2018-04-28 - Whatever Happens, I Don't Want To Hurt You

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Title: Whatever Happens, I Don't Want To Hurt You

Mikoto tries to reach out to Mai, and Mai tries to reassure Mikoto. Neither is completely successful, but no matter what, they're both there for each other.


Mai Tokiha, Mikoto Minagi


Ohtori - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2018-04-28 - 2015-04-14

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Dormitories +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 There is some variation between the dormitories to provide a range suitable
 to different tastes, but they are typically old-fashioned and elegant, with
 low stone walls guiding the walkways and ivy creeping up their white walls
 and columns. Their exterior is classically European, like sedate manor
 houses, and for the most part this style is maintained inside, with
 dignified old paintings in thick goldleaf frames. However, the dormitories
 do not lack for daring Ohtori touches, with whimsical art deco floor
 panelling here, fantastical geometric lamps there, and odd little secret
 panels and dead ends throughout.

 Dorm rooms are generally shared between two same-gender students, but
 singles are almost as common; Ohtori students were not generally raised to
 share. There are some triples and quads available as well. Some dorms permit
 a great deal of leeway in decoration, others require students to stick to
 the default antique furniture. Many dorms have at least a small balcony,
 which provides an escape route for particularly rebellious students when
 curfews are instated.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto got home a little later than she'd anticipated, with a sigh of relief when she realised Mai wasn't home yet. Mai would worry, if she knew Mikoto was staying late at the hospital to take care of Yumi, and then visiting Kasagami too.

... that Mikoto shouldn't be running around trying to help everyone when she's only just gotten rid of her stitches and walking stick doesn't seem to cross her mind at all.

She's looking better, at least, now she's managed to shed those bandages. Her bruises have faded a lot by now, and her limbs don't seem to be causing her so much trouble any more. Still, when Mai returns, she sits dutifully at the kitchen table instead of hounding Mai's feet like she normally does. (Miroku is resting by the coat-rack near the door.)

"Maiii," Mikoto calls, a desperate edge to her whining as she watches Mai work. Mikoto loves Mai's food. No matter what else she's eaten today, Mai's food will make her feel better. Mai's food has to.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai, for her part, got home much later than anticipated. It was supposed to be a quick temp job, and then it...wasn't. At least it paid by the hour, but even so...

So here she is, chopping vegetables as quickly as she dares. That sadly is much slower than she'd like, but knives deserve caution and her mind is barely on the subject already. As rice begins cooking next to her, as a pot slowly comes to a boil as potatoes and carrots join the broth, she steals a glance at the mail.

"OH! Sorry, Mikoto, things are going a little...slowly." She takes a moment to brush her hair away from her eyes - maybe she's due for a haircut - and quickly slices the rest of the carrot. "It shouldn't be too much longer, though! I'm trying something new - make sure to tell me whether or not you like it, okay?"

...though that judgment has to wait for it to be done, and it's not done. At least Mai is looking at Mikoto, instead of glancing away guiltily. Maybe that's...progress? "Anyway, how was your day?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"'Kay!" Mikoto chirps, though she knows already that she's bound to like it, because Mai made it. There's that same heavy shade over her smiles, as if she's struggling under a great weight - but she is still only smiles for Mai.

Mikoto tilts her head up, considering for a moment. She's certainly not going to lie. "Went to hospital," she says. "Got stitches out. Visited Yumi, still in hospital. Visited Kasagami on the way back, too." She doesn't mention Eri; even Mikoto can tell the two of them are avoiding each other. "Doctors say I'm healing up good. It's probably 'cause I'm HiME!" Hopefully she didn't mention that either.

"And Mai?" Mikoto smiles, and her eyes are keen. She's clearly interested, even if the way her head tilts a little as she considers her suggests there's something on her mind. "Busy day?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai starts to answer immediately, but pauses while mulling things over. There's another glance at the pile of mail, the top item of which is open. Then back to Mikoto, who is...healing well. That much is clear to see, but still...

"A...little busy, though not as interesting as yours. There were supposed to be five of us putting up those tents today, but three people called out. Just a...little more work than either of us were expecting." She rolls one shoulder, frowning at it - a bath later might help. Maybe.

