ran drapes her jacket around Moca’s shoulders, or wipes some bread crumbs off her face, or glances over during a live where she can feel all five hearts beating in perfect unison— some part of her chest pings loudly, insistently. It lights up with so much intensity and simple rightness that Moca doesn’t know what to call it other than recognition. It’s a familiarity that runs marrow-deep; she looks at Ran and she’s just so sure she’s loved that ardently soft and quiet heart for many, many ages.
And Ran loves Moca too. She knows it. It’s in the way her heart speeds up when Moca presses her face against her chest, it’s in how she’ll blush ever so faintly and start stammering when Moca flirts with her; it’s in how, sometimes, she’ll just roll her eyes and flirt right back in her own cool, idly affectionate way. It’s in the way Ran will reach over to flip Moca’s collar or hood right-side-in without even looking away from what she’s doing, it’s in how she’ll absently wrap an arm around Moca when Moca curls into her or run her fingers through Moca’s hair. It’s in how being with each other has become muscle memory at this point.
All things considered, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be dating already— except for the fact that Moca knows Ran’s that kind of girl, see? She’ll want their confession and first kiss (well, first kiss not counting that time they smooched in preschool) to be a bit more dramatic, have a bit more panache — she’ll want it to be the kind of special memory that they can tell their kids and grandkids about. Or, well, that Moca can tell while Ran blush-scowls and pretends she doesn’t love it.
So, yeah. Moca has nothing to worry about— she’s got all the time in the world. She doesn’t need to be officially dating or kissing, anyway— why worry about all that? If home is where the heart is, then she’s already home. Home is the sound of Tomoe and Himari’s laughter in one ear and Ran’s music in the other as they sit in the back of the bus on the way home from rehearsal, sharing a set of earbuds and holding hands under the flickering fluorescent lights. Home is the smell of Tsugu’s coffee as they sit in her cafe, lightly tapping their matching boots together under the table as Moca teases Himari about one thing or another yet again. Home is Tomoe’s drumbeats smashing against her lungs, Himari’s bassline reverberating through her spine, Tsugu’s keystrokes chiming in her skull and Ran’s voice on her skin like flames: sometimes fierce and scorching like wildfire, and sometimes as soft as a candlelight at sunset.
She’s home, she’s comfortable, and there’s no need to rush. This is enough; this will always be enough.
And yet, when Ran gets a love letter in her shoe locker, it’s decidedly uncomfortable. Untasty, even. It opens up a hot can of unruly horses in Moca’s chest and she doesn’t like it.
In hindsight, it should have been expected— puberty’s starting to really kick in, and the once slightly scraggly and awkward Mitake Ran has become smoking hot. How can Moca blame anyone for crushing on that perfect face when Moca’s all over Ran all the time for the same reason?
Sure, the five of them are more used to Tomoe getting her locker stuffed with chocolate and letters all the time ever since a growth spurt punched her right in the bones halfway through third year of middle school. Tomoe’s tall and handsome and all knight-in-shining-armor-y and it’s to be expected that girls would go buckwild over her. And okay, Ran’s just as attractive, but in the kind of way that people would find a bit harder to approach— Moca took solace in the fact that Ran’s like a really hot Jekyll and Hyde.
Normally, she’s just so stoic and with her red streak she’s a walking example of the brusque, cool beauty that everyone admires from afar. But the second she gets on stage? She’s a force of nature. Every bit of the passion that she keeps locked up in her chest invades every atom of her, the way she moves, looks, sounds, just everything. It’s a short glimpse into the sheer depth of emotion that her soul is made of. It’s mesmerizing, even if it’s just the tip of the iceberg; on stage she’s a firestorm personified but her quieter, softer core is reserved exclusively for the members of Afterglow. And that’s just how Moca likes it.
But, the thing is, she’s as captivating as she is intimidating and it was only a matter of time before someone worked up the balls to ask her out.
“Moca? Are you listening?”
“Hmm~~?” Moca blinks innocently and looks at the person attached to the hand that’s waving in front of her face. “What?”
