Deciding Factor

 

It should have been an easy decision. Akira frowned down at the notepad in front of her, sitting cross-legged on the bed with her arms folded. There were so many reasons to leave things alone, it wasn't even funny. Logically speaking, it wasn't even that big a deal.

So why was she still wasting time on this?

"Akira?" Takumi pushed through the curtains around her bed without really waiting for a response - he still forgot. She wasn't sure if she should be annoyed or not; at this point, she'd more or less gotten used to it. "Dinner's ready," he announced, and peered curiously at her notepad. "What are you working on?"

"Nothing!" Akira hastily snatched up the notepad, holding it defensively against her body.

But of course he just didn't know when to leave well enough alone. "'Pros' and 'cons'?" He smiled then, and moved over to sit on the bed next to her. "What kind of decision are you trying to make?"

She scowled at him. "Who said I was trying to make a decision?"

"Well, you had columns for 'pros' and 'con'," he pointed out, just a little too reasonably. "And you looked like you were thinking hard about something when I came in. So, what is it? Maybe I can help."

Akira gave up. "You really are way too thick-headed." She let out a short, irritated breath and turned her gaze on the curtains to avoid looking him in the eye. "Fine. I'm trying to figure out if I should enroll as a girl next year."

There was a moment of surprised silence between them; when she glanced back over at him, he had tilted his head to the side and was staring at her with a sort of bemused expression.

"What?" she demanded, when the moment started to stretch on longer than it should.

"Do you want to go to school as a girl?"

Not a bad question.

"I don't know." Akira let her shoulders slouch. It would be easier to just stay the way she was - so much less hassle. She'd been dressed up as a boy since before she could remember. Could she even act like a girl? It would be weird. The idea of wearing the skirt and blouse that girls wore at Fuuka Academy was just plain uncomfortable. It was okay in America, where no one knew her and she could at least wear something casual, but at school, it was going to feel like she was playing dress-up.

Besides that, aside from the other HiME - and Takumi, of course - everyone else still thought of her as a boy. If she wandered in wearing the girls' uniform, there was going to be talk.

"The new headmistress said it was up to me if I wanted to change." One of the benefits of fighting alongside her as a HiME. "She gave me a week to think it over; after that, registration is final."

Takumi nodded. He was being frustratingly calm about all of this. "What did your father say?"

"He said it doesn't matter now." There was no way to really tell if he was disappointed about the outcome of the HiME Carnival; her father was too good at masking his emotions. Akira hoped that if he knew the truth he would be pleased with how things had turned out, but there was no way to really tell. "I'm not a HiME any more; if I want to be a girl, there's no reason why I can't."

"Well, I agree - but your notepad doesn't." Takumi smiled back at her when she turned a scowl on him. "Can I see?"

She clutched the book protectively. "It's nothing you need to look at."

"Still, I might be able to help." 

How did he manage to look like that - like this didn't affect him at all? Unless it really didn't. Akira tried not to think about that possibility, but it was there, all the same. Takumi had never said one way or the other if he had those kinds of feelings for her. Sure, most of the time it seemed that way, but he was just so darn nice to everyone that she couldn't really be certain one way or the other.

It wasn't like she could say any of that out loud, though. "I don't want to wear that girly uniform."

"You could probably wear your shorts under the skirt," he pointed out. "My sister said once that she thinks it's too short anyway. I'll bet the headmistress wouldn't mind."

Ugh. "Half the kids would think I'm a drag queen or something."

"I don't think you look like a drag queen in girls' clothing." He gave her a funny sort of smile - a mix of reassuring and earnest. "You look nice."

Akira felt her face grow hot, and had to avert her gaze again, embarrassed. The jean skirt hadn't been too bad, honestly - it was comfortable, at least. He said it looked nice, her brain whispered slyly. "Yeah, well, that stuff wasn't as girly as this," she muttered, trying to ignore it.

"I still think you'd be fine," he insisted.

"Whatever." Steadfastly ignoring the flush on her cheeks, she forged on. "Anyway, I'd have to move into the girls' dorms, and that means a new roommate - probably some dumb girl who giggles a lot and talks about boys and make-up." It was still hard to look at him; this was the worst part, after all, and the main reason she didn't want to make the change. She could probably deal with uncomfortable clothing and people talking about her, but if she had to move...

Well, she didn't want to.

"Oh... that's right, isn't it?" From the tone of Takumi's voice, he hadn't thought about it either. A glance showed that he wasn't looking at her any more; he gazed at the curtains around them as if deep in thought. "I guess I would get a new roommate, too," he commented, in a softer tone.

Akira couldn't help but stare at him, feeling her heart begin to pound hard against her chest. "Takumi...?"

"But it would probably be fine." Abruptly, the look was gone - he turned back to her with that familiar smile again, as if the moment had never happened. "Maybe you'll be in with another HiME. Right?"

She blinked at him, more startled now than angry. "You're really pushing for this, aren't you?"

