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Nobara has had a tendency to speak her mind ever since she was young.

 

Most people find it annoying, ignore her words even what she’s saying is important, and most of all right .

 

She’s used to that part, but what she’s not used to, this problem that she’s faced with, is the fact that Maki Zenin is always listening to her.

 

It makes no sense. Why would someone just about as headstrong as her even bother to listen? Why would she take time out of her day to hear her opinion and take it in without comment?

 

She can’t fathom what’s so intriguing about her brutal honesty, but Maki is always there, ears open, watching her talk with just a hint of a smile on her face.

 

Most things she says aren’t even all that exciting, some gossip she’s picked up while shopping on the weekend, or a rumour she’s heard about the Kyoto High students, probably fake, but still funny to talk about.

 

Megumi tends to drop off after a while, and even Yuuji will forget to react at some point, and that’s not their fault. She talks so much, she knows it can get tiring but the thing is — Maki might not always speak up, but when she stops, she’ll make a comment to prove that she was listening.

 

They make her stop in her tracks, those little comments. They’re simply afterthoughts, things that any common person would interrupt her to ask, but Maki waits . She waits for Nobara to stop talking and only then does she speak herself.

 

“What do you think it means?” she asks Yuuji, legs up against the tree and looking at the sky through the branches, biting down into a banana muffin. Megumi’s been learning how to bake recently under his boyfriend’s care, and the products aren’t so bad.

 

Megumi and Yuuji share a look. A look that means ‘Is she actually dense or is she just pretending?’ , because at this point, they’re not sure. The two of them might have been oblivious, but this is just next-level shenanigans.

 

“Have you…” starts Megumi, unsure of how to word the next part, bottle of water stopping millimetres from his lips. “Have you considered, you know, asking her why she doesn’t cut in?”

 

“Yeah! I mean, she probably could answer the question better than us,” continues Yuuji, trying to be subtle so he doesn’t receive a death glare.

 

It doesn’t work, and he gets one from both his boyfriend and Nobara. “Stop being stupid. I can’t just ask her. God, how you got a relationship before I did I don’t know.”

 

They all know how. It was with her help, of course, and a little push from Gojo-sensei here and there, who seemed to be amused with the antics — right up until the three of them decided to question him about his love life.

 

What Nanami-san sees in him they’re not really sure. It’s a strange relationship, to say the least, but they seem happy together, so they figure it works, and that way he’s not around as much to bother them unless it’s school-related, which, really, they’re thankful for.

 

“When are you seeing her next?” he asks, as if they go to different schools or live in different cities, opening a container Megumi’s passed to him. “Is she still on that trip to Yachiyo?”

 

“Yeah, said they were gonna be gone three or four days. Man, don’t they ever get tired of making us exorcise those spirits? I need a longer break than one day,” she groans, closing her eyes as the sun slips between the branches.

 

“Gojo-sensei gave me his credit card and hasn’t asked for it back yet if you want to go shopping.”

 

Nobara sets up immediately at Maki’s voice, who’s smiling at her and flashing the piece of plastic like it’s the catch of the day.

 

“Maki-senpai, have I ever told you you’re my favourite second-year?” she says, jumping up and cradling the credit card like it’s a child of hers she hasn’t seen in months, possibly years.

 

Yuuji props himself up on Megumi’s shoulder. “You didn’t get hurt, did you, Maki-senpai? You’re back a day early.”

 

“Broken leg. Shoko-san healed me right up,” she brushes off, trying to stay in place while Nobara pulls on her arm to get her out of the school and into the city. “She said to take it easy so I didn’t bother going back. Panda and Toge have things handled.”

 

She isn’t allowed to hang around much longer after that, pulled away towards the dorms so that Nobara can pick a better outfit to go out in rather than the one she currently has on, and the two boys watch one, nitpicking their interaction.

 

“So she really has no idea Maki-senpai likes her as more than a friend, does she?” asks Megumi, taking a bite of his muffin.

 

“Not a single clue,” confirms Yuuji.

 

 


 

 

“It’s late and you’re tired. Let me carry you,” insists Maki, holding out her arms as Nobara stands in front of her, adamant about walking.