"So that's a nice few visits for you! I hope it all went well...though I didn't know you were hanging out with miss Disciplinary chair. I thought I heard she ran into some problem, recently...?" There's a thoughtful frown on Mai's face - not sad, not angry, just trying to remember an overheard tidbit. For some reason, she's been left out of some of the local gossip loops lately...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto nods, firmly. "Sounds tough. But Mai's good at all types of work," she says, sounding completely convinced, "so Mai can do it!"

(Mai would probably blush, to hear the outrageous praise Mikoto has spoken in her name, but her talents have always featured in those lists. Talents outside of cooking ramen, even. That gets mentioned separately.)

"Want me to fix shoulder later?" Mikoto asks, those sharp eyes focusing on the way it's rolled. Those gestures indicate pain, or discomfort - and Mikoto is used to dealing with those. She learned how to do it early, considering the effects of her training. She's never quite shared why she knows how to massage the pain out of muscles, but she's good at it.

To Kasagami, Mikoto nods. "Yup." Oh, so Mikoto does hear the gossip? "Kasagami lost a fight." ... no, evidently not. "I don't know details, but it was important. And, Kasagami was staring at red numbers..."

Mikoto trails off, looking down, sadness crossing her features. She's sure Mai knows what she means. She shakes her head, and she's quiet for a time, leaving Mai the opportunity to get back to chopping.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai never hears the praises Mikoto sings in her name, but that might be for the best. If she knew, she's probably try to get Mikoto to stop.

"Ha...I might not go that far, but honestly it wasn't hard. Just tedious, and tiring." She rolls that shoulder again, and this time the wince is just a little apparent. "I might just take you up on that - thanks, Mikoto."

Whatever wince Mai let slip from her pain is eclipsed by the near-full-body cringe at the Kasagami update. "I don't exactly know what a fight has to do with a budget, but...sounds like those lavish parties might have caught up to her." Biting back a 'good riddance', she continues. "Balancing that out sounds...difficult. Hope she manages, instead of having to start some kind of fundraiser. At least you...never mind."

There was a question clearly on her mind, but Mikoto's face has her think better of it. Returning her attention to the stove, she glances at the recipe and runs a finger down the list of ingredients. "No...maybe...cut that down...right, the roux." Mai turns around for a moment, rummages in the fridge briefly, and throws a small lump of butter into a pot with flour, a dash of salt, and some...brownish powder? An actual spice? Hints of cinnamon and cumin start to rise up from that pot...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

<Soundtracker> Lights - Quiet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0Ohl3MMq0o

For a moment, with Mai's thanks, everything is all right, because she can help Mai and Mai will accept her help. For a moment.

It doesn't last, especially not with Mai's trailed sentence. Mikoto just nods.

At least she... said Mai, and Mikoto cannot hear it as anything but weary of who Mikoto is. At least she didn't get involved. At least she didn't hurt anyone. At least she didn't get hurt again, because she is so useless and weak. Her thoughts turn to the Shepherds, to Witches, to her enemies. The thoughts are not kind, or soft, or good. They are such harsh, sharp things.

She looks to Mai, hard at work in the kitchen with strange-smelling spices - she trusts Mai implicitly not to wound her with food - and guilt overwhelms her again. Eri loves her, so she must fight for Eri, and it will make Mai sad and scared and angry again. But she has to try, one more time, to reach out to Mai. Because she'd still leave it all behind, in a moment, if only...

Suddenly, Mikoto speaks up again. "Mai, I love you!" She smiles, warm and affectionate and hopeful, trying her best.

She has said those three words so many times. Mai Tokiha is the girl she loves most in all the world - though perhaps she's never said it quite like that, since that much feels obvious to her. Which other girl could be first in her heart? There's only one greater. But here is the terrible truth: those three words Mai has never said, not once, since she came back to them and Mikoto first confessed.

Yet her experiences with Eri have taught her that if she is just honest with her feelings, that honesty will be reflected - if there's any truth to it. Mikoto tells Eri she loves her; Eri tells Mikoto she loves her in turn. That's how it worked with her Grandfather, and her Lord Brother, too. That's how she knows someone loves her! It's too important to assume.