Somehow, that was disappointing. Akira wasn't sure why, but now that she'd come to that conclusion, she realized she'd been hoping all along that Takumi would tell her she should stay the way she was. Which was stupid; if that was what she wanted, then she should just do it and not even ask his opinion.

Except now that she knew his opinion, it made it a lot harder to tell if she was making the right choice for her sake, or for his.

I knew I shouldn't have told him!

"Not really." Takumi actually looked a little surprised. "I just thought if you wanted to register as a girl, you shouldn't let those sorts of things stop you."

Akira let the notepad rest on her knee, studying him. "Do you want me to register as a girl?" she asked, after a moment of silent scrutiny.

"Me?" The question seemed to catch him off guard. "It's fine with me either way."

It's fine with - Akira frowned, trying not to act like that statement hurt as much as it did. "If you don't care, then why are we even talking about this?"

"I didn't say I didn't care," Takumi clarified, and furrowed his eyebrows at her, obviously puzzled by her response. "I just mean that it doesn't matter how you dress. You're still the same person, right?"

That caught her off-guard. Akira blinked at him, feeling the last of her anger drain away.

It doesn't matter?

"So, if you want to register as a girl and wear the uniform and live in the girls' dorm, you should." He smiled again, reassuring as always. "And if you want to dress like a boy and stay here, I don't mind." A faint hint of a blush was forming on his cheeks. "Actually, I'll miss you if you go."

Her face grew warm again. "Me too. I guess." She rubbed at the back of her head, feeling a little awkward about it. "I mean, yeah. I'd... miss you too."

"So, those are the reasons not to, right?" Before she could recover from her embarrassment, Takumi reached out and pulled the notepad from where it rested on her knee, quickly scanning the contents of the page. "What did you put for - ?"

"H-Hey!" Akira snatched it back, so quickly that the page tore and half of it was still left in his hand once she'd reclaimed possession.

He blinked. "Sorry..." 

And he'd already seen it. Of course he had. She could tell by the look on his face. Akira hugged the notepad to her again and glared off to the side, thoroughly embarrassed. "That's why I said you don't need to see it," she muttered, not bothering to check the page. She knew what it said; it was the first thing she'd written down, almost an hour ago when she'd started all of this - and it was the only thing on the positive side of enrolling as a girl.

'Can try to date Takumi'.

There was a moment of painfully awkward silence between them.

"You know..." Takumi broke it first, although he hesitated for a moment afterwards, as if he wasn't quite sure how to proceed. "You don't have to enroll as a girl for that."

Akira jerked her head back up towards him, utterly astonished. "What?"

He was blushing furiously, but still met her gaze. "We can still 'try to date' like this."

"That's not what I - " She halted in mid-sentence, not sure if she could properly express the thoughts swirling frantically around in her head. It was like trying to grip tadpoles with her bare hands. "You want us to act like two guys dating?" she blurted finally, incredulous.

Takumi smiled at her, almost sheepishly. "I don't mind if you don't."

Akira stared at him, dumbfounded. She wasn't sure whether to be disturbed that he was contemplating having a gay relationship with his female roommate, or flattered that he was willing to allow all of his classmates to assume that he was gay just to keep her from being uncomfortable. Or - wait. He wanted to date her?

It was a lot to take in all at once.

"Good grief..." Akira slumped, rubbing her forehead with a partially clenched fist. "You really are crazy, you know that?" She straightened, regarding him seriously. "We'll turn into outcasts."

He shrugged. "Anyone who's a good person will stick by us."

"You might get bullied."

"I think they'll be too afraid of you beating them up to try anything," he reminded her easily.

She frowned, crossing her arms again. "We're going to have a bunch of girls going insane around us."

He didn't seem concerned. "We can probably handle them, right, Akira?"

Unbelievable. She shook her head again, this time allowing a corner of her mouth to nudge upwards. "You're really serious about this, aren't you?"

"Of course." Takumi leaned towards her, staring warmly up into her eyes. His face colored a little again, but he didn't falter. "Will you try to date me, Akira?"

She could feel the heat rising again on her face as well. "Hey - That 'try to' part wasn't - " That sentence trailed off as she realized she didn't really know how to finish it. The truth was, she just hadn't been sure if Takumi wanted to date her in the first place. But with him looking at her like that, it was hard to remember why. "Never mind. Sure." Even as she said, she couldn't quite believe it - but it was really happening. Akira managed a small smile, feeling her heart hammering against her chest. "I'll date you."

"Oh, good." Before he'd even finished saying the words, he was already leaning forward. She shut her eyes without really thinking about it.

Takumi's lips brushed lightly over hers, and even though it was such a soft touch, Akira felt as if it reverberated all the way through her.

They stared at each other for a short while after pulling away, caught up in the moment of that first kiss.

Well, if we're going to do this... Akira smiled suddenly as a thought struck her. "Hey - I'm going to be the one who's on top in our gay relationship. Got it?"

His mouth fell open. "Huh?"

She jumped deftly from the bed, sparing him a grin over her shoulder as she headed through the curtains surrounding them. "No one would believe it if we said you were, anyway."

 

The End