 

Putting her hands on her hips, she retorts, “I don’t need carrying. I am perfectly capable of walking to the bus stop without exhausting myself.”

 

It’s a lie, they both know it’s a lie. Nobara rolled her ankle a while back in her new sneakers and now she’s been acting like she hasn’t been limping for the past half hour.

 

The truth is this: if she lets Maki carry her, she has a sneaking suspicion that the warmth of her arms and body is going to make her fall asleep straight away, and while that would be fine for her, she doesn’t want Maki to be uncomfortable.

 

Nobara takes an angry step away before being violently reminded of her ankle, and if it wasn’t for Maki catching her before she hits the ground, there’d be a nasty scar on her nose. Now being piggybacked, she’d like to protest, but Maki’s grip when she’s being stubborn is stronger than she’s willing to fight against.

 

To make matters worse, the bench at the stop is taken, which means the entire seven minutes they spend waiting forces Nobara to hold onto her the entire time, arms loosely locked around her neck, and holding the shopping bags begging the bus to hurry up.

 

After touching their IC cards for both of them once onboard, they pick two seats near the back, and Nobara has never been more thankful to be put down, because a single moment longer and she probably would have fallen asleep just like that.

 

Their bags rest at their feet and Nobara puts her head on Maki’s shoulder, looking out of the window at the starry sky outside, wondering if Yuji and Megumi have gone to bed already or if they dropped off together without warning, the TV still on at a low volume.

 

“Thanks for taking me out,” says Nobara quietly. “I know exorcising curses is probably more exciting than hearing me talk about nothing all day. Maxing out credit cards is fun and all, but it gets boring after a while.”

 

Maki tilts her head down at her. “Why would you think that I didn’t have fun? I was with you the entire time, of course I wasn’t bored. Does sleep deprivation stop you from thinking clearly?”

 

Nobara takes her head off her shoulder, squints at her. “You’re saying you enjoyed me talking about textiles for twenty minutes when I tried to figure out which skirt to buy?”

 

“The woman was trying to sell you a skirt that was originally on sale for a higher price than it came in at,” replies Maki, wiping the glass in her glasses. “It was entertaining watching you put her in her place.”

 

“Shop assistants are always trying to trick people,” retorts Nobara, scoffing. “A scam here, a scam there and you don’t even notice before you get home because your feet hurt and your muscles ache and you just want to go.”

 

She keeps talking then, about how many gullible people she’s had to stop from making a mistake, telling stories about evil corporations and their employees, passionate about such a mundane topic.

 

Eventually, her head rests again on Maki, this time on her chest as her voice grows quieter, and while the words continue to trickle out, Maki takes the opportunity to rest her chin on the top of her head, listening to her breath when the words do stop.

 

She does this a lot, actually, dropping off after ranting, but she doesn’t mind the silence. It’s oddly comforting, knowing Nobara trusts her enough to fall asleep without worrying about any possible consequences, and even if she wants to do more than simply rest with her, she’ll wait.

 

When the bus comes to the last stop, Maki puts her hand through the handles of the bags before picking up a sleeping Nobara and placing her on her back again with the help of the bus driver, who sees her struggling juggling two nearly equal weights.

 

The walk back to the school isn’t that long, and any trouble they run into could easily be ignored, the brightness of the moon illuminating the path for them, and she knows they probably shouldn’t be out this late, but at least Shoko-san is still going to be up, so they can get that sorted.

 

Once they get closer to the buildings, the lights outside are enough to have Nobara slowly blinking awake but not enough to get rid of all her sleepiness, so she simply burrows closer to the warmth that’s being emitted, not caring where it’s coming from.

 

“Nearly there,” comes a soft, quiet voice she recognises all too well, and her eyes flare open, looking at the sight of her holding onto Maki like she’s some sort of lifeline, and her face turns red with embarrassment as she realises how long they must have been like this.

 

“Maki-senpai. Please put me down,” she mutters into the back of her neck, hiding her face. “Maki-senpai.”

 

“Nobara. Enough with the ‘-senpai’. Just Maki is fine.”

 

“Maki. Please put me down.”

 

“Not on a rolled ankle I won’t.” She adjusts Nobara on her back, shifting her weight. “Anyway, we’re nearly there.”