Tomoe sighs. “I said, Tsugu forgot something at school. Me n’ Himari are gonna go help her look for it, okay?”
“Eh…?” Tsugu looks up at Tomoe. “Did I really—” Moca sees Himari’s foot go in for an impressively rapid stomp-n-run. “Ack— I mean— yes! I did!”
Well. It seems something suspicious is afoot here. (Heh.)
“We can help too,” Ran says, readjusting the strap of her bag.
“Nope!” Himari squeaks, grabbing Tsugu’s arm— unnecessarily hard, if the look on Tsugu’s face is anything to go by. “It’s a strictly three-person job! Just for us! S-so we’re heading off now, right?” She gives poor Tsugu a shake instead of a chance to reply. “Good luck, you guys!”
Ran tilts her head. “Good luck on what…?”
Yeah, good luck on what?
“Himari…!” Tomoe hisses under her breath, grabbing Tsugu’s other arm. “N-nothing, don’t worry about it! Catch you guys later!”
And just like that, they take off, dragging Tsugu along decidedly un-Tsugurifically and leaving just the two of the— dammit.
That’s what they were after. They’re leaving Moca alone with Ran in some misguided attempt to force her to hash things out. Whatever happened to the girl code? It’s only been a day. Can’t Moca get one ( 1 ) day to mope about? Traitors. What’s a girl gotta do to get some loyalty around here?
“Well… that was weird…” Ran frowns at the trio who are just shy of booking it back up the hill— well, the duo that’s hauling ass, and one poor Tsugu being hauled. “Let’s go, I guess…?”
Moca takes a deep breath. She can do this. Bread gods give her strength, she can do this.
“Sure~~” Moca shoves her hands into her jacket pockets and starts ambling down the hill again. It’s dead silent between them— which is par for the course when it’s just the two of them, really. Ran doesn’t talk much anyway, and Moca herself likes to drift off when nothing is immediately demanding her attention.
Usually, the drifting off is fairly pleasant. Most of the time she’s thinking about some new confection at Yamabuki or something. But no, not now— right now the only thing on her mind is how absolutely unsavoury it was to see that well-made, elegant looking envelope fall out of Ran’s locker. Whoever the hell it is seems to be ten times classier than Moca— and, sure, Moca knows Ran likes her all messy and clumsy but does she really? Does Ran like that kind of frilly and nice-looking stuff? Is she more impressed by that?
Honestly, it’s kind of hilarious. All that soulmate bullcrap, and it only takes one letter to shake her convictions.
She blinks as a hand grabs at her backpack and tugs her back a little bit like a toddler on a kid leash-harness-thing.
“Wha~at?” Moca tilts her head and pouts back at Ran instead of turning around.
Ran lets go of her bag and crosses her arms. “We’re here.”
“Oh.” She pivots on her left heel to turn to her front door and stamps her right foot down. “We are, huh~”
Moca shifts her weight and tries to think of what to say— because this is usually the point where Moca will say something flirty or try to kiss Ran on the cheek while she gets pushed off with only a half-irritated laugh. And that’s, like. Really not an option right now.
Nothing like a stray episode of jealousy to make you hyper-aware of everything you do around your one true love, right? Haha.
“What the heck is your problem…?”
Welp. She hesitated too long. Gotta run damage control now. Dammit.
“Whad’ya mean, Ran~?” She pulls on her best pout and puppy head tilt; but the second she looks up to meet Ran’s eyes, she knows it’s not gonna work. Ran’s scowling— which isn’t like, uncommon or anything, but she’s also digging her nails into her arms and clenching her jaw and that usually means she’s either really pissed off or about to cry. Neither of which are ideal, at all.
“You’ve been weird and moody all day,” Ran hisses, “and you’ve barely said anything. What’s up with you?”
“What’s up with me…?” Moca pouts thoughtfully. “Well, there’s this new roll at Yamabuki—”
“Tell me the truth,” Ran snaps. “Do you honestly think I can’t tell when you’re lying to me?”