So she says the words, yet again, in desperate hope that they will be reflected back to her. She has to believe. Eri says Mai loves her... but Mai... Mai's only ever said she's worried. just one more thing to worry about

Mikoto Minagi must follow those who love her. If Mai loved her, she would never fight again. If Mai loved her, she would do all the normal things Mai could possibly want. If Mai loved her, she would ignore nature and purpose in an instant, because Mai is the most important girl in the world. If Mai loved her...

... but she can't ask for the words. She can't ask Mai for an answer. She's scared. She knows Mai too well, after all.

So she offers them freely instead, as she always has. Just one more expression of Mikoto's boundless devotion, no different from any other, aside from the silent suspense of her heart.

It is so difficult to understand Mikoto Minagi. And she needs, so badly, to be understood.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai is...very focused on the pot she's started cooking. She almost looks worried, to a degree that doesn't come up in her cooking. Maybe it's the smell - it's an unfamiliar smell, meaning this is something she hasn't practised before. Things are sizzling, burbling, beginning to steam...and for just a moment, she seems to relax.

Then Mikoto blurts out her confession, out of the blue. They're words Mai has heard before - heard a hundred times before, easily. It's at the point that it could almost be background noise, but saying it that suddenly, right -then-...

Mai's startled, jolts back from her inspection of the stove, and there's a loud bang as her knee meets a cupboard handle that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There's the start of a curse that gets cut down to a simple hiss as she hops on one foot for a moment. "Ow, ow, ow..."

It's not serious damage, it just -stings- and embarrassment weighs heavy on her within seconds. Mai looks up again, still holding her knee, and shakes her head. "It's fine, it's fine, you just surprised me is all..." Using the counter for support, she limps her way around to the dining table to sit down next to Mikoto. After a moment's hesitation, an arm reaches out for a half-hug.

"I really am glad you're here, Mikoto. And don't worry, I promise I'm not making anything with hot spices tonight. I just wanted to try something different - but I've got instant ramen if you don't want to try it, okay?" That must be it. The garam masala isn't the same as those ridiculous Super Fiery Curry Breads, but maybe the spices were close enough for Mikoto's nose? Hopefully Mai's cooking isn't starting to make Mikoto worry, that's the last thing she needs...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto yelps in alarm, as Mai jerks and hits her knee. "Mai!" She sounds so honestly distressed that she's caused Mai to hurt herself. She should have known! Should have thought about what she was saying and, again, she's messed everything up -

just like she messes everything up

Eri and Kasagami had said that selfishness wasn't such a bad thing, but Mikoto knows so keenly seeing Mai's reaction that it's different for her, because look - look at what she's done! She's startled Mai! "Mai..." Mikoto repeats, again, eyes and tone downcast and uncertain in the wake of her embarrassment.

Mikoto stares down at her hands, only for Mai to hobble around and wrap her up in half of a hug. Mikoto lifts her gaze to smile at her, and there is that darkness at the corners of her eyes, shadowing at the edges of her sheer relief over Mai's acceptance. "Mai," Mikoto repeats her name, again. "I'll always come home, Mai."

Because Mai is glad she's here. Because Mikoto can still do so many things for Mai. Because Mikoto is still useful.

And those words are left unsaid.

It's fine. It's fine if Mai doesn't love her. Mikoto will still stay by her, still protect her. She would never leave Mai Tokiha, the most important girl in the world. Her devotion has no price; her lonely heart has long since kept Mai in its deepest chambers. But she knows now what her course must be, even though -

- for some, strange reason -

- it breaks her heart.

For some, strange reason, she so desperately wanted it to be Mai. So desperately wanted to follow Mai. So desperately wanted to make Mai happy. So desperately...

Mikoto's smile is a little shaky. It must be uncertainty over those spices. "It's okay," Mikoto assures her. "I trust Mai, too! So I'll try!" She doesn't really feel worth ramen right now anyway.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai knows, from long experience, that Mikoto Minagi is strong. That she's a trained warrior with more battle experience, that she's a survivalist, that she's long been capable of taking care of herself. Intellectually, she knows this.