 

Nobara curses whichever God made her roll her ankle and put her in close proximity with a girl like Maki while not letting her do anything about it.

 

 


 

 

Nanami clamps his hand over Gojo’s mouth before he can say anything else, already embarrassed enough at having to celebrate his birthday in public and not in a quiet setting as promised.

 

The students were all too happy to help him plan this, however, and it gives them the opportunity to remind Gojo just how much they prefer Nanami over him, because when December comes around, only Megumi’s birthday will be celebrated.

 

“Do you want anything to drink?” asks Maki, pointing towards the counter, indicating she’s going to be heading over, and Nobara thinks on it.

 

“I’ll come with you,” she settles on, standing up with her. “I can never choose on the spot. If I don’t dissect the entire menu before I make a decision I’ll be worried I chose wrong.”

 

Continuing the topic of conversation as they walk, Maki listens intently as Nobara mentions the one time she ordered the same drink a Yuuji without thinking and fell sick for three days after.

 

‘Definitely wasn’t the food!’ , she clarifies, even though Maki knows for a fact it was the food because she was the one taking care of her those three days and Nobara kept talking about how she would never eat there again.

 

Despite this, as soon as Maki orders a strawberry milkshake, Nobara orders one as well, something in her gut telling her that if she wants a good outcome, this is the drink she should choose.

 

“I’m so sorry, but we’re still waiting on our afternoon delivery, and I’m afraid I can only make you one for now,” apologises the girl at the counter, a frail, overworked thing that is probably working her way through college.

 

“Not to worry,” says Maki, and just as Nobara is about to make a different decision of drink, she adds, “We’ll take the one, just add two straws. We’re with the white-haired idiot, so just add it to the table tab.”

 

For a second, Nobara is too stunned to move once Maki starts heading back. A drink with two straws for the two of them to share . Nobara is ninety-nine point nine per cent sure she’s dreaming.

 

When she catches up, she asks, “Maki-sen—” She stops herself. “Maki, are you sure? I can order something else.”

 

“But you don’t have to. I don’t mind sharing, I’m not that thirsty anyway.” Her face is completely serious, leaving no room for argument.

 

Normally, Nobara would argue, make her own stand. There’s no stand to be made here, though, because she doesn’t exactly hate the idea of sharing a drink with Maki.

 

She sits down at the table while Maki takes a right turn to the bathroom, thinking it through. Two straws in one milkshake is the biggest cliché she can think of and yet—

 

And yet the cliché is more appealing to her than she ever thought it would be, which clearly shows on her face because Yuuji leans over and asks, “Did Maki-senpai say something?”

 

She smacks his upper arm. “None of your business. Pay attention to your boyfriend, he’s getting pestered by Panda-senpai and Inumaki-senpai.”

 

Yuuji’s head turns back to meet the face of an irritated Megumi, who is about two minutes away from pulling out a cursed technique and blowing up the entire café.

 

Maki comes back at the same time the drink arrives, in the tallest glass you’ve ever seen, and Nobara is almost thankful she doesn’t have to drink an entire one on her own, because she knows she can eat, but it’s not always impressive.

 

But, she doesn’t have to worry about looking pretty when she sees Maki dive right in next to her, moving the second straw in her direction and blinking at her.

 

It’s safe to say her heart is beating a mile a minute as she leans in, nose nearly touching Maki’s the strawberry flavour doing little to melt away the taste of unexplainable nerves.

 

She doesn’t know what to do with her this close, her hand on the table just inches from her own, and her body heat flares up as she thinks this milkshake is some sort of curse in disguise as a blessing.

 

“You’ve gone red,” comments Maki when she breaks away from the drink, and Nobara seriously considers jumping out of the window. “Are you hot? I’ll ask them to turn the air conditioner on.”

 

“Fine, fine!” she answers back before Maki can get up, grabbing her by the wrist and keeping her in her seat. “Summer heat is a lot. I’m gonna take a breather outside. I’ll be back.”

 

Practically jumping up from the table, she heads out into the summer heat that she just said was a lot, back against the wall in the nicer part of town, catching a breather.