She’s got a point. Sometimes, Moca can get away with it, but not when Ran’s already caught on— she should just call it quits and fess up already.
“Ah~ you caught me~” Moca pulls a grin. “I was just thinking about how pretty Ran is—”
“Stop that,” Ran hisses, fingers pulling her sleeves taught around her arms. “I hate it when you do that.”
There’s so much spiteful venom in Ran’s voice that it stops Moca’s bullshit dead on its tracks. Which is good, because she can’t be sabotaging her own life when she’s paralyzed by fear— the downside being that she’s realizing she’s never paid Ran’s protests to her flirting any real attention and oh, what if she’s just been screwing things up this entire time? What if Ran’s just been… tolerating her this entire time?
“... When I do what?” The question comes out just as dry and chapped as her lips, still half-hooked in her throat.
Ran’s scowl tightens into a half-grimace. “Shut me out. You fake a smile when you look so unhappy and I feel like I can’t get to you at all and…”
She says it so angrily, hands clawing into her jacket so tight that it looks like it might rip at the seams, but her flickering eyes are aimed at the ground just beside her shoes and the tremor in her voice devastates Moca’s chest like an earthquake.
(And yet, and yet, and yet. Relief seeps in through the cracks in her ribcage— it’s not her flirting, it’s just her shitty evasive personality.)
“... You get on my case so much for not being honest about my feelings,” Ran continues, jaw clenched hard as if she’s trying to clamp down the slight tremble in her lower lip. “And then you go and pull something like this. Hypocrite.”
She’s right. Looking at her now, Moca’s starkly reminded of that day during the Girl Jam fiasco, when Ran finally broke down in front of them after trying to hold herself together all by herself— the sunset glinting off the tears starting to dew in her eyes, the delicate panes of her face crumpled into a shaky snarl— soft and hard, frail and tough, a beautiful amalgamation of contradictions that form one whole miraculous being.
Back then, it took so much to draw this raw honesty out of her. Today, she’s baring it to Moca of her own accord, with her own bravery.
She wipes at an eye with the heel of her palm before locking her arms back together and sniffling angrily, still looking away. “Is this about the letter I got this morning?”
Ah. She shouldn’t be so surprised that Ran knows how to read her just as well as she knows how to read Ran.
“... Kind of,” she replies, scuffing her shoe against the pavement.
“Are you serious?” Ran scoffs as she makes eye contact again with a scorching glare. (And Moca’s not going to lie, that stings a little bit.) “That’s not fair. You can’t get mad at me for that— it’s not like I asked to get one.”
“Mad…?” What is she talking about? “I’m not… why would I be mad…?”
“What are you, then?” Ran shifts her weight, raising her chin a little the way that she does when she’s throwing a challenge; Moca’s never seen it directed at her before and it would be really hot if it wasn’t so upsetting. “Why have you been ignoring me all day?”
Moca thinks about denying it for like, a second, and then gives it up. She shouldn’t be being difficult. She should be grateful. Ran is being brave and straightforward when Moca would have been content to let it sit and stagnate until they’d both gotten too upset to solve it themselves, and… maybe it’s Moca’s turn. She owes Ran that, at least.
“I was…” she looks down at her feet. “I was jealous…”
Ran says nothing for a long time and Moca’s too afraid to look up and see what her face is saying.
Of fucking course not. Moca sighs deeply. Welp. This is it.
“Just got me thinking… you’re crazy pretty n’ cool, Ran, you know~?” She says without looking up. This probably isn’t a situation to put on a playful drawl, but she’s not going to get through this if she doesn’t have at least a little levity to hide behind. “N’ I was su~uper happy to have you a~ll to myself, but… you might want something more with someone as pretty and cool as you…”
Silence again. Moca pulls her hands out of her pockets to fidget with her bag straps.
“If someone even more su~per dashing than the gre~at Moca-chan came along and whisked Ran away, then…” She swallows the sudden lump of misery that’s trying to bowl it’s way up her chest because she’s not going to cry right now. “Then I couldn’t blame you, y’know~?”
She shuts her mouth as soon as her voice cracks mid-drawl at the end. There. She said it.