Intellectual knowledge can go die in a fire, because right now Mikoto feels small and scared and this feels like it's coming out of nowhere

but there must be something

she's so busy trying to take care of everyone by working hard that she's missing what they need

and maybe her loved ones don't really need her any more

Mikoto's looking at her, and there's a solemn promise, and Mikoto's face blurs from a few tears in the corner of Mai's eyes. The hug tightens, Mai's other arm reaching around to just hold on to Mikoto for a minute, because the older girl is just -tired- and having one rock in her life means more than she can really say.

(Maybe it would be better if she said it. But as ever, she...buries it. Because voicing her hopes is like exposing them to be ruined.)

It's a tight hug, and there's a quiet whisper of a 'thank you' from a tired girl...but then the smell from the kitchen takes a turn, and Mai jolts back like it's Mikoto that's suddenly burning. "The roux! Sorry, Mikoto, I have to get that fixed-" She dashes.

Stumbles, for a moment.

Swings around the counter, pulling one pot off the stove and rummaging for an appropriate sauce. "Uh, let's see, add...these should be fine...just a few more minutes, Mikoto! I think this should be good..."

It's okay. Nothing's ruined yet. ...right?

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai tightens her embrace, and Mikoto leans in, hands coming up to wrap around her waist. They curl against her shirt, and Mikoto feels like she might cry, and she's not even sure if it's from sadness.

"Mai," she murmurs, closing her eyes, voice shaking from some strange combination of emotions. "Mai..."

It's enough. It's enough to be by her side. It has to be enough. Even if Mikoto has to fight for someone else, can't she come back to Mai when she's done? Even if Mikoto will never be normal - even if every attempt fades to ashes in her mouth - can't she be here for her? Eri and Yumi had both said she could do that. That was a thing she could do, even broken as she is.

She has to find some way to make everyone happy. She has to. She cannot bear the sadness of Mai Tokiha. She cannot bear the weight of her guilt.

Mikoto smells the roux - so it's not surprising when Mai startles, runs away. Disappointing, for some weird reason Mikoto can't quite place, but not surprising. Still, Mikoto smiles, because Mai's trying her best with some new food. Mai's...

... Mai's really amazing, and Mikoto doesn't know why she'd want such a wretched girl around, but she'll stay by Mai's side as long as Mai wants her.

"Mm-hmm," Mikoto nods, humming affirmatively. She doesn't interrupt Mai again. Mai is trying to cook.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

There are some...loud hisses from the kitchen for a while, as Mai focuses fully on her cooking.

She's too tired to figure out what Mikoto really needs. Maybe she can't really understand what Mikoto needs.

Honestly she'd be doing well if she could figure out what she needs, but that isn't happening any time soon.

But right now she can cook. It's a new dish, and she isn't sure if it's the right thing to try, but...

...it's something she can do.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

What Mikoto really needs...

That's a complicated question, isn't it? Because she needs to find her Lord Brother. Secondarily, she needs Mai's love. Tertiarily, she needs Eri's safety. And yet, she's succeeded in none of those things.

But what Mikoto really needs, right now...

... is for that dark tiny voice in the back of her mind to shut up.

It doesn't. Mikoto watches Mai cook, and hears all the reasons why Mikoto doesn't deserve any of this. Because she's going to let Mai down, and make Mai sad again, when Mai has so much sadness in her life already.

Because Mai is the most important girl in the world, and yet Mikoto cannot make her happy.

Mikoto's smile is uncertain again. But surely there's something she can do, as she sniff-sniffs the dish. "Smells good, Mai. Not too sharp at all."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

It's done. For good or for ill, it's done.

Rice - plenty of rice - and the curry itself. It's a very thick sauce - chilled, you could probably cut it with a knife - with chunks of chicken, carrot, and potato scattered throughout. Earthy tones with the fire stripped out - but it's still curry seasonings, and there's a certain inner warmth to it. Some sweetness, too, almost to the point of consuming the meat and potatoes.

It's a recipe Mai had to tweak, but hopefully...