 

For some reason, Maki’s regular friendly care is affecting her more than usual, and she has no idea why. It’s never bothered her before, when it’s just the two of them, but something about being in public with people they know makes it different.

 

Maki’s been a good friend to her ever since she started Jujutsu Tech, and she wouldn’t replace her for the world, but sometimes she’ll do something that Nobara can’t quite explain and she doesn’t know what to do about the thing she doesn’t understand.

 

“You like her.” Nobara looks up from the ground, right at Nanami standing next to her. “You like her and whatever closeness you thought was reserved for the two of you being expressed in public has made you nervous.

 

“It’s not uncommon. Usually, you don’t even know why you see someone a certain way until they start doing the same things around people you know, and suddenly you don’t want anyone to see because these aren’t things you want to share.”

 

Now, Nobara knew Nanami was wise and smart, but this is some next-level information she’s almost having trouble processing.

 

I like Maki . I like Maki . I like Maki .

 

For a split-second, she feels excited, right up until she remembers Maki probably doesn’t like her back in the same way, and then the summer heat hits her again and she leans against the wall.

 

“Nanami-san, how do I make it stop?” she asks, closing her eyes, trying to forget every moment of closeness she’s ever spent with Maki ever, which proves difficult, because there seem to be a lot more moments than she bargained for.

 

He puts a hand on her shoulder. “You don’t make it stop. At some point, you give in, and you tell them that you want some things to remain private between you and why. How do you think I ended up dating a Kakashi look-alike?”

 

“Did he act really proud about it? He said he didn’t, but I knew he was lying, he always acts proud about things he shouldn’t,” she says, rolling her eyes.

 

“He was. But, then he sort of turned quiet because he thought it was a joke.” He takes his glasses off. “We might not be able to choose the people we fall for, but that doesn’t mean they’re the wrong people.”

 

Nobara sighs. “How am I even supposed to tell her? She’ll see it coming from a mile away and start running. There’s no way she could be happy with someone as loud and talkative as me.”

 

“If I’m happy with Satoru, trust me when I say that Maki will probably be more happy with you than you realise,” he says, hoping his words will be some sort of comfort.

 

Instead, he receives a death glare, and slowly backs away having realised his error in speaking.

 

“Oi, Nanami-san, did you just compare me to Gojo-sensei?”

 

He starts backing away faster.

 

 


 

 

There are so many clumps of mud in her hair she thinks she’s going insane and she’s been holding her head over the tub for at least half an hour, fingers threading through and not doing their job.

 

She got Yuuji well and back, of course, tackled him into the mud and held his head there for as long as possible (she only let him up because he swore  he couldn’t breathe), but by then the damage had been done.

 

To say she’s frustrated... is an understatement. Not only had she made plans with Maki for later today, ready to get a sense of how things are post-enlightenment from Nanami, but she hadn’t been able to go on the last mission since it only needed two people, and she’d been looking forward to letting her irritation out at the park.

 

A knock at the bathroom door after she yells at the shower head only furthers her anger, and with a snap of her head, water flying everywhere and making her back wet, she snaps, “What? Yuuji, if that’s you, I swear—”

 

“Do you need a hand?” Nobara freezes at Maki’s soft voice, forgetting about the water still running, not having expected her to show up. “Megumi told me what happened, and I wanted to make sure you were okay; are you?”

 

“Still trying to get the mud out of my hair,” she says, giving in and opening the door, showing Maki the true extent of the damage. Her t-shirt is soaking by now, water running down her body, while Maki takes in the sight of a resigned Nobara, which doesn’t happen often.

 

Maki leaves, before bringing back a fresh towel from Nobara’s wardrobe, ushering her back into the bathroom and switching off the water for a second. “Take your shirt off, put the towel around your shoulders, and rest your head on the edge. I’ll sort it out for you.”

 

Something in her voice leaves no room for argument, like the day at the café, and she follows the instructions to a T, surprisingly not as cold in just her bra and shorts as she thought it would be. That’s the beauty of summer, apparently, and she’s thankful for it.

 

“Do you think I could shave his hair off as revenge when he’s asleep or would Sukuna wake him up? Does he even sleep or does he talk all night in his head? You know what, maybe sharing your body with a thousand-year-old king of curses is punishment enough as it is.”