“... That’s it?”
Okay. Yeah, that hurts. She just poured her guts out at Ran’s feet even though it was really friggin’ hard— it’s just not in her nature, okay? She’s made for the greatest of jokes and the best one-liners, not honest heart-to-hearts. Usually Ran and the others get how she’s feeling even if she doesn’t say anything, so it’s a real understatement to say she’s out of practice in terms of just spitting things out. She tried really hard and Ran’s acting like it’s not even a big deal—
Something small and hard smacks her right in the forehead.
“Owwwwwwwwwww—” she slaps a hand over the flick wound and looks up at Ran to see her retracting her hand. “What was that fooorr…?”
“For being a dumbass.” She crosses her arms again, scoffing, and she looks— decidedly less angry, which is good, and maybe even a little happy, which is confusing. She’s all relaxed again, arms folded loosely, jaw unclenched, one brow raised nonchalantly and with a slight uptick to a corner of her mouth that Moca feels like she should be worried about. “I can’t believe you got so worked up over that. It’s not like you have anything to worry about about, I already agreed to marry you.”
Ran’s shoulders and arms tense again as her eyes widen, but this time it’s less prickly-danger Ran and more embarrassed-porcupine-curling-in-on-itself Ran.
“I didn’t mean— it’s not like I’m taking that seriously or anything, I just meant—” her face is starting to look as red as her streak. “I just meant you have nothing to get jealous over since I’m already yours—”
She stops like she’s horrified at what just came out of her mouth and wordlessly buries her face in her hands. Moca herself moves the hand covering her forehead over to her mouth as her cheeks start feeling like they’re getting a fresh sunburn: not yet stinging but still scorching hot.
Normally, that’s prime teasing material. She’d latch onto it and never let Ran live it down, because she always says the sweetest things by accident when her filters are malfunctioning for one reason or another and Moca loves those moments, but— this is— uh. Yeah. Moca isn’t too proud to admit that no matter how powerful of a homosexual she considers herself, she’s still only a small sixteen year old lesbian. The girl of her dreams and most likely love of her life saying something like that— “already yours” — is too much for her to do a lot other than stand there and try to breathe.
“Listen, just— whatever!” Ran runs her hands all the way through her hair before squaring her shoulders and planting a very, very intense stare right on Moca. “I’m gonna go turn that girl down tomorrow, so stop being a dumbass about it. And you’re not allowed to be like that if it ever happens again, because I’m not interested in anyone else. I already have you.”
She really, really does. She’s got Moca wrapped around her finger and it’s embarrassing how fast her heart is beating, she’d think that it’s trying to beat its way out of her chest to try and lay a big kiss right on Ran’s face and— that’s kind of a really gross and weird image to think of but there’s not much Moca can do about it since think machine broke and— and oh Ran’s stepping closer what is she doing holy shit.
“See you tomorrow,” Ran says, pulling Moca’s hand away from her face— and something as little as Ran’s fingers around her wrist shouldn’t be so— so nice, but it is— at least until Ran lets go and that’s kind of disappointing but then she’s grabbing Moca’s face with both hands and holy fucking shit they’re kissing now.
Well, it’s— it’s— it’s less kissing and more of a prolonged punch in the mouth with Ran’s own mouth. Their lips are crammed together awkwardly, and how hard Ran’s fingers are digging into the back of her neck is starting to kind of hurt but it’s— it’s still kissing. A real smooch. Their first one since preschool valentines.
Ran lets go and turns around so fast she almost hits Moca with her bag as she stomps towards her front gate and very near runs through it, school shoes clapping against the stone path in the garden. Moca blinks as Ran slams her front door shut behind her.
That. Huh. That really just happened. That honest to god just happened. She slowly turns towards her own front gate and walks through, softly latching it behind her and ambling to her house. She enters, drawls out a cursory greeting to the living room that may or may not have her parents in it, and trudges up the steps to her room.
She looks out her window to Ran’s window, as she always does when she gets home— the window itself is open but the curtains are drawn. Moca’s only sixty percent sure that Ran’s in there. Her phone pings, and she digs it out of her pocket as she collapses on the beanbag against the wall just underneath the windowsill.
It’s a text from Ran. Her heart starts to speed up again as she goes to open it, which is stupid because sure, they just kissed but they’ve always known they’d end up together and it’s not like anything’s super duper changed.
[emo waifu 4 laifu: just talk to me next time.]
Fair enough. Moca’s not sure how well she’ll manage if it happens again, but— but she’ll try. Watching Ran cry because of her is something that’s probably going to happen again, knowing her, but still— she’s going to try. Just because they’re soulmates doesn’t mean they don’t need to put effort into making each other happy.
And isn’t that hilarious? All of that moping around, being scared, having her certainty absolutely shaken, and she’s right back on her ‘soulmate’ schtick like nothing happened.
[will do~ =3=]
Okay, the kissy face is probably a little bit overkill— if the sudden coughing coming from Ran’s window is anything to go by.
[does this mean we’re dating now]
She asks against her better judgement. It probably goes without saying, but she’s had a very long day of being very insecure and it doesn’t hurt to make sure. That line of logic doesn’t stop her from regretting it almost instantly as Ran’s typing pops up once, twice, pause, then a third time.
[emo waifu 4 laifu: sure]
Moca laughs to herself. It sounds kind of flippant but the messaging app has already given her away— Moca can just picture how she must have been blushing and muttering to herself and re-typing before settling on an answer.
[yaaaay~~~~~ <3 <3 <3]
Another fit of coughing from the window. Moca grins.
[hey baby can i ask u smth]
She hears a faint clatter that kind of sounds like a dropped phone and smiles. Ran likes pet names. Noted.
[emo waifu 4 laifu: what]
[can u give me a proper kiss. that one kinda succt]
“MOCA!” yelled through the window is the response. She cackles as she sinks into her beanbag in a decidedly unladylike way.
[whaaaa~~t?? come on
ur moca-chan is still a young girl u kno~~~
u gotta love me tender
b soff,,, gimme sum tongue
A muffled scream, this time— Moca considers laying off if Ran’s at the stage of screeching into her pillow, but… Nah. This is just too fun. She clambers to turn around in her beanbag, planting her knees in it and leaning out of the window a little to make the most hideous kissy noises she’s capable of— eyes squeezed shut for maximum facial movement, wet smacking included. She cracks open one eye just to see if Ran’s reacting at all right before she gets a sock slapping her in the face with precision.
Moca squeal-laughs as she falls backward, pinching the sock off and dangling it above her face to get a good look at it. Soft, fluffy, from the clean pile, more designed to shut her up than actually do any damage. Ran’s not mad at all, just embarrassed. She hugs it to her chest, giggling a little as she rolls over to her phone where she dropped it on the floor.
One new message.
[emo waifu 4 laifu: aoba moca one of these days i WILL kill you.]
Moca lets her phone drop to her chest, laughing— what a day. What a stupid, useless, anticlimactic day. She spent all day moping, wondering if they’re not soulmates after all, then ended up here, rolling on her floor and grinning. Ran ended up confessing, but it was so awkward and uncool and clumsy and not at all what Moca was waiting for—
But that’s perfect in it’s own way, right? Sure, maybe she was expecting to be cuddled into Ran under the stars after some dramatic kiss, but— but this is good, too. This is more like them, the awkward, messy teenagers that they are. Here she is, Aoba Moca, sixteen years old, lying on her bedroom floor with her heart fluttering so hard in her chest it might as well be a shellshocked moth, the love of her life just two windows over and probably blushing into a pile of goo on the floor as well— here she is, school uniform crumpled underneath her, one leg propped up awkwardly on the beanbag, probably giving herself the worst back crick in existence, but she couldn’t care less. Here she is— and there’s really no one else in the world she’d rather be.
I'd give up anything, anything for you. I'd give it all; all of this is true.
But the best story that I could ever tell is the one where I am growing old with you.
- "Anything For You", by Ludo