"Well, let me know if you like it - I thought it'd be nice if there was a curry you could have without needing a bucket of water." There's an earnest smile on Mai's face - but it's not quite reaching her eyes. She's tired, and she's worried, and there's a hospital bill on the counter with a 'PAID IN FULL' she can't explain...

But Mikoto's here, and supper's ready, and it's a normal evening. Everything's back to normal. It's all fine. . . right?

Mai dishes up, takes a sniff of her own, and braves a spoonful.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto regards the curry with a little suspicion, despite herself, because it looks like curry. But it smells sweet, not spicy. "Huuuh..."

She takes it up into her bowl, sniff-sniffs, takes a bite. Her senses throw it all into sharp relief - the sweetness, the earthiness, the starch of potato and carrot and the mild meatiness of chicken which so many other people seem to fail to describe. Mikoto doesn't understand why. Chicken definitely has a flavour, and Mai has brought it out expertly. It is sharp, to her, but Mai has tried so hard, and the sharpness isn't so much to bear for the sake of Mai's culinary curiosity. And it's not unbearably sharp.

Mikoto smiles - a little shakily - at the taste. "... it's the best! Mai's food is my favourite!" Having determined that the food will not in fact wound her (stripping out all the fire was the right choice), she hoovers it up, eating at a tremendous pace. She does reach for the water, once or twice, but she doesn't turn into a shadowy cat demon. There's that same edge of desperation to it which has shaded mealtime with Mikoto, since she got back from hospital.

Once chopsticks clatter into empty bowl, Mikoto nods, firmly. "Yup, I love this! Mai makes all the flavours go together right! Nothing's out of place! Even sharp flavours aren't too sharp! Every little bit makes every other bit so much better! It's warm, like Mai! Even the smell is perfect! And, looks so amazing too!" And every little description of Mai's fantastic dinner just reminds her, again and again... too good for someone like her

Mikoto looks down, at the bowl, and her smile is so fragile all a sudden. "Yeah... it's really good..."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

There's a little heat in tumeric, after all. A little bit in even the mildest of curry pastes. But it seems...all right? At least Mai's palate isn't bothered by it, but she's a lot more accustomed to fire than Mikoto is. She's also not eating as quickly as Mikoto, being a lot more methodical and a lot less swift - maybe she doesn't even trust her own hands, right now.

How late is it, anyway? How long was she bouncing from one problem to another?

There's praise - enthusiastic, desperate praise, like...every night of late. It's encouraging, and yet at the same time...it feels hollow. (She -knows- that she burned the roux a little bit, she can taste that.) It's reminiscent of...

Of her brother, telling her that everything's fine, that he's as healthy as ever...even while panting for breath.

Of Eri, admitting that a Puella Magi's life is one of survival, but that she has things handled.

And here's Mikoto, claiming that unfamiliar food is perfectly delicious.

Mai looks down at her own half-full plate, chopsticks still. She could let it slide, like any other night - she's certainly worn from the day enough that it really appeals. And she could let this continue - this state where yet another loved one is lying to her so she'll worry less. Just close her eyes, plug her ears, and accept the lies that everything is fine, and nothing's going wrong, and it's all good until someone gets killed in a battle that shouldn't have happened to begin with.

She could do that again.

There's a quiet clink as Mai sets down her chopsticks, and Mai lets out a sigh. "Mikoto...you know you can say if there's something you don't like, right?" Mai looks up from her plate, turns to her constant companion. "I know you always say my food's good, but I know I screw up sometimes. I want the people I care about to be happy, so if something's..."

Belatedly, maybe too late, Mai notices that the smile before her might as well be made of cracked china.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto's smile is so vulnerable, so breakable, and Mai shatters it with a single sigh. She fixes her gaze on the edge of the table, as if to hide the weight in her eyes. She can't.

There's that idea, again, that she can say if something's wrong. But every time Mikoto tries to talk about what's wrong, bad things happen.

"No, really, Mai's food is... really, really amazing..." Mikoto swallows, against a lump in her throat, "that's not... that's not why I..."