 

Nobara keeps talking, sharing her very opinionated views on having your body be a host for a curse and all the drawbacks that must come with it, commenting especially on the fact that in order to even share it in the first place you have to eat fingers that have been God knows where, and that thought makes her sick to her stomach.

 

Maki runs her fingers through her hair after rinsing it once quickly to get it wet, going strand by strand in order to get the largest clumps out of the way, fingers working faster than they’ve worked in a long time, pushing through the mud like it was never there in the first place.

 

Once the big stuff is out of the way, Maki takes the bottle of shampoo Nobara has left out, generous amount added to her hand before she interlocks her fingers in the strands again, threading through with care and precision and a gentleness Nobara isn’t expecting.

 

Closing her eyes as the weightless feeling she’s experiencing, she says, “In another life you could have been a hairdresser. Seriously, this is just too good. Where did you learn to do this?”

 

“Mai did a lot of stupid shit when she was younger and I ended up being the one to do this for her. It’s therapeutic, actually, and she stopped letting me do it when she turned about eight. Something about being independent in the bathroom.”

 

“Do you miss each other a lot? Even when you try not to?” she asks, warm water rinsing the shampoo off and sending heat zipping through her body and she relaxes to her touch even more.

 

Maki shrugs. “She’s my sister, so yeah, I guess, but whether I miss her or whether she misses me doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I know that if it came down to it, she’s got my back and I've got hers.”

 

The smell of apple fills the air, with a little bit of honeycomb, as Maki adds one more portion of shampoo, and Nobara thinks back on the first time she met Mai, back before the exchange event.

 

“You’re still a good sister,” she says, after reflecting on how the nature of their relationship got to where it was. “You just dealt with the household you were born into in different ways. Neither of you is in the right just like neither of you is in the wrong.”

 

Smiling, Maki rinses the shampoo out, massaging her scalp gently, barely any mud left, and the conditioner will take care of anything she might have missed. “Yeah, maybe. Still wish I would have done more for her at the time.”

 

It’s quiet after that, just the silence mixed with the sound of running water, but talking isn’t necessary right now. This quiet is perfectly enough for the two of them as Maki finishes with her hair, drying it with a towel as well as she can before twisting it into a turban so it can rest on her head.

 

What with the day pretty much wasted, Nobara changes into comfier clothes, ones she can lounge around in, before picking through her movie collection and trying to find a movie that’s appropriate, not sure what to settle on.

 

“Any suggestions? We haven’t watched something in a while,” she says, Maki having stayed behind without having to be asked, now crouching down next to her and looking through the collection herself, trying to find something that will stand out.

 

“Action-mystery? You can yell at the TV when the characters do something you don’t like.” Nobara’s heart swells as she looks over at her. “I’ll join in, actually, I have some issues to vent out.”

 

“Well, they are always doing stupid things. I mean, how many times can the killer be obvious and you still don’t take the fucking hint? I don’t believe people can actually be that dense,” she scoffs, ranting about how pointless most horror movies are.

 

They settle on the sofa, two opposite ends with their legs meeting in the middle, too unbothered to get snacks. They’re both feeling lazy today, as well as a little tired, so one movie is probably all they’ll get in before their eyes quit on them.

 

Their positions change multiple times throughout the duration of the sequence, switching between trying to figure out what exactly is going on and one holding the other back when their arguments towards the characters get a little too heated and the screen is in danger.

 

Eventually, though, they end up in the closest proximity that exists, Maki on her back with Nobara resting on top of her between her legs, eyes half-lidded with sleep as she tries to fight it off, towel turban long since abandoned.

 

Maki’s hand finds Nobara’s hair, gently stroking in a different way than in the bathroom, but it works just as well as a sleep aid, and both of them let it happen while thinking I’ll bring it up another time .

 

 


 

 

The sun isn’t that visible with the shading of the trees, but the weather is still warm enough that it doesn’t really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things.

 

Maki’s reading, Nobara’s talking; it’s their usual routine when they both have some time and need to get away from all the men and their behaviour. They do love them (really, they do), but sometimes a break is what they need.

 

The grass is soft even under the thin blanket made for comfort rather than warmth, Nobara on her back with her eyes closed against the sun that does come through, Maki on her stomach, head in a book she’s been meaning to catch up on, only half paying attention to the paragraphs.

 

Not that she doesn’t want to pay attention, but when it comes to times like this, listening to what Nobara has to say is just that little bit more important, and so the two of them are more than used to this routine, with Maki reading and Nobara talking.

 

Nobara doesn’t mind, she knows that even when Maki’s eyes aren’t on her, every word she’s saying is being heard, and that’s enough for her. Maybe someone else wouldn’t understand that, but then again, she’s not someone else.

 

It’s the ‘why’ of things she can’t quite wrap her head around. After all, she always talks so much — Doesn’t it get repetitive? Maybe boring? It must be aggravating to have to be interested in everything she says.

 

She looks over at her, the way the sun brings out a few select freckles under her eyes but not on her nose, because it’s picky like that.

 

“Have you considered, you know, asking her why she doesn’t cut in?”

 

She figures it’s now or never.

 

“Maki, why do you never interrupt me when I’m talking?” She looks up from her book, blinking behind her glasses.

 

“Because I like you,” she states. “And you have a nice voice. I enjoy listening to you.”

 

Nobara takes a moment. “You know, you’re the first person to ever say any of that to me.”

 

“I’m surprised you didn’t know. It’s not like I’ve been keeping it a secret,” she shrugs, shifting so their bodies are closer.

 

Her brain does a double-take. Because I like you . Her face is alarmingly close as the cogs in her head start working overtime.

 

“Maki,” she swallows, not even trying to distance herself. Is she really sure she wants to ask this? Is she ready to? “Maki, what kind of ‘like’ are we talking about here?”

 

And then Maki does something she doesn’t do often when asked a question, smiling and taking her glasses off, before she says, “The kind of ‘like’ that means I’m going to kiss you now.”

 

Her fight or flight response lags for a moment when Maki’s hand tucks a loose strand back behind her ear, giving her a second to say no, to back away in case she isn’t ready for a change like that in their relationship yet.

 

But she is, she realises. She’d been hoping that Maki would feel about her the way she clearly does, even if it was subconsciously, even if she herself hadn’t known how she felt before Nanami pointed it out to her.

 

“I’ve never kissed a girl before,” says Nobara, so quietly you could hear one of her pins drop, and she’s almost afraid of making the confession, but Maki’s expression towards her doesn’t change in the least.

 

“If it makes you feel any better, neither have I,” she laughs softly. “Though, you being my first is kind of romantic, don’t you think?”

 

Now that — that makes Nobara’s heart pound even more helplessly, because who even thinks to mention that you’re going to be their first kiss too in order to make you feel better about anything that might go wrong.

 

“Fuck romance. I just want to kiss you,” she says, before she’s leaning in, both of them lying on their sides and a gentle hand on her cheek, keeping her close as she feels everything.

 

It’s their first kiss; there’s no avoiding the awkwardness at the start, when they’re not quite sure how to move together, and maybe their teeth clash just a little bit when they’re attempting to figure it out, but then something switches.

 

Maki puts her hand on her waist. Nobara takes the hand on her cheek and moves it to the back of her head. What was rough turns into soft, turns into thought out, turns into something you’d see in a movie.

 

Kissing a girl is different than how she’d thought it would be. There was no catching her off-guard and forcing her into it. Maki offered, and she accepted, and she’s glad she did.

 

Because it’s Maki. And Maki tastes like strawberries sprinkled with sugar and dipped in cream and Nobara thinks she wants to taste that forever.

 

When she pulls away, she’s breathless, they both are. And then she smiles, because Maki’s just a little bit dizzy even though she’s always seemed to have a handle on things, and that makes her heart flutter.

 

“You okay?” asks Nobara, pulling a leaf out of her hair that fell when they were kissing, brushing through her strands for any other stray objects.

 

“Yeah.” Maki swallows. “Instead of talking and listening, can we kiss again?”

 

Nobara has had a tendency to speak without signs of stopping since she was going. Maki has always found the time to listen to her.

 

A little bit of change can’t hurt.