She's not lying, not to Mai. To herself, a little, about whether food brings her such joy. But not to Mai, about the contents of her dish. Mikoto was being entirely honest about that. And the idea that Mai might think otherwise wounds her so much more than spices would.

So she tears the truth from herself, jagged and sharp. She shakes her head, fiercely, braids whipping across her face. "... I just don't deserve such nice food, Mai! Not when I - not when I--!"

Her breath comes in quick little gasps, now, stumbling over her words, and tears sting at the edges of her eyes. There are so many reasons why Mikoto Minagi does not deserve this. There are, of course, the murders, each assiduously assisted and most definitely not stopped.

And then there's...

... you know, she just keeps coming back to the murders. Quite a lot of murders. She once tried estimating how many people a familiar had to eat, before it became a Witch. She quickly stopped that line of thought. It was too sad. And Mikoto knew about it, the whole time, and never once stopped Eri, not even when it went from letting familiars go to cultivating her Witches like a carefully-tended garden. She never once made her reconsider, even when she started farming people. She just let her do it, and helped her with the harvest.

And she'd do it again. And she will do it again. Because even if they can't be forgiven, she won't let Eri do it alone. Eri must feed. Eri must grow strong.

But there are other reasons, too. Awful girls arguing with her and Mikoto realising what a monster she really is. The prideful hate in her heart for that boy. The fear that maybe she's just irrevocably different to everyone around her, even her dearest friends. The realisation that she cannot make Mai happy, because Eri still needs her to fight. The way she always messes things up when she tries to talk -

- Mikoto squeezes her eyes shut, shaking her head again as the memory of startling Mai leads to the one of startling Yumi .She'd inspired such fear in her, even though Yumi said it wasn't her fault. Even that girl, Lera, had backed away from her in terror. She'd snapped at Usagi, and...

Tears leak down her cheeks as Mikoto finally chokes out, "I'm scary, Mai!"

She doesn't mean it to be such a terrible summation of her guilt. But it is.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Since meeting Mikoto - since having the wild swordswoman assigned as her roommate - Mai has long tried to bring civilization and normalcy to their shared dorm. Tried to push out the wild, to bring out the comforts of home, to teach Mikoto how people are supposed to act in society. One admonition at a time, one bribe at a time, trying to teach and teach and teach some more.

Hearing Mikoto cry out that she doesn't deserve nice things makes Mai realize she might have taught Mikoto too much.

There's a tiny, dark, judgmental part of Mai that agrees. That part of her that has been screaming bloody murder over the whole Shepherd business, that justice needs to be served. If she were to listen to it right now, it might have her voice. It might have Mami Tomoe's. But it's there, reminding her that Mikoto's done some shady things in the past few months.

...but not even a quarter what another dear friend has pulled, for all that Mai is readily spurning that friend by her meal planning.

The voice of justice is shut up swiftly by the part of Mai that looks at someone dear to her and sees her falling apart. That part almost always wins, in the end.

The summation of guilt hangs in the air like a resounding bell - there's an emptiness in its wake as Mai takes breath to respond. There's nuance, there's justification, there's framing, but for the moment Mai goes with simplicity and speaks her heart.

"You aren't scary to me. You never have been."

It's said with confidence, with earnest truth. Maybe Mai Tokiha can't respond to a declaration of love, but she can say that - to the dark sword of the Shepherds, to the HiME of obsidian, to the girl who was ready to choke Mai the second day they met. A deadly girl, but Mai has never been scared to lose her life.

(...is that really okay?)

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto has tried so hard.

And she's gotten better, too. She's learnt how to talk, kind of. She's learnt how to share, kind of. She's learnt how to not take whatever she wants... kind of. She's learnt how to go to class, kind of. She's learnt how to do her homework, kind of.

Kind of. Sorta. A little bit.

Not enough. It's never enough. She's never enough.

The tiny dark voice of judgement is not tiny, in Mikoto. It is ever-present, and it speaks in Mai's voice. During Shinjuku, she'd asked Endo if he thought she was a monster -

- but she was thinking of Mai when she said it.

And hadn't Mai agreed, back then, that she would have to be a monster to do these things? These things which Mikoto does so readily?

That silence brings those thoughts forward again, and Mikoto's breath is shallow and scared because she is so sure Mai can see through her, into her obsidian heart, can see every inch of darkness there. She flinches against the coming verbal blow.

Which never quite comes.

Mikoto makes a questioning noise as she looks up at Mai, through her tears. She searches her face, and finds only sincerity there.

"Ma...i..." The mora are stretched out, as Mikoto's voice wavers. She takes a breath, tries to steady herself, order her guilty thoughts.

There is one thing she knows above all else, one thing which is clear to her even in her suffering, one thought she can express even as her heart rages.

"I... don't ever want to hurt Mai." And it is both promise and plea, desperation and devotion. Even if she's a monster... Mai wouldn't become her enemy, right? Mai knows... how enemies work. Mai wouldn't...

Mikoto so badly does not want to hurt Mai.

"I know I'm bad," Mikoto whispers, and she is ashamed. "But, I... I love Mai..." And this time it is not hope but a wretched admission, that she is so dark and so far from Mai's hearthfire light.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

There are, suddenly, arms around Mikoto once more. Mai simply approaches, and embraces, because right now she kind of needs a hug too.

"I don't want to hurt you either, Mikoto. Okay? Whatever happens, I don't want to hurt you." As she is now, where they are now, it's difficult to fathom going up against Mikoto. Mikoto, for whom Mai would and has burned down entire warehouses to protect. She's one of Mai's precious people.

(And, reminds a vaguely smug voice at the back of her mind, Mikoto is dangerous. Mai has had to fight a doppelganger of Mikoto before, has clashed in realities that never came to pass...torn between hurting Mikoto and letting her hurt dozens of people, Mai will forever hate the choice she makes...)

She can't imagine -wanting- to hurt Mikoto, and the words ring with earnestness.

"You're not bad, you're...kind of wild, kind of dangerous, but you care about people. You care about your family, your friends, and you're willing to fight for that." Mai rests her forehead against Mikoto, the day's toil weighing heavy on her all of a sudden. "That's just...normal, Mikoto."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai has seen Mikoto on the battlefield, harsh and sharp and all edges and snarling and tension coiled like a spring. Has seen how hard Mikoto can be, the hate in her eyes and the grinding of her teeth.

She is not hard, now. Not harsh, or sharp. Has never been, since Mai took her home and fed her and treated her with kindness when she was alone. She is soft and pliable and vulnerable and trusting and so easily, easily hurt.

The contrast seems so impossible.

Mikoto slumps into Mai's embrace, moulding into her, burying her face against her as hands grasp at her back again. Cats are a liquid; they fill all available space. She closes her eyes and breathes Mai in and rejects what she has heard in her words, in Mai's words, in favour of the comfort afforded to them.

She cannot be Mai's enemy. Mai cannot be her enemy. They both speak with such honesty.

It's enough. It's enough that they don't want to hurt each other. It has to be enough.

Mikoto struggles to ignore the cold glass lancing through her heart as Mai calls her wild and dangerous, despite her best efforts. She looks up at her, her breath hitching in her throat. Mai cannot be wrong about her. Mai wouldn't lie about something like this. Mikoto must be wild, must be dangerous -

a danger to everyone around her

- but so too does Mai confirm her caring nature, and it's a salve on an open wound. If Mai knows she cares... that's what's important. "... care about Mai," Mikoto mumbles, easily heard at this distance.

At this distance, when Mai calls her normal, the despair in those eyes which are too bright is obvious.

At this distance, she can feel, rather than hear or see, the way Mikoto swallows against the tears which well in her.

"Yeah," she says, and her voice is hoarse. "... normal..."

Why, then, does she feel so different? Why, then, does she always seem like such an outsider? Why, then, is she so wild and dangerous? Her eyes scream questions her heart is too afraid to speak.

"... maybe curry was little too sweet," Mikoto admits, with a tremulous smile, trying once again to be normal for Mai Tokiha. "But, I wasn't lying. I did like it. Let's try it again, okay? Make it better."

She will try, and try, and try, and cut herself on her edges as she tries to blunt them all for the warmth of this girl who is her lighthouse in the